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: Had some time around Labor Day and thought I'd write up something fun, since it was too damned hot to do anything else! An unofficial sequel to When Blair Warner met Joanne Jefferson and Joanna Marie Polniaczek Went Insane.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
In a Family Way
By misty flores
"Natalie, I need your help. Blair wants to have a baby with me."
Of all the things Natalie expected Jo Polniaczek to say when she found the other woman waiting for her when she walked out of the terminal, jet lagged and tired, this was not even in the top 10.
Rubbing ruefully at her bangs, messy from a fifteen hour flight, Natalie was dangerously close to gaping. Shutting her mouth, Natalie considered her longtime friend, brunette hair falling down her shoulders in wispy clean cut layers. Definitely a Blair influence.
"Wow," she managed. "When you two say you're best friends, you're not kidding around."
Jo blew out her breath in a frustrated groan. Flipping open the lapels of the leather jacket she wore, Jo shoved her hands into the pockets of her dark jeans. Natalie caught sight of a butt of a gun packed underneath her shoulder. Natalie had never agreed with that decision. Give the hot-headed one a deadly weapon. Good one, NYPD.
"Funny Natalie quips aren't what I meant by 'needing your help', Nat."
Natalie was tired. She hadn't washed her hair in 24 hours, and her first view of New York, a city she loved and hadn't seen in almost a year and a half, was the scowling face of one of her closest friends, who seemed both desperate and terrified.
As exhausted as Natalie was, she couldn't help but be a little curious.
"Jo, I've been in Kuwait for the last six months," she finally sighed, shifting her purse back on her shoulder. "You're gonna have to ease me into this one."
It was how they ended up in a seedy café that was littered with cops. A cop café', Natalie immediately thought, and smiled to herself at her own quip. She had to, Jo was in no mood to appreciate it. Her friend, clearly distracted, sat across from her, fingers tapping against the smudge brown of the coffee cup that held her coffee.
"Okay," Natalie finally began, shrugging off her coat and removing her tape recorder from her bag. It would help to record this. Jo and Blair may have gotten older, but their fights had gotten no less confusing. "Start over. What's the problem?"
"I already told you," Jo snapped. "Blair wants to have a baby with me!"
Natalie's frown deepened. "Well, I would start by explaining to Blair how babies are made. You see, when a man and a woman love each other very much, and they want to express their love-"
"Oh, come on, Natalie!" Jo reached for the recorder. "And turn that thing off."
"Hey. Don't mess with my methods," Natalie groused, snatching it back. "I'm the one who you hijacked from the airport because you needed my help."
"I don't need your help, I need your advice."
"Because Blair wants to have a baby with you," she repeated.
Fingers fidgeted. "Well... yeah!"
"Again, I would begin by discussing the birds and the bees-"
"We know how to make babies, Natalie! That ain't the problem!" Jo slumped in her seat, for a moment, a slouchy mimic of the girl she was back at Eastland. Taking a moment to compose herself, Jo shut her eyes, before opening them again and leaning forward, voice lowering to an intense whisper. "Blair wants to have a baby WITH me."
If Jo was attempting to make any sense, she wasn't being very successful. "Jo, I realize you're divorced and everything and you both are approaching that time in your lives when your biological clocks are ticking, but I think it's a little early to declare yourselves spinsters-"
"Natalie!" Jo's face was actually red. "You don't get it."
"I thought we had established that."
"Natalie, I want you to listen to me. Okay? Really HEAR me." Leaning forward, Natalie nodded. She was tired, but Jo looked ready to strangle her if she didn't at least try to understand what she was saying. "Blair wants US to have a family. Blair wants to have a baby - with me."
She was trying to tell her something.
Her friend was squirming. Literally squirming. In her seat. Like she had ants in her pants.
Jo and Blair - Jo and Blair... Jo AND BLAIR?!
She inhaled sharply, and then nearly choked on her own saliva. "Oh," she managed, clearing her throat.
Jo and Blair. Jo and Blair. In a family way. Jo and Blair were together in a family way.
"Oh my GOD!" she shrieked, causing her friend to jump in her seat.
"Quiet!" Jo hissed.
"This is huge!"
"It's not huge! It's not huge!"
"It's GINORMOUS! This is... unexpected, but... oh my God!" She clapped her palms on the table, scrambling for the recorder. She needed to make sure this was being recorded. "Really?! This is so huge-WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME!?"
Aggravated 'shh'-ing was coming from Jo's corner, but Natalie was too excited to care. She loved news, and this... this was ... weird news, but great news! She was open-minded that way.
"Will you quiet down!" Jo snapped. "I'm telling you now, aren't I?"
"How long has this- oh my God, did you have an affair with Blair?!" She gasped at the scandal. "Is that why you divorced Rick?!" She hadn't been this excited since she had broken the news about Blair's hostile takeover of Warner's chief rival.
"Does Tootie know?! Does Mrs. Garret know?! Does Beverly Ann know?! Does Blair's father know?!"
"And you're gonna have a baby?! Oh my GOD! I'm gonna be an aunt!"
"Natalie!" That was when Natalie realized she had been shouting. Blinking, she looked around, and discovered herself the unintended focus of the entire café. One look across the table revealed Jo ready to pull out her gun and shoot her.
"Sorry," she managed, pulling her hands into her lap, like a misbehaving child. "I'll calm down."
Jo's fingers dug into her bangs, burying them into her locks, a gesture of frustration. "Look," she managed through gritted teeth, "We got together eight months ago. No, I did not have an affair with Blair. Rick and I divorced because HE had an affair. Tootie does NOT know, and neither does Mrs. Garret, but we're sure she suspects, and yes, Beverly Ann knows, and Blair's father knows."
Natalie's eyes widened. "He does?"
"Well, we live together. He'd have to be really dumb not to-"
"You LIVE together?!"
"Well, I'm sorry, Jo! You can't drop this kind of information on me and expect me not to get excited!" The corners of her mouth pulled into a ridiculous grin. Jo and Blair? After all this time? She had never suspected - they were both so boy crazy at Eastland and then at Langley... except for that one time where Blair decided to become a lesbian for like, a day, but that only because Jo had pissed her off-
"-Natalie." Fingers snapped in front of her face, forcing her attention back to the anxious face. "I need you to focus."
"I'm focused!" she grumbled. "I'm focused!" She wasn't focused. She really wasn't. There was so much to consider! So much past to go back and analyze for hidden moments - how didn't she see it?! And now... a baby?! She slumped against her chair, amazed. "And now you're gonna have a baby."
Jo's eyes widened. "Natalie! No. Don't get attached to that idea."
"A new baby Warner! A baby Jo! A baby Jo Warner!"
"Natalie, stop!" Flailing hands brought hers down hard on the table. "I need you to help me figure out how to tell Blair we're not ready for a kid!"
It was like Jo had punctured a hole in Natalie's happy balloon. She visibly deflated. "Oh." Sighing in disgust, Natalie poked at her coffee cup. "Right." Dark eyes flickered up to meet Jo's, and as the excitement gave way to the reality of the situation, Jo's nervous agitation finally seemed to register. "You really don't want this?"
Conflicted eyes dropped to the table.
Her friend had aged well. She wore a typical detective's outfit: functional and professional, but Blair's influence was visibly clear - in the expensive watch on Jo's wrist that her friend was now toying with, and the soft leather jacket that hugged her curves and hid her gun from sight. Even the diamond studs that were flashing on Jo's ears: serviceable but classy.
Natalie knew Jo. She had watched Jo and Blair's friendship evolve from the moment Jo stepped into the Eastland cafeteria and they had sworn to hate each other on sight. No matter what happened between them, they had always managed to work things out. They had even gotten good at it - compromising without even thinking, dropping insults at each other like it was merely a formality before they got along with their business.
Apparently, they had taken to working things out a little too well.
A waitress appeared at their side, and Natalie thanked her with a smile when she refilled her coffee cup. Reaching for a packet of sugar, Natalie began quietly, "So what's the problem?"
"The problem is... it's a baby, Nat!" Jo blew out her breath, warming her palms against the coffee cup she had yet to take a sip from. "It's a baby... and... we've only been together for eight months! You know?"
Natalie had always been perceptive. It helped her in being a damned fine journalist. "And you think this is moving too fast."
"We've only been living together a few months."
"Jo, you and Blair lived together for almost a decade."
Jo's face jerked up. "That's different," she managed, voice thick. "We were friends."
"You still are."
"No, we're not, Nat! I mean... yeah we lived together, and to honest, it made that part easier. But now... I don't know." Jo's smile was muted. "I guess it just feels different when you're in the bed with her and not across the room."
Jo was afraid of commitment. To Blair. This was just all surreal.
"I don't know if we're ready. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Blair's my..." she struggled, choking on the word.
An amused smile floated upon Natalie's lips. "Girlfriend?"
Jo blushed a very sweet shade of red. "Right."
Her eyes narrowed. "Nat."
"Beloved? Soulmate? The old ball and chain? The better half-"
"Okay!" Jo snapped, reaching forward to smack her lightly on her hand. "Enough." Drawing her hands back to her side of the table, Jo blew out her breath, and focused on the faux wood grain on the cheaply designed counter-top. "We had a fight," she finally began. "A big one. About this baby. And... it makes me think..."
"That you're not ready for 'wife' or 'life partner'?"
Jo blew her breath out. "Maybe I'm just not ready for Blair." Natalie felt her stomach sink in warning.
Feeling suddenly sad, she kept quiet.
What could you say to that?
It was 95 degrees and humid in New York City the day Blair Warner pulled the rug out from under Jo.
She had walked into a house earlier that morning on a new assignment, and found a child, drowned in a tub, and all fingers pointed to the step-father. It was a punishment, because the wife had cheated on him with another guy on his birthday.
She had driven to a pent house that still didn't feel like home to her, to find her girlfriend surrounded by men in suits, arguing about closing costs and financial projections. Blair offered only a distracted tired smile before closing the door to her office.
It was after ten when she heard the doors close to the penthouse, and Jo had let her bad day dissolve into a grumpy mood. The knots of tension were causing pain between her shoulder blades, but she kept quiet about it. The moment Jo would even mention the knots, Blair would have been on her phone, calling for a masseuse. Jo didn't have the energy to try and talk her out of it. She didn't want to talk at all.
It was a little selfish of her, she knew - but she also knew Blair. Blair would want to pull it out of her. Blair would want to coddle her and hug her and Jo didn't need that. It would just make her mad.
They lived in two different worlds, and settling into Blair's leather plush sofa, flipping on Blair's ridiculously large television set, in her threadbare sweats and holey socks, it was never more apparent.
A flash of light behind her was quickly extinguished, and Jo pulled her attention from the mindless sitcom currently blaring at her to discover Blair making her way to the sofa, still dressed in her designer suit.
Blair didn't kick off her shoes like a normal person. She simply sat down, shot Jo a muted smile, and took a long sip from the glass of wine she had carried in with her.
"Sorry," Blair said, and reached forward, offering Jo a gentle peck against her lips that tasted of the wine she had just consumed. "We had a mini crisis."
This would have been Jo's cue to ask what it was. "Oh," was her only response, before she turned back to the television, fingering the stem of the beer.
"How was your day?"
In the back of Jo's head, she knew that Blair was being polite; a considerate girlfriend at the end of a long day, making sure to take interest in her lover's affairs. It didn't stop the shiver of irritation that slid up Jo's spine.
"Fine," she said, a flash of a smile drifting across her thin lips before turning back to the television, a clear sign that Blair should just leave her alone.
She didn't want to talk about what she had seen that day. She didn't want to talk about a stupid crisis at Blair's office. She wanted to drink her beer and watch a stupid sitcom and stew in her own morose ideas that the world was a horrible place and some people had no business having kids in the first place.
Sometimes, however, Blair seemed determined to not get the message.
"That's good." Finally removing her heels, Blair curled her feet up under her. "Jo, do you mind if you turned off the television? I have something I'd like to speak to you about."
The shiver of irritation became a shudder. Grinding her teeth, Jo swished the bitter liquid around in her mouth and forced one hard swallow. "Now, Blair?"
"Yes, now, Jo. I've been trying to talk to you about it for a while now, and I'm afraid if I don't do it now, I may lose my nerve."
It wasn't the words, as much as the tone, that caused Jo to finally look at Blair. Her friend- her girlfriend - almost never used that tone with her. Serious: without an ounce of deviation.
Through her fog of anger, Jo understood that Blair had something important to say. Despite her annoyance, it struck a chord of irrational fear inside of her.
Rick had given her a similar speech, once. It had ended with a request for a divorce.
Against her will, Jo put down the beer, and reached for the remote. The sounds of canned laughter dissolved into quiet.
"What is it, Blair?"
Beautiful brown eyes stared at her, drinking her in, and full lips were moistened by a pink tongue, darting in and out of a perfect mouth.
Blair was beautiful, and for what seemed like the thousandth time, Jo wondered what on earth Blair saw in her.
Blair hesitated, dark eyes glancing furtively at her and then back down to her tangled hands.
"Blair," Jo said again, "Spit it out."
The blonde head once again bobbed up, and those eyes locked with hers intensely. "Okay," Blair finally managed, and straightened up, like she was addressing the senate. "Jo, I've been thinking a lot about us, and I'm thinking that it's time we start thinking about our future."
It was just like Blair to be that vague. "Our future?" Jo repeated. "What future?"
"Exactly," Blair breathed. "Look, Jo - we obviously can't get married, but... well, Daddy thinks that a lot of the dissention in the board is because of the rumors surrounding our relationship. Now, we've spoken to a consultant about it, and he thinks that-"
Jo felt her breath catch. "You spoke to a consultant about us?"
Blair blinked at her, voice annoyingly weak. "Naturally. Jo, Daddy thinks that we would have a better time with the more conservative board members if you and I presented what he terms to be a more... nuclear approach."
"Well, we're living in sin, Jo."
"We're nearly thirty, Blair." Her tone was harder than she intended, but it didn't matter, because the actual conversation was ridiculous.
"Jo, that doesn't matter!" Blair sucked in her breath, and pushed her blonde hair behind her ears, settling in a bit closer, more animated now that she was actually getting this ridiculous speech out. "Warner Industries relies on a brand!"
"I see, and you having a girlfriend goes against all of that."
"Of course," Blair said, in complete seriousness.
"God-dammit," she breathed. This was not what she needed right now. "So what? Blair? What's the solution? Because God forbid, I piss off some conservative bigot!"
"Jo, don't." Blair's hand came down, out of her hair. "This company is important to me and my father."
"Right. Sure. I get that, Blair! I do." Unable to sit still, Jo reached for her beer and stood up. "I just happen to be the dirty little secret standing in your way."
Blair stared up at her, brown eyes narrowed. "If you were my 'dirty little secret', Jo, we wouldn't be having this conversation or this problem. I've never made any attempt to hide the true nature of our relationship - which is more than I can say for you."
"Oh, God," Jo breathed. She should have known. "I knew you were going to throw that in my face. The one time I don't hold your hand in public, you have a shit fit over it-"
"Don't ever curse in front of me, Jo, you know I don't tolerate it," Blair said, hard and even, and it just made her angrier. "And yes, you're right. This is all about HAND HOLDING. It has absolutely nothing to do with lying to Tootie about where you were living or pointedly ignoring any mention of us to Mrs. Garrett when she calls -"
"I'M NOT ASHAMED OF YOU!" Jo snapped, and it bit off the end of Blair's words, cutting them off into a deadly telling silence.
Blair stared at her. "I didn't say you were." There was a horrible moment, before Blair closed her eyes and pulled her legs out from underneath her. "Look, I didn't bring this up because I wanted to fight."
"Well, you were really successful," Jo breathed, hands on her hips, moving away. "Good job, Blair!"
"I brought this up because I want us to have a baby."
Everything inside her froze. Unable to breath, Jo swiveled on her heel, and stared hard at the woman on the couch. "What?" she whispered.
Blair looked resolved, firm. "I want us to have a baby, Jo. I've been thinking a lot about it, and I would really like us to consider the possibility."
Fucking Blair Warner. "You... you're unbelievable," she breathed. "You actually would consider bringing a child into the world just to win points with your board?"
"No, Jo! The board was just an excuse to get Daddy on my side!"
Blair was making no sense. As usual.
"You're crazy," she managed, rubbing her palm along her cheek, sweaty beyond belief.
"Yes," Blair answered firmly. "I am crazy. About you. About us. I've been crazy about you for as long as I can remember, and I want us to have a life together Jo. I want us to start living it! God knows we've waited long enough!"
"We are living it!"
"No!" Blair stood, features intense. "We're not - we're... roommates who have sex!" Her hand motioned wildly. "We're best friends, but we're not partners! Not in that sense."
Her heart was hammering wildly in her chest, and all she could think was 'baby'. It was so hard to focus, to really hear what Blair was saying, when all she could see was a dead baby in a bathtub, turned blue from suffocation-
Jo shook herself hard, trying to get the images out of her head.
"What the hell do you mean, Blair?"
"I mean that sometimes you treat me like I'm still your annoying roommate that you have to put up with, Jo." Blair's chin went up, jaw hardening. "I'm not. I'm your lover. I'd like to be your wife, and I'd like to be the mother of your children."
This was just all too much. Blair, who never demanded, only wanted the most superficial things - wanted Jo to give her a baby. A partnership- a marriage?
She had just gotten divorced for Christ's sake!
Looking up, her eyes met heatedly with Blair's. Her lover. Her best friend. The one person in the world Jo knew she would never abandon.
But she couldn't deal with this. Not right now.
"I can't have this conversation right now," she managed, heading for the door. "I can't. Not now, Blair."
She moved quickly, out of the living room and towards the entrance, grabbing hold of the jacket Blair had given her for their three month anniversary, shrugging it on.
The voice behind her made her shudder with emotion. Her eyes closed and she breathed raggedly, "I can't deal with this right now, Blair!" Quickly, she found her keys, and shoved them into her pocket.
"Exactly when would be a good time?" Blair's voice was hard. Firm. "Maybe I could pencil it in."
Blair was furious.
"I'm leaving." Jo's voice was mechanical. Desperate.
"Good! That's new! You never do that!"
Oh my God. "You're talking about having a baby, Blair!" she snapped, whirling around to lock eyes with blazing brown orbs.
"Yes!" Blair agreed. "I am. And when you're ready to talk about it with your girlfriend - you let me know. Right, now, your roommate is going to bed. You're welcome to the couch."
With that, Blair whirled, and went into the bedroom, locking the door behind her.
It was the first time since they had gotten together that Blair had turned her back on her in an argument.
"Wow." Natalie didn't know what else to say. And Jo was staring at her. She took a big bite of her hot dog, and took her time with it.
Beside her, her friend sank down on the curb, obviously distraught. "I didn't go home last night," she admitted. "I couldn't. I don't know why I just..." Fading out, Jo fiddled with her fingers in her lap.
The curb was dirty. Natalie sighed, and carefully grabbed a stray newspaper, plopping it down on the concrete before settling down beside her friend.
Chewing thoughtfully, she managed to swallow the bite of hot dog down. "Exactly what are you so afraid of, Jo?" Dark eyes looked at hers pitifully. "Is it because it's Blair? Or because it's Blair?"
Jo's mouth twitched ruefully. "You're not making any sense."
"You know what I mean," Natalie continued. There was a splotch of something next to her boot. Natalie didn't want to dwell on what it was. "Is it the fact that it's Blair? Who's your best friend in the world? And ... who knows you better than anyone else? Or is it the fact it's Blair? The most conceited woman to come out of Eastland?"
A quick, embarrassed smile flashed onto Jo's face, before bangs fell into her face, obscuring the expression.
"You always did have a hard time reconciling the two," Natalie mused openly. "Like you couldn't get that stereotype out of your head - like there were two Blairs, and you weren't sure you could like one without hating the other."
"Who the hell are you, Socrates?"
"Just a reporter, who knows you," Natalie said gently.
Jo nodded, and stared at the cement underneath her boots. "Sometimes it does hit me," Jo admitted. "I mean... it's me and BLAIR." The disgusted expression that floated across her face was almost comical. "We're talking about a woman who collects little china frogs. Frogs, Natalie! With stupid little rubies and diamonds for eyes!"
"That does sound like her."
"Yeah! They're disgusting! She has one that croaks!" Jo sighed, and stared at her palms. "Sometimes I stare at that cabinet she keeps them in and I think - this is it. This is who I ended up with, and I can't... fathom it, Nat. I mean - it's BLAIR. I'm not supposed to end up with someone like Blair."
"Were you supposed to end up with someone like Rick?"
Jo bit her lip, unsure. "You know, sometimes, I can't sleep and I look over and there she is... I used to do that when we were at Eastland, you know? And it just... it didn't seem real. I couldn't really believe I was really there."
"And now you think that what, Blair's going to just wake up and come to her senses?"
A sad smile floated onto Jo's lips. "Rick did."
Natalie sighed. "Jo. Blair LOVES you."
"I know," Jo snapped, hand rising to tangle into her bangs. "I know she loves me! It doesn't stop me from feeling like some sorta... charity case. It's almost like... like I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. You know she kissed me."
Natalie's brow furrowed. "Well, if you're living together, and talking about babies, I would have assumed that had happened by now-"
"No, nitwit," Jo answered lovingly. "When we were at Langley. When I went after her when she had that stupid idea of becoming a lesbian to piss me off."
"Well, judging by what you're telling me, I'd say she was pretty successful."
Jo's smile widened. "Yeah, but... something happened that night. We made up and then we danced... and... it felt right, you know? And it scared me, because... that couldn't be me. All my life I've had people throwing that word to me. Dyke. I was so desperate to prove it wasn't true, and then here comes Blair and she kisses me, and ... I felt something I had never felt before. That night, I woke up and I looked at her, and that's when I knew. Everything they were saying about me. It was true. I couldn't handle it. It wasn't easy being Blair's friend but I wasn't gonna be like one of those guys that she would pick up and throw away. Because it was only a matter of time. First it was Eastland, and then it was at Langley and I knew that we couldn't be friends forever. We were too different. We were gonna graduate and go our separate ways and drift apart because we were too different. I wasn't going to spend the rest of my life like some douche... pining and in love with Blair fucking Warner."
Natalie inhaled a gentle, unsteady breath watching her friend pour her heart out in such an uncharacteristic way.
"I told myself it wasn't true and I was gonna prove it, and after a while, I believed my own hype. Natalie, I got married and I thought I was in love."
"And Blair never left you," she managed gruffly.
"Rick called her my other husband," Jo admitted with a grudging smile. "I couldn't get rid of her."
"So why is it so hard to believe now?"
Jo had found a napkin, and had begun tearing it to shreds. "I don't know. I guess because if I finally believe it, if I finally let go and stop holding her at arms length, I'm not gonna be able to handle it when she finally does leave me."
"Jo..." Natalie sighed, amazed and frustrated. "Blair LOVES you. I always knew that. I didn't know you wanted to have sex, but I knew she loved you. Some of your biggest fights came from the fact that you wouldn't LET her love you." Jo's eyes closed, and her head hung down. "You know... she's not going to give up. Blair's never given up on you. But if you do love her, she deserves to know how much." Dark eyes opened, regarded her with an unreadable expression. "And..." Natalie continued. "As far as this baby thing is concerned... Blair took care of Baily for weeks at a time. She did the feedings and the diaper changes and you helped her. More than any of us. You both know what you'd be getting into. If you wanted a baby... you could handle it. When you two put your heads together, you could handle anything."
She hadn't seen Jo cry in years, and the sight of her friend's eyes glistening with moisture was an unexpected gift.
"Thanks, Nat," she finally answered.
Natalie shrugged. "Just name your kid after me, and we'll call it even."
Blair hadn't slept well in a week, and she hated to admit it, but it was starting to affect her appearance. She was sure she could see the beginnings of bags underneath her eyes.
What was worse, she was dangerously close to not caring.
It was ridiculously difficult to concentrate on a split board and a potential merger when one's head was full of an irritating barbarian.
A sharp buzz pierced into her brain, and Blair took a small moment to glare at the offending contraption before reaching forward and pressing the intercom button.
"Ms. Jefferson is here for your 3PM appointment, Miss Warner."
She hesitated, knowing exactly what this was about. "Thank you, Maria. Send her in."
She had barely a minute to compose herself before her door opened and in walked Joanne Jefferson, dressed in a pantsuit and tie, as professional as ever.
"JoJo!" she began, rising out of her seat to give her old friend a peck on the cheek. "How are you?"
"Exhausted," Joanne replied, a good-natured smile gracing her dark lips. "But as well as can be expected. I spent most of the night at the hospital."
Blair's frown deepened. "Your friend Mimi?"
Joanne settled into the chair opposite her. "Her T-cell count is getting worse. The doctors aren't sure how much longer she has."
"I'm sorry," Blair said, as sincerely as she could. "If you or Maureen need anything-"
"Thanks," Joanne responded, dark eyes growing moist. "But we knew it was coming. When we found her on a park bench last Christmas she was as close to death as we had ever seen her. I think we all consider these last few months a blessing." The moment had grown somber, and in the sad silence, Blair considered how trivial her problems seemed in comparison. "Well," Joanne said, straightening, suddenly all business. "I'll have you know I got in a good bit of trouble for these."
Depositing her briefcase on the edge of Blair's desk, she clicked it open and pulled out a folder.
"Not with your firm, I hope?" Blair asked, eyeing the stack that JoJo placed on her desk. "They know I'm paying you for your time."
"Only because you're forcing me to take your money," Joanne responded, rolling her eyes. "And no, not with my firm, with Maureen. She came home last night and saw these spread out over my desk and immediately inferred that I wanted to have a baby."
Taking the folder from Joanne, Blair opened it, taking a quick glance at the information Joanne had meticulously collected. Options, legal rights of surrogates, adoption information for gay parents
Sucking in her breath, she blinked away her sudden tears, closing the folder and managing a smile for her friend.
"She didn't freak out, did she?"
"You'd think, wouldn't you?" Joanne sighed, rolling her eyes heavenward. "No. Just when I expect Maureen to be predictable about responsibility, she goes and nearly has hysterics over the very idea. Starts going on and on about nurseries and names, and of course she wants our friend Mark to be the donor." Her friend slumped back in her chair, overwhelmed. "She nearly cried when I told her this wasn't for us."
Blair smiled mutely. "Do you want this back?"
"No need. She made copies."
In the last few months, Blair had gotten to know Joanne's dramatic partner. Blair wasn't sure she would ever get used to her, but she had to admit, the other woman was fascinating. And quite possibly more narcissic than Blair. Jo once mentioned that Joanne ending up with Maureen was some sort of karmic payback for Joanne not taking an interest in Blair.
A rueful grin flashed across her lips. "We're quite a pair," she admitted. "You with your heathen and me with my barbarian."
Joanne crossed her legs, settling in, catching the unspoken tension in that sentence. "Is your father still giving you problems?"
"Oddly, no," Blair remarked, dropping the folder back onto the stained finish of her wooden desk. "He actually seems to have finally come around."
"I think it's more of a business related issue," Blair noted. "We had lunch yesterday after the meeting with the consultant. He told me if I insisted on following through with this infatuation with women, then at least I managed to choose the one least likely to be interested in my money."
"He likes Jo," Joanne murmured, impressed.
"He always has," Blair admitted. "Honestly, I think he came to terms with this before even I did. He told me yesterday he had suspected the reason I kept drifting from guy to guy was because I couldn't have who I really wanted."
"And now that you do?"
"He's 'grudgingly happy' for me," Blair said, quoting him exactly. "So long as I remember I am representing the company and conduct myself accordingly. If I were with a man, living with him without an expressed commitment would have been unacceptable. He sees no reason why that should change just because I'm with Jo."
Joanne quietly smiled, and then leaned back, finger against her temple. "So if you've got Daddy Warner on board finally, why do you look so unhappy right now?"
It was a gentle, probing question, and it took Blair by surprise. Sighing raggedly, she closed her eyes against the ache in her heart.
"I talked to Jo about all this," she explained sadly, reaching forward to finger the folder Joanne had given to her. "It didn't go well. She left. And she didn't come home last night."
"Blair, maybe Jo just needs some time to adjust to all this." Brown eyes flickered up to meet her friend's. Joanne was carefully objective. "I've learned with Maureen that I can't throw a net around her when I'm feeling insecure. She starts feeling trapped and that's when she lashes out."
"Maureen and Jo aren't the same, Joanne."
"I know that. You and Jo go back a long way, much longer than Maureen and I have. And if anyone can make this work, it's the two of you."
Leave it to a lawyer to rework her words for the best possible perspective.
"Jo and I aren't exactly friends," JoJo admitted, "But I understand slightly where she's coming from. Jo has had very little time to deal with how all this came about. First a divorce, and then moving into a serious relationship with not just her best friend, but a woman And now, there's talk of a baby?" Joanne shrugged. "It's a lot to take."
Blair found it ultimately annoying that JoJo knew how to make so much sense.
She hesitated, teeth sinking lightly into her lower lip. "It's hard," she finally began. "I've wanted Jo for so long before I even understood what it was I felt for her, I just knew there was something about her I wanted to be with her, all the time. Despite my better judgment. It's so hard now that now that I have her to not just grab hold of her and " she trailed off, distraught. "Then again . Nothing's ever been easy, with Jo."
A buzzer blazed into the air, making Joanne wince. Blair rolled her eyes and immediately pressed the button. "Yes, Maria?"
"I'm sorry to bother you, Miss Warner, but Ms. Polniaczek is here to see you."
Ah. Yes. Blair supposed it would have been uncouth to yell at Maria for not clarifying that her previous instructions to interrupt her whenever Jo arrived were to be ignored when they were in the middle of a fight.
Taking in a deep breath, Blair pressed the button. "Give me a minute, then send her in."
"Do you want me to leave?" Joanne said immediately, already getting to her feet.
"No, stay," Blair responded. "I'm not ready to be alone with her right now. I'm going to ask her to leave, but I just want to make sure she didn't sleep on a park bench or at the station or in her car or some place ridiculous, first."
Joanne seemed to understand the selfish need to see her lover, and Blair nodded gratefully, leaning her hands on her desk for support as the door opened.
She expected to see Jo, with her hooded eyes and dark stare, wearing the clothes she kept in her desk for unexpectedly long days. She expected her heart to jump, and her eyes to suddenly moisten in response.
"Hey," Jo began, sharp eyes moving from Blair to Joanne, immediately registering the other woman in the room. "Sorry. I knew you were in with someone."
Blair's tone was flat. "And yet you interrupted, because?"
Jo stared at her, obviously affected by the cool demeanor. "Because I thought you might want to see someone."
Blair nearly choked on her own breath when a very tan Natalie walked in behind her.
"Hey, roomie!" Natalie grinned, and Blair shot to her feet, taken by joyful surprise.
"Natalie?!" she squealed, dark mood dissipating for just a moment, as she rounded the desk immediately, throwing her arms around her friend. "What what are you doing in New York? When did you get in?"
"Four hours ago," Natalie said, squeezing her shoulders. "If I dissolve into gibberish it's because it's 4am in my head."
Her friend did look remarkably tired, despite the beautiful smile gracing her lips. "Where are you staying?" Blair asked. "You should rest up and then we need to spend some time together. I can get us the company seats for Cats "
"If you get me seats for Cats then you might as well put me to sleep right in that theatre," Natalie responded seriously. "It's that boring."
"Heathen," Blair said good-naturedly. Natalie glanced at Joanne, and Blair remembered her manners. "Oh, I'm sorry. Natalie? You remember JoJo, don't you? From Langley?"
"Oh, wow. Hey!" Natalie grabbed hold of her hand and shook. "It's been a while!"
"It's a pleasure. I've been reading your articles from Kuwait. Insightful stuff."
"Aww, thanks. Wait till you hear my next project. Jo kinda inspired me for it. I want to take a deep look at the options and obstacles Gay and Lesbian couples face when it comes to having children."
If Natalie intended to bring up the sore spot, she certainly didn't show it. Still, Blair inhaled sharply, and her smile became pained, as she forced herself to resist looking at her girlfriend.
"Really," she said, as delicately as she could. "You should talk to JoJo. She's been doing some research on it herself."
"Yes," Joanne said quickly. "My partner and I were considering having kids."
"Wow then you're definitely a good place to start!" Natalie agreed, nodding enthusiastically. "I'd really love to take a couple and start at the beginning find out what choices they have, what the timeline they're looking at it would give it a great human perspective. I pitched it to my editor an hour ago? He loved it!"
"Where are you staying?" Blair repeated, through a stale grin, determined to change the subject.
"The paper put me up at some place "
"Nonsense. You'll stay at the Warner."
"I'm not staying at the Warner Hotel, Blair," Natalie grumbled, rolling her eyes. "It drives me crazy how everyone knows your name in there. 'Good morning, Miss Green.' 'Nice day, Miss Green'. Sometimes it's not a nice day!"
Blair smiled, in spite of herself. "Fine, then you'll stay with us. We have a guest room." The truth came out before she could stop it, and she sucked in her breath at the unintended admission. Glancing quickly at Jo, Blair gritted her teeth and amended, "With me. At the penthouse-"
"Blair " Hands in her pockets, Jo looked painfully embarrassed. "Natalie knows we live together."
Head jerking, dark eyes met her own, staring beseechingly.
"She told me!" Natalie squealed, before she could process what that meant. "And for the record? I think it's great! Now you two can make each other miserable for the rest of your lives!"
"Natalie," Joanne interrupted smoothly. "I have some time right now. Would you like to have coffee to discuss your article? I can drop you off at the Warner Penthouse on the way back."
Blair didn't have the concentration to focus on Natalie, but she felt the squeeze on her hands as Natalie agreed. "That sounds great. But if I fall asleep in my coffee, I'm going to rely on you to pull me out of it before I drown."
"I'll tell Maria to hold your calls," Joanne told her quietly, and Blair received a kiss on her cheek, before JoJo led Natalie out, closing the door firmly behind her.
They left her alone with her lover, which, quite frankly, was terrifying.
Whatever Jo wanted to say to her, Blair wasn't sure she was ready to hear it.
She shuddered, walking back to her desk. "Jo, I'm not ready for another go, okay? If that's what you're here for, we can discuss it tonight." She sat down in her chair, and shoved the file folder with their baby options into her desk drawer. "Assuming you come home, that is."
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Jo's leather boots shifting on her carpet. "About that. I'm sorry. I should have come home. I shouldn't have run out like that."
"You're right," Blair snapped, no longer able to ignore her. "You shouldn't have."
Jo visibly winced, and the uncharacteristic reaction only saddened her.
Sighing, Blair lowered her eyes, suddenly afraid. "Do you think we took it too fast? Moving in together after only a few months?"
She glanced up, and discovered a haunted, conflicted expression. "It's been taking me some time to adjust," Jo admitted, coming forward cautiously.
Leaning back in her chair, Blair regarded her, determined to keep her features neutral as she asked a horrifying question. "Do you want to move out?"
Startled eyes met her own. "No," she heard, quick and desperate, and Blair closed her eyes, suddenly relieved as Jo came forward to lean against the desk beside her. "No, I don't. I love coming home to you, Blair. I love waking up next to you." Blair didn't respond. She could feel Jo's stare on her, but at the moment, she didn't know what she could say. What was the solution to their unspoken problem? "Blair I know in the course of this I've been a little selfish."
Jo? Admitting she could be selfish? That was a miracle in itself.
Blair looked up.
Jo clutched the side of her desk, shifting uncomfortably on her feet, staring at the floor. "It was too easy," she began hesitantly. "To fall back on our old way of doing things you know bitch. Fight. Make up. I didn't know how to focus on what had changed."
Jo sounded so unsure, and Blair's mouth twitched, in unexpected sympathy, remembering suddenly Joanne's words of wisdom.
"Well," she conceded, fingernail tapping against her leather arm rest. "Maybe I was trying to change too much, too soon."
"Blair, you were just trying to build a life with me."
"You didn't seem to want it," Blair reminded her.
"No " Jo shook her head. "I think it's just sometimes I have a hard time believing that."
Blair knew Jo and their fights well enough to understand the reason. "Because it's with me," Blair confirmed dryly, rolling her eyes at Jo's double standards.
"Yeah," Jo answered, and Blair felt the touch of her hand brushing against her arm, before Jo pulled back. "Because it's you. My best friend. You know I had to confront something today." Jo licked her lips, searching for a way to express what was going through her mind. "Blair, I never really believed in the power of our friendship because I couldn't," she added quickly, when Blair winced, looking away. "I was always sure that we were too different to make anything really last I was afraid to admit what you really meant to me and now "
Jo trailed off, and Blair desperately needed for her to finish this. "Now what?" she prompted, stuck in her seat.
Jo's eyes were red, as moist as Blair had ever seen them. Her friend looked years younger when she cried, and the few times Blair had seen tears, she had wanted to take her in her arms and somehow make them go away.
And now, she was frozen, unable to move, hanging on the intensity of Jo's confession.
Jo looked at her, simply looked, and then she looked away, wiping furiously at her tears. "Now " Jo managed. "Now, you're everything." Blair gasped, and Jo stared at her again, only a foot away, and still not touching her. "I need you, Blair." Jo's crystal eyes floated to the floor. "Yesterday, I walked in on a murdered baby. Just a kid, Blair too young to know right from wrong just an unlucky kid who had the dumb luck to have a murdering asshole step-father and a deadbeat Mom who couldn't keep it in her pants." Jo's voice was audibly breaking, and Blair's heart broke with it, at the look of intense pain on Jo's face. "I couldn't talk to you about it. I told myself I didn't want to talk to you about it. I wanted to handle it on my own and then because of our dumb fight, I did. And I realized that what I needed was to come back home to you, wrap my arms around you and just listen to you breathing. That's all I wanted " Jo sucked in a sob-soaked breath. "It's too late for me, Blair. I'm hooked. I gotta keep you and I'm terrified that now I'm gonna mess it up, just like my Dad with my mom-"
"Oh baby " She pushed up, off that damned chair, brown eyes brimming with tears, even as she took Jo's face in her hands and wiped at her eyes carefully with her thumbs. "We're not our parents, Jo. We've gotten into fights for stupid things and for real things and we always work them out because we always want to. I'm not going to leave you I wouldn't know how."
To know that Jo desperately needed her reassurance, to look upon a fearful face and watch as the words washed over Jo, as they sank in, to witness a beautiful smile flood onto the face of the woman she loved
Her heart skipped a beat.
Palms came up, grabbed hold of Blair's forearms, keeping her in place against her.
"Yeah?" Jo managed raggedly, eyes shining brightly at her.
Blair managed a trembling smile. "Besides," she added, as lightly as she dared. "If I was trying to piss you off, and I left you, what kind of punishment would that be?"
The statement registered, and suddenly Jo's trembling smiled widened. Eyes closed and Jo's forehead tilted against hers, hands smoothing over shoulders and around Blair's waist, until she was flush against her lover, leaning against her desk.
"So " Jo murmured against her cheek, hot breath tickling her ear. " You want a baby, huh?"
Blair hissed inwardly, before straightening her expression and leaning back, tenderly brushing the back of her hand alongside her lover's soft cheek.
"Yes," she answered firmly. "Eventually, I want us to have a baby." Jo looked at her through moist eyes. "But when you're ready. I can wait. We have a lifetime together."
With a shaky smile, Jo reached up, covered her hand with her own. "Well, maybe I'll be ready earlier than you think."
It was Jo attempting to be considerate. To be open minded. Jo's way of letting her know that what Blair wanted wasn't impossible.
Blair loved her for it.
Breathing raggedly, Jo pressed her mouth against Blair's shoulder, opening her mouth to taste the salty, sweaty skin. She could hear Blair panting against her, and Jo closed her eyes, overwhelmed, as she slowly moved her wet fingertips from between Blair's legs, to palm Blair's hip possessively, feeling the other woman tilt back into her.
"Oh, God," Blair sighed, eyes fluttering, and Jo was overwhelmed with feeling, when Blair's hand flailed back, to roughly grab hold of the back of Jo's neck and yank her head down to meet her lips.
There was a long, luxurious, wet kiss, before Blair, still weak and recovering from Jo's attentions, simply turned in her arms, licking her collarbone before pressing a kiss against it and curling an arm around Jo's shoulders.
Jo smiled, feeling primal and possessive, like she always did when she could smell Blair on her and could feel breasts pillowing against her own, the wetness of Blair's arousal brushing against her thigh as their legs tangled.
"I think we accidentally forced Joanne into having a baby," Blair said breathlessly, words formed against her neck. "Maureen wants her ex-boyfriend Mark to be the donor."
Boneless, Jo tried to make the words make sense. She had remembered Joanne mentioning something to that effect. "Joanne and Maureen are having a baby with Maureen's ex-boyfriend? That's so " she tried to find the appropriate response. "Lesbian."
Blair snorted, and Jo considered teasing her about the un-ladylike response, until her girlfriend moved out of her arms and fell back against her lush, down-filled pillows, naked and absolutely beautiful.
Rising up onto her elbow, Jo leaned over her, to smooth her fingers across Blair's torso, settling against her abdomen.
She imagined it growing imagined the feel of tiny feet kicking against her hand.
The thought brought her unexpectedly to tears.
She blinked them away. "I was thinking," she managed gruffly. "When we have our kids did you want to carry both of them?"
She didn't look to see Blair's reaction. "Pardon?"
"Well I'm just thinking," Jo began, scratching lovingly at the expanse of skin beneath her touch. " If you want to trade off or whatever." Pursing her lips, she mused, "I mean I remember your mom giving birth and having to go through that having to sit there and watch you go through that twice-"
A hand came down and covered her own, forcing it still. "Jo?" Blair was staring down at her, lovingly bemused. "Honey? One thing at a time."
Jo blinked, glanced down at the hand covering her own, inches away from Blair's heat.
"Yeah," she agreed, smiling wolfishly. "One thing at a time."
Biting lightly at Blair's knuckles, Jo grabbed hold of her hand and pulled it off her own, leaving her free to travel south, back into deliciously moist warmth.
She heard a sharp gasp, and Jo smiled, brushing her lips against Blair's pelvis as she manipulated her fingers.
Hips moved against her, driving her in deeper.
"Jo?" Blair's voice was thick, breathless.
"Hmm," she muttered, completely occupied.
"You realize I can't actually get pregnant this way."
Against Blair's hip, Jo's smile widened. "I know, Natalie explained it to me. See, when a man and woman love each other very much-"
"Shut up, Jo," came the fierce response, before forceful palms grabbed hold of her shoulders and pushed, guiding her to where Blair wanted her to go.
Despite Jo's propensity to disagree with Blair on every occasion, when it came to this, Jo had no complaints.
They'd worry about making that baby the real way later.
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