A/N: Thanks so much for the reviews! In case you were wondering, I'm not planning to sync up this story with what's happening in the show. This story is going to go down its own road. Hope you like it!

XXXX

"Mees Blair?"

Blair's eyes snapped open beneath her sleeping mask; she whipped it off, tossing it across the room as she leapt from the bed. She snatched her robe from off her chair and pulled it on, then hurried to her bedroom door, shutting and locking it before the maid could enter the room and see Humphrey, naked and tangled up in Blair's Egyptian cotton bedsheets.

Oh, no, Blair thought as she looked down at Dan's sleeping form. She hadn't meant to fall asleep. She shouldn't have. What if Serena had seen them together? She should have kicked him out last night before S had gotten home.

Blair's bathroom door was closed. Had she done that? She couldn't remember. No, no, no, she thought. Serena was mad enough as it was, though she was trying to be cool about it. This wouldn't help the situation at all.

"Mees Blair?" Dorota's voice was closer now, right on the other side of the door. "Mees Blair, it nine o'clock." She knocked, tried the doorknob. "Mees Blair?"

"I'm up, Dorota!" Blair called. Behind her, Dan lifted his head off the pillow, finally coming awake. "Why don't you go downstairs and make some breakfast?"

"But, Mees Blair, there is a note-

"Later, Dorota!" Blair said, her tone warning the woman not to push the matter.

"Okay, Mees Blair," Dorota said. Blair waited for her footsteps to recede before turning around and, with one violent shove, pushing Dan off the bed. He landed with a nice solid thump, followed by a pained shout.

"What was that for?" he asked, sitting up off the floor.

"For falling asleep!" She had to keep herself from raising her voice, but she was feeling so desperate, it was a difficult job. "Humphrey, you idiot! Why didn't you leave last night?"

"I don't know! I was comfortable. I thought you wanted me to stay."

"Obviously not!"

He looked hurt, but she didn't really care, not enough to apologize for her words. "Fine. I'll go."

"No," Blair said. "You can't go now. Dorota's here, Serena might be here. You have to stay until I can scope the place out."

There was another knock at the door. "Mees Blair?"

"What, Dorota?" Blair asked, turning her attention away from the pouty Brooklynite, who climbed to his feet and began to dress himself.

"Sorry to bother you. I wonder if you know where Mees Serena has gone? She not here."

"I don't know! Maybe she went out for breakfast!"

"All her things are gone," Dorota said.

Dan, who had been pulling on his pants, froze in place. Blair shook her head. "No, that can't be right. What are you talking about, Dorota?"

"Go see," Dorota said.

Blair hesitated for a moment. She knew what she would find if she opened that door, but she couldn't resist holding onto the chance that Dorota was wrong. Serena wouldn't move out. Serena wouldn't leave. No matter how badly they'd hurt each other they were still best friends, right? Surely there was nothing they could do to change that?

And then she thought, oh, God, did I really do this?

Wordlessly, Dan and Blair opened the bathroom door and crossed the room. Serena's door was wide open. The bed was neatly made. The furniture was all in place. But the photographs, the books, the clothes, every little trace of Serena van der Woodsen was gone. Dan turned to Blair, a tender look on his face, like he wanted to comfort her, make her feel better. She didn't want to feel better.

"Go!" she shrieked. "Get out!"

She sat down on Serena's bed, waiting for him to leave so she could begin sobbing. He hovered for a moment, but thought better of it, and disappeared. The moment he was gone she let loose, tears pouring down her face, dripping onto her silk robe, her shoulders shaking as she let all the emotion flow out of her. At some point, Dorota entered the room, taking a seat beside her, putting an arm around her. Blair attempted feebly to push her away, but Dorota wasn't going anywhere.

Eventually, Blair's breathing evened out. Her eyes went dry. In a motherly gesture, Dorota reached out and tucked a strand of Blair's hair behind her ear.

"How am I going to fix this, Dorota?" Blair asked.

"Maybe you want read that note now," Dorota suggested, and handed her the envelope.

XXXX

Blair,

I'm moving out. I think it's the best thing for me right now. You should have your apartment to yourself anyways. Thanks for letting me stay with you.

-Serena

XXXX

While Blair was reading the letter, Serena was sitting up in bed at the Empire, booting up her new laptop. Ever since she'd received it, the Gossip Girl email account had proved impossible to manage. Blasts poured in by the dozen, a seemingly never-ending flow of rumours and allegations. Serena suddenly had a lot of respect for Gossip Girl- I mean, she thought, she must be tremendously organized- before she realized who it was she was thinking about. The admiration vanished like the air in a popped balloon.

So, she had a laptop full of information that could incriminate damn near the whole city. Was it immoral of her to have this if she wasn't making any of it public? But wouldn't it be immoral to make it public anyway? Should she just toss the thing and be done with it? She considered this last option several times. But every time she just ended up scrolling through the inbox again.

Hookups, shady dealings, secret meetingsā€¦ she stopped abruptly at one message. "'Chuck Bass spotted at Victrola?'" she read. "Not exactly earth-shaking news." But there was a picture included. A picture of Chuck Bass sitting on the couch, watching the show, a grin on his face, a drink in his hand. Serena hadn't seen him look so happy in what felt like forever.

But beside him on the couch was Ivy Dickens.

XXXX

The van der Woodsens, as it appeared, weren't very big on reading. Ivy had scoured the house looking for a good book, but all she'd come up with were some coffee table books and a few celebrity biographies. Finally, in a bedside table, she'd found a worn copy of The Beautiful and Damned. She settled in on the couch with a cup of tea and began to read. She needed some time to relax after the night she'd had. Chuck had brought her home around three-thirty in the morning after their late-night prom date, and she still felt a bit tired. Mostly, though, she just felt content.

Around page forty-two, she heard the elevator doors open and Serena van der Woodsen entered the penthouse. She seemed taller than ever, twice as intimidating, as she strode towards Ivy. "Good morning," she said icily. "You and I need to talk."

Ivy put her book down. "Okay. Sure. I'd love to talk."

"Stay away from my brother," Serena said.

Ivy's face froze. How did she know? "Serena, I don't know what you think is-"

"I don't care. I don't care if you're hooking up, I don't care if you're just friends, I don't care if he took you to his club because you want to invest- I don't care. He won't listen to me, he always does what he wants, so now I'm telling you to keep far away from Chuck, you lying bitch, or everything will be over for you."

Stung, Ivy looked down. "Maybe I deserve that, but-"

"Maybe?" Serena laughed shortly. "No, I think you do deserve that. To say the very least. What's your game, Ivy? Our house, our money, now our family? I remember when you were just stealing my dresses and dating my ex-boyfriend. Is that it? Are you trying to become me?"

"No!" Ivy said. "That wasn't me, Carol told me to-"

"And everything else? Carol told you to trick my grandmother into leaving you everything? Because she seems just as upset about this as I am!"

"I didn't trick CeCe! I wouldn't! I loved her!"

"You hardly knew her!"

"I knew her better than you did! I was there for her while she was dying! Where were you, Serena? God, all you care about is her money! Have you actually grieved for her at all? You lost a member of your family and all you seem to care about is your bank account!"

"That's not true!"

"So, then, why are you here? For Chuck? You just said he always does what he wants! If he didn't want to be my friend, he wouldn't be! It's simple! What, you don't trust him?"

"I don't want to see him get hurt!" Serena said. "He's been through enough of that lately!"

Ivy paused for a moment. "What do you mean?"

"He didn't tell you? The girl he loves told him she wasn't in love with him anymore. So yes, Ivy, I don't trust him right now. I don't trust him to make smart decisions because he's in pain, and he's trying to put on a brave face, but hanging out with someone like you is not going to help him." Then, her voice softening, "just please leave him alone."

She turned and walked away, leaving Ivy by herself.

XXXX

Chuck walked out of his bedroom at eleven o'clock in the morning, just in time to hear the tail end of a conversation Nate was having on the phone.

"Come on," Nate was saying as Chuck sat down beside him on the couch. "Please?... I know, but I wanted to spend some time with you." He sighed heavily. "Fine. Some other time. Bye."

He turned to Chuck. "So, where were you all night? I didn't hear you come in."

"Victrola," Chuck replied.

"By yourself?"

"Well, Nathaniel, there were a hundred other people there, so no."

"You know what I meant."

Chuck considered telling his friend about Ivy, but decided against it. After all, Nate was powerless against the interrogative skills of Serena. If she asked, he'd spill all. And Chuck wasn't sure he wanted Serena to know about this just yet.

Not that they had anything to hide. Nothing had happened. They were just friends. But still, Chuck felt like keeping this to himself.

So he said, "You know, Nathaniel, if you want to go out with me, you could just ask."

Nate rolled his eyes. "Okay, Chuck."

"Now, who was that on the phone just now?" Chuck asked, smoothly turning the conversation in another direction.

"That was Lola."

"Really? You didn't sound too happy. What's the problem?"

"She's going out to dinner with William van der Woodsen," Nate complained. "I wanted to take her out tonight. Instead she's hanging out with her uncle. When did her uncle become better company than me?"

"She's probably just trying to bond with the one family member she doesn't distrust," Chuck said.

"She should distrust him. Hasn't anyone told her about what happened two years ago?"

"I'm sure William didn't. 'By the way, Lola, I drugged my ex-wife to make her think she had cancer and attempted to break up her marriage so that she'd get back together with me. But everything is okay now.' Doesn't sound so great, does it?"

"She should know he's not a trustworthy guy," Nate said. "Well, fine. I'll probably just hang out with Serena again."

"Again?"

"Yeah. She came over last night once she'd dropped her stuff off. She was kind of upset."

"And you comforted her?"

"What are you saying, Chuck?"

"Nothing at all," Chuck said.

XXXX

Maybe she's right, said a little voice in Ivy's mind. She was still contemplating Serena's words, wondering if she had been right after all. Maybe you should stay away from Chuck.

But she didn't really like that idea. Giving up the one friend she had, the one person with whom she could have fun? That was definitely not an option. But there was another way. There was a solution to all this. If Ivy gave the van der Woodsens their apartment back, maybe they'd stop hating her. Maybe they'd see that she wasn't so bad after all. And then they wouldn't care if she and Chuck were friends. Ivy could show them that she definitely wasn't going to hurt anyone anymore. Especially not Chuck.

She had been thinking about returning the apartment anyway. She'd taken it in a fit of pique and anger, frustration at being pushed out of the lives of the people she cared about. It had been a childish decision, and now it was time to take it back.

But they weren't just going to accept her with open arms, listen to everything she had to say. She needed a guide, someone to get her through the door. Grabbing for her cell phone, she scrolled through her contacts until she reached Chuck's name.

"Chuck?" she said once he had picked up. "It's Ivy. Are you free this afternoon? I need your help to do something."