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: Chapter 7 of the series, Common Ground. Quotes in italics are direct quotes from the Facts of Life Series, Season 3, Episode 2, Fear Strikes Back.
THANKS: To Stacey for the Beta, assistance in story and character development, encouragement, and painstaking attention to detail.
MEDIA LINK: http://www.youtube.com/user/FactsOfLifeMinutes#p/p
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To FOLfan[at]ymail.com

Common Ground
8: Baby Talk

By Slave2Free


"Go ahead, Blair, grab me in the gonads, g'ahead!"

"Jo, this is ridiculous, you don't have gonads."

Ever since the attempted sexual assault on their friend, Natalie, Blair kept a vigilant eye on the shrubbery along every path she walked. She wasn't afraid of Natalie's attacker, she was watching for Jo Polniaczek. The persistent brunette would pounce on Blair at every opportunity. She was constantly leaping from the bushes and grabbing Blair from behind, insisting that Blair practice fending off an attack. Jo had again crept up behind Blair and currently had her arms locked around Blair's shoulders, pretending to attack her girlfriend.

"I can't keep watch over ya all the time, Blair, you gotta learn to defend yourself."

"I don't need a bodyguard, Jo."

"Prove it, get loose."

Blair was irritated. She'd had enough of Jo's paranoia. She cupped her hand as she had been taught in self-defense class and jabbed at Jo with all her strength. An instant later Jo was curled in a ball on the ground, her hands between her legs.

"Ouch, you were supposed to pretend to grab me, not try to take my virginity!"

Blair blushed at the realization as to how hard she had hit Jo. She leaned down to assist her injured girlfriend, but the angry girl jerked away from her.

"Get off me!"

"I didn't mean to hurt you, Jo."

"I ain't hurt. Ya surprised me is all."

Blair continued to fret. The thickening of Jo's Bronx accent alerted Blair to the level of Jo's anger. Jo was hurting, but the embarrassment was worse than the physical pain. As if fate decided to teach Jo a cruel lesson, her mortification was magnified exponentially when she heard the familiar laughter of an easily amused young teacher.

"Miss Warner, do you know the penalty for assaulting another student?"

Blair grimaced, knowing that Miss Gallagher's presence would only increase Jo's discomfort. She shifted uneasily while Jo remained on the ground. Miss Gallagher finally had to pinch herself to stop chuckling.

"You should consider taking Miss Warner home with you when you return to the Bronx, Jo. She'd make a wonderful bodyguard."

Jo groaned as she rolled into a standing position and glared at Gail.

"It's not as if I was gonna fight back, I could have hurt her."

Gail turned to Blair.

"Where did you learn to fight like that?"

"I was following the advice of a good friend. She told me just the other day that . . ."

Blair paused for effect and tried valiantly, yet unsuccessfully, to mimic Jo's Bronx accent.

"There are people in this world who get shoved around and there are people who do the shoving. Blair, she said, you do the shoving."

Blair's impression of Jo was so inadequate that Gail roared with laughter. Blair started to giggle as well, but stopped abruptly when she noticed that the more Gail laughed the redder Jo's face flushed.

"Truthfully, Jo's been helping me practice the self-defense skills I've been learning."

"Well, from the look of things, Blair. I think you just graduated."

"Um, thanks. Our instructor says that I'm the most improved student in class."

Jo's voice was tight as she glared back and forth between the two blondes.

"That's because Tweety Bird could have kicked Blair's ass when we started."

"Jo! Watch your language."

"Gail's heard worse than that from me, haven't you, Gail?"

Gail narrowed her eyes and glared back at her favorite student. Although Gail was aware that Jo didn't consider it disrespectful not to filter her language for Gail's benefit, she knew that other students would not perceive it the same way. Blair Warner wasn't just any other student, but Gail felt that Jo needed a small reminder of the young teacher's expectations.

"Blair's right, Jo. You should try to find more acceptable words to express your opinions."

Jo cocked her head to the side and grinned, testing the adult woman's resolve.

"Maybe you should come to our self-defense classes. Teaching at this fancy school has probably made you too much of a lady to defend yourself properly. You can't protect yourself with good manners."

"Perhaps you -."

Gail stepped forward and playfully jabbed her finger into Jo's shoulder, pushing the agile teenager back a step.

"- should spend more time expanding your vocabulary and less time watching cartoons."

Blair snickered, having caught her tough-as-nails girlfriend surreptitiously watching early morning cartoons on more than one occasion. A million retorts leapt to Jo's mind, but she knew better than to cross those boundaries with her teacher. Gail Gallagher treated Jo as a friend, but she also demanded that all of her students, including Jo, treat her with respect.

"Aw, I was only kidding. You could probably teach our instructor a few things about self-defense."

Gail smiled affectionately at her embarrassed student. A year earlier, Jo might have taken a swing at the teacher for pushing her, regardless of Gail's status as a teacher or the fact that she was only teasing Jo. Gail considered it a small victory for Jo that the younger woman was learning to control her reactions.

"No. I don't think I'd be a match for anyone who could teach Blair Warner to knock Jo Polniaczek on her ass."

Gail winked at a dumbfounded Jo and a confused Blair, before offering some parting advice.

"Go easy on her, Blair. Coach Cooper wouldn't like it if you were to break Eastland's star athlete."

Jo and Blair stood in silence for several seconds while they watched their teacher stroll away. Jo, who always felt a little uncomfortable when Blair's expression indicated that the possessive blonde was struggling with a pang of jealousy, considered it best to break Blair's concentration.

"Come on, Blair, I promised Mrs. G. that I'd help her plan next week's menu this afternoon."

Jo was pulling Blair by the elbow, but the distracted debutante barely noticed. Instead, Blair was trying to remember something important. It was right on the edge of Blair's memory. Then it hit her.

"Jo, do you know why Mrs. Garrett assigned extra kitchen duties to Natalie and Tootie toward the end of last year?"


"The day after the storm, Mrs. Garrett let us rest while Natalie and Tootie did all the work."

"You were hurt and I was about to play in the big game."

"No, it was more than that. They were being punished. It had something to do with Miss Gallagher."

Jo blushed again. Blair was fully aware as to why Mrs. Garrett had punished their roommates. Jo looked so cute when she was embarrassed, especially when she blushed, that Blair couldn't resist forcing her girlfriend to talk about Natalie's suspicions about Miss Gallagher.

"Yeah, they got into a little trouble with Miss Gallagher. It was nothing. I'm sure I told you about it."

"Actually, Natalie was the one who mentioned it. She and I talked about it during the field hockey game, but you never mentioned it."

Blair lifted her eyebrows when Jo squirmed nervously.

"Heh, it's so ridiculous that it's funny. Heh, Nat and Tootie followed Miss Gallagher around, uh, spying on her."


"Didn't we talk about this?"

Blair shook her head and waited for Jo to continue. Blair had originally laughed when she discovered why Natalie and Tootie were being punished, but she was curious about Jo's reaction to their roommates' assumptions about Miss Gallagher.

"Uh, it's no big deal. Nat overheard you talking to me about my girlfriend and misunderstood."

Blair waited for Jo to finish staring at her feet before pressing Jo further.

"They thought that Miss Gallagher was your girlfriend?"

Blair had a lot of practice masking her emotions, so it wasn't difficult for her to hide her amusement.

"Yeah. Have you ever heard of anything so crazy?"

Blair placed her hand possessively on top of Jo's fingers, which were still curled around Blair's elbow. She was completely satisfied with Jo's response, but couldn't resist the territorial gesture.

"We'd better get going if Mrs. Garrett is expecting you."

Relieved by Blair's unexpected change of topic, Jo was happy to rush back to the cafeteria.

"Are you sure that I didn't hurt you, you're walking pretty slowly for someone who was in such a hurry?"

"Don't flatter yourself, Princess. You could never hurt me. It's a nice day and I'm with the prettiest girl on campus, maybe I'm not in as big a hurry as you think."

Blair tossed her hair and added a little more sway to her walk, wholly enjoying Jo's attention.

"Have you decided about the dinner this coming weekend?"

Jo sighed and quickened her step.

"Come on, Jo. Please go with me."

"I hate that kind of thing, Blair."

"You know I have to go. Billy Weston asked me to go with him. You could go with his roommate, Dustin. It won't be that bad."

"It's one thing for us to drag a couple of boys along with us when we go to the movies, Blair, but this is different. I'd have to actually talk to Dustin. We won't have anything to say to one another."

"It's not as if you'd ever be alone with him, Jo. Pleeeease."

Jo grunted and rolled her eyes. When she'd told Blair how much it bothered her to see Blair dating boys, she'd hope Blair would curtail her outings. Instead, Blair had apparently decided to solve the problem by dragging Jo along on her dates, with whatever friend or roommate Blair's date could round up to complete the foursome.

Jo wouldn't have been nearly as jealous of Blair's boyfriends if she'd known how excruciatingly boring they were. Blair's social schedule was as mind-numbing as it was physically exhausting. Jo had to admire her girlfriend's stamina and ability to keep up with her studies while attending one dance, reception, or banquet after another. Jo groaned dramatically, but she was happy that Blair had begun to insist that Jo come along on her dates, even to the formal events that Blair only attended out of a sense of responsibility to her parents.

"Okay, I'll go, but I'm not wearing a dress."

Blair beamed. Jo always forced Blair to ask several times before Jo would agree to a double date, but Jo never failed to agree. After hearing some of Jo's comments following their dates, Blair wondered what Jo had envisioned she did when she went out with boys. Since she and Jo had reconciled the year before, Blair's dates received a courtesy goodnight kiss, but the flighty debutante always shunned hand holding and any other demonstration of affection prior to the conclusion of the date. Having Jo around made it much easier for Blair to sidestep her dates' advances, causing her to wonder why she hadn't insisted that Jo join her earlier in their relationship.

Blair smiled at her grumpy girlfriend, happy to play along if Jo wanted to pretend that she'd prefer to stay at home while Blair went out with someone else.

"There's an art exhibit in New York next weekend. Would you like to go?"

"Which preppy twerp am I going to have to babysit this time?"

Blair licked her lips and coyly bumped Jo's shoulders with her own.

"Me, silly. I thought we'd go by ourselves for a change. I'll just pretend that I couldn't find a guy who was interested in attending a boring old art exhibit."

"And people will readily accept that I agreed to go with you out of the goodness of my heart?"

"No, people will think you lost a bet with me and that attending the exhibit is your punishment."

"Is it really going to be boring?"

"Of course not, Jo, you'll enjoy it. It'll be a little different than what you're used to seeing at the larger museums, but I know you'll love it. You will come with me, won't you?"

"Yeah, I can't wait to spend the day looking at a bunch of pictures that don't actually look like anything. I suppose we'll have to say nice things to the artist about how fascinated we are with his work?"

Blair giggled.

"No, we'll be able to tell her the truth, that we absolutely love her paintings."

Jo picked up the pace as they neared the cafeteria.

"Can we ride my bike?"

"It's too far. We'll have to ride the train."

"Do I have to wear a dress?"

Blair hesitated. She never insisted that Jo wear a dress unless the event required it, which this one did.

"Only while we're at the exhibit. We can change back into our jeans as soon as we leave. Please say yes. I really want to see this exhibit. The artist is a friend of an artist I met while I was in Paris."

Jo shrugged.

"Well, it won't kill me to wear a dress for a few hours if it means that much to you."

"It does."

"Okay, but I want to know more about the friend you met in Paris after I help Mrs. G."

"That's another great idea, Jo."

"Yeah, and you can use the money you'll save to buy more desserts."

"I can use the money I save to buy more vegetables."

Jo rolled her eyes and grinned. Elbowing Mrs. Garrett in the side, she continued to press for more tasty treats.

"You could buy more vegetables for everyone else and still have a little left over to make a small strawberry shortcake for the two of us. It could be our little secret."

Blair, having grown tired of waiting for Jo in their room, sat sulking in a nearby chair while her girlfriend and her mentor pored over Mrs. Garrett's budget as if they were viewing a priceless painting.

"Hey, are you almost finished?"

"Yeah, but I'm going to go shopping with Mrs. G. after dinner tonight."

"You were going to proofread my history report for me after dinner."

Jo barely glanced at her girlfriend.

"Natalie can read it. She's better at proofreading than I am."

Blair's lower lip began to protrude. She didn't like being ignored by Jo.

"Mrs. Garrett, did I tell you that I was invited to join the art club?"

"Yes, Blair. That's nice."

Mrs. Garrett also kept her eyes on the budget as Jo continued to make notes in the margin. As much as Blair disliked being ignored by Jo, she was even more irritated when she received the same treatment from Mrs. Garrett.

"I'm not taking an art class this year, but Teresa said that the club would be positively lost without me. Mrs. Balise asked me if I'd be interested in helping her judge the sophomore projects this year, since I'm already an accomplished artist."

Mrs. Garrett lifted her eyes briefly and gave Blair a large smile of acknowledgement.

"That's wonderful, Blair."

Before Blair could continue, Mrs. Garrett returned her attention to Jo.

"Jo, do you have time to look in the pantry with me? I'm not sure we have all the ingredients we'll need for this new menu. The girls aren't always as careful when taking inventory as they should be."

"Sure, Mrs. G."

As Jo spoke, Blair folded her arms and stuck out her lower lip, mannerisms that always drew the desired response from both her girlfriend and her guardian. If either Jo or Mrs. Garrett had looked at Blair, it may have worked as usual.

"Blair and I were going to walk over to Shakey's for an ice cream cone, but we can do that anytime. Right, Blair?"

"Maybe I'll find someone else to walk to Shakey's with me."

"That's a good idea. Okay, Mrs. G. I think we should take a quick inventory now so that we can leave for town as early as possible after dinner."

Blair stood motionless as she watched Jo and Mrs. Garrett walk toward the pantry. Blair doubted they'd heard a single word she'd had to say. She was still standing with her arms crossed when Natalie and Tootie came downstairs.

"Is Jo finished talking with Mrs. Garrett? Tootie wants to play Monopoly and it's no fun with only two players."

Blair practically growled at her younger roommates.

"What am I, Jo's keeper? Go ask her yourself. She's in the pantry with Mrs. Garrett."

Blair spun on her heel and stormed out of the dining room.

"Whoosh. Blair is on the warpath again."

Natalie nodded in agreement.

"Yep. I wonder what Jo's done to get her so worked up."

"What makes you think Jo did anything? Maybe Blair's just in a bad mood."

Natalie smiled at her naïve friend.

"Trust me, Tootie. When Blair gets that irritable, it's always because of something Jo did."

Tootie shrugged and walked toward the pantry in search of Jo and Mrs. Garrett as Natalie added another observation, but Tootie was too far ahead of Natalie to hear it.

"Or something Jo didn't do."

Natalie watched for Tootie to return from the pantry, anxious to discover if Jo was aware that she'd upset Blair. From Natalie's perspective, Jo couldn't be more clueless about the functioning of Blair Warner's mind. Of course, Natalie had begun to doubt that the focus of Jo's attention was on Blair's mind. The looks Natalie received from Jo when Blair was consoling her after Natalie was attacked left little doubt in Natalie's mind that Jo was disturbed by the attention Natalie was receiving from Blair. Jo's territorial behavior reminded Natalie of a documentary she and Tootie had watched on the mating habits of —.

"Hello, Earth to Natalie! Have you been listening to anything I've been saying?"

Natalie was jarred from her thoughts by Tootie, who looked very much like Blair had looked when they had entered the cafeteria. Tootie's arms were crossed, but instead of extending her lower lip, she twisted her mouth into a smirk when she was feeling neglected by her best friend.

'That's it!', thought Natalie, 'Blair's feeling neglected.'

"Jo can't play Monopoly. She's going to be busy with Mrs. Garrett all afternoon and then they're going shopping after dinner."

Natalie grinned.

"Poor Blair."

"Poor Blair? Why would you say that?"

Natalie laughed.

"Well, you know how possessive Blair is when it comes to Mrs. Garrett. Let's play cards in the lounge. I don't want to be anywhere around Miss Moody."

"Good idea. I'm surprised it's taken Blair this long to have a meltdown over no longer being Mrs. Garrett's favorite."

Natalie raised her eyebrows at her younger friend, surprised that Tootie was as aware of the situation as she was.

"You noticed?"

"I'd have to be dense not to know that Jo is always helping Mrs. Garrett with one thing or the other."

"She has been spending a lot of time with Jo this year."

Tootie smirked, knowingly.

"It's more than that. Is it my imagination, or has Mrs. Garrett started treating Jo like an adult?"

"Well, unless Mrs. Garrett has been asking for your opinion on just about every decision she makes, or asking you to fix everything that gets broken, or letting you borrow her shoes, or use her hand lotion, or stay up late at night drinking cocoa and talking about what it was like to grow up poor in Appleton, then I guess it's not your imagination."

Tootie sighed.

"Poor Blair."

When the phone rang, Blair was sulking on the sofa while Tootie and Natalie played backgammon. Bored and looking for a distraction, Blair answered the phone.

"Allie? You sound upset, is something wrong?"

Tootie and Natalie gave up any pretense of playing backgammon when they realized who was calling. Within Blair's snobbish circle of friends, Allison was the only girl who had ever treated Natalie and Tootie as equals. Despite her somewhat frivolous behavior, Allison was always friendly to everyone.

"Has it been that long? I'm sorry, Allie. I promise I'll write more often."

"I miss you, too. I'll try to visit you the next time I'm in New York."

"This weekend? Um, I don't know."

Tootie jumped up from the sofa and yelled toward the telephone.

"Is that you, Allison?"

Blair rolled her eyes.

"This is a private conversation."

Blair turned her back to Tootie as she listened to Allison.

"Oh, that was Tootie. She says to tell you hello and that she misses you."

Happy that Blair had conveyed her greetings to their friend, Tootie returned to the sofa.

"I . . . guess. It's just that I have to attend a charity dinner that night."

"Um, that sounds great. Allie, are you sure you're okay?"

Blair looked cautiously at her younger roommates before whispering into the phone.

"Of course I'm still your friend. Don't be silly. We'll always be friends."

"I am looking forward to it, really. I, um, miss you, too."

Blair sighed deeply after ending the phone call, taking her time before turning to face Tootie and Natalie.

"Wasn't it great to hear from Allison?"

Blair half smiled, nervously chewing her lip.

"Yes. I've invited her for a visit."

"Wow, is she going to bring her baby?"

"Of course."

Natalie absently played with the dice while listening to Tootie gush over Allison's upcoming visit.

"Blair, have you seen Allison since she left Eastland?"

"No, but we write to one another."

Tootie sighed.

"It must have been hard for you when Allison got preggers."


"It's okay, Nat. Everyone knows why Allison had to leave school. I don't know what I'd do if Natalie left Eastland."

Blair shook her head.

"It's not the same, Tootie. Natalie is your best friend. Allison was a good friend, but she was never my best friend."

Natalie didn't expect a straight answer, but the inquisitive reporter had to ask.

"Who do you consider your best friend, Blair?"

Natalie and Tootie were stunned by Blair's swift and matter-of-fact reply.

"Jo, of course."

When Jo returned to their room that evening, Natalie and Tootie were studying at the desk and Blair was drawing in her sketchpad. Jo smiled a greeting toward her girlfriend and was confused when Blair barely acknowledged Jo's entrance.

"Did you get Natalie to proofread your paper, Blair?"

Natalie looked up from her studies, surprised by Jo's question.

"No, I'm sure it's fine. Natalie has to complete a couple of articles for the newspaper when she finishes her homework. I didn't want to ask her to do more. Besides, Natalie is already helping me with Chemistry."

Jo sat down on her bed, uncertain of why she was feeling guilty.

"I can proofread it for you now if you like."

"Don't you have to help Mrs. Garrett put away the supplies?"

"I've already done that."

Blair continued sketching, ignoring Jo. Natalie and Tootie seemed unusually focused on their studies as well.

"Did you have any trouble with Mr. Gideon's assignment?"

Although Jo was looking at Blair when she asked the question, Natalie responded.

"Yeah, he didn't give us much of a guideline. I finished mine yesterday, but I don't feel good about it."

"I know what you mean. I've changed mine a hundred times and I still don't know if it's what he wants."

Blair looked up from her drawing.

"Mr. Gideon's assignment isn't due until next week, right?"

"No, Blair. It's due tomorrow. He's been reminding us every day. Haven't you finished?"

When Blair's lower lip disappeared, Jo knew the answer.

"I, um, I have it all in my head, I just haven't started writing it down yet."

"Blair, it counts as much as a test. I've already typed mine."

Natalie nodded.

"I typed mine, too."

Blair sighed deeply as she put her sketchbook away and retrieved her notebook from the side table.

"He didn't say that it had to be typed."

"It's understood, Blair. You know that any important report should be typed."

Blair shrugged and began writing furiously in her notebook.

"Do you want some help?"

Jo's offer was met with such a chilly stare that Jo knew she'd done something to offend Blair. She ran her hand across the back of her neck, feeling the tension build. Jo hated it when Blair was angry with her, but she hated it most when she had no idea why she was getting the cold shoulder from her normally affectionate girlfriend.

Having learned that it was best to wait out Blair's moody spells, Jo decided to focus on her own assignments. Jo was accustomed to earning excellent scores on all her reports and tests, but her grades in Mr. Gideon's class were steadily declining. Jo had taken the journalism class as an elective, but her average in the class was low enough to threaten her scholarship. She hadn't expressed her concerns to Blair because she didn't want Blair to try to interfere. Blair already complained that Mr. Gideon scored Jo's work too critically.

As Jo reviewed her paper, she glanced at Blair often. She missed the short nightgowns Blair had worn the previous school year. Jo hoped that Blair would soon lose the extra pounds she'd gained while in Paris, not because Jo cared about Blair's weight, but because Blair was so uncomfortable with her appearance that she'd traded her nighties for long-sleeved gowns that fell to her ankles.

Jo almost chuckled out loud remembering the skimpy nightgown Willis had arbitrarily lifted from their laundry basket during his last visit. Jo's mind called up images of her girlfriend in more revealing nightwear as she gazed at the inattentive blonde.

Jo was enjoying the illusion so much that she hadn't realized how long she'd been staring at Blair when her gaze lifted to Blair's face, finding curious brown eyes steadily looking back at her. Jo knew that she'd been caught when Blair reached for a strand of hair and began twirling it around her fingers. Blair might not be content with her current appearance, but she had no doubt that she still appealed to Jo.

Jo grimaced as she shifted her gaze back to her report.

Jo grinned as she scooped strawberries from her breakfast plate onto Blair's.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm giving you my strawberries. I know they're your favorite."

"Don't you want to save them for the shortcake you and Mrs. Garrett are going to keep all to yourselves?"

Jo laughed.

"I don't especially like strawberry shortcake, but since you overheard part of our conversation, I guess it won't be a surprise for you when you get shortcake for dessert tonight."

"But, if you don't like strawberries, why did I hear you trying to persuade Mrs. Garrett to buy more?"

Jo's grin grew.

"Well, they are your favorite, right?"

Blair's mouth fell open as she looked down at her waffles, covered in strawberries.

"Yes, but . . . I thought—."

"Heh, you shouldn't think so much, Blair. Take your time. I'll bring down your books with mine."

Jo winked at Blair before darting from the cafeteria and up the stairs to their bedroom. Blair Warner had seldom in her life felt so ridiculous. She'd treated Jo terribly because she was jealous of the attention Jo was receiving from Mrs. Garrett. Despite the delicious meal on her plate, the remorseful debutante had completely lost her appetite.

"Geez, Blair. First you talked Jo out of her strawberries and then you didn't even eat them. That's pretty crummy."

Tootie had noticed Jo piling her strawberries onto Blair's plate and was irritated that once again Jo was catering to Blair. It was bad enough that Jo had to freeze every time they went to a movie because Blair kept taking her roommate's jacket. Now Blair was taking Jo's breakfast and wasn't even eating it.

Blair, feeling guilty and defensive, lashed out at the younger girl.

"That shows what you know. Jo doesn't even like strawberries."

Natalie, knowing that her observation skills would not be questioned, presented Blair with an interesting question.

"If Jo doesn't like strawberries, then why is she always asking Mrs. Garrett to buy more of them? Whenever Mrs. Garrett makes apple pies, Jo says that strawberries make better pies. Whenever Mrs. Garrett serves peaches with breakfast, Jo insists that strawberries are less expensive. Why do you think Mrs. Garrett served strawberry ice cream on Jo's birthday last year?"

Natalie tapped her fork lightly on her plate, deep in thought.

"You know, I don't remember seeing Jo eat very much ice cream that night."

"How could she?" Tootie was quick to interject. "Blair always snatches Jo's strawberries before Jo ever has a chance to eat any. That's probably why Mrs. Garrett always gives Jo extra scoops of them."

'That's why I hadn't noticed that Jo doesn't care for strawberries', Blair realized, 'she's always pretending to want them.'

Blair pushed the strawberries around on her plate, trying to force herself to eat them after learning the lengths to which Jo went to get them for her. Just as she was beginning to feel as if she'd be able to swallow the treat, Tootie's next question sent her stomach reeling once again.

"Is Jo looking forward to meeting Allison?"

"Jo, slow down, I have to talk to you before we get to class."

"We're running late, Blair. We can talk later."

Blair reached for Jo's arm to delay her.

"No, we have to talk now."

"What could be so important that it can't wait?"

"Something that Natalie and Tootie already know about and I don't want you to hear it from anyone but me."

Jo's mood changed dramatically. She'd thought that Blair's chilly attitude the night before was because the fickle blonde was angry with Jo about something. Blair's current level of distress worried Jo. The protective brunette was concerned that something more serious was bothering her girlfriend.

"What's wrong, Blair?"

"Nothing's wrong. It's just . . . well, I, um, had a phone call from Allie last night."

Jo could feel her heart pumping faster. The previous year, Molly had given Jo an earful about Blair and Allison's friendship.

"Oh. I didn't know you still talked to her."

"She's written to me a few times."

"Do you write back?"

"It would be rude not to write her, Jo. We were friends."

"You were girlfriends."

Blair shook her head.

"No, we kissed a few times, but we were never actually girlfriends. I might have thought of it that way back then, but I know better now. The feelings I had for Allie were nothing compared to the feelings I have for you."

Jo frowned, wishing Blair had mentioned the call from Allison the night before when they could have talked more.

"Well . . . thanks for letting me know that she called, I guess."

Jo started walking again, but stopped when Blair didn't follow her.

"Aren't you coming?"

"There's more."

Jo shuffled her feet nervously.

"Come on, Blair. You know how Mr. Gideon is. He'll give me detention if we're late. We can talk after class, okay?"

Blair nodded, feeling bad about bringing up Allison before Mr. Gideon's class. Jo was always a little on edge before facing the abrasive instructor.

Nancy and Sue Ann ran toward Blair as soon as she and Jo entered the student center. The super cool girls who considered it beneath them to exhibit undue signs of excitement were unable to contain their exuberance.

"Is is true? Is Allison coming to visit you this weekend?"

Jo stood mute, trying her best to mask her surprise. By the blush on Blair's face, Jo knew the answer to Nancy's question before Blair spoke. Blair was trying her best not to ruffle Jo's feathers any more than possible. She continued to berate herself for ever telling Jo the names of the two girls she had kissed prior to meeting Jo.

Blair glanced guiltily toward Jo before stuttering her response.

"Um, yes, but how did you find out?"

"How do you think?" Sue Ann smirked as she tilted her head toward Tootie and Natalie.

"Why didn't you tell us?"

"I didn't know. Um, not until last night."

Blair was acutely aware of Jo's presence. She'd hoped to be more sensitive to Jo's feelings than to spring Allie's visit on her girlfriend in front of anyone, but she hadn't had a private moment to bring it up. Now Jo was finding out in the worst possible way.

"Is she bringing the baby?"

"Yes, I think so. We didn't talk very long."

"I can't believe she has the nerve to come back here after being kicked out."

"Cool it, Sue Ann, Allie wasn't kicked out, she withdrew."

Blair regretted her overly defensive response as soon as she saw Jo shift her weight, the only sign that Jo was uncomfortable with the conversation.

"Come on, Blair. You know the rules. Pregnant girls can't attend Eastland. She would have been kicked out if she hadn't withdrawn before the headmaster found out."

Nancy rolled her eyes at Sue Ann. Having had a pregnancy scare herself, Nancy was as defensive of Allison as Blair.

"Do I need to remind you that Allison has married into one of the best families in New York? People will forget that she got pregnant before she got married. It won't matter once David finishes medical school. It's not as if she slept around, Allison and David were a steady couple."

Margo, who had joined the conversation, laughed derisively.

"If they were a couple, why did she and Blair double date with those two boys from Peekskill just a few weeks before Allison left school?"

Jo listened carefully to the bickering between Blair and her friends over their former classmate. The other girls didn't seem to have noticed that Jo didn't join in the conversation, but Blair constantly attempted to make eye contact with Jo.

Nancy took the lead in Allison's defense.

"Lots of couples date other people sometimes."

Sue Ann rolled her eyes.

"Allison hadn't dated David in weeks. They hardly spoke to one another. Everyone knows that the only reason they got back together was because he got her preggers."

Margo added.

"At least that's what she told him."

Blair was incensed.

"He was the only one and they only did it the one time. I'd think you, of all people, would be more sympathetic."

Margo feigned offense.

"You're not questioning my virginity, are you, Blair?"

At that, all the girls burst into a fit of laughter.

Sue Ann, feeling particularly snarky, decided to further spice up the conversation.

"I never understood why Allison didn't take precautions. It's not as if she didn't have easy access to birth control pills."

Nancy frowned, confused by Sue Ann's assumption. If there was an easy way to get birth control pills without her parents knowing about it, Nancy hadn't discovered it.

"I don't think you can buy those from your local drug dealer, Sue Ann. Besides, you know Allison didn't hang around with that crowd."

Resenting the perceived insinuation that she did hang around with drug users, Sue Ann retaliated.

"I was talking about Blair, not Tumpy. All Allison would have had to do was borrow some of Blair's birth control pills. I'm sure she knew about Blair's stash. After all, they told one another everything."

Jo wasn't happy that Blair had invited Allison for a visit, but Jo wasn't about to sit still while Sue Ann slandered her girlfriend. Jo knew exactly how and why Blair had birth control pills and quickly discerned that Sue Ann must have stumbled upon them as opposed to having been told about the pills by Blair. Since all of Blair's other friends seemed surprised by the news, Jo reasoned that she was the only one Blair had told about her mother's insistence that Blair be prepared for what Monica considered the inevitable. Jo cleared her throat, drawing attention away from her flustered girlfriend.

"Lots of girls take those pills to regulate their period."

Margo, knowing Blair as well as she did, was totally convinced by Jo's explanation.

"Allison would never have asked the biggest tease on campus for advice on her sex life."

As the conversation shifted to safer topics, the girls finished their snacks and started to leave. Sue Ann, feeling somewhat foiled by Jo's intervention and knowing that Jo was attending the charity dinner that weekend with Blair, lobbed a parting shot aimed at Jo.

"Are you taking Allison to the charity dinner with you, Blair?"

"What? No. Jo and I are going to the dinner with Billy and Dustin."

Jo raised her hands in the universal sign of surrender.

"Hey, if Blair would rather take Allison to the dinner, it's fine with me."

Nancy wiggled her brows at Blair as they went their separate ways.

"We want to hear every detail on Monday, Blair."

Blair had to almost run to catch up with Jo on her way to their next class.

"Jo, slow down. Let me explain."

Blair would have preferred that Jo yell at her or stomp her feet, but Jo simply smiled agreeably.

"There's nothing to explain, Blair. If you want to spend the weekend with Allison, I'm not going to give you a hard time. I was dreading going to the charity dinner anyway."

"You can't back out of the dinner, Jo. Allie is only visiting for a few hours Saturday morning. She'll be gone long before the dinner. Would you slow down for five seconds so that we can talk?"

Jo didn't slow down until they were standing at the entrance to their math class with several other students mingling in the hallway.

"I think I got all the information I needed when you were talking to your friends. You could have told me, y'know. I'm not really a barbarian."

Blair looked around, frustrated that other students were standing too close for her to speak privately with Jo. Blair didn't think things could get much worse, but she had forgotten to consider that Margo was also in their math class. Margo swept into the other two girls like a strong March wind, wrapping her arms around Blair and Jo's waist so that she could bring them both close enough to hear her whisper.

"Lover's quarrel? Oh my, and Allison isn't even here yet."

Blair fumed while Jo shrugged as nonchalantly as she could manage, more concerned by the fact that Blair hadn't confided in her than she was about Allison's upcoming visit.

That night, when Blair discovered that Mrs. Garrett had agreed to escort Natalie and Tootie to the movies, she broke the double date she'd arranged in favor of staying home with Jo. She was already feeling guilty about her jealous reaction to Jo's relationships with both Miss Gallagher and Mrs. Garrett, and Blair desperately wanted to be on good terms with Jo before Allie arrived the next morning.

"Thank you for talking Mrs. Garrett into serving strawberry shortcake tonight, Jo. It was very nice of you."

Jo stretched out on the sofa, placing her arm behind Blair, but not touching her girlfriend. Jo seemed more interested than usual in the television show they were watching, seemingly unaware of how near Blair was sitting.

"I do my best, Blair."

Blair leaned over and kissed Jo on the cheek.

"Your best is too good for me, Jo. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to tell you about Allie's visit earlier. I was upset with you last night."

Jo turned to face her girlfriend, her eyes narrowing.

"Why were you upset with me? I've been trying to figure out what I did to set you off this time. I thought we were getting along."

Blair lowered her head.

"I was jealous."

"What? Of who? I ain't even looked at another girl."

"Mrs. Garrett."

"Huh? That's crazy."

"She likes you best."

Jo snorted and wrapped her arm snugly around Blair's shoulders, pulling the remorseful blonde closer.

"Come here, goofy girl."

"You're not angry with me?"

"Nah, I know how much you like to be the center of attention. I should have known you'd blow a fuse over the amount of time Mrs. G. and I have been spending together."

"You're the best girlfriend ever, Jo."

"Better than Allie?"

"I told you, Jo. You're the only one I've ever loved."

Blair leaned toward Jo so enthusiastically that she knocked Jo off balance, causing Jo to fall over on the sofa with Blair on top of her.

"Heh heh, if I didn't know any better, I'd be afraid you were trying to get me knocked up, too. You'd better watch it, Warner. People will start talking about you if all your girlfriends wind up pregnant."

Blair sprinkled Jo's face with kisses, thrilled that Jo wasn't holding a grudge.

"That wouldn't be such a bad thing, would it, Jo? I think we'd make beautiful babies."


"If we had children, they'd be gorgeous, don't you think?"


"You'll be a wonderful mother, Jo. You're so sensitive and caring."

"Wha . . What are you talking about?"

"You'd never miss a birthday or a holiday. If you had a girl, you'd need some fashion advice, but other than that you'd be great."


"You have the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen. Do you know if your grandmother had green eyes?"

"My grandmother?!"

"Have you seen my baby pictures? I have a photo album upstairs, I'll get it. I was the most beautiful baby. You'll see."

Blair kissed Jo's face again before rolling off of her girlfriend and skipping from the room.

Jo pressed her hands to her forehead, trying to force clarity into her brain while she waited for Blair to return.

'Get a grip, Polniaczek. What did I expect? This is what I get for falling for a girl like that. I get a scholarship to a school filled with nothing but girls and I had to fall for the first one I met. If Blair Warner thinks I'm going to sit quietly while she babbles on about babies, then she can think again.'

Jo stood and began pacing back and forth in the lounge.

'That's the problem. She doesn't think. She was batting those big brown eyes at me the minute I showed up here. I could have been a psychopath and she never would have known the difference. She knew I was a hoodlum and she still let me kiss her the very first day we met. I should have known right then that she didn't have good sense. She'd probably never even had detention before I landed her in jail that night.'

Jo stopped long enough to kick the end table. It didn't make her feel any better, it only made her foot hurt.

'It's my own fault. I'm too nice to her. I should have never given her those strawberries. She's brain damaged if she thinks I'm going to sit here and moon over her baby pictures. What would she do with a kid? She couldn't even take care of a goldfish. It's amazing that she gets through life. She doesn't know how to do anything. She can't cook. She can't clean. She can't even make up her bed without Natalie's help. All she knows how to do is twirl her hair and bat those big, brown, puppy eyes at me.'

Jo sat back down on the sofa with her head between her hands.

'I can't blame her. It's my own fault. I have no self-discipline. That's my problem. I had to touch those curls and feel those lips. I let her look at me with those gooey eyes, like I was some sort of superhero. Damn those strawberries.'

"Jo, are you okay?"

"Huh? Oh, yeah. Listen, Blair. I think you got the wrong impression earlier when I was joking about getting knocked up."

"Don't be silly, Jo. I know I can't get you pregnant."

Jo breathed a sigh of relief and smiled at her impulsive girlfriend.

"Not in the traditional sense, of course."

"Huh? Wait a minute."

Curling her legs beneath her, Blair sat close to Jo, flipping through the pages of the photo album she'd brought from their room.

"This is my first Christmas. Wasn't I adorable in my little red hat?"

Jo nervously glanced at the picture, feeling awkward.

"Uh, yeah. Who's the lady holding you?"

Blair shrugged.

"A nanny, I guess."

Jo would have stopped her girlfriend. She meant to say something after the second page of pictures, but something about the pictures began to nag at Jo's subconscious and she found herself wanting to see more. Picture after picture, year after year, Jo was treated to a pictorial review of Blair's childhood. As time passed, Jo's concerns about some of Blair's assumptions about their relationship gave way to a profound surge of compassion as Jo began to note that Blair's parents were in very few pictures. Blair was always dressed in adorable outfits with bows and ribbons dripping from her curls, but the people surrounding her consisted of an ever-changing assortment of strangers.

As Blair continued to give a detailed description of each photograph, one picture in particular caught Jo's eye. Blair was sitting on a very dignified-looking man's shoulders. The look in the child's eyes was one of sheer devotion as her chubby little hands clung to the man's head and face.

"Who's that?"

Blair beamed.

"Granddaddy Blair. Isn't he handsome?"

"I can't tell, you're practically gouging his eyes out."

Blair rolled her eyes.

"He was very tall. I had to hold on to something."

"Heh heh, he doesn't look like he minds."

"Even Daddy couldn't hold a candle to my grandfather when it came to spoiling me."

Jo studied Blair's expression as she looked at the picture of the man she idolized. It reminded Jo of the dreamy expression Blair sometimes got when she was looking at Jo.

"You can't see his eyes, Jo, but they have gold and green flecks, just like mine. I like your eyes best, though. I'd love to see pictures of you as a baby."

"Are you crazy?"

It wasn't until after Blair had slammed the photo album down on the coffee table that Jo realized she'd spoken her thoughts out loud. She could hear Blair mumbling the word 'crazy' under her breath as she stormed up the stairs and out of sight, leaving Jo to spend the rest of her Friday night sitting on the sofa by herself.

'This is what I get for falling in love with a crazy girl. What did I expect? Damn strawberries.'

Post Series Flash Forward: Tootie Returns to Peekskill

"I don't know, Nat. There's something off about that kid."

Natalie tapped her fingers on the table nervously.

"Maybe it's an act. Blair was always acting like a snob when we were teenagers, but she wasn't really shallow. Maybe Beverly is only pretending to be creepy."

"Give me a break. On her worst day Blair wasn't half that bad. When we were riding this afternoon, Beverly asked E.J. how many people I had killed when I was a cop."

"What did E.J. say?"

Jo glared at her friend in frustration.

"I answered for her. I wanted Beverly to know that I'd overheard their conversation. She only asked E.J. that to make her uncomfortable. I don't know what else Beverly has said to E.J. and Marie but they're definitely scared of her. They scamper away like frightened rabbits every time she looks in their direction."

Natalie nodded.

"I'm a little bit afraid of her, too."

"I don't get it. I thought Tiffany was going to be the problem, but she was fairly decent. She's just a little mixed up."

"She's not mixed up, she's pissed off. Did you see how closely she watched Roger? I think she knows that her dad plays around on her mother. She started off staring poison darts into your back, but as soon as Roger started flirting with Blair she changed her aim."

Jo smiled sympathetically at her friend, remembering how hurt Natalie had been when she discovered that her father had been unfaithful to her mother.

"I noticed that, too. I'm going to have a talk with Roger. For the record, Roger doesn't cheat anymore, but Tiffany would have no way of knowing that and I don't think Roger is aware that his daughter knows about his numerous affairs."

"I'm glad you're going to talk with him, Jo. He seems to listen to you. The two of you have a weird chemistry."

"Hey, I resent that."

"No, not that kind of chemistry. You and Roger have friendship chemistry."

Jo smiled.

"Whatever Roger and I have, it's a distant second to what I have with you, Nat. Thanks for helping me keep my cool today. I really want Beverly to enroll at Eastland so that Tootie will visit more often. I miss our little buddy."

Natalie giggled.

"Speaking of our little buddy, do you remember when Tootie dressed as Gilligan and I dressed as the Skipper for the costume party the year after you and Blair graduated?"

"Heh heh, I remember the two of you flaunting your prize for weeks."

Jo glanced awkwardly at Natalie.

"I, um, I was really proud of you that night, Natalie. I know the annual costume party brought back a lot of bad memories for you. You're, well, you're one of the bravest people I know."

"That sounds a little odd coming from a woman who rushed into a hail of bullets to save another police officer."

Jo shook her head.

"Don't sell yourself short. You were only fifteen years old when that happened to you, Nat. Not many kids could have dealt with it as well as you did. Have you noticed that E.J. has started mimicking you? I don't know if she's doing it consciously or not, but every day she seems to have picked up another one of your mannerisms."

Natalie jutted her chin forward and back several times, demonstrating one of the mannerisms E.J. had acquired.

"The kid has good taste."

Jo chuckled, then touched Natalie's hand to emphasize her concern.

"You'll help me keep an eye on Beverly, won't you?"

Natalie cocked her head to the side.

"I don't think it will be necessary, Jo, but if it will make you feel better I'll keep my eyes wide open."

Jo nodded.

"It'll make me feel better."

Dorothy started giggling as soon as she entered the kitchen where Jo and Natalie were talking.

"Does Blair know that you and Natalie hold hands when she's not around?"

Jo blushed when she realized that her hand was still resting on top of Natalie's, but Natalie didn't miss a beat.

"You should see what we do with one another when Blair's out of town."

Jo made a face and shuddered.

"Where do you come up with this crazy stuff?"

Natalie nodded matter-of-factly.


Natalie stood up and offered Dorothy her seat, sensing that her best friend wanted to talk privately with Jo.

"I'm going to see if Alex has Cablevision."

"She'll never change."

Jo nodded in agreement.

"I hope not. Sometimes she's the only person I know who will give me a straight answer to any question."

Dorothy giggled.

"She'd love to hear you phrase it that way, Jo."

Jo grunted before laughing.

"Enough about Natalie, how are you doing? Did you enjoy the ride?"

"I felt like an amateur compared to everyone else, but I had fun."

"It was really nice of you to lag behind and stay near Marie. Like E.J., she's normally very shy. I've never seen her react to anyone the way she reacted to you."

Dorothy's grin filled her entire face.

"Oh, Jo. She's wonderful. I see so much of Eddie in her."

Jo's voice almost cracked with emotion as she described her daughter's friendship with Marie Brennan.

"Yeah, it threw me for a loop the first time I saw her, but she and E.J. hit it off right away. They're best friends."

"How long has she been in Peekskill?"

"She and her mother moved here a couple of months after Eddie died. Not long after he died, Blair received a letter from Eddie's attorney. In it, he asked Blair to make sure Marie got a scholarship to Eastland if anything ever happened to him. Marie's too young to stay in the dorms, but Blair offered Eddie's ex-wife a management position at our hotel so that Marie could enroll as a day student, like E.J."

"Eddie divorced his second wife, too?"

"Yeah, being married to someone in the military can be tough. Eddie tried to keep his family together, but he was away so much that they just weren't able to work things out."

"He never stopped loving you, did he?"

Not trusting herself to speak, Jo nodded.

"Why do you think Eddie wrote the letter to Blair instead of you? I thought they barely tolerated one another."

"No, you have it all wrong. A lot happened after you moved to London. Eddie and Blair became good friends. He, uh, flew to New York when he found out that I'd been shot. He spent a lot of time with Blair when I was in the coma. Blair doesn't say much about those days, but she told me that she'd felt like Eddie understood what she was going through better than anyone else."

"Wow, I never thought I'd see the day when those two would be friends."

Jo nodded.

"My relationship with Eddie was complicated. Blair always understood that. Once Eddie came to understand my relationship with Blair, he was so considerate of her feelings that she couldn't help but learn to like him."

Dorothy sighed; she had never understood how Jo could choose Blair over Eddie. In Dorothy's eyes, Eddie was the greatest guy in the world.

"Did you ever love him, Jo?"

Jo's voice sounded tired, even to herself.

"Of course I loved him, Tootie. How could I not love Eddie?"

"Then why didn't you marry him?"

Jo hung her head, her disappointment evident. Jo had hoped to renew the close friendship she and Tootie had shared as young women, but the younger woman still couldn't seem to understand Jo and Blair's relationship.

"You're never going to get it, are ya? Sure, I loved Eddie, but I'm in love with Blair. I've always been in love with Blair."

"I'm sorry, Jo. I didn't mean to offend you. It's just that your life would have been so much easier if you'd stayed with Eddie."

"Easier? Well, maybe for everyone else, but not for me."

Dorothy felt tears welling in her eyes as Jo left the room. She hadn't meant to hurt her dear friend, but she knew that she had. Dorothy shook her head, wondering what Blair had ever done to deserve such devotion. Dorothy loved Blair, but sometimes she found it difficult to be around someone who always seemed to get the best of everything. From Dorothy's perspective, Blair Warner was the luckiest woman in the world.

Part 9

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