Thanks to suspensegirl for the beta. Nothing belongs to me. All is the realm of Gossip Girl.
The last thing Sloane expected to see when she walked into the room was Blair Waldorf throwing her belongings into a suitcase. There were no valets to take care of that, and even more than that, she never expected to see Blair Waldorf willingly leaving Yale.
"What are you doing?"
Blair looked up at her, shocked, clearly not aware of her presence. But after the moment elapsed she continued her tear through the room.
"Packing," she said succinctly.
"I see that," Sloane returned. She couldn't believe that Blair wasn't even folding her clothes.
This was serious.
"I'm going back to New York."
"What?" Sloane sputtered. "What are you talking about?"
"Leaving," Blair told her in short syllables. "For. New York."
"Why?" Sloane asked in exasperation.
Blair looked up at her pointedly.
And suddenly it was all so clear. Sloane sat back at her desk, watching lazily as her friend frantically tried to pack. There was only one creature that could ever whip Blair into such a frenzy. Sloane had never met him, but she felt as though she had through this drama alone.
Somehow, Chuck Bass had changed the game.
"Because," Blair snapped, "the blackmailing bastard who I took advantage of during a moment of vulnerability is going to tell the entire Upper East Side about my indiscretion."
"He's blackmailing you?" Sloane asked in surprise. "That's adorable."
"Adorable," Blair repeated. "No. Not so much."
"And technically, isn't it both of your indiscretion?" Sloane asked coolly.
Blair just shot Sloane a glare as she attempted to zip her suitcase closed.
"Can't you just…"
"What?" Blair asked.
"I'm just surprised that Blair Waldorf is letting Chuck Bass hold one over on her."
"If he wasn't so annoyingly immune to blackmail, then no," Blair said. "I wouldn't have to be making a completely pointless trip."
"So the thought has crossed your mind that he's just playing with you," Sloane noted.
"Despite all of his lecherous endeavors," Blair said, "there is not one thing that Chuck would be ashamed of. Blackmail not being an option, I don't really have a choice, whether this is just a game to him or not."
"Oh, I'm sure it's a game," Sloane says. "But you have no way of knowing if he's bluffing or not."
"Either he outs me or he doesn't," Blair said.
"So I'm to infer you haven't told your brother."
Blair glowered at her again. "He knows I'm coming for the weekend."
"So if you go or not, it doesn't matter," Sloane said. "He'll do what he's going to do."
"Part of the gamble is if I do nothing, he'll release it anyway," Blair said. "You see the dilemma when dealing with a Bass."
"I'll leave it up to the experts," Sloane said. "I'll make sure Nate is occupied."
"I'll see you on Monday," Blair said curtly, shouldering her bag and slamming the door behind her as she left.
The music was deafening but it was strangely the only place that Tyler could be alone with his thoughts. The repetitive bass gave him a calm that was an alternative to the awkward silences that stretched between him and his best friend.
Eric was looking at him expectantly and Tyler hadn't realized he had been asked a question.
"I said," Eric said over the music of the club, "what do you think Chuck's doing?"
It was a good question. Tyler had no idea what Chuck was doing or even what he thought he was doing. But looking over at Chuck draining his drink in the corner, he was sure that wasn't what Eric was asking.
There was still only one answer he could give. "I don't know."
Even through the distraction of their surroundings, Eric was perceptive. Then again, you would have to be completely oblivious not to notice the tension between Tyler Waldorf and Chuck Bass. Maybe that's what Chuck was doing in the corner. Being oblivious.
Ignorance was welcome as opposed to what was really going on.
And Tyler didn't want to know what was going on. He didn't want to think about it or dwell over it. If he did, then maybe he would come to understand something that he didn't want to know.
He was only put slightly at ease as an Amazonian blonde went over to Chuck's table. Tyler didn't want to go around analyzing why he felt more comfortable when Chuck was conversing with a sensual stranger.
But he didn't like the way Eric was looking at him pointedly.
"I'm surprised you didn't tell Chuck that Blair was coming back."
Blair had just called Tyler from the train from New Haven. Of course he was ecstatic that his sister was coming for a spontaneous visit.
But that was the disconcerting thing. Blair didn't do spontaneous. She was reserved and scheduled. There was something suspicious about it all. And he knew it was even more suspicious that he hadn't told his best friend this piece of mundane news—especially the best friend that he shared everything with.
"Why?" Tyler asked.
"I don't know," Eric answered. "My sister is acting suspicious."
"Suspicious or suspiciously?" Tyler knew the difference. Or at least, he used to be able to. "What does that have to do with Chuck?" Tyler asked.
Both of them watched as Chuck leaned into the blonde's ear, stroking her knee while she laughed.
"You tell me," Eric answered.
It was almost a welcome distraction. After all, Blair had returned for one reason only. Eleanor's glares over the dinner table weren't what Blair had come for. For a split second, Blair was relieved that for once her mother's death gaze wasn't directed at her.
Then again, Chuck Bass crashing a family dinner was the last thing that she needed at the moment. Especially if him destroying her with one sentence was something he was threatening to do.
Blair and I had sex on New Years Eve.
All she could do was sit there and just wait for it to happen.
Tyler's voice was neutral, if such a thing existed. But Blair could hear the underlying threat. Whatever this was, she knew it was about to get a lot worse.
Dorota paused, dinner platter in hand as Chuck stumbled in from the foyer. Everyone seemed frozen in one moment of discomfort.
"This is a surprise," Tyler said pointedly.
"Not as surprising as this." It was clear he had just come from a bar. "I didn't realize a celebration was in order."
"Celebration," Blair stated. It was the first thing she had said to him and she knew that Chuck noticed. His eyes immediately snapped to hers and she felt stiff. She couldn't move, paralyzed with the fear of what he might say next.
"Of course," Chuck said smoothly. "You're home. I had no idea."
"Now you do," Tyler said swiftly, getting to his feet to escort Chuck out. "Let's talk about this later."
"Yes, let's," Eleanor said coldly. "This is a family dinner."
"My mistake," Chuck said over his shoulder as he was taken out the way he came in. But even as they rounded the corner, she could still hear them.
Blair just stared at her plate as their muffled conversation wafted through the wall.
"What do you think you're doing?"
"What? Just greeting your family."
"Are you drunk?"
"Now what would move you to make an accusation such as that?"
"How did you know Blair was coming home?"
Silently, Blair stood up from her seat and stepped quietly through the house towards the voices. She peered around the corner to see them in what seemed very passive-aggressive stances.
"We'll talk about this later," Tyler said quietly. "Right now I need to be with my sister."
"Ever since Blair showed up, my mother has been in a…" Tyler began, "mood. You really can't be here right now."
"As you wish," Chuck said coolly.
As the elevator doors slid open he caught sight of Blair. He threw her lascivious wink before the doors closed behind him.
Tyler looked over his shoulder to see Blair standing in the same spot. Her eyes never left the elevator.
Blair turned around without answering. Tyler followed her anyway. She didn't need to enter the dining room to know that her mother had already instructed Dorota to clear their places. The humiliation of a Bass interrupting their dinner was enough to end that experiment.
Blair heard her bedroom door close behind her. Her bags weren't even unpacked, and she had no plans to do so. This was supposed to be a quick visit. But with the knowledge that Tyler was right behind her, and clearly suspicious of everything that he had a right to be, she was starting to think nothing would go to plan.
Nothing ever did anymore. Ever since that night her life had been falling apart because of one stupid mistake. She couldn't control anything anymore. She couldn't do anything.
"What was that?"
Blair turned to face her brother, all emotion wiped from her face.
"What was what?"
Tyler was silent for a moment.
"What is it going to take for you to understand that you don't have to lie to me?" he finally asked. "I am the one person that will love you unconditionally."
"You do realize that's not exactly what I want to hear," Blair said. "No one wishes to be only loved unconditionally by their family."
"I won't judge you."
"What exactly are you insinuating?"
"Why are you here?" Tyler asked.
"I can't just come for a visit?"
"You have an agenda for absolutely everything," Tyler said. "And don't tell me that public theater back there was for nothing."
"You're coming very close to accusing me of something," Blair said darkly.
"I'm not accusing you of anything," Tyler said. "Just tell me something real."
"I'll tell you something real." The moment she said it, Tyler knew everything was going to go horrendously wrong for him.
Tyler felt himself shrinking as Blair took two measured steps towards him. He knew that face. And that face was not his friend.
"I'll tell you something real, little brother," Blair started succinctly. "Women are smarter than you."
Tyler felt his eyes widen uncontrollably at the blunt statement.
"And we're smarter than your friend Chuck."
"My friend Chuck?" Tyler emphasized.
"I'm just reminding you your place."
"And what has warranted this?" Tyler asked. "You don't need to exert your dominance. Especially over me."
"I don't trust him," Blair said simply. "And if you do, that just means I will have to increase my efforts."
Of course, Tyler found Chuck at a bar. When he saw his friend's slumped posture, all the incredulity and suspicion of that night had melted away. He knew it had to do with Blair's cold proclamation, which answered literally none of his questions.
But it did remind him of one thing. Chuck was his friend. He was someone who had always stood with him. And he was clearly going through something.
Tyler sat down next to Chuck. He gave no sign that he was aware of Tyler, but they both knew he did. Tyler sipped on a cocktail for a moment before speaking.
"Blair hates you."
Chuck still didn't look over at him. "I know."
"She doesn't trust you."
"Give me a reason not to."
It was the most honest thing that he could say. Blair was right. Chuck was known for disreputable things. Tyler knew Chuck could give him a million reasons to end the friendship right then and there.
But he didn't. There was one thing that Chuck cared about in the world and that was Tyler Waldorf. Even after that night and many nights before it, Tyler knew that would always be true. And no matter what Blair said, nothing could change it.
"The two of you really do have ugly friction," Tyler said honestly.
Finally, Chuck looked over at his friend. For the first time, he cracked a smile.
"I know," Chuck commented. "We really do."
She knew it had to be him.
No one announced his arrival, but at the creak of the door, there was no doubting it.
"You planned that spectacularly."
There was a pregnant pause after her statement. She turned in her chair at her vanity to see Chuck standing in her doorway.
She was sure his silence had to do with the fact that she was wearing her sleep lingerie.
It was his own fault for coming this late. He knew how inappropriate the hour was. That was probably his plan. Finally his eyes snapped back to attention.
"I actually didn't know you'd be here," Chuck admitted, stepping closer towards her, "but that doesn't mean I wasn't pleasantly surprised."
"If you didn't know then what were you doing there?"
He always had that element of surprise. They both knew how much it irked her that his mind wasn't on her all the time. In fact, she should be pleased that he wasn't obsessing over her. But what she really wanted to know, he wasn't telling.
"Maybe it was intuition," he offered.
But the way Tyler was still talking to her and her mother hadn't disowned her yet—she knew the answer to her question before she even saw Chuck. She knew it the moment she got home.
"You didn't tell," Blair said.
"I didn't tell."
"I should have known." Blair said bitterly. She should have known that he would use her own emotions against her and she should have known that if he wanted to humiliate her, she wouldn't have had to come all the way back to New York for him to do it.
"But you came anyway," Chuck said as though reading her mind.
"That's what this was about?" Blair demanded. But even her voice sounded false to her. The truth was, she knew. She knew that all he wanted was to bring her here.
"What else?" Chuck was grinning for the first time that she could recall in her lifetime and it made her ill. He had planned this entire thing.
It was all a test.
"You think you're so smart," Blair sneered, getting to her feet. She was in her bare feet and had to look up at him to make eye contact. But she knew he wasn't the dominant one. "Well let me tell you something—"
"Tyler relayed the speech to me."
He was sure that it wasn't having the effect that Blair wanted it to have.
"Then let me tell you something I neglected to tell him," said curtly.
Now she had his attention. Both of them knew that. She would tell Tyler certain things because he was her brother. But this was Chuck Bass. There was nothing that she wouldn't hold back from him. She would always put him in his place.
"Taking advantage of a woman in a vulnerable position isn't considered chivalrous," she said.
"That wasn't my intention."
"Manipulation and deception," she acknowledged.
"Something you respond well to," he noted.
"You got my attention," Blair responded. "Now you'll wish you hadn't."
"You might need me more than you think you do," Chuck answered. It wasn't a warning. It was just his opinion. And he was sure that she would realize it too.
They were closer than they had been since the party. He could breathe her air and she could smell his natural musk. She hadn't realized how close they had gotten until that moment.
She smiled coolly."Don't count on it."
She heard his footsteps before she even saw him. Normally, her heart would jump out of her chest at the sound of devious footsteps.
But Blair knew it was just her brother.
"You're still here." Tyler sat across from her at the breakfast table, tugging aggressively into a piece of bacon. Blair herself had her customary plate of grapes.
"Love you too, brother," she said fondly. But even then, she knew that Tyler wasn't having it. She knew that her being here was agitating him and she didn't even want to entertain the idea of what that could mean. She already had her panic attack for this trip and he was right.
"Shouldn't you be at school?"
She needed to leave soon.
"And you used to be such a nice boy," Blair teased.
"I'm seventeen," Tyler said seriously.
She needed to leave now.
"Does that mean you're responsible for the company you keep now?" Blair found herself snapping. She was tired of being punished for something that she knew Tyler was unaware of. He may have suspicions that he was being lied to, but that was just a Waldorf trait. He should get used to it.
"You know what you're doing," Tyler told her.
"I'm looking out for you," Blair said honestly.
"Like our father was looking out for me? Looking out for us?"
"That has nothing to do with this," Blair said in annoyance.
"It has everything to do with it," Tyler argued. "You can't stand Mom and you're the most like her."
"I suppose you're the most like Daddy, then."
"Self-loathing is in our blood," Tyler retorted.
She didn't really want to understand the connections he was trying to make. Maybe he hated Harold, but that was no reason to drag her and Eleanor into it.
"Well you don't have to worry," Blair said coldly. "I'm going back to New Haven this afternoon."
"I'm not worried," he smirked. "Are you?"
She didn't like that look. That look usually accompanied sexual innuendo and overtures of lust.
He was becoming more like Chuck Bass than she was comfortable with.
"You're worried that I'm like Mother and take pleasure out of tormenting your friend," Blair illuminated.
"Are you insinuating that you're able to torment him?" Tyler asked coolly.
"You always know more than you let on."
"I don't know anything about this."
She knew what he was talking about. It was the thing that all of them refused to talk about even though it was clear how many secrets they were keeping from each other. But Blair knew he was being honest with her. Discounting the New Years embarrassment, Tyler and Blair never lied to each other. That was probably why he could see her discomfort so easily. But it also told her that he was telling the truth.
He didn't know anything.
"Don't you have a boyfriend?" Tyler asked bluntly.
"Does that limit me from seeing my brother?" Blair smiled sweetly. But Tyler could always see through it.
"It should limit you from coming down here every weekend."
"Worried I'll embarrass you?" Blair asked.
"I'm worried about what happens when fire meets gasoline."
Blair ignored that comment. "Since you're so inquisitive, I don't think things are working out with Nate."
"Because of Serena?" Tyler asked it in the way that made it clear he knew the answer.
"What are you talking about?" Blair asked. But it ignited something in her. Chuck was extorting secrets from her brother and she hated him for it. "That's the reason. That's the exact reason what I'm talking about."
"Are you telling me who I can and can't see?" Tyler asked doubtfully.
"I know that makes the Devil of uptown all the more attractive, but no. I'm just telling you, don't be surprised. He isn't like us."
"Like us?" Tyler asked, his light demeanor evaporating instantly. "Because I think he's exactly like you."
"That's your opinion," Blair said stiffly.
Even when he wasn't in the room, Chuck Bass was ruining her life.
Tyler found Chuck at the window. He didn't know what this relief was, but suddenly he felt calm. He was calmed at the sight of Chuck watching Blair's car pull away from the curb. It was the unnamed tension that made everyone on edge. And he knew it radiated from his best friend.
Chuck turned to look at him with a smirk.
"Is it a crime to look? If that's the case, the cells would be overcrowded from the amount of men that look at your sister."
"I thought maybe they'd reconciled," Tyler mused.
Tyler wasn't sorry about it. The truth was everyone knew that Blair and Nate were only good for each other on paper. Even Blair on some subconscious level knew that. But that didn't mean anything. He expected them to get back together. He expected that of Blair.
"You know Blair," Chuck replied.
Tyler looked at his friend. There was something about his tone that he didn't like. It was too familiar, like Chuck knew her better than Tyler did.
He didn't like that at all.
"I do," Tyler responded curtly.
"You hoped they'd reconcile."
"It would be easier," Tyler simply. But that said nothing for his hopes.
"Easier for whom?"
That was always the question. It was everyone's motives that were uncertain.