DISCLAIMER: I'm not sure who owns them, but it sure isn't me. I do like playing with them, though, and promise not to make any money at it.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The house was dark except for the living room. Blair thought that odd, since Jo's motorcycle was in the garage. Mrs. Garrett, Natalie, and Tootie were gone for the weekend, having left as soon as possible after the younger girls finished class. Nat and Tootie were looking forward to the weekend in New York City. They had a list of things they wanted to do and see, which had been a source of debate during the past week.
Blair was looking forward to a quiet evening. Ever since college started, she saw little of her oldest friend. They were both busy, and for the first time since they met, didn't share any classes. Even when they shared a shift at Edna's Edibles, thankfully closed for the weekend, Jo was always on the move. She had a second job, too. Blair didn't know what it was, only that it added to the hours that Jo was away. She could count on one hand the nights she was awake when Jo came to bed, and she was always gone by the time Blair's alarm woke her.
Blair put her bag on the stairs, then slipped off her shoes and put them on another step. Everything was quiet, and Blair went to check the living room. She stopped in the doorway to admire the decorations. Ropes of fresh greenery hung around the top of the room and curled around the banisters, small bright decorations tucked in the needles. Poinsettias sat beside the regular houseplants. Five stockings hung from the mantel. Holiday cards were attached to the chimney, and a small crèche sat on the center of the mantel. The tree was lovely. Presents spilled out from under it.
Blair didn't see Jo at first. The brunette sat on the floor, her back against the couch, long legs drawn in front of her, arms around them, chin resting on them, eyes on the tree. Presents were all ready under it. She hadn't been able to help with the decorating, except for brief periods here and there. Half an hour dragging things down from the attic. Another half an hour getting the tree inside and stable in the stand. The greenery she hung one night after coming in from her second job too wound up to sleep.
The others had done the rest. They did a great job, too, Jo thought. The tree had lights that remained on and lights that blinked, shiny ornaments and tinsel that captured, refracted, and threw colored light everywhere. Jo was even able to identify individual decorations, and the memories that came with them. It was nice, remembering all the holidays celebrated, at least in part, with the others.
Blair stood in the doorway and watched Jo. She realized how much she'd missed her since graduation. They'd spent the summer apart, Blair traveling through Europe, Jo working three jobs trying to earn the money for things not covered by her scholarship. Jo looked happy but tired when school started, and the few times Blair'd seen her since, she looked tired and a little frazzled. Now, though, Jo looked wistful and beautiful and Blair wanted to sketch her. She slipped back to the kitchen and quietly took her bag and shoes upstairs. A few minutes later, she came back down with her sketchpad and a stick of charcoal.
She'd sketched Jo before. Jo was always her subject throughout Blair's art classes. She'd grumble and complain, but she'd do what Blair asked. She never asked to see Blair's finished work, and the one time she'd seen them, hanging in the hallway for parents' weekend, she'd immediately fled and avoided both the hallway and Blair for more than a week after they were removed from the wall and returned to Blair's portfolio. Jo refused, too, to talk to Blair about her reaction, despite Blair's many attempts. She continued to pose when Blair asked, which stunned the blonde.
It was the lights, Blair decided. They set the tone, warm and intimate, almost like candlelight. She'd always wanted to sketch Jo in candlelight. Blair's hand moved automatically while her thoughts wandered. She wanted to see Jo in candlelight, just the two of them alone, to see how Jo's skin would glow, how her muscles slid under her skin. Those thoughts, which came to her sporadically since their second year at Eastland, were becoming more frequent. Blair missed their time together, when she could just be Blair without any external definition.
Blair finished one sketch and started another, eyes focused on Jo, hand moving across the paper capturing the feeling Blair had watching her. She pressed her luck and started a third, this one of Jo alone, showing the thick ponytail down her back, and the swirl of her ear, which bled into the plane of her cheek, down her jaw and back up into her hairline. Eyebrows and nose and lips. Blair's hand stopped moving for a few seconds while she contemplated Jo's lips. She'd found herself thinking of them at the most inconvenient times. So much so that for a month, Blair hadn't dated. Each time one of the respectable young men kissed her, she thought of Jo's lips, warm, full, and completely lacking stubble. Blair caught herself and her hand moved again, filling in all the details of Jo's face.
Jo waited for the soft sound of Blair's pencil moving across paper to stop before turning her head to look at Blair. "Hey."
"Am I bothering you?"
"Nah. I should probably move anyway." Jo began unwinding herself and got to her feet. She ignored the pins and needles feeling in her feet and tried to stretch out her back.
"Are you working tonight?"
"No." Jo smiled. Somehow she'd managed to have this last weekend before Christmas off from both of her jobs. She was looking forward to catching up on some sleep, a rare and precious commodity during the past six months.
"Would you like to have dinner with me?"
Jo looked at her speculatively. "Do I have to get dressed up?"
"No," Blair laughed.
"Are there gonna be fish eggs?"
"No," Blair laughed again as she recalled the first - and only - time Jo tried caviar.
"All right." Jo crossed the room. "Whenever you're ready."
"I just need a minute," Blair assured her. She went upstairs, and Jo slouched in the doorway to watch her disappear up the stairway. Then she looked at the tree again and sighed. She hadn't told the others, but she wasn't going home for Christmas. Her mother had an aunt in Florida who invited her down, and when Jo heard in her voice how much her mother wanted to go, she bought the plane ticket as her mother's gift. She was leaving Monday and would be back after New Year's. Jo had 19 Christmases with her mother, and one without her seemed alien. Still, her mother was happy, and that was the point.
Blair's footsteps on the stairs pulled her out of those thoughts. She watched as Blair gradually came into view, stylish boots, wool pants, great ass - 'no, no, no, you're not supposed to notice her ass or the sweater that clings in all the right places! Down, girl!' - and didn't come out of that train of thought until Blair stood opposite her in the doorway.
"I'm ready," Blair smiled brightly, even as she wondered what was going through Jo's mind.
"Great," Jo smiled back. She took a deep breath. "Lead on."
They stopped at the closet for coats, scarves, and gloves before going to the garage. They got into Blair's Porsche, and while Blair drove, Jo fiddled with the radio. Once she found what she wanted, she leaned back in the seat and looked at the house decorations as they passed. "You ready for Christmas?"
"Of course," Blair smiled brightly. "Everyone's gifts are wrapped and under the tree. I've all ready wrapped the rest and shipped them to Mother's. Are you ready? And if you are, when did you find time to shop?"
"I still need to get a couple things," Jo said. "I figure I can go shopping tomorrow."
"I can help," Blair offered.
Jo laughed. "You're one of the people I need to find something for, and it'll be kinda hard to do that if you're with me."
"Oh," Blair said, obviously disappointed.
"Where we goin'?" Jo asked as Blair headed out of Peekskill.
"Not far. You'll like it. How were your finals?"
"Econ was the worst." Jo shuddered. "I'm glad it's over."
"Me too. What are you taking next semester?"
They talked about school until Blair pulled off the road into the lot beside a nondescript building. Jo looked at her, but followed her out of the car. Inside, they were seated immediately. "Trust me?" Blair asked on the walk to their table.
"Usually," Jo answered, and helped Blair into her chair. She sat across from her and watched Blair wave away the menus. She ordered for both of them, including a bottle of wine.
Blair smiled at her again when the waitress left. "I've missed you."
"Me too," Jo admitted.
"You never even told me about your other job."
"And I'm not going to." Jo knew that if Blair found out she was working the overnight shift in a convenience store, she would have no peace until she found another job or Blair bought the place and fired her. She knew the dangers, but hadn't had any problems. Well, she got robbed once, but she handed over the cash drawer and the guy left. Plus, it was quiet a lot, so she had plenty of time to keep up with her studies.
"I don't like it when you keep secrets from me," Blair pouted.
Jo laughed. That hadn't worked on her before, and it wasn't going to work now. "What'cha doin' for the holidays?"
"Oh, the usual, parties, visit the parents, shop. What do you and your mother have planned?"
"Ma's goin' to Florida."
"Oh, that's lovely. You'll have a great time."
"Sure," Jo smiled tightly.
"Any reason you picked Florida?"
"Ma has an aunt in Miami."
"The weather's supposed to be nice."
"You don't seem happy about it."
"No, it's all good." The waitress returned with salads, and Jo dug in to avoid any more conversation.
They talked about other things through dinner. The food was good, and they were relaxed, and Jo didn't argue when Blair took the check. The ride back to Peekskill was nice, too. More houses had lights and decorations, and they took the time to appreciate them.
"TV?" Blair suggested as they entered the kitchen.
"Go find something and I'll make popcorn."
Jo put their coats in the closet and went to the living room. The tree threw enough light that she didn't need to turn on a lamp to see. She ignored the television and went to the fireplace. The fire had been laid for days, but no one had time to enjoy it. Jo took a match from the brass holder and struck it against a hearthstone. She carefully lit the newspaper in three places, then tossed in the match and replaced the fire screen.
By the time Blair arrived with a tray, Jo had moved the coffee table out of the way and thrown pillows and an afghan on the floor.
"Nothin' on TV," she said before Blair could comment.
They stretched out, drinks and popcorn within reach.
"Thanks for dinner."
"Oh, it was my pleasure. I know I sound like a broken record, and it's weird since we live in the same house, but I've missed you, Jo."
"It's not the same, that's for sure."
"When do you leave for Florida?"
"Ma leaves Monday."
"When do you leave?"
"I can't go. I have to work."
"Oh, Jo, I'm sorry." Blair reached over and squeezed Jo's hand.
Jo shrugged. "I'll see her when she gets back." She looked at their hands and smiled a tiny smile.
Blair left her hand where it was. Jo's hand was warm and she wanted to comfort her friend. As much as her parents ignored her, Blair never spent a holiday without one or both of them.
"Why were you drawing me before?"
"The light was lovely. Still is. If you're willing to sit still for a while longer," Blair suggested.
"Thanks." Blair squeezed Jo's hand before letting go and retrieving her sketch pad and charcoal from the kitchen table.
When she came back, Jo was putting another log on the fire. She stood up and replaced the fire screen before turning to Blair. "Where do you want me?"
"Wherever you're comfortable."
Jo nodded and sank onto one of the cushions. "Mind if I take my sweater off?"
Blair sucked her bottom lip in for a second. "I'd like you to take everything off."
Jo got caught in her sweater. When she was untangled, she threw it at Blair, who caught it and shook it out before laying it over the arm of the closest chair. "What?"
"I want to draw you nude."
"Nope. I don't get naked on the first date."
"Is that what this is?"
"What's up with you tonight?"
Blair walked toward Jo, and when she was beside her, turned and dropped to her knees. She flipped two pages back in the pad, to the first drawing she made of Jo a few hours ago. She put the pad in Jo's line of sight, but the other girl turned away. "Why won't you look at it?"
Jo glanced at it, then away. She admired Blair's skill, but something about the way she drew Jo made Jo feel like Blair knew every secret she'd ever had.
"It won't bite," Blair continued.
Jo sighed mentally. She recognized Blair's tone. She could do what was asked of her, or they could have a huge argument over nothing. Doing what Blair wanted was the path of least resistance, and Jo looked at the page. This drawing was, to Jo's eyes, more intimate than any Blair did before. She recognized her own body language, her sadness and fatigue. Blair turned the page, and it was more of the same, this more focused on her body. The final one was of her face. She frowned at it.
"What's wrong?" Blair asked.
"Nothing," Jo answered automatically.
"Joey," Blair chastised gently.
Jo closed her eyes. Blair called her that sometimes, when they were alone. It was something between them, just like the way Jo called her Princess with gruff affection. "You make me look beautiful."
"You are beautiful."
Jo shook her head a little and closed her eyes.
"Look at me, Jo," Blair asked, and waited until she did. "You are beautiful. Whoever told you you aren't was lying."
Jo frowned. Her thoughts raced with her pulse as she wondered again what was happening with her friend. Between them. Until dinner, Jo hadn't realized how much she missed spending time with Blair, how alone she'd felt since graduation. All she'd done for months was trudge through a cycle of work and homework, snatching a few hours of sleep whenever she could. Everything else had fallen away.
Blair reached up and used her thumb to smooth away the crease between Jo's eyebrows. She brought it across Jo's eyebrow, her other fingers grazing Jo's temple, moving down a little until her palm was against Jo's cheek, her thumb at the edge of her lips. Jo was still looking at her, her green eyes bright with anxiety, questions, and confusion. Blair's own confusion was gone, her questions about how she felt and what she wanted answered in part over dinner, more when she came into the living room to find Jo fixing a fire for them instead of looking for something on television, and completely when she touched Jo's face. She brushed her thumb across Jo's full lower lip, and a small smile came to her face when Jo's eyes closed and she leaned a little toward Blair.
Blair moved in to meet her. She kissed Jo gently, slowly, more relieved than she could say when Jo kissed her back. After a time, Jo lay back and brought Blair along so Blair was on top of her, kept there by the warm, slightly rough hand that slid under her sweater to draw lazy circles that made Blair leave Jo's lips and sigh into her neck. Jo's other hand fingered Blair's hair. Jo was warm and relaxed, and her hands continued to move, even as she fought falling asleep. She thought Blair's lips might make the difference, but they were soft and easy against her neck, the slight pressure too little to keep her attention.
When Jo woke, Blair was still on her.
"Sleeping Beauty awakes," Blair smiled.
"I thought I was dreaming."
"Nice save, since you're the first person to ever fall asleep while I was kissing her."
"It definitely wasn't because of that," Jo reassured her.
"Good." Blair kissed her again, and Jo kissed her back, the hand on Blair's back returning to motion, the other going to her face.
This time, Jo escalated things, her tongue darting out to tease Blair's into her mouth, her hand moving the length of Blair's body to caress her butt and back up to Blair's face.
Blair pushed herself up and Jo followed so they were sitting, Blair straddling her thighs. Blair used both hands to separate their faces. Her thumbs stroked Jo's cheeks.
"What?" Jo asked hoarsely.
"I love you."
"I know." Jo pushed toward Blair's face.
Blair somehow held them apart and searched Jo's face.
"I love you, too, Princess," Jo told her, and Blair stopped resisting.
When she felt Jo fading again, Blair stopped kissing her. "We should go to bed."
"I don't wanna move."
Blair smiled and slowly stood up. She held her hand out and Jo took it and got to her feet. Blair tugged gently, and Jo sleepily followed her upstairs.
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