DISCLAIMER: I'm playing with toys that don't belong to me. Not exactly certain who they belong to, but not me. I'll put them back when I'm done, and I'm not making any money. Just being a fan.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wrote this only having seen season 1 and the first three or four eps of season two. Some of the characterizations may contradict cannon.
ARCHIVING: Having just said that I'm playing with someone else's toys, I now say don't play with mine without my say-so. Hypocritical of me, but there you have it. Thanks!

Don't Ask...It's Complicated
By the ghost


It never would have happened if the bathroom lock hadn't been busted when Tootie lost control while skating. But the damn knob really was broken, Mrs. Garrett was just on the other side of that shower curtain using the toilet, Blair actually was hiding in a bathtub wearing a transparent blue nightgown with flashing neon lights along her breasts, and Jo Polniacek was, honest to god, standing two inches away from her, wearing a masculine suit with a mustache accenting a mouth gaping in astonishment. Ok Emily Post, she thought to herself, what's the appropriate response to this social situation?

Three days earlier...

"Hey Buddy, you got the time?"

Jo Polniacek smoothly returned the nozzle to the gas pump before turning to answer, "Yes ma'am, it's half past twelve."

"Didn't mean nothing," the burly blond replied before speeding off in his battered mustang.

"Jerk," she complained as she revved up the bike and took off towards her new school. It had started when she was five, kids in the school yard chanting: Are you a boy or a girl? Mr. Jo, can I be your wife?. It had gotten worse and worse as she got older. What's wrong with you? Girls can't do that! Grow up already. Don't you want to be a woman? God, no. She'd seen enough of what that meant around the neighborhood. But that didn't really mean she wanted to be a man.

Ruthlessly, she kicked the bike up a gear. It whined in protest. Is it me who's crazy, or is it everybody else? Just because she didn't want to spend her life on "hunting skills" to catch a man to rely on, they felt compelled to pick her apart. Because she wanted to take care of herself, there was something wrong with her? Did she have to be a man to be her own woman?

The fear came up through the anger, the little voice that said an entire world can't be wrong, maybe there really was something off with her. Other girls really didn't seem to mind the whole mess. They even appeared to enjoy it, flirting with guys and giggling together. God she hated giggles. They didn't sound real.

Maybe life would have been easier if she'd been a guy. All her friends were male, she liked motorcyles and building things, not dressing and gossiping. Maybe, she felt sick as she thought it, maybe they're right. Maybe I am some sort of freak of nature.

She sighed as she looked down the road, and eased off the throttle a little. After all, it wasn't the bike's fault the world sucked, and she wasn't really in a rush to get there. Especially after the conversation she'd overheard this morning. She'd snuck in through the bathroom window, hoping her mother hadn't noticed that she'd been out all night with Eddie, saying goodbye. She'd stopped suddenly when she realized her mother and a friend were in the kitchen talking about her.

"I tell you Verna, I just don't know what to do anymore. It was bad enough before, but now there's this boy she's hanging out with."

"Bright side, maybe this is a good sign. She's showing some interest in boys." Jo heard their neighbor respond.

"Verna, that's the last thing I'm worried about." What is? Jo wondered as her mother said it. "But she's never going to survive if she doesn't stop fighting the world, and learns to accept her limitations. This Eastland school may help. It'll get her away from this troublemaking Eddie character. Maybe she'll change her attitude, once she's away from the neighborhood. Develop some polish and social skills. At the very least, they're certain to challenge her mind a little more than the district school." Jo heard tears edging into her mother's voice as she continued, "I'm just so scared for her."

Jo had gulped and slunk into her room, feeling guilty, ashamed and angry all at the same time. Why is she always trying to change me? She fumed as she shoved clothes into her bag, deciding to just take off early. I'll call from the road, she decided as she picked up her bag and clambered down the fire escape. She ignored the little voice that told her she had been regretting the relationship with Eddie already, that she had wondered if she was in over her head with the older boy. Especially after last night. Now that her mother was trying to force them apart, it felt like true love. It was meant to be. Bet I can get myself kicked out by the end of the first day. Then she'll know I make my own choices. And she can't make them for me.

Jo Polniacek's first day may well be the yardstick by which all are measured, Blair Warner thought to herself the next morning as she groaned herself to wakefulness. She winced, both at the backache from sleeping on the floor of the cluttered storage room that she, Nat, Tootie and Jo would be calling home, and from the clamours of her concience as she remembered how they had ganged up on the new girl at the end of the night. It wasn't quite fair of them to take it all out on Jo like they had, and to be honest, Blair had led the attack.

She squirmed a little as she remembered the intense scene. Mrs. Garrett had ripped them apart for, well, being spoiled brats, and that had made her feel so ashamed she just thought she would explode. Mrs. Garrett never lost her temper. At least she never had before today. There was only one thing new about today: the troublemaker, Jo.

"Thanks a lot," Blair had turned to the newcomer as soon as the door shut. "Before you came, everything was great. Since you've been here we've been thrown in jail," she enumerated on her fingers, "put on probation, assigned to hard labor and stuck in this room." Mrs. Garrett liked me, and I wasn't confused again, she mentally added to her tirade.

She'd thought she'd had a handle on it. This thing with other girls. She was normal, just like everyone else. Not some sicko. Not someone her mother would reject, and her father would look at like an alien. It was just...arrested development, that's what. Teen magazine had an article all about it, how for some women, maturity came a little late. It took them longer to transition their affections from the girl confidants of childhood to the men of womanhood. Perfectly understandable.

Mrs. Garrett did not catch Blair staring at the new girl's butt.

Blair sighed as she sat up. But she had. Blair had known it at the time. It was so embarrassing. Thank god Tootie hadn't been there; she was like a mini bullshit detector on wheels. Nat believed Blair's coverup crack about last year's jeans. Tootie never would have, and then it would have been all over the school.

Blair hugged her knees to her chest. Mrs. Garrett had reacted the way any normal woman would, too. By pulling back from Blair. Who wanted to be close to a freak? Her mother had done the same thing that time she had kissed Marcy Lowes in her sixth grade homeroom. Mother wouldn't speak to me, wouldn't even look at me for weeks. God that had hurt. It had taken months of boy talk and turbo-charged gooming before her mother had decided that it was just a fluke, and relaxed again.

The good news was, the same prescription would probably work this time. After a few weeks of boy crazy Blair Warner, Mrs. Garrett would forget all about that split second of suspicion about Blair's wandering eyes. She sighed to herself. It wasn't easy being Blair Warner, but someone had to live the perfect life. When they're all wishing they had her clothes, cars and dates, they won't be thinking that she's a, well, one of those. There couldn't be anything wrong with a person everyone wanted to be, right?

And yesterday, Jo had offered her a golden opportunity to get back on track. College guys, with the elan of experience and age. Even if we get caught, she'd thought to herself as Tootie and Jo were maneuvering her into the dumb idea, or, especially if we get caught, it'll distract Mrs. Garrett.

Well, Mrs. Garrett hadn't been distracted. Just furious on top of being disgusted. So much for that plan.

A knock on the door interrupted her musings.

"Blair?" Mrs. Garrett queried through the door. "Your mother is on the phone."

"I'll be right there Mrs. Garrett." She replied as she wrestled herself out of the bed roll and into a robe.

Twenty minutes later, her mother was still talking. Not about last night's shenanigans, of course. But about boys. Rich boys. Boys with social prominence. Boys who Monica Warner would be dating herself, if they weren't twenty years her junior. Boys she expected Blair to date in her stead.

"Now remember dear, Harrison will be back from Switzerland next week, make sure you clear your schedule so you can help him settle in. Oh! And be absolutely certain you have the night of the High Crest cotillion free. His mother was here this afternoon saying how nice it will be to see the two of you there, just like old times."

"Mother, don't you think," Blair protested.

Her mother interrupted. "Make certain you get that charming pink taffeta pressed today, you know it's one of the few things you brought down with you that's appropriate. Oh dear, perhaps I should overnight the purple silk."

"I'm certain that won't be necessary mother," Blair cut in in desperation. "Look, he may not be interested in the cotillion. After all, I haven't seen him in four years, he may not even be interested in me." Perhaps I won't be interested in him. Not that it mattered in the slightest...

"Blair, that's ridiculous, you're a Warner. Just make certain you visit him at Bates before he does anything rash like invite another girl. As soon as he sees you again, he'll want you on his arm."

"Mother, I've got to hang up. Breakfast is about to be cleared and I haven't eaten yet."

"Alright dear. Oh, and Blair?"

"Yes Mother?" Blair asked, itching to get away from the conversation.

"Next time, don't do anything as crass as stealing a van. Perfectly good taxis are just a phone call away."

Blair just stared at the phone for a moment before replying. She knew how Nat and Tootie's parents had responded. She was willing to bet that crass hadn't had a thing to do with the lectures they had delivered to her friends. Wonder what Jo's mom said?

"Alright Mother," she'd finally replied. "Goodbye."

The next morning, Blair and Jo ended up walking to class together. It was difficult to avoid, when you're getting off the lunch shift at the same time, and going to the same place. I wonder if this is going to happen every day, Blair mused to herself. Maybe I could leave my books in the room, Jo won't wait for me to go get them before leaving. Incredible, how much of her life was subsumed into making sure no one noticed her problem. It was hard, making sure she was seen with the right boys, not seen with the wrong girls, always saying the right thing. Exhausting, but necessary if she wanted to regain Mrs. Garrett's trust.

A blue Porsche pulled up the school drive, and emitted a beautiful, sophisticated woman. Every girl within sight stopped and looked on in envy. Blair sighed, and spoke without thinking. "That's Julie's mother. Isn't she amazing?" Blair asked. "Look at the way she moves, I wish I had that poise. And that dress!"

"You would," Jo replied dismissively. "Look at it! She can hardly walk it's so tight, and where does she think she is, the opera? I just wish I could get behind the wheel of that car, then I'd show you some real moves."

Hurt, Blair replied cuttingly. "Jo, are you certain you wouldn't be happier at Bates? You might be a boy in disguise."

"You should be wearing a warning label." Jo replied before stomping ahead to their philosophy class without her.

When Blair arrived Jo had taken a seat in the far right corner, so she sat in the middle left, as far from Jo as she could get without sitting in the chiropractor seats, making it just before the bell rang.

Mr. Freeman immediately began talking. "Write this down girls," he turned and began writing on the blackboard:

The way to gain a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.


He turned to look at them, "We will be doing a three part, standard format thesis essay on how Socrates' sentiment applies to each of us, as individuals. Tonight's assignment is to prepare your thesis statement for review next week."

The two teenagers sat on their beds that evening, ostensibly working on the same assignment. Their minds however, were in different places than their books would suggest.

You're supposed to be at Bates. You're really a boy in disguise. Jo couldn't get it out of her mind. If even someone as self-centered as Blair Warner could pull that out of the air, maybe there was something to it. Would I be happier? Her mind followed the well-worn track of self-doubt.

The problem is, she thought, I just don't know. It's like I'm in this limbo between two genders, not knowing which way to jump. An idea struck. I don't know, because I haven't really tried either! I bet I could dress like a guy, and no one would know the difference. Hell, half the time folks think I'm a boy now. Then I'll go out and do something, just to see what it feels like. After that, I'll do something dressed like a normal girl, fancy dress, do the hair, the whole nine. After I compare the two, and at least I'll know what I want.

Blair's mind was spinning just as quickly as she sucked on her pen and tried to work on her essay. At least her attention was more closely allied to the assignment. Endeavor to be what you desire to appear, it struck home for someone who had been applying herculean effort to create an appearance. That's my problem! I've been focusing on appearances, when what I really need to do is change what I am! Now, what do I desire to appear? The only thing that came to mind was what she didn't want to seem to be. Ok, so what's the opposite of that? She sighed mentally, the boy crazy Blair Warner everyone knows and loves. But that's not really working. Where did I go wrong? After much thought, something Mrs. Garrett said to her last year jumped to mind. About how she looked, and how her appearance led people to believe that she'd been around. But you haven't have you Blair? She thought to herself. You're a tease, you let them think they'll get somewhere then drop the ball on them because you're just not interested. The quote ran through her mind again, like a curse. Endeavor to be what you desire to appear. If she didn't want to appear to be, well, strange, then she'd better endeavor to be something normal. Harrison, you're going to have one surprising homecoming!

Nat surprised Blair by barging suddenly into their room the next afternoon, when she should have been in her study group. "Hey Blair, isn't that the Henri's of Hollywood stuff your father sent you last year?"

Blair decided to brazen it out, since it was Nat. "Yes, I decided to donate these to the local homeless shelter. Even the impoverished deserve to look fabulous."

Nat goggled for a moment, then visibly decided not to go there, but instead began sorting through the pile of thin lingerie on the bed. "Where's that blue one with the pink furry straps? Let's hang it up on the bathroom wall as a night light." She grinned, "then we can call it the red light district."

"The one with the lights surrounding the, ah, assets?" Blair asked innocently. "Don't bother looking," she gestured with her chin towards Jo's empty bed. "Mr. Goodwrench over there used it for an oil rag."

Nat muttered under her breath. "There outta be a law."

"Look, I'm going to box this up and mail it off soon, I'll see you downstairs for dinner prep?"

"Yeah," Nat replied. "I gotta hurry up, Sue-Ann said she'd help me with my algebra today." The younger girl grabbed her algebra book and began to leave, but paused at the door to say mournfully. "It's a damn shame about that blue one."

Blair waited for the count of twenty after Nat left the room before reaching to the bottom of the pile and pulling out the nightgown in question. Stuffing it under her shirt, she tiptoed down the hall and into the bathroom to change. She surveyed the results in the mirror skeptically. This is really what turns men on? She turned full circle, swinging her head around to see from the back. Well, maybe it'll look better with the stockings and the shoes. She could figure out the stockings easily enough, but stopped in consternation when she got to the garter belt. How, exactly, do these things attach? In frustration, she finally just sort of tied them on. She was in the middle of getting the left leg secured when the door opened an inch, and Jo's voice sounded on the other side of the door, as if the dark haired girl were shouting down the stairs.

"When're we gonna get this door knob fixed Mrs. Garrett?"

Blair panicked, looking around quickly for an escape. Ah...if she closed the shower curtain, Jo would never know she was there. Quickly, she picked up the pink, furry shoes and jumped into the tub, pulling the curtain closed as quietly as she could.

The sound of the door opening and closing was followed by a disgusted mutter. "She's even spreading her clothes around here, I tell ya, that girl has no respect."

The blonde bit her lip to keep herself from making a retort. You do not, I repeat not, want to do anything to let that cretin know that you're here. Just to be safe, she held her breath.

The expected sounds of plumbing, or activities precluding the use thereof, did not appear. Just a lot of soft shuffling. What's she doing? Blair wondered as the sounds went on and on, with no end in sight. Or sound. Finally, she had to let out her breath. And she complains about how long I take in the bathroom. Hey, the too tough for my grease stains Jo Polniacek couldn't be...primping? She couldn't resist a peek through the small gap in the curtain.

Oh my sacred trust fund, I never expected that! Jo was staring into the mirror, frowning fiercely at a tie she was unsuccessfully trying to knot. Where in God's name did she get a Bates uniform?

Blair eyed the dark haired girl speculatively. Where'd her breasts go? She wondered, even while a tiny voice at the back of her head was saying, Now if Harrison looks like THAT...she slapped herself, quite literally, to stop the thought before it went any further.

"What the hell?" Jo said in a panic, looking around. But before she could discover Blair, Mrs. Garrett's voice was heard over her heavy tread on the stairs. "I'll be right there Tootie, I just need to visit the toilet first." She announced in her sing-song voice.

"Jesus," Jo cursed. Blair backed against the shower wall as she realized what was going to happen next. Sure enough, Jo jumped into the tub and shut the curtain in less time than it takes to think uhoh. The dark haired girl turned her head and froze when she saw Blair standing right next to her. They stood so close together that they were sharing the same air, the tension so thick that it was hard to breathe it.

The moment seemed to last forever, as both felt the same frozen panic of a deer exposed to a hunter's sights. It seemed to take an eternity for Mrs. Garrett to take care of business. When she approached the sink to wash her hands, Blair realized that a slight head turn, and the older woman would be able to see them through the gap in the curtains. Blair squeeked, nearly inaudibly in panic. Jo's hand shot up between them and covered her mouth in an instant.

They both deflated as the door closed behind the nutritionist, staring at each other in consternation.

"Don't ask," Jo threatened as she removed her hand.

"It's complicated," Blair explained at the same time.

The silence stretched out as they stared at each other. Then Jo nodded decisively. "Right," she said, as if replying to something unstated.

Blair understood, and nodded her agreement, "Deal."

The End

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