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A Winter's Tale
By Della Street


Of all the ways that Blair Warner could be annoying – and that was quite an impressive list – what she was doing now was right near the top, Jo decided. She glanced again at the bed nearest the closet, the bed that Princess Warner just had to have when they were first shackled together nearly a year ago.

At the moment, Blair was propped up against the headboard of her bed reading her history assignment, blanket tucked up under her chin. Eventually, she seemed to sense two green eyes boring into her. "Why don't you go back downstairs?" she said without looking up.

Through her shivers, Jo replied, "Heat rises."

"Well, you're bothering me."

"It's my room, too."

"I was here first."

"This ain't Everest, Sir Edmund. It's both our rooms."

With a sigh, Blair returned her attention to her text, making a note in the margin. No mittens, huh? Occasionally, Blair stuck one hand under the blanket between turns of the page, but otherwise she seemed to be handling Mr. Cooper's nonexistent heating-repair skills pretty well. Amazingly well, in fact.

Jo's curiosity won out. "Why aren't you complaining?" she finally asked.

"What good would it do? Mrs. Garrett already said you could stay."

Ha ha. "Aren't you worried about your hairspray freezing or somethin'?"

Blair did not respond.

"Seriously," Jo said. "Why aren't you bitching?"

"What would be the point?"

"That's never stopped you before," Jo replied. Not that she particularly wanted to hear Blair whine and moan, but it would at least be somewhat interesting. Jo had decided earlier that it was too damn cold to read, or watch TV, or do anything, with the unfortunate consequence that she was now completely bored.

Steeling herself, she leapt from her bed and ran over to the thermometer attached beside the window sill.

"Christ!" she muttered. "Thirty-nine degrees in here. The pipes are gonna freeze. We're gonna freeze." She looked over at Blair. "You'll be a hairsicle."

"You're lucky then," Blair replied. "Grease doesn't freeze." She turned the page. "I thought you liked winter, Miss 'give me a good old fashioned blizzard.'"

"I do." Jo pointed at the window. "When it's out there."

She dived back under the layers on her bed that had, since an hour ago, included not only her own blanket but also Tootie's. In a fit of generosity, she had tossed Natalie's blanket over to Blair, who hadn't even bothered to say thank you.

She watched Blair for a while. The blonde was usually a reliable source of entertainment. More than once, Jo had gone looking for an argument just to pass the time.

"Don't you have anything better to do than stare at me?"

"Nope." Jo grinned at her.

"Well, stop it."

"Make me."

Blair rolled her eyes. "'Make me?' Are we back in Junior High?" She went back to her studying. She wasn't taking the bait tonight, evidently.

"I thought you hated winter," Jo tried again.

"I do," Blair replied. "Bulky coats prevent others from appreciating my excellent fashion sense. And don't get me started on what wool hats do to my hair."

"I won't." Coats . . . Inspiration struck. "Coats!" Jo exclaimed.

"You're not wearing my mink."

"I wouldn't be caught dead in your mink," Jo said. "Like the poor animal it came from. Don't you have anything that wasn't murdered?"

"Don't you?"

Jo stuck one of her arms out to show dark black sleeves. "I'm wearin' it," she pointed out. She watched Blair for a while, but there was no reply. "We're gonna freeze to death."

"Why don't you go to a hotel?" Blair suggested, not for the first time. "You're already dressed."

"You know I can't afford that."

"I would be more than happy to–"

"Don't say it!"

"If you won't leave, will you at least shut up?" Blair begged.

"Why don't you leave?" Jo asked.

"I'm studying," Blair replied. "Or at least trying to."

"It's cold as hell in here."

"So you've mentioned." Irritably, Blair suggested, "Go get Mrs. Garrett's comforter."

That might help, Jo allowed. But then she would have one more blanket than Blair. Jo supposed she would never hear the end of that. Was that the reason for the suggestion, to give Blair something to lord over her? Oh, no, you don't, she thought. She'd have to rustle up another blanket somewhere. What about that fancy table cloth . . . ?

"Maybe I will," Jo decided. She tossed back her covers. "I'm goin' to Mrs. G's room."

"I don't need to know your every move," Blair said. "In fact, I don't need to know any of your moves."

As Jo passed by the bed, Blair raised her highlighter to mark some text. Heh, heh. Jo reached down and shoved down on the mattress, giving it a few bounces to throw off the princess's aim.

"You're so juvenile."

Wait a minute . . . . Jo's eyes narrowed. "What the . . . ?"


Jo slid her hand beneath the blanket. Her fingers accidentally touched Blair's thigh, but that wasn't her concern at the moment. "An electric blanket?" she growled. "You have an F-ing electric blanket?"

Blair tucked a strand of gold behind her ear. "Of course," she replied.

"You have an electric blanket, and you didn't tell me?" Jo asked, incredulous.

"You didn't ask."

Jo glared at her.

"What difference would it have made?" Blair said. "I only have one." With an insincere smile, she added, "I would have offered to buy you one, but I wasn't in the mood to have my head bitten off."

"You have an electric blanket and you didn't tell me!"

"I think we've established that," Blair said. "Now, if you don't mind, I would like to remember the Alamo."

"I do mind." Jo stepped over to the side of the bed and slid under the sheets. Oh, God. Toasty. Maybe she would regain some feeling in her limbs.

"What are you doing?"

"We're sharing." Jo kicked her slippers off onto the floor between the beds.

"No, we're not!" Blair protested.

She wouldn't need the leg warmers, either, Jo decided. She peeled them off and dropped them beside the bed. This time, when her hand accidentally brushed Blair's bare leg, she offered a quick, "Sorry." The bed was smaller than it looked. Oh, heck. "Forgot my pillow," Jo said. She jumped out of Blair's bed, grabbed her favorite pillow, and hopped back in – or, rather, tried to. Blair had taken advantage of Jo's momentary absence to spread herself out beneath the blanket.

"Ow!" Blair cried. "You landed on my leg!"

"Well, if your leg had stayed where it was before, I wouldn't have," Jo pointed out.

"This is a single bed," Blair said.

"We're both single."

"Single, as in built for a single person."

"Mrs. G's always wantin' us to get closer." Jo nudged Blair's knee with the back of her hand. "Move it."

Arms crossed in defiance, Blair refused.

"Look, I can either sleep next to you or on top of you," Jo warned. She didn't mention her own preference. She had gotten quite good at keeping these thoughts at bay.

Blair quickly scooted over.

That night, as they slept, she learned something new about Blair Warner: She was touchy feely when she was awake, and even touchy feelier when she slept. When a softly snoring Blair snuggled into her shoulder for a second time, Jo wrestled with herself. Wake Blair up again to tell her to keep her face to herself, leading to another five minutes of shouting and recriminations, or let it go?

"Jo," Blair murmured.

Eh, it was the other girl's bed, Jo finally decided, and she was the interloper. She could let it go this time.

When Blair's arm draped across her stomach, she let that go, too. And when Blair's leg drifted across her thighs.

"Remind me never to sleep with Blair Warner again," she told the heavens. Like she would have another chance anyway.

'Single bed,' Blair had complained. That was irrelevant now, Jo thought; if Blair was just going to climb on top of her anyway, they could have fit on a damn army cot. She should have gone to a hotel and let her snooty roommate pay for it, she decided hours later when she still couldn't drift off amidst a sea of Warner arms and legs. This wasn't worth the lack of sleep.

But when Natalie Green returned home early from her trip the next morning, and Blair bolted from a dead sleep to frantically insist that this was not what it looked like–

"It was cold and Jo made me sleep with her! We were just sleeping! I don't know how my hand got there!"

–Jo changed her mind. Leaning back against the headboard, arms crossed behind her head, she pouted. "Blair, are you saying that last night didn't mean anything to you?"

As Natalie dropped into a chair with an, "Oh, my Lord," and an outraged Blair sputtered at her, Jo let herself smile. It was definitely worth it.

The End

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