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: A very special thank you to Debbie for taking on the job of beta for this fic as well as the 22 others and especially for agreeing to write her specialty, Birds of Prey, as part of this 24 fandom series. Thanks, Deb, I truly do appreciate it.
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
I've Got You Under My Skin
At the top of a set of stairs, a door slowly pushed its way open as a pair of pink fuzzy slippers shuffled out onto the landing and headed toward the stairway. A monstrous yawn announced to the otherwise quiet household that Natalie Green had officially awakened and had begun her first mission secure caffeine. Grumbling to herself, she continued on her quest, entering the kitchen and making a beeline for the coffeepot and her personal mug that had been placed in a prominent position next to the machine by Tootie. A half smile crossed her grumpy expression at the gesture made by her friend.
Inhaling deeply, Natalie took in the rich scent of the freshly brewed coffee as she reached for her mug and slowly poured the liquid into the container. She then blindly reached for the sugar bowl, successfully dumped two spoonfuls into her mug, and following a brisk stir, lifted the mug to her lips, almost dropping it on to the counter when Tootie came rushing into the kitchen from outside.
"Nat! Come quick!"
"Damn it, Tootie!" Natalie cursed as the hot liquid sloshed over the rim of the mug and landed on her hand. "You know better than to talk to me, let alone scream at me, until I've had my first cup of coffee."
Tootie tried to look apologetic, but her excitement simply wouldn't let her. "Sorry," she started but quickly alluded to the reason why she'd raced into the room, "but, this is important, very important."
"What's so important that I can't have a cup of coffee first?" Natalie grumbled around the rim of her mug, ignoring the burning sensation around the base of her thumb in her quest to get her first taste of caffeine. She closed her eyes and temporarily blocked out Tootie's next words as she savored the elixir, but the moment she'd drunk her last sip, her brain came alive.
"What did you say?" asked Natalie as she placed her empty mug on the counter and turned her attention to her friend. Tootie gestured toward the door and repeated her news.
"Jo's passed out in the garage."
Natalie's eyes grew large. "What?" She grabbed the damp dishcloth near the sink and placed it on her red hand as she started for the door. "Why didn't you say something?" Dashing past her friend, she was out the door before Tootie could blink.
"I thought I had," muttered Tootie, following on Natalie's heels. She arrived in the garage just as Natalie went down on one knee next to Jo's prone body.
"Jo, wake up." Natalie gently patted her friends face, wondering what Jo would do if she were to hit her a little harder. Choosing not to test her theory, she moved to turn Jo onto her back, her eyes immediately tracking to the stark white bandage peeking out from underneath Jo's hip-hugger jeans. "What in the "
"What is it, Nat?" Tootie had taken position on the other side of Jo and was shielded from seeing what had caught Natalie's attention. She tried to lean over Jo's body.
"I think she's been injured," Natalie replied, noting the end of the bandage had come loose; she eased it slowly back to discover the nature of Jo's injury. "Holy shit!"
Not able to stand being left in the dark, Tootie quickly moved beside her friend. Her eyes almost popped out of her head when she zoomed in on the raw-looking skin. "Is that what I think it is?"
"If you think it's a tattoo, then yes," nodded Natalie, leaning closer to get a better look. She tilted her head and squinted until the image slowly came into focus. "Oh my God."
"What?" Tootie almost butted heads with her friend as she tried to get a better vantage point. "Oh my!" She then moved her gaze to the words etched below the brightly colored, jeweled crown. "Oh my!"
"You got that right," said Natalie, resuming her attempt to awaken Jo. "Let's worry about the tat later. We need to get her upstairs and sobered up before Mrs. Garrett and Blair get back from their trip to the city.
Tootie nodded in agreement. "Good idea." She retook her earlier spot as the two lifted Jo into a seated position. "Now what?"
"Josephine Marie Polniaczek, get up from the floor this instant!" yelled Natalie in the best New York accent she could possibly muster. The result was immediate. Jo jumped to her feet and looked around wildly.
"I'm up, I'm up." Natalie and Tootie quickly flanked Jo on both sides and steadied her swaying body.
"C'mon, Jo; let's get you to bed." Natalie started forward, and Jo blindly allowed her friends to lead her into the house. She briefly wondered where her mother was, but the pounding in her head and the burning sensation on her hip kept her attention focused on the pain.
After a very scary moment on the stairs, Jo was finally dumped on her bed, where she promptly fell back into unconsciousness. Natalie blew out a breath and looked down at her slipper-less feet. "I thought we were goners when Jo started to fall backward," she said, referring to the loss of her first slipper. She'd turned to grab hold of Jo and had almost lost her own footing midway up the stairs, but thankfully, her foot had slipped out of the shoe. The second loss was much less dramatic as she'd just walked out of it when they'd reached the landing.
"No kidding," said Tootie with a grunt as she lifted Jo's booted feet on to the bed. "What do we do now?"
Natalie gestured toward the door. "You go down to the kitchen and get some coffee strong and black." She looked down at Jo. "I'll try to wrestle her boots off."
Glancing at their dead to the world friend, Tootie realized she had the better of the two jobs. "One strong coffee coming up." She turned and quickly left the room, leaving Natalie to ready for her struggle.
Grabbing hold of Jo's right boot, Natalie said, "You're going to owe us big for this one, Jo." She grinned. "Right after you explain why you've got a jeweled crown on your hip with the word 'Princess' scrawled underneath."
An hour later, a freshly showered Jo sat at the kitchen table, her third cup of coffee in one hand and her aching head cradled in the other. Natalie and Tootie stood with their backs against the counter, waiting patiently for Jo to recap the previous night's activities.
"I met up with some old friends at a pool hall we used to go to all the time. I guess I must've had one too many beers." Jo closed her eyes and gently rubbed her forehead.
"Ya' think?" asked Natalie with a touch of sarcasm coloring her tone. "What happened next?"
Jo narrowed her brow in thought. Things were still a bit fuzzy after they'd left the pool hall. "My friend Jinx she used to be a real thorn in my side, but she's mellowed somewhat suggested we all go get a tat. She showed us one she'd recently had done to proclaim her love for her girlfriend." Jo laughed at the memory of her friend's tat. "I don't imagine her girlfriend was too pleased with the results though."
Tootie leaned closer. "What was it?"
"A thumb pressing down on a heart with the caption, 'You've got me under your thumb.' It didn't help that the heart seemed to be bleeding."
"That's not romantic; sounds kind of Poe-like to me," said Natalie, trying to picture the tat Jo had described, but an image of the tell-tale heart kept filling her mind. Tootie, on the other hand, kept her focus on something much more important.
"So why is it that the tattoo you chose makes a reference to Blair?"
Gone was Natalie's wild imagination of believing she had actually heard the beating of the heart trapped beneath the thumb as it grew and grew in intensity, replaced with her amazing knack of knowing when to very carefully listen to outside stimuli and form her own conclusion from the source.
"You and Blair, Jo?"
"Jo and me, what?" asked Blair, strolling into the kitchen, her arms laden down with shopping bags. She swung them on the table's surface and looked around at three stunned expressions, none attributed to the fact that it appeared that Blair had once again bought out Bloomingdale's or because she was back from New York an hour earlier than she'd been expected.
Tootie and Natalie were still wearing the same shocked expression from contemplating a relationship between their two friends, while Jo's expression was new. Blair was going to kill her for getting a tattoo, even if it was in a drunken attempt to express her love in a more permanent way. Despite not being in top form, she attempted to swing the conversation to safer ground.
" are graduating from Langley in a few months," supplied Jo, her reply causing a chain reaction of heads whipping in her direction. She dug an even deeper hole. "Natalie and Tootie hadn't realized we were graduating this year."
Three voices chimed in perfect harmony. Jo noticed the wheels turning in Natalie's head just a second too late.
"Jo got drunk and got a tattoo." Natalie crossed her arms over her chest and glared at Jo, adulthood taking a back seat to childhood-like revenge. No one questioned Natalie's state of mind.
"Yeah," Tootie piped up, "and you play a starring role." She eased closer to her friend and mirrored Natalie's stance, projecting a united front against Jo's lame excuse.
Blair stood stock still for a moment as her friends' words slowly worked their way into her mind and caught hold. Jo knew the second her lover had put it all together. She'd had that particular look directed at her more times than she cared to remember.
"You got a tattoo?" Blair somehow managed to project enough iciness in her tone that Jo actually felt a chill in the air. "Where?"
"On her hip," informed Tootie, ready to divulge more, but the swift kick to her shin redirected her thoughts. "Ow, Nat, what'ya do that for?"
Natalie just shook her head for her friend to keep quiet. She'd felt the frost of Blair's words as well. Eyeing the door, she planned her escape, and if Tootie behaved, she'd try to save her, too.
"I asked you a question, Jo." Blair inched closer and closer to the table, while Jo tried to get smaller and smaller, her hand instinctively sliding beneath her t-shirt and underneath the elastic waistband of her sweat pants to feel the roughness of the tattoo. If she was still breathing after Blair finished with her, she was going to find Jinx and knock her on her ass.
"Well, you see, Blair, it's really kind of funny if you think about it," Jo started, a weak chuckle following her lead-in, but judging from the look on her lover's face, she was fairly certain Blair wasn't seeing the humor. They'd actually discussed tattoos before, and Blair had been quite vocal with her negative views on what Jo had referred to as body art. Her argument had been that she'd never seen any tattooed models at any of the numerous art shows she'd attended.
"Upstairs, now," demanded Blair, accentuating her words by gesturing pointedly at the door. "And when we get to our bedroom, there'd better not be any tattoos hiding underneath your clothing."
Jo swallowed hard and slowly pushed to her feet. She spared a glance at Tootie and Natalie, but both girls could only offer a shrug of support. All three were perfectly aware that the tattoo wouldn't mysteriously disappear on the journey up the stairs. With a heavy sigh, Jo headed toward the door, glad that her sweat pants and long t-shirt hid any evidence of her wrongdoing. Blair watched her lover step into the den, before turning on her heel and following close behind, her eyes peeled on the hip Jo seemed to be favoring.
Tootie waited several beats to make certain that the two weren't lurking outside the door. "Jo's in t-rou-ble." Her multi-syllable pronunciation of the word had Natalie nodding her head in agreement.
"No kidding, Blair's going to skin her alive."
Another few beats followed the statement, before Tootie asked the question that had been burning in both their minds ever since Blair had stepped into the room and taken control.
"How long do you think they've been together?"
Blair entered the room behind her lover and reached back to close and lock the door. When she turned around, Jo was standing near the window, looking at the oak tree just outside. She hadn't climbed down the tree in years, but the risk was sounding better and better.
"Please tell me those two were pulling my leg," Blair moved further into the room, keeping her distance even though she was dying to walk over and tear the sweats from her lover's body. She'd actually ripped a pair or two of Jo's sweats in the past but for a completely different reason.
Jo turned to face the music. "Blair, I was drunk. You know I'd never do anything so stupid if I had my full faculties about me. And to top it off, Jinx had to go and call me a chicken." Her expression turned serious. "You know how I hate being called a chicken."
"Yes, I'm perfectly aware of that, but this is permanent, Jo. This isn't some stupid stunt you've pulled in the past." Blair stepped closer, her fingers still itching to remove the barrier that was keeping her from seeing the end result of Jo's drunken decision.
"I know, I can't believe I was so stupid, but Jinx just kept going on and on and on, until finally, I marched into the tattoo parlor and dropped my drawers."
"You didn't bare all to some big biker guy covered in macho skull designs with a huge tattoo of 'Mom' encased around his heart, did you?"
"No, it was a woman," Jo began, watching Blair tilt her head and raise an eyebrow. Perhaps admitting to dropping her drawers in front of a woman wasn't such a good idea. She tried for the save. "She's married, with her ears and lip pierced, and she's covered in a variety of tattoos from a dreamcatcher to a skeleton clawing through her skin holding a tattoo machine." Jo forced a smile. "She wasn't my type."
"Oh, and what exactly is your type?" asked Blair, temporarily putting off her desire to see what Jo had tattooed on her hip. They'd never actually discussed what attracted them to others.
"You." Jo didn't hesitate in her answer, drawing a smile from her lover. She'd spoken with such sincerity there was no doubt in Blair's mind that it had been the absolute truth.
"Okay, enough stalling, let me see." Blair closed the distance between them and placed her hands on the band of Jo's sweats. Placing her own hands over her lover's, Jo eased the material over her hips as she turned and lifted her shirt. Blair was surprised to find the tattoo staring right at her, she'd had no idea Jo wasn't wearing any underwear beneath her pants. Her eyes swept past the reddened skin and zeroed in on the ink.
There it was, a crown fit for royalty, the colorful jewels adorning the golden diadem and standing out against the background of Jo's pale skin. Blair slowly reached out and traced the pattern, her touch eliciting an uncontrollable shiver from her lover.
"Did it hurt?" Blair eased her finger lower and gently followed the pattern of the word underneath, tracing each letter of 'Princess' in an almost reverent motion.
"I don't really remember," Jo answered truthfully, she'd been way beyond caring or feeling when she'd flopped down on the tattoo artist's table. She did remember waking to a stinging sensation but kept that tidbit to herself.
"Why, Jo? Why this?"
Jo hesitated for a moment, wracking her brain to recall what had possessed her to ask for a crown in the first place. She remembered calling Blair 'Princess' several times during the course of the evening and then Jinx saying something to the tattoo artist about a design fit for a princess. Everything was a blur after that.
"Um," Jo began, knowing Blair wouldn't leave her alone until she'd given a reason. Her conversation with Natalie and Tootie concerning Jinx's tattoo made its way front and center. "I just had to have you under my skin." She winced at the excuse and was extremely grateful she had her back to her lover.
Blair traced over the tattoo again, smiling at the goose bumps left behind. "I think you mean you've got me over your skin. The tattoo is on top of your skin." She eased her hand across a rounded globe. Jo shivered.
"Perhaps," she turned and pulled Blair close, "but I've got you under my skin, too."
"I love Sinatra," Blair moved her hands to Jo's waist and smiled.
"Still mad at me?" asked Jo, using her toes to push off the sweats that had pooled at her feet.
"Depends, does that crown mean that you rule me or I rule you?"
"You rule me," whispered Jo. No one had ever accused her of being a fool.
"Good answer, Jo."
Closing the distance, Blair pressed her lips against her lover's and eased her hand back to the tattoo. She liked the idea of knowing there was a permanent reminder of her domain, but for now, she planned to exercise her authority over Jo for the remainder of the morning.
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