Chapter 14: Blinded

Just an old friend coming over now to visit you and
That's what I've become
I let myself in though I know I'm not supposed to but
I never know when I'm done

-Third Eye Blind

"Explain yourself, Bass," she ordered, narrowing her eyes at him.

The bedside lamp cast a golden glow across his face, illuminating his rumpled hair and chiseled features. His usually impeccable clothes were slightly askew- no jacket or bowtie in sight, shirt-sleeves rolled up to his elbows, several buttons undone to reveal a smattering of chest hair. And he swayed slightly on his feet, clutching the bouquet of peonies and regarding her with anticipation.

As if he expected her to squeal in delight and gratitude at his inebriated presence, she thought, frowning in annoyance.

"I brought you flowers," he explained, gesturing with the bouquet.

"Yes, I can see that," she replied coolly. "Why?"

"Because..." He paused and furrowed his brow, as if trying to remember the reason. "Because I'm sorry."

"You're drunk," she scoffed, shaking her head.

"I can be both," he countered.

Blair rolled her eyes, folding her arms across her chest- and to her dismay, saw Chuck's gaze immediately drift downwards to settle upon her exposed cleavage. She realized that not only was she barely dressed, wearing a flimsy pink slip that left very little to the imagination, she was also still in bed. And judging from his expression, the idea of joining her had already occurred to him.

Quickly scrambling out from under the covers, she grabbed the matching robe from the back of her desk chair and wrapped it around herself.

"Not really the direction I was hoping to go in," he commented, his eyes still running languidly over her body as she approached.

Chuck held the bouquet out towards her, a satisfied little smile playing around the corners of his mouth. He seemed to be expecting her to fall at his feet, probably due to some combination of innate egotism and drunken hubris.

But if he thought she was going to swoon over a handful of flowers and some smarmy one-liners... he was in for an unpleasant surprise. She reached out to take the peonies from his hand, giving him a little smile of appreciation that didn't quite reach her eyes.

And then, with a rapid movement of her arm, smacked the bouquet hard across the side of his head.

Chuck cursed, recoiling as she drew back for another strike. He raised his arms to shield himself, pink petals scattering left and right as repeated blows rained down upon his head.

"You" –smack- "scared" –smack -"the shit out of me," she said through gritted teeth, administering one last wallop. "What the fuck were you thinking, breaking into my room in the middle of the night? I thought you were some sort of... crazy burglar rapist."

"I didn't... break in," Chuck defended himself, cringing when she raised the bouquet again.

"What, you're telling me Dorota let you in?" she said disbelievingly.

"Well, I had to juke her out. She's much... nimbler than she looks," he replied with a smirk, stumbling backwards slightly when she took another swipe at him.

Honestly, Chuck didn't look nimble enough to outmaneuver a piece of furniture at the moment, she thought.

"Would you mind just hitting me with your fists instead?" he pleaded, casting a mournful look at the tattered peonies. "It took me two hours to find those."

Deciding to show him some mercy, she lowered her arm.

"Why?" she asked, eying him with suspicion.

"Because it's after midnight," he replied in an obvious tone. "Everything is closed."

"No, I mean-" She paused, heaving a frustrated sigh. "Why did you spend two hours trying to find me peonies?"

"Because... they're your favorite," he explained, looking at her in a way that made her insides react with a traitorous quiver.

Blair stared down at the flowers, stroking against one velvety petal with the side of her finger while she tried to gather her thoughts. Eventually she peeped up at him through her lashes, finding him still watching her.

"What exactly is it that you're sorry for?" she asked quietly.

She didn't expect any sort of meaningful answer- even aside from his obvious inebriation, his goal was apparent. Men showed up drunk at two in the morning for booty calls, not thoughtful apologies.

"For... not telling you the truth about Nate," he replied, with a surprising amount of earnestness. "Although I did try," he added.

"When did you try?" she scoffed.

"Several times, while you were climbing into my lap and ripping my pants open," he drawled, giving her a suggestive once-over. "You can hardly blame me for getting... sidetracked."

Blair rolled her eyes, ignoring the sudden acceleration of her pulse at the memory.

"Which doesn't explain why you didn't tell me this morning," she said pointedly.

"You were naked, in my bed." He shrugged. "What can I say, I'm easily distracted."

He gave her an unrepentant grin, and she felt the corner of her mouth twitch in response.

"Well, it's not the best apology I've ever gotten... but it's acceptable," she conceded. "And I assume you're also apologizing for convincing him to dump me?"

"No," Chuck stated firmly.

"No?" she echoed, frowning in surprise.

"I know you want me to apologize, but I'm not sorry," he said, a tinge of defiance in his voice.

She gaped at him for several seconds.

"Oh my God, you are terrible at this," she finally said, shaking her head.

His jaw tensed as he stared back at her, looking almost hurt by her condemnation.

"Well, do you want me to be sorry, or do you want me to be honest?" he retorted.

"I'd prefer both," she said dryly. "But barring that... I guess honest."

"Well, I'm not sorry for breaking up you and Nate. You shouldn't be with him." He paused, swallowing visibly. "You should be with me."

Blair felt her heartbeat stutter as a jolt of excitement raced through her body- tempered by the fear that she had either misheard or misunderstood him.

"What do you mean?" she asked hesitantly. Suddenly unable to look him in the eye, she stared back down at the peonies, twisting them uneasily in her hands. She could feel every ounce of blood in her body rushing to her cheeks.

"I was thinking- about the question you asked me last weekend," Chuck said cautiously, his tone betraying little. "And my answer is yes."

"Yes?" she repeated, raising her eyes to meet his.

"Yes... that's what I want," he clarified.

Blair bit her lower lip in an attempt to keep herself from smiling.

"You can't even say the word," she said skeptically.

"Fine." He rolled his eyes, exhaling loudly. "I want to be your boyfriend."

Not even his exasperated tone could prevent the giddiness she felt welling up inside her, but she forced herself to remain outwardly calm.

"How do I know you're serious? You're so drunk you can barely stand up straight," she pointed out, watching him steady himself against her dresser. "And do you even know what that word means?"

Chuck stared back at her, looking increasingly perturbed by her reaction- or rather, lack of reaction.

"My understanding," he replied tersely, "is that it means I only have sex with you, and you only have sex with me."

"So this is just about sex for you then." She narrowed her eyes at him.

"No, that's not-" He took a deep breath and rubbed one hand across his jaw. "I mean, I assume we'd also... go on dates, and... watch movies... or whatever people do when they're..." He trailed off, looking frustrated and uncomfortable.

"Give me a fucking break, Waldorf, I'm new at this," he said finally, averting his gaze.

He looked self-conscious, she realized- and Chuck Bass never looked self-conscious. He frequently looked self-satisfied... or bored, amused, calculating, smarmy... but never unsure of himself.

For some reason, she found it absolutely irresistible.

Taking a step towards him, she reached up to run her hand along his jaw, feeling the slight scratch of stubble beneath her fingertips. He lifted his eyes and met her own, regarding her with quiet intensity as he waited for a response.

And she paused, for just a moment, because suddenly this all seemed so much more real than it had the night before. This wasn't a drunken hook-up, or a one-night stand she could just pretend to regret the next morning- this was actual, full-on dating Chuck Bass, a guy who'd never committed to anything longer than a lap dance. A guy whose sexual exploits, if compiled, would read like a Best of edition of Penthouse Forum.

A guy who was now looking at her with tentative hopefulness in his warm hazel eyes, a glimpse of the vulnerability that he rarely showed anyone. Sure, he was drunk and disheveled, a little bit belligerent, and not really all that sorry... but he'd put his pride on the line by telling her he wanted to be with her. And after a year of trying to suppress her own feelings, she could no longer deny that she wanted the same.

Raising herself up on her tiptoes, Blair curved her hand around the side of his neck and drew his face closer. The heady aroma of scotch and cologne filled her nostrils as she brushed her lips across his, the brief contact making her nerve endings tingle with anticipation.

"Is that an answer?" he murmured against her mouth.

She pulled back just enough to meet his eyes, no longer able to keep the smile off her face.

"I think I would be... amenable to that arrangement," she replied coyly. She saw his lips tilt upwards, catching just a glimpse of unguarded happiness before he pulled her in for another kiss.

He plucked the flowers from her hands and unceremoniously tossed them aside. Sliding an arm around her waist, he pulled her flush against his body and deepened the kiss, impatiently seeking out her tongue with his own. Her hands moved up to grip the nape of his neck as she kissed him back, their mouths moving in unison, tongues stroking eagerly against each other.

She barely noticed she was being propelled backwards across the floor until she felt her thighs hit the edge of her bed.

"Chuck," she said breathlessly, trying to maintain some semblance of self-control.

"Mmm?" He moved his mouth down to her neck, which arched back instinctively.

"Maybe we should... wait..." she offered weakly. She could feel his lips trail down to her collarbone, which he began tracing along with his tongue.

"I was thinking," he said against her skin, sucking lightly on the spot where her neck met her shoulder, "we should celebrate."

His hands fumbled with the tie of her robe, finally managing to tug it open. She was so distracted by his mouth making its way across her shoulder, she barely noticed as the silky fabric slid down her back.

"But it's late and my... mother... is..." She trailed off into a soft moan as he cupped her ass with both hands, pulling her hips firmly against his. She could feel his hard length grinding against her, and the resulting throb of arousal radiated through her entire body.

She suddenly found herself flat on her back, sprawled sideways across the mattress. Chuck soon followed, working his way up her neck with wet, open-mouthed kisses and pulling at the straps of her nightie with more enthusiasm than dexterity.

"Chuck," she said softly, gripping his shoulders to get his attention. "Come on, you're drunk."

"I'm fine," he reassured her, with only a slight slur to his words. "I've had sex much drunker than this."

"How charming," she muttered, rolling her eyes.

Apparently recognizing his faux pas, he paused his attempts to undress her.

"Well, just think of it as... you benefiting from my years of debauchery," he concluded with a wicked grin.

Her sigh of disgust quickly dissipated under a lingering kiss, his tongue thrusting aggressively against her own as his thighs nudged their way between hers.

"But Eleanor is home, if she finds you in here..."

Her protests trailed off as his lips moved their way down her neck, kissing along the edge of her nightie until he was nuzzling between her breasts. Giving up on the shoulder straps, he worked his way underneath instead, his fingers lingering over her hipbones.

"I just want," he murmured, sliding his hands up to her breasts "-to fuck-" cupping them in his palms "-my girlfriend." He rolled her nipples between his thumb and forefinger, pinching them lightly.

She had to admit, the word took on a whole new appeal when he said it in his sexy bedroom voice.

"Just give me... five minutes to convince you," he whispered, moving down to tongue the tight buds through the thin silk of her nightie.

She made a little noise of assent, running her hands through his hair as he dipped still lower, kissing his way down her abdomen.

She inhaled in anticipation when she felt his hot breath on her thigh, and then forgot to breathe entirely when his mouth brushed against her core. Parting her inner folds with his fingers, he began tonguing her with long, languid strokes, producing swells of pleasure that coursed through her body. He gripped her legs and spread them further apart, holding her in place as he explored her with his lips and tongue. She could feel herself grow slick with arousal, her body responding eagerly to his caresses.

"God, I love the taste of your pussy," he murmured.

She flushed in surprise at the unexpected dirty talk- apparently drunk Chuck was even less inhibited than regular Chuck- but her self-consciousness was soon forgotten when his tongue grazed her clit, circling it with gentle, tantalizing strokes that made her eyes roll back in bliss.

Encouraged by her response, he began laving the swollen nub with rhythmic motions, alternating between teasing flicks and more lingering caresses. She felt her hips arch off the bed of their own volition, her hands fisting into the sheets as she tried desperately to stay quiet. Whimpering with the effort of holding in her moans, she clenched her eyes shut, trying to stave off her release for as long as possible.

But the speed and pressure of his strokes increased, the wet friction producing wave after wave of exquisite sensation, and she felt her arousal start to spiral out of control. When he wrapped his lips around her clit, sucking gently as he continued the swirling motions of his tongue, the hot, coiling tension inside her finally exploded.

Clutching her fingers into his hair, she cried out as an intense surge of pleasure radiated outward from her core. She could hear herself gasping his name in short, desperate pants as she rode out her orgasm, her hips bucking upwards against his mouth. He continued lapping at her gently, her thighs trembling under his palms, as she gradually regained her senses.

When he finally kissed his way back up her body, she was still shaking from the intensity of her release.

"You do make a persuasive argument, Bass," she said breathlessly.

Responding with a satisfied grin, he captured her lips in a deep, passionate kiss. She could taste herself on his tongue, mixed with the potent tang of Scotch, and feel the rigid length of his cock pressed against her leg.

Sliding his hand under her thigh, he wrapped it around his waist and rocked their hips together. The erotic rhythm stirred a throb of pleasure in her groin, her body responding instinctively to his movements.

"Fuck, Blair," he groaned as her body arched into his. "I want to be inside you so bad."

"Alright," she finally conceded, breathing heavily against his mouth. "One round. As long as you're out of here by morning."

And I see you fogging up the mirror
Vapor round your body glistens in the shower
And I want to stay right here
And go down on you for an hour

Or stay, and let the day just fade away
In wild dedication, take the moment of hope
And let it run

Drifting out of a deep slumber, Blair slowly realized she was being awakened by a sound that was neither her alarm clock nor her Dorota. She crinkled her nose in confusion for a moment, finally recognizing the low, rhythmic noise as snoring.

Opening her eyes, she rolled over to find Chuck asleep beside her, completely dead to the world. One arm was slung over his head, his lips parted slightly to emit a soft rumble every few seconds.

She decided that it wouldn't be too creepy or stalkerish to just observe for a minute or two- after all, he was her boyfriend.

Chuck Bass... was her boyfriend. That was going to take some getting used to.

She settled back into her pillow, studying the rumpled hair falling across his forehead and soft brown lashes resting against his cheeks. His chest rose and fell in a steady cadence, and sleep had relaxed the sharp angles of his face, making him look younger, almost innocent.

Which he most definitely was not, she thought, recalling the previous night's activities with a little aftershock of pleasure.

She was eying the curve of his lower lip, contemplating how best to wake him up, when a series of knocks jarred her from her reverie. She only managed a squeak of protest before Dorota entered, bustling into the room with a dry-cleaning bag and a no-nonsense expression.

"Miss Blair, your mother want you downstairs for breakfast in twenty minutes, she say no time for sleeping in today-"

She stopped with a scandalized gasp, staring in horror as Blair made a futile attempt to cover the sleeping, obviously naked boy beside her with the duvet- which, of course, woke him up.

Chuck stretched his arms over his head, slowly blinking his eyes open and wincing as the light hit them.

"MisterChuck!" The indignant hiss brought him fully awake, and he sat up, attempting to stifle a yawn.

"Mmm, Dorota. Good morning," he greeted her. He gave her a sleepy grin and scratched idly at his chest with one hand. The duvet had slipped down, sitting low around his hips and threatening to slide even lower.

Blair attempted to look unruffled, although her cheeks were stained red with mortification.

"Dorota, tell mother I will be... right down," she commanded. She gave the maid a haughty stare, as if she were a dignified society princess, not a teenage girl wearing only a bed sheet and a post-coital glow.

Dorota shook her head disapprovingly, muttering under her breath in Polish as she pulled the door closed behind her.

"Chuck!" Blair rounded on her bedmate, delivering a smack to his upper arm. "I told you not to sleep over!"

"You know, you really need to stop hitting me," he said wryly, rubbing his bicep with a pained expression. "I'm starting to feel like I'm in an abusive relationship."

"You think that's abusive?" she scoffed. "Wait until my mother finds you in here."

He shrugged, seemingly unafraid of Eleanor's wrath.

"I could just stay in bed and wait for you to finish breakfast?" he offered suggestively. He ran one finger down her bare arm, a trail of goosebumps following in its wake.

She sighed, rolling her eyes in feigned exasperation- and pretending she wasn't extremely tempted by the idea.

"I can't, I have a dress-fitting afterwards," she replied, retrieving her robe from the floor and wrapping it around herself. "For the Prentice wedding," she elaborated, in response to his questioning expression.

It suddenly occurred to her that she no longer had a date for said wedding, which was only a week away. And she now had to make a rather humiliating last-minute phone call to the mother of the bride to explain the situation.

Unless... perhaps she did have a date? She chanced a look in Chuck's direction, only to find him looking back at her with a raised eyebrow, puzzled by her sudden silence.

"I was supposed to go with Nate," she explained, trying to keep her tone casual.

"Oh." He paused and cleared his threat. "So I guess that will that be our first... public appearance?"

"I guess so," she responded, forcing a nonchalant expression onto her face- as if her stomach hadn't just exploded in a flurry of nervous excitement. Because, so what if she was attending the society wedding of the season with Chuck Bass. Her boyfriend.

No big deal, really.

"Well, send me a pic from your fitting," he said casually, sliding towards the side of the bed.

Blair was silent for a moment, distracted by the sight of his bare ass, before his words had a chance to sink in.

"Ugh, I am not sending you naked pictures of myself," she responded in an appalled tone. "If you need to jerk off that badly, you're just going to have to use your imagination."

"I meant a picture of the dress, so I can coordinate my outfit," he said dryly, pulling on his boxers.

"... oh," she peeped back, trying to look appropriately contrite.

"But do feel free to include a naked picture as well, if the mood strikes you," he added. He gave her an appreciative leer as he shrugged into his shirt.

She sighed and rolled her eyes. "In your dreams, Bass."

Glancing in the mirror of her vanity, she frowned in dismay at the condition of her hair, which seemed to be curling in every possible direction, and the dark circles under her eyes- no doubt the result of her late-night sexcapades.

"Ugh, I look terrible," she groused.

There was no way twenty (now seventeen) minutes of primping was going to fix this mess, and it sounded like Eleanor was already in one of her moods. Shaking her head irritably, she turned to head towards the bathroom, almost running smack into Chuck's chest.

"You look... thoroughly ravished," he murmured, sliding both hands up to frame her face. He leaned in to slant his mouth against hers, kissing her so intently it left her breathless. "It's a good look on you," he added, grinning mischievously as he picked a wayward petal out of her hair.

That giddy, fluttery feeling started wreaking havoc all over her insides again, and she couldn't help but smile back at him. His warm hazel eyes were still hazy with sleep, but they were regarding her with a gleam of admiration that made her feel flushed all over.

And the half-unbuttoned shirt and bedhead was... definitely a good look on him too, she decided.

"Call me later?" she requested, biting into her lower lip.

Chuck answered with one last kiss, tucking a stray curl behind her ear before finally pulling away and heading for the door.

"Make sure you take the back staircase, it's down the hall to the left," she called after him softly. He rolled his eyes but nodded, pulling the door closed behind him.

She took a few seconds to gaze after him, smiling like a lovesick idiot, before she headed to the bathroom to start repairing her ravished appearance.

Serena was kneeling in front of her closet, pondering whether to risk her new knee-high suede boots on a ten-percent chance of rain, when she heard a door open across the hall. Furrowing her brow, she rose to her feet and went to investigate.

"Chuck," she greeted her disheveled-looking stepbrother, who was sitting on the edge of his bed removing his shoes. "I was starting to wonder if you still lived here."

He shrugged and ran a hand through his tousled hair.

"I was summoned home for family brunch," he replied sardonically, gesturing with his cell phone.

"Late night?" she asked in a disdainful tone, assessing his wrinkled clothes and the faint aroma of day-old liquor.

"You could say that," he replied, raising his eyebrows suggestively.

Serena rolled her eyes with a little sound of disgust.

"Ugh," she said, her worst suspicions having been confirmed. "I can't believe I was stupid enough to think that you really liked Blair."

"Serena-" he tried to interrupt, but she ignored him.

"You convince Nate to break up with her, you havesex with her," she rattled off, "and less than a day later, you're already doing..." She paused, gesturing at his appearance. "God knows what with God knows who. It's despicable, even for you."

Chuck narrowed his eyes at her, looking offended.

"And to think, I was actually trying to get her to give you a chance!" Serena continued, shaking her head in disappointment.

"While I appreciate your... faith in me," he interrupted her shortly. "Blair and I are fine."

Serena paused mid-rant, taken aback by his response.

"Better than fine, actually..." Chuck added in a softer tone, an enigmatic little smile crossing his face.

She studied him as he unbuttoned the cuffs of his shirt, his features relaxed in contentment.

He actually looked… happy, she realized. Which was wasn't an expression she was used to seeing on his face, unless illicit substances and multiple slutty women were involved. And even then she'd never seen him look quite this... peaceful.

With the possible exception of a few weeks last year, around Thanksgiving time.

"Wait, were you..." She trailed off, looking at him with dawning understanding. "Were you with Blair last night?"

"A gentleman never kisses and tells, sis," he replied with a wicked grin.

"And you're hardly a gentleman, Chuck," she shot back, crossing her arms over her chest. "Were you with Blair, yes or no?"

Chuck pursed his lips thoughtfully as he considered how to answer this.

"Yes," he offered.

"So you managed to get into her pants again," Serena grumbled. "Should I just head straight over to the penthouse to try and stave off another Blair meltdown?"

"Oh, that won't be necessary," he replied, sounding strangely calm. "I assure you that Blair is perfectly happy with the current status of our relationship."

"Relationship?" Serena echoed, furrowing her brow skeptically. "What- are you two, like... a couple now?"

She felt a strange mixture of happiness and unease at the possibility. She knew Blair must be thrilled to have successfully wrangled a commitment from Chuck, no matter how hard she tried to hide it- but if things went south, the fallout was potentially nuclear. And she would the one stuck picking up the pieces.

Chuck appeared to ponder his reply for a moment.

"Seeing as how you're Blair's best friend, I'm sure she'd prefer to discuss it with you herself," he said evasively, his mouth still quirked up in a satisfied little smile.

Serena raised her eyebrows. No raunchy comments? No leers? No jokes? This version of Chuck was so far removed from his usual self, he seemed like a totally different person. It was disconcerting, to say the least.

"Now, I need to get changed, so unless you'd like a show..." he trailed off, cocking an eyebrow at her suggestively.

Well, maybe not a completely different person, she thought, rolling her eyes. She exited the room, planning to corner Blair and coerce the details out of her at the next available opportunity.

"There you are, dear," Eleanor greeted Blair as she took a seat at the breakfast table. "I was wondering if you were going to stay in bed all day."

"Sorry, mother," she replied contritely. "I had... difficulty sleeping last night."

She struggled to keep a smirk off of her face, recalling the cause of her insomnia.

"So I called ahead to the atelier- they finished the alterations and should be all ready for your appointment," Eleanor commented, taking a sip of her coffee.

Dorota bustled into the room, filling Blair's coffee cup and setting down a tempting array of breakfast pastries. Eleanor eyed her daughter as she selected a rich-looking chocolate brioche off of the silver tray.

"Careful dear, you don't want to be bloated for your fitting," she said disapprovingly.

Chastised, Blair replaced the pastry and took a few strawberries from the fruit bowl instead. She stirred some skim milk and sweetener into her coffee before taking a long, bracing gulp.

"So assuming the dress is suitable," her mother began. "We still have the issue of your date to contend with."

Blair brightened a little, feeling that increasingly familiar flip-flop of her stomach.

"Actually, about that-"

"So I spoke to Catherine Baizen after dinner last night," Eleanor continued, undeterred. "And she said that Carter would be back from Barcelona in time for the wedding, and he'd be happy to accompany you."

"Carter? What?" Blair faltered, shaking her head. "No, I-"

"Apparently he's really shaped up in the last year, after his little sojourn abroad," Eleanor went on, with a dismissive wave of her hand. "He's interning with his father's company and planning to attend Columbia next fall. Plus, you two have known each other for years, so I think he'll be an ideal escort."

"Actually, I was thinking of going with Chuck," Blair finally interrupted, twisting her napkin anxiously in her lap.

"Chuck... Bass?" Eleanor asked, her features stiffening in dismay. "Good Lord, why?"

Blair's heart dropped at the contempt in her mother's voice, and she hurriedly took a sip of coffee to mask her reaction.

"I know you two are... friends," Eleanor allowed, a tinge of distaste in her voice, "but really Blair, this is the biggest social event of the season, and there will be some very influential people in attendance. Do you really want to meet the chairman of the Yale board of trustees accompanied by someone with... his reputation?"

"Why would they even know anything about Chuck?" Blair asked, confused. She couldn't imagine what possible interest a bunch of Fortune 500 CEOs would have in the sexual exploits of a seventeen-year-old.

"Because everyone knows," Eleanor replied, rolling her eyes. "That boy's been a delinquent since he was old enough to dress himself. And rumor has it, he actually slept with one of the trustee's wives- so they're likely to remember thatat least."

Blair opened her mouth and then closed it again, looking down at her lap in consternation.

"Bart has had a terrible time controlling that boy, what with the drinking, and the drugs, and the women," her mother continued, shaking her head in disgust. "Between his grades and his arrest record, all the money in Manhattan won't be sufficient to buy his way into a good college."

"But-" She was about to remind her mother that Chuck was already managing a successful business at only seventeen, but she was interrupted before she could get another word out.

"This is a golden opportunity to impress the Yale trustees with your poise and maturity," Eleanor said firmly. "The last thing you want to do is undermine that with an unsuitable companion."

Blair swallowed, feeling an awful tightness in the pit of her stomach.

Well, maybe her mother was right about the politics of the situation, she thought. But she was dead wrong about Chuck. Sure, he had a few... behavioral kinks that would need to be worked out, but she was confident that she could manage it with a little time and patience.

She trusted that his womanizing tendencies wouldn't be a problem, as long as she kept him sufficiently… satisfied. All she had to do was prevent him from flaunting his illegal habits, convince him to go to school once in awhile, and maybe rein in some of the public perviness. Then everyone else would be able to see the great, charming guy she was totally smitten with.

He was just a little bit of a... fixer-upper boyfriend, that's all.

And after the dismal failure of her perfect-on-paper relationship with Nate Archibald, maybe a renovation project was exactly what she needed.

"So, I'll call Catherine back to confirm, hmm?" Eleanor smiled in satisfaction when Blair nodded distractedly. She was already busy making a mental list of Chuck's behavioral tendencies that would require modification before their first outing as a couple.

"Alright, I'll go get my portfolio and we can head to your fitting." Eleanor scraped back her chair and stood, smoothing the wrinkles out of her pantsuit. "And do finish your coffee, dear, you look exhausted."

"Hey Dan," Jenny greeted her brother as she walked into the living room, dropping her bags by the front door. She'd spent the weekend visiting her mother in Hudson, a welcome relief from her busy social schedule. As much as she loved going to parties and luncheons and spa dates with her friends, trying to pretend she could actually afford all of those things was exhausting.

Receiving only a grunt from her brother, she sighed with exasperation.

"Seriously, how long are you going to keep pouting about this?" she asked.

"About the fact that you completely wrecked my relationship over some stupid rumor that turned out to not even be true?" he retorted, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on his book. "Yeah, I'm not quite finished pouting about that, so if you don't mind..."

"First of all," she said pointedly, her eyes narrowing in indignation, "I didn't wreck anything. You'd already screwed up your relationship, and you just managed to screw it up even further by believing the worst of Serena instead of just talking to her. And, if I'm not mistaken," she added, "that's the same thing that's torpedoed your relationship the last however-many times now."

Dan looked back at her in annoyance, clearly not appreciating her attempt to shift the blame onto him.

"And second." She paused, taking a deep breath. "I didn't lie to you about anything, I heard it from a very reliable source who happened to get his facts wrong. So I am sorry that this messed things up for you, but I'm done being the punching bag for your Serena issues."

With that, she went to retreat into her room, before Dan's voice stopped her.

"Look, Jen- I'm sorry, I shouldn't be blaming you for this," he admitted. "It's just... she doesn't even acknowledge me at school, and then I saw her and Nate flirting in the courtyard the other day, and I'm really worried... well, I'm worried I might have lost her for good this time."

Jenny turned to face him, trying not to roll her eyes at the forlorn expression on his face.

"Well, as long as Nate's with Blair, I don't see why that's anything to worry about," she said dismissively.

"Nate's not with Blair anymore," Dan replied with a despondent sigh. "And he and Serena do have a history together-"

"What do you mean, Nate's not with Blair anymore?" Jenny interrupted, staring at him in disbelief.

"Yeah, didn't you see the Gossip Girl blast? They broke up on Friday," he said.

"No, I was getting really bad reception at mom's, so I just turned my phone off..." Jenny dug into her purse, fumbling around until she located her cell phone.

"I just don't know what she'd see in Nate anyway- I mean, have you tried to have a conversation with the guy?" Dan groused. "I can't tell if he's high, or if he just doesn't understand some of the words I'm using..."

Jenny waited for her phone to finish booting up, not even pretending to pay attention to Dan's Serena-related yammering in the meantime.

When she finally flipped through her text messages, she soon found the blast he was referring to- a tearful picture of Blair leaving her party under the headline "The end of an era?" It was followed by a gleeful summary of the supposed royal divorce between the reigning king and queen of the UES.

Shit, she thought. Her entire plan was falling to pieces- first, that juicy rumor about Serena had turned out to be bullshit, and now her scandalous Chuck/Blair gossip bomb was becoming less explosive by the second.

Although... she was still certain Blair wouldn't want her junior-year affair with Chuck made public under any circumstances. It was humiliating and potentially dethroning, especially with a well-worded, Jerry-Springer-esque tagline: "Pregnancy Scare on the Upper East Side- and Who's Your Daddy, B?"

Plus, weeks of careful observation had led Jenny to suspect that there was more to the Chuck and Blair saga than just an errant fling. There was just something about how Blair reacted to the mention of his name, and the way they looked at the other when they thought no one was paying attention- and Serena's cryptic comment on the school steps the other morning had been very suggestive. If Jenny Humphrey were a betting woman, she would lay money on their affair being an ongoing one. She couldn't prove it- not yet, at least- but there was still plenty of potential blackmail material at hand.

Unfortunately, Blair was growing increasingly antagonistic towards her, and after the Snowflake ball committee situation, Jenny knew that pushing her any further could potentially spell disaster. But... there was still another party with something to lose here.

Chuck clearly couldn't care less about his reputation, but he still had his friendship with Nate to worry about. And if her suspicions were correct, he might have even more at stake than that. She didn't relish the idea of going toe-to-toe with Chuck- he was just as manipulative as Blair and even more ruthless, plus there was the creepy sex-pervert factor to consider- but no risk, no reward.

She just needed to decide what she wanted that reward to be. He had plenty of money, but that sort of blackmail just seemed... low-class. He also had influence, but mostly over the same people that Blair did.

One thing he did have, though, was influence over Nate. Who was now the most eligible bachelor at St. Jude's.

Jenny tilted her head to the side, pondering this possibility.

"-anyway, I was thinking about leaving it in her locker. She always loves when I write her poems, but this one is a little more esoteric than the others, and I don't want her to read it and, you know, misinterpret what I'm trying to say-" Dan's ramblings impinged on her plotting, and she sighed in annoyance.

"Yeah, leave the poem in her locker, she'll love it," Jenny interrupted, waving her hand dismissively. "I'm gonna go lie down, I'm starting to get a headache."

And with that, she headed to her bedroom to continue her scheming in private.

Chuck was lounging in bed later that afternoon, struggling to stay awake as he perused the CliffsNotes version of Hamlet. After Bart's pointed comments about his grades over family brunch, he'd been annoyed enough to at least attempt his English homework- but he certainly wasn't about to wade through 120 pages of that footnoted crap.

He was just starting to drift off, his head drooping back against the pillow, when he felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. Pulling it out, he saw Blair's name flash across the screen and suppressed the smile that immediately jumped to his lips.

Even alone in his own room, he wasn't willing to act like some besotted idiot.

"Hey," he greeted her, barely stifling a yawn.

"Hey, did I wake you?" Blair's voice rang over the line.

"No, I was just... studying," he replied.

"Oh really?"

She sounded oddly pleased, but he supposed she was into that sort of thing.

"How did your appointment go?" he asked, sitting up and setting his homework aside.

"Oh, great, my dress fit perfectly," she said cheerfully. "And I bought some new Dior pumps, and a matching clutch. Oh, and Daddy sent me the most beautiful sapphire necklace from Paris..."

He smiled and leaned back against the pillows, enjoying the sound of her voice as she chattered on excitedly.

"Well, send me a pic soon," he commented when she finally paused to take a breath. "My tailor does need a little bit of lead time."

"Oh, about that..." Blair paused, clearing her throat. "I was thinking maybe it would be better if we delayed our... first public appearance."

Chuck frowned, an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"Why's that?" he asked with forced nonchalance.

"Well, I was just thinking," she went on. "It's been less than two days since Nate and I broke up, and if you and I go public now... what would people think?"

"I don't really give a shit what people think," he replied evenly.

"Well, I do!" she countered, a sudden edge to her voice.

An uncomfortable silence fell between them, before he heard a sigh on the other end of the line.

"Chuck," she said calmly. "I know you care what Nate thinks, and you basically talked him into breaking up with me. Do you really want to call him right now and tell him we're dating?"

Admittedly, he had been dreading that encounter, which seemed certain to end with him minus one best friend- he just wasn't sure how postponing it would help matters.

"Not... really," he admitted grudgingly.

"If we go public now," she continued. "Everyone will think I cheated on Nate with you- including Nate."

Which was not entirely untrue, he thought, but chose to keep that to himself.

"Or..." She paused. "They'll think I'm only dating you to get back at him."

"Are you?" The words were out before he could stop them, and he could've kicked himself for sounding so insecure.

"No!" she responded vehemently. "Of course not, Chuck, you know that's not why."

"I know," he reassured her, trying to sound more convinced than he felt.

"But everyone will assume the worst, they won't take us seriously," she went on. "And you'll lose your best friend. I don't want to be the cause of that."

Chuck was silent for a moment, contemplating their predicament. She did have a point, as much as he hated to admit it.

"So what do you suggest we do instead?" he asked finally.

"We just... keep it to ourselves for awhile, give all the gossip a chance to die down," she proposed. "Then after a respectable amount of time has passed, we go public. That way, people won't be suspicious, and Nate won't be as upset with you."

Her suggestion did have some merit, he decided, but he couldn't help feeling a little troubled by the whole situation.

"How is that any different than what we did last year?" he asked skeptically. That arrangement had turned out rather poorly for him, so he certainly wasn't interested in a redux.

"Because that- was just a fling," she said quietly. "And this is... a real relationship, right?"

"Yeah," he replied, swallowing tightly. "Yeah, it is."

He could feel his heart pounding in his throat as an emotionally-laden silence stretched between them.

"Besides," she continued, her voice assuming a suggestive tone. "Sneaking around does have a certain... appeal, doesn't it?"

He chuckled, recalling some of their more adventurous trysts from the previous year. There'd been one memorable one in the third floor janitor's closet, when Blair- in the throes of a particularly intense orgasm- had knocked a bottle of Windex all over him. During the ensuing commotion, her Louboutin had landed in a bucket of dirty mop water.

She'd ordered him to cut class for the rest of the day, so no one would notice that they'd both shown up to fourth period with cleaning-supply-related wardrobe malfunctions. He'd been more than happy to oblige.

"I suppose I could get on board with that," he conceded. "You should probably check in with Serena though. She may need to be muzzled."

"Why? What did you tell her?" Blair asked accusingly.

"I wasn't trying to tell her anything, she just guessed," he defended himself. "Turns out, she's brighter than she looks."

"Well, don't worry, I can handle Serena," she said.

"So we're both going to the wedding stag then? Maybe we can rendezvous in the coat room," he suggested, smiling in anticipation.

"Oh, actually- my mother is going to set me up with someone," Blair replied nonchalantly. "Apparently it would be... terribly unseemly for me to go alone."

"You're bringing a date?" he asked sharply, cringing at how pathetic it sounded.

"Not a date, just an... escort," she explained. "It's no big deal."

When he said nothing in response, she hastily tried to convince him.

"It's just for show, Chuck," she said reassuringly. "Believe me, I am notexcited about it. But the good news is, once I'm done being bored senseless by the guy, I can go home with you..." she trailed off provocatively.

He wasn't sure what was worse, how aggravated he was by this turn of events, or how ridiculous he felt for even caring. He was Chuck Bass, after all, and he shouldn't give two shits that someone else was escorting Blair to some lame society function- especially if he got her to fuck her at the end of the night regardless.

And he certainly wasn't about to give her the upper hand by letting on how much it bothered him.

"I could book a room at the Plaza," he offered nonchalantly. "That way we'd have a much shorter... commute."

"Sounds good." He could hear the relief in her voice at his acquiescence. "Speaking of which... I picked up a few other things to wear too."

"Oh really?" He arched an eyebrow at her seductive tone.

"Hang on, I'll call you right back."

She hung up, and he stared at his phone in puzzlement for a moment. When it vibrated, alerting him that he had a text message, he opened it to find a picture of Blair.

A picture of Blair in a very sexy lingerie set, posed in front of a dressing room mirror. She'd angled the camera phone so her face wasn't visible, but he could see her slim legs encased in sheer silk stockings, fastened by garters to a pale pink satin corset. The boning amplified the ivory swells of her breasts, creating a tempting valley between them. And a silky little thong completed the ensemble, the scrap of fabric barely enough to cover the cleft between her thighs.

His mouth went dry, his mind filling with visions of tearing the lingerie off her delectable little body.

When his phone rang again, the pop-up notification obscuring his view of the picture, he sighed in disappointment before answering.

"Does it meet with your approval?" she asked throatily.

"It does indeed," he replied, shifting on the bed as he felt himself becoming uncomfortably aroused. "Does it mean you're planning on coming over, or do I have to take care of this... situation myself?"

"Sorry, I have homework to do," she said coyly.

"You're killing me, Waldorf," he groaned, and heard her giggle on the other end of the line.

"Well, maybe I could be free later for a little... study break?" she suggested.

"I'd like that," he murmured. "Meet me at the Palace at eight?"

"It's a date." He could hear the smile in her voice, and it made him smile in return.

They said their goodbyes, and as soon as he'd hung up, Chuck quickly thumbed his way back to the picture message of Blair in her lingerie. Tossing his phone face up on the bed, he admired the image of his girlfriend's barely-clothed body… and reached downwards to undo the button of his trousers.

His book lay abandoned on the bedside table, temporarily forgotten.

And never look back at all the damage
We have done now
To each other
To each other, to each other

But when I see you
It's like I'm staring down the sun
I'm blinded

A/N: So our favorite couple is now officially a couple! It's been a long time coming. Of course, they're still going to have some obstacles and drama to work through- Blair may have placated him for now, but I'm thinking Jealous Chuck will be making an appearance in the very near future...

As usual, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this chapter and what you're hoping to see next. And for anyone interested, I'm also working on a side-project/prequel to this story, called "The Idea of You"- you can find the link in my profile.

A million thanks to Terrabeth, for working her usual magic on this chapter and being so understanding of my demanding beta needs.

And thanks so much to all of my lovely reviewers, you always make my day: Rossiee, fiona249, YasminY, Noirreigne, GGfan73104, LeftWriter224, Arazadia, KillerNewton, notoutforawalk, Stella296, 13maggi13, chaval, Rajamoon, Cbalwaysandforever, ellibells, Krazy4Spike, Nicole, Nicky, flipped, Aliennut, cb, jsta, maryl, CBBW3words8letters, CakeNIcecream, love sold in the evening, teddybear, mlharper, annablake and livelybass (both with the much-appreciated double-chapterreviews!), Laura, Temp02, loopingread, and last but certainly not least, Prinniegg.