Say Goodbye to the Fairy Tale
by Sandrine Shaw
"This time, I'm all in."
It's a vow she should have made a long time ago, but she was too proud and too indecisive then. She's grown up those last few months. Her marriage to Louis. The accident. Losing the baby. The divorce. Being with Dan. It has all shaped her and made her mature. She's at last at peace with herself and with what she wants.
What she hasn't counted on is that Chuck isn't.
He shakes his head. "I'm sorry, Blair. I can't be with you. Not like you want me to. Being in love with you makes me... vulnerable and scared, and I can't afford that if I'm going to have the life I want. Bart taught me that."
It feels worse than a slap in her face. The most terrible thing about is it that she gets it. She's been there. Everything he fears about their relationship, she's been afraid of herself. The difference is: she got over it. She realized that love is more important than the potential for loss that comes with it. She realized that it's something worth fighting for.
And she wants to fight for it, she really does. But Chuck is already gathering his chips and moves away, inclining his head ever so slightly in a goodbye that shouldn't feel as final as it does.
He leaves and she's alone in a casino full of strangers with the gut-wrenching realization that you can only fight for someone if they let you. She doesn't play the game she just bet on, just leaves her chips on the table and walks away.
Jack finds her at the bar, cradling a glass of brandy. She's not as drunk as she would like to be, but she can't bring herself to drink herself into oblivion. Unlike Serena, she never had a fondness for drugs and alcohol. They make her lose control, and she hates relinquishing control to anyone and anything. She already lost enough tonight.
"Blair, Blair, Blair." Jack slides into the seat next to hers and offers her a grin that's all teeth and no humor. "All alone again. Looks like you lost the game."
It's meant to be an ambiguous statement, she's sure, but it's obvious that the game he is referring to has nothing to do with cards and casino tokens.
"I know you probably don't understand this, Jack, and it's pointless trying to explain it to you, but this is no game. It never has been. Not when you and Chuck gambled me for a hotel, and not now."
Jack takes the glass out of her fingers and downs it, as if he's daring her to make a move to stop him. She doesn't.
His reply is as predictable as the way his eyes linger on her cleavage. "Everything is a game. Haven't you learned that yet?"
She wonders if maybe he's right, after all, if there's some deep hidden wisdom in his jaded attitude. She left Nate for Chuck and then Chuck for Nate and then Nate for Chuck again, and then Chuck for Louis and Louis for Chuck only to end up with Dan, who asked her to commit to something she wasn't ready for, so she turned and ran back to Chuck. Over the years, she's spent more time leaving Chuck and getting back together with Chuck than being with Chuck.
Perhaps the real difference between her and Jack is that he's self-aware enough to know he's playing a game, while she still clings to the notion of a fairy-tale romance while she breaks every heart that's offered to her as well as her own. Perhaps she's not grown up at all. Perhaps her mother is wrong when she tells Blair that she's strong. Perhaps Eleanor is just trying to be kind.
"I really do love him," she says, two glasses of brandy later, staring morosely into the golden liquid until it makes her eyes swim.
Jack is sitting turned halfway towards her, his arm curved around the back of her seat. He's lost his jacket and his tie has come undone. He's a couple of drinks ahead of her, but then, he's definitely more used to it and he doesn't seem any less sober than he was an hour ago.
"He traded you for a hotel," he reminds her, and she winces at the memory.
"That wasn't really Chuck. That was you backing him into a corner and manipulating him." She snorts and is immediately disgusted with herself for being so vulgar and unladylike. Months of lessons in royal etiquette, undone by a few glasses of booze. "You're good at that."
He clutches his heart in a display of fake hurt. "You wound me, Blair. I gave up a hotel to be with you."
"Do you really want to rehash that? Because I'm far too sober to fall for it. You gave up the hotel for a chance to destroy Chuck. You didn't even have to go through with it and actually sleep with me for your plan to work out."
"Ouch. Excuse me for not raping you. I was just doing the chivalrous thing, offering you an out."
"That's ridiculous. You were doing exactly what you had to do to make Chuck come out as the bad guy. You don't have a chivalrous bone in your body!"
Blair glares at him and Jack laughs, conceding defeat. "That's true."
Taking her hand in his, he raises it to his lips and presses a kiss to the center of her palm. Blair's breath catches in her throat.
"What can I say? I'm better at playing the villain than the hero."
His eyes are dark, shimmering with amusement and intoxication and arousal, and his breath brushes over the clammy skin of her hand, raising goosebumps up her arm. He hasn't let go of her hand. She hasn't tried to pull away, either.
It's ridiculous. This is Jack Bass. He's made her and Chuck's lives miserable more often than not. He treats everything - love, and life itself - like a game. He almost made her whore herself out just so he could teach his brother a lesson.
Blair is about to pull away when Jack's thumb starts moving in gentle circles over her skin, and she suddenly doesn't have the strength to move her arm. She remembers New Year's Eve four years ago when she was lonely and in need of comfort, and Jack took her to bed and made her come so hard and so often that she forgot everything she was running away from. That's the thing about Jack Bass: he's not going to make any demands of her or ask her for anything she's not ready to give.
She pulls her hand from his and reaches for her glass, toasting him. "To villains, then! So much less room for disappointment than with heroes, isn't there?"
Jack's eyes crinkle when he laughs. His smile is wolfish. "To villains. Because if you know how to play the game, you can turn even defeat into victory."
The lights of Paris are illuminating Blair's hotel room through the floor-to-ceiling windows. It's a spectacular view, but not one she cares for now. Perhaps if she was here with Chuck - or Dan, even - but this is no fairy-tale romance and the setting seems wrong.
She goes to close the curtains, but as she reaches for them, Jack's hands on her wrists stop her. He leans against her with all of his weight, pressing her body flat against the window, and kisses her neck from behind.
Jack takes her like this, against the window with Paris buzzing and shining beneath them, and her breath fogs the glass until it's blocking out the city lights. When he's spent, he spins her around, sinks to his knees and proceeds to give her orgasm after orgasm until her knees buckle and she sinks bonelessly to the floor next to him.
She doesn't feel like a princess now.
She feels like a goddess, strong and beautiful and indestructible.
"Will you tell Chuck about this?"
It has started to rain, heavy drops making hollow sounds as they fall against the window.
They're lying on the bed, shoulder to shoulder. Blair has put on a silvery negligee, but Jack has made no move to cover himself. It feels strangely comfortable, enough that bringing up Chuck isn't as awkward as she thought it would be.
Jack turns to her and raises his eyebrow. "Do you want me to?"
If Chuck found out she slept with his uncle, he'd feel hurt and betrayed. Even if he had just rejected her, he wouldn't want her with Jack. It would stir his possessiveness, and maybe also all those other emotions he's been trying to suppress. He'd start to fight for her to win her back.
And thus the old lamentable cycle would start all over again.
"No," she says. It sounds too unsure, so she says it again, more firmly: "No, don't. It's none of his business who I sleep with."
Next to her, Jack smiles. He looks at her like he's proud of her. "Good."
Blair turns her head away from him and watches the traces of rain running down the window pane, listening to the concert of raindrops against glass. She falls asleep in a hotel room in Paris, thousands of miles away from home, next to a man she doesn't love.
For the first time in years, she feels free.