A/N: A THOUSAND GAH-GILLION THANKS TO VERYLASTVALKYRIE. She beta-ed this for me in record time even though its like 4,000 words because I was impatient. She is awesome and we all should worship her.
"Why do you keep trying to save me?"
"Because I'm too selfish to live without you."
Disclaimer: Characters are not mine and the quote belongs to Othello just because. This is sort of a prelude to two different fics I'm doing. Confusing, I know, but more on that to come. This is dedicated to the awesome comewhatmay.x for Christmas. She didn't tell me what she wanted so I just made it up as I went along.
O thou weed,
Who art so lovely and smell'st so sweet
That the sense aches at thee, would thou hadst
ne'er been born!
-Act IV Scene II
The mild taste of champagne scalded down Blair Waldorf's throat as she knocked back the flute. Her cell phone a permanent fixture in her hand, she couldn't help but gaze at her surroundings with discontent.
Christmas used to be one of her favorite times of year. Along with Thanksgiving, it was her favorite holiday. It was finally a time when she could see her father—among one of the only two times she had a chance to.
Things had changed since she was a teenager. Now encased in a high-collared, suffocating dress of society, she smiled those fake smiles that would fill her future as she stood in the throng at Lily van der Woodsen's annual Christmas party.
"Are you really going to stand here all night?"
Blair cast her eyes to the side and her companion.
"Would you rather I go under the mistletoe with you?" Blair sneered at Nate's carefree tone. He laughed light-heartedly and she wished she could feel-if only for a moment-so free. Just once. Just for one second.
But she never would again.
"What for?" She asked. "You're the one who has to watch the love of your life with some renter."
Two pairs of eyes, one blue and one dark, turned to watch Serena van der Woodsen and Dan Humphrey whispering in a corner. But Nate just shook his head. Blair wished it could be that easy; she wished she could see the person she gave her virginity to with someone else and just laugh.
But that was just a dream.
"You know, I'm usually the one who's brooding in the corner," Nate noted.
"What do you want, Nathaniel?" Blair asked in as much of a bored tone as she could summon.
"I want you to be happy," Nate said genuinely. It was something that she missed. Being with Nate had been so easy. Not natural and real, but just easy. He never lied. He never deceived her. He never played with her.
But he never loved her either. Not the way she had truly been loved.
"Gideon's still in the studio," Blair announced. "The holidays are a really busy time for him."
"You know that wasn't what I was talking about."
"Then what were you speaking of?" Blair dared him quietly. She dared him to say the one thing she knew was on everyone's mind.
"Do you think she knows?" Nate asked after a moment of quiet.
"About what today is?" Blair asked. "I want to believe that she wouldn't hold this party if she did. But either way, it's not very promising."
"He's hurting, Blair," Nate said. "And not just because of what today is."
"And what do you expect me to do about it?" Blair snapped. "You're his best friend, remember? He doesn't even talk to me anymore."
"Not because he doesn't want to," Nate said as he saw Serena and Dan approaching. "It's because he just can't."
Blair's eyes were hard into his as the blissful couple finally reached them.
"Is everything alright?" Dan asked uneasily, always the peacemaker.
"If only," Blair whispered, snagging another glass from a passing waiter.
"Do you think you should slow down?" Serena asked tentatively.
"With champagne?" Blair laughed. "No."
"So," Dan said, attempting to break the tension. "Is Gideon coming tonight?"
Blair stared blankly at him by way of an answer.
"Mom," Serena said brightly, seeing Lily making her way through the crowd towards them. "Great party."
"Well, thank you," she answered warmly, though she was looking around her with what appeared to be disappointment. "I just wish Charles would make an appearance."
Blair's voice trilled with bitter laughter, alcohol apparent on her breath.
"Oh," she said with condescension. "Chuck's not coming."
Nate looked at the ground. Lily's face betrayed confusion, along with Dan's.
"You really don't know what today is," Blair said, her tone thick with angry astonishment.
"Blair," Nate said warningly.
"No," Blair seethed. "He was only her husband for six months. It's not like she should remember him or the son he left behind. I mean, she did try to sell his company to the highest bidder."
Blair slammed her flute on the table beside her before retreating up the staircase. Lily exhaled.
"It's the anniversary of Bart's death," she realized.
"Why else do you think Blair would be this upset?" Nate sighed.
"I don't get it." Dan looked around at them. "Why is Blair so upset?"
"Chuck's not coming," Serena said quietly.
"So?" Dan asked. "She doesn't act like she wants to see him or anything."
"No. That's not it."
"Chuck's not coming because he's probably drowning himself in illegal substances right now." Serena pushed back a handful of blonde hair. "And Blair knows that nothing can stop Chuck when he's on a downward spiral."
Serena didn't bother knocking on the door that used to belong to her stepbrother. Blair was perched on the edge of the bed. The room used to have the dirty girl scout painting above the bed, but it now hung above a different one at The Empire.
"I was just calling Gideon," Blair hedged.
"No you weren't." Serena sat down beside her even as Blair slid away from her. But Serena understood. She understood her best friend. She understood Blair's innate feeling of isolation; the isolation that drove her to the empty room of someone who was just as twisted as her. "You know where he is, Blair."
Blair looked her friend in the eye for the first time.
"It doesn't matter," she replied.
"It matters to you."
"If he wants to go and kill himself again," Blair said evenly, hating how her voice cracked, "then that is just a burden he will have to bear himself."
"But you know where he is," Serena protested. "Why wouldn't you go after him?"
"I have a boyfriend."
"Yeah? I don't see him here."
"I don't see Chuck here either."
"Chuck needs your help."
"And why is it always up to me?" Blair snarled.
"Because you're the only one he listens to," Serena told her. "Ever."
"It's not fair," Blair said, more to herself than anyone in particular. "He's never fair to me."
"He just wants your attention and you know it."
"He wants to end himself."
"He wants you to notice him. He wants you to care."
Blair wished that she didn't. It would make everything so much easier.
Nate hesitated in the doorway of Serena's room, feeling like an interloper in a land where all sanity had disappeared.
"Hold your breath in."
"Just zip it up, Serena."
Blair and Serena were standing before the full length mirror, Blair's hands planted firmly on her hips as Serena attempted to zip up the back of her dress.
"Do you need to get pliers or something?" Blair's voice was practically a growl.
"I've got it," Serena said finally.
"Hey." Nate coughed awkwardly. Serena spun but Blair still criticized her reflection in the mirror.
"I haven't worn this dress since high school."
"Well it fits," Serena assured her, knowing exactly how such facts could lead to her friend's mounting insecurities.
"Barely." Blair finally turned, acknowledging Nate's presence. "Well?"
"What happened to your other dress?" Nate asked, unable to help but notice that Blair had exchanged her modest, society-appropriate dress for this one: as black as pitch, strapless with a sweetheart neckline, clinging to absolutely every curve. Nate had to wonder if she could even walk in it, but even this didn't blind him to the room's change in atmosphere.
"Has something happened?"
The minute she walked in, he knew.
He just knew.
"What are we doing?"
It wasn't her choice. None of this had been. When it came to Chuck Bass, Blair never had a choice. It was like fighting a force of nature, and it was futile. However, if she had her way, she could have done without the entourage. Humphrey's usual tone of concern sounded behind her and she had to refrain from rolling her eyes as she slunk up to the bar.
"Blair, maybe we should get out of here," Nate said, surveying their seedy surroundings. He wasn't a stranger to forums such as these-after all, Chuck Bass was his best friend-but he still liked to think of Blair as pure and chaste, however much that image was a falsity. He knew it. He knew Blair might even be more privy to these sort of standards than he was.
But he didn't like to think that way. Blair had been his pure and honest girlfriend.
Then she met his best friend. And everything changed.
"You wanted me to save Chuck," Blair said. "Well, here we are. Are you having second thoughts?"
Her voice was a taunting challenge and he hated it. He hated the bitterness that plagued her tone too often now and he hated that he knew exactly why. And he couldn't do anything to stop it.
"No," Nate replied, hating her reprimand.
"I don't like the look of this place," Serena added.
"Serena." Blair laughed cruelly. "I know from personal experience that you have been in places far worse than this." She approached the bar, relieved that she could take relish from more alcohol searing down the back of her throat.
Blair glared at the contempt in Dan's voice.
"It's December," he said, referencing her lack of straps, or sleeves for that matter.
"Humphrey," Blair retorted. "I don't expect a prole like you to fathom the complexity of our games. Chuck is going to be surrounded by the most expensive women on the Eastern Seaboard. Coming here in mere society garb isn't going to gain his attention."
Serena watched sadly as Blair moved across the bar.
"I thought we were going to find Chuck," Nate interjected.
"Patience, Nathaniel. I'm trying to hook myself a Bass."
Nate sighed and pulled Dan along with him as they went to order drinks. It seemed like this might last a while.
"Blair," Serena said quietly as Blair sipped her cocktail.
"This dress doesn't fit right," was Blair's way of as an answer, reproaching herself. It really was a double-edged sword; when she was with Chuck, Blair was invincible, confident and perfect. But after every fall between the two of them, her self-esteem plummeted. Chuck may have made her perfect, but he also made her insecure like no one else.
"Blair," Serena repeated. "You know that it doesn't matter what you wear. It doesn't matter what you look like or what you're doing. When you walk into a room, his eyes are always on you."
"If only," Blair snapped sardonically, draining her drink. As though a siren had called, Blair was advanced upon by a suitor, offering to buy her a drink. She laughed coquettishly, brushing her long, dark locks from her neck.
His arms were slung over the back of the couch, women without names or faces hanging off him like the latest accessory, but he knew. He sat up slowly, almost able to taste her on the air.
Chuck's eyes flicked to those who addressed him, self-serving friends with names he was only aware of because they were on the side of buildings.
"You want to get in on this?"
Credit cards were produced as they cut lines of blow across the table. For the first time this month, his attention wasn't on complete and totally obliteration. Tonight, it was dedicated to that petite brunette who had just walked into the bar. That petite brunette whose dress he definitely remembered peeling off of her. It was wrong. This was all wrong. She shouldn't be here. She shouldn't be there with her neck and her arms and her legs and some stockbroker buying her drinks.
This was wrong.
She shouldn't be here.
His resolve was already waning.
He felt the card being pressed into his hand and it was just instinct. He saw her carefree laughter without him and he broke. He saw her unimaginable beauty without him and he broke. He saw her not broken at all without him.
Powder burned up his nasal passages and serotonin overloaded his brain. He leaned back in his seat, the bared flesh of paid company sliding against his own as fiery wells of coal burned into his own.
Now he had her attention.
His eyes were empty, and they reminded her of how it used to be. She remembered Prague, Marrakesh and everything after as he looked at her and just wasn't there anymore. Serena's hand clasped over hers, attempting to keep her stationary but she just couldn't. She couldn't stand looking at him like that. She couldn't bear him hurting her like this so maliciously and purposely.
And she knew she had to hurt him back.
"So I suppose it really is a White Christmas."
Chuck's eyes burned up her form, letting her know exactly to what degree he was undressing her with his eyes. She didn't know why.
That's what his sluts were for.
"Blair," he drawled slowly, as though he were trying to find the words. She knew the reality. She knew how out of his mind he was presently. "It's been a while."
"Not long enough," Blair answered curtly.
"You are the one who's here," Chuck reminded her. Her insides turned angry and wounded as he kissed the neck of the woman next to him, caressing her bare flesh. "Would you care to join us?"
"Not particularly. But you already knew that."
"You can't blame a man for trying," Chuck said nonchalantly. "Especially in a dress like that."
"I'm glad it impresses," Blair replied. "We all know how hard it is to gain the approval the infamous Chuck Bass. Then again, all it seems to take is the removal of enough clothing."
Approval was the abolute last word he would use.
"You would know."
"Not anymore." She laughed, knowing how much her tone bit. "Actually I was just about to leave."
"With one of your many suitors?"
If she didn't know any better, Blair would have been sure that was jealousy that flared in his tone. But she did. Because that was all done with now.
"Actually, I was just here for Lily."
"I promised her I would come for you," Blair said. "Although I didn't promise anything about actually taking you back in one piece."
It must have been divine intervention because just when Chuck was about to make his undoubtedly witty retort, her phone vibrated violently in her hand and she had never been more relieved to hear from Gideon in her life.
"If you'll excuse me," Blair remarked coolly. "I have to take this."
One word. The one word that had started this entire thing. The way Blair whispered secretively into her phone even while drowning in the raucous noise of his party. Watching her walk away, it was the one word that would always send Chuck Bass over the edge. Watching her walk away with a successful music producer-
Chuck understood what a mistake it was inhaling that cocaine right as she walked in, and what he was about to do then.
Because he could never help but destroy them. Especially when he was like this.
He quickly cut the powder on the table, sucking it through the hundred dollar bill as she turned the corner. Then he jumped the table, knocking over several startled prostitutes before following quickly in pursuit. As though she could feel his very presence, she turned, only suspicion evident in her eyes.
He couldn't help himself. He shouldn't have done any of the mind-altering substances he had that night, but he couldn't help himself. He never could when it came to her. She was holding the phone a few inches from her ear and he couldn't stop himself.
He was on her in a moment, wrenching the phone from her hand before sending it skittering across the floor.
"What do you think you're-"
He answered her half question with his lips on hers, scalding and tearing her apart as they always did. His hands clenched powerfully and longingly at her ribs as her back hit the wall. He felt no resistance from her and soon there was nothing: there was only them. Her hands curled around his shoulders and neck as their tongues danced together. It was so natural. It was so right. This was the way they were supposed to be. Not tortured and apart. Always writhing, always needing.
"Say it," he husked into her ear.
"Say what?" Blair asked breathlessly, her leg rising to wrap around his hip, so perfectly fitted and attuned to each other's bodies. Her breath turned into a moan as he pressed his need against her.
"Even when you were with him," he rasped. "Even when you tortured me with him, you always wanted me. Say it. It was always us."
"Yes," she almost whimpered and he knew he had to take her, right here and now. He had to make her his again.
"And those girls out there?" She asked. "Your whores? What about them?"
"There's only you," he promised, kissing her forcefully again.
"Is that why you're here with them?" Blair asked as he nipped at her neck. "Because of Gideon-"
She had barely finished her sentence when Chuck gripped her shoulders almost painfully.
"Don't say his name," he commanded darkly. "Don't ever say his name to me."
He saw the hesitance in her eyes and he knew. Just like his facade with his drugs and his hookers, she always had her mask on as well. She was always planning, always scheming. And as much as it convinced him of their inevitability and their complete eternity, a never-ending spiral of them, he knew there was something else.
"Come back with me."
"Is that why you're here?" Chuck demanded. "To take me back to the fold? You know what she did, you of all people."
"I'm sorry." He felt the precursor to tears come too easily. "Chuck, please."
"Stop. Just stop. Stop trying to save me. Stop trying to do this."
"Would you rather I just watch you waste away forever?"
"Why do you keep trying to save me?"
"Because I'm too selfish to live without you," she cried.
Her voice was so pure and genuine, and no one saw that in her. They saw the manipulator. They saw the ice queen. They saw the perfect society waif. No one saw the real her. No one saw his Blair. She was perfect and earnest. She was his and he had to taste her again. He had to be with her. Her hands gripped the back of his shirt and he all but entered her through the barriers of their clothing.
"Tell me," she said desperately as his hands searched lower and lower.
He leaned away but she kissed him again.
"Please tell me again," she pleaded. "I'm the only one you'll ever love. I'm the only one who knows you like this."
He wanted to. He didn't want to tear them apart anymore. He didn't want to have to destroy the only thing he had ever loved. But he couldn't. He couldn't because her phone was vibrating on the floor again and he knew exactly who it was.
"Why?" He asked. Her breath caught in her throat and he knew it was futile. As futile as it was fighting them, it was futile to fight his need to just watch the world bleed. "Why should I-"
It was the difference. From when she had been a teenager in that same dress to now. She couldn't let him break her any longer. She shoved hard at his chest and he backed away from her. Tears no longer welled in her eyes; instead, she was furious.
"You tried to hurt me with him," Chuck growled.
"Behold my success," Blair snapped.
"I hate you," he told her coldly. "No one understands you like I do. You're such a beautiful weed. You pull me in with your sweet smell and perfection but you're just a weed. Wrapping around my throat and suffocating me. I love you with every fiber of my rotting insides but I wish you were never born. I wish you never had the chance to pull me in, enchant me, and just rip my heart out again."
"Like you have one," she retorted. "Because more than anything, tonight is just proof that you don't."
It was the same thing every time. No matter what he did, no matter how hard he tried, he always did this. He always could make her gasp and shudder too easily. Too many tears, too much woe.
I'm losing her.
And he knew at that exact point, because he couldn't stop himself. He couldn't stop his anger and wrath. He couldn't stop hurting her the way she hurt him.
He couldn't stop himself.
"Do you really suppose that I'm the only one at fault?" Chuck demanded. "I knew you had a type. I just didn't think it was the older man with cruel intentions."
She looked like he had physically assaulted her and he wished he hadn't. He wished he hadn't brought it up.
"Every transgression you've committed, I've forgiven," she told him slowly, honestly. "Why can't you just let it go? Why can't you just let him go?"
"Because he was my uncle," Chuck snapped, his voice reverberating off of the walls.
"I hate when you get like this. I hate how I make you hate me."
He knew she didn't mean all the hurt and the pain. He knew she meant the illegal substances flooding his veins because he only ever did it when she made him watch her walk away from him. He heard the tears edging in on her voice but she bent down to pick up the still vibrating phone before pushing past him and back into the loudness of his destruction.
"Blair," he whispered, but it was a sorry attempt. It was a sorry and pathetic attempt as he leaned against the wall, clenching his eyes shut as pain racked his chest. He wished, but it was always useless.
It was always futile to wish that he wasn't such a coward.
Blair ripped herself out of her dress. Tears tore so painfully down her face that she was surprised they didn't leave tracks of blood. Her ribs contracted, finally let go of their constraints. She let out shuddering breaths, ignoring the knocking on the bathroom door. She knew what they thought she was doing, but right now, she was just trying to keep herself from dying.
She gasped helplessly, just trying to breathe.
Blair thrust the tight dress at Serena as the door opened.
"I brought you this."
"I wasn't doing it."
Blair pulled back on her modesty so she could breathe again, but that didn't make it alright again. Not by a long shot.
The lights were tragically beautiful. Blair drew her knees up to her chest, ignoring Serena's invitation to the guest room. She just sat beneath the tree, ignoring the rattling of her phone.
"You couldn't have expected it to go well."
Blair raised her glaring eyes to Dan's pitying ones. She hated that look. She hated the way he looked at her like she was so close to destruction that no one could help.
"I don't expect you to understand anything," she replied, voice hoarse.
"If he wants to destroy himself-"
"Why were you even there?" Blair asked. "For Serena?"
"I don't know," Dan answered contemplatively. "I guess I just wanted to help."
"Well you can't."
"No," he agreed. "I don't suppose anyone can help him."
"No," she said simply. "You can't help because you just can't understand."
Dan was quiet, taking in Blair's words.
"You just can't understand what it's like: the need for complete and utter self destruction."
"Don't tell me this is about something that happened five years ago."
"It was his father."
"Bart was horrible to him."
"And your father loves you so unconditionally," Blair answered. "Some of us could only be so lucky. Bart destroyed and neglected Chuck until there was virtually no humanity left in him. He turned Chuck into the man he is today. And he loved Bart for it. You can't understand what it is to love someone who hurts you and treats you so cruelly."
"I guess Chuck taught you that."
"No," she said, almost purely out of frustration. "You can't understand that no matter how much our parents hurt us, the need to impress them and make them proud will never go away. Chuck never had that. Bart went to his grave without any closure. And Chuck will never get any. Not ever. And that is something you can never understand."
No. Dan supposed he wouldn't.
Chuck wasn't sure what it was. But even before the demise of Bart Bass, he had never understood the holiday season. He knew it had something to do with seeing Blair with her doting father and Nate with his adoring parents, but he just pushed those thoughts away and, as soon as he was able, lost himself in the vices of booze and women.
It was the Christmas after high school that he realized it.
I will always be your family.
Because no matter how much he pushed her away or bared his teeth at her, Blair was always soft and warm to his touch. She always consoled him and loved him. He had never understood it. He didn't deserve love. He didn't deserve someone who just loved him for the truly depraved and narcissistic person he was.
But walking into his stepmother's penthouse, he realized it didn't matter. It didn't matter because the effects of those vices were wearing off so he knew this wasn't a hallucination. It didn't matter because he gazed at those doe eyes blinking up at him like she had been expecting him all along.
She had kept her promise.
He took a seat beside her, feeling the heat of the lights on the tree at his back, but only able to comprehend the warmth of the body he could never resist.
"He wants to marry you," he finally said, darkly. She was quiet and for a moment, dread filled him to the brim, afraid of looking at her ring finger. Afraid that there was something sparkling and dazzling there that didn't belong to him.
"Well, he's not going to."
Relief made him relax but he still couldn't look at her.
"Blair," he whispered. He could feel her eyes on his and he had to look. He just had to look at her radiance, her perfection. He could tell to the exact second how long ago she had stopped crying. "You have no idea how crazy you make me."
Her face betrayed no emotion but then again, that was just their game.
"I don't blame you," he told her. "Not for any of it. I just can't stand it. I can't stand knowing that they've been with you the way I have."
"They've been with me," Blair said slowly. "But never the way you have. Not ever."
Instinctively, he felt the need to lean in. Her breath was hot against his lips, and he stopped. She betrayed no want or need and it frightened him. What frightened him more was the scent of mint on her breath. What frightened him was he knew that she was wearing stockings because of the marks on her knees for kneeling too much.
He put a hand to her thigh and she trembled.
"I hate this too," he told her. "I hate how I hurt you so effortlessly."
"You think I don't?" Blair asked. "There are reasons that I was with him-" He didn't miss the 'was' in that sentence. "And they were all hanging off of you at the speakeasy tonight."
"I am going to marry you soon, Waldorf," Chuck said with as much confidence as he was able. "And I will not have the eventual mother of my children tearing her guts out for approval because she should know by now that there's really never been anyone but her. It's impossible."
She trembled again and he knew it was unhealthy how much he wanted her to need him.
As much as he needed her.
He could never deny her anything she wanted, and so he spent his Christmas Eve unwrapping his favorite present beneath the Christmas tree.