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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Bright Lights
By misty flores


Part III

something's in this world
you can't change
something's you can't see until
It gets too late


Slender fingers buried into thick blonde hair, as a heated mouth slanted over her lips.

An almost violent shock of emotion shook through Jo, her head swimming and her eyes screwed tight, overwhelmed with the sensation of a warm, supple body pressed so tightly against her own, pressing down against the hard firmness of the carpet and the wood.

Blair was on top of her, moaning into her mouth, kissing her wetly and deeply, with wanton abandon. Warm breath skimmed along her skin as lips left hers and traveled to just under her jaw, and Jo's hips arched in reaction, creating yet another heated moan when she connected with a firm thigh, lodged between her legs. Flat palms coasted from her jaw to her neck to settle against her breasts, and the sensation caused Jo to snap her head back against the carpet, forcing a sudden burst of pain.


"Jo!" Liquored breath breathed against hers, and fingers left her chest to palm her cheek carefully. Blair's eyes were dark and heavy. "Are you okay?"

Blinking, somehow still dizzy, and intensely aware of Blair's thigh between her legs, Jo tried to rise above the ringing in her head. "Yeah… I'm… I'm okay." She managed a smile, because it was just a knock on her head and Blair had always told her she was thick-headed. Her left hand reached up, covering Blair's, pressing her hand into her face. "I'm fine."

Blair remained quiet.

The tentative smile on the swollen lips faded when Jo realized that Blair's eyes were no longer trained on her face, but rather, on her hand.

Her left hand, currently gleaming with a band of gold.

An ice cold feeling flushed through her.


Her friend yanked her hand back, and began to scramble up off of her, so intent in getting away from her she didn't notice when she pushed into Jo's stomach, winding her in the process.

"I'm sorry." Blair's words were whispered, hurried, and Jo struggled to catch her breath. "I'm going to bed," her friend continued, nearly knocking over her bottle of wine as she bent down to pick it up. You don't mind taking the couch, do you?"


"Goodnight, Jo."

Overly formal, overly polite, Blair turned on her bare heels and headed to her bedroom, shutting the door.

Overwhelmed, Jo found herself unable to do anything but close her eyes and flop back against the carpet, gasping like a suffocating fish.

Unable to sleep, and quickly sobered, Jo had a lot of time to consider what the hell had just happened between her and her best friend.

Jo had always been rash and impulsive – but she had grown out of that. Back when her mother had begged her to behave herself and shipped her off to a hoity toity school she couldn't afford, she told herself she was going to make good.

It had taken years to curb her impulses, and, she hated to admit, Blair had some small part in that. Years of living with Blair and not being able to kill her whenever the vacuous blonde pissed her off forced her to consider her actions in other areas as well. Instead of fisting her palms and threatening to tear someone's head off, she learned to argue with words. Instead of shoplifting something when she couldn't afford it, she worked hard for her money and saved and threatened Blair when her friend tried to lend it to her instead.

Instead of running off to elope with her childhood sweetheart, she thought long and hard about marriage, and what it meant. She decided to marry Rick, because he was funny and sweet and unlike any guy she had ever dated, and she thought she had made the right choice.

Sitting on her old friend's unfamiliar couch with Blair's kiss swollen on her lips, Jo was her scared, insecure fifteen year-old self again.

She had kissed Blair. No, she didn't just kiss Blair – she full out made out with her. With French kissing and … feeling up, and … she sure as hell wasn't the one who stopped it.

Jo had told Rick she wasn't ready. That it didn't feel right. She thought there was something wrong with her, because Rick panted and sported a tent and so obviously looked ready, and all Jo had wanted to do was run out of the room.

It would take time, she told herself. She liked getting physical – as physical as she had gotten, and twenty-two was the right age. She was mature enough for it. She was responsible and ready and Rick was her husband so it was all okay.

What had happened with Blair had been all wrong, and Jo still had let it happen. She had initiated it.

Sucking in her breath, she stole a glance to the closed bedroom door before pushing off the spotless white couch and headed for the large windows that shed moonlight into Blair's 'modest' apartment.

Below her, the city worked at a night time pace. Headlights, red and white, blinked at her, and she heard the far off blare of a siren.

This was New York.

And everything was different in New York.

It was morning when the sun sprung into Blair's apartment and flashed across an exhausted Jo's face. Tired, and feeling as though she had been hit in the head with a soft sledgehammer, she pushed up off the white couch and noted with some disgust the drool that collected on the fabric.

"Classy," she told herself, before her knees gave out and she collapsed back onto the sofa, offering a dreary look in the direction of Blair's room.

Her friend had obviously not emerged, judging by the silence. Blair had always been a late riser, but when she woke, she woke up the entire house with her. Loud music and blow driers and showers and humming were not uncommon, and more than once Jo had threatened to wring her neck if she didn't keep it down.

Exhaling slowly, Jo didn't feel inclined to break the silence, because at this moment, sober and no longer uninhibited, she had no idea what she could say.

Blair could laugh it off. Call it a drunk mistake, but Jo didn't make drunk mistakes like this. They weren't high school kids 'experimenting', like what she had heard Blair's idiot friends brag about; this was different.

They were adults.

Shifting on the couch, Jo sat up, ready to move toward the bathroom when a flash of light blinked at her from her hand.

Jo stared at the little band of gold.

There was a marriage.

Rubbing at her face, Jo moved off the couch, the ball of discomfort twisting in the pit of her stomach.

She had to talk it out with Blair. Say it was a mistake and she was drunk and they would leave it at that. Blair would get it. Hell, she was probably as mortified as Jo.

The grimy taste in her mouth resulted in a detour to the kitchen, and there, Jo finally spied the note that had her name etched on it in neat letters.

It was from Blair. She had been called into work on a last minute emergency and would be there all day.

Battling her headache, Jo closed her eyes and let her hand drop.

"I didn't expect to see you today," Jo's mother said, unwrapping her apron and tossing it inside of the booth as she smiled lovingly at her daughter. "I thought Blair had the whole day planned."

Fingering the rim of her cup of coffee, Jo managed a strained smile. "She got called in to the office."

"Well, that sounds important!" Her mother responded, obviously impressed. "Sounds like Blair is doing well!"

"Yeah," Jo agreed, staring into the dark liquid. "Well, you know, she always did say that Peekskill was the dullest town in the world."

"I imagine it would be for someone like her." With a sigh, her mother settled into a more comfortable position on the plastic diner booth and reached over to pat her daughter's hand. "You look tired, Jo. Work's not being too hard on you, is it?"

Grimacing at the idea, Jo shook her head. "I can handle my job, Ma."

Rose's brows narrowed inquisitively, and her hands came together under her chin, watching her daughter with a scrutinizing stare. "I know what it is," she announced, looked entirely too pleased with herself. "You miss your husband."

Jo's mouth twitched, heart thumping against her chest in reaction.

"Right," she managed dryly.

"Oh, sweetie, I know it's hard," Rose continued, reaching over the table to squeeze her hand comfortingly. "But Rick will be back before you know it. And you two can start a marriage and spend the rest of your lives together."

If it were that easy.

"Mom," she began, after a moment of gnawing on her lower lip. "When you and Charlie- I mean Dad –"

"Oh, no – I'm not going to get asked for marriage advice, am I?" Marie looked good-naturedly put-out. "I'm getting old."

"Forget it."

"Oh, Jo, I'm kidding. Please!"

Exhaling, Jo sat up, leaning forward, suddenly desperate to know. "When you married Dad – was it… Oh, Geez…" she muttered, head falling into her crossed hands, beside her coffee. "I can't believe I'm going to ask you this."

"You can ask me anything."

"But this is embarrassing!"

She felt the pressure of a well-meant tap on the back of her had. "Jo, are you trying to ask me about sex?"

Her head jerked up. "… No."

"Jo, it's perfectly normal to be nervous about sex." Jo blinked and suddenly groaned, dropping her head again.

"I can't believe we're talking about this," she muttered, face blazing.

"Sometimes we build such an expectation to sex… it's a little bit of a disappointment when it's not everything we think it's going to be." Sighing, Jo said nothing. "Is Rick not very good?"

Once again, her head flew up. "Ma!"

"Well…" Shuffling in her seat, Rose wore a strained smile, but soldiered on, clearly determined to have this conversation. "It takes time for women, dear."

Blinking at her, Jo clapped her hands over her heated ears. "Ma, I had sex-ed."

"Well, they don't tell you everything," Rose muttered, reaching for the sugar packets. "Goodness knows Charlie could have used a few lessons. And a map!"


"Some men need to be trained," Rose finished, voice firm and higher pitched than normal. "That's all."

"I never said that was my problem."

"So there IS a problem?"

Crap. Jo smiled mutely. "Nah. I just… I just miss him, is all."

Rose grinned cheerily. "Honey, I know this separation is hard, but Rick is doing this for you both. When he gets back, you two can move in together and start your life together properly."

Jo swallowed miserably, suddenly conflicted, reaching for her coffee cup.

"I'm surprised Blair hasn't had anything to say about all this."

The reintroduction of her friend's name produced a sudden jerk of her hand, and the black liquid spilled over, scalding her hand.

"Aww, geez-"


"I'm fine," she managed, jerking the hand out of her attentive mother's grip. "What did you mean?"

"Maybe some ice water," Rose muttered, already rising.

"Mom, I'm fine! Just tell me what you mean."

Obviously thrown by her daughter's attitude, Rose nevertheless sat down. "I just meant that Blair is such a curious little thing – I'm sure she would have had an opinion about Rick and the wedding night."

"Oh." Staring down at the scalded hand she was currently gripping, Jo managed a nervous smile. "She's had plenty to say about it."

"That is Blair," Rose sighed. "Lord knows I love her like a daughter, but when it comes to certain matters she treats you like her personal property." She smiled at the idea. "She thinks of you as a sister."

Cheeks coloring, Jo gulped down a swallow of coffee. "Sisters," she rasped. "Right."

On a Saturday, Warner Textile Industries had minimal traffic. Just the casually dressed workaholics who snuck in and out. The security guards, eternally suspicious, had to call three different lines before finally getting through to Blair, as the receptionist was off duty, and when Jo finally stepped off the elevators at her desired floor, the lights were dimmed.

Getting to Blair's office was a little like walking through a maze, and after turning at the wrong cubicle for the third time, Jo was ready to give up, convinced that her friend was lost in some sort of office black hole.

Laughter in the fairly deserted floor caught her attention, and she finally found herself facing an open door, and her friend seated just inside of it, enjoying the flirtatious attention of a tall brunette guy in a suit.

Distinctly uncomfortable, Jo sucked in an unsteady breath and, leaning on the doorway for support, cleared her throat, waiting for Blair to notice her.

There was a flash in Blair's brown eyes upon catching sight of her, and her smile stalled slightly, but Blair recovered quickly enough, squeezing the hand of the handsome stranger and pushing him lightly out of the way.

"Jo! You made it."

"Yeah, no thanks to you," she snapped, in a low, dangerous tone. "This place is a frickin' maze."

"You know, I think they do that on purpose?" the dark-hair guy remarked, putting one hand in his pocket and curving the other around Blair's waist. "I remember at dinner Mr. Warner said something about designing the floor so people would have to ask each other where things were."

"I think you just made that up," Blair responded, in a sickenly sweet voice that made Jo suddenly nauseous.

"Oh but it's been tested and tried." He grinned a white, toothy grin. "That is how we met, isn't it?"

Blair laughed, low and sultry and Jo suddenly felt like tearing her ears off.

As if sensing she was being left out of the conversation, the stranger extended his hand. "Edmund. I work in Ad-Sales upstairs."

"How rude of me." Disentangling herself, Blair stepped between them, wearing that ridiculous smile. "Edmond, this is my friend Jo. She's visiting from Peekskill."

Catching the strong grip, his grinned widened. "So THIS is Jo!" He glanced back at Blair. "Wow, you weren't kidding."

"I never do," Blair responded, and Jo narrowed her eyes at her, annoyed and suspicious.

"Kidding about what?"

"Oh, don't look so suspicious, Jo," Blair said, uncrossing her arms as she stepped toward her desk. "I was simply telling Edmond that you and I were complete opposites. The salt to my pepper, if you will."

"The turkey to her ham," Edmond continued, enjoying this.

"The cheddar to my brie," Blair laughed, and the sound sent a dangerous shiver up Jo's spine.

"Would you stop comparing me to food?"

The statement came out a little angrier than she intended, and Edmond's teasing grin faltered before he cleared his throat. "Well, I guess I better get back to work. Blair? See you tonight?"

"Of course." Lifting her head up for a kiss on her cheek, Blair watched him go, a weirdly detached smile on her face as he turned toward Jo.

"Jo, pleasure to meet you." He squeezed her hand, and offered a dimpled smile that made her suddenly want to punch him.

"Right, Ed. Good to meet you too."

When he left, shutting Blair's office door behind him, the room became suddenly claustrophobic.

Dark eyes met and locked with hers, and as Jo found herself breathing unsteadily, Blair glanced away, gaze settling on her paperwork.

"You're seeing that guy tonight?"

Blair's head lifted slowly, catching her expression, before looking away. "It was a last minute invitation. I knew you wouldn't mind."

Jo blinked, mouth opening and closing at her friend's insensitivity. "I wouldn't mind? Blair, I dragged my ass out of Peekskill and missed a day of work to come see you!"

"Well, if that's how you feel about it, why don't you come with us?" Folding her hands together, Blair appeared devastatingly formal. "I'm sure Edmond wouldn't mind the company. He'd do anything for me. He's followed me around the office for ages."

"And what, today's when you gave in?" Jo shook her head in disgust. "And what about this morning? Just leaving – with a friggin' note-"

"I didn't want to wake you-"

"You didn't have to come in!"

"I had an emergency!"

"Oh, yeah!" Striding toward the door, Jo yanked it open, and gestured wildly to the empty hallway. "This place is kicking, Blair. I'm sure they needed you for the entire day." Slamming it shut, she pressed her lips together, suddenly overwhelmed. Reaching up for her temples, Jo closed her eyes, and tried to get her beating heart under control. "Look, we need to talk about what happened."

Eyelids opened just in time to see Blair stiffen, before her head dipped down and bangs fell to obscure her expression.

"Blair… come on. Look, last night-"

"Nothing happened last night."

The interruption was smooth, and when Jo looked at her, Blair was now scribbling on typed documents.

"Nothing happened," Jo repeated, shoving her hands into the pockets of her heavy coat. "Blair, I know we were hammered, but we weren't that hammered."

The pen fell to the desk with a dull clack. "Jo, that was a very obvious hint that I would rather not discuss it."

"I don't care about that hint – I think we should."

"Why, exactly?" Blair's hands hit her desk, and her brown eyes were callously dark. "Exactly what purpose would it serve to discuss what happened last night?"

"Because when two best friends make out, it usually means something!" she burst, face suddenly flaming. Blair's mouth pressed tightly together, eyeing her with a steely, focused glare. "Look." Shoulders slumping, Jo came forward, licking her lips when she felt suddenly parched. "I don't know what happened – I know it was a mistake."


"But it happened. I think we have to talk about it to move past it."

"Jo, honestly!" Blair looked up at her, intensely upset. "Do you really think we are the only two best friends in the world who have accidentally kissed? It happens. It doesn't mean it needs to be analyzed."

"What if it does?"

Brown eyes locked onto hers, features mottled with wary confusion.

Looking into the face of the woman who had made her… feel, Jo was suddenly exhausted, and terribly vulnerable. Coming forward, she fought the ache in her chest, the trembling nervousness that now swept through her veins.

"Blair – I don't know what … I don't even know what I'm trying to say here, but… maybe this happens to best friends all the time, but it's never happened to me. And what I felt last night…"

"Was a lot of liquor and a twisted feeling of nostalgia." Blair's voice was hard, and it cut her, made her feel like she had been slapped. "Nothing else."

"What is the matter with you!" she snapped, rankled above all else, fingers curling into fists, dark eyes deepening in anger.

"Jo, I am your friend," came the firm, direct answer. "What I am not is a vehicle for you to explore your sexual issues just because you can't understand what is wrong with you and Rick." Stunned, Jo found her mouth falling open in surprise. "Because you are married. You do remember that you are married, right?"

Jo sucked in her breath, unable to answer.

"And despite what you or others might think, I am not, nor will I ever be, the willing party to infidelity. I am not my mother."

The air was thick with a fog of tension, and immeasurably hurt, Jo was frozen, driven speechless by her best friend and her cutting speech.

Fingering the ring on her finger, she found herself struggling for speech, blinking at tears and stepping backwards.

"I think I better go," Jo breathed, and Blair didn't give for one instant. Her face was permanently locked in an expressionless glare, and in that moment, Jo saw Blair's father. "I'm sorry," she managed, and wasn't sure what she was apologizing for.

"Jo?" Sitting at her typewriter, Natalie's look of surprise was hard to hide as Jo put her briefcase on the floor. "What are you doing here? I thought you weren't getting back until tomorrow."

Jo didn't have the strength to muster a proper snarl. Instead, all she offered was a sad smile. "Yeah, well… I came back early."

Natalie blinked, obviously confused. "But…"

"Blair and I had a fight," Jo said, voice low and resigned; tired. "All right?"

Natalie could be nosy, but she knew Jo: she knew when to keep her mouth shut. "Right. Okay. Well… welcome back, I guess."


She was already headed up the stairs when she heard Natalie pipe up again. "Rick called. He said he was coming home early." Jo closed her eyes, and sucked in a large breath. "That's good news at least."

Eyes stinging, and feeling her insides twisting, Jo turned and stared at her concerned friend. Because she loved Natalie, she managed a smile.

"Yeah," she breathed. "That's great news."

Part 4

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