"You ready, honey?"
Blair Bass took one more look at her daughter. Dressed in a vintage, strapless wedding gown, Audrey was picture perfect with her Bass smile and curled honey brown locks.
The girl nodded, speechless, barely aware of the dressing room, cluttered with bridesmaids' bouquets of roses, she was in.
Well, it was the Empire. Her Empire. She'd lived here all her twenty years.
Blair was busying herself with Audrey's gown, feigning putting on last finishing touches, when Chuck Bass stepped into the room, clearing his throat.
"Little Princess," he called fondly, his deep voice nostalgic, fingers playing with her locks, as his brown eyes met her identical ones.
"Aww, Dad," pink spots appeared on Audrey's cheeks, accompanying her suddenly childish retort, "Stop calling me that. I'm getting married."
Blair laughed softly, but Chuck leaned in to quickly kiss Audrey's forehead, whispering, "But you'll always be my little princess, Audrey."
"Now go, it's time."
"And she puts her hand in his," Blair was saying to Chuck, who smirked at the formal ceremony in front of him.
"I knew this day would come sooner or later," he murmured, attempting to maintain an emotionless tone, "But never with that guy, seriously, Blair."
His wife glanced at him, a trace of amused incredulity on her face. "Never?"
Chuck did not answer Blair's rhetorical question.
Hell, he'd never use that word to describe 'that guy''s relationship with Audrey. It was something he hated to admit, something about letting his daughter go that irked him illogically, something…soft…It was the old 'protective' father denial role he never thought he would play.
But the undeniable signs were clear from the beginning.
A little boy, of about three to four years old, was on tiptoes, eagerly over-watching the tiny, wondrous creature which had recently joined his Upper East Side family. His parents, a blonde woman dressed in the latest season's clothes, her hair ironically stylish in its mess, and a man in simple checkered shirt and jeans, were watching close by.
"Mom?" he turned to the blonde woman, asking curiously, "Which one is ours? And when can we take it home?"
Serena (nee van der Woodsen) and Dan Humphrey chuckled at their son's innocence, Dan ruffling his son's black hair. "Not yet, darling," said a smiling Serena to her little boy.
"We're going to take her to Auntie Blair and Uncle Chuck first," Dan added, lifting his son, who burst into fits of giggles when 'in flight,' up for a piggyback ride. "Wouldn't you like that?"
"Um…yea…maybe, I guess…" the boy muttered hesitantly, his interest in the pink bundle the nurse was carrying out of the babies room to hand to Serena gradually waining.
"Blair's daughter," Serena whispered to the baby girl she was cradling, and then to Dan, "Gorgeous, isn't she?"
Dan shrugged. "Ah, well, another Constance Queen in the making, huh?"
"Or maybe not," said Serena with a grin.
"Audrey, her name's Audrey," Blair announced. Exhaustion and flushed happiness did not get in the way of her regal appearance on her hospital bed.
Chuck, standing by Blair's side, was holding Audrey. "You serious, Audrey? Agree with your mother?" he cooed.
A laugh escaped Blair's lips. "Oh come on, Chuck, which child wouldn't be glad to be named after a movie star icon of fashion and grace, a name most suitable to and reserved for no one but my daughter?"
"Why of course, of course, my dear," Chuck reassured her, returning the baby to Serena, and kissing Blair softly on the lips.
"Audrey Evelyn Bass," Blair said quietly, "Isn't that beautiful?"
A cloud of blankness enveloped Chuck's face for a moment, before he nodded solemnly. "At least it's not Elisabeth."
"Or some crazy name like Ren," Blair spoke up again lightly, attempting to lighten the mood, "I mean, who would—"
"Hey, don't you call my baby boy that, Blair," Dan shot back, teasing, from his position on the couch, "After all, it was in Japan when—"
Serena chuckled guiltily from her seat beside him, "You don't have to go into that much of a detail as to the whens and wheres, Dan."
Chuck cocked at eye at them. "Oh, don't worry, we already know."
Blair grinned at Serena and Dan's reddened self-conscious expressions.
"Did someone call me?" Ren Humphrey ran back into the room, energetic from the chocolates he'd just consumed, and, finding the adults silent, turned to the next interesting object. "The baby girl!" he exclaimed, excited, "What's her name?"
Chuck told Ren, asking "Do you want to meet her?"
Ren responded with enthusiastic nods.
Blair held Audrey up close at Ren's eye level. "Feast your eyes, little Ren. Here's Audrey."
Ren's hand hovered above the baby girl, examining her, almost touching her pink face.
"Uh uh," Blair shook her head, "No. Did you wash your hands?"
"Blair," came from Serena.
"Oh, I wouldn't want my Audrey to be infected—"
"Blair," chorused Chuck and Dan.
"Fine, fine, go ahead, Ren," Blair said, defeated. Ren's hand was mere inches apart from Audrey, when the baby girl's tiny hand reached up and held on to his larger one.
Blair's eyes widened.
"She likes him."
Chuck smiled, and so did Ren.
"Audrey's my new favorite sister, Mom, Dad," Ren reported, not shaking his hand free from the baby girl's grasp.
The adults simply looked at each other knowingly.
Audrey Bass rushed down the Constance steps, unaware of a mini crowd of junior girls two years older than her giggling near the doors slamming close fast behind her.
Contrary to her expectations, her usual limo was nowhere in sight. But there was Ren, clothed in his favorite Polo shirt and jeans, with his ruffled black hair—legendary for its 'dreaminess'—, cropped short in a style similar to his father's, on his motorcycle, a spare helmet in hand.
Audrey gave him the sarcastic Bass signature look. "I don't know," she said, "I could pretty well ride the subway alone, but thanks for answering my question as to why that group of girls was there."
"Oh come on, you're kidding me, A," he laughed, swinging the helmet, "You? Chuck Bass's little princess? In the subway? He'd probably shut down the entire system and order a search to hunt you down."
Her lips twitched, her looks cynical, as she attempted to change the topic. "Since when did you have a motorcycle, anyway, Ren?"
"Since when I got into Columbia," he answered smoothly, his hand tracing the motorcycle's surface. "Don't you want to give this baby a try? You'll be its first passenger."
His cheerful aqua eyes shone at her, bright as was his smile.
"No other girls, then?" she questioned, stepping closer to the vehicle.
Her scrutinizing glare evoked guilty coughs out of Ren, whose hand swiftly crept back to his jeans' pocket to meet Audrey's searching one, grabbing hold of his BlackBerry before she could.
Caught, she pulled back, a hand swinging freely by her side, the other adjusting her school necktie, poker-emotionlessly continuing the conversation. "So, no 'What are you doing, Audrey?' this time?"
Ren smirked, a sight not unlike that of her father's usual preferred expression, messing up his hair more than it already was, while stifling a fake sigh. "Oh, believe me, princess, I know better."
The last time those dainty princessy hands—credit of the nickname to ' and Columbia's boys—managed to snatch his prized, personal possession from him (somewhere, perhaps during the frenzy at Aunt Jenny and Uncle Nate's Thanksgiving Party, he couldn't recall), there were risque texts and voice messages from (call) girls he'd never heard of, bills from pizza companies listing that he'd ordered a dozen of pizzas and appetizers, and, seemingly trivial but most irritable, the Czech language he'd have to translate to return his phone to normal.
No, he'd best not let those French manicured nails even scrape by the surface of this beeping machine.
Never trust a Bass. He used not to believe his parents, fending off the idea that such sweet chocolate brown eyes could sprout trouble, though, his lifelong experience with Audrey had taught him her sneaky tricks and feminine distractions, and that Bass basically spelled 'trouble,' backwards and forwards intrinsically.
Well, one couldn't help being the evil mastermind of situations when one's brain was genetically programmed from Blair, ex-Constance Queen B, and 'the' Chuck Bass.
He was about to go through his 'pretend defeat,' routine with Audrey when a better idea sparked in his mind instead.
"Maybe," he shrugged, to her surprised face, "Why d'you want to know?"
He received an instant response to his satisfaction. Audrey adjusted her headband, a visible sign of split second of self-doubt, before regaining her composure, all within the blink of an eye.
Blair had trained her well.
"Because I don't want to meddle with those snobbish Columbia girls, if, ever, I mean, one of them happens to be your girlfriend. Or girlfriends."
He sighed, for real this time. "Oh, just get it over with and get on, Audrey. Everyone knows you're my sister."
"What about that girl following you yesterday, to Aunt Serena's place?" she kept pressing on. Typical Audrey. Never giving up on her target. "Brunette, green eyes, slim?"
"Cecilia's my lab partner," he said, and then added, "Okay, okay, maybe potential girlfriend. But why am I telling you my dating schedule? Are you my stalker, A?"
Audrey rewarded Ren's comment with a cheeky grin. "Because you have to," and grabbed the helmet from his waiting hands, settling herself onto the motorcycle.
"I thought you told me some point in time," began Ren, recounting the past, while Audrey, ready for take off, sighed in mock annoyance, absentmindedly blowing off a stray strand of brown lock on her face, "You're scared of motorcycles?"
It was her turn to smile at him back with words sending a warmth down his body.
"Not when a cute guy is giving me a ride, even if it's you."
It was the year's debutante. Dancing shoes were in the air, and infectious text messages flew around the City asking for dates and escorts.
Audrey stepped into the practice hall to face Lily Humphrey, who, in twisted way—as her father had shaped the tale—was her not-so-distant relative.
"My escort's coming here, soon, I hope," she said, fingering her skirt. "I texted him."
Lily looked at Audrey kindly. "No problem, dear. You've been taking ballroom classes, haven't you? Of course Blair has made sure of that. You'll be alright. Just go wait in that room there."
It was a spare room, bare and empty, located next to the staircases leading to the emergency exit, in fact.
And who should she find there but Ren, sitting on the bench alone.
"Your date?" she asked.
He looked up, his piercing blue eyes striking her. "Not here yet."
"Want to practice dancing? I'm game if you are." Ren caught her offered hand, leaning on her while steadying himself up, almost tilting her over.
"Whoops, so-rr-y," he chuckled. Obviously (to her), it was intentional. He'd spotted her new Yves Sans Laurent high heels and planned on knocking her down.
She glared. "Humphrey!" but positioned herself in the waltz starting step nevertheless, her hand on his shoulder, his on her hips.
They followed the obligatory steps, counting one, two, three as they did so. Ren was much of a professional as he was a gentlemen. Serena had had him enrolled in dancing classes with her ever since she could remember. He seemed to have an extra sense of rhythm and was amazingly flexible with dance moves as she was. The only subject she couldn't seem to beat Ren in was Physics.
The Humphreys were generous enough to let her crash at their place in Brooklyn on weekends when she had to suffer through Physics tests and exams. Ren, the secret literature nerd and scifi geek that he was, tutored her till she could feel her brain melting and started to focus more intriguing goals, which varied from one weekend to another, from infusing Ren with InStyle Magazines, or forcing him to watch, for the thousandth time, An Affair to Remember. She, like her mother, found old flicks engrossing.
For a reason unknown to her, Serena would often have a light smile on her face whenever she caught her torturing Ren alive with one of her idols, Audrey Hepburn's movies.
Since starting her own family, Serena, yearning for the peace and tranquility of the Humphrey's artsy Brooklyn environment, decided to move out to the Humphreys' old place. Ren's grandfather Rufus was still going strong with Lily. Dan's younger sister Jenny had left to live with Nate for some years now. They had recently got engaged, but Audrey saw surprise in Dan's face at any mention of the couple, as if he could not get used to the idea that one of his best friends was with his sister.
Breakfast with the Humphreys was her favorite part of her stays. Those frozen waffles were difficult to even to find to eat at the Empire, though perhaps it were Ren's special recipe coffees which kept her awake and cheered her up most times.
Oh, Ren. He's been a close family friend, her trusty confidante, and her source for brotherly advices. Honest, caring, and at times sarcastically kick-ass (she couldn't care less if that was a word or not), that's Ren.
This time it was Ren who'd exclaimed. Her runaway reminiscing thoughts did not quite catch up to her steps, and she had stepped on his pristine shiny leather shoes unconsciously. They were still holding hands, locked in the dance position's embrace. Audrey jerked her Yves Sans Laurent off his in shock. Ren himself was trying to help her when the two stumbled off to a wall behind them, tips of their noses touching.
Ren let go of her on his first impulse. They should not have been caught doing something worthy for a GossipGirl scandal such as this. Audrey spun off hesitantly, unsure of what she felt.
It was her brother, for Gossip Girl's sake. Her close brother, Ren. Not blood, but well.
A brother whom she could feel no other emotions for, right?
"I'm not crying." A sobbing Audrey denied, despite her messy hair and reddened eyes which spoke for themselves.
Ren sat down next to her, arms around her shoulders. A tear fell onto his lap, as she turned to bury her face in his chest. "You ok?" he asked her.
They were at his place. Ren had walked in from a late night showing of a horror movie he'd gone to with Cecilia, expecting to find the place locked up, Serena and Dan presumably off to bed early as always. Instead, a single light was left on in the living room, and there was Audrey, looking as if she had lost her Constance Queen position, crestfallen, on the couch.
"He—dumped—me," she said in-between sobs, still clinging to him. "Nobody—does—that—to—a—Bass."
He wanted to laugh and tell her it wasn't the truth of the world. It was, rather, Blair Bass's edited versions.
But Audrey was in need of his words right now, not his sarcasm.
Ren grabbed her shoulders, leveling her face to his so he could get a better look at her. "After the debutante? You serious, A? But—"
"—nobody does that, I know," she finished his sentence, sniffling. "Just two days after. And we've been dating for like a month. Who knew St. Judes' Prom King is such a jerk. Only because I—"
Her silence dropped the truth on him.
That Nicholas Edwards had better watch his back. The next time they met, the boy should be packing his bags out of town. Ren could more than make sure Edwards wouldn't be attending Columbia anytime soon.
"Forget him," he softly told Audrey, whose sobs had calmed by that point. "Let's play scrabbles."
She laughed, her wet tears yet glistening on her cheeks. "Scrabbles? Whatever happened to chocolates and tragic love songs?"
He patted her shoulders and got up to search for the family's vintage Scrabbles pack. "It's the Humphreys'. We play Scrabbles as a cure-all."
Audrey's melancholy smile melted his insides. Hell, he'd do anything to bring the sunshine back into her face, anything for his little hypocritic princess to be happy. Anything for his sister.
Or was she?
She tugged at his shirt. "Forget it, Ren. Can we just do what I want this time?"
'Isn't it always?' he thought to himself, but gave in to her request, and sat down once more, gesturing his hands. "Well, fair enough. What'd you want to do, A?"
His sincere gestures and voice ruined her train of thoughts to bits.
"Truth or dare," she finally uttered, feeling lightheaded.
"Two people?" Ren questioned, incredulous, but Audrey nodded.
"You go first, then," he said, chuckling at her choice of game, "I don't know how this works with only two players."
"Truth, or dare?"
He considered for a moment, deciding to choose something that would cheer her up. From his past with her, there was nothing the little rascal like better than daring people to do impossible feats.
She was silent, much to his surprise. And her words, as she said them slowly, shattered whatever conscience he had left.
He paused, doubtful at her command. "Kiss you—wh—you mean—what?"
The Ren broken sentences were coming back. He had no idea his agreement to participate in her little game would lead up to this.
"Kiss me," she repeated, firm and resolute, twirling his mind even more than it already was.
There she was, a junior in high school, just broken up with her boyfriend. Lonely, disappointed, and desperate. And there he was, a university sophomore, just returned home from his date with one of Columbia's most wanted bachelorettes. (He could not believe his luck when his friends broke the news to him that she was single, even.) Confused, sincere, and eager to please.
It was all so wrong.
He didn't belong with her, just as much as she didn't belong with him.
Thoughts in mind, he leaned down and gave her a soft peck on the cheek, yet Audrey's hands took hold of the back of his neck, and her lips, sensuous and appealing, touched his.
They remained frozen in the spot for seconds. What he felt at the touch of her lips was something he couldn't explain. Senses overtook reasons, as he deepened the kiss, welcoming in the fizzing pleasure he felt inside.
It didn't feel like kissing a relative. It didn't feel like kissing a sister.
And all of a sudden he felt the need to remind himself that she was not, indeed, his sister.
He had kissed girls before, but certainly not like he kissed Audrey. Their kiss was intense, passionate, and heartfelt.
And he was gasping for breath when they finally broke apart.
"I'm sorry," he apologized, "It's probably not…I shouldn't have…but—"
"No, I'm sorry," Audrey replied. "And…"
She left without another word, and Ren realized he should have been going over his Calculus for his test tomorrow.
Reality had returned.
And it was just a mistake.
His graduation day. Though Audrey had recently enrolled into Columbia, they didn't talk as much after the truth or dare incident. Somehow, it had split them apart, creating a rift. He went his ways and she in hers.
Ren was adjusting his graduation robes, inspecting himself in the mirror.
The dressing room was left empty, save for him. He had arrived too early for the ceremony, and was forced to count down the minutes as he waited for his fellow classmates.
"Need some help?"
He turned at the sound. He could not forget her voice, nor her short, breathy whisper, "Kiss me," from the years before.
"Audrey," her named rolled off his tongue smoothly. "What are you doing here?"
As a response, she dropped her shopping bags and wordlessly pulled him close to her.
"To right a wrong," she kissed his neck. His skin tingled. His heart was skipping its beats, his breaths in short, quick bursts. Only she could have this effect on him. Not Cecilia, not ever. "And to face my feelings. My heart."
Her finger traced his lips, leaving him motionless in place.
She knew what she wanted. She had kept away from him the last few years for the same reasons. But now. She was here. She was ready.
She was his.
And he—for the sake of sanity—had to know what he want. He wanted her. Never mind what was wrong. Never mind the brother-sister façade built around their relationship. Never mind the rules and regulations of society.
Anything was worth the risk.
He touched her finger, gently putting her hand down, before nuzzling her neck, kissing hungrily, as if to make up for the lost years they had attempted to spend apart.
Ren peppered his kisses over her face and her lips. There was the delicious flavor of guilt he had taught himself to forget. Her hands playing with his knotted hair sent shivers down his body.
"I love you," he confessed, staring at her brown eyes. "I may have not know it but—"
She kissed him lightly on the lips. "You know what, Ren," she said, "I feel the same."
And she slid the robes off of him, revealing his everyday attire—T-shirt and jeans—as he continued to kiss her fervently.
"You do know you're going to have to help me dress up later?" he grinned at her hands, which were working their way to his shirt's top button.
"My pleasure," she whispered.
As they went back to what they were doing before, Ren could not help but thank his luck for discovering Audrey.
Back to that first day when they met.
It's love. He felt it, and so did she.
And it all fell into place.
"So you've had no idea this would happen?" Blair asked her husband again, while they, sitting in the VIP table, watched Audrey and Ren moved from one table to another, taking pictures with their guests.
Chuck shook his head, saying simply, "Why? Ren Humphrey? That all of us, first Serena, and now Audrey, would be turned into the Humphreys of Brooklyn?"
Blair smiled at his cynical comment.
"Oh, never, Blair. I'd never thought this would happen."
I was going to write a short episodic piece about these two, but my muse got on board, and, ah, here we are! Thank you, if you have stayed with me, Audrey, and Ren, through the end.
Might have a second part of Audrey&Ren's relationship from the adults' point of view,
Infinite thank-yous to everyone, readers and reviewers,
Your Ever Humble Fanfic Writer :)