DISCLAIMER: The Facts of Life and its characters are the property of Columbia Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Television, no infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
That Time They All Went Camping
"Camping?" Blair didn't like the idea one bit. She'd already said so, and pouted, but all the girls still insisted on talking about it.
"Girls, it'll be a good chance to be with the whole school again," Mrs. Garrett was saying. She directed them in packing four dozen picnic baskets.
"But camping? I'll break a nail."
Jo leaned on the counter. "Yeah, if there's anything worse than being around Blair's whining, it's being around thirty Blairs, whining, in the woods in the middle of the night."
"Yeah," said Natalie. "That's how Deliverance gets made."
Blair, still feeling cranky, shook her head. "And you came to this school, why?"
"Know your enemy," Jo said. She glared at Blair.
Mrs. Garrett frowned and said, "You girls need to spend more time with your classmates. Social time. Your life can't be about the kitchen." She patted Tootie's arm, and then went to get more food from the basement freezer.
Blair sighed. She leaned against the table, and caught Jo's eye.
"Camping, schamping." Jo said. She straightened up against the counter and added, "Hey, I'm a city girl, too."
"Do you think there will be singing?" Tootie asked. "Around the campfire? Like on TV? Who knows the words to Kumbaya?"
"There you go," Jo said.
Blair shook her head. She pulled out a bag of marshmallows and tossed it at Tootie. "It's better than TV. From what Mrs. G said, there'll be smores."
"And hell. It's just one night," Jo said.
Natalie grinned. She asked, "What could happen? I'm going to go upstairs and get my book of horror stories."
"No, don't!" Tootie ran after her, out of the kitchen.
Blair sighed, and said, "At least I won't have to sleep next to your ugly mug for a night."
"Yeah. Enjoy that," Jo said.
Blair gave her a little wave, picked up a picnic basket, and headed into the cafeteria.
Blair discovered that it was hard to be pretty in the wilderness of New York. Especially after she had walked two miles along a dirt path and her calves were aching. A truck had brought the food and packs, at least, but her new hiking boots were tearing up her feet and her frontierswoman skirt kept getting caught in things. Jo, up ahead, talking to some of the science nerds, looked equally unhappy as her leather jacket got scuffed by barbs, but Blair couldn't commiserate, not with Nancy chattering in her ear about Biff. She wanted to be the one talking about boys, but she was too miserable.
"So, what's it like, living with Jo?" Nancy asked.
"Well, I have her in two of my classes. She's so smart and intense. The teachers love her. But she hardly talks to anyone." Nancy sighed. "Is she why you're getting straight As?"
"Jo?" Blair pictured Jo in her mind. Jo was just there, like a lump in her life that she couldn't excise. She'd never really considered preference. Or intelligence. She shrugged and said, "She doesn't pee on the carpet, if that's what you mean."
Some of the girls snickered, but Nancy looked disgusted. "Come on, Blair."
Blair said, "Oh, God, look at what this is doing to my hands. Will I have to wash them in a stream? I'm not sure I brought enough moisturizer."
The snickering turned into sympathetic laughter, a shared hysteria against the terror of the wild. Blair took Nancy's elbow and said, comfortingly, "Won't we have a story to tell our grandchildren."
"Yeah. Back in our day, we had nature."
Tootie's fingers were sticky with the chicken they'd had, and freshly opened marshmallows, but she was laughing as she tried to spear a third one onto her stick.
"Tootie, if you puke, we're going to make you sleep with the bears," Jo warned.
"This one's for you, Jo. Who knew you'd be afraid of fire?"
Jo scowled, and said, "If those dumb girls would stop spraying with hair spray, I'd be fine. It's unnatural."
Tootie beamed up at her and thrust her stick into the flames.
Jo leapt back. "Jesus, Tootie, you'll catch them on fire!"
Blair, watching them, laughed. They were far more entertaining than Jill's story about her last polo match.
Nancy pushed her shoulder. "Want to go join your friends, Blairsy?"
"They're not my friends. Besides, the fire looks nice. It's cold," Blair said. The sun had set and left Blair with the uneasy sense that camping in early October was the result of poor planning. She wanted to point that out to Mrs. Garrett, but Mrs. Garrett had already left, ensuring that they had enough food. The chaperones were off in the dark, smoking. She shivered.
"When's the last time you had a Bates boy warm you?" Nancy asked.
"Please, last time it was a Langley boy." Blair turned to her group. "And it was two." She tossed her hair.
Jill fell off the log.
"Hey, Blair," came Jo's voice. Closer than the fire. Far closer. Blair looked up. Jo was shrugging out of her jacket. "Your teeth are chattering so loud I can hear it over there. I'm trying to have a good time, here."
Blair spared a glance at her friends. Nancy and Jill were talking to each other, passively ignoring Jo, as they always did, and by extension Blair, every time she talked to Jo.
Jo draped the jacket over Blair's shoulders and asked, "Where're your furs, anyway?"
"I thought the other animals would get offended."
"Probably. And don't worry, I had it dry cleaned."
"You don't dry clean leather, Jo," Blair chided. Jo grinned. She squeezed Blair's shoulder, and then turned back toward the fire. Before she could step away, Blair grabbed her wrist and asked, "Won't you be cold?"
"Natalie and Tootie are going to toss me into the fire. I'll be fine."
"You, uh, too," Jo said. She glanced at Blair's friends, and then went back toward the fire. Tootie waved chocolate-covered fingers at her menacingly. Natalie was lying nearby, writing in her journal, looking at them occasionally. She glanced in Blair's direction. Blair smiled at her. Natalie smiled back, and then wrote something down.
Blair tugged the jacket closer around her and turned back to Nancy.
"Adorable," Nancy said.
"Jealousy is so unbecoming, Nancy," Blair said.
Nancy rolled her eyes and launched into another story about her boyfriend. As if keeping a man made her better than Blair, who had dozens of them. The jacket was still warm from Jo's body heat. She inhaled. Jo's scent was there, too, not quite motor oil, but something earthy and hard, mixed with the smoke and the leather. And when Jo had pressed it to her shoulders, a knot in Blair's stomach that she hadn't even known she was carrying had loosened. She swallowed hard.
She wanted to think it was too easy to just hang out with Tootie and Natalie, that Jo was just being isolationist, like Mrs. Garrett had scolded them for, but Jo had talked to everyone, even the teachers. Even Blair's friends had mentioned her favorably. Still, she'd only brought her jacket to Blair. Other girls were shivering, creeping as close to the fire as they dared, or huddling under trees away from the wind. Blair was warm. She pressed her nose into the collar of the jacket, and looked for Jo and found her off in the distance, but Jo wasn't looking at her.
Nancy was skinny, and bony, and every time she shifted position she let out a wheezing, gurgling sound that drove Blair up a wall.
"Nancy, stop it!" she said, pushing Nancy's shoulder.
Who knew a tent could be so small? There were four and eight-man tents, too, under trees and in clearings, a dozen of them spread out between two outhouses--she was never going in one of those--some on wooden platforms, some on the ground, which felt frozen solid. But Blair had eschewed the very idea of bunking down with the people she had to sleep with every single night. And two was far more decadent than eight. A one-man tent would just be foolish, with bears lurking around. She assumed, at least, there were bears on Bear Mountain.
Nancy rolled onto her back, smacking Blair in the face with her arm.
Blair squirmed out of the tent. In her nightgown, with long underwear underneath--it had been exciting to shop for--and Jo's jacket on top, she was momentarily fortified against the cold night. She inhaled deeply. And then wondered where she was going to sleep. She crept toward Jo's tent.
"Jo," she hissed.
Nothing in the clearing moved.
"Jo," she said again, louder, and winced at the sound of her voice.
"What?" came Jo's whine. Jo flipped open the tent flap.
"Is there room?" Blair asked.
"Well, I'm alone, if that's what you mean."
"What happened to Georgia?" Blair only vaguely remembered the brainy girl Jo was supposed to be bunking with.
"She said I kicked her, so she left."
"She said you kicked her?"
"Maybe because I was kicking her."
Blair chuckled, and crawled into the tent. Jo sighed, but didn't evict her, so Blair settled down at her side. Georgia had taken her sleeping bag, and Blair had left hers, so Jo threw the flap of hers over Blair and said, "You're going to have to get closer if you don't want to freeze your butt off."
"Fine." Blair wriggled closer, pressing her back to Jo. She felt Jo's hips against her, and Jo's legs brushing her calves. Jo was warm, so she scooted further back. Jo grunted. "Thanks," Blair said. Jo slid her arm around Blair's stomach. Blair shivered. She stroked Jo's hand. "No, really. Thanks."
"Go to sleep, Blair."
Blair swallowed, and the icy cold sweetness rushed down her throat. It was hot for late October, hot enough for snow cones, at least, but she wore gloves and her muff, and hoped the dry cleaners would be able to restore them after her dirt bike experience.
She'd lost a bet to Jo, and she hated herself for it. They could be at the opera, in New York City, but who knew Jo could make a baked Alaska? She had probably been practicing all night, just to see Blair humiliated. Blair's chest burned with anger. She took another bite of snow cone. The cold only helped a little.
The dirt-biking wasn't even that thrilling. Up and down, up and down, over muddy hills. No finesse, no aerial acrobatics, just skidding and sprays of mud. Nothing like the poised, fine lines of a dog show.
A dog show. She should write that down for the next bet. She opened her purse.
Jo walked by the bleachers, pushing her motorbike. "Hey," she called.
"Hi. Jo, you're not doing that, are you?" Blair gestured to the racetrack.
"Why do you think we came?"
"To indulge in the mass spectacle. Bread and circuses. To see how the common people live."
Jo said, "There's no point in coming unless you're going to be a part of the spectacle."
"Then there's no point in coming."
Jo grinned. She pushed her bike through the gate.
"But Jo, it's dangerous!"
"Live a little, Blair," Jo called. Then she straddled the bike, and gunned the motor.
Blair felt sick. She glanced down at her snow cone, and then back at Jo. She couldn't sit down. She could barely breathe. Already a young man had broken his arm. If Jo was hurt--if Blair had to cross through all that mud to save her--
"Be careful!" Blair shouted. She crumpled her snow cone cup.
Jo didn't acknowledge her. She probably couldn't hear Blair over the roar of the engine. Jo had done this on purpose, to scare her to death. Well. She sat down. She wouldn't take the bait.
The bike started, and Jo sailed over the first ridge. Blair screamed until she landed, on both tires, and sped toward the next hill. She didn't get airborne on that one, but did a turn that sent mud spraying over the field, splashing the bike racing to catch her. Blair screamed another warning.
"Hey, shut up!" A girl called from the bleacher below. She wore a letter jacket from the local high school, and said, "That's my boyfriend racing that bitch out there. Don't scare him off his bike, harpie."
"She's not a bitch," Blair said.
"What?" The girl stood, and towered over Blair's sitting position.
Blair swallowed, and said, "It's just, I know her is all."
"A girl like you knows a girl like her? You her lipstick or something?"
"Jo doesn't wear lipstick."
The girl grabbed Blair's collar and said, "Neither do you when I'm through wiping it off your face."
The final lap whistle blew on the track and the girl mercifully turned to race down to the side to watch her boyfriend finish. Her friends joined her, leaving Blair adjusting her blouse and shaking her head.
Jo walked off the track, leaving her bike with a kid and heading toward Blair. She pulled off her helmet and there was mud in her hair, and a smudge on her chin. Blair found her roguish and...attractive, she realized. She wanted to wipe the mud off Jo's skin, and find out if Jo smelled like sweat.
"Did you win?" Blair asked.
"There are two more heats, but I'm pretty damn close," Jo said.
"Did you beat that guy?"
"Yeah," Jo said. "By a mile."
"Good. His lady friend was giving me a hard time."
Blair gestured. "But I took care of it."
"Hey!" The girl called. "Are you pointing at me?"
Blair's heart sank.
"Sherie, don't." The girl's friends pulled at her arms, but Sherie headed over. "Your screaming distracted my boyfriend. That's why he lost," Sherie said.
"I didn't mean to--"
"You were screaming?" Jo asked.
"I was afraid you'd get hurt," Blair said.
Blair folded her arms. "Well, everyone's fine, what does it matter?"
"My man's out fifty bucks! That's a week's worth of beer money."
"I said I'm sorry. Here, do you want me to--" Blair reached for her purse, but Sherie grabbed her arm and pushed her back.
"Hey!" Jo thrust herself between Blair and Sherie, wrenching Sherie's arm down. "Lay off."
"Or you'll what?"
"Or I'll let everyone know that not only did Jeremy get beaten by a girl, but his girl did, too." Jo balled her fist, and leaned in close to Sherie. "Blair belongs to me. No one else lays a hand on her."
"Come on, Sherie," her friend called again. "Jeremy's waiting."
Sherie shrugged, and walked down the curve of the track.
"My hero," Blair said. Her heart was still racing. She leaned on the post, frowning at the dust getting on her gloves.
"She was upset about the loss, that's all. You can't solve everything with money."
"Oh, but you can solve it with your fists?"
"I didn't have to use them."
"Would you? To protect me?" Blair's heart was still pounding, and her knees felt weak. Jo's intensity had matched Sherie's, and she wasn't sure she could cope with either.
"Of course," Jo said.
Blair took Jo's arm, and leaned into her. "Even when it's my fault?"
"It's always your fault."
Blair didn't laugh, but squeezed Jo's forearm until Jo protested. "Ow, Blair. It seems like you're angry."
"Now that I'm not terrified of getting thrown into the mud, I'm so angry I don't know where to begin. How dare they treat me like that. Me."
"You mean you, Blair Warner, of the New York Warners?" When Blair nodded her assent, Jo asked, "Why should they? They don't know you."
"But everyone should know me."
"Feel marginalized, Warner?"
Jo freed her arm and then took Blair's elbow, gently, to guide Blair to look fully into her face. She said, "My old neighborhood, we ain't been all Polish in a long time. Maybe never. And we've never been anything but poor. That's what we got in common with all the other people fighting for the scraps the dogs leave. That, and our pride."
"Everyone's got pride," Blair said. She tried to extricate herself, but Jo's grip was firm, and she relaxed.
"Exactly, Blair. But sometimes, when we feel marginalized, people try to help us. There any shame in accepting that help?"
"What do I always tell you?" Blair asked. She put her free hand on Jo's shoulder.
"That helping is a privilege."
Blair smiled. "Yes, usually done by the privileged. But this is America, and everyone can cross class lines. Even you."
"Great." Jo looked skyward, and exhaled. She said, "Now that's settled."
"But wouldn't someone say violence is never the answer?"
Jo turned away, saying, "Those girls aren't bad, Blair. They're fine. They just saw something alien--and screechy--in their world and reacted. Sometimes things get out of hand."
"I can't imagine why anyone would react like that when some freak shows up and encroaches on her territory," Blair said. She followed the movement of Jo's shift, so that they were still side by side. "I really thought you were going to punch their lights out."
"Nah, I learned growing up, from my dad, that the best way to diffuse a situation is through humor. Sure, you can punch a guy, but sooner or later you're going to get punched, too. Then you might wind up dead."
"But you were so tough."
Jo grinned at that, but she said, "Different worlds, Blair. That? That's just how I make friends." Jo leaned against Blair's shoulder. "I guess they didn't get it."
Blair slid her arm around Jo's waist. "Well, they're fools if they don't want to be friends with you."
Jo looked sharply at her. Blair held her tighter.
"That's all right," Jo said. "I got all the friends I need."
"You're the luckiest girl at Eastland."
"Never again will I go to a drag race," Blair announced, tossing her bag onto the couch. The lounge was nearly empty. Only the girls that lived above the kitchen bothered with hanging around at night when everyone else was beckoned to the stables or the library or the dorm common rooms.
Natalie knocked one of Tootie's pawns off the chess board and asked, "Have fun?"
"I had fun," Jo said.
Tootie jumped up, and asked, "Did you bring me a ribbon?"
"Sure did." Jo produced a pink ribbon from her jacket pocket.
Tootie read it. "Second place?"
"Hey, it can't always be perfect."
"Maybe you were distracted," Natalie said. She glanced at Blair.
"Maybe the other person just had a good day," Jo said. She leaned over Natalie on the couch, with a growl creeping into her voice.
"Maybe you just know how much Tootie likes pink," Natalie said, shrinking into the cushions. "Right, Tootie?"
"Uh, right." Tootie brushed the ribbon along her fingertips.
"I got too much sun. Dreadful. I'm going to go find my face cream." Blair waved.
Jo shrugged and settled onto the couch next to Natalie.
Natalie asked, "Did you take pictures? Blair at a motorbike day should be recorded for posterity."
"Nah. You just had to be there."
"Next time," Natalie said.
"You two have fun. I'm not ever going out there," Tootie said.
"Too much sun?"
"Wouldn't want to distract Jo," Tootie said. She elbowed Jo in the ribs, but Jo didn't even bother to grunt. She settled back against the cushions with a faint smile on her face and her eyes closed.
Natalie snorted, and said, "Oh, yeah. She's a bad ass. Fear her."
"Okay, define a dot product," Jo said, flipping over the flash card.
"There are dots... on a graph..." Blair slumped in her chair. The library was quiet, with only a few other alcoves occupied, none near the corner where Jo and Blair sat under a table lamp, but Blair still looked around before she whispered, "Am I even close?"
"No. There are no dots. Come on, Blair," Jo said.
She sounded just as tired as Blair felt, so Blair let a little whining creep into her voice. "Then why is it called that? That's stupid. Math is stupid. Why do we have to learn this?"
"You need math so that you can count your money," Jo said.
Blair leaned on her elbow on the table, and smiled. "As if," she said.
Jo smiled back, and then yawned, covering her face with her hand and looking sheepishly at Blair.
"We should go to bed," Blair said.
"Not until you tell me what a dot product is."
"Oh, Jo. I promise I won't fail trig."
Jo shrugged and picked up a rubber band to bind the flash cards.
Blair covered Jo's hand with hers, and said, "Thanks for doing this, you know."
"Eh, it's not like I had much going on."
"You could have gone to the movies with Tootie and Natalie. Or watched paint dry. I'm sure that's more fun than trig."
Jo shrugged. She put the flash cards in her backpack and stood up, helping Blair to stand also. She said, "If you even get a B in class, you're insufferable. I don't want to deal with that. This is in my own enlightened self interest."
"Still. Thank you."
Jo looked down, fiddling with the strap of her backpack. Blair leaned forward and kissed her. Jo stumbled back at the pressure of Blair's lips against hers, and blinked, wide-eyed. Blair held her arm. "Jo," she said.
"What was that?"
"Something I've been thinking about."
"Warn someone, would you?"
"I'm sorry," Blair said. She stepped closer, pulling on Jo's elbow. "Jo, I'm warning you I'm about to--"
Jo's mouth descended, covering hers, cutting off her words. Blair let out a high-pitched, surprised squeak and kissed back, wrapping her arms around Jo's shoulders. Jo lifted her chin, breaking the kiss as suddenly as it had started. Blair pressed her forehead against Jo's shoulder, panting.
"Blair, it isn't right."
Blair froze. She still had her fingers curled in Jo's collar, her body pressed against Jo's close enough to feel the heat radiating from her, and she knew she should move away at the coldness of Jo's words, but she couldn't. She held onto Jo and thought of nothing but the roaring in her ears and the fear of fainting.
"A first kiss should be special," Jo said.
Blair lifted her face. "Special?"
"Yeah. Not, you know, in a library. And so--"
"What does it mean, Blair?" Jo was looking everywhere but at her, and Blair wanted to seize Jo's face between her hands and make their eyes meet, but she was still trying to keep her legs from buckling.
"I've been thinking about it a long time," Blair said.
"Let me think about it some."
"Do you want--"
"Let me think about it."
Blair backed away, then, feeling cold when she parted from Jo's closeness. Her fingers ached from clenching them. She said, "I can wait."
"You? Blair Warner?"
"Haven't I been, already?"
Jo shrugged. She adjusted her backpack, and touched Blair's shoulder, and then let her hand drop. She said, "It's not about you, Blair. Or--Or liking girls. I just have to think."
They walked out of the library together, and Blair said, "I have a math test in the morning anyway."
"Gotta get your beauty sleep."
Blair chuckled. She said, "I know I don't say this often, but I don't think even that will help."
"Sure it will. If you look pretty enough, the teacher might let you slide."
"That's disgusting," Blair said. And then, "Do you really think I'm pretty?"
Jo didn't dignify that with a response.
At breakfast, Jo was quieter than usual and Blair was giggly. Natalie smacked them both at least once, and finally asked, "Did you two have a fight?"
Jo giggled. She covered her mouth.
Blair ate her cornflakes.
"Come on, Natalie. Help me get these trays into the kitchen. If we come back out and find one of them dead, we'll have our answer." Tootie huffed.
Natalie gave them one last stern look, and then followed Tootie into the kitchen.
Jo lowered her hand, and said, "This is awkward."
"Aren't you going to say anything?"
"Ask me out," Blair said.
"Ask me out."
Jo sighed, and said, "Blair, if you pass your test, I will take you to dinner Friday night."
"Some place with real linen napkins," Jo said.
"Great. Now can I finish my breakfast in peace, please?"
Jo stuck her tongue out.
Natalie came back in just to see Blair flicking soggy cornflakes at Jo with her spoon. "Oh, hell no," she said. "I am not cleaning that up."
Jo dipped her spoon into Blair's cornflakes and took aim at Natalie.
"There is no justice," Natalie said, ducking back into the kitchen before the catapulted flakes could hit her.
Blair got an A- on her test, made jokes about cosines for three days, and then let Jo take her to dinner. The second nicest Chinese place in Peekskill did have cloth napkins, but no steak, which Blair conceded was a fair compromise between their two worlds. She even enjoyed herself. She usually did with Jo, preferring her company to nearly anyone at Eastland, but rarely were the other girls or Mrs. Garrett or classmates or teachers or, well, boys not around.
Tonight, she could totally focus on Jo. The slope of her nose, the twitch in her cheek when she smiled, the intelligence that seemed shy when she was not assailing Blair with wordy insults, all captivated Blair, who insisted on going dutch, because after all, wasn't it Betty Friedan who had gotten them into this mess?
They walked back to Blair's car with Jo's arm around her shoulders, laughing, and then back to their dorm room at 10 o'clock to join Natalie and Tootie for Monopoly. It was, Blair thought, a far better date than her last several, which had involved fighting off ardent Bates men or trying to engage them in conversation beyond her prettiness or, well, theirs. Jo didn't have to be prodded into talking to her, or cajoled out of groping her. She was just right.
"You always giggle when you land on a hotel, Blair?" Jo asked.
"I was just thinking about the Three Little Bears. Besides, the absurdity of you owning Park Place. I mean, really."
"Just gotta know how to work the system."
Still, Natalie was the one to announce "Checkmate," when she took the last of Jo's cash and announced herself the winner. Jo obligingly tipped over her thimble, and then stood up and announced she was going to bed. Tootie checked her watch and then ran off to join the 9th grade class slumber party in the gym. Blair lingered to watch TV and have cheesecake with Natalie. By the time she left Natalie asleep on the couch, Jo was asleep, too. Blair crouched next to her bed and brushed hair away from Jo's eyes. Jo didn't stir. She breathed quietly. Blair sighed, and went to bed.
Some time later, she woke to moaning.
"No," Jo was saying in her sleep. The moaning came from her. Blair rolled onto her stomach and tried to block it out. The sounds continued, and were punctuated by a sharp cry. Blair threw off the covers and sat up. Her heart pounded from the shock of waking up. She made out in the dark Jo's form, tossing restlessly.
Jo didn't have nightmares often, but all the girls had them once in a while. Tootie would usually slide out of bed and pat Jo until Jo quieted. She was the only one brave enough to face getting struck. Jo had never lashed out. She'd never hurt Tootie. Blair wasn't as sure, since Jo had socked her before, but Natalie, who'd yell and wake all three of them up, was gone. Blair slipped out of bed, and sat next to Jo, against her back, away from her flailing arms. "Jo," she hissed.
"No," Jo mumbled.
Jo's breathing stopped. And then started again, and then Jo asked, "What?"
"You were having a nightmare."
"Now I'm dreaming that you're here next to me. Is that supposed to be better?"
Blair touched Jo's shoulder and asked, "What was it about?"
Jo exhaled, and didn't answer.
"Come on, tell me. I always tell you."
"Do we ask?"
Blair shook her.
Jo sighed, and said, "I was dreaming about my dad. That he was dying in prison and no one would let me see him."
"He's not in prison anymore," Blair said.
"I--" Jo stopped, and swallowed, and said, "I know. It was just a dream."
Blair rubbed her shoulder.
Jo yawned. She said, "Thanks for waking me up. I don't like to think about that."
"I know what it's like. To be abandoned by your father."
Jo rolled over, into Blair, so she was half on Blair's thigh, craning her neck to peer at her. She said, "We have a lot in common, I guess."
"We do." Blair draped her arm around Jo's stomach, and asked, "Want to make a list?"
"Oh, come on. We're both pretty, intelligent, funny..."
"Charming. You forgot charming."
Blair leaned down on her, and said, "I didn't forget."
Jo scowled, and then laughed. She scooted out from under Blair so that she could lie on her back, and then tugged Blair down. Blair hovered, her face a few inches from Jo's. Jo licked her lips and asked, "You really think I'm pretty?"
Blair brushed Jo's bangs out of her eyes.
Jo cupped the back of Blair's neck and hesitantly pulled her down. Blair closed her eyes and parted her lips, and Jo lifted her chin slightly and met Blair's mouth at an angle, and kissed her gently. Blair sighed. She settled onto Jo, deepening the kiss. Jo's lips parted under hers, and Blair, who had kissed a dozen boys, slipped her tongue into Jo's mouth and tasted an entirely new sweetness. Jo's lips were pliant and warm, and Blair kissed them again and again, taking little breaths, teasing Jo's tongue, until Jo finally groaned and arched into her. Blair came more and more aware of the shifts of Jo's body under hers, the way their breasts pressed together. She drew back, smiling at Jo.
Jo pressed her lips together, and then coughed, and said, "That doesn't count, either."
Blair rolled onto her side and sighed. She put her hand on Jo's stomach, between her breasts, and tickled the hollow of her neck.
"I've got a plan," Jo says.
"Does it happen sometime this century?"
"Only if you're lucky."
Blair chuckled as she pushed herself into a sitting position. Jo groped behind her, and found her hand. "Stay," she said.
"Natalie won't be asleep downstairs forever."
"Who cares? Stay."
"All right," Blair said. She settled down against Jo's back, and draped her arm around Jo's torso. Jo covered Blair's hand with her own. "Goodnight," Blair said, against her ear.
"Yeah. No one's going to walk out on me in my dreams tonight."
"I don't get it," Natalie says, as they all walked out of the movie theater.
"There are muppets. What's to get?" Jo asked.
Blair said nothing. She hadn't paid attention to much of The Dark Crystal at all, as Jo's hand held hers, seemed to burn into her hand, hidden under their folded jackets and the popcorn. She'd spent the hour and a half massaging Jo's fingers and shivering when Jo's fingertips danced across hers in return. They hadn't looked at each other once in the dark, so Blair looked at her now, unabashedly.
"Maybe we needed to be high to get it," Natalie said. "Like those people." She pointed to townies who were settling at a picnic table outside the theater.
"Natalie!" Tootie socked her.
Natalie grinned, and said, "Come on, you guys. Let's get something to eat."
"You go ahead," Jo said, tugging on Blair's elbow before she could agree. "I want to take Blair for a ride on the motorcycle."
"You want to what?" Blair asked.
"Trust me," Jo said.
"I don't want to trust you," Blair said, and sighed.
Natalie shrugged, and said, "We'll take the bus back to Eastland."
"Don't eat too much candy."
"Don't die in a fiery wreck," Tootie shot back.
"Kids," Jo said. She wrapped her arm around Blair's waist and walked her toward the motorcycle.
"Where on earth are we going?"
"I've been planning." Jo thrust the spare helmet into Blair's hands.
"You haven't thought this through. There is no way I'm putting this on my head."
Jo sat sideways on the bike, and took one of Blair's hands between both of hers. She said, "I don't care what your hair looks like."
"Oh, even you will care."
Jo stood up, nose to nose with Blair. "No. I won't."
"Fine," Jo echoed.
Blair stepped back and put the helmet on her head.
Jo doubled over, laughing.
Blair kicked her in the shin.
Jo kept laughing, but hobbled onto the bike, and said, "Get on."
"You really haven't thought this through."
Blair sighed. She put one hand on Jo's shoulder, and carefully swung herself over the bike, settling behind her. Their hips and thighs pressed together, and Blair wrapped her arms around Jo's waist and hugged her tightly. She said, "Oh. You have thought this through."
"Told you." Jo revved the bike.
Blair held on for dear life.
Blair's whole body was numb with cold when the motorcycle slowed and pulled through the gate to Bear Mountain Park. She had frozen onto Jo. Jo hadn't said--or shouted--much since they left Peekskill. She navigated the bike along the road lit by street lamps, and as they crested a hill, the sweep of the ski jump was in front of them. Jo turned the bike onto a hiking trail.
"Jo!" Blair shouted, happily surprised that her jaw still worked. She rotated it, trying to work circulation back into her face.
"It's all right. Who's going to be hiking at this time of day?"
"They're off burning things and pitching tents."
Blair dared to let go of Jo with one arm and rub her leg, working it around a bit, now that the bike was going slower. She asked, "Is this where we went camping?"
"Generally. Over there." Jo gestured with one hand.
Blair wished she'd put it back on the handlebar. "I can't believe I've never ridden your bike before," Blair said, to distract herself from certain death by ice or fiery crash.
"I can," Jo said.
Blair poked her hip.
Jo navigated to an overlook above the river and stopped the bike. The mountains spread out before them. The leaves had fallen off all the trees, but the first snow hadn't fallen. Blair extricated herself, holding onto Jo until her feet were solidly on the ground. Jo parked the bike. She swung her leg over, and stumbled into Blair. "Geez, it's cold."
"But it's beautiful," Blair said. "I can't believe we're only 50 miles from Manhattan."
"Who needs Vail?" Blair asked.
Jo grinned. She pulled her gloves off and stuck them into her pockets, and then cupped Blair's face. Her hands were still warm from the insulation. Blair sighed. She leaned into Jo's touch, closing her eyes.
"I wanted it to be special," Jo said.
"Success." Jo's fingers danced along her skin, and Blair turned her cheek. She said, "Jo, I'll die if you don't kiss me."
"Oh, come on, that's just a line."
"I really, really mean it," Blair said. She put her hands on Jo's waist and tried to pull her closer. Jo kissed her temple. Blair felt the cold lips press against her and exhaled. "Jo."
Jo kissed her jaw. "You really mean it?"
Jo's breath warmed her neck as she said, "I really like the way you say my name."
"Jo, Jo, Jo," Blair repeated. She opened her eyes, drew back and put her hands on Jo's shoulders. Jo smiled. Blair kissed her, hard, swallowing Jo's muffled yelp. Jo kissed her back, pushing her mouth against Blair's, no finesse, just pressure, and behind it, heat. Blair gripped Jo's shoulders as tightly as she could. Jo sucked on her upper lip. Blair shivered, and pulled back.
"Are you cold?" Jo asked.
Jo, in Blair's embrace, slid her hands back up to Blair's face. She traced Blair's eyebrows. "Hold still," she warned.
Little white puffs of air rose between them as Blair breathed. Jo kissed her. Blair stayed still, letting Jo's lips move against hers with agonizing deliberation. "More," she managed to say.
Jo turned her face, chuckling. "You're so demanding."
Blair kissed her ear.
Jo turned back and kissed her again, and then pulled back to squint at her through the falling light.
"What are we going to do?" Blair asked.
"We're going to be very careful," Jo said.
"Okay. But we don't have to go home yet, do we?"
"No," Jo said, and pulled her closer.
"And then the bear said--"
"Natalie, I don't care about your stupid bear," Tootie said.
"What stupid bear?" Jo asked, coming into the bedroom with Blair following behind her.
"Don't ask," Tootie said. "And, hello. We were getting worried."
"There was no fiery wreck, I promise, Tootie," Jo said.
Blair tossed her bag onto her bed and went to the window. "I think it's going to snow tomorrow. It's cold."
"Really?" Tootie asked.
Natalie snapped her book shut, and got out her journal.
"No more bears?" Jo asked.
"I need to write something down," Natalie said.
Jo sat down on her bed and began struggling out of her motorcycle boots.
"What?" Blair asked.
"Nothing. But in 40 years, you'll thank me," Natalie said.
Tootie rolled her eyes. "Now that you guys are back, can we go to bed, before Natalie loses her mind, or I smother her with a pillow?"
Natalie snorted, put down her journal, and went to turn out the lights.
"It's a full moon," Blair said.
"Yeah?" In her socks, Jo went to Blair's side at the window, and put her hand on Blair's back.
Blair said, "I didn't notice earlier, when I was hanging on for dear life on the back of a motorcycle."
"Too bad. I guess you'll turn hairy in the night," Jo said.
Blair smacked her.
Jo leaned against her and said, "Make a wish."
"Don't have to," Blair said.
Jo snorted and went back to bed. She sprawled on her back and, propped on the pillows. Blair stood by the window, looking out at the moon.
Natalie began to snore.
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