A/N: Well, my faithful readers, it is finally here. The last official chapter of Innocent Attraction. I want to thank all of you so much for continuing to come back and read and review. It means the world to me. A special shout out to Mary (scarlett2u) & Ellen (Dr. GG) for all your amazing, long detailed reviews. Sometimes your words alone motivate me to update. Hope you all enjoy this last bit and head on over to my profile to see what I'll be updating next & vote on what's being written in the more distant future. =) All your support means the world.
*I own nothing. No copyright infringement intended.
2 years later…
"Dorota!" Blair called from the bedroom, only to be met with absolute silence. "Dorota!" she called again, this time from the hall. Still, nothing. "Dorota!" she yelled, coming to a standstill at the top of the stairs.
The maid bustled into the foyer from the kitchen.
"Yes, Miss Blair?" she asked innocently, barely able to contain the multiple packages in her arms.
"Where have you been?" Blair seethed, even as she helped her made with her things when she reached the bottom of the stairs.
"I…I go out to get more food," she explained, following her mistress as she walked into the kitchen. "And also to threaten the uh…florist. Like you ask, Miss Blair," she said timidly.
Blair turned around and looked at her, almost amused, but then suddenly serious.
"She mixed up lilies with irises. Who does that?"
"No one I know of," Dorota muttered, as she finished setting the table and placing the food where it needed to be.
"People will be coming soon…" Blair mused, tapping her freshly manicured fingernails on the counter. "Everything appears to be ready…food is cooked, flowers are in place, Henry is napping, Chuck is…" Her brows furrowed. "Where is…"
"What wrong, Miss Blair?" Dorota asked hesitantly.
She didn't respond, but instead appeared to have heard something and then walked determined to the front door, swinging it wide open just as a very aggravated Chuck blew in past her. She had to fight for a moment to catch her breath. That was when she noticed an exasperated Lily Bass standing in their driveway.
"Dorota," she said, this time much softer as she turned to find her maid now right behind her. "Why don't you invite Lily in for some tea. Tell her I'll be down in a minute."
Dorota nodded once and moved past her mistress as she headed in the opposite direction, back up the stairs to her bedroom with Chuck.
He looked up before she even appeared in the doorway. His hair was now tousled, his tie was undone and his jacket hung open crookedly.
"Wanna tell me what happened?" she asked, tilting her head to the side to further analyze his dress-state.
He shook his head. "Just Lily trying to make it work with me and my father again," he scoffed. Blair nodded and walked to him, dropping herself in his lap and wrapping her arms loose around his neck as he instinctively cradled her to him.
"She just wants you to be a family again, for you to have a blood-family relationship that's good."
"Well, I don't need one." He gripped her slightly tighter. "I have you. And I have Lily. Serena and Eric, even Jack and I have a more solid relationship than anything I ever shared with Bart."
Gently, he pushed her off his lap and set her on the bed, starting to pace.
"I wish you would have just let me destroy him, Blair. Completely just…ruin his life."
"He's only brought me misery. To just give him what he wants…."
She stood up and walked to him again, stopping him, cupping his face fiercely.
"Chuck, it was the right thing to do." He looked away, frustrated, but she turned his gaze back to hers. "By not setting out to destroy him you showed him that it didn't matter what he thought, because you were going to be happy all on your own. You don't need his approval and you don't need his resources."
He searched her eyes and then finally some of the tension started to seep out.
"The high road," he said.
She smiled lightly. "Yes. And look what you've got from it. Plenty of real estate, in New York no less, built on your own money, your own experience, your own quality service. And he hasn't bothered you. He's not trying to destroy you. Lily may feel it's her obligation to try to fix the way things are, but the only one who can make that happen is Bart. It's not like you haven't been polite at social gatherings."
He nodded, wanted to accept it, believe she was right, but every time Lily came to him asking for an invitation to one thing or the next, just one more plus one, the past came rushing to him and he couldn't help but get angry at the one event he was sure would have mended all fences.
"He didn't come to our wedding, Blair," he said softly, his voice totally heartbroken. She ached for him, but the feeling was there for her too and after a moment she had to look away. "And it wasn't that he couldn't come. He wouldn't. I went to him later and asked—"
"I know," she tried to break him off but her breathless voice was too quiet.
"He said love was foolish and that I was wasting my life by marrying you instead of establishing a good reputation as a businessman."
Blair closed her eyes, and surprisingly a tear dripped down her face. When Chuck looked up at her, he was shocked and swiftly wiped it away, cradling her face in his hands.
"I didn't tell Lily," he said. "I couldn't. Not even to this day, not any time in the last two years she's prompted me to make amends, because he's my father and that should mean something."
She opened her eyes and blinked, knew the reasons why.
"You don't have to carry this burden anymore, Chuck. I…I invited her in." His hands dropped from her face and his brows furrowed, tentatively in anger. "She's downstairs," she whispered, sensing his severe change in mood.
"You invited her in?"
"She was going to come later for the party anyways. So, I just thought…"
He scoffed and went past her, created tainted wind around her.
"What am I supposed to tell her, Blair? Everything I just told you?" He sighed and turned back to look at her crumpled form. "It's Hen's first birthday today. I don't want to have to deal with my relationship with father or his relationship with Lily. It's too serious, too…dramatic. Today should be happy, light-hearted."
She turned to face him, offering a tiny smile, blinking the remains of her tears away.
"I want…" he slowly walked towards her. "to hold my bouncing baby boy in my arms and wish him a happy birthday."
Her smile spread a little.
"I want…to take my beautiful wife…" he reached her, pulled her to him with a firm exciting tug around her waist. "and kiss her until she can't think straight," he murmured in her ear. She made a quiet, content noise. He pressed a sweet kiss to her cheek and pulled back.
She sighed. "Please talk to her, Chuck."
He stared at her, not angry, but not saying anything either.
"Then it will be over with and we can enjoy the party. All of us. Then she'll be in the know and it will be up to Bart to do anything, and if he doesn't, then fine. But at least there won't be any secrets."
"Do you think she'll even really care if she knows he's only married to her for appearances?"
"Lily's fond of marriage," she said a little lightheartedly. "Sometimes she fights for them and sometimes she doesn't. If she really loves your father, she'll confront him and make him fight. If she doesn't, she'll let it slide and won't say a word. Something tells me it would take more than an emotionless man to make her break away. He's done nothing to her to show that he doesn't care."
He sighed and nodded. "He may be more complicated than I want to admit."
"You came from him," she said. "He can't be stone cold." She leaned forward and kissed him.
"I only melted cause you loved me," he murmured into the kiss.
She sighed contentedly and draped her arms around his neck, his hands instantly resting around her waist again.
"Love. Present tense."
He smiled. "Love. Present tense."
Her eyes twinkled as she pulled away and he finally consented.
"Alright. I'll talk to her."
She kissed him once more and sent him out the door looking slightly more put together than how she'd found him.
Lily had left shortly after her conversation with Chuck an hour ago. She hadn't returned yet and the party was in full swing, baby Henry being passed from one gushing "family friend" to the next, much to Chuck and Blair's chagrin. But overall everything was going well. There had been no food or floral or other concerning entanglements to cause any overwhelming chaos. The most "chaotic" thing was the overpowering amount of balloons Serena had burst through the front door with. And maybe the fact that Dan had slipped in at one point when Blair had been hoping he wouldn't show, even if she'd felt obligated to send an invitation to avoid any extended awkwardness in their future.
As for Chuck, his smiles were mainly for appearance, though they were completely genuine when he looked at his brown haired-brown eyed son who was sure looked everything like his wife and nothing like him, and so made every effort to dress him like himself as early as possible so people would see some similarity. Despite that people said, his wife included, that the child was a perfect combination of the two of them, he just couldn't see it most of the time. Though maybe that just came from him being so enraptured in his wife that he couldn't see much outside of her.
Chuck's thoughts still dwelt on Lily though. When he told her about his little conversation with Bart on his wedding day, she didn't seem surprised at all. But she didn't defend him either. She became very understanding and endearing very quickly though and promised Blair a pleasant chat later at the party because suddenly she felt the need to leave.
It still unsettled him.
"Time for the cake, everyone!"
He turned to watch his wife, glowing with pride as she set their baby boy into his high chair and encouraged the guests she considered most important to circle around the table and sing happy birthday. He smirked and pushed himself off the wall, heading into the room and standing at the far end of the table so he could watch his baby boy's expression when the candle was lit and the people began to sing. He was still enamored with the party hat and elastic strap beneath his chin that Serena had been insistent to Blair that he wore at least this once. After much repetitious begging, she consented.
Happy Birthday to you…
The singing began. Little Henry's eyes were all aglow, mesmerized by the flame. Blair was giddy with delight, crouching beside him as he looked on at the small cake made just for him.
Happy Birthday to you…Happy Birthday, dear Henry…
The front door opened on the last word, and with Blair's belated help baby Henry Bass blew out his first candle while Chuck froze in his spot, eyes narrowed, anger rebuilt and trudging forward to guide his father, Bart Bass, out of the dining room and down a far corridor.
Whispers spread throughout the room, but quickly dispersed as Henry dug his hand into the cake and Blair quickly assigned the dishing out of desserts to Dorota and a few other staff members. Hastily, she tried as best as she could to clean Henry up, but eventually resigned to the fact that he would dirty his hands and face as long as there was cake in front of him. She sat back and watched and smiled, for his sake, even as inwardly she was barely holding back.
"What are you doing here?" Chuck demanded.
"Nice to see you too, Charles. I see you're having a party."
"Get to the point," he snapped.
Bart looked at him coolly, assessing him. Chuck hated that.
"That is the point."
Chuck stared blankly.
"I talked to Lily. She…suggested I come to the party, that it would be good for me."
"I seem to recall other events she suggested that you firmly declined. My wedding, for instance."
"I wasn't in a good place, son." He placed his hand on his shoulder.
Chuck shrugged him off. "And suddenly you are? What's at risk for you now? Why are you here? I'm pretty sure the last time we had an actual conversation I was the scum of the earth to you."
"Don't be dramatic."
"Get out of my house."
"I'm trying to make a real effort here," he insisted.
"Why? Why now?"
He sighed. "Lily threatened to leave me."
He laughed. "Why should that bother you? It isn't as if you can't find another society wife that can fit the profile just as well. Of course, there is being rejected both dead and alive, but the media loves you. I'm sure you can pull it off."
"It isn't like that."
"We don't just look good in print or to New York society. I love her."
He snorted. "That's rich, dad. Really."
"You know, maybe once I could have believed you. But after two years of having your rejection because I chose love and a career, instead of just being a stone-cold, business tycoon like yourself, I find that hard to believe."
He pursed his lips tightly.
"My first marriage didn't end well. I didn't want it to be that way for you."
"Your relationship with my mother was nothing like mine is with Blair," he said firmly. "It was messy and manipulative, and while Blair and I have definitely dealt with those complications, when we finally got married, when we had a baby, that wasn't there anymore. That was done."
"I know. I see that now."
Chuck's eyes narrowed, analyzing his father further.
"You could have just told Lily you had come, made up an elaborate story that she would believe. She can be gullible, you know. Sometimes she only hears what she wants to."
He sighed. "It wouldn't have been the same. It wouldn't have been real. I want it to be real with her."
"I got a different impression on my wedding day."
"I apologize for my actions. I must admit I was being selfish because everything was working out for you, and you didn't follow the rules."
"I didn't do what you wanted me to, you mean."
"So, why now?"
He sighed. "I found this in our mail this morning." He handed an opened envelope with a card nestled inside to him. "The address must have gotten mixed up somehow."
Chuck looked at it suspiciously, but then reluctantly took it and pulled out the card to read it.
I don't know if you remember me, but I have not stopped thinking about you since the day you saved my precious Charlie from that dreadful near car accident two years ago. I have managed to find out some news of you and cannot tell you how proud I am to be carrying the same name as your son, which I hope you came up with on your own and not in remembrance of me. Monte Carlo is not the same without you and should you ever return to our island of the world, please do visit. I wish you all the best.
"Is this man of some significance to you?" Bart asked, noticing the tears welling up in Chuck's eyes in the sentimental smile.
"Yes," was all he said as he tucked the card back inside its envelope.
"I would like to be a part of your life, Charles. I don't want you to have to look for parents elsewhere when I am here, and when I did in fact only risk my life before because I was concerned for your safety and for Lily's. I'd forgotten that."
That admission somehow started to soften Chuck's heart.
"I am very proud of all that you've accomplished," he said very seriously.
"And I know I'm not good at showing my emotions, especially any sort of genuine love and affection. I have never known for it to truly benefit career and success on its own. But after two regretful years on my part, I can see that it has granted both you and Blair great success. I am…sorry I ever doubted."
Chuck hesitated and finally looked at his father, making his decision even as his heart squeezed.
"You have to apologize to Blair."
"Yes, of course."
"She didn't deserve what you did to her, how you treated her, even if it's in the past."
Chuck sighed and tucked the card inside his jacket. Then he re-entered the dining room where most people were still eating and headed for Blair who had just finished cleaning up Henry and had left him in the care of a bubbly Dorota to avoid any more stickiness before present-opening.
Blair looked relieved when she saw him, but then wary when she saw Bart coming behind him.
"Chuck, what is—"
"My father has something he would like to say to you, Blair."
Her eyes widened as she looked between the two and then finally back to Bart.
"I've been a fool, Blair. I doubted your potential, your love for my son and how great of an influence you have been on him and everyone around you. I'm sorry for my words two years ago and my actions since then. Will you forgive me?"
Her mouth opened and closed. She looked again to Chuck who gave her a nod of confirmation. She swallowed and forced a tight smile.
"It won't be easy, Mr. Bass, but I'm sure in time both Chuck and I can forgive you. The important thing is that you make a good impression on Henry."
Chuck's eyes dashed to hers.
"It would be a shame if the kind of pain you inflicted on Chuck would ever have to be passed on to him."
He nodded once. "Thank-you, Blair. I am forever thankful." He moved past them and into the party where he soon found Lily who had apparently come in right under their noses. Both Chuck and Blair wondered if there had been some conspiracy in the works. There never seemed to be, but it certainly did seem awful coincidental.
"Are you okay?" Blair asked Chuck, staring at Bart and Lily's interactions.
"I think so. You?"
She turned to look at him.
"I think so."
He softened and brought her to him, kissed her and then moved his mouth to her ear.
"Where's my baby boy?"
She raised an eyebrow when he pulled back.
"Probably in the living room now, pulling at ribbons and Serena's hair. Why?" Her gaze shifted to the seductive. "Did you have something in mind?"
Her eyes twinkled and he decided holding his son during present opening or even after everyone had left when it could be just them boys was an excellent idea.
"Mrs. Bass," he teased. "You're naughty."
She shrugged and bit her bottom lip. "Comes with the territory." She batted her eyelashes and a fire brewed in both their bellies.
And she was upstairs, in their bedroom, being slammed against the closet door and ravaged by her husband as the loud chatter of people talking and Henry giggling and pounding blocks downstairs concealed the muffled screams and growling emanating from the upstairs.
Their attraction wasn't innocent. Not at all.
A/N: I hope it was satisfactory for you! If not, well, what's done is done. XD Next up I will be finishing up Softspoken and throwing in a one-shot or two. As always, thanks again for your dedication and reviews. Means the world. =)