DISCLAIMER: Of course, I don't own The Facts of Life or any of the characters represented in the television show. They're owned by some other lucky person. This was written solely for fun. No profit of any kind is being made from this.
SEQUEL: To You Take the Good, You Take the Bad.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Who Watches the Watch Man?
By Del Robertson
Jo lay in her bed, hands tucked behind her head, staring at the ceiling. It was barely dawn, the sky lightening from a midnight black to a pale shade of oyster. She rolled over, adjusting her pillow, trying to get comfortable.
Her gaze fell on Tootie and Natalie. Best friends since their first day at Eastland, both girls slept with their beds on the same side of the room, headboards towards the window, no more than ten feet apart. The close proximity was conducive to the two chatting till all hours of the night. Jo almost wished the two chatterboxes were awake now. Not that she was in the mood to talk to them - especially about what was keeping her up. But, she'd take some small comfort in knowing that she wasn't the only one suffering from insomnia.
With a deep sigh, she rolled over, facing the other direction. Okay, maybe that wasn't such a good move. Jo focused on the cause of her current affliction of sleep deprivation. Blair Warner, snuggled down in her bed, sleeping peacefully.
Sometime during the night Blair had kicked most of her covers off, sending them to lay in a pool at the end of her bed. The Warner heiress lay on her back, blonde hair splaying out over her pillow. A set of peach colored silk pajamas covered her svelte frame. In the dim morning light, Jo lay there, watching as Blair's shallow breathing caused her chest to slowly rise and fall.
Jo's hand stole beneath the mattress, fingers brushing the edge of the mask she had worn to the Langley Halloween Dance last week. What the hell was I thinking? Jo's frown deepened. Bad enough I danced with Warner. But then on top of that, I had to go and kiss her! Unbidden, Jo's eyes darted to Blair's face, focusing on her full lips. Closing her eyes, she replayed the kiss over again in her mind. Just as she had a hundred-plus times over the past week.
The way she felt in my arms as we danced. The way she looked at me - like I was her hero or something. She even called me that. Her hero. And the kiss. Her body pressed against mine, my hands on her hips, her arms linked around my neck.
Jo slowly opened her eyes, her gaze wandering from Blair's lips to the curve of her neck, then lower. The top three buttons of Blair's pajama shirt had come undone, revealing her pale flesh beneath. The material moved subtly with each breath, illuminating the swell of her breast in the pale light.
Blair shifted, squirming into a more comfortable position. The action caused her shirt to fall open, revealing her mouth-watering breast to Jo's hungry gaze. One dusty rose nipple proudly proclaimed its presence to the world, reveling in the dawn's early light. Jo watched in rapt fascination as the little bud hardened with its exposure to the chilly morning air.
Instinctively, Jo's fingers moved over her faded blue t-shirt, freely roaming over the swell of her breasts. Her eyelids fluttered, then closed as her fingers found her hardened nipples. She bit back a tiny moan as her fingers flicked over the tightened buds. As the sensation deepened in the pit of her stomach, she willed her eyes to open, her lusty gaze focusing once more on Blair's exposed breast. She stared, imagining it was Blair's breast, Blair's nipple that she was tugging on.
One hand slid down to the waistband of her boxer shorts, teasing at the elastic. Fingers deftly slipped beneath the fabric, moving over heated flesh. Moisture instantly coated her digits, soaking them. A tiny moan escaped Jo's lips as fingers swept over her clit. Eyes closed once again as fingers stroked through her wetness, imagining it was Blair's fingers that worked their way between her lips, stroking her open.
An insistent ringing broke the silence. Jo's eyes flew open, her fingers jerking from beneath her boxers in one motion, body rigidly sitting straight up in bed. Her heart beat rapidly in her chest as Blair rolled over, shutting off the alarm clock. Blair's eyes opened, gaze slowly focusing. She gave Jo a quizzical look before getting up, shuffling off to the bathroom. Behind her, Jo heard Tootie and Natalie beginning to stir. Stifling a groan, Jo flopped back down, hiding her head beneath her pillow.
Blair swept down the stairs, taking her usual seat across from Jo at the breakfast table. Jo barely looked up from her cereal bowl as Blair reached for her customary morning bagel. Gone was the set of peach colored silk pajamas, replaced by black slacks and a bright yellow shirt and vest combo. Her blonde hair was perfectly coiffed, the strands draped over both shoulders.
"May I please have some milk, Jo?" Blair asked, flashing her Warner smile at the Bronx native.
Jo made a half-grunt sound, poured Blair's glass half full of milk. "That enough for ya, princess?"
"Thank you, Jo," was Blair's automatic response, bringing the glass to her lips, sipping.
The same dance every morning, Jo thought. Wonder if she even realizes we do this every day? Her asking for something, me getting it for her like I'm her servant or something.
"What do you girls have planned for today?" Mrs. Garrett adjusted her glasses, looking over the rims at the four women seated at the breakfast table.
"Tootie and I are going to the library to work on our term papers."
"On a Saturday?" Mrs. Garrett asked. "That's very studious of you."
"Yeah," Tootie piped in. "That's us - studious."
"I thought you said that paper wasn't due until the end of November, Nat." Jo spoke up, a knowing smirk on her face.
Natalie shot Jo a dark look. "Doesn't hurt to get a head start."
"Well, I think that's very commendable, girls." Mrs. Garrett looked at Jo, gave her the best chastising look she could muster up. "Being responsible and meeting deadlines shows great character."
Blair smirked. Jo rolled her eyes. She knew that was a dig from Mrs. G about her calling Rick to cover for her until after the party on Halloween night. But, Mrs. Garrett should realize that she did it to help Blair out of a jam. Of course, she had never talked with Mrs. G about it, even though the elderly woman had discreetly passed the fabric mask to her on the stairs that night. No, Jo wasn't the sort to talk about what had happened. And, much to her relief, Mrs. Garrett hadn't come looking to have a conversation with her about it, either.
"Thanks, Mrs. Garrett." Natalie grabbed Tootie by the elbow, pulling her away from the table and her breakfast. "We'll be back later to help you in the shop." Natalie threw Tootie's jacket at her, shoved her out the door before she could open her mouth and mess up the plan.
"And what are you doing today?" Mrs. Garrett asked, looking fondly at Blair and Jo. "After your shifts in the store, that is."
"Well," Blair's face lit up, her eyes sparkled. "Bergman's is having a sale today. Fifty percent off manufacturer's retail on all jewelry. The best part, though, is that I ordered a watch for Daddy last month. And, the assistant manager told me if I meet him at nine p.m. tonight, he'll let me have it for the sale price! It'll be the perfect Christmas present for Daddy."
"That's great, Blair." Mrs. Garrett shifted her gaze to Jo, peering at her over the rim of her glasses. "And, what about you, Jo?"
"Ah, you know." Jo shrugged. "Nothin' special. Maybe tweak my bike."
"Oh, Jo! On a Saturday night?" Blair asked.
"Well, it ain't shopping for Rolexes, but it makes me happy, Princess."
"I'm sure it does," agreed Blair. "I just think you could find something else to do besides your greasy old motorcycle." I could do you, Jo thought with a mental leer. "I swear you spend more time on your bike than my Daddy's mechanic spends on his BMW - and he's paid full-time as Daddy's personal mechanic."
"Yeah? I'll let you in on a secret, Princess." Jo leaned across the table, as if to let Blair in on the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa. "My bike's still plenty more reliable than your dad's Beemer."
"Maybe, but even you can't deny that the BMW is more stylish than your old motorcycle."
"Sometimes there are more important things than style, Blair." Jo shrugged. "You should try it sometime. There's nothing like the feeling of a big motor humming beneath you. And, knowing that you're in control of all that power between your legs. With just a subtle lean to one side or the other, you can shift hundreds of pounds of weight."
"Sounds - " Blair took a big gulp of her milk, blushed a bright red. "Delightful. I think I'll stick with my Porsche, if you don't mind, though. I wouldn't want to ruin my hairdo, you know." Blair flipped her trademark blonde tresses over her shoulder for emphasis.
Jo just grinned at her. She's so cute - such a princess. "Maybe we could get you a designer helmet, made special for you by one of those French guys. Start a new trend; motorcycle helmets for the rich."
Before Blair could reply, Mrs. Garrett abruptly pushed her chair back from the table. She grabbed Tootie's and Natalie's dishes off the table in one armful, bustling off to the kitchen. Jo was just about to take another bite of cereal when Mrs. G returned, snatched the bowl from her. She started towards the kitchen again, then paused, reaching back to yank the spoon from Jo's hand. Jo was left staring, mouth open, hand raised halfway to her mouth, a look of utter disbelief on her face. Blair giggled at Jo's expression, then frowned as Mrs. Garrett took her milk glass from her grasp.
"Come along girls," Mrs. Garrett yelled from the kitchen. "Time to open the shop!"
Blair checked her watch for the tenth time. She untied, then tied her apron again. With an exaggerated sigh, she drummed her fingers on the counter. She looked at her watch again.
"It's the same time it was when you checked it just a second ago, Blair." Jo hefted a large box, sat it on the counter in front of Blair. She opened the box, rummaging through its contents. "Help me with the decorations; it'll take your mind off it."
Listlessly, Blair reached into the box, pulled out a cutout of a cornucopia. "Why are we doing this?" she asked, attaching the decoration to the front of the counter with clear tape.
"Because Mrs. G decorates every Thanksgiving," Jo answered, placing a papier-mâché Turkey on the register. "Help me with the garland," she instructed, pointing to a strand of brown and gold leaves. "And, it'll be nice to do this for Mrs. G while she's at her sister's this weekend."
"No, I meant why are WE doing this? Natalie and Tootie were supposed to be here two hours ago."
"Yeah, I know. But, they also knew Mrs. G wasn't going to be here this afternoon, too." Jo shimmied up the ladder, held out her hand for Blair to pass her the garland. "Face it, they ditched us, Princess."
Blair reached up, passing the end of the leafy decoration to Jo; their fingertips brushing during the exchange. They paused like that, barely touching, neither saying a word. Then, Jo abruptly grabbed the end of the vine and stretched it up to the ceiling, fastening it in place.
Blair flipped her hair back over her shoulder, stared up at Jo with her baleful doe eyes. Jo stared back at her, meeting her gaze for gaze. Who knew brown eyes could be so sexy? With the little gold flakes, reminds me of the fall leaves - Jo gave herself a mental slap, focused back on what Blair was saying. "They knew what time their shift started. I just can't believe they've been working on their term papers all day!"
"Did you really believe that they were going to the library on a Saturday, Princess?" Jo's laughter rang throughout the shop. "Are you really that gullible?"
"I just thought - " Blair's words trailed off, a frown appeared on her face.
Jo's laughter died in her throat as she saw Blair look down at the floor, attempting to hide the sudden sadness in her eyes. Jo mentally kicked herself, silently cursed her stupidity. "Hey, Blair. I'm sorry." No response. "Really. I thought you caught on this morning when they left without any books."
"No. I thought they were going to do what they said, go where they said. I took them for their word. I guess I'm just that gullible."
"Hey, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said you were gullible. You're trusting. That's good. Me, I've been kicked so many times that I just instinctively look for the bad in everybody. Always looking for the angle, you know what I mean?"
Blair looked up at Jo. She was standing still on the ladder, three steps from the top. She leaned over the edge, staring down at Blair. Blair flashed a weak smile. "Yeah, I guess. Sometimes, though, I wish I could be more like you. Maybe I wouldn't get disappointed so much, then."
"You mean like with Chad?"
Blair gave Jo a puzzled look. "You know about Chad?"
Oh, shit! "I heard Nat and Toot talking about how he showed up at the party with some other girl."
Good thing Blair really is that trusting or she'd have known that Natalie and Tootie never told me anything about that party! "Hey, no big deal, right? Blair Warner's got tons of guys after her. It's his loss."
Blair's face lit up with the compliment. "That's right, Jo. They're lined up around the block waiting to get a date. I can have my pick of any of them."
"There ya go!" Jo encouraged, reaching overhead to fasten another portion of the garland. Just wish you wanted me.
Jo stretched, extending as far as she could to reach the corner of the ceiling. Biting her bottom lip, she climbed up another rung, leaned over farther. "Careful," she heard Blair's voice from somewhere below her. She stretched a little farther, felt pressure on the back of her right leg, at her knee. She glanced down, noticed Blair's delicate fingers clutching at the denim of her jeans. "Don't fall," Blair instructed as Jo hooked the end of the garland.
Slowly, Jo backed two rungs down the ladder. She felt Blair's hand move with her, but noted that it didn't leave the denim of her jeans. She could still feel the warmth of Blair's hand at the back of her knee. Oh, man. I think I might be falling - for Blair.
Jo glanced down at Blair. Their eyes met, steel blue locking with hazel. Jo's mouth suddenly felt dry, her throat parched. She nervously licked her lips. Does she feel what I feel when she touches me? What would she think if she knew it was me she kissed? What would she say if I told her I wanted to kiss her again? Jo inhaled deeply, smelling Blair's signature perfume. She suddenly felt lightheaded. Her flesh tingled, her senses seemed hypersensitive. And, even though she was wearing denim, the touch of Blair's hand seared her flesh.
"Blair - uh, I got something to tell you."
"Well, uh, that is - " Jo shoved both hands in her pockets, stared at the ladder rungs. Blair moved away, reaching for the box of Thanksgiving decorations, effectively ending the moment. "I just wanted to tell you - ya can go ahead and go and I'll wait for the girls."
Blair looked up from the jointed pilgrim cutout she was attempting to unfold. "Oh, Joey, really?"
"Yeah." Jo shrugged. "That way, you can go get that watch you been wanting."
Blair dropped the cutout back into the box, grabbed her purse from beneath the counter. She brushed past Jo on her way to the door, then stopped, turned around. She bit her bottom lip, as if weighing an important decision. "Are you sure, Jo? It's getting late and I don't want to leave you in the shop by yourself."
"I'll be fine, Princess. Girl from the Bronx and all." She shooed Blair towards the door. "Get going."
Blair turned back long enough to flash her award-winning Warner smile at Jo. Rushing forwards, she spontaneously kissed Jo on the cheek. "Thank you, Joey."
Jo was left standing there on the bottom step of a ladder in the middle of the store, Thanksgiving decorations strewn about her. She caught sight of her reflection in the glass. Candy red lipstick coated her cheek, the outline of two lips clearly visible. Fingers reflexively found their way to her face, stroking over the area Blair had just kissed. A stupid grin broke out over her face, followed by a beet red blush.
Jo lay on the sofa, feet stretched out on the extra cushions. She had changed into a faded blue t-shirt and dark blue sweatpants, her favorite grey socks covering both her feet. One arm was propped behind her head, comfortably nestled beneath her ponytail. Her other hand rested on her flat stomach, holding the remote loosely in her grasp as she channel surfed.
She looked up as the front door opened, surprised to see Blair. "Back so soon?" she asked. "I thought you had to drive all the way into the city."
Blair limped to the sofa. Jo reflexively moved her feet as the Warner heiress flopped down on the cushions. She closed her eyes, resting her head against the back of the sofa. "My Porsche broke down."
"And you had to wait for daddy's mechanic to come get you from the side of the road?" Jo guessed.
Blair opened one eye, stared at Jo. "Turns out Daddy's mechanic is on his honeymoon in Hawaii. He won't be back until next week."
"Oh. So you used one of Peekskill's Garages?"
Blair shook her head. "Seems they all close at five sharp on Saturday. And, even the promise of Warner money can't persuade the good old boys to work late on the weekend."
"Ouch." Realization dawned on Jo. "You walked back?"
"Two miles." Blair shifted on the sofa, attempting to get comfortable. "What about you; Finally get out of Purgatory?"
Jo smiled. "Yeah. Natalie and Tootie finally arrived. Not more than ten minutes after you left."
Jo bent over, grabbing Blair's ankles, nudging her until she draped her legs over Jo's lap. Jo's fingers worked deftly to rid Blair of her high heels. She rubbed and massaged through Blair's stockings. Blair let out a low moan, sank deeper into the cushions.
"Why didn't you call?"
"Cell phone died. And, I couldn't find anyone out on the streets of Peekskill at seven o'clock on a Saturday night with change for the payphone."
Jo couldn't help but smile at the image that phrase conjured. She could just picture Blair out on the streets, limping in her high heels, waving a hundred dollar bill in the air, asking for change.
"I'm glad you're amused by my pain."
Jo looked up to see Blair staring at her. "I'm sorry, Blair." Jo couldn't hide her grin. "I just had a visual."
"It's okay. I'll forgive you - if you promise you won't stop doing that." She wiggled her toes for emphasis.
Jo looked back down at Blair's feet, perched comfortably in her lap. She continued her massage, deeply rubbing the tender flesh beneath her grasp. Her large, calloused hands on Blair's dainty stocking-clad feet brought another image to her mind.
Blair's blouse and skirt were gone, draped over the arm of the nearest easy chair. She wore a matching set of plum colored bra and panties. Black garters supported her silk hose. Eyes closed, she licked her lips seductively, a low moan working its way up her throat. With a feral snarl, her eyes blinked open, hungry gaze traveling down the length of her body.
Jo knelt on the floor, one hand braced on the sofa cushion. The other clutched at Blair's calf, fingers stroking up and down the silk stocking. Lips worked hungrily, tongue lapping up the whipped cream topping from the tips of her toes. Jo's tongue worked quickly, following the trail of whipped topping to the top of Blair's stocking, ending at the garter belt. Sitting back on her heels, she looked up at Blair, her hand never stopping its stroking motion.
Never taking her eyes from Blair, she blindly reached behind her, groping for the can of whipped cream. Grinning, she shook the can. Blair's eyebrow arched as Jo steadied the can, aiming it. A thick stream of cream shot out, coating Blair's plum colored panties a bright white. Licking her lips lasciviously, Jo bent to clean up her mess.
"Okay, thank you. No, I understand perfectly."
Jo focused as Blair stared forlornly at the phone before hanging it up. "So, no watch, huh?"
"No." Blair shook her head. "Paul, the assistant manager, said we had to meet tonight for me to get that deal. It's the last day of the sale."
Jo shrugged. "No big deal. You'll just go tomorrow and buy it at regular price after they fix your car, right?"
A ghost of a smile crossed Blair's lips. "I didn't tell you, but Mom and Dad have put me on an allowance. Thought it would show me responsibility if I had to learn how to budget. I can't afford the Rolex if it's not on sale. And, Rolexes at half price is simply unheard of. Especially this close to Christmas. I thought I could get Daddy the Rolex and still have enough left for gifts for everyone else."
"Does it have to be a Rolex?"
Blair nodded. "Nothing else would be good enough in Daddy's eyes. It seems no matter how hard I try, I always disappoint him." She picked at the fringe of a nearby pillow. "And, for once, I wanted to be able to get the right Christmas present."
Why do I think this isn't just about the watch? Jo abruptly pushed Blair's feet out of her lap, stood up. "Just let me run upstairs and grab my jacket and keys." She looked at Blair's toes. "You put on some sensible shoes."
"Why? Where are we going?"
Jo paused halfway up the stairs, leaned over the banister. "To get your fancy watch."
"Oh, Jo. It's eight o'clock already. Even you can't fix my Porsche that quickly. We won't make it in time."
"We will if we ride double on my bike."
"My hair - "
"I have an extra helmet under my bed. It's your choice, Princess. Flat hair for one night or your Daddy's Rolex. Your call."
Jo waited on the step, ready to go whichever way Blair wanted her to. Whether it be to run upstairs for the spare helmet, or to come back down and resume her foot massage. She waited patiently as Blair bit her bottom lip in concentration, seemingly weighing her options.
"Go get the helmet," she barely whispered, as if even giving voice to the command was sacrilege. "And my gold flats."
Jo grinned, bounding up the stairs two at a time before Princess Warner could rescind her marching orders.
Jo sped down the highway full throttle, street lights whizzing by at seventy-plus miles per hour. The wind whipped around her, stinging her cheeks ruddy red. She risked a glance at her watch . . . eight forty-five. Pressing her lips tightly together, she stomped on the gas.
Blair felt the motorcycle give a sudden lurch, then surge forward. She tightened her grip around Jo's torso, leaned in closer. She pressed her cheek against Jo's back, inhaling deeply. She didn't know what the scent was exactly; leather - oil - soap - all these things that made Jo smell like - well, Jo.
She'd known Jo since that day she first stormed into the school, driving her motorcycle over what she termed "weeds" in the front garden. And, they were forced to room together after that. Their relationship was bitter animosity at it's best then. Now, they had a somewhat budding friendship.
Throughout all those years - all the fights - the tears - the concessions, Jo had remained the same. She was still herself, still walked the same, talked the same, smelled the same. It was a scent she instantly recognized and found comfort in because it was simply Jo.
She sighed deeply as she felt Jo lean them into an S-curve. Blair closed her eyes, settling into the warmth of Jo's back. She was loathe to admit it, but the ride was smooth. And, once she got over her initial trepidation of straddling the monstrous vibrating machine, she found the entire experience to be thrilling.
The motorcycle slowed, rolled to a stop. The engine went silent, the thrumming sensation between Blair's thighs slowed. She felt the bike shift, heard the kickstand sliding into place as the bike rolled forward once again before coming to a halt. She felt Jo move in her seat.
Reluctantly, Blair opened her eyes, sitting up straight. Jo had removed her helmet, was readjusting her ponytail. Her hands caught Blair's, still wrapped around her torso, calloused palms stroking the back of silky smooth hands. She half-turned on her seat, looking at Blair over her shoulder.
"We're here." Blair didn't move. "You gotta get off first, Princess."
The statement jolted Blair out of her daze. Carefully, she dismounted as ladylike as possible, adjusted her skirt as she did so. She stood off to the side of the bike as Jo swung her legs off, her boots crunching loudly on the gravel. She paused in front of Blair, gave her a sideways look. With a grin, she stepped forward, fingers deftly unfastening the strap beneath Blair's chin. She lifted the helmet off with a flourish, deposited it on the bike seat.
Both women stood in the mall parking lot, scanning their surroundings. The lot was only half-lit with street lamps, the back part of it shrouded in shadow. Few cars were in the lot, and most of those were parked to the front, by the main entrance.
"Which store did you say you're supposed to meet him at?" Jo asked.
"He said he'd be at the back door of Bergman's at nine."
"The back door?" Jo shot a wry look at Blair. "Is this on the up-and-up, Princess?"
"Yes, Jo." Blair's face was full of wide-eyed innocence as she answered the question. "Don't worry. Paul said he had to meet us by the back door at nine sharp because he didn't want other customers to know that he had held this merchandise aside for me." She caught Jo's disbelieving look. "Well, if they knew he did it for me, they'd want him to do it for them, too. And then, it just wouldn't be special anymore, now would it?"
"Oh - kay." Jo walked away from Blair on that note, making a line for the back section of the lot, where the rear entrances were located. She ducked down an alley, and much to her surprise, Blair followed. She must really want this watch.
The alley led to the back doors of the shops; most had their names emblazoned on the steel warehouse doors so the delivery trucks could easily find the right location. Jo and Blair picked their way along the alley, stepping around dumpsters and wooden pallets as they went.
With a sharp growl, something leapt out of an open dumpster as Jo and Blair passed. With a shriek, Blair grabbed Jo, burying her face in the other woman's leather jacket. "Relax, it's only a cat." Jo admonished, running her hands over Blair's shoulders, down her arms. Blair didn't mention that she noticed Jo jumped, also.
"There it is." Jo pointed to a large metal door. It had originally been painted red, but the paint was peeling away, revealing the rusty metal beneath. Emblazoned on the metal in faded lettering was the name "Bergman's". "Where's your boy?"
"I don't know," Blair answered. "He said nine."
"Yeah, well, it's fifteen after now. This ain't nothing but a wild goose chase." Jo turned to leave, stomping back towards the direction of her bike.
"Please." Blair grabbed Jo by the elbow of her jacket, spun her back around. Jo glared at her, then softened her expression when she saw Blair's pout. "Five more minutes?"
"Yeah, okay. But just five minutes. Then, we're out of here. Watch or no watch."
"Just five minutes." Blair nodded in agreement. "Thanks, Joey."
Five minutes turned into ten. Then fifteen. Jo felt the harsh wind blow through her jeans, huddled closer to the stack of pallets they had taken refuge beside. She looked at Blair. Poor thing's only got hose on beneath that skirt. She's got to be freezing. As the first snowflakes began to fall, Jo took her leather jacket off, draped it around Blair's shoulders.
Blair didn't acknowledge the action, she was so intent on watching the door of Bergman's. Jo was concerned, she didn't think Blair had so much as blinked in the last ten minutes. However, she did instinctively pull the jacket around herself. To her credit, Blair hadn't complained once about the weather, or the alley, or the foul odor coming from some of the dumpsters.
Jo was about to take Blair by the shoulders and insist they leave when the back door suddenly opened. A man's silhouette appeared, backlit by the department store's warehouse lights. He closed the door, using a piece of wood to keep it from shutting all the way. Standing there, in the dark with the snow falling on him, he pulled a cigarette from his pocket, lit it.
"That's the signal," Blair whispered.
"Signal? There's a signal?" Jo asked. I knew this was a bad idea. She reached to pull Blair back into the shadows, but the blonde was already out in the open, walking directly towards the man.
When he spotted her approach, the man smiled, tossed his cigarette over the railing. It hit the ground, rolled into a puddle with a sizzling sound. He extended his hand, shaking Blair's as she approached.
"Ms. Warner, so glad you could meet me."
"Paul, good to see you again." Blair stood before the man, one hand in her pocket, one clutching her purse by her side. "Did you bring it? May I see it?"
"Did you bring the cash?"
Blair tapped the side of her purse. "Of course," she smiled impishly.
"Good." Paul glanced around the alley. "Hand it over," he said, pulling a revolver from his pocket, aiming it at Blair.
"WHAT is this - " Blair's mouth dropped open in shock.
"A robbery." Paul used the gun to motion for Blair to enter the building. "And a kidnapping."
"You'll never get away with this!" Blair protested, refusing to move an inch with this man.
"Sure I will. You agreed to not tell anyone about our little meeting. And, I certainly didn't tell anyone. The police won't discover your car abandoned in the parking lot until tomorrow morning - maybe Monday. By then, I'll have sent the ransom note to your rich Daddy and collected. No one will ever suspect that you were abducted by a mall employee."
"They will when I tell them!" Blair protested.
"Can't if you're dead, sweetie. Everyone will think poor little rich girl came shopping at the mall all by herself, and was kidnapped out of a darkened parking lot with no security. It'll be a tragedy when they find her body in the river."
"Except she didn't come alone, ya bastard!"
Jo rushed from the shadows, a loose board from one of the pallets clutched in her fist. She came out swinging like a baseball player, hitting Paul in the face with a rusty nail. She pounced upon him, punching him repeatedly in the face and upper body until he dropped the gun.
Blair looked on, screaming, in shock as Jo pummeled the man. She'd never seen Jo so furious before. She just kept hitting the man, yelling and screaming profanities at him. Until finally, she stood up, kicking him in the ribs with her boots.
"Police - Freeze!" Several bright lights blinded them, effectively stopping everything. Blair quit screaming. Jo stopped kicking. The man laying on the ground, writhing in agony stopped.
Officers rushed on the scene, yelling orders at the three startled individuals. Jo was thrown against a wall, hands yanked behind her back, cuffs snapped on her wrists. The man on the ground was immobilized, a plastic cable tie used to secure his wrists. Blair numbly felt herself being escorted to a waiting car, ushered into the back seat.
"And then what happened, Blair?" Tootie leaned forward in her chair, hand propped on her chin, waiting for Blair to finish her tale.
"They hauled us in, read us our rights, and took our statements," Jo groused as she shuffled in from the kitchen, holding a cube steak over her right eye. During the fight, she hadn't even realized the punk had gotten in a lucky punch. But, sitting there in the police station, she had felt it beginning to swell. Now, it was completely shut, an ugly mass of purple and blue. She fell into an overstuffed armchair, her entire body screaming in protest as her abused muscles took the brunt of the impact.
"Seems the police had received an anonymous tip that someone at Bergman's was ripping them off from the inside. They'd been watching the shop every night for the past month trying to make a case." Blair leaned in closer to her audience, delighting in their rapt attention. "They hadn't been able to catch anyone in the act. Then, we came along. So, you see, the Captain thought I was buying stolen property."
"Which you were - "
"But I didn't know it was stolen, Jo." She looked up sweetly at Jo. Jo rolled her one good eye at Blair, looked away. "And, the Captain believed that when I explained the whole story to him. He was shocked when they set up the sting to catch a thief, and ended up preventing an attempted kidnapping and murder." Blair took a sip of her hot cocoa, savoring the bits of marshmallow Natalie had thrown in for good measure. "He promised Paul would be locked up for a long, long time. Really, the Captain was very sweet and understanding about the whole situation. Even bought me a hot coffee and some donuts."
"Glad to hear you were treated so well, Princess." Jo glowered from her armchair. Natalie and Tootie giggled at the Bronx native's expression, her crossed arms. "While you were nice and comfy, having snacks, they locked me up for battery."
"Well, you did beat Paul so badly they had to take him to the hospital."
"He deserved it! He was going to kill you!"
"And, the police agreed. Which is why they released you once I made my statement."
"Yeah, well, this whole mess should never have happened."
Tootie yawned. Natalie glanced at her watch. After two in the morning. Good thing Mrs. Garrett wasn't home for this one. They'd all be in trouble. Stretching, she unfolded herself from her chair, shuffled towards the stairs. "Well, it sounds like you got off pretty lucky."
"Yeah," Tootie agreed, following Natalie. Both girls had already had a full day and were eager to hurry off to bed. "Things could have ended really badly."
"But they did," Blair protested. "All of that, and I still didn't get my watch!"
Jo reached behind her, grabbing a throw pillow, launching it at Blair. It hit her in the side of the head. Blair screamed, retrieving the pillow from the floor, attempting to hold it and straighten her mussed hair at the same time.
She crossed the room to where Jo sat in her chair. Jo started to get up and run, but gave up when her muscles screamed in protest. Instead, she sat there and watched Blair's dramatic, menacing approach.
Blair stood in front of Jo, raised the pillow, ready to strike. Jo reflexively screwed her one good eye shut as the pillow came at her. To her shock, Blair pulled her head forward, depositing the pillow behind her neck, then laying Jo's head back on the soft cushion. She studied Jo's face for a second, then leaned in, planting a kiss on her forehead.
Jo was in shock. She couldn't speak, couldn't move. She watched Blair pull away, slowly back towards the stairs. When she finally regained the ability to move, she looked up, to see Blair hurriedly dashing up the stairs.
"Thank you, Joey," she barely heard the words whispered before the living room lights were shut off and she was left sitting alone in the dark.
"You're welcome, Princess," Jo whispered back to the silent darkness.
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