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: This takes place late in the series. Oh, I took the liberty of changing the outcome of the 1987 American League baseball season. Thanks to mrswoman for the very quick read through.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
Natalie nearly jumped out of her skin, her book falling to the floor at the unexpected shout. Turning, she faced the person who'd scared her half out of her wits.
"Jeez, Jo, a little warning would be nice." Natalie placed her hand over her racing heart and exhaled loudly in an attempt to expel the sudden fright. "Now, what is so wonderful that you felt the need to take years off my life?"
Jo grinned. "Sorry, Nat. I just got off the phone with one of those radio contest things. You won't believe what I won."
Natalie sat up straight and asked excitedly, "What? Tickets to the Prince concert this weekend? Jo, you've got to take me; you know how much I love his music. Please, Jo, please take me?"
"It's not Prince, Nat. It's much, much better."
Natalie frowned. "Nothing's better than Prince."
"You said the same thing about Duran Duran several years ago." Jo plopped down on the couch next to her friend. "Besides, I've got something that's better than both of them, a ticket to Sunday's Yanks/Red Sox game. It's the last game of the series, and if the Yanks win Thursday and Friday, they'll knot up the series at 2 games apiece. Sunday's game would determine who wins the pennant."
"You're right, Jo; that is pretty good, but it's still not better than Prince."
Jo chuckled. "Nat, you've got it bad."
"Yeah, I guess I do." Natalie looked around conspiratorially and whispered. "About as bad as you've got it for Blair."
Jo's jaw dropped in surprise, and she opened her mouth to dispute her friend's claim, but a sudden thought changed her direction.
"Oh no!" Jo jumped from the couch and began to pace.
"What? What is it, Jo?"
Jo turned towards her friend. "I promised Blair I'd go to a Broadway show with her and her mom on Sunday."
"Well, that settles it then." Natalie shrugged. "You can't go to the game. Besides, there's no guarantee that there'll even be a game."
"Oh, there'll be a game alright. "Jo stared at her friend, narrowing her brow in thought.
"I can't believe the Yankees won those two games so easily." Natalie held the thermometer to the light bulb while Jo positioned a hot rag on her forehead. "This is never going to work, Jo."
"Yes, it will. I've been complaining all day about not feeling well. Of course, Blair accused me of trying to get out of going with her and her mom tomorrow, but when she feels my warm forehead and sees I'm running a temperature, she'll insist that I stay home."
Tootie sat quietly on Blair's bed, watching her friends' actions. "I think you mean the lamp's running a temperature, don't you?" She muttered quietly just as the doorknob began to jiggle, stubbornly refusing to allow the visitor inside.
"Hey! Why's this door locked?" Blair's voice filtered into the bedroom, and Jo quickly tossed the rag under the bed.
"Quick, Nat, hand me the thermometer. Tootie, would you get the door?" Jo slid further under the covers, reaching for the thermometer.
Natalie raced across the room and just managed to hand the item off to Jo as the door swung open wide. Blair glared at her nervous friend and glanced around the room, wondering what Natalie was up to now.
"Oh, would you look at the time?" Natalie looked at her 'watchless' wrist. "C'mon, Tootie, we promised to clean the kitchen, remember?" Brushing by Blair, she grabbed a protesting Tootie by the arm.
"What are you talking " Tootie was pulled roughly from the room; the rest of her sentence drowned out by the slamming of the door.
Blair stared at the closed door, and then folded her arms across her chest as she turned her attention back to Jo. "What's going on?"
"Nothing; Natalie and Tootie were just keeping me company," Jo mumbled around the thermometer.
Zeroing in on the object being held precariously between Jo's lips, Blair snatched it from the brunette's mouth and held it up to read. "100.1º? You really are sick." Her hand immediately moved to Jo's forehead. "You're warm, too."
"I told you I wasn't feeling well." Jo answered in an uncharacteristically meek tone.
Blair slid her hand to caress Jo's cheek. "Yes, you did. I'm sorry I didn't believe you." Leaning down, she gently kissed lips that were still warm from the hot rag. Jo was just able to keep herself from deepening the kiss, remembering at the last moment that she was supposed to be feeling poorly.
"Are you sure you don't want me to stay with you? Mother would understand." Blair stood next to Jo's bed, dressed to the nines.
"You've been looking forward to this for weeks, Blair. I'll be fine; it's just a little temperature. Besides, Nat said she'd look after me."
"You sure?" Blair eased a loose strand of hair from Jo's face.
Jo smiled reassuringly. "I'm positive. You go on and have a good time with your mother."
Glancing over her shoulder to make certain the door was closed, Blair gave Jo a quick peck on the lips. "Okay. You make sure to eat some of that soup Beverly Ann made, and then you can lie on the couch and watch the baseball game."
A flash of guilt crossed Jo's face, but she quickly recovered. "I promise. I'll even bring my pillow and blanket downstairs with me."
"Alright, I'm going to head out then. You behave yourself, you hear?"
Jo nodded. "Yes, I hear you, Blair. Give your mom my regrets, okay?"
Blair smiled and stole another kiss before turning towards the door. "I'll see you later this evening."
"I'll be here. I'm not going anywhere."
The door had barely closed on Jo's lie when she jumped from the bed and raced for the closet. Pulling on a pair of jeans and a Yankees t-shirt, Jo slid on her tennis shoes and grabbed her Yankees cap. She then flew to the window to wait for Mrs. Warner's limo to drive away.
Glancing at her watch, Jo figured she'd only miss the first inning or two, but that was just fine, she'd easily make it back to the house before Blair and her mother.
Blair strolled into the house, wearing a pleasant smile. She'd had the most perfect day; the food was fantastic and the show was captivating. The only thing that would've made her day better was if Jo had been at her side, and speaking of Jo, Blair grinned and headed towards the couch.
"This is bad. This is very, very bad." Natalie and Tootie sat on the sofa, side by side, watching the bottom of the sixteenth inning. Neither woman noticed Blair had returned.
"Who'd have thought that the game would've lasted this long?" Tootie reached for her drink and took a healthy swig.
"I just hope Jo had enough sense to leave in time." Natalie glanced at the clock on the wall. "Blair should be home in about half an hour."
Stepping next to the couch, Blair placed her hands on her hips and tilted her head. "Blair's here now."
Her sudden appearance had Tootie spitting her drink across the room and Natalie jumping to her feet. "Blair! What are you doing here? I mean, I know why you're here; you live here for goodness sake, but um, what are you doing home so soon?"
Blair surveyed the room. Coke cans lined the edge of the table, and bags of chips and candy littered its surface. A half eaten hot dog lay prominently in the center.
"Where's Jo?" Blair's voice was calm and controlled, much too calm and controlled.
"Jo?" Tootie's voice scaled an octave higher than usual.
"Yes, Jo? Is she in bed?" Blair glanced towards the stairs.
"Bed?" Natalie joined in the game of answering a question with a question.
"Okay, you two. I'm going to ask one more time, and you'd better give me a straight answer."
"Straight?" Natalie bit down on the grin that threatened to surface. Now wasn't the time to let Tootie in on the 'little secret' she'd figured out weeks ago.
"Damn it, Natalie. I'm not kidding. Where is Jo?"
A roar erupted from the television, and the three women turned towards the screen as one. The excited announcer described the momentous event.
"A high fly ball to dead center Henderson is going back back back it's gone! The Yankees win the pennant! The Yankees win the pennant!"
"Wow, did you see the catch that fan made on that ball? He dove out and knocked three people over and still managed to hang on." The second announcer's voice filtered in over the roar of the crowd. An alert cameraman zoomed in on the spectator just as he lifted up and held the ball up for all to see; a toothy grin was captured for the television audience.
Three jaws dropped to the ground.
"Jo?" Blair stared at the television in disbelief.
Sunday, 11:33 p.m.
Jo eased the front door open and slid inside, thankful that only darkness greeted her. Locking the door behind her, she tiptoed towards the stairs. A creak on the second step was accompanied by a voice from the couch. Jo froze.
"Feeling better?" Blair's tone dripped with sarcasm.
Taking a deep breath, Jo turned towards the couch. "Um, yeah. It's incredible actually. My fever broke, and I began to feel much better."
"I see. So, instead of making the effort to meet up with me and my mother, you decided to go to a baseball game instead."
Jo rubbed the back of her neck. "I guess I wasn't thinking too clearly. Maybe the fever affected my decision making skills."
"Okay, let's say for just a moment that the fever was the reason you opted to go to a silly ol' ballgame instead of meeting your lover and her mother for a relaxing Sunday. How were you able to get a ticket? You told me last week that the series had been sold out for weeks."
"Yes, you did. So, you'll have to excuse me if I'm a little suspicious of the fever excuse."
Jo jammed her hands in her pocket and grimaced. Her grip on the homerun ball didn't assuage her guilty feelings in the least as she attempted to explain her actions.
"Blair, you know how much I wanted to go to this game. I've been talking about it all week."
"Yes, and then I reminded you of the plans we'd made weeks ago weeks ago, Jo."
"But, fate was tempting me, Blair."
"Oh, so now it's fate. I'm sure fever is relieved beyond belief to be off the hook."
Jo blew out a breath and walked towards the couch, taking a seat on the end opposite Blair. It was time to take her lumps.
"You're right, Blair. It was totally selfish of me to forego our plans and go to the game instead."
Blair took on a look of disappointment. "You just don't get it."
"I get it alright. I screwed up. I won those tickets and couldn't think of anything else but going to that game. I'm sorry, Blair."
"Jo, it's not the game."
"It's not." Confusion was evident in Jo's tone.
"No, Jo; it's that you lied to me. You came up with this elaborate scheme to trick me. That's not how to build a relationship, Jo."
Jo slumped down into the cushions and closed her eyes. Her selfishness was going to cost her the best thing she'd ever had.
Blair noted the defeated posture and slid closer. "This isn't the end of us, Jo." Jo's head snapped up, her eyes full of hope. "Don't get me wrong, I'm mad, Jo, very mad, not to mention hurt. But, we'll work it out. You just have to promise me that you won't ever try something stupid like this again."
"I promise, Blair. I'll never jeopardize our relationship again." Jo's whispered reply was met with a warm hug. Jo held on tight and struggled to keep her tears from falling.
Blair laid her head on Jo's shoulder and sighed. "That really was a fantastic catch."
Jo smiled brightly.
From the landing, Natalie nodded her head in agreement and turned back towards her room, a huge grin plastered on her face.
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