A/N: This was inspired while watching Signs. Don't worry, there are no aliens whatsoever in it. This is a future fic and in case you didn't notice the genre, this is a tragedy. This goes especially to those Big Veins, Dog Bait fans who were left wanting.
Summary: He hated how his full name on her lips made wings beat against the cage of his ribs but he couldn't help it. He couldn't help it when he was sixteen and he couldn't help it now.
Disclaimer: Only the characters Audrey and Steff are mine. Beta-ed by the awesome comewhatmay.x.
The children were in their arms. Nate looked to his side, where Chuck watched the television with deep concentration. Nate then looked at the boy in Chuck's arms. Nate's own arms were wrapped around his daughter. Audrey's eyelids fluttered in her sleep and he knew if she had opened them they would reflect his own clear azure. But he knew when the boy in Chuck's arms opened his eyes, they would reflect something different.
It wasn't the first time that Nate considered the possibility that the boy wasn't his son. But he hadn't thought of it since Blair's death. Now, however, it was clear. The way Chuck's arm curling around Steff's shoulder made it clear that his best friend knew it too.
Always had, always would.
"I want you to tell me," Nate said quietly. The television was just noise and Chuck gave no sign that he heard him.
His arm tightened around Steff's shoulder.
"Tell you what?" Chuck finally said, his eyes never moving from the television.
"I want to know the last thing that Blair said."
Chuck didn't hesitate.
"I have a right to know," Nate said. "I'm her husband."
Chuck's voice was quiet and Nate attempted to calm himself but it had always been this way. Chuck was always so calm and collected and even now, it wasn't fair. It wasn't fair how Chuck never had to fight for her attention and Nate had to compete for even an "I love you" from her. It wasn't fair that Blair had just woken up one day, in love with his best friend. Chuck never had to try.
Chuck finally removed his eyes from the television and Nate knew.
Steff had his father's eyes.
"She wouldn't want you to know."
"Did she say that?"
"She was dying," Chuck snapped. His voice had the first hint of passion that he could remember and Nate had to think of when they were teenagers. In Central Park where Chuck would share his joints, and in that blasé tone, recall all of the conquests from the weekend. How simply bored he sounded.
However, Chuck was passion. He was passion, but only when it came to Blair.
"You weren't there," Chuck sneered. "I was. What she said to me was for my ears only. It was private."
Steff stirred in his arms.
"You can't have secrets with my wife," Nate said.
"She's dead, Nathaniel," Chuck said. "Now she belongs to no one."
And in that exact sentence Nate knew that the moment Blair's heart had stopped beating, so had Chuck's. That flickering soul of his had vanished and he was as heartless as the day before Blair let him in.
"It isn't fair," Nate said. Chuck's jaw clenched but he continued. "She gave you her children. She gave you your heart. And what do I have?"
"Her marriage bed," Chuck said coldly. He finally broke their eye contact before speaking again. "Audrey is your daughter."
"You and I both know that Steff isn't my son."
Nate's insides turned cold at the slight smirk lifting the corner of Chuck's mouth. It wasn't the usual lewd smirk full of suggestion. It was cold and without feeling. It was mirth at misery because it was all the Chuck had left.
"Tell me what she told you, Chuck," Nate finally said.
"You want to know?" Chuck seethed. "Fine. She told me that she would stand by me through anything."
He saw no sort of understanding in Nate's eyes and knew that this woman could never even come close to touching him like she had for Chuck.
"At my father's wake," sneered Chuck. "Do you even understand that?"
It was among one of many things she had said that night but Chuck knew what Nate was asking for.
The most incriminating thing.
"Do you know why she was thinking of your father's wake?" Nate asked. "She was dying. Nerve-endings in her brain were firing off and pulled up a random memory. She was thinking of how you left her when she died."
"No," Chuck said. "She told me she loved me."
He never planned to tell Nate that piece of information, but he couldn't help it. He couldn't help but throw that back in Nate's face.
"She was thinking of when she was at Bart's funeral," Nate chastised. "She was thinking of a time where she still loved you."
"She loved me when she died," Chuck said. "And there is no further proof of that than your own supposed son."
"I don't know what you mean."
"Yes, you do," Chuck said snidely. "Blair wanted me to take him away from you. And you know why. When he looks at you, all you see is me. There's a reason for that. Your wife was in love with me. And Steff is physical proof of that."
"It's my name on the birth certificate."
"It's my blood in his veins," Chuck retorted. "Just try to deny it. Tell me that he isn't a Bass through and through."
"You've contaminated him."
Chuck sat back, his eyes returning to the television.
"You've held him back," Chuck said quietly.
"With my morals and social niceties?" Nate asked scathingly. "He's ruined for life."
"I wish it didn't have to happen this way," Chuck said. "I really am."
"You slept with my wife."
"I loved your wife," Chuck corrected. "In a way that you never did. Your marriage was for convenience. It wasn't enough for her."
"So she decided to have an extra-marital affair?"
"And were you completely faithful?" Chuck inquired.
Nate exhaled. "I'm sorry too."
"I won't take Steff away from you."
"He'll hate me," Nate said.
"He doesn't hate you," Chuck said. "He just doesn't know you."
"He loves you more than me."
"No," Chuck said. "He just loves me. Blair wanted me to make sure he was going to be alright. And I'm trying my best."
"What took you so long?"
She looked so beautiful. Her dark hair was spread over the hood of the car and she had never looked so beautiful. He knelt down beside his beauty, stroking her hair with as much comfort as he could muster without breaking down before her. If there was one thing he could do, it was keep his emotions in check.
Her breath was halting and he could feel the very life of her slipping away.
And so was his.
"If you thought that was long," Chuck attempted, "you have no idea what you're in for."
Blair tried to smile through her pain but ended up gasping. He was blinded by the blue and red slights swirling and screaming but it couldn't even compare to the raucous activity in his brain.
"You came," she whispered affectionately.
"Are you with me?" he asked.
"Yes," she promised. He had to know she was coherent. That she saw him and not her husband.
"I wish I could take it all back," he said. "I wish I could have taken the chance and spent the rest of my life making it up to you."
"Don't," she whispered. "The worst thing you've ever done. The darkest thought you've ever had... I will stand by you through anything."
He hated the doom in her words, but he knew the implications. He knew that all the hurt and pain was wiped away. It was meant for something.
It was the only syllable he could produce. He knew he had only moments with her left but he needed to be in the past with her. To live those moments where he could have made everything alright again.
Her breaths were having difficulty escaping her chest and her words were halting.
"I love you," she attempted. "Love me?"
He always knew the right thing to say.
Her voice was weak and all he could do was hold her hand.
"It hurts," she said.
"I know," he said, gripping her tighter. "I wish I could make things better for you."
"You don't have to," she promised. "I will always be your family. We're magnetic."
"Love makes everything simple," he said. She smiled, her fingers tightening around his. He leaned into her, letting her own blood baptize him.
"You'll take care of him, won't you?" Blair asked. "When I'm gone?"
"Don't leave me," he said, finding that he was finally able to express his emotions to her.
"Take care of him."
"Blair," he said shakily. "I'm not Chuck Bass without you."
"You have to be," Blair said. "For Steff."
"He'll hate me."
"No," Blair disagreed. "He loves you."
"If he knew-"
"If I could go back-"
"I would have said yes."
Her eyes had waning clarity and he could only lean in to feel her one last time.
"At the hospital," she swallowed. "We would have gotten married."
He brushed her hair from where it was sticking to the blood on her neck.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I wish things were different. But you have to take care of Steff."
"I will," he promised.
And he was going to do it right. The way his own father never had.
Sirens sounded louder and her eyes started to glaze over.
"Don't go," he begged. She smiled sweetly, finding the ability in herself to use the last of her strength to reach up and touch the exotic planes of his face.
"Sir, you have to back away."
Chuck felt the hand of a police officer on his shoulder trying to disentangle him from the car wreck.
"Blair," he said, hoping that she could tell them how they were supposed to stay together. She wasn't supposed to leave him. This wasn't how this was supposed to happen. They were supposed to find their way back to each other.
They were meant to be.
"Sir. Her husband has to say goodbye."
It was the only thing that could have snapped him back to reality but as he pulled away from her, he could no longer see perfect dark irises. Blair's eyes were closed and Chuck looked back to see Nate's blank ones.
Chuck walked right past him and promptly vomited.
"Do I know you?"
Chuck paused, nodding for Nate to take Steff and Audrey to their table. Chuck returned to the stranger only to shake his head.
Chuck took his seat by Steff, feeling the thirteen-year old's eyes on him.
"Why do so many people know Uncle Chuck?" Audrey asked curiously.
Even now, the word uncle attached to his own name made him cringe.
"No reason," Nate said uncomfortably, smoothing down the six-year old's dark hair.
"Because Uncle Chuck's famous," Steff answered. Chuck looked down to identical dark eyes at the usually quiet teenager.
"Have you been in a movie?" Audrey asked in interest.
"He owns the hotel we live in," Steff informed the table.
"Yes," Nate answered. "It was very nice for Uncle Chuck to let us live with him after... everything."
"Don't you buy hotels anymore?" Steff asked, ignoring Nate's change of subject.
"I run the company," Chuck said as a way of answering.
"Don't you need to buy to keep in business?"
Steff was too curious for his own good.
"As long as I keep the rest of my territories in business, I should be fine," Chuck answered.
"Wouldn't it be easier to buy more?"
"More expensive," Nate answered.
"It would be easier," Chuck said. "But there isn't any reason for me to do so."
"Because," Chuck sighed. "No one believes in me anymore."
"Mommy always liked your hotels."
Eyes were trained on the youngest Archibald who just sat munching on her food.
"She would always go to them."
Nate watched Steff never look away from Chuck's hard gaze.
"Your mother wasn't faultless."
"Chuck," Nate said tersely, noticing a flicker of surprise and hurt in Steff's eyes. But Chuck wasn't listening. His eyes were trained on the other side of the restaurant. Nate followed his eyes and dread filled his insides.
"Is that him?"
Steff was looking at the man who had just entered.
"Who is it?" Audrey asked.
"Yes," Nate answered quickly. "Yes, that's him."
Nate saw Chuck's white knuckles wrapped around the blade of the knife and he knew what he had to do. Chuck was on his feet before he could react.
"Chuck," Nate said, grabbing him by the arm. "Don't. It won't help anything."
"I have to kill him," Chuck said. "I have to."
"She deserves retribution."
"It wasn't his fault," Nate said. "It wasn't."
"What's retribution?" Audrey asked. Chuck put down the knife that he knew he could never initially use and took his seat.
"Revenge," Steff replied.
"Nathaniel never says goodnight."
Chuck looked at Steff, tucked under his covers.
"Why do you call your father that?" Chuck inquired.
"It's what you call him," Steff said. "And Nate isn't my dad. Not my biological one."
"Did your mother tell you that?" Chuck asked.
"No," Steff said. "I can just tell."
The boy was definitely a Bass.
"By the way she used to look at you."
"Then what makes you so sure Audrey is Nathaniel's?" Chuck asked.
Chuck sighed, running his fingers through his hair.
"You always talk about her like that."
"No," Steff said. "My mom. Before you called her by her name."
"That was before."
"Why don't you smile anymore?"
"I never smiled then either."
"Mom called it smirking."
And there it was. That kink to his mouth that his mother had loved.
"That she did."
"You loved her," Steff whispered. "Didn't you."
"Of course I loved your mother," Chuck said. "She was Nate's wife."
"No," Steff said. "You loved her. Like Nathaniel was supposed to."
"You know I promised her I'd take care of you," Chuck illuminated.
"Nathaniel doesn't look at me like he looks at Audrey."
"I never thought that my father cared for me," Chuck said. "He treated me coldly and always acted disappointed."
"Then what happened?"
Chuck's blasé tone made Steff smile, though he knew he wasn't supposed to.
"It was your mother," Chuck continued, "who made it clear that wasn't the case. He was just a bitter old man who couldn't handle emotions. And she helped me realize that."
"Nathaniel isn't my father," Steff said.
"Just because he didn't love your mother like she deserved," Chuck said, "doesn't mean he wasn't your father. He raised you for your entire life."
"No," Steff said. "That was just Mom. And you."
"And me?" Chuck asked.
"I heard you and Nate arguing," Steff said.
"Tonight," Chuck answered. But then he did smirk. "That's how you knew."
"No," Steff protested. "I knew before then. Mom and I used to talk a lot."
"About what?" Chuck asked.
"Everything," Steff answered. "I wanted to say goodbye."
"If you were awake tonight," Chuck said, "then you know that your mom wanted me to take care of you."
"Tell me what happened that night."
"I don't think..."
"I never got to say goodbye," Steff whispered. "I used to think that she was invincible. And now she's not here."
"Your mother was," Chuck said. "She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Are you really going to kill him?" Steff asked curiously.
"He just fell asleep at the wheel," Chuck said.
"But it would make you feel better," Steff said.
"It would," he replied. "She never should have been in that cab. If she just took a car service..."
"She was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"If she had just taken a limo," Chuck said, "then she wouldn't have had to get out of that cab. And that car wouldn't have hit her at that exact moment."
"I wouldn't mind if I went some place with you," Steff said hesitantly.
"You wouldn't mind leaving your sister?" Chuck asked.
"Audrey looks like Nate."
"No," Chuck said. "Audrey is Blair through and through."
Steff finally smiled.
Chuck hesitated at the door, knowing it was too late to change a teenager's mind.
"Mom called me that," Steff said.
Chuck smiled. "I know she did."
"I don't blame you for it."
"He fell asleep while driving."
"Not that she died. About Steff."
"I'm not the one who you should forgive."
"I forgive Blair for falling in love with you."
"I mean you can't blame Steff for any of it."
"I wish things were different too."
Chuck took a deep breath, not wanting to look at Nate.
"I can't take your guilt anymore, Nathaniel."
"I'm not trying..." Nate sighed. "I thought there was time. I thought I could marry Blair to make my mother happy. But I thought that one day you would be together too."
Chuck looked up. "There's no point wasting your life on wishing."
Chuck left Nate alone in the living room as Chuck stalked through the hallway. He didn't notice that he wasn't alone anymore.
"I know she loved you too."
Steff's voice cracked and Chuck rubbed his jaw contemplatively.
"It doesn't matter now."
"It does," Steff insisted. "She thought there was time too."
"Eavesdropping is not a virtue," Chuck reprimanded him.
"Since when do you hold virtues in such high regard?"
Chuck had to smile at that.
"Don't tell me you've never done it."
"I have," Chuck admitted. "How else would I know when someone was talking about me?"
Steff's smile vanished.
"Nathaniel doesn't understand."
"Your father loves you."
"I hate him," Steff answered. "He let Mom die."
"No," Chuck stopped him. "Don't ever say that about him. Ever. I let your mother die."
"Mom never blamed you for anything," Steff said.
"What makes you so sure?"
"She always forgave you," Steff said. "She never did that for Nate."
"It was easier for her to forgive Nate," Chuck said. "He never hurt her like I did."
He didn't remember where that incline in his floor had come from. It was when he was staring at how his feet had somehow tangled with another did he realize all was not as he had left it. Her perfume surrounded him in an intoxicating aura and as he blinked lazily at the comfort and before he could even raise his head to greet her, she smacked him.
He felt the metal of her wedding band cut into his face and he suddenly found himself enraged.
"How dare you?"
But not before she spoke first.
Blair Archibald stood before him, waves of rage practically making her soft skin scalding. Chuck rubbed his jaw before sighing condescendingly at his perfect woman before him.
Suffice to say, it wasn't the first time she had slapped him.
"Nice to see you too, Waldorf," Chuck answered, refusing to use her newly anointed surname. "How was the honeymoon?"
"How could you?" Blair asked, ignoring him in turn. "How could you just humiliate me like that?"
"Humiliate you?" Chuck sneered. "Did you really wait until a week after your honeymoon to tell me this?"
"Don't even pretend to act affronted," Blair asked. "There is a reason that I married your best friend and that reason is standing right in front of me."
"Trust me," Chuck said coldly. "After what he did, Nate and I are no longer friends."
"Nate was being noble."
"Nate is enslaved by his mother," Chuck retorted. "Something that you two have in common, I believe."
"Nate did what was right-"
"What was proper," Chuck cut her off.
"And don't pretend that if Bart wanted you to marry someone you would have done it in a heartbeat."
"Only if he wanted me to marry you."
"Stop it," Blair snapped. "Just stop."
"You will do anything to impress a woman who can never love you the way you deserve to be loved," Chuck said. "I thought you realized that. Just like I realized that was the way it would always be with Bart and me. And now you're married to someone who will end up just boring you to tears. You will regret it and end up being miserable, just like me. Just like I am when you're not there."
"Why do you think I married him?" Blair asked. "It wasn't because of Anne and it wasn't because of Eleanor. It was because of you."
Chuck's eyes narrowed heatedly but he didn't give her an answer.
He didn't have one.
"What do you expect?" Blair asked in exasperation. "We were supposed to be done. You saunter around this town draped in women and you expect me to just remain completely subservient and devoted? That isn't me."
"Well it isn't me either," Chuck seethed. "You said we could be together when you got your life together. Instead I see your alliances with Dan Humphrey and then hanging off of Nate's every word when you've barely spoken to him since high school. Yes, I dabbled in the pleasure of female company. Because it was the only thing that could entertain me when you weren't there."
"You had no right," Blair whispered.
"Is that all?" Chuck taunted, stalking towards her. "It seems to me like you're running out of steam, Waldorf."
"You were supposed to have stopped caring about me."
"And who told you that?"
Silence, and Chuck's rage mounted as the realization dawned on him.
"Did he tell you that?"
"All he told me was how you were entertaining your female company every night," Blair said. "You break my heart too easily. You don't even do it on purpose. You're not even in the room but the second I even hear your name I break."
"There's a reason for that," he said.
"No there isn't," she said, trying to convince herself.
"Don't fool yourself," Chuck said. "You can try to shut your heart down all you want but you and I both know it isn't for long. You and I are just too much a part of each other to let each other go. And when I heard that you accepted Nathaniel's proposal, I wanted you dead. I wanted to put my hands around your exquisite neck and throttle the life from you for doing that to me. You are the only woman who has ever come even close to making me feel something real at all. But I know if something happened to you, I would cease to exist."
"You think that will make me swoon, Chuck Bass?" Blair sneered, walking elegantly so her heels clicked against his floor. He hated how his full name on her lips made wings beat against the cage of his ribs but he couldn't help it. He couldn't help it when he was sixteen and he couldn't help it now. "That you want to kill me?"
"You think I like seeing you with my best friend?" Chuck retaliated. "We all have our crosses to bear."
"I thought he wasn't your best friend anymore."
Chuck was silent and they both knew the answer. The same answer to the eternal question of Chuck and Blair. They were Nate and Chuck. Nothing could break that. And nothing could break the hold Blair had over him.
"Do you really think I wanted this?" Blair asked. "Do you think I really wanted you to show up to the wedding as the best man, completely trashed and making a fool out of me?"
"Why else would you do it?"
"So you would finally look at me," Blair said desperately.
"I thought you said you didn't do it for me," he remarked.
"I thought you stopped caring about me," Blair said. "I wanted to hurt you then."
"I wish I could hurt you for breaking me," Chuck said.
"Wishing won't change anything."
They were close enough to smell each other's breath.
"I shouldn't be here."
"This is the exact place you should be," he breathed. "So I can ride you barebacked the way Nate wouldn't even conceive of being with you."
Her ring didn't cut him this time. He held his jaw, his eyes glazing over in something passionate that he couldn't name.
"You think that's romantic?" Blair asked.
"I think it turns you on," he leered, pleased that she was letting him put his arms around her. "And I think you know the implications. I would only have unprotected intercourse with you."
He was right.
He was always right.
That was the only thing she was thinking as her lips sought entrance to his.
And then she wasn't thinking anything anymore.
He liked the way her breaths caressed his bare ribs as she curled against him, like his little kitten that she was and she would lick her way up. Her fingers caressed the scratch across his face softly.
"I thought I lost you."
"Haven't you?" he asked darkly.
She sat up sharply, humiliation coloring her eyes. His fingers wrapped around her wrist, pulling her against him.
"Don't leave me," he ordered.
"That didn't stop you from walking in here and taking your clothes off for me," he answered.
"I can never think clearly when I'm with you," she whispered against his damp skin. "Don't I disgust you?"
"How?" he asked, marveling at the fact that she thought he could ever think of herself in such a way.
"I'm married to your best friend," she said.
He heard the hesitance in her words and hated that even in their adulthood, she could hurt him by just saying his name.
"We have time," Chuck said, attempting to reassure himself. "You won't be married to him forever."
"We have time," she agreed, kissing the crook of his neck.
"I don't know what I would do if I lost you either," he confided in her. "I wouldn't be here anymore. I would just...fade away."
He liked the way she clung closer to him and reveled in the fact that he would see her in this fashion again. He knew he should be guilty. He knew he should hate himself for bedding his best friend's wife a week after the wedding. But he just couldn't. Together they were sociopaths. And he just didn't care.
"Don't leave me," he said to her again.
"Never," she promised.