Chapter Four: In Secrets Kept, In Silence Sealed

Trying to tell you no, but my body keeps on telling you yes.

Trying to tell you stop, but your lipstick has me so out of breath.

I'd be waking up, in the morning probably hating myself.

And I'd be waking up feeling satisfied but guilty as hell.

One More Night by Maroon 5

:::

September 26th, 2007: Dexter Hall Dormitories & Wentworth Hall Dormitories

On either side of The Briar House campus, Chuck and Blair sat up in bed, gasping for breath at 8:05 in the morning with headaches and hangovers that had absolutely nothing to do with alcohol. Chuck still had the taste of stale cherry pie on his tongue, and Blair's skin quaked at the places it had been touched on the previous night. She reached up to feel for the bruise forming on her neck, wincing when it stung. Chuck traced the scratch at the curve of his shoulder with one finger, shaking his head in disbelief.

Blair glanced down, touching her sore thighs, checking herself for bruises there too. It was sinful, this feeling—guilt scolding her satisfaction, fear clouding her pleasure. She wanted nothing more than to dismiss the previous night, the previous month as a horrid nightmare, to wake up to a text message from Nate and the smell of fresh scones in the Waldorf kitchen.

No, that was a lie.

She wanted nothing more than Chuck's hands, Chuck's lips, bringing her to the brink, pushing her over the cliff of moral expectations and into the sea of release below.

"Use me." His hands reached down and used her hips as an anchor as he ground against her, feeling him right between her thighs, rocking her into a pleasure too intense to bear.

"No!" Blair gasped, hiding herself under her comforter and shutting her eyes against the memory. It was Saturday, and she had no interest in taking inventory of the damage done by yesterday's battle. Surely a fallen queen could afford a day of rest to gather her bearings. Blair relaxed atop her sheets, lulling herself to sleep, hoping for escape.

But instead, she was haunted by the past.

:::

June 1st, 2007: The Sheperd Wedding

Had her insolent SAT tutor been available for her their weekly appointment, Blair would not have graced the Sheperds with her presence at their wedding in the summer of 2007.

Had Nate known that Blair was going to make an appearance, he would have steered clear of a certain seductive blonde that night. Had Chuck Bass not been sent to boarding school the previous summer, he would have been the one to seek out Blair's boyfriend and best friend, opting to record their indiscretion for his own sordid pleasure rather than spilling the beans. Had Blair worn her blue Balenciaga rather than her orange Nanette Lepore, she would not have had a wardrobe malfunction that needed to be fixed in the empty barroom.

Had everything been different, had a wicked wind not swept through the Upper East Side on that first day of summer, Blair would have never walked right into disaster.

"Oh my God," Blair hissed, unable to pry her eyes away from her best friend and boyfriend, half-naked and entangled on one of the rickety barstools. She backed away as they scrambled to make themselves decent.

"B," Serena whispered. "You have to hear me out. I'm so sorry. This was all a mistake."

"Sorry? For what?" Blair spat. "Being exactly who you are? You're disgusting." She blinked back an oncoming pool of tears as she glanced at Nate. "And you."

"Blair, please—"

"Both of you," Blair said, her voice colder than she'd ever heard it. "Both of you are dead to me." Blair dragged the scraps of her dignity from the floor, fleeing the room and pushing back into the main ballroom, where the bride and groom were sharing their first dance. She felt sick as she heard the pitter patter of Nate and Serena chasing after her. Something took over her, something twisted and exasperated. Her head spun when Serena grabbed her arm.

"Blair, just hear us out."

"It wasn't enough for you, was it?" Blair cried, gaining the attention of a few of the wedding guests. But once she started, she couldn't stop, couldn't compose herself. "It's never enough. You had to go and tell my mother about my problem without so much as speaking to me first. You had to push me down until I stayed in your shadow." Blair shook her head, recalling Serena's guilt after she'd confessed Blair's eating disorder to Eleanor. It had taken all of Blair's false sincerity to forgive her for that. But this...this was too much. "And you just had to have Nate too."

"No—"

"You take everything from me."

"Blair, you have to calm down." It was Nate pleading with her now, and it infuriated her even more. Even now, he was standing beside Serena, his body gravitating to her as if she were the center of the fucking universe.

But contrary to popular belief, what happened next was an accident. Blair had only meant to slap Serena's grip on her away. How was she supposed to know that the Sheperds' seven-tier cake would roll in just as Serena tripped over Blair's foot?

"Oh my God," Blair murmured as all eyes turned to her in horror. Nate and the catering staff scrambled to help Serena, who was now drenched in vanilla cake. The blonde swiped frosting from her face as Blair backed away from the scene of the crime. "Oh God, oh God."

How was that dreadful girl raised?

Honestly, I'm so embarrassed for Eleanor. This behavior is unacceptable.

I always knew she would go crazy.

It's probably the divorce. Her father ran away with a male model, after all. She's traumatized.

"Blair Cornelia Waldorf," Eleanor hissed, fingers sinking into Blair's elbow. Blair winced as she turned to her mother, swallowing back a small cry. Eleanor's blunt features were absent of any emotion as she dragged her daughter from the crowd. As they fled, everyone stared as if she was some sort of freak show.

"Mother, you have to understand," Blair whispered, following her mother into the grand hallway. "Nate, he was cheating on me with Serena. I just—"

"And you felt the need to embarrass me—" Eleanor sniffed, pulling out her cellphone "—our entire family with your tantrum? Do you know what they'll say about me after this? Those twits—Anne Archibald, Sally Worth—they'll have a field day. You've caused irreparable damage."

"Mom," Blair persisted, her voice cracking. "You have to see what she's doing. She's sabotaging me on purpose. This is what she wants. She's playing games."

"The only games being played are by children like you," Eleanor seethed. "I was perfectly fine with supporting you through your disorder—but this…you're more of a hindrance than you're worth."

Blair recoiled from the insult, her hands trembling behind her back. "I'm your daughter."

"Yes, you are," Eleanor confirmed, her voice tight. "And you'll be my daughter at The Briar House."

"Mother—"

"You'll leave in August."

It was a downward spiral into tragedy in the months that followed. As others were splayed out in The Hamptons, traveling to five-star vacation spots, Blair was protesting her exile at home, dropping her defiance to beg her mother to stay. She'd even made a feeble attempt at reconciliation, proving to her mother that she could repair her relationships with Nate and Serena—under the guise of staying, of course.

But it was all to no avail.

Come the end of August, Blair's bags were packed, her tuition was paid off, and her train ticket was purchased one-way.

:::

September 26th, 2007: The Briar Dining Hall

Blair was exhausted when she finally made it to the dining hall for a late brunch. There was hardly anyone in the courtyard, and Blair was glad for it. She took a seat near the balcony gates, straightening out the pale pink dress she wore, mussing her hair into a loose bun. She wore little makeup, just a healthy spread of blush on her cheeks and nude gloss on her lips. She glanced down at the book in her hands, The Canterbury Tales for English 102, and took a few notes on her iPad.

"Blair Waldorf's rescue team, reporting for duty," Eric called, sidling in next to her. Blair frowned as Diana and Jenny followed him, breaking her concentration.

"No one should be as cheery as you are in the morning," Blair murmured. "It's disturbing."

"There's our girl," Diana smirked. "We're here to spoil our queen with gifts."

Blair raised an eyebrow. "Go on."

"Your Chobani," Jenny chirped, sliding over the plastic container. Blair grinned when she saw that Jenny had already mixed it, drizzling it with fresh fruits, just as she liked. "Your mocha." Diana placed a cup from Briar's Starbucks stand next to the yogurt. "And good news." Eric handed Blair a copy of The Briar Thorn, the headline "Hayward Goes Wayward" in bold letters. Blair rolled her eyes at the ridiculous rhyme before skimming the story.

"It turns out that Penelope has an issue with her temper," Eric explained, "And the faculty wasn't too happy about that. She got a demerit for her yelling, and she got shunned from the center table at breakfast. Her minions wouldn't talk to her, and Chuck dismissed her."

Blair fought to control her spark of interest, holding her gaze on the book in front of her. "Oh?" She paused, fighting a smile. "He probably got bored and found some other pathetic little groupie to toy with."

"Oh," Jenny murmured, braving a comeback. "Well, he disappeared after the dance. And you didn't come back to the room for hours."

Blair's eyes flitted up to the blonde. "Curiosity killed the cat, Little J." A sinister smile curled on her lips. "One can only imagine what it would do to a Humphrey." Jenny startled, retracting her inquiry immediately. But before she could murmur a soft apology, Eric groaned, glancing over her shoulder.

"Speak of the devil and he doth appear," Eric coughed as Chuck sauntered over to their table, a cautious grin on his face. A number of students tried to grab his attention, girls twirling their hair and boys pounding him on the back, but he kept his eyes on Blair—that smug smirk on his face almost broadcasting their secret tryst.

"Bass."

"Waldorf."

"Did you want something?" Blair sighed, scooping up a bit of yogurt.

"Well," Chuck grinned. "Now that you mention it—" He was cut off by Blair's murderous glare. She straightened, casting a glance at Diana, Jenny, and Eric, who were all enthralled by the exchange unfurling before them. Blair coughed, waving her hand.

"You're all dismissed," Blair said. Eric snapped his fingers in disappointment, Jenny bit her lip in slight glee. It was Diana who Blair called back as she was leaving. "Do you have what we talked about last night?"

Diana cast her a wicked grin before slipping a folder from her Coach bag. She slid it across the table and handed it to Blair. "It's all in there, B." Blair nodded, taking the folder. "Text me—" She glanced at Blair, then smiled at Chuck "—when you're free, of course."

Blair watched as Chuck skipped the chairs at the other side of the round table to take the one right beside Blair's. "What's this?" He tried to sneak a peek at the folder, but Blair slapped his hand away just in time.

"It's none of your concern," Blair sniffed, tucking the folder into her purse. Chuck licked his lips as she returned to her yogurt, popping a strawberry slice into her mouth. He reached out and stole one from her bowl, letting a bit of the juice dribble to his chin. It was horrifyingly adorable, and Blair forced herself to look away when he licked it off. "Ugh." Blair frowned. "Buy your own food, and quit staring at me. It's vexatious."

Chuck smirked. "Is that your word of the day?"

"No," Blair retorted. "Some people actually have a vocabulary that surpasses I'm Chuck Bass." He rolled his eyes at her, taking a grape from the bowl this time.

"How miserable for them."

They sat in silence for a moment before Blair turned to him. "I heard that you gave Penelope the boot this morning."

Chuck sat back. "She was becoming intolerable." He cleared his throat, the smile dropping from his face. "I also reprimanded the staff on kitchen duties last night." He leaned toward her. "They won't be leaving it unattended again."

Blair tensed, avoiding his eyes. "Oh."

"Look, I know that last night didn't fit into Waldorf's five-year plan—"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Blair deadpanned, staring straight ahead.

Chuck rolled his eyes. "What a surprise." It was then that he pushed the collar of his polo aside, revealing a small red scratch following the curve of his neck. Blair gasped for a moment, losing her edge.

Chuck cocked a brow. "Any idea how that got there, Waldorf?"

"I don't keep tabs on your degeneracy," Blair scoffed.

"Oh?" Chuck challenged. "But it bears a striking resemblance to that bruise on your neck." He chuckled as Blair scrambled to pull out her compact, breathing out a small sigh of relief when she realized her cover-up was still intact. She frowned up at his content expression.

"You put it there on purpose."

"I just love watching you squirm," Chuck drawled. Blair swallowed when his hand found her knee under the table. She was wearing knee-highs, and the roughness of his hands electrified her skin. "And there's this thing you do when you're about to climax. It's just like—" Much to her horror, he began to mimic the expression, imitating the way she moaned. "You really do know how to let loose, don't you?"

Blair let out a sharp breath, moving to smack his hand away, but he grasped it just in time, intertwining their fingers atop her lap. "Are you going to continue tormenting me? Or are you going to tell me what you want?"

"While the former sounds so appealing…" Chuck trailed off, his eyes going dark. "I want you."

Blair paused. "Is this your twisted way of asking me out?"

"You shouldn't flatter yourself," Chuck scoffed. "Chuck Bass doesn't do dates—or girlfriends. You should know that."

Blair frowned. "So?"

"So," Chuck murmured, his voice dropping to a husky whisper. "You intrigue me, Waldorf. The way you move…the way you think. You might be just as twisted as I am." Blair parted her lips in protest, but Chuck cut her off. "I want to touch you, whenever, wherever, and however I please. Do you understand the pleasure I could bring you—the words I can pry from that sweet tongue? I want to shatter that tortured rigidity of yours. I want to bring you to the brink and keep you there until you don't know where pain ends and pleasure begins because it's all under your command. It's what you're capable of. Why settle for a burn when you can set the rest of the world on fire?"

Blair's throat went dry as his lips grew closer to her ear. "And if I told you that's not what I want?"

"Then you lie just as well as I do."

"You think you know me so well, Bass," Blair smirked. "Don't kid yourself. Maybe I'm not lying. Maybe I don't want you."

"Maybe," he mused. Chuck laughed, his breath hot on her cheek. "Then why—" he squeezed her fingers, threaded through his "—are you still holding my hand?" Blair yanked her hand away, shoving her chair from the table, a safe distance away from Chuck's. Her cheeks were scarlet, and she was more flustered than she ever allowed herself to be.

"I'm the queen," Blair insisted, slamming her hand down on the table. "I don't have time for your lecherous behavior."

If Chuck felt even the slightest sting of rejection, he did not show it. "Your body betrays your words, Blair." He held her gaze. "As do your eyes." She wracked her brain for a response, but came up with none. Once she settled on a glare, she realized that Chuck was no longer looking at her. He rolled his eyes at something over her shoulder and cursed under his breath.

"Ethan," Blair said, fanning her cheeks with a subtle wave. Ethan nodded at Chuck before squeezing Blair's shoulder.

"I looked for you after the ball," Ethan said, cupping her shoulder. "Then I figured you had just gone back to your room, so I just—yeah." Blair resisted an eye roll. Ethan had trouble with finishing his sentences, and it was growing tiresome.

"Oh," Blair replied. "After everything, I was exhausted. I went right back to the dorms." Behind her, Chuck snorted. As Ethan turned to wave at someone across the dining hall, Chuck leaned in to whisper in her ear.

"Good for you, Waldorf," Chuck drawled. "I see that you've found Archibald's clone. Let's hope that the replica doesn't share his taste for blondes."

"That's enough," Blair whispered. "Just go away."

Chuck frowned at the dismissal, a spark of rage flitting through him. "As you wish." He passed a hand over her books before getting up from his seat. "My offer won't stand for long."

Blair rolled her eyes, turning back to Ethan. "Good. It'll speed up the process of rejection." But as she watched him walk away, Blair's stomach flipped. She tried to focus on Ethan's ramblings in earnest, but her mind wandered to Chuck. There was something volatile, something unsettling about the quick shift of his moods, the darkness he found so amusing.

But the way he touched her—

He was right. Chuck set her on fire. A slow, looming burn that was desperate to go aflame.

"Blair? Did you hear me?" Blair glanced up at Ethan, eyes widening. "I asked if you wanted to hit the student lounge."

"Oh," Blair shrugged. "That sounds fine." As she gathered her books, a slip of paper slid out from inside of The Art of War—a gold sheet inscribed with the initials CB. She swallowed when she read the scrawled message below the brand.

When you grow tired of charade, I'll be ready to play.

Monday at dusk, The Gardens.

"Blair?" Ethan called again, and Blair folded the note back into her book, nodding absently. "You coming?"

Oh, yes.

She most certainly was.

:::

September 26th, 2007: Study Hall

Much like his elder mentor, Damien was very easily defined by the entity that was his father. Walter Dalgaard was known to most as the booming businessman turned raging alcoholic turned tragic drug addict. And it was all true, as he remembered many a needle surfacing from his toy bin and stray bits of white dust decorating their dinner table at the age of ten.

It hadn't always been that way. Damien remembered father-son chess games in Walter's study and tossing around a football in Central Park when he was six years old. There had been something before there was nothing at all—before the first drink was sipped, before the yelling and his mother's tears as she shoved her clothes into a huge suitcase, before Briar and the boarding school before it, and the one before that one, too.

Damien wondered if he was better off losing love before he could understand it. Or maybe it was Chuck who was the lucky one—he never knew it at all.

Maybe it was all the same shit.

Damien sighed, glancing at his phone as he pulled up a text from Jenny, who was running late for the period they had free together. They were supposed to meet at one of the study corridors in the Main Hall, where Briar students did everything but study. Supervision was a joke. And the notion of having a girlfriend made his head spin—which was made more bizarre by the fact that Chuck Bass had orchestrated this all. But as he thought of bouncy blonde hair, shy smiles, tentative murmurs, he couldn't exactly recognize the line that cut across games and reality.

It was then that he felt two tiny hands over his eyes, felt warm breath against his neck. He grinned, pulling them from his face and turning in his seat. "Hey—" He cut short as he was greeted with a swoop of long black hair and heart-shaped lips. "Diana."

"Damien," Diana greeted with a coy smile, sliding into the seat next to him. He swallowed as she ran her fingers through her hair, fringing her bangs before nudging his arm. "The ever elusive Damien. Now that I've caught you…you can start answering my questions."

"Look," Damien said. "I'm meeting someone, alright?"

"Jenny," Diana said coolly, her eyes flitting to his lips. "That lovely little relationship sprung up overnight, didn't it?" She paused, the hurt in her eyes betraying her playful demeanor. "Why are you with her, Damien?"

"I like her."

"I like her, too. She's sweet, she's nice," Diana said. "But you and I—"

"Diana…"

"Are you going to pretend like there was nothing between us?" Diana said, her voice shaking. "I know that I'm not crazy. All of last year—"

"Diana, don't do this. Not right now," Damien pleaded.

"And this summer," Diana continued, reached out for his hand. Damien let her, already well-accustomed to the softness of her touch. "We both had fun, didn't we? You want me, don't you?"

He and Diana had always had this thing, an unspoken bond, friends with benefits—if you had to call it something. Since he'd arrived as an overly confident freshman, he'd been more attracted to her than he'd been to any girl in his entire life. He pursued, and she accepted—thrusting them into a series of bathroom hookups and drug-induced indiscretions. He'd spent the summer with her at her parents' chateau in Tuscany—basking in her beauty and the fine stock of alcohol and hallucinogenics they'd managed to score along the way. She was gorgeous, and he loved her—in the way that one loves in the summer, away from the cruel reality of the school year.

"I've always wanted you," Damien reluctantly confirmed, sitting back in his seat. "But summer's over now. We agreed—we both agreed to leave it at that."

"I don't believe you," Diana challenged.

"Diana, it's Briar," Damien said, exasperated. "Everyone has a thing with everyone. You kiss other guys all of the time."

"And you went and got a girlfriend." Diana shook her head in disbelief. "Barely a month into the semester. Jenny Humphrey's been here as long as you have. Why the sudden interest?"

"Diana," Damien sighed, leaning forward in his seat. He grasped her hand, running a finger over her knuckles. "You're my best friend—always have been, always will be. And you're going to have to trust me when I say that this has nothing to do with you, and I can't explain this one." Damien shook his head, releasing her hand. "Besides, Harrison seemed pretty taken by you at the ball."

"Harrison," Diana sighed, rolling her eyes. "Don't try to console me."

"I'm not," Damien shrugged. "You're beautiful."

"And you're a fool," Diana snorted, swallowing down the last bit of her pride. "But, look—I know you. I know that there's something behind this thing with Jenny. You're not Chuck Bass, and you've never been good at playing the tin man. Jenny isn't in our league, she doesn't understand our games. If you try to make her your plaything, it's going to be a disaster."

"I know what I'm doing," Damien assured her.

"No," Diana smirked. "You don't."

Damien rolled his eyes at her. "You know me too well."

Diana's expression softened as she bit her lip. "Better than anyone." Damien stopped short, an inexplicable lump in his throat as he was about to respond, but—

"Hey, guys," Jenny called. "What's going on?" Damien snapped away from Diana, a smile tugging at his lips when he turned to Jenny. Diana's heart dropped, the sultriness that she was so fond of wearing evaporating with it.

"Nothing," Diana quipped, recovering. "Just babysitting your boyfriend." She let out a faux sigh, flicking her hair over her shoulder.

"Oh," Jenny murmured, flushing at the title Diana threw around so casually.

"I'll see you at lunch," Diana said, playfully tugging on a strand of Jenny's hair. The blonde giggled, plopping down next to Damien. Diana looked back at him, very aware that his eyes were still on her. "And I'll see you around, Damien. If either of us is so lucky."

:::

September 28th, 2007: Guidance Office, The Main Hall

"Oh God, Chuck."

"Charles?"

Hips rolling, nails digging, those chocolate curls falling over her shoulders as she fought her climax.

"Charles, please."

"Please, Chuck. Oh God. I can't—I can't—"

"Charles, I'm speaking to you," Mrs. Reginald hissed, snapping her fingers in front of the boy's face. Much to his dismay, the distorted image of Blair Waldorf moaning beneath him faded away, replaced by the burly, angry guidance counselor in front of him. In the year and a half since he'd arrived at Briar, Mrs. Reginald had been the most consistent thing in his life—always wearing that prim gray bun atop her head and that neutral slant on her lips. Chuck blanched, kicking his legs out.

Mrs. Reginald sighed. "Thank you, Charles. I appreciate your attention."

Chuck smirked. "As do most women."

Mrs. Reginald ignored him, typing as she spoke. "How have we been doing?"

"We?" Chuck repeated, raising his eyebrows. "Am I really the one who needs therapy if you don't know how you are?"

"It's a form of expression, Charles."

"I prefer other forms."

"I see that you've made a new friend," Mrs. Reginald continued, unfazed. "Miss Blair Waldorf. I've seen you speaking to her around the dining hall, and before the unfortunate incident at the ball…"

"Stalking me again, Mrs. Reginald?" Chuck tsked. "You do know the barriers of a student-teacher relationship—" He paused, his eyes glinting in amusement. "But I can see how you wouldn't be able to resist."

Mrs. Reginald sighed, pulling her glasses to the bridge of her nose. "Don't you ever grow tired of your own antics, Charles?"

Chuck tapped a finger to his chin, pretending to contemplate her question. "I can't say that I do. In fact, I'm quite fond of myself." He raised his right hand, waggling his fingers in the air as Mrs. Reginald grimaced.

"Yes, well," Mrs. Reginald sighed. "Maybe Miss Waldorf can shape you up a bit—be a good influence on you."

Chuck shook his head, his voice dropping to a low murmur. "I'd say the opposite."

Mrs. Reginald frowned. "I beg your pardon?"

Chuck glanced up with a small shrug. "I didn't say anything."

"Of course not," Mrs. Reginald huffed, shuffling a stack of papers on her desk. "And the mood swings? Have you still been getting them? I know that you're very quick to deny it, but those nightmares, the way your temper can flare, those are signs of—"

"Can I go?" Chuck cut in, growing impatient. He glanced down at his phone, a smile tugging at his lips when he read the text on the screen.

Got your note, Bass. Please refrain from touching my belongings in the future.

Not a chance, Waldorf. I've only just begun. ;)

"You've only been here for ten minutes, Charles," Mrs. Reginald said, drumming her fingers on the table.

"Twelve," Chuck corrected, his eyes trained on his phone. Finally, he grinned up at her, heaving the strap of his bag onto his shoulder. "You know, you were right about Blair, Mrs. Reginald. She's had a striking affect on my grades already."

"Oh?"

"Yes," Chuck mused, getting up from his seat. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go prepare myself. She and I will be partaking in some lessons on anatomy."

:::

September 28th, 2007: Girls Bathroom, Dexter Hall Dormitories

Blair decided to rejuvenate herself with a little takedown before she met up with Chuck on Monday, relishing in the fact that she'd make him sweat by arriving late. Diana and Jenny were on either side of her as they perched against the wall, in the formation of a twisted version of Charlie's Angels. They waited all of fifteen minutes before the bathroom door opened and shut beside them, an airy brunette sauntering through.

"Ladies," Blair murmured, leading them into the dimly lit lavatories. Blair locked the door behind her when she stepped in, which snapped Penelope to attention.

"Blair," Penelope said, her voice faltering. "What the hell do you want?" Blair simply smiled, walking over to the sink beside Penelope's, adjusting the headband atop her head. Diana and Jenny glanced at each other as Penelope grew nervous.

"What do you want, Blair?" Penelope repeated. "An apology?"

"Not quite," Blair sighed, leaning against the cold marble. "The word you're looking for is retribution."

Penelope narrowed her eyes. "You don't think the stain on my permanent record was bad enough? And—and getting exiled from my table, exploited on the front page of The Briar Thorn?"

"Those were just pleasant coincidences," Blair chirped. "If you feel the need to pull amateur stunts as you did at the ball, you'll answer directly to me."

Penelope swallowed. "What are you going to do?"

"Wrong again, Penelope," Blair scolded, a sweet smile on her face. "It's what you're going to do." Blair paused, sliding the folder that Diana had given her from her purse. She waved it in front of Penelope for a moment. "You're going to wave your white flag here and now. Your feeble attempt at ruling the Briar hierarchy will be handed over to me, and you're going to stay out of sight and out of mind until we graduate."

"And what makes you think that I'd do that?"

"The folder," Diana chimed in, throwing a bitter smile at her ex-friend.

"I was just getting to that," Blair added, lips curling into a grin. "You clearly didn't know that I do my fair share of research as well. Such a pity, really, that your indiscretions were a bit more publicized."

Penelope froze, eyes darting down to the folder. "No. No, that isn't—"

"Penelope Hayward, expelled for texting nude photos to her geometry teacher freshman year," Blair said, her tone bordering on gleeful. "God, Penelope. I could see if it was some sort of sordid affair. But he didn't even want you. He reported the photographs right away and filed for a restraining order."

"You have no proof," Penelope stammered.

"No?" Blair questioned, skimming her index finger over the edge of the folder.

"Those pictures were all taken down," Penelope hissed. "My father made sure of it."

Blair smiled, taking a step forward until she stood a breath away from Penelope. "Want to bet?"

Needless to say, Penelope didn't care to wager with Blair's proposal. With a garbled agreement and tears brimming in her eyes, she fled the bathroom, fumbling with the lock as Diana burst with laughter and Jenny went into a fit of silent giggles.

"I thought she was going to pee herself," Diana snorted. "Jesus, Blair. Stalin could've taken lessons from you." Blair smirked, letting out a satisfied breath.

"What are you going to do with those, anyway?" Jenny laughed, pointing at the folder.

Blair raised an eyebrow, flipping the folder open. Jenny's jaw dropped when nothing went scattering to the floor, the empty folder flapping in Blair's hand. "With what?"

"You were bluffing," Jenny stated in awe.

"Of course I was," Blair said, tossing the folder into the trash. "And anyway, revenge wasn't worth the years of therapy that would come from seeing Penelope's nudes. Our work here is done. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment."

"Appointment?" Diana repeated. "With who?"

Blair paused, a slow smile spreading on her lips. "The devil himself."

:::

September 28th, 2007: Bogart Gardens—Paramore Fields

"Waldorf," Chuck called, pushing off from his perch against the fountain. "You're late." Blair smirked as she sauntered over to him, her kilt swirling around her thighs, her hair bouncing around her shoulders. He took a second to admire her, blatantly glancing at the inch of skin peeking out from between her skirt and stockings.

"And yet," Blair sighed, breezing beside him. "Here you are."

"Here I am," Chuck echoed. He reached out to tip her chin up, the pad of his thumb brushing her lips.

"Why am I here, Bass?"

"Because you chose to come."

"Why did you invite me here?"

"Because I chose your company."

"You're highly irritating," Blair sighed, sitting down on the bench across from him. But just as quickly, he was yanking her up from the bench, barely aware that they were holding hands as they ducked behind the garden's gates.

"Bass," Blair hissed as he led her past the iron spikes. "Our curfew is in two hours, and we're going to miss dinner."

Chuck smirked, holding a branch out of the way, guiding Blair through a maze of trees and bushes. He was careful to shield her from the snapping twigs, lest one of them mar her perfect face.

"By all means," Chuck drawled. "Return to the land of stale beef bourguignon and mindless cafeteria chatter." Blair frowned at him, casting a dirty look in his direction. A few more steps, and they arrived at a lush green landing, remarkably clean in the tangle of woods. Blair froze as the meadow came into full view. There were no signs, but she was sure that they weren't supposed to be there. She considered saying something about it, but Chuck had already ambled over and spread out on the grass, waiting for her to follow.

"You expect me to sit on the grass?" Blair scoffed, toying with the material of her skirt.

He chuckled, spreading out his legs. "You could always sit on me."

"Ugh," Blair groaned, turning her cheek. She sat a foot away from him, tucking her skirt underneath her. Blair stretched her legs out to taunt him, letting her white thigh-highs roll down to her knees, until the cold grass prickled the backs of her legs. Chuck watched her for a moment, smiling to himself before pulling a small silver tin from his blazer. Blair frowned as he rolled a joint right in front of her, pinching it between his fingers when he was done. Her throat went dry when he brought it to his lips, watching her as he took a puff, then another, smoke spilling from the corners of his mouth. Seeing that he had an audience in her, he showed off, pursing his lips and blowing out circles of smoke that faded away just as quickly as they came.

It took her a moment to realize that she was still staring.

"Have something to say, Blair?"

Blair frowned again, clearly irritated. She dropped back to her elbows, looking down the hill in front if them, which was completely empty. "I'm just surprised that you haven't used to some line to goad me into smoking yet."

Chuck laughed, taking another drag. "You wouldn't smoke."

"You have no idea what I would or wouldn't do," Blair hissed.

To this, Chuck shrugged, holding it out to her. She silently cursed herself as she took it from him, her fingers shaking despite her stony expression. Chuck watched her, amused, as she slowly raised it to her own lips.

"Waldorf," Chuck smirked, sliding over to her. "You're not Audrey Hepburn, and that's not a cigarette." Blair stifled a gasp when he came up behind her, his legs falling to either side of her as he reached around to help her. Blair closed her eyes as his breath washed over the back of her neck. "Here, you hold it like this." Chuck took her hand, using her fingers to mimic the way he'd been holding it a second before. Together, they brought it to her lips, and Chuck leaned down to whisper in her ear, "Now breathe in."

Blair did as she was told. Immediately, the smoke filled her lungs, fire burning through her chest. She nearly dropped the joint as she coughed, choking on her own breath. Chuck laughed as he rubbed her back, bringing her closer to his front.

"You're alright, Waldorf. Just breathe."

"I have gotten high before," Blair coughed, clearly horrified by finding something she wasn't good at.

"With Nate?" Chuck smirked. "And what? You proceeded to watch him fondle your best friend afterwards? That doesn't exactly make for a good high." He brought it to her lips again, forcing her to relax as she breathed the smoke in and let it out.

"It's like a wave," he explained. Chuck tugged at her waist despite her murmured protests, bowing her back against his chest. With his other hand, he tilted her chin up. Blair blinked up at the sky as Chuck drew in another drag, blowing smoke over her shoulder.

"Tastes like you," Chuck said, winking down at her. He tossed the joint into the grass, stomping it out with his heel.

"As if you know what I taste like," Blair sighed, but her voice was light, rid of her usual hostility. She was in a daze as she tilted her head back against his chest, sliding up right between his legs.

"I have a pretty good idea," Chuck murmured. He took her hands again, his palms over her knuckles. "As I was saying, you have to come up with it. You have to bring yourself up." He dragged one hand up her body, to the underside of her breast, covered by her oxford shirt. He brought their other hands down to the hem of her skirt, squeezing her thigh before sliding higher.

"I can't," Blair whispered, eyes wide.

"You're not doing anything," Chuck shrugged, squeezing her hand. "I am." It was true. He pushed her hand aside, reaching up to squeeze her breast. Blair let out a choked gasp, throwing her head back, eyes trained on the dwindling light of the sky above them.

"Why are you doing this?"

"Just feel," Chuck insisted. And then it was his other hand, reaching under her skirt. His fingers toyed with the lace of her La Perlas, tracing patterns, applying slow pressure across the dampness there. Blair let out a breath as she backed up against him again, brazenly rubbing herself against his erection.

"Come up with it, Blair," Chuck pressed on, squeezing the hand over her breast even harder. Blair lifted her hips to meet his fingers once and then again as Chuck applied more pressure, working her like they'd done this a thousand times, and he probably had, but Blair could think of nothing but his hands—guiding, pressing, massaging.

Chuck's eyes rolled back for a moment when she rubbed against him again, and he forced a short breath out through his nose. How the fuck would he move on from this? This wasn't…it wasn't just messing around with some underclassman out of boredom. Blair was now so wet that his fingers slipped, and she clenched his hand between her thighs. She was so sensual, so innocent, without even knowing it, and it was driving him to the brink of insanity. He wanted nothing more than to shove her hand away, pull open his pants, and finish this off himself.

Waldorf was the slowest, sweetest torture he'd ever known.

"I don't—" Blair gasped, closing her eyes. "Oh God." She was drowning in it: the haze from her high, the smell of his cologne, his breath at her ear.

Chuck cursed under his breath, wrapping an arm around her, pulling her back until she was nearly on his lap. And then she seized in his arms, grasping onto his elbow as his hand stilled, her legs pressing tightly together, and it was just her own hips forcing a strangled groan from her throat.

"Yes," she breathed. "Yes, yes, yes."

"No," Chuck rapsed, using his other hand to yank her legs apart. "Not yet." He hooked his finger under the lace, shoving it aside. Blair gasped when his fingers slipped across her, testing, teasing, introducing his body to hers. And then his finger was inside of her, just one to get her accustomed to it. The pad of his palm ground against her as his finger sank in deeper, curling in. And Blair—it was all she needed. Chuck bit back his own moan as he held her, watching her come apart. He goaded her with a stream of encouragements in her ear, helping her come down. "There, Blair. Just let go. Let me take you there."

"Chuck." She nearly screamed, and he reveled in it. He pressed harder, holding her still, until her hips were rolling and grinding in broken, desperate patterns. "Oh," she whispered, going limp in his arms. Her legs fell against his, and Chuck waited a moment before letting her go. She slumped against him, watching as he idly slipped his finger into his mouth.

"Now I know," Chuck smirked, licking his lips. A wash of sobriety fell over Blair, and her eyes snapped open, her mouth turning down in disdain. She straightened herself, fighting a wave of exhaustion, rolling her stockings up and adjusting her skirt.

"We could've been caught."

"You didn't seem to mind at all," Chuck laughed, amused by her panic. "Blair Waldorf, a little exhibitionist. Who knew?"

"Stop it," Blair hissed. But she allowed him to help her roll the rest of her stocking up her leg, his fingers lingering on the curve of her thigh. Blair waited a moment before pushing his hand away, standing up from the grass.

"I'm going to take this little meeting of ours as an agreement to my proposition," Chuck said, watching her pat down her shirt.

"I don't understand what you want from me," Blair sniffed, avoiding his gaze. Chuck cocked his head to the side before standing in front of her, pulling a strand of hair from its entrapment on her lip gloss.

"You're a smart girl, Waldorf," Chuck said. "I think you do."

Blair narrowed her eyes. "I won't love you." She felt the need to say it, as the only way to be his equal, as the only way to stand her ground. Blair Waldorf "The Romantic" had died along with the Sheperds' new nuptials. She would be heartless, and she would be cruel, and she would take what she wanted without an ounce of regret. After all, emptiness couldn't break.

"I won't love anyone," Chuck replied.

"So it's settled then."

Chuck peered at her for a moment, releasing her face, taking a step back and regarding her furious expression.

"It's settled."


Author's Note: Hooray for longer chapters! So, I wanted to thank you guys for the amazing feedback and response to this story. I prefer to do angst over fluff, so I'm glad that you guys are appreciating the style change. Please keep the reviews coming, as they completely make my day while I'm nearly falling asleep in my morning classes. And to the anons who said they were my biggest fans and sent me virtual hugs, I'm hugging you right back.

So yeah, let me know what you guys think. Are you digging the new Diana-Jenny-Damien triangle, or might it end in disaster – since it's orchestrated by none other than Chuck Bass? Expect a new chapter in about a week or a week in a half. Much love!