DISCLAIMER: I'd The Facts of Life and its characters are the property of Columbia Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Television, no infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A very special thanks to my wonderful beta, Debbie.
CHALLENGE: Written for the Dead of Winter ficathon.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Chain Rule
By Ann


"Get out of my face, Tootie. I don't want to hear about how you and Natalie won those tickets to see Duran Duran. Yes, I know you get to go to the concert while I get to stay here with princess, tutoring her in calculus. Nat has already reminded me a million times already," Jo stated, just on the verge of shouting.

"I'm sorry, Jo. It's just that I can hardly believe we're going. Never in a million years have I won anything, and I hated that I couldn't take everyone, but there were only two tickets offered in the contest. I have to bring Natalie; she's my best friend. Besides, she'd kill me if I didn't," Tootie offered in sincere apology.

Turning toward her friend, Jo replied, "I know, Tootie. I didn't mean to sound angry, but Nat's teasing is starting to get to me. She is constantly doing something to rub it in that you're going to have the time of your life while I'm stuck here with Blair."

Their conversation was interrupted when the door to the room opened, and Natalie stepped inside singing, "Bop bop bop bop bop bop bop bop this is planet earth,"

"Jeez, Nat, leave the singing to the professionals. Please, I beg of you," Tootie pleaded, holding her hands over her ears.

Grinning Natalie said, "Sorry, I can't help myself. Hey Jo, want me to get you a t-shirt or something since you have to baby-sit Blair?"

Jo stood and opened her mouth to inform Natalie as to her exact thoughts on the subject when Blair sashayed into the room carrying her books. Placing them on her bed, she remarked, "Jo has too many t-shirts as it is. She certainly doesn't need another one with a band logo on it."

Despite her intention of telling Natalie what she could do with her t-shirt, Jo replied, "Hey, leave my wardrobe out of this. If I want a Duran Duran t-shirt, that's my business. Butt out, Blair."

The potential beginning of World War III was put on hold when Mrs. Garrett entered the room catching the tale end of Jo's response. "Language, Jo. I'm sure Blair was just trying to help. Now, Tootie and Natalie, go get ready for the concert. We need to leave in about thirty minutes."

The two excited girls exited the room dancing and singing the first stanza of 'Rio', "Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand."

Mrs. Garrett shook her head at the departing duo and then turned her attention to the room's other occupants.

"Are you two sure you're going to be okay here alone? You could go along for the ride, have dinner with the three of us, and then shop with me and my friend while Natalie and Tootie are at the concert. Or, we could take in a movie instead of shopping. What do you say?"

Glancing at the brooding brunette, Blair replied, "If Jo wants to, I'll agree to go. I can always wait until tomorrow night to study since my test isn't until the day after tomorrow."

"Blair, it's going to take at least two nights to explain derivatives to you," Jo explained to the math-impaired socialite. "Sorry, Mrs. G., but I promised princess that I'd help her get a passing score on her test. Maybe some other time," Jo apologized, deciding that staying home alone with Blair, even if they were only studying, was infinitely better than having to listen to Tootie and Natalie go on and on about the concert for a solid hour on the ride into the city, not to mention the ride home.

"Okay, if you're sure. There are leftovers in the refrigerator you can heat up when you get hungry. Don't stay up too late; you can't learn anything when you're tired, and Jo, remember patience is a virtue," the older woman offered as she walked out of the room leaving the two girls alone to begin their study session.

An hour later, the house was empty, and Jo was about to pull her hair out. She had been explaining the chain rule for the past fifteen minutes, and Blair still had no clue how to apply the rule to the various problems. Standing and stretching, Jo walked to the other side of the room to keep from strangling the blonde.

Taking deep cleansing breaths and wishing she knew the art of relaxation, Jo started back toward the desk where she was working with Blair when she spotted something sticking out from under her bed. Bending down, she picked up the objects and was momentarily stunned when she realized what she held in her hand.

"Jo, I think I got this one right. Can you come check it for me?" Blair asked, looking over her work one more time before handing her paper to her tutor. Satisfied that she had indeed gotten the right answer, Blair turned to locate her friend.

"Jo? Jo! What's the matter with you? I've been calling your name, and you haven't had the decency to answer. You don't have to be so rude just because I'm not getting this stuff as quickly as you think I should. Now, come over here and check this one," Blair ordered the motionless brunette.

Walking toward the desk, Jo handed the small rectangular papers to a seated Blair. Taking the objects, a confused Blair asked, "What's this?"

Jo didn't respond, but instead waited until Blair was able to put two and two together. She felt confident that it wouldn't take anywhere near the time it had taken her to pick up the calculus rules.

"Tickets? To what? …. Oh, my God!" Jo smiled as the blonde proved that her addition skills were still intact.

Looking at Jo with huge dark eyes, Blair asked, "What are we going to do? Tootie and Natalie can't get into the concert without these."

"We get a taxi and drive to the restaurant. We should be able to get there before they finish their meal," Jo explained calmly, proud that her reasoning abilities had returned.

"Good idea, Jo. You call the cab, and I'll get my secret money stash. Tootie and Natalie can pay me back later," said Blair, lifting up the mattress to retrieve an envelope full of cash, as Jo headed toward the phone.

Five minutes later, the two girls climbed into a cab, and the driver turned to ask for their destination. Blair looked at Jo and Jo looked at Blair, and it was Jo who was the first to voice the question neither knew the answer to. "Which restaurant did Mrs. G. say they were going to?"

The cab driver swiveled his head back and forth watching his fares argue over which one of the two was at fault.

"Well, you were the one who said we would go with them if I agreed. Why didn't you ask where we would be going?" Jo crossed her arms over her chest and accused the blonde of not asking significant questions.

Matching Jo's posture, Blair replied, "Me? You were the one who said we had to stay home. And what was that bit about some other time? Shouldn't you have at least asked where some other time would be?"

Deciding the debate was going nowhere, the cabbie tried to interject a voice of reason. "Excuse me, ladies."

Both girls turned their ire on the front seat in a united front, each screaming, "What?"

Holding his hands up in the universal sign of surrender, the cab driver said, "I don't mean to upset you, but you need to decide where you want to go. I'm on the clock here."

Glancing at Blair, Jo replied, "Just head for New York. We'll decide where we want to go when we get closer to the city."

The driver looked skeptically at the two but quickly turned around and pulled away from the curb when Blair flashed enough money to pay for the fare and then some. If he played his cards right, a huge tip was in his future.

Ten miles from the city, the two girls agreed that their only choice was Madison Square Garden so Jo pulled the tickets from her pocket and checked the seat locations. Looking at the various exits, she decided on the one closest to the seats and hoped that Natalie and Tootie had done the same.

The cab pulled next to the entrance thirty minutes before the scheduled concert time, and Blair offered the man a hundred dollar tip if he would wait and drive them back to Eastland. Figuring that he wouldn't have much time left on his shift when he returned, the man readily agreed, and the girls exited the cab and headed toward the building.

Twenty nine minutes later, there was still no sign of Natalie and Tootie, and the only people left outside with Jo and Blair were people trying desperately to get a ticket.

"I don't think they're going to show, Jo," Blair pointed out the obvious.

"I think you're right, Blair. As much as I hated hearing about this damn concert, I'd gladly listen to more of Natalie's raves because hearing about how they missed it is going to be so much worse," Jo acknowledged with a sigh.

Pulling the tickets from her jacket, Jo stated, "Let's just sell these tickets, and then we can at least give them the money we make. It's better than nothing."

"Um, Jo? We're already here, and the concert is getting started, so perhaps we could go and give an account of everything. I'll give them the money for the tickets, and we could even buy them a t-shirt," Blair suggested.

Smiling, Jo took Blair's hand and pulled her toward the entrance.

Duran Duran had just finished their first song when the two girls found their seats. Jo continued to hold Blair's hand as she directed them to their empty seats in the middle of the row. After stepping on numerous sets of feet and apologizing profusely, Jo and Blair finally made it to their seats and were amazed at how close they were to the stage and how well they could see the band.

"Oh man, these are great seats. Nat's going to have a cow when she finds out how close she came to seeing her favorite band up close and personal," Jo shouted to Blair over the din of the crowd. Blair grinned at her friend, and both girls began to clap in rhythm with the initial beat of the next song.

The band finally wound down to their final two songs of the evening, and the crowd went wild when the tune of 'Hungry Like a Wolf' filled the numerous speakers in the Garden. As the band played the final refrain, Jo could feel eyes on her, and it took everything she had not to turn and look at Blair, lest the blonde realize how close the song paralleled her feelings.

"Strut on a line, it's discord and rhyme
I howl and I whine I'm after you
mouth is alive all running inside
and I'm hungry like the wolf"

Everyone in the arena jumped to their feet when the final note sounded, and Jo quickly joined them clapping wildly, thankful for the distraction of knowing that Blair had been watching her during the course of the song.

The lead singer thanked the crowd for being such a wonderful audience and wished everyone a safe trip home, and he promised one more song to send them on their merry way. Jo almost sank to her knees when she recognized the last offering of the evening, 'Is There Something I Should Know?'

If Jo thought she was being closely scrutinized during the last song, she was dead wrong because Blair was practically in her back pocket as the band sang their encore number. When Blair reached over and grabbed Jo's hand, Jo stubbornly continued to look at the band; however, now, she had to swallow every few seconds to keep from choking on the lump that had formed in her throat.

Closing her eyes, she tried to block out the feelings she had for the blonde, but it only served to make her more focused on the words of the song.

"Please please tell me now
Is there something I should know
Is there something I should say
That would make you come my way
Do you feel the same 'cos you don't let it show"

The hairs on Jo's arms stood straight up in the air when Blair whispered directly into her ear. "Jo, is there something I should know?" The question caused the brunette to squint and shut her eyes even tighter, in hopes that she wouldn't have to look at the blonde until she had better control of her emotions.

The song's end was too soon in coming, and Jo once again used the element of applause and loud cheering to avoid her roommate. Clearly hurt, Blair joined in the audience's sign of approval with a much more sedate clap.

After buying four t-shirts, the girls exited the building and were surprised to see the familiar cab sitting at the corner. They quickly headed for the car, hoping it wasn't a mirage as neither woman had a contingency plan if the driver had decided to leave.

"Hey, I can't believe you waited for us," Jo said with a smile, relieved immensely that the man had waited.

Turning in his seat, the driver returned the smile and replied, "I couldn't leave two beautiful ladies helpless in this big city. Besides, blondie offered me a pretty good tip."

Thanking the man again, both girls climbed into the back seat and each turned and looked out at the passing scenery. The driver was surprised by the lack of conversation from two such lively girls, but he chalked it up to the lateness of the evening.

Just outside the city, the driver turned on the radio and chose a station playing the different songs from the concert. A few minutes later, Jo was quietly tapping her finger on the window, and Blair was slowly moving her head to the beat of the music.

When 'Is There Something I Should Know?' began to play, Blair reached her hand across the seat just as Jo was doing the same. The two girls held hands and continued to look out their respective window, but this time, each was sporting a huge smile. The driver watched the blonde and the brunette in his rear view mirror and couldn't help but smile himself.

Arriving back at Eastland, Jo and Blair suddenly realized that Mrs. Garrett had no idea where they had gone. Noticing the dark lights in the house, the girls breathed a sigh of relief that they had beat the others home because if Mrs. Garrett was at home, the light would be on downstairs, and she'd be sitting in the chair facing the door.

"Thanks, mister. You've been great. I promise to ask for you the next time I need a cab," Blair offered, handing the cabbie an envelope with the fare and his tip.

Doffing his hat, the man replied, "Bill Downs, at your service, ma'am. I'd be honored to drive you anytime." The girls said their final good-byes and stepped from the cab. Turning, they once again reached for the other's hand and walked toward the door. The cabbie watched until they made it to the door, and then he slowly pulled away from the curb.

Standing at the front door, Jo fiddled in her pocket for the key while Blair noted how secluded they were in the unlit covered entryway leading to the door. Deciding to take advantage of the darkness and throwing all caution to the wind, Blair reached out and took Jo's face in her hands. In the shadows, she could just make out Jo's green eyes and quickly noted the smile on her face. Not allowing the brunette to second guess the gesture, she leaned in and sweetly kissed Jo's lips.

Jo immediately abandoned her search for her key and placed her hands on the blonde's waist. Pulling Blair closer, she deepened the kiss, still not quite believing that her dream was finally coming true.

Endless minutes later, Jo reluctantly released the soft lips and leaned her forehead against Blair's. "That was nice," Jo offered nervously.

"Yes, it was. We'll have to do it more often," Blair replied with a grin. The moment was broken when the porch light suddenly came on, and the two girls jumped away from each other blushing profusely.

The door flew open, and Mrs. Garrett rushed out to hug both girls tightly. "Girls, where have you been? I've been worried sick. Tootie and Natalie lost their tickets, and I took them to a movie. We'd thought you two were in bed when we got home, but you weren't there and neither bed had been made. I sent them straight to bed, and I was getting ready to call the police," the older woman explained frantically.

"Let's go inside, Mrs. G, and we'll explain everything," Jo offered, ushering both Blair and Mrs. Garrett through the door.

Jo and Blair took turns detailing the events of the night, and Mrs. Garrett applauded the girls for trying to help their friends, but she cautioned them against ever doing anything like that again.

As the two girls began their trek up the stairs, Mrs. Garrett said, "Tomorrow, you'll come straight home after school. Blair has to study for her test, and I'll make sure that the two of you aren't disturbed. I'll even make some cookies."

"Thanks, Mrs. Garrett, but I don't think it will take too long to explain. I'm pretty sure I understand the chain rule now," Blair replied as Jo spun around in disbelief.

"You do?" The older woman and Jo responded in unison, wondering how Blair could have miraculously figured out the calculus rule simply by going to a Duran Duran concert.

"Yes. I was having trouble with the composition of two functions description, but now I understand. The functions are separate and totally independent of the other, but when you put the two together or compose the two of them, one depends entirely on the other one, and vice-versa, when the composition is reversed. When using the chain rule, one can't exist without the other," the blonde stated with a slight grin.

Jo's frown slowly disappeared to be replaced with a full-blown smile. "You do understand, but I think we should work a little more on the application aspect."

Putting her arm around Blair, she escorted her up the stairs and into their room for a little application practice while Mrs. Garrett stood at the bottom of the stairs wondering what the hell had just happened.

The End

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