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: Written for Cabenson, in honor of her 40-something birthday. Request by Cabenson: An 'older' Jo/Blair fic. Special appearance by a character from the Charity Series fics. Thanks, as always, to the lovely Debbie for the beta. All errors made afterward are mine.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Life after Forty
By Ann


The door to the darkened bedroom slowly opened, allowing light from the hallway to spill a few feet into the room. Pausing in the doorway, the intruder squinted in an attempt to adjust to the stark change of light into darkness but quickly became frustrated when the proper adjustment was taking too long. A booted foot found its way to the base of the room's door and pushed it the rest of the way open, giving the light free reign as it swept its way further into the room, highlighting the rich carpet, the antique chest at the end of the bed, and then the bed itself as the down comforter and, finally, the headboard came into view. The newcomer didn't notice any of the items; she only had eyes for the body that lay beneath the cream-colored duvet.

Walking slowly toward the bed, Jo deposited a breakfast tray on the cedar chest that was centered at the end of the bed, her focus never straying from the unmoving lump on the left side of the king-sized bed. Tiptoeing around its edge, she stared down at the sleeping blonde, her very own sleeping beauty, her Princess.

The years had been very kind to her lover. Well, that and the hundreds and hundreds of spa and facial treatments. To Jo, Blair was just as beautiful today as she was the very first time she ever laid eyes on her. She couldn't understand why Blair was forever trying some new product or other as she truly believed that Blair's natural beauty and exercise routines were what maintained her lover's youthful look, not some magic elixir that had come from a bottle. But, if it made Blair happy to spend all that money and time on the latest fountain of youth drivel, then so be it. She just wished Blair would accept the fact that they were getting older and would simply allow herself to enjoy the life they shared to the fullest. Lately though, Blair seemed to be constantly worried about her looks.

As the forty year mark had crept closer and closer, Blair had become more and more obsessed with holding on to her youthful beauty and had even seriously considered plastic surgery, but thankfully, Natalie had a friend who was able to put together a computer morphing program that showed a rather graphic depiction of what Blair would look like once she'd gotten older if she'd had the procedure – granted it was a gross exaggeration, but Blair had taken one look at her 'plastic face' and had nixed the idea altogether.

Jo had hoped she could get her lover to understand that, just because they weren't the same twenty-something year olds who had set out together to make the world a better place, it wasn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Jo had no desire whatsoever to relive those days. She was perfectly happy with her lot in life and wished that Blair would feel the same way. But for now, Jo needed to figure out exactly how she should go about coaxing her lover from the bed.

"Blair," said Jo softly, flipping the lamp to its lowest setting and taking the edge of the comforter in her hand. When they'd gone to bed the night before, Blair had pulled the covers up to her neck and stated in no uncertain terms that she didn't plan to get out of bed for the next 48 hours. Jo had thought her lover was kidding, but when Blair had turned away from her without so much as a good night kiss, Jo knew she'd have her work cut out for her in the morning. Judging from the way Blair was currently burrowing deeper under the covers, she'd been right to worry.

"Sweetie, it's time to get up; Tootie and Natalie will be here soon." Jo cringed at her use of the pet name. She'd only used them through the years when she was on the verge of being relegated to the doghouse. Roscoe, their German shepherd, didn't like to share.

Blair pulled the covers tightly over her head and mumbled, "Go away, Jo; I told you I'm not getting up today. Come back tomorrow."

Jo tightened her grip on the duvet and readied herself for battle. In a little over eleven hours, a roomful of family and friends would congregate in the ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria to celebrate Blair Warner's fortieth birthday. Jo's only assignment had been to make certain she had Blair at the hotel by seven thirty that evening. She no longer believed she had the easy job.

"I made your favorite – chocolate chip pancakes."

The lump moved and a blonde head poked out from underneath the covers. "With butter-pecan syrup?"

Jo smiled; her plan was working. "Yes, and . . ." she purposely stalled before adding the pièce de résistance, "… French vanilla coffee."

The covers completely slipped away as Blair sat straight up in bed. "Well, I do need to eat even if I'm not leaving the comforts of my bed." She glanced around the room and finally spied the tray at the end of the bed. "Did you bring silverware?"

Jo released her hold of the comforter, grateful that she hadn't had to rip the duvet from the bed. A smile formed on her face as she moved to retrieve the tray. "Of course, I'm not the same Neanderthal you fell in love with."

"Barbarian," Blair corrected, pushing against the headboard as she straightened out her legs. She wanted to be in the perfect position when Jo placed the tray on her lap. She'd not have to break her promise to herself to stay in bed; she'd just have her breakfast and crawl back under the covers.

"I recall a time or two when you rather enjoyed my barbarian nature." Jo grinned smugly as she gently placed the tray in Blair's lap. With her hands still gripping the handles, she leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on her lover's lips. "Happy Birthday, Blair."

Blair grimaced slightly at the words but managed to paste a smile on her face despite the reminder of a day she wanted nothing more than to forget. Jo had gone out of her way to prepare her favorite breakfast; the least she could do was to offer some form of appreciation. Picking up the sterling silver fork, she attempted to push her foul mood to the background and try for a bit of civil conversation.

"I'm just glad that I'll only have to see Tootie and Natalie today. I don't think I could face a big party. I'm not in the mood to put on a happy face and pretend that I'm grateful for moving into a new decade." Placing a forkful of pancake into her mouth, she moaned her appreciation. "Oh, these are wonderful."

Jo watched Blair dig into the rest of her breakfast with gusto, but she wasn't able to glean any joy from seeing her lover enjoy the fruits of her labor. Instead, she was too busy trying to conjure up different ways to kill Tootie and Natalie for talking her into the insane idea of going along with a surprise birthday party for Blair.

"So, everything's set for tonight. Blair's mother has taken care of every little detail. Tootie and I have contacted most of our old school friends and Mrs. Garrett, too. Everyone has accepted. I can't wait. Blair's going to be so surprised." Natalie kept her voice low and an eye peeled on the stairway. She wasn't about to take the chance of Blair overhearing her talking about the party this close to the actual event.

"She's going to be surprised all right," Jo agreed, hoping that Roscoe wouldn't mind her bunking with him for the rest of the month. She looked out the French doors leading to the back yard and spied Roscoe's large dog house. Perhaps she should buy a couple of boxes of mint-flavored dog bones.

"Hey, where's Blair? We're going to be late for our lunch reservation." Tootie rounded the corner and stepped next to her friends. Neither she nor Natalie had seen Blair since they'd arrived. Jo had greeted them at the door and explained that Blair would be down shortly. That was an hour and a half ago.

Natalie's stomach roared right on cue, and she quickly put a hand across her midline. "Sorry, I didn't get a chance to eat any breakfast."

"No problem, Nat. Let me just go upstairs and see what's keeping Blair." Jo forced a smile and turned toward the stairs. Her thoughts of throwing her lover over her shoulder and carrying her downstairs came to a dead stop just as Jo did when she spied Blair at the top of the stairs. Her lover looked absolutely stunning.

"Hello Natalie, Tootie; sorry for making you wait." Blair positively glowed as she glided down the carpeted steps. Her outfit was simple but elegant, and there wasn't a single hair out of place. The Warner charm was turned on high and bore down on their two friends. "I took the liberty of calling the restaurant and explaining that we'd be a bit late." Blair failed to mention that she promised to pay the eating establishment handsomely for the inconvenience.

"No problem, Blair," said Tootie with a grin as she turned toward Natalie. "Well, except for the monster that tried to escape from Natalie's stomach."

"Hey!" Natalie took on an injured look, but she couldn't stop the smile from forming on her face as she gave her usual pat answer. "I resemble that remark!"

The group burst out in laughter and started for the door. It was just like old times.

Once they'd arrived at the restaurant, there wasn't a single trace of the bad mood Blair had been in for the past few months. She'd joined in the conversation, offering her own bit of gossip to add to Natalie and Tootie's latest fodder.

"Oh, I almost forgot," said Natalie, placing her fork down on her plate to give her full attention to her news. "I ran into Muffy Barrington this morning when Tootie and I were leaving the hotel. I swear that woman's hair gets blonder and blonder every time I see her."

"Muffy Barrington? I wonder what she's doing back in the city. Last I heard she was living in France." Blair frowned and stabbed a shrimp on her plate with a little more force than was necessary. Jo stared down at the grilled seafood that was pinned to her lover's plate and choked on her steak when the crustacean slowly morphed into Muffy's face. Surely Blair's mother hadn't invited the bane of Blair's existence for most of her lover's adult life.

"Jo? You okay?" Tootie patted her friend on the back. It seemed the reason for Muffy's sudden appearance hadn't yet sunk in for Natalie and Tootie.

Jo grabbed her glass of water and downed the contents. With a couple more coughs, she cleared her throat. "Yeah, sorry; guess my food went down the wrong pipe."

"You sure you're okay?" Blair slid her hand to Jo's thigh and squeezed, the tablecloth offering cover for her gesture.

"Yeah, Jo, your face is red as a beet," said Natalie, always the voice of stating the obvious.

"I'm okay, but I think I'll go throw some water on my face." Jo turned directly toward Natalie. "Care to join me, Nat?"

Shrugging, Natalie placed her napkin on the side of her plate. "Sure." Pushing to her feet, she addressed the other two women. "No talking about the good stuff until I get back."

"Deal, Nat," promised Tootie. "We'll just talk about you." Blair removed her hand from Jo's thigh and chuckled.

"Ha-ha, Tootie. Just for that, Jo and I will return the favor." Grinning widely, Natalie turned toward the restroom with Jo following closely behind, Jo's worries about Muffy not allowing her to enjoy the playful banter of her friends.

Once inside the restroom, Jo quickly searched each stall to ensure that they were alone as Natalie stood by with a confused look on her face, but she didn't have to wait long to discover the reason for Jo's careful inspection of the room.

"Muffy Barrington is here? In the city?"

"Isn't that what I just said?" Natalie's confusion doubled.

"Nat, don't you get it? Muffy just happens to be a guest of the Waldorf-Astoria on the exact same weekend of Blair's fortieth surprise birthday party?"

Natalie's jaw went slack, the proverbial two-by-four smacking her upside the head. "Oh shit! I didn't even think about that." She began to run her hand through her hair. "How did I miss that?"

"It doesn't matter now; what's important is what are we going to do?" Jo moved to the sink and turned back toward her friend, leaning her weight against the counter. "Damn it, Blair's mother must've asked Muffy's mother to the party."

"Crap, Jo," Natalie began, suddenly remembering another tidbit she hadn't told her friend. "Mrs. Warner has arranged for an area to be set up in the center of the banquet room where individuals can 'toast' Blair, so to speak. There's a mic and decorated dais available for anyone who wants to speak."

"Toast? More like roast if Muffy gets hold of the mic." Jo buried her face in her hands. "I'm going to be sleeping with Roscoe for the next ten years."

Natalie began to slowly pace back and forth across the tiled floor, her mind racing as she tried to come up with ideas to stop Muffy from ruining Blair's party. Her feet suddenly came to an abrupt stop as an evil grin crossed her face.

"I've got a wonderful idea."

"God, I'm tired," said Blair as she shuffled into the house and plopped down on the couch. Laying her head back against the sofa, she closed her eyes. "I'm glad Natalie and Tootie have something else planned for tonight. I'm really not in the mood to entertain."

Jo worried at her lip and spared a glance at her watch. There were still five and a half hours to go before the party, and she was just going to have to trust Natalie to take care of Operation Muffy. Her job was to stay by Blair's side in case something went wrong.

"Why don't you go upstairs and take a nap?"

Without opening her eyes, Blair used one foot to push off her shoe and then followed suit with her other foot. Leaning to the left, she slowly stretched out on the couch. "How about I just take a nap right here? The bed's too far."

Before Jo could offer up a reply, a soft snore came from the couch. She tiptoed over and removed the afghan from a nearby chair and gently laid it over her lover. Pushing a blonde hair away from Blair's face, she whispered, "Just remember I love you."

At precisely seven-thirty sharp, a very tired Jo escorted a radiant Blair through the doors of the Waldorf-Astoria. When Blair had awakened from her short nap, she'd immediately gone in search of Jo with a definite purpose in mind. It seemed that the blonde had suddenly remembered something she'd read online. Someone had requested a fanfic which involved 100 orgasms in 72 hours, and Blair was hell-bent on putting the numbers to the test. Two and a half hours later, they'd proved it was indeed a mathematical possibility, and they wouldn't even need 72 hours to do it. So, the only problem with the theory was stamina.

Afterwards, Jo had almost fallen asleep standing up in the shower, but she'd come wide awake when she'd stepped onto the bathroom rug to dry off and had caught sight of what she'd thought was a Gargoyle staring back at her in the steamy mirror. She'd quickly crossed the distance and wiped the abomination away, her heart slowing with the realization that it wasn't real but just a figment of her tired imagination. Chuckling, she blew out a relieved breath and mindlessly reached for the hair dryer as her thoughts shifted to the very enjoyable afternoon she'd shared with her lover. At least she'd managed to talk Blair into going out to dinner with a hint of checking into the hotel after they'd eaten.

Steering Blair toward the banquet rooms, Jo smiled and said, "The private dining areas are this way." Blair increased her hold on Jo's arm and blindly followed. Jo swallowed hard and reached for the door, hoping that their earlier sex-a-thon would sustain her until Blair finally allowed her back into the bedroom.

"Surprise!!!" The thundering shout from the partygoers almost sent Blair running from the room, but she masked her shock and squeezed Jo's arm tightly, very tightly – vise-grip tight. No one heard her whispered words.

"You are so dead." Pushing away from Jo, Blair pasted on a huge smile and walked into her mother's arms. Jo and Roscoe were going to be roommates for quite awhile.

Waltzing her way into the center of the room, Blair began to greet her guests as a slideshow of her life played on the left wall screen, only managing to speak to half the partygoers by the time dinner was served. Taking a seat at the head table, Blair sat with Jo on her left and her mother on her right. Natalie and Tootie sat on the other side of Jo, both women on the lookout for Muffy, while Jo kept her focus on the dais that was in the center of the room, directly in her line of sight. She hardly touched her food.

The meal had long been consumed by the time someone finally made use of the mic. All the guests were complimentary toward the birthday girl, regaling the crowd with entertaining and fun stories, and Mrs. Garrett proved to be the most popular speaker of all, gaining everyone's attention with her stories of the girls' antics through the years. Blair was ever so grateful that Mrs. Garrett had kept the more embarrassing moments to herself.

Just as Jo thought they were home free, a familiar voice filtered through the speakers, and she swung her head around toward the dais to confirm her fears. There stood the infamous Muffy Barrington.

"Blair, Blair, Blair. How is life at forty?" The peroxide blonde sighed sadly in the mic. "It really is true what they say. Looks are the first to go. Well, except for the lucky ones like me."

Natalie narrowed her eyes and slipped away from the main table, her strides increasing with each step as Jo leaned over and whispered in her lover's ear. "Lucky my ass; she's had enough plastic surgery to make a whole new person." Sitting back in her seat, Jo placed a hand on her lover's knee, offering silent support as she waited for Muffy to dig her own coffin.

"Wrinkles are truly *not* a girl's best friend, are they, Blair?" Muffy was so focused on the guest of honor, she never noticed the slideshow of Blair's life come to a halt, replaced by a photo of Muffy from the Charity Tennis Tournament years ago. "I'd hate to think what changes you'll have to endure by age fifty." The photo began to slowly morph into an older Muffy as, one by one, the guests' attentions were drawn to the screen.

"It's really a shame . . ." Muffy started but paused when a round of chuckles began to work their way around the room. She glanced at the head table and was surprised to see the bright smile Blair wore. Something was wrong – Blair should be close to tears.

"Hey Muffy, you better quit while you're behind," someone shouted across the room, laughter following in the wake of the comment. Muffy's brow furrowed in confusion; she was still clueless as to how she could have possibly lost control of the situation.

"Now I know why they call it *plastic* surgery." Natalie spoke very softly as she stepped next to Muffy, hip-checking her out of the way. "Go back to France, Muffy. You're not welcome here."

Turning to give Natalie a piece of her mind, Muffy finally spotted her image on the far wall. The morphing process was complete for everyone to see. The faces of Priscilla Presley, Joan Rivers, and Farrah Fawcett looked completely normal, even if the three were somehow morphed together, when compared to a plastic-faced Muffy. Without another word, Muffy fled the room.

Natalie smiled brightly as she stepped up to the mic. "Okay, who wants cake?"

Stepping into the house, Jo stifled a yawn. After Muffy's abrupt exit, the party had come to life. The group had sung an off-key version of Happy Birthday and had then moved to the room next door where a live band was set up and a large area had been cordoned off for dancing. Blair had danced practically every dance and had the time of her life. Jo had smiled as she'd watched her lover laugh the entire time. Maybe Roscoe wouldn't have to share his space after all.

"What a night." Jo pushed the door closed and flipped the deadbolt. A body pressed tightly against hers as two hands snaked their way under her shirt.

"I should kill you, you know," Blair whispered, her breath hot against Jo's ear causing her to shiver.

"Blair, I . . . oh, God . . ." Jo's words of apology turned to a pleasurable moan when Blair's lips applied pressure to the soft skin of her shoulder just below her neck.

"But, instead, I think that maybe we should continue our earlier tests." Her lips released their hold and slowly moved upward, peppering Jo's neck with light kisses.

Jo seemed to catch her second wind as she turned in Blair's arms. "We should do just that." Working her hands underneath her lover's silk blouse, she made quick work of the clasps of Blair's bra, easing her hands toward their reward.

"So, what are you doing for the next 72 hours?" asked Blair in a teasing tone as she pushed against Jo's palms.

"Going for a record." Jo swooped her head down and latched on to Blair's lips. If Blair intended to kill her with sex, at least she'd go out with a smile on her face.

Life after forty was looking better and better.

The End

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