Disclaimer: I do not own Gossip Girls.

Author's Note: Set after "The Serena Also Rises."

"Miss Blair, you sure… this a good idea?"

Blair studied her reflection in the mirror for a moment longer, before saying softly, firmly, "Yes, Dorota."

Dorota shook her head, "Your Mama, Miss Blair, she not like this…"

"It's only hair, Dorota, it will grow back."

Dorota hesitated for another moment and then she began to snip at Blair's dark curls.

Blair would go to a salon in the morning, get it cut professionally, but she needed to do this now, before she talked herself out of it, before she let herself pretend tonight had never happened.

Because it had happened; and she could not let herself forget it, would not let herself.

The dark curls fell onto the floor easily, no fuss. So much time and energy expended to make them look perfect and they disappeared so easily.

She closed her eyes, didn't want to see them fall anymore. She'd seen enough things fall tonight, seen enough disappear.

My whole life, I have been bending over backwards to protect your feelings.

The words wouldn't stop repeating themselves in her mind. The look in Serena's eyes wouldn't fade.

It's not my fault you're so insecure.

She clenched her jaw, squeezing her eyes shut tighter.

I'm tired of trying to hold myself back so I don't outshine you.

She tensed all over, fisted her hands tight, because she would not cry. She was not going to break. Serena had already broken her once, it wouldn't happen again.

"I's done Miss Blair." Dorota said softly.

And Blair slowly opened her eyes. The tips of her hair brushed her chin. It made her look different. Older.

She tilted her face a little, studied her reflection intently, ignoring the way Dorota fidgeted behind her. All her features were the same of course, it was only a haircut—not even a professional one; her eyes were still the same deep brown, still framed by full lashes, her nose still tipped upwards, her mouth still formed a perfect bow, her chin was still pointed, her cheekbones still high—the change was only an illusion.

"Do you like, Miss Blair?"

Blair nodded, pulling her eyes away from the mirror, "Yes, Dorota. You did well."

She stood then without another word to leave the bathroom so Dorota could sweep the floor. She stepped carefully around the curls, still perfectly coifed, that lay at her feet.

She made her way up to her room, to her own bathroom so she could shower. She studiously avoided even a glance at the commode.

She wouldn't break again. Not for Serena.

Her shower was hot; almost scalding, it made her skin pink and sensitive to the touch.

She was dressed in her nightgown, sitting at her make-up table, ready to brush her hair, when the words echoed again in her mind.

My whole life, I have been bending over backwards to protect your feelings.

She picked up her hair brush and ran it through her short hair.

Isn't that what friends did, protect one another's feelings?

It's not my fault you're so insecure.

The tears welled despite her best efforts and she pressed the bristles of the brush into her scalp as she willed the away.

How else could she feel when to everyone in her world Serena was the first choice?

I'm tired of trying to hold myself back so I don't outshine you.

She slammed the brush hard onto the dresser, relishing the sound it made in the silent room, glaring at herself in the mirror.

"I'm tired of cleaning up your messes. I'm tired of catching you when you fall. I'm tired of helping the world think the illusion is real." She hissed out loud at her reflection, not caring that there was no one to hear her, not caring that she was talking to herself.

Because this was how you said those truths, to yourself, in the privacy of your room. Because they were the sort of truths you didn't say, the kind that lay dormant in every friendship, because once you exposed them to the light… it changed everything.

Serena had changed the rules of the game overnight.

But Blair wasn't going to break. If she let herself fall this time, there would be no one to catch her, if she let herself fall she would be destroyed—and she wasn't going to be destroyed by Serena.

Not when S was playing one game, while B had been playing another.

No. If S was going to win, then it would be after.

After B tried her own hand with these new rules. These rules where the sacred truths learned in childhood were exploited, were usable weapons.

The haircut was a reminder to herself; it was a brave new world out there and she wouldn't be caught unawares again.

She stood and slowly made her way to her bed. She slipped in under the covers and slid her eye-mask carefully into place.

Serena was good at hiding the unsure, easily mislead, conflicted girl behind the illusion of the confident party girl; and whenever she slipped, when the hesitancy and irresolution had led her to drunken ramblings and blackouts, Blair had caught her. Because that's what friends did, that's what sisters did.

But Serena had changed everything, she had said the truths you didn't say and now there was no safety net, there was no one catch the other when one fell.

The rules were different now and B had always been one to play by the rules.