Disclaimer: The characters in the story belong to NBC Television, and whoever else has a vested interest in The Facts of Life. No money is being made from this and no copyright infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: This is based on the characters from The Facts of Life because I really like the set-up it offered me, but there is very little that qualifies as canon here. So if you are looking for something that fits strictly with show canon, you're gonna want to keep looking. This is a follow-up to my first Fact of Life story, Friend in Need .
The Storyteller's Cardinal Rule is in effect.
Jo unlocked the door to the home she shared with Blair , dropping keys, wallet and badge on the table put there for expressly that purpose. Though she and Blair had been a couple for quite a while now, the thought that this was *their* home still brought a smile to her face. She and Rick had loved each other after a fashion and had a beautiful daughter together, but it was nothing compared to the love she and Blair felt for one another.
They had sold the brownstone and Blair 's penthouse apartment before their wedding to purchase something together that could be theirs – making their marriage the new start for both of them it was supposed to be. She looked around, taking in the individual pieces of their lives that had been brought together to make a new whole picture and noting all the new things that were part of both of them.
The living room had a casual elegance to it with things they had both agreed on, much to their mutual surprise. They still had very different tastes and ideas, but somehow they had brought it all together to make it work comfortably. There was a tile mural over the fireplace done by a local artist friend of Jo 's and it went well with the old masters' paintings Blair had placed on either side.
One wall and half of another held books and the few trinkets they had picked up on their rare trips together, each of them bringing back a fond memory and a wide smile to Jo's face. Then Jo 's attention wandered over to one wall and her smile faded. It was full of pictures - her and Blair at Eastland and Langley with Natalie , Tootie, Mrs. G, Beverly Anne and even George and Andy , showing how much of a family they had been once upon a time. She crossed her arms over her chest, wondering why they had allowed life and circumstances to drive them all so far apart.
When Jo and Blair had finally confessed their feelings for one another, they kept things between them at first. Not so much because they were in the closet, but more because they were learning to be a couple together. And after thirteen years of separation, there was so much learning to be done. A lot had changed for both of them since their college days and it took effort and hard work on both their parts to make their relationship successful.
They accepted that once their life together became more widely known they would lose a number of friends and associates... anticipated that some of those same people would become nasty and in some cases, even downright hateful. But they had hoped... had expected... that their nearest and dearest friends... the ones they had grown up with at Eastland Academy and into Langley College would be happy for them; would be glad they had finally been honest about their true feelings for one another.
They couldn't have been more wrong. And that discovery hurt them... a lot.
Mrs. G welcomed them warmly into her home, rushing around to put the kettle on for tea and plating cookies before she took a seat with them at the table. It wasn't their first visit with her since Jo's return to their lives, but it was the first time that they were going to show Mrs. G they were a couple.
“So, what brings you girls by to visit an old woman on such a lovely spring day? Surely there are more interesting things you could be doing. Blair, isn't there a sale on somewhere?” she asked with a hint of teasing. “ Jo , don't you have something that needs tinkering on?”
The two younger women chuckled and exchanged glances. During their few prior visits, she had always taken a moment to tease and remind them of themselves from years ago. They only hoped she would remember that when they shared their news with her.
“Actually, we have something we'd like to tell you, Mrs. G,” Jo said as she took Blair 's hands in hers. Mrs. G's eyes widened and she stood up from the table, crossing over to the stove to fiddle with the kettle that was still heating.
“You know,” she said with her back still turned, “I always wondered what made you disappear from our lives for so long, Jo . Now I think it's probably a good thing I never really understood. Some things are meant to stay private. They're really no one else's business.” Blair and Jo looked at each other sadly. Obviously Mrs. G knew what they were going to share and she didn't want to hear it. “So... who's ready for some tea?”
Jo stood and shook her head, holding her hand out and helping Blair from her seat. “We need to be going, Mrs. G,” she said without preface. “We really just stopped by to make sure you were still doing okay, but we can't stay. Like you pointed out, there is shopping to do and bikes to tune up.”
“If that's what you feel you need to do,” Mrs. G said with slumped shoulders.
“Until you remember what you taught me about having an open heart and mind regardless of differences I didn't understand or appreciate... until you can accept Jo and me for what we are to each other, I think it's for the best.” Blair patted Mrs. G's shoulder. “You know how to reach me if you change your mind.”
They had almost arrived at the door before her voice stopped them. “Why?” she asked, finally turning to face them. “Why the two of you? Why now? You were both happily married. What changed?”
“Nothing,” Jo said tersely. “Nothing changed except that I was finally honest with Blair . And for the record, contentment doesn't always equal happiness.”
“ Jo ....”
“No, Princess. I don't mean any disrespect, Mrs. G. You were always good to me, always fair. But you're not being fair about this and I'm not going to apologize to you or anyone else for loving Blair like I do. My only regret is that you can't see past your prejudice to see us as the women we grew into from the girls you remember.”
“That was very eloquent, Joey ,” Blair said after Henry pulled into traffic headed back to the city.
“Yeah. Damn shame it didn't make a difference,” Jo answered softly, looking out the window. Her heart hurt. Given the way she had raised them all to be, she had expected Mrs. G to be more tolerant of them as a couple. Blair curled up around her and cupped a hand over her cheek, gently urging Jo to look at her until she gave in. Tears hovered on the edges of her lashes and Blair leaned forward and kissed Jo tenderly, causing the tears to fall.
“I love you.”
“She'll come around, Jo .”
“I hope so.” She paused. “I hope you never regret what us is costing you.”
Blair sat up until she could slide onto Jo 's lap and cradle her face in both hands. “As long as I have you, Joey... no regrets.”
Jo leaned forward and caught Blair 's lips in a fiery, passionate embrace, pouring all the love she felt for her princess into the kiss. Only when Henry opened the door indicating they were home did they separate, disheveled and breathing heavily.
“Feel better?” Blair asked when she was able to speak normally.
“I think I may need continuous therapy, Dr. Warner ,” Jo replied with a slight twinkle in her eyes.
They emerged from the back of the car and Blair took Jo 's hand. “That can be arranged, Detective,” she assured Jo with a smile. Then she turned to Henry . “That's all for tonight, Henry . I will be staying with Detective Polniaczek.”
Henry nodded discretely and took the car to the garage. Blair and Jo went up the stairs and into the brownstone together.
Tootie – Dorothy as she was now – had been another crushing blow. She and her husband had come to New York for a limited run of a musical revival in which she had a big supporting role. Naturally Blair had made arrangements for her and Jo to attend the opening night, and afterwards they were invited into the chaos that was backstage before being ushered into the relative peace of Tootie's dressing room. She would forever be Tootie to them, no matter her real name.
She took each of them into her arms for a solid hug, holding onto Jo for an especially long time. "I never thought we'd see you again, Jo ," she said with tears in her eyes. "I missed you... we all did... when you left without a word. Why did you?"
"It's a long story, Too... I mean, Dorothy ."
"You can call me Tootie, Jo . It's all you ever knew me as. Why should that change just because we're adults now?" She smiled at them and noted their nervousness. "So what is the story here, you two? Where did you disappear to, Jo and why have you suddenly popped back up? Wait," she added before Jo could take a breath to speak. "Why don't we go somewhere for a late supper?"
"Don't you have an opening night party to attend?"
"Yes, but I can...."
Blair held up her hand. "Why don't you and Richard come by the penthouse in the morning for brunch? Jo is on call, but I'll be there for sure and we'll have time and space to talk."
Tootie nodded. "All right. I'll be there at say... eleven?" Blair nodded and Tootie grinned and opened her arms for another hug. "I can't tell you how excited I am," she said as the embrace ended. "I think this is better than being on stage again."
Jo took Blair 's hand without conscious thought and led them back out the dressing room door. Tootie saw it and a frown crossed her face, then she shrugged it off. The two of them had always been very close before Jo had up and disappeared from their lives. Maybe it was just Jo 's way of reassuring Blair that she wasn't going anywhere; or maybe it was just so they wouldn't get separated in the melee that existed in the backstage area outside her door. Tootie shrugged and put the thought aside. Whatever the reason, it was wonderful to have Jo back in their lives again. She made a mental note to call Natalie in the morning before brunch. She figured her reporter friend would be thrilled to hear the news. It might even bring her home from overseas.
Blair was sitting in the same chair Jo had been when she'd confessed her feelings for Blair months before looking out the penthouse window when Jo arrived home from a particularly nasty call. The phone had rung at four forty-five that morning and here it was, nearly twelve hours later that she was finally getting home. She hated that she'd had to leave Blair alone to explain things to Tootie, but when duty called, she had to go and they both accepted that as part of their lives together.
Jo hung up her coat and crossed to Blair 's side, wondering what could have put her into such deep thought that she didn't even acknowledge Jo 's arrival home. Then she saw the tears slowly rolling down Blair 's beautiful face and knelt down beside her, instantly taking Blair 's hand in her own and waiting for the brown eyes to track to her green ones.
As soon as Blair realized Jo was home, she fell into her arms and the tears started in earnest.
"Princess, what's wrong?" she whispered in the ear closest to her lips. "What happened with Tootie?"
Blair sobbed for a moment longer, then visibly, physically pulled herself together, though she refused to let go of Jo's neck. Jo shifted herself on the floor until she was a little more comfortably situated and then gently rocked them back and forth. Blair took a deep shuddering breath and started to tell Jo about what had happened earlier that day.
"Tootie and Richard came by at eleven, just like we'd planned. I explained to them why you weren't here, and though they were disappointed, they both understood." She took another breath. "Brunch went well enough – we traded stories and gossip... you know, just catching up. Then we came in here so I could tell them your story."
"What happened?" Jo asked again softly, knowing instinctively that this was the cause of Blair 's distress and hating herself for being the reason behind it.
At the bitter tone in Jo 's voice, Blair looked up. "Oh no," she said fiercely. "You don't get to take the blame for what happened. That belongs strictly to Tootie and her close-mindedness. I'm not sure I understand how she has survived in the acting business all these years." Blair stopped speaking and closed her eyes, breathing slowly for a moment before returning her gaze to Jo 's. "She told me she was sorry, but she couldn't accept that from us. That it changed everything between us.”
Jo was silent for a long time, not wanting to release the anger she felt over Tootie's bigotry at Blair ; she'd dealt with enough today. Instead she freed herself from Blair 's grip and stood, extending her hand down and pulling Blair to her feet when she accepted Jo 's hand.
“C'mon, Princess. I'm gonna take you out dancing tonight.” Jo covered Blair 's lips before they could form a protest. “We're not gonna change our lives because Tootie suddenly has issues with us. They're *her* issues, Blair ... not ours.” She smiled gently as she watched Blair make the decision to put the hurt Tootie had caused behind them.
“You're right, sweetheart. As much as I'd hoped... had expected... acceptance from her, there's nothing I can do to change it. It does make me wonder though,” she said as she allowed Jo to lead her down the hall to the master suite.
“What's that, Princess?”
“Why it bothers her... and Mrs. G so badly. Have we really changed that much?”
Jo guided Blair into the bathroom, started a bath and tossing in a handful of bath salts before turning to undress Blair . “I dunno,” she said honestly as she slowly unbuttoned the oxford Blair was wearing. “I don't think so... not fundamentally.” She pushed the shirt off Blair 's body, letting her fingertips trail over soft skin and watching the goosebumps form in the wake of her touch. Jo popped the catch at the front of Blair 's bra, noting that her chest stilled when Jo 's fingers traced lightly around still full breasts. Jo tweaked the pebbled nipples, drawing a sharp gasp from Blair right before Blair twined her hands in the dark hair and pulled Jo 's lips to her.
“You know what?” she whispered when they parted. “I don't care what Tootie thinks. She has no idea what we share,” claiming Jo 's lips again and not even realizing when she was finally naked... until bare skin was rubbing against Jo's still clad body. She pulled away just slightly. “Aren't you a little overdressed?” Jo shook her head.
“This is for you to rel... Shit!!” Jo exclaimed as the tub started to overflow. “Sorry, Blair ,” she muttered. She shut off the flow and rolled up her sleeves to pull the plug. Then Blair stepped in front of her and it was Jo 's turn to stop breathing.
“You want me to relax, sweetheart?” she asked breathily, bending over and carefully removing Jo 's gun and shield. “Plug the tub, Joey . We need to have a little water left.”
“We do? Oh... yeah – we do.” Jo re-plugged the tub while Blair cautiously placed Jo's badge and revolver on the counter. Then she stepped back in front of Jo and began removing her clothing; Jo stood still, readily accepting the attention she knew Blair needed to lavish on her. Then they were climbing into the tub and all thoughts of Tootie and bigotry and hatred were lost in the warmth of the love they shared.
Jo would take care of Tootie later.
Her badge got her backstage with a minimum of fuss and Tootie was smart enough not to make a scene in public. The show was getting good reviews; she did not want to bring bad publicity in by fighting with a distinguished member of the NYPD. So she ushered Jo into her dressing room and shut the door firmly behind them. Then she turned to Jo angrily, but her words died on her lips when she met the hurt and ire that shined back at her from sparking green eyes.
“I didn't come to argue with you, Tootie. I'm gonna say my piece and then I'm gonna leave and as far as I am concerned we never have to cross paths again.” Jo paused and took a deep breath. “You hurt Blair , Tootie – for no reason at all except for your narrow-mindedness and bigotry. She didn't *have* to share with you what we are to each other, but she did because we thought you'd be happy for us. Except for what happens in our bedroom, which is actually none of your business, we are the same people you grew up with. Maybe you should sit down and figure out why our finally coming to terms with the truth of what was between us bothers you so badly.”
Without giving Tootie the opportunity to respond, Jo walked out the door. Tootie sat stunned at the vehemence Jo had just directed at her. Surely she hadn't been so hateful to Blair . Then she put it out of her mind – no matter what Jo said, Tootie felt she'd been honest and fair to them. After all - they'd spent years lying to her... hadn't they?
In the months since they had started dating, Blair had already been snubbed by several of her old money crowd and Jo had been harassed more than once in her workplace. She considered herself extremely lucky that her partner and immediate squad hadn't turned on her. They hadn't been all-encompassing in their acceptance, but most of them gave her a ‘who the hell cares' shrug and went on with their work and for that, Jo was grateful. After being exposed to Tootie's intolerance of them, Jo and Blair were much more hesitant to share with any of their other once-close friends from their growing up years.
However, they didn't want to have to hide what they were to each other to those who had known them best once upon a time. So, after much discussion and a few shared tears, Blair and Jo decided to bite the bullet and take the truth to the rest of the old gang from Eastland Academy and Langley College .
Beverly Ann had been first. She had listened to them, then shook her head. “Well,” she had said. “It's not that I didn't expect something like this – I'm actually surprised it took the two of you this long to figure it out. I'm not sure how to respond, actually. How is Jamie handling all this?”
“If by ‘all this' you mean Blair and me as a couple, she's doing just fine. She and Blair were friends before Blair and I were part of one another's lives again.”
“Well, as long as everyone is happy, I guess this is a good thing.” A beat. “It is a good thing, right?”
Blair couldn't stop the chuckle at Beverly Ann 's uncertainty. “It's a wonderful thing, Beverly Ann . We're very happy together.”
Beverly Ann cocked her head and raised an eyebrow in their direction. “No more fighting then?”
Blair leaned forward conspiratorially and whispered in the older woman's ear. “Better making up.”
Beverly Ann blushed beet red and fanned her face before clearing her throat to speak. “All right, then. A little more information than I needed, but it's good to know you are happy together. May I ask what precipitated this new development?”
“Honesty,” Jo said, but she didn't add anything else, and Beverly Ann nodded, satisfied with the answer. She could tell they were both, but especially Jo , uncomfortable enough sharing something so personal, despite Blair 's earlier teasing. She wondered if it was simply because they were coming out for the first time or if there was more to it. Surely they had talked to Edna first; Beverly Ann decided to call her sister later.
“I'm glad things worked out for you kids. You deserve to be happy.”
“We are Beverly Ann ... thanks.” Then the conversation turned to other things and they visited for another hour or so before Jo and Blair took their leave. They left feeling better about their old friends than they had in a while. And if Beverly Ann had accepted them so easily, they had hope that maybe one day, Mrs. G would come around as well.
Their research found that George had moved to Chicago and Andy was in Seattle , and secretly, Jo was glad. She didn't think George would care so much – he had always been pretty easy going. But Andy was a minister and despite the acceptance Blair 's own pastor had offered them, she was well aware that most men of the cloth were almost vitriolic in their hatred of homosexuals. They had enough of that from people who didn't know them, and Mrs. G's and Tootie's attitudes had only reinforced their defenses in that regard.
That only left Natalie of the old 'family' they had all once been. Unfortunately, Natalie was all over and they didn't want to deliver their news to her over the phone. So they decided to wait until she was back in the States.
Then came a surprise – the kind of surprise they never would have anticipated.
It was a rare day in the City – bright, sunny and cold as a witch's tit. Even rarer was the fact that Jo had the day off and had agreed to go shopping with Blair . To say she'd been surprised when Jo had agreed would have been an understatement, but Blair was bright enough to know better than to look a gift horse in the mouth. So she'd accepted Jo 's answer with a squeal and a hug that had taken them both to the ground in her enthusiasm.
What she didn't know was that Jo was worried about her – Jo knew how social Blair had always been and being snubbed by those she had always considered at least friendly acquaintances had hurt, no matter what she said. So Jo made sure to pay as much extra attention to Blair as her princess could stand without calling her on it.
But Blair wasn't stupid – she knew what Jo was doing and why. But she let her, knowing it was something they both needed. And it was worth it – having Jo in her life again was more than worth the few so-called friends she had lost. Surprisingly, it had not adversely affected enrollment at Eastland; it seemed that parents were more concerned with giving their children a quality education in a stable environment than worrying about who Blair chose to spend her life with. It had been a refreshing change.
However, on this particular day, Blair and Jo were out shopping – or rather, Blair was shopping and Jo was patiently carrying the numerous packages Blair was accumulating. Blair was in her element and she was finding as many things for Jo as she was herself and took great delight in that little fact.
After a while, Jo grew a little restless. She took advantage of the fact that they were completely alone in the section of the store and set the bags at her feet before snaking her arm around Blair 's waist and leaning in to whisper in her ear. "Princess? How much longer?"
"What's the matter, Joey ?" Blair teased as she half-turned to look into the green eyes so close to her. "Is my baby getting tired?"
"And hungry," Jo added, nipping her ear and causing Blair to emit a squeal.
" Jo !"
"Well, well, well," an acerbic voice drawled before Jo could respond. "I'd heard the rumors, of course, but I never expected to see such blatant proof with my own eyes." Both of them stiffened at the sound, but they refused to pull completely away from one another. Instead, Blair clutched Jo 's hand and they turned to face one of their oldest nemeses – Muffy.
" Blair ... Jo ...."
"Muffy," Blair greeted neutrally and waited.
"Congratulations," she finally offered quietly. "I think it's wonderful that you finally found each other."
Blair and Jo blinked and looked at each other in amazement. Of all the people they had known at Eastland, Muffy was the last one they would have expected acceptance from. It had always been her goal in life to torment them, so why this now? She smiled sadly.
"I guess that's a little surprising coming from me, huh?" They nodded and she nodded her acceptance. "What can I say? I grew up and I learned a lot of things the hard way... like what's important and what really matters in life. And what you have together is important – a lot of people never get a first chance to find the kind of love you have... much less a second one." She teared up. "Please don't waste it."
Jo squeezed Blair 's hand and they exchanged a glance. Then Blair turned to Muffy. "We were just going to lunch. Would you like to join us?"
"Seriously?" her eyes widening. "Yes, absolutely."
And in opening their hearts to allow one who had been an enemy in, they found a new friend.
After their run-in with Muffy, things seemed to settle down for them mostly and their status as a couple became a non-issue – expected, accepted but not really talked about either. Business partners didn't care as long as they were making money and the cops Jo worked with realized it didn't change the way she did her job. Even most of Blair's society friends now tended to shrug as if it was no longer of any consequence – Jo was simply included as part of Blair's family though they both knew there was a bit of morbid fascination with them and their supposed lifestyle. To them, it wasn't a lifestyle; it was their life – and they were glad when everyone else finally accepted that.
Finally, though, after all the ups and down with everyone else, they were finally able to catch up with Natalie and the meeting was almost anti-climactic.
When the phone rang in the penthouse, Blair 's heart sped up. Only a very few people who had this number called anymore. Mostly it was for emergencies – if something happened to Jo or Jamie . She picked up the phone with shaking hands, not recognizing the calling number.
" Blair ? It's Nat. I got all your messages and I thought I should call you as soon as possible."
" Natalie ? Um... wow!" blowing out a nervous breath. "You um... you gave me a scare. No one really calls this number anymore unless there is some kind of emergency."
Natalie frowned. Something was up – she would have recognized that from Blair 's tone even without Tootie's bizarre behavior when Natalie mentioned needing to call Blair . "So what's going on Blair ? You could have called my cell or sent an email, but you left messages instead. What gives?"
Blair sighed. "I need to talk to you, Nat, but I prefer to do it face to face. Can you make some time for me?"
"Sure, Blair ; I've got a bit of vacation time coming to me after the last year or so. When?"
"Come into town tomorrow; we can get together for lunch. If you're still talking to me afterwards, you're welcome to stay with me for a few days."
Blair could almost hear Natalie 's eyebrows fly into her hairline and it made her smile wistfully. She was pretty sure, given the way everyone else had reacted that this would be the final tie to their past that she and Jo would be severing and it made her sad. Natalie , Tootie and Mrs. G had been an important, integral part of their past, but them together was the future, and Blair wouldn't change that and neither would Jo .
"All right, Blair ," Nat's voice brought her back to the present. "Say one-thirty at the Plaza?"
"I'll reserve a table for us. Thanks, Natalie ."
"See you tomorrow, Blair ."
The following morning, she and Jo sat at the table eating breakfast together. Jo took a sip of her coffee before looking at Blair and asking, "Do you want me to meet you at the Plaza, Princess or you want me to pick you up at work?"
" Joey , you don't have to...." stopping when two callused fingers covered her lips. She puckered up and kissed them, smiling when Jo shivered in reaction. Jo cleared her throat before speaking.
"Yeah, I do, Princess. I'm not gonna let you go through what you did with Tootie, and given the track record of our old friends, I'm not willing for you to do this with Natalie alone. Now, do you want me to meet you at the Plaza or the Warner building?"
Blair smiled, taking Jo 's hand in hers and kissing the knuckles again. "I love you, you know?"
"Yeah... I love you too. Now, answer my question or I'll bring you to work with me."
"Do I get to be handcuffed to you?"
Jo spewed coffee she had just sipped across the table. " Blair !!"
Blair laughed. "What? It's not like I haven't asked for that before."
Jo blushed. "I know, but we're usually not going out to work either. I'm gonna have that running through my mind all day long."
"Good... that means you'll come home on time."
"God, I hope so. And I'll pick you up at work at one o'clock ."
"I'll let the cap know. I think she'll be all right with it. It's not like I don't have tons of overtime built up. An extra hour at lunch shouldn't be a problem, though with my luck, I'll end up working through dinner to make up for it."
"I hope not; I've got plans for us tonight."
"Keep it up, Warner – we'll both call in sick today."
"And that would be a bad thing how?"
Jo picked up her cell phone and made two very brief calls. Then she picked up Blair and carried her back to their bed. They were glad for a later lunch, and still they were very nearly late meeting Natalie .
She jumped up when Blair approached the table, exchanging a brief, intense hug before Natalie started to reseat herself. A hand on her arm made her hesitate and look into Blair 's brown eyes, noting her nervousness. Natalie arched a brow in question.
"You might want to wait a minute; I think there is someone else you might want to hug." Blair gestured and Natalie turned her attention in the direction she motioned. Natalie just stood still, her jaw dropping open. Jo hesitantly opened her arms for a hug and Natalie almost lifted her off the ground in her exuberance.
"Oh my God, Jo! Where have you been? What are you doing here? How is Jamie ? Where's Rick ?"
Jo reached out and took Blair 's hand. "That is kinda why we invited you to lunch, Nat. There's a lot we need to catch up on, but the most important thing is Blair and I are together." She didn't say anything else, wanting Natalie 's reaction to be honest.
"Finally?! God, what took you two so long? Guess that means I can finally write a happy ending to that part of my great American novel."
"Oh come on, Jo . I was fat, not stupid. You and Blair always had a thing for each other. Your arguing was just strange, rather intense foreplay. Didn't you notice when it changed and became something only the two of you could share – when you became protective of each other to the exclusion of everyone and everything else? Should I tell you my theory on what happened?" not giving them a chance to answer before she continued speaking.
"I figure Jo went with Rick because he was a nice guy that she had a lot in common with and he took her mind off the fact that she was in love with her best friend – a woman she was sure would never return that feeling. When she found out she was pregnant, it gave her the perfect excuse to run. Blair , in the meantime, married a playboy with a name and fortune of his own to satisfy her parents' need for a society pairing. And while she was never unhappy until she found out Tad was cheating on her, she was never happy in her marriage either, dissatisfied with almost every facet of it. Even his cheating didn't touch her heart as much as it stung her pride."
"I don't know what happened to finally bring you two together, but if you're happy, I'm glad it did."
Jo pulled out a chair for Blair , knowing if her knees were shaking, Blair 's would be too. Blair took the unspoken hint and slipped into the seat before she fell into it. Jo went to provide the same courtesy for Natalie but she just shook her head.
"Already done, Jo ," she said, resuming the seat she'd been sitting in when Blair arrived. "Now sit, please. I want to hear everything."
Natalie 's brows creased. "Um... because I haven't seen you guys in forever?"
Jo shook her head. "No... why are you so accepting? It's taken most of the guys I work with a long time to get a grip on this, and a lot of them still haven't managed – they've just learned to ignore it. A lot Blair's society friends are the same way although most of them finally get that this isn't some phase for us and include both our names when inviting her to some do or other. Tootie and Mrs. G don't speak to us anymore. So why are you so okay with us?"
Natalie smiled. "Maybe because it wasn't a surprise for me – I never felt like you were lying to me about things... only yourselves. And traveling the world broadened horizons that were already broad to begin with."
"So Tootie thinks we were lying to her when we were in school together?"
"I dunno," Nat responded honestly. "Probably; she certainly didn't expect it like I did. Actually, it would explain her pique at me as well. She thinks I knew and didn't tell her, although we talked about it more than once back in the day. She didn't believe me then and has conveniently forgotten those late-night conversations now."
"We never lied to either of you then and we only wanted you to know the truth about us now. We thought at least you guys would be happy for us."
"Has it been hard?"
"It hasn't been easy," Blair replied, "But it has been worth it. I just wish...."
"They'll come around, Blair . It may take a little while, but eventually they will realize that all you and Jo did was finally be true to yourselves and each other. Everything will fall into place – you'll see."
Natalie 's words to them then came back to Jo now as she looked around the family room of their home. It hadn't been true... at least not as far as Tootie and Mrs. G were concerned. Though they had been invited, Jo and Blair had been married without them; they celebrated birthdays and anniversaries without them. They had finally come to the conclusion that nothing they could say or do would ever influence their old friends' thinking, and with sadness, they put thoughts of them aside and got on with the business of living their lives together.
There had been more good than bad and the most important person to both of them – Jamie – was their greatest champion. Through her came acceptance from her friends and then their parents and after a while, no one even raised an eyebrow in their direction. And for that, they were both thankful... but it didn't alleviate the hurt they felt at the rejection of their closest friends.
Natalie made it a point to keep in touch with them as often as she could, and whenever she was in town, she stayed with them. Muffy also stayed in contact with them, having found them to be good friends when she gave them a chance to be. So their lives were full to overflowing and Jo smiled when one of her biggest blessings crossed the threshold.
"Mom? Blair ?"
"In the living room, Jamie." Jamie entered the room to find her mom standing in front of the Rogue's Gallery wall and she sighed. Sometimes she wanted nothing more than to take the pictures down, knowing at least some of them were painful reminders of what would never be again. Instead she walked up behind her mother and wrapped her arms around Jo 's waist.
"How did you manage to beat Blair home?" she asked, allowing Jo to turn and return the embrace. "That never happens."
"Rarely," Jo agreed, "but it does happen. She had a late client meeting. I promised her I'd come home and meet you and we'd pick her up for dinner later. So how are things at school? You still enjoying pre-med or...?" leaving the question open-ended.
They headed to the foyer to pick up Jamie 's luggage and Jo led the way upstairs. Jamie shrugged although Jo couldn't see it. "I like it well enough... I really do. I think I would be a great doctor." A pause. "But sometimes I wonder if it was the right choice."
"Still feel the need to draw?"
Jo opened the door to her room and Jamie nodded as she passed her mother to enter. "Constantly," she finally admitted.
"Is it interfering with your studies?"
"Not like you think. I'm maintaining my grades." They laid the luggage on the bed and Jamie went to work putting things away while Jo retreated to lean against the doorjamb.
"But...?" Jo asked after a long silence.
"But my focus isn't as sharp as it was." Jamie sighed. "Sometimes, I just want to pack it all in and go somewhere far away and sit and draw until it's out of my system."
"Maybe you should, Jamie . Maybe you should take some time off school and pursue your art for a while... see where it takes you."
"But I thought...."
Jo took Jamie 's hands in hers and led her to a clear space on the bed. " Jamie , I know things have never been easy between us – we're too much alike. But I never wanted you to study medicine or become a police officer or business mogul because you thought I wanted it. All I've ever wanted is for you to be happy in whatever it is you're doing."
Jamie nodded again. "I know what you're saying; I promise I'll think about it."
Jo nodded. "So tell me how things are otherwise. You and Ryan still an item?"
The conversation turned to the many varied people in Jamie 's social circle. Jo smiled as she realized that her daughter would never be the wallflower she herself had always felt like. And again she blessed the day Blair had returned to their lives.
"So," Jamie asked when her things were put away, "what time are we meeting Blair ?"
"Eight. She got reservations somewhere... Four Seasons, I think."
"Wow... what are we celebrating, I mean besides the obvious?" motioning to the subtle Christmas decorations scattered throughout the house.
"Us being together," Jo said with a smile. "She said that was reason enough."
"Guess I better go get dressed then. I don't think they'd let me in looking like this," motioning to her comfortably worn jeans and ratty looking school jersey. Jo grinned. It was times like this that Jamie reminded her mother of the girl Jo had been when Blair had first entered her life; it made her a little nostalgic. She shook her head.
"Probably not," she agreed, "though we both know Blair would never put up with it. Besides, I think she left something in our closet for you to wear tonight. C'mon. I've gotta change too. You know how Blair feels about appearances and work clothes."
"So we're making an appearance?"
"Nah, but there are always reporters and though we don't make the news like we did when we first became a couple, we still attract attention on slow days." Jo shrugged. "Besides, I like dressing up for her, but don't you dare breathe a word to her."
"What's it worth to you, mom?"
"What's it worth to you for Blair not to know about the bike?"
Jamie 's eyes popped open wide. "How did you...?" She held up a hand. "Never mind. I don't want to know. Now c'mon. I don't want to be late."
Blair 's greeting when they arrived was one of exuberance. But Jamie could plainly see exhaustion and disillusionment behind the façade and wondered what had prompted it. Then they reached the restaurant and suddenly she felt like she knew.
They were greeted like honored guests and Blair accepted it as her due. But Jamie saw some deliberately turn away from them and it made her angry. She had fought this battle before and she knew how wearing it could be. And hers had been brief, relatively speaking. Her friends had thought her two moms were cool and hadn't let their parents badmouth. From the expression in Blair's eyes, this had been going on for a long time, but as if in defiance of those who would look askance in their direction, Blair held onto both Jo and Jamie until they were seated at the one of the restaurant's more prominent tables. And though they did nothing to draw attention to themselves, Jamie couldn't help but notice the stares they attracted.
Still, dinner was a fun affair – as much as she was enjoying school, Jamie had missed spending time with her moms. Even when she had been at Eastland, there had been any number of occasions that she had come to the city for a weekend or Jo and Blair had gone to Peekskill . College was a little different – for one thing, she was farther away and for another, she was an adult and they tried to respect that. So it was good to get back to a place where they could be a family together again.
"So, how is school going, Jamie... really? The last few times we've talked...." Blair broke off, not wanting to accuse Jamie of anything, but curious to know if what she suspected was true. She leaned back and allowed the server to place her appetizer in front of her.
"I'm enjoying it – doing well in my classes and I like most of the profs."
"How did you know?" answering Blair's question with a confirming one of her own. Jo grinned and exchanged glances with Blair who couldn't stop the answering smile that crossed her face. Then she turned to look at Jamie who was watching them with a bemused expression of her own.
"Jamie, you might not be born of my body, but in some ways you are most definitely my daughter. It's not always what you say, but how you say them and what inflection you use. Your art has been a part of you since you were a child – that wouldn't change just because you found other things to engage your interest. Have you considered taking some time off to be the artist you still are at the core of your being? Medicine will still be there if you decide that is your future."
Now Jamie cast a suspicious eye at her parents. "Have you two talked about this already?"
"It might have come up for discussion once or twice," Jo confirmed even as her empty plate was removed. "But only because we want you to be happy, Jamie."
"I'm not unhappy, mom. I really do like medicine. Art just seems to be a passion I can't avoid."
"Then why try?" Blair asked, reaching over and covering Jamie's hand with her own. "Jamie, if it makes you happy, why not indulge it?"
Jamie covered the hand that held hers. "I promise to think about it. What about the two of you – is everything okay?" She and Blair released their grasp on one another as the server returned with their meal... pre-ordering had several advantages – speedier service was only one of them. Blair reached for Jo and found her hand clasped halfway.
"We're fine, sweetheart... why do you ask?"
Jamie picked up her fork and Jo and Blair let go of one another to do the same. Jamie took a bite of her fish and shrugged. "Something is bothering you two."
"What makes you say that?" Blair hedged, cutting her eyes in Jo's direction.
"Blair, I am not stupid. Mom was brooding when I got in and you look like you've lost your best friend. You two aren't breaking up, are you?"
"What?! No!" Jo hissed, though her answer was modulated to keep from drawing attention to them in the middle of the restaurant. "Why would you think such a thing... especially considering everything we have been through to be together??" She put her fork down and took a deep breath. "Jaime, Blair and I are completely committed to one another – I love her," as if that explained everything.
"Then what's wrong? Something is definitely up."
"Nothing really, honey," Blair said, wiping her mouth and picking up her wine glass. "It is just a little harder for us at this time of year."
Jamie could have slapped herself, seeing the residual of sadness in their eyes. "Still no word, huh?"
Blair shook her head sadly before her eyes brightened. "Natalie is coming in for the holidays. She is supposed to be here early Christmas Eve."
Jamie grinned. "Cool. She's always been interesting to talk to. It'll be good to see her again."
Jo looked at Jamie with a twinkle in her eye. "And when have you been talking to Natalie?"
"Oh... here and there since I met her at the reunion," reminding Jo that she had been introduced to Natalie several years before. "We've kept in touch through email. She helped me with a couple of papers while I was at Eastland. She asked to meet Ryan."
The wait staff removed their dinner plates and immediately followed with the chocolate soufflés Blair had ordered for dessert. "I guess that means Christmas will be interesting," Jo commented. Blair snickered.
"It always is with us."
It was much later that evening and Blair and Jo were curled up together in the middle of their big bed. Blair cuddled deeper into Jo 's arms, which tightened reflexively around her. Jo brushed her lips over the blonde head tucked under her chin.
“Compared to what you see on a daily basis... not even close. Just a little disheartening.”
“Sweetheart, I've told you... let it go. They're never gonna change her mind about us, and the only thing continuing to try is gonna do is hurt you.” Jo shifted them until she could look into Blair 's soulful eyes. “Princess, I don't want anything to hurt you… especially not this. You've done all you can do. The rest is up to them.”
Tears filled the brown eyes and Jo reached out a hand to cradle Blair 's face, gently wiping the tear that spilled onto her smooth cheek with her thumb. Blair caught the thumb and kissed it, tasting her tear and the increase in Jo 's heartbeat. “I love you,” she whispered. “You take such good care of me.”
“My privilege, Princess.” She leaned down and kissed the soft lips beneath her, pleasantly surprised by the aggressiveness Blair responded with. Jo drew back slightly, a question in her green eyes.
“Love me, Joey .” And Jo set her mind to making Blair forget everything... except them.
Jamie blinked her eyes open and removed the headphones from her ears. She was thrilled her moms loved one another so much, but like all kids, she still didn't want to hear them doing so so passionately. She looked at her email and read Natalie 's reply again and smiled. Maybe together, they could affect a change to make things right again. She smiled, and closed her eyes again in sleep.
"So, what are you gonna do today, kiddo?" Jo asked as they sat down to breakfast the following morning. Jamie placed the last plate on the table and refilled her coffee cup before taking a seat beside her.
"I thought I'd go do some shopping. Christmas is coming, ya know."
"Yeah, I've heard rumors to that effect," Jo commented as she chewed her eggs. "It would sure go a long way to explaining the decorations that slowly seem to be showing up around here," she commented loud enough for Blair to hear as she crossed the threshold slipping her earring in.
"I'm saving the big stuff for when you're here. Thanks, sweetie," she said to Jamie who handed her a cup of coffee. "Actually, I thought we could do it together tonight."
Jo smiled. "Whenever you want, Princess. I'll be home on time unless something...."
"... comes up at the last minute, I know." Blair leaned over and stole a kiss, letting Jo deepen it until Jamie cleared her throat in embarrassment. "Try, please?"
"I will, sweetheart – you know I will." She turned to Jamie. "You want a ride in, kiddo?"
"No thanks. I'm planning to hop the subway and just sort of...." Jamie shrugged her shoulders.
"You most certainly will not!" Blair exclaimed. "I'll give her a ride in when she's ready, Joey." She waved her hands. "Go on, so you're not late. That way maybe you'll be home on time."
Jo held out her hand. "Walk me to the door." Blair took it and together they went out to the front door. Jamie watched as Blair carefully wrapped the woolen scarf around Jo's neck, then turned away while they shared another intimate embrace. Only when she heard the door close did she turn back from the coffeepot to face a blushing Blair. She felt her own face redden in response.
"I'm sorry, Jamie... I didn't realize you wanted to um... immerse yourself in the ambiance of the city."
Jamie smiled. "I know, Blair... it's all right. Could you maybe give me a ride home? I'm sure I'll have enough bags and boxes by then that the subway won't be a viable option for me."
"You have my number – call when you're ready for Henry to pick you up."
Jamie crossed to Blair and hugged her tightly. "Thanks, Blair... you're the best."
Blair hugged back then pulled away just enough to look into familiar green eyes. She brushed back a lock of dark hair and cupped Jamie's face. "Just remember that when you go shopping for my Christmas present," she said with a twinkle in her brown eyes. Jamie leaned forward and kissed her cheek before pulling away.
"I will. See ya later, Blair," she called, snatching her coat from the rack and heading out the door. Blair watched her go, shaking her head as she thought about how alike the two women in her life really were. Then she put the dishes in the dishwasher and called Henry, ready to start her own day.
Jamie did hop the subway, but instead of immersing herself, she headed straight to the Plaza. She waved to the doorman as she walked in, then went straight to the elevators. When she reached her floor she stepped off and headed to the number she had been given. She knocked and waited, smiling when the door opened and Natalie opened her arms for a hug even as she drew her into her suite and closed the door.
“Hi Jamie. Nice to see you again.”
“Thanks for seeing me, Ms... Natalie . I appreciate it.”
“Jamie, if we can fix the rift that has happened, I'll appreciate it even more than you know.”
“I've got a pretty good idea.”
Natalie smiled wistfully. “Yeah... you probably do, dontcha, kid?” She offered Jamie some breakfast which she declined, though she did accept some juice. Then Natalie sat back with her plate to finish the meal Jamie 's early arrival had interrupted. “So how are things with Jo and Blair ?”
“Wonderful, really – they are obviously very in love with one another and very affectionate... at least in front of me. They are also incredibly protective of each other.”
“They were always that way... protective, I mean... almost from the first. They could be merciless with one another, but let anyone else try it. That's why I never got why it took them so long....” She trailed off. “Sorry, Jamie. Your dad was a great guy and everything....”
“... but Mom and Blair were always meant for each other.” She patted Natalie 's knee. “It's all right, Natalie . That is something I figured out a long time ago. Even my dad knew.” Natalie 's eyes grew wide and Jamie chuckled. “I think he was glad to know there would be someone to look after mom when he died – it gave him a measure of peace.”
“Ya know, you're not the kid I remember meeting years ago.”
“Yeah, don't tell my mom I'm grown up now, will ya? It might break her heart if she can't dress up as Santa Claus.”
That visual sent Natalie into spasms of laughter and she decided breakfast was over. A few minutes later, they headed out together to do Jamie's shopping and continue their conversation.
"So what can we do, Natalie?" Jamie asked some time later as they sat down to lunch in the Plaza again. They had taken Jamie's myriad of bags up to Natalie's room and come back down for lunch and a brief strategy session. "This is hurting them... a lot."
"Well," Natalie said, motioning the waiter to the table. They ordered before she continued speaking. "I think you and I should go talk to Beverly Ann. She might have a reason why Mrs. G acted like she did." She frowned thoughtfully. "I never thought...."
Natalie turned her focus inward for a long moment before returning her gaze to Jamie. "Mrs. G was always the most generous, open-minded women in the world. Something must have happened to cause her to react so badly to Jo and Blair becoming a couple... especially since she still refuses to acknowledge them. Jamie, your mom and Blair were like her own daughters."
"Maybe that is her problem."
Natalie blinked. "It might be, but I think Beverly Ann would be able to tell us for sure."
"Okay... what about...?"
"I'll handle Tootie. I think she's waiting for a reason to change her mind."
"I hope this works," Jamie said as their meals were brought. "It'd be the best Christmas present my moms could get."
Natalie reached over and covered Jamie's hand. "We'll do our best, Jamie. It'd be a great present for all of us."
Beverly Ann's face was a picture of surprise and delight when she realized who was standing on her front stoop. She opened the door and ushered them both inside, taking their coats while running a litany of greetings. Only once she had them inside and seated did she slow down enough to take a deep breath.
"Oh my God, Natalie... what a delightful surprise. And you must be Jo's daughter," looking intently at Jamie. "I'd recognize those eyes anywhere."
"I'm Jamie," she said politely, extending a hand, then yelping when Beverly Ann pulled her into a hug.
"You're also family and we don't shake hands," releasing Jamie with a squeeze. "Now what brings you girls out to see me? I keep in touch with Jo and Blair, but they didn't mention anything about the two of you coming by."
"That's because they didn't know, Beverly Ann," Natalie confided. "I'm not supposed to be in town until Christmas Eve."
"Oh... then why are you here? Not that I'm not thrilled to see you, but...?"
"I came into town early because Jamie asked for my help. She... we both... would like to get Mrs. G and Tootie to reconcile with Jo and Blair. I can handle Tootie – I think she is looking for a reason to apologize. But Mrs. G is another story. She refuses to talk to anyone about it. I thought maybe you might have some ideas."
Beverly Ann sighed. "Oh dear. That might be a little difficult. I didn't realize.... Her problem isn't with Jo and Blair... at least it isn't only with them." She sighed again. "Would you girls like something to drink? This might take a little while."
A few minutes later, they were comfortable ensconced in the kitchen with mugs of hot mulled cider in front of them. Beverly Ann cleared her throat. "This was a long time ago, back when we were young girls - we had a favorite auntie and uncle who doted on us. They were childless and they treated us like we were their kids – taking us places, buying us things, doing things like a family."
"One day, I guess we had to have been close to ten or twelve years old at the time, Aunt Libby announced she and Uncle Carmen no longer loved one another and were getting a divorce. You have to remember in that day and time, divorce was fairly unheard of – couples stayed together regardless of how they felt. However, it wasn't enough that Libby and Carmen divorced – Libby moved in with her best friend, Louise."
"Now to be fair, what happened next was as much our fault as it was Libby's. You see, it wasn't uncommon for two unmarried women to share expenses by living together then and they were best friends – we didn't even blink when they did so. And we had always just walked right in whenever we'd gone to visit Libby and Carmen – you know, not calling ahead or knocking to warn them and we never thought about needing to do so when we went to visit Libby and Louise."
"You didn't," Natalie said flatly. Beverly Ann nodded.
"We most certainly did. Walked in on the two of them making love with each other on the kitchen table. That was probably the closest I came to getting any sort of sex education."
"It didn't bother you?" Jamie asked curiously.
"Not really. I mean... it was a little shocking; I never knew two women could be together like that until that moment. But it only made me curious – not furious like it did Edna. She was pissed. She felt like Libby had been lying to us our whole lives and that she had betrayed the whole family by divorcing Carmen to be with Louise." Beverly Ann sighed again. "I'm really not sure how she worked it out in her own mind, but I do know she never once acknowledged Libby's existence again... even when Libby asked to see her when she was on her deathbed."
"Ouch," Natalie winced. "That's harsh."
Beverly Ann nodded. "It's also true."
Jamie covered her face with her hands for a long minute before removing them and looking at both older women. "So this is hopeless?"
"Maybe not hopeless, but definitely difficult. We'll have to get past the fact that Blair divorced Tad *and* that she feels they lied to her all those years."
"That is the stupidest thing I ever heard," Natalie grumbled. "The only people Jo and Blair were lying to back then was themselves." She rubbed a hand over her face. "Maybe I should dig up some of my journals... I know I wrote bits about them. They were great character studies."
"I'd like to go with you when you go," Beverly Ann announced.
"That's fine with me," Jamie said and Natalie nodded her agreement. "When?"
Natalie consulted her watch. "Not tonight," she said with a glance at Jamie. "We don't want you getting in so late your mom calls out the whole of the NYPD looking for you. Besides, I'm gonna see if I can touch base with Dorothy tonight. How about first thing in the morning? We could be out here by... eight o'clock ? Then we could go to Mrs. G's together."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Beverly Ann concurred. Jamie just nodded.
"Good... then it's settled. Now we need to get back to town so Jamie can get home." The three of them rose and Beverly Ann accompanied them to the door.
"You two be careful getting back and I'll see you bright and early." She gave them each another hug. "Good night."
They waved their goodbyes and headed back into town.
Jo opened the door as Jamie stumbled across the threshold, arms laden with bags. She and Natalie had managed to acquire a respectable amount of merchandise to make it appear Jamie had been shopping all day. Jo just raised her eyebrows and reached to help, only to have Jamie virtually slap her hands away.
"Ya know, Henry would have helped you with all that if you won't let me."
"I know, but I'm used to doing it on my own. I mean, no one's at school with me."
"Good point. You hungry? I think Blair had fried chicken prepared tonight."
Jamie grinned. "For fried chicken... I'd be hungry even if I had just finished eating dinner. But for the record, I'm starving."
Jo closed the door behind her and shooed Jamie towards the stairs. "Then go put your bags away and come back down to the kitchen. We'll be waiting for you."
"Thanks mom," and she scrambled up the stairs to her room. Jo watched her go and shook her head, heading into the kitchen where Blair was setting the last of the food on the table.
"What are you shaking your head at, detective?"
"Our kid... she might be mine by birth, but she is definitely yours by trait. She musta gone in every single store in the shopping district. She keeps that up, she's gonna need a job to support her habit."
Blair grinned. "Nice to know I rubbed off on her a little bit." Jo waggled her eyebrows.
"You can rub on me later," she promised, leaning down for a kiss that didn't end until Jamie stood in the doorway clearing her throat.
"Don't you two ever stop?"
"Hey, we're being good," Jo complained.
"Besides," Blair added impishly. "It took us a long time to get started. We have a lot of catching up to do." They took their seats around the table.
"As long as you're both happy," Jamie confessed, loading her plate, "I'm cool with it."
Jo just watched in amazement as Jamie piled things on. "I wanna know how you can eat like that and still be as little as you are. There oughta be a law." Blair and Jamie looked at one another in disbelief, then deliberately let their gazes rake Jo's sleek, muscular form. "What?" she whined after a minute of unnerving observation.
"Honey, remind me to point out a few things to you tonight when we are alone. For now, let's just say Jamie is definitely your daughter and leave it at that."
"I don't eat like that!"
"Not now, but I remember the kid you were when you were Jamie's age, sweetheart. You were eating as often as you could just to keep up... especially when you had some sport or other going on."
"So you're saying shopping is like playing sports?"
"It can be," Blair said airily. "Do you realize the effort and energy it takes to go like that all day... to say nothing of carrying all those bags??"
Jo cleared her throat and crossed her arms over her chest before looking at Blair with a smirk. "Yeah, baby... I do know. I'm the one who carries those bags for you, remember? I was doing it long, long before we ever actually became an official couple." Blair had the grace to blush, but she held Jo's gaze with a twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her lips.
"Point taken, detective. Now eat... your daughter may have used up her energy before dinner, but you're going to need yours later."
"Guys!!" from Jamie.
"I'm just saying...."
"Blair!!" Mother and daughter blushed – Blair just laughed. Dinner had never been so much fun.
"She's such a good kid," Blair commented as she and Jo got ready for bed later that evening. Jamie had pled exhaustion earlier and the upstairs had been quiet shortly thereafter. "I'm glad she's comfortable with us. I'm not sure I could remember not to love you like I do in our home."
"I wouldn't want you to," Jo confessed, "not even if she wasn't comfortable with us. But you're right... she is a good kid. I hope she figures out what she wants to do."
"She will, Joey... have a little faith. She's your daughter."
"She's *our* daughter, Blair. You held us together as a family during some of the roughest days we had... when we weren't technically even a family yet. I know she thinks of you as her second mom."
"Does she really?" Blair called out from the bathroom. "I mean I know she kind of refers to me that way to her friends, but I never wanted her to think I was trying to take Rick's place as her other parent."
"She doesn't think you're taking his place. She thinks you're her mom on your own merit, sweetheart," Jo assured Blair, thinking of the gift she and Jamie had discussed several weeks earlier. She slid beneath the covers and settled in to wait for Blair to finish up, knowing it would be a few more minutes before the nightly ritual was complete.
Blair came out of the bathroom bundled in a warm robe. Jo looked over the glasses she had donned to read the book she had and wondered briefly what had happened to needing her energy for playtime later. Blair picked up her brush and began her habit of carefully brushing out her hair and putting moisturizer on a still unlined face. Jo watched her for a long moment before giving her a smile and a shake of her head before returning her attention to her book. Blair caught her motion in the mirror and then turned to face her.
"Nothing. I was just thinking how many times I sat and watched you do the same thing every night. It never got old for me."
"Even when you were ragging on me about it?"
Jo cocked an eyebrow. "Why do you think I was ragging??"
Blair smirked. "Ooh... I think that kind of confession deserves a reward, don't you, detective?" She stood from the small stool and lifted a hand to the knot of her belt. She crooked a finger, coaxing Jo to the end of the bed as she stepped forward to stand between Jo's legs. "Maybe you should help," picking up Jo's hand and putting it on the knot.
"Are you prepared to put up that kind of reward necessary for such a confession?" Jo asked as she loosened the knot with one hand while stroking Blair's hip with the other. The knot loosened and Jo eased the robe opened, sucking in her breath at the sight that met her eyes. She looked up and met the brown that had gone nearly black in passion and green darkened in response. "I think this might require some intense investigation, Princess."
Blair shimmied out of the robe, standing in front of Jo in sheer lace and silk. "I'm at your disposal, detective." She rested her arms on Jo's shoulders and move so close Jo could feel the heat of her skin against her lips. Blair leaned forward. "All. Night. Long."
Jo pulled Blair down onto her lap and proceeded to start an investigation that would last until the wee hours of the morning. Blair just smiled and gave herself up to the machinations of her lover, knowing that she would get her turn... in time.
Jamie left a note for her parents before she left the next morning. Given their conversation the night before, Jamie wasn't surprised they weren't up yet, but thanks to good earplugs, she was merely guessing. With a grin, she headed out to meet with Natalie, hoping she had good news.
When Jamie left Natalie at the Plaza, Natalie made a phone call, then settled into the lobby to wait for her visitor. It took longer than she expected, but eventually, Tootie crossed the threshold and hesitated, looking around for her lifelong best friend. Her eyes lit up with delight when they landed on Natalie and Natalie's grin was warm and welcoming.
They met in the middle of the lobby, embracing for a long moment before pulling apart and linking arms before Natalie steered them in the direction of the restaurant. Tootie went along willingly. Though they kept in regular touch with email and phone calls, she and Natalie had not had much real face time to spend together in a long time.
"Is everything all right, Too... Dorothy ?” Natalie asked after they had ordered. She covered Tootie's hand in concern. "You look tired."
"I am a little, Nat. It's been a busy year for me."
"I know," Natalie smiled. "I've kept up with your career. You've done some fabulous things here lately."
"So have you – you've become quite the world traveler."
Nat twirled her hair around and waggled her eyebrows. “Ah, yes... a true woman of the world.” She dropped her pose. “There have been a few places I would have been just as happy not to have spent quite so much time in, although those were the places I got my best stories in too.”
Tootie's eyes widened. “I know. I always offered up extra prayers for you on those assignments. I don't know how they made you feel, but they scared me to death.”
“Some more than others,” Natalie agreed, though her eyes told a more thorough tale than would ever cross her lips... or her computer screen. “But it made me a better person, I like to think.”
Tootie cocked her head. “Oh I don't know, Nat. You were a pretty awesome person to start with.”
“Well, I like to think we all were... growing up together helped make us that way.”
“Yeah, but what happened after that....” Tootie shook her head and dropped her eyes.
Natalie reached across the table and covered Tootie's hand with her own. “What happened, Tootie?" reverting to the intimacy of the nickname she had gone by all those years. “What happened to make you think so differently of two women who you counted among your closest friends? And please don't tell me it's because you're suddenly homophobic – you couldn't have survived in your profession... much less been successful... as the homophobe you are now.”
“I am *not* a homophobe!” Tootie protested, pulling her hands from beneath Natalie 's and crossing her arms over her chest. “I've never been a homophobe.”
“So what then?” Natalie asked sternly. “If you're not a homophobe, what is your issue with Jo and Blair ??” She crossed her own arms and glared, softening slightly at the pained, defensive look that crept into Tootie's dark eyes. Natalie leaned forward. “Tootie... they were our best friends. How could you just turn your back on them because they were finally honest with each other?”
“That's just it, Nat! They lied to us... all those years they lied to us about everything!”
Natalie smiled gently. “No, Tootie. They never lied to us; they told the truth as far as they knew it to be – despite the love they shared even then, there was nothing but friendship between them. It was never admitted... never consummated; I don't think Blair even realized it was a possibility then, as much as she liked to believe she was a woman of the world.” She paused. “They told us the truth after they admitted it to one another.”
“That can't be right....” her voice flat.
“Why? Because it puts you in the wrong? Tootie... Dorothy – think about this a minute. We talked about this when we were in school... or at least I did and you pooh-poohed every suggestion I made about them being a couple. You were actually right – they *weren't* a couple then. But I was also right – they loved one another. It just took them both a long time to come to terms with it... especially considering that they were *in love*.”
The waiter discretely interrupted them long enough to place their food in front of them, then backed away, sensing the tension between them. Tootie picked up her fork and toyed with her salad a moment before turning her attention back to Natalie .
“Do you really believe that?”
Natalie held her gaze. “I know it to be a fact.”
Tootie refocused on her plate, slowly decimating her food methodically while she thought over their conversation. “So what do I do now, Nat? I was hateful to Blair, and Jo reamed me out; we haven't spoken in several years. I can't believe they could just forget that.”
“Not right away, no,” Natalie confirmed honestly. "It isn't something that goes away overnight. But they would forgive you, Tootie.” Tootie looked at her dubiously and Natalie continued speaking. “Let me tell you a secret, my friend – it still hurts them that you and Mrs. G rejected them for whatever reason... so much so that Jamie came to me on her own for help in facilitating a reconciliation. I told her I would try, because I think it's as important for you and Mrs. G as it is for Jo and Blair. We were a family once, Tootie – in some ways we still are. They need to know they're still a part of it."
"They were always the core of our family – that's why it hurt so much to think that they'd lied to me about something so important, ya know?"
"The real question then Tootie, is how do you feel now? What do you want to happen?"
"If I thought I had a chance for forgiveness, I'd ask for it. I'd like to be part of the family again. I've missed you guys so much." Tears formed in her eyes but she refused to allow them to fall.
"Then you come with me on Christmas Eve – they'll welcome you with open arms... you'll see."
Tootie nodded. "All right; I'll tell Richard to go to his mother's without me this year. I think this is more important."
"And besides, she drives you nuts."
Tootie laughed, releasing the tension that had built up in her chest and allowing the tears to spill down her cheeks before she could catch them with her napkin. "There is always that."
Natalie chuckled and gestured at her plate vigorously with her fork. "Eat... they have a killer cheesecake here and you know the rule."
Tootie gave her a wry look. "You'd think as grown women we could get around the 'no dessert til your plate's clean' thing."
"Yeah, but with my luck, I'd try it when Mrs. G was looking. Then I'd never hear the end of it."
They laughed again, and the wait staff relaxed as the atmosphere around them eased. That was more like the Christmas spirit they expected folks to have at this time of year. Natalie was just glad she would have good news for Jamie on the morrow... especially since she expected Mrs. G to be a much more difficult prospect than Tootie was.
“So...?” Jamie asked as she opened the car door. Natalie just smiled at her.
“There'll be at least one surprise guest joining us for Christmas this year.”
Jamie pumped her arm. “Yes!” she hissed, then leaned over and hugged Natalie . “Thank you, Natalie . I can't tell you what this means.”
Natalie returned the embrace. “You don't have to, Jamie . I know what it means to me.” She pulled back and put the car in gear. “Let's go see if we can round up the rest of this wayward family. I want a real Christmas this year... with all of us.”
Jo blinked her eyes open, glad it was Saturday and she was not on duty. It meant she could stay comfortably curled around Blair 's warm, naked body until they were ready to get out of bed. Jo felt movement coming from the body beneath her hand as Blair slowly came to wakefulness and she smiled as she nuzzled into the blonde hair.
“Good morning,” she whispered with a kiss to the back of Blair 's neck. She enjoyed the shiver that ran through her frame. Blair rolled onto her back, forcing Jo to adjust over her, then she wrapped her arms around Jo's neck.
“Good morning.” she replied with a satisfied smile. They shared a brief kiss. “I guess we should get up and share breakfast with our daughter,” she said, drawing a delighted smile from Jo . “What?”
“You said ‘*our* daughter'.”
Blair blinked. “I... I always thought of her that way. And after what you said last night....” Her words were cut off by the big hug Jo bestowed on her. Instead she returned the embrace as fiercely as she could. “Guess that makes you happy, huh?”
“More than you know, sweetheart. It makes us even more a family.” She kissed Blair again, then pulled them both into a sitting position. “C'mon. This calls for waffles.” Blair grinned. Jo only fixed waffles when she was in an extremely good mood.
They got up and got dressed, then headed down to the kitchen, expecting to find Jamie there after her early night. Instead, they found the coffeepot ready to go and a note propped up beside it.
Out with friends. Back later.
Jo frowned and Blair crossed over to wrap her arms around her waist. “Guess this means we will have to start celebrating without her,” planting small kisses up the open vee of Jo 's robe heading towards her jaw line. Jo 's eyebrow cocked.
“Oh really? What'd you have in mind there, Princess?” tilting her head to allow Blair better access. Blair pulled back to look into Jo 's eyes.
“Shopping, of course,” she said impishly, watching the frown return. She slid her hands up Jo 's chest to tangle them in her hair. “After a nice, long, hot shower together.” Jo smiled reluctantly when they finally released one another's lips to breathe again.
“You take shameless advantage of me, Princess.”
“You love it, Grease Monkey,” taking Jo 's hand and leading her out of the kitchen and back up the stairs to their room.
“ Natalie ! What a delightful surprise!” Mrs. G welcomed when she opened the door. She extended her arms for a hug and Natalie was quick to oblige her. “Come in... come in,” she invited, and only then did she realize that Natalie wasn't alone. “ Beverly Ann ? And who is this?” not recognizing Jamie right off. She ushered them inside before taking a closer look at Jamie , then she glared at Natalie with narrowed eyes. Nat blithely ignored her and reintroduced them.
“Mrs. G – this is Jamie Bonner ... Jo's daughter. Jamie – you remember Mrs. G. ”
“Yes, I do,” she responded, extending her hand. Edna hesitated, but good manners forced her to accept the gesture, however briefly. “So what can I do for you?” motioning them to seats but not offering any hospitality.
“Well first you could offer us some coffee,” Beverly Ann instructed. Edna glared at her, but rose to the occasion like the good hostess she was.
“Of course... let me go put on a fresh pot.” Beverly Ann stood with her.
“I'll help,” taking her sister by the elbow and leading her into the kitchen. Edna snatched her hand away as soon as the door swung closed.
“How dare you....”
“Get over yourself, Edna . These kids have come to talk to you and you're damn well going to listen. You've held this grudge too long – it's time you let it go and moved on with your life.”
“You don't understand,” she hissed, then found her lips covered by Beverly Ann 's fingers.
“Don't,” she commanded softly. “I understand all too well. You're blaming Jo and Blair for something that has nothing to do with them. Now you put aside whatever issue you think you have with them and come out and listen to Natalie and Jamie . They deserve better.”
Edna set cups on the tray and added milk and sugar. Then she poured the fresh brewed coffee into the insulated pot and gather up some fresh muffins. “Let's go,” she commanded wearily. And together the two sisters stepped back into the living room where Natalie and Jamie waited.
"So what can I do for you two girls?" Edna asked again, but this time her tone was a little more receptive. Natalie looked at Jamie, knowing she wanted to speak to the formidable woman first.
"I would like you to consider spending Christmas with us... as a family." She held up her hands before Edna could respond. "I don't know why you're angry at my parents, but I do know that your actions and your attitude towards them hurts them a lot. And they don't deserve that."
"Mrs. G," Natalie cut in, "despite what you and Tootie seem to think, Jo and Blair never lied to us... only each other. Jo never told Blair how she felt back then – instead she married Rick and left Peekskill with him. They were married for thirteen years – until Rick collapsed from a massive heart attack and died. And Blair? Blair married Tad and was faithful to him for ten years. Then she found out he had been screwing around on her behind her back for years. That's the reason they got divorced. He was the one that walked out of the marriage – not Blair."
"Still doesn't make what they did right."
"It doesn't make it wrong either," Jamie cut in decisively. "Mrs. G, my mothers love one another very much and it took thirteen years of separation and heartache for them to admit it to each other. Why is it so wrong for them to be happy together now?"
"I don't... I...." Natalie covered her hand.
"Mrs. G, Jo and Blair are the same girls you practically raised – the same ones who lived with you for years. The only difference now is that they are grown women who have admitted the love they always shared but never confessed to one another. Is it so wrong that they found happiness in each other because they were finally honest?"
Edna slid her hand from Natalie's and stood, crossing over to stand in front of the window unseeing. "I don't know," she finally said after a prolonged silence. "I... it just feels like...." She shook her head. "I don't know," she said again. "I just don't know."
Natalie rose and went to stand behind her old guardian, placing gentle hands on her shoulders. "Mrs. G, instead of making snap judgments because of things that happened to you as a child, why not consider the women involved here? Do you really think they are nothing more than liars and cheats?" She paused and squeezed the aged shoulders tenderly. "It all comes down to what you know and believe about them as people. You're the only one that can decide that."
Natalie dropped her hands and turned back to Jamie and Beverly Ann. "I think we should head back... give Edna some time alone to process everything." She opened her purse and pulled out a card. "I know you have them," speaking to Edna again, "but just in case...." She placed the card on the table and stepped into the foyer to retrieve her coat. Jamie followed suit.
Beverly Ann shook her head at their unvoiced question. "I think I'll stay here. There are some things Edna and I need to settle. I can take a cab home."
Natalie nodded her understanding, then she and Jamie headed out into the cold and back towards the city.
Jo got called in early Sunday morning so Blair and Jamie had some time alone together. Jamie was in the kitchen when Blair came down, and together they prepared breakfast.
"I've missed this," Blair confessed as they sat down to the table. "This always used to be my favorite part of the weekends you were home."
"Mine too... especially when Mom made waffles. I miss her waffles."
"Yeah, she was planning on making them today before she got called in."
"Does that still happen a lot?"
Blair shook her head. "Not often. But it still happens more than I'd like."
"Probably more than she does. Does it bother you to be a cop's wife?"
"No, Jamie," Blair said. "Jo loves her job... and she's good at it. And I'd never ask her to change that – it's part of who she is. I just wish there was a way to schedule these things a little better. I mean... couldn't this have waited until *after* the holidays?"
Jamie chuckled. "It would be nice if murderers and the like could follow some sort of considerate schedule that would take into account the fact that police officers have lives and families."
"Exactly," Blair agreed. She finished her breakfast and rose to refill their coffee cups. "In the meantime, would you like to go to the museum or something?"
"You don't want to finish decorating?"
Blair shook her head. "I promised Jo we were going to wait for her. We were supposed to do it today, as a matter of fact." Blonde brows furrowed. "It almost makes me think she masterminded the whole call to get out of it."
"Well, maybe we could go to the museum and then see if she's available for lunch. Then we can kidnap her and bring her home to decorate."
Brown eyes twinkled. "Oh, Jamie... I do like the way you think. Meet me back down here in thirty minutes and we'll head out."
"I'll be waiting."
The museum was wonderful and Blair was reminded again how very similar she and Jamie were in a lot of ways. They appreciated the old masters much more than the modern artists and made no bones about discussing things they liked and disliked about each one. It took most of the morning and when they decided it was time to hunt up Jo, they discovered she had left the precinct less than thirty minutes before.
They headed home by mutual consent, only to find Jo hadn't arrived. Jamie decided to fix grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, and Blair was happy to let her. She knew that would bring Jo home – though she had never figured out how Jo knew, every time Jamie fixed those particular foods, Jo always managed to slide into the table just as they were ready to be eaten. It made Blair wonder if there was some sort of cosmic connection between those foods and Jo's stomach or if it was some sort of 'mom sense' that made Jo aware of when Jamie made an effort in the kitchen. Blair could remember several times when that had been the way things got talked about and smoothed over during some of their more volatile encounters.
Right on cue, the front door opened and Jo called out, "Hi, honey... I'm home."
Blair looked at Jamie. "That's uncanny, you know." Jamie raised an eyebrow and Blair continued. "Without fail, grilled cheese and tomato soup brings your mom home when you prepare it."
Before Jamie could reply, Jo stepped into the kitchen and made a show of sniffing the air. "Smells good in here," kissing Jamie's cheek and then turning to Blair. Blair just arched an eyebrow.
"I come in second now?"
"Nope... I thought you might appreciate more than a brush of lips, but if you... mmph...." Jo stopped speaking when Blair's lips covered hers.
"All right, you two – lunch is ready. That can wait until after we eat and finish decorating this place."
Blair backed off slowly and looked at Jo with smoky eyes. "You've got a bossy kid, you know that?"
"No way, Princess. The bossy she gets from you." Blair planted her hands on her hips and drew in a breath to retort, but before she could manage, Jamie's voice cut in.
"The bossiness is a natural talent I inherited from mom that has been nurtured by Blair's natural talent. Now both of you sit down – it's time to eat!" Jo and Blair looked at one another then turned to look at Jamie before bursting into laughter. Then they took their seats and dug into the food Jamie had prepared.
The afternoon and evening were spent decorating their home – lights and garland and the tree. They brought their gifts down and placed them under the tree, then Jo stood there shaking her head. She put her arms around her two girls and hugged them to her. Then she walked them over to the couch and together they sat to watch the flames that crackled in the fireplace.
"Just counting my blessing, Princess. Nothing under that tree is as precious as what I have right here. Nothing could make this Christmas any better."
Jamie smiled. She knew something that would.
They were all up early Christmas Eve morning – each for their own reasons. Blair wanted to prepare breakfast for the three of them and Jo followed like she always did to keep an eye on things. Not that Blair couldn't cook when she set her mind to it and focused, but too many times she was distracted from her labors. And Jo had learned to be on hand to keep an eye on things.
Of course, Blair did that knowing that Jo would come down with her. And Jo knew Blair allowed herself to be distracted so Jo would come downstairs to keep her company. So it worked out to everyone's benefit.
For her part, Jamie didn't want to miss the look on her moms' faces when Natalie showed up with Tootie. She could only hope that Beverly Ann would be bringing Edna with her. But first....
A knock on the door caused Jo and Blair to look at one another wrapped in robes, then towards the stairs as Jamie pounded down them. "I got it," she called out unnecessarily. They figured it was Natalie – she was the only person they were expecting for certain, but she had never come over so early before. Still, it wasn't like she had never seen them in their pajamas before.
Jo turned back to the griddle to monitor the waffles she'd been suckered into making and Blair reached into the cabinet to get another plate to set on the table. They could hear soft exclamations and muttering when Jamie opened the door to allow their guest in and they exchanged smiles. They were looking forward to Natalie 's visit – she always brought good cheer and interesting gossip.
Jamie cleared her throat and they turned simultaneously to face her standing in the doorway. “Guys, Natalie is here,” stepping aside and allowing Natalie to come into the kitchen with a squeal and open arms. Blair stepped into the hug first and they rocked briefly before they pulled apart.
“It's so good to see you, Nat,” Blair gushed. “You look great! New man in your life?” knowing Natalie 's propensity to change boyfriends like she changed clothes.
Natalie grinned. “Nah... old woman,” giggling at the expression on Blair's face. She turned to Jo and accepted her hug. “How are you guys? I'm sorry to be so early, but I was here and I couldn't wait any longer.”
“You're always welcome here, Nat,” Jo assured. “You know that.”
“Besides,” Blair added, “I want to hear about this old woman in your life.”
“Actually,” Natalie said, suddenly subdued, “I brought her with me for you guys to meet.”
Jo and Blair barely blinked at the news; they exchanged brief glances and nodded at Natalie . “Absolutely,” Blair assured her. “The more the merrier.”
“Great... be right back.” She disappeared out the door and Blair and Jo traded looks again before Jo took a batch of waffles off the griddle while Blair reached for yet another place setting. Jo had just added more batter to the waffle maker when Natalie appeared back in the doorway and cleared her throat to get their attention. Jamie took a place in the far corner to watch things play out.
“ Jo ... Blair – I'd like to introduce you to the old woman in my life.” She reached out and pulled the woman to her. “This is my friend Tootie.”
Stunned silence for a few seconds before Blair gave a shuddering breath and gasped, “Tootie?”
Tootie met Blair 's eyes and Blair stepped forward hesitantly. She opened her arms and Tootie rushed into them, holding on tightly and whispering apologies into Blair 's ear. Jo 's and Natalie 's eyes met, equally tear-filled and they smiled shakily at one another before watching a reunion they had both hoped for but never expected.
Blair and Tootie pulled apart and brown eyes met squarely. “Can you forgive me, Blair ? I was unfair to you and Jo because I thought you'd lied to me. I should have paid more attention.”
“Oh Too... Dorothy....” She stopped when Tootie rested a hand on her arm.
“It's okay, Blair,” she said with a smile. “I've accepted the fact that I will always be Tootie to you guys. Adulthood can't change a lifetime of habit.”
Blair reached out and they hugged again. “Welcome home,” she whispered. Tootie squeezed her tightly for a moment then let go, turning to face Jo . This was actually harder than apologizing to Blair ; Jo had called her on her bigotry and she had to admit that Jo had been right. No matter the reason behind it, she had been bigoted against women she had called friends for years.
Tootie lifted a hand towards Jo and Jo took it and pulled Tootie to her, engulfing her in an embrace that Tootie returned wholeheartedly. "Merry Christmas, Tootie... welcome back."
"Thank you, Jo – I've really missed being here. I'm sorry it took me so long to come around."
"We're just glad you did – Jamie!!" lurching into Tootie's embrace as her daughter pushed by her roughly. Jo turned to glare at her then realized why Jamie had moved her out of the way. She turned to motion to the other women to the table. "Take a seat – I think breakfast is ready."
"And not burned, thanks to me," Jamie muttered, but still loud enough for Jo to hear. Jo swung and lightly smacked the back of her daughter's head, much to the amusement of the rest of the women at the table. "Never appreciated," she grumbled, rubbing her head.
"Siddown," Jo directed, brushing a kiss over Jamie's temple and putting the stack of waffles on the table. She poured coffee and they settled in to having breakfast together as a family for the first time in years. Soon, laughter rang out around the table, just as it had before they'd gone their separate ways.
The day passed wonderfully – after Blair and Jo showered and dressed, the five of them trooped out into the cold. Henry met them with the car and drove them to Rockefeller Center where they spent several hours skating before eating a late lunch. It started to snow and they called Henry, deciding they would rather spend the rest of the day in the comfort of Blair's and Jo's home than out in the weather.
So it was a laughing, noisy group of women that stood shaking snowflakes from their hair as they removed outerwear in the foyer before moving into the living room that Jo had been brooding in only days before. Tootie walked in first, gasping almost soundlessly when she saw the wall of pictures. She went over to it slowly, reaching out and tracing the pictures of memories of days long past. Natalie came up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder.
"Really takes you back, huh?"
Tootie nodded. "God, some days I don't remember being this young," motioning to a picture of her with pigtails and roller skates. "Where did the time go?"
"You think that's bad...." Jo stated as she came up on her other side. "You should have to listen to your kid give fashion critiques of your clothes."
"Our daughter is very perceptive, sweetheart. She gets that from me, you know." Tootie and Natalie exchanged raised eyebrows and mouthed 'our daughter' at each other before they turned to Jo and Blair who were comfortably entwined around each other.
"Is there something about Jamie's parentage you two would like to share with us?"
Blair flushed red for her perceived faux pas, but before Jo could put her at ease or answer the two of them, Jamie stepped into the breach.
"Actually," she said as she placed the tray of hot cider on the table. "There's something about my parentage that *I* would like to share with all of you... except mom, of course. She already knows." Blair turned to look at Jo, but other than the blush that covered Jo's face, she couldn't see enough of Jo's expression to even guess at what Jamie was talking about. Blair clasped Jo's hand in support, a little surprised by the force with which it was returned, then following Jo to the loveseat they generally shared together in this room. Tootie and Natalie remained near the pictures, close enough to see and hear but far enough away to qualify as simple observers.
"Okay, Jamie," Blair said after she and Jo were comfortably seated. "What's up? I've never seen your mother so embarrassed about anything before, so I'm a little curious."
Jamie smiled at Blair's nervous babbling and waited for her to finish before she spoke. "She's not embarrassed, Blair... she's a little nervous about your reaction to her keeping this a secret, I think. See, I asked her about doing this months ago, but it took so long...." Jamie stopped and blew out a breath, now herself a little nervous about her audacity.
Blair looked between them – first to Jamie and then Jo. This time Jo met her eyes and she drew in a breath at the love that was reflected back at her. "Jo?"
Jo smiled. "It's a good thing, Blair, I promise. I wouldn't have kept it a secret from you otherwise."
"Will somebody spill it already??"
"Yeah, we're dying over here!"
Jo, Blair and Jamie looked at their two friends before turning back to each other and bursting into laughter. It diffused the awkwardness that had been lingering in the room, and Jo turned to her daughter.
"Just do, it, kid... it'll be all right," finding her normal confidence once more.
Jamie moved from where she'd been standing in front of the fireplace and went out into the hall for a long moment. When she returned, she held a long, official-looking envelope that she twirled in her fingers for a moment. "It might be easier just to show you," she said, passing the paper to Blair and walking back to the fireplace to stare into the flames.
Blair looked at Jo with confusion and Jo gestured to the envelope.
"Open it," she urged softly.
She did so with shaking hands, turning it over and slipping out a sheaf of documents that were even more official-looking than the envelope had been. Blair unfolded them slowly, skimming through them and gasping at what she thought she read. She clutched Jo's hand and looked between her and Jamie, then turned to Jo again to see the slow nod of her head. She couldn't stop the tears the formed in her eyes and she bit her lip to stop them from falling as her attention returned to the papers she held in now shaking hands.
"Are you sure?" she finally asked as she finished reading them through thoroughly. "I mean...."
"Blair," Jamie said from the fireplace. "Mother...."
With that word, Blair opened her arms and Jamie fell into them. Jo wrapped her arms around her girls and held onto both of them with silent strength, kissing first the blonde head and then the brunette. Tootie and Natalie watched the entire tableau with wide eyes. "Mother?" they repeated quietly, looking at one another briefly before turning back to the family unit in front of them. Jo looked over at them.
"Jamie came to me a while back and asked if we could adopt Blair." This elicited a chuckled from the two women she was embracing. "She told me that she thought of Blair as her second mom – that she had for a long time... even called her as much to her friends. Jamie wanted to make it official, but she didn't want Blair to feel obligated to adopt her."
Blair jerked in Jo's arms and shifted enough so that she was able to cradle Jamie's face in her hands. "Oh, sweetheart... I would have adopted you a long time ago if I hadn't thought you'd resent me for trying to take Rick's place. I've thought of you as mine since you brought your mom back into my life."
"Yes, really. I always thought of us as a family. I could only hope that one day you would too."
"I have from the time since you told me how you felt about Mom. I just didn't know how you'd feel about instant motherhood, so...."
Blair smiled and leaned forward to kiss Jamie's forehead. "Just for the record then, I would love to be adopted by my two favorite women in the whole world – with all the rights and privileges that contains. I would count it an honor to have you call me Mother."
"Wow," Tootie whispered to Nat. "I'm so glad I didn't miss this."
"Me too," turning back to what had suddenly become a pillow fight – Blair and Jamie against Jo. Both wondered what Jo had said to garner such a reaction, and then it didn't matter as an erstwhile pillow flying in their direction brought them into the battle with great enthusiasm and their squeals could be heard for blocks.
The two slow-moving shadows approaching the noisy house stopped when they heard the raucous noise from where they stood.
"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," the shorter said to the taller one. "Maybe we should come back another time... you know, when they're not so busy."
"Edna," Beverly Ann said with a dramatic sigh. "There won't be a better time. They'll be thrilled to see you."
"I hope so. I've been a fool."
"Yes," Beverly Ann agreed bluntly, "but even old fools can learn to just be old friends again." She tugged on the hand tucked into her arm. "Now c'mon. We're not getting any younger standing out here and I imagine it is warmer inside."
With determined steps, Beverly Ann and Edna plodded up to the door and rang the bell. Then they waited patiently for someone to come to the door.
From the bottom of the dog pile where she had landed to keep Blair from landing too hard on the floor when Natalie's and Tootie's sudden participation in the pillow fight had pushed them from the couch to the floor, Jo struggled to get past her laughter to whistle for a time out. Unfortunately, Blair's squirming on top of her was making it almost impossible. Then without warning, the pile disappeared and Jo looked up from her spot on the floor.
"Okay, not that I'm complaining...."
Blair extended a hand down at her while shrugging gracefully. "I don't know. Natalie was on the top of everyone and when she disappeared, Tootie and Jamie chased after her." Jo grinned and took Blair's hand, pulling her down and into Jo's lap with a squeal.
"Good," Jo said, nuzzling her neck. "That means we have a few minutes alone," trailing her lips up one side of Blair's neck and smiling at the ease with which Blair capitulated to their mutual desire even as she protested vocally.
"Joey, we can't... they'll be back here in a minute or two." She turned in Jo's arms and turned to face her, wrapping her arms around Jo's neck. "And I always want more than a minute or two with you. You know that," smiling as she leaned forward. Jo met her halfway. They were so involved in their kiss, they never realized they had an audience.
Slowly they pulled apart, eyes opening and never losing sight of one another. "Can I tell you how amazing it is to love you – to know that you love me and are willing to share your daughter with me?" Blair asked quietly as she traced the planes of Jo's face.
Jo captured Blair's hands and brought them to her lips. "Our daughter, sweetheart – Jamie made that choice on her own. And loving you was something I couldn't stop... something I never wanted to stop. I'm just glad you decided you could love me."
"I think I always did," Blair whispered, but their audience heard.
"I think you did too."
The unexpected voice cause Jo and Blair to look away from one another and forced their attention to the owner of the voice.
"Mrs. G?" neither of them moving from their spot on the floor, though their hands clenched reflexively around one another. Edna moved from her spot by the door after a rather forceful prod from her sister and the other four women stayed in the doorway watching. Edna looked down at the floor when she reached the spot where Jo and Blair still sat, biting her lip before raising her eyes to meet their gaze.
“I'm sorry,” she said simply. “I was a foolish old woman and my reaction to something that should have been perfectly clear to all of us was uncalled for. Forgive me?”
Blair rose from Jo 's lap and Jo stood up beside her with an arm around her waist, extending the other towards Mrs. G. Without hesitation, Edna stepped forward into the embrace, wrapping both arms around the women she thought of as her children. With a squeal, Natalie and Tootie joined them, and for a long moment, there was a massive group hug. Beverly Ann touched Jamie 's arm and the younger woman looked up at her with a question in her eyes.
“How about if we reheat that cider?”
Jamie nodded and gathered up the tray unnoticed by the five women wrapped around one another. She led Beverly Ann into the kitchen and together they poured the cider back into the pot and started reheating it. Jamie went to the pantry to find more cinnamon and cloves while Beverly Ann added more cider from the jug Jamie passed her. They worked in silence for a few minutes until Jamie was satisfied it was perfect, then they leaned back against the counter, crossing their arms over their chests while they waited for it to heat.
“You and Natalie did a good thing, you know,” Beverly Ann commented, breaking the silence. “I would have never gotten her to come back on my own; I could never find out what the problem was. Your moms never said and Edna refused to talk about it.”
“I'm just glad it worked.”
“So am I, kid... so am I.”
Meanwhile, Jo had retreated to her favorite chair and Blair had taken her position on the arm leaning against Jo with their arms draped casually around each other. Mrs. G had taken the chair opposite them and Nat and Tootie had curled up in the corners of the couch.
“So what changed your mind, Mrs. G?” Jo asked after a moment's silence.
She motioned towards the couch. “ Natalie brought your daughter to see me, and Jamie made me realize how unfair I was being to all of you. I raised you girls better than that, and yet here I was harboring a prejudice against you and Blair for something that, as Natalie pointed out, was part of both of you from the very beginning of your relationship... even when you were at your most antagonistic. The difference now was you were finally honest with one another about it.”
“But what turned you against us, Mrs. G?” Blair asked softly, leaning back into Jo 's reassuring touch.
Edna dropped her head and shook it sadly before meeting their eyes once more. “It had nothing to do with you girls. It had to do with bad memories from my childhood – I just allowed them to dictate my actions, and I am sorry for losing so much time with all of you. I knew that you can't stop love – I should have remembered that instead of turning my back on you because you finally embraced it.”
Tootie slipped from her place and knelt beside Edna 's chair, taking her hand and covering it with her own. “I did the same thing Mrs. G, because I thought they had lied to me for years. And yet, when I realized that I was wrong, they welcomed me back into their lives and home.”
Edna cupped Tootie's face with her free hand and smiled at her. “I always knew I had raised smart girls.” She turned back to Jo and Blair . “I'm just glad they grew up smarter and more understanding than I was.” Jamie and Beverly Ann chose that moment to walk back through the door with cider and cake and the atmosphere went from serious to a party, filled with love and laughter and shared memories. Jamie grabbed the camera to ensure they remembered the new ones they were making.
Much later, everyone was comfortably bunked down in the spare rooms and Jo and Blair stopped by Jamie 's room to say goodnight. She opened the door at their knock and couldn't stop her grin when she was surrounded by both moms in a crushing hug.
“Thank you, baby girl,” Blair whispered. “You made this the best Christmas....”
“Yeah... you did good, kiddo.”
Jamie didn't answer except to return the hug and kiss both moms on the cheek. They took the hint, seeing the flush of embarrassment going up her face. They returned her kiss, each to one side, then Jo took Blair's hand and led her up the stairs to their room.
“This really has been the best Christmas,” Blair commented some short time later when she was sitting at the dressing table doing her nightly ritual before joining Jo in bed.
“And it isn't over,” Jo said as she watched Blair count the brush strokes. “Tomorrow, the house will be full – Ryan and his family, Muffy... I think Tootie even called Richard to come and some of the guys are planning to stop by. We still have mass and presents....”
“I know,” Blair agreed, turning from the mirror to look at Jo directly. “But my heart couldn't be fuller than it is right at this moment,” standing and removing her robe. She smiled at Jo's indrawn breath. "I've already gotten the very best presents I could ever receive."
“Oh, I dunno, Princess. I'm thinking we could probably add to what's already there.” Jo stood and crossed behind her, letting her fingertips trail over the bare skin she was presented with before her hands traced the silk bits hiding some of her more favorite parts. She smiled as goosebumps followed her touch and when Blair shivered, Jo added her lips to the mix.
"You think so, Grease Monkey?" her voice breathy. Blair tilted her head to once side and gripped the arm wrapped around her middle even as the hand continued to tease and explore her breasts.
"You heard Mrs. G, Princess – you can't stop love."
Blair turned in Jo's arms and wrapped her arms around Jo's shoulders, tangling her hands in the dark hair and scratching her neck. She smiled when Jo purred her pleasure at the sensation.
"Oh, baby... I've got no intention of stopping," pulling her hands from Jo's body and slithering across the bed until she was draped over the pillows at the head. Then she crooked her finger. "C'mere, Joey. It's time for you to open the first of your presents."
Jo dropped her pajamas, reveling in the look of desire and lust Blair gave her. Then she stalked up Blair's body and gently removed the remaining bits of red lace, dropping them onto the floor and bringing her body in contact with Blair's. Then she moved until their lips were just touching.
"Merry Christmas, Princess."
"Merry Christmas, Joey."
Then the night was given over to celebrating in the most precious and intimate way they knew how. The rest of the house slept, glad that Mrs. G had been right – you can't stop love. And because Jo and Blair had never stopped loving one another or them, they were a family once more. Christmas would never be quite the same for any of them again.
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