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: Common Ground: Chapter 12. Based on the Facts of Life Series, Season 3, Episode 4, Friend in Need.
THANKS: To Stacey for the Beta, assistance in story and character development, encouragement, and meticulous attention to detail.
MEDIA LINK: http://www.youtube.com/user/FactsOfLifeMinutes#p/p
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To FOLfan[at]ymail.com

Common Ground
12: Lean on Me

By Slave2Free


For an instant, Jo considered turning around and running back toward the train that had carried her from Peekskill to New York City, but it was too late, the elderly gentleman holding the sign with her name had obviously recognized her and was walking in her direction. Jo looked around the train station, embarrassed to be seen meeting a limousine driver. The independent Bronx native had agreed to meet her girlfriend at the train station, but she had not agreed to this. Making matters worse was the fact that the man towered over everyone else in the train station, bringing more attention to his presence. In any other circumstance, Jo would have sent the driver away and taken the subway to Warner Tower, but Blair was already on edge and Jo didn't want to add to her distress by being difficult.

Jo tried to smile at the limousine driver, who looked at her as if she had walked into a debutante ball wearing ragged jeans and a t-shirt. She tolerated his condescending demeanor until he reached for her duffel bag. She was there to help Blair, but that didn't mean she was going to allow Blair's arrogant limo driver to carry her bags.

Jo was somewhat stunned when the driver continued to grab for her bag after she'd pulled it out of his reach.

"Hey, I can carry my own bag."

The driver rolled his eyes, as if he was dealing with a petulant child, and swiftly turned. Jo assumed she was to follow him even though he was walking much too quickly for her to keep up. Jo had to jog at times in order to keep pace with the driver and was slightly winded when they arrived at the car. The driver seemed surprised, and a bit impressed, when he turned to find that Jo had indeed been able to follow him as he'd raced through the train station. Jo presumed he'd been trying to make a point about carrying her bag and considered the behavior childish for a man his age.

The driver opened the passenger door and raised his eyebrows at Jo, as if he expected her to complain that she could open her own door.

"Miss Warner sends her apologies for not meeting you in person. She was delayed at the hospital, so she asked me to deliver you to her apartment."

Jo's mood instantly shifted.

"Is Blair's mother okay? I mean, did she have to stay at the hospital because of a change in her mother's condition?"

For the first time, the driver seemed to look beyond Jo's casual attire and note the young woman's expression.

"I didn't mean to alarm you, Miss Polniaczek, Mrs. Costanzia simply wanted to spend more time with her daughter."

Jo was relieved, and impressed. Few people pronounced her name correctly the first time, but she figured that the driver had lots of practice with difficult names given the list of surnames Blair had once jokingly rattled off as belonging to her mother's husbands. It was no wonder that Mrs. Garrett continued to refer to Blair's mother as Mrs. Warner, even though the wealthy socialite had been married three times subsequent to her marriage to Blair's father. Blair had once asked Jo if she thought Blair should attribute any significance to the fact that Monica always reverted to the Warner name after each of her divorces, instead of going back to her maiden name. Jo hadn't expressed an opinion at the time, feeling incapable of speculating on the motives of a woman who would marry as often as Blair's mother.

Other than to describe her mother's wedding in Monte Carlo, Blair had never mentioned her mother's most recent husband. Jo had only seen Blair's mother once since the night Monica had interrupted Jo and Blair's romantic farewell dinner the previous school year. It had been almost a week since Blair's mother had surprised everyone, including Blair, by showing up at Eastland unannounced. Jo closed her eyes as she relaxed for a moment, appreciating the soft, luxurious limousine seat in contrast to the uncomfortable seats on the train.

'Being rich has its advantages,' thought Jo. Then she thought about the reason she had traveled to New York and shuddered. Monica Warner had everything money could buy, but cancer didn't discriminate based on economic or social status. Jo's mind drifted back to her last telephone conversation with Blair. The fragile heiress had fought to keep her voice steady as she spoke to Jo, but Jo knew every inflection of Blair's voice and couldn't be convinced that her girlfriend was okay.

As promised, Blair had called Jo every night since she'd left Eastland with her mother. Since Monica's surgery was scheduled so soon after receiving her biopsy results, Blair had decided to stay with her mother until after the surgery. Jo suspected that Blair's motives were as much to prevent her mother from running away as to provide emotional support and as the week had progressed, Blair's voice had reflected more and more of the strain.

Sometimes Jo wondered why she even bothered trying to keep up the pretense that Blair wasn't her best friend. No one had been fooled by Jo's insistence that she had to talk to Blair each night in order to keep Blair up to date on her homework assignments. The first night Blair called, all of her housemates had been waiting impatiently in the lounge for the call, but as the days went by, Mrs. Garrett began not so subtly nudging Jo's two younger roommates out of the room at the time of Blair's appointed calls, providing Jo with some much needed privacy.

Jo's thoughts were interrupted when she felt the car come to a stop. It wasn't as if Jo had never seen Warner Tower, she'd walked past it many times, but it never looked as tall as when the limousine driver stopped directly in front of the building. The lower floors housed the offices of Warner executives while the upper floors were home to some of New York's wealthiest businessmen and their families. When they'd first started working in the Eastland cafeteria, Blair had joked that she was following in her daddy's footsteps by living above her place of work. Jo squinted her eyes as she craned her neck to gaze upward toward the top of the tower. David Warner's version of living above his workplace was very different from the room Jo shared with Blair above the Eastland cafeteria.

"This way, Miss Polniaczek. Miss Warner asked that you wait for her in her apartment."

Seeing the driver's gaze fall on her duffel bag, Jo held the bag closely to her chest. The driver once again looked at Jo as if she was something he should be scraping from the sole of his shoes, but he smiled tightly and escorted Jo into the building. Jo started walking toward the elevators, but the driver nodded his head in the opposite direction and Jo followed him down another corridor, at the end of which the driver unlocked a door leading to a private elevator. Jo noticed the small elevator immediately and moved toward it, but had to wait for the driver to enter a code before the elevator doors opened.

Jo couldn't have felt more ill at ease. Just as she was beginning to question the wisdom of offering to come to the city the night before Monica's surgery, she heard the squeal of a very familiar voice behind her and turned just in time to see Blair running toward her.

"Jo, you're here!"

Blair leapt onto her girlfriend with such force that Jo dropped her duffel bag, which the limousine driver caught just as it was about to touch the floor. Jo could see the driver smiling smugly over Blair's shoulder, but Jo didn't care. The most beautiful girl in the world was clinging to her shoulders reaffirming Jo's decision to hop on a train as soon as classes had ended that Thursday. She would miss one day of classes, but Mrs. Garrett had cleared Jo's absence with Mr. Parker.

Realizing that the woman who had entered the hallway with Blair, and the driver she'd met at the train station, were standing by while Blair continued to hug Jo, the bashful brunette tried to extricate herself from her girlfriend's embrace.

"Hey, I'm glad to see you, too."

Jo gently pushed at Blair's arms, but that only made Blair cling to her more forcefully so Jo simply gave in to the overt demonstration of affection, squeezing Blair in return. Jo expected one of the adults to draw Blair's attention, since she and Blair were blocking the entrance to the elevator, but no one spoke a word until Blair finally loosened her embrace. With one arm still wrapped around Jo's waist, Blair turned to the woman who had accompanied her into the waiting area and made introductions.

"Marilyn, this is my best friend, Jo Polniaczek."

The lady's expression registered her surprise at the fact that Jo extended her hand, but she politely shook Jo's hand and afterward smiled warmly at Blair.

"It's very nice to meet you, Miss Polniaczek. I see you've already met Maxwell."

The driver nodded his head and stepped backwards, providing the three women with more space near the front of the elevator. Blair eventually realized that Marilyn was unable to get through the door and moved to Jo's side, but was still reluctant to remove her hand from Jo's waist.

Once all four occupants were on the elevator, Maxwell leaned forward to press the only button on the panel. Jo was unaccustomed to such a public display of affection and shifted uncomfortably during the incredibly long elevator ride to the Warner penthouse. Once the elevator stopped, Jo expected to walk along another corridor to Blair's apartment, but the doors opened into the foyer of the apartment.

It was good that Blair's hand was still resting on Jo's back or else the overwhelmed brunette might never have exited the elevator. Beyond the foyer, Jo could see a massive den with an entire row of windows overlooking the city.


Blair nudged Jo along until they were standing in the center of the room.

"Are you sure that you wouldn't like for me to prepare a light dinner for you, Miss Warner?"

"I'm sure. I had Maxwell take care of it."

Marilyn raised her eyebrows at the man holding Jo's duffel bag.

"As requested, pizza is being kept warm in the oven and beer is chilling in the refrigerator."

Jo could see by the thinly disguised smile on Marilyn's face that she wasn't the only one who noticed that the driver's tone suggested he considered Blair's dinner selection only slightly better than dog food. If Blair also noticed, her expression didn't register it. Her eyes, and hands, had remained on Jo since they'd met at the entrance to the elevator.

Marilyn touched Maxwell's sleeve and spoke to him softly, but loud enough for Jo and Blair to overhear.

"I've prepared the guest suite next to Miss Warner's bedroom for Miss Polniaczek. You can take her luggage and —."

At the sound of Marilyn's voice, Blair seemed to wake up, unaware that she had been staring at her hand as it gently rested on Jo's lower back.

"Oh, no. Just take Jo's bag to my room. She'll be staying with me."

Jo warily glanced back and forth between the two staff members, gauging their response to Blair's instructions. If either Marilyn or Maxwell found Blair's directions unusual, their expressions didn't reflect it. Before Maxwell could carry Jo's bag away, however, Jo detained him.

"Wait, Mrs. G. sent you something."

Jo's grin was huge as she withdrew a container of apple strudel from her duffel bag.

"She said to tell you that she, uh, misses you and is praying for your mom."

Blair beamed when accepting Mrs. Garrett's present. The affectionate redhead always knew how to make Blair feel special. Blair cradled the container of strudel in her hands briefly before handing it to Marilyn, who took it into the kitchen and began setting the dinner table while Maxwell left to deliver Jo's duffel bag to Blair's room.

While Marilyn was busy setting the table, Jo pointedly gazed at Blair's elbow, which was pressing against Jo's. When she moved her gaze upward, she finally caught Blair's attention. Blair's eyes had also been traveling upward from the point of contact and when they finally met Jo's, Blair made no attempt to disguise the gut-wrenching strain of caring for her mother.

Jo immediately felt remorseful for her earlier attempts to wriggle free of Blair's affectionate display and wrapped her arm around Blair's waist. She spoke softly, glancing toward the kitchen to make sure Marilyn was still occupied before staring deeply into Blair's eyes.

"Hey, I'm not going anywhere."

Jo was relieved that her gesture appeared to lessen the tension in Blair's body. Blair broke eye contact and once again allowed her eyes to travel the length of her source of support.

"You're really here?"

Jo tightened her grip.

"Yeah, I'm really here. Geez, Blair, I should have come sooner."

Blair shook her head and regained a bit of her composure.

"No. Today was the worst, having to leave Mother at the hospital."

Jo wasn't sure how to respond with Marilyn so nearby and Maxwell due to return at any moment, so she didn't do anything, trying to remain as still as possible while holding the trembling blonde.

Maxwell left the apartment after taking Jo's single duffel bag to Blair's room. Miss Warner had many friends, but they rarely visited her mother's apartment. On the few occasions when one of the heiress's friends stayed overnight, they usually brought no less than three large suitcases and were placed in a private suite. Maxwell wasn't sure what he had expected when he picked up Miss Warner's friend. If he had gone by the constant complaining he'd heard from Mrs. Costanzia when confiding in her best friend, Mrs. Cabot, he'd have expected to find the girl dressed in black leather with large motorcycle chains dangling from her neck and hip. The girl he had escorted from the train station definitely lacked polish, but she was a far cry from the hoodlum he'd heard Blair's mother describe to her friend.

Jo thought that the looks of shared disapproval that passed between Marilyn and Maxwell during their dinner menu discussion had to do with Blair's request for beer until Marilyn told Blair that she had also taken the liberty of opening a bottle of wine for dinner, in case the beer was not as cold as expected. It was then that Jo realized the looks had to do with the type of alcohol the girls planned to consume, rather than a show of disapproval related to underage drinking. Jo almost laughed at the woman's suspicion that Blair would not enjoy the beer she had requested and wondered how much beer Blair would be able to swallow before switching to something more familiar.

It struck Jo as funny that she would be eating pizza and drinking beer from fine china and crystal in one of the most expensive penthouse apartments in Manhattan, but Jo chalked it up to one of the many pitfalls of dating a multimillionaire heiress. At least Blair had taken Jo's preferences into consideration when planning their menu.

"I'll be in my room if you need anything. There's plenty of fresh fruit and pastries for breakfast, but I'll be happy to prepare a proper meal if you change your mind."

"Thank you, but I don't think I'll have much of an appetite, Marilyn. We'll be leaving for the hospital very early."

"You should eat something. It will be a long day."

Jo chose that point to interject herself into the conversation.

"She'll eat. I'll make sure of it."

Marilyn smiled, not the polite smile required of staff members in the presence of guests, but a sincere smile of appreciation.

"Well, I'll see you tomorrow evening. It was very nice meeting you, Miss Polniaczek."

When Marilyn exited through a kitchen door, Jo became curious.

"She lives here in the apartment?"

Thinking that Jo might question her mother's need for a live-in housekeeper, Blair became a bit defensive.

"That door leads to the floor below. Marilyn's apartment and several guest suites are down there. She has her own entrance. It's not as if she has to walk through here to come and go as she pleases."

"I wasn't, I mean . . . I didn't mean it to sound like I disapproved. I think it's nice that you and your mother haven't been here all alone."

Blair half smiled. She wasn't going to argue the point with Jo, but having Marilyn on the floor below hadn't helped Blair feel less alone.

"Well, now that you're here, I'm really not alone."

Blair busied herself slicing pizza while Jo opened a bottle of beer and poured it into her glass.

"Uh, would you like to try some of this or are you going to drink the fancy stuff?"

It was the first full smile Jo had seen on her girlfriend's face that day.

"Well, since you've decided to try some of the finer things in life, as a favor to me, I decided that I should try to appreciate some of the things you like. I'll never acquire a taste for it if I never try it, so I'm going to have a beer with my pizza and I'm going to enjoy it."

Jo grinned as she opened a second bottle of beer.

"Anything else you'd like to try since you're in such an adventurous mood?"

Jo was shocked when she saw Blair blush. The girl who had been hanging all over her since she'd arrived had suddenly grown shy.

"I . . . I'm sorry. I shouldn't be joking at a time like this. I didn't know if you wanted to talk about your mother or . . . I didn't —."

"Don't do that, Jo. Don't start treating me like I'm going to break. You are very definitely an acquired taste, but I'm hooked on you, just the way you are, and I don't want you messing with the formula. I'm glad you didn't bombard me with a lot of questions about Mother. I don't really feel like talking about her now. Can we just eat pizza and drink beer for a couple of hours? I think it might be the best medicine in the world."

Feeling that words weren't what Blair needed, Jo walked over to where Blair was standing at the counter and wrapped her arms around her exhausted girlfriend. Looking closely at Blair's face, Jo could tell that she hadn't gotten a lot of sleep that week.

"And I thought you were gonna be one of those high maintenance debutante types who always nag their girlfriends about being Neanderthals. If only I had known that all it took was pizza and beer to make you happy, I'd have opened my own pizza shop by now."

After an extensive amount of time spent simply holding one another, Jo and Blair sat side by side at the dinner table. Jo told Blair about all the things that had happened at Eastland in her absence, in between long periods of staring into one another's eyes and occasionally exploring one another's fingers. Blair could tell that Jo was embellishing some of the stories, especially those involving Margo, and she was sure that Jo's version of events was much more interesting and amusing than anything that actually happened.

By the time the pizza was all gone, Jo was pleased to see that Blair hardly resembled the girl who had met her at the elevator. All signs of stress and anxiety were gone and Blair was laughing and smiling as if she didn't have a care in the world.

"Do you know what I've discovered about beer, Jo?"

Jo grinned, finding the slight slur in Blair's voice amusing.


"The more you drink, the better it tastes."

Jo laughed.

"Yeah, I've noticed that, too."

"It's a good thing you have to drink several cases of beer before getting drunk or else I'd be in big trouble. It would be a disaster if I showed up at the hospital in the morning with a hangover."

Jo felt herself begin to flush as she began counting the number of empty beer bottles on the table.

"What makes you think you can't get drunk drinking a few beers?"

"Tootie told me."

"Since when do you listen to Tootie?"

"Well, she had a very bad hangover the morning after she drank that bottle of wine. I've never had a hangover, so I asked her about it. She said that her older brother drank beer because it was almost impossible to get drunk from drinking beer. She said that's why you probably wanted beer instead of the wine I brought back from Paris, because you didn't want to get drunk."

"Give me a break. You listened to Tootie because she had a hangover? You're kidding me, right?"

Blair extended her lower lip in what Jo considered an adorable pout and tried to maintain direct eye contact with Jo but kept losing her place.


"You're supposed to be sophisticated about this sort of thing, Blair!"

"Oh, I know that you can get drunk if you drink gallons of the stuff, especially cheap beer. Tootie said that the less beer costs, the less you have to drink in order to get drunk. Maxwell would never have gotten cheap beer for me, so we have nothing to worry about."

Jo cupped Blair's chin with her hand and studied her girlfriend. She decided that the fact that the green and gold flecks in Blair's eyes appeared to be bumping into one another might mean that both of them had overindulged.

Jo got up from the table and pulled Blair up as well. She was relieved when Blair seemed steady on her feet, hopeful that her girlfriend wouldn't have to face her mother in the morning with a raging headache.

"Why don't you show me to your room so that I can unpack my things?"

Jo thought Blair's smile was a little goofier than usual, but the only other sign that Blair might have been drinking was her extremely relaxed demeanor.

"I want to show you something first, okay?"

Jo extended her arm, signaling Blair to lead the way. Jo followed Blair into another room, where a baby grand piano sat in the far corner. Jo stopped walking and stared, in awe of the magnificent instrument.

"Alex is the only one I've ever heard play it. No one in my family plays, but Mother insisted on having one. To her it's only a decoration, but I've dreamed of hearing you play it ever since the first time you played for me at the retirement center."

Jo sat down and gently stroked the keyboard.

"It's beautiful."

Blair sat on the piano bench beside her girlfriend and smiled excitedly.

"Play something romantic."

"Like what?"

"I don't know. I don't care, play anything."

Jo pursed her lips in thought and then grinned as she decided what to play first. Blair recognized "Lean on Me" as soon as the first four chords sounded. It took a little more coaxing to get Jo to sing as she played, but before long Jo was eagerly serenading her girlfriend with every Barry Manilow and Lionel Richie love song she knew.

It wasn't until she'd almost lulled Blair to sleep on her shoulder that Jo decided it was time for her girlfriend to go to bed. She gently nudged the sleepy blonde and nodded in the direction she'd seen Maxwell carry her bag.

As Blair guided Jo to her bedroom, Jo was glad she'd had a few beers before seeing the full enormity of Blair's home away from Eastland. Blair's bedroom suite was larger than Jo's entire Bronx apartment.

Blair giggled and sat on her bed while Jo speechlessly stared at Blair's bedroom.

"Aren't you going to say anything? Doesn't it at least warrant a wow?"

It was like nothing Jo had ever seen, even in magazines. Blair's bed was filled with stuffed animals of every kind. There was a stereo and television against one wall, something Jo knew some teenagers had, but she'd never been in a bedroom with either. A small nook in the corner had been set up as a miniature art studio with an easel and related art supplies. Jo knew Blair was rich, but she'd never focused on the reality of what Blair's life away from Eastland might be like. If she had, she would not have imagined it would be so luxurious.

Two large bookcases stood against one wall, apparently filled with every book Blair had ever read. Everything from baby books to some of the novels that had been on their summer reading list lined the shelves.

What drew Jo's attention the most was the fact that anyone entering Blair Warner's bedroom would instantly realize that Blair was not only a lesbian, she was a lesbian in love. A lesbian in love with a girl named Jo. Paintings of Jo were hung prominently on the walls and small photographs of the two girls were pinned to a cork bulletin board along with movie theater tickets and other mementos of their dates. A framed photograph of Jo and Blair taken at the awards ceremony when Jo had been presented with Eastland's New Student of the Year award rested on Blair's bedside table.

Jo walked over to the table and picked up the photograph.

"What does your mother think of all of this?"

Blair sighed, she regretted that she and her mother had spent so much of their time fighting.

"I love my mother, Jo. I wish we didn't argue so much, but this is my room in my home."

Jo thought about her bedroom in the Bronx. Someone entering Jo's room would learn very little about the scholarly student. Like her room at school, the only things Jo had mounted to the walls in her bedroom were paintings and drawings of motorcycles. Only the most perceptive observer would read anything into the fact that the paintings were original works of art and not posters. There weren't any photographs of Blair Warner, or any other friends of Jo's on display in Jo's bedroom.

"Aren't you afraid of what your dad might say?"

Blair rolled her eyes dramatically.

"Daddy considers Mother's apartment enemy territory. He never comes here."

Jo replaced the picture and picked up Blair's telephone.

"I always wanted a princess phone. Every girl I know would kill for one of these. Is this the phone you used when you called me this week?"

Blair nodded, just as surprised that Jo would admit to wanting a princess phone as she was to the fact that her independent-minded girlfriend would want something so typically feminine.

"Can we call somebody on it?"

Blair glanced at the clock and frowned.

"Mrs. Garrett wouldn't like for us to call so late, but we can call tomorrow."

Jo grinned at the image of herself lying on Blair's bed talking on Blair's pink princess phone, then caught herself and cleared her throat, hoping the action would help clear her fuzzy mind. Jo forced herself to relinquish the phone and began exploring other areas of Blair's bedroom. Blair continued to watch, fascinated by Jo's expressions as she came across things that didn't surprise her and other things that did.

As Jo perused Blair's book collection, one set of books stood out among the rest. Jo pulled one from the shelf and raised her eyebrows at Blair.

"You like Nancy Drew?"

"Doesn't everyone?"

Jo shrugged, but continued to read the book's jacket, intrigued.

"You do know who Nancy Drew is, right?"

"Of course I know who Nancy Drew is, I'm not backwards."

"Which is your favorite?"

Jo hastily put the book back on the shelf.

"I had better things to do when I was a kid than read stupid books about Nancy Drew."

Blair stood up and walked over to Jo, who was pretending to be interested in other book titles.

"Haven't you read any Nancy Drew stories?"

Jo shook her head.

"Those are for prissy little girls."

"Nancy Drew is for everyone. You should take one of mine back to Eastland with you and read it."

"I ain't taking a kiddie book to Eastland, Natalie would never let me hear the end of it."

Blair took Jo's hand and pulled her toward Blair's bathroom, where Jo's duffel bag had been placed.

"They're not kiddie books, Jo."

Jo grunted and started pulling things out of her bag.

"You can take your shower first. We'll be leaving for the hospital early in the morning so it'll save time."

"Yeah, that's probably a good idea."

Blair stopped at the door as she was leaving the bathroom.

"Yell if you can't find everything you need. I'll be right outside this door."

Jo had waited until Blair was gone to utter the word, but it had to be said out loud.


She'd thought Blair's bedroom was extravagant, but Jo had decided the moment she stepped into Blair's bathroom that she would be perfectly content living in that one room. Jo was only beginning to explore all the luxuries Blair's bathroom had to offer when her heart leapt in her chest and tears began to well in her eyes.

It had initially struck Jo as odd that only one of the sinks in Blair's bath was surrounded with a huge variety of cosmetics, creams, and lotions. It was only when she realized the reason for the arrangement of Blair's things that confusion gave way to tears. Jo picked up the bottle of hand lotion by the second sink, immediately recognizing it as the brand given to her by Mrs. Garrett. The brands of shampoo, toothpaste, and even the color of the toothbrush sitting by the sink were identical to the brands Jo used at school. Blair had meticulously supplied Jo with the same products she normally used and made sure that the area around what was obviously intended to be Jo's sink was clear of any of Blair's beauty supplies.

Jo wasn't only amazed that Blair would go to the trouble to provide her with the things to which she was accustomed, she was amazed that Blair knew exactly what to buy. Jo sat on a small stool beside the vanity and allowed the tears to roll unimpeded down her cheeks. Blair had done many things for Jo, but Jo had never felt as cherished as in that moment. It was the first concrete sign Jo had seen of Blair's willingness . . . eagerness, to make room for Jo in her life outside the gates of Eastland Academy.

Jo spent an inordinate amount of time in the shower; the mechanically-inclined brunette was entranced by the workings of the shower massage and confident that she could install a similar device in their shared bathroom at Eastland. It wasn't until she returned to Blair's bedroom and found Blair sleeping, fully clothed on top of her bed, that Jo realized how much time she'd spent exploring the bathroom.

Jo pushed a couple of the plush animals surrounding her girlfriend out of the way and sat on the bed next to Blair.

"Hey, sleepy. Wake up. It's time to go to bed."

Blair rolled over, burying her face under more stuffed animals.

"I'm already in bed."

"I know, sweetie. I'm sorry I took so long, but you have to get ready for bed, too. You can't sleep in your boots."

Blair groaned and pushed herself up from the bed.

"It's not that late. I don't know why I'm so sleepy."

Jo smiled.

"When you get back to school, you can provide Tootie with some more accurate information related to beer consumption."

Blair rubbed her temples and winced.

"I don't think I'm going to be speaking to Tootie when I get back to school, I need an aspirin."

"There's some in the bathroom, in the drawer with the lip gloss. Uh, I kind of looked around a little."

Blair smiled and kissed Jo on the cheek as she walked toward the bathroom.

"So you didn't have any trouble finding everything you needed?"

Jo grinned shyly, her head lowered, embarrassed to have been the object of such detailed attention.

"Yeah, you did a good job of making me feel at home here, Blair."

Despite her headache, Blair's smile was dazzling and she practically skipped into the bathroom to change into her pajamas.

Jo was sitting in a rocking chair, so engrossed in the Nancy Drew book she was reading that she didn't hear Blair enter the bedroom until the rejuvenated blonde unceremoniously plopped into Jo's lap, sending the book sailing onto the floor.

"I don't intend to share you with Nancy Drew tonight, Jo."

Jo grinned.

"I didn't know that greed was one of your vices."

Blair playfully slapped Jo on the shoulder before giving her a quick hug.

"I like that one, but The Clue of the Dancing Puppet is my favorite. Admit it, you were enjoying the story."

Jo leaned back, increasing the rocking motion of the chair, much to Blair's delight.

"I don't intend to share you with an entire zoo, either."

Jo nodded toward Blair's bed and Blair's eyes danced with mischief.

"Do you think I'm old enough to trade in my stuffed animals for . . . a living . . . breathing . . . barbarian?"

Jo's hands went straight for the most ticklish section of Blair's ribs.

"Oh, you're just asking for it, aren't ya?"

Blair leapt from Jo's lap and began clearing her bed.

"Hmm, Mother is going to have to give one of the guest rooms to my stuffed animals. I don't think they'll fit in my closet."

"Blair, your closet is as big as most people's bedrooms."

The energetic brunette popped out of the rocking chair and began carrying Blair's stuffed animals to the closet.

"That's not necessary, Jo. Just throw them on the floor for the night."

Jo stared at Blair in mock horror.

"I am not sleeping with Snuggle Bear staring at me all night, pouting about having to give up his bed for me."

Blair sheepishly retrieved Snuggle Bear from the stack of animals Jo was carrying to the closet.

"Snuggle Bear stays. He doesn't take up much room."

Jo gently tugged at the bear as Blair cradled it in her arms.

"Blair, Snuggle Bear stays in the closet tonight, okay?"

Blair hesitated. She would have made a joke if she hadn't seen a note of concern in Jo's eyes.

"Well, it's not as if I sleep with him every night. Besides, I'll have Snuggle Jo to keep me company."

"Don't call me that. I can live with 'Barbarian'. I don't even mind 'Neanderthal'. 'Grease Monkey' is fine as long as we're alone, but please don't ever stick me with one of those cutesy pet names."

Blair giggled and nodded.

Once Blair's stuffed animals were sufficiently hidden from Jo's view, both girls awkwardly sat on the side of Blair's bed, each waiting for the other to say or do something.

"Y'know, it just occurred to me that we've never actually slept in the same bed together."

"We slept together the first night we met, Jo."

"Sleeping on the floor in sleeping bags is different."

Blair nervously picked at her pillow.

"Yes, but it's not as if we were going to . . . do anything."

Jo nodded enthusiastically.

"Right. It's just gonna seem a little weird for me. Come to think of it, I can't remember ever sharing a bed with anyone, even my mom."

Blair smiled nervously.

"Perhaps it's an acquired taste. The more you do it, the better you like it."

Jo helped Blair lower the covers and they got into Blair's bed. They lay in silence for several minutes, staring at the ceiling, before Jo spoke.


"Yes, Jo?"

"I could hold you if you want. I mean, it wouldn't be like when I hold you at Cooper's Rock, it'd be more like . . . well, like the way you hold Natalie after she's had one of her nightmares."

Blair turned onto her side and gazed into Jo's eyes.

"I'd love that, Jo, and I know what you're trying to say, but holding you could never be like holding Natalie."

Jo raised her arm and Blair slid into place against her girlfriend, resting her head on Jo's shoulder.

"Y'know, you can talk about your mother, if you want."

Blair buried her face in Jo's neck and draped one arm across Jo's stomach.

"Not now, Jo, please?"

"That's okay, I just wanted you to know that you can talk to me about it if you want, that's all."

"I know. I'm just a little sleepy. I'll have to be a little more careful the next time I drink beer with you."

Jo grinned.

"Good night, Princess."

"Good night, Grease Monkey."

Jo drowsily stretched in bed. Half asleep, she reached for Blair only to find that she was alone. Confused, Jo looked around the room. A sliver of light coming from Blair's bathroom barely lit the room. Jo stretched again, her arm sore from cradling her girlfriend half the night as Blair had tossed and turned beside her. Listening carefully, Jo heard sniffles coming from the bathroom, confirming that Blair had left her side in order to release her tears in private. Jo hesitated, wanting to respect Blair's privacy, but eager to console the fretful blonde. Considering Blair's decision to accept Jo's offer to join her girlfriend in New York as an indication that Blair wanted Jo's comfort, Jo rolled out of bed and softly walked toward the bathroom.

The bathroom door was slightly ajar, so Jo only had to nudge it forward to see inside. All the air left Jo's lungs as her gaze fell upon her vulnerable girlfriend. Blair's eyes were swollen and red from crying. Her hair was pulled back in pigtails, but strands had broken free and dangled haphazardly around her face.

As her gaze drifted from Blair's face, Jo's heart constricted. She tried to swallow, but her throat was too dry.

Blair had removed her pink pajama top and her arms hung limp at her sides as she scrutinized herself in the mirror. Jo understood what Blair was doing and her heart ached for her beautiful girlfriend. Knowing that Blair hadn't seen her, Jo considered stepping back into the dark unnoticed, but her feet seemed frozen to the floor. She was too terrified to step forward and far too much in love to step backwards, so Jo stood staring at her girlfriend for several seconds. Jo recalled Blair's reaction when Jo accidentally walked in on her girlfriend in the dressing room at Harrison's. Walking into Blair's bathroom now would be much more invasive, but Jo intuitively knew that Blair would welcome her presence. Jo had never seen anyone as fragile as the young girl standing before her. Despite her lack of confidence in her ability to do or say the right thing, Jo drew every ounce of courage from her heart and stepped into the room.

Blair trembled as her eyes locked onto Jo's reflection in the mirror. Jo never allowed her eyes to break contact with Blair's as she moved to stand behind the distressed debutante and wrapped her arms around Blair's waist. Once she held Blair in her arms, Jo closed her eyes, pressing her cheek against Blair's neck.

Blair lifted her arms from her sides and clasped Jo's hands, entwined below her breasts. She could feel Jo's heart thundering against her back as she squeezed Jo's hands.

"I was trying to imagine what it would look like if . . . if they were suddenly gone."

Jo opened her eyes, revealing unshed tears.

"I guessed."

"It will kill her, Jo. My mother has always flaunted her body. She even encouraged me to do the same. It will kill her if they —."

"Blair, don't torture yourself. They may be able to do a lumpectomy. If they have to do more, then your mother will find the strength to deal with it."

Blair closed her eyes, ashamed that her mother wasn't her only concern.

"Mother's not the only one I was thinking about. I know most people think I'm selfish, but I always thought that they were wrong, until tonight. How could I stand here thinking about myself when my mother is the one who may have to have a mastectomy tomorrow?"

Jo tightened her embrace and kissed Blair's cheek.

"You'd have to be made of steel not to wonder if you might face the same thing one day, Blair. It's normal for you to think about that."

"My mother could be dying and I've been thinking of myself . . . How can you bear to look at me?"

Jo continued to keep her gaze locked onto Blair's face.

"You're easy to look at, Blair. It's not selfish of you to worry about yourself as well as your mother, but just because your mother has breast cancer, it doesn't mean that you'll get it, too."

Blair sniffled, seeming to draw strength from Jo's unwavering gaze.

"It makes it more likely that I will, Jo. My grandmother died from breast cancer."

Jo worked hard to keep her voice steady, hoping to sound confident in her words.

"Things change, Blair. They can do a lot more for your mother than they could for your grandmother."

"I don't think my mother can handle something like this, Jo. I don't think I could handle it."

Jo turned Blair around so that the distraught blonde faced her. She held Blair's hands between them as she stared deep into dark chocolate eyes.

"It's not good for you to worry about something that will probably never happen, Blair. For now, all you have to do is be there for your mother tomorrow. Let her know that you love her."

Blair seemed to suddenly become aware of her exposed breasts and bit her lower lip self-consciously, releasing Jo's hands in an effort to cover herself.

"I must have looked like an idiot, staring at myself like that."

Jo had struggled with whether or not to show any interest in Blair's body, given the nature of Monica's surgery, but Jo broke her gaze with Blair, allowing her eyes to drift to her girlfriend's breasts briefly before making eye contact again.

"You are not an idiot. You are beautiful. More beautiful than I ever imagined you could be."

Jo's voice broke with the sincerity of her words and Blair threw herself into the security of Jo's arms. Jo held her girlfriend as Blair sobbed, allowing Jo to help shoulder the hurt and the worry that had kept Blair from sleeping well since she had learned of her mother's biopsy.

Jo's hands trembled as she gently caressed Blair's bare back, softly stroking the smooth flesh while whispering the depth of her love into Blair's ear. After several minutes, Jo pulled away, staring intently into Blair's eyes.

"You know that I'd still think you were beautiful even if —."

Blair pressed her fingers to Jo's lips before Jo could finish.

"I know."

Jo didn't see Blair's silk pajama top so she reached into her duffel bag and pulled out one of her flannel shirts and slipped it over Blair's arms. Blair had never before felt so cherished. Jo's scent drifted from the shirt and filled Blair's heart as she allowed Jo to lead her back to her bedroom.

"My mother is getting a divorce."

"That bastard."

"No, it's not like that, Jo. He doesn't even know about the cancer. Mother said she could never talk to him about something so personal."

"Does your father know?"

Blair wiped her eyes as Jo once again cradled her in her arms.

"Yes. I've been giving him updates. He . . . Daddy said that he loves us both, that he'll always love us both."

"I'm sure it helps to be able to talk with him about it."

Blair leaned up and gazed into Jo's eyes. She'd often surreptitiously studied Jo in their room at school. She'd memorized Jo's mannerisms, the tilt of her head, every conceivable expression, but she'd never seen Jo's eyes so soft.

"Do you want to know what helps more than anything?"

Jo nodded her head.

"You, Joanna Marie Polniaczek. I didn't know how I was going to be able to reassure my mother tomorrow, but now I know I can do it, because you'll be with me."

Jo kissed Blair's cheek, wondering if Blair had any idea how beautiful she looked in pigtails.

When Jo and Blair arrived at the hospital the following morning, Elizabeth Cabot was pacing the lobby with her eight-year-old daughter. Upon seeing Blair and Jo enter the lobby, Monica's lifelong friend sighed with relief.

"Blair, darling, thank God you're here. I was hoping to visit with your mother before her surgery, but the nurse said that Alexandra is too young to go into the pre-op area where Monica is resting."

Jo was relieved to have an excuse not to accompany Blair to see her mother. She'd escorted Blair to the hospital to be helpful, but didn't want to irritate Monica by showing up on such a stressful day.

"I can wait in the lobby with Alex, if that's okay with Blair."

Blair smiled at Jo and hugged her, appreciative of Jo's offer to stay with Alex, solving Elizabeth's problem and showing consideration for Monica's feelings as well. Blair knew that having Elizabeth by her side would be as much a comfort for Monica as her daughter's presence.

Elizabeth turned her attention to Jo and smiled politely. Jo immediately determined that Alex's mother was different from the other socialites that spun in and out of Monica Warner's life. Despite her aristocratic bearing, Elizabeth exuded a down-to-earth quality. This wasn't a woman who made snap judgments about people based on appearance or the size of their bank account.

"Hello, I'm Elizabeth Cabot. You must be Jo. Alex speaks very highly of you."

Blair blushed, embarrassed at having neglected to make introductions.

"Forgive me, Elizabeth. Mother would be appalled at my lack of manners."

Elizabeth smiled compassionately at the young blonde.

"Blair, darling, you're allowed a few lapses under these circumstances. Besides, I've heard so much about Jo from Alex, I feel as if we've already met."

"It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Cabot. I wish it were under different circumstances. Blair, let me know if you need me, okay? I'll only be a couple of floors away, and I can sneak Alex up with me if I have to."

Blair hugged Jo a second time, drawing as much comfort from Jo as possible before going to her mother.

"Do you think I'm pretty?"

"Huh? Why would you ask me that?"

Jo stared down into the intelligent eyes of her eight-year-old companion.

"When people answer a question with another question, they're usually stalling for time while they decide on the most appropriate answer. If you thought I was pretty, you would have answered right away."

Jo looked at the lanky young girl whose penetrating gaze was more intimidating that any Jo had encountered from an adult. 'Once her body catches up to her knobby knees and elbows, Alex is going to be a gorgeous young woman', thought Jo.

"I hesitated because your question made me uncomfortable, not because I don't think you're pretty."

"Why would you be uncomfortable if you think I'm pretty?"

Jo shrugged.

"It's kind of a personal question, Alex. I'm not comfortable talking about stuff like that."

Jo's discomfort increased when Alexandra Cabot slid closer to Jo on the sofa.

"I think you're pretty, too."

"Uh, thank you, Alex."

Hoping to change the topic of conversation, Jo removed a pack of crackers from her jacket pocket and offered one of them to Alexandra.

"We can't eat those in here, it's against the rules."

Jo frowned.

"Who says?"

Alex pointed to a sign at the entrance to the hospital lobby.

"We're supposed to go to the cafeteria if we want to have a snack."

"Well, it's a stupid rule. Go ahead and take a cracker. No one is going to stop you."

Alex shook her head and gave Jo such a disapproving look that the older girl put the crackers away.

"Do you think I'm as pretty as Blair?"

"Huh? Why would you ask me something like that?"

Alex raised her eyebrows, reminding Jo of the youngster's earlier suppositions about answering questions with questions.

"I don't think you should worry so much about what other people think of you, Alex."

"I think Blair is pretty, don't you?"

Jo scowled at the little girl.

"I told you not to worry about what other people think of ya."

"I wasn't asking about me, I was asking about Blair."

Jo groaned. It was pointless to try to win an argument with the exhaustingly logical child.

"Blair looks okay."

Alex smiled and edged closer to Jo.

"My father was ten years older than my mother when they married."

"Uh, I, um, was sorry to hear about your father, Alex."

A brief shadow passed over the young child's face before she recovered her pleasant mood.

"He died a long time ago, but I have lots of pictures of him. He was ten years older than my mother."

"Uh, you mentioned that. That's interesting."

"I'm only nine years younger than you."

Jo took a deep breath. Why did this happen to her so often? With the exception of Molly, young girls never looked at Blair like lovesick puppies, but Jo seemed to attract kids with crushes like a magnet.

"Alex, I think you're a pretty little girl and I like hanging out with you, but I also like to spend time with friends my own age."

"Friends like Blair?"


Hoping to let Alex down without hurting her feelings, Jo tried to soften her rejection.

"Blair is my best friend. Do you have a best friend?"

Alex nodded and Jo smiled.

"Good. Your best friend wouldn't like it if you met a six-year-old and decided to make her your new best friend, would she? Isn't there some sort of rule about not letting new friends come between you and your best friend?"

Seeing Alexandra's eyes narrow as she considered Jo's argument, Jo was gratified that her strategy seemed to be working. Jo didn't believe that the conscientious little girl had ever broken a rule in her entire life.

Alex, however, was more intuitive than Jo had expected. The young girl sighed and slid over to the far end of the sofa.

"It's against the rules to flirt with your good friend's special friend. I would never hurt Blair like that. She's always been nice to me. Everyone else treats me like I'm weird because I don't like to talk about silly things."

Jo smiled, figuring that Alex probably considered Blair almost as silly as the girls her own age. Jo often found herself talking to Alex as if the young girl were much older. Jo knew that the child always chose her words carefully, but decided to ignore the implications of Alex's description of Jo as Blair's special friend.

As Jo and Alexandra continued to wait for news, Jo became more and more restless.

"You should find ways to keep your mind busy when you're nervous, Jo. Pacing back and forth like you're doing now is like shouting to the whole lobby that you're worried about Blair."

Jo stopped pacing and sat down beside Alex.

"Any advice on how to do that?"

Alex narrowed her eyes again, unaware that she also had mannerisms that broadcasted her feelings.

"If you're angry, counting helps. If you're worried, solving puzzles helps."

"I don't have any puzzles."

"Not that kind of puzzle, silly. Philosophical ideologies are fun to think about. That's kind of like working a puzzle. If you like mystery stories, you can solve one of those, or invent your own."

"Mysteries stories, huh?"

"Yes, like Nancy Drew."

Jo was surprised to hear Alex reference the same girl detective whose stories lined the bookshelves of Blair's bedroom. They'd appeared childish to Jo, but Alex was anything but childish.

"Do you like Nancy Drew?"

Alex gazed at Jo in disbelief.

"Everyone likes Nancy Drew. She's a magnificent detective. I love trying to solve the mystery before Nancy, don't you?"

"I don't know. I've never read any of the stories. I've seen some of the television versions."

"How is it possible that you've never read any Nancy Drew stories?"

Jo didn't have a chance to answer more questions about Nancy Drew because Blair and Elizabeth returned to the lobby. Elizabeth was wearing a huge smile and Blair looked relieved. Blair didn't exchange greetings with Jo; instead, she melted against Jo as soon as she was within reach of the sturdy brunette.

Although Jo wondered what Monica's friend must think of the fact that Blair was always hugging Jo, she knew that Blair needed the contact and was more than happy to provide it.

As Jo comforted Blair, Elizabeth noticed the way her daughter was studying the two older girls. She had always encouraged Alexandra's friendship with Monica's daughter. Alexandra was a brilliant child, but painfully awkward in social situations. Spending time with Blair had helped the inquisitive girl tremendously. The younger girl often emulated Blair's behavior at social events, looking toward Blair for clues as to how she should respond to certain situations. Elizabeth had known that the two girls would form a bond. Other women in her social circle underestimated Blair Warner, but Elizabeth wasn't fooled.

"Alexandra, I hope you didn't mind spending so much of the day with Blair's friend."

Alexandra smiled up at her mother before turning concerned eyes toward Jo. The first question Alex had asked Blair, after meeting Jo, was about Jo's accent. The young girl had later asked her mother about the Bronx. Elizabeth had responded by telling Alexandra that the Bronx was a place she hoped her daughter would never have the misfortune to visit. Like Blair, before meeting Jo at Eastland, Alexandra had never been exposed to anyone outside her parents' social circle.

The fiercely intelligent, yet sensitive child turned to her mother as they watched Jo whisper words of reassurance into Blair's ear. Like Jo, Alexandra kept her voice soft so as not to draw attention.

"She's never even read a Nancy Drew novel."

Elizabeth looked down at her daughter in shock and shook her head regrettably.

"Poor thing."

"I'm glad Blair likes her."

Elizabeth had always conversed with her daughter as if Alexandra were a grown woman, no topic was off limits.

"Do you like her, Alexandra?"

"Very much."

That was good enough for Elizabeth Cabot. Alexandra, like her late father, was an impeccable judge of character. Elizabeth had been somewhat confused by Monica's uncharacteristic response to discovering that her daughter was a lesbian. It wasn't like her good friend to ignore the obvious or to be so closed-minded.

After meeting Jo, Elizabeth had more of an inkling as to why Monica didn't want to acknowledge Blair's relationship with Jo. Monica's father was the worst snob Elizabeth had ever met, and Monica wasn't much better. She imagined that it must be difficult for Monica to adjust to seeing Blair with someone from such an underprivileged background. For her part, Elizabeth had been concerned that Blair's friend might try to take advantage of the affluent heiress, but Alexandra would have easily identified an opportunist.

Elizabeth reached for Alexandra's hand as they walked out of the lobby. After all, Alexandra was still a little girl.

"We'll invite them to dinner sometime."

"I'd like that. Um, Mother?"

"Yes, darling?"

"Why is Monica so upset that Blair's special friend is a girl?"

Elizabeth's eyes twinkled with mischief.

"I don't know, darling. Why don't you ask her about it one day? I'd love to hear her try to explain it to you."

"I don't understand why you wanted to come here, Blair. I promised Marilyn that I'd make sure you ate something and you haven't eaten more than a few bites of strudel all day."

"Come on, Jo. I want to show you something. I don't spend all my time shopping when I'm in New York."

Jo stopped walking in order to gain Blair's full attention.

"I know there's more to you than that, Blair."

Blair smiled and placed her hand in the crook of Jo's elbow, guiding her girlfriend through the Museum of Modern Art. While they walked, Blair began to explain the reason for their visit.

"I love it here, Jo. Whenever I stay with Daddy and he has business meetings and can't spend time with me, I come here. I can sit for hours just looking at the paintings."

Jo was tempted to scold Blair again. Blair had seemed jittery all day and Jo felt that a good meal would help, but it was so nice to see Blair smiling again that Jo couldn't bring herself to dampen the mood.

"Jo, do you remember the dream we talked about? The one you kept having last summer?"

Jo grinned, waggling her eyebrows.

"I wrote about much more interesting things than that dream, Blair. Why do you keep bringing it up?"

Blair rolled her eyes before continuing.

"You talked about going back and forth in time between Eastland and the Bronx."

"Yeah, I remember."

"You wrote that at the end of the dream, everything melted together."


Blair stopped walking and nodded her head toward a painting.

"Wow. That's amazing."

"It's the first thing I thought of when I read the letter about your dream. See how the watches are melting. They represent —."

"Y'don't have to explain it to me, Blair. I get it."

"It means different things to different people, but I knew you'd understand why I wanted you to see it."

Jo looked at her girlfriend in awe.

"The melting watches are a cool way to illustrate the time warp I described in my letter, but how did you figure out the rest of it?"

"The rest of it?"

"You know, the creature in the middle of it all. It's so out of place. It's him, isn't it? It's the artist?"

Blair was stunned.

"Um, yes. He often depicted himself in his paintings, but . . . Jo, you can't see yourself like that. You're beautiful."

Jo chuckled.

"So, you think the creature is ugly?"

Blair looked at the painting. She saw nothing attractive about the creature that, unlike its surroundings, wasn't melting.

"I, um, I was focused on the watches."

Jo smiled good-naturedly.

"Don't look so worried, Blair. I like it. I feel like that sometimes. Not ugly, just out of place."

"You like it, though, right? I knew you would."

"So, you think you've got me figured out?"

Blair twirled her hair and smiled.

"Don't worry, Jo. There's still enough mystery to keep me interested."

Jo chuckled and returned her attention to the painting.

"What's it called?"

"The Persistence of Memory."

"The title fits."

"It's part of the cubist exhibit. Salvador Dali is the artist."

"Thank you for bringing me here, Blair."

Blair turned to Jo, her expression solemn.

"I don't know how I would have gotten through today without you, Jo. I never could have been there for my mother if you hadn't been here for me."

Jo shook her head.

"You're stronger than you think, Blair. You'd have been fine, but I'm glad I was able to make it a little easier."

Jo and Blair stood together, side by side, gazing at the piece of art for almost an hour, each enjoying being in the presence of someone who understood her as much as they enjoyed looking at the painting. It wasn't until Blair's watch began playing a tune from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack that Blair nervously tugged at Jo's arm.

"We have to go now, Jo. Daddy will be calling soon."

Post Series Flash Forward: Tootie Returns to Peekskill

"I ain't goin' back down there, Blair. I can hear them laughin' all the way up here."

Blair knew she'd find Jo brooding in her study. Jo hated being the object of ridicule, even if it was delivered in a good-natured way.

"If they really knew the grass came from my skirt, Jo, they wouldn't have teased us so much."

Jo grunted and continued writing furiously in her journal. Blair softly walked over to the chair beside Jo's desk and sat primly, with her hands folded in her lap and her legs crossed at the ankles. She waited for several minutes, knowing that Jo would talk to her when she was ready.

"It was stupid of me to go for my morning run without taking a shower first, but I knew I'd have to take one after my run so I . . . it was just stupid."

Blair reached over and placed her hand over Jo's, trying not to smile. Blair saw the humor in the situation and knew that Jo would see it as well, one day far into the future.

"No one is making fun of you, Jo. There's no reason to be embarrassed. If anything, they're jealous of me."

Jo finally looked up from her writing, her head tilted and her lips pursed in skepticism.

"What are you talking about?"

Blair leaned forward, using her other hand to brush a strand of hair from Jo's face.

"This may be a difficult concept for you to grasp, Joey, but not every couple is able to maintain as . . . um . . . healthy a sex life as you and I."

Jo shook her head.

"I don't know what's gotten into me lately. Ever since this reunion stuff started, I can't seem to keep my hands off of you."

Blair's smile grew as she continued to stroke Jo's hair.

"Maybe you've been reminded of all those years we had to keep our hands to ourselves."

Jo snorted.

"You'd think that after twenty-two years of . . . uh . . . making up for those first two, I'd have gotten all that pent up frustration out of my system."

Blair sighed, not a sigh of discouragement, but one of complete satisfaction.

"I like to think that our lovemaking is more a result of your undying devotion to me as opposed to any hardship I may have inadvertently inflicted upon you when we attended Eastland."


Blair shrugged, but continued to smile.

"I always did my best to look nice for you, Jo. I still do."

Jo grinned, remembering the way Blair had looked that morning dressed in a grass hula skirt and tropical bra.

"Heh, you'd better get out of here before I accost you again. Mrs. G. will be upset if you don't get to Edna's Edibles before they open the doors for customers."

Blair playfully ruffled her lover's hair before standing.

"You have never, as you put it, accosted me, Joanna Polniaczek. If you have any doubts that this morning's activities were anything less than what I was hoping for when I put on that ridiculous outfit, you don't know me half as well as I think you do. You, my darling, are a woman of great integrity. You always have been. It's one of the many reasons I adore you. As for your recent lack of restraint, I repeat, I am obviously the object of a great deal of envy."

Jo's grin turned into a full-fledged smile.

"You are a conniving enchantress, Blair Warner."

Blair giggled as she walked out the door.

"Wait until you see what I have planned for you at Edna's Edibles today."

Jo quickly put away her papers and raced to the shower. She wanted to get to the motorcycle dealership early. A pesky lawsuit wasn't going to prevent her from making it to the gourmet food shop in time for Blair's surprise.

13: Special Friends

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