Chuck very carefully laid the little boy down on the expanse of his impersonal bed. The tiny dark eyes squinted painfully under the bright overhead lights and the adult immediately leapt to shut them off. When he turned back the ball of energy had lost the battle with his pale translucent eyelids and slipped into a silent sleep.
The fallen Manhattan prince stood five paces away from Monaco's heir apparent, awkward and unsure. Finally his fragile baby was home and for a moment the reality of his son was replaced with the glittering triumph he'd always pictured. Everyone, including himself, assumed it would be to the most glorious union of kingdoms – a luxurious hotel and an elegant fashion house ruled over by two people who loved each other completely.
The dream fell away and reality returned letting bitterness creep up on him. There he finally was – Chuck and Blair's legacy – something sweet and small and utterly perfect. Something so beautiful that even all rugged up he was still smaller than Daddy's forearm, his head barely big enough to fill Mommy's palm. The creature was little more than a puppy with human DNA and already he was loved without reason. Adored by the one man in New York who could no longer tell the woman he loved how much he wanted her.
If they'd brought him home from the hospital together, their first outing as a family with them both fussing over blankets and hats on that cold February morning, then maybe he wouldn't feel so disconnected. Maybe he'd know what he was meant to do now. Instead he had watched from across the street on the day his lover and their newborn slipped into a town car. Blair had chosen for someone else to be by her side, for someone else to be her husband. Because of it her son slept silently and his father was absolutely ignorant of what to expect.
Chuck clenched his fist, driving his nails into his palms at the mere thought of the pretender. Louis had held his son more times than Chuck, one more thing to hate him for. 'Prince' was a fairytale endearment, not a job description, and Chuck had come to despise lazy titled royalty who hadn't worked a day in their lives and stole other people's destinies. Quite aware of the hypocrisy considering what he'd been five years ago.
He forced himself to let go his palms, not be so angry around the baby. Channelling his heartbreak into rage didn't help anyone – it was how he'd gotten into this situation in he first place. Instead he concentrated on something mundane, loosening his tie. He noticed he hadn't even removed his suit jacket. When his life was falling apart he worked to distract himself, and never was that more true than today. Investor meetings could only help keep him occupied for so long. At precisely six p.m. Blair had appeared with the tiny scrap of his heart that remained, curled tightly into her chest. A the sight of the bunny rug Chuck's aching broken chest refused to be ignored anymore.
Every time he got near her and their child his heart fell out of its natural beat and began to pump an irregular rhythm. It made it hard to even think straight.
Bass Industries offered its employees paternity leave. When that tiny thing first appeared, and the world so utterly shifted on its axis he hadn't taken it. What was the point? He clearly wasn't rising in the middle of the night or pacing the floor at all hours with a babe in his arms. The most time he and his son ever spent together was a single awkward hour when Blair went to the spa.
You were supposed to be with them and nurture them, he had gleaned that much from Blair. The small prince barely had enough muscle mass to move his limbs, except for slipping his rice-grain of a thumb into his raspberry bubble mouth. He was so very fragile that even his head was exposed, covered in pale white skin not yet touched by hair. You had to protect them and love them and be with them.
He couldn't do any of that right.
Chuck studied the bed, where so many mornings he'd woken with the little boy's mother, the love of his life, contentedly languishing on the pillow beside him. It looked even more desolate now, the sheets stark and barren without the caress of her crushed chestnut curls. In her place the tiny tiny boy was utterly dwarfed by austere pillows bigger than he was and a single utilitarian blanket.
The summer-weight cotton wasn't even embroidered.
He pinched the bridge of his nose, desperately trying to push the images away that were destroying him all over again. To forget that in the last dynasty, when the queen still reigned, life had been different. Half his closet had been filled with her clothes and her jewellery littered his dresser. A soft comforter had found its way over the bed as a concession to her feminine taste.
During her sovereignty he'd believed himself the good man she made him. For her he'd discarded his protective armour and allowed her to peacefully conquer his heart. He'd known true happiness, for one of each season.
Now only a cold heartless demon lingered. Two summers ago the kingdom was relentlessly attacked, and he fell, knew the torture of her looking at him like that. Like he was the most despicable human to ever walk this earth, the most horrible thing that ever breathed. Like he'd hurt her.
He watched now while the tiny lips moved around the tinier thumb and wondered how such sweetness had grown from the smouldering ashes of everything he loved. At the time he battled hard, gave everything he had to save them. He'd failed, of course. His father probably would have placed money on that.
It was ironic, that their son existed. That something so perfect had come to be, since being with Chuck was the punishment she was forced to endure. His punishment was harsher, to watch and bare witness as their cherished relationship had a knife thrust into its belly and the life force drain to nothing while he still ached for her.
He sometimes still dreamed the deaths of each of their future children, mischievous high-pitched whispers and bright eyes slaughtered, their twinkling lights fading out one by one.
Of course Henry had escaped the massacre and sprung from his mother perfectly formed. That was the final miracle Chuck expected to receive in this life.
He began reliving it again and squeezed his eyes shut tightly, futilely trying not to see. The day when the single thing he cared for went from loving him to loathing him in a matter of hours. The fire in her eyes was now long gone and tonight he felt sick watching her look at another with the adoration he'd once claimed for himself. Man wasn't meant to witness that. To see his woman touched by another hand, to see her affection elsewhere. To know that once he'd claimed it all for himself and she had loved him so completely before his fall.
He knew this would be one of the nights he woke gasping for air, sweat pouring off him in foul licks as the words "rock bottom" echoed with her disgust in his mind.
The nights when he relived draping five golden flowers around her neck and thought he had her back for such a brief flash of a second, when he'd had a moment of surety that they would one day create a child exactly like this one. He'd smelled her throat, kissed her hair, and known how wonderful the child would be when it finally came into being between them.
His intuition was flawless.
But he'd been naïve to imagine that Blair would claim the other side of the bed.
Right now, in her place and his, their little one lay alone. Lonely. Chuck sucked in a breath, refusing to let the weak emotion overtake him. He couldn't do that again – fall apart like he had when she told him she had something inside her and it wasn't his. His body couldn't take it.
Instead he swallowed, vowed to be the bitter, heartless creature that could survive without Blair Waldorf by his side and crossed the room.
In the dim light he kicked off his shoes and angrily ripped his jacket off – throwing it at the wall.
But when he lay down on his side of the bed beside the slumbering child all the walls he had buttressed refused to stay strong. He was the failure his father and uncle knew him to be. Slave to emotions they'd both managed to transcend.
Anyone else would have plainly seen that he was not the terrible father Blair had assumed, that first time she lied about her baby's origins.
He slowly lowered his head to the pillow, trying to resist. The pull in his blood to the slumbering baby was undeniable. He reached out, wishing he had the strength of his detached father, his cold uncle, to stop himself from wanting.
It wasn't in him.
Against his will he protectively rested his arm over the tiny little boy and touched his lips to the still soft head. A traitorous tear touched and disappeared from his tired cheek as it found the mattress beside Henry's.
"You are my son," he whispered. "Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh."
The ears smaller than the pad of his thumb didn't take in let alone comprehend the words that had just been uttered. But Chuck was a slave to them anyway. Seven p.m. on a Friday night and he wasn't drinking, carousing, whoring. Planning, making more money, destroying people, the things he was good at.
Instead he was here, trying. Desperate to be somewhere in the vicinity of a good father. Stretched out beside his sleeping boy as his vision blurred with painful emotion.
He'd never imagined himself as a parent, all he knew was that he would never be his father. That he would care. That he'd have expensive nurseries and highly-trained nannies to watch over the children when he slipped a fur wrap over his wife's bare shoulders and escorted her to the opera on a Friday night. He'd imagined being older. He'd imagined doing this with Blair.
He had not imagined the first night he spent with his son was the first night the little one was physically capable of being away from his mother. He had not imagined Blair leaving him with refrigerated bottles of breast milk and seven pages worth of instructions. He had not imagined watching after his would-be-wife's dark head longingly while he was left with their son and she was escorted into the elevator by her husband. He'd imagined her exquisitely dressed for their evenings out, not for his replacement to take her to the ballet. Not joint custody.
Henry was going to be as fucked up as Charles was.
"I'm so sorry," he whimpered, kissing the little head again.
Oh so lightly he ran his fingertips across the ultra-soft fabric covering the little sleeping belly.
"You don't deserve this," he mourned, his voice pained and raw. "I'm so sorry you couldn't be his." He pressed his finger into the infinitely tiny palm. "I'm sorry I won't be enough. I'm sorry your Mom and I can't show you how much we used to love each other. And how much we –" his voice caught in a show his father would have snorted derisively to hear "we wanted you."
Those secrets he and Blair once shared in very private moments were now dreams he could only be ashamed to have wanted.
Henry's little fingers were like match sticks. So very small and breakable, pure and innocent and everything Chuck wished he could protect forever. He lay there, watching the tiny little boy for three straight hours. Unable to look away, feeling like the devil coveting its next meal.
Eventually Henry woke and turned to him expectantly, hungry again. Chuck hadn't done nights but he'd held Henry in the crook of his arm and Blair's nanny had shown him how to prepare a bottle. Slowly but surely he worked it out, and eventually settled on the sofa with the warm milk in one hand and his son cradled to his chest.
At first the tiny head whimpered and turned his mouth away, confused.
"My poor little man," Chuck wanted to cry with him. "I know," he said softly, soothingly. "I'm sorry."
It was unconscious but the low base in his voice relaxed the fussy infant as nature had intended. Chuck had last night dreamed that nature intended for Blair Bass to be around too, that she would breastfeed their squalling son and he would get perverse enjoyment from watching his lover's primal form nourishing their offspring. Instead Blair Grimaldi was at the New York Ballet and there was no family. Not the three of them cuddled together. Only the thing she loved most in the world left in the care of the biggest mistake of her life, with a plastic bottle to substitute what Henry clearly craved.
"You are so lucky," he stroked the speckles of fingernails, coaxing a cuddly Henry to relax a little more.
"You will always have Mommy. She's part of you, and you're part of her." He brought the little fingers to his mouth and brushed an angel's kiss on them. "Some of us wish we could glimpse her happiness again. But we have to live with the agony of knowing once we shared a soul, and she took all of it with her."
The words were morose but accompanied by a genuine doting smile and the persistence paid off, because Henry finally surrendered. Chuck didn't blame him for holding out that long. He would have infinitely preferred the softness of Blair's warm breast to the bottle too.
After supper was finished they stood together, and Daddy introduced baby to his other kingdom. The lesser, dirtier one. Tall buildings and fake lights replaced the manicured gardens and ancient buildings that spilled from his nursery door in Monaco.
He briefly fantasised about being Blair's husband, though it wasn't in a place like this. His bachelor pad was no place for her and them and more. Still, he couldn't stand to live somewhere she'd never loved him, so he was trapped. Here. In the heaven and hell that was his greatest triumph and ugliest dark side.
Henry didn't deserve it. "I hope I die before you're old enough to remember me," he confided in the boy. They were stood in front of the plate glass and he could see their images, reflected together. "Then there's no chance you'll be like me. And maybe you'll have a shot at being with the woman you love, instead of destroying every feeling she has for you." He kissed Henry's head and returned to lay down on the bed. "No one should have to hear that she regrets ever loving you. Or that she'd carrying someone else's child."
Blair had left very strict instructions and her iPod. Their baby liked to listen to Chopin when he went to sleep. Chuck read more into the directions – that he didn't know anything of his child's life. Even so, he didn't dock her iPod and turn the volume down low as well spelled out on page three of her notes. Not in here, not when the last time she settled that pink mp3 player in the cradle was the beginning of a night where they loved each other. He couldn't stand it.
Instead he held Henry against his chest with one hand and fished something out of a box in the closet with his other. Whimsical, girly, completely and utterly pointless. But he got it in New Zealand two Christmases ago, for her. It wasn't the pristine music box's fault that his cold black heart prevented the feminine appreciation it truly deserved. So just for tonight he inserted the key into the bottom and slowly wound it up. Then he settled the wooden thing on his dresser and lifted the lid. It was empty of the lover's gifted baubles he'd meant to slowly fill it with. It did, however, have a very gentle tune that plucked the same song he had heard months ago in the store.
Her absence was slowly killing him. The sound reminded him that the wound where she was ripped from his side festered instead of healing, and the agony worsened by the day.
Henry liked it, at least. He leant his ear against Daddy's heart and reached towards the noise curiously. They stood there together, swaying slightly until the music died into silence. Chuck wound it up again. Backed away and stretched out on his bed. Large, cold, and empty of its ruler for more than two years. He couldn't stop counting the days she was gone. Waiting for the day when it stopped feeling like the tips of his fingers were being stabbed. Very gently he settled Henry on his dead chest. His living proof that at one time, she had felt a smidgen of something for him.
Protectively he rested his bare hand against the tiny back, to keep him from rolling away. He eyed his ringless fingers and snorted a laugh of bitter irony – Blair's ring had never touched her hand. He kept it in his safe, his penance to see it and know that he'd gone to a jeweller one morning young and happy and in love with dreams and plans, so very sure that he was hours away from being whole again. That bitter diamond existed solely to remind him now, make him suffer in hell and picture the one she actually chose: selected from the same iconic jeweller, similar in size and colour, not so very different from his own offering. The problem was with him.
He'd worn the ring she gifted him for a year before he shed it on the morning he awoke in Eva's apartment.
"I hope you get to wear a wedding ring someday," he bestowed a simple bedtime wish that all his lost hopes and dreams might one day be lived by his son. It was already too late for the destroyed father. "It seems so simple," he confided. "To stand at an altar and promise yourself."
Henry fell asleep before the music box stopped its concerto again. Chuck just lay there. Feeling the tiny heart pumping and wondering why he couldn't feel his own.
Blair kissed her very sweet husband goodnight and left him at the Embassy to sleep alone. He was understanding that she needed to go, she'd been very frank that her heart lay with her son first and foremost.
They were both lying to themselves, fooled into believing it was the first night and that she couldn't be away from Henry was the reason she fled from Louis' arms. At the beginning of the evening she'd been well composed, strong and wise. For the first time she'd left her beloved infant in the safe arms of his father. Who clearly adored him but was too emotionally damaged to ever say it out loud.
Once upon a time she'd naively thought she'd cured Chuck of that. That he could be open and vulnerable and say how he felt without getting it thrown back in his face. Without feeling bitter regret that he hadn't kept his walls up. She'd torn his defences down before and for a little while it had all been so lovely. Then he'd stumbled and she'd retreated. If she'd known then what she did now – that the walls would become solid rock to fortify something that was already destroyed – maybe she would have held out her hand to steady him. She blamed herself, for how utterly broken he was.
It was why, once upon a time, she'd convinced herself she could stay away from her baby for a night. To let Henry accomplish what she was no longer able to.
She was Wrong.
Her key to his penthouse at the top of the Empire was like her key to his heart. It never got deactivated. When the elevator opened on his floor she expected the shield of his self-satisfied grin to meet her. She expected the sword of a glass of scotch and liquor in his belly to sharpen his tongue.
The problem was, when he didn't saunter out to greet her, she panicked. Immediately jumped to all sorts of conclusions and was already wondering if a taxi could be hailed quickly enough to rush her to the emergency room where they must be. How could she have left Henry with that sadistic, fucked-up shattered human being?
She made for Nate's old room where the travel bassinet had been setup earlier. On the way the low light of a bedside lamp in Chuck's room caught her eye. Confused, she peered in.
Muted golden light warmed the loveliest scene she'd ever witnessed and she pulled up short. Her heart rising to her throat and precious tears warming her eyes.
She considered this her bedroom, a long time ago. In those days, when she used to wake here, she was in love. The other pillow was occupied but the bed was never crowded. Passionate, hot and intense licks of warm and glowing feelings had always lingered. On one particular morning, right before the end, the first thing she was aware of in the new light was his warm arm over her stomach. For just that fraction of a day she'd thought of this as home.
Now everything had changed and yet – she blinked, to be sure her eyes weren't tricking her.
Her new home, her Henry, was curled into a tiny little ball with his fist jammed in his mouth. Fast asleep. Just like his father was beneath him.
The way Chuck looked at Henry, sometimes in wonder and others in sheer panic, Blair knew he would be a good father. That he loved their son as dearly as she did. If he just let himself be vulnerable, he could feel again, feel everything he deserved and maybe have his broken heart glued back together. Blair knew that Henry would fix what Bart had destroyed. If only Chuck would let him
But Chuck didn't know how to let people love him anymore. She felt guilty that in the end, he loved her more. What he felt for her had been so intense that in its retreat it had obliterated every remaining feeling, so that in her final absence there seemed to be nothing.
Silently, she crept in towards her bubble of hope and her shattered once-love. Slowly she removed her cashmere wrap and her pristine heels and with them her title as Princess of Monaco. So too went her satin clutch and her default place as another man's wife. Unhooked her glittering earrings and diamond necklace to discard them as the trinkets they were. Then stopped pretending she didn't love Chuck Bass.
Finally the Queen made her return to the King's bed.
The King was forever a light sleeper. It made him the perfect bedmate in eras past, when she would roll over and he would immediately wake, adjust himself against her back or cuddle her close to his chest, then doze off again. Now it just meant he felt the bed dip the moment she touched it. His eyes remained closed but she saw the way his features tightened. The way he hesitantly covered her hand when she reached out to touch her sleeping boy.
"You said he could stay the night," his tone was horribly forlorn, barely an audible whimper.
She hadn't seen him cry since the first anniversary of Bart's death. But she could almost hear it now.
"He can," Blair hurriedly reassured, her hushed whisper sweetly accompanied by her hand tenderly brushing his crinkled brow. Before she pulled away, horrified with herself. Her eyes searched his strained features with a watery smile, sorry that she'd done this to him. That she'd threatened to remove all the love from his life, or his arms as it now lay. "I have to stay as well. I can't be away from him, I'm sorry. I missed him too much," she admitted her maternal weakness.
And not the aching that was pounding in her chest at the sight of Henry's doll-like body contained in Chuck's heavy arms. The man she had considered her destiny and the child they'd produced, unashamedly together, just as she once dreamed it would be.
Chuck was sleepy, and when he was sleepy he was uninhibited. He was already at peace and didn't care about the consequences when he kissed her fingers, lingering on the delicate knuckles. Blair tried not to tremble, her lips parting with a harsh breath as she watched his mouth kissing her hand. Then move up her forearm. Then he drew her across the bed to him and she came willingly. Until her soft body was draped across him, her head on his hard shoulder and her arm over their newborn baby.
As she lay there, entranced by Chuck's heartbeat just like Henry was, she felt it. That moment she'd been trying to capture with Louis but hadn't seemed to find. Now it touched her skin, her heart, her whirling brain. A family. They were a real family, with deep uninhibited love that they couldn't deny and no walls, no secrets, nothing to keep them apart.
She'd never felt so exposed in all of her existence. And yet utterly safe at the same time.
"Where's the nanny?" she snuggled closer to him.
Their fingers surreptitiously twined together on the slope of Henry's bottom. Unable to voice what was happening between them.
Chuck's thumb slowly pressed against each bone in her pinkie. "I sent her home after you left," he admitted.
She trembled, pressed closer. Despised Louis for promising more to her heart than he'd ever been able to deliver. When it was always here, waiting for her, if only she'd shrug off the impending guilt and take it. "I hired her to help you," Blair chastised, hating that he felt like he needed to prove himself.
"I wanted him all to myself," the single father shakily justified. "I get so little time with him as it is…" he trailed off. What else was there for either of them to say?
"Was he ok?" she wondered if she could be away from Henry again. Her night had been filled with worry and little else, no matter the happy mask she wore for her husband and the dignitaries they entertained.
The broad body beneath her shifted slowly, and soon she felt his powerful arm settle around her back. Fingers that hadn't touched her in months started stroking her shoulder. There was a hint of light peaking through his foreboding fortress walls. She bit her lip to keep from whimpering and pressed impossibly closer. Breathed in his heavy scent and wanted to cry.
"He was ok," Chuck soothed her worries. The only one who could truly know how she felt about Henry. "He missed you."
Blair smiled at the sentiment. "How could you tell?" she teased, proud that she kept the wavering from her voice. She missed her little one too, more than was reasonable or logical or acceptable. She wasn't designed to be away from him so soon.
The tips of Chuck's fingers caressed the curving side of her breast with meaningful precision, and she gasped. Her nipples were almost deadened to feeling, so abused by the ever-hungry monster that was their son's appetite. But the skin surrounding was stretched taut by flooding milk and sensitive beyond her wildest imagination. His touch was like a fierce shock, as if he'd slicked thick fingers between her legs and whispered intimate loves into her ear with that smug drawl she dreamt of at night.
"He missed you," the huskiness in his voice seemed to become rougher now. Not in the way she was imagining, but with a desperate edge of fast-fading hope. "He doesn't want to … You should feed him. No bottles. He shouldn't stay here with me again," Chuck sounded incredibly sad.
Her heart broke for him. He was already so incredibly lonely, she had an inkling but hadn't understood until tonight when she brought her son and his entourage into the single man's apartment. The evidence of human interaction she'd expected to find was severely lacking. Women had been keeping his bed warm but the illusion of love and affection they'd provided in times gone by had disappeared. Now even Nate had moved out and though Chuck remained impeccably dressed, his apartment absolutely flawless, it felt like death. The fallback, the stalwart, the mother that was Lily, had once again been diverted by Serena's drama. The blonde's man troubles seemed inconsequential in comparison to the adopted son who was slowly dying but so it was.
No way would Blair allow the one thing keeping him human to slip through his fingers.
"Next time I will take a suite downstairs," she conceded. To be close. "I ache without him too."
Chuck went still and silent. She let her eyes drift even as she started to realise something. The things he loved weren't here anymore. The art that once graced the walls of their bedroom, the objects that had sat on his dresser. She expected change, something to usher in the era of Evas and Rainas. A spring clean after their breakup to wash the physical remnants away though the emotional would never be. But there was no spring in here, only a bitterly cold, dark winter. They once saturated this room with all-fulfilling love and it had withered, become horribly barren in the long months since she was mistress.
"Where's your girl scout painting?" she wondered, feeling that asking after that one particular piece would be alright.
Lily bought it for him, when she first redecorated the new Bass-Van der Woodsen residence. The first time he was openly loved. A true gift from his mother. He'd never let the painting go, it must be in storage. Maybe she could convince him to bring it back up here, to let people back into his heart.
She felt him lift his head and briefly look at the wall where the painting once hung.
"Jack sold everything that I loved."
Her stomach churned. Revolted. What went unspoken brought her evening meal back up her throat and made her fingers clench into tight fists against his shirt. She gasped a breath to try and steady herself, forcing herself to swallow and not relive the horror. It flashed up anyway – that disgusting man touching her for the price of Chuck's hotel.
He pushed her off of him and violently scrambled from the annihilated remains of that single moment of contentment.
"You should go," he still held Henry with both arms and infinite care.
He couldn't bear to have this tiny piece of redemption sold out from beneath him too. But then he'd done this to himself, when he'd sold Blair to Jack.
His eyes closed and for an eternity, she watched, sickeningly enchanted, as he lowered his lips to the tiny ear and kissed. Tasted, breathed, felt his Henry for the last time. A long minute later he held out their love child, unbidden tears shining in his expressive dark eyes.
"Take him and don't come back," he threatened her. But she could hear the struggle not to beg. "He doesn't deserve me. He shouldn't have to be part of the disgusting Bass legacy because you made one mistake."
There was a fierce self-loathing in his voice that she almost conceded to. Almost.
Blair took her child but resolutely set her feet and stood firm. She might be shocked to hear the once cocky billionaire surrender such a treasure but she wouldn't falter. Thankfully their naïve son slept through it. She watched Chuck flee from her and blinked back tears. It couldn't go on like this. They would all be ruined, destroyed in the emotional fallout of Bart Bass's inability to tell his only child that he loved him, unless Blair could fix it.
She delicately lay Henry back down on the bed, brushing her fingers over the soft white suit Chuck had clothed him in. Then she stood tall, took a deep breath, and followed the fleeing hotelier into the living room. Making sure to close the doors behind her because when they were finished having this out, they weren't going to have the strength to deal with a fussy three month old woken by their fighting.
"That's what you think?" she interrupted his headfirst leap into a freefalling downward spiral. Annoyed she swiped the glass out of his hand before he could pour two more fingers of Scotch to chase the first he'd just swallowed. "That conceiving him was a mistake?"
"No!" Chuck vehemently protested. He shot a quick glance back towards his room, something inside him softening reflexively. The call of a beast to protect it's child stirred somewhere within him and he could not ignore it. He lowered his voice for the little one's sake. "No," he repeated firmly, with deadly quiet intent. "Never. He's the best thing I've ever done, right after the year I convinced you to love me." His features dropped and he looked at her, so very repentant. "But I'm sorry it couldn't be – him – for you. I know this was never part of your fairytale."
He still couldn't bring himself to say Louis' name. Blair stood there in disbelief. Then that feeling of being supremely pissed off dissipated and an amused grin curved her lips.
"I will never regret that he is yours and mine," she pounced on him, cupping his strong jaw and rough cheeks.
"No," Chuck agreed, completely contradicting himself but hazy and lost as she touched their foreheads together. "I know. H-ow lucky I am. That he turned out to be mine," he confessed one of the deep deep secrets his fragile heart tried so desperately to protect.
Blair's eyebrows crinkled. Then she bit the plumpness of her lip and looked away in a classic Blair Waldorf tell. Avoidance. If he'd actually been focused on her he would have recognised it in a heartbeat. It might have given him hope.
"Not so very lucky," she sighed in her over-dramatic way. Even Chuck could almost hear the self-satisfied smugness in her voice. "I didn't let him touch me after the last time you did."
She literally felt Chuck take a pause in his self-flagellation. It became more obvious as all his muscles stiffened. Then he hesitantly enquired, "Excuse me?"
"I couldn't bare it," she brazenly confessed, trailing her fingers along the edge of his jaw then stepping back from him. She turned her perfect little pointed nose up into the air and twirled to search the fridge for a cool drink. "To have the lingering echoes of your touch removed from my skin? No, I refused to allow it."
She pulled open the door and frowned to see little beyond Henry's bottles contained within the refrigerator.
"Don't you have anything non-alcoholic? I can't drink while I'm nursing," she pursed her lips and glanced towards the phone, considering calling room service.
A classic delaying tactic that hoped to break up the oppressive atmosphere.
"Blair," he rasped, unexpectedly flustered by her revelation.
"Of course, he detests you for it," she sighed melodramatically, selecting a bottle of water then slamming the fridge shut. "He didn't sign up for a cold bed and someone else's child. And he worries you will bankrupt him on a whim."
"Say the words and I will," Chuck panted harshly. Knowing he would do anything she commanded in the space of a single heartbeat. Good god she hadn't been touched since last spring?
Blair shook her head, not wishing that kind of revenge on Louis's gentleness, simply because she and Chuck couldn't sort themselves out. Finally she leaned her back against the fridge door and studied him. Really looked. Then she came across the room and sat on the big empty sofa. Tucked her legs up under her and looked him in the eye as he cautiously came to perch by her side. "You would ruin him for me, but would you try to fix us? For me?"
He didn't look confused. He looked like he knew exactly what she was talking about.
"B-Blair," he stuttered in disbelief.
There were twenty-three precious minutes last year when he'd been able to think of them as an entity. Twenty-three minutes where she had been his. Anne Archibald had stuck her busy-body WASP nose in where it didn't belong and with a whimper, not a bang, his love was lost to him. But before that there had been twenty-three minutes. Where they'd surveyed their empire before them. Where his hands had lovingly slipped around her familiar slim waist and been welcomed by a soft rub to his cheek. Where he'd been content, because they'd given up everything for the chance to be them again.
"Once you had hope," she reminded with bright, expectant eyes flickering with that fiery speck of gold. "You had a ring for me." She leaned forward, dropping into an achingly private whisper, pressing her mouth to his ear so he could hear her secret. "My heart aches for you," his eyes closed and she could hear him swallowing, desperate to hold on. "When I wake in the morning, before I open my eyes, I always make a wish that you and our son are in bed beside me."
Chuck's eyelids fluttered against her cheek and she could feel the wetness of unbidden tears.
"They despise him in the palace and the embassy, for not being their royal blood. He is more of a prince, more beloved than they will ever know, hmmm?" Blair prodded. "He deserves to grow up knowing that, to rule over the kingdom he was born for. It's not a principality; it's here in New York. With you and me, the parts that make him whole."
He heard every word she said and more. Adrenaline was flooding through his veins and making his heart pound hard and fast, sunlight peaking out to encourage a spring inside him. Blair's hand cupped his cheek, enticing his warriors to breach their own defences. Before he knew what he was doing his lips parted and words came out he hadn't dared say in a lifetime.
"I want you so much."
That was all she needed to hear. She'd been waiting for it since the seed in her stomach was touched with a drop of his life and she pounced, crushing herself against him with an overwhelming kiss. That brief confirmation helped her break through the walls and conquer his cowering villagers.
"Shhh, my love," she hushed when he whimpered. Circled him in her protective arms and moved closer when his hands tentatively brushed her waist. Then got bold, drunk on the taste of his hesitant affection and thrust her hot tongue over his. That quieted him for an eon. The sound of their reunion was soon lost in the vast space as their mouths met and twisted, curled and writhed.
"I want to watch you feed him," Chuck pulled away, panting harshly and yet determinedly searching her eyes. "No cloth over your shoulder or taking him into the other room. I. Want. To watch."
She found it an odd request and brushed her fingers through his familiar hair, trying to reassure herself he was the same man she had fallen in love with. "Why?" she wondered if there was something more he wasn't saying.
His mouth leaned forward and shyly kissed her cheek. Brushed the whorl of her ear. Settled on the crown of her head.
"Because at night, alone in bed, its all I can think about," he admitted when she was tucked up under his chin.
A satisfied smile touched her pink mouth. It wasn't a full explanation, but it was enough to bring about a small confession of her own. "When I'm alone I imagine you. Down on your knees. In your limo."
Chuck reflexively clenched her, his body tightening in unexpected arousal. He could picture the act precisely. He'd sired that pleasure on her late one evening in high school and once more while she was in college. Both memories were so vivid he could almost feel the plump warmth clenching around his moist tongue. A small puff of air escaped his lungs, overwhelming approval, and suddenly this was going somewhere very different.
"Ravish me," she lustily caressed his cheek with a single finger. Looked into his eyes with dangerous mischief.
He was shocked. And wondered if he had possibly fallen asleep. Surprise had no bearing on his faculties though. He pulled back a little and stared at her, wide-eyed for only a moment, to make sure she wasn't joking. When it was passion he saw in her eyes, he had no qualms in taking her mouth and pressing her back beneath him, no questions asked. And since the baby was in their bed, the sofa would do. For now.
"You didn't really deny him for the past year did you?" Chuck has to know, morosely fascinated by the idea of her faithful chastity. His hand runs up her leg in disbelief, bringing the long limb over his hip. It's a cunning promise that the long drought is about to break and what was barren will soon flood with heavy rain.
"He's not as persistent as you would be in his place," she nonchalantly passed it off as nothing.
That she'd had nothing inside her but their love child when her body was at its most potent appalled his sensibilities. He could almost taste the sweet agony in the air, the lust she had suppressed in staying faithful to him. His lower gut rumbled, an angry bear stirring within as winter hibernation came to an end and it sought the nourishment of spring. Louis had been entrusted with the most precious thing Chuck had ever touched. He was expected to care for it. Blair liked to play and tease, be loved and cherished. She deserved romance and touches and pleasure.
He lowered to the couch with his princess in his arms and wondered "how did you last that long my love?"
He changed his mind, altering to lay her body over his own and began reverently touching the desperately longed-for curves, hesitant, afraid she would disappear into thin air. Kissing the petal-soft lips with light touches, lest she revolt. Feeling her pleasantly weighing him down into the sofa with her love. While his hands skimmed over her wonderful back, he felt as if he were just beginning to correct the grave injustice she'd been done.
"If we make love tonight then that's it," Blair warned him drowsily. "We will be Blair and Chuck and Henry. You will be his only father. There will be no Monaco royal family and no weekends in the Louvre with Louis. Just you. Can you handle that?"
"Yes," he pledged, without thought.
Claim his heart and their son? Thought wasn't needed. For Henry he could do anything. For Blair, he would.
He woke to his son's needy whimpering. The mournful sound resonated in his chest where the baby lay and echoed through his entire body. Henry's gums had already found Daddy's finger and he gnawed, hungry for nourishment.
"Shhhh," Chuck hushed, too tired to open his eyes. Reunions with Blair had never involved being woken from their mutual sleep five hours later. And last night had been the makeup to end all makeups.
The baby continued to wrap the fish-like mouth around Chuck's thumb. His fingers moved to soothe the little marauder, travelling down the shapeless lump of a body until he found the curve of a tiny foot. Reassuringly he cupped the soft pink sole. The toes were no bigger than raisins and curled up safely into his palm. He made a small humming sound again, letting the little guy know he could hear him. A comfort.
"It's ok," Blair's voice chimed in soothingly and it seemed completely natural. For their voices to mingle and reassure their infant. He felt her sit up beside him and a moment later his pillow was tugged out from under his head.
"Hey," he protested as he dropped to the mattress. Then the weight of Henry was lifted away from him as well.
He kept a hold on the little foot though.
"Are you hungry my perfect man? Hmmm? Is it breakfast time?" he could hear Blair whispering.
Chuck turned onto his side and sought something to replace his stolen pillow. He found it in Blair's soft thigh. Comfortably his arm slid over her legs and his cheek followed, revelling for a few seconds against the sleep-warm skin. Until the very soft sound of sucking lips reached him. His eyebrows narrowed for a moment, mind trying to decipher what he was hearing.
Then intensely interested dark eyes sprung open and he looked up eagerly. Not believing his demand could be met so quickly.
As soon as he met the eyes of a brown-eyed angel, she blushed and turned her gaze to Henry.
He followed to where his child, the best part of him, was latched onto Blair's swollen juicy nipple. Her very exposed nipple. The full curve of her milk-swollen breast mirrored the shape of Henry's newborn head, and pressed together the two looked so very right. The tiny thing couldn't control any of his muscles but he could latch on with accurate pink little lips and drink.
Chuck was entranced as he watched it for the very first time. Blair touched him, stroked him, played with the free little hand and constantly coaxed him to keep suckling.
Neither of her boys could look away from her. Being allowed to witness this was proof of her return, even more than their love-making last night.
"Is he in your will?" Blair asked quietly, interrupting the sound of their son taking his breakfast.
Chuck looked up at her, wide-eyed. Slowly, he nodded.
She took a long, deep breath, and nodded too.
"Is he the major beneficiary?"
"Of course," Chuck whispered. He sat up, kneeling before them. Staring into Blair's searching eyes and wondering if she found what she was looking for. Silently he bent to kiss the pale skin of his son's fragile head.
Henry pulled away from Mommy's milk and turned towards his father curiously.
Blair took the chance and shifted him in her cradling arms, drawing the little face to her other breast and Chuck wanted to burst. Watching his son take the soft tip – when Chuck himself had placed his own mouth there and drawn soft entreaties from her in times past. Now watching Henry root around fruitlessly in distress before finally letting Blair guide him to his warm breakfast made the father feel shock. That he could be utterly complete here with them.
"I missed you," he confessed accidentally.
He set eyes on Blair's familiar face and the way all her attention was caught up in Henry. Her dark hair was still mussed from sleep and didn't yet have any curl – instead it tumbled down around her shoulders in a perfect mess. Henry's hair would be wavy, he decided in that instant. Not curly, but with the same body that now covered Chuck's own head. Then it would be blatantly obvious that though he'd sprung from Blair's womb, he was definitely Chuck's child. There would be no doubt, in fact, that Henry was the seed of this very self-satisfied Bass.
The long mahogany strands lifted as if on a slow breeze when she looked up at him.
"I missed you too," she soothed. She smiled bashfully. "I'm forever erasing texts I've written to you."
"About?" he asked interestedly, wondering what thoughts she would have almost contacted him with.
She looked down to deal with the baby and Chuck noticed his raspberry mouth had lost the pink nipple. A problem his father never had.
"How boring the crowd is at a ball Louis is making me attend, or how badly dressed Monte Carlo's socialites are." She lowered her milky flesh into Henry's mouth and reconnected to her baby. Chuck wanted to carefully remove the three month old from her arms then spread her out on the bed and have at her – she looked absolutely pure in her affection with their son. So much that he wanted her wicked tongue purring dirty things in his ear and confirming that she was still his ultimate companion. "I mean its France! A trip or two to a fashion house wouldn't go astray."
He grinned while secretly wondering how long until he got to hold his son and feel her touching him again, like this morning. If every day for the rest of his life started like that, then he would live a very happy man.
He missed the way she looked at him with a soft, knowing smile and complete understanding of his unvoiced feelings.
"Settle him," she relinquished their offspring into his arms. He almost didn't support the tiny head, too caught up staring at Blair's bared and ripened breast. In a moment though he had a three month old against his shoulder and a woman hurrying from his bed.
"Blair?" he called worriedly as she dashed to the bathroom.
"Can you watch him for a few more hours?" her voice was surprisingly light as it drifted back through the open doorway.
"Yes," he confirmed warily.
She came back in, brushing her hair and looking surprisingly refreshed. How was that possible? She'd barely been out of his sight an entire minute.
"I need to go leave my husband. Then you and I need to talk about our future. And buy some art," she scrunched up her nose in that cute distaste he loved, judging him for his bare walls.
"I'll book a gallery showing," he could hardly believe what she was saying.
He got a brief kiss on the lips, as did the baby, and then she was gone. Four hours later he was in the hotel bar, quietly discussing investment opportunities and bouncing a baby on his arm.
"Chuuuck?" Blair was walking through the lobby for the elevator when she spotted him. He looked comical and yet completely lovable.
The business mogul hurried to his feet, kissing her cheek in greeting.
"Blair," his excitement wasn't hidden. He hadn't dared to hope she would return.
She was absolutely stunned. The third person present at this business meeting could barely stay asleep for two hours at a time and yet here he was, quite content in sucking Daddy's finger and staring wide-eyed at the bustling lobby around him. Henry was a little ball of curiosity cradled securely in the crook of Chuck's arm and Chuck looked completely and utterly natural.
In fact he looked proud.
"Should I take him?" Blair looked from Chuck to his associate.
Chuck looped his free arm around her waist and pulled her in possessively close. "We were done here. Michael."
He briefly released Blair to shake the man's hand, then seemed to dismiss him entirely from his consciousness once the man was two steps away.
"You bought him to a business meeting?"
"He loved it," Chuck smirked. "Didn't you?" The last part was addressed to the baby who didn't have a clue what either of them were saying. Was only content to be warm and held and paid an ordinate amount of attention. "Your very first meeting about running the Empire."
Her eyes widened when he said that. "He is three months old," she said suspiciously. "He needs to learn to sit up before he learns to run your hotel."
"Our hotel," Chuck corrected suavely. Determined to impress on her that they were now all one, a family with a legacy. He would have it announced in a formal setting as soon as possible. The Empire's ballroom came to mind.
Her eyes narrowed, distrustful when he was this happy for no reason. "Where's Dorota?" Blair suspiciously demanded.
"I gave her the morning off," Chuck grinned, glancing down to Henry proudly.
"We're fine," he drew her into him as they walked towards the restaurant. Blair was still tense but she let him wind an arm around her waist and as they slowly walked into the modern dining room, he was grateful. To have her, to be by her side again and feel hope instead of despair.
"Why is he on your arm in a business meeting?" she repeated softly.
"I didn't want you to come back while I wasn't there then take him and disappear," he finally confessed, his voice just as quiet so that none of the guests were likely to eavesdrop.
"I wouldn't do that," she stopped him with a hand to his chest. "I told you I was going to leave Louis."
He looked pained.
"I love you," she confirmed. "Remember? Last night? When we made love for hours?"
A small, self-deprecating smile crept onto his lips and he leaned forward, kissing her cheek.
"Forgive me," he said huskily. "It's been a bad year." His hand slipped around her back again and they once again started for the dining room. "Breakfast? You fed our son but didn't get anything yourself this morning before you fled from me," he purred in her ear.
Blair smiled, turned, and made a soft "Mmmmm," sound. "I couldn't be tempted before I was in the clear." With food or her lover.
"And now?" Chuck couldn't hide his hopefulness.
"I'd like breakfast," she said wickedly.
The second morning he hungrily sought the treasure buried beneath his covers and gently tongued Blair. The ecstasy of curling his tongue over his woman to consume her intimate taste made his own hot blood pound. If he was honest with himself the last time he'd allowed slim thighs to encircle his head and lapped at the soft wetness of a woman was the last time he'd been truly satisfied. In Blair's bedroom between Blair's legs, disobeying her strict instructions and mouthing her while Serena was yabbering away above the comforter.
This time she didn't have to restrain herself and her writhing filled him with triumphant wickedness.
She woke in mewling disbelief, her back arching up and mouth instinctively weeping his name in that distinctive tone. "Chuck." That word held every feeling she was experiencing for him. Shock, love, pleasure. It made him feel devious again.
Her complete, abandoned, collapse around his exploring mouth reminded him of an integral part of Chuck Bass that had slipped away. Womaniser, sex god, lover.
He stayed where he was buried under the covers and nuzzled her thigh teasingly, allowing her to become a limp mass of exhaustion. Then he started all over again. Caressing the hot smooth skin of her thighs, coating his mouth in her taste, enthusiastic and determined like he hadn't been since last spring. Her essence glossed his lips and he held onto her, coaxed those beautiful legs to stay wrapped around his head, teased her as a man enjoys teasing a woman. Feasting hungrily until she got frustrated and bossy, his favourite. His hair was tugged just enough to feel it and he was held in place so she could crest under his vivid attentions.
Their son bawling for company broke through his lustful haze and the redemption he imagined he was caressing out of her seized then ceased.
"Damn him," the covers lifted and Blair's contented little smile made it obvious she meant no such thing.
Chuck drew a little ways out of her fervent valley and grinned, that corrupted devil smile she could never resist. He had certainly come a long way, if an interruption to sex with Blair was now acceptable, even if it was their offspring.
"I'll get him," he volunteered. He nipped her hip bone before lifting a little higher, caressing his palm up her flawless thigh, hip, waist as he rose. Instead of going to retrieve the baby, he hovered, lewdly looking her over. Eyes stroking her with burning tongues of lusty flame. Post-pregnancy pounds made Blair look hot. "Stay," he ordered, a finger pointing emphatically. They weren't done.
Blair's silly grin mirrored his own, they were still coming to terms with the reality of being together again, and were going to be for awhile. She grasped the commanding finger, sat up and quickly captured the tip between her teeth, biting daringly.
Chuck's nostrils flared in arousal.
"You can't get him with this," she pointedly reached for something she hadn't yet enjoyed this morning.
"Why not?" Chuck slowly rolled his hips into her hand as she caressed it.
"It's obscene," Blair's eyes glittered naughtily, hinting just briefly at the soft stroking her fingers were enacting along the engorged length. While her mouth was watering in want.
Chuck pulled back and stumbled from the bed, eying her smugly. The silk of his discarded robe was picked up and skimmed over his shoulders as he carelessly shrugged into it. Her by no means waning libido certainly appreciated the way it fell over his rigidly masculine frame. Even when he tugged the belt closed there was still a hint of delicious chest hair visible at the very top.
She wanted to throw him back on the bed and ravish him. Taste the demanding piece of manhood which was almost breaking free of the robe's concealing folds. "He doesn't know what it is." Chuck teased Blair. "A year ago he was nothing more than this obscenity," he sauntered out of the room with that final word.
"Hey! We weren't finished!" her voice carried but she didn't stir from his bed and for that he was grateful.
His son, with all his impeccable timing, was weeping pathetically when Chuck joined him in the nursery. Well, half-nursery, half Nate's room. The painters would be in later today.
"Hey little guy," he leaned down quickly but was slow and careful when he lifted the invaluable collection of flesh and bone into his arms. "Are you ready to take on the world already?"
It took an inordinate amount of fiddling to remove the extra-warm sleep clothes, change his cloth and then tightly swaddle him back up in a bunny rug. Blair could do it in a third the time, he'd seen her. But he did it on his own, and that in itself was a feat. Chuck proudly lifted the now mumbling child to his chest and knew he would get faster. Practice. He intended to acquire it.
"Mmm, must be your favourite part of the day," he mused into the bump of an ear, padding back across the cold floor to their bedroom.
He rounded the corner, to spy Blair naked and resplendent against the inordinately tousled sheets.
"Breakfast," he leered at her.
Henry couldn't see that far into the distance yet and only looked up at Daddy. Daddy glanced down and despite the fact that he had just set eyes on his bared lover he was instantly snared in Henry's innocent net. For a moment they looked at one another, entranced by the curious gazes. Against Chuck's bare chest the fluttering of Henry's tiny heart was like the beat of butterfly wings, it made the fully-grown man powerless.
"Yes, breakfast," Blair lifted to sit. Her arms reached out for the little boy eagerly. "And it's getting painful if you don't mind, so hurry up."
Chuck brought her the baby, placed him in the cradle of Blair's arms then kissed her lips softly.
"Mind if I watch?" he didn't wait for approval. He took up his position beside her, propped against the headboard. Extra pillows of his own had been sourced since yesterday.
"Good morning my little prince."
"Bass," he corrected automatically.
"His father is a self-proclaimed emperor. I think the title prince still stands."
Blair had no clothing to remove this time. She lifted her baby to her breast and lured his rooting mouth to her ripe nipple. Chuck openly stared, more than interested in the sight. This went beyond the love of his life and his adored son. This was mother and child, female and infant, animal and cub – it made him feel very primal. Like a Neanderthal prowling the steppes with a brood of offspring to protect. A life-bonded mate by his side, ripe for the siring of further progeny.
"At least do something useful and call down to the kitchens if you're just going to sit there."
He snorted in amusement. No, he wasn't that much of a primeval beast. His hunting and gathering was limited to ordering staff and he much preferred tailored suits to any loincloth a pre-human may have fashioned. No matter how much the sight of Blair breastfeeding turned him on.
"What would you like?" he conceded as he reached for the phone by the bedside.
"A yoghurt. Eggs. And a croissant."
Smartly, he didn't say a word when she mentioned items that added up to triple the size of her usual meal.
"I have to eat for him too," she justified hotly, her flashing eyes meeting his. As if he had actually made the comment that floated through his head. "Milk doesn't just produce itself! Do you know how many calories it takes to nurse a baby?"
"I have no complaints," he leered at her then brazenly reached out and ran his index finger over the milky flesh, palm fixing over the spare curve. "At all."
"Pig!" she hissed as he eagerly took the weight, squeezing gently.
"This is Chuck Bass," he spoke into the phone, smirking at her.
He quickly put in their order then pressed the 'End' button and swooped into her mouth. She squealed in delighted surprised and kissed him back very briefly.
"You're glowing," he told her, his eyes sparkling as that beautiful morning smile of happiness spread across her lips. "You look gorgeous and blissful in my bed with my son and you're glowing like a goddess. This is the best morning of my life."
And he kissed her again. Which made her glow even brighter. Made her fingers twine in his hair and tug him closer. Henry continued to feed while his parents lavishly fed on each other.
"No joint custody," she dictated softly.
He knew what she meant.
"Just be with me."
He couldn't agree more.
Author's Note: This is a short story I've had floating around for awhile. Blair and especially Chuck at the end of 5x03 just about broke me. Desperate to feel better I've decided to post this for a semblance of hope, despite the fact that it's pure fantasy and I will never tidy it up to be a fluid story. Thank you to all who've read