A/N: Just to be clear, this isn't a comment or influenced by recent episodes at all. In fact, I wrote this awhile ago. Just in a simpler world where there are no princes or paupers. Just love. And of course, a little bit of drama. An AU of the season 4 finale variety. Sort of.
Summary: Nate knew for whom she had held vigil so long. He knew how much she detested showing weakness. But this was Chuck. Nate watched Blair hold Chuck's head in her lap as red and blue lights flashed across her face.
Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me. All characters belong to the Gossip Girl I once knew. But still love.
He was as white as death. He writhed on the floor of the renovated hotel, charred remains scattered around him. His eyes rolled back in his head as she grabbed his shoulders, holding him tight as he twitched.
Nate stayed in the corner, restrained by fear as he watched his best friend jerk in agony.
"It's okay. It's going to be okay." Blair's voice was soothing as she wiped the dark hair from the boy's forehead.
"Blair," Nate's voice cracked. "Is it… is he…"
Blair's eyes snapped up to him as though she had just realized he was there.
But he knew it wasn't true. She knew. Nate knew by the tears welling up in her eyes and the fear as tangible in her face as it was in his heart.
"Is he going to be okay?"
Blair held her curled fingers up to her nose, her body shaking with terror and fearful sobs. She brought her shaking hands to her Hermès scarf, attempting to staunch his bleeding burns with the only form of gauze she had.
Still, Nate could not progress forward. He couldn't go near the friend he had known as far back as he could remember. He couldn't go near Chuck Bass, who was groaning in pain-pain that stopped him from seeing the two people who cared about him the most.
"Don't just stand there, for God's sake," Blair finally burst out.
Nate knew for whom she had held vigil so long. He knew how much she detested showing weakness. But this was Chuck.
Nate watched Blair hold Chuck's head in her lap as red and blue lights flashed across her face.
Blair pulled her stocking-clad knees to her chest. Nate sat in the corner of the room, watching her sadly. He had never seen her so undignified, sitting on the customary floor of a hospital room, pale and without her designer shoes.
"It was always the three of us," Nate said distantly, "wasn't it?"
Blair didn't look away from the motionless figure in the hospital bed. She laid her head across her knees, surreptitiously wiping the wetness from her face. Nate still saw it. He couldn't do anything but observe.
"You and me," Nate said. "And him." She still didn't look back at him, but he didn't blame her. "After Serena left, it was just the three of us."
Blair finally turned her face towards him with exhaustion.
"Don't say that," Nate said. "You can't—"
But Nate broke off as Blair closed her eyes slowly, tears squeezing from her eyelids.
"If she hadn't left," Nate said, "do you think you two still would have-?"
"Serena?" Blair asked, cutting him off in her confusion. She looked dazed, as though she had just woken from a dream—as though she hadn't been listening at all.
"She left and you two connected." The way she was looking at him, Nate wasn't so sure any more.
"It doesn't matter now, does it?"
"Blair," Nate said weakly.
"It's Chuck," Blair said softly. She was smiling sadly, her eyes lingering on the bed again. "Maybe it wouldn't have happened the way it did. But it would have happened." Her voice choked at the end.
"He's my best friend."
"You think I don't understand?" Blair asked, sounding as indignant as she could under her current distress. "Or you know that it's my fault."
"I know. If something happens, we won't be able to get over this."
"You can't even look at him."
"What happened to him, Blair?" Nate asked. Her curls simply shook as she shook her head.
"Would you blame me?" she asked. "If he never woke up?"
"It's my fault."
"I'm weak," Blair said. "I'm still so weak."
"No," Nate said.
"And I'm so tired," Blair said. "I'm just so exhausted of being without him."
Nate stilled. It could have been the first honest thing Blair had said that night.
"I don't know what I'll do without him," she said, her eyes rising to meet Nate's. "I can't."
Nate couldn't look up at the inquisitive doctor. His eyes were trained on the tiled floor of Lennox Hill.
Blair stopped crying that day.
"That sounds accusatory." Nate felt comfort in Blair's strength.
"You brought him in," the doctor reminded her.
"The ambulance brought him in," Blair said snappishly. "How are we supposed to know what happened?"
"Your friend has third degree burns up the length of his left arm," the doctor said. "They're defensive."
"You seem to have put together the course of events more than we have," Blair retorted.
"You expect me to believe you have no idea what happened?"
"Believe what you want," Blair said. "I didn't realize we were under suspicion. Are we being accused of something?"
"You are just a doctor, right?" Blair asked. "Not a part-time officer of the 55th precinct?"
The doctor's eyes narrowed at Blair's patronizing tone. "We're trying to help your friend. You want him to recover? We need all the facts."
"We're not being arrested for anything, I suggest you keep the inquisition to yourself," Blair snapped, turning on her heel. Nate followed her obediently.
Just like when they were dating.
"You know what happened, don't you?"
It was the third day and they still knew nothing. They were still the only ones in the hospital day and night and Nate still knew there was something Blair was keeping from him.
"Would it matter?"
"Does it matter?"
"You don't need to know," Blair said. "You know I feel guilty. That's all you want."
"I want the truth."
"He never should have been there," Blair said, her voice thick. "He was there because of me. Why is he always there because of me?"
"He loves you."
"Well, he shouldn't," she replied. "Look at where it got him."
"What was he doing in an abandoned hotel in Brooklyn?" Nate asked. "And what were you doing there too?"
"He was fixing it up," she said. "He wanted to make something better. But that wasn't what he was doing there that night."
"What was he doing?"
"Trying to save me," Blair said, her voice full of tears.
Nate had a million more questions but she was shaking and he had never seen her so frail before. Nate knew that every second Chuck was unconscious was another second that was shaved off of Blair's life.
So he hugged her. Sitting in the waiting area of a hospital while their friend's life was sapped from him, Nate embraced Blair like he never had before. Even when he he loved her.
"I don't know what I'd do without him either," Nate whispered.
He embraced her like a friend.
"Well, would you look at that."
But Chuck's life wasn't slipping away.
Nate peeled himself away from someone could only be regarded as his best friend's girl because his best friend was standing right before them. And the girl next to Nate would always cry over him—the boy with his arm in a sling.
"Chuck," Blair said thickly, but Chuck's shell was even more hardened and he rolled his eyes as though the syllable were a very affront to his being.
He was insulted.
His burned arm was bandaged in what looked like pounds of gauze but he still had it in him to be cold.
"Well this is very 2008." It was the last thing he said before turning back down the hall.
Nate wasn't surprised at Blair's reaction.
She would always chase his best friend.
She would chase him to the end of the earth. Just to make sure he wouldn't hurt himself again.
He didn't answer. He just leaned his forehead against the cold glass of the window.
"You know better."
"Do I?" Chuck demanded, turning to face her. He hated seeing her in such disarray, but he hated his insecurities more. He hated his weakness. He hated his frailty.
He wished he could just let it go. But he was like her in that way. He could feel it erupting, but the feeling of betrayal would gnaw at him until he made it clear to her.
"Nate?" Blair asked, with what could have been humor if there wasn't something so tragic about the situation. "Really?"
"I saw you—"
"Because of you," Blair said sorrowfully, knowing the thought and accusations that coursed through his brain, though not out his mouth.
"I'm to blame?"
"You're the one who's loved," Blair said. "And you know it."
"What was it?" Chuck asked, his masochism already surging.
"What if we never saw you again?" Blair asked. "What if you just—"
"You know me better than that." She just stared at his arrogant remark. He really believed that. He really believed that he was invincible and nothing could ever hurt him. Not physically.
"I never knew you to be so stupid," Blair retorted. "What were you doing there, Chuck? What were you doing?"
"What I had to."
"It should have been me," Blair cried, her nails digging into his good arm.
"And I'd do it again," Chuck said. "I'd let that psychotic arsonist burn me a thousand more times to make sure that you were safe."
"It should have been me."
"I'd do it again, Blair," Chuck said.
They could say the same things in circles because they couldn't avoid the truth.
This was it.
"You were in danger because of me," he said. "So of course I'd do it again."
"Please," she begged.
"Where's your ring?"
Her left hand was as naked as the day he first saw her and he couldn't think of anything else.
She wasn't wearing the other man's ring.
"Please," she whispered, walking to him.
She hugged herself to his chest, his right arm curling naturally around her.
He put his nose to her hair, letting everything in that he never could before.