DISCLAIMER: The Facts of Life and its characters are the property of Columbia Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Television, no infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Beauty Crowds Me: Chapter 3 of 16 Chapters. Spoiler preview of Post Series Sequel included. Quotes in italics are direct quotes from Season 2, Episode 3, Double Standard.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Beauty Crowds Me
3: It Had To Be You

By Slave2Free


Jo didn't understand Blair Warner. Blair had kissed her. Right here in their room, Blair had leaned over out of the clear blue and kissed her. Jo understood what happened the first night they had met. She had kissed Blair in a moment of weakness and had sworn to herself that it would never happen again. The fact that Blair would initiate a kiss had never even occurred to Jo. Despite Blair's behavior the first night they met, Jo thought girls like Blair must be too proper to enjoy kissing. But the beautiful blonde had been flirting with her constantly and when Jo hadn't responded, Blair had apparently decided to become the aggressor.

Blair had been watching Jo. The way she drove her motorcycle, speeding carelessly around curves and popping wheelies even when no one was watching. The way she played field hockey, with reckless abandon, almost daring others to try to block her advances. The way she challenged their teacher's to defend their opinions just as much as students were required to do so. The way she physically leaned toward Blair during their heated arguments, in a manner which was probably intended to intimidate, but instead elicited a very different response. Why was Jo so timid when it came to demonstrating any type of affection? Why had she, Blair Warner, had to initiate their second kiss? Something the attractive blonde had never once in her life had to do before meeting Jo Polniaczek.

"Jo, what happened? Did you wreck your bike at the track?" Tootie solicitously attempted to touch Jo's face.

Jo, however, was not accustomed to coddling. She pushed Tootie away more forcefully than she intended.

"Nah. This is nothin, just a little run in with a couple of locals."

"Your nose is bleeding."

"No kiddin, it would be kind of hard to miss, don't ya think?"

"When Mrs. Garrett finds out you've been fighting again, you're going to be in BIG trouble."

"But she ain't gonna find out, now is she?"

Jo's glare made it clear that she expected Tootie to keep quiet about the incident.

"Your nose may stop bleeding, eventually. But you're definitely going to have a black eye tomorrow morning." Natalie pointed out the obvious.

Jo examined her eye in the mirror, gingerly touching the swollen edges. She looked over at Blair, who was pretending to read a text book. It was unusual for Blair not to give Jo a hard time when she'd been fighting, but Jo wasn't relieved by Blair's indifference.

"Maybe Blair has something I could put on it to cover it up."

Jo looked hopefully over at Blair.

"My makeup bag is in the top drawer, take whatever you want."

"I don't know what to do with any of that stuff."

"It's not rocket science, Jo. I'm sure even you can figure it out."

Blair didn't sound angry, which made her callous words sting Jo even more.

Before Jo could reply, Mrs. Garrett called to the girls that it was time to prepare for lunch. Natalie and Tootie left the room as soon as Mrs. Garrett called, glad to get away from their two bickering older roommates.

"Would it kill ya to help me out just a little?"

Blair ignored her. Jo didn't mind her fights with Blair, she enjoyed most of them in a way she didn't want to dwell on, but the silent treatment was a different matter.

"So you don't care if I get kicked out of Eastland for fighting?"

"Jo, if you get kicked out of school for fighting it won't be my fault."

"It's not like I expected you to care one way or another."

Jo jerked a clean school uniform from the closet and began removing the bloodied t-shirt she'd worn to the motorcycle track where she often raced her bike. Jo was fuming. It appeared to her that Blair was ready to see Jo kicked out of Eastland without so much as a nod goodbye.

Blair sighed deeply and closed her book, baffled as to what Jo expected of her.

"There's something wrong with you, Jo."

Jo didn't like Blair's new tactic any more than she appreciated the silent treatment.

"What the hell do you know about anything?"

"I know that most people avoid pain, while you seem to enjoy it."

"That's crazy, and I'm not crazy." Jo was shouting.

"I don't think you're crazy."

Blair's voice was calm, almost soothing. She picked up her makeup kit and walked over to Jo.

"Sit down on your bed so I can cover up your eye."

Jo was furious at Blair, but Mrs. Garrett had warned her more than once that she was one fight away from expulsion, so she did as she was directed.

Jo buttoned her clean shirt while Blair held her chin with one hand as she patted makeup around her eye with the other.

"It breaks my heart to see you hurt yourself."

"Hey, I didn't do this to myself ya know."

Blair finished applying makeup to the injured eye and carefully surveyed her work.

"That should hide it, unless someone looks too closely."

"No one ever looks that closely."

"I do."

It was almost a whisper.

"I know."

Jo swallowed hard. It was difficult being so close to Blair, especially after a fight when her adrenaline was still coursing through her body. She got up from the bed and walked over to the mirror, as much to get away from Blair as to inspect her eye.

"We'd better go, Nat and Tootie will be furious if we leave all the work to them."

"It's ok Blair. They've left us to do it enough times, they can wait."

"Why? There's nothing left for me to say. You're going to keep starting fights until you're kicked out of school or until something worse happens. Nothing I say is going to stop you. You don't even want to change."

"I do want to change."

Jo was shocked to hear her own words, but she meant them. She was tired of fighting the local boys and she was even more tired of fighting her attraction to Blair.


"Of course I do, but I don't know how."

"You could start by hanging around school more, instead of going to the arcade and the race track all the time."

"I don't fit in here with all these snobs."

"You haven't even tried."

"I guess it wouldn't kill me to spend a little more time at the student center, they have some pretty cool table games."

Jo didn't like it when Blair was quiet. She could handle Blair when she was angry and yelling, but a quiet Blair meant a hurt Blair.

"Maybe we could spend time there together."

"So, you're not still mad at me?"

"I was never mad at you."

"Maybe you could come to the track with me sometime and watch me race. You could help me stay out of trouble."

Jo grinned at the thought of Blair attempting to find a clean spot to sit at the dusty track. While Jo was lost in her thoughts, Blair drew close to her from behind and wrapped her arms around Jo's waist, both of them looking at Jo's face in the mirror.

"I like your face, but I don't like seeing it black and blue."

Jo's mind stalled for a moment. It was difficult for Jo to think with Blair's arms around her. It felt so good to be held in those arms, but Jo couldn't trust her feelings.

"You like my face?"

Blair placed a tender kiss on Jo's cheek.

"I'm getting used to it. I'd miss it if you had to leave."

Jo turned and placed her hands on Blair's waist.

"I'm not going anywhere. I've got a lot of reasons to stay here."

Blair leaned forward and pressed her lips to Jo's, lingering in the sweet sensation of the gentle contact. They had only allowed themselves this type of contact once before, but their resolve was breaking. Jo looked into Blair's concerned eyes and couldn't pull back her words.

"It's like I have all this energy pinned up inside me and I can't get it out. I feel like I'm going to pop if I can't release it."

"There has to be other ways to do that."

Blair returned to Jo's lips, amazed at the tenderness Jo always exhibited during their emotionally intimate moments. They almost missed the sound of Mrs. Garrett walking down the hallway, but Blair pulled away just as the door swung open.

"You girls are going to have a lot of cleaning up to do since you left Natalie and Tootie to handle lunch on their own."

"That's ok, Mrs. Garrett, we don't mind."

Both girls walked briskly from the room with smiles on their faces.

Jo and Blair spent their first month together at Eastland getting to know one another better. Although they had shared kisses on two separate occasions, both had involved nothing more than touching of lips, and both girls avoided talking about what those kisses meant. The first kiss, although innocent, grew from a desperate longing on the part of both girls only hours after they first met. The second kiss was when Blair expressed frustration with Jo's violent tendencies after Jo was injured during a fight with local Peekskill hoodlums. Since then, Jo limited the time she spent in town at the race track and the arcade and spent more time at the student center with Blair and other Eastland students.

Although the girls spent time playing board games and watching television, most of their time was spent in class together or studying. Jo and Blair regularly proof read one another's school papers, so Blair became well aware that Jo possessed a vast vocabulary of which most of their friends were unaware, since Jo seemed reluctant to use anything more than rudimentary terminology when speaking. It irritated Blair, but she never confronted Jo about it directly, instead calling her a barbarian or a Neanderthal when she wanted to get her point across.

Jo found that she enjoyed the more rigorous assignments at Eastland. She had problems staying awake during classes at her former school, but the lectures and discussions in her classes at Eastland were interesting and often challenging. Jo had not expected, however, for Blair to be the most intelligent of her classmates. When she learned that Blair was ranked first in their class, she knew that her snobbish roommate would be in for a shock when Jo surpassed her grade point average, a goal Jo felt confident she could attain.

Blair's class work and related assignments were exemplary, and her papers were extremely perceptive. However, Jo noted that Blair constantly acted dense and dizzy, especially in the company of boys. It was as if Blair felt obligated to play the part of the ditsy air headed blonde and Jo found it more than a little irritating. Instead of confronting Blair about it directly, however, she would consistently bombard the girl with dumb blonde jokes and jibes, hoping to embarrass her into giving up the routine.

What had started out as a genuine effort to impact the behavior of one another eventually turned into a game of one up man ship between the two girls. Each girl began to find pleasure in further frustrating the other's efforts. Any time Blair would throw out a snide comment about Jo's table manners, hoping to convince Jo to behave in a more lady like fashion, Jo would respond by removing her napkin from her lap and sticking down the front of her shirt, for the fun of watching Blair's reaction. Blair was just as bad. Any time Jo would criticize Blair's date as being as superficial and empty headed as Blair, Blair would only ramp up the level of flirtation, not only raising Jo's level of frustration, but adding the new element of jealousy to the game.

It was jealousy that motivated Jo to finally teach Blair a lesson. It was jealousy that motivated Blair to subject Jo to a vicious verbal assault, and it was jealousy that finally led to an event that neither of them could have anticipated, but which marked the first of many turning points in their relationship.

"Jo, I can't believe you're being this way. I have to date boys, you know that."

"Do you have to hang all over them?"

"I wasn't hanging on Harrison, we've known each other since we were babies. We are practically family."

"Then you can plan on having kids with six toes."

"Don't be ridiculous. I was being polite."

"You were practically doin it in the middle of the room!"

"Don't be vulgar. This is a good thing. Don't you see that? Harrison is exactly the kind of boy my parents want for me. He can take me to all the right places, starting with the cotillion this weekend."

Blair was trying to calm Jo, realizing that she had perhaps taken her revenge too far. She had gotten angry when she had returned from class earlier that morning to find Jo writing another letter to Eddie. There was only so much Blair Warner's ego could take, and she decided that Jo should know that she wasn't the only one who could have a steady boyfriend.

"Do whatever you want, Blair. You always do."

Jo was fed up with Blair and all her boy toys. Harrison was only the most recent in a string of broad shouldered, thin brained boys Blair had paraded in front of her.

"Where are you going?"

"I'm going to town. I'll probably stop by the arcade. Tell Mrs. G not to wait up for me."

"Why, so you can go get your head bashed in by some local hoodlum? Jo, you'll never fit in here at Eastland if you keep hanging around the arcade all the time."

"Listen Mrs. Onassis, you stay out of my life and I'll stay out of yours."

Jo stormed out. A few hours later, she wasn't surprised when she ran into Harrison at the arcade. She tried to brush him off, but he kept following her. It was flattering to have a boy like Harrison follow her around begging for her attention, but that's not why she accepted his invitation to the dance. She wanted to prove to Blair that she was every bit as capable of having a 'boy toy' as Blair. The fact that Blair wanted Harrison as her own 'boy toy' was icing on the cake.

Jo never intended on actually going to the dance with Harrison, her original plan was to 'give' him back to Blair. Jo knew that Harrison wouldn't have a chance with Blair after having made a play for Jo.

Jo was right, once Blair found out that Harrison had invited Jo to the dance instead of her, she was furious. The problem was that Blair was furious at Jo instead of Harrison.

When Jo returned from the arcade, she was beginning to feel guilty about upstaging Blair. However, Blair was in a particularly nasty mood, having argued with Jo over Harrison. Then she had wasted her entire night waiting for the sophisticated young man to call.

Jo had barely gotten through the door when Blair started in on her. Jo knew that Blair hated the time she spent in town at the race track and the arcade, but Blair wasn't usually so rude about it.

When Jo told Mrs. Garrett that she had enjoyed her evening at the arcade, Blair couldn't keep her temper. Blair's temper manifested itself in words that could sting as much as Jo's fists.

"You and your crummy arcade."

Jo was hurt by the tone as much as the words. If Blair had been facing Jo, she may have altered her attitude in time to avoid the upcoming confrontation, but she missed the hurt look on Jo's face.

When Natalie asked who all was at the arcade, Jo answered that she'd seen a few friends.

"You and your crummy friends."

The second slander hurt more than the first, and Jo could feel the anger begin to pulse through her body. That's when Jo decided to hit back with Blair's choice of weapon, words.

She told everyone how Harrison had followed her around all night like a love sick puppy until she had agreed to go to the dance with him.

Blair was stunned speechless, but not for long.

Mrs. Garrett attempted to smooth things over by telling Jo that Blair had expected an invitation to the dance, insinuating that Jo should therefore decline the invitation. Jo jumped at the opportunity to dump Harrison.

"Hey Blair, now listen. I may not respect you, but I respect your turf. You want him, you got him. I won't take your guy."

Jo loved seeing the look on Blair's conceited face. Harrison had picked Jo, and it was obviously eating at Blair.

Blair, however, was much more skilled than Jo at this type of warfare. Even though Jo had the clear advantage, Blair was not willing to give an inch. Blair had not only spent years verbally sparing with elitist snobs, she had the benefit of her mother's tutelage. Monica Warner had taught Blair how to identify an opponent's weaknesses and use them to belittle her opponent. Worse for Jo, if there was one thing mother had taught daughter to use more than words, it was her body. Blair's mother, when she wasn't sighing over a perceived imperfection in Blair's physical appearance, stressed the power a sensuous body could wield over an opponent, male or female.

"Take my guy? Listen, when it comes to men," Blair paused in her speech to move seductively into Jo's personal space, draping her wrist provocatively over Jo's shoulder, "the only thing you could take from me would be lessons."

Blair was demonstrating exactly what type of lesson she could teach with every seductive move. Knowing that Jo was just as susceptible to her body as any man, Blair leaned in even closer to her target.

Jo had watched Blair use her body to manipulate boys, but Blair had never dared try anything like that with Jo. The fact that Blair was so good at it infuriated Jo. It was more than Jo's temperament could bear. She could feel her control slipping away as the rage began to take over.

Jo forcefully pushed Blair's arm away from her, she couldn't stand the way her body had responded to Blair in the midst of their heated argument.

"Just don't start with me. I said I'm not going. I'm tryin to be nice."

Mrs. Garrett knew enough of Jo's history to be truly concerned for Blair's safety as the argument between the two girls grew more heated. She attempted to intervene.

"She really is Blair. She really is trying to be nice."

Mrs. Garrett, Natalie, and Tootie were all shocked at Blair's fearless pursuit of Jo. When Jo tried to walk away, Blair followed her. Unlike the other girls in the room, Blair had no fear of Jo. She knew Jo's anger and she'd seen Jo lose control of it, but Blair knew without a doubt that Jo wouldn't physically hurt her.

Blair continued to insult Jo, hitting her target with devastating accuracy. Jo did feel out of her league with Harrison and she was reminded that she was also out of her league with Blair. Blair had forced Jo's hand and now Jo felt like she had no choice but to go to the dance with Harrison, if only to prove Blair wrong. The insecurities, however, that had haunted her relationship with Blair since the day they met were magnified ten times by the situation with Harrison.

The next night, Blair's anger turned to jealousy and hurt as she was forced to face the fact that Harrison preferred Jo. Worse yet, Jo might prefer Harrison. Blair had never felt so rejected, by a boy or a girl.

The night of the dance, Mrs. Garrett, Nat, and Tootie were all excitedly helping Jo get ready for her big date. When Jo entered their bedroom, her hair curled and wearing a dress, Blair lost it. She stormed out of the room, unable to look at the beautiful girl with whom she had shared intimate gazes and innocent kisses over the past month.

Blair was feeling so lonely while Jo was away at the dance with Harrison that she invented a reason to put on Jo's motorcycle jacket. Tootie and Natalie had told Blair that Harrison preferred Jo because she was rebellious. Blair wondered if her attraction to Jo was also related to Jo's rebellious nature. Blair considered the possibility, but decided that her desire was based on a much broader spectrum of characteristics. She slipped on Jo's denim jacket, if she couldn't be with Jo, she could at least be surrounded by her scent. She held the jacket closely to her body, remembering the feel of Jo's arms around her.

Knowing that Harrison would be holding Jo as they danced at the cotillion, Blair decided that a little ice cream comfort was in order, so she went downstairs to the kitchen. Since she didn't expect to see anyone in the kitchen, she didn't bother removing Jo's jacket. As she came to the bottom of the stairs, she found Harrison talking with Natalie and Tootie. Blair signaled the two younger girls to leave. She was curious as to why Harrison was there so early in the evening and even more curious that Jo wasn't with him.

It took Blair a while to comprehend what Harrison was telling her. Harrison was explaining that the only reason he took Jo to the dance was because he was looking for some action. If he had planned on spending time at the dance, he would have asked Blair. From his perspective, he was complimenting Blair, telling her that she was the kind of girl men wanted in their future. The clear implication being that Jo was the kind of girl men only wanted in their past. Harrison had no way of knowing the fuse he lit inside of Blair.

Just as the actuality of the situation was dawning on Blair, Jo entered the room. One look at Jo's appearance and Blair was enraged. Jo's hair, which had been so carefully styled earlier that evening, was disheveled and her dress had suffered some abuse as well.

Blair ran over to Jo.

"How can you let him say that? Do something! Deck him!"

Blair, who had tried her best to help Jo learn to control her violent impulses, was encouraging her to punch Harrison.

"I already did that."

Jo's response was subdued. She seemed tired and somewhat defeated.

When Harrison started to leave and it became obvious that Jo wasn't going to take action, Blair decided to take things into her own hands.

"Whoa, you stick around buster! I'll deck you!"

Blair was quick in her attack, but Jo was quicker, holding Blair back as Harrison made a hasty get away.

"Cool it. Cool it."

Jo was amazed at the amount of effort it took to hold Blair back from physically assaulting Harrison.

"I haven't been this upset since the price of gold went down."

The rich debutant complained as she straightened her clothes.

"How come you got so crazy?"

"He insulted you!"

"Yeah, but you do that all the time."

Blair thought back on all the cutting remarks she had thrown at Jo that week and she was humiliated by her own actions.

"Yeah, but that's different."

She knew her words didn't make any sense and she couldn't look Jo in the face. She only hoped Jo saw how sorry she was for the things she had said.

"Well, I guess when you come from the wrong side of the tracks, guys think you're easy."

The sincerity and insecurity in Jo's voice was heart wrenching for Blair.

"Hey, they think that when you come from the right side too. Heck, I own the tracks and some of them think it about me."

Despite her misery, Jo had to laugh at Blair's efforts to make her feel better.

It was only then that Jo noticed that Blair was wearing her jacket. That made Jo smile even more, but when Blair reached out for Jo's hand and moved toward the stairs, Jo paused. Jo then backed away and walked into the den, where Blair followed her.

"I should have known better than to think that those country club snobs would look at me as anything other than trash, I've seen that look so often I should know. I'm so stupid. I didn't even get to dance."

"No. Jo, please don't talk that way. Harrison is a jerk. Not everyone thinks like him."

"You do."

Blair felt the blood drain from her face. She had been jealous when Jo had accepted Harrison's invitation to the cotillion and said things she didn't mean. She wasn't even sure who she was jealous of, Jo or Harrison, but she had felt betrayed by both.

Jo had been an easy target since Blair already knew that Jo would feel out of place at the cotillion. Now that Harrison had treated Jo so badly, Blair deeply regretted her earlier criticisms. Blair knew she couldn't take back her hurtful words, but she desperately wanted Jo to know that she hadn't meant anything she had said.

"You didn't get to dance?"

Jo would have thought Blair was taunting her if her voice hadn't broken, close to tears.

"It doesn't matter. I wouldn't have known how to dance in a place like that anyway. You know it's true."

"Give me your shoes."

Confused, Jo remembered that she was still carrying her shoes in her hands and she gave them to Blair.

Without any explanation, Blair walked over to the stereo and tuned in a local station. When she returned to the sofa, she knelt in front of Jo and lifted first her right foot and then her left, slipping Mrs. Garrett's borrowed shoes onto Jo's feet.

"Tootie said you looked like Cinderella tonight. She was right, you are beautiful."

Still on her knees, she looked up at Jo.

"Would you please dance with me, Jo?"

Jo was stunned. Not only that Blair would ask her to dance, but that she had gently slipped on her shoes and remained knelling before her.

'It Had to be You' by Frank Sinatra was playing on the stereo.

"I don't know how to dance to something like that."

"I'll teach you. Please, dance with me."

Blair stood up and extended her hand.

Jo got up and stepped into Blair's arms. She was feeling awkward, not knowing where to place her hands. Blair smiled reassuringly, placing Jo's hands on her shoulders.

"I'll be the boy and you'll be the girl."

Jo smiled.


"Hey, I've taught almost every girl at Eastland how to dance. I have more practice leading than following."

"I'm not arguing with you. If you want to be the guy, then you can be the guy."

They started slowly, with Jo often looking down at her feet.

"Don't look down, Jo, just follow my lead."

"I don't want to step on your feet, ya know."

"You don't have to worry about that, it's the boy's job to keep his feet out of your way. If he doesn't, then he gets what he deserves."

Blair's smile was infectious and Jo found herself enjoying the lesson.

Blair loved holding Jo in her arms and moving to the music, but she always kept an appropriate amount of space between them. Harrison had made Jo feel cheap. Blair was determined to be the 'perfect gentleman' that Jo deserved.

"You know Jo, if girls were allowed to invite other girls to cotillions, I'd invite you."

Jo found the comment funny, but stifled her laugh because of the sincerity in Blair's voice and expression.

"You wouldn't be ashamed to be seen with a girl wearing a peasant dress?"

For the second time, Blair felt the sting of her own words coming back to slap her.

"I'd be honored to be seen with you, Jo. I was so jealous I couldn't see straight. I couldn't stand the idea of you dancing with Harrison and laughing at his stupid jokes. I said things I didn't mean, please forgive me."

"Aw, it was nothing. I don't pay attention to half the stuff you say anyway."

Blair smiled. She knew that was the closest Jo could come to accepting her apology. Jo leaned her head forward and laid it on Blair's shoulder, soaking in all the gentleness and warmth Blair was offering.

Jo had felt like a fool walking back to Mrs. Garrett's from the country club. Harrison had attempted to use her in the worst possible way. Every snob at that dance probably knew exactly why Harrison had invited someone so obviously beneath his standards to the dance. Jo had been humiliated when she shyly went into Mrs. Garrett's bedroom in order to avoid her roommates. She hadn't wanted any of them, especially Blair, to know what had happened.

As she rested her head on Blair's shoulder and enjoyed the warmth and tenderness flowing from the other girl, Jo was glad that Blair had stumbled upon Harrison and figured out what had transpired that evening. It felt a little odd, to be wearing a dress and heels, while holding Blair, who was still wearing Jo's denim jacket and jeans. Jo sighed as she allowed Blair to comfort and protect her.

The music eventually came to a stop and a news program began. Blair stepped away from Jo, but continued to hold her hand.

"May I walk you to your door and say goodnight?"

Blair was being so sweet while playing the perfect suitor that Jo couldn't resist playing along. They walked up the steps to their room and stopped outside the closed door. Blair leaned forward and pressed her lips gently against Jo's cheek.

"Thank you for dancing with me, Jo. You looked beautiful tonight. Cinderella couldn't hold a candle to you."

"Goodnight Blair. Thanks for -"

Blair placed her finger tips on Jo's lips. She didn't think she deserved Jo's thanks. She'd done everything she could to discourage Jo from going out with Harrison, but she was devastated to see how he had treated Jo.

"Goodnight Jo."

Both girls entered their bedroom and went to their respective beds, but with a new respect for one another.

Post Series Flash Forward: Tootie Returns to Peekskill

Fifteen year old Garrett decided he'd had enough.

"Is this how it's going to be all week. You two making googly eyes and going down memory lane about all the romantic things you've done for one another?"

"Shut up Garrett, you're just jealous because no one wants to make googly eyes with you."

E. J. must have been warming up to Jo and Blair's friends because she allowed her irritation with her brother to shine through.

"Edna Jo, you know we don't speak to one another that way. Watch yourself or you'll be apologizing to your brother."

Again, Blair was the parent to deliver the admonishment.

"He started it," pouted E.J. She knew she was in trouble when her mother called her by her full name, but she was enjoying the conversation and didn't want Garrett to spoil her good time.

"Besides, I like your stories."

E. J. smiled at Jo, the more indulgent parent.

"Do they know the one about how mother taught you to dance the night of your first cotillion?"

Blair spilled her water all over the dining room table just as E.J. finished her question.

"Did I say something wrong?"

E. J. was quickly drawing back into her shell.

"No, baby, you know your mother is a klutz." Jo covered, sending what she hoped was a reassuring glance at Blair.

"Now, which part of the story do you think our friends will find most interesting?"

Jo was working hard to recover the situation. As E. J. concentrated on her answer, Jo took the opportunity to wink at Blair, letting her know that she had everything under control.

E. J. smiled as she decided upon the best part of the story. "I like the part where you had to stop mother from beating up the boy who got fresh with you at the dance."

Understanding that E. J. had accidentally revealed something that Jo and Blair would have preferred to keep private, Natalie decided to assist them in their dilemma.

"Hey, did you know that your mother also taught me how to dance?"

It didn't take Dorothy long to join in the game.

"Blair taught me as well. Come to think of it, I'll bet she taught over half the girls at Eastland how to dance."

E. J. was delighted that she had sparked such a lively discussion.

"That was the claim she made when she offered to teach me."

Jo added with a relieved laugh.

Blair, who had been holding her breath until that moment, finally decided that it was safe to venture into the conversation.

"It was not a boast, it was the truth. I taught almost every girl I knew at Eastland how to dance."

Looking over and winking at E. J., Blair continued.

"Jo, however, was the only girl for whom I offered to beat up a bully."

Finally catching on to the night in question, Mrs. G. started laughing.

"Are you talking about Harrison Andrews? Blair threatened to beat him up?"

Jo was beginning to enjoy the conversation. She had never shared with her friends any part of what happened that night, although she was sure that Natalie and Tootie had figured out what Harrison had attempted to do to Jo.

"Oh, she didn't just threaten him, she attacked him. I had to hold her back or she would have kicked his ass all the way back to Bates Academy."

All five women were crying again, this time the tears were from laughter.

"You mean that story is true?"

Garrett's shocked expression made the women laugh even harder.

"Oh, what I wouldn't have given to see Blair go after that arrogant snob."

Mrs. G. had wanted to throw a few punches at Harrison herself that night. She remembered how devastated and hurt Jo had been and she was glad to know that Blair had defended Jo. Blair's initial reaction when E.J. brought up the subject, however, made Mrs. G. wonder if there was more to the story than they were telling.

Natalie smiled over at an exuberant E.J.

"I haven't laughed so hard in years. E. J., you're going to have to come to all our reunion events and tell us your stories."

Jo leaned over toward E. J. and gave her a conspiratorial wink.

"We won't tell them ALL our stories, will we sweetheart?"

E. J. giggled at the implication while Garrett took the opportunity to sigh and roll his eyes.

Blair decided that her son had suffered enough and everyone was finished with their meal so she ended the conversation.

"Garrett, please take E. J. and our guests to the game room so that they can relax while Jo and I clear away the dishes."

Mrs. G. started to protest, but Blair cut her off immediately. "You helped cook both breakfast and lunch, you are not allowed to help clean up. You haven't had any time at all with Natalie and Dorothy, please go visit with them and let us take care of this."

Mrs. G. left with the others, leaving Blair and Jo to clean up the dishes.

Once they were alone, Jo immediately drew Blair into her arms and started dancing.

"Too bad they'll never know that you are the romantic one in this relationship."

"I gave you a dance, Jo. You gave me a house. There is no comparison."

"You gave me a lot more than a dance that night, Blair. You gave me back my dignity."

Forgetting the dishes, the two women danced around their kitchen, lost in the memory of their first dance.

"Hum, you certainly have become a much better dancer, Jo."

"I had a good teacher."

Blair's hands began to wander down Jo's back, lower than anyone would consider appropriate.

"Hey, what happened to your manners?"

"You corrupted me."

"I liberated you."

Blair's hands were now firmly settled on Jo's ass, guiding her body to the rhythm of the music.

Dorothy stood at the door, uncertain of what to do. She had come upstairs to get a glass of water, but was taken by surprise when she found Jo and Blair fondling one another instead of clearing away the dishes. She turned around, deciding it was best to back away unnoticed, when she almost stumbled over E.J., who had decided that she'd like a drink as well.

E.J. gave Dorothy a curious look before glancing into the kitchen. She looked back at Dorothy again, as confused as before, then shrugged before walking into the kitchen and getting two glasses from the cabinet.

Jo and Blair noticed E.J. peripherally, but didn't pause in their dance or even acknowledge their daughter's presence. Blair did, however, move her hands up to Jo's back.

E.J. filled both glasses with water and left the kitchen, handing one glass to Dorothy in the entry way.

"Um, I wasn't spying on your parents. I didn't want to interrupt."

Dorothy's embarrassment finally clued E.J. in on why her parent's friend hadn't gotten her own glass of water.

E.J.'s smile was pure Blair Warner.

"Oh, they act like that all the time. Garrett thinks it's icky, but I think it's sweet."

Dorothy couldn't believe a twelve year old girl was being more mature about the situation than a grown woman.

"I'm with you kid, I think it's sweet too."

Dorothy took one glance back as she followed E.J. back downstairs to the game room. Dorothy had spent very little time around Jo and Blair since discovering that they were a couple and she felt she was intruding by walking in on them during the intimate dance.

She had seen Blair openly affectionate with boys, but Jo had always been extremely private when it came to any type of public display of affection. It was difficult for Dorothy to reconcile the Jo she remembered with the one she saw in the kitchen dancing with Blair. She smiled, however, at the realization that the 'new' Jo appeared much happier and at peace than the volatile one she had grown up with at Eastland.

4: Joining the Gang

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