This little mini-series is written for my friend Potix who, besides being thoroughly awesome and a wonderful reader, also is a graphical genius who is very, very generous in making all sorts of banners and icons for me. She wanted to see Jo and Laurie have a hell of a lot of fun after a bit of playful arguing and by God... she's going to get it. And on a piano as well, just because I feel Jo and Laurie are awesome enough together to attempt it. I hope you enjoy this, dear heart!

Additional thanks go to Ed, Saf and Elizabeth for helping with the smoothing out of various details (especially concerning the relative sturdiness of a grand piano) and much love also goes to MichelleK, whose 30 Rock fic (titled And You're Better Than Jeff and Maury) first gave me the idea for piano sex and talking about talent. Thank you for giving me permission to follow up on your brilliant idea!

And as always, reviews are much loved. Please do let me know if you've read and enjoyed this, or thought of ways to improve it!

Title: Tempo and Rhythm, Part 1/3
Fandom: Little Women
Series: Tempo and Rhythm
Characters/Pairings: Jo/Laurie
Rating: R for Sexually Explicit Talk In This Chapter
Summary: Jo, Laurie and a piano. You may as well commence with the writhing...

Note: This is a Little Women fic that contains on-screen sex in the second chapter. Readers are warned for explicitness and rough (though thoroughly consensual) play. It also can be read as a follow-up to the universe of the Night to Remember and 20 Different Ways series, which depict a marriage and partnership between Jo and Laurie. Those fics do not need to be read to understand this one, however.

The trouble with Jo, her husband decided on one otherwise promising summer eve, was that her mind was of such a quality that it often escaped understanding.

It wasn't that she wasn't a diamond of the first water in terms of brilliance, of course. Whatever else Laurie had ever thought of her-- and he had loved her and hated her with many shades of ardor over the years-- he had never thought her anything less than a writer of astonishing creativity. Under Jo's command, attics had turned into medieval castles, dull parties in high society turned into hilarious affairs where pretensions were inevitably misplaced and the pretentious wonderfully mislaid, his carefully planned compositions was turned into glittering operettas for the stage, and sheets of papers and a well of ink were turned into fantasies and memoirs that delighted children and adults all the way from stodgy New York to Gay Paree. He had never met anyone who had the same capacity for transformation that she did-- and had never been entranced so by any other either.

Unfortunately, Jo's narrative cunning also lent itself to making a fuss over what ought to be simple, which had led to trouble in the past and was obviously leading her to trouble right now. This tendency had once led her to dismiss his first offer of marriage by telling him he needed some shining paragon of refined femininity to be happy, instead of merely telling him that she wanted to try out the life of a single writer for a time, which would have saved them both a great deal of grief. And once in a while, even after they had settled into a happy domestic routine in their brownstone in New York, it flared up and made life alternately aggravating and exciting.

This evening appeared to be one of those times, with Jo having brooded over some matter or another for the past few days, which Laurie did not begrudge since he knew the value of a good brood but which still concerned him slightly. And certainly, after she had spent the last few nights in their bed lavishing more care on her thoughts than on his frame, it was hard not to come to the conclusion that maybe-- just maybe-- he ought to take care.

It was an impression that was compounded by the distracted way she paced around by his piano as he played, added to by the way she sighed dramatically as she stalked and stared, and augmented by the way she kept sneaking looks at his calm profile all throughout, as though she were expecting him to leap up and accuse her of something.

Given all that, Laurie probably should have been expected a curve ball of some sort soon thrown his way. Life with Jo had long taught him to always be ready to embrace the eccentric, the new, the previously unheard of and the strange. One did not marry a Jo March, after all, and then expect her to water down the imagination that made her so wonderful in the first place.

Still, even he had to pause when Jo stepped in front of his piano at last, her slender figure outlined enchantingly against her thin nightdress when the candles lit her a certain way. And when she let out the words she'd been brooding on for the week...

"You know," his beloved wife poignantly sighed as his slim fingers worked industriously at his piano's ivory keys. "Sometimes I get the feeling that you're so talented, you must be ashamed of me."

...Laurie was forced to acknowledge that even after four years of the most topsy-turvy, exquisite and extraordinary marriage imaginable, she could still surprise him completely.

In fact, it was only the fact that Laurie knew this new composition of his by heart that kept his fingers from sliding off well-loved keys with the shock of her words, and then from the laughter following close on its heels. Still, it was close for a minute, nearly stretching to many minutes, and his playing still glided off in a way that would have had his pianist mother, were she here to see it, raise one eyebrow at him in pained incredulity.

But then, Laurie knew he ought to be glad that his dear madre wasn't around to see this. For one, there was the fact that he only had his night trousers on, as the time for bed approached swiftly. For another, his Jo merely wore a white cotton night-dress, which hid pleasingly little under the lights presently. And for the last, the combinations of the first and second reasons affected him deeply enough that he knew that this balmy summer's eve would play host to something much more interesting than a piano recital.

This was indeed the sort of scenario which many a parent would have been lucky to escape without seeing... and incidentally, that many a man would have paid to be within. Which was why Laurie's voice was positively languid when he finally replied, however much he was weighed down by surprise.

"Truly, Jo? I've honestly always thought that between us two, you were the one with the talent worth coveting."

As always, though, his wife was the sort who treated compliments as insincere pleasantries at best and potential traps of the most mischievous sort at worst, especially when he offered them freely. So rather than simply smile and accept his statement, she turned the exact shade of pink that Meg's begonias went in the spring and aimed her tart tongue back at him. "Oh, come on. I know it's nice to repay respond to a woman's concerns with flattery, but this is you simply being a chevalier. Be honest, Teddy! Admit that out of the two of us, you are by far the more interesting human being."

"Not at all," he replied lightly, his fingers still running slowly over his keys. "I admit to no such thing. I know you don't like compliments but I can assure you that you're completely brilliant in your art, so much so that you far exceed me. Who else can turn mere parchment into Pickwick's papers, transform dull parties into something worth attending, and fashion my little drips of music via your librettos into operettas worth seeing?"

Not one to be routed so easily, Jo sniffed and then turned so that her hand rested on the rim of his piano, her fingers mimicking his as she tapped against the wood impatiently. "You had to play-act in the first, you keep me from complete humiliation in the second and you write all the original score for and edit the third. So you're an actor, a savior and a composer at the same time I'm a writer, a bungler and-- oh, this is a real change!-- a writer some more. So..."

And now she leaned forward to give him a smile smug enough to feel in his hip pocket.

"So which of us is really more talented, my dear?"

Laurie had to shift on his bench cushion at that, which cost him valuable minutes in the little game they were playing. Luckily, however, he found a response springing to his lips quite easily, before his much loved bride could waltz away from this armed confrontation sure she had brought him to his knees.

(And not in that pleasurable way that made her moan ecstatically either.)

"So measuring talent," he asked, leaning over as his fingers finally stilled, "has everything to do with quantity, not quality?"

Jo's eyebrows arched up at that, as sure sign that she was being thrown off by his words and did not much like it either. "And what, exactly, do you mean?"

"Think of it,' he said, years of loving Jo having taught him when to push forward. "Yours is a very flawed logic! Can a jack of all trades in a thousand different positions really count himself as more talented than a man whose mastered a single art fully? I may be this and that and a pile of rags but you, Jo-- you! You are a true talent at your craft. You are more honed at writing than I will ever be at all these other things."

For a minute, he thought he saw a smile flicker among Jo's thin, fervent features, but in the next, her mask of indignation slammed back on and she drew her hands marmishly up as though to flick his words away.

"And that may all be well and good but that does not apply to either of us two. I'm so far from a master of my art it's ridiculous-- and you, Laurie-- you! You're brilliant at your own art for all your protests and coupled with all your other positives-- oh, it burns me to think of being your inferior at so many things. I feel as though I need to prove my creativity anew!"

He could see that there would be no dissuading her and so gave in, his attention now fully on her though he sat at his bench still. "Well, I suppose that's... rather optimistic of you. Downright commendable, really, as long as you can keep from destroying property while that goal's achieved. So now what will you do?"

"What I have to," Jo replied, drawing herself up and ever closer to him, until she nearly bumped against his piano bench with her knees. "Because I don't want to feel as though I'm not worthy of you, especially not since I'm stuck with you. You're already better looking than I am--"

"Only if one happens to be a woman."

"Used to be of a higher rank--"

"And just when did we start counting?"

"Started off far wealthier than I did--"

"I always thought you were rich in both spirit and body."

"Have always been taller among us two--"

"I have no idea what that has to do with anything."

"And are so much more socially adept than I could ever be!"

"Well, that's-- that's-- all right, I'll give you that, frankly speaking."

"So," Jo went on, eye-balling him fiercely in wait of further interruptions, "I can't be getting on with a healthy sense of esteem if you out-do me in creativity as well. So now I want to show you that I can at least match you in grand plans and ambitions. And so, I have a proposal for you, to show you just how inspired my mind can be!"

"Therefore," Laurie replied, his mind spinning at her litany, "you would like to...?"

And then Jo made his night-- his week-- his month-- his year with the words she delivered then, her hips cocked to the side and her hands upon them, looking down at him triumphantly.

"Let's make love on the piano!" she cried, and her voice was siren-like and electric. " On your piano. Let's do it like we've never done it before, until we've done near everything! Let's give Cathy and her cruel Heathcliff or even Darcy and his Elizabeth something to compete again. Let's do something mad and bad and dangerous and passionate while we're still young and can get away with it!"

"..." Laurie tried, struck dumb with surprise and incredulous joy, and then felt alarmed as he felt the chance slip away as her face began to crumble in front of his awe-struck silence. "... ... ...!" he tried to assent urgently.

"Is that a no?" Jo said after a few moments of pathetic silence, sounding crestfallen though she tried to hide it. "That's-- well-- that's fine, really. Fine definitely! I know it's not very-- ladylike of me to have even suggested it and I was being vulgar to think of it and-- just despicable, truly. It's-- I mean-- it was really quite a foolish idea and-- and who knows, maybe I'm heavy enough to break down a grand piano and-- honestly, I don't know why I even thought this would-- please you greatly and-- I should really shut up now, you know, I don't even know why I keep talking--"

He didn't know why either, especially given the fact that his own voice had gone out. But before she could talk herself out of the brilliant idea that she'd introduced-- Laurie had always known she was a marvel but this took the walk by a couple thousand feet-- he rose from his bench, took her to him by the curve of her hips, and showed her precisely how brilliant he thought she could be.

It turned out to involve a great deal of tongue but curiously, not much speaking.

It also involved a great deal of movement as well, and as much use of his hands as when he had played the piano a moment previously. In fact, it even involved the use of much the same movements, although the glide of his fingertips across ivory keys didn't feel nearly as good as getting to run them across the fabric of Jo's night-dress, pulling it up until he could caress the strong muscles of her calves, the sweet velvet of her inner thighs, the warmth and weight of her waist and breasts, not wasting any time when his instrument—make that instruments-- were ready to be used and she was letting him peel thin cotton off her hips and belly and shoulders as she began laughing, enchanted or possibly just amused by his obvious eagerness.

Laurie didn't quite know and furthermore, Laurie didn't fully care. It was more than enough, just then, to have her gathered naked next to him, more than enough to have her bare and golden beside him, more than enough to pull her to him and run his eager hands all over her nape and spine and the ripples of her ribs as she parted her lips and her tongue caressed his. It was more than enough when even a simple kiss becomes something that made him groan and shift when she followed every innocent little flicker of her lashes across his cheeks with clever authorial fingers pressed against his bare chest, her own fingers twisting sharp against his nipples, pinching and driving him to his toes until he felt like simply throwing her to the floor and forgetting all consideration.

Jo had a way of testing his self-control and it was only the thought of his piano standing near-by that kept him from doing so. And if the look of pure mischief that flashed through her face meant anything, it meant that she'd easily caught onto it.

(Although the way she kept sliding her bare, slender leg between his hips to toy with his growing desire might have had something to do with it. She was going to be the death of him someday—but oh, what a glorious death she would make.)

"So I'm assuming you'd actually liked to go through with this?" Jo murmured with an innocence that would have been a little more convincing if she hadn't followed it up by running her mouth down his neck, making him shudder and buck against her even when his hands falling down on her lush lower curves made her twist sharply against him. "I guess you don't think-- oh!-- that I'm so… so… wanton as to disregard… fully?"

"Oh no," Laurie murmured through the slight catch in his throat as he felt her fingers trail down his chest to the firm muscles below. "You could never be wanton enough to make me do something as mad as that."

Jo sent him a look through her dark lashes that made his mouth go dry—though some of that could have been because of the way her nails raked down his hips as she sent them to hook into the brim of his trousers teasingly. "You seem to be a bit hot and bothered, Teddy. Are you sure you're well enough to keep going?"

"Appearances can be very deceptive," he responded, even as his fingers migrated from her rippling back to her bare collarbone and down to her breasts, cupping the soft curves while feeling the strong muscles beneath them, like silk draped over steel. "I'd be ready for anything right now. Ask me to climb a glass mountain and I'll start immediately."

"We'll hold off on that until we need to fetch the Holy Grail," Jo replied sweetly, and any sting her words might have held anyhow were washed away by the warmth of her mouth as she went for that particular bundle of nerves hidden below his jaw that always sent him gasping. "And… you really think this is a good idea?"

And who else but Jo could have aimed such a question at him even when he was all but quick-silver in her arms—and meant it sincerely? Who else but Jo could doubt herself when she sent him all but melting?

Who but Jo—but then, what did it matter? It wasn't as though he wanted to share this with any other being.

So he laughed, ran his hands down the silk of her back again and said: "I think it's a bloody fantastic idea, Jo—as well a terrific way to demonstrate your artistic reach."

And then, after he backed away, kicked his piano bench down with his heel to make room in the front and beckoned her to him again, he smiled once more, and it was a smile that promised several very wicked things.

"So come forward, cuckoo bird. Let's get on with the creativity."

Author's Note: As always, reviews are much loved and appreciated. Please do let me know if you've enjoyed reading this story. Not that many people seemed to like my last NC-17 Jo/Laurie fic so... here's to hoping people like them better when they're not angsting continuously. ;)

With luck, I'll have part 2 up sometime next weekend, if I can hopefully get Internet access then. (I'm moving around that time and it'll be a real right pain in the rear.) I'll do my best for you, Poti!

(And a question to the audience if they'd like to answer: What other scenes from Jo and Laurie's married life would you read about, explicitly or non-explicitly? Give me your ideas and if any catch my fancy, I'd be happy to use them!)