DISCLAIMER: I don't own the characters, or I would own a 17in ibook instead of this windows machine. This is not for profit; please don't copy or post without asking. It involves two women in love, hence fitting in perfectly with my view of the universe; if it doesn't fit in with yours or if you are underage, please leave now. If you live where reading this is illegal, please move ASAP (Seattle has great coffee). Spoilers for multiple episodes from season 4 that are referenced in the diary, and then this story departs from canon shortly thereafter. Feedback is greatly appreciated; thanks to all who wrote encouraging words after my first story.
THANKS: to my permanent movie buddy Commasplice. Thank you for the beta read and the help with story ideas.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Princess' Diaries
By Raktajino


Chapter IV

Blair glanced down at her watch, let out a small sigh, and rubbed her eyes. 'The library is definitely no place to be on a beautiful Friday night like this,' she thought. The co-ed realized that she had highlighted almost every word in the last chapter, and yet she had no further understanding of the contents of single-celled organisms than she had when she started two hours earlier. Blair glanced around at the few other inhabitants of the back corner of the third floor of the library. Her fellow sufferers ranged from those who were sound asleep draped over their various assignments, to those tapping pencils fervently in time with their caffeine-enhanced heartbeats. She decided that further effort would be futile in her present state, and she closed her eyes as she leaned back in her hard wooden chair. As she sat trying to decide whether her need for sleep or her need for food would prevail, a whiff of grease-laden temptation drew her attention back to her surroundings. She opened her eyes and looked down to see to a white paper bag, its contents threatening to soak through onto the textbook beneath it.

Blair turned in her chair, but she didn't see anyone new; her fellow students didn't so much as glance in her direction. Blair unrolled the top of the bag and peered inside. She snuck a fry and almost moaned, her hunger suddenly hitting her full-force. She found a folded piece of notebook paper resting atop of the small mountain of foil-wrapped sandwiches. She unfolded the note and read the short message, smiling as she recognized the handwriting: "Meet me on the back lawn."

Blair quickly gathered her stuff and raced down the stairs, all traces of her earlier weariness having suddenly vanished. She exited through the front doors and followed the dimly lit sidewalk around to the back of the library, winding toward the benches. She furrowed her brow in confusion as she found them empty. The faint strains of music caught her attention, however, and she followed the sound.

As she came around the curve of the back of the library, she came upon the source of the music. There she found a blanket spread out on the ground, which was set with paper plates and napkins; bottled water and a little carton of milk were set off to the side of the blanket. In the middle, providing both ambience and additional lighting was a battery-powered lantern. Jo sat next to a small boom box, fiddling with the radio to enhance the reception of the college station.

"Hey," the brunette greeted her friend. "Thought we could use a little 'we survived our first two weeks of classes' celebration."

"You are absolutely right. How did you know where to find me?"

"I have my sources. Actually, I bribed the guy at the front desk of your dorm with apple-pie-in-a-box."

"Hmm… very resourceful. And very nice of you to give up your dessert."

"Hey, who said I gave him mine? That was definitely yours. I always go for the mini-cookies with the chocolate chips," countered Jo as she helped Blair arrange the contents of the white bag onto the plates. "They go better with the little cartons of milk."

The duo dove into the small feast, polishing off the grease-fest in short order as they chatted companionably. They sympathized with each other about the hardships of the new school year. The two friends compared horror-stories about fiascos ranging from Jo walking into the guys' locker room at the gym by mistake, to Blair sitting through 15 minutes of a class before she realized it was the wrong one and had to sneak out from a middle seat. They shared the small box of cookies as Jo opened up the top of the milk to facilitate dunking. Without thinking, Blair reached up and wiped a drip of milk from Jo's chin before it could fall. Blair quickly looked down as Jo lost her train of thought entirely, warmth spreading up her face from where her beautiful blonde companion had touched it. In the awkward silence, Jo quickly twisted away from Blair to hide her blush, intending to focus on fine-tuning the radio station once again. Upon turning, she winced and drew in a rapid intake of breath which did not escape the notice of her friend.

"Jo, what's wrong?"

"Hmm… oh, nothing."

"It didn't sound like nothing. It sounded like you hurt something. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." She turned to meet the now concerned brown eyes. "I, um…I just…." Jo sighed. "I just went a little overboard at the gym this week. I was really going nuts and I'm not used to having so many machines to use to work out my stress. I think I pulled my back a little."

"Well I think I can help that. Here, lie down."

"What?" Jo squeaked, momentarily sounding like a young teenage boy whose voice was changing.

"Trust me. I used to practice massages on my friend Beth. She was the top tennis player in our country club, but she had a trick back so she taught me how to work out the kinks that she couldn't reach."

Jo looked skeptical, but complied with her friend's wishes as she lay down on her stomach on the outstretched blanket. Her nervousness quickly melted into bliss as her friend's hands worked wonders with Jo's tight back muscles. Jo relaxed as Blair's skilled fingers kneaded away the stress of the last few days.

Blair, for her part, was thrilled with Jo's response. She hadn't anticipated that her friend would let her try this in the first place, and she certainly hadn't expected Jo to relax enough to really let Blair's efforts have an effect. Blair focused on each individual muscle in the strong back until it became more pliable under her hands. Blair smiled as the knots dissolved in the over-stressed tissues. She moved from kneeling at Jo's side to straddling Jo's lower back so as to be able to apply more symmetrical pressure to each side of the spine. Blair alternated firm and light pressure, following long, deep strokes with light caresses, her hands now roaming freely across the expanse of Jo's broad shoulders.

Blair was so focused on her ministrations that she did not notice her friend's breathing go from deep and methodical to increasingly rapid, and a bit ragged. Suddenly, Jo's entire back tensed and Blair was tossed back onto the ground as Jo rolled over and practically jumped to standing in a single motion.

"You know what? I have to go. I forgot that I am late for a… thing."

Blair looked down at her watch, then back up at her flustered friend. "At ten o'clock on a Friday night? Where do you have to go?"

"Ummm, I just have to go. I'm sorry Blair; I totally forgot. Listen, I'll call you soon and we'll get together, okay?" Before Blair could answer, the brunette scooped everything into her backpack and practically ran down the path in the direction of her dorm.

Blair looked after her fleeing friend, as she replayed the highlights of the last few minutes in her mind. A smile broke out across her beautiful face as she considered her friend's reaction. 'Hmmm… I may not be the only one with certain dreams after all.' She hummed a soft, happy tune as she switched off Jo's boom box and tucked the blanket under her arm for transport back to her own dorm for safekeeping.

"One month into the school year, and I am 3 months behind in all my classes. How is this possible?" Jo wondered aloud as she sifted through her pack, looking for her English notebook.

"I'm sure you can't be more behind than I am," said a voice from behind her. Jo smiled without turning around as she listened to her longtime friend slide into the seat next to her. "Even worse, I keep having this recurring dream that I am behind in classes that I don't even know that I am enrolled in."

Jo chuckled. "I hear that's common. I'm still stuck with the dream that I didn't really graduate from high school because I failed a class for showing up with no clothes on."

"Wish I was there that day," Blair murmured to herself. Jo was about to ask her what she said when the teacher called the class to order.

"Okay, class. We have a busy day today, so let's get started. Today we will be starting a new unit: creative writing, short story form. Do we have a volunteer to read aloud?"

Blair raised her hand. Jo rolled her eyes.

"Ms. Warner, excellent. Could you turn to page 33 and begin reading, please."

Blair thumbed through her small text and looked up, somewhat perplexed. "Umm… I don't seem to have that page in my edition."

Jo glanced at Blair's book and scooted her chair closer to that of her friend. "Weird. Here, I have that page. You can share mine." She handed her book to the blonde and peered over her shoulder as Blair cleared her throat to read.

"The Princess's Diaries, by Natalie Green." Blair looked up at her professor. "Is this essay by Natalie Green from Eastland?"

Professor Dixon looked surprised. "Why, yes, actually. She was in my summer writing course, and this story was selected for publication because it was a bold and refreshing selection. Do you know her?"

"She's a good friend. We used to be roommates. Actually, we both used to be her roommates," answered Blair, indicating her brunette classmate. Jo looked up with a small smile and quickly bent her head down further towards the desk, attempting to sink further into her chair.

Professor Dixon looked at Blair, then at Jo with a pensive look on her face. "Hmm, interesting… okay, well, Ms. Warner, if you would continue."

Blair cleared her throat. "The Princess's Diaries. The blonde princess examined her reflection, flipping her hair as she smiled approvingly into the mirror. She examined her powder blue ball gown one last time as she prepared to descend down the staircase to the awaiting throng. She swept out of her room and onto the top of the stairs. As she descended, all eyes in the room turned towards her. But Buffy had eyes for only one person, and the multitudes seemed to melt away as she focused on her beloved on the other side of the room. Her suitor was dressed in a pressed white shirt and black silk pants. When Buffy's brown eyes met her beloved's blue gaze…"

Blair's throat suddenly went dry. She stopped reading aloud and skimmed down the page, flipping rapidly through the story as she sped-read through the salient points. The professor looked up at her with an understanding gaze and began to speak, "Ms. Warner…."

"I AM GOING TO KILL HER," yelled Blair. Jo just stared at her friend as Blair leapt up from her chair and ran out of the room. Professor Dixon just stared at the now-open door for a moment, then cleared her throat and asked for another volunteer. When no one responded, the teacher intervened, "Ms. Stevens, would you please continue?" Her student complied as Jo still sat staring at Blair's now vacant seat. Caught between her curiosity regarding what Blair was running toward and what she was running away from, Jo decided to stay and finish the class. She followed along as Jodi Stevens read Natalie's story aloud.


Chapter V

Jo sat in her seat, barely noticing that she was the last student left in the room. She stared down at the pages of the text, not comprehending the words on the page. She jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"Are you okay?"

Jo looked up into concerned, kind green eyes. "Umm, yeah, thanks. I'm sorry, Professor Dixon, do you have another class in here now? I should leave." Jo rose and began to gather Blair's discarded items.

"No, I am done for the day. Just some papers to grade, same as every day. Anything you need to talk about?"

"Yes. No. I don't know. I wish I knew. I need to go. Thanks."

"Sure. If you need to talk, you know where to find me."

Jo gave her professor a half-smile, shoved Blair's belongings into her own pack, and headed out the door to find her blonde friend.

Jo parked her bike and made her way up to the back door of Edna's Edibles. She was about to knock when she heard yelling coming from inside, and she realized that her lack of manners would scarcely be noticed in the midst of the drama unfolding within. Jo opened the door and peered inside. Seeing no one, she followed the commotion.

Blair was standing at the top of the stairs, alternately yelling and pounding on the door leading to Tootie and Nat's room. Jo peered up from the bottom of the stairs, completely unnoticed by the enraged blonde.

"Natalie Green. You get out here right now."

"No way. Not until you give me a chance to explain."

"You can explain all you want. After I kill you. Now open this door."

"Blair, you don't understand. She wasn't supposed to publish that one. She was supposed to publish my journalism article. I don't know what happened."

"So she ended up accidentally printing my diary instead of your article? Do you want to explain exactly how that happened?" Blair pounded on the door.

"No." Natalie said.

"So that really was your diary?" Jo asked from the bottom of the stairs. Blair turned and stared at her friend, her mouth working without the emission of sound.

"Umm… no." offered Blair.

"Pretty much," chimed in Natalie from the bedroom. Blair attempted to burn holes through the door with her heat vision, then dropped her gaze to the floor as she realized that Jo was still looking at her.

Jo ignored the soon-to-be-deceased journalist and focused on Blair. "Hey, you want to talk? She'll come out of there eventually when she gets hungry enough. I think maybe you and I have something to talk about."

Blair slowly descended the stairs, her steps tentative and her eyes downcast. She was visibly trembling by the time she reached the ground floor.

"So, what are you doing here, Jo?"

The brunette held up a designer leather backpack with a monogrammed BW on the pocket. "You ran out of there so fast, you left your stuff. Thought you might need it."

"Thanks." Blair's gaze did not leave her friend's shoelaces. "Was Professor Dixon mad?"

"Nah. In fact, she didn't say anything about it at all. She just kept the class going; that red-haired girl finished reading Nat's story after you left. I kinda liked it."

"Well, you know, our little budding writer. Boy, what an imagination, huh? I don't know where she comes up with these things. I don't know what she could have found in my diary that could have inspired her to come up with that. Maybe…um…I think I wrote about a movie I saw once…."

Jo cut her off and brought her hand up to Blair's shoulder. "Hey, Blair… it's okay. Really."

"No, it's not. I really didn't want you to find out this way."

"About how you feel?" Jo paused, then decided to take a chance. "How you feel… about me?"

Blair nodded wordlessly, tears starting to form in her eyes.

Jo spoke softly. "Well, maybe we just needed a little help. I guess you didn't know how to tell me, and I sure as hell didn't know how to tell you."

Blair now looked directly into Jo's blue eyes. "Tell me what?… You mean….?"

"You going to make me spell it out, huh, princess?" Jo managed a faint, nervous smile.

"Yes. Absolutely. What were you going to say?" asked the blonde, her gaze still not meeting that of her friend.

"I love you, Blair. I've always loved you."

Blair looked up at her, stunned. She half-expected to see some measure of humor in the blue eyes, but there was only sincerity in her friend's gaze. They stared in each other's eyes for a few moments longer, then it was Jo's turn to look away. Blair felt her friend starting to withdraw, as if unsure she had said the right thing.

Blair captured Jo's hand with her own, preventing it from leaving the blonde's shoulder. "I love you too."

Jo recaptured Blair's gaze and moved her hand up from Blair's shoulder to her cheek, cupping it gently. Blair leaned into Jo's hand and closed her eyes, focusing on the warmth of Jo's gentle touch. Blair moved her own hands to Jo's hips, then up under the brunette's arms to hold Jo's upper back. Blair half-opened her eyes and blue eyes met brown. Jo shifted her hand from Blair's cheek to the back of her neck as she brought Blair's head toward her own.

Their lips met, soft and tentative. Just as Jo was about to pull back, Blair strengthened her own embrace and brought the brunette more forcefully against her. Jo's small gasp of surprise allowed Blair's tongue to enter her mouth, and Jo moaned into Blair's mouth. Jo's own tongue eagerly sought entrance, and the two kissed deeply, their hands roaming over each others' rapidly overheating bodies.

Jo pulled back, pushing against Blair's shoulders to create a small distance between them. "Wait. We can't do this. Not like this."

Blair frowned, a hint of fear in her eyes. "I'm sorry, I thought…"

Jo moved her right hand from Blair's shoulder back up to her head, holding her cheek once more and looking directly in to Blair's eyes. "No, please don't be sorry. I just mean that if we keep going like this, I won't be able to stop and..." Jo's voice grew quieter and trailed off as a deep blush colored her already flushed cheeks.

Blair smiled and relaxed once more into Jo's touch. "And the problem with that is?"

"You deserve more. More than this. More than me."

Blair raised her voice slightly and responded in a matter of fact tone that left little room for doubt. "No. Listen here, Jo Polniaczek. I don't want more than this. Jo, I couldn't ask for more than you, because you are my best friend, and I love you more than anything."

With Blair's heartfelt words, Jo's smile widened and she pulled Blair into a tight embrace. "Then let me do this right. I want everything to be perfect." Jo stepped back and unconsciously smoothed the front of her shirt as she stood up straight and adopted her best formal tone. "Blair Warner, will you do me the honor of going out with me tomorrow night?"

As Blair's heart beat slowed and some measure of blood found its way back up to her brain, she registered both the earnest tone of the words and the heartfelt sentimentality behind them. She felt herself falling even deeper in love with the brunette beauty.

"Hmmm… let me check my appointment book." Blair chuckled softly. "Of course, Jo… as long as you understand that you are all I need for this to be perfect."

Jo beamed and she tucked the back of her shirt back in firmly where Blair's wandering hands had just begun to tug it out of place. "I'll come pick you up at your dorm, tomorrow night… say, 6 pm?"

"It's a date," answered Blair.

Jo nodded, the huge smile never leaving her face as she scurried out the door, apparently not trusting herself to stay in the same room with Blair any longer. Blair sat down on the couch, wondering how she could possibly get through the next twenty-four hours. Suddenly, it hit her. 'I have a date with Jo tomorrow, and I have NOTHING to wear.' She grabbed her purse and headed out the door, the nosy journalist (who was still hiding under her bed) long forgotten.


Chapter VI

Jo showed up at Blair's door at precisely six pm. Actually, unbeknownst to Blair, Jo had shown up at precisely 5:13 pm and had spent the subsequent forty-seven minutes working herself up into quite a nervous wreck. She had wished she wasn't all dressed up, or she would have done some quick laps around Blair's dorm to work off some excess energy. With one last run of her sleeve over her black leather shoes to accentuate the shine, Jo knocked on Blair's door.

The response was almost instantaneous, and the door opened to reveal Jo's date for the evening. Blair was dressed in a mint green dress which delicately accentuated her soft curves, the effect of which was to cause Jo's jaw to drop. Blair scarcely noted the stunned silence of her best friend as she herself was left speechless by Jo's own outfit. Jo had selected a crisp white blouse and black silk pants which Blair recognized as her fondest dream brought to life. Still silent, Jo thrust out a single red rose which she had held behind her back. Blair accepted the token with a look of excited appreciation and turned to go back inside to find a vase, giving each woman a moment to compose herself.

Jo offered her arm and Blair accepted happily, wrapping her hand around Jo's bicep. Jo couldn't help but flex the muscle under Blair's touch. Blair's eyes widened slightly and squeezed in approval. Jo smirked and led her date out to the waiting car.

Blair asked about their destination, only to get a mysterious smile and a small shake of the head in response. While Blair had expected local fare, perhaps a repeat visit to the café with the white Christmas lights, Jo had obviously had something different in mind as she headed towards the interstate. Conversation had been sparse at first, with Blair fiddling with the radio and Jo concentrating on the moderate Friday-night traffic. As they settled in for the ride, however, the two friends visibly relaxed as they began to discuss familiar topics.

"Hey, so what ever happened with Natalie after I left last night? Do I have to send her flowers to the hospital after you got a hold of her, or what?"

The blonde laughed softly. "I forgot about her, I guess. For all I know, she is still barricaded up in that room. After you left, I went shopping."

"Shopping? It was kind of late when I left."

"It was important."

"What did you buy?"

"Well, this dress for one."

"I thought I would have remembered that one. It looks great on you. Even better than that graduation outfit of yours." Jo kept her eyes firmly fixed on the road ahead.

"Thanks." Blair smiled shyly. "You look fabulous, yourself. So, speaking of graduation…"

"Umm-hmm. What about it?"

"Remember when we were talking, right after the ceremony?"

Jo concentrated even harder on the license plate in front of her. "Yeah."

"Umm… nevermind." Blair turned and looked out the passenger side-window.

"No, seriously. What were you going to say?" Jo asked.

"Ask me later. I don't think we should discuss this in the car."

"Okay…," said Jo, looking puzzled. "So, did you see the Steelers beat the Packers last night?"

Blair just looked at her friend as the brunette laughed. The two continued their much more comfortable banter as Jo exited the freeway into New York City and made her way toward their destination on surface streets.

Jo parked, and Blair noted the slightly dismal appearance of many of the buildings lining the streets. She surveyed the somewhat run-down building in front of them, raising a skeptical brow but saying nothing. The building was unmarked, and Blair vaguely recalled seeing a similar structure on a horror movie once where several blonde co-eds ended up killed rather gruesomely. Jo just smirked slightly and opened Blair's door, holding her hand to assist the young woman out. "Don't worry," said Jo. "I know what I'm doing. The food is great, and besides, there is more parking here than there is downtown."

Jo held the door open as Blair entered the small establishment. Blair was pleasantly surprised by both the pleasant atmosphere and the number of patrons. In fact, Blair noted, there appeared to be a bit of a wait, as there were only a few tables. Jo approached the small podium standing just inside the small entrance "Two, under the name Polniaczek." Jo informed the man who had held open the door of the small restaurant as the couple entered.

"Right this way, Ms. Polniaczek" said the older gentleman, not bothering to glance at the reservation list in front of him. "The table you requested is ready." He seated the couple at a private table next to the aquarium in back and lit the candle in the center. He held out Blair's chair, and unfolded her napkin into her lap with a flourish as she sat. He handed Blair her menu, and then handed one to Jo as he continued. "Might I recommend the house special?"

"Blair, I've been here before and everything is great. Really authentic Italian. If you aren't in the mood for something specific, I would recommend just going with the special. It is usually fabulous."

Blair smiled. "That sounds great."

Jo looked up at the greeter/host/waiter and smiled. "That'll be two specials, Lou. Thanks."

"Sure Jo, I mean, Ms. Polniaczek." Lou collected the menus under his arm. He grinned and winked at Jo as he sauntered off to the kitchen to place the order.

Blair glanced around and took in the ambience of the small restaurant. She smiled as she took in the warm red and gold tones with framed pictures of Italy scattered throughout the room. More professional pictures were outnumbered by what appeared to be family photos, depicting various generations involved in what appeared to be daily events in life in Italy. They appeared to involve several generations, ranging from old, tattered black and white photos to more modern ones. Jo grinned as she watched Blair study her surroundings.

"Mama Louisa has been here for over 30 years, cooking food just like she did back home in Italy. She came here to help her brother Lou raise his kids after his wife died. She always threatens to go back, but she never does. I don't think she'd ever actually leave; she wouldn't be across the globe from those kids for anything, even if they are all grown up."

"How do you know her?"

"Are you kidding? With her cooking? We were over at her house all the time, especially when my folks were working late. She kind of kept an eye out for all us kids in the neighborhood."

"She sounds like a special lady, Jo."

"You'll get to see for yourself later. She's never too busy in the kitchen to come out and see how people like her cooking."

"Do you make it out here often?"

"Not as often as I like; of course, if I did, I'd weigh about 300 pounds. I try to come every time I'm home."

"Have you ever come here with anyone…else?"

Jo laughed. "You mean, like a date? Nah. You know I didn't date all that much in high school." She sobered slightly and looked into the soft, flickering candle. "And, well, there's no one that I wanted to share this with before. It's kind of a special place, you know."

Blair reached out and covered Jo's hand on top of the table, squeezing reassuringly. Jo squeezed back, interlocking her fingers with Blair's. Blue eyes gazed into brown, and they sat transfixed in each other's gaze until a soft clearing of a throat brought them back to reality.

Blair jerked slightly, releasing Jo's grip and folding her hands under the table as Lou set breadsticks down next to the candle. Jo looked a bit surprised, but grabbed a breadstick and put it on her own little plate. Lou just smiled, his eyes wrinkling in humor and warmth, and he retreated back to the kitchen.

"Hey," Jo asked. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," responded Blair softly, no longer looking her companion in the eyes.

"C'mon Blair, I've known you for three years. Tell me what's wrong. Did I say something wrong, or do something?" she asked in a concerned tone.

Blair looked back up hastily. "No, no, of course not. You didn't do anything wrong. It's just…well…I just don't know how to act here, exactly. It is all so new. I mean, when I am just with you, everything seems great. But here…"

"Oh, I got it. Well, I did have another reason for bringing you here. You don't have to worry about Lou. His son Tony is gay, and Lou is really pretty cool about it now. Mama Louisa was worried until he found a nice Italian boy to settle down with last year; now she keeps embarrassing him by cutting out cute pictures of kids who need homes that she wants him to adopt as her grandchildren."

"I'm sorry Jo." Blair looked visibly relieved.

"Hey, don't be sorry. This is new for both of us. And we'll take it one step at a time, okay?"

"Okay." Blair smiled again, one of those soft, charming smiles that melted Jo's heart all over again.

The two continued in pleasant conversation until their meal arrived, and the pair hungrily dove in. In the back of Blair's mind, she contemplated how she would never have had pasta with red sauce on a first date with anyone but Jo. In fact, she scarcely ever ate much on dates at all, instead concentrating on maintaining proper manners and contributing appropriately to light, witty banter. She had always felt before like she was playing a game of chess, always trying to plan three steps ahead of her date. But tonight, she actually felt relaxed. 'Maybe this is the difference when you actually date a friend,' she thought as she took another forkful of the handmade noodles.

As the main course plates were cleared away, they were presented small dishes of spumoni with coffee. Just as they were about to pick up their spoons, Jo heard a familiar voice.

"Joanna, bella." A rotund, kind-appearing elderly woman wearing an apron and covered in flour made her way over to the table. Jo stood and was caught up in a powerful, warm embrace. Blair similarly stood and started to extend her hand, only to find herself quickly drawn into a similar hug, the shorter woman almost picking Blair's feet off the floor with her enthusiastic greeting. The older woman stood back, holding Blair at arm's length and looking at her with an approving gaze. "I am filled with joy to meet you. I have waited so long for Jo to bring home a special friend."

Blair blushed, but found her voice. "Dinner was wonderful, ma'am. Thank you."

"Tsk, call me Mama. Only bill collectors call me ma'am."

Blair chuckled. "Thank you, Mama."

The older woman smiled. "I'm glad you liked it. Tell Joanna to bring you back soon." She turned to the brunette. "Joanna, how's your mother? I have not seen her lately."

"She's well, Mama. Thank you. You know she always sends her love."

"Such a lovely woman. Works too hard, though. She needs to go to one of those tropical places, and have one of those drinks with an umbrella in them. When you grow up, maybe you send her somewhere nice, no?"

"Si Mama, that's a great idea."

"I must get back to the kitchen now. Can't leave Anthony in there too long, he might burn my sauce." She looked Jo in the eyes. "Joanna, you have made a good choice. She is a good person, I see it in her eyes. You treat her right, you hear. And bring her around more often; she needs more meat on her bones."

"Yes mama," Jo answered sincerely. The older woman smiled and headed back towards her kitchen, yelling in Italian to her nephew as she went.

Blair and Jo sat back down. "She likes you," said Jo, as she took a spoonful of melting spumoni.

"You think so?" Blair asked, eating around the candy bits, enjoying the creamy taste of the cool dessert on her tongue.

Jo momentarily lost her train of thought, watching the blonde beauty consume her dessert. Jo felt her cheeks flush and she desperately searched her memory to find the last question before her hormones interrupted. "Definitely. I am going to be in big trouble if I ever show up here without you."

"Guess you'll just have to bring me back with you."

Jo smiled, and the two finished their desserts. Lou warmed up their mugs of coffee with refills as a thought struck the brunette.

"Blair, remember earlier, I asked you about graduation. What were you going to say?"

Blair stalled, taking a long sip of her re-warmed beverage.

"Do you remember the part right before my mother came in?"

"Oh, yeah." Jo answered.

"Well, when I leaned forward, I thought…. Would you have kissed me back? If I had kissed you right then."

"Oh yeah." Jo answered, this time with more emphasis on the words.

Blair smiled. "Had you thought about it, before I mean?"

"All the time." Jo answered, genuine surprise in her voice, as if she had thought her response would be obvious.

"Really?" Blair asked.

"Of course. I thought about it that first day I met you; that is, before you opened your mouth. Seriously, I thought about it all the time last spring."

"After Ms. Gallagher?" Blair asked, speaking before she thought. She winced as a look of pain drifted across Jo's beautiful features. Blair expected Jo to shut down and to refocus on her dessert, bringing the discussion to an end. She was surprised when Jo continued.

"Yeah, especially after Gail left," Jo answered softly. "I mean, I had noticed you were attractive way before then, but I thought it was better to keep my opinions to myself. Every time I caught myself thinking about you like that, I just came up with a smart comment. Then you would get all mad, and it would be easy to forget for a little while."

Jo thought for a minute, then continued, sensing her friend's silent encouragement and support. "Things changed after Gail, though. I felt so stupid and it hurt so much. I felt like a young, stupid kid. I didn't mean to let her get to me like that, and I sure as hell didn't mean to tell anyone about it. But Mrs. G saw me in the kitchen and she just knew, and you know what? She didn't care. I mean, she cared about me, but she didn't care at all that I had a crush on another woman. There I was, crying all over her, and she just held me and said that everything was going to be all right."

Blair listened with unshed tears in her eyes as Jo wiped her own eyes with her sleeve and continued. "Mrs. G never brought it up again, but it meant a lot that she understood and didn't hate me or think I was sick or anything. Actually, that was when I started to let myself think about you and me for real, like we could actually have a relationship. Of course, I had no idea you might feel the same way until graduation. I couldn't think about anything else all summer. Then, when I saw you in front of the bookstore, I couldn't believe how excited seeing you again made me, and I knew I had it bad. I was so hoping I didn't read you wrong, but I just wasn't sure until class yesterday. I just didn't want to do something to screw this up, you know?"

Blair, whose tears were now running silently down her face, contemplated the heartfelt words from her normally stoic friend. She took both of Jo's hand in hers, this time not caring who saw them. Her only thoughts were for the woman across the table who had captured her heart. "I know."

Jo wiped her eyes, and glanced down at her watch. "Hey, I did have a second part of this evening planned. If you aren't too tired…"

"I'd love to."

Jo smiled and signaled to Lou for the bill. The older man came over and stood at the table, a huge smile on his face. "You two go on, get out of here. Louisa gave very strict instructions not to let you pay for anything tonight. And don't even try leaving bills under the dishes again. You know that what she says in this place, goes."

Jo considered protesting briefly, her efforts squelched before she started by vivid memories of such futile attempts in the past.

"Please thank Mama Louisa for me. And tell her I'll help Tony take a look at that old jalopy of his next time I'm in town."

"Will do." Lou's grin grew even bigger.

She shrugged slightly and smiled back at Lou, replacing her wallet in her pocket. She got up and held Blair's coat for her as the blonde put it on. The pair headed out the door, Jo giving a little wave to the still-grinning man as they left.


Chapter VII

Jo drove her date to Central Park, taking a few minutes to parallel-park into a tight space. "Parking is a lot easier with the bike," Jo informed her as she squeezed just between the two vehicles, barely tapping each bumper in the process.

"I have to admit, I was a little disappointed to not see it tonight... until we pulled onto the interstate, that is. We'll just have to bring it on our next date," Blair informed her, smiling as she caught Jo's eyes grow slightly wide, then a large grin spread across the brunette's face.

"Definitely." Jo smiled, considering the implications of a confirmed second date.

Jo helped Blair out of the car once more, and this time Blair held her hand for longer than necessary before releasing it. Jo's palm still tingled with the lingering feel of Blair's touch as the two headed across the street towards the large park. Jo looked up and down the street for a moment, then smiled and waved to one of the carriage-drivers who was standing next to his horse, feeding the handsome chestnut creature a large carrot patting its neck. The young man smiled and waved fervently to the approaching couple as he recognized Jo.

"Hiya Frank. How ya doin'?"

"Great, Jo. It's sure good to see you. Did you see Mama tonight?"

"Yeah. She's looking great. I didn't get to see Tony, though. She had him slaving away in the kitchen."

"He's lookin' great, too." The young man looked down as if to study his horse's hooves, and Blair noted that Frank's ears turned a peculiar shade of pink as his blush spread across his face.

Jo pretended not to notice his embarrassment. "So, Frank, this is my friend Blair. Blair, this is Frank."

Frank looked up at the beautiful blonde and stuck his hand out. When she extended her own, he took it and pumped it up and down enthusiastically. "Great to meet ya."

Frank patted the horse next to him affectionately. "And this, is Minnie."

"Well, hello there Minnie." Blair scratched behind the mare's ears, which perked up as the horse gave a small, happy-sounding whinny.

"Hey," Frank beamed. "She really likes you. She's kinds shy around most people."

"She reminds me of a horse I had when I was little. I used to love going out to the stables to ride her on the weekends."

"Well, you sure have a way with her, miss," replied Frank. "Hey, you guys wanna get goin'?"

"Sure, sounds great," answered the brunette, who had been watching the exchange between the two horse enthusiasts. Blair's momentary confusion turned into excitement as Frank placed the small stepstool next to the carriage and extended his upturned hand with a flourish to assist Blair. Jo jumped in next to her, and the two settled in as Frank assumed his position in front and the mare began a gentle trot.

Jo pulled a blanket from the back of the seat and tucked it around her companion. Blair rested her head against the brunette's shoulder, feeling the cool leather against her cheek as she gave Jo's arm an affectionate squeeze. The two sat in silence, the gentle evening breeze blowing across their faces, as they toured the stately park. Blair snuggled closer to her companion, and Jo turned her head slightly, taking in the scent of honeysuckle from the shampoo her blonde companion always used. Blair's left hand began to trail down Jo's left thigh, and the brunette felt a sudden increase rush of warmth to certain lower regions of her anatomy. Blair smiled as she noticed Jo's heartbeat pick up pace. Blair tilted her head up, placing a soft kiss on the waiting lips of her companion. Blair's own heart rate quickly matched Jo's as the kiss deepened. Frank kept his gaze steadfastly ahead, smirking slightly at the small but enthusiastic moans coming from the couple as their kisses grew in intensity.

Neither of the two women noticed that the carriage had stopped until Frank cleared his throat for a third time, rather loudly, as he continued to stare straight ahead.

"Umm.. Hey Frank," Jo responded as she began to regain her breath. "Oh, are we here already?" Faint strains of music came from the other side of a small grove of trees, the origin unseen from the vantage point of the carriage and its occupants.

"Yeah. You still want to stop?"

"Yes. This is great. Thanks a lot, Frank." Jo jumped down from the carriage, pulling out the stepstool from under the seat in order to help her date descend. Blair stumbled slightly and found two strong hands around her waist, guiding her the rest of the way down to the ground. Blair smiled at Jo, who reluctantly released the blonde and turned toward Frank. She handed him a small wad of bills, which he attempted to decline. Jo gave him a stern look, and Frank tucked the money into his pocket with a sheepish grin and a nod of thanks.

"We got it from here, Frank. Give my love to Tony, okay."

"Sure thing, Jo. Nice to meet you, ma'am." Frank waved an enthusiastic goodbye, then guided his horse back into an easy trot as Jo and Blair walked hand-in-hand in the direction of the music.

The couple arrived to find a five-piece jazz band playing a lively tune in the gazebo. There were several people dancing in the grass surrounding the gazebo, and many more appreciating the music from seated positions around the structure. Jo led her companion to the grass where they sat in unison, neither willing to release the other's grasp. As they watched the skillful musicians, Jo let go of Blair's hand and draped her arm around the blonde's shoulders. Blair responded by snuggling into the embrace.

After the first few songs, the band shifted gears into a slower, more romantic medley. The mix of dancers shifted to mostly couples, and Blair looked at Jo expectantly.

Jo suddenly became engrossed in uprooting the individual blades of grass surrounding her right shoe. Blair put her own hand over Jo's, stilling the brunette's actions. Jo looked up at Blair, a sheepish smile on her face.

"Umm, I guess you want to dance."

Blair chuckled. "Well, with an offer like that, how could I refuse?" The blonde sobered slightly. "Hey, it's okay if you don't want to."

"No, it's not that at all," Jo hastily replied. "It's just that, well…I don't really know how." The last few words came out in a very soft utterance, such that the blonde had to strain to make them out over the saxophone.

"No problem." Blair stood up and held out her hand to help Jo stand as well.

"Huh? Oh, you want to take off? That's cool." Jo accepted Blair's assist and rose to her feet.

"No. I'd love to stay. May I have this dance?"

Jo looked confused, but allowed herself to be led closer to the makeshift dance floor. They stopped at the outskirts of the group of aficionados, away from the main group of dancing couples, such that they were partially hidden by the grove of trees which flanked them. Blair positioned one of Jo's hands on her waist, and the other on her shoulder. Blair then began to lead her partner in small, graceful steps, which Jo answered with a more clumsy attempt. The brunette found her own shoes on top of Blair's expensive heels more than once, and Jo winced and tried to back further away. Blair restrained her partner's flight with a firm grip. Jo kept her gaze fixed firmly on her own feet, willing them to stay off of Blair's, when she felt the blonde lean in towards her and whisper in her ear, "Trust me, Jo."

Jo answered by lifting her head as she met Blair's gaze. She stopped fighting and allowed her own body to respond to Blair's, and the two began moving smoothly across the grass in their own little corner of the clearing. Jo closed her eyes and found herself thoroughly enjoying the contact and the feeling of matching Blair's rhythm so perfectly. When she opened them again, she found herself drowning in soft brown eyes filled with love.

"You're amazing, Blair."

"Five years of private dancing lessons followed by enrollment at an all-girls school. I got good at leading; it was the only way to get anyone to practice with me."

"Yeah, you are a great dancer, too. But I meant you. You're amazing. Everything about you."

"The feeling's mutual, Jo. You can't imagine how incredible I think you are. Or how incredible you make me feel, for that matter. You make me feel like I'm the only woman in the world. No one has ever done that before. I've never cared for anyone the way I care for you."

Jo pulled her into a tight embrace, the pair still swaying in time with the music. The brunette whispered into Blair's ear, "I really do love you."

"Then make love to me." Blair whispered back.


Chapter VIII

"What?" Jo choked.

Blair lifted her head from Jo's shoulder and pulled back to look into the brunette's blue eyes. "I want you, Jo. I feel like we've waited forever, and I don't want this moment to end. Please, let me make love to you, Jo."

Jo felt her resolve melt away as she felt Blair's hand run up her left side, lightly skimming the side of her breast. She tilted her head and brought it forward to meet Blair's, their lips each parting as their tongues dueled intimately. Jo found herself unable to think, and instinctually moved to caress Blair's buttocks firmly, causing the blonde to gasp with pleasure. Blair removed her right hand; just as Jo thought to protest its absence, Blair pulled Jo's white silk shirt out of her pants and quickly resumed her earlier task. Jo felt as though her skin were on fire where Blair's hand caressed it. Jo's head tipped back and Blair began to kiss hungrily at Jo's neck, working her way down.

As Blair reached the top of Jo's shirt and began to undo the button, Jo backed up enough to squeak out "Wait." She backed up, out of the blonde's reach.

The brunette panted, re-tucking her shirt as she fought to remember exactly why she had stopped them.

"We can't do this," Jo managed.

"Again? What's wrong, Jo?" The blonde responded in a half plea, half pout. Jo briefly considered how incredibly adorable she found the expression.

"I just mean here. I think we should go somewhere more private."

"Okay, then let's get out of here. Now." The blonde grabbed Jo's hand and began to make a beeline towards the park's nearest entrance. Jo grinned widely, now running to keep up with her determined friend.

They ended up back at the car, and after a few minutes of slow maneuvering, Jo was able to un-wedge the car from its parking space and head back out on the road.

Blair looked at Jo. "So, where are we headed?"

"Back to Langley, I guess. It is getting kind of late. Unless you wanted to stop for coffee, or something," Jo asked.

"Do you really want to drive all the way back tonight?" Blair asked, running her hand over a well muscled thigh, causing Jo to push down briefly on the accelerator, almost rear-ending the car in front of her.

"Blair…" Jo groaned as she regained footing on the brake. "No. I mean, no I don't really want to drive right now. Why? Where did you want to go?"

The blonde released the brunette's leg and looked around for a moment at the city lights and the street signs. "Oh, I know where we are. Turn right here, and go down about five blocks."

"Okay…" Jo complied, and Blair directed them through the surface streets. After a few minutes, the pair ended up in the front drive of a stately hotel.

"Umm… Blair." Jo said as the valet came around to open her door.

"Please, Jo. I've always wanted to stay here, and I would love to stay here with you."

"Are you sure?" Jo asked, ignoring the valet who still stood next to her locked driver's side door

"More sure than I've ever been about anything." Blair replied, looking directly into Jo's eyes. "How about you?"

Jo thought for a moment, then a shy smile crossed her face. "Yeah, absolutely." She released the lock, allowing the valet to open the door, and the two women headed through the revolving glass door into the well-lit lobby.

Blair secured a room, and the two women headed up the elevators towards the twenty-second floor. Blair slipped the key in the lock, fumbling as Jo caressed her rear-end from behind. Blair looked behind her only to chuckle at Jo's best innocent look, maintained despite Jo's continued hold on Blair's shapely ass. Blair finally managed the door and flipped on the lights nearest the entrance, taking in the large queen-sized bed which dominated the room. She heard the door close behind her and felt warm kisses begin to trail down her neck as the brunette came up closely behind her. Blair leaned her head away from Jo's, allowing for more access. As Jo's mouth found the sensitive spot behind Blair's ear, the blonde let out a small whimper which caused the warmth between Jo's legs to increase.

Still turned away from Jo, Blair felt a momentary loss of warmth as the brunette backed away, then felt an indescrible ache in her groin as she felt Jo's skillful hands begin to undo the buttons of the back of her dress. The garment fell down around Blair, who shivered with pleasure as Jo once more pressed into her back and as hands made their way around to cup silk-covered breasts. Blair closed her eyes and leaned forward into the sensation. Jo's hands moved from the sides of Blair's breasts towards the inside, exerting pressure as they moved until Jo felt rapidly hardening nipples rise to meet her fingertips. The brunette moved her hands in small circles as the blonde writhed under the new sensations, small gasps turning to moans as the intensity of the sensation increased.

Unable to stand it any longer, Jo released the blonde long enough to elicit a whimper, quickly bringing her in a passionate embrace from the front. Jo recaptured the blonde's mouth with her own and ran her hands over Blair's now mostly bare back.

Blair took the initiative and began to kiss down the brunette's neck to the swell of her breasts, unbuttoning the white silk blouse as she went. She became frustrated with the last few buttons, ripping the rest of the shirt off and sending small white discs scattered about the room. Blair felt the heat between her own legs growing as she added Jo's bra to the growing pile of clothes, talking in the perfect breasts and capturing them with her gaze as well as her hands. Blair's thumbs stroked Jo's nipples until the brunette wasn't sure whether the sensation was more pain or pleasure.

Jo moaned into Blair's mouth and once again began exploratory kisses down Blair's neck, this time from the front. She reached the silky blue bra and released the front clasp of the offending garment, tossing it aside to expose Blair's full, inviting chest.

Jo sucked Blair's right nipple while she captured Blair's left one between her thumb and forefinger, working both breasts up to a new level of sensation, and causing the blonde to tremble with pure desire. Just when Blair felt as though her knees might give way, she felt a powerful set of arms wrap around her waist. With a definite smirk, Jo stood up and swept the blonde into her arms and towards the awaiting bed.

Jo gently lowered Blair back on the bed beneath her, breaking contact with her new lover only long enough for Blair to reach down and unfasten the button of Jo's jeans, the sound of the zipper adding fuel to her growing fire. Blair guided them and the remaining undergarments off the brunette's body and came back up rapidly to lay on top of her now naked lover.

Blair ground her hips into her lover beneath her, her breathing becoming more rapid and her cries more urgent. Jo rolled Blair over until the blonde was now under her and slowly removed Blair's slip and underwear, kissing down long legs as she descended. Once the clothes were discarded, Jo started at Blair's ankles, kissing every inch up until she reached the top of her thigh. She looked up at Blair's face with a questioning gaze, and found affirmation and love in response. Jo's mouth engaged Blair's body in the most intimate of kisses, and Blair lifted her hips towards Jo's eager mouth in response with a loud moan. Jo reached to grasp Blair's butt, and the two found a perfect rhythm. Within moments, Blair's crescendo reached its peak; she grasped Jo's head and held it in place as her body exploded in a powerful release.

Jo worked her way up the rest of Blair's body, kissing her softly as she ascended to nestle her head on Blair's shoulder. Blair lay still for a few moments, holding Jo loosely as her strength and breathing slowly returned to normal. Jo closed her eyes, her arm and leg draped over Blair's body; she listened to the blond's steady breathing become calm and rhythmic and sleep began to overtake her partner.

Suddenly, Jo's eyes opened as she felt Blair shift and a lazy hand begin to trail down her side. Jo began to protest and murmur to her lover to go to sleep, but Blair pushed Jo until she was on her back and lay so that the full lengths of their bodies were pressed together. Blair's ministrations became more eager as she caressed her lover's body. She kissed Jo deeply, moaning as she tasted herself on the brunette's tongue. Blair matched the undulations beneath her as her hand worked its way down to the moisture between Jo's legs. Blair parted Jo's lower lips with her fingers and inserted a single digit into the center of the warmth. The thin barrier gave way as Jo thrust her hips firmly against Blair's hand, and Jo let out a small grunt. The realization of what just happened raced through her, but Blair's attempt to withdraw her hand was blocked by Jo's firm grip, and Blair quickly resumed her rhythmic movements with the motion of her tongue in Jo's mouth matching that of her index finger below. Jo suddenly arched into Blair's body as she climaxed, causing Blair to follow her in her own second, smaller wave. Blair shifted and held Jo, the pair drifting off to sleep in each other's arms.

Long after the sun had arisen, Blair awoke to find her new lover firmly wrapped around her, Jo's body covering most of Blair's right side as the brunette used Blair's right shoulder for a pillow. Blair nuzzled the top of Jo's head with her cheek, smiling and chuckling softly as the brunette responded by snuggling even tighter in her sleep. Blair responded with an embrace of her own, savoring the strength and warmth of her best friend. "Guess I had better find a new diary," thought the blonde as she gently stroked her sleeping companion's hair. "This is the best beginning I can think of to a brand new chapter in my life, and I'm definitely going to have quite a bit to write in the days to come….one with a titanium lock this time, though…"

Natalie jumped with a start, startled by the noise of the front door slamming. "Oh, man…they're home early…. I only got up to last October." Natalie quickly shoved Blair's new diary (with the "extra-security" lock back in place) behind the bookcase in the attic before racing down into her own bedroom and laying down on her own bed. As her pulse slowed and she stared up at the familiar ceiling, she was soon lost in deep thought….

'Whew, that's probably all I could handle tonight anyway. I KNEW they got together that night. But I still have four months worth of relationship secrets to catch up on, now that I finally found Blair's new hiding place for that thing. At least Jo and Blair are living back here, up in the attic, so it makes finding out important details easier. After all, I am one of their very best friends and it is criminal to keep me in the dark this long about stuff. After all, they should be thanking me for getting them together. Without my article…hmmm, you know, that really was a good article. You know, I wonder if I could make this into a book or a play…yeah, or a movie. Maybe I can keep Tootie quiet about it if I give her a part. You know, it would make a great TV series… except maybe I could set them back in ancient times, like Greece or something, and change it a little so I wouldn't have to pay Blair for the ideas and stuff….' Nat's thoughts drifted off into dreams of fame and glory as the unsuspecting couple downstairs continued to live their lives, blissfully unaware that they were creating more fodder for an already overactive imagination, and for great stories yet untold.

The End

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