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 13. Based on the Facts of Life Series, Season 3, Episodes 4 and 5, Friend in Need and Front Page.
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
13: Special Friends

By Slave2Free


"Goodbye, Daddy. I love you, too."

Blair smiled at the eager expression on Jo's face when she handed her girlfriend the telephone. Jo came close to giggling as she dialed Mrs. Garrett's telephone number.

"Hey, Mrs. G. How are you doing?"

"Good, I'm glad you got Blair's message. We're thrilled. It could have been a very different story if Blair hadn't talked her mom into having the surgery so soon. If they'd waited a little longer, the cancer might have spread and then they would have had to perform a mastectomy."

Jo smiled at Blair and pursed her lips in a mock kiss.

"Yeah, I think she's glad that I'm here."

"That's real nice of you, Mrs. G. I know I left you in a bind. Tell Nat and Tootie that I'm sorry they have to get things ready for the faculty dinner without me."

Jo was stretched out on Blair's bed with her legs crossed at the ankles, one hand on the telephone and the other arm wrapped around her girlfriend.

"Yeah, we even managed to work a little fun into the trip this afternoon, once Monica was out of surgery."

"Don't worry. I'm taking good care of her. I took her to the Museum of Modern Art earlier, and tonight I'm gonna take her out for the best scungilli she's ever eaten."

"Thanks, Mrs. G., you're the best and Blair wants me to thank you for the apple strudel you sent."

"Hey, guess what I'm holding right now."

Blair lifted her head from Jo's chest and raised her eyebrows at her girlfriend, but Jo grinned and winked in response.

"No, it's a princess phone."

"I'm in Blair's bedroom and she has a pink princess phone. You should see this place, Mrs. G. I've never seen anything like it."

"I'll tell her when she wakes up, she's taking a nap."

Blair mouthed the word 'liar' and Jo made a face at the playful blonde.

"Well, I, uh, I guess that's what friends are for, right?"

"Sure. Bye, Mrs. G."

Jo grinned at Blair as she passed the telephone back to her amused girlfriend.

"Your turn."

Blair pressed the phone to one ear while continuing to rest her head against her girlfriend's chest.

"Blair Warner calling for Mrs. Cabot. Yes, I'll wait."

"Elizabeth? The doctor said that she is resting comfortably."

"Jo? Um, yes, she's staying all weekend."

Blair leaned forward, her shoulders growing tense.

"She told you about us? No, I guess I just didn't think about it. Yes, I know how close you are."

Jo's level of trepidation grew in relation to Blair's as she watched her girlfriend chew on her lower lip while speaking with Elizabeth Cabot.

"Could you repeat that? What exactly did you say?"

Jo watched anxiously as a variety of emotions swept across Blair's face until the heiress finally smiled.

"You really said that . . . to my mother?"

Blair gazed at Jo, the green and gold flecks in her eyes dancing brightly.

"Alex is right, Jo is special."

Blair leaned back against Jo as she listened to her mother's best friend.

"Elizabeth, I can't tell you how much . . . I mean . . . you can't possibly know."

"Yes, I know how lucky I am. Elizabeth, I think my mother is lucky, too. She's lucky to have a friend like you."

"Thank you . . . for everything. Goodbye."

Blair handed the telephone to Jo, her mood contemplative.

"What was that all about?"

Blair opened her mouth to speak, stopped herself, and then tried again.

"Do you have any idea who that was?"

Jo, whose extraordinary memory enabled her to recall almost every word Blair had ever spoken, easily replied.

"'Elizabeth Cabot is the most prominent woman in New York. The Cabots not only have money, they have old money, political ties, and bloodlines that other socialites would kill for, literally.' I didn't figure that your mom's best friend would be anything less than top of the line."

Blair tilted her head and smiled at Jo as her girlfriend repeated Blair's description of her mother's friend word for word.

"She's so much more than that, Jo. She's my mother's best friend and she thinks you're top of the line, too. She told me so."

Jo frowned.

"Yeah, she was able to tell all of that after spending five whole minutes with me."

Blair giggled.

"Elizabeth Cabot told my mother that she hoped Alex would one day find a friend as true as Jo Polniaczek and that my mother should thank her lucky stars that I had the good sense to stay away from pale, unhealthy products of too much royal in-breeding."

Jo's laughter filled Blair's large bedroom.

"Y'know, Blair. I haven't been giving your mother enough credit. She can't be as shallow as she pretends and have a friend like that."

"Exactly! Jo, do you know what this means?"

Jo couldn't speak; she was too mesmerized by Blair's giggly enthusiasm as the bubbly blonde bounced on her knees beside Jo.

"My mother's best friend, the woman she trusts implicitly, the woman whose opinion she values over all others . . . considers you the catch of the century. My mother may not listen to me, but she'll listen to Elizabeth. I know she will and then she'll love you as much as I do, Jo."

Jo blushed.

"Um, aren't you going a little overboard?"

"No! You have successfully charmed a woman who is immune to charm."

Jo shrugged.

"Well, I charmed you, didn't I?"

Blair twirled her hair.

"I'm not sure that's the proper adjective for what you've done to me, Jo, but I get your point."

Jo playfully grabbed the overexcited debutante and pressed her backwards onto a pillow.

"Do you want to guess what adjective you should use to describe what I'm about to do to you?"

Blair scrunched her eyes and squealed.

"Please don't tickle me, Jo. I can't take it. Please."

"Wrong adjective, Princess."

Blair sucked on her lower lip and tried not to giggle.

"Joanna Marie Polniaczek, are you planning to rock my world?"

Jo grinned mischievously before giving Blair a quick kiss on the forehead.

"Yep, with the best scungilli in New York."

As soon as she finished speaking, Jo jumped from the bed and raced to the bathroom.

"Dibs on the shower, Blair. See ya in five."

Blair leaned her head back onto the pillow and gazed dreamily at the ceiling.

'When we get back here tonight, we'll see whose world gets rocked.'

Marilyn rolled her eyes in satisfaction.

"This is delicious. That kid sure knows where to find the best food."

Maxwell grinned.

"I know; it's now at the top of my list of restaurants."

"How bad was the neighborhood?"

"It wasn't that bad, but I didn't feel comfortable leaving them there all alone, so I ordered some take-out and waited in the car."

"And you're always cautioning me about getting too attached to our employer's family."

Maxwell shifted uneasily.

"It just wasn't the sort of place Mrs. Costanzia would have wanted me to leave her daughter, especially in the company of that ruffian."

"Costanzia? We both know that she isn't going to use Mr. Costanzia's name once the divorce is final. She'll go back to Warner, she always does."

"Okay, I didn't think Mrs. Warner would approve of her daughter being left alone in that part of town with the ruffian."

"'Ruffian'? You like Miss Warner's new friend as much as I do. When I came back today, the breakfast dishes had been washed, the countertops cleaned, and even Miss Warner's bed had been made."

"She doesn't belong here."

"Who says?"

"Our boss . . . probably."

Marilyn's mood turned somber.

"Mrs. Warner is usually such a kind woman, no one would believe . . . well, you know."

Maxwell shifted in his seat again.

"You think I should have done something that day, don't you?"

Marilyn's eyes held nothing but admiration as she spoke to her father.

"No. I know that there was nothing you could do. I just . . . she was so different when she returned from that place."

"It was Mr. Warner that did it. He's a cold-hearted son of a bitch."

"Father, please don't talk like that."

"You've never had to work for him, Marilyn, and you never will, but if you had you'd know what I mean."

Marilyn folded her hands in her lap and tried to think of a way to divert the conversation.

"Where are they now?"

"In Miss Warner's bedroom, eating popcorn and watching Hill Street Blues."

"Well, I'm going to bed. The last thing those girls need is for me to be hovering around all night."

"That sounds like a good idea. I'm planning to do the same as soon as I take care of Mr. Nosey."

"Is that guy still lurking around?"

"More than usual. Don't worry, though. He'll keep quiet. He's getting a lot more from the nuisance account Mrs. Warner set up for me than he's getting from David Warner."

"I thought that account was to keep Mr. Warner from finding out about Mrs. Warner's escapades. I didn't know it was to be used on behalf of her daughter as well."

Maxwell shrugged.

"Let's just say I have a very broad interpretation of my instructions."

Marilyn leaned forward and kissed her father's cheek.

"You're an old softie."

Jo shifted onto her side, smiling across a bowl of popcorn as the ending credits for Hill Street Blues rolled across the television screen in Blair's bedroom. Blair had fallen asleep with one hand in the bowl of popcorn, the other unceremoniously flopped across her stomach. Jo carefully lifted the blonde's wrist and placed the bowl of popcorn on a nearby table. Blair didn't appear as fragile and exhausted as she had when Jo first arrived in New York, but it was obvious that she hadn't slept well for several days. The relief Blair felt upon learning that removal of her mother's tumor did not require a mastectomy couldn't compensate for the stress of the week and she had fallen asleep shortly after Jo had turned on the television.

After changing into her pajamas, Jo returned to the bedroom to find Blair still sleeping. She wavered a few minutes, trying to decide whether or not she should wake her girlfriend, but finally decided that Blair would sleep better if she changed out of the skirt and blouse she'd worn to dinner that evening. She gently nudged Blair and kissed her on the cheek.

"Hey, sleeping beauty, you fell asleep on me. Am I that boring?"

Blair stretched and yawned.

"It's the scungilli. It made me sleepy."

"Heh heh, I knew you'd enjoy it. It's my dad's favorite restaurant."

"It was wonderful, Jo. Thank you for suggesting it."

"I'm sorry I woke you. I thought you'd sleep better in something more comfortable. Hopefully you'll be able to sleep more peacefully tonight."

"I . . . um, I'm sorry about how I acted last night. I'm not a fragile princess. I was just a little . . . overwhelmed for a moment."

Jo eased onto the bed and rolled close to Blair, gazing directly into her girlfriend's eyes, her expression open and sincere.

"I don't think that, Blair. If anything like this ever happened to my ma, I'd be a basket case. I think you've been very brave."

Blair's smile didn't reflect a great deal of confidence in Jo's assessment, but it acknowledged her appreciation for Jo's kind words.

"You don't have to go to the hospital with me tomorrow, Jo. Now that the worst of it is over, I'll be fine. You should explore the city while I spend time with Mother."

Jo snorted her disapproval.

"I've explored this city a hundred times. I came here to be with you and that's what I'm gonna do. Don't bother starting an argument because I'm not changing my mind."

Blair smiled, her eyelids still heavy with sleep.

"Me, start an argument? I only finish the ones you start."

"Ha, ha. Go change into your pajamas so you can get some sleep."

Blair walked over to her dresser and retrieved the flannel shirt Jo had given her the night before. She held it up and raised her eyebrows in question.

"I don't know why you like to wear that old shirt so much. You're always criticizing my taste in clothes."

Blair shrugged, but didn't move to put the shirt away.

"Go ahead and wear it. I told you before, Blair, you're welcome to anything I own."

Just as Blair started walking toward the bathroom, the telephone rang. Jo jumped from the bed and reached for Blair's hand when she saw the blood rush from her girlfriend's face, making Blair appear as pale and fragile as she'd just denied feeling.

As Blair continued to stare at the telephone as if it terrified her, Jo squeezed her hand tighter. Both girls feared that the late night call might be from a doctor or nurse with bad news about Blair's mother.

"I'll answer it, if you want?"

Blair nodded her consent and Jo nervously picked up the telephone.

"Hello, uh, Warner residence."

"Ma! What are you doing calling so late?"

"Oh, he did. Listen, Ma, I don't know what that jerk has been telling you, but —."

While she listened to her mother, Jo rolled her eyes and half smiled at Blair, mouthing the words 'It's okay.'

"Ma, I'm not cutting classes again. It's not like that."

"I missed one day."

Jo ignored Blair at first as she tugged on her sleeve, but the persistent blonde didn't like being ignored and began forcefully pulling Jo's arm in order to gain her full attention.

"Ma, hold on a second. No, just a second, I'll be right back."

Jo placed her hand over the telephone so that she could speak privately with Blair.

"Leave me alone, Blair. This is long distance and my mom is really upset."


"That jerk, Gideon, called her and told her that he was concerned that I would choose to skip an important class in order to run off to New York on a lark. Ma thinks I'm falling back into my old habits. She called Mrs. G. and Mrs. G. gave her this number, but she didn't explain why I was here."

Blair bit her lower lip, afraid that she had gotten Jo into trouble with her mother.

Jo misinterpreted Blair's behavior and hastened to reassure her.

"Don't worry, Blair. I'm not going to tell her about your mom. I'd never break your confidence."

Blair sighed deeply and reached for the phone.

"Hey, what are you doing?"

"Just give me the phone, you nutty Neanderthal."

Jo was so surprised by Blair's sudden burst of energy that her grip on the telephone wasn't secure enough to prevent Blair from jerking it from her hand and moving quickly away from Jo.

"Mrs. Polniaczek, it's Blair Warner. I'm very sorry that Jo missed some of her classes yesterday, but I'd like to explain why she came to New York, if you'll allow me. I'm sure Mrs. Garrett would have explained if she hadn't felt she would be breaking a promise she made to me."

"Yes, ma'am, I'm sure she was vague, but there was a reason. She was trying to protect my mother's privacy. I know how important it is that Jo keeps up her grades and I should have thought about that before asking Jo to come to New York with me, but my mother has been very ill and Jo came here to . . . well, she's my best friend and . . . I've been very worried about my mother."

"Thank you, I'm sure your prayers will help. I can't tell you how much it's meant to me to have a friend here. My mother has forbidden me from telling anyone about her illness because she doesn't want it showing up in the gossip columns. Reporters haven't always been kind to my mother so she tries to keep her name out of the press, but I'm sure she wouldn't mind my explaining the situation to you."

"You're very kind. Mother had a malignant tumor removed from her breast this morning and Jo accompanied me to the hospital. She wasn't skipping class on a whim, Mrs. Polniaczek; she was just being a very good friend."

"I hope you understand why Jo couldn't explain her absence to Mr. Gideon; only Mrs. Garrett and Mr. Parker, our headmaster, know about my mother's illness. Mr. Parker personally excused Jo's absence from class and field hockey practice."

"Thank you again for being so gracious. I appreciate your discretion. I'm sure Jo will be able to make up any work she missed. She's a very dedicated student."

Jo groaned and pinched Blair's arm.

"Enough with the Eddie Haskell routine, Blair."

Blair smirked at the embarrassed brunette and handed her the telephone.

"Your mother would like to speak with you, Beaver. I'll be in the bathroom changing."

Jo watched Blair leave, a bit in awe of how well Blair had handled Rose. Rose was proud of Jo for being such a good friend to the polite socialite and lavished praise on the daughter she had originally called in order to scold.

Despite her mother's admiration, Jo's mood turned pensive after the call. It served as a reminder of how close she was to losing her scholarship because of her abysmal journalism grade. As she looked around Blair's bedroom, her eyes lingering on all the mementos of their relationship pinned to Blair's bulletin board, Jo clenched her fists at her sides.

'I'll be damned if I let that jerk get me kicked out of Eastland. Everything hinges on my staying in school. I can't let that bastard destroy my life.'

Jo was tired, but she'd only suffered one restless night as opposed to the weeklong sleep deprivation Blair had endured. That's how Jo accounted for the fact that Blair was sleeping like a baby while she was awake counting, adding, subtracting, and multiplying everything in sight. As the clock on Blair's bedside table inched toward 4:00 a.m., Jo was willing to try anything to keep her mind off of the soft curves of the girl slumbering next to her.

In desperation, Jo considered going to the closet and retrieving Snuggle Bear. There was a reason Blair had anointed her favorite stuffed animal with that name; the affectionate blonde didn't appear capable of sleeping without having her arms wrapped around something or someone. Currently, Blair's arm encircled Jo's waist, her head rested peacefully on Jo's chest, and one bare leg was sprawled across Jo's hips in a manner that caused Jo's body to involuntarily shiver.

The frustrated brunette had called on the same self-discipline that allowed her to throw her body into harm's way when scoring a goal during a field hockey match, the same self-control that allowed her to carry Blair down from Cooper's Rock across slippery terrain when her back ached and her feet were numb from the damp and cold, and the same steely determination that drove her to recklessly push through the inside corner on her motorcycle during a race, but her resolve was running thin. Her love for Blair was strong, but her desire for the beautiful blonde was becoming unbearable, causing Jo to eventually give up her internal struggle and leave Blair's bed in search of safer territory.

Jo walked around the large penthouse apartment, wondering how often Blair had stood at the windows staring at the city below. Remembering the piano, Jo sat down and gently began playing, her fingers pressing the keys so softly that the music couldn't be heard in the bedroom.

However, Blair didn't need any outside stimulus to wake her, the absence of her snuggle partner was enough to interrupt her sleep. After determining that her girlfriend wasn't in the bedroom or the bathroom, Blair walked down the hallway and toward the faint sound of the piano. She stood for a moment, unobserved as she listened to Jo play. Smiling lazily, she eventually sat on the piano bench beside Jo.

"Don't stop."

Jo resumed playing while Blair rested her head on the musician's shoulder, sighing contently. At the conclusion of the song, Jo turned and wondered if Blair might be sleepwalking since her eyes were closed and her lips were slightly parted.

"Hey, you should get back to bed."

"Mmm, I missed you."

Jo resigned herself to a few more hours of torture and half carried the sleepy heiress back to bed. Jo enjoyed the feeling of Blair's body pressed close to her, but it made it impossible for her to focus on anything other than her girlfriend's many attributes, accentuated by the serene expression on the attractive blonde's face as she slept.

It was almost four hours later when Jo, having only dozed periodically, once again extracted herself from her girlfriend's grasp and made her way to the kitchen. She was surprised to find Marilyn already sitting at the table drinking a cup of coffee.

"Good morning, Miss Polniaczek. Would you like breakfast now or will you be waiting for Miss Warner?"

"Everyone calls me Jo. I'll wait for Blair before eating, but I'll pour myself a glass of juice if you don't mind."

Marilyn nodded and remained seated while Jo retrieved a glass from the cupboard and juice from the refrigerator. Marilyn tried to recall if the Warners had ever had a guest who preferred to serve themselves, but she couldn't think of another instance. She knew deep down that her father was right; Miss Polniaczek, Jo, didn't fit into Miss Warner's life. The thought saddened Marilyn because she had never seen the heiress so happy as when Jo Polniaczek had arrived.

Jo had barely had time to sit down at the table with Marilyn before Blair showed up. She was still wearing Jo's flannel top, but had also donned a pair of silk pajama bottoms, making the shirt seem all the more out of place on the heiress. Blair half yawned as she spoke.

"Good morning."

Marilyn pretended not to notice Blair's unusual attire.

"Good morning, Miss Warner. Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes."

Marilyn began making breakfast for the two girls as soon as Blair entered the kitchen area. She smiled her appreciation toward Jo as the helpful young woman removed another glass from the cupboard and poured a glass of juice for Blair while they waited for Marilyn to serve their meal.

"Thank you, Marilyn. Good morning, Jo."

Jo grinned as she handed Blair a glass of juice.

"It looks like you finally got a good night's rest."

Blair sipped her juice before responding.

"Yes, I slept well. I'm looking forward to seeing Mother this morning. I have a feeling she's going to be in a wonderful mood today."

Marilyn glanced over her shoulder.

"Maxwell is prepared to bring the car around as soon as you are ready, Miss Warner."

"Thank you, we should be ready to leave within the hour."

Once breakfast was served, Marilyn discretely left the kitchen area. She knew that she shouldn't feel so attached to the quiet brunette, but she enjoyed Jo's company and secretly hoped that Miss Warner would be inviting her new friend to New York often.

Jo accompanied Blair to the hospital as she had promised, but she hesitated outside of Monica's room.

"Are you sure your mother wants to see me?"

"Yes, she specifically asked that I bring you to her room."

"I don't understand why she wants to see me. She hates me."

"She doesn't hate you, Jo. She just . . . hasn't grown fond of you, yet. You'll grow on her, especially now that Elizabeth is rooting for us."

Jo let out a deep breath. In Jo's opinion, too many people in Blair's life were privy to the intimate details of their relationship and it made Jo nervous.

"Why do you think your mother wants to see me?"

Blair shrugged her shoulders and attempted to appear nonchalant.

"Perhaps she wants to thank you for keeping me company. We'll know soon enough."


Blair gave her girlfriend an incredulous look.

"You didn't think I was going to leave you alone with her, did you?"

Jo stared at her feet, embarrassed by her cowardice in the face of being alone with Monica Warner.

"I, uh, I wouldn't do anything to upset your mother, especially while she's in the hospital."

Blair chuckled and hugged Jo's arm.

"You're not the one I'm worried about, Jo. Um, not that I'm worried. It's just that Mother can be . . . a bit . . . well, you've seen her at her worst."

Jo cocked her head to the side and grinned at the flustered blonde.

"Was that the worst she's got? I don't know why I was so nervous. This is gonna be a piece of cake."

Blair smiled at the brave brunette, hoping there was no need for either of them to be so nervous.

Feigning a level of confidence she didn't feel, Blair entered Monica's room first, reaching behind herself to clasp Jo's hand before walking over to her mother's bed and placing a gentle kiss on Monica's cheek.

"Blair, darling, you look so much better today. Did you sleep well?"

Monica gave Jo a withering glance as the asked the question, but smiled brightly at her daughter.

"Yes, Mother, it's the best sleep I've had all week. I'm so pleased at how well you are progressing. Doctor Sid was all smiles yesterday when we spoke."

Monica beamed at her beautiful daughter, appreciating her concern and support.

"I wouldn't even be here if you hadn't given me the courage, Blair. You are a remarkable young woman. I'm sorry that I've been such a burden on you lately."

Blair released Jo's hand so that she could grasp her mother's hand with both of hers.

"You could never be a burden, Mother. I love you."

Monica closed her eyes briefly before turning her gaze toward Jo.

"Blair says that you have been a big help to her while I've been in the hospital."

Jo shuffled her feet and stammered.

"I, uh, it was nothing."

Blair's smile was brilliant as she gazed at the awkward brunette.

"Jo has been magnificent. I don't know what I would have done without her."

Monica remained unusually quiet, observing her daughter.

'God, she looks so happy.'

"I'm glad you had a friend with you, Blair. Friends are important."

Blair's response was immediate. Her voice was gentle, but firm.

"Jo is more than a friend, Mother."

Jo blushed and began shifting back and forth on her feet again while Blair sat in a chair close to her mother's bedside.

"Yes, darling, I haven't forgotten."

Monica sat up in bed, with Blair's assistance, and fixed her eyes on Jo.

'Here it comes,' thought Jo as she mentally prepared herself for an assault.

"Just how friendly have you become with my daughter?"

Blair squeezed her mother's hand, her voice almost a whisper.

"That's none of your business, Mother."

"I think Jo might disagree. She was raised in a proper Catholic home. Tell me, Jo, do you believe that a mother has a right to determine the intentions of her daughter's lover?"

Blair stood abruptly, drawing Monica's full attention.

"Mother, if you can't treat Jo respectfully, we'll have to leave."

"I think my question is legitimate, Blair. Why don't you want her to answer?"

"I know what you're trying to do, Mother. You can't intimidate Jo the way you bully everyone else. Jo is gloriously confident in my love for her and nothing you say will come between us."

Jo stared admiringly at the young woman standing before her. She'd always accepted Blair for who she was, but there were parts of Blair's personality that had troubled Jo in the past. Looking at the woman her girlfriend had become made Jo question her earlier opinions. Jo had always been disturbed by her girlfriend's arrogance and sense of entitlement, but Jo had never seen Blair so magnificently poised and formidable and she had to wonder if the childish arrogance she'd noticed before played a role in creating the confident woman Blair had become.

Blair was challenging her mother, but her voice was filled with kindness. She was obviously trying not to hurt her mother, but she was also determined to defend Jo.

Jo was still lost in her thoughts when Blair reached for her hand, but Jo soon recovered her composure and felt a responsibility to set the record straight with Blair's mother.

"Hey, wait a minute. I don't want your mother to think I'd take advantage of you like that."

Jo straightened her shoulders and looked Monica in the eye as she spoke.

"Blair and I aren't lovers, Mrs. Warner. I respect Blair far too much to try something with her while her emotions are in such a state of upheaval."

Blair inwardly groaned. Jo had no idea of the way her mother's mind worked, but Blair steeled herself for what was to come.

Monica Warner's laugh sounded genuinely cheerful, confusing Jo while irritating Blair.

'Oh my God, it's worse than I thought. They are both in love. It would be sweet if Jo wasn't so inappropriate for my darling girl.'

"I apologize for laughing. That was rude of me, but . . . are you certain that you are gay, dear?"

A choking sound came from deep within Jo's throat as she tried to speak. The world had suddenly turned upside down. After exerting an extraordinary amount of energy trying to hide her sexual orientation from everyone she knew, Jo found herself in the odd position of convincing Blair's mother that she was a lesbian.

Blair started to respond, but Jo held up her hand in a plea for her girlfriend to allow her to speak for herself.

"Is it my frilly fashion sense or my girlish mannerisms that cause you to question my suitability for Blair?"

Blair couldn't withhold a snicker and even Monica smiled at Jo's humor.

"No, Jo, your taste in clothes is somewhat baffling, but that has nothing to do with my question. Frankly, I'd question anyone, male or female, who would not be aroused by the prospect of spending the evening with my beautiful and . . . might I add, very sensual daughter."

Jo's mouth fell open in shock as she gaped at Blair's mother.

"You honestly think I'm not gay enough for Blair? What did you expect me to do, jump on her the first chance I got?"

Monica again raised her eyebrows.

"Don't you find her attractive?"

"Give me a break! I can't believe you. You should be happy that I respect Blair's decision to wait until —."

"Jo! You don't owe my mother an explanation."

Blair's voice was unexpectedly loud, revealing the level of her anxiety.

Jo realized her mistake as soon as Monica leaned forward in bed, staring disbelievingly at her daughter.

"Blair, darling. Do you mean to tell me that you are still a —?"

"Yes, Mother. Not everyone treats sex as casually as you do."

Blair hadn't meant to lose her temper, but her mother had promised not to provoke Jo and she felt foolish for having believed her. Blair looked as if she was going to cry, which prompted Jo to step closer to her panicked girlfriend and to ignore Monica as she spoke soothingly.

"I'm sorry, Blair, I shouldn't have come here. I was only trying to help. I don't want to cause trouble between you and your mom. Why don't I just go downstairs and —?"

"Wait, Jo, please."

Blair was more surprised than Jo by her mother's apologetic tone.

"I'm the one who, as you put it, was causing trouble. I should be thanking you for being so considerate of Blair's feelings, but instead I've treated you very rudely. I'm sorry."

Jo looked at Blair, unable to ascertain if Monica was being sincere or playing a game with her. Blair gazed into her mother's eyes for what seemed like a very long time from Jo's perspective before appearing to relax.

"Are you saying that it won't happen again?"

"Yes, darling. I'm truly sorry for doubting Jo's . . . fondness for you. I can see that she cares for you deeply and I'll behave appropriately in the future."

Jo had never heard people argue with such polite, soft-spoken words. It was frighteningly civilized and it demonstrated the differences between her upbringing and Blair's in more ways than Monica could ever have hoped to point out by antagonizing Jo.

Blair returned to her mother's side and placed a gentle kiss on her cheek.

"I'm glad you're feeling more like yourself today, Mother. I'm going to help you through this and Jo is going to help me. Thank you for trying to understand. I know this is difficult for you, but one day you'll see how good Jo is for me."

Monica sighed. She could see how the brunette had charmed Elizabeth and she felt compassion for the well-intentioned young woman, but she still could not fathom why her daughter, who could have anyone she wanted, would choose such a crude creature.

"Well, I still have some reservations, but I won't interfere."

Blair smiled sweetly and took Jo's hand as they walked toward the exit. Before leaving the room, Blair turned to her mother once more.

"Doctor Sid says that you can come home tomorrow morning. I'll be back this afternoon and we'll discuss the arrangements."

"Blair, I want you to return to Eastland tomorrow."

Jo felt Blair's hand stiffen.

"Mother, I'm not going to leave you when you need me."

Monica chuckled.

"I'm going to stay with Elizabeth for a few weeks. Marilyn will come with me. I've disrupted your education long enough, darling. The best thing you can do for me is to go back to school and apply yourself to your studies. I know that I am not the best mother in the world, but I do have your best interests at heart and I will not allow you to fall behind on my account."

Blair hesitated. Her mother seemed well, but Monica was very adept at masking her feelings.

"Blair, I'm going to be fine."

Monica chuckled lightly and looked toward Jo for support.

"Jo, please help her to see that this is best. I couldn't be stirring up so much trouble if I wasn't feeling like my old self."

Jo licked her lips self-consciously.

"Blair makes up her own mind, Mrs. Warner."

"Monica. Please call me Monica."

Jo nodded and looked at Blair, who didn't seem sure of what to do next.

"I'll be back this afternoon, Mother. We can talk more then."

"Fine, darling. Elizabeth will be here, too. Perhaps she will be able to reassure you."

Blair half smiled at her mother before leaving the room.

"What do you think, Jo? She looks okay, but she was a wreck earlier in the week."

Jo shrugged, allowing her girlfriend time to sort through her feelings.

"You'll know more after talking with Elizabeth."

"Yes, that's a good idea."

Blair nodded her head and gazed at the brunette, smiling.

"You impressed her, Jo. I can't recall the last time she apologized to anyone."

Jo scanned the hallway for onlookers before wrapping her arms around Blair's waist.

"You were pretty impressive yourself, Princess."

Blair lifted her chin slightly and cut her eyes toward Jo.

"I was, wasn't I?"

Jo laughed.

"Yeah. You're irresistible."

Jo's choice of words reminded the blonde of the sensitive nature of the questions her mother had asked. Blair bit her lip and spoke softly, her voice barely above a whisper.

"About that, um, my mother can be . . . um, well, she has a unique way of thinking."

"You're telling me! I can't believe she thought I didn't want to have sex with you."


"I mean . . . I, uh . . . I should stop talking now."

Jo sighed. Blair's mother was right about one thing, Jo would have to be a saint in order to sleep peacefully while snuggled up in bed with her beautiful daughter, and Jo Polniaczek was no saint.

"Is that why you left my bedroom last night, Jo?"

"I thought you were sleeping."

"I was, but I woke up when you rolled away from me. I was feeling a little hurt at first, but then I heard you playing the piano and figured you just weren't sleepy."

"I needed a distraction. I love you, Blair, but I thought I might go crazy lying so close to you. You looked so . . . so . . ."


"Yeah, irresistible. Don't worry, though, I don't want to mess things up between us by moving too fast."

Blair stepped away from Jo and stared at her hands while trying to control her racing heartbeat. Blair decided it would make it easier for Jo if she kept the conversation light. It was difficult for Jo to talk about their physical relationship, except when they were actually in the throes of a passionate interlude, at which time the amorous brunette couldn't seem to keep herself from uttering suggestive and flattering commentary.

"You're the most wonderful girlfriend in the entire world, Jo. Mother should be questioning my sexual orientation if I can sleep next to you without making inappropriate advances."

Jo rolled her eyes, predictably embarrassed by the entire conversation.

"I'm serious, Jo. It's not easy for me, either. I think about you a lot. I think about what it would be like to be with you."

"Yeah, it's my animal magnetism I've been telling you about. It makes all the girls go crazy for me."

Blair pursed her lips and lightly tapped her foot.

"'All the girls'? What girls?"

Jo laughed.

"Don't worry, Princess. I only have eyes for you."

Blair extended her lower lip as she and Jo walked toward the elevator.

"It had better stay that way if you don't want those eyes to be black and blue."

"Blair Warner, are you threatening me?"

"No, I'm staking my claim."

"You make me sound like a piece of real estate."

"Like a gold mine?"

Jo nodded, not unhappy with the analogy. She grinned mischievously.

"I can handle being compared to a gold mine. It's my sparkling personality, isn't it?"

Blair rolled her eyes and then gave Jo a look that almost took the brunette's breath away.

"I'm afraid that if I ever crossed that line with you, I'd never be able to . . . um."

Jo grinned rakishly.

"Refrain from ripping my clothes off every time we were in the same room together?"

Jo smiled as Blair stumbled over her response. Jo loved watching Blair Warner blush.

"How did you know?"

"Oh, let's just say we share the same problem."

Late that afternoon, Jo and Blair returned to Monica's apartment after a second visit to the hospital during which Elizabeth convinced Blair to return to Eastland the following day. Blair was walking on air. Her mother was going to live to see her only daughter graduate from high school and college. Her mother was going to live to see her grandchildren. She and her mother were going to go on massive shopping sprees and attend the finest fashion shows in Paris. Best of all, Blair had seen signs that her mother was beginning to accept her daughter's sexual orientation. Blair felt an overwhelming rush of energy as she allowed herself to relax for the first time in over a week.

Blair felt rejuvenated, but the past two sleepless nights had left Jo more interested in taking a nap than in visiting a museum or tagging around town behind Blair while she shopped.

"Maybe we should just hang out here for a little while before we go out again, Blair. I'm not really in the mood to go anywhere."

Blair smiled at her girlfriend. Jo had been exceedingly considerate all weekend. The brunette had been especially kind toward Blair's mother, but Blair could see that the brunette's self-imposed polite behavior was becoming increasingly difficult for the usually outspoken girl to maintain. Any other time, Blair would have recognized the level of Jo's exhaustion, but her adrenaline was running high and her body screamed for some type of release.

"I have a brilliant idea, Jo. Let's dance."

"Dance? Where?"

"Here, silly. There's plenty of room. Come on, Jo. It'll be fun. I feel like dancing."

Blair twirled several times as she made her way to the stereo and found a radio station playing music from the fifties and sixties.

For a well-coordinated, agile athlete, Jo lacked musicality and shuffled her feet self-consciously as every inch of Blair's body responded to the music in a symphony of movement.

When "The Twist" started playing, Blair took Jo's hands in hers and effortlessly began twisting her body to the beat, pulling Jo's shoulders into a similar movement. Although Jo's version of the twist only involved the top half of her body, Blair's lower body was perfectly in tune with her upper body as her hips went one direction and her shoulders the other.

As Jo's discomfort continued, Blair became more playful, enjoying the music to its fullest as she released Jo's hands in order to move her arms up and down while pointing her index fingers. As the tempo increased, the lighthearted blonde bent her knees and twisted lower and lower, until her head was waist level with Jo, before twisting her way back into a standing position. Every fluid movement contributed to the overall sinuousness of the dance as Blair tossed back her head in sheer delight. Jo had often admired the ease with which Blair moved her body while dancing, but she had never seen Blair give herself over to the music with such carefree abandon.

"Heh, you look kind of like Snoopy dancing in the Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon."

Blair ignored the jab, still trying to coax Jo out of her comfort zone.

"That's the point, Jo. It doesn't matter what you look like. All that matters is how you feel."

The twist didn't look that difficult, so Jo began to move. She was a little stiff at first, but once she got the hang of it she immediately began twisting up and down as she'd seen Blair. She was happily gratified by the level of energy exerted during the process as she felt the muscles in her legs begin to strain as she dipped lower while twisting, urging Blair up and down with her.

Jo shouldn't have been surprised toward the end of the song when her girlfriend's legs began to give out. Blair was in the process of twisting her body back into a standing position when she lost her balance and grabbed hold of the closest thing to her: Jo's thigh. Jo reached for the wobbling blonde, but lost her balance as well when Blair clutched the brunette's neck as soon as it was within reach.

Both girls fell onto the floor, with Blair's hindquarters taking the brunt of the fall while Jo sprawled out on top of the flabbergasted debutante, catching herself on her knees, which landed on either side of Blair's waist.

Jo was in the process of asking Blair if she was okay when Blair began giggling hysterically. Jo hadn't heard her girlfriend laugh with such abandon since the first time she'd discovered Blair's ticklish feet. Jo got caught up in the infectious mirth and also began laughing uncontrollably. She rolled to Blair's side and they lay on the floor of Monica's apartment for several minutes, holding their stomachs and howling at the absurdity of their dance routine.

When Jo finally caught her breath, she rolled back on top of the giggling blonde and looked down. That's when their eyes met and the atmosphere morphed from humorous to emotionally charged as the young women were unexpectedly caught up in an intense wave of intimacy.

Both girls had become very adept at gauging one another's mood without the need for verbal communication. It wasn't difficult for them, when in public situations, to determine how the other felt about what was being said by simply observing the tilt of the other's head or the humor or intensity in the other's eyes. They were accustomed to reading one another's cues, but neither had experienced anything like the level of intimate communication that passed between them in those silent moments.

Jo swallowed hard, reminding herself to breathe. She felt silly, staring into Blair's eyes without saying anything, without touching her, without kissing her, but she couldn't drag her eyes from Blair's gaze. She felt as if those beautiful brown eyes had torn through her heart and pierced her soul and she knew, without knowing how she knew, that Blair felt the same inexplicable connection that had left her breathless and in awe.

The dazed brunette reached down and stroked her girlfriend's hair, almost as if she needed to touch her in order to believe that she was real. It wasn't until Blair placed the tips of her fingers on Jo's lips, outlining them, that the dark haired girl realized her lips were slightly parted. She kissed Blair's fingertips as they delicately trembled near her mouth. For the first time in her life, Jo discovered what it was like to dream, to hope for a future that surpassed anything she'd ever imagined.

Jo had always lived by a strong code of honor. Her sense of responsibility toward others was exceeded only by her survival instincts – instincts that had permitted her to put herself first in life-threatening situations. In that moment, staring into Blair's eyes, Jo's very existence was threatened, but she welcomed the change. In the deepest part of her, she knew that the woman smiling back at her held her future and her heart. Jo had been in love with Blair for months, but being in love with the person who makes you happy and loving someone with total disregard for yourself are two different things, and Jo Polniaczek had just crossed the line between adolescent infatuation and fully-matured love.

After struggling for every breath for several minutes, Jo finally closed her eyes and lowered her head onto Blair's chest. The normally tender brunette embraced the young heiress forcefully, clinging to the blonde in much the same way Blair had clung to Jo the night of Jo's arrival. It was almost a half hour later before Jo broke the silence.

"Our heartbeats are the same. Can you feel it?"

Blair's fingers continued to caress Jo's face, smoothing away the wetness along Jo's lashes and cheeks. Her voice was a whisper, thick with emotion.

"Yes, Joey. I feel everything you feel."

"It's funny in a way. I don't remember ever noticing my heart beating until the day I met you. I know I had a heartbeat before then, everyone does, but I'd never paid any attention to it. Since then, every time I'm with you I notice it. Sometimes it's slow and steady, often it feels like it's going to pound through my chest, but either way I only notice it when I'm with you."

It was the sort of sentiment Blair would expect to find in one of Jo's notes or a poem placed under her pillow, but Jo rarely expressed such emotions verbally.

"You can trust me, Jo. I'll never leave you."

Jo pushed herself up on one arm and gazed into dark liquid pools.

"I know."

Blair's smile split her face as her eyes brightened, green and gold flecks emerging from within the chocolate depths. Jo chuckled as an image of Snoopy fleetingly sprang to her mind. She placed her ear near Blair's heart again and whispered softly.


Blair's voice was equally soft, her tone reverent.

"Grease Monkey."

Over an hour later, Blair Warner was oblivious to the physical discomfort of lying on the floor. Her heart was so filled with joy that she could have been lying on a bed of nails and not minded. Just because she didn't acknowledge Jo's nervous reaction to any conversation dealing with their future didn't mean that Blair Warner hadn't noticed. Blair was a very intuitive girl and she'd seen something new in Jo's eyes that afternoon. Something had changed in Jo's attitude. Blair was certain she knew the reason for the difference in Jo's gaze. Jo had glimpsed a future that included Blair and the elated heiress, who was head over heels in love, could barely contain her excitement.

It took a great deal of effort to pull herself away from her sleeping girlfriend, but Blair accomplished the task in order to throw on her pajamas and retrieve a few pillows and blanket from her bedroom. The thought of waking her magnificent girlfriend never occurred to the jubilant blonde. Jo wouldn't lose sleep on her account for a third night in a row, Blair was determined to return her girlfriend's consideration and put Jo's needs first.

It wasn't easy for Blair to refrain from wrapping herself around Jo while they slept, but she remembered what Jo had said earlier about how difficult it was to sleep with Blair so near and so she was careful to keep her distance, placing the pillows between them to help ensure that she didn't disturb Jo in her sleep. When Blair's eyelids finally closed, her mind continued to focus on the vision beside her, softening her dreams with the sweetest fragrance on earth, the fragrance of love.

Jo woke up startled and disoriented. First, she was lying on the cold hardwood floor of Monica Warner's apartment. Second, her body had been rendered immobile by the tangle of arms and legs engulfing her. Third, her neck was wet. Jo craned her neck to see what her goofy girlfriend was doing and noticed that Blair's moist lips were slightly opened in sleep, thus the moisture on Jo's neck. Turning in the other direction, Jo could see at least three pillows scattered about the room and was confused as to why none of them had been placed under her head.

Jo flexed her muscles, pressing against Blair's limbs enough to loosen the possessive blonde's grip before the stiff brunette angled her neck again to get a view of Blair's watch. She was astonished to discover that she had been sleeping on the floor for several hours.

Testing a new theory about her girlfriend's sleeping habits; Jo rose to her knees without removing Blair's arms from her neck. The strong athlete picked her girlfriend up and none too gently shifted the sleeping girl into a position that made it easier for Jo to carry her. Jo smiled to herself as Blair slept soundly throughout the trip to the bedroom.

"You can sleep through anything as long as you're holding onto someone, can't you, Princess?"

Jo didn't expect Blair to answer, but she didn't feel the need to soften her voice either, confident that nothing would wake up her slumbering girlfriend. Once they reached the bed, Jo fell onto it while cradling Blair in her arms, careful not to break contact with the blonde. She wiggled out of her jeans, fluffed the one remaining pillow, and maneuvered Blair's head against her shoulder.

"I have a feeling that I'd better get used to carrying you to bed, Princess. Somehow, when I wasn't watching, our hearts got knitted together."

Jo chuckled at her analogy.

"Heh, heh. We're like King David and Jonathan now, intertwined. I'll have to tell you about them one day."

Jo sighed when Blair rolled closer, nuzzling her face into Jo's neck.

"You would give it all up without a second thought, wouldn't you, Goofy? You'd choose me over all of them and you'd never look back. You must be out of your mind."

Jo continued to smile to herself as she lost herself in her thoughts, voicing them out loud.

"Now I'm talking to myself. I must be as crazy as you are because you've got me believing we can really do this. It's not impossible, you and me. Not if you keep believing in me, Goofy. Not if you believe in us."

Jo drew her girlfriend closer as tears filled her eyes.


Jo and Blair awoke at the same time the next morning, as Blair's alarm clock abruptly interrupted their peaceful sleep. It was going to be a hectic day. Marilyn had filled several trunks with some of Monica's belongings and Maxwell had taken the trunks, along with Marilyn, to Elizabeth Cabot's. Blair and Jo had to meet Elizabeth at the hospital early that morning before taking the train back to Peekskill. The girls would have very little privacy that day and neither of them was eager to get out of bed.

"Hey, beautiful."

Jo blushed. She would never get used to hearing Blair tell her that she was beautiful.

"Hey, big city girl. I thought we were gonna bring New York City to its knees last night, but I think it got the best of us."

Blair's hair was disheveled and her eyes were half open, a look Jo had always found stunning.

"You fell asleep on me, Jo."

Jo chuckled.

"I think you fell asleep on top of me last night."

Blair smiled coyly.

"I wiggle in my sleep."

"I've noticed."

"Did I keep you up?"

"I ain't complaining, Princess. You can fall asleep on top of me as often as you like."

Blair licked her lips and smiled, tentatively moving closer, waiting for a sign from Jo. The amorous blonde didn't have to wait long. Jo's fingers couldn't resist entwining themselves in Blair's tousled hair and bringing her head closer, until their lips met in a slow, luxurious kiss.

After several minutes of passionate exploration, Blair pulled her lips away, gasping for breath.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I . . . um, just needed some air."

Jo's eyes remained glued to her girlfriend's lips as she impatiently waited. Concerned that Blair may have broken the kiss for a different reason than the one given, Jo felt the need to make a serious declaration of the depth of her feelings.

"Blair, I should tell you . . . I feel like . . ."

"Shh, stop talking, Joey."

Jo stopped talking and gently resumed their kiss, allowing Blair to take the lead, opening her eyes often to check her girlfriend's comfort level as the kiss became more intimate. Fifteen minutes later, the alarm clock rang again, reminding the girls of their schedule.

"I'm sorry, Joey. We haven't had much time for ourselves this weekend."

"Don't be sorry, Princess. We have all the time in the world."

Blair felt her heart skip. Did that mean what she thought it meant?

Jo squirmed in her seat, certain that Monica knew the reason she and Blair had arrived at the hospital fifteen minutes late. Blair, on the other hand, was cheerfully arranging her mother's hair while they waited for Monica's doctors to discharge her. Elizabeth's limousine driver was busy carrying bouquets of flowers to the car and Alex Cabot sat near Jo, basking in the light of her admiration for the dazzling brunette.

"Do you like Eastland, Jo?"


"Mother says that I can enroll at Eastland when I'm older."

"Eastland's a nice school. I'm going to miss it next year."

"You'll like Langley."

Jo frowned at the young girl, wondering where Alex had gotten the impression that Jo would be able to go to any college, much less an Ivy League school like Langley.

"Huh? What are you talking about?"

Overhearing the conversation, Blair quickly intervened.

"Jo and I are both applying to Langley, Alex. That doesn't mean that we'll get accepted. Jo, of course, has a much better chance than me since she is going to be our class valedictorian."

Jo's mind flashed back to the night she and Blair had argued in the restroom of the French restaurant they went to on their first double date. It was an argument that had propelled Jo straight into the arms of Eddie Brennan. Blair had complained that Jo should wait until after she finished college to consider marriage. It was the first time anyone had ever assumed that Jo would attend college. Now, Blair not only expected Jo to attend college, she assumed Jo would be class valedictorian and that she would somehow figure out a way to afford one of the most expensive colleges in the nation.

Jo didn't want to start an argument in front of Blair's mother and friends, but made a mental note to give the ditsy blonde a reality check as soon as they were alone. Alex also let the topic drop, having noticed Jo's discomfort.

"Blair, darling. You don't have to spend the entire day here. Elizabeth has everything under control and Marilyn and Maxwell are waiting for me at the Cabot compound."

"I enjoy spending time with you, Mother. There's nowhere I'd rather be."

Alex was the one who pointed out that if Blair intended to catch the afternoon train to Peekskill, she couldn't linger at the hospital any longer. After a quick glance at her watch, Blair reluctantly agreed that it was time for her and Jo to depart. Her mother really was in good hands with Elizabeth and Blair wanted to get to the train station in time for Jo, who suffered from motion sickness, to get a seat facing forward on the train.

After the couple left, Elizabeth smiled brightly at her best friend.

"I've never seen Blair so happy."

Monica rolled her eyes dramatically and placed her hand over her heart as if it pained her to admit that her daughter exuded a lightheartedness Monica had not seen since Blair was a young child.

"There's no telling what the little savage did to put such a bright smile on my baby's face."

Alex walked over to Monica's bedside and sat in the nearest chair, folding her hands in her lap and crossing her legs at the ankles.

"Why don't you like Jo?"

Monica started to answer the child, but reminded herself of the last time she tried to educate Alex Cabot about something and looked toward Elizabeth for assistance.

"Don't look at me, Monica. I like Jo. She's just the kind of friend Blair needs. She's not interested in Blair's money or her position. She won't be selling secrets about Blair to the tabloids and she's protective to a fault."

Monica sighed.

"Yes, I have no doubt that Jo will be a faithful friend. The problem is . . ."

Monica stopped short of completing her sentence and inclined her head toward Alex.

"It's okay, Monica. Alex knows that Jo is Blair's special friend."

At the shocked expression on Monica's face, Elizabeth explained.

"I didn't say a word. Alex is very perceptive."

Alex nodded.

"One day I want to have a special friend just like Jo, but I'm not old enough, yet."

Monica turned to her best friend, her eyebrows disappearing into her hairline as she questioned Elizabeth.

"Do you hear your daughter? Aren't you concerned?"

Elizabeth casually swept a stray curl from her young daughter's face as she smiled lovingly at Alex.

"It's good to have goals, Alex, and I think that any girl resembling Jo Polniaczek would be worthy of your attention."

Monica groaned.

"Libby Cabot, you can't be serious. Don't you have dreams for Alex? Don't you want her to have a real marriage? Children?"

Elizabeth smiled indulgently; it wasn't going to be easy to persuade her friend to fully accept Blair's sexual orientation.

"Alex has dreams of her own, Monica. No one can find true happiness chasing someone else's dream. Don't you want your daughter to be happy?"

"I want grandchildren."

Elizabeth considered her words carefully. She loved Monica and she reminded herself that Monica still needed her assistance while she recuperated from her surgery.

"Monica, you didn't answer my question. You never wanted children. I know that you love Blair, but you've never embraced the traditional role of a mother. Don't pretend that the reason you object to Blair's relationship with Jo has anything to do with grandchildren."

Monica shook her head in defiance. She felt as if Elizabeth was inferring that she was selfishly putting her own feelings and desires ahead of Blair's.

"I am not being selfish. I know my daughter and Blair has always wanted children. It breaks my heart to see her throw away that dream."

Monica glanced warily at Alex. The elder woman was accustomed to quarrelling with her best friend, but Alex had an uncanny way of undermining Monica's arguments. Blair's mother almost cringed when Alex opened her mouth to speak.

"Jo makes Blair happy and Jo is exceptionally industrious. If Blair wants to have children, Jo will probably figure out a way to make that happen. If not, whether she chooses Jo or children is Blair's ch . . ."

Alex rarely halted while speaking and Monica misinterpreted the pause as a lack of conviction, until the young girl finished her thought.

"That's wrong. It's not really a choice for Blair. I mean, she would definitely choose Jo over any other girl, but that's the only choice. You do understand that, don't you? You know that having children with someone she doesn't love could not make Blair happy, right? Blair can be happy without children, but I don't think she could ever be happy without Jo."

Monica sighed deeply, regretting her decision to recuperate at the Cabots'.

Jo's knee was bouncing up and down as she sat glaring at the young man sitting across from her. There had been only one available seat facing forward when Jo and Blair boarded the train and it had been opposite the attractive young man who was currently flirting with the beautiful blonde sitting next to him.

Blair was being Blair, laughing at the guy's dumb jokes and batting her eyes every time he said something flattering. Jo was growing more and more annoyed, but her irritation wasn't due to jealousy. She knew that Blair wasn't interested in the young man. Jo's inner conflict came from the realization that Blair wasn't pretending to like the young man. Blair wasn't trying to encourage the fellow; the gregarious blonde was simply enjoying his company and responding to him naturally. That was the problem, from Jo's perspective. Blair didn't know anything about the man sitting next to her, yet she often turned away to get something out of her carry case, leaving her purse lying next to her seat in plain view.

Jo didn't want to dampen her girlfriend's affectionate nature. She didn't want to dampen anything about Blair's personality, but she felt that Blair was too trusting. It didn't help that the stranger Blair had so easily made as an acquaintance was very handsome and very interested in the receptive girl who he thought was flirting with him. Jo closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead with her hand, trying to think of a way to convince Blair to be more cautious without limiting Blair's playful nature. Moments later, the distracted brunette felt her girlfriend's hand on her knee.

"Jo, are you okay?"

Blair glanced over at her new traveling companion and explained.

"She suffers from motion sickness."

Jo was about to refute Blair's assertion when the woman sitting beside her suddenly stood.

"Um, I see a friend of mine a few rows up. I think I'll join her."

With a fleeting smile, the woman made a hasty departure. Jo groaned, realizing that she had frightened the woman away with the threat of losing her lunch on the lady's shoes. Jo straightened and frowned at the empty seat next to her.

'Too bad Mr. Handsome isn't squeamish. I wouldn't have minded seeing him scurry away."

Without waiting for Jo to reply to her question, Blair moved to the vacated seat, once again leaving her luggage unattended, which made Jo more uncomfortable.

"Would you like some Dramamine?"

Jo watched as Blair pulled a small packet of the nausea medication from her purse. To Jo's knowledge, no type of transportation made Blair the least bit nauseous. There was only one reason why Blair would be carrying Dramamine and the impact of that realization caused Jo's eyes to soften as she gazed at her girlfriend. An introspective smile flitted across Jo's face and she swallowed hard.

Misreading Jo's expression as a sign of motion sickness, the attentive young man made his excuses and moved elsewhere. The blonde girl was cute, but he wouldn't have a chance with her or anyone else if the brunette was as sick as she looked.

"I'm sorry I scared away your new boyfriend."

Jo hadn't meant the words to sound so harsh, she regretted them as soon as they were spoken when she saw the light in Blair's eyes dim.

"I'm going to forgive you for being such a brat because I know you're not feeling well."

Blair plopped two pills into Jo's hand.

"Take these. They'll help."

Jo accepted the pills, even though she wasn't sick.

"Thanks. I . . . uh . . . I really am sorry."

Blair placed her hand on Jo's forehead for a moment. It was cool and felt so comforting that Jo momentarily closed her eyes, enjoying the touch. When she attempted to open her eyes again, Blair's hand moved and tenderly covered Jo's eyelids.

"Maybe you would feel better if you tried to take a nap, Jo. You don't have to watch over my belongings as if someone was going to snatch them away at any moment."

Jo reached for Blair's wrist and gently pushed her hand away from her eyes.

"I didn't think you were paying attention."

Blair giggled.

"I know about pickpockets and purse snatchers, Jo. If something gets stolen, then it gets stolen. I'm not going to spoil my fun by worrying about it. You'd enjoy traveling more if you allowed yourself to look out the window sometimes and appreciate the view."

Jo hadn't released Blair's wrist and her thumb began to lightly caress the palm of Blair's hand. She softened her gaze and her eyes almost pleaded with the blonde.

"What if he's after more than your belongings, Blair? You can't be so cavalier about strangers."

Blair's eyes began to sparkle as she gave Jo a brilliant smile.

"Don't worry so much, Jo. I'm very vigilant . . . when you're not around."

Jo released the blonde's hand and grinned sheepishly. Blair was right. As long as Jo was around, the protective brunette was all the security Blair needed. Jo was constantly looking over their shoulders and scowling at anyone who even looked like they might be thinking of approaching them.

"Are you telling me the truth? You're careful when I'm not with you?"

Blair used her finger to draw an 'x' over her chest.

"Cross my heart, Jo. Now close your eyes for a few minutes and trust me not to allow an axe murderer to slip up on us in the meantime."

Jo did as she was told and found herself relaxing in the knowledge that Blair was watching over her. It was a new experience for Jo to rely on someone else to keep her safe, but not an unpleasant one. Jo was slowly adapting to the notion that she could depend upon Blair for almost anything.

After several minutes of silent relaxation, Jo opened her eyes and thoughtfully stared ahead. Without looking at Blair, she began to speak, haltingly.

"When we get back to Eastland, I'm going to call Eddie and ask him to try to get a weekend pass. I need to talk to him."

Blair remained silent. She knew how attached Jo was to Eddie and had made up her mind a long time ago to accept the depth of Jo's feelings for the sailor, but her heart lurched every time Jo mentioned Eddie's name. When Blair didn't respond, Jo continued.

"It wouldn't be right to tell him in a letter or over the telephone. He deserves better than that. It's gonna break his heart when I . . ."

Jo lowered her head, unable to continue. The difficulty of Jo's decision wasn't lost on the sensitive blonde.

"It's going to hurt you, too, Jo."

Jo turned, wondering if she would ever reach a point when Blair Warner could no longer amaze her.

"Well, it isn't fair to him to string him along. It . . . isn't fair to you, either."

"Agreed, but that won't make it hurt any less when you tell him. Um, exactly how much do you plan to tell him?"

"Oh, I'm not going to tell him about us. That would make it hurt even more. I don't want him to think I've been cheating on him with anyone. It's weird, I never felt like I was cheating on him. I'm not the kind of person who would cheat, Blair. I don't want you to think that I —."

"Shh, don't worry about that, Jo. I know you."

Jo stared into dark brown eyes with green and gold flecks and knew that she had never heard words so true.

"I know you do, Princess."

Natalie glared across the bedroom at her younger roommate, who was tapping an irritating beat with her fingers on the desk.

"For the last time, Tootie, cut it out."

Tootie stopped tapping and placed her head in her hands.

"Do you think Blair will come back with Jo?"

Natalie rolled her eyes and ignored her roommate. She didn't blame Tootie for worrying; she missed Blair as much or more than anyone. It was fun to watch Jo and Blair square off with one another while exchanging barbs because they both seemed to enjoy the process. Without Blair to act as a foil for her foul temper, Jo had been taking out her anger on anyone unlucky enough to be in her path. More often than not, Tootie and Natalie had borne the brunt of Jo's brutish behavior while Blair was away.

Natalie had originally been excited about being allowed to attend Mr. Gideon's senior journalism class with Jo and Blair, but during the past week she had come to dread his class. As the tension between Mr. Gideon and Jo had grown, Jo had become unbearable. Sue Ann had made the mistake of teasing Jo about something Mr. Gideon had said in class one day and Jo pushed her. Once she realized what she had done, Jo quickly retreated, but the incident made a lasting impact on Natalie. Since then, Sue Ann and Blair's other friends hadn't associated with Jo. Blair had always managed to smooth things over between Jo and her more privileged friends at Eastland, but without Blair's intervention Jo had alienated almost all of her classmates.

Tootie looked at her watch for the hundredth time.

"If they took the 2:00 train, they'll be here any minute."

Natalie sighed.

"Mrs. Garrett's note didn't say whether or not she was meeting both of them. Maybe it won't matter. Maybe Jo will be in a better mood after spending the weekend with Blair."

Tootie frowned, unoptimistic. The youngest roommate had made the mistake earlier in the week of complaining to Jo that the anxious brunette wasn't the only one worried about Blair. Jo had responded with a string of curse words, vehemently denying that her dark mood had anything to do with Blair Warner. Tootie didn't mention it again, although it was obvious that Jo missed their pampered roommate. Despite her protestations to the contrary, Jo could always be found staring at the telephone a half hour before the appointed time for Blair's nightly call.

Tootie began to nervously tap out a beat on the desk again.


"I can't help it. I can't take another week with Jo. I never knew there were so many curse words in the English language."

Natalie frowned, commiserating with her friend. When Jo first came to Eastland, her speech was often sprinkled with curse words, but Natalie and Tootie never complained since Blair did enough complaining for all of them. After Jo had been at school for a few months, all Blair had to do was glare at Jo any time the gruff Bronx native let loose with a string of profanities and Jo would nod her head in understanding, as if Blair's criticism was nothing more than a reminder to break a bad habit. In Blair's absence, Jo had reverted to her old ways, grumbling one profanity after another as soon as she tumbled from bed each morning.

Natalie and Tootie attributed Jo's behavior to her concern for Blair, but they were growing weary of making allowances for their surly, older roommate.

Tootie was still tapping on the desk when Mrs. Garrett called excitedly from downstairs.

"Natalie, Tootie, Jo and Blair are home!"

Natalie snickered as she and Tootie rushed down the stairs.

"Mrs. G. must be just as fed up with Jo as we are. I don't remember her ever being so happy to see Blair Warner."

Post Series Flash Forward: Tootie Returns to Peekskill

Although Jo had to spend part of the day at her motorcycle dealership, she drove her children and Alex to Edna's Edibles while their friends and Mrs. G. rode with Blair. Once at the shop, Jo was amazed at how easily the four musketeers fell into their old patterns, everyone quickly resuming the duties they had performed as teenagers. The only workers who seemed to have difficulty figuring out their roles were Garrett and E.J. Garrett lifted his hands and shrugged at his mom when he saw Natalie eagerly diving into the tasks he normally performed, while E.J. followed Dorothy from one bin to another as the enthusiastic woman threw herself into the tasks usually reserved for E.J. Edna Gains smiled brightly as she watched the older women feverishly prepare the shop in preparation of their first customers and then rounded up Garrett and E.J., giving them alternative duties to perform in the kitchen.

Jo chuckled as she watched Mrs. G. herd her younger children into the back area of the shop. It reminded her so much of how the feisty redhead had kept her charges on task when they were young. Mrs. G.'s hair hadn't been red for a number of years, but Jo knew that the spirit of a redhead still lived in the heart of the white-haired woman. A sense of contentment settled over Jo as she watched her former roommates milling around Edna's Edibles. The years had been good to Jo and her friends and a wave of sentimentality washed over her.

Jo's attention finally came to rest on Blair and Bailey. Bailey was so much like Blair in some ways and so incredibly different in others. 'It's because of how differently they were raised,' thought Jo. She continued to gaze at her partner and their oldest daughter. Blair was always smiling at Bailey, touching Bailey's arm or adjusting a stray wisp of hair. The affectionate mother lavished attention on all three of their children.

Jo didn't interrupt the women as she silently exited the shop. Jo had an appointment to keep before going to the motorcycle dealership. It was an appointment Jo kept every year without fail. It served as a reminder to Jo of a promise she'd made over nine years earlier. If there was one thing about Jo Polniaczek that everyone knew, it was that Jo always kept her promises. Although many of the promises Jo had made over the years had been difficult to keep, the one on her mind today was a promise she enjoyed keeping.

Jo carried two large flower bouquets as she walked through the cemetery. She stopped and knelt when she reached Monica's tombstone.

"Happy birthday, Monica. It's me, Jo."

Jo sheepishly looked around to make sure there weren't any eavesdroppers nearby.

"I guess ya know it's me. Who else is crazy enough to come out here and talk to you every so often? I'm here to tell you that I'm keeping my promise. I'm taking good care of both of your daughters and I'm taking good care of your grandkids, too. We're living exactly the way you would have wanted and Blair's happy. She misses you, but she's happy."

"It's been a busy time for us. Blair's hosting the biggest reunion in the history of Eastland. It's just the sort of wingding you would have loved. She reminds me so much of you when you were president of the Alumni Association. She reminds me of you in a lot of other ways, too. You know, that side of you that I didn't get to see at first. I wish I'd said all of this to you sooner."

"Tootie's back in town. She's staying with us and she loves the house you and I built. Blair's been hosting a lot of luncheons and tea parties at the house. Everyone comments on how tastefully it's decorated. Heh, I guess they know I could never have pulled that off on my own. I'm so glad you helped me with it. I knew it would mean a lot to Blair, but I never dreamed how much."

Jo's voice was thick with emotion as she talked to Monica for almost an hour, describing the highlights of the previous year and bragging about the accomplishments of Blair and their children.

"The exhibit is a really big deal. I know Blair's thoughts will be on you and her grandmother that night. Don't worry about her though; I'll be there to make sure she has a good time. I'll remind her of how much you loved a good party. You'd be so proud of her, Monica, and . . . well, I hope you'd be proud of me, too."

Jo finally stood, staring down at the gravesite with tears in her eyes.

"Thank you, Monica, for everything you did for me. I'll light a candle for you at church Sunday."

Jo walked a short distance and placed the second bouquet on Rose Polniaczek's grave.

"Hey, Ma. It's Monica's birthday, so I brought her some flowers. I brought you some flowers, too. I hope you're at peace, Ma."

Jo swallowed hard, trying to contain her emotions. So many things had been left unfinished between her and Rose.

"You know how much I love you so I'm not gonna stand here and bawl again. I'm working hard, like you taught me, and I'm watching over Pop. I haven't forgotten the other stuff you taught me, either. I'm going to church and reading my Bible. I'm happy, Ma. I'm happier than I ever dreamed I could be. I hope that somehow you can see that. I love you."

Tears were in Dorothy's eyes as she ran her fingers along the shelves of Edna's Edibles gourmet food shop and soaked in the odor of freshly made bread. When the first customer arrived, causing the familiar bell above the store entrance to jingle, the sentimental woman sighed reflectively.

"It looks the same, it smells the same, it even sounds the same."

Natalie threw her arm around her former roommate and pulled her close.

"If you get any more excited, you're gonna make me blush, Tootie."

"Oh, leave me alone. I'm allowed to be excited. Jo did a wonderful job of recreating the old store, right down to the rotary telephone beside the fire extinguisher."

"I hate to break it to you, kid, but Blair's the one with the knack for details. Jo was more involved with the kitchen renovations in the back. That's the one part of the store that doesn't look anything like the old place."

"Stop calling me kid. You should be glad that I have a positive attitude. Otherwise you'd have to listen to those two argue all morning."

Dorothy nodded her head toward Blair and Mrs. G.

"Maybe I should go over and mediate a cease fire."

"Not in this lifetime, Tootie."

Natalie grinned, having decided to utilize Dorothy's childhood nickname as much as possible any time her friend reverted to childhood habits. While meddling in their roommates' lives had been a favorite pastime of the two friends when they were younger, they each considered the other to be the most intrusive.

"Natalie Greene, I'll have you know that I am very adept at quelling arguments. There's not a director around who wouldn't tell you that having me in a production is like having a goodwill ambassador to the stars."

"Well, you can play peacemaker between the theater crowd all you like, but you aren't going anywhere near Blair and Mrs. G. You'll just wind up making matters worse, like you did when we were living with Mrs. G."

Tootie sighed dramatically and looked over at the other two women.

"I wouldn't have had to interfere if Blair had done like the rest of us and listened to Mrs. G. I don't understand it. Blair claims to love Mrs. G. like a second mother, but she's the only one of us who ever argued with Mrs. G. Even Jo, when she was fresh out of the Bronx, was always respectful of Mrs. G.'s opinion. Jo would have a fit if she saw the way Blair is acting."

Natalie chuckled and drew Dorothy's attention away from Blair.

"Mrs. G. always picks a fight with Blair on Monica's birthday. For some reason, bickering with Mrs. G. seems to make Blair feel better whenever she's missing Monica. They're probably arguing over something as silly as which color napkins to place on the counter. It has nothing to do with how much Blair respects Mrs. G. I used to argue with my mother all the time, even after my father died. She knew I loved and respected her. I'll bet you still give your mother a hard time, too, right?"

A shadow passed over Dorothy's face. She hadn't seen her mother in years and she'd almost forgotten that Natalie's mother had passed away a few years earlier.

"I'm sorry I wasn't able to attend your mother's funeral, Nat. I would have been there if I could have gotten away."

Natalie smiled affectionately at her friend. She'd been so distracted making plans with Alex as to how they should announce their engagement that she'd spent very little time with her best friend during the Eastland reunion.

"Hey, I understand. I know you couldn't just walk away from a production any more than I could walk away from an important news assignment."

Dorothy lowered her head.

"But you did walk away from an important assignment, Nat. I'm sure Blair was so upset at the time that she never realized it, but I know how much that job meant to you. It would have catapulted your career to a whole new level, but you dropped everything and flew halfway around the world when Jo was shot."

Natalie shrugged, trying to downplay the professional sacrifice.

"Listen, Tootie, let's keep that to ourselves. There's no point in bringing it up so many years later. Mrs. G. was in Africa when Jo was shot, you were performing in London, and Blair's mother was off doing God knows what with God knows who."

"Yeah, but what you were doing in Kuwait was important."

Changing the subject, Natalie smiled and pointed at Mrs. G. and Blair.

"See, now they're having a blast. They cross each other's boundaries all the time, but they always wind up laughing and hugging one another."

"You can change the subject, Nat, but you gave up a lot to be with Blair and she should know it."

Natalie finally acknowledged the attitude she and Jo had discussed earlier.

"I don't want to sound too self-important, Tootie, but I don't think Blair would have made it when Jo was in the hospital without me around to help. It's not your fault that you couldn't be there, but you can't imagine how devastated and afraid Blair was. Beverly Ann tried her best, but she was barely holding herself together. When I first saw Blair, I hardly recognized her. Blair needed to focus all of her attention on Jo and she needed someone she could trust to watch after Bailey and Garrett. I'm glad I was there for them. Maybe it took me a little longer to get where I wanted in my career, but if I could do it over again I would do exactly the same thing."

Tears again welled in Dorothy's eyes.

"I can't imagine the world without Jo in it. I knew it was bad, but I always thought Jo was invincible."

"First she's a pirate and now she's invincible. That's quite a crush you're carrying, Tootie."

"What? You're talking crazy."

"Yeah, then where's the jealous attitude coming from?"

"'Jealous attitude'? I don't know what you're talking about. If anyone around here has a crush, it's you."

"Now look, Tootie, Jo and I are a lot closer than we used to be, but —."

"Not Jo. I'm talking about Blair."

"Oh, well I suppose I could do a lot worse. Hell, I have done a lot worse. Blair's hot, but you shouldn't even tease me about her when Jo's around. I value my life too highly."

Dorothy stomped her foot in frustration.

"You're just imagining tension between Blair and me because you have such a soft spot for her."

"Well, if I'm imagining it, I'm not the only one. Jo is planning to have a heart-to-heart conversation with you tonight about your attitude."

Dorothy's mouth fell open in surprise and embarrassment.

"Jo doesn't have heart-to-heart conversations."

"Well, she's going to have one with you so you'd better be thinking about what you're going to say to her. One of you needs to be prepared because Jo sucks at heart-to-heart conversations. I almost wound up throwing a book at her the one and only time she and I had a heart-to-heart conversation."

"When did you and Jo ever talk about your feelings?"

"Oh, it was when I was going through all that emotional drama after having sex with Snake and Blair was out of town."

"You could have talked to me about Snake."

Dorothy's lower lip protruded, reminding Natalie of Blair and causing her to laugh.

"Don't laugh. I was your best friend and you should have talked to me."

Natalie's sarcastic tone was offset by her amused expression.

"Forgive me for thinking that it might be good to have a conversation about sex with someone who had actually HAD sex. Since Blair was out of town, that left Jo and Beverly Ann. Who would you choose?"

Dorothy started to speak, but held her tongue.

"Exactly. The point is that I'd have been better off talking to Andy. Jo wasn't any help."

Eager to defend Jo, Dorothy countered Natalie's argument.

"Jo's just a very private person. She wouldn't feel comfortable talking about sex with anyone."

At that statement, Natalie cackled, drawing Blair's attention and causing the inquisitive blonde to join her friends.

"What's so funny?"

Natalie lifted her chin in a defiant pose.

"Tootie and I were talking about how sexy you'd look in a grass hula skirt."

Blair looked back and forth between her two friends.



"Turn blue."

As Blair strode purposefully away from her giggling friends, Dorothy questioned Natalie.

"Did you ever find out what that means?"

"'Turn blue?'"


"Nope, not a clue."

"What do you think Blair thinks it means?"

"I don't know. You should ask Jo about it when you two talk about your feelings tonight."

"You're just making that up to make me nervous, like when you threatened to tell Jo that I said she looked like a pirate."

Natalie raised her hands in mock surrender.

"Don't say I didn't warn you."

"Dorothy and Natalie seem to be enjoying themselves."

Blair half smiled at Edna Gains' observation and continued arranging the floral display on the counter. Edna, who could always read Blair's mood, placed her hand over that of the distracted blonde.

"Blair, is something bothering you?"

Blair looked back and forth between the flowers and Edna, gathering her resolve.

"I know you don't like to meddle in our friendships, Edna, but have you noticed a little friction between Dorothy and me?"

Edna was always a forthright woman and she answered Blair's question honestly.

"Yes, I have. Do you want to tell me what it's about?"

Blair scrunched her face in frustration.

"That's just it. I don't know what I've done wrong."

"What makes you think you've done something wrong?"

"I must have done something to offend Dorothy, but I can't think of anything. I've been trying my best to make her feel welcome in our home."

"Blair, you can't expect for you and Dorothy to pick up where you left off so many years ago. In time, you and Dorothy will be as close as you ever were."

"That's the problem. We don't have any time. Dorothy will be leaving at the end of this weekend and I feel like I'm losing her."

Edna patted Blair's hand and smiled reassuringly.

"If that's how you feel, Blair, you should tell Dorothy."

"I can't."

"Why not? You've never been bashful about sharing your feelings."

"What if . . . well . . . she seems very uneasy any time Jo and I are affectionate in front of her."

Edna shook her head decisively.

"Our Tootie is not a bigot, Blair. I know how many friends turned their backs on you once they found out that you were in love with Jo, but Tootie Ramsey would never reject your friendship because of who you love, never. She didn't reject you when she was a teenager. She certainly isn't going to reject you now. You should know better."

Blair nodded. Her mind agreed completely with Edna, but her heart worried that one of her truest friends might not be as comfortable with her sexual orientation as she pretended.


"Yes, dear?"

"Sometimes it felt like the entire world was against us, but knowing that you were in our corner always made me feel like Jo and I could get through anything."

Edna wrapped her arms around one of her closest friends and squeezed the younger woman tightly.

"I'll always love you, Blair, just like Monica always loved you."

Blair sniffled and held back the tears welling in her eyes.

"I know."

"She'd be so proud of the woman you've become; especially of the way you've continued her work at the helm of the Warner Foundation."

Blair smiled.

"Mother said that using the Foundation money to build counseling centers for gay and lesbian teenagers would be a fitting legacy for Carlton Blair's daughter."

"Your mother was a remarkable woman, like her daughter."

"You've always spoken so highly of my mother. I don't think I've ever thanked you for that."

"We didn't always agree about what was best for you, but I never doubted how much Monica loved you. You'll work things out with Dorothy, just like you worked them out with your mother."

Part 14

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