A/N: ref: They Shoot Mothers Don't They

(Jo's Apt)

Jo and Alison are sitting on the sofa while Jake gives Jo a cup of coffee. Jake excuses himself to the kitchen. Jo carefully shifts with her slinged arm.

Jo looks at Alison. "I'm scared, Alison. My life is so messed up right now."

Alison has her head resting against her head. "You'll bounce back. Sometimes life has this way of throwing things at you and you just need to roll with the punches."

Jo shakes her head. "This upcoming custody trial has me nervous. What if Austin is taken away from me, again? I can't bear to lose him."

Alison runs a hand through her own hair. "Jo, the judge won't give your son to the couple who kidnapped him and shot you. He has to know that you are the mother who deserves to raise him."

Jo shifts a little. "I hope so. The Carters are determined to get custody of my son. They even were willing to kill me to keep him."

Alison shifts her position. "Where is Austin now?"

Jo takes a careful sip of her coffee. "He's in the care of social services for now. They won't let me or the Carters see him until the decision is made." Jo sets her coffee cup down and clears her throat. "Alison, the frightening thing is, do I deserve to raise my son? Look at what he's been through since he's been born. I even had to fight Kimberly and Michael to get him back. He's not safe. I don't know if I can ever keep him safe again." Jo tries to suppress her tears as her voice cracks.

Alison leans forward and touches Jo gently. "Jo, you can keep him safe. In life there are no guarantees, but you always try to do the best you can and hope for the best. It will be OK again."

Jo's voice shakes a little. "Will it? Look at me, Alison. I nearly got killed trying my best and I doubt the Carters will let me live in peace."

Alison shakes her head. "If it comes to that, Jo. You have your friends by your side. We will stand by you and fight together on this."

"I don't think I have the strength anymore." Jo sighs deeply.

Alison protests, "Of course you do! Look at what you went through to get Austin back. Jo, you have a lot of strength that you don't believe you have, but it's there when you need it. Even in my own darkest moments, I found the strength to fight on. When I confronted my parents at their house, shouting from the rooftops what a monster my father is in front of people, it took away his strength, not mine. Don't give up!"

Jo inhales deeply and thinks about it. "Somehow, along the way, I lost myself somewhere and don't know how to fix it. I made so many mistakes."

Alison shrugs. "And you'll make more mistakes. Learn to brush it off and start over. At least that's what AA has taught me." Alison looks down, remembering her mistakes made while drinking.

Jo gazes at Alison. "You have come a long way from your drinking, Alison. Be proud of that."

Alison snorts. "Not so proud of what I did while drinking. I let a lot of people down, including you. I'm so sorry, Jo. I really messed it up for you when you needed me."

Jo gives a smile. "I forgave you a long time ago. I was relieved when you went to rehab to get better. I also screwed up. I was so desperate during the custody trial, I couldn't think straight. I trusted Kimberly to help hide my baby from the Carters and that went well." She adds with sarcasm.

Alison gives another snort. "Yeah, at least you didn't fall for an arrogant, drug and sex addicted jock in rehab. God, I was an idiot! I really fell for his lines and into his bed."

Jo asks, "What happened to that guy anyways? I didn't get the full story."

Alison nervously laughs. "Oh, well, I caught him with his pants down, literally." Jo blinks in shock as Alison continues, "With this bimbo and he had the nerve to blame his sex addiction. I told him where he could shove it and to give his ring to the bimbo in bed!"

Jo laughs. "Go, Alison! Now if only I could do that to every guy I meet."

Alison looks towards the kitchen and then back at Jo while smiling. "Well, not every guy…. Jake's been a great guy."

Jo smiles and nods in agreement. "Yes he has. "

Alison steals a furtive glance. "You two have a lot of history. Ever thought about getting back together?"

Jo is taken aback at the idea. "It's rather complicated with us. We always seem to be in this weird dance. I think its better that we remain friends."

Alison makes an exasperated sound. "Oh come on, Jo. Don't tell me there wasn't something going on between the two of you while searching for Austin." Alison scrutinizes Jo's face, who tries to duck her face.

Alison's jaw dropped at the realization. "There was, wasn't there?" She gasps. "You two did reconnect! Details, please!"

Jo blushes and looks toward the kitchen then lowers her voice, "Yes. There was a reconnection, a night together." Jo holds up the arm of her good hand before Alison could interrupt. "But it's not what you think. It was done out of some strange need or something. Next morning Jake wanted to talk about it, having no regrets and I told him I had no regrets either but used my son as an excuse not to delve further into it." Jo shrugs. "I think it was a reflexive action to protect myself."

Alison smiles as she shakes her head. "Jake is still here. He's standing in your kitchen, making coffee. All you have to do is go over there and tell him what you need to tell him."

Jake walks over, overhearing part of Alison's conversation and asks, "Tell me what?"

He looks at a nervous looking Jo and Alison. Alison breaks the silence.

Alison clears her throat. "I was just telling Jo, she should tell you something that needs to be said to you." Jo smacks Alison on the leg. "Ow! And I think she's needs to tell it now."

Alison gets up and hurries to the kitchen and tries not to eavesdrop. Jo stares at where Alison made her escape and looks back at Jake's face. Jake sits down by her on the sofa and waits.

Jo clears her throat. "Jake, what I like to say to you is…" Jo frantically searches for the right words. "…..that I appreciate all your support. Helping me get Austin back, being my friend in all this mess. So, thanks. I needed to say it to your face." Jo quickly exhales her breath.

Alison listens in and rolls her eyes after hearing Jo chicken out on telling Jake the truth. She's tempted to run back in the room and yell, no that's not what Jo needs to say to you, Jake.

Jake just smiles. "Oh. No problem. I'm always here for you, Jo." Jo just nods in agreement and is relieved when Jake gets up from the sofa.

Jake turns to Jo. "Well, I gotta go. I have things to check on at Shooters. But I'll be back and you can let me know when the custody hearing is, ok?" Jo nods. He turns towards the kitchen, "Keep an eye on her, Alison." Then Jake walks out the door.

Alison comes back as soon as she hears Jake's steps going down the stairs. She comes out around the corner to face Jo. "You chicken! You had every opportunity to tell Jake what you really needed to say to him and you blew it!" Alison throws her hands in the air.

Jo just smiles and shrugs at Alison's teasing. She knew she was right but the timing was way off right now.

As Alison sat back down next to her, she stares petulantly at Alison who gives her a look.

Jo acts being casual as she rubs her neck asks, "I was just wondering: when are you and Billy going to reconnect? The both of you have a lot of history together." Jo gives Alison a challenging look.

Alison protests. "We..I…aren't exactly on the same page. It's complicated with us."

Jo just nods her head, amused. "You work with him and you haven't told him what you need to say to him?"

Alison sputters. "It's been bad timing."

Jo continues to nod along. "Oh, so who's the chicken now, hm?

Alison just laughs and playfully tosses a pillow at Jo.