A/N: One of the most familiar tropes in the fandom seems to be the old "Blair gets in an accident and loses her memory" gambit. So, it occurred to me to try the same story, but with Chuck being the one who loses all memory of the last few years. Spoilers up to 4x06 (Easy J) – although Chuck may not be aware of these! I apologise for any medical inaccuracies. This is a short chapter just to test out the story and see how it is received before committing.
Between the Shadow and the Soul
A Chuck and Blair Story
Chapter One: Without Knowing How, Or When, Or From Where
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
Or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
In secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms
But carries in itself the light of the hidden flowers;
Thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance
Risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
So I love you because I know no other way
Than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
So close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
So close that your eyes close as I fall asleep
- Pablo Neruda, "XVII"
15 November, 2010 (10:50 PM)
Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City
Patient's Name: Charles Bartholomew Bass
Admitted By: Donald Johnson (Emergency Services)
Notes: Patient admitted to the Emergency Department of this Hospital by the Donald Johnson (EMT). Reported hit-and-run resulting in substantial tears to the rotor cuff as well as brain trauma. Previous gunshot wound inflamed and infected. MRI indicates possible lesions on the hippocampus, raising concerns over possible implications for systems-level memory consolidation. Family has been contacted.
18 November, 2010 (4:13 PM)
The world exploded and then there was blackness. But, from the darkness, a new world was born.
The smells came first - an unnaturally clean smell, with just a hint of alcohol.
Then, an experimental wriggle of the toe. With that tiny movement, a wave of self-awareness comes upon the man whose eyes refuse to open. He does not feel right. But, he knows this: he is a person. His name is Charles.
There is a certain process that must be followed, to emerge from the blackness that comes after a world ends. It takes a sudden assault of smells and a slight movement to remind the brain that it is lodged in a body. Next, the muffled sound of conversation reaches his ears, but it is not possible, yet to understand the content.
"I never thought this day would come; I'm actually sick of eating junk food."
"I'll alert the newspapers," a woman says, her voice as light as the air. Charles can hear her, distantly, and knows that she is a friend.
"I'm just saying. I used to love junk food. This is like breaking up with someone."
"I'll try not to take that personally."
"No one's forcing you to stay, Nate," says a new female voice. It is darker than the one that spoke before; it is heavy with exhaustion. "I don't need you guys to keep my company."
"We're keeping Chuck's company," the man's voice responds. "You're just an added bonus."
"But," the first woman says hesitantly, her voice needling and tempting against the slow beep, beep, beep that punctuates their words. "You know, B, it might be a good idea for you to go home for a few hours."
There is a pause as all four of them listen to the steady beeping of the strange metronome that Charles can't quite make sense of.
"Serena and I can stay here," the man says, as if this were a speech that he had rehearsed earlier. "We'll call you if anything changes."
"You don't need to call me, Nate," the woman responds tightly. "Because I'm not leaving."
Nate. The name evokes the smell of grass and the feeling of a hand squeezing a shoulder in comfort. In the pooling darkness behind Charles' eyes, he longs to reach out to the sound of this voice; there is safety and understanding and comfort. He longs to move his head, slightly, to feel the light of these feelings on his face. But, he cannot control his movements.
"You look tired. Ow – Serena! What are you, twelve years old? Why did you kick me?"
Serena and Nate. He had known both of them, backs when he was not trapped in this impenetrable darkness. They had passed dewy days together in the outside world. And now, their voices reached towards him and he tried to clasp their hands. If he can just open his eyes, then maybe Serena and Nate would take him by the arm and lead him back to daylight.
Open your eyes. Open your eyes. Openyoureyes. Openyoureyes.
A dull throbbing forms in the back of Charles' mind as a new sensation awakens within him: pain. The pain radiates from his shoulder and travels into his chest.
"What Nate meant to say," Serena says primly. "Is that you haven't left this hospital for days."
"We're worried about you, Blair."
Somewhere in the dark well he struggles to escape from, he knows that he is in a bed, and that the sting in his arm is a needle. But, for some incomprehensible reason, the single shaft of light that reaches him is a name.
The steady beep-beep-beep increases in tempo and there is a sudden flurry of movement in the dark space around Charles' bed.
"What the hell is going on?" Nate asks, fearfully.
"Get a nurse," Blair snaps.
Charles can feel a warm hand pressed against his forehead.
"Are you eavesdropping on us, Chuck Bass?" Blair says, her voice almost gentle.
The feeling of the hand calms him, and the strange beeping returns to a steady pace. He would like to thank her. He makes a fist and bangs on the walls of the well, but he makes no sound.
The blackness overcomes him once more. It comes over him hard and covers him entirely.
19 November, 2010 (8:30AM)
Just an hour ago, Blair Waldorf had seen Chuck stir in his sleep.
Both Serena and Lily were there to assure her that it was not just her imagination and she resented them and appreciated them in equal measure. Quite apart from the horror of discovering that he had stepped off the curb outside her house and into on-coming traffic, she had found out from Lily, hours after the event. When she arrived at the hospital, Serena, Eric and even Rufus were already present. She had lost another moment and it felt like robbery – it felt, the way she had felt when she learned that it was Eva who had nursed him back to health after his gunshot wound.
Just hours earlier, they had shaken hands and agreed to write their names in ink at the bottom the page on which their story ended. She had closed the door on him and bade farewell to the entire, sorry chapter, aware that while the war may have ended, she was the only casualty.
But, from the moment she entered this cold, sterile hospital, she found it impossible to leave. She was drawn to his fading light like some vulnerable creature with dust on its wings. That was what it felt like to love Chuck Bass.
"I'm glad that you're here for him," Lily had said to her over his unconscious form. Blair had looked at her – really looked at her – and for once had seen her clearly. She may have been the closest thing that Chuck had to family, but they always observed a comfortable distance. She didn't understand, she could never really understand what it was to truly know Chuck Bass, to know that there was quite simply nothing that he wouldn't do. His words, reflected back at her: No Limits.
She didn't know, really, what brought her to this place. When he opened his eyes, they would still be over: this entire, sticky mess between them would bind them forever, certainly, but compromise seemed impossible. The time for fighting was over; now it was time to gather together what was left.
Perhaps she stayed by his bedside because he looked the way she felt: wrung out, exhausted, and absent from the world.
"I don't know how you do it," Serena said to her, sitting in one of the plastic chairs in a high-necked black dress that ended somewhere halfway down her thighs. Serena Van Der Woodsen just didn't belong in hospitals. Both she and Nate, who seemed to have called a tentative accord for the occasion, squirmed in their seats, as if eager to escape. For her part, Blair was totally still, waiting for a cue from the immobile man who had taken her world, shaken it violently, and discarded it.
"How I do what?"
"How you always come through for us, no matter what," Serena said fondly.
"I'm not here for anyone else," Blair said flatly. "I'm just waiting."
"What are you waiting for?"
"The end. Whatever form it takes."
Serena's eyebrows formed a thin line in the centre of her forehead as she examined Blair's face. Gone was the determination and haughtiness of before Chuck's various double-crosses, replaced by hard listlessness. "Please don't say that, B. Don't talk like something's ending."
"But things are getting better," Serena reasoned. "You and Chuck agreed to a truce. The petty games are over. You can move on."
"Yes," Blair said, her eyes still settled on his face – the only point of movement in his entire being was in the faint fluttering of his eyelids, pale and translucent. "But he has to let me go, first."
"You did let you go, B."
She tilted her head, as if examining a specimen with a scientific eye. Finally, she offered her old friend a half-smile. "He invoked a caveat. I told him that I would want to know if he were really hurt. So he got really hurt." Blair allowed her tired head to come to rest on the wall behind her head. "He's an evil genius."
"Chuck didn't plan for this to happen."
"Chuck plans everything," she whispered, reaching forward as if to touch his hair, before stopping herself just in time. When her small white hands came to rest in her lap, Serena fancied that she might burst into tears if she stayed for a moment longer.
Gathering her purse, she offered Blair a watery smile. "I'm going to go walk with Eric to school. He hasn't been going with…everything that's going on."
Serena paused before she left, resting one hand on the doorframe and shaking her head at the intense look of focus on Blair's face: as if this were a diabolical plan that she had yet to figure out. Even the sight of Chuck in a hospital gown couldn't convince her that this whole thing was real. "He didn't plan this, Blair. And there was nothing you could have done."
"I'm sure you're right, S," Blair said unconvincingly, not tearing her eyes away from his face.
"Oh, and B?" Serena said, worrying her lip with her teeth. "Happy Birthday."
"Thanks," Blair responded without looking up.
Then, it was just Chuck and Blair. Or whoever they were nowadays.
Serena was probably right. There was no way he could have planned this. There would be no leaping up from the hospital bed to laugh at her by his bedside. There was nothing, really, apart from the carefully regulated breathing that told her he was still alive. Serena was right; she was being paranoid.
But, then, Serena had never loved Chuck Bass – not the way that Blair had. No one had loved him the way she had. She had loved him hard, loved him rotten, she had lost herself entirely in him.
And then, she had woken up the day after – as if at the end of long fight – and had found that life was quiet and manageable without him. With Chuck, it had seemed as if the world were vast and terrifying: in Technicolor with just a hint of violence. Without Chuck, there were polite smiles and small talk in the library. But, she was in control of every second of her quiet, well-polished days. She sat in class and wrote the same detailed notes she had always carefully transcribed.
But, she half-expected the people around her to look at her strangely, to point and gasp and gossip.
She would stand in front of the mirror for hours, examining herself. This was nothing new. But, for once, it wasn't her figure that she was trying to assess.
She was searching her skin, trying to find the mark he had left on her.
21 November, 2010 (9:14PM)
There seem to be bandages and ointments on his skin. But, beyond the feeling of coolness and itching, he can hear a breath next to his ear. It tells him secrets, which he forgets.
"I was lying when I said I could never forgive you," she whispers to the night. "And that's what terrifies me."
That night, she sings to him, and her voice is like wind chimes, in stark contrast to the sounds of machines. But, after a while she stops singing and he drifts away from her until he falls asleep with a hunger for it.
22 November, 2010 (11:32AM)
"Those doctors give me the creeps," Nate commented idly, offering Blair a chip and shrugging when she shook her head.
"They don't know what to make of all of us," Blair said, tightening her cardigan around her middle and strolling to the window, looking out at the street below and wondering whether the people who walked on the streets downstairs knew how uncomplicated their lives were. "It's usually just the family that get told this sort of thing. They're not used to playing to an audience."
"We are family."
Blair glanced at Nate, noting his wide blue eyes and the determined nod of his head. He never looked directly at Chuck; it was easier to pretend that everything was alright when you didn't see evidence to the contrary right before your eyes.
"You know that's not true, Nate," she said, sadly.
He sighed, stretching his long, athletic legs straight out in front of him. "I know things have been really screwed up recently."
"You have a real gift for understatement."
Nate glanced down, before peering at her through his eyelashes. "You've changed," he said shyly.
Her crossed arms were a shield. "How have I changed?"
"You're nicer to Dan," Nate said with a slight grin, gratified when Blair let out a low chuckle. "But mainly…you're just…sadder."
Her heart clenched slightly, and she turned back to the window, unaware that the light of the outside cast shadows on her face. "I'm not sad, Nate."
"Yeah. But you are."
"I'm not sad," she insisted. "I'm just really tired."
Nate nodded without prying. He was so different to Chuck in that way; he never needed to dig deeper, deeper – until he hit the one secret that proved to him that everyone was a liar, just like him.
She should know; she was a liar, too.
23 November, 2010 (3:21PM)
"He'll wake up when he's ready, B. No one could ever rush Chuck Bass."
"No one can tell Chuck Bass to do anything he didn't want to do. He's probably just torturing us on purpose."
There is a pause.
"I wonder if this what he looked like," Blair says, breaking the silence. "When he was shot and Eva looked after him. I wonder if he was still like this – if he looked like he was dead."
"He's going to be fine, B." Serena's voice sounds strange, as if she'd said this phrase so many times that it was losing its sincerity.
"I wish people would stop saying that. There's nothing fine about this. They're talking about brain damage, you know. I mean, you realize that even if he wakes up…"
"Blair," Serena interrupts. "You need to calm down."
"No. You need to open your eyes."
There is a pause.
"You know," Serena says. "I almost expected that to work."
"I wasn't talking to him."
"Okay. Whatever you say."
None of it makes sense to him and he longs for the silence that comes when it was just him and the voice that belonged to Blair. But two things he knows, through the fog and dark: he looks like he was dead, and his name is Chuck Bass.
Then even these dissolve, and the darkness takes him in hand once more.
23 November, 2010 (11:01AM)
She had wondered many times what she would do when those familiar brown eyes met hers again. Mostly, she wanted to do the one thing that she had failed to do that night, when they had shaken hands. Lovers do not part with a handshake, and the mere fact that they had tried to do so insulted her, insulted both of them.
Lovers end with a slap or a kiss.
When he opened his eyes, she would either slap him or kiss him. Only time would tell which one she chose.
Or maybe she could do both.
24 November, 2010 (2:57PM)
There was something different about that day. He knew it immediately, when once more his mind slipped into its rightful place in his body. He knew that today was an auspicious day, as clearly as he knew that his name was Chuck Bass, and that only his father called him Charles.
It was time to wake up. To wake up properly.
He didn't want to rush the process. He started with the now familiar toe wiggle. Then, he tensed his arm, to feel the familiar swoop of sickness that came when he realized that there was a foreign object lodged in it. He swallowed once, twice.
Then, with the exultation of a blind man who can see for the first time, Chuck Bass opened his eyes.
The room came to him in snatches. There were chairs arranged in an arch around his bed, as if scores of people had come to see him. There were machines all around him, and a bland watercolour painting graced the wall opposite his bed.
How quaint, he thought lazily.
He was in a rather dreary hospital bed. But, at first sight, even it's neat corners and rough sheets seemed beautiful to him in the afternoon sun. His head may have hurt like hell, and his shoulder may have felt like there were pins lodged in it, but the sight of crisp white sheets was enough to make him exult in the fact he had conquered the darkness.
There was still a hint of grey about the corners of his vision, but he was starting to feel like himself again, cringing at the cheap fabric that rubbed against his chest and the greasy feeling of his unwashed hair. He would need to get some proper care, now that he was awake.
But, this thought made him frown. Why was he here? Experimentally, he tensed his muscles, taking stock of the damage. With this movement, came a new wave of pains; his ankle hurt and his chest felt as if it had a tight band around it.
Things were clearing in his mind; he seemed to recall a strange pain in his stomach. It was burning. He was leaving somewhere, and he felt as if his chest might burst. He had just done something important, but it made his chest feel like he was going to die. His eyes had been blurring as he stepped off the curb.
Then came the explosion.
But why had he been there? What had he been doing? Why had he felt as if at any moment, his heart might stop beating?
Questions blossomed into new questions.
The important thing was that his eyes were open, and judging by the beeping of the heart monitor, his heart was still performing its primary function.
It's only function, he thought wryly.
His hand was turning numb, he realized. It was only when he started to flex his wrist that he noticed a strange sight. There, next to his right hand, was a head-full of brown curls.
He would have known her anywhere; he had grown up tugging on those curls and watching them spring back to their rightful place. He had seen them arranged behind a headband, and he had seen one come loose of an elegant chignon. But for the life of him, he couldn't make sense of the sight.
Blair Waldorf's face was buried in his hospital sheets, and her hand was clasped in his.
It took longer than it should have for these thoughts to connect, and the moment that they did, he snatched his hand away on an impulse. The movement, however, caused Blair's head to whip up.
Her face was streaked with tears. Surely, she wasn't crying over him? He noticed, suddenly, that she wasn't wearing any make-up. This sight in itself was enough to throw him; in all the years he had known Blair, he had never seen her without immaculate make-up. The only time she had seen him dissolve into tears was when Serena and her father had left. He had sat with her for hours, uncertain about how to comfort her – certain that his hand would be swat away if he tried to stroke her back, the way Nate always did.
"Chuck?" she asked, as if she scarcely believed it.
He waited for a witty response to form in his brain, but it was impossible through the dull cotton that seemed to have lodged there.
"As you live and breathe," he responded, although his dry voice cracked slightly over the first syllable, disappearing entirely before he could complete the sentence.
He was about to perform the Herculean task of forming a word once more, when suddenly, Blair's face dissolved into tears.
"You're awake," she said, her voice wavering with tears
Chuck gave her an alarmed look, his brain still struggling to accommodate the fact that her tears and his condition were related. "Waldorf - "
"No, don't talk," she said, wiping at her face and pressing a button to summon one of the nurses. "Just…don't say anything. Don't remind me that I'm mad at you. Just…"
Why the hell is she mad at me? Chuck wondered.
She stood, turning her back to him and pressing a hand to her mouth. When she turned around to look at him. The expression on her face was impossible to decode and he found himself captivated by the conflicting emotions that appeared and disappeared in constantly rearranging patterns. He had never seen Blair quite so undone as she was now.
"Chuck," she said in a voice that he didn't recognize. Then, she stepped towards his bed-side, where he lay not wanting to move until he made sense of the scene and could select an appropriate response.
Finally, though, the expression on her face forced him to ask the only question that would account for her strange reaction to him. "Am I dying or something?" he rasped, hating the sound of his own weak voice.
"Shut up, Chuck," she said in that same husky voice, frowning deeply at him.
Her face, as she looked down at him was the same face that he had saw each day at school, but she had never looked at him like this, before. So, he obeyed her request that he stay silent, as if his aching throat would have allowed any other course of action.
She swallowed, hard, shaking her head in disbelief at something he couldn't quite make out. And then, with a slight tremor in her hands – Blair Waldorf with a tremor? – she placed them on either side of his face. She needn't have worried about holding him still, because he couldn't have moved if he wanted to. Then, with the slow, deliberate movements of someone performing a solemn act, she kissed him, square on the lips.
For a moment, the strangeness of her lips against his eclipsed any other thought. They were soft and immediate against his dry, parched mouth. He would have liked to drink in some of her moisture; to pull her closer until her hands were his hands and together they could figure out why on earth she was kissing him like this.
But when she pulled away, she looked questioningly into his eyes, trying and failing to read the thoughts that were forming and disintegrating behind them.
There was only one thought in his head: Blair Waldorf had just kissed him. Not only had she kissed him, but she had done it as if it were the most meaningful kiss in the world. Blair Waldorf had kissed him, and the only reason that Blair did anything was either to further a scheme or to solidify the promise of her future. She was, quite possibly, the most insanely driven person that he had ever met.
That kiss, whatever it meant, was surely part of something bigger that he could not quite understand. Something was wrong. Something had changed incomprehensibly.
And Chuck Bass hated being in the dark.
Against his will, his injured hand came to his lips, as if trying to catch the kiss she had just placed there. But, when he spoke, his voice was rough. "Waldorf," he rasped, his throat aching and his lips tingling. "What the hell are you doing?"
She jumped back as if his words had been a physical blow. For a moment, her face rippled as if another jag of tears were about to come upon her. But, she mastered herself and her eyes hardened. She opened her mouth to respond, but before she had the opportunity, the door to his room opened and two nurses spilled in.
"Mr. Bass. How are you feeling? Can we get you some water?"
"What's happening?" Nate asked, hurrying into the room. "I saw the nurses…and…Blair, where are you - "
"He's awake," she spat at him, before running from the room. "I'm done here."
Chuck was aware that he must have looked strange, standing stock-still with his fingers pressed to his lips. Certainly, Nate shot him a (typically) confused glance as the nurses on either side of him checked instruments and examined his bandages. But, as always seemed to be the case with Nate, kindness won out over confusion.
"Are you okay, man?" Nate asked gently.
But, Nate's voice is drowned out by the more insistent questions of the nurses. "What do you remember about the accident?"
"Nothing," he said, one hand still frozen in its position on his lips, and the other sipping water from a long, yellow straw. As he drank, his voice gained strength. "I remember everything exploding."
"There was a car accident," one of the nurses prompts him. "Do you remember where you were when it happened?"
It was like gazing at a horizon over a vast expanse of water. "I was leaving the Waldorf's house. They were having a party. I was - " as he spoke, the images he was conjuring solidified and the horizon turned into a shore line " – I was thinking about how much more interesting things would be now that Serena was back."
"Serena?" Nate asked, shaking Chuck from his reverie. "Back from where?"
Chuck glanced down at Nate's hand where it curled around the metal bar of his hospital bed. "From boarding school."
In the uneasy silence that followed, Chuck's eyes travelled up Nate's arm, noting that he was wearing a plaid shirt and that his hair was slicked back. Was it possible that Nate had grown since he had last seen him?
Nate glanced uncertainly at the nurses. One of them whispered something in an undertone, before hurrying out of the room, presumably to summon a doctor.
"Chuck," Nate said, gently. "Serena has been back from boarding school for ages. Quit joking around."
For the first time that Chuck could remember, he felt a thin sliver of fear enter his chest. "How long was I asleep?"
"Just over a week."
"That's not ages, Nathaniel," he laughed hollowly. "You just have a short attention span." But, despite his calm tone, the heart monitor's beep was becoming increasingly erratic. As they spoke, Nate's eyes consistently returned to the screen, as if it were an insight into his best friend's brain.
"Serena came back three years ago," Nate said, as if uncertain whether this was something he was allowed to divulge.
"Bullshit," Chuck said flatly. The beeping of the heart monitor increased in speed.
"Come on, man," Nate said nervously. "You know this. She came back in 2007."
Chuck shot him a calculating look. He had learned, over the years, that it was best never to demonstrate ignorance to an opponent. Nonetheless, everyone could hear the steadily increasing heart rate on the monitor.
"I see." He paused for a moment, glancing at the nurse as if he didn't want her to hear what he next said. "And what year is it now?"
Nate's knuckles were turning white on the bed-frame. "Maybe we should wait for the doctor."
"Nathaniel, I asked you to tell me what year it is."
Nate sighed, aware that no matter what he said, Chuck's heart rate continued to rise. "It's 2010."
The beeps all but blurred into one, right before he passed out.
 I probably don't need to point this out, but this is a line from "The Only Exception" by Paramore.
 This passage is based on The English Patient by Michael Ondaate. I have a feeling that The English Patient will be pretty influential in this story.
A/N: So, that was a purely introductory chapter. Let me know if you would like me to continue. I warn you, I haven't been much of a Gossip Girl viewer this season, but I have set myself the challenge of trying to repair the Chuck and Blair that they have given us on television. To be honest, this will probably end up being a redemption story for Chuck, and a re-building of Blair!
Note that this is a completely different universe to the Unbearable Lightness series, and completing Lightness and Weight is still my number one priority. Anyway, enough from me!