AN: Happy New Year! I wanted to let everyone know that I am ALWAYS open to feedback, good or bad. Anything to help me grow as a writer this year! Or, if you just want to say hey, that works too. This chapter is much shorter than average, but I hope y'all enjoy it anyway. xoxo, AlyNoel

The first thing out of Alison's dad's mouth was, "Hi honey, it seems so funny to see you without Tom." Not that Alison thought that he meant it in any type of way, but it stung like a bitch and peaked her anxiety. Dad could clearly tell, when his daughter's body stiffened, like she turned to ice in his arms, as they hugged.

Dad was a tall, solidly built man, with a graying buzz cut that used to be a dark brown and a well-kept mustache that was totally gray. He still looked like he was active military, but he at this point in his life he just did security. They've always had a good relationship, and it was only strengthened when she moved away to college. Her dad pushed Alison to be the very best that she could be, in everything that she did, which Alison appreciated very much.

After picking up coffee, Alison was feeling a little bit better. She and her dad fell into their more familiar routine. They blasted music that they both loved and sang their hearts out in the goofiest ways. It was one of the best quality times that they spent together. They never wanted to talk about anything serious or important because she would just have to repeat everything when they sat down with Mom.

Mom was a short, stubborn little thing, with thick glasses that sat on the end of her nose and an even thicker German accent, even after all of her time in the States. She and Alison could have been sisters if they were closer in age. She was the kind of mother that would do anything for her family. Her mom always wanted a traditional life for Alison, wanted Alison to live the American dream like she had been able to do with her amazing husband. This was the one thing that Alison and Mom didn't always see eye to eye on that aspect. Alison clearly wanted to be a career woman, but she did have Thomas at one point, which made it a little bit better.

"So your dad tells me that I won't get made an Oma any time soon," was the first thing that Alison's mom said to her, when they came in through the door of Alison's childhood home, still up on their rock star high. Alison's shoulders dropped visibly, her laugh dying away.

"It's good to see you too, Momma." Alison called to her mom while sheading her jacket. As per usual, she'd left all of her work materials in her dad's car, as to avoid distractions.

"Come in here, have some breakfast, and tell me why not."

"It's not a very nice story to be having at breakfast, to be honest."

"I'll judge that." Alison could tell already they there was going to be no room for distractions today; her mother wasn't going to allow it.

All three of the Kelley's quickly fell into line in the kitchen, getting to work right away, as per their usual routine. Mom was almost done cooking, so Alison set the table for breakfast, and Dad started to clean the dishes that were left in Mom's wake as she went along.

It was a long conversation that was made even longer with all of the food that her mother prepared, and pretty much took all day, ultimately spanning several meals. Alison had never spoken so much in her whole life, leaving nothing undiscussed, but surprisingly not emotional about the extensive retelling. Her parents were plenty emotional for her, which almost as overwhelming as having a breakdown herself. But she was rights; it wasn't a good story for breakfast or any other time.

Her father and mother were equally furious and devastated as is appropriate when your only child has been dealing with abuse. There was also a chorus of well-meant chastising. "Why didn't you tell us about this? Why didn't you leave him sooner? Why did you let this continue for so long? Three years is way too long."

"Yeah, I know, and I don't really have a good excuse as to why. I suppose… I just figured that it would stop eventually, and we would go back to the way it was before. But it never did. Well, it happened and now it is over. I'm starting over." Alison thought that these were beautiful, finite words that would finally lead to packing the leftovers, and heading back to the city.

On the contrary, this lead to an incredibly long string of questions. "Where are you staying? Who are you staying with? A man? What does he do?"

The parents' faces when Alison spoke about her current situation mirrored their faces when she spoke about her previous situation. She left out the "magic" part and simply said that Jack was a bar tender, which wasn't a total lie. He did make her awesome drinks. "There is no reason that you need to be living like this. You've worked too hard. This doesn't have to be your fresh start. This is hardly a fresh start at all."

"But I'm managing just fine. It's easier than you think. I'm saving my money by having a roommate and I'm doing ok, honestly. I am able to focus on work again."

"We didn't even talk about work. I suppose we'll have to save that for another day. That'll take a whole other Sunday, won't it?"

"Yes, I suppose it will, Mom, but I do have a train to catch. Two trains to catch actually."

"We will also need to meet this roommate soon, won't we, dear?"

"No, Dad, I don't think that will be necessary."

"And why not? We met all of your roommates in college. What makes Jack any different?" Dad looked at Alison skeptically.

"Hey, don't question my integrity now." Alison didn't feel like telling them what made Jack so different just yet. It didn't seem fair considering that she wasn't so sure herself.

Mom sent her away with enough leftovers to last her and Jack well into the next week. She and her dad had a much different car ride than the one that morning.

"I know that you don't want to hear this, and I know that it won't make you feel any better, but I feel like I need to say this, for my own reassurance." Dad took his daughter's hand as he drove the familiar rode back to Tarrytown. He rubbed her knuckles with his thumb in a soothing familiar way. Tears welt up in his eyes, as he silently watch the rode in front of him, the headlights of the car slicing through the dark.

"I think that your mother would feel the same way as I do, even though she would never ever say this to you."

"What is it, Daddy?" Alison had a sinking feeling that she already knew what he was going to say and she already knew that she didn't want to hear it.

"What you are facing right now proves that we are not good parents. We are at fault for what has happened to you… Whether we simply were not observant enough to notice or that we were not trustworthy enough for you to confide in us or…"

"None of those things are true. At. All. I would never think those things about you. You and Mom are the best parents ever. That's not true, Daddy, please."

They both had tears running down their faces now, but nothing could be done. Some things simply had to be said, so that they both could heal.

Alison's nose was running and red by the time she was catching the train from Tarrytown to Grand Central, but at least she could get back to work. She wasn't sure if she wanted to at this point, but it was better than wallowing in the guilt that she felt from upsetting her parents. It truly was an emotionally draining day, but she had plenty more to look forward to on Monday at work.

It was very late by the time Alison made it up the stairs and into the apartment. Jack was still awake, but Alison was too tired to consider what he was working on, if anything at all.

"Hey, you're back." His delighted voice was nice to hear, but Alison wasn't in the mood.

"Goodnight." Alison's response was short, and less than sweet.

"Oh…" Jack tried not to feel dejected. He really didn't have the right to, considering he still wasn't sure of their relationship yet. He knew for sure that it was something more than roommates, but it didn't take a genius to figure that out.

Jack thought about the status of their relationship extensively while Alison was out today. He even considered calling Merritt and asking for his opinion, but that old pervert probably wouldn't have anything helpful to say. Other than him though, Jack didn't really have anyone else to go to for advice. The other Horseman were great for professional development, but not for personal problems. Daniel made that perfectly clear within the first few meetings. Merritt obviously had other plans for Henley, but Jack didn't foresee Henley letting that happen.

The more Jack thought about Alison, the less he accomplished, so of course he tried to limit himself, but it difficult to do so. Jack actually felt that he accomplished plenty today, including thinking about Alison. All he really wanted to know is what was going on between them. The simplest solution that he could come up with in attempts to figure this out, was to ask Alison herself and go with whatever she said.

But again, Jack wasn't even sure if he had the right to be thinking about Alison like this. He couldn't think of a single reason why he should approach her to talk about 'them'.

If he were to ask, what would she say? What did he expect her to say? An even better question; what did he want her to say?

Jack just needed her to confirm his suspicions, that they were moving in the general direction of being more than friends. Not very specific, but still an important distinction to make. Jack couldn't say for sure if he would care where they would end up…. Could he? Would he be upset if they were only fuck buddies?

This thought crossed his mind about midday and he realized when she walked in the door, and just as quickly disappeared down the hall, that, yes, he would actually be upset if they were nothing more than fuck buddies.

Jack realized that he cared about Alison much more than that several days ago, but he wasn't sure if she cared about him at all. Sure she liked making out with him, that was obvious, and he would and did gladly encourage it, but did she like him?

Jack felt like such a little kid. He realized this and was suddenly pissed off at himself. The other Horseman treated him like a kid, and here he was proving them right. For a very different reason than what they were usually on his ass for, but still childish.

Jack decided he needed to man up and make a move. He pride was at stake. But he still wasn't sure what that move should be. Whatever it was going to be, it would have to wait until morning.