Title: Just a Genuine Something in My Misery

Author: Harper

Email: Xfjnky2@yahoo.com

Fandom: Facts of Life

Pairing: Jo/Blair

Rating: PG-13ish

Archiving: It'll be at http://www.realmoftheshadow.com/harper.htm. Should anyone else be interested, please drop me a note and ask.

Disclaimers: I don't own these characters and I haven't made any money off of this little endeavor. No infringement is intended.

A/N: As usual, this is un-beta'd. As per what seems to be usual these days, its in first person, told from Blair's perspective. And as usual, I'd love to hear from you. Xfjnky2@yahoo.com… that's me.

At first I didn't understand what was going on. After all, it just wasn't something that I'd ever contemplated, that I'd ever even considered was possible. Had someone sat me down and explained it all, I still wouldn't have understood. It would have been like trying to tell me that a Princess could decide that she loves the frog more than the Prince, which just never happened in any fairy tale that I'd ever read. Princesses kissed frogs in hopes that they would turn into a Prince so that they both could live happily ever after. Princesses didn't find the frog preferable to the Prince, just as they didn't lust after their ladies in waiting to the exclusion of foregoing frog hunting completely.

So, understandably, it took me a while to figure it out. The first thing I noticed was that I seemed to be spending far too much time focusing on the fashion models in my magazines rather than the fashions themselves. Easy to rationalize away though. What woman didn't like to look at other beautiful women and wish that they had their cheekbones or their hair or their long legs? So what if every once in a while a particularly sultry look beaming out at me from the pages of Vogue would send little shivers of arousal through my abdomen. Like I said, these were beautiful women. It just simply couldn't be helped.

But then I noticed that I wasn't simply looking at the beautiful women on the pages anymore. I was looking at the women around me, admiring pouty lips and long silky hair and the sleek curve of breasts. Which, naturally, sent me into a bit of a panic because not only was I now staring lasciviously at my female counterparts, I was also beginning to focus on one in particular.

Dark brown, almost black, hair and warm blue eyes coupled with the arch of her cheekbones, the straight line of her nose, and the lush fullness of her lips made her almost irresistibly attractive. So much so that I was deathly afraid that one day she'd catch me in my new favorite past-time… Jo-watching.

I started dreaming about her. There wasn't much that I knew about relations between the fairer sex, but I did run across a videotape of my Dad's while lazing away the afternoon at the Penthouse one day. Okay, I'll admit that I was intentionally searching for the tapes that he was convinced he'd managed to hide from me, but at first I couldn't figure out what could be so bad about a vampire flick that he'd feel the need to stash it away with his copy of 9 ½ weeks.

It didn't take me long to learn. When I saw them together, Catharine Denevue and Susan Sarandon, I knew that what I was seeing was right. Right for me, that is. It was so beautiful, the meeting of soft curves and smooth skin, and just the sight of the two of them together aroused me more than even the most scorching kiss I'd ever received from one of my many dates.

Of course, it also helped pump up the intensity of my dreams. Instead of the two actresses twining together under lazy shafts of sunlight, I'd see Jo and I wrapped around one another. Instead of Susan Sarandon's dark eyes, I'd see slivers of blue peering up at me from my breast, and my nocturnal wanderings became much, much more intriguing. Unfortunately, that wasn't the best thing that could have happened. Because, you see, my lust was nothing if unrequited.

Sure I'd heard the whispers about her, the rumors circulating through various cells on campus that claimed that the object of my affection and lust pastured on the strictly female side of the fence, but I'd never really seen any evidence of it. In fact, she'd gone through a litany of guys, some of her relationships seemingly very serious. Of course, the little part of me that continued to believe that there might be hope that one day I could lure her in reminded me that I'd done the same. In fact, I was quite certain that my dating record would bury hers were we to compare boy-toys that had passed through our respective lives.

Still though, I didn't see any indication that my interest was returned. All we ever seemed to do was fight. Always picking at one another, usually at my instigation though she won her fair share of the verbal battles. Not that the little skirmishes kept her from being my best friend, however. If I had a problem, it wasn't Mrs. G or Tootie or Nat that helped me out, and if I was in trouble, it wasn't them there picking up the pieces… no, it was Jo. I couldn't count the number of times she'd let her bad girl attitude slide when we were together in private, exposing a much softer, much more caring side that almost no one but me got to see. That added to her appeal exponentially, because my appreciation of the dichotomy was topped only by my satisfaction that I was the only one who really understood that it existed. Well, I'm sure that the others knew it was there, but I was the only one who got to see it on a regular basis, and that made me special.

Sadly, Warners don't deal well with frustration or failure, and I was feeling both of them. Frustration over the fact that I hadn't managed to devise a plan to entice Jo into my clutches and failure that she hadn't fallen there without any provocation from me in the first place. I shouldn't have been forced to plan, to scheme. Nature should have stepped in and calmly informed her of my admiration and then forced her to return it. Or, at the very least, make her aware of it so that I could force her to return it.

But, planning was hard, you see. Seduction is tricky enough with someone who only needs a little push before the wooing can begin, and I was going to have to do far more than provide a little push. I was going to have to maneuver around the minefield of our friendship, her heterosexuality, and the intrinsic antagonism that we bore toward one another. Not that it was an impossible task, mind you, just a difficult one.

Okay, so maybe it was an impossible task. What was I supposed to do? Send her flowers or cook her fancy dinners or take her out to the opera? Not only did I suspect that these measures wouldn't work with Jo, I couldn't escape the feeling that I'd look like an idiot trying to implement them. So, what did that leave me with? I suppose I could've bought her a new bike, or at the very least parts for her old bike, or subscribed her to Car and Driver or Sports Illustrated, but I just didn't think that those would do the trick either. Besides, something told me that she wouldn't appreciate me throwing money at her, and unfortunately it was the only thing I had to work with.

I'd never been the pursuer, only the pursued. Needless to say, the weeks of agonizing over how to approach her gave me a healthy appreciation for all of the guys in my past who had tried and failed to gain my affections. Of course, my lack of competence in this area didn't lend itself well to the successful implementation of any kind of potentially successful plan, which did nothing but increase my frustration until it reached a nearly unbearable level.

I thought about doing the secret admirer thing. After all, they seemed to work out pretty well for the people who used them on television. I gave that idea up rather quickly though, once I realized that it returned me to the problem of what to send. Besides, it was really only delaying the inevitable. Eventually she'd try to find out who her secret admirer was, and then I'd have to fess up. Somehow I don't think that she would appreciate that. Something even told me that she'd probably accuse me of toying with her, of making a fool of her.

So, it became agonizingly clear at this point that I didn't have a clue what to do. Unfortunately, like Fate often does, it took matters into its own hands. Evil thing that it is, it solved the matter of how to tell her with absolutely no help from me.

I'd been recording my many trials and tribulations in my journal. Trite, I know, but who else was there to talk this over with? I needed to bounce my ideas off of someone, even if it was just me re-reading the words. Needless to say, it was a scene straight out of a horror film.

It had been a long day at school. After all, my indecision was weighing on me, and after cheerleading practice all I really wanted to do was head up to my room and crash. Maybe I'd take a short nap, and then a long hot shower and then I could finally return to some sense of normalcy. With this in mind, I trudged up the stairs and into our communal room, oblivious to everything around me until I saw her. She was sitting on my bed, my journal laying open in her lap, blue eyes staring sightlessly at the wall in front of her. Something told me that this didn't bode well, but deciding that the best defense was a good offense, I went on the attack.

"Just what do you think you're doing?" I shouted. It was clear, much to my dismay, that she'd read the parts that described my attraction to her. Well, described might not quite be the word for it. Maybe enthused for a good half of the written pages would be more like it.

Her mouth was working, moving up and down, but no sounds were coming out. For some reason, I couldn't imagine that to be a good thing, and looked over to the window, seriously considering taking a flying leap through it. With any luck, the fall wouldn't kill me, just break a bone or two and garner enough sympathy so that this subject would never be raised.

"I just wanted to find out if there was anything that you really wanted… you know, for Christmas. Figured you'd write about it, and I didn't know what to get." Still looking a bit shell-shocked, she offered me her explanation. It sounded plausible. After all, I was a hard girl to buy for, and Jo had always managed to get me just exactly what I wanted for Christmas, a talent my parents didn't seem to possess.

"You should have just asked." Some part of me felt that if I could keep this conversation normal, if I could avoid all mention of what she had undoubtedly read, then it would simply never be brought up at all. Delusional, I know, but when you're desperate, you grasp at straws.

"I, uh… never realized that you felt quite that way about me." Well, there went that plan. It would be kind of hard to play the innocent here. After babbling on about Jo in my journal for at least 30 pages, I couldn't very well pretend that I didn't know what she was talking about. Okay, well I could pretend, but I didn't think the ploy would work for very long.

Unfortunately, nothing immediately sprang to mind as an explanation. What could I say? Should I pretend that it was an exercise in creative writing? Maybe I could say that I knew she was going to read my journal and had written that just to freak her out. No, that wouldn't work. She'd see through that one in no time. If I'd just been writing all that to freak her out, I could have done it in three pages. Hell, I'd devoted three pages to a discussion about just what shade of blue her eyes were. Of course, that left me just standing there with no reply, and her looking at me like I'd just landed my spaceship out in the front yard and was asking her to take me to her leader.

"Just give me the book back," was all I said instead of offering lame explanations. She looked almost startled at the words, glancing down to her lap to see the book lying open there, almost as if she was surprised by its presence. But, she closed it gently and held it out to me, and I took it, cradling it close to my breast as if I could protect my words with this useless ad-hoc gesture.

"Blair, I don't know what to say." She looked rather helpless, and I knew then that any words that I heard next weren't going to be ones that I wanted to hear. So, I closed my eyes to keep the tears gathering there from falling, took a deep breath, and waited for the dismissal.

"I just don't, well… feel that way about you." There, there they were, the ugly words that I'd been expecting since the beginning of this ill-fated infatuation. Actually, she was handling this much better than I had ever imagined she would. For some reason I'd pictured shouting and flying knick-knacks, not the calm tone of her voice and the sound of my too-rapid breathing filling the room.

"Its, uh, okay." The words creaked out of a suddenly parched throat, and I wondered if it would seriously damage my educational future if I dropped out of school for a while and moved to a foreign country. Greece would be nice, because they've got beautiful beaches and good liquor. Well, at least I've heard that they have good liquor, and aren't some of the beaches nude? Certainly that would cheer me up.

"Its… are… I mean, we can still be friends, right?"

Wasn't that supposed to be my line? After all, I was the one harboring a secret crush, and since it had been so abruptly exposed, I should be the one worrying about whether or not our friendship was in dire straits. But, she was apparently the one concerned, and I could tell from the look in those eyes that I'd written so copiously about that she meant it.

"Friends. Yeah, we can still be friends." Now I knew why the boys I dated hated to hear those words. They sounded like a death knell, and I knew that no matter what we said here, there wouldn't be much of a friendship left between us. Not with this imbalance hanging between us, not with me on one side wanting more than she could give and her on the other wanting none of what I was offering. But, I was going to play along with the game, going to pretend that we could return to normal and that her little discovery wasn't going to affect the way things were between us.

So, I carefully put my journal back in its place and walked out of the room, shoulders held straight and head thrown back because I wasn't going to lose my pride too. No, just my heart, but I hear that you can keep on living even after those have been broken.

To say that it was hell after that would be an understatement. Now everything I did was scrutinized by hesitant blue eyes. Maybe she was afraid I was going to jump her during the night or something equally as heinous, but I was well aware that I had been rather thoroughly rejected. Not one to insert myself where I wasn't wanted, I started pulling away from her. It had hurt before to be near her, to suffer in silence over what could never be, but now, having been turned down, it was pure torture. Rejection doesn't come easily to anyone, and I certainly wasn't an exception to that. In fact, it might have come as more of a blow to me, because I was unused to it.

It took the others a while to notice that I'd changed. There were no more dates, no more calls from any of a number of boys that I had previously kept on retainer. In fact, there wasn't anything really, other than classes and cheerleading practice and helping Mrs. G out whenever she needed it. I didn't hang out with friends from school, I didn't argue with Jo, and I didn't prance around the house like God's gift to everyone who made their way into my sphere anymore. A funk, a depression… call it whatever you want, but I was definitely in the grips of it.

They tried to cheer me up, tried to get me to confide, tried to cajole me into joining in whatever plot or scheme they had going at the minute, but I wasn't interested. Suddenly all I wanted was to get out of school, to get away from Peekskill and all the reminders of my failure that loomed in every corner of that house. Jo tried to talk to me, but I didn't listen, didn't respond to her entreaties. I started spending more and more time away from there, at my father's Penthouse in the city or in the library until dusk until I finally managed to excise myself almost completely from their lives.

Every once in a while, I could feel concerned blue eyes watching me, taking note of what I was doing. But, there wasn't really anything Jo could do to fix it. It wasn't as if she was going to suddenly decide that she'd been wrong before, that after giving it some thought she was more amenable to a relationship between us. And, she didn't, and I moved on, finally leaving the house completely. After all, my family had more than enough money to afford to set me up in my own apartment, and I decided that it was high time that I get a life of my own.

I didn't go back, didn't talk to the girls when I saw them out in public or at school. It was just better to leave that all behind, I told myself, because by now I'd managed to turn my rejection into this big thing. It was a gaping wound, a miserably embarrassing failure, and I didn't want to be reminded of it.

I even found others, after time. Not men, of course, since I'd come to realize that they weren't what I wanted. Trips to the city meant that I could go to clubs, go to bars, and soon I found that it didn't matter that I wasn't with her when I had enough drinks in me. Mornings-after were always a little awkward. Waking up with a stranger isn't something that falls into my category of fun things to do, and usually I was up and out the door as soon as possible. Back at my new Penthouse, I could shower to wash the scent of these others off my skin, to return me back to the woman I was when I wasn't skulking around in the shadows, looking for a replacement.

Then, one night, I saw her there. She didn't see me, and I didn't go up to her and announce my presence, because the sight of her sitting at the bar, beer bottle clutched loosely in hand as some little blonde slut fawned all over her, garnering laughs that should have fallen on my ears, was more than painful. So, apparently she hadn't rejected me because the idea of two women together was foreign to her, was repulsive to her. No, she'd meant what she'd said exactly, no other meaning to be attached. She just didn't feel that way about me. Not she couldn't comprehend a relationship like that, just that she didn't want one between the two of us.

The knowledge of the truth behind her statement hurt, far more than the words ever had. When I thought she could never return my feelings because the notion of it was alien to her, I could survive that. Yes it hurt, yes it changed me, and yes I let it drive me away, but I could accept it. Now, though, it was more than a rejection. It was a repudiation of everything I'd ever considered to be the truth. She didn't want me. She didn't reject some construct, some way of life… she rejected me.

I don't remember what the woman I took home that night looked like. Not that it matters, because I didn't ever intend to see her again. It didn't help, my less than successful attempt to bury my pain in the body of another, and suddenly I realized that I hated Jo. She'd taken even this away from me. Now she visited the same haunts as I did, now she stole the nameless, faceless pleasure that I reveled in, and I hated her for it. She didn't deserve to be able to do that to me.

So, I decided to tell her that. First in time, first in right, and this life was my life. She didn't have a place in my life anymore, which meant that she didn't have the right to go to places that I frequented, to flirt with women I'd possibly bedded, that I would bed in the future. She didn't belong here. I'm not quite sure where she belonged, but it certainly wasn't anywhere where I could see her, where I would be forced to remember her.

Part of me said that this was irrational, but I really didn't give a fuck about rationality. I just didn't want to see her, period and end of story. Rationality returned with the argument that it was a simple adolescent romance, and certainly not something that should affect the rest of my life. Certainly not something that should have been allowed to effect my life as much as it had, turning emotions into numb, dull, far away notions of the hint of a feeling about something. But, it had taken me a long time to fall in love with her, and the part of me that still ached over her rejection of me told rationality to take a hike.

So I admitted it. I had loved her. Everyone already knew that anyway… well, they would have had they been privy to what I was thinking. I started falling for her the day we met and kept right on in my downward spiral through our little fights, through the eventual bond that we semi-developed, and right into my realization of where my true interests were situated. This wasn't something that I woke up one morning and suddenly decided that I wanted. Actually, it was more like this was something that I woke up one morning and finally acknowledged that I had wanted for a long time. It was that part of me, the part that felt the holes left deep in my soul where she'd unknowingly attached her claws, that refused to let me do anything other than confront her.

So, confront her I did. After seeing her initially, she didn't re-enter my sphere for another week. I'd even started to grow complacent about my first sighting of her, figuring that it was just a fluke. Maybe she'd simply stumbled into the wrong bar, maybe she hadn't been aware of the true nature of the inclinations of the patrons, maybe she had tried it once and decided it wasn't for her. Whatever the reasons, after seven slightly peaceful days, I was convinced that she wasn't coming back.

Of course, once I'd lowered my guard, she reappeared. Sitting there, perched on a stool at the end of the bar, staring at a beer bottle that was now missing its label, was the woman who had been the catalyst for almost all of the changes my life was now sporting. Thankfully, there wasn't anyone sitting near her this time, possibly because it was rather early, and I made my way over without pause, knowing that this confrontation was something I was going to have to have without thinking about it first.

"I want you to leave." I figured I couldn't say it any plainer than that. Knowing her as I did, I imagined that she'd appreciate my bluntness, even if she didn't exactly appreciate the content of my sentiment.

"Blair." Those blue eyes were filled with… what was that? Was that relief? Fear? "I've been looking for you."

Looking for me? What was this, some type of intervention to get me back into the group, to end my self-imposed separation from a life that carried with it too many painful reminders at the moment? Memories of nights spent huddled under the same blanket on the couch, sharing a bowl of popcorn while we watched scary movies or memories of coming home to a shoulder to cry on when things didn't go as I'd expected them too. Memories that I'd pushed to the back of my mind as futile remembrances, things that held no value for me any longer. Just like she held no value to me any longer. Or, at least, that's what I insisted on believing.

"I want you to leave." Maybe if I kept up this refrain, she'd give up on whatever mission she'd obviously set before herself. I didn't want to hear her reasons, didn't want to hear her excuses, didn't want to see her at all.

"I've been thinking about you, about what you wrote." She'd shifted fully now, turning so that she was facing me, the vee of her long legs almost trapping me between parted thighs, and I moved back, needing the room to breathe, needing to get away from the hint of her scent that seemed to tease me even through the smoke and old wood oppressiveness of the bar.

"I want you to leave." Why wasn't she listening to me? Maybe I should elaborate. "I don't want to see you, and since I come here often, I'm going to see you if you continue to come. For my sake, if nothing else, please leave."

"You don't even want to know why I'm here? You don't want to know why I've been looking for you? You don't want to know what I've been thinking?" Was that bitterness in her tone? God, I hope so. I hoped she was sitting there, finally knowing what it feels like to not get what you want, to be denied before you can even argue your case. Of course, that pesky part in the back of my mind that called for me to listen reminded me that she hadn't turned me away in anger, just told me she wasn't interested. Just sat there, calm as can be, and ripped me into two pieces. Maybe I didn't have the power to do that to her, but at the very least I could show her how much it didn't matter anymore, even if that was a lie.

"No. I just want you to leave." Much to my consternation, she didn't appear to be in any danger of moving in the near future. I didn't want to back down, not until I saw the back of that dark head moving through the doorway, so I settled down onto the stool beside her, easily throwing up my defenses for a contest of wills.

"I miss you. We all miss you." Apparently she was determined to say whatever it was that she came here to say. Maybe if I let her, if I sat here and pretended like I was listening, she'd gain whatever satisfaction she felt she'd derive from chasing me down and playing out her little spiel, and then she'd leave and things could return to normal.

"That's nice to hear. You'll give my regards to the others, won't you?" She wasn't going to get a rise out of me. No, nothing from here on out but enough politeness to choke a cat.

"Why'd you leave, Blair? Why'd you cut us out?" Her fingers were fiddling with the torn remains of the beer label laying in tattered pieces on the bar, blue eyes no longer looking into mine. I didn't want to answer the question, or at least didn't want to answer it truthfully, and searched for something to say.

"Because it was time to move on, Jo." Which, actually, was the truth come to think of it. It was time for me to move on, to move away from an environment that no longer seemed quite as hospitable as it had in my youth. Not that the environment had changed necessarily, but I certainly had.

"It was because of what happened between you and me, wasn't it?" Now those soft eyes were back, burning into mine. Stark, naked, barren… I threw around mental adjectives trying to find the one to describe her look, but I couldn't capture it. For some reason, she reminded me of a lost little girl, not quite sure where she was at and not at all certain about how she was going to get home, and I cursed the part of me that wanted to take her in my arms and comfort her.

"Nothing happened between us." Maybe I said that a bit more harshly than was called for, but it was the truth. Absolutely nothing had happened between us, which is what caused the rift in the first place, because my pride couldn't allow me to remain in a place where I wasn't wanted and Jo certainly hadn't wanted me.

"You're lying." I sucked in a breath at that. Calling me a liar, when I was the aggrieved party here? Didn't she realize that she possessed little to no rights in this confrontation? The person who causes damage doesn't deserve to inflict further pain.

"Then what do you think happened?" Come on, Jo. Tell me just how you're going to explain this one away. I'm interested in hearing how you'll manage to maneuver around your rejection of me and make it not sound like one, which is what I imagine you'll try to do.

"You left me." I left her? In what fatally skewed part of the universe is that statement true?

"I left you." I couldn't help repeating it, disbelief in my voice. "As I remember it, you weren't particularly interested in me, so why should it matter?"

"You didn't give me time. You didn't give me a chance," she protested, eyes suddenly blazing with what appeared to be fury and I felt my own hackles rise.

"Didn't give you a chance? 'Blair, I'm just not interested in you that way' is the way I remember it." God, I told myself that I wasn't going to let her drag me into this, that I wasn't going to react and yet here I am, letting all of the pain that that one sentence caused me spill out in my words. Should've just left and found a new place to drink, to find my occasional fucks, to wallow in my self-pity, and left her the hell alone.

"What the hell did you expect me to say, Blair?" Yeah, there was anger there, and the fact that it was flowing from her to me made me furious.

"I didn't expect you to find out." It was the best I could do without revealing that I'd never really imagined that she'd say yes in the first place. Knowing somehow that you'll be spurned and actually being spurned are two different things, and had I carried around the secret knowledge that she'd say no instead of the actual knowledge that she did say no, I would probably have handled things quite differently. At the very least, I probably wouldn't be nearly as bitter as I was now.

"So you were just going to hide it from me?" She'd actually crossed her arms over her chest and was looking at me much as if I were a child to be scolded, and I had to fight to resist the urge to pick up her half-empty beer bottle and bash it over her infuriating head.

"I guess that if I'd actually wanted you to find out, then I would have told you, wouldn't I? No need to have the fact that you couldn't care less about me thrown in my face, you know. It was something that I definitely could have lived without." Just remembering what it had felt like to stand there, exhausted and terrified and looking into the face of the girl I'd slowly fallen in love with, knowing that my secret had been revealed, more than fueled my anger toward her now.

"I cared," she protested, and I laughed bitterly. My soul, broken as it was, didn't want to hear it, especially when I doubted that it was even true.

"Well, I thank you for your concern, but that was a long time ago. Its in the past, and I'd like to forget it." It was time for me to leave before I did something horribly embarrassing like break down and cry. I needed to exit this confrontation the victor, needed to know that I hadn't let her get to me a second time.

"Do you still feel that way about me, Blair?" For a moment, I couldn't believe that she had the gall to ask me that, to stand there in the face of what I'd just said and ask me if I still cared. I couldn't answer, couldn't make my mouth move, because for some reason my brain had decided that it wasn't going to let me lie, and I certainly wasn't going to tell her the truth.

"I'd like to work things out with you," she was still speaking, looking at me with her brows drawn together so tightly that there were two thin lines bisecting the skin above her nose, lips pulled back in a grimace as if the words were painful to even say. She was serious about this, whatever this was, and I wanted to turn around and leave her standing there, so that she could continue to spout off to whoever claimed this stool after me that she wanted to work things out. After all this time, she thinks we can what, be best friends again? What does she want from me? As if after everything that had passed between us I was simply going to say to hell with it and go carve BF 4-EVER on a tree in Central Park beneath our initials before heading out to get an ice cream cone to celebrate? The time to work things out had passed a long time ago, and my shell was too empty, too hollow to sustain any more damage without cracking entirely. There was no place in my life for her friendship.

"There's nothing to work out, Jo. We just went our separate ways. Such is the way of life." I hope I sounded blasé, because that was what I was shooting for. No need to let her know how just the prospect of having her in my life again made me bleed inside.

"I love you, Blair." God, she could have taken a hammer to my chest and gotten the same result. I don't want her love, don't want her to be my bosom buddy, my best friend. She can't be in my life any longer, and as soon as she realizes that, the sooner I'll be able to start picking up the shattered pieces of my carefully constructed lie… I mean, life.

"I'm full up on friends right now, Jo. I'm afraid you'll have to wait until an opening becomes available." I smiled brightly with the words, the vindictive part of me glorying in the way her face darkened, the way her eyes narrowed.

"Yeah, I heard all about your friends." Oh, it was her turn to be bitter. Good to know there was enough of that around for the both of us. "All kinds of new friends, even if they only last for one night."

I shrugged my shoulders, trying to look as innocent as I could. What could I say to that one? True, when I wanted it filled, my bed had never been empty. The game was easy to play when you weren't really engaged in it, when it didn't touch you. A few drinks, a mention of going back to the Penthouse to 'talk', and I'd make it through another night with enough distraction to keep from thinking about her.

"I like to meet new people," I replied, another wide smile creasing my face. I hoped that on some level that hurt her, though I doubted it did. Why would she care who warmed my bed?

"Then let me be a new friend," she shot back angrily. My brow furrowed at this as I considered the words. Was she saying what I think she was saying?

"So now you wanna fuck, hmmm?" She flinched at the crude terminology. I guess she wasn't used to hearing such things pass through my lips. Well, news flash to her, but I'd changed a lot in the past few years.

"No, I don't want to fuck you." For some reason, she seemed loathe to say it, to repeat the vulgarity that I'd introduced. I found that funny coming from her, and didn't bother to stifle my laughter.

"Sorry then. Its kind of a prerequisite." Despite myself, I let her words hurt me. So she didn't want to fuck me, didn't desire me. I knew that, had always know that.

"I won't fuck you, but I'll make love to you." I could feel my jaw working, could feel my palm itching to slap her. Normally I wasn't a violent person, but for some reason my anger seemed so virulent, so unwieldy, that there was no other acceptable outlet. How dare she say something like that to me?

"I wasn't ready back then, didn't know what I wanted. All I knew was that what I read scared me. It excited me, but it scared me more than anything else. It was never that I didn't want you, Blair." One of her hands, slim and delicate despite her propensity for using them for manual labor, reached out, presumably to cup my cheek. I wasn't about to let her touch me though, and almost fell off of my stool trying to avoid the contact.

"Don't you dare sit there and tell me that," I hissed, gratified by the flash of hurt that I saw in response to my avoidance of her touch. "You have no right to come back into my life and act like you can fix everything just like that, pretending like you can just snap your fingers and I'll come running. You hurt me…"

I stopped, catching myself before I gave away too much. Not that I probably hadn't given away too much already, but there was no need to dig the hole any deeper. I was so angry at her presumption that I didn't even have time to think about what she was saying, about what the words meant.

"That's not what I want, Blair. All I want is for you to give me a chance, to let me try to fix things. To let me… I don't know, just to let me try." I could tell that she wanted to reach out and try and touch me again, so I backed away further, the part of my mind that had been in pain for so long trying desperately to block out her words. It wasn't fair, wasn't fair that she could come here and say these things and hurt me any more than she already had, but for some reason, here she was, doing just that very thing. What was even more unfair was that I could feel myself crumbling, could feel every single wall that I'd put up and reinforced three times over start to crack.

"Its not fair," I whispered, unable to stop the words. I couldn't stop the tear that snaked down my cheek either, nearly scalding my skin as it made its way down to catch on my lips. Swiping at the salty drop with my tongue, I felt everything give just a little more.

"I know, darlin'. I know." Suddenly she was there, everywhere, with her arms wrapped around me and my head resting on her shoulder and her hair teasing the side of my face, and I couldn't escape her, couldn't block out the scent of her skin or the softness of her curves or the comforting pressure of her arms around my waist. I hated her, but I loved her, and I was so very weak because I knew, just knew, that I wouldn't resist her, that I wouldn't turn her away.

And I didn't turn her away, didn't deny her when her face turned toward mine and the soft pant of her breath warned me that she was moving closer. I didn't pull back when her lips touched mine, softly, hesitantly, as if she were afraid that I'd disappear if she pushed too hard. When her tongue flicked out, tasting the salt of what I assumed to be my tears, I didn't run, and when she deepened the kiss and I tasted her for the very first time, I gave up.

It had been too long and I'd fought too hard, trying to pretend that I could forget her, that I didn't need her in my life, and I didn't have the strength to do anything more than kiss her. There was no bar, there was no murmur of voices or clink of glasses, nothing but me and Jo and my tears and the tiny impossible hope that had somehow sprang to life. The hope the grew larger as she took my hand, as she wrapped her fingers through mine and pulled me out of that bar and onto the street, tears still streaming down my face. The glint of the streetlight let me know that they covered her face as well, and at the sight I felt the hope bloom, filling me to overflowing, because this time she wanted me too. Because, for the first time in longer than I could remember, I wasn't alone anymore.


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