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.
THANKS: To Ann for the beta.
Walking the Beat
Jo's feet were killing her. If there was one thing she hated about her new career, it was the endless walking, interspersed with the occasional mad dash as she ran after pickpockets and juvenile delinquents hurling abuse, that was the majority of her day. Not that she was unfit - years of participating in sports and being an unpaid, bag-carrying slave for one Blair Warner had seen to that - but the shoes she'd been issued seemed to pinch and poke in all the wrong places, leaving her hobbling by the time her shift was over and she got to change back into her beloved sneakers.
A quick visual sweep of her surroundings assured Jo that she wasn't about to be set upon by hoodlums or, worse still, run into another cop from her precinct. So she took advantage of the momentary break to ease down onto a grime coated wall and free her left foot from its tight confines. Toes wiggling, she let out a sigh of relief, the first real smile of the day working itself onto her lips.
"Hey, bitch, I want my money!"
The high-pitched scream tore through the air and signalled an end to Jo's moment of reprieve. She squeezed her shoe back on and started to run, somewhat lopsidedly, towards the source of the noise. The alleyway was a mosaic of shadows and hulking objects, any one of which could hide a potential danger, but Jo didn't have time to worry about phantom attackers as she spotted what looked like the glint of a knife.
"Police!" Jo shouted, her breath coming in gasps as she thundered down the alley, her quarry - two rival streetwalkers, Jo assumed - turned in unison to observe the intruder. "Put down the weapon," she demanded in a voice that brook no argument.
"I don't got no weapon," the first woman - the screamer, Jo figured - assured her. "I don't want no trouble."
A cursory glance told Jo all she needed to know about the woman; a working girl, if ever she'd seen one, and after six months in uniform, she'd seen her fair share. A drug user too, if her pallor and stick thin appearance was anything to go by, and as such, an untapped danger to be watched at all times.
"You!" Jo turned to the second woman, who appeared to be carrying a knife of some kind, before repeating, "Put down the weapon."
"You were gonna cut me?" The hooker took a step back, no longer concerned with the argument or the police officer standing over her. "Shit, I'm outta here."
Jo let her go, more concerned with the shadowed figure that had yet to speak or release its weapon. Edging closer, Jo reached for her gun, the cold weight comforting. "Drop the knife," she repeated for the final time, "and take up the position."
"What position?" The voice was instantly recognisable, but was so out of place in a back alley in the Bronx, that Jo at first ignored what she instinctively knew to be true. "Jo, what are you talking about?"
"Blair?" For a moment, Jo's fingers refused to let go of the gun, but as Blair stepped forward, and her knife was revealed to be nothing more than an overly expensive umbrella, she relaxed, as much as she could when facing a pissed off looking Princess Warner, and smiled at her friend. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"That's a fine way to talk." Feeling insulted, abused, and somewhat grimy, Blair wasn't in the mood for anything less than total delight and gratitude at her appearance, neither of which Jo was providing in adequate measures. "I came to see you," she explained, somehow laying the blame for everything that followed firmly on Jo's shoulders. "And because of you, I've been propositioned and threatened, not once, but twice, and one of those times by you!"
"Who propositioned you?"
"How should I know?" Blair brushed passed Jo and headed towards the opening to the alley. "But whoever he was, he obviously didn't know the first thing about quality." She stopped to stare daggers at her friend. "Do you believe he only offered me ten dollars? I wouldn't cross the street for ten dollars, let alone -" She stopped abruptly, her nose crinkling in a way that Jo had always found adorable. "Ewww!"
Jo's laugh echoed down the alley as she was forced to run to catch up with a fuming Blair, the heiress' ability to storm out of an alleyway in four inch heels, without breaking an ankle, rather impressive. "Blair, wait, I'm sorry."
"So you should be!" Blair always felt better on the rare occasions that Jo apologised, it didn't really matter what the occasion, merely hearing the word 'sorry' issue forth from Jo's lips was enough to make Blair smile. "You haven't mentioned my new outfit," she said, in a total non sequitur that should have confused anyone but was taken in stride by her former roommate. "Don't you like it?"
Jo wanted to make a crack about a new line in hooker apparel, but Blair's outfit really was too divine to say anything so crass. "It's okay," she muttered.
"Oh, Jo, I knew you'd like it." Blair rushed over and gave her a hug, which Jo instinctively tried to back away from.
"Blair! Cut it out." A gun carrying member of New York's finest proved no match for an Upper East Side Princess as the hug continued, long passed the point of propriety. "Blair, get off before someone sees us."
Blair sighed in a dramatic fashion. "You make it sound as if you're not glad to see me," she pouted, reluctantly releasing her friend from her embrace.
"I am glad to see you." It was a half-truth at best, but sometimes a little fudging around the edges was needed when dealing with Blair's surprisingly delicate ego. "But I can't risk someone seeing us and getting the wrong idea."
"The wrong idea?"
"Yeah." Jo shrugged in an attempt to answer without really answering, but Blair's patented hands on hips and impatient frown let Jo know it hadn't been entirely successful. "That I was letting you off the hook for services rendered." Jo winced at her own words, before preparing for the onslaught she knew was coming.
"Services?" Blair looked at her blankly. "What services?"
"You know." Jo straightened her uniform and took a step back from the confused blonde. "Services." She wiggled her eyebrows in a move Natalie would be proud of, but it had no noticeable affect on Blair. "Hooker services," Jo reluctantly explained, "in exchange for not taking you in."
"Hook..." Blair's eyes widened in a comical fashion but the look on her face was anything but jovial. "You're saying I look like a...a lady of the night!"
"Shhhh!" The alley was still relatively deserted but Jo knew that you were never more than a hundred feet from some lowlife or another in this part of the city. It was actually something of a miracle that Blair had got this far without being mugged. "Where did you park your car?"
"This is a designer outfit!" Blair fumed, not in the least willing to let Jo change the subject. "It was imported from Paris."
"Blair, not now." Jo looked toward the entrance to an adjacent alleyway where she could just make out the shadows of two loitering figures. "Where's your car?"
"It cost over a thousand dollars!"
"Blair!" Jo tugged the blonde towards her, the force of her jerk shocking Blair out of her mini-tantrum. "We need to get to your car. Now."
The shadows at the entrance to the second alleyway started to coalesce into distinct figures, but Jo wasn't about to wait around to see who exactly had been listening in on their conversation. Nowadays, she might carry a badge and a gun, but even that wasn't always enough to protect a spoilt heiress with more money than brains.
Blair pointed back down the alley from where she'd come, and was immediately frog-marched in that direction by a wary and royally pissed off Jo. Normally, Blair would have balked at such treatment, but years of living with her hoodlum friend had taught her, that on extremely rare occasions, it was better to say nothing and simply follow Jo's lead, and a dark alley in the Bronx certainly qualified as one of those times.
Less than five minutes later, Jo was unlocking the door to Blair's, miraculously unscathed, Porsche and urging the blonde into the driver's seat. "Go home, Blair."
"Go home!" Jo slammed the door shut, refusing to feel guilty over the dejected look on her friend's face. Her refusal lasted all of ten seconds, after which she pulled open the passenger side door and slid into the car beside Blair. "It was great seeing you, but it's too dangerous for you here."
"I just wanted to see you."
"Since you joined the police force, I hardly ever get to see you any more."
"Blair, I saw you last week."
"No, you saw me, Nat, Tootie, and Beverly Ann last week." Blair hated being just one of the crowd, especially where Jo was concerned. "When was the last time we got to spend any time alone together?"
Jo was uncomfortably reminded of an incident just prior to her joining the police force, when she had somehow ended up staying with Blair at her father's Manhattan apartment, where the liquor cabinet had been well stocked and well abused by the time they left the next morning. "Is this about the kiss?"
"What kiss?" Blair checked her eyeliner in the rear view mirror. "I don't know what you could possibly be talking about."
Which Jo translated as 'Of course it's about the kiss, you barbarian'. "We were drunk."
"Not that drunk."
Jo could have argued the point, but she knew it wasn't just the alcohol that had prompted the kiss. "I didn't think you wanted to talk about it."
"I bought you shoes."
"What?" That was one non sequitur Jo wasn't expecting. "Shoes?"
Blair reached into the back seat, inadvertently brushing up against Jo in the process, and brought forward a gaily wrapped box, which she promptly dropped in her friend's lap. "They're Italian."
Jo was too confused to ask any questions, so she simply unwrapped the gift, her confusion mounting as she opened the box to reveal a pair of black lace-up shoes nearly identical to the ones she was wearing. "Blair?"
"You said your shoes hurt." Jo just continued to stare between her friend and the shoes in her lap. "I had my man in Milan reproduce the atrocious style, but in the softest Italian leather, so you shouldn't have to worry about these pinching your feet."
The gift was both entirely Blair and entirely adorable, and Jo couldn't stop herself from leaning across the seat and planting an impromptu kiss on Blair's startled lips. "Thank you."
"You're wel... Jo, I want to talk about the kiss." She touched her fingers to her lips. "The one from before."
Blair admitted that sitting in a Porsche, in the middle of the Bronx, with Jo liable to be called away at any second, probably wasn't the ideal time to have this particular conversation. "Soon," she decided, "before I lose my nerve."
It was time. They'd been skirting around this particular issue for years, but it was time they both stopped running. "I could come to your place, tonight, around eight?"
"I'll make dinner." Jo looked at her. "I'll order in dinner."
Jo eased open the car door. "Drive straight home," she ordered, in her best cop-voice.
At the last second, before she alighted from the car, Jo leaned back across the space dividing them and planted a second, longer kiss against Blair's lips. "See you tonight."
Blair smiled. "Until tonight."
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