DISCLAIMER: The Facts of Life and its characters are the property of Columbia Pictures Television and Sony Pictures Television, no infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
That Weekend in Vegas
"Look. It's the Eiffel Tower!" Tootie exclaimed, faced pressed to the airplane window.
"Tootie, it is not. We've been to Le Tour Eiffel, we know Le Tour Eiffel, that tacky reproduction is certainly no Le Tour Eiffel," Blair said haughtily.
"Jesus, Blair, would you lighten up? Tacky reproductions are what Las Vegas is all about," Jo declared.
"It's Vegas, baby," Natalie interjected for about the thirtieth time since they had taken off from New York early that morning.
The four former co-owners of "Over Our Heads" were all sitting in the Warner Textiles corporate jet as it circled over the Las Vegas Strip on its approach to McCarran airport.
"I know, Blair. But I am just excited about everything. After all it is my bachelorette party weekend," Tootie said with satisfaction. "Just think, two weeks from today, Jeff and I will be man and wife."
"And the world's longest engagement will finally stagger to a close," Natalie said.
"That's not fair, Nat. Jeff and I always agreed that we would wait until we were both settled in our careers before tying the knot," Tootie declared. "He couldn't help it that he got an eighteen-month appointment on the Calypso with the Cousteaus. It was an opportunity he couldn't pass up."
"You were very understanding, Tootie," Blair said admiringly.
"Well it isn't like she was just sitting around, pining for fish boy," Natalie interjected. "Tootie had her own animal kingdom to worry about."
"Natalie, for the last time, nothing happened with Rum Tum Tugger, I mean John."
"I don't know. Whenever I came backstage, it looked like you and he were getting pretty friendly around the litter box."
Tootie had been in 'Cats' for the last four months, playing the role of a Kitten. She spent a lot of time with her fellow felines, Natalie often liked to point out.
"Will you stop, he is just a friend." Tootie laughed.
"Memories," Natalie started to sing.
"For Christsake, Nat, are you drunk already?" Jo muttered.
"No, but I plan to be soon. Come on, Jo. It's Vegas, baby."
"Thank you, Sammy Davis Jr.," Jo said snappishly.
"Jo is just in a bad mood." Blair smirked. "After all, the same place where Tootie is celebrating the end of the world's longest engagement is where Jo ended the world's shortest marriage."
There was an awkward silence.
"You know, Blair, sometimes you are just downright mean," Jo declared bitterly.
Another moment passed.
"Jo, I have no idea why I said that. I'm really sorry," Blair said contritely.
Jo sighed. "No, I'm sorry. I don't mean to be so pissy. After all, you are right, Vegas is where the ill-fated Polniaczek-Bonner union was put out of its misery."
"You know, Jo, we never did get the whole story," Natalie said. "I mean, you marry Rick. He leaves for two months. He comes back and two months later you are getting divorced. Then you go off and join the Police Academy and have spent the last two years basically incognito. We barely saw you and practically had to send out the search dogs to find out that you were living in some hovel in Crown Heights. What's up with that?"
"I was undercover a lot of the time, Natalie, you know that," Jo said.
"That must have been horrible," Tootie said sympathetically.
"Well, it wasn't much fun, but it did get me my detective's shield a lot quicker," Jo replied.
"Yeah, yeah, we know all about the drug dealers and extortion rings. But that still doesn't give us the dirt on why you and Rick split up," Natalie pressed.
"There isn't enough alcohol in Vegas to get me to tell you that, Natalie," Jo said.
"Ooh, a challenge. You're on, Polniaczek, you're on."
The pilot's voice came over the intercom.
"Miss Warner, ladies. Please buckle up. We are about to land."
"Here we go, girls," Natalie cried. "It's Veg ."
"For the love of god, Nat, please," Jo begged.
"OK, how about this one. Viva Las Vegas," Natalie started to sing again.
"Nice move, Jo," Blair said. "Now look what you've done."
"Wow. Look at this place." Tootie twirled around to gaze at the palatial marble- and gold-encrusted room.
"It's the Emperor's Suite," Blair said with satisfaction. "Nothing but the best for our bride-to-be."
Blair had arranged for them to stay in the fanciest accommodations at Caesars Palace.
"Thanks so much, Blair. It's just great," Tootie replied with enthusiasm.
"Now there are two bedrooms with enormous king beds here in the suite, each with its own bath, but I also reserved another room across the hall, Room 2131," Blair explained.
"Why, Blair, are you finally realizing your dream of running a male prostitution ring?" Natalie inquired.
"No, it's just that I didn't know if anybody wanted their privacy." Blair looked at Jo uncertainly. She had seen so little of her former roommate in the last year or so and even when they got together, Jo had seemed so distant. Blair had not wanted to assume anything.
"Maybe I'll go across the hall then," Jo said.
"No, Jo. Please don't. It won't be the same. I want everybody in here together. Just like in Peekskill. Please," Tootie begged.
Jo looked at Tootie's puppy dog expression. "Oh all right, I guess after living for three months in the crack den, I can probably deal with sharing a room with Blair again. It's a close call though. Do you still snore, Blair?"
"I never snored, I exhaled," Blair replied imperiously.
"Thanks, Jo," said Tootie, putting her arms around her friends. "Everyone together. It's perfect."
"You do know, don't you, Tootie, that the three of us won't be coming on your honeymoon?" Natalie pointed out.
"That hasn't been decided for certain." Tootie replied with a smile.
"So what is this called again, Nat?" Jo asked, as the waiter, dressed like a Roman gladiator, set down two one-foot-high ceramic volcanoes, each with some sort of smoke rising from the top opening.
"A Mount Vesuvius. A couple of these and you could care less about the lava flow."
Jo took a cautious sip of the concoction. "Not bad," she said approvingly.
Natalie and Jo, both decked in tropical shirts and Bermuda shorts, were lounging at a table by the gigantic Caesars Palace pool, enjoying cocktails and sunshine. Blair and Tootie had gone shopping for wedding accessories.
"Jo, we are really glad you made it. We were worried for a while," Natalie said cautiously.
"I know, I'm sorry I have been so remote. It has been a rough year. This undercover work, Nat, it was a lot tougher than I expected. You sort of have to lose yourself. I mean I could tell you stories, but I don't think you really want to know."
Natalie shuddered. As was her habit whenever she thought about Jo's work, Natalie uttered a little internal mantra: 'keep her safe.' "Probably not. Are you done with it, do you think?"
"For a while. The shelf life of an undercover cop is pretty short. You get made once, and that is it."
"So will you be coming back to the surface, and I don't mean just work?" Natalie asked.
Jo smiled ruefully. "I'm trying, Nat, believe me, I'm trying."
Natalie sucked on her drink. "Jo, if you don't want to talk about it, I will respect that. But we all want to know what happened with Rick. Not just for gossip's sake, although admittedly that is a draw, but because we would like to be supportive, if we can."
Jo looked around at the expansive pool area. Whether it was the sun, the toga-clad waitresses, her friend's smiling face, or the Mount Vesuvius, she felt the frost that had enveloped her heart in the last few years start to melt a little. You know, it's time, she thought.
"Well, Nat. It's pretty simple. A few weeks after Rick got back from his concert tour, I caught him in bed with someone else."
"Whoa. He had another woman?" Nat asked, appalled.
"Not exactly. It was another man."
"Yikes." Natalie recoiled. "Rick is gay? That must have been a shock."
"Again, not exactly. I knew Rick was gay when I married him," Jo said.
Natalie gulped. "You're kidding. And you married him, why?"
Jo took a deep breath. "It seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean I knew Rick was gay but then so am I."
Natalie's eyes grew to the size of saucers. She gestured to the waiter frantically. "Two more Vesuvii, please. What the hell, just keep them coming."
"These are beautiful, Blair. Do you really think the ushers would like them?" Tootie and Blair, perusing the shops in the Caesars Palace shopping area, were looking at a jewelry display case.
"Tiffany cufflinks with initials and wedding date. You can't go wrong, Tootie. Tasteful, elegant and something you are sure they won't have already," Blair declared.
"Much better than those old Godzilla pencil sharpeners that Jeff wanted me to get them."
"I couldn't agree more, ladies. As one who has been a groomsman about 15 times, the cufflinks are a perfect choice," a familiar voice said from behind them.
Blair whirled around and her heart leapt. "Cliff, Cliff, is that you?"
"None other. Blair Warner, as I live and breath. You sure are a sight for sore eyes," Cliff said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
Blair stared at her former fiancée. He looked good. A few pounds heavier, but with the same full blonde hair and square jaw. "Cliff, what are you doing in Las Vegas?" Blair asked.
"I am here for a medical conference. How about you two? Hello, Tootie."
"Hi Cliff." Tootie smiled broadly.
"We are here for Tootie's bachelorette weekend," Blair explained. "She is getting married in two weeks."
"That's great," Cliff sounded a little relieved. "Best wishes, Tootie, do I know the guy?"
"I think so. It's Jeff."
"He is a lucky man."
"Thanks," Tootie said.
Cliff turned to Blair and shook his head. "You look absolutely stunning, Blair, as always. Listen, ladies, would you like to grab a cup of coffee at the Forum café there? I would love to catch up."
Tootie smiled. "You know, Cliff, why don't you two go ahead. I just want to pop into the lingerie store; honeymoon shopping, if you know what I mean. I'll come look for you in about a half an hour." She waggled her eyebrows at Blair. "See ya."
Blair sighed. "Subtlety was never one of Tootie's strong suits, I'm afraid."
Cliff laughed. "No problem, shall we?" He pointed her to the café.
"Well, Jo, I can't say that this comes as a complete shock. I mean you have dropped a few hints over the years," Natalie declared.
"What, the leather, the motorcycle, the handiness with a wrench, and the fact that I went to parties dressed as Peter Fonda gave you a clue, did they?" Jo asked wryly.
"That, and your odd obsession with Joan Jett."
"Hey, I liked her music," Jo objected, stirring her Mount Vesuvius.
"Yeah, right. The shirtless vest had nothing to do with it. Anyway, Jo, I am glad you finally felt able to tell me. I'm just sorry you weren't ready to do it earlier. It must have been lonely for you. You do know it doesn't make the slightest bit of difference to our friendship, don't you?" Natalie asked earnestly.
"I didn't think it would, Nat, but it is nice to hear. Thanks."
"So," Natalie grinned conspiratorially. "Are you going to tell the others?" she asked as she examined the bottom of her volcano.
"I guess so. I mean I could ask you to keep this from Tootie, but I wouldn't want your internal organs to dissolve. Go ahead and tell her if you want," Jo said, taking another long sip of her drink.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you." Natalie slumped in relief.
"I have to say I am a little worried about Tootie's reaction. After all, she is a pretty devout Christian," Jo mused.
"Oh, Leviticus be damned, Jo. Tootie worships you," Natalie said, words slightly slurred. "We all do. I sometimes think you don't realize how much."
"Even Blair?" Jo inquired foggily.
"Especially Blair," Natalie giggled. "Gladiator," she waved her arm sloppily. "Another round, por favor."
"Is that Latin?" Jo woozily asked.
"So the old Peekskill gang is doing Vegas. Sounds like fun. How is everybody?" Cliff asked as he and Blair sipped their coffees.
"Well, Tootie's ecstatic, as you can see. Her career is really going well, too. She has been in 'Cats' and going to move up from Kitten to Cat soon. Natalie's great," Blair continued proudly. "She has more boyfriends than you can shake a stick at and she is climbing the ladder at CNN News pretty rapidly."
"And Jo?" Cliff asked.
Blair frowned. "Ah, Jo. She's a cop, you know. I'm not sure. Since her marriage and divorce, she has just gotten, what's the word, dark. We hardly ever see her."
"Jo was married?" Cliff asked in surprise.
"To a man?"
"Of course, what on earth do you mean?" Blair asked in a puzzled tone.
"Oh, nothing, I just thought -- Never mind." Cliff stammered a little. "So she's a cop?"
"Yes, mostly undercover. I guess she's good at it. She got promoted to detective in record time."
"Well, that kind of work would make you dark," Cliff opined. "There was this gruesome story in Houston where they found the body of an undercover policeman who had been tortured and killed after the drug gang he had infiltrated found him out." Cliff looked over at Blair's utterly horrified expression. "Oh, Blair, I'm sorry. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned that."
"That won't happen to Jo. It can't," Blair said vehemently.
"Of course not. Let's change the subject. What about you?"
Blair shook her head a little to dampen the pang of terror she had just felt. 'Keep her safe,' she said to herself, as was her habit. "Yes, me. Always a favorite subject of mine," she laughed.
"Mine, too," Cliff said smiling.
"Let's see, since I last saw you at the Valentine's dance, I graduated from law school and, and you won't believe this, actually ran Eastland for a while."
"No, the Warner Foundation took it over. It had fallen on hard times. But we have put in a new administration and it is doing well. I'm now working for the Foundation in New York City."
"And your love life?" Cliff inquired warily.
"Well, I date," Blair said, "but there is no one special at the moment. You are a tough act to follow, Cliffie," she said, batting her eyes a little.
"Oh, Blair, so are you."
"So what's your story?" Blair asked. "I know you are a heart surgeon in Houston. Any family?"
"Blair, I have to be honest with you. I'm married."
Blair's face fell. "Well, I could hardly expect otherwise."
"But," Cliff continued, "one of the reasons I came to Vegas was to start divorce proceedings."
"Really. That seems to be quite the thing to do here," Blair said a trifle frostily.
"I know, I never believed in divorce either but Linda and I, well, let's just say it was a mistake. Fortunately there are no kids."
"That's good. I mean, I know you want kids someday but, take it from me, divorce is no fun for them."
Cliff gazed at Blair fondly. "Blair, I am here for another couple of days. Can I see you again?"
"Oh, I don't know, Cliff. This is Tootie's weekend, after all."
"Now don't you go worrying about that, girlfriend," Tootie, who had suddenly materialized by the table, interjected cheerily. "You have tomorrow afternoon completely free. Nat and I are going to visit the Cirque de Soleil and Jo said she wanted to go to the motorcycle show at the convention center. So you two should just go off and have a good time."
"Thanks, Tootie," Blair said with narrowed eyes. "And how long have you been standing there?"
"Long enough," Tootie said with a grin. "Hey, Cliff, come by the hotel pool on your way back. Say hello to Jo and Nat. I know they would love to see you."
"So Blair," Cliff said as the three of them headed towards the pool area. "How about a drive to Hoover Dam tomorrow afternoon? I always like to get away from the Strip for a while."
"That sounds wonderful, Cliffie. What on earth!?" Blair stopped in amazement at the sight before her.
Natalie and Jo were passed out on adjoining chaises, next to a table holding a mountain range of empty ceramic volcanoes. Jo was laying face down, arms dangling over the sides and tennis shoes over the end. Her face was pressed firmly against the mesh of the chaise. Natalie was on her back, sunglasses askew, snoring with her mouth open as a small trickle of drool exuded from the corner of her lip.
"Looks like you missed quite a party." Cliff laughed.
"I can't believe this," Blair said, with irritation. She shook Natalie and Jo vigorously. "Wake up, you two, we have company. Wake up, you're embarrassing me."
"Wha? Huh? Whozat?" Jo started to stir. Blair pulled on her arms.
"Come on, Jo. Get up and say hello to Cliff. Get up," Blair insisted.
Jo groaned and staggered to her feet. Red eyed, she gazed blearily at Blair and Cliff.
"Look, Nat. It's Claire and Biff. Hi, guys," Jo said weaving a little.
Natalie merely moaned.
"Jo, you're drunk," Blair snapped.
"Ya think?" Jo sniggered.
"Hello, Jo. It is nice to see you again," Cliff said politely.
"Great to see ya too, Biff," Jo slurred. Her expression suddenly changed, as her eyes widened and her face turned green. "Uh oh," she said, clenching her stomach. Mount Vesuvius erupted with vigor all over Cliff's pressed khaki trousers and fine Italian shoes.
Jo opened her eyes, slowly. The bedroom ceiling had stopped spinning, she noted gratefully. The past few hours were sort of a blur. She remembered Blair's shriek and Cliff's exclamation of disgust. She remembered Blair angrily ordering Tootie to "remove these cretins from my sight" and Tootie pulling her and an equally staggering Natalie to the elevator and into the suite. She remembered another visit to the porcelain goddess and then collapsing on the bed. After that it was all a blank.
What time was it? The bedroom clock said 7:30. Well, that's good, Jo thought. At least she hadn't slept through their evening event. Blair had made a reservation for the 9:00 dinner and show at Chippendales, declaring that, as tacky as it was, male strippers were a time-honored bachelorette party tradition. Blair was nothing if not a traditionalist.
Jo got out of bed and went into the bathroom, washed her face and brushed her teeth. Her mouth tasted like the inside of Tootie's cat Jeffie the Third's litter box. Donning a fresh pair of sweats and a tee, she warily entered the living room.
Tootie was standing by the door to the terrace, looking out over the neon lights of the Strip.
"Hey, Tootie," Jo said sheepishly.
"Where is everybody?"
"Natalie just woke up and is taking a shower. Blair has left already. She said she would meet us at Chippendales. She went with Cliff to buy him a new pair of Bruno Maglis."
"Yikes," Jo said. "Is she really mad?"
"Well, Jo. You have been pretty mean to a lot of Blair's dates over the years but vomiting all over them is a first, I think," Tootie noted.
"Oh jeez. I didn't hear her come into the room at all."
"Not surprising. She showered and changed in the room across the hall."
"I made her move out?" Jo asked, mortified.
"No," Tootie reassured her. "She just said that she didn't want to disturb Caligula's beauty rest."
"Well, that makes me feel a lot better." Jo said sarcastically.
Tootie smiled at her friend, then came over and embraced her tightly.
"You know, Jo, we don't have to go to Chippendales. If you would have more fun at the Pussycat Exotic Dance Lounge, I would be happy to go with you."
Jo winced. "I guess Natalie told you."
"Yes, and I have a problem with it," Tootie said.
"You do?" Jo asked nervously.
"Yes, my problem is that you didn't tell us a whole lot earlier. I love you, Jo, and if that is part of who you are I want to love that part too."
Jo got a little misty-eyed. "Thanks a lot, Tootie. Uh, you haven't said anything to Blair yet, have you?"
"Oooh nooo," Tootie laughed. "That would be your job."
Natalie, clad in a bathrobe and with a towel draped over her head that cast her face in shadow, emerged from the other bedroom. "Hey, guys."
"Hi, Obi-Wan, how are you feeling?" Jo asked, with a grin.
"Like death warmed over. Not even warmed over. Cold, three-day-old, left in the fridge too long, congealed death," Natalie muttered, plopping down on the luxurious sectional.
"I know what you mean," Jo said, sitting down beside her.
Tootie settled herself in the chair opposite.
There was silence for a moment.
Jo sighed. "All right, fire away, let's get it over with."
Tootie and Nat took deep breaths and dove in. "When did you know did you have girlfriends at school have you told your parents what about Eddie did you sleep with that English teacher Gail what about David did you ever have feelings toward me what is the sex like does what about Sam Hall does Mrs. Garrett know you really never told Blair why exactly did you marry Rick?"
When they stopped to breathe again, Jo raised her hand to halt the torrent.
"Please, guys, do we have to do this all now? I mean it's twenty four years of identity crisis to deal with. Let me just give you the quick and dirty."
"So to speak," giggled Natalie. "Sorry," she said as she caught Jo's withering glare.
"I suppose I have always known in one way or another but I just never thought to deal with it," Jo explained. "Yes, I have told my parents. Ma's reaction was, and I quote, 'Duh.' Charlie is having a little harder time but he is coming to grips. No, I never slept with any female student or teacher at Eastland or Langley, although I had plenty of crushes. I did have some sexual relationships but they were all with townies."
"On the down low in Peekskill. How gritty," Natalie enthused.
Jo rolled her eyes and continued. "I never told Mrs. G. but I think she knows. She is pretty insightful about these things, particularly given that I have my suspicions about Beverly Ann."
"No!" cried Tootie. "Really? Although now that you mention it, that haircut was a little butch. Sorry, I digress. Go on, Jo, this is fascinating."
"Glad to be of amusement," Jo said. "Where was I? Oh, I am sorry to say that, though I dearly love you both, I have never had the hots for either of you."
"With the body I had in high school? That's hard to believe," Natalie said wryly.
"Oh, stop, Nat," Tootie said. "You were very attractive."
"Tootie, I appreciate the self-esteem pep talk, but let's stick to the point. What about the men, what about Rick, Jo?" Natalie asked.
"The feelings I had for the men that I was with were all real, very real," Jo said. "They just weren't true, if you get the difference."
"I think I do," Tootie said. "But deciding to marry. That's a horse of a different color." Tootie was fond of Ozisms.
"I know. I think Rick and I both had this idea that since the world prefers heterosexual couples we could try to live this fiction. And to be fair, we were friends and we did make each other laugh, so it had a shot. But ultimately Rick wanted something more. He wanted the whole thing. I don't blame him."
"But you didn't need to marry him, Jo. You could have stayed with us," Natalie said.
"No, I couldn't, Nat. Everybody was going to move on. I knew that. I had loved being with you for all those years so much; it was everything to me. But I was terrified of being the one who was left behind. So I made a rash decision," Jo explained.
"And what about Blair?" Natalie asked.
"What about Blair?" Jo repeated suspiciously.
"Do you think that telling her will change your relationship?" Natalie pressed.
"I hope not. It doesn't appear to have with you two. You are still driving me nuts," Jo said.
"Don't you want it to change?" Natalie asked.
"I don't know what you mean, Natalie," Jo said in a dangerous tone.
Sensing that Jo had reached her limit, Natalie decided to give her a break. After all, poor Jo had talked about herself more in the last few minutes that she had in the entire twelve years Natalie had known her before. "Uh, I don't know what I mean either," Natalie said hastily.
"That's right, what about Blair, we haven't even talked about her and Cliff, yet," Tootie said happily. "You should have seen them at the coffee shop. Cliff was being all chivalrous and doting and Blair was being all flirty and coquettish. It was so cute."
Jo felt a small relapse of nausea. "You know, this sucks, Tootie," she said firmly.
"What do you mean, Jo?" Tootie asked.
"This is supposed to be your weekend. You are supposed to be the center of attention. Now I've gummed it all up, what with my coming out and vomiting all over Cliff and all. I mean it just isn't fair to you."
"Are you kidding, Jo? Your lesbianism is like the biggest and best piece of gossip in the history of man. I couldn't ask for a better wedding present. Thank you so much." Tootie reached over and gave Jo a hug.
"Don't forget to send a note, Tootie," Natalie said dryly. "You have a year."
This probably wasn't the best venue to disclose a life-altering confidence to your best friend, Jo mused. The girls had a stage-side table at the Chippendales floor show. They were surrounded by the usual crowd, tables of middle-aged matrons out on a lark, a sprinkling of gay men, several groups of raucous bachelorette parties, and a gathering of Japanese twentysomethings, one of whom looked vaguely familiar. It was just hard to talk over the thumpa, thumpa of the disco music and the flexing muscles and gyrating hips of the dancers.
The emcee announced a break and the lights went up and the music stopped.
"So, Tootie, are you having a good time?" Blair asked brightly.
"This is great, Blair," Tootie said. "What terrific seats you got us. We are really up close and personal with these hunks. Thank you."
"Yeah, thanks, Blair," Jo added.
"You are very welcome, Tootie," Blair said emphatically.
"Blair, for the forty-thousandth time, I am really sorry. I certainly didn't mean to upchuck all over Cliffie boy, I promise I didn't," Jo implored.
Blair gave one of her languorous sighs. "You can take the barbarian out of the coliseum, but you can't take the coliseum out of the barbarian."
"What?" Jo scoffed. "That makes absolutely no sense."
Blair thought for a minute. "You're right, I guess it doesn't. Oh well, let's just move on," she said magnanimously.
How come Blair always got to decide when it was time to move on? Jo thought resentfully.
"You know, Blair, you might try being a little more, I don't know, enthusiastic, when you are stuffing the bills in the jock strap," Natalie suggested. "You look like you are disposing of some particularly repulsive piece of medical waste."
"Cliffie could show you how it's done," Jo said snarkily. "After all, he has experience in the field."
"Don't be crude, Jo. Oh, I forgot, 'crude' is Miss Vomitorium's middle name." Blair sneered.
"Ladies, ladies. Let's not get testy," Natalie said. "Come on, we are all having fun, aren't we, Jo? Fun, fun, fun. So much to talk about; so much to catch up on. Right, Jo?"
"I guess." She was going to have to tell Blair soon or else Natalie and Tootie were going to spontaneously combust.
"What is going on with you three?" Blair asked irritably. "You have been acting strangely all night. Tootie and Nat have been in a constant whisperfest and you, Jo, look like the cat that ate the canary."
"So to speak," interjected Natalie, as she and Tootie dissolved into a fit of giggles.
"Oh, Jesus, you two. I'm sorry, Blair. It's just that I discussed something with the others earlier that I want to talk to you about now."
"OK, what is it?"
The lights went down and loud disco music started up again.
Jo steeled herself. "Blair, I'm gay."
"Pardon?" asked Blair as the music pounded. "I couldn't hear you."
The emcee and two dancers approached their table.
"I said I'm gay," Jo repeated, a little louder.
"What?" Blair yelled, cupping her ear. "I still can't hear. Today? What about today?"
"And where are you lovely ladies from?" the emcee asked, as he thrust his microphone into the middle of the group and signaled for the music to stop and the spotlight to focus.
"BLAIR, I'M GAY!" Jo's announcement, now thoroughly miked, reverberated throughout the room.
There was a smattering of applause.
Blair sat stunned. "What?"
"Blair, she's gay," the emcee repeated into the microphone, to the laughter of the crowd.
Blair looked around and for the first time seemed to realize where she was. She jumped up from the table and fled.
"Oh, Christ. Thanks a lot, buddy," Jo growled to the emcee as she ran to follow Blair.
"Hey, if you two patch things up, the Isle of Lesbos Commitment Chapel is two blocks west on Colorado Boulevard," the emcee called after them. "They are having a special. Come on, boys," he said to the dancers, "there's nothing for us here."
"Wait a minute!" Natalie objected. "Jo's gay. We're not. Now come back, please."
Jo ran after Blair as she stormed out of the nightclub, past the slot machines and blackjack tables. "Blair, please stop. Will you just wait a minute, please?" Jo finally caught up and grabbed Blair by the shoulder. "Just stop."
Blair gave her a disdainful look. "All right. Get your hands off of me."
"Look, let's just sit down." Jo pointed to an empty baccarat table and they sat.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to come out that way."
"Oh, you didn't mean to humiliate me in front of a room full of strangers and male strippers. Just like you didn't mean to humiliate me this afternoon, by recreating a Roman orgy in front of my ex-fiancé," Blair said angrily.
Jo stared at her for a moment. "Why is this all about you?"
"What do you mean?" Blair asked. "I would have thought it was obvious."
"Not really. You weren't the one puked on this afternoon, Cliff was. You weren't the one whose sexual orientation was just broadcast to the Des Moines Iowa Women's Rotary Club, that was me. And you weren't the one whose bachelorette party has turned into some kind of Charlie Chaplin farce. That would be Tootie. Yet somehow, it is always all about you, Blair, why is that?" Jo was mad.
Tears of frustration came to Blair's eyes. "You don't understand."
"No, I don't."
"I just ."
"Hello, Jo," a sultry voice interrupted.
Jo looked up. "Excuse me, do I know you? We are kinda in the middle of something here."
"I hope you know me."
Jo regarded the striking Asian woman who had spoken. She was the one who had looked familiar at Chippendales. Jo certainly thought she would have remembered her. The woman had close-cropped hair and was dressed in form-fitting black leather pants, with a sleeveless leather shirt, unbuttoned a good way down her chest. Although not well endowed, the woman was very lithe and, to Jo's eyes, quite sexy. She was sporting silver studs on her lip and through one nostril, and a small ring through one eyebrow.
"I don't think ." Jo fumbled.
"It's Miko," the woman said.
"Miko from Eastland!?!" Jo was floored. Could this day get any more surreal?
"The very same," Miko purred. "I saw you in Chippendales and thought I recognized you. Then I heard "
"The public service announcement," Jo said ruefully.
"Yes and just let me say I was very . pleased," Miko said, drawing out the last word and brushing an imaginary piece of lint off Jo's lapel.
Blair gave a strangled snort.
"Oh, hello, Blair," Miko said dismissively. "Listen, do you mind if I borrow Jo for a while? I would love to catch up with her. I can only imagine all the things we have in common."
"Excuse me, Miko, Jo and I were in the middle of a private conversation," Blair declared.
"Oh, Blair." Miko laughed airily. "I'm sure you will have a chance to finish it sometime. After all you presumably see Jo quite a bit. I only have," Miko lowered her voice and whispered sexily, "tonight."
Blair snorted again. "In fact, Miko, you are wrong," she said haughtily. "I don't see Jo that often. For your information she has been very reclusive the past year or so."
"Perhaps Jo has had good reason to withdraw from her childhood friends a little," Miko replied silkily. "After all, childhood friends are often so, what is the word, 'childish.' Perhaps Jo is tired of being your bellhop and is looking for something a little more sophisticated."
"Now listen here, Miko," Blair sputtered
"Hello, I am in the room, I can hear you both," Jo interjected.
"Well?" Miko smiled, cocking her eyebrow ring.
"Blair, we can talk later, OK? I'll see you back at the hotel," Jo said apologetically.
Blair flushed red. "Fine. I won't wait up." She stalked off.
"Blair seems a tad annoyed," Miko observed.
"I think she has had better days," Jo conceded.
"Come, Jo." Miko took her hand and led her to a nearby bar. "Let's have a drink."
"Just club soda for me, thanks."
Miko called the waiter over. "One club soda and one scotch, straight up, please."
"Miko," Jo said, "you have certainly, uh, changed. Why are you in Vegas?"
"You will laugh. I run the motorcycle division of Wakamatsu Motors, my father's company. I am here for the convention."
"Wow. Excuse me for saying so, but your dad must have changed quite a bit too, if he lets his senior executives have body piercings."
"My father is a bit incapacitated," Miko explained. "So he doesn't interfere in my life too much. I am free to pursue," again her voice dropped "my pleasures."
Okey Dokey. "The piercings kinda look like they hurt. I was always a little squeamish about that sort of thing," Jo conceded.
"I have others I could show you, Jo. Perhaps they would change your mind," Miko murmured.
Miko laughed. "Jo, come with me to the motorcycle show tomorrow. We could look at the exhibits and I will let you ride one of our new prototypes on the test track."
Jo grinned. "That would be great. Thanks so much. I would love to."
"Wonderful," Miko said. "After all, there is nothing like a piece of throbbing machinery between one's legs to brighten one's day."
Jo gulped again.
Jo tiptoed into the darkened bedroom. Blair stirred and turned on the bedside lamp. "Oh sorry, I didn't mean to wake you," Jo said.
"I wasn't asleep. How was your reunion with Miko?" Blair asked snidely.
"It was fine. We are meeting at the motorcycle convention tomorrow," Jo replied, irritated at Blair's tone.
"Sound like a high-class excursion."
"In fact it is," Jo snapped. "For your information, Blair, Miko runs one of the best motorcycle companies in the world." Jo strode to the bathroom, got her toothbrush and then pulled out a t-shirt from the dresser drawer. She started to leave.
"Where are you going?" Blair asked.
"I thought we both might be more comfortable if I slept across the hall."
"What, are you afraid that you won't be able to stop yourself from attacking me in the middle of the night?" Blair said angrily.
Jo gasped. There was a moment of frightening silence. "I am a lesbian, Blair, not a rapist," she replied tightly.
What is wrong with me, Blair thought. She sighed. "I know that. I'm sorry. Don't leave. It would upset Tootie."
"Oh, all right." Jo went to the bathroom, brushed her teeth, put on her sweats and tee and then climbed in the opposite side of the bed from Blair. They stayed as far apart as possible.
Blair turned off the light.
Jo stared at the ceiling with her hands behind her head. "Blair?"
"Why are you so angry?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, I told Nat and Tootie that I was gay and they have no problem. They were only mad that I didn't tell them earlier. But you, you just seem mad, period."
"And I am supposed to be exactly the same as Nat and Tootie, right?"
"No, you are my best friend. You are supposed to be more. I thought you would understand. I don't get it. You aren't homophobic, are you?"
"Oh, please, Jo, I was the icon of every gay man in Peekskill."
"This is true," Jo admitted. "Then what is it?"
Truth be told, Blair wasn't sure she understood her reaction herself but she had to come up with something. "Maybe I am just disappointed the person I thought had the most integrity in the world was lying to me all these years. You have never liked liars, Jo."
"Blair, please believe me when I tell you that I never meant to lie to you. Lying to myself maybe, but never to you. It was a process. Something I had to figure out for sure before I could tell anybody. I wish you could see that."
Blair felt tears pricking at her eyelids. "Jo, I don't want to talk about it anymore right now. It has been a very long day. Let's just try to get some sleep."
Was it only this morning they had landed in Vegas? Jo thought with amazement. That was a fucking lifetime ago. She closed her eyes and fell into a troubled slumber.
Blair awoke, after a restless night. She looked over at the other side of the bed. Jo was gone.
Groggily, Blair went into the living room and then onto the terrace where Natalie and Tootie were having a room service breakfast.
"Good morning, sleepy head, would you like some coffee?" Tootie chirped.
"Thanks, where's Jo?"
"She left to meet Miko a while ago. They are spending the day at the motorcycle show," Natalie said.
"Well, that's just fine," Blair said sarcastically. "Here it is your bachelorette weekend, Tootie, and your supposed friend abandons you to go off with that that predator."
"Predator?" Natalie asked, confused.
"Oh, that's OK, Blair, I don't mind. We will be gone anyway. Nat and I are going to meet my friend Michael, the Cirque de Soleil acrobat, to see a dress rehearsal of 'Mystere.'"
"Bendy men, you can't beat 'em," Natalie interjected.
"And anyway," Tootie added, "aren't you spending the afternoon with Cliff?"
"Yes, well, that's different," Blair said.
"Exactly how, Blair? You have a date, Jo has a date. It's the same thing," Natalie stated.
"I've known Cliff for years. Miko is just swooping in, clearly trying to take advantage of Jo's vulnerable state."
"What vulnerable state?" Natalie asked. "Jo seemed pretty confident to me, when she left. She said she was looking forward to having a good time."
Somehow Blair was not reassured by this. "You should have seen Miko, last night. She was all over Jo and Jo seemed so so submissive. It was as if Miko had this strange power over her. I just don't want to see Jo end up as some sort of, I don't know, geisha."
Natalie spat her coffee onto the saucer. "For Pete's sake, Blair, get a grip!"
"Well, apart from the offensive cultural stereotyping of Miko, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around Jo as any kind of geisha. You know, Blair, you need to cut Jo some slack," Natalie declared. "She is finally comfortable enough to express her sexuality openly. So why shouldn't she play the field for a while, experiment a little. Have some fun."
"That's just like you, Natalie," Blair said coldly. "To you, life is just one big sexual smorgasbord."
"Hey, I resent that," Natalie said. "It happens to be true, but I resent it."
"At least Tootie and I have held fast to our beliefs: monogamy, commitment, waiting until the wedding night."
"Uh, Blair," Tootie interjected. "Monogamy and commitment, for sure. Waiting until the wedding night, not so much."
"Et tu,Tootie?" Blair asked
"Oh, come on, Blair, it was a three year engagement. I'm only human after all."
"I see," said Blair, looking at her friends bleakly. "So I am the only dupe. You must think I am some sort of joke."
"Of course we don't, Blair; we respect your values very much," Tootie assured her.
"A lot of good they have done me," Blair said. "Well, things can change. If Jo can become some sort of lesbian libertine, so can I. I mean not a lesbian, well, you know what I mean." Blair stormed off to the bedroom to change.
Tootie and Nat looked at each other and shrugged.
Did you enjoy yourself today, Jo?" Miko asked.
"I sure did. That 480zx is just great. I love the way it handles."
"Do you?" Suddenly Miko pressed Jo against the exhibit booth, grabbed the sides of her face and kissed her.
Jo's eyes widened. Kissing someone with a lip stud was strange but not unpleasant. The kiss deepened. Miko's tongue thrust into Jo's mouth and Jo felt Miko's hand start to burrow under her waistband.
"Whoa." Jo broke away. "Uh, Miko, do you think this is the time or place?"
"What, a quickie in the middle of a convention floor, surrounded by hundreds of motorcycles and motorcycle salesmen?"
"Don't knock it until you've tried it, Jo." Miko laughed. "But perhaps you have a point. I think you would prefer something a little more private."
"And you would be right," Jo admitted.
"Well, what do you suggest? I assume you want to pursue this."
Jo made a decision. "Yes, yes I do. Listen, Miko. We have an extra room back at Caesars, Room 2131. We could meet there tonight. Our group is having dinner and going gambling but I could meet you after that."
"Perfect," said Miko. "Could you get me a key? I would like to have time to prepare . the implements of pleasure," she added seductively.
Implements? Jo thought, awestruck. There were going to be implements?
"Uh sure," Jo said. "I will leave a cardkey under the vase on the table by the door. Room 2131. Why don't you get there around 11:30 and I will meet you at midnight."
"Excellent." Miko gave her another kiss. "Until tonight."
"Yeah, right. Until tonight," Jo concurred, wiping her brow.
Cliff broke off the kiss with a moan and a smile. "Oh, Blair. You are just so incredibly beautiful."
"Thank you, Cliff," Blair replied. Blair and Cliff were in his car parked on a scenic outlook overlooking the Vegas valley floor. They had stopped to admire the view. Cliff had leaned over to kiss Blair and, a little to his surprise, she had made no objection. He decided to take a long shot. After all, they were in Vegas.
"Blair, I know it's inappropriate and something you don't do, so please don't slap my face just for asking, but I want to be with you so much. Can I stay with you tonight?" Cliff pleaded.
Blair made a decision. "Yes, Cliff, I would love that."
"Really? Are you sure?" Cliff was actually stunned she had agreed but stunned in a good way.
"Yes, I am sure," Blair said.
"So, do you want to come to my hotel?"
"No. I have a better idea. We have an extra room at Caesars, Room 2131. I will leave the cardkey under the vase on the table by the door. Why don't you come there at midnight and I will be there, waiting," Blair said alluringly.
"All right!" Cliff cried, slamming his fist into his hand.
Jo looked around the table as the four Peekskill girls finished up dessert and coffee. Dinner had been surprisingly pleasant. In an unspoken agreement, Blair and Jo had called a truce, both wanting to shift the focus back to Tootie and her wedding plans.
"I have to warn you, Blair. Jeff's mother insisted on seating you next to Warren, her business partner's nephew. He is one of the ushers. She thinks you will make a good match for him and can also be a potential investor. I'm sorry," Tootie said.
"I'll happily sit next to whomever you want, Tootie. After all, it is your day," Blair declared.
Jo smiled to herself. Blair taking a stab at selflessness was sort of cute. "C'mon, Nat, let's go hit the slots," she said.
"OK," Natalie replied.
"Blair and I are going to the blackjack tables. We will see you guys later," Tootie announced.
Jo gave Blair a quick glance. "Don't let her go over her limit, Tootie."
"I won't," Tootie laughed.
Jo and Natalie started feeding the nickel machines. Jo kept checking her watch.
"What's the matter, Jo; have someplace you need to be?"
Jo looked at Natalie conspiratorially. "I just gotta tell someone. I'm gonna get laid tonight."
"What?!? You dog, you," Natalie cried.
"Shh." Jo looked around. "Yeah, Miko is meeting me at midnight in Room 2131," she said with a wolfish smile.
"Well, good for you, Jo." Natalie laughed.
"Now Nat," Jo said, "I know it is too much to ask for you to keep this from Tootie, but I would appreciate it if you didn't tell Blair. Things are a little weird between us right now and I don't want to give her any ammunition."
"No problem. My lips are sealed," Natalie promised.
A hundred yards away at the blackjack tables, a similar conversation was taking place.
"Tootie, I have something to tell you. Don't be shocked."
"What is it Blair?" Tootie said eagerly. This is the best weekend ever, she thought to herself.
"I have an assignation with Cliff tonight. A tryst, if you will. We are going to engage in l'affair d'amour."
"Does that mean you will be having sex?" Tootie asked bluntly.
Blair winced at the crudity. "Yes, Tootie, it does. I decided it was time. We are meeting at midnight in Room 2131."
"Well, if that is really what you want, Blair, I'm happy for you. Just be safe."
"He's a doctor, Tootie, don't worry. Look, I know I can't keep you from telling Natalie, but please don't say anything to Jo. She has been giving me a hard time and I don't want to give her any more ammunition."
"All right, Blair, I won't."
A few minutes later Tootie and Nat ran into each other in the ladies' room.
"Do I have news!" they exclaimed at the same time.
"What?" they repeated in unison.
"What are we, the Doublemint twins?" Natalie queried. "You go first."
"Blair is going to sleep with Cliff tonight," Tootie announced.
"Wow. That almost beats mine. Jo is gonna get laid tonight. With Miko," Natalie said.
They looked at each other, agog.
"Uh, Tootie, did Blair say where and when she was going to meet Cliff?" Natalie asked.
"Room 2131 at midnight," Tootie said. "Why?"
"Oh my god," Natalie gasped. "Room 2131, at midnight. That's where Jo and Miko are getting together."
Tootie's eyes bulged. "Are you saying that the four of them are all going to show up at the same time expecting to have sex; what does that mean?"
"Well, the first thing it means is that Cliff is going to think he's died and gone to heaven," Natalie said. "But the second thing it means is that our friends are likely to be humiliated and hurt. And while the entertainment value of this whole scenario is, quite frankly, staggering, I just don't think we should let it happen."
"So what do we do, tell them?" Tootie asked.
Natalie thought for a moment. "No, I have a better idea. I think we should perform a little experiment."
"What kind of experiment?" Tootie asked warily. "You know you were never very good at chemistry, Nat."
"Maybe not, but face facts, Tootie. There has been this, what should we call it, kinetic energy between Blair and Jo for as long as we have known them. Maybe it's time they found out whether they can harness that force for some useful purpose. Here's my plan. Let's say Cliff and Miko are told that food poisoning has hit our group ."
Tootie listened carefully.
Jo couldn't remember when she had been so nervous. Well, maybe when the Brighton Beach mafia cell she had infiltrated had made her play Russian Roulette as an initiation rite, but this was close. She opened the door with her cardkey and slipped inside Room 2131.
"Hello?" Jo's voice was hoarse and low with anxiety. The room was pitch black but she heard someone rustling on the bed. OK, darkness and silence. Jo was good with that. Jo felt her way gingerly over to the bed, hoping not to trip on any implements of pleasure, and quickly stripped off all of her clothes. She crawled under the sheets and pressed herself against her bedmate's back.
God, so soft, so sweet. Jo stroked the woman's side to the top of her thigh. Funny, Jo had never taken Miko for a silk nightie kind of gal, but that was fine. Emboldened, Jo reached around and caressed the woman's breast, lightly stroking her nipple. The woman gasped and arched back into her. Hmm, Jo mused, I thought there would be a ring, Miko definitely implied a ring. Oh well, it doesn't matter. Incredibly turned on, Jo nuzzled her partner's neck and buried her face in the thick, luxurious hair.
Hair? Miko didn't have hair. What the fuck!
Jo recoiled from the bed as if shot from a cannon. She turned on the lamp and gazed upon a nightie-clad Blair, flushed and wide-eyed.
"B-B-Blair! What in the fucking goddamn hell are you doing here!?!" Jo yelled.
Blair could only stutter. "I I "
Jo had a horrible thought. "Oh my god, is this some kind of sick joke? Are you and Miko in cahoots? Oh Christ, was Nat in on it?" Jo's voice became choked with tears of rage. "Because let me tell you, this is about the cruelest thing anyone has ever done and I have seen some cruel things "
"Jo,"' Blair pleaded, having recovered her voice a little. "Please, it was no joke. I swear."
Jo, chest heaving, stared at Blair. "Then what is going on?"
"I was waiting here for Cliff. I thought you were Cliff."
"You thought I was Cliff?" Jo repeated incredulously. "Jesus, Blair, you do need to get out more." Jo saw Blair's gaze flicker down her body and suddenly realized that she was having this conversation stark naked. "Fuck." Jo rapidly gathered her clothes and prepared to leave.
"Jo, wait, don't go. Please, stay," Blair begged.
Jo stopped. "Stay?"
"Yes," Blair said, entreating. "Jo, I want I want to be with you. I knew who you were the instant you touched me but I couldn't stop. I didn't want you to stop." Blair sighed. "Jo, ever since you told me you were gay, I have been going insane. All I could think was I want Jo to be with me. Why can't she be with me?" Blair voice broke a little. "I then realized that, deep down, that's what I have been wishing for since the day we met."
Stunned, Jo came back to the bed and sat down beside Blair. "Are you serious?"
"I have never been more serious in my life. Jo, I love you. I'm in love with you. I always have been."
Jo smiled, breaking the tension. "Since that first day, when I caught you checking out my ass?"
Blair laughed. "You saw that, did you?"
Jo reached up and gently brushed Blair's hair behind her ear. "Well, Blair, it didn't take a weekend in Vegas or a case of mistaken bed partner identity -- I am sure Nat is somehow behind this, by the way for me to understand that I am in love with you. I knew that the minute Mrs. G. first made us shake hands."
"So," Blair said slyly, gesturing to the bed. "Does that mean we can finish what we started?"
"Absolutely, babe, absolutely," Jo replied, pushing Blair back onto the sheets.
Jo was awake but she wasn't going to open her eyes. If she opened her eyes, it would mean that the most wonderful night of her life, hell of any Polniaczek's life, would officially be over.
In all her fantasies about her first time with Blair, all 83,425 of them, Jo had always envisioned herself as Rhett Butler to Blair's Scarlett O'Hara, as Rhett carried Scarlett up the stairs to the bedroom. Blair would be shy, reluctant, confused, only to be swept away by the strength of Jo's passion. In truth, instead of Scarlett, Jo got Joan of fucking Arc leading her armies across the plains of France. Blair had basically laid claim to Jo's body. Planting her flag on every conceivable piece of acreage, places that Jo didn't even know she had. Throw a little Mussolini in there too -- the things that Blair had demanded, with her mouth, her tongue, her hands, her thighs, had been, to put it frankly, mind boggling. Things had started to calm down a little after the sixth time, but still.
It wasn't just the physical pleasure either, although that certainly made Time Magazine's top ten things of the century list. There had been a moment, right as dawn was starting to break, when Blair had cradled Jo to her chest and whispered 'you're mine, Polniaczek, you have always been mine,' when Jo literally thought her heart would explode.
No, Jo wasn't moving an inch. She couldn't bear to see it end.
Finally though, nature called. Jo opened her eyes and looked around. She was alone. Pushing down a pang of anxiety, Jo got up, put on her clothes and went across the hall to the suite.
"Hello? Where is everybody?" Jo examined the empty rooms. Blair, Natalie, Tootie and all of their bags were gone. Jo went into her bedroom. On the bed was her bag, already packed, with a note on top of the suitcase.
Oh my god, they left me, Jo thought. Blair woke up, repulsed at what she had done, and fled, taking Nat and Tootie with her. What's that note say? 'Dear dyke, good riddance,' Jo speculated to herself, increasingly agitated.
Nervously, Jo unfolded the paper and read 'Jo: We are at the breakfast buffet. If you wake up in time, join us. If not, meet us at the lobby at 10:00. The airport limo is picking us up then. Love, B.' OK, that wasn't so bad, Jo conceded. Maybe there was still hope.
Jo went to the lobby and saw Blair, Natalie and Tootie waiting for her. "C'mon, Polniaczek, get a move on," Natalie yelled. "The limo's here."
Jo slipped into the backseat beside Blair. "Good morning," Blair said, in a neutral but friendly voice. "Did you sleep well?"
"Uh, I guess," Jo replied, puzzled.
"Good," Blair said, turning back to the flower arrangement book she had been showing Tootie.
All right, Jo thought. If that's the way you want to play it, I will go along. It was just too bizarre though. Throughout the limo ride, the take off and well into the flight, Blair, Natalie and Tootie were chatting away as if nothing had happened, laughing about Tootie's $500 hit on the slots, going over the music for the wedding, censoring Natalie's toast. By the time they got over the Rockies, Jo had started to wonder if she had imagined the whole thing. Finally, she couldn't take it anymore. She had to get away. "Uh, Blair, I have a little bit of a headache, do you mind if I go into the back compartment and lie down?"
"Oh, that's too bad, Jo. Go right ahead. Do you want some aspirin?" Blair asked sympathetically.
"No, thanks." Jo went into the rear compartment of the jet, which had a small bed. She lay down and embraced the pillow. She felt tears start to come. I guess it was just a fling for her, Jo thought with despair. Just a wild weekend in Vegas. Jo heard someone enter the compartment.
"Are you all right, sweetheart?" Blair asked. "Do you need anything?" Jo rolled over to face her. "Jo, are you crying?" Blair exclaimed. "What on earth is wrong?"
"Blair, was last night just a one time thing for you?" Jo asked despondently.
"Of course not, how can you say that?" Blair said, appalled.
"Well, you and everyone else are acting as if nothing happened. I don't understand," Jo said.
"Oh honey, I'm so sorry. I think I may have made a tactical error," Blair replied.
"What do you mean?"
"This morning I went into the suite and told Natalie and Tootie what we had done. They are delighted by the way. I read them the riot act and said that they couldn't joke, speculate, gossip, tease, comment on or do anything that would make you uncomfortable. I said that you and I needed some time and space to process this and they would just have to back off."
"And they agreed to this?" Jo asked incredulously.
"They did. They love you, Jo. So do I," Blair declared.
"So how long is this moratorium on discussing us supposed to last?"
"Forty eight hours. Any longer than that, and I was afraid they would get sick. I apologize, Jo. I didn't mean to make you feel insecure. Let me make it up to you," Blair said, as she lay down beside Jo on the bed.
Jo wrapped her arms around her. "That would be great. But I do need a nap."
"That's fine," said Blair, snuggling closer. They slept for a while but, somewhere over Cleveland, the Mile High Club added two new members.
"Welcome home, babe," Jeff said, as he loaded Tootie's bags into the car trunk and they prepared to drive home from the airport. "Did you have fun?"
"It was great," Tootie said. "Really great."
"Uh Jeff, you are going to have to tell your mother that Blair is not going to sit next to Warren at the wedding. Blair and Jo are sitting together. And I don't care what Pastor Johnson says, if Blair and Jo want to dance, kiss and make out at our wedding, they are welcome to and no one is going to say a word," Tootie announced passionately.
Jeff laughed. "Tootie, I think I speak for myself and all of the groomsmen when I say that if Blair and Jo want to dance, kiss and make out at the wedding, we are all for it."
"It's been a long time since I was here," Jo said, looking around Blair's apartment. They had come back to Park Avenue after dropping Natalie off at her place. True to her word, Natalie had stayed silent on the topic, except that, as she left the limo, she had grinned and said 'mazal tov.'
"I know," Blair smiled. "Welcome back."
Jo wandered to the bookcase. Examining the photos, she laughed. "I forgot you had that one," Jo said, pointing to the picture of the two of them in their Eastland graduation gowns, hugging and smiling for the camera. "It looks like we were having a good time."
"And we are going to have a lot more, Polniaczek, a hell of lot more," Blair said emphatically, as she came up to Jo and pulled her in for a kiss.
A few hours later, Jo, careful not to disturb the sleeping Blair, crept out of bed and went into the study. She checked the rolodex that lay on the desk and dialed the phone. "Hello?"
"Hello," a voice, crackling with long distance static, answered. "Who is this?"
"Jo, how wonderful to hear from you," the voice said. "Is everything all right? This is a long way to telephone. Where are you?"
Taking a deep breath, Jo replied, "I'm home, Mrs. G., I'm finally home."
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