When Corbin Bartholomew Bass is six and Alexis Charlotte Bass is two, Carter leans outside the stone column of St. Jude's and watches them from afar. He watches as Chuck takes his son's hand and leads him into St. Jude's Lower School, the young boy grinning admiringly up at his father. Carter is proud to admit that his son looked at him the same way just moments before.
It seems that Chuck Bass has all the time in the world for his family-a talent that Carter is trying to master. Sometimes he wonders what it would be like if he and Blair stayed together, but the thought is quickly banished when he realizes that it would never have worked out.
As of right now, Felicia, with her curly brown hair and bright blue eyes, filled the hole. In many ways, she was Blair. But in many other ways, she was her own person, and maybe, just maybe, this was one person he could truly love.
Chuck spots Carter outside the walls of St. Jude's, smoking like the teenager he was so many years ago, and he has the sudden urge to make his way over to his sworn enemy.
"Baizen," he acknowledges
"Bass." They are not friends, nor are they even acquaintances.
"I see you're back in New York."
Carter gives Chuck a puzzled look, and Chuck himself wonders what he is doing. He isn't sure exactly what pushed him to talk to Carter, but he gave up his jealous tendencies (well, most of them) a while back.
"Permanently," Carter supplies, "Mariah's family lives in Brooklyn and it'll be easier to have shared custody over Johnny this way."
Chuck nods, and the conversation halts, with Carter continuing to smoke while staring off into the distance.
"I guess I'll be seeing you around," Carter says, and then turns without another word, not giving Chuck a chance to respond.
After dinner at the Archibald's that night, Chuck will casually mention his run-in with Carter, and a tiny smile will appear upon Blair's ruby lips. (Chuck pretends not to notice)
Nate frowns slightly, and Serena laments over the Carter she remembers, before springing up to pull three year old Liam Archibald away from a screaming Alexis.
"Carter Baizen," Nate muses later
"With a kid," Chuck supplies "five or six. He doesn't look much older than Corbin"
"Wow," Nate smiles "I never thought I'd see the day."
He continues smirking, and Chuck has to resist the urge to slap his best friend upside the head while his princess is fast asleep in the crook of his arm.
"Spit it out Archibald"
Nate laughs. "You, and Carter. Settled down, married, and with kids"
Chuck may not resent Carter as much as he did before, but he sure as hell resents the comparison. "Carter's not married"
And then his wife comes along with Alexis' coat in her hands; picking up their princess and promising Alexis she could sleep in the limo on the way home. Blair's presence makes everything right again.
Chuck watches as Blair slips on her own coat and adjusts Corbin's haphazardly messed hair. If it's even possible, he's more in love with her than ever before.
One night, they are all cuddled together in their entertainment room, some animated comedy or other playing on the generously sized screen.
Alexis is cuddled up to Chuck's side, always Daddy's little princess, when her eyes start to droop. Chuck laughs and picks her up, announcing bedtime while Corbin frowns at them all and tells them all he's "Six! I'm six, I tell you! And Johnny Baizen told everyone in show and tell today that he gets to go to sleep whenever he wants!"
Mr. and Mrs. Bass would normally argue this point, or at least refute the statement, but the child's last name draws a point of contention for both parents.
So Chuck just sighs, settling a half-asleep Alexis on her bed and returning back to Corbin and Blair.
"Can I bring a friend home tomorrow?" Corbin asks one day "I asked him if he would like to come over and play"
"Of course" Blair calls out from her place beside the oven. She is watching the apple pie like a hawk, careful not to let it burn. Blair Bass is not domestic, but she can bake pie like it's nobody's business. "Which friend?"
"Johnny. He tells the best stories. There's this one about his…"
Both Chuck and Blair tune out their son as they silently exchange glances of trepidation.
The playdate goes well, Blair thinks. Johnny is well-behaved (somewhat. As well-behaves as a five-almost-six-year-old could be) and he and Corbin remind her of a younger Chuck and Nate.
Carter himself comes to pick Johnny up, and when his son runs to him at the door, grinning and babbling excitedly about his day at the Basses', Blair wonders what it would've been like.
Victoria (who passed last year after fighting the second recurrence of cancer) flashes in her mind, and her words ring through Blair's ears. But Carter had married someone else, and had a child before Victoria had passed, granting his mother's last wish.
It's not a future that Blair envisions herself in, by Carter's side instead of Chuck's. Sometimes she wonders, wonders what it would be like if Carter's arms were around her at this moment.
The thought is quickly demolished when Chuck presses his lips onto her ear and whispers "I love you", and her children come bounding into the room-Corbin running to show them his painting and Alexis trying to keep up with her older brother. Blair will close her eyes and let the image of her second love go with no regrets, knowing that she made the right decision.
"Felicia Haile" the other woman says with a smile, and Blair scrutinizes her carefully. The gorgeous silk-print dress and lavender Louboutins speak volumes to Blair that trifling words cannot. This is a woman who knows her Bendels from Bergdorfs.
"Blair Bass," she returns, and in a rare moment, she bestows a genuine smile upon Felicia. "Is that dress Valentino? I recognize it from their spring collection."
Surprised, Felicia nods. "That's a gorgeous pair of shoes," she exclaims, nodding towards Blair's limited-edition pewter kitten heels. "Manolo, if I'm not mistaken? I hear they only made two hundred pairs."
"I know a guy," Blair says offhandedly, but even the most unobservant of spectators could tell that she was impressed. And Blair Bass does not impress easily.
To both Chuck and Carter's amusement (and astonishment), the two women walk off together, arms linked, heads bowed close, chatting about Choo and Armani, baby carriages and cheesecakes.
Bewildered, Chuck turns to look for Nate, knowing that his best friend would find this amusing as well. Upon finding the aforementioned dancing with Serena (if you could call that indecency dancing), he turns to Carter instead.
Inclining his head towards the bar, Chuck utters one word.
It would be a long road to any semblance of friendship between the three. But Carter had gotten over Blair a long time ago, and around the same time she became Mrs. Blair Bass, Blair let go of becoming Mrs. Blair Baizen. It was a future that would be forever lost to the wind.
And as she kissed her husband on the lips, watching Carter and Felicia smile at each other out of the corner of her eye, she realized that this was the life she had chosen. The life she had wanted.
It was her life, for better or for worse. And she wouldn't have had it any other way.
AN: Thank you all so very much for following me on this journey. I loved reading all of your reviews, and each and every one made my day. Special thanks to SaturnineSunshine for being such an amazing last-minute beta and to Isabelle for helping me get into Chuck's POV. I have a new story in the works (quite a few, actually, but we'll see which ones make the posting cut) that I will be trying to post soon.
With that, thanks again for your amazing reviews and I hope you've enjoyed the journey I've put Blair, Chuck, and Carter on. 'Twas quite a journey indeed.