Chuck rolled onto his stomach, reaching - again - for a warmth that wasn't there. Her side of the bed was empty, her pillow cold even as her scent lingered on the sheets.
He let out a muffled sigh.
His body was still half asleep as he climbed out of bed, reaching for his shirt. The first morning this had happened, he'd gone downstairs in search of her; now he headed straight for the balcony instead.
The morning air was cool around him as his gaze slid over the railings to land on the beach below.
And sure enough, there she was.
She stood alone by the water's edge, shawl wrapped around her nightdress as she stared at something he couldn't see. He didn't go down to her; just watched her.
She was getting better every day - if the sea air was doing Bart good, it was doing her wonders. She was eating more, the colour back in her cheeks, and she was finally smiling like she used to. Just every now and then.
But still every morning, without fail, Chuck woke to an empty bed.
And he resisted all his usual instincts and didn't follow her - just watched. Watched, and waited for her to come back up to him.
"I got a telegraph this morning." Blair spoke into the comfortable silence as she spread jam on her scone; Bart watched his son's gaze zero in on her. He knew she'd seemed distracted by something earlier. "From the Girls' Foundation," she informed them. "They want me back. There's an event tomorrow night in Manhattan."
"And you sent a telegraph in reply telling them where to go?" Chuck enquired, eyes still narrowed. Because he knew damn well she wouldn't have.
Sure enough, Blair frowned. "This is the Girls' Foundation, Chuck."
Chuck instantly opened his mouth to argue - except Bart beat him to it. His tone was almost mild; a tone Chuck had only ever heard him use with Blair.
"Is this the same Girls' Foundation that turned its back on you for no good reason?" He raised an eyebrow as he buttered his own bread, crisply. "Don't you think you should be...making them work a little harder?"
"You don't make the Girls' Foundation do anything," she started, sweetly - but Chuck cut her off.
"And no one makes you do anything."
Bart saw the glance the two of them exchanged.
"I have to go back eventually," she said at last. Her tone was quiet.
"Eventually," Bart agreed. "But you've only been here two weeks. And I gave Arthur a three week holiday, so there's no one to drive you."
Chuck glanced at his father with a smirk; Blair was on the verge of protesting, outraged that they'd teamed up on her (which had been happening far too much these past weeks for her liking) - but something about the slight smile Bart gave his son back made her stop. And she couldn't help it; her heart softened a little.
She rolled her eyes, but not too hard - because, admittedly, she had been dreading that event - and went back to her scone.
And that was when she felt it again.
Her hand fluttered silently to her stomach and she closed her eyes for a moment.
She rose to her feet, managing a smile, and fled the room.
Chuck was on his feet in the next moment.
"Leave her," Bart said calmly.
His son's eyes narrowed a little. "With all due respect, father - I know my wife." He went to follow her, jaw set; but Bart stopped him once more.
"You do," he pointed out. "But I know pregnant women."
Chuck paused, and then turned for a moment. "You knew one pregnant woman," he said, softly. "And she wasn't Blair."
And he left.
Bart sighed and got to his own feet.
Blair was curled miserably in the laundry room (it was the one place it might not occur to Chuck to look in), wishing with all her heart that the sensation in her stomach would give her half the joy Serena had said it did. Joy instead of the guilt now weighing her down.
A voice cleared, stiffly, in the doorway.
She glanced up, and got the shock of her life when she saw Bart standing there. Hastily, she tried to compose herself.
He was still a little stiff as he seated himself on one of the work surfaces - Blair didn't think he'd ever looked more out of place. Then again, the laundry room was hardly her own natural environment.
"Evelyn," he cleared his throat slightly at the mention of his wife's name (a name Blair had never even heard him utter) - "Never did a day's gardening in her life. We had an argument, once, while she was...carrying Chuck." He cleared his throat again. "It took me all day, and I finally found her in the gardening shed."
There was a silence; and Blair glanced at him with a faint, sad smile.
"She had a heretidary heart condition. Did Chuck tell you that?"
Blair nodded, almost hesitant. Was Bart Bass seriously talking about his wife? To her?
"Her mother had the same condition. She died in childbirth, and Evelyn," - again, the faint pause over her name - "Always felt partially to blame. She would never admit it, but...I think she did."
Blair glanced down at her feet, a wretched lump forming in her throat.
"I miss her," she whispered at last. And she didn't know what was worse - missing her mother, or never even realising she would. "I keep-" her voice caught. "She always told me that when I got married, I had to get up first every morning to make myself presentable." She let out laugh that brought tears to her eyes. "Because no man wants a wife with morning breath." Another shaky laugh; and she exhaled, deeply. "When I first married Chuck, that was exactly what I did, every morning - until he caught me once, and told me not to be so ridiculous."
That brought a faint twitch to Bart's lips. Sounded like his son.
"So I stopped." She shrugged. "Eventually. But...ever since..." She couldn't say it, so she forced herself to carry on. "I keep waking up first, and - and it's the first thing I think of. And I go to get out of bed, and then - and then I remember." She couldn't stop her shoulders from shaking now; couldn't stop the hot tears sliding down her cheeks. Some distant part of her registered that she should definitely not be breaking down like this in front of her father in-law. In front of Bart Bass.
She blinked in confusion when she realised he was holding out a handkerchief to her.
Slightly embarrassed, she took it.
"Blair," he said at last. "Both your mother and I...well, neither of us were exactly perfect parents." He moved to straighten his suit. "We both made mistakes in bringing up our children." He didn't wait for her to deny it. "But-" and the words were still hard, still foreign in his throat, but he said them anyway, "But if there's one thing I always knew, and Eleanor did too, it's that we always loved you." He paused again. "And I know for a fact that Eleanor would be proud of you." He got to his feet. "You're going to make a wonderful mother," he added, finally.
He gazed at her for a moment, and then he was gone.
Blair rolled over onto her side, reaching for a warmth that - wasn't there. She sat up, abruptly, eyes snapping open. What?
She blinked in the dim light of the morning.
Where on earth was her husband?
His side of the bed was empty, only the indent of his head on the pillow to remind her he'd been there. She listened to see if he was in the bathroom - nothing.
Almost indignant, she slid out of bed and into her dressing gown.
Chuck was supposed to be there when she woke up. Always. Even if it was just so that she could kiss him before she slipped out herself.
Feeling a little at a loss, she glanced out of the window. And stopped. Slowly, she moved to the balcony. She could make out a figure on the beach below; and she couldn't stop tha faint smile curving at the corners of her mouth as she tugged her dressing gown closer and turned to head outside too.
She folded her arms once she finally reached him.
"What are you doing here?"
He spared her a glance, and she noticed for the first time the picnic basket he'd spread out.
"Bart's going to the doctor this morning. I thought we could enjoy breakfast alone." His tone was nonchalant; and his arms suddenly slipped around her waist, pulling him to her. Tight.
She gazed up into his eyes, pressed flush against the heat of his chest. Another reluctant smile tugged at her lips.
"I suppose I could allow it."
He was already kissing her, though, cutting off her thought process; and she leaned up into him, burying herself in his warmth.
"By the way," he murmured when they'd finally broken apart and he'd tugged her onto the blanket with him. "I happen to greatly enjoy your breath in the morning."
Her eyes widened for a moment as her gaze shot to his.
They were silent; and she realised then that though he wore a slight smirk, his eyes were serious. Almost soft. She bit her lip, quietly, and he pulled her into his lap.
His chin nestled around her shoulder, jaw hard against the softness of her neck as the two of them gazed out across the waves. Her sigh was barely perceptible as she eased back into his chest.
Still, her thoughts eventually drfited elsewhere as she took in the beach. The sand, the Hamptons, the rush of the sea.
She peeked up at him, and she knew from the look in his eyes that he was remembering the same thing. It felt like so long ago now.
His hand slid over hers - and this time, when the kicking started, she knew he'd felt it too. They gazed at each other. And there were tears in her eyes, but she couldn't stop smiling at the look on his face. Because it was better than joy. A hundred times better.
"Oh, Serena is a nightmare at the moment," Lily assured the table as they dined. And not even Eric defended his sister; he was nodding, wistfully, in agreement. "I don't think I've ever seen her more hormonal," his mother went on, glancing at Blair. "She started crying when we told her you were coming back tomorrow. She can't wait to see you."
"And she actually got violent when we told her she couldn't come to pick you up," Eric added, almost a grumble.
Chuck and Blair exchanged faint smirks.
But now Bart was wiping his mouth on his napkin to speak. "Actually, there's something I need to tell you too." He glanced at his son, briefly. "I've decided to stay in the Hamptons."
Chuck stared back. "What? What about the sanitorium?"
"I've spoken to my doctor," the man answered evenly. "He agrees that the sea air is just as good for me." There was a slight pause. "And I don't want to spend every day for the rest of my life being looked after."
"And," Lily added, "I'll be staying too, of course."
Bart's brow creased a little. "I told you, Lily-"
"And I told you," she retorted. "It's non-negotiable. Besides," she added, "I think a break from the city will do me some good. Those parties are starting to get awfully boring."
Eric couldn't resist a faint snort.
Bart glanced at his son again. "So I'm handing Bass Industries over." Chuck paused. "I know you'll do a good job." And at that, Chuck's jaw dropped a little.
"Me?" He was aware that he was now spluttering like a fool, but even Blair's look couldn't quite bring him back to his senses.
Bart frowned. "Who else would I trust with my company?" Then, as he gazed once more at his son, he corrected, quietly; "Our company." He lifted an eyebrow. "So? What do you say?"
Sensing that her husband had momentarily stepped out of character and lost the ability to speak, Blair answered for him.
"He says yes. Of course."
Her hand gripped his, tight, under the table.
Chuck finally nodded. "Of course."
The conversation returned to Serena's antics; but Blair's hand was still in Chuck's as, oblivious to anyone but each other, they exchanged smiles that only they could see.
Triple Celebration at the Basses Named 'Party of the Year'
In Manhattan's most extravagant party to date, Mr. and Mrs. Bass yesterday celebrated their triplets' fifth birthday - and what a celebration it was! With over fifty different kinds of dessert, an actual circus and forty dollar gift bags for each child, this was definitely the party any self-respecting trust fund brat needed to be at. Blair Bass was beautiful as ever, even after a day spent petting animals with her children - and reportedly Chuck Bass himself had no qualms about wrinkling his suit to crawl on the floor with them. (Though one has to admit that another hundred dollar suit is hardly a loss to him). Eleanor, Evelyn and Nathaniel Bass are easily the UES's best-dressed children on any given day, and their party was no exception.
The guest list was obviously highly selective - and of course Serena Humphrey and husband, plus her gorgeous children Faith and Lucas Humphrey, were number one that list. Despite being Nathaniel's best friend, Lucas did spend rather a lot of time dancing with Evelyn and Eleanor - one supsects, much to their parents' delight. This writer can already hear the wedding bells...
A/N - I am so, so sorry it's taken me so long to finish this fic - but finally, it's done! Thank you so much for following the story, and for all your lovely reviews. I hope you all enjoyed the ending! :)