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 silly little facts of life/rent crossover that popped into my head and wouldn't go away. My Joanne will always be Movie Joanne, Tracie Thoms. I fear a crush.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
When Blair Warner met Joanne Jefferson and Joanna Marie Polniaczek Went Insane
By misty flores
Jo would never admit it, but she hadn't seen it coming.
She should have, but she didn't. And honestly, who could blame her? At first glance, JoJo Jefferson, of the New York Jeffersons, didn't appear to be different than any other spoiled sorority princess that Blair brought around the house.
In retrospect, Jo Polniaczek realized that was where she went wrong. She had gotten lazy, she had started to assume. Assume that Blair didn't care for anything else other than boys and fashion and her high class socials, despite the fact that she knew better. Assume that any female that Blair brought over to the house was silly and flighty and not worth her time, despite the fact that Blair was showing interest in law and had begun to take classes in those red brick buildings, and gushed about the 'interesting' people she had begun to run into. Jo had always assumed those 'interesting people' were blonde hunky pre-law galoots.
Not people like Joanne 'JoJo' Jefferson.
And she had been distracted, the day she met her. She had been in the middle of a huge assignment, and Jo knew how to focus. In a house with four other women, including Blair, who liked to blab her ear off, she had to, to protect her sanity, if nothing else.
It was for that reason that the day Blair had brought over Miss Perfect, she was hunched over the little wooden table in Edna's Edibles, buried elbow deep in a term paper about the Japanese Geisha (everytime she read about them binding their feet, it made her wince). She hadn't been in the mood for distractions, and her patience had already begun to run thin thanks to Natalie dropping an entire tray of blueberry muffins on the floor and Tootie's insistence that she watch her perform her entire monologue for the 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers' audition. Three times.
She was in no mood for one of Blair's bimbo friends. Or for Blair, for that matter, who entered using that tone of voice that Jo HATED. It wasn't Blair's normal voice, the one she used around Jo and Natalie and Tootie, but Blair's high pitched, annoying RICH voice, the one that came into existence whenever those Barbies would come around.
Gritting her teeth, Jo had kept her eyes on her homework, trying to block out Blair making a show of introducing the as yet unseen girl she brought in with her to Mrs. Garret, then Tootie.
"Oh, Jo!" Jaw hardening, Jo's eyes narrowed as a dainty hand landed on her shoulder, forcing her to look up. "I want you to meet my new friend! This is JoJo!"
JoJo? Jo felt herself get a little ill.
The other girl must have seen Jo's expression, because she said quickly, "Joanne is just fine. Joanne Jefferson." JoJo,Joanne,whatever- was an attractive African American girl with brown ringlets cascading over her head in a thick abundance of curls. She was older, at least by a couple years. Jo wouldn't even try to identify the designer of the girl's coat, but years of living with the most superficial woman on the planet had taught her to recognize expense when it was present. Blair had once not spoken to her for a week after she had accidentally tossed in a hundred dollar scarf with her men's crew socks.
"-of the New York Jeffersons!" Blair blurted. Apparently Jo had missed the speech that had showcased the new girl's credentials. "Her mother is a judge and is rumored to be the next Supreme Court appointment!"
Because that would mean anything but diddly squat to her.
Blair gripped the other girl's forearm proudly, like she had a new toy. Gripping her pen, Jo managed to paste on a smile that wasn't a complete grimace.
"Hi," she said finally, extending a hand. "I'm Jo."
She had been given a surprisingly firm handshake, before 'JoJo' had been dragged away to sample some of Mrs. Garrett's cookies. Jo turned back to her paper, and decided to forget about JoJo completely, because Blair always got new toys. And she always got tired of them.
That had been a mistake. Jo could see that now. She should have taken note of Joanne Jefferson, should have registered her and seen that something was amiss: that there was something different about this one, and not just the fact that she wasn't blonde.
No, she should have seen it coming, and Jo had no one but herself to blame for that.
Except for maybe Blair.
And Joanne Jefferson.
Who the hell asked her to be so damned perfect and GAY anyway?
Natalie loved Blair. Really, she did.
Every so often, however, she wished desperately to muzzle her.
Today was definitely one of those days.
"JoJo says that when she graduates from Law School she's going to take up practice in New York. Isn't that exciting? She's flirted with the idea of working with Legal Aid. Isn't that scandalous! Thankfully her father, Howard Jefferson, won't hear of it. But JoJo's heart has always been set on helping the homeless she says that the growing AIDS epidemic is only going to get worse and the squatters in Hell's Kitchen-"
Natalie was quickly growing cross-eyed.
"-don't have anyone really to stand up for them. Isn't that generous? JoJo says that it's the wealthy's responsibility to look after the poor."
Blair paused briefly, but only because she needed to breathe. Throwing a panicked glance to Mrs. Garret, Natalie jumped on the opportunity.
"That's great, Blair! JoJo sounds like a really awesome person. I think I'm going to check on the towels in the drier."
"I think I'll join you!" Tootie chirped, and then proceeded to grab hold of her wrist and drag her out of the living room.
"Poor Mrs. Garrett," Natalie breathed, as they slumped against the wall of the hallway in relief. Leaving Mrs. Garret alone with no escape as Blair continued on her ramblings of the greatness of JoJo just seemed cruel somehow. "We should have saved her too."
"There wasn't time!" Tootie looked earnestly apologetic. "We had to save ourselves!"
Natalie nodded seriously. "Mrs. Garrett is tough. She can handle it."
"I can't!" Tootie declared, making her way down the hall. "It's been two weeks! Blair won't shut up! JoJo this! JoJo that! I mean, JoJo seems nice enough, but you'd think it was the coming of a second Messiah!"
"I think it's cute!" Natalie decided, and when Tootie sighed dramatically, amended, "As long as I don't have to hear about it." She smiled. "It's just nice that Blair has a crush on someone who might actually be doing her some good."
"A crush?" Tootie looked doubtful.
"You know. A girl crush. Like Jo had on our old English teacher-"
"What are you two talking about?" Loud boots tromped on the wood, dropping dirty prints of mud in their wake.
"Blair has a crush on her friend Joanne," Natalie supplied helpfully to Jo, as the girl shrugged out of her leather jacket. "Where've you been?"
"At the library," Jo commented, a sour expression on her face as she stomped her boots on the floor again, trying to get the dirt out. "Joanne?"
"You know, JoJo!" Tootie grinned. "JoJo the future champion of Hell's Kitchen."
Pausing in the midst of unwinding her large red scarf from her neck, the scowl on Jo's face was predictably scary. "Is she still going on about that bimbo?"
"She's not a bimbo," Tootie corrected, brow arching looking affronted on the missing girl's behalf. "She's in law school, remember? And in the top of her class. Blair says that JoJo went to Miss Porter's Boarding School, and it's even more expensive than Eastland. Jackie Kennedy went there-"
"Oh, God, not you too, Tootie!" Jo's book bag fell to the floor in an angry, disgusted thud. "It's bad enough that Blair won't shut her trap-"
Tootie's mouth immediately clamped shut. "Sorry. It must be catching."
"I'm sick and tired of hearing about God-Damned JoJo," Jo muttered, clearly in bad-spirits, heading for the door to the living room. "If I have to hear about that sorority princess for another second-"
"-then JoJo said that the Tango is the most seductive dance in ballroom. She offered to teach me! Isn't that nice?"
Jo let the door slam shut.
"Dammit!" she breathed, and turning around and clomping off in the other direction.
Tootie gave Natalie a wide-eyed, knowing grin. "I think someone's feeling a little threatened."
At the moment, Natalie was a little too absorbed in Blair's last statement to pay attention to Tootie's observation.
"JoJo wants to teach Blair the tango?"
Despite the fact that the bedroom she shared with Natalie, Tootie and Blair was bigger than it had been at Eastland, there were moments when it felt suffocating small.
Jo came to Eastland used to having her own space. When it was just her and her Ma, with her ma working all the time, Jo had learned to enjoy her own company. It was just her and her bike, and Jo had long ago decided she had liked it that way.
Now, years later, she wasn't ever sure she would get used to having Blair Warner as a roommate. Blair kept her things everywhere. Curling irons, rollers, bottles of hairspray: they all took over the room like some well-coifed fungus until Jo would roll over in her bed and accidentally stab herself with a bristle brush, trip over a bottle of nail polish, smack right into a hanging piece of drying hosiery over the bathtub railing.
She still had a bruise on her ass from sitting on that spiked heel last week.
It was easy to see the bad side of Blair, and coming home to hearing Blair ramble on and on about her new best friend had left her in a decidedly sour mood.
Jo was sensible enough to enjoy a good bad mood. She liked to stew and brood, and when she heard Blair humming some melodic tune on her way up, it set a tingle on her spine and she found herself actually growling.
She relished that too.
Lying back on her bed, she crossed her hands behind her head and set up a good glare, ready for Blair as her overly annoying, perky roommate practically skipped into the damn room, skirts flowing and perfectly styled locks bouncing appropriately.
She looked so pretty, Jo hated her a little bit.
"Oh, hello Jo!" Blair said sweetly. "I didn't hear you come in."
Jo grunted non-committally, leaning back and closing her eyes.
"You're looking nice and grumpy today. Someone back into your bike again?"
Her eyes opened into angry slits. "I waited an hour at the library for you, Blair."
Blair blinked, one hand buried in her hair, in the middle of fluffing up her stupid curls, no doubt. "You did? Whatever for?"
Whatever for? Jo sat up, genuinely irritated. "It's Wednesday!" Blair continued to stare at her like she was from another planet, which granted, was something Blair did all the time. Still, it irritated her like hell today. "To study, Blair! Don't you remember? You said last week, you needed help and couldn't figure out the Dewey-"
"Ohhh." Yeah. Oh. Snorting, Jo crossed her arms, glancing away. "Jo, I'm sorry. I am! It's just that I ran into JoJo on the way-"
Great. Effin' JoJo again. "Forget it."
"Jo, I'm sorry!" Coming forward, Blair gathered her skirt and slid onto the bed. The mattress shifted with her weight as Blair leaned over, grabbing hold of her fingers with one soft palm and squeezing meaningfully. "It's just JoJo was on her way to a mixer at the law school and she asked me to come- you know I've been thinking about law and there was going to be a Vanderbilt there!"
Jo's lips pulled into an immediate snarl. "Like I give a crap?"
"You won't believe it, Jo! You'd think with a name like Vanderbilt he would be a dream boat, but the man was this tiny little thing! I mean, the nerve! It's like going to meet your Prince Charming and finding a Frog in its place! Only, in this instance I wouldn't even kiss the frog!"
Joanne felt a dangerous shiver of irritation work its way up her spine. Blair didn't even care. That was rich. Of course, why was Jo surprised? Blair always did this when she met a new boy. A complete sense of entitlement. Like nothing in the world mattered but Blair's new boy-toy.
Jo had come to expect it.
Except this wasn't a boy. This was a girl, and for some reason, that just completely pissed her off.
"Oh, you know what, screw you and your Goddamn JoJo, Blair!" The words exploded from her lips before she could stop them, but she didn't regret them.
Blair actually jumped, brown eyes with their stupid green and gold flecks looking intently at her. After a moment of silence, her friend seemed intent on remaining infuriatingly calm. "Well, where did that come from?" she asked, as if talking to a small, angry child.
Jo hated it. "Nowhere! I'm just tired of hearing about your new toy, okay?"
"My new toy?"
Snatching her hand away from Blair's, Jo shoved off her bed. "Yes, your toy! You know your new Barbie doll that you can take with you wherever you go until you get tired of her and throw her away like you do with all your dolls-"
"No one wants to hear about her, Blair. You know that?! Natalie and Tootie have taken to running the other direction when you're coming and you know what? She's not even that great! What the hell is it about her? Huh?"
Coming forward, Jo stared intently into her friend's face. Blair had gone completely still, with that muted look that she often got when Jo had said something she found particularly abhorrent.
"Joanne Jefferson is not a toy," she said evenly.
"Well, she's not the God-dammed Pope either."
"No, she's not. She's a classy, educated woman who I happen to admire."
Right. "But only cause she admires you, right? What do you do, spend all day telling each other how amazing you two are?"
"I think that's inappropriate."
"Oh, yeah?" Turning away, Jo reached for her bag, sorting furiously through it.
"Jo, you manage to find something wrong with every friend I have that isn't you, Natalie or Tootie!"
"That's because they're usually stupid!"
"But Joanne isn't!" Blair enunciated, cutting her off with a sharp wave of her hand. "She's intelligent and poised, and she's not above getting her hands dirty. I thought you, out of all people, would respect that about her!"
Jo felt distinctly uncomfortable. "Oh really?" she managed, trying to seem as uncaring as possible as she glanced back at Blair. "And why would I do that?"
"Because you're always telling me I need to be more than I am. And JoJo-" Blair stopped herself, closing her eyes and beginning again. "Joanne," she began, more carefully, "Has been where I am. She knows what it's like to come from a rich family, to have expectations-"
What Blair was trying to say was becoming incredibly clear, and suddenly hurt, Jo bit out, "And I don't."
Hand pausing mid-air, Blair stared at her, mouth opening and then closing again. "I think you're jealous."
The statement knocked the wind completely out of her. It left her gaping, and she struggled to push out even a word. "What?" she managed, trying to sound as insulted as she could.
Blair crossed her arms triumphantly. "I think you're jealous of the time I'm spending with JoJo. I think you're afraid that you've been replaced."
Of all the blasted nerve-
"Right," she snapped. "Because that's always been my life's ambition. Blair freakin' Warner's approval. Do yourself a favor and go look in a mirror, Blair. The only person who'll ever love you as much as you love yourself will be staring right back at ya."
Face flaming hot, Jo couldn't stay. Without waiting to see Blair's expression, Jo stormed out of the room, taking care to slam the door as hard as she could as she left.
Jo knew she had a knack for running out on arguments when they got too heavy to handle. It was a gift from her father, and she had been accused of doing it more than once: by Blair, by Mrs. G, by even Tootie and Natalie.
Knowing that she did it didn't make not doing it any easier, and despite the fact that she knew she had hurt Blair, first by insulting her, and then by running out on her, Jo kept her distance.
A lot of it had to do with Blair's reaction. In the moments in the past few days when they had to be in a room together, Blair was decidedly frosty, overly polite and formal.
It was Blair's way of torturing Jo. Being unfailingly civil until Jo broke down and screamed at her, practically begging her to stop being so damned NICE and distant and actually be an actual person.
But to do that would require an actual confrontation, and Jo wasn't in the mood for that. Blair had actually accused her of being JEALOUS, and that was just not how it was. Jo was annoyed. She was irritated. She was tired of hearing about the wonderful-ness of JoJo. That was all. She wasn't freaking jealous.
The accusation was still ringing clearly in her mind when she jerked her bike into park in the school parking lot, thrusting her helmet off her hair and running her fingers through the urban hairstyle. She was on her way to her social studies class, but the place was more crowded than normal and when she saw the tables set up with poster board signs, she knew why.
It was the winter activities fair, the time when all the school clubs and organizations showed up to try and con people into joining them. There were clubs for everything, even a freaking STAR WARS club with a guy dressed in a Chewbacca suit.
Jo wasn't much into social events. She had enough to worry about with her heavy course load and the store, but it didn't stop her from heading through. A few of the booths were bribing people with cupcakes, and Jo would never say no to those. She had neglected to bring lunch, and she wasn't ever going to take stuff from Mrs. G's without paying for it.
It was crowded, and Jo was too involved in peeling the wrapper off her cupcake to truly see where she was going. She nearly choked on her cupcake when she was slammed into from the side, connecting with another warm body.
"Hey!" She snarled, immediately defensive. "Watch it!"
Bitterly, she wiped the frosting off her cheek, ready to turn around and give the clumsy girl a piece of her mind, when she realized who it was who was staring at her, hands on her hips.
Blinking, Jo felt suddenly cowed. "Sorry," she managed stiffly. "I didn't see you."
Joanne Jefferson had deep intense eyes, and when they locked with hers, it was almost as if they were looking through it. Jo found it disconcerting.
"It's fine," Joanne said, muted smile fluttering on her lips. "I was in your way."
Jo almost never really felt awkward, but standing beside the well groomed girl in a perfectly ironed t-shirt, watching as she slipped on the designer sun glasses made her uncomfortable.
"I'm gonna try to get this cupcake off my face," she began, edging away.
"You don't have to go," Joanne said, seemingly friendly, uncrossing her arms. "Are you interested in joining any clubs?"
Almost immediately, another girl, holding a clipboard, stepped to Joanne's side. "Hey, Joanne! Who's your friend?"
Now that they stood side by side, Jo finally noticed the words on the matching purple t-shirts. LGBT was scribbled over them, in bright neon colors. Jo sucked in her breath, the realization coming to her with a jolt in her heart.
And still, Joanne gave her no time to react, to really let it sink in, when she turned to her friend and said, "Megan, this is Jo. We have a mutual friend."
Pushed into pleasantries, Jo could only offer a small, hesitant wave "Hey."
Megan gave her a smile that seemed suddenly way too bright. "I've seen you in my English class. I thought you might be one of us! You wanna sign up?" She thrust the clipboard at her.
She audibly gasped, which was probably not the right reaction, all things considered. It wasn't as if people hadn't ever really thought that about her, because they did. Especially in the old neighborhood. And Jo didn't necessarily think there was anything wrong with it even if she did threaten to beat up a guy once who had called her a dyke- and there was that one time where she was sure that they thought that about her and Blair-
"Megan, Jo's not gay," Joanne interjected immediately, pushing the clipboard back at Megan. "And you're scaring her."
Jo blinked, somehow annoyed at Joanne's attempt at 'saving' her. She could damn well take care of herself. "No, she's not."
"But you're not," Joanne said, head tilting in her direction. "Right."
She couldn't believe she actually hesitated. "Right," she finally blurted. "But that doesn't mean that-"
"Bummer," Megan enthused flatly, the interesting fading. "But you know, it's not just for gay people. LGBT is about tolerance."
"Well, I don't know if I need a lesson in that." Shifting on her feet, Jo stared at Joanne. "But you both are you know "
"You can say it," Joanne answered dryly. "Gay."
"Gay as the day is long!" Megan said cheerfully, throwing her arm around Joanne's shoulders and bringing her in for a squeeze. "We gotta own it. Jo and I are all about setting an example, breaking stereotypes. Bucking trends!" Jo blinked, and when she glanced at Joanne, she could see the other woman almost smile. "But don't worry. We're not gonna try to recruit ya! Not unless you're up for it."
Jo's throat went dry. It was a terrible moment, until Joanne cleared her throat. "Megan is kidding." Of course she was. Ducking her head, Jo felt like an idiot. Blair's friend finally seemed to take pity on her, and shoved her friend gently away by the elbow. "Megan, why don't work on those signatures? I'll catch up."
"Sure thing. Bye Jo! Catch me in English if you change your mind! I promise I'll make myself free and available. And I hear I'm a great teacher!" Megan offered a parting wink, and bounced happily away.
Face flushing, Jo sucked in her breath, and turned to catch Joanne staring bemusedly at her. "Sorry. Obviously, she's thinks you're cute."
"I guess I'll take it as a compliment," she grumbled.
"Do," Joanne said mildly. "She's picky."
And now it was out there. This truth about Joanne, and to be honest, Jo couldn't deny a sudden thrill at it. Jo knew something about Joanne that Blair quite obviously did not know. She had to not know, because Blair would have certainly mentioned it. It gave her back some sense of confidence, and she used it as she squared her shoulders and asked the question. "So does Blair know?"
Joanne reached up and slowly removed her glasses. Dark eyes met with hers, and with her tongue pressed against her teeth, the older woman's head tilted curiously to the side. "Does Blair know "
"That you're gay." Jo blurted, unwilling to play the game.
Joanne's lips pulled into a sudden twitch. "I would assume so," Joanne said after a moment. "It's not as if I keep it a secret. I've never much been a fan of hiding." She motioned to her t-shirt, making her point.
And maybe that was true, this revelation had put a curious spin on the recent events, and Jo, despite the warning in her head not to jump to conclusions, couldn't help but see it. If Joanne liked girls, and she had been hanging around with Blair all this time well what was the natural conclusion? Why did so many guys drool around Blair so much?
"Is that what you're after with Blair?" Jo believed in being frank. She wasn't about beating around the bush, and she felt oddly protective now. "Because I can tell you right now, she's ain't gay."
Joanne's chin went up. Obviously, Jo had struck a nerve. "No kidding," came the dry response.
"Yeah," she snapped. "No kidding. She thinks of you as a friend and she really likes you, but I'm warning you, don't try any funny stuff." She was in her element now: Blair's protector. The blonde WOULD be ditzy enough to attract a lesbian and not know it. Blair attracted everybody. Jo had spent entirely too much time fending off her would-be suitors, and it annoyed her, but it had almost become second nature. To fall into this role seemed natural and it gave her a much needed leg to stand on against this rich girl.
"Funny stuff?" Joanne blinked at her. "Listen Jo. Blair is interesting. She's different. She wants to learn about law, and I believe in doing what I can to encourage strong, enabled woman to work in a field where they are desperately underrepresented. Whether or not I have any interest in her romantically is entirely her business and none of yours."
"Oh, I make it my business."
Honestly, the question threw her off balance. It was to the point, curiously detached, and Jo found herself gaping like a fish out of water. Her mind went blank, and she struggled to come up with a coherent answer.
Why was it her business? Really?
"Because," she finally responded. "She's hopeless, okay? She attracts some real jerks, and I've been in her life for years and I've seen it happen."
"So you don't think Blair can handle herself."
"I didn't say that."
"Yes," Joanne said, "You did."
"Listen, I'm her friend," Jo blurted out, suddenly very angry. Coming forward, she poked a finger at the other woman's chest. "And I'm just telling you, I don't want to see her get hurt."
"Ah." Jo disliked Joanne intensely when she pushed her hands in her jeans and nodded solemnly. "I see. Do all these guys that Blair sees get this same speech?"
"If I have to give it."
"That's an awful lot of interest to take in someone."
"That's what friends do." Jo didn't think she had ever used the words 'Blair' and 'friends' quite so much in the same conversation before, but it didn't seem to matter. If admitting it was what it took to get this girl off Blair's back then so be it.
But Joanne didn't respond, not right away. She merely stared at Jo, as if she was searching for something. Whatever it was, Jo didn't want her to find it.
"You know that I'm going to be a lawyer, right?" Joanne asked suddenly. "My father owns a very successful practice and my mother is a judge."
Now she was bragging? "Good for you," Jo snorted, letting her know with her rolling eyes what she thought of that.
"I think so." Joanne answered easily. "It's helped me build a really accurate bullshit meter." With that, she smiled. "Let me know if you change your mind about LGBT, and give my love to Blair, would you?"
She left Jo in the crowd, standing there looking speechless and stupid.
Jo hated her.
It wasn't that Blair was dense. Jo knew that for a fact. Blair had shown to be capable of remarkable depth and clarity when she put the effort into it. Maybe that's why Jo thought Blair was worth the effort it took the friendship. Blair was needy and annoying and vicious and vacuous, but she was also caring and sensitive and when exposed, had a tenderly vulnerable heart.
Jo really only allowed herself to admit she cared about Blair when Blair wasn't looking. Sometimes, when Blair's back was turned, when Blair's focus was on her ever important compact, she would allow a moment of inner reflection, a small smile to alight on her lips, and then she would tell herself she was glad she had met the blonde, roots and all. She would feel warm all over, and if she was the mushy kind (which she wasn't), she would admit it might be nice to pull Blair into a hug and tell her so.
Then, of course, Blair would catch her staring and wonder what she was staring at and ruin it all. Jo would always feel hot afterwards and sputter something about her split ends or her make up or anything that would cause the needed reaction: Blair rolling her eyes and making some comment about 'Mr. Goodwrench' or her own personal 'Neanderthal'.
She had to admit, when she walked into her bedroom and found Blair at her vanity, concentrating on lining her lips with her Countess cosmetics, that same feeling overtook her now. Blair was beautiful, that was never up for debate, but she was also kinda pretty on the inside, underneath all that make up and hairspray.
Jo really didn't want to see her get hurt.
Brown eyes with green and gold flecks moved in her direction, even as the face stayed perfectly still. "What?" Blair's voice was calm, monotonous.
Blinking, Jo shook her head, suddenly feeling cloudy. "Hey " She was well aware of the fact that Blair was still angry at her, but Blair needed to get over that now. "Listen, about before let's just forget it."
Blair calmly put down the lipstick tube and turned to her mascara. "Fine."
Fine. Fine never meant 'fine' with Blair. Jo didn't want to get into that whole thing, because then Blair would start with the 'Whatever you think is best, Jo' and the 'No really, it doesn't matter' which always meant it clearly did matter and why the hell did she drive her so insane?
"Blair, not now, okay?" she snapped, coming forward and shutting the door behind. "I have something I need to tell you about your friend Joanne."
Jo had never been a snitch, but Blair sometimes needed to get things pounded into her head. Like when her boyfriend was dealing or when that other idiot was treating her bad not that Joanne being gay was anything like that, but Jo had a bad feeling about her. That was reason enough.
"Oh really?" Blair was completely still as she expertly applied the mascara. "Is it how you poked at her like a barbarian and told her to stay away from me?"
She felt like she had been punched in the gut. "What?"
"JoJo called me," Blair said, reinserting the wand into the tube and finally turning to look at her. "So it's true."
And now Jo knew why Blair had been so calm. She was furious. Dammit. "Well, it didn't happen like that," she began.
"Oh, it didn't."
"No! It's just that I found out somethin' about Joanne-"
"You found out she was a lesbian," Blair snapped, biting off the word.
Jo blinked in surprise. "You mean you knew?"
"No," Blair said, slamming the mascara down, creating a dull thud. "I didn't. But even if I did, what would it matter? What excuse did it give you to paw her and poke her and threaten her? She's not some drunk frat boy, Jo, and you had no right!"
"She's interested in you!" Jo snapped back. "Okay?"
Blair slowly stood. "And she said that to you."
Oh, boy. Jo rubbed her palm against her face in frustration. "Well, no-"
"So you just assumed that because Joanne happens to be a lesbian she is going to abandon all self control and what maul me in a corner somewhere?"
"No! I just Dammit-"
"And you just had to stick your big head in where it doesn't belong and make Joanne think I'm some sort of paranoid BIGOT that would want to have nothing to do with her?!"
Blair seemed really really mad. This was not how it was supposed to go. "I didn't say any of that!"
"Why did you say ANYTHING?!"
"Because she's attracted to you!"
"Of course she is!" It came out as a shout, filling the room with Blair's own narcissism. "Everyone is! What difference does it make!"
Jo blinked, overwhelmed. "Well, it's not like I mean you wouldn't really Look," she finally spat, managing to recover some of her mental facilities. "I was trying to do you a favor, okay? Don't tell me you actually WANTED her to hit on you."
Blair remained quiet.
Jo waited, and suddenly, a horrible, irrational thought filled into her mind. "You wouldn't I mean you didn't did you?"
Blair's jaw hardened, and she whirled on her heel, turning back to her make up, putting it into her case with hard, jerky movements.
"Blair, you can't actually be telling me that you would want to-" Jo came forward, suddenly frightened out of her wits, and she had no idea why. "Blair, come on!"
"Well, why not?" Blair said, inserting a brush into a sleeve. "Lesbianism is all the rage these days."
Oh, God. Blair really was in a league of her own. "It's not like this is a new suit you can just try on, Blair!" Jo shouted, suddenly furious. "It's not a choice!"
"Oh, like you would know."
Jo looked heavenwards and tried not to scream. "Blair? Listen to me, okay? You can't just announce one day that you want to date a woman, okay? It doesn't work that way."
"Oh?" Blair turned to her, crossing her legs and pointedly staring. "How does it work? Enlighten me."
Jo opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She clamped onto her throat and tried to swallow some moisture back.
"Blair," she began, in a wheezy, raspy tone. "You can't just go out with a lesbian to spite me, okay? It's just it's "
"Who said it has anything to do with you?"
"Oh it doesn't?!"
"Joanne is a very attractive!" Blair snapped, pitch rising. "She's going to be extremely successful. She is a JEFFERSON and her mother will be a Supreme Court Judge! She is articulate and funny and she pays for everything. If she were a man she'd be perfect!"
"But she's not a man, Blair! She's a woman!"
"So believe me," Jo snapped, heat radiating off her skin in her fevered emotion. "There's a difference, okay? There's a big difference!"
"And that doesn't matter!" Blonde curls bouncing, Blair turned away again, shoving her make up bag into place. "Joanne is special. There's never going to be anyone like her ever again and I'm going out with her."
Jo's head was going to explode any second. She could feel it. "Blair, come on!" she snarled. "You're being an idiot! This is stupid!"
"Joanne doesn't think I'm an idiot. She doesn't think I'm stupid."
Jo deflated, suddenly exhausted. "That's not what I meant."
"Oh, it is." Standing straight up, Blair grabbed her purse and slung it over her shoulder. "And I don't care anymore. We're going tonight to the Golden Kitty."
"The Golden- the gay bar?!"
"Yes," Blair said stiffly. "I asked her to take me and she agreed."
A hot flash of uncontrollable anger surged through her, and Jo had had enough. "Okay, you know what? FINE. If you're this if this is how far you have to go to prove you can piss me off, then fine! Be a lesbian! I don't care! Have a great time tonight! I hope you get lucky!"
"Thank you, Jo! I will!"
Jo had to get out of there before she punched something. Turning away, she only barely registered Natalie and Tootie before shoving past them and jogging down the stairs.
Three hours of riding down the highway at top speed on her bike in frigid cold weather had done nothing to cool her down. When she stomped back into the house, Blair was gone, and she had learned from Natalie and Tootie that Joanne had picked her up.
Jo had nearly punched a wall. She decided to camp out on the couch until Blair returned just to make sure Joanne didn't try any funny stuff. Because Blair was NOT a lesbian.
The flaw in the plan was that her younger friends insisted on sitting beside her while she stewed, and she desperately wanted to be alone.
At least Mrs. Garret had the right idea and gone to her damned church potluck.
"I can't believe you got Blair so mad she turned into a lesbian," Tootie announced suddenly.
Jo suddenly shuddered with annoyance. "Would you quit it?!" she snapped. "Blair is not a lesbian. She's just pissed off."
"But she's with a lesbian," Natalie mused. "At a lesbian bar. And she wants to get lucky."
"Don't remind me," she grumbled.
The girls fell quiet now, Tootie and Natalie staring at the cards they held between them.
"Do you think that now that Blair's a lesbian," Tootie began, "We have to join that group on campus? You know LGBT?"
"No," Natalie said, staring at her deck. "I think you can only join if you're a lesbian or a gay person or " she glanced up, blinking. " the other two. Whatever the last two letters stand for."
"No," Jo corrected, distracted. "I was at their fair today. They let everyone in, it's about toler-what the hell?" Chin coming up, Jo shook herself back into focus. "Blair is not a lesbian! Allright? She's going to go to that place, take one look at it, realize how stupid this all is and turn right back around. She's gonna be walking through that door any minute."
Natalie stared dubiously at the entrance. "Any minute?"
"Any minute," Jo confirmed. "So scram. She's gonna feel more stupid if we're all in here waiting for her."
"I'm not going anywhere," Tootie answered decidedly, shifting to get a more comfortable spot on the couch. "I want to see if Blair gets lucky."
"Oh for crying out loud!"
One hour later, Jo was clearly ready to start climbing the walls. She was pacing the room like a large, angry cat, and Natalie, curled up on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa, was quickly going dizzy.
"It's 9 o'clock!" Jo snarled. "Where the hell is she?"
"Well," Tootie sighed, chin resting on her curled fist. "Maybe she-"
"I swear to God, Tootie if you tell me she's getting lucky I'll plant my foot in your ass."
Tootie blanched at the imagery. "That was unnecessary."
Natalie put aside her cocoa. "Jo. Maybe she's just having a good time."
"At a gay bar? Please." Jo froze. "Maybe that Joanne girl put roofies in her drinks!"
Tootie vividly rolled her eyes and exhaled dramatically.
"I seriously doubt that is the case," Natalie responded.
"You don't know! These creeps always act like perfect gentlemen and then WHAM-MO!"
Tootie pursed her lips. "I don't see Joanne being a date-raper, Jo. I don't think she's that desperate."
Jo gave her a blank look. "She's with Blair."
"Yeah, but she's really pretty," Tootie insisted. "And she's got money. I mean for a lesbian she's a catch. Isn't she?"
Natalie nodded sagely. "I don't think Joanne would have to resort to date rape drugs."
Jo looked like she was going to be ill. "Okay," she conceded. "But something's wrong. I mean, you guys have to see this place, okay? It's crazy."
"You've been to the Golden Kitty?"
Tootie's voiced question had her attention as well. Natalie quickly turned to regard Jo, but their friend had gone mysteriously pale.
"No. Yes. Okay once." Jo resumed her pace. "This girl invited me, I didn't really know- it doesn't matter. It's not Blair's scene!"
Natalie tried to be diplomatic. "Maybe it is."
"Okay. But maybe it is."
"Fine. But maybe-"
"Natalie!" Jo's mouth clamped shut, and she closed her eyes, fingers pinching the bridge of her nose. She was obviously overwhelmed. Natalie would have found it amusing if Jo hadn't been so angry about all of it. The hand came down and Jo looked slightly less homicidal. "It's not, okay?" Jo paused, obviously trying to sort this all out. "I'm going down there," she suddenly decided. "Blair obviously got in over her head and I'm going down there."
Catching a quick, panicked glance from Tootie, Natalie straightened up. "Jo, maybe you should just wait for her. I'm sure she's fine."
"Listen, I'll be back. Don't tell Mrs. G where we went, okay? She's got enough on her mind." And there Jo went, headed for the door.
"Jo, come on!"
"Forget it, Tootie," Natalie advised, one hand on her friend's shoulder. "You know Jo. There's no stopping her."
Tootie looked put out. "But what if Blair is having a really good time?!"
"Then we get more of a show tonight," Natalie declared. "Wanna rent a movie and wait up?"
Tootie suddenly grinned. "Something with Mel Gibson!"
Fingers buried into her leather jacket, Jo was aware of the stares when she pushed her way into the girl bar. It wasn't as crowded as she remembered it, and she supposed that was a good thing. It would make it easier to find Blair.
Jo felt a curious tightening in her stomach, and when a girl stopped her with a hand to her elbow, smiling flirtatiously, she just shook her off, heading deeper, back towards the bar.
There, she spotted someone familiar, leaning against the counter and laughing intimately with the bartender.
Fucking Joanne Jefferson.
Shouldering her way through the crowd, Jo didn't care about making a scene when she grabbed hold of Joanne's shoulder and twirled her around, nearly tipping her over. "Where is she?"
She had clearly caught the other girl by surprise. "Jo?" Joanne asked, sprawled against the bar. "What are you doing here?!"
Jo was in no mood for pleasantries. "Where's Blair?!" Stepping in closer, she looked down at her with an intimidating glare. "Did you ditch her? What'd you do with her?"
"Oh, God this is getting ridiculous " Righting herself, Joanne straightened her shirt and offered an irritated smile. "Blair is fine, Jo."
"Oh yeah? Then where the hell is she?!"
Joanne's tongue buried into the side of her mouth, as if she was trying desperately not to lose her temper.
"Seriously?" When Jo didn't react, Joanne simply pointed over Jo's shoulder.
Jo whirled, and sucked in her breath, relieved when she found a flash of blonde hair, dug way back in a corner booth.
"See?" Joanne continued, voice dripping with sarcastic sweetness. "No blood. No bruises. She's a little depressed, but that's hardly my fault."
"Oh it's not?"
"No," Joanne ground out, annoyed. "Apparently she had some fight with you!"
The bartender behind them arched an eyebrow, leaning forward until she was between them both. "You mean THIS is Jo?"
Joanne glanced over her shoulder, and smiled tightly. "The one and only."
The bartender eyed her, from top to bottom. Jo felt a dirty after the lady was done. Still, it was a little gratifying when the bartender finally just said, "Cute," before turning to fill another order.
Jo found her anger slipping despite herself, replaced with some sort of awkward befuddlement. "You talked about me?"
"For hours," Joanne responded dryly. "I never knew how irritating it is to hear the name Jo over and over again. I'm officially rescinding the nickname JoJo. From now on I will be Joanne Jefferson."
"Good for you," Jo said, clapping her hands together in mock sympathy. "I'm gonna get Blair."
Dismissing Joanne, Jo was getting ready to fight her way through the crowd when she felt a hand clamp down on her shoulder.
"Jo." Teeth grinding together, Jo tilted her head back. Joanne's stare was surprisingly intense. "I feel this is partly my fault."
"Partly?" she repeated.
"I let you think I had a thing for Blair," Joanne continued. "You pissed me off. I'm sorry. I don't. Honestly. Blair is very attractive but she isn't my type."
The sentence seemed completely foreign to her. "What do you mean, she's not your type? Blair's everyone's type."
Joanne only looked at her, her expression unreadable. "Right," she sighed. "Except mine. She's a lovely friend but I prefer my girlfriends with a little less drama. No nonsense. I'm going to have enough of a challenge with my career ahead of me without worrying about a high maintenance girlfriend. When Blair asked me to bring her here tonight I assumed she wanted support, not a date."
"You're assuming Blair was ever interested," Jo spat.
Dark eyes locked intensely with hers. "You're right. I don't think she ever was." Patting Jo on the shoulder companionably, Joanne smiled. "Just take your girl home."
Jo wasn't in the mood to argue the semantics of that. She just needed to get to Blair.
Maneuvering her way through the crowd, Jo found that the closer she got, the slower she paced herself. Blair, with her dirty blonde hair and her big brown eyes, looked beguiling and lost. It was endearing, and once again, Jo found herself overtaken with sudden bittersweet affection for her friend.
Blair didn't know Jo was here, and so Jo was free to look, watch as her friend glanced nervously around the bar, left to her own devices by her friend who had been distracted at the bar. Strangely, the sight of Blair, looking a little sad and a little lonely, made her heart hurt. She began walking again, trying to get to Blair, if only to get that frown off her face.
She didn't get there fast enough.
She was ten feet away when a large woman in a leather motorcycle jacket leaned over the table, seriously invading Blair's personal space. From the look of Blair's repeatedly shaking head and the other woman leaning further and further in, she apparently didn't take know how to take no for an answer.
Jo didn't have the patience for yet another woman gunning for Blair. It had been a very, very long night. For just a second, Jo had a smidge of compassion for the legions of men Blair reeled in.
Coming forward, she tapped the lady roughly with her finger. "Hey. You mind getting your hands off my girl?"
It was an appropriately butch statement, Jo thought, and she felt slightly vindicated at the look of relief and joy that flashed through Blair's face before she realized she was supposed to be mad at her.
A phantom smile flittered across Jo's face, before she edged between Blair and the other girl, resuming the dark, dangerous scowl she had adopted before.
"I don't see your name on her."
"In a minute, you're gonna see my fist in your face, if you don't back off." No one could accuse Jo of mellowing. Within seconds, the lady had grudgingly trudged off. Jo finally allowed herself to grin. "Man. I still got it." With that, she plopped into the booth beside Blair. Her friend regarded her with distant civility. "Hi, Blair," she began conversationally. "What's up?"
Blair's back straightened completely, like she was sitting at the table with the President. "Was that absolutely necessary?" she asked in a clipped tone. "I'm hardly fragile. I could have handled myself."
It was a matter of pride. Jo guessed she knew something about that.
"Sure you could have," she agreed, voice going soft, gentle. "You can do anything you want to, Blair. I mean it."
The sweet tone wasn't lost on Blair. At the unspoken apology, Jo was rewarded with a small, pleased smile that went all the way to Blair's eyes. Jo felt her insides go warm, and she grinned, suddenly relieved.
"You mean, even become a lesbian?" Blair asked pointedly. The corners of her lips were tilting up good-naturedly.
Jo smiled in spite of herself. "Sure," she responded. "I mean, look, you got the pick of the place in here."
Blair's eyes flickered down. "Everyone but Joanne Jefferson, apparently."
Oh. Jo's smile froze. Without thinking she immediately curled an arm around her companion, and drew her in closer. "Listen, Blair she's just crazy, okay?"
"Oh, it's just so embarrassing, Jo!" Blair's face buried into her well-manicured palms. "I just feel so silly!"
"Listen, Joanne Jefferson doesn't know what she's missing!"
"Yes, she does." Blair sucked in her breath, and when her palms came down, her eyes were glittering like jewels. "She just didn't want it." Jo felt her heart stop, for one dark beat, before Blair continued. "It's just as well, I suppose. I'm not sure I want to be a lesbian."
It was a weird feeling that came over her. Almost disappointment. Almost relief. Jo didn't want to dwell on it.
"No," Blair decided. "I was thinking about it. It's difficult enough to be around me! Can you imagine two of me?! I mean, I'm wonderful I'm sure, but what happens when there are periods! And PMS! And who holds the doors open? Who takes the check? My entire world would go askew!"
Smiling fondly, Jo reached forward, and smoothed a bang that had fallen into Blair's eyes. "That's true," she said diplomatically.
"And besides," Blair decided. "I wouldn't want someone like Joanne anyway."
"She's too perfect." Blair cuddled in closer, closed her eyes and sighed. "After years of living with you? I wouldn't know how to handle it!"
"Thanks," she muttered dryly.
"I like a challenge," Blair continued, looking remarkably more relaxed than she had been a few minutes ago. "It would have been too easy." With that, her head fell against Jo's shoulder, breath falling in warm tufts across Jo's collar bone.
For some reason, it made her shiver.
Still, Blair looked remarkably content, like a sleepy kitten digging into his favorite pillow. Fingernails scratched lightly against Jo's shirt, underneath her jacket. It felt nice, to call a truce. Jo wasn't going to mess with it. Sighing, she leaned back, and discovered sleepy eyes blinking up at her, studying her intently.
"What?" Jo felt suddenly self conscious.
One palm reached up and carefully pressed against Jo's cheek. "It's too bad you're not gay, Jo."
The words caught her by surprise, as a lump went immediately into her throat making her nearly choke. Coughing, she tried to clear a passage way.
"Right," she finally managed.
"We would have taken the world by storm!" Blair grinned happily at her, bright eyes twinkling with mirth. "The perfect butch/femme dynamo."
If she didn't know better, she'd think Blair was a little tipsy. The tightness in her stomach slowly began to liquefy, and she managed a loving smile, looking down at the girl who quite often, drove her crazy.
"You're are so insane," she settled for. The sting of the words were taken away by the affectionate smile she finally managed. "You know that?"
"Says the pot," Blair snorted. She fell into a content sort of silence, attention now taken by the couples of women on the floor, moving in time to a slow, romantic melody. Jo glanced over the crowd. She had to admit, it was kinda nice.
"This is humiliating," Blair announced, lips brushing against her skin. "My first and only time at a gay bar and I didn't even get lucky. I didn't even get asked to dance!"
"That girl asked you-"
"We're pretending that didn't happen."
"Oh." Jo kept her smile to herself, and after a moment of staring at the crowd and feeling the warmth of Blair against her, made a decision. "Come on."
Sliding out of the booth, Jo extended a hand, as gentlemanly as she could. "Let's dance, Princess."
At the sight of Blair's unreadable expression, and the way those brown eyes slid first at her hand, then to her face, Jo was afraid that she had made a dreadful mistake.
But when Blair smiled, a dazzling smile that looked relieved and happy and something else, Jo knew she had done something good for her friend. "Fine. But you lead."
"Like I would have let you do it."
There was a moment of anticipated silence, and then Blair reached forward, and placed her palm carefully on hers, trusting her, to lead the way.
It was a little surreal, and if Jo would admit it to herself, a little primitive, to feel as proud as she did as she led Blair off the booth, fingers tightly interwoven together, towards the dance floor.
Jo had never danced with another woman, and she knew for a fact Blair hadn't either, and so it was a little surprising, when Blair seemed to immediately know what to do. With a soft, content smile, Blair untangled their hands and slid her arms around her neck, drawing her in closer.
Jo's breath caught in her throat, at the feel of her friend pressed so intimately against her, and it was different than Eddie, than the other guys. This felt soft. Awkwardly, she reached up and pressed her palms against soft, womanly hips.
She felt like an awkward teenager, shifting from foot to foot, unsure what to do. But it made Blair happy.
When Blair smiled at her again, Jo felt her nervous agitation fade slightly, and it enabled her to slide her palms almost possessively around her friends back, and close her eyes when Blair melted into her, cheek resting against her chin. Blair's feathered hair, smelling of flowers and hairspray, tickled her nose, but for once, Jo didn't mind the smell. It smelled nice.
Jo had never entertained the idea of slow dancing with Blair, but she had to admit
No she wouldn't admit anything, just then.
Well maybe one thing.
"You know, you were right," she whispered into Blair's ear. Blair paused for a minute, before straightening up, to look her into her eye. Jo immediately missed the warmth of Blair against her shoulder.
"About what?" Blair asked her, and now slender fingertips were fiddling with the nape of Jo's hair, winding strands around fingers delicately.
"I was jealous."
Blair's brow rose proudly. "Naturally."
Sighing, Jo's eyes rose heavenward. "Shut up."
Her friend squeezed in tighter, and one palm slid around her neck to keep her from looking away. "Okay, I give," Blair said, her smile gentle and appealing. "You were jealous. Why?"
The eternal question. Glancing up again, Jo palmed the back of Blair's dress, feeling the softness of the blouse warm with the heat of Blair's skin underneath. Silk really did feel nice.
"Because," Jo managed, grudgingly. "Like it or not you're you and I "
"We're friends, Blair," Jo finally managed. "Really good friends and Joanne you made it seem like she really got you, you know? Like she was giving you something that I wasn't."
It was more than she had prepared to admit, honestly, and any other time, Jo would have felt stupid saying it. Hell, any other time, she wouldn't have said it.
But she was in the arms of her best friend, and there was something safe about it. Swaying intimately, rubbing her thumb along Blair's spine, looking down into brown eyes with damned green and gold flecks
Blair's fingers were back to toying with her hair.
"Do you know what attracted me to Joanne?"
Jo wasn't sure she wanted to know. But she supposed she owed her friend that much. "What?"
Blair inhaled deeply, and Jo could feel it, in the way Blair's chest pressed against hers. In that second, she could feel Blair's heart beat.
"She talked to me honestly." Blair shrugged, looking almost embarrassed. "She looked at me seriously. And she didn't believe in bull shit. She fought for what she believed in. In a way, she reminded me of you."
Jo didn't realize she had forgotten to breathe until she felt a little light headed. "Oh."
And then suddenly, Blair felt just a little bit closer, and there was breath against her lips. There was no time to think, just a simple fluttering of her eyes and then the press of a soft mouth against her own. It was lingering, gentle, and instinctively Jo tilted her head, sighing against those lips before capturing them again. There was a warmness spreading through her belly, and her eyes remained closed as lips clung to hers, and then delicately, pulled away.
The song had now moved into something faster, peppier, and when Jo's eyes opened, Blair's arms were already dropping, sliding off her shoulders.
There was a moment, when she considered fighting it, winding her arms around Blair's waist again, and then Jo came to her senses.
She let her go.
Blair was frightened, she could see it, and had it been any other place and any other time, Jo supposed she would have found this as good a moment as any to freak out. But Blair was frightened, and what happened here, Jo didn't really understand.
She didn't think either of them were ready to understand it. She wasn't sure she'd ever be ready.
Carefully, she reached up, and tugged lightly at a blonde curl. "Guess you did get lucky," she said, raspier than she intended, and dug her hands into her pockets, smiling as lazily as she could.
It was exactly what Blair needed, diffusing the situation, breaking the magic. Her friend broke out into a beautiful, relieved smile.
Jo knew it would never happen again.
She told herself she wasn't sad about that.
Holding out her hand, she let her best friend take it, and prepared to go back to reality.
"Let's go home, Blair."
The phone rang, and buried deep in paper work, Jo didn't look up as she reached for it. "Polniaczek."
"Jo," came an always chipper, annoying voice. "I need a favor."
Jo's pencil immediately dropped, and preemptively, she could feel her eyes rolling to the back of her head. "Blair, what the hell have I told you about calling me at work, unless it's an absolute emergency?"
"You're always at work," Blair reminded her, and Jo's lips pursed together. "And besides, this is an emergency."
Right. She knew what kind of emergencies Blair had. Jo often groused to Mrs. G, in her monthly calls to the traveling widow that she felt that Blair considered Jo her own personal bodyguard instead of the rookie homicide detective she was supposed to be. "Oh, you mean like the time you called me at two in the morning to kill a rat?"
"Or the time you paged me with a 911 on my damned beeper and then when I rushed over to your house with sirens blaring you wanted me to replace a light bulb?"
"I couldn't see!"
"Blair, you have a damned staff for that," she reminded her, shoving her paper away from her in disgust.
"Perhaps that's true." She could hear the sounds of traffic blaring in the background. Blair was probably driving. "But no one does it better than you, Jo. You're my Mr. Goodwrench."
Blair really was unbelievable. And Jo hated that the sugary, syrupy sweetness in her voice made her melt just a little.
Then again, when it came to Blair, Jo being slightly pathetic had become the norm. It was a daily fight to maintain her rough attitude with Blair around constantly making her life hell, and she had gotten more than her share of ribbing from the other guys at the station whenever Blair flounced in here with cookies and Chinese food, or a new TV.
Yeah, they liked to bitch, and then they liked to eat it all.
She narrowed her eyes as she focused on the group of detectives and uniformed officers hooting and hollering at the game blaring on the wide television screen, and mentally flicked them off.
"What do you want, Blair!" She grumbled, determined to remain grumpy.
"I need you to come with me to an engagement party tonight."
That was Blair's emergency? Of course it was. "Blair, I'm buried deep in crap from this case. I gotta work."
"You can take one night off, Jo?"
"No, Blair. I can't," she sighed. She actually could, but Blair didn't have to know that. They had been spending too much time together as it was. Ever since Jo's divorce had become final, Blair had remained determined that she not spend one night alone, practically moving herself into Jo's little hovel. She hadn't been this buried in Blair since she had forced Blair to let her crash into her teeny tiny single dorm room at Langley. It was almost like she had gotten married all over again.
Still, getting rid of Blair had never been Jo's strong suit. She had been Jo's maid of honor, and she had been there when Jo graduated from the police academy. She had been at the hospital the first time she had been shot, threatening doctors and demanding the best room in the place. When she had been finally sent home, Blair had called every day, stopping by or sending the best chicken soups and gourmet meals from nearby delis. Rick began to complain incessantly about Jo's "other husband", Blair. ("She needs to just hurry up and get married," he would mutter. "Then maybe she can concentrate on her own life and not ours.")
Blair had been there when Jo finally revealed her divorce, and she loudly announced to anyone that would listen that she had never liked Rick, anyway, and his new fiancé deserved him. And the night Jo had, with some relief, finally signed the papers, Blair blew off her beau of the moment and spent the night on Jo's couch, eating popcorn and watching slasher flicks, head perpetually buried in Jo's neck.
Jo had to admit, it had been the best night she had had in a while.
"Why can't you just take Barry or Brad or whoever the hell your current guy is?"
"It's Peter. You don't even keep track anymore, do you?"
"I don't want Peter to come, I want you to come. It's just one night!"
One night was never just one night. Blair had used that excuse on her at least 10 times in the last month.
Determined to salvage her pride and actually remain resistant, Jo squirmed in her seat. "Blair, come on..."
"No, you come on! You'll want to come to this one! Do you remember Joanne Jefferson, our old friend from Langley?"
Joanne Jefferson? Jo blinked, and felt an immediate pang in her chest. She remembered Joanne, all right. She also remembered a huge fight with Blair, a trip to a gay bar, and a kiss that was never mentioned again.
Fighting a lump in her throat, Jo coughed, shifting and reaching for the spiral phone cord. "Vaguely."
"She's getting married."
Jo's eyes flickered up. "She's what?"
"Well, whatever the gay people do. She's doing it! She's met some sort of weird performance artist from Alphabet City. Jo, it's positively scandalous!"
"Why is it scandalous?"
"Because! She's... poor! I mean, Joanne's parents are obviously very supportive of Joanne's lifestyle, it's all the rage these days, but this girl? Jo, she has more in common with you."
"Thanks," she answered dryly.
"You have to come with me! You want to see Joanne, don't you? She was your friend, too!" Actually, she wasn't. Joanne Jefferson had been explicitly BLAIR'S friend, not hers. Jo and Joanne had hated each other on principle, and often went out of their way to do nothing more than exchange pleasantries whenever they came into contact after the incident at the Golden Kitty. Especially after Joanne had made the assumption that Jo and Blair were a couple, and Jo had proceeded to nearly bite her head off.
But mentioning that, even after all these years, would have meant mentioning the unmentionable, and Jo had told herself she was never going to do that. Not when Blair acted like it had never existed.
Fucking Blair Warner.
"Jo! Jo, please?"
And still, Jo never could say no.
It was for that reason, she ended up standing beside her best friend, at some hoity toity country club in the upper East Side, looking down at a sign that announced the engagement of Joanne Jefferson to some girl named Maureen Johnson.
"Progressive," was her comment, and was rewarded with a slap on the shoulder by Blair.
"Be nice," Blair hissed, nodding politely to a couple passing socialites. "Judge Jefferson and Mr. Howard Jefferson are very proud of Joanne. And meeting them would be very good for your career." Rolling her eyes, Jo nodded diplomatically. Catching hold of her elbow, Blair grinned devilishly. "It's so delicious."
Arching a brow, Jo had no idea what Blair was talking about. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Her life partner!" Blair blurted, excited as they turned into the ballroom, Blair linking their arms. "Can you imagine! Joanne Jefferson with a performance artist! From Alphabet City! There she is!"
And Jo caught sight of her, a stunning woman with painted red lips, tight leather pants and a velvet blazer, looking overwhelmed and out of her element. Beside her was her old friend Joanne Jefferson, more appropriately dressed in a white suit.
Jo found herself holding back a smirk. Apparently Joanne's little speech back in the day about not being attracted to drama queens had been a complete fabrication. It was incredibly clear, as Maureen Johnson reached over and with out preamble, grabbed hold of Joanne's ass as the other woman tried to maintain a conversation with an old lady covered in diamonds, that whatever Joanne's ideal was, back in the day, this was most certainly not it.
Jo was petty enough to find it privately hilarious.
Jo inhaled deeply, skirting the pool table and focusing on the last two balls currently resting on the green felt. It should have been easier, to figure out how to best crack them together and sink the last shot, but Jo had had an eventful day.
She was alone, which was both a relief and a surprise. Jo had seen a lot in her young life, especially when she had dedicated it post-college to service, first as a social worker, and now as a cop, but even she had to admit: this engagement party had been one of the weirdest she had ever witnessed.
Not at first. First, it had been boring as hell. Blair had dragged Jo to a table where her old college admirer, Megan, was sitting with Cindy, one of Joanne's old exes. They squealed with Blair and talked about purses a lot. It was excruciating. They also spoke of the mixed gathering, as Maureen's friends, dressed in ill-fitting clothes and shoving down as much food as they could, were also at the party. That had made for an awkward reunion for Jo, because she had picked up the little skinny Puerto Rican girl for drug possession more than once when she was in uniform. Mimi, was her name, and Jo had remembered her as sweet and tragic.
For Blair's and Mimi's sake, Jo had stayed away, preferring instead to poke at the linen on the table and smile distantly when Blair touched her shoulder, or grabbed her hand, or forced her into the conversation.
It wasn't until she saw Maureen Johnson heading over to a bartender, and slugging a glass of wine, did anything really catch her attention. She was definitely flirting, and Jo wasn't the only one who noticed. Joanne Jefferson, visibly peeved, dragged Maureen into a corner, and before she knew it, quietly intense whispering had erupted into outright shouting.
Her table had been captivated, but it was all very confusing to Jo. Maureen really WAS quite the exhibitionist. She had jumped on a table TWICE, threatened to flash the room, crawled over a pool table, and literally SANG. And what on earth they were arguing about, Jo couldn't quite understand. Apparently Maureen was something of a ho, but that was supposed to be okay because she was JOANNE'S ho, and Jo had to agree with Joanne, who basically said that was bullshit, and Maureen should just stop being a ho.
Apparently Maureen being a ho and Joanne being a paranoid control freak (Maureen had used the words "snob", "Geek", and "over-attentive", among others) had been too much for either of them to take, because in the space of three minutes, they had broken up, each going their own separate ways.
After that, the party had pretty much dissipated.
Jo had been left to her own devices, when Blair, in a fit of sisterhood, had gone somewhere upstairs with Megan and Cindy, an attempt to find Joanne and offer support.
Jo was fine with that. She and the pool table had been getting along nicely for half an hour.
When heels clicked into the game room, Jo knew her comforting companion had returned. "So how is she?" Jo asked, before she shot the cue forward, and smiled in satisfaction, as the ball sank exactly where she wanted it to go.
Blair stepped up beside her, brown eyes watching the eight ball bounce back. "She's pretty devastated," she commented solemnly. "As different as they were, Joanne really thought she was the one."
Jo's lips pressed together, and she straightened, laying the pool cue against the table. "Well, maybe she is." Dark eyes met hers curiously. "It's just a fight, Blair, you and I fight all the time."
A bittersweet smile graced the perfect lips. "You and I aren't getting married, Jo."
There it was again. That ache. As usual, Jo ignored it. "Right," she managed, looking away. Inhaling deeply, she pushed away from the table. "No, I've already been down that road once."
The pronounced disgust in Blair's voice as she said the name was almost funny.
"Tell me how you really feel," she muttered.
"Well, I'm sorry! He wasn't right for you!"
"Good of you to say that now."
Blair snorted. Jo could have mentioned that it was unladylike, but she didn't. "I was afraid if I did you'd go and do something crazy like elope in the middle of the night in frigid weather."
"Hey, that only happened once!"
"Once was enough. I think I got frostbite that night."
Jo smiled at the memory: Blair, teeth chattering, pale from the cold, snapping at her that following her and Eddie in the middle of the night was severely testing their friendship.
"So..." Blair reached forward, and closed her hand around the 8-ball, tossing it lightly in her hands. "Thanks for hanging around."
Jo shrugged, pulling the balls out of the holes. "It's fine. I haven't played in a swanky club in a while. You wanna play a game?"
"Sure." Blair rolled the ball in Jo's direction. "As long as you don't have anywhere you need to be."
"Eh " Jo grabbed the triangle, and offered a fleeting smile. "Where would I go? I already told the guys I was taking the night off." Jo had long ago given up arguing with the fellas when they would start hooting and hollering about Jo's 'girlfriend', Blair. Her intense protests had led them to believe she was protesting too much, and unfortunately, punching out a police office was considered assault. Better to just tell them where she was going and let them think she was getting lucky. At least then they really would leave her alone while she was out.
Blair watched her studiously setting up the triangle. "I have to admit I was relieved when you went into law enforcement."
Jo paused. That was new information. "Really?"
Shoulders shrugged, and Blair settled herself daintily against the table. "Jo, you were a social worker. You had gotten all boring and nice on me." Jo's mouth twitched in response. "It was a relief to find out that you ended up in the only profession where it's legal to slam men against doors and slam a metal baton over their heads. It was like a return to your roots."
"How well you know me," Jo replied, even and sarcastic.
"I do," Blair insisted, and then smiled sweetly. "I wanted to see you happy, Jo. That's all I wanted."
Blair was sometimes needlessly mushy. "I know," she admitted, picking up the pool cue. She needed something for her hands to do. "Me too," she added, feeling awkward. "You know, for you." Blair's eyes danced mysteriously. "So is Peter the one?"
Blair looked at her, one long beat, before shoving off the pool table, eyes on the floor. "Are they ever?" she asked carelessly, dismissing the question. "I suppose I'll have to pick one soon. Daddy has been making rumblings about it. He says it'll be good for the company to see me 'settled'. Whatever that means."
The way she had completely dismissed the notion of marriage was unsettling. Blair had always been romantic, focused clearly on Mr. Right. Had she finally decided that there was no one that perfect?
"You're going to get married because of that?"
"Well, you married for love. Joanne was marrying for love. Were either of you successful?"
Good point. But it was a cynic's perspective, and that was usually Jo's department. "Rick and I had been having problems for a while, Blair." She wasn't sure what the point of revealing that was. "Maybe you were right. I was trying so hard to make good... maybe I rushed into things. Maybe Rick really wasn't the one."
Perfectly arched brows pushed up speculatively. "Meaning?"
"Meaning maybe Rick and I weren't really right for each other," Jo conceded, and blanched at the thought. Heaven forbid she prove Blair Warner right in anything. "It was tough going the whole way. But when we first got married..."
"I just thought it was normal. You know, growing pains." Blair kept quiet, waiting for her to continue. Flushing slightly, Jo focused on her balls. "To go from waking up with you to waking up with Rick... maybe it was too easy."
She didn't look at Blair. Her cheeks flushed at the unintended admission, and she felt stupid. Blair had always made her feel dumb. She hated that about her.
Surprisingly, her friend didn't gloat. "Well, you always did love a challenge," she heard instead, as Blair came around to her side. A small smile of relief escaped her.
"You were challenging," she admitted, and then set the 8-ball in the middle of the velvet, ready to line up her shot.
"Do you ever think that we ruined each other for other people?"
She jerked the cue, and the 8-ball jerked erratically, completely missing the triangle of balls. "What?!" she asked, after a moment of internal swearing.
"I mean... living together. All that time. It just... sometimes it felt like..." Blair was trying to say something important, and Jo knew Blair. In a minute, she would lose her nerve. Clam up. Dark eyes flitted up, met hers, and looked away. There it was. "I don't know. It's stupid."
Coming forward, she reached for soft hands, forcing Blair's attention back to her. "Blair," she warned. "Spit it out."
Her friend looked fragile, scared, and her fingers reached up and met Jo's, covering them. "Sometimes I look at the men I'm with and think, I'd rather be with Jo right now."
Jo sucked in her breath and let go of Blair's hands, wrapping both palms around her pool cue and staring at the floor. She could feel Blair's stare burning into her.
"That's not normal." Blair sounded sad. "Is it?"
"Rick was jealous of you." The words were out before she could stop them.
"He called you my other husband."
The moment had turned suddenly tense, and Jo couldn't look at Blair. Her insides were fluttering raggedly, and she wondered what the hell they were doing.
"Oh." Blair sounded out of breath. "I was jealous of Rick."
The sentence forced her heart into her throat, and her chin went up, to find Blair staring at her with wide, wet eyes.
"Blair," she breathed, full of regret.
"Why did you have to marry him, Jo!" Blair stepped back, away from her, words bleeding with anger.
It stunned her.
"Blair! What are you-"
"I mean, were you that stupid? Were you that dense that you just didn't see it? Did just the thought make you feel sick? Or did you just forget it?"
Forget it. Forget that? She would never forget
"Do you know how hard it was for me to stand up for you at that stupid wedding and not shout at you that you were making the biggest mistake of your life?"
They were talking in circles. They were talking in circles and they weren't saying anything. Jo was tired of it.
"Why was I making the biggest mistake of my life?" She wanted Blair to answer her. She wanted to hear the words from her mouth. Because it wasn't real if they didn't come from Blair.
Blair's mouth closed, and she shook her head, backing away from Jo's unspoken challenge. "Oh, come on, Jo. I'm not doing this. Let's just forget it."
"No!" she snapped, suddenly angry. "I'm not gonna forget it. You started it."
Brown orbs, flecked with green and gold, suddenly locked onto hers, as Blair went completely still.
"You're right," Blair whispered. "I did start it. I started it."
There was no warning, but suddenly Blair's body had pressed against hers, pushing her against the pool table. She had no time to register her shock, because surprisingly strong hands were gripping the side of her face, and a hot mouth was plundering hers. She gasped in surprise, and then the velvety roughness of a tongue smoothing against her own. Blair kissed her deeply, and breathless, Jo couldn't help closing her eyes, drawing her closer. Soft curves hugged against her own, and when she heard the moan, in the bottom of Blair's throat, it went deep down into her, causing her to shudder.
She felt dizzy, and then remembered her breath, breaking off the kiss with a pant, an inhalation.
Blair's hands still were on her face, and dark eyes searched hers furiously. "I wanted to do that again for five years."
Jo's heart was beating wildly, and confronted with the truth, she didn't know what to say. "You... you... I really did turn you into a lesbian?"
Blair looked like she had been struck. Her hands dropped to her side and her eyes flashed furiously. "Oh, Dammit, Jo-"
"You never said anything!" Her voice was high pitched and strangled, and nothing at all like she usually sounded, but Jo felt very close to panic and she couldn't help it.
"I shouldn't have had to!" Blair was shouting now. Furious as she had ever been. "Jo, that was the best kiss of my life! How could it not have been the best kiss of yours?"
And it registered, it finally made sense.
And Blair was finally leaving.
Jo pushed off the table. "Blair, don't-"
"No." Blair was wiping furiously at her face, turning her back on her. "No, I'm leaving. I've had enough of this."
Feeling hot all over, Jo pushed her palm to her head, feeling insanely stupid and winded at the same time. "Blair, you just gotta let me... I thought you had forgotten all about that night!"
"How COULD I?"
And once again, Blair had managed to stump her. Jo's panic faded away, and she remembered a sweet kiss by a sweet girl, that had touched her deep inside of her, and changed her forever.
Blair closed her eyes, blinked her tears away, wiping underneath them to ensure no dripping of mascara. That was Blair.
"No, you're not," Blair grumbled.
Jo stepped forward, like a lion tamer approaching a wild animal. When fingers tentatively landed on Blair's waist, the other woman stiffened. Carefully, lovingly, Jo palmed her waist, bringing her in closer, until they were in a phantom mimic of a position they had been before, pressed flush against each other, Jo's hands pressed possessively against her back.
Forehead tipping against Blair's, Jo whispered as carefully as she could. "No. I am. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I just... I thought... I don't know what I thought."
There was a moment, and then fingers slid up her collar bone and wrapped around her neck, playing delicately with the name of her neck. Jo had missed that.
"Tell me you love me, Jo."
It was a demand. Blair never asked for anything.
"I love you, Blair."
She heard a sharp gasp, and then Blair's face locked onto her own.
"Against my better judgment, most of the time."
And then she was rewarded with the brightest smile she had ever seen. "Oh," Blair said, like she was light-headed, and her hair bobbed as she looked up in relief. "Oh, thank GOD!"
And then Blair was kissing her again, plump lips moving furiously against her own, passionate and sweet and everything Jo had remembered and tried to forget and couldn't.
"I really do feel bad about Joanne," Blair said later, hours later, as she rested against Jo's naked body, fingers moving delicately against sweaty skin, like she was drawing a map.
Sated, hungry, tired, Jo let her hand lazily curl around Blair's shoulders, bringing her lover in a little closer.
"I have a feeling they'll be fine," she muttered, tilting into the body plastered against hers to drop a kiss against Blair's neck.
"Hmm. You're right. Joanne is poised and classy and Maureen is loud and crass and a barbarian. Judging by our standards, it's true love."
As much as she wanted to argue, or take offense, Jo found she couldn't. Blair was right.
She hated that.
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