VARIATIONS ON A THEME: LA VIE EN ROSE

Summary: Four rose-tinted glimpses into the lives of Chuck Bass and Blair Waldorf, all set in or near one famous (or infamous) limo, from 2009 to 2032. My Limoversary fic, one month later. Dedicated to Danielle, for her perseverance, and because she's just awesome.

Disclaimer: I own nothing in the Gossip Girl universe, not even (sadly) Chuck or Nate. Major props to Cecily von Ziegesar, the CW, the producers, actors, and crew, and everyone involved with bringing these amazing characters to life.

AUTUMN

November 2009.

Two years later.

It had been an exhausting autumn, Blair reflected, walking down Fifth Avenue two days before her nineteenth birthday. Chuck had told her that she didn't need to put anything on hold, as she'd described what she wanted in detail, and he'd had it commissioned, but suggested that she should also feel free to take herself shopping as well.

When she asked Chuck to come with her the night before, and tried her most seductive best to convince him, he told her he was tied up in meetings for the Empire after they were resting in the afterglow, intertwined on the pool table at his new penthouse. Blair, who thought she'd won, was furious. She stormed out to the strains of Chuck's "our reservations for dinner tomorrow are at eight – don't be late."

(Of course, although she punished him by going back to the dorms, that night, they ended up sexting until he was suddenly pounding on her door, and fortunately, there was no more Georgina, so...)

They didn't get out of bed until eleven that morning.

Blair felt too tired to shop. She was constantly studying for exams and writing papers, supporting Chuck as much as she could, finding her way at NYU, and worried about her friendship with Serena. But she thought she might as well give her favorite pasttime the old college try.

When she left the fifth store, heading toward Tiffany's, Blair knew she wasn't herself. It was the day before her birthday, Thanksgiving would be later in the month, and Chuck was coming to spend the holiday with her, her parents and stepparents in Paris. She was secretly excited about it... she knew that their relationship was serious, but Chuck had always been holiday averse because of his upbringing. So she was nervous. Everything had to go well. She wanted her parents and stepdads to love Chuck as much as she did.

Why was she so depressed, then? What was going on?

"Waldorf," said a familiar voice.

Blair looked over her shoulder and smiled. Turning around, she walked over to the limo that was parked on the side of the street.

"Chuck!" Blair grinned as the telltale sound of the latch clicking signaled that the door was unlocked. Before she could open it, her boyfriend was out of the vehicle, and greeting her with a kiss.

"Thought you were too busy to come shopping with me today."

"My meeting didn't run as long as anticipated." Another kiss, this time, more tender and loving. "I wanted to take you out for lunch."

"But how did you find me? I told you I was thinking about venturing down to SoHo..."

"I'll always find you."

Blair felt as if all the clouds around her had suddenly lifted. "Someday, Bass, I'm going to find the tracking device you've implanted under my skin."

"And it would be my pleasure to... assist you in that search," Chuck said. "Shall we?"

Blair let him help her into the limo. And...

"Oh, my God! Chuck!"

For the entire limousine was filled with bouquets of roses. Every rose variety that Blair could ever think of was in there – beautiful pink English roses, lovely yellow tea roses, white Anna rosebuds, Delilah roses so fuchsia they almost seemed lavender, and glorious Grandiflora velvety deep red roses.

Chuck explained. "The damned florist's peonies looked like filthy cabbages today," he said. "They delivered them this morning, but Arthur returned them. They were very apologetic, and although I told them my lady believes that roses are clichéd, I decided they'd have to do."

"I don't dislike roses," corrected Blair, cradling his face in her small hands. "In fact, I love all kinds of flowers, you know that. You always bring me peonies, so it's actually a refreshing change." She kissed him gently. "How sweet of you to do this for my birthday, Chuck..."

"Actually, this isn't for your birthday. This is for another anniversary... one that for all our games, we didn't get to celebrate last year," he said.

It only took Blair two seconds before the fire in his eyes was mirrored in her own.

"You remembered."

"I'll never forget," he whispered huskily against her ear, starting a path of kisses down her jaw. "There's no gift that I could ever give that would equal what you gave me two years ago today."

Blair's hands gripped his shoulders as he lowered her back onto the leather seat. "I... you and I... there's been so much since then. I was so nervous, so new... you told me it wasn't that great, anyway..."

"It was the greatest night of my life," he assured her, removing her coat, then unbuttoning her blouse, steadily but with an urgency that matched her own. "I love you, Blair."

"I love you, Chuck," she whispered. "So much... you have no idea."

In response, he selected a perfect, red rose from the nearest bouquet. All the better to trail its rich, soft petals from the hollow of her throat, all the way down to the waistband of her skirt.

"Oh? Perhaps this is an... idea... we should explore. After all," he made short work of her skirt, single rose still igniting soft trails along her heated skin, "I believe you said you were up for a treasure hunt before our lunch. Something about a tracking device... let's look for it, shall we?"

As the rose petals brushed against the crotch of her La Perlas, Blair shivered.

They never made it to lunch that day.

Or dinner, either.

And Blair Waldorf never looked at roses quite the same way again.

WINTER

February, 2014

Seven years later.

The Valentine's Day snowstorm was being billed as the next "Snowpocalypse." Normally, New Yorkers would ignore any and all such hyperbole, but after the crazy weather events of 2012 and 2013, most people decided to steer clear of the city who otherwise would have ignored such a scare. The climate had been unpredictable enough, and no one wanted to be traveling during a blizzard.

So things were unusually quiet after midnight at the Empire Hotel, despite a smashing (if not overly crowded) Fashion Week soiree earlier in the evening celebrating Eleanor Waldorf Designs' newest line. Blair's B for Waldorf junior line had been a surprise hit a year and a half before, and now, the early buzz for her new ready-to-wear collection was all very positive.

The last of the guests, Nate and Serena, had just left, purportedly to beat the coming storm back to the Upper East Side, where they were sharing an apartment. Blair and Chuck planned to stay overnight in the penthouse, then once the roads were clear, would head back over to their elegant new multi-story townhouse with a beautiful view of the Park.

Soon, the staff were done with clean-up in Gimlet, the bar, and all the lounges where the party had been held. The bartender, Horace, was putting on his hat when he saw Blair, and waved good-bye.

"The bar had a great night in spite of the storm. You and your man throw a great party, Miss Blair," said the older African American man.

"Thanks," she said. "Speaking of which, where is that man of mine? I haven't seen him for at least an hour."

"He's doing the rounds, just like you are. Well, I'm going to get out of here... have a good night, Miss Blair!"

"You too, Horace," said Blair. "Never mind the lights, I'll be sure to turn them down."

There was nothing quite like a hotel after hours. It was something that Chuck had known since childhood, something that he had taught Blair during the year that they'd dated, and every day now that they were husband and wife. Blair was now on a first-name basis with many of the staff at the Empire, and was getting to know others. She marveled at the way that Chuck knew everyone, though. If there was ever a born hotelier, it was her husband.

She wandered down the hall, smoothing down the sides of her Waldorf original ballgown as she went. The front of the gown was high, but the back was cut dangerously low and hemmed with red silk roses...

And that's when she heard it. Someone was playing the piano in the lounge at Gimlet, making one of Blair's favorite songs their own. Although she wasn't sure if the hired piano player had left yet, she had her suspicions...

Which proved to be correct. For there, playing in the dimly lit, plush abandoned lounge, was Chuck, seeming completely relaxed as he played the familiar song. His jacket was draped on one side of the grand piano, but his shirt was still nearly as starched and crisp as it had been when Blair had buttoned it (back) on several hours before. Topping it all was a bowtie of the same red silk of her dress...

Quand il me prend dans ses bras

Il me parle tout bas

Je vois la vie en rose...

Il me dit des mots d'amour

Des mots de tous les jours

Et ça me fait quelque chose...

Blair couldn't resist. Walking slowly into the room, she began humming the romantic song. Chuck looked up at her, briefly, and smirked. But he didn't miss a beat.

Il est entré dans mon coeur

Une part de bonheur

Dont je connais la cause...

C'est lui pour moi

Moi pour lui dans la vie

Il me l'a dit, l'a juré pour la vie...

Blair slid down next to him on the piano seat in her dress of silk roses, resting the hand that wore his Harry Winston lightly on his shoulder as he played. Whispering the English translation of the lyrics into his ear, softly...

When he takes me in his arms
He speaks to me in a low voice,
And I see life as if it were rose-tinted.

He whispers words that declare to me his love
Words of the everyday
And that does something to me.

He has entered into my heart
A piece of happiness
the cause of which I know full well.

It's him for me, me for him in life
He said that to me, he swore to me "forever"...

As her lips caressed his strong jaw, Chuck missed a note or two, but kept playing. "Trying to distract me, wife?"

"I thought you said I was a distraction," Blair teased. "Just doing my job..."

All of a sudden, Chuck stopped playing. One minute later, Blair was perched on his lap and his arms were wrapped around her.

"Happy Valentine's Day, lover."

"Actions speak louder than words," she purred. "Come upstairs and make love to me, Chuck."

"No."

Frown. "No? You're actually refusing me?" There was a note of warning in her voice.

In response, her husband lifted her to sit atop the piano.

"Never."

"Chuck... the staff..."

Reaching under her exquisite gown, he found the straps of her soaked thong.

"They know better than to come back here, if they value their employment," he grated out, sliding her panties down. Bringing her hips forward so that she was perched right on the edge of the piano, he stopped her from unsnapping a garter from one translucent, backseamed stocking.

"Uh-uh... don't you dare... you know how much I adore them." Instead, he was sliding off her Louboutin stilettos, first one, then the other, allowing them to drop to the carpeted floor beneath the piano. Kissing her right instep, then her ankle, Chuck slowly made his way up her leg, rolling up the gown and revealing more of her perfect porcelain skin as he went.

She moaned and cried out as she felt his breath on her center, making her already heated core turn molten hot. But instead of claiming his prize, his lips landed at the center of her inner left thigh, kissing his way back down.

"Chuck," she said in her best Queen B voice.

Devilish amber eyes looked back up at her. "What?"

"You know what," she snapped. Trapping her full bottom lip between pearly white teeth, and twirling a lustrous brown curl around a finger, leaving her other hand on the piano top as leverage.

Chuck stood up, leaning over her. "Ah. Do forgive me..."

And his lips descended on hers, tongue plunging into her mouth, stealing her thoughts, leaving her lightheaded, dizzy, breathless. (Even though that wasn't exactly what she'd had in mind for his mouth... and he knew it, the Basstard.)

Reaching for the thin straps of the gown, he tugged them down, and her breasts spilled out of the bodice. Blair threw her head back as his lips burned a fiery path down the column of her throat, traced her collarbone, then fastened on one aching, pebble-hard nipple...

"Des nuits d'amour..." Blair moaned, quoting the song lyrics that were thrumming in her head as he switched from one breast to another, "...à plus finir."

May the nights where we make love never end.

At the sound of her voice, Chuck could take no more. He freed himself quickly, and thrust into his wife, burying himself deeply into her warmth, hard, as deeply as he could go...

"Heureux, heureux à en mourir," he groaned against her lips.

Content, content to die of it...

Well, they didn't exactly die that night. And eventually, their lovemaking session on that piano did have to end. But it didn't until the snowstorm began later in the hour, and about fifteen minutes later, the power went out.

And the owner of the hotel, along with his lovely lady, were nowhere to be found until they were ready. Blair did murmur at some point that they really should check on the staff, but Chuck insisted that the generators would come online, and within five minutes, they did.

But the elevators were all out. They learned that once they finally pulled themselves together and made their way to the lobby. As Blair lounged comfortably on one of the chaises in the lobby, wrapped in her husband's tuxedo jacket, Chuck took a phone call from the manager, who was frustrated that the mechanics wouldn't be able to come out until first thing in the morning.

"Unacceptable," said Chuck. "Especially if you expect the Empire to renew our contract with your company."

"Mr. Bass, we're sorry, but the roads are impassable. There isn't anything we can do. The latest we'll be there is seven or eight in the morning, long before most of your guests are awake. "

By the time Chuck finished with his phone call, Blair was asleep. He kissed her on the cheek gently as he shook her awake.

"Elevators still down?" she yawned.

"Yes," he said.

Blair sat up, covering another yawn. "Well, there's nothing else we can do. Guess we ought to start the long climb..."

"No," said Chuck.

"No?"

"I have a better idea."

And the keys to the limo were dangling from his hand.

So that night, Chuck and Blair Bass slept in the back of a heated, Arthurless limo for the first time. And in the dawn, when they awoke and defrosted the windows, they found themselves in a winter wonderland. Quiet, almost desolate.

As if they were the only two people in the world.

Des yeux qui font baisser les miens
Un rire qui se perd sur sa bouche
Voilà le portrait sans retouche
De l'homme auquel j'appartiens.

SPRING

May, 2021

Fourteen years later.

It had been a long time since Chuck and Blair Bass had the chance to take a vacation together without the children. Theirs was a marriage of soulmates, but it was also the marriage of two powerful CEOs with expanding empires: hers in fashion, his in real estate. Bass Industries had tripled in size from the time Chuck had first inherited it, while Waldorf Designs was now the premier American fashion house.

They also had three beautiful children. Henry, their eldest, was now six years old, the heir apparent and the light of their lives. A handsome little lad, he was quick, intelligent, and had inherited his father's smirk and swagger, along with his mother's stubbornness and doe brown eyes. As if their joy hadn't been complete with him, there were now also their beautiful three-year-old fraternal twin daughters to bring them even more happiness as parents. Ellie, the eldest by four minutes, short for Eleanor Charlotte, was much like her namesake grandmother in temperament, although her smouldering looks were more akin to Chuck's. The baby girl twin, Lia, short for Lillian Cornelia, was quiet and sweet on the outside, but as subtle and calculating as any Bass, and as dominant and exacting as any Waldorf before her. Everyone called her "the mini Blair."

Usually when they had to travel for business, the children and staff would come with them. If Chuck or Blair had to go out of town alone, they tried to limit their time away from the family to seventy-two hours or less. (Chuck, who owned several hotels in Asia and the Middle East had this down to a science, scheduling the meetings strategically so that he could sleep on the plane going and coming. Blair did the same whenever she had to visit the atelier in France.) As much as they wanted to continue being successful in the business world, their young family was their top priority.

But Chuck's thirtieth birthday was on the horizon, and so was a long-overdue trip to the Bass hotel in Osaka. Blair mentioned it casually to Serena during one of the children's playdates in the park.

"So we'll probably be gone for two weeks, ten days at the very mininum. I just hate to pull Henry out of school for that long. He's really enjoying it and he's so smart."

Serena was shaking her head. "B, don't pull him. He can stay here with us. Sam loves having him over as much as Chloe loves the girls." Samantha was Serena and Dan's four year old daughter, and her little sister, Chloe was two. "In fact, why don't you let all the kids stay with us? This way, you and Chuck can have a break, celebrate his thirtieth the right way."

Blair sniffed. "I just had a party for my thirtieth. With my kids in attendance..."

"I know, and I also know that Mom offered to take the kids then. Come on, Blair, stop being Superwoman!"

Her best friend's eyes rolled. "One of us has to! After all, every time my kids and I visit Lily, guess whose kids are already there? That's right, the Humphreys! Heaven forbid my brood get any Grandma Lily time..."

Now it was Serena's turn to roll her eyes. "Whatever, Blair. Offer still stands."

In the end, it was the twins' ear infections that made Blair take Serena up on it... although she almost didn't leave them.

"I'm a terrible mother," moaned Blair as their limo pulled away from the Humphrey brownstone on the Upper West Side. "My babies are sick, and I'm going to be thousands of miles away from them. Lock me up and throw away the key, Chuck."

Chuck was amused by his wife's antics. Secretly, he was glad to have her alone for a change... and felt not a single bit of guilt over that little fact. He and Blair were the parents that they'd wished they had. Their kids were the envy of their peers, much like their marriage was. What the hell did they have to feel badly about?

"Blair, although the doctor said they probably shouldn't fly just yet, our darling girls are nearly recovered. Recall that when we left them, just five minutes ago, they weren't in tears or clinging, but running around that Humphrey hovel, howling like banshees with Samantha and Chloe. Meanwhile, Henry is painting, talking his aunt's ear off..."

Blair laughed. "...And begging to be taken to Uncle Nate's before 'Dan' gets home. He still can't stand Humphrey! Thought he'd grow out of it..."

"Like father, like son. What can I say? Basses are discerning about the company they keep." He kissed the top of her head. "Speaking of keys, here's something new for your key bracelet."

Out from his briefcase came a distinctive Tiffany blue box. Blair's face lit up as she took the gift.

"You spoil me."

"You were already spoiled rotten, lover, as was I," drawled Chuck. "Open it."

Blair did. Inside was the most beautiful diamond rose charm, set in pure platinum...

"I love it," said Blair happily. "But Chuck, all of the charms you've given me symbolize something important. Something to do with Mother or Cyrus?"

"No..."

"Then why a rose?"

"Why a rose? Surely you haven't forgotten our 'limoversary' in 2009..."

Blair instantly blushed at the memory.

"...and all of our limoversaries since then, except the one right after Henry was born, and the past two with the girls. You loved my... roses so much that you insisted, no, demanded that I re-enact that very scenario every year..."

"Perhaps," cooed Blair. Then, "So?"

"Also, recall Valentine's Day seven years ago, when you and I were snowed in at the Empire..."

Blair's eyes dropped from his, with mock maiden modesty, smiling sweetly.

"And after that, from that day to this, you've insisted on keeping a vase of freshly cut roses on our piano."

"Any old vase will do," Blair whispered vixenishly. "Because we've broken at least a dozen since I implemented that little rule."

"You say that peonies are your favorite, and they are... they still are. But you also love hydrangeas, and baby's breath, and roses too. The peonies are you. The roses are us."

In response, Blair climbed on his lap, pushing him back on the seat. Tiffany's box momentarily forgotten.

"But peonies and roses are us, Chuck," she insisted. "And hydrangeas... and orchids... and every flower there is..."

Their session in the backseat on the way to the airport was just the first of a getaway to remember. Chuck's meetings in Osaka only lasted for a couple of days, during which Blair visited the spa, went sightseeing, and read on the balcony. Then the Basses embarked on a tour of some of Japan's most famous places.

On Chuck's birthday, they ended up in the Kusabue-no-Oka Rose Garden, in Sakura, Japan. Less than 50 kilometers away from cosmopolitan Tokyo, Sakura was an oasis of peace and quiet. The rose garden there was one of the most famous in the world, and Chuck and Blair took full advantage of the solitude, walking along the lanes, enjoying the beautiful scenery and the perfect spring day under a cloudless sky.

It was in the evening, just before sunset, that they found themselves sitting on a bench in the History of the Rose section of the garden. They'd stopped talking a while before, just enjoying each other's presence, hand in hand.

Suddenly, Blair lifted her hand from Chuck's shoulder.

"Chuck, I want to ask you something."

"Anything," he said without hesitation. "Just say it, and it's yours."

"Will you marry me?"

He slanted a glance at her. "What?"

"I want to know if you'll marry me... all over again."

His answer was not in words at first. But after five minutes, they broke their kiss... after all, they weren't at home in New York or more liberal France, but in a public garden in Japan.

"Marry you? Of course I would," Chuck rasped. "Blair, you're everything to me."

"I know, but I didn't ask if you would," she said tenderly. "I asked if you will."

He smiled, his eyes lighting up. "You want to renew our vows?"

She nodded. "This summer, Chuck. I want to marry you all over again this summer. It's been eight years since I became your wife, and I still feel like your bride. I want everyone to know that... I want to have the wedding that I should have given you all those years ago, Chuck. Cathedral, dress, reception... only now, our son can be ring bearer, and our precious little daughters can be our flower girls."

"I don't deserve you," was his response.

"I don't deserve you, either... which is why we work so well together, Bass."

"Touche, Waldorf."

SUMMER

May, 2032

Twenty-five years later.

Of all the places that Lia Bass liked around the world, one of her very favorites was her grandfathers' chateau near Lyon, France. Every summer of her life, she and her family would spend a week there just before going home to the Hamptons. After her grandfather Harold passed away when she and her sister were just ten, and grandpere Roman moved back to Paris, the Basses would spend a month or more at the place that Blair loved so much.

This year, instead of going to California with their parents, Sam, Chloe, and their little brother Rudy came to Lyon too... along with their older cousin Al Archibald (Henry's best friend), and Dexter Baizen (Al's friend and Henry's rival). Henry and Dex would be seniors at St. Jude's in the fall, Al a St. Jude's junior, Sam a Constance sophomore, and Ellie and Lia would be freshmen.

Unbeknownst to the adults, Ellie and Dex were in the midst of a torrid romance. Dex was a notorious playboy, but was trying to reform for Ellie's sake... Ellie refused to go beyond second base with him, because, as she told him "I want to stay a virgin until I'm at least sixteen." Dex agreed (although he secretly thought to convince her otherwise), so they were turning sneaking around into an art form.

That suited Sam and Lia, the only ones who knew, just fine. Sam Humphrey and Lia Bass were best friends, and everyone at Constance knew it. Everyone at Constance also knew that Henry Bass was in love with Sam Humphrey, and Al Archibald was in love with Lia Bass, although Henry Bass didn't suspect Al's feelings for Lia. Because everyone who was anyone on the Upper East Side knew that Henry did not play when it came to his twin sisters... and so the news that his best friend liked his little sister would mean drama, drama, and more drama. Not since the days of the infamous Gossip Girl in their parents' generation had there been this much drama.

It was going to be the best school year ever.

But before school began, there was the endless summer to get through. And before the long summer days and nights in the Hamptons was the month in France.

"Here's a crown for you, Queen Lia," laughed Sam, placing the floral wreath on her friend's beautiful chestnut waves. "You will soon rule the school."

"It's not funny," Lia insisted. "I learned game theory from the best... my mom and dad! Everything has to be perfect, Sam."

Sam blinked her starry blue eyes, just like her mother's, and pushed a stray lock of black hair, the same shade as her father's, behind one ear. "Perfection is your middle name, Lia. It comes naturally to you. I don't see that changing once you get to the Upper School."

"I know, but I've heard so many stories from my mom about her high school days," she said. "Being the child of Blair Waldorf Bass is a hard act to follow, you know that, right?"

"Um, yes. I'm no stranger to high expectations. You forget that your mom is my Auntie B and your dad's my Uncle Chuck. And if that isn't enough, I'm the eldest daughter of famous novelist and journalist Dan Humphrey and the exquisite Serena van der Woodsen, who was supposedly... what do the girls at school say?... the most 'beautiful girl on the Upper East Side' in her day. Right before they ask 'ugh, Sam, what happened?' and cackle their evil little heads off."

Lia frowned. "You're beautiful too, Sam..." she trailed off wistfully. Sam was divine... what Lia wouldn't do for hair and eyes and height and boobs and legs like her best friend's! "But it's like my mom says... you don't do anything with it! You're even worse than Auntie S was!"

"Whatever," shrugged Sam, plunging down into the grass of the garden, cross-legged. "I'm more like my dad. I don't care about stupid clothes... between your Mom and Aunt Jenny, I've been around clothes all my life. They're nothing special. I'd just rather hang back, observe things, read, and write. And I don't care what the girls at school say about me."

"But reputation is everything," said Lia, biting her lip as she sat down on an ancient stone bench. "Uncle Dan pretends not to care about stuff, but he cares more than he lets on. He cares that Henry and Dad don't like him..."

"Does not!"

"Does too," said Lia, sticking out her tongue. "Anyway, that's my point... you care about what people think too! There's so much about life that we can't control, why not do something about the things we can?"

Their talk was interrupted by the sound of horses, galloping into the garden. The girls (both excellent riders themselves) were so startled that they screamed, running through the garden...

...until they saw who was chasing them. Henry was leading the pack on his prized black Arabian stallion, Emir, followed closely behind by Al on his white Thoroughbred, Constantine. Ambling behind was Dex Baizen on one of the Waldorf mares... with Ellie Bass before him on the saddle, laughing as her hair flew everywhere.

Sam's hands were on her hips. "Henry, this isn't funny!"

"Sure it is," he drawled. "You should've seen the look on your face."

"I can't wait to see the look on yours when your mother sees what you've done to your grandfathers' garden," she said smugly, whirling around...

...only to receive a smack on her rear end from his riding crop.

Red-faced, she turned around. When Sam was just a baby, Dan Humphrey nicknamed his daughter Star because of her dark looks and spectacular eyes... just then, she was a supernova.

"I am not your horse, Henry Bass!" she spat.

"The don't turn your back on me next time, Samantha Humphrey," he drawled arrogantly.

"There won't be a next time!"

"Sure there will... argh!"

For Lia had grabbed a garden hose and turned it on, and was now spraying her brother and his best friend. The horses bucked, and Dex and Ellie were laughing. Vindicated, Sam joined in.

"What is going on here?"

Blair came around the corner and into the garden, a force of nature despite her stature. Behind her, Jenny, who'd come down from Paris for some industry talk with Blair and to spend some quality time with her son and husband, was shaking her head.

No one said anything. (Ellie quickly scrambled off Dex's horse, though.)

"Nothing, Mother," said Henry. As the eldest, he was often appointed to speak for everyone.

"Nothing? Nothing? So 'nothing' is the reason why your grandfather's two hundred year old garden is half trampled? Why the horses are drenched and frightened?"

"Aw, Aunt B!" said Al. "It's not that bad."

"Alexander, honey, sometimes it's better to be silent and to be mistaken as a fool," said Jenny, "than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

Al groaned. "Mom, we were just having a little fun. It's boring here."

"Boring, is it? Well, when your father gets here this evening, you can tell him just how boring everything is, and how ungrateful and ungracious of a guest you've been to the Basses. I'm sure he'd love to discuss what will happen to the rest of your summer, including your pilot's license."

"That goes for all of you," said Blair, ignoring Al's exclamations of "aw, Mom, c'mon!" toward Jenny. "Lia, put that hose away, and boys, you have ten minutes to have those horses corralled again. Sam, Ellie, come inside. It's time for dinner, and as we have no staff other than Cook tonight, I'd like my table set... after you clean up. Lia, after you do as I've asked, you may join us."

Everyone scattered off, no one daring to challenge Blair (they never dared). Lia walked slowly over towards the ancient pump, rolling the hose as she went, lost in thought. She was embarrassed that her mother saw her acting so... so undignified. Dignity was everything to a Bass, and to a Waldorf, too. Unlike Ellie, Lia cared about that sort of thing...

Which is why she walked straight into Al Archibald.

Whose arms closed around her.

"Oh, sorry," she said, feeling uneasy around this boy whom she'd known all her life. "I didn't see you."

"That's not a surprise," said Al. "You haven't seen me a lot lately."

"Well, you have your life, Alexander, and I have mine," said Lia, feeling out of her depth when she looked up into his eyes. (Where Sam's blue eyes were starry, Al's were sparkling.)

"Well, Lillian, our families are summering together," mocking her formal tone, "and you're coming to Constance in the fall. Funny how lives can change all of a sudden."

Lia felt all swoony and silly suddenly. Which wouldn't do. She was going to be Queen in the fall... nothing could distract her from that, especially not some stupid blond... tall... handsome... athletic... junior.

"What do you want, Alexander?" she snapped, perhaps more harshly than she'd intended.

He stared down at her, almost as if he was taking a mental snapshot. Then:

"This."

And there was nothing in the world, except his lips on hers. It was Lia's very first kiss, and oh, what a kiss it was. Her head spun, she couldn't breathe, there was nothing but the scent of roses and the sensation of him...

"Alexander," said a deep, rumbling voice.

They broke apart and looked up. Apparently both of their fathers had chosen that as a moment to come back from town, and were walking up the hill from toward the house for dinner. From her vantage point, Lia could see the limo on the main road, pulling towards the garage. (Lia's Dad had actually found a limo in France much like their familiar family vehicle that was seen on the streets of Manhattan, carrying the Bass family wherever they needed to go.)

Nate looked amused, while Chuck looked furious.

"Dad," stammered Lia. "I..."

"Go to the house," said Chuck. "I'll talk to you later."

"But Dad... Al didn't..."

"Lillian, now."

And Lia went. Her father rarely called her by her full first name, but when he did, she knew she'd gone too far.

"Don't kill him, Dad," called Lia. "He's not worth it."

"Don't worry, Li," said Nate. "I won't let anything happen to him. If only because he's the only kid I have."

With those words, Lia relaxed. She was Nate's favorite Bass child, and always had been. (Although she thought Hen and Ellie might have something to say about that!)

Heading into the house, Lia made her way upstairs, expecting to find Sam and Ellie in the front bedroom. When she didn't, she wandered down the hall, and found the girls trying on things in her mother's closet.

"...have to look perfect, and Mom won't mind," Ellie was saying to Sam. "I'm nearly her size anyway, and some of these haven't been worn for years! Instant vintage couture!"

"How about this one?" said Sam, pulling out a beautiful yellow dress.

"Too short," said Lia, interrupting their conversation. "Dad just got home. He'll just make you change!"

"Whatever," said Sam. "Uncle Chuck has to let you grow up sometime..."

"Um, Sam? I think our father is going to become the first ever gadzillonaire precisely so he can force us not to." She was still reeling over the fact that Al had kissed her, and her dad and his dad had seen it.

"Nonsense, Li," Sam snapped. "He's going to want grandchildren someday."

"Oh, he's going to have grandchildren," Lia snarked. "The second you and Henry stop fighting and grow up, you're going to have plenty of them with him..."

Ellie squealed with laughter. "Oh, good one, sis!"

Sam was not amused. "I hate your awful brother, Lia! Take that back!"

"I will not," said Lia matter-of-factly. "You're going to be our real sister someday. Ellie, put that damned dress back on the hanger. I've got an outfit that'll get past Dad, but that Dex will love."

"As much as Al is going to love that crown of roses on your hair," snapped Sam. "Come on, Chlo's already downstairs."

Lia for once didn't say anything. Instead, she blushed deeply, taking the wreath off, petals flying everywhere as the girls raced back to their room.

It was much later that evening that Blair found the petals on the floor of the closet. Her lips curved into a smile at first, thinking that Chuck was planning a surprise. Then, looking at the state of her clothing, she recalled the wreath that had been in her daughter's hair... and figured the girls must have been there.

Dinner had been a wonderful affair. Serena had called just afterward, saying that she missed her kids, and Dan had to hop over to Germany to work on a story anyway, so they'd be arriving by the weekend. Then they all had dessert and drinks in the garden, Blair and Chuck, along with Nate and Jenny, as the kids hung out around the grounds.

"They're all growing up too fast," Nate had said. "It wasn't too long ago that we were the kids."

"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose," quoted Blair, taking up her glass of wine with one hand, resting the other on Chuck's thigh. "How's your mother doing?"

"Not too well," said Nate grimly, arm tightening around his wife's shoulders as she stroked his face. "When we head out of here, we'll be going back to the Hamptons. Mom wants to see Alex, spend some time with her grandson."

"All my thoughts are with her," was Blair's reply. "We were so scared about Cyrus a few years ago, but he was able to pull through and now he's as good as ever. I hope the same for your mom, Nate."

Picking up the petals, Blair thought about how fast and fleeting life could seem... but also, how long. For it was almost twenty-five years ago when her father had first bought this house, a home for him and his lover... a home with a beautiful suite for his little girl Blair, and a dear little cat named Cat. Twenty-five years later, her father was gone, and so was Cat, but she was now a mother herself.

Moving into the small study area of the master suite, Blair found one of her summer diaries, turned to a blank section, and pressed the petals there. Perhaps one of her children's children, or one of their grandchildren, would someday find the roses of yesteryear, long after she was gone.

"Blair?"

As always, her husband's voice called her to him, pulled her out of her reverie. She went into their shared bedroom. Chuck was already underneath the covers, in his silk pajamas.

"Here I am," she said softly. "Are you tired? You must be. You and Nate flew all night... we were surprised when you went into the village..."

"Needed to talk a few things over with Nathaniel. And I'm never too tired for you," he said. "Come to bed... come be with me."

Without another word, she did, snuggling close, enjoying his warmth as she had over their nearly twenty years of marriage. "I'm always with you," she whispered. "And I always will be. What's on your mind?"

"Blair, I..." He trailed off. "Today, I saw Alex kissing Lia."

"Oh? I'm sure it's not the first time..."

"What?"

Giggle. "I'm kidding, my love. Well, Alex is sixteen, and Lia's fourteen. I suppose it's starting. After all, Henry can't stop staring at Sam."

"My son can do better than a Humphrey girl," said Chuck firmly.

"Yes... and I'm sure that Dan Humphrey is going to be thrilled about his daughter someday dating a Bass. Serena and I are not looking forward to that particular war, let me assure you."

"Enough with this nonsense. They're only children," Chuck, who usually didn't indulge in denial, reveled in it just then. Both he and Blair knew very well that their seventeen year old son, if not as debauched as his father had been at that age, was no longer their innocent little boy... he was nearly a man.

They just didn't like to think about it. Much.

"Yes, they are. Which is why we need to send Dexter Baizen back to wherever his idiot father is, or he can go to his mother's in the Hamptons."

"Why?" Chuck stared at her. "Blair..."

"Think about it."

"Ellie? My fourteen year old daughter? Baizen's son? I'll kill him!"

"Chuck!"

"Don't worry, I'll be efficient. No trace of the boy's body will ever be found."

"I don't think they've gone far enough to warrant that kind of intervention... yet." She shook her head. "Nate's right, they're all growing up too fast. Our parents are getting older and some are even dying, while our kids are becoming us."

"Please, they can never be us. How can they? You still look like you did when you were sixteen."

"I found three gray hairs today."

"If you're expecting sympathy, Blair, look elsewhere... in case you haven't noticed, I've stopped counting."

"Yes, I've noticed," she said, fingertips stroking his temple. "And it makes you look... distinguished."

"It does, unlike on Humphrey. Gray hair just makes him look deranged... well, even more deranged than he already is. Perhaps if he regularly cut his hair..."

"Serena loves Dan just the way he is."

"My sister has no taste. Never has, and apparently, never will."

Blair sighed. "Alright, Bass, what will it take for you to be civil to the husband of your sister – your sister who also happens to be my very best friend – when they arrive in two days' time?"

Chuck considered this. Then he lifted her so that she was on top of him.

"Well, lover," he drawled against the side of her neck, "I'm open to being bribed. The question is, are you?"

She laughed knowingly.

And through the open window, the scent of roses wafted in on the night breeze.

C'est toi pour moi, moi pour lui dans la vie
Il me l'a dit, l'a juré pour la vie...

Et dès que je l'aperçois
Alors je sens en moi
Mon coeur qui bat.

A/N: Well, that took forever! I hope that it was worth the wait. This is my first attempt at writing something within the Gossip Girl TV canon world. Of course, things are canon-compliant only through 6x07; events in the last three episodes will likely make this AU. Also, I'm not the best with numbers or dates, so ages and years may be slightly off.

This story was inspired by a midsummer listen of the Melody Gardot version of "La Vie En Rose," the classic standard by the incomparable Edith Piaf. The diamond rose charm that Chuck gives Blair was inspired by the Piaget campaign that Melody participated in. I've fallen back in love with roses, including Jo Malone's rose scents, which are the only ones I can stand! So read this fic while you listen to and enjoy roses – the song, the scent, even a little rose ice cream or gelato (look it up!). They are my favorite flowers... some say they're cliché, but I say they're classic! And if any fictional couple is classic, it's our Chair.

I struggled for months with several ideas, including one that I didn't include, because I think it's more appropriate for the P&Cverse. Then I'd hoped to get this finished in time for Limoversary, but life had other plans for me!

Edited, 12/3/2012: I must thank three of my author-friends for their encouragement and ideas that got me through my writers' block: SnowedUnderNJ, maryl, and DrGG, you're all wonderful! Thanks for the suggestion to write the fic as four vignettes inside of one story.

French speakers, please excuse my terrible translations of your beautiful language... I'm not fluent in French, but I am sure Blair is (or nearly so), and perhaps Chuck is, too. Any mistakes here are mine and mine alone.

XOXO, Dr. Holland