I have always found that the Little Men episode "The Sign" was missing something. I could never explain the exchange between Nick and Jo in that particular scene after everyone realizes that Jo will walk again. Jo's wink and smile and the look on Nick's face always haunted me with the fact that they knew something the audience didn't. I wrote this trying to make up for this absence. This scene occurs after Rob tells Jo that he will take care of her.
"And the fork ran away with the sp – sp…" Rob Bhaer struggled with the words to his storybook.
"Spoon." Josephine Bhaer finished for her son.
"Right… spoon. And the fork ran away with the spoon." The boy beamed at his mother.
"You're doing so well with your reading," Jo said, hugging Rob to her. She held him for a few brief moments, the recent sadness re-enveloping her. Tears stung her eyes as she remembered the words Dr. Pierce had spoken earlier. Paralysis. There was so much to lose if Jo never regained her ability to walk, including her only son's childhood.
"Hey Sport," a deep voice spoke from Jo's open doorway. The pair on the bed broke their embrace and looked up to see Nick watching them from the hallway. "I think it's time for bed."
The young boy slumped his shoulders in disappointment. "Aww, do I have to?"
Nick grinned and wandered into the room. " 'Fraid so, Rob. It's getting late and we should probably let your Ma get some rest."
Rob looked understandingly at his mother. "All right." He reached up and hugged her once again. "I can tuck myself in tonight, Mama. Don't worry." Jo shuttered at the boy's innocent realization.
"Good night, Sweetheart." Jo kissed him on the top of the head and watched as he skipped out of the room.
Nick patted Rob's head as he scurried by and then turned his attention to Jo. "How are ya doin'?"
Jo's lips trembled as she shrugged. "Everything has changed, Nick. Even Rob sees that." She sighed deeply. "And I don't know what I'm going to do."
Nick took a seat next to Jo on the bed. "Nothin' is gonna change, Jo," he said, trying to offer what comfort he could.
Jo rolled her eyes in agony. "Of course it will. Take the school, for instance. One can't honestly believe I will be capable of keeping a school open in a condition like this. I won't be able to take care of children when I need to be taken care of myself." She shrugged. "If this is permanent…"
Nick took hold of her hand. "We don't know that for sure. You could get better at anytime."
Jo shook her head, not wanting the hope of possibilities to take root. "Then there's the house. It is far too large for me to look after." She paused briefly, feeling nauseous at the thought. "Maybe McBride will get his wish after all."
"Where is this all comin' from? You're soundin' ridiculous."
"No. I'm being realistic. The children will all be gone," she said, lowering her eyes. "And so will you. I'll be left alone, stuck in this bed."
Nick looked at her incredulously. "What would make you think that?"
She sighed, defeated. "Nick, you don't want to be with someone…"
"You don't know what I want, Jo," he interrupted firmly.
"But why would you stay?" A few tears tracked down her cheeks and she hastily wiped them away, staring down at the bedspread.
Nick's fingers found their way under Jo's trembling chin. "Look at me, Josephine," he said, bringing his eyes level with hers. "I love you. And nothin' is goin' to change that. Includin' this."
Jo stared hard into his eyes, startled by the tenderness she found there. She was suddenly overwhelmed and began to sob. "I am so scared," she cried, burying her head into Nick's chest and clinging to his shirt.
wrapped his arms tightly around her back, drawing her to him. "Shhh," he murmured into her ear. "It's gonna be okay. We'll get through this."
"How?" she sniffled, lifting her head slightly.
"We'll find a way. I promise."
Jo closed her eyes again, snuggling into Nick's embrace. He gently caressed her back, trying to sooth some of her fears. "I'll make sure the kids are doin' what they oughta," he whispered. "And I can even help Asia with the cookin'." Nick felt Jo snicker against him. He hugged her tighter. "What's so funny?"
Jo took a deep breath, regaining some of her composure. "I'm just trying to imagine you in the kitchen." She found herself beginning to giggle.
"I'd probably look pretty silly in an apron," Nick chuckled.
Jo smiled, beginning to relax and feel somewhat tired. "We'll have to discuss the cooking arrangements later."
"Everything will work out," Nick stated, lifting Jo from his chest. "And I ain't goin' anywhere, okay?" He wiped a few stray tears from her cheeks. Jo nodded in agreement and yawned.
"I think it's time ya get some sleep."
Nick helped her to slide down into bed, making her comfortable by rearranging what she couldn't. When she was finally settled, he kissed her gently on the forehead. "'Night, Jo."
Jo smiled. "Goodnight, Nick." She watched as he made his way towards the doorway. "And Nick?" Jo stopped him in his tracks.
"I love you too."
Nick grinned. "Sweet dreams, Jo," he said, closing the bedroom door, plunging the room into a comforting darkness and necessary sleep for Jo.The End (03/08/03)
I have also been confused by the fact that throughout the series, although only two seasons long, Jo and Nick never once said "I love you" to one another. I was hoping to relieve my confusion of both matters with this piece. I hope you enjoyed it!