A/N: So, so sorry for the incredibly long wait! I hope you like the chapter! Feel free to leave a review if you don't completely hate me for the lack of updates ;)

Chapter 17: Planning

"It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him."

~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

"What antics do you think she'll pull next?" Chuck asked, twirling one of Blair's stray curls.

"I'm not sure. I think it's more important to figure out whom rather than how she'll be striking next," answered Blair. She straightened her back and stretched, attempting and failing to stifle a yawn.

"Did I wear you out already, Waldorf?"

"Of course not. It's just all of this drama that's making me tired."

"Are you sleeping okay?" he asked quietly, concern in his voice. Blair appreciated it, but it also grated on her nerves a bit. She didn't need him to look out for her. She wasn't a child.

"You'd know better than me. I've been with you every night this week."

"You say it like it's a bad thing."

"Maybe it is," she bit out, immediately regretting it when she saw the look of hurt that flashed on Chuck's face before it morphed into protective stone.

"And why is that?" he asked, his voice strained.

"I – I didn't mean that, Chuck. I'm on edge, and I'm taking it out on you." She offered him a small smile and laced their hands together.

"It's fine."

"It's not. I'm sorry."

"Make it up to me?" he murmured, pulling her into his lap.

"With pleasure."

"Dan!" I called, spotting his dark buzz-cut and signature messenger bag. "Dan, wait!"

"What do you want, Serena?" he snapped. I flinched, but it was better than silence.

"To see the message you claim I sent you. Please."

"Why? And what do you mean, the message I 'claim' you sent me? It was sent from your phone!"

"And I didn't have my phone!" I shouted, exasperated. "Georgina had it. She's currently on some wild rampage to ruin my life, along with Chuck, Blair, and Nate's, and she knew breaking up with you would hurt me."

"Wait, slow down," ordered Dan, throwing up his hands, a look of bewilderment on his face. "Who the hell is Georgina?"

"A ghost – or demon I guess would be more fitting – from my past." I grimaced, picturing Georgina with the devil horns that were no doubt hidden somewhere in her thick, dark hair. "She's completely evil and totally psycho on top of that."

"And she took your phone?" asked Dan, narrowing his eyes.

"Yes." Please believe me, I begged him silently.

"So you didn't send me that message?"

"No."

"Then can I kiss you now?" My heart leapt.

"You don't even need to ask."

"Hello? Nate, are you even paying attention?"

"Yeah, Blair, sorry." Nate shifted his eyes back to Blair and reluctantly muted the football game he had on. "It's just that the Giants are playing, and I have this fantasy team – "

"It's not like you watching is going to change how the game ends," Blair argued logically. She crossed her legs and took out a ballpoint pen and notepad. "Now. Time to decipher the note Whoregina left for me at the front desk this afternoon."

"What note?" I asked, walking into the Waldorf penthouse. "B, if this is some dirty note Chuck wrote you, I really don't want to – "

"Serena, relax. I'm talking about this." She handed me a piece of pristine white paper, on which a few lines were written in a shaky hand.

"Well, based on her penmanship, I'd say she was wasted when she wrote this."

"Figured that out already," Chuck stated, taking a sip of water. I narrowed my eyes at his uncharacteristic beverage choice.

"Why are you drinking water?"

"He's pregnant," snapped Blair. "Now, please, can we just get on with this?"

"Let me read it first," I said, unfurling the edges.

B –

It's time for you to learn that relationships can be broken much faster than they can be mended.

Enjoy your weekend.

All my best, G.

"I don't understand." I rubbed my forehead in mystification.

"Oh, really? I'm shocked," Blair said sardonically. "Confusion is a look that never seems to grace your face."

"Blair, cut it out," Nate interrupted. "You're not helping anything."

"Well, forgive me if I'm not all happy-go-lucky after Serena ditched me today."

"Oh, shit," I muttered to myself. Then in a louder voice, "Blair, I'm so sorry. Dan forgave me, and we went to this vintage bookstore, and I completely blanked on dinner."

"Well, that's great. It's nice to know a squirrelly Brooklyn dweeb is able to make you forget about plans with me." I would have defended him had it not been for the teasing tilt in Blair's tone and the way her eyes glowed with mirth.

"I would say he's more of a monkey," mused Chuck. "A furry, black-haired monkey."

"You guys," I laughed, ready put an end to the abasement of my boyfriend. "Quit it."

"Only if you help with the note." Blair quirked an eyebrow, putting forth her bargain.

"Deal. So what do you have planned for this weekend?" I asked, figuring Georgina may be planning something that coincided with one of Blair's events.

"Seriously, I can't watch football, but you're asking her about her weekend plans?" inquired Nate, shaking his head.

"Read the note, Archibald." I slid it to him, a grin on my lips. "So, Blair? Anything in particular come to mind?"

"Well," said Blair, slightly wrinkling her forehead as she contemplated all of the times she had chronologically written in her day planner. "I have dinner with Chuck, brunch with Hazel and Kati the next morning, my mom's fashion show that day – "

"That must be it!" I exclaimed. "It's exactly the sort of public gathering Georgina would go for."

"Serena makes a good point," agreed Chuck. "And she probably knows that you and your mother practically just reconciled."

"Well, at least now we'll be ready," declared Blair with fierceness in her eyes. "Chuck, you're on security. Give all of the guards her name and picture. Pay them extra if you have to," she added, handing over a fistful of bills. "Nate, you're in charge of keeping the models occupied, making sure none of them have a chance to do a double cross and assist Georgina in her plan. That's assuming she gets in, of course."

"Which she won't," Chuck assured her. Blair blew him a kiss.

"As much faith as I have in you, it never hurts to make additional preparations. Serena, you manage the clothes. Don't let anything happen to them, okay?"

"Got it," I said. I nodded for extra emphasis. "What are you going to do, B?"

"Damage control, in case any of you slip up for any reason. And, obviously, someone has to make sure my mother doesn't have a panic attack. I feel like that unfortunate duty should go to me." Blair turned to look at Nate. "Don't look so abject, Nate. Your job is like America's Next Top Model coming to life. Don't tell me that doesn't sound at all enticing."

"I'm just not really into fashion." He gestured toward his simple, blue-and-white checked shirt. "Clearly."

"Though you are much more Abercrombie than Armani, it doesn't mean you can't have style," reasoned Blair. "Maybe you'll learn a thing or two tomorrow. Besides, Jenny will be there, as she happens to adore fashion."

"She will?" It was probably the only thing he'd heard come out of Blair's mouth. His mouth formed an "o" as he considered the bright prospect Eleanor Waldorf's fashion show was quickly becoming.

"Close your mouth, my friend," Chuck said languidly with a smirk. He sunk down into the seat beside Blair and slung an arm around her. "Desperation doesn't suit you."

"Hey! I am not desperate," Nate huffed, pulling on his already-stiff shirt. "For your information, she's into me too."

"I was just messing with you, Nathaniel."

"I knew that."

"Sure you did."

"So where are we going tonight? I hate to say it, but you're going to have a very tough time topping our first dinner together."

"That's why I'm not doing anything extravagant. Well, that, and the fact that I'm still cut off," Chuck laughed, surprisingly not bitterly.

"What, your false contriteness hasn't won Big Bad Bart over yet?" Chuck elbowed her, and she giggled. "Hey, I was just asking!"

"To answer your question, no it hasn't. But I've actually not attempted to even appear contrite." He shrugged. "It's useless, as I've figured out time and time again. Instead, I'm keeping my head down and doing what I'm supposed to be doing."

"And doing who you're supposed to be doing," Blair murmured, kissing his jaw, "though I suppose he doesn't know about that." Chuck laughed deeply.

"No, but he should get to meet you," he said. "How about tonight?"

"What? What happened to your other plans for us?" Blair couldn't help it, the thought of meeting Bart terrified her a bit, and she wasn't one to scare easily. But all of the stories she'd heard – both from Chuck and others – led her to believe that he was incorrigibly contentious, endlessly contravening everyone's rules and opinions but his own. And while Chuck could certainly be passionate about his beliefs, he could at least acknowledge an opposing logical argument. Bart? Not so much, if she took popular opinion as truth. Bart had tunnel vision, and once he made up his mind about something – or someone, she gulped – that was it.

"My plans were lame. This is a much better idea." He leaned up in his seat. "Arthur? Turn around; we're heading back to the Palace."

"Chuck, wait a minute," Blair pleaded. "Think this through. Are you sure you think I should meet Bart? I mean, what if he doesn't like me?"

"How could anyone not like you, Waldorf? You're perfect," he said, tracing a finger along her chin. "And if he doesn't see that, he's even crazier than I thought. Besides, Lily's there, and she adores you."

"She is?" Blair breathed a sigh of a relief.

"You think I would drag you to the penthouse to eat with just Bart and me? Blair, I'm spontaneous, not suicidal," he laughed. "I practically need an appointment just to speak with my father."

"Okay, I'm in," she said, choosing to abide by Chuck's suggestion despite her slight misgivings. She just hoped it wouldn't be too disastrous.

"So I'm working on a story," Dan announced as we ate takeout in the loft.

"Really?" I asked, peeling my eyes away from the movie we were watching.

"Yeah."

"What's it about?"

"Don't hate me," he said, already setting off an alarm in my head. "But it's about your soon-to-be stepfather, Bart."

"What? Why would you want to write about him? He's a total stick in the mud," I replied, rolling my eyes.

"Yeah, but it's an assignment with a prominent magazine. This could be a big opportunity for me, and I was hoping you could put in a good word for me with Bart."

"Okay, I will, but only because I – "

"Because you what?" he cut in, already laughing upon the realization that I was about to make fun of him.

"Because I know you're going to be a Nervous Nelly around him, and I want him to have a good impression of you before you get all sweaty and shaky," I teased him.

"I thought the social awkwardness was part of my charm!" he said in mock-ire.

"Yeah, I lied."

"Well, what am I going to do now? Seventeen years of inept displays of socialization and now my girlfriend tells me it was all for nothing…"

"Oh come on, it was for something," I said, a smirk lighting my face.

"Yeah? What's that?"

"I don't know," I said. "I just wanted to make you feel better."

"Jerk!" He tossed a pillow at my head.

"Bully!" I volleyed back, throwing one of my own and hitting his chest. It was only a few minutes before we were engaged in a full-fledged pillow fight, cackling with each satisfying thunk on the other's body.

"I beat you." I was lying on the floor, staring up at the loft ceiling.

"Did not." He rolled onto his side to face me.

"Admit that I won and we can go make out in your room." My eyes were still stuck on the ceiling, but I knew I was smiling.

"Resorting to bribery, are we, van der Woodsen?"

"The best kind of bribery, don't you agree?" I finally turned and saw him smiling back.

"Couldn't agree more. Victory is yours."