Summary: After years apart a near tragedy brings Jo and Blair together again, and they find they have a lot to be grateful for.
Disclaimers: The characters are not mine, I do not own them, nor do I profit from them, I only borrowed them to come play in my story.
Warning: This story depicts a loving relationship between two women. If this is offensive to you – your on the wrong site, if its is illegal where you live – don't read and consider moving, or if you are under age and your mom checks your computer to see what sites you visit – don't read and change sites, you probably will have some explaining to do.
Comments are always welcome; please send to firstname.lastname@example.org .
October 9, 2011
It was a day just like any other, only it wasn't. Today was Jo's birthday and she was spending it in the hospital. She hated hospitals, the smells, the bright unkind lights, and the endless parade of lost looking people. Jo hated hospitals, except today. Today she had every reason to be grateful for hospitals.
Three Days Earlier
The small television on the far kitchen counter rambled on in the background about the daily news. The noise had become such a familiar sound that no one really paid much attention to it. Blair shuffled papers around on the table to make room for her breakfast as her assistant made a list of all the errands she had to run today. Her schedule today was not terribly busy and she was wondering if she had time to fit a manicure in after lunch. The toaster sprung her golden bread from its scorching restraints and Blair began buttering her toast. Next to her the little television was showing what appeared to be a warehouse in the market district, with police cars and crime scene tape everywhere. She gave it a brief glance as she placed the top back on the crystal butter dish. As she picked up her plate and was about to step away the reporters voice said something that caused her to freeze in place. She looked to the small screen just in time to see the outside of St. Vincent 's hospital.
“Both officers were taken to St. Vincent 's where officer Martin was pronounced dead on arrival. Detective Polniaczek remains in surgery, her condition unknown at this time.”
The sound of shattering china brought Blair's assistant Marika to her feet as she wondered what had happened to cause her oh so meticulous boss to drop the plate. She quickly moved to Blair's side as the woman continued to stare at the television. “Blair, are you okay?” She asked as she bent down to pick up the broken pieces, amazed at how much china could shatter on a tile floor.
Hearing the name Jo Polniaczek had caused Blair to cease all movement. But hearing the girl from her past had been shot caused such a shock she had lost her grip and almost her ability to stand. A hand on her arm had finally snapped her out of the temporary lapse. She could hear her assistant talking to her but could not understand what the girl was saying. The normally pleasant voice sounding like the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons.
It only took a few moments for Blair to spring into action after processing what she had just heard. Being a lawyer and head of a major corporation was minor preparation for dealing with a crisis compared to being raised a Warner. She began spewing out new orders for her assistant and grabbed her cell phone to call for her driver. Moving to the living room she grabbed her purse and keys and was out the door leaving behind a very confused Marika.
The ride to St. Vincent 's seemed to take forever as they crept along in rush hour traffic. Of course New York 's traffic was always rush hour. The time allowed Blair the opportunity to reflect back on the girl she once knew and the woman who had systematically pulled away from her after their graduation when Jo got married and moved to Chicago .
The first year Jo had been gone they had managed to keep in touch fairly regularly with phone calls every few days and letters at least once a week. Then phone calls were not returned promptly, sometimes not at all, and then the letters tapered off until they ceased to arrive at all. After not hearing from her former best friend for a while Blair made a trip to Chicago to look up Jo and find out what was going on. Going to the return address on the letters, Blair was stunned to discover Jo did not live there and had not in quite some time. She remembered returning home feeling hurt, betrayed and foolish. She had been heart broken that her friend had removed herself from Blair's life so completely and deliberately.
Arriving at the hospital Blair was dropped off at the emergency room. She released her driver and made her way through the assemblage of police officers standing around the entrance and followed the trail of uniforms to the information desk. An exhausted looking attendant who was a little more than tense having so many police loitering around her desk looked up to offer Blair assistance.
“I'm here for Jo Polniaczek.” Blair remained cool and calm as she waited for a reply.
The attendant closed her eyes briefly to avoid rolling her eyes at the woman. “Lady, they're all here for Detective Polniaczek.”
“I have to see her.” Blair insisted.
“I'm afraid she's still in surgery.” At the mention of surgery the attendant saw the first crack in Blair's rigid composure. “Are you family?”
Blair nodded her head. “Yes, I am.”
“In that case you can wait in the surgical waiting room.” The woman looked around and called over an officer leaning against the opposite wall. “Sergeant Larson will you show Ms?...”
“Warner.” Blair filled in for her.
“Would you please show Ms Warner to the waiting room, she the detective's family.”
Giving Blair the once over he proceeded to step away from the desk. “This way Ms Warner.”
Thanking the attendant, Blair quietly followed the officer down several corridors. They took the elevator to the second floor where they walked down several more corridors before coming to the small waiting room. The sergeant introduced her to their captain and then went back the way he came after learning there was still no news.
An elderly woman waited with a younger man in the farthest seats. The only other inhabitants of the room were the two officers, Captain Marshall and Lieutenant Peters. Captain Marshall escorted Blair to a seat and took the one next to her. He looked at the woman dressed in a designer suit, designer shoes and handbag, perfect hairdo and nails and wondered how she was related to Polniaczek.
“I hope you don't mind me asking, but how are you related to Jo Ms Warner?”
“Please, call me Blair.” She had not thought about it when she answered the woman at the desk below, but now she had to explain how she was Jo's family. “Jo and I were raised together, we're as close as two sisters can be.”
The captain could tell and evasion when he heard one. “But you're not her sister. You are not listed on her next of kin list.”
Blair remained calm and looked him right in the eye. “No sir, by blood we are not related, but family is not always the one you were born into.” She sat for a moment then realized what the man had said. “Has someone called Rose and Charlie are they here?”
Captain Marshall looked confused. “Who are Rose and Charlie?”
Blair was stunned he would ask such a thing. “They are Jo's parents. You mean they haven't been called?”
Shaking his head the captain's brow deeply creased. This was the first he had heard of any parents. He had gone over Jo's file personally looking for anyone to call, but the notification list in her file was blank. Looking over at the woman next to him he could see she was beginning to get upset. If this were to be the only person to show up claiming to be Jo's family then he would accept it. It made him feel a little better knowing Jo had someone who was concerned for her. “Ms Warner,” she looked at him with pleading eyes, “Blair.” Blair Warner. Putting the name together he suddenly realized whom he was talking to. “Blair Warner? David Warner's daughter? You're David Warner's daughter right?”
Smiling Blair just nodded. “Don't worry Blair as soon as Jo's awake we'll have her tell us how to find Rose and Charlie.” He gave her a reassuring smile then asked Peters if he would mind getting Blair some coffee.
The lieutenant was only too glad to have something to do. Waiting was wearing on his nerves. They had not heard anything since Jo had been taken into surgery other than she was in critical condition.
A team of trauma surgeons worked on Jo for over six hours. In the waiting room Blair was still holding the cup of cold coffee Peters had brought her hours before. The doors leading to the operating area opened and tall man with salt and pepper hair, wearing scrubs exited heading straight for Captain Marshall. Blair finally put her cup down and stood next the two officers to receive news of Jo's condition.
“She pulled through, she had a collapsed lung and we had to remove the spleen, her shoulder was completely shattered. One bullet went right through the joint; we reconstructed it with a titanium replacement. They are taking her to ICU right now. She's critical but stable.”
“One bullet? There was more than one?” Blair was feeling a little dizzy at hearing how badly Jo had been injured.
“I'm sorry, I thought you had been told. She was shot four times.” He began mapping out entry wounds on his own body as if giving an anatomy lesson. “Left shoulder, right lung, spleen, left thigh. The fourth bullet only went through the outer edge of her thigh.”
All the color drained from Blair's face as she began to sway. The doctor reached out a steadying hand as Captain Marshall guided her back into a seat. Peters quickly retrieved a cup of water from the nearby cooler and offered it to Blair. The doctor encouraged her to drink it and take a few moments to regain her balance. He was use to seeing family members faint in this room. The strain of waiting, no matter what the news, was sometimes too much. Once Blair's breathing returned to normal he told her it would be a while before they could go in to see Jo. But as soon as she was settled into ICU someone would be out to take her in.
Peters waited for the doctor to leave before heading downstairs to let his fellow officers know that Polniaczek had pulled through surgery. While the captain waited with Blair to see his detective.
The next half hour seemed to take an eternity. Captain Marshall paced for a while then settled himself against a wall, arms folded across his chest, resigned to waiting. Blair remained seated perfectly still, lost in her own thoughts. Memories of a street tough kid flashed through her. An accelerated movie played out in her minds eye of watching Jo grow from an angry stubborn kid to a kind and caring stubborn adult. Two people could not have been more different than Blair and Jo, but after a rough beginning their friendship grew into the most important relationship in either of their lives. For Blair, Jo had become the single most important person in her life. Jo had purposefully taken that relationship away without Blair's input on the matter. Now through a tragic event of circumstances Jo was back and Blair was determined not to allow her best friend to walk away from her again.
A nurse eventually led the captain and Blair to the ICU. They were shown to a small room among many with a glass front wall and door to make observation of the patients easier. Privacy was not an option in ICU. Blair hesitated before entering, she looked at Jo hooked up to what seem like a mountain of machinery, her ghostly pale skin and lips and the bandaged shoulder sticking out above the thin blanket. She could not help thinking of the image of snow white in her glass casket waiting for her prince to awaken her. Blair felt Captain Marshall's reassuring hand at her back and she pulled herself together and stepped into the small space.
The captain waited at the foot of the bed while Blair moved to the unconscious woman's side. He had seen a many a cop in hospital beds similar to this one and the sight never got any easier. Jo had only transferred into his precinct a year ago, but she had an integrity and strength that he admired. He wished all of his officers had the level of commitment Polniaczek had.
Even with Jo unconscious and looking deathly pale, tubes and wires sticking out of her every where, Blair suddenly felt stronger just being by her side. She was determined to be strong for Jo just as her friend had been for her for so many years. Careful not to disturb the tube taped to Jo's mouth, Blair gently ran light fingertips across the smooth brow. “Hello Jo. What have you gotten yourself into this time?” Her eyes traced every curve and plain of the sleeping woman's face. She was thinner then the last time Blair had seen her and her hair had grown out long like when she was younger. “You always were good at getting into trouble.” Blair could not seem to get her voice above a whisper so she moved closer to Jo's ear. “Please don't leave me again Jo.” She placed a gentle kiss on Jo's forehead before straightening up and nodding to the captain that she was ready to leave.
As they left the room Blair made sure that the nurse who escorted them in knew she would be just outside in the waiting room should anything happen. The ICU waiting room at least had slightly more comfortable chairs instead of the hard plastic ones in the surgical waiting room these had a small amount of padding and were covered in a horrible knobby fabric. Blair ignored all of this as she found a suitable spot to settle into.
Captain Marshall made sure Blair was going to be all right before leaving. He had to get back to the precinct and begin the mountain of paperwork this case would bring to his desk. Reaching into his inside jacket pocket he handed Blair a business card. “I'm afraid I have to get back to the precinct, but please do not hesitate to call me if you need anything. Are you sure you will be okay here, is there anything I can get you before I leave?”
“Thank you Captain Marshall, for everything.” Blair knew it was only because of the captain that she had been allowed such easy access to Jo. “I'll be fine and I will call the minute Jo wakes up.”
“Please, call me John. It has been a pleasure meeting you Ms Warner, I have no doubt Jo is in good hands.” He shook her hand and with a smile left Blair to the quiet of the empty waiting room.
Taking a seat Blair began making a mental list of everything she needed to do. Moving over to the small table that held a telephone she called her assistant and told her to come to the hospital. Next she called her office to let them know she would not be in today and did not know when she would be back. Being the boss certainly had its advantages.
Every half hour she was allowed to stand by Jo's bedside for a few minutes. She would whisper encouragements to the sleeping woman and brush away imaginary strands of hair from her forehead. She made sure to introduce herself to all the personnel at the nurse's station. Blair had learned at a young age that a friendly smile and a charming personality helped to put people at ease and she would therefore have a much easier time getting what she wanted from them. In this case it was extending her time with Jo each visit.
Marika finally arrived and Blair quickly gave her a list of items she would need from home since she had no intention of leaving the hospital while Jo remained there. She wanted gift muffin baskets to be sent to the ER and ICU nurse's stations. And her sister needed to be told where she was. Even though Bailey lived with her they rarely saw each other due their busy schedules. Bailey was a med student at Columbia and Blair was proud of her little sister for foregoing the life of a jet setter to chose a path of substance and meaning. Once Marika had her to-do list she left Blair alone again with the quiet and her memories.
Waiting was not one of Blair Warner's favorite things to do. She had spent too many weekends waiting for one of her parents to visit her or call only to be disappointed again and again. And it had been Jo who always came to her rescue and filled her long days. The feeling of being left behind was something the two girls had in common. Their parents loved them very much, but were not a part of their daily lives and so the girls had turned to each other for that familial bond. No matter how much Jo acted like she did not like Blair or how much they fought, the two knew they could count on each other in their moment of need. Jo had chosen to break that bond years ago. But now, just as before Blair was there by Jo's side in her greatest moment of need. Because no matter what they truly were family.
The night nurse took pity on the former debutant and allowed her to stay in Jo's room as long as she did not get in the way or disturb any of the other patients. Marika brought Blair a small bag of absolute essentials: toothbrush, facial cleanser, make-up, brush, deodorant and a change of clothes. The first night Blair had gratefully changed into the tracksuit and sneakers her assistant had brought and handed the woman her power suit and heels. The next day John had stopped in to check on Jo, he stayed with Blair for a short while, but when it became obvious the woman had rather be at her friends side rather than making small talk with him, he left.
Blair's little sister Bailey stopped by to bring real food and a decent cup of coffee. The girl had looked up to her sister and her sister's best friend growing up. She had always loved spending time with her big sis, but when Jo was along everything was even better. Bailey also remembered the depression Blair had gone into when she could no longer get in touch with Jo. As much as she liked the detective she did not want to see her sister get hurt again, she hoped with all her heart that Jo would prove to be a better friend this time.
Jo had been in the ICU for three days and Blair was now spending almost all of her time by her friend's side. Blair had always had an easy way of talking with people and thanks to her little sister she could speak with some knowledge to the nurses and attendants. She watched attentively when they would clean and change Jo's bandages or IV bags. She was becoming very well versed in all the medical equipment that monitored Jo's every function. There were no bedside chairs in ICU so Blair would spend hours standing, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. She would only take a break when Bailey, John or Marika came to see her. She had no interest in eating and the only sleep she got were the catnaps she managed in the waiting room chairs.
Late afternoon on the third day Blair was standing beside Jo holding the hand of her good arm and mentally willing her friend to wake up. She had her eyes closed and was lightly stroking her thumb over the back of Jo's hand so she missed the first tentative fluttering of eyelids.
Jo had been enjoying her dark resting place, but sensations had started to make their presents known. Her throat felt like a desert and discomfort seemed to be coming from every part of her body. Everywhere except for her right hand, there she felt softness and comfort. Her first attempts at opening her eyes did nothing. Jo concentrated harder and was able to open them to small slits. She rested a moment then tried again, getting them a good halfway open this time. She tried looking around but everything was very fuzzy. Then the blonde that was always in Jo's dreams came into focus. Jo tried to smile at the mirage by her side. She knew she was in a hospital, things must have gone really bad when they went in to catch the ring of sex traffickers, she must have gotten hurt. It was only right that her imaginary Blair would be by her side now, after all she had imagined the woman by her side many time over the years. A sense of peace washed over her and she allowed herself to slide back to her dark resting place.
Blair opened her eyes just as Jo was closing hers and the woman's heart skipped a beat. “Jo? Jo open your eyes again. Jo?” Joe had opened her eyes and she had almost missed it. She looked up to wave to someone, but the day nurse was already on her way in.
“She opened her eyes, it was just for a moment, but she opened her eyes.” Blair excitedly told the nurse as the woman checked all the readouts.
“Her heart rate has picked up a little.” The woman smiled at Blair's anxious face. “That's a good thing. Looks like she might be waking up.” The nurse checked all of Jo's lines and monitors again then exited. In a few moments she was back with a Styrofoam cup of ice chips and a plastic spoon. “When she does wake up she will have a sore throat from the tube we took out and the oxygen is probably drying her out as well. You can give her a few ice chips, but nothing to drink just yet. I'll come back when she wakes up.” The woman slipped out the door as she saw the first sign of relief Blair had shown since she arrived.
Reaching into her pocket Blair pulled out a tube of moisturizer she had been applying to Jo's lips since the breathing tube had been removed, leaving Jo with dry cracked lips. She gently began applying it with the tip of her little finger as she encouraged her friend to wake up. “Jo, it's okay, everything's going to be okay now. I know you're tired and hurt, but you've been asleep for three days now and I'm getting tired of standing here. So won't you please wake up for me, please Joey, wake up for me.” Watching for any movement Blair put the tube back into her pocket and took up holding the pale hand again, gently stroking it to give Jo comfort as well as herself.
One hour later Blair remained holding Jo's hand when the eyes she had not looked away from opened. Blair smiled at the foggy blue eyes and quickly glanced to see if the nurse was around, but the woman had just stepped away to check on another patient. Looking down she watched as Jo's eyes struggled to focus. “Hi Jo.” Her emotions were so close to the surface she could barely speak.
This was the first time Jo's illusion of Blair had spoken with such clarity and emotion. Only this image had very little make up on and her hair was pulled back in a ponytail, the designer dress was replaced with a designer running suit. A warm pressure in her hand made her aware that this was no illusion. “Blair?” She tried to speak but it came out as a strangled croak.
At hearing the scratchy noise Blair reached for the cup of ice only to find it had already melted. A pretty amazing feat she thought considering it felt like a meat locker in here. Just as she was about to go get another cup the nurse walked in with one and handed it to her.
“Just give her a few.” The nurse smiled. “She's finally waking up.” She went over to a monitor and read the screen.
Blair scooped a few chips out and held the spoon to Jo's lips. “Here Jo, just take it easy and suck on these.”
The ice felt like heaven on the sore throat and Jo opened her mouth for more. A few more chips were spooned in and she closed her eyes with relief. Opening them again she stared up at the woman who had haunted her every day since she left eight years ago. “Blair? Is that really you?” Her voice sounded foreign even to her own ears and it hurt like hell to talk, but she had to know if she had finally cracked or if her old friend was truly there.
“Yes Jo, it's me.” Blair continued talking to distract Jo from the nurse who was checking all her vitals. “You've had a lot of people worried about you. I hope you had a nice nap, Samantha here has been working very hard to keep you comfortable.” She smiled at the nurse.
“Detective, how are you feeling?” Nurse Samantha asked as she shined a light in Jo's eyes.
Trying to blink away from the intrusive light, Jo thought it had been much nicer in her dark place. “Well, there's a bright light in my eyes… it hurts when I breathe. Feel like… been used for batting practice.” Her speech was slow and painful, but if she took small breaths it seemed to make it easier.
Blair had moved back to give the nurse room to work, but she never took her eyes off the woman in the bed. The nurse was checking the bandage on Jo's chest. “Do you remember what happened?”
Jo watched as the woman peeled back a piece of tape on her chest and could just make out the ugly red wound. “We were in a warehouse… closing in… gunshots. I felt something burn my leg… door with a padlock … tried to make my way over… but…pain in my chest… that's all.” Her throat was hurting again and she could barely speak anymore. The nurse spooned a few more ice chips into her mouth and Jo just let them melt down her throat.
At that moment the doctor who had been paged the moment Jo had finally woken up walked in. He smiled down at her and walked over to take a closer look. “Detective Polniaczek, I'm Dr. Spencer, I was your surgeon. Glad to see you awake.” He took the print out the nurse handed him and continued to talk to Jo. “You are probably going to be in a little pain for a while. I removed three bullets from you; the fourth one went through your left thigh. One was in your left shoulder, one in your right lung, and one in your spleen, which I had to remove. And you have a whole new shoulder joint now.” He could see the shock on the pale face. “I know that's a lot to take in, but I believe in being up front with my patients. Knowledge is a tool detective.” He glanced in the corner where Blair was trying to make herself as small as possible. “Ms Warner, I see you have become a permanent fixture in our ICU.” He smiled back down at Jo. “You are very lucky to have such a devoted friend. I want to keep you here over night then tomorrow we'll see about getting you a room.” He turned to go giving Blair a small smile. “Ms Warner.” She nodded her head back at him as he left the area.
As the nurse followed the doctor out Blair moved back to Jo's side. The woman looked exhausted as she tried to stay awake. “Why don't you get some more rest Jo?”
Concentrating with all her might, Jo looked up into her favorite brown eyes and noticed the dark circles under them for the first time. She could see strain and exhaustion in Blair's beautiful face. “How long you been here Blair?”
“Since you were brought in three days ago.” Blair reached up and ran the back of her fingers down the pale cheek.
Jo's forehead wrinkled in confusion. “But… how… how did you…”
Smoothing out the wrinkles with her fingers Blair leaned over her friend and whispered. “Shhhh Jo, it's okay, go to sleep, I'll be right here when you wake up. I'm not going anywhere.” She watched as the injured woman's eyelids began to flutter shut. “Happy Birthday Jo.” She whispered again and then kissed the smooth brow. Pulling back she noticed the slightest hint of a smile on the chapped lips. Blair breathed a huge grateful sigh of relief and exited to the nurse's station. She told Samantha she was going to step out for a few minutes and left the ICU. Exiting the care unit she bypassed the waiting room and continued down the hall, walking until she found a quiet and empty alcove. Leaning against the wall Blair finally allowed herself to give in to the barrage of emotions she had been keeping in check since hearing Jo's name on the news. Tears turned into sobs that wracked her entire body as she slid down the wall to the floor. Only now that she knew Jo was out of danger could she let herself be scared. She cried until all the fear was completely expelled and she had nothing left. Exhaustion overwhelmed her leaving her unable to move so she remained sitting on the floor. Thirty minutes later she managed to push up to her feet and make her way back to the unit. Checking to make sure Jo was still asleep; Blair went out to the chair in the far corner of the waiting room and fell asleep.
Just before five am. Blair awoke and looked around. The room was empty and someone had put a blanket over her. Her neck and shoulders were stiff and her back was letting her know in no uncertain terms that it did not approve of sleeping in a chair. She folded the blanket and tried stretching out the kinks in her body before checking in on Jo.
The first thing she noticed was that some of the machines attached to Jo had been removed. The night nurse assured her that Jo had a good night and that she was glad to see Blair had gotten more than an hours sleep herself. With spirits lifted Blair picked up her bag and went to the ladies room down the hall to freshen up. She had a surprising new energy that she had not had the day before and decided to go down the block and pick up coffee and bagels for the nurses that had taken care of Jo while she slept.
It was the first time in days Blair had stepped outside the hospital and she breathed in a deep lungful of the fresh air. Even New York air smelled sweet to her today. In her excited state she bought too much and required the help of one of the shops employees to help her carry everything back to the hospital. The young man was given such a ridiculously large tip that he helped Blair arrange the tables in the waiting room to hold all the food and beverages. Each nurse and attendant gratefully made a trip out to the waiting room for their surprise breakfast. Blair was savoring every drop of her cup of coffee when Mr. Adams walked into the waiting room. She had met him the day before, his wife who was recovering from heart surgery two doors down from Jo. Glad now that she had over bought, she quickly offered him a cup of coffee and smiled at his surprised expression when it was not the horrible stuff the hospital considered an acceptable brew. Picking up her bag Blair left the man to enjoy his breakfast and was glad that all the stressed and worried people she had met in these rooms would have a small treat this morning.
Blair walked in the room just as Jo was waking and she quickly moved to the bedside. “Hey there, morning.” She smiled down at Jo and although she was still very pale, her eyes seemed a little clearer today. When Jo tried to croak a good morning Blair reached for the cup of ice. “You want some ice chips?”
Jo gave a small nod then opened her lips to receive the cool chips. As they quickly melted she could feel the first wave of relief. Two more scoops and she was finally able to speak. “Thanks Blair.” Jo tried to lick her lips to give them some relief as well, but she did not have enough moisture in her mouth to really do anything. Before she could say something Blair was gently rubbing moisturizer on her chapped lips. The feel of Blair's finger on her lips was heavenly in more than one way and she sorely felt the loss when the hand had finished its task. “Thanks.”
“You're welcome Jo.” Blair reached down and held Jo's hand again. “Is there anything I can do for you?” A weak squeeze of her fingers was her only answer as the blue eyes closed once again and Jo drifted back to sleep holding onto Blair's hand.
Just before lunch Jo was moved to a private room that Blair had arranged for her. The department's budget only covered a semi-private so the heiress picked up the remaining tab. The peace and quiet Blair had enjoyed in the ICU was quickly lost when they moved upstairs to the new room. Jo had managed to sleep during most of the move, only occasionally opening her eyes to zero in on Blair then going back to sleep.
The first couple of hours after the move were a constant flow of people coming and going. Marika dropped off a briefcase of paperwork and a suitcase with everything Blair needed to take a shower, her first in three days. New nurses and attendants popped in every ten minutes until they were satisfied that their new patient was properly and comfortably situated. And Captain Marshall was relived to finally be able to talk to his detective.
“Polniaczek, glad to see you're doing better.” He did not know Jo very well and was unsure of exactly what to say. “Everyone's been worried.”
“Thank you sir.” Jo managed, just as unsure of what to say to the man.
“Well, some of the guys will probably stop by tomorrow. Henderson 's been really worried about you. You scared the hell out of him. That's a first.” He gave her a small smile. “Well, I'll let you get some rest. And don't hesitate to call if you need anything.”
“Yes sir, thank you.” Jo nodded.
The captain looked over at Blair who had discreetly moved to one corner of the room. The woman looked so different from the one he met in the surgery waiting room. She was looking slightly rumpled and the dark smudges under her eyes told him she had not been sleeping. He wondered if she had left the hospital at all. He stepped in her direction. “Blair, how are you managing?”
Blair gave him her patented ‘I haven't a care in the world' smile. “Me, I'm fine.”
“Just make sure you take care of yourself as good as you're taking care of Jo.”
A voice from the open door answered for her. “Oh, I will make sure she does just that.” The young blonde smirked at her sister. Walking past the captain, Bailey gave her sister a kiss on the cheek then teased her with a cup of coffee waved under her nose. “I don't know why I'm bringing you this. I should drag you home and make you go to bed instead.”
“Like you could make me do anything.” Blair said as she rescued the cup from being spilled. “You are still just a little squirt.”
The banter continued as the captain watched the two beautiful blondes. “Who you calling little Shorty?” Bailey smirked and wrapped an arm over Blair's shoulder to show she was indeed a full four inches taller than her sister.
From the bed Jo was watching the interchange between Blair and the beautiful blonde she had never seen. As she lay there watching the newcomer wrap an arm around Blair she felt something stir inside. After all this time, after she walked away and cut all ties with Blair, to now see someone else being so familiar and close with her old friend, Jo felt jealous.
Rolling her eyes at Bailey, Blair focused her attention back to the man standing next to her. “I'm sorry John, this is my little sister Bailey. Bailey, this is Captain Marshall.”
He reached out to shake the young woman's hand. “It's a pleasure to meet you Bailey, I see beauty runs in the family.” He smiled at the two women then mock whispered to Bailey. “Keep an eye on this one.” He said pointing to Blair.
“That's my job.” Bailey smiled as she tightened her hold on her sister, laughing at the glare Blair shot her way.
Walking back over to Jo's side Captain Marshall nodded at the woman who was still looking very frail. “Jo, take care of yourself, when you are up for it someone will come by and take your statement.”
The air in the room had seemed to shift when Jo heard who the blonde was; suddenly she felt a little better. “Thanks Cap'n.” She managed a small nod to her boss then directed her attention to the young woman in the room as Captain Marshall left. “Bailey?” Looking closely Jo could now see the child she remembered. Only Bailey Warner was clearly no small child anymore.
Disentangling herself from her sister, Bailey moved to Jo's bedside and placed a hand over Jo's. “Hi Jo. It's been a long time. Boy when you decide to come back into someone's life you sure make a grand entrance.”
“Wow, Bailey. You're all grown up.” Jo drew her eyebrows together confused. “And dressed like a nurse.”
Blair had moved to Jo's other side and placed her coffee on the bedside table. “Bailey is a med student at Columbia , one of their youngest.” She could not help the proud smile she always got when telling anyone about her sister. Picking up a cup of water she held the straw towards Jo. “Take a sip.”
Bailey watched as Jo did as she was told and her sister brushed a strand of hair back from the pale cheek. “Maybe you should be the one in med school.”
“I think one doctor in the family is enough.” Blair said as she returned the cup to the bedside table. Immensely pleased that a slight tint of color had returned to Jo's cheeks, Blair continued to smile down at her.
Bailey and Blair were as close as two sisters could get, but even more than that they were best friends. When the young girl had flew through her schooling in a third the time of regular students and then been accepted to Columbia at fourteen, it was Blair who provided the support and stability she needed to cope with being the youngest student there. And even though Bailey was a little more than half Blair's age the younger sister was fiercely protective of her big sis. She remembered the hurt Blair had felt when Jo began pulling away from her and then the complete emotional shut down when she could no longer find the other woman. As much as Bailey had liked Jo she did not want to see Blair hurt again. Watching her sister carefully she realized it was probably too late for that. Although Blair had never discussed her feelings for Jo with her, she only had to look at her sister to know she was and had always been in love with Jo. She could only hope Jo would show a little more care with Blair's feelings this time. “I'm going to get out of here and let you get some rest. It's good to see you again Jo.” Stepping back she looked at Blair. “Will you come home for dinner tonight?”
Blair had started to shake her head no, but Jo interrupted. “Yes.”
“Jo.” Blair began but was cut off again.
“Blair, you need a decent meal and some rest.” Seeing the resistance in those stubborn brown eyes, Jo tried for their old way of communicating. “You're looking pretty rough there Warner.” When Blair raised an eyebrow at her she continued in a gentler tone. “Blair I want you to go.”
The shift in Blair's attitude could be felt in the room. Addressing her sister, Blair very politely asked if she would mind excusing them. Blair needed a moment alone with Jo. Having recognized that tone and knowing the expression on her sister's face all too well Bailey said good-bye and quickly left. Blair followed her to the door and closed it as the girl exited. She then turned and walked back to Jo's side.
“Blair…” Jo started, but she was quickly stopped by the look she was getting. She tried to swallow, but her throat was suddenly very dry. Noticing the action Blair retrieved the cup of water and held it as Jo drank all she could. “Thanks.” Jo watched as Blair put down the cup and then focused all her attention on the injured woman. Being the receiver of all that focus stopped Jo from any other protest she was about to make.
“You want me to go. Is that what you want Jo? Because I recall the last time you wanted me to go away. Without even talking to me you just disappeared, because it was what you wanted. No phone calls, no letters, no explanations, nothing. Well this time we're going to do what I want. And what I want is to stay. Do you have a problem with that Jo?” Blair waited as Jo, with eyes wide and mouth slack slowly shook her head. “Good.” Blair checked her watch. “Gail should be coming in any minute to check your vitals and then I think you should try and get some rest, you look very tired.” Blair gave the shocked woman her best ‘this is not open for discussion glare' then stepped over to the window to regain her composure. She had no intention of having this discussion while Jo was in such a weak condition. Blair had been angry and hurt at Jo's abandonment of her, but now, right now, all she wanted was to put it behind her and finally have the open and honest conversation with Jo that she should have had all those years ago had she not been so afraid.
And there it was, the past Jo had been trying to run away from for the last eight years. Everything Jo was afraid of stood embodied before her in the perfect frame of a five foot four inch blonde. She had tried to ignore her feelings for her best friend for years while they were in school together. Her marriage to Rick hadn't worked. In a desperate act she cut all ties to Blair in the hope that with no contact she would finally be able to put her feelings for the woman behind her. The last letter she had sent to Blair had been over six years ago and nearly every day since she had thought of the woman. Her plan had failed miserably and so when the position in New York had opened up a year ago, she applied for the transfer. She had both feared and wanted to run into Blair. And her own insecurities had kept her from contacting the woman. Now here stood Blair, just as beautiful and fierce as ever and Jo could say nothing.
She wanted to apologize and ask forgiveness from her old friend, but her fear and her true feelings for Blair stopped her. Exhaustion was crashing over her in waves and Jo had the feeling of being trapped inside her own body. She needed to talk to Blair, but sleep was pulling her backwards until at last the darkness wrapped around her again.
It was the deafening silence that caused Blair to pull herself away from the view of steel and glass. She breathed a sigh of relief at seeing Jo asleep. Alone again with her thoughts, Blair suddenly wished for a distraction. As if on cue the day nurse Gail walked in.
The two women smiled at each other as Gail went to check Jo's IV bag. “How's she doing?” The nurse asked in a soft voice so as not to disturb her patient.
Blair hung back by the foot of the bed as she watched what the woman was doing. She was grateful Gail had been considerate enough to not wake Jo. “She's looking a little better this afternoon. But I think the move and everything wore her out.”
Noticing the suitcase in the corner Gail smiled. “I don't think she will be needing that suitcase anytime soon.”
“Oh, that's mine. I had my assistant bring by some things. I was hoping to take a shower.” Blair said as she realized just how much she was looking forward to a nice hot shower.
Gail moved about checking each monitor and making notes. A quick glance at the blonde allowed her to make a full assessment of Blair. “You been here since she was brought in?” When the woman nodded she could see the fear and hope in her eyes. “We've got lots of hot water here, so take as long a hot shower as you want. And that chair over there has a lever on its side, it lays out almost flat.” With a small smile Gail then left.
Blair moved to Jo's side to tuck the sheets under the sleeping woman's chin and lift the lower part of the sheet, exposing one sock covered foot. Earlier she had noticed Jo's foot fidgeting under the covers and remembered how she had always slept with one foot sticking out. Brushing back the hair from Jo's forehead Blair leaned over and placed a light kiss there. “You're not running away this time Jo, and neither am I.” Stepping back she took a deep breath to hold her emotions in check. Blair retrieved her suitcase then entered the bathroom to take her long awaited shower.
The next time Jo awoke, the room was nestled in darkness. The door was closed to block any noise from the hall and the room was illuminated by the city's glow coming in her window. Something was missing and Jo looked around nervously. Settling on a figure in the corner she smiled at the image of Blair asleep in a chair off to the side. Watching the woman sleep in what could only be an uncomfortable position, Jo realized it had been not seeing Blair the instant she opened her eyes that had caused her the moment of uncertainty. One small flash of panic that Blair had gotten angry enough with her and left.
She was alone, but not, Blair was here by her side and for that Jo was truly grateful. In the quiet of the night without those soft brown eyes focused on her, Jo could think of a thousand things she wanted to say to Blair. Instead she decided to take an assessment of her injuries. Her shoulder was held in place and unable to move, her leg was sore but had mobility, although flexing her thigh caused the soreness to become a sharp pain. It was when she tried to sit up some that her other wounds made themselves known. A pain in her side and chest caused her to let out a small cry and gasp.
Upon hearing the sound Blair was instantly awake and by Jo's side. “What is it Jo? What's wrong? Should I get the nurse?” Blair was trying to check for anything that could be causing Jo pain.
Jo shook her head as she managed to get her breathing back under control. “No, I'm fine, just a wrong move.” She looked up at Blair's worried face. Once again she was causing this woman pain. “I guess that's something I'm good at, making the wrong move.”
There had been a time when the two of them could read each other like a book. But something had gotten in the way. Now they each remained looking at one other, searching for that glimmer if understanding that would let the other in.
Jo held out her good arm, reaching for Blair's hand. She needed that tactile confirmation that Blair was really there and not just another of her imagined musings. “Blair, I'm sorry.” Before the other woman could interrupt her she tightened her grip and continued. “I'm sorry I walked away, I'm sorry I never talked to you. I thought I was doing the right thing, for you, but I was really doing it for me. To make my life easier.” Jo had to catch her breath. She needed to get this out no matter how angry Blair was going to be with her. Momentarily lost in her thoughts she felt fingers briefly flick across her brow.
“And did it Jo? Did it make your life easier? Was I that hard to be around, to have me in your life? Was I that horrible to you?”
“No. No Blair.” Jo tried to sit up again, but searing pain stopped her.
“Stop moving Jo. I can raise the head of the bed up a little for you if you want.” Blair waited for Jo to nod before she adjusted the bed with the remote control.
Sitting up some actually seemed to help Jo breath a little easier. “Thanks.” She looked into the brown eyes that were always her comfort. “Blair you were always hard to live with, but you were also worth every moment. I loved arguing with you and I've never had a better friend.” Taking a slow deep breath Jo committed to finally telling her best friend what she should have years ago. “Blair you were everything to me, and it scared me. I love you Blair, I always have and no matter how hard I try not to, it looks like I always will.”
Blinking away the tears Blair could not believe she was finally hearing the words she had dreamed of coming from Jo. Still holding tight to Jo's hand she reached up with her other to cup the brunette's face. “Do you know how long I have waited to hear you say that? I guess we were both just too afraid back then, but it was always you Jo, even now, it's always been you. I love you.” Leaning over she brought her lips to met Jo's. It was not a demanding kiss, but one of promises, soft and gentle and completely electric. Pulling back just a bit Blair searched the blue eyes that were so intently watching her. “I have missed you so much Joey. I never knew how much I loved you until you were no longer there. Please don't leave me again Jo, I don't think I could take it.”
The world had slipped away and there was no more pain or discomfort or confusion. The years that had separated them vanished. There was only now and this moment when two hearts were finally given the chance to heal and two souls reunited into one. Jo smiled up at the woman she had loved for more than half her life and would continue to love for the rest of it. Here in a hospital room recovering from gunshot wounds that should have killed her, Jo found she was given a second chance. A chance to live the life she had always dreamed of with Blair and for this gift she was deeply grateful. Turning her head she kissed the palm that lay on her cheek. “Thank you Blair for being the extraordinary woman I've always known you to be. And if you will let me, I want to spend the rest of my life with you making up for my stupidity. ” Jo smiled at the beautiful woman who smiled back at her. She wanted to tell Blair so much, but exhaustion was pulling at her once again. Turning into the palm once again Jo allowed sleep to over come her while the feel of delicate fingers pressed into her cheek.
Pressing another kiss to Jo's temple, Blair whispered. “Don't you worry Jo, I'm not letting you go anywhere.” She stayed there holding Jo's hand and face until the brunettes breathing had evened out and she was resting comfortably. Tucking the sheets in again, Blair made her way back to her recliner and managed to fall into a restful sleep. It would be some time before Jo was completely better, but there was no question that Blair would be by her side every step of the way.
Each day Jo regained some of her strength, her color improved and her breathing became a little easier. At least one detective in her squad would stop in once a day to check on her and report back to the station on her progress. Every morning Marika would stop by and exchange overnight bags with Blair, taking away dirty clothes and bringing clean. She would also stop in several times a day to bring or pickup paperwork for the Blonde. For the week Jo remained in the hospital Blair never left her side. In fact Blair had become quite good at changing Jo's bandages and giving her a sponge bath.
Between visitors and Blair catching up on her work and Jo resting, the two talked. The reason Blair could not find Jo's parents Rose or Charlie was because they had each remarried and moved out of state. Rose was in Florida with her husband and Charlie was in Ohio with his new wife and her family. Blair had wanted to call them, but Jo refused to worry them over something that was already done and over with. Unsure what exactly had happened between Jo and her parents, Blair let it go. There would be enough time later to delve into that subject when Jo was feeling stronger.
There were so many questions Blair wanted answers to, questions only Jo could give. So many things she needed to tell Jo. Their alone time in the hospital was proving to be the perfect place to finally get everything out in the open.
“So Jo, what ever happened to Rick? I assume you two are no longer together.” Blair casually asked as she spooned vanilla pudding into Jo's mouth.
Swallowing the mouthful, Jo shook her head. It still surprised her how easy it was to talk to Blair after all this time. “No. We got divorced about six and a half years ago.”
Blair set the cup and spoon down. “That's when you stopped writing.”
The hurt was evident in Blair's eyes so Jo reached out and took the delicate hand in her own. She rubbed small circles with her thumb on the back of the small hand. “Marrying Rick was a mistake. I knew he wanted to move to Chicago and I thought marrying him and moving away would make me not think about you. But I was wrong. That first year was so hard, and then…”
“What happened Jo?”
“Rick got tired of competing with you for my attention. You and I were talking to each other everyday and writing and visiting, that's why I started to pull away. I thought it would make things better, but Rick knew I didn't love him the way I loved you. He told me to go back to New York and tell you. I never told him, but he knew. I was so confused when he left and I was trying so hard not to think about you. So I cut off all communications and joined the police academy, threw myself into my work. Two years ago my mom got married and moved to Florida , we hadn't been speaking for a while. One day she called me, she was so happy, she said it didn't matter anymore, that the only thing that mattered was for me to be happy. It took me awhile to understand, then I started applying for a position back here.” Jo smiled as she gazed into those doe brown eyes. “I guess Ma was right.”
Blair leaned in and kissed the smiling lips, sitting back on the edge of the bed she thread their fingers together. “Why weren't you speaking with Rose? Was it because of your divorce?”
Looking down at their entwined hands Jo slowly continued. “Not really, it was because I told her I preferred women to men.”
“Women? So you…”
Jo did not want to upset Blair, but she wanted to be completely honest. “I've date a few women, nothing serious, nothing meaningful. I kept comparing everyone I met to you. And lets face it, there is no comparison.”
Blair let the complement soothe over any feelings of jealousy she had about Jo being with other women. She was thinking about everything Jo had said and something struck her. “Jo, you've been here for a year. Why didn't you call me?”
It was a question Jo had asked herself everyday. “I wanted to, but what I did was so horrible. I threw away our friendship because of my own irrational fears. I married Rick because I was afraid of how I felt about you, I moved away because I was afraid to be around you, I cut my ties with you because I could not face you finding out how I felt and having you hate me.”
“I could never hate you Jo. I was angry with you, so angry. And hurt. I thought you must have figured out how I felt about you and were so disgusted by it that you didn't want anything to do with me.” Tears escaped to roll down Blair's cheeks and run along her jaw, dripping off her chin onto her green silk shirt leaving dark wet stains.
Jo pulled the crying woman to her as best she could. It was difficult to hold her, but Blair helped by holding most of her weight by bracing her hands on the bed. “I am so sorry Blair, this is all my fault. I am so sorry I hurt you.”
Blair gazed intently into Jo's watery blue eyes. “Just promise me you won't do something that stupid ever again.”
“I promise.” Jo whispered and then sealed the deal with a kiss.
After a week in which Jo surprised her doctor with her recuperating skills, due entirely to the close care and attention she received from a certain blonde, she was released from the hospital with strict instructions to take it easy. She would not be allowed back at work for another month, and then only to light duty. Without protest or at least not a lot of protest, she allowed herself to be taken to Blair's home. Between Blair and Bailey she was getting better attention than she had in the hospital.
Bailey was only too enthusiastic to look after Jo's injuries and Blair watched her like a hawk, making sure she did not over do or strain herself in anyway. After a week at Blair's, Jo needed to go to her own apartment to get some things. Blair finally agreed and called her driver. Accompanying her up to the fifth floor walk up, Blair was stunned when Jo opened the door to her apartment.
Walking in the door and closing it behind her, Blair was unable to move. “Jo? Where's your apartment?”
“This is my apartment Blair.”
“No Jo, this is a closet.” Looking around Blair thought that if she were to lie down she would be able to touch each wall with her fingers and toes. A small twin bed took up most of the space in the front area she was standing in. A small set of plastic shelves stood opposite and held a hot plate, microwave, coffeepot and a few mismatched dishes. A stack of crates at the foot of the bed held clothes and at the far end of the space was a sink, above it a bar held Jo's clothes on hangers. She could see a door just to the side of the sink, it hid the bathroom, a room so small Blair could only imagine it on a cruise ship.
Jo retrieved her suitcase from under the bed and tossed it on the mattress. “I know it's not much, but I'm hardly ever here and the rent's real cheap.”
“You mean someone actually charges you to live here.” Blair moved to Jo's side and made the woman sit down. She began filling the suitcase with all the clothes she could find. After packing all of Jo's clothes she reached inside the bathroom and removed Jo's toiletries, astounded that she did not have to walk inside to reach anything.
Jo tossed the few books and magazines she had been reading in her case then looked around. “There's a couple pair of shoes under the bed, other than that…” She shrugged her good shoulder. Her whole life fit into one suitcase and an overnight bag.
Zipping the case shut, Blair looked around at the few personal items that was all Jo had to show for her life. In the corner she spied an old red metal toolbox and smiled as she stepped over to pick it up. Lifting the suitcase to the floor and extending the handle for easier rolling she placed the toolbox atop the suitcase and looked at Jo. “You ready?”
Looking around one more time, Jo got the feeling she was seeing her place for the last time. She nodded and held the door open for Blair. Grabbing the small rolling bag she exited her apartment. Waiting for them at the top of the stairs was Blair's driver and she gladly handed over her case so she could navigate the stairs at a snails pace. The man easily carried down the two bags, but Jo noticed Blair held onto her toolbox with one hand as she offered the other out to steady Jo.
The next day while Jo napped Blair and her assistant went back over to the tiny apartment and packed the few personal items and files the woman possessed. Jo had never been one for accumulating stuff the way Blair did, but she could not help feeling sad as she looked at the three boxes they had packed. Taking one last look at the empty room and stripped bed Blair closed the door on that chapter of Jo's life.
It had been over a month since Jo was released from the hospital. Blair had gone back to work and Jo was soon to be approved to go back to light duty. When she had been released from the hospital Jo was not sure how things were going to work out, but she let Blair take charge and everything just seemed to fall into place. Living with Blair was as natural as breathing. And having Bailey around made it feel like a real family. They had issues as always, but even arguing with Blair felt right, it felt like home.
Because of Jo's injuries they had not been able to do anything more than snuggle together and kiss. Both women were feeling the strain of being so close and not being able to be physically intimate. It was Friday and Jo had been to the doctor to get a final okay to return to work. Bailey was going away for the weekend so Jo planned a romantic dinner for she and Blair. She made her mother's lasagna and set the table with candles and Blair's favorite flowers. She placed two dozen candles around the bedroom and had soft music playing on the stereo when Blair came home from work.
The first thing Blair smelled as she entered the apartment was the aroma of delicious food. She followed the smell and was completely surprised by the setting before her. The table was set and Jo stood beside it in tailored black trousers and a well cut white silk shirt. The outfit showed off just how trim and muscular Jo really was. Blair thought she had never seen anything so sexy. She matched Jo's smile and walked over to embrace the woman she loved. “And to what do I owe this pleasant surprise?”
Giving Blair a proper welcome home kiss Jo smiled. “You've been taking care of me and doing a great job I might add, so tonight princess I wanted to do something for you.” She kissed Blair again and held her tight. Unable to resist she began peppering the smooth neck with feather light kisses.
The sensation was quickly overwhelming Blair and she pulled back just enough to get Jo's attention. “That feels so good, but I think we should stop.”
“No Blair,” Jo eyes had darkened, “I've waited a long time for you, we've waited a long time. I don't want to wait anymore.”
Blair's head was spinning at the feeling of Jo's body pressed against hers. “But your hurt.”
Jo shook her head. “I'm fine, I'll be careful, but I want you Blair. I love you, will you let me show you how much.”
Later, Blair would not be able to remember exactly how they had gotten from the dinning room to her bedroom. The tiny flames made Blair's hair shine golden and as Jo gently removed her clothes she suddenly felt embarrassed. “Jo,” she stilled the other woman's hands, “I've never…I mean…I haven't…”
With a gentle finger, Jo lifted Blair's chin until they could look into each other's eyes. “You've never been with a woman before. It's okay, we won't do anything you don't want to do.”
“I've…I've never been with anyone before.” Blair looked down embarrassed.
Jo was surprised, shocked even. “Never?”
Blair shook her head as she looked up at Jo. “I've always known what I wanted Jo, it was you or no one.”
Hearing those words sent a heat searing though Jo. She wrapped Blair in her arms and kissed her so completely that it ignited something in the blonde neither expected. Before she knew it Blair had Jo's clothes off and was straddling her waist as she pinned Jo to the bed. Hot kisses scorched her skin as Blair proceeded to explore every inch of Jo's body.
The candles had all burned out as the sun rose and two sweaty and sated bodies curled around each other and fell into a blissful sleep. Sometime after noon Jo awoke to the wonderful sensation of Blair pressed into her side, one leg draped across her hips and blonde hair flowing over her shoulder as the sleeping woman nuzzled her neck. She shifted slightly in order to hold Blair closer if that was even possible. As she began to brush back the golden hair from her lovers face Jo realized just how grateful she was that the worst day of her life had turned into the best thing that had ever happened to her.
Actually, it was just the beginning.
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