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.
SEQUEL/SERIES: Sequel to Don't Ask...It's Complicated.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Learning to Dress
By the ghost


The silence stretched out as they stared at each other. Then Jo nodded decisively. "Right," she said, as if replying to something unstated. Hopefully, she'll get it. No questions means no lies.

She heaved a mental sigh of relief when Blair replied with just one word: "Deal."

Still, neither one moved for a long moment. "Better get dressed, before Tootie decides to take a leak," Jo suggested.

The blonde nodded in agreement and awkwardly raised her leg to get out of the tub. Tough job in fuzzy pink four inch spikes, Jo thought to herself as she steadied Blair's elbow.

"Thankyou," Blair mumbled when she'd escaped. But instead of gathering up her school uniform she turned and stared at Jo's outfit speculatively.

"Whatsa matter you goof?" Jo demanded.

Blair's voice stayed calm, despite the challenge in Jo's tone. "Is that why your tie is never knotted? You don't know how?"

"Naw, I just like it that way," Jo lied. Kind of. She did like it that way.

"I know a knot that's a little different than the one you're using," Blair replied diplomatically, gesturing towards the mangled creation under Jo's chin. "I could show it to you."

Now that was a stumper. Admitting to Blair Warner, of all people, that she needed help. Measure that against turning down her best opportunity to learn without any nosy questions. Aw, fer cryin' out loud Polniacek, she's wearing flashing underwear.

"Uh, yeah. I guess," she replied gracefully, before adding. "I uh, I could show ya how to attach those," she gestured towards Blair's failed attempt with the garter belt.

Blair's face lit up. "Could you? I just couldn't figure how on earth...hey! How do you know how?"

Jo scuffed a little at the bathmat. "Hooker lived downstairs, she baked cookies 'n stuff, you know? She'd have me help her with the ones in back when she was wearin' vinyl."

"Vinyl?" Blair asked in wonder. "Never mind, she said more briskly, "Come on out of the tub, and I'll tie your tie for you."

Jo willingly complied, tugging at the knot until it was unravelled, but when she began to hand it to Blair, the blonde stopped her. "No, leave it on. Just face the mirror so you can see what I'm doing." Feeling embarassed and about four years old, Jo turned to the mirror over the sink. Blair walked up behind her, the heels giving her more than enough height to see over Jo's shoulder. Jo could feel the satiny stuff sliding against her back as Blair reached around and smoothed the wrinkles out of the cloth. It had an odd vibration that made her feel kind of funny, but she tried to pay attention as her roommate walked her through a half windsor. Strange, how hard it was to concentrate with Blair breathing on her ear like that.

"Would you like to try it now?" Blair asked, meeting her eyes in the mirror.

"You hot or somethin?" Jo asked, "Your face is awful red."

Blair broke eye contact, "A bit flustered is all," she replied smoothly. "It would have been horrible if Mrs. Garrett had seen us."

"Yieh," Jo replied in relief. It would suck if Blair were sick, they'd all be sure to get it what with sharing a room and all. "Lemme try."

It took a few attempts, but eventually Jo was able to tie the knot without leaving a bit hanging out the bottom, or having it hang down below her crotch. "You want me to attach your knickers now?" Jo offered clumsily.

Blair laughed. Jo kinda liked that laugh, it wasn't the haughty titter her roommate used in public, but a pleasant vibration. She grinned sheepishly. "I say somethin'?"

"Stockings," Blair gasped. "And a garter belt." She began to wind down. "You are one of a kind Polniacek."

"Let's just assume you meant that in a good way." Jo suggested. "We can't afford a shoutin' match right now."

"You're right," Blair replied without clarifying. "So, how do I assemble this evil contraption?"

Jo knelt down by her legs, and tried to show Blair the trick of the thing. It was harder than she remembered; her fingers felt thicker than usual, and were kind of stiff. Finally, it fell into place. "You see?" She asked hopefully.

Blair took her time answering, her breathing sounding loud in the silent bathroom. "Uh...yes. Yes I do. Let me do this one just to be certain."

"You sure you're not sick?" Jo asked in concern. "You're all sweaty now, too."

"I'm fine," Blair replied shortly. "Did I do this correctly?"

Jo looked down. "Uh, yeah, you got it." Quick study, Jo admired mentally. She grabbed the faux mustache and ripped it off her lip. "Damn that stings. Look, if we don't get dressed, we are gonna get caught. I dunno if you got a good reason to be sportin' flashing tits, but I'm not feelin' like making any explanations about this get up." She suited action to words and began to strip off the Bates academy uniform, neatly packing it in its bag and pulling on her jeans and long sleeved T with a sense of relief.

"I'll just wait until you're done," Blair replied, "and hop in the shower. I need to style my hair before picking up Harrison this afternoon."

"Whatever," Jo commented, shouldering her bag and making tracks. She was just glad to escape.

Blair did take a shower, after carefully hiding the blue negligee, just in case the Grand Central Bathroom got another visitor. The water was a little on the cool side, but that was all to the good, it made her feel clean and refreshed after the intense interaction with her roommate. Jesus Warner, it's seriously time for you to find a guy to play with, she thought to herself. If you're lucky, a little adolescent fun with Harrrison will swing your needle back to North.

God, she hoped so. This was getting exhausting, trying to convince everyone, including herself, that she was the most boy crazy student at Eastland. It would be much, much easier if she managed to get her interests more aligned with the norm. Harrison was the perfect choice, too. Handsome, monied, and they'd known each other forever. Odds were that their parents would have them married off to each other. And she was so comfortable with him, if she was going to be that intimate with a guy, he was the right one.

The cotillion tomorrow would be the ideal opportunity. It would be a golden night, everything would be perfect. An evening of dancing and ball gowns, a fine meal, sparkling company. And then...well, and then Blair would become a woman. A normal woman.

After dinner, Jo sighed in frustration as she tried to complete her assignment. Endeavor to be what you desire to appear? What kind of bull was that? She threw her pencil down on the table they shared in disgust. "Geez, I'm tempted to just take the F on this already," she said to her roommies. "How am I supposed to write about this? If I wanted to appear to be something, I would. Period. I just don't know what to say it is I want."

Tootie piped up. "You're complaining? I've got no choice about how I appear," she gestured towards her dark complexion. "At least you can change the way you're perceived."

"You say that like it's a good thing," Nat replied. "People look down on you if you look like the Michelin man. They think, if you can change it you should. Otherwise, you're just a pig."

"And what if you're not sure you want to be what you want appear to be?" Blair asked mournfully.

Jo shook her head. "I tell ya, this assignment is whacked. I'm goin' to the arcade. Mr. Freeman can dock me all he wants."

Too bad Jo didn't finish the assignment, her trip to the arcade proved disasterous for Blair. She returned with an invitation from Blair's date to Blair's dance. Her return interrupted Blair's game of Scrabble with Nat, Tootie, and Mrs. G. A game she put on hold to argue with the infuriating brunette.

"You're out of your league," she'd shouted at Jo. "You've got no business at that cotillion, and you know it." Blair knew she was being a brat, but it was just so, well, so disappointing and confusing. Two secret hopes were crushed in one blow; her plans for Harrison, and the faint, guilty idea that maybe she and Jo were becoming...closer.

After Jo had stomped up to their room, Blair had simply dumped her tiles into the draw pile and left Nat, Tootie and Mrs. Garrett to finish the game without her. She needed some air, now. After twenty minutes of intense walking around campus, she'd finally cooled off enough to regret her words. She and Jo set each other off like firecrackers, but she was beginning to get an inkling of how lost the tough Bronx native felt up here at Eastland. She hadn't made any good friends among the other students yet, and most of the girls were simply baffled by Jo's interests and manner. I wonder if this was her first attempt to fit in?

And Blair had stomped all over it. How self-centered can you get, Warner? She berated herself. She stopped dead.

"I've just had another one of my brilliant ideas." She reversed her steps and charged back to the dining hall, practically bursting into the room. Sure enough, Jo was there, staring at the closet like it was a busted flush.

"Come on," she grabbed Jo's arm and pulled.

"Hey! Lay off me princess," Jo jerked her arm back. "What's with you?"

Blair let out an impatient breath, she hated having to catch other people up to her thoughts. "Ok, I'm a jerk, you're going to the cotillion, you don't have anything to wear, you can't afford to go buy something, and god knows nothing in my closet will fit you. So will you come on?"

"You're whacked. Come where?"

"Shopping," Blair replied.

Jo shook her head. "Oh, no. Polniacek's don't take charity. You're not buying me a dress."

"Of course I'm not," Blair replied, grabbing Jo's arm again. "Now come on."

Jo was a little dazed at Blair's emotional 180 . Half an hour ago, she's climbing the walls because I stole her date, now she wants to bond over clothes? She thought as they crossed campus. She stopped and re-reclaimed her elbow.

"Wait. Why're you doin' this?"

Blair challenged back. "Why are you?"

"I dunno," Jo shrugged. "Guess I just want to see what the big deal is. You know, see what everybody else is so excited about."

Blair nodded. "I managed to intuit that, after I calmed down." She edged off the path to lean against the back of a park bench. "Look, me and Harrison, that's just something our mothers are planning. I was so invested because Mom was pushing hard for it, and...Well, it doesn't matter. I just don't like disappointing her." She looked at Jo, "I reacted without thinking, and once my brain reattached, I wanted to help. I'm trying to be nice, is that a problem?"

"Just not used to it," Jo muttered in confusion.

Blair grinned. "Well, there's a first time for everything. Come on."

An hour later, Jo was completely exhausted. Blair had taken her to every dorm room on the campus, it seemed. She'd dug through closets examining and rejecting dresses right and left, forcing Jo to try on dozens. The residents had been bemused at Blair's energy, and willingly responding to the charm radiated by opening up their wardrobes with generosity.

"Here, try this one," Blair handed her a yellow satin number. "It's got a bit of a tailored look."

"Aw geez Blair, can't you just pick one? I'm wiped." Jo complained. Who knew one could expend so much energy just putting on and taking off clothing? "What was wrong with Sue-Ann's brown thing?"

"It made you look mousy," Blair replied.

"Nancy's skirt set?"

"A skirt is NOT appropriate."

"That grey number of Carol's?"

"It was cut so low, you were trying to curl into yourself." Blair had a point there. Jo had taken one look at herself in the mirror and had nearly died of mortification. "Too bad, you looked hot in it."

"I did?" That flummoxed her so badly that she obediently took the dress Blair was holding peremptorily towards her and tried it on.

She wasn't even zipped before Blair vetoed it. "No good, your shoulders are too broad for shoulder pads."

Jo resignedly took it off and put her shirt back on. She'd begun to simply leave her jeans on, much to the blonde's dismay.

"Come on, let's go raid Cindy's closet." Blair hardly gave her time to get the material settled and toss off a 'thanks' to the owner of the unfortunate yellow outfit before they were out the door.

Cindy's closet yielded a blue and white dress that Blair didn't immediately veto, instead pausing in thought. Jo jumped into the opening.

"This is it," she said with as much authority as she could muster.

"It doesn't fit too badly," Blair admitted. "Though it's a little loose up top."

"I'll cinch the string thing tighter." Jo argued.

"Blue looks good on you," Blair commented. "I don't know about the material, though. Satin is more flattering with your complexion. It's a little...old fashioned for you. You'd do better in clean lines."

"It's one lousy dance at a country club, not a Ms. America contest." Jo replied. "I'm done."

She turned to Cindy. "You don't mind, do you?"

Cindy shook her head. "No, you have a good time Jo. I'm glad it fits."

The next night Blair sat on her bed and listened to Nat and Tootie in complete misery, as they gossiped about Jo and Harrison at her cotillion. Where did all this go so very wrong? She wondered. It seems surreal, me here and Jo there. Now, not only do I have to break it off with Harrison, but I've got to wait for another perfect guy and perfect night to come around. I'm certainly not going to keep seeing him. He wouldn't see it that way, she knew. If Jo hadn't entered the picture, they'd both date multiple people while seeing each other. That was the expectation. It just wasn't done to get too serious with one person in high school. But Jo...that was just too confusing.

"It's eight o'clock, what do you think Jo and Harrison are doing now?" Nat asked Tootie. Blair knew. They'd be in the entrance foyer, waiting for the ball room to be opened. Harrison would be checking Jo's coat while Jo, unsure of what to do, would probably stand with legs braced and arms crossed, closed expression on her face.

"He's probably saying, 'May I have this waltz?'" Tootie replied.

No, the music didn't start until eight twenty. Harrison would be introducing Jo to Blair's friends. He'd be doing it wrong, too. He'd forget that Mitsy was a vicious cat, and probably leave poor Jo alone with her while he got some punch. Jo, trying to be on her best behavior, would be red faced from embarassment and resisting the urge to punch Mitsy's lights out by the time he got back.

"Charmed, I'm sure." Nat replied on behalf of Jo. No, Jo would never say 'charmed.' She'd say, "I guess," or maybe "sure."

"And then they get down and boogie," Tootie narrated. No, she was right the first time. The cotillion always started with a waltz. Harrison would walk Jo out under the chandeliers as the music started. Jo would be awkward as she put her right hand at Blair's waist, but that was alright. Blair didn't care if anyone noticed the rough charm of her date, besides, she danced well enough that even Jo would look good...

What am I thinking??? She interrupted herself with a start, standing up and pacing to put an end to those thoughts.

"Blair, I'm surprised to see how well you're taking this whole thing," Tootie observed encouragingly.

Blair almost laughed at that. If she only knew. Well, at least Jo is certain to have a fabulous time, even if I'm sitting here even more confused than ever.

Jo downshifted the Porsche, trying to enjoy the car and ignore the owner. If she was honest, Harrison's offer to let her drive it had been the clincher for her acceptance. Huh, she thought I looked good in the grey one. Maybe I can pull this girl thing off after all. She paused in reflection, feeling kind of excited about the night to come. Blair's approval of the outfit she ended up in filled her with confidence and assurance. I can do this, she hugged a turn and opened it up as the road levelled out. I kinda feel good. Maybe everybody was right, and I just had to give it a try.

The End

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