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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Della Street
Flipping through pages of a Vogue that she had probably already read, Blair glanced up when Jo's name was called. Reacting quickly, she grabbed Jo's wrist.
"What?" Jo asked.
Blair tugged Jo closer to her. "You are not having your hair cut by that woman," she whispered.
Jo smiled awkwardly at the hairstylist-in-training as she tried to free her arm from Blair's grip. At three dollars, the price at this place was just right for a social worker-in-training. "What are you talking about?" she asked.
"She has a tattoo!" Blair hissed.
"You are not having your hair done by someone with a tattoo."
"Her hair looks good," Jo pointed out.
Blair's fingers tightened. "We're leaving," she insisted. "Mario will work you in. He adores me."
"Mario's? I can't afford that," Jo said. "Not on what you pay me."
Blair dragged her toward the door. "Consider it a bonus."
Five hours later, sporting her new shoulder-length Mario's special which, Jo had to admit, did look terrific, she dropped her bag on the floor beside the foldout bed that she and Blair would occupy tonight. She smiled, thinking back to her first time here, when a scheduling mixup had them competing for floor space with a herd of ex-fraternity brats, one of whom had been ready to dump his fiancé for Blair Warner the moment he laid eyes on her. Initially, Jo hadn't believed it. "You're good, but not that good," she had scoffed. Wrong. She was that good.
Blair, meanwhile, was not smiling. "Why isn't this renovation finished?" she said with a frown. "They haven't even started the walk-in closet."
"It's a cabin, Blair," Jo pointed out. "Granted, a cabin bigger than our entire house, but rustic is sort of the idea."
Gamely, Blair replied, "You're right, I guess. We'll just have to make do."
Meaning that the other three roommates would have to make do. While Blair filled up the small closet off the main room, Jo, Nat, and Tootie would pull clothes out of their suitcases all weekend. That was all right with Jo. If this was to be their last trip together, in some weird way she wanted things to be the same as they had for the past eight years, even if it meant spoiling the princess for a weekend.
As Jo made herself comfortable on the sofa, the royal personage wandered into the kitchen. "We're starting late," she called over, inspecting the contents of various cabinets. "We won't have much time to make treats before they get here."
"You're gonna cook?"
"It's the last time we'll all be together as free women," Blair replied. "We wanted it to be memorable."
And it would be if Blair cooked.
Jo thought about her friend's words. Together for the last time. After all these years, they were finally going their separate ways. Six days from now, Blair would be the maid of honor at the wedding of Joanna Marie Polniaczek and Rick Bonner. At some point in the future, Jo would do the same for Blair Warner and Casey Clark.
After more random clanging, Blair announced, "I'm making my famous Warner oatmeal cookies."
"Okay; I'll know what to tell 911," Jo replied.
Blair, married. Jo's best friend and confidant for her entire adult life, soon to move on and become someone else's best friend and confidant. No matter how many times Jo ran that reality through her head, she still hadn't quite adjusted to it yet. But what had she expected? That she could be married and still have Blair around all the time? That the three of them four, once Blair walked down the aisle herself could all live together happily ever after? That they could still have breakfast together, and snipe at each other in the bathroom, and
"Will you get the baking soda?"
As in the baking soda that would be right in front of Blair's face if she just looked up about six inches? Jo didn't say it. Tootie or Nat she might rib, but Blair . . . whatever. That didn't mean that she couldn't have a little fun, though. Stepping up behind the blonde, she reached up and over her for the box, trapping Blair between her body and the kitchen counter.
Blair gave a little squeak of surprise. Over her shoulder, she complained, "Must you?"
"I must." Jo came down from her tiptoes, allowing just enough room for Blair to turn around, and held up the baking soda for inspection. "Anything else, Your Highness?" she asked. She set the container on the granite counter top to await further instructions, the first of which she assumed would be,"Please remove your person from my person."
Instead, Blair held her gaze for a moment, and then slipped her arms around Jo's neck. "Oh, Jo," she sighed. "I am really going to miss you." She lay her head on Jo's collarbone.
Aw, hell. The last thing Jo wanted on this trip was mush. Now Jo would have to admit that she was going to miss Blair, too. "Guess it won't really be the same, will it?" she replied. "I can't imagine . . . ."
Couldn't imagine living without Blair. At least they would both be living in Peekskill, at least until Blair talked Casey into moving to the city, but . . . not waking up with her, not seeing her when she got home from work? In some weird way, the insults and the little sniping grounded Jo. Comforted her.
"Oh, Jo . . . ," Blair said again. She tightened her embrace. Suddenly, she raised her head and pressed her lips against Jo's. When the brief contact ended, the women blinked at each other in surprise.
Holy hell. Instinctively, Jo circled Blair's waist with her arms and leaned in for another kiss. It soon deepened, little noises of pleasure coming from Blair until she turned her face away. "What are we doing?" she said.
"Making out," Jo replied, eager to continue.
"Don't be silly." Blair tried to turn away, but was still effectively trapped. "It was just a goodbye kiss."
"Blair . . . ."
"We've been friends for eight years, or whatever you call it," Blair went on. "Of course we're going to be emotional."
Call it emotion, call it whatever she liked, Jo didn't care. All she knew was that her whole body was thrumming and desperate for more. She claimed Blair's lips again, pressing their bodies together, groaning as she felt Blair's hands caress her back. "And turned on," she gasped when they parted again.
"Don't be ridiculous." When Jo did not reply, Blair added, "I mean it, Jo. I don't know what that was, but I don't want any more of it."
Jo, on the other hand, knew exactly what it was. In fact, many things had suddenly become quite clear to her. "What that was," she said, "was eight years of wanting to do things to each other finally coming to a head."
At a loss for words, Blair exclaimed again, "Don't be ridiculous!" She closed her eyes as Jo's lips moved to the sensitive skin of her neck. "Ohh . . .," she moaned.
"I think we've established that I'm not being ridiculous," Jo said. "Think about it, Blair. I end up with a classy blonde. You end up with a loud-mouth brunette. Why do you think that is?" She slid her right hand up Blair's side to just below her breast.
Had she been a guy, Blair would probably have slapped her by now. Jo had witnessed it at a few fraternity parties when guys copped a feel, and had even done the job herself on occasion, when Blair was too outraged or shocked to react to an affront.
She eased her hand up a little higher, until her thumb was touching the underside of Blair's breast. "You telling me you've never thought about it?" she asked. It was a bluff. Jo herself hadn't really thought about it, other than the occasional dream where she and Blair petted a little. At the time, Jo had written those off as a byproduct of spending too much time together.
"I'm telling you that there is no point in continuing this discussion," Blair said. With both hands, she shoved Jo backward and strode haughtily out of the kitchen.
Jo had never been very good at listening to alarm bells in her brain, not when her gut was telling her to go for it. She followed her friend into the living room. "Let's do it," she blurted. "One time."
Blair was genuinely shocked, Jo could tell. And scared. "You're insane!" she replied.
"Tootie and Nat won't be here for hours," Jo went on. "Come on, Blair. You and me, one time. Get it out of our systems."
"It's not in my system." Blair spun around and began examining the floral arrangement on the center table.
Jo slipped an arm around her waist. She didn't want to go too far, but she couldn't help pressing lightly against Blair's back. "Turn around," she said quietly.
For a moment, she thought Blair was going to refuse. If she did, Jo would drop it and switch to urgently needed damage control. Eventually, Blair turned around, but instead of telling Jo off as expected, she gazed silently at her.
If there was one thing other than automobiles on which Jo Polniaczek was an expert, it was reading her long-time roommate. Blair wanted her to take charge, to take the decision out of her hands. "I'm gonna kiss you again," Jo announced. This time, Blair's resistance melted instantly, and Jo felt fingers curl around her back of her neck as they kissed. She reached for the top button on Blair's blouse.
Blair drew back. "What are you doing?" she asked.
"We're going to make love one time," Jo said. "And we'll remember it the rest of our lives."
"You know I don't believe in that outside of marriage," Blair reminded her. "It's not right."
Jo caressed her hair. "You're the best friend I've ever had, Blair," she said. "I love you."
"It's not right," Blair said.
"Yes, it is." Jo leaned in for another kiss, then let her lips wander down Blair's neck again, having noticed how much Blair liked that. Blair tossed back her head, exposing her throat to Jo's exploration.
The last button came loose, and the blouse fell open. Boldly, Jo nudged Blair's collar aside with her nose, kissing Blair's collar bone. Her mouth blazed a path across Blair's chest, then down to the valley between her breasts. The blouse fell to the floor, and Jo pressed her lips lightly against the silk of Blair's bra, enjoying the response it elicited.
Jo had never been this excited. There was so much ground to cover, and Jo wanted to cover every inch of it. She brought her hands up to caress Blair's breasts. "Oh, God," she uttered. She snaked her hands around to the clasp of Blair's bra.
We're really going to do this.
The unmistakable racket that was Natalie's junker sputtering to a halt in the driveway jolted them from their erotic haze.
"Shit!" Jo exclaimed.
Blair reached down to grab her blouse and then headed for the kitchen, struggling to rebutton her blouse as she ran.
Jo, meanwhile, dropped onto the arm of the couch and raised a casual hand to the new arrivals. "You're early," she greeted them with the best smile she could muster.
"No, you don't," Blair called as Tootie and Natalie started toward the back bedroom. "I'm pulling rank on the east room."
Tootie was understandably confused. "But you guys always sleep out here," she said.
"The east bedroom has new window treatments and king-size bed," Blair said. "It's more suitable. But I am willing to share." After a moment, she added, "With you."
Tootie smiled happily before trotting off to unload her bag in the back bedroom. "Big bed, here I come," she exclaimed.
Natalie looked at Jo, who merely shrugged. "Guess we're the odd girls out," Nat said. "Can I crash out here?"
"Are you kiddin'?" Jo tried to seem pleased. "Anything's an upgrade from Blair."
Instead of trying to squeeze in some slope time that evening, they decided to get up early and make a full day of it tomorrow. Or rather, Tootie and Natalie decided, while the other two nodded or shrugged at appropriate moments.
Finally, Tootie slammed the takeout box down on the table. "Okay, what's going on with you two?" she demanded.
Blair and Jo looked at her.
"I think what Tootie means is that you're boring," Natalie said.
"You didn't pair up on Pictionary or Taboo," Tootie continued. "It's always Jo and Blair versus Natalie and Tootie."
"It's always Jo and Blair smoking Natalie and Tootie," Jo said, not answering the question.
Natalie nodded. "True," she acknowledged. With a puzzled expression, she added, "And why is that?"
Because they knew each other too damn well, Jo wouldn't say. The two had nothing in common, but they could read each other's thoughts with a glance.
"Maybe we just wanted something new," Jo said.
Tootie studied the two of them. "I think you had a fight before we got here," she said. Perceptive brat. "Am I right?"
"No, we did not have a fight," Jo said, with a meaningful look at Blair. It might have been a mistake, but it was not a fight. Unfortunately, their snoopy friend wouldn't let this go if she didn't come up with explanation, so Jo said, "I've just got a lot on my mind."
Tootie grinned at her. "I'll bet," she said slyly. "Jo getting married . . . ." She waggled her eyebrows. "I'll bet I know what you're thinking about . . . ."
"I'll bet you don't."
The next morning, Blair didn't appear to have gotten any more sleep than Jo had. As they shared the sink in the main bathroom, the silence finally got to her.
"So you're not speaking to me?" she asked.
"I'm speaking to you," Blair said. "I just don't want to discuss . . . ."
Jo waited, wondering what words she would choose to describe yesterday's events, but Blair let her sentence fade.
"Don't you think we should at least"
"No," Blair interrupted. She toweled her face dry. "There's nothing to discuss. Nothing happened." She left without another word.
Great; Blair didn't even want to be in the same room with her now. How long it would take her to get over this fiasco was anybody's guess. One thing about Blair, though, she would never let it interfere with her social obligations. No matter how uncomfortable she felt, she would be prepared to stand beside Jo at her wedding and smile and hug her as if nothing had changed.
It had, though, and Jo was planning to skip the slopes this morning while she sorted it out in her mind. She had been awake all night thinking about her life.
When the phone ran, Tootie answered it. A smile came across her face and, with a hand across the speaker, she informed Jo in a singsong voice, "It's lover boy . . . ."
Jo stared at the phone for a moment, making a decision before reaching for it. "Hi," she said awkwardly. This was going to be hard. She listened to his affectionate greeting, and then replied, "Uh, yeah. Listen, Rick, we need to talk."
From her seat at the dining room table, Blair's head shot up.
"Just a sec," Jo said. She handed the receiver to Tootie. "I'm goin' to the back room. Hang up for me, will ya?"
Alarmed, Blair said, "What are you doing?"
Jo did not answer.
Blair hurried over to the couch. "If you're thinking about doing anything stupid, don't," she said.
Shoving the phone under her thigh, Tootie asked, "What's going on?"
"There's something I gotta do," Jo replied.
"No," Blair said, "there isn't."
"Yeah, there is."
"You're being ridiculous."
"We've been over that," Jo reminded her.
Blair reached under Tootie's leg and grabbed the receiver. "Rick?" she said. "Jo will call you right back. She's just a little grouchy this morning." She hung up the phone. "You are not doing this," she informed Jo.
"How do you know what I'm gonna do?"
"It's . . . ." She glanced at the other girls. "Don't drag me into this."
"This has nothing to do with you," Jo said. That wasn't entirely true. It was only because of Blair that the bigger picture had become clear to her.
She stood up, mentally preparing herself to make the most difficult phone call of her life, but Blair grabbed her arm. "Jo, don't do anything rash. At least wait until you get back."
The wedding was in five days. There were people to contact, contracts to cancel. "I can't," Jo said.
"Okay, what's going on?" Natalie demanded.
"Jo is getting cold feet," Blair said.
"What?" Tootie and Nat exclaimed.
"Actually, Jo is seeing the light," Jo replied. She gently pried Blair's fingers from her arm and walked to the back bedroom.
When she returned forty-five minutes later, the mood was somber.
"You didn't really call off the wedding, did you?" Tootie asked.
"What were you thinking?" Natalie joined in.
"I was thinking that it would be a mistake," Jo replied honestly.
"You said Rick was perfect," Tootie said. "What happened?"
Jo shrugged. "He's perfect for someone else. Not me." She glanced over at Blair, who was refusing to acknowledge her. "It just took me a while to figure it out."
"Memorable weekend, all right," Natalie muttered.
The phone rang a moment later, and Tootie again answered it. "Blair," she called, "it's Casey."
Of course Rick would have called his best man.
"Give it to Jo," Blair said. "He's going to want an explanation that I can't give him."
"Yeah, you can," Jo replied.
Blair strode across the room until she was nose to nose with the brunette. "No, I can't," she said. "I don't know what's running through that crazy head of yours. It's ridiculous, and it's inconsiderate, and it has nothing to do with me."
Jo laid a hand on her shoulder.
"I resent it."
Jo placed her other hand on Blair's waist.
"You're selfish," Blair continued. "Not caring how many other lives you ruin."
Leaning in, Jo ended the monolog with a kiss.
Tootie and Nat gaped at them.
Blair's arms went around her neck as she lay her head on Jo's shoulder for a moment. Then she stepped back. "I hate you for this," she said. She started toward the east bedroom. When the others heard a sigh and then, "Casey, we need to talk," Jo took the phone from a stunned Tootie and dropped it in its cradle.
Bad timing, the sergeant informed Henager. His first day at the 1-5 happened to be the same day that the captain was heading out of town for a four-day weekend. Still, she would make time for a "Hi, how are ya," he predicted.
"Cap," the sergeant called over. "Newbie's here."
She was quite striking, Henager noted as he shook her hand. "Hi, how are ya," she said, greeting him with a firm grip. "Glad to have ya on board."
"Glad to be here," he said truthfully. This would be a good assignment for him.
"Dump your stuff over there," she said, pointing at an empty desk on the east side of the room. "I'll be with you in a sec."
He didn't have much stuff and there wasn't much else to do at the moment, so he was quick to notice when an elegant blonde in tailored blue jacket, skirt, and heels strode confidently into the precinct.
She stopped at the reception desk. "Hello," she greeted the woman seated there. "Is she here?"
Nodding, the clerk replied, "She's a little tied up right now."
From the captain's office, a loud exclamation emerged. "Like I give a shit!"
"So I hear," the blonde said. She dusted off the bench inside the front entrance and sat down. "I know the drill. I'll just 'park it until she's good and ready to be nagged.'"
The clerk grinned at her.
Henager studied their visitor. He knew the typeintimately. Community Representatives, bored socialites who got a thrill from getting their fingertips dirty once in a while by lecturing the police on how to do their job, something to tell their friends about over bridge.
And some things to not tell them. He knew how to handle CRs, all right, especially ones that looked like this.
The plan had already formed in his head by the time he stood in front of her. "Community rep?" he guessed. She seemed a little surprised at his directness, but rewarded him with an attractive smile.
"Why, yes," she said. "One of several."
He perched on the metal bar that separated the entrance from the work areas and gave her the irresistible Henager smile. "So, you must know the community well," he said. "I'd love to borrow your expertise some time for a little . . . orientation. It's my first day here." He leaned toward her. "Would a busy community rep have time to show a new detective around?" he asked. "Starting with the best Italian." He went in for the kill. "The perfect start to an evening, don't you think? A little linguine, a little wine . . . ."
She seemed amused. "Are you asking me to dinner, Detective?" she said. "How kind."
"For my own selfish reasons," he said.
Her attention shifted to something immediately over his shoulder. "Hello, Captain," the woman said. "Your new detective is quite charming. What a nice contrast."
He turned around to add his two cents, but his new boss was scowling at them both. Must be some history there, he figured. Well, no one ever liked the community reps. Their job was to complain, after all. The brunette jerked a thumb toward her office, ordering him, "Let's go." She started to add something, but the blonde held up a hand.
"I know. I'll just sit here and be quiet," she said sweetly.
"Don't make promises you can't keep."
Henager followed the boss into her office. It was different from his last captain's digs. Very different. Either she came from money, or IA needed to pop in for a chat. The room appeared to have been professionally decorated. In the corner was a fancy bit of sculpture, and on the wall was a Henager wasn't sure exactly what it was, but he had seen something like it in a museum once. Her phone wasn't standard NYPD issue, either, but rather some spider-shaped gadget with speaker and conference call buttons and who knew what other features. Beside it on the desk, Henager could see the back of an elaborate silver frame.
Another detective stuck his head in the doorway. "Cap, Millard's lawyer wants us to go to his office for the meeting next week."
"Tell him I don't give a fuck what he wants."
"This is me not giving a fuck," she said. She turned to Henager. "Sorry. I'm running late for something, so Lt. Oberman will get you started. I just wanted to go over a few ground rules."
True to her word, there were only a few. She believed in giving her detectives a lot of autonomy one thing that had appealed to him about this opening as long as they worked hard and tried to exercise good judgment. He liked her.
She glanced at her watch. "Shit," she muttered. "I'm gonna hear about this."
A chance to score some points with the boss . . . . "Listen, Cap, you want me to take that community rep off your hands?" he asked.
He nodded toward the squad room. "The milf on the bench."
"Milf?" she repeated.
"CRs love me," he said truthfully. "Most of 'em just need a little 'attention' they aren't getting at home, if you know what I mean. I'm halfway there with this one already."
She stared at him. "Let me get this straight," she said. "Are you offering to screw the woman out there for me?"
"Sure." He'd be happy to take this one for the team.
She grabbed the silver frame and flipped it around. "This woman?" Behind the glass was a very good likeness of the blonde standing on a bridge in a park somewhere, smiling happily at the photographer.
The captain yanked open her right hand drawer and pulled out a small album. She turned to the first page and held up another picture. This one featured both women, then teenagers, in red graduation robes with their arms around each other. "This one?" she said. She turned to another photo and held it out to him. In that one, she was sliding a ring onto the blonde's finger while a matronly redhead looked on.
"Uh, no," Henager improvised. "Not that one. I meant . . . the one in the parking lot. I thought she came in, but," he looked over his shoulder into the squad room, "no, I don't see her. It definitely wasn't this one." He gestured toward the album.
"Good," she said. She tapped the picture frame ominously. "Because this rep gets all the 'attention' she can handle."
He believed it.
"We clear on that?"
"Okay, then." She rose and clapped him on the shoulder. "Welcome to the 1-5. I've heard good things about you."
Outside, the blonde was still there, now surrounded by four other attentive but respectful detectives. Henager suspected they had all been introduced to the captain's album at one time or another.
"our cabin for a few days," the woman was saying. "It's where we first declared our love for each other."
Wryly, the captain said, "Actually, I believe you said that you hated me."
"Love, hate, there wasn't much difference with you," the woman replied. "And look at us now. Celebrating our twentieth anniversary."
"Kinda like celebratin' the anniversary of the Titanic."
"True." The woman rose. "Are you ready? I want to stop off and pick up my new camera."
Leering at her, the captain said, "Camera, huh? What are you gonna take pictures of?" She placed a hand on the side of the woman's hip.
"You, sleeping in your own bedroom," the blonde replied. Primly, she removed the hand. She tucked a hand through the captain's arm, and the couple walked out of the squad room together. From the window, Henager could see the captain stop and tug the other woman toward her. After a playful swat, the blonde let herself be drawn into a long, sensuous kiss that ended only when a limousine pulled up to the curb.
He was glad to see the boss stroll in right on time Monday morning. He wasn't in over his head on his first investigation, but he wouldn't mind a second opinion.
"Hey, Cap," the reception clerk called out as she walked by, "didja have a good time?"
"No, I was with Blair."
Like anyone bought that line, what with the contented 'I-just-got-seriously-laid' expression plastered across her face. Henager quickly got up to follow her into her office. When he reached her doorway, she was drawing a photograph from her purse. She stared at the image for a moment, then opened the drawer, pulled out the album, and slid the picture inside one of the slots. With one last look at it, she closed the album and pressed a palm against the leather cover.
Yeah, just like the Titanic.
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