Better For You
His footsteps echo against the marble floors in the foyer, and he wonders if this is the last time he'll ever be here. Here at the Waldorf penthouse where she lives, where she grew up, the only home she's ever known.
Because as much as he wanted it to be, The Empire was never home for her, not even when they were together, and certainly not after all that had transpired there in the past year.
He can tell that he's nervous as hell right now because he can hardly breathe, because he's clenching his fists so tightly at his sides that any moment the bones in his hands might actually shatter.
Something wet trickles over the back of his left hand and he glances down in surprise, before realizing that one of the many cuts over his bruised knuckles has split open again. His hand looks like absolute hell, like he had gotten it caught in a blender. He realizes that he probably should have wrapped it with some kind of bandage, or at least taken the time to get all the glass out of his skin, but he can't be bothered with that now.
He winces in pain as he presses his mouth to the spot on his middle finger that's still bleeding. It tastes bitter and it stings like crazy, but it stops the blood from flowing, at least for now.
Her dainty little feet barely make a sound as she comes down the stairs, he can't bear to look up but he still knows it's her, because he can feel it. He doesn't dare step any further in to the penthouse, he knows he's not welcome here anymore, and he's lucky that she even let him come this far.
The air between them sparks with electricity, and it isn't until she pauses a few feet in front of him that he finally turns his eyes away from the floor, sweeping up her slender frame slowly, memorizing every inch of her at an agonizingly slow pace, just in case this is the last time.
But this isn't how he wants to remember her.
She's beautiful, of course, she always is. But she looks different to him – empty. There is no light in her eyes, no warmth or affection, not even anger or hatred.
She is just – empty.
Her hair is wild and loose around her face and he can tell from her red-rimmed eyes that she hasn't slept much and it's pretty clear that up until recently she had been crying. Although her eyes are dry now.
The thought makes the pit of his stomach burn and in the back of his mind he can feel blood dripping across the back of his hand again.
His eyes seek out the delicate, narrow cut that mars the edge of her otherwise flawless cheekbone, and the shame washes over him immediately. It's hot and stifling and it feels like he might suffocate in it, the way it wraps around his throat and tightens inside his chest. He imagines that it's vaguely similar to the way a heart attack might feel like, the way it wrenches at your insides until you almost wish you were dead just so it wouldn't hurt anymore.
His eyes are so busy devouring her in a simple, pale blue cotton dress that he doesn't even realize she's speaking to him at first.
"Did you have something you wanted to say to me, Chuck?"
Her voice is soft but it's controlled, like she's being very careful not to betray a single emotion.
He swallows hard and it tastes bitter, he isn't sure if it's the blood still lingering on his tongue or if it's just shame, but it burns either way.
"I – uh – " he pauses, his heart slamming against his ribcage as if it's about to abandon ship, like his body knows that this is futile. But he has to try.
"I wanted to apologize" he finally manages to spit the words out, falling awkwardly from his lips because he didn't know how to apologize, the concept is completely foreign to him.
His eyes study her carefully but his words don't seem to have any effect on her at all, she continues to stare at him blankly, as if he hadn't said anything at all.
It takes him a moment to realize he really hadn't said anything, that simply saying he wanted to apologize wasn't actually an apology.
"I'm sorry… Blair."
His voice breaks at the end and he inhales sharply, trying to hold himself together. He clenches his jaw so tight it feels like it might actually break, but at least his chin isn't quivering, at least he still has some semblance of control.
She makes no effort to acknowledge his words and after a few moments of silence he continues.
"What happened – last night, there's no excuse for what I did to you."
Even as he says it, a million excuses pop in to his head.
His father – a murderer.
Countless lines of coke.
Endless bottles of Scotch.
The sheer desperation of losing her to someone else.
But he didn't have the strength to blame any of those things for what he had done, even if there were other factors, excuses for his behavior, it wasn't enough.
When he opens his mouth to speak again he can already feel himself shaking and he can barely get the words out, his voice sounding strained and weak.
"The way I treated you was… unacceptable. I know that. But, I would never – hurt you, Blair. Ever."
His eyes sweep down her slender neck and over her bare arms and shoulders, he imagines that there are bruises there, black and blue imprints in the shape of his hands. He blinks again and they're gone, of course they were never there to begin with, but it doesn't make the idea hurt any less.
Her brow furrows in response.
"You say that, but…"
She trails off and he knows why.
Because he says he would never hurt her and it's clear to both of them that he has anyway, multiple times. And in the worst way. Because they loved each other, because he knows her better than anyone, which means he knows how to hurt her better than anyone, and he's done it. He's done it many times.
His voice breaks again.
"I mean – I would never… never hurt you like – that" his eyes flicker to the cut on her pale cheek and he shudders visibly, tearing his eyes away from the offending mark "I would never – touch you, if you didn't… if I didn't think…"
He trails off because he realizes how hypocritical he's being.
This is exactly who he is, this is what he does.
With Serena, with Jenny… this is how he's always treated women. Women who don't want what he wants, he tries to force them, he tries to bend them to his will.
The scene before him starts to blur and it takes him a moment to realize that his eyes are wet, but he's too busy convincing himself that it's different with Blair. Because they are the same, they have always wanted the same thing. Each other.
One of them pushes while the other pulls, but they always give in to each other at some point. Whether it be in the back of a limo or on top of piano, how was this time any different?
Because she told him to stop.
In the back of his mind he commends himself for listening to her words, because he wasn't always so noble, there had been times in the past, with other women, where those words would have probably been ignored.
He isn't sure why but he says it again.
She sighs softly, her eyes flickering up to his.
Dread fills his stomach as his vision blurs even more, forcing himself not to blink, holding the tears back as long as he possibly can. But he can't help it, he's embarrassed and ashamed and he never wanted her to see him like this, but he can't hold this in anymore.
"I wanted to be better, Blair, I really did" he admits ashamedly, wiping his palm haphazardly across his face, trying in vain to hide how upset he is right now. "I wanted to be better for you. I wanted it so much."
His heart wrenches in his chest when Blair's eyes turn up to meet his, her dark brown gaze swimming with tears.
"I know you did, Chuck."
She takes a small step towards him and he feels a sense of hope building inside his chest, but her demeanor doesn't change, she is still staring at him as dispassionately as before.
"But don't do it for me."
His face clouds over with confusion because it doesn't make sense. Why else would he ever want to change?
It's like she can read his mind.
"Do it for yourself. You owe yourself at least that much."
He shakes his head slowly, still not understanding.
"It doesn't mean anything without you."
Even as he says it, he realizes why it's wrong. Because he doesn't have that instinct for self-preservation, he doesn't see why making himself better just for his own well-being would ever be worthwhile. Because it just isn't. The only good part about himself that he's ever been able to see is Blair, without her, he doesn't believe he has a single redeeming quality.
And God knows he never deserved her, but of course that didn't stop him from taking what was offered.
Blair shifts uncomfortably in front of him and he can see that she doesn't like where this conversation is headed. Her hands twist nervously in front of her and his eyes can't help but be drawn to that spot, his heart swelling inside his chest when he sees her fingers.
They're bare, every last one of her slender fingers is completely bare.
His eyes lock with hers and flames burst between them, it's like they're sharing the same exact thought, he doesn't even have to ask why she isn't wearing a ring.
"I called off the engagement" she explains evenly, not even a hint of regret in her voice. His lips part to respond but she stops him before he can say anything. "I told Louis it was too soon and he agreed, so he invited me to spend the summer in Monaco with him instead. And I accepted."
The bubble of hope that he had allowed to swell inside his chest suddenly deflated, his eyes falling to the floor in disappointment. But, he reminded himself, he didn't come here to win her back. That was never his intention.
It wasn't that he didn't want to, of course he did. He was sickened and ashamed by his behavior the previous night but that didn't mean he still didn't want her, it didn't mean he wasn't still jealous and possessive of the woman he still considered to be his.
Because that's what they had agreed on.
'Three words, eight letters, say it and I'm yours.'
And he had said it. He had felt it and he had meant it with all his heart, so yes, he considered Blair to be his. She belonged to him, in the same way that he belonged to her.
He swallowed his pride and it felt thick inside his throat, it stuck there for a moment before he forced it down, his eyes meeting hers.
"Do you… love him?"
He knew he didn't have the right to ask her a question like that, but he did anyways.
She stiffened visibly but she only paused for a moment.
"Louis really cares about me, he treats me like a Princess" she finally replied.
It doesn't escape his notice that she didn't actually answer the question.
"And you're happy?"
She nods stiffly "Yes."
Even though he believes her, he can't help but wonder why there are tears rolling down her cheeks when she says it.
He has to fight back his instinct to reach for her, to beg for another chance, to convince her that she belongs with him. Chuck knows that he's selfish, he knows that it's wrong but his instinct is to lock the door behind them and never let her out. He would tie her to his bed and spend the rest of his life trying to convince her if it meant not having to ever lose her. In the end he would never do that to her, but that doesn't meat he hasn't considered it.
He glances mindlessly at his watch, wishing that he hadn't made his appointment so early, that he had given himself more time with her.
The gesture doesn't go unnoticed by Blair.
"Are you going somewhere?"
He considers just flat-out lying to her, but decides for somewhere between a lie an the truth, a safe place for now.
"I need to get away for a little while."
Wrinkles form across her forehead and she studies him with concern "Another bender in Thailand?"
Deep inside, the old Chuck smirks just a little.
"Something like that."
He means it to be teasing but she still watches him with concerned eyes.
"Please… don't do anything stupid, Chuck. Think about… Lily – and Eric. Just, take care of yourself. Ok?"
He finds himself nodding in agreement, not even ruminating on the fact that she obviously still cares about him. Because he never doubted that, not even for a second. But he knows that as much as he wants to simply destroy himself right now, he can't. Because hurting himself always just ended up hurting her more, and to be honest, he had been hurting her far too much lately.
"Before I go, I have something for you" he announces suddenly, pulling the velvet lined box from his pocket without any further explanation, thrusting it towards her.
Her eyes widen in surprise and she immediately takes a step backwards, panic flashing across her face.
He tries not to let her reaction offend him, but deep down, her revulsion is burning right through his chest.
"It's not what you think" he says reassuringly, continuing to hold the box towards her in his open palm.
She eyes it warily but doesn't reach for it, she glances up at him pleadingly.
He frowns, clearly frustrated that she won't just take the damn thing so he can leave, as if this wasn't difficult enough already.
He flicks the box open with his thumb and angles it towards her so she can see, so that she can be reassured that it's not the eight karat Harry Winston ring he had recently tried to shove on to her finger in front of a royal dinner party.
The memory of the previous night makes him cringe for just a moment.
She studies the piece of jewelry with surprise, not recognizing the ring that he was offering her, it was barely half that size of the one she had been expecting.
It was only a four karat solitaire diamond ring, with two smaller stones nestled on either side of the larger one. It was beautiful, but it certainly wasn't Harry Winston.
After a few minutes of silence, her eyes widened even further.
"Is that..." she trailed off, looking up at him questioningly.
He simply nodded in reply.
A moment later she was shaking her head, staring up at him in shock "Chuck, no. I can't… I can't take your Mother's ring. No."
Her refusal is another blow to his gut but he doesn't even flinch, the box still laying in his outsretched hand, an offering that he wasn't willing to take back just yet.
"Please, just take it, Blair."
He said it firmly, his voice sounding much calmer than he felt.
"I can't" her voice broke slightly and he could see how conflicted this was making her, but he had to do this.
"Yes, you can."
"You might need it someday" she argued weakly, her eyes flickering back and forth between his face and the ring "You might meet someone and - "
"No" he interrupted her forcefully, raising his voice "There is no one else, Blair. I don't want anyone else to have it. It's yours, as far as I'm concerned it always has been. So please, just… take it."
Tears streamed down her cheeks and she continued to shake her head silently, not making a move to accept the ring from his oustretched hand.
Chuck clenched his eyes shut tightly and forced himself to calm down, not wanting to upset her, not wanting to leave her like this.
He took a deep breath and very calmly set the jewelry box on to the table beside him, leaving it open and facing towards Blair.
"It doesn't mean anything to me sitting in my safe at home" he explained softly, his eyes searching her face for some sign that she understood. "I thought maybe it might mean something to you."
When she continued to stare at him in silence he let out a long sigh, running his hand through his hair. He suddenly felt exhausted.
"I'm not asking you to wear it, Blair" even as he said the words, the image flashed in front him and it made his chest ache. "You don't even have to look at it," he added, shoving his still bloodied hand in to the pocket of his pants "Just… keep it safe for me. Please."
A few more moments of silence passed before she nodded her head stiffly, just a short jerk of her chin conveying her response. It was all she was willing to give him.
He hated to leave her like this, but he really did have to go. He took one more glance at his watch before turning his eyes back to her. He took a tentative step towards her, praying silently that she would at least allow him a friendly hug before he left.
But the moment he neared her, she shifted her eyes to the floor and he immediately paused.
Their eyes locked in one last heated stare and for the first time in a long time, he had no idea what she was thinking. If he was silently begging him to stay, to just leave, to give her more time… he honestly had no idea.
"I love you, Blair, more than I ever thought was possible."
He says the words that started them, the ones that kept them apart for so long before finally binding them together, the words that could fix anything between them, the words that had saved them time and time again.
Her lips part and he waits, waits for her to say them back because he knows that she still feels it, even if she can't be with him anymore, he knows that he isn't the only one who still feels the love between them.
Her eyes shimmer brightly under the lights in her foyer before she swallows tightly, pushing down the words that she can't even bear to say one last time.
She watches him with tear streaked cheeks and a violently trembling chin as he finally turns away, his shoulders slumped and his head hung in defeat.
It isn't until the crisp spring air whips his hair back from his forehead does he realize that he's outside, before stepping briskly in to his limo and out of the wind.
He lets out a heavy breath he didn't even realize he was holding, adrenaline pounding in his veins as he gives Arthur instructions on their next destination. He knows that he has to keep going, he can't stop now because if he does, he'll be back inside her penthouse, on his knees and begging for just one more chance.
And he can't do that, he can't do that to her or to himself.
His request registers on his driver's face and their eyes meet in the rear view mirror, Arthur's grey-blue eyes narrowing questioningly.
Chuck holds his gaze firmly until he feels the limo pulling away from the curb, the old man biting his tongue as he weaves carefully in and out of traffic.
It isn't until they're parked in front of the building that he starts to have second thoughts. His feet hit the pavement outside of the limo and he can feel Arthur staring at him, watching him curiously as Chuck starts to seriously re-consider what he's about to do.
He's just starting to think about getting back in the limo when he feels it, a strong, firm grip under his elbow, leading him towards the building he had requested to go to in the first place.
Arthur's voice surprises him for a moment, it's gentle but still firm.
"You can do this, Mr. Bass" he says reassuringly, leading him carefully towards the front of the building where he opens the door for him, not releasing his elbow until Chuck is physically inside the building.
He glances back over his shoulder, silently thanking the man for forcing him to take this last step, but Arthur has already turned back towards the limo, the keys dangling from his hand as the door of the building closes between them.
The woman at the front desk has her hair pulled back in to a severe bun, but her eyes are kind. She is the first person in a long time that doesn't look at him with disdain or pity, she smiles at him politely and hands him a stack of paperwork to fill out.
He sits in a hard, plastic chair, feeling awkward and nervous as he fumbles with the pen in his sweaty hand. There is still blood dripping from his bruised knuckles and it ruins the white pages in front of him. He briefly considers asking for a new copy, but then thinks better of it.
Inside another room, a man with thick gray hair and dark rimmed glasses is eyeing him carefully, his gaze flickering between the papers on his desk and the person sitting across from him.
Chuck wondered if he looked as broken and pathetic as he felt.
"Are you certain that this is what you want, Mr. Bass?"
He has already asked him twice, but Chuck figures that this is kind of a big deal, so it's no surprise that they want to be sure.
But he is sure, he is so absolutely sure that it's one of only two things he knows for certain. (The second thing being that he loved and adored Blair more than life itself and that he would do anything to make her happy, even if it meant him being miserable.)
"Yes, I'm positive" he replied, his back straight and his shoulders stiff as he stares him straight in the eye.
The man clears his throat loudly, his eyes narrowing just slightly "Charles, voluntary admission to the Ostroff Center is a very serious thing. Once admitted, you won't be able to leave until you are cleared by your psychiatrist."
"It could takes weeks… months for recovery. Some people take years."
His heart stutters inside his chest for just a moment. He knew how much would change in a year, where Blair might be… who she might be with. She could be married by then.
He forced the thought from his mind, he had to remember that he was doing this for himself.
"I understand, Doctor."
The Doctor finally nodded at him in agreement, shuffling more papers on his desk before finding the admission forms.
"What kind of treatment are we looking at?" he asked casually, his eyes studying the forms in front of him as he asked the question.
A few beats of silence passed before the Doctor looked up at him in confusion.
"Mr. Bass… what kind of – problems, did you want to treat?"
Chuck let out a slow breath, not even sure where to begin.
He continued to mull over the question in his head as the Doctor sifted through the stack of papers on his desk, mumbling something under his breath as he found the form he had been looking for.
"Alright, well let's just start with some questions then, shall we? Perhaps that will give us an idea of what kind of treatment you're seeking from us."
Chuck nodded silently, not sure what else to say.
The Doctor glanced over the questionnaire for a few moments before starting at the top, asking the questions one at a time.
"Do you drink alcohol, Mr. Bass?"
Chuck nodded silently.
"Would you say that you… abuse alcohol?"
He paused briefly, before nodding in affirmation.
"Do you drink socially?"
"Do you drink while you're alone?"
"Do you ever drink to make yourself feel better?"
He swallowed tightly. "Yes." He wanted to add that it certainly wasn't helping, but he figured the Doctor would already know that.
"Do you use drugs, Charles?"
"Prescription or illicit drugs?"
He couldn't help it when his cheeks flamed with embarrassment, he hadn't even begun to realize how humiliating this was going to be.
"Yes, both" he finally admitted.
The Doctor paused for a few moments, making a few marks on the form before moving on to the next set of questions.
"Do you ever have trouble controlling your anger?"
Unconsciously, he flexed his shredded hand inside his pants pocket, feeling the blood seep in to the fabric of his trousers. "Sometimes, yes."
"Do you find yourself lashing out at the people around you?"
Chuck's reply seemed to get caught in his throat, the image of Blair's flawless face marred by his hand flashing through his mind. The rage he had felt the moment his hand had impacted that glass suddenly raged inside of him again, it was uncontrollable, indescribable, he wasn't even sure the word rage was strong enough for the fire he had felt raging inside of him that night..
"Y – yes" he finally managed to choke out.
The Doctor nodded silently, his pen scratching noisily across the paper.
"Who would you say you direct most of your anger towards, Charles? People you care about, or people who simply make you angry?"
"Both" he admitted softly, feeling the anxiety building inside his chest as he realized he had answered yes to every single question. He hadn't realized how far he had let himself go until this moment.
"Just one final question, Mr. Bass" the Doctor announced, glancing up at him briefly as he set his papers down on the desk between them "It's just a formality, really, we have to ask everyone this. Have you recently had any thoughts of suicide?"
Chuck opened his mouth immediately to answer 'no', but he paused, letting his mind drift back to the previous night. He had passed out somewhere between the glass wall and the pool table, broken shards of glass pressing in to his cheek as he lay face down on the floor. The dim lighting in the living room had caused the shattered glass to sparkle, and in his drunken, drugged state, it had almost looked beautiful. The blood dripping from his hand, the glittering Harry Winston diamond that had been cast aside, for some reason he could remember it all very clearly right now. He re-called that at one point he had found a fairly large piece of glass on the carpet by his hand, running his finger across the long edge of it as he imagined what it would feel like pressed to his wrist. How easy it would be, how this excruciating pain in his chest and inside his heart could be gone, just like that. Even thinking about it right now, imagining living the rest of his life without ever having Blair again, it seemed impossible. The prospect of endless nights and days without having her, trying desperately to find someone to fill the void that he already knew was only meant for her. It was unbearable. Just imagining it right now was making it kind of hard to breathe.
He didn't actually believe it until he heard himself answer the question, but yes, he was in fact suicidal.
The Doctor stared at him in silence for a long moment, before nodding solemnly.
"What do you hope to gain from your treatment here at the Ostroff Center?" he asked, the question wasn't from the paperwork in front him, it reflected real, genuine concern.
Chuck answered without even thinking about it first.
"Everyone hates me" he explained in a hollow voice, "My friends, my family…" he trailed off as he realized that he wasn't even sure he had any friends or family at this point. For the first time since deciding on admitting himself for treatment, it occurred to him that no one would be visiting him here.
Blair would be in Monaco with the Prince.
Serena would undoubtedly be on Blair's side and wouldn't even think twice about him, of course once she told Eric he would be equally horrified by his Step-Brother.
Nate had chosen Raina after seeing what his Best Friend was capable of, and to be honest, Chuck really couldn't blame him.
The only person who might have come to visit him wouldn't be able to, not while she was under house arrest at least.
As the reality of him once again being completely alone washed over him, Chuck re-considered his answer to the Doctor's question.
"I… I don't want to hate myself anymore" he finally said, his voice feeling oddly shaky as he admitted what he truly desired "I just… hate everything about who I am, the way I treat people, the way I treat myself, how I seem to destroy everything and everyone I get close to."
He paused for a moment, thinking back to something that Blair had said to him just a year earlier.
'I don't like who I've become with you.'
The weight of her words hit him right then and there and he realized how much he had truly destroyed her. He knew how he felt because it was the same for him. Except that he didn't like who he was without her.
The injustice of it nearly overwhelmed him, it was unfair and downright infuriating.
It was why they could never be happy together until he changed.
She brought out the best in him, it was why he was so happy and at peace when they were together. But he brought out the absolute worst in here, which explained why she was constantly struggling when they were together.
It didn't matter what the status of their relationship was, one of them would always be suffering.
He sighed, suddenly feeling exhausted, rubbing a hand over his face as he set his elbows on the desk in front of him, cradling his face in his hands.
He stared up at the Doctor through dark, pleading eyes, praying for some kind of cure to this disease that had taken over his life.
"Please" he said, his voice was just barely a whisper now "I don't want to hurt people anymore, I'm so tired of it… I'm tired of hurting myself. And I don't think I can handle hurting her ever again. Please, just… help me. Help me make it stop."
Tears were pouring down his face now and there was no hiding it, he rubbed the back of his hand across his face but it was futile, it was only making it worse.
He stared up at the Doctor pleadingly, and he was surprised to find that the man was smiling. His light green eyes even sparkled as he stared down at Chuck.
"Well Mr. Bass, it looks like you and I have some work to do."
- 6 Months Later -
He didn't realize what freedom would feel like until he felt the sun on his face. His steps were slow and steady as he made his way down the stone steps at the front entrance of the Ostroff Center. The sun was warm on his face and he inhaled deeply through his nose. It was the last week of October and the leaves above him were brilliants shades of red and gold, he could hardly get enough of it as he paused on the sidewalk, even though the New York air was polluted and stale, he had never felt anything fresher.
He could feel Arthur's eyes on him as he waited faithfully by the door of his limo, his hand already reaching out to open to the door for him as he neared the car.
But something caught his attention in the other direction, he turned slowly, feeling his breath catch in his throat as he did.
It was the brilliant shade of red that caught his attention.
It immediately sent him back to 5 years earlier, to a time where they were still just friends, the spark between them just on the verge of being ignited, but not just yet. They were still innocent in that regard, or at least she still was.
Her red silk headband had caught his attention and he stared at her in complete surprise, wordlessly studying the way the material held back her dark, mahogany curls.
He felt his feet moving of their own accord and he was suddenly moving towards her, rapidly until she was just a breath away. But before he could reach her, she held out a hand to stop him, his heart stalling in his chest as he froze.
His eyes widened as his gaze fell on the hand that she had put between them, she wasn't holding it out to stop him, she had it turned the other way around, her palm facing herself, so he could see the tops of her fingers clearly.
There, on the fourth finger of her left hand, was his Mother's ring.
He didn't even realize that he was smiling like a fool until she smiled back at him, her face glowing radiantly before it started to turn blurry, tears gathering in his eyes despite his best efforts to hide them.
His lips pressed against the warm length of her slender fingers as he kissed her hand, the cool stone of her engagement ring brushing his lower lip.
His free arm wrapped around her waist and his mouth was hovering just above hers before she pulled back, her eyes sparkling as she spoke, for the first time in six months she met his gaze and she told him the truth.
"I never stopped being yours, Chuck" she admitted breathlessly, her brilliant smile contrasting with the tears flowing freely down her cheeks "And for the record, I love you too."