Jo had just got off her skype call with Hakim and had dropped her head into her hands and groaned for a long moment. It felt good to get that out. She felt like she had all these emotions bottled up inside of her and they were waiting to get out. There was too much going on thought for her to get her emotions out. Noelle's studio had been trashed, her and Reggie had been mugged, she had sent off divorce papers to Brent. There was a lot weighing on her mind ad she was just trying to take every little bit of it moment by moment. Sighing a little bit, she turned around to glance at where Gabi was sleeping peacefully on the bed with Razor curled up besides her. She had no idea where the other dog was, probably getting into mischief somewhere, Pup was a little terror. "Noe?" she called out as she got up and headed towards the door of the doorway. It probably would have been faster for her to just get on her phone and call her. Jeff had built Noelle a damn nice house, but it was a big house too with some rooms that were sound proof. She heard Noelle answer though and glanced back once more at Gabi to make sure that she was asleep before she followed Noelle's voice.
"Gonna order take out for dinner, what are you in the mood for?" she asked when she finally spotted her. She leaned in the doorway, crossing her arms as she looked at her best friend. Jo knew that she needed to tell Noelle that she had sent off divorce papers to Brent, or well maybe she didn't need to, but she should? They'd gone through a lot together recently. She didn't want to put Noelle in a bad position though, Brent had warmed to Noelle long before Jo did. And selfishly she didn't want Noelle to side with Brent in this decision either so she kept delaying it. "Greek?" she joked, the boys were performing in Greece right now, from what Hakim had told her anyways so hey, might as well get some greek food and pretend that they were over there instead of in the middle of a massive shit show in New Orleans. She noticed that Noelle's skype was up, "How's Jeff?" she asked, figuring that Noelle had been or was about to call him.
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New Rules, jo x noe
After disconnecting her call with JJ, Noelle had felt like crying. Not necessarily because she was so afraid, or so upset, or anything like that, but because she was just so overwhelmed and hearing his voice was such a relief and a comfort to her that it threatened to open up the floodgates. She had willed the tears away though, because it was ridiculous to cry now, and she had the feeling that if she let it start she’d have a hard time getting herself to stop. It was just better to stem the flow now. It did make her feel better that she’d be going to Greece or wherever JJ was in a day or two, though she also felt a little like she was running from her problems again. Was she running away from something, or was she running to something? Was she doing both? Noelle really was thinking hard and long about the fate of this studio. She knew she wouldn’t put up with this much longer. Things were hitting too close to home, literally. This was not worth her life, Jo’s life, their peace of mind or anything like that. If she were supposed to choose between her studio and their safety, of course she was going to choose their safety. Jo had a good point though – even if they gave up this fight, that did not guarantee that it went away. They still knew what they knew, and LaFontaine and Babineaux were still going to be invested in making sure they kept their mouths shut tight.
Noelle didn’t exactly realize she’d just been staring at her screen in thought long after she and JJ had disconnected until she heard her name being called, at which point she came back to her surroundings. ”In here,” she called back to Jo. She should probably go to her. Jo might not want to leave Gabi, even in the safety of her home, and with four dogs around to sound the alarm and protect if needed. She heard Jo’s footsteps though, accustomed to the way noise traveled in this house, and knew that Jo was on her way, so Noelle stayed where she was. She turned at the question, not even a little bit hungry but knowing that saying as much would just raise concern and Jo would tell her she probably needed to eat. She did try to think about anything that might sound appetizing to her, though nothing really came to mind. When Jo offered up the suggestion of Greek food, Noelle smiled a little wistfully, knowing what she was doing. ”Greek’s fine with me,” she nodded. Even if she wasn’t hungry, maybe it would be nice to feel like they were with the guys, even just in spirit. ”He’s okay,” she nodded, glancing back to her screen and realizing the disconnected call was still up. ”Worried. He’s getting us a plane to fly out there as soon as things are settled,” she informed. Noelle had just taken it for granted that Jo would be coming, too. There was no safer place to be, really, than on another continent with people who would protect them with their lives and then more people who were trained and hired to protect those people. Not that Noelle would want anyone getting hurt to protect her or Jo or anything, but it was definitely a safe place, and Noelle wouldn’t lie – she was eager to get out of New Orleans for a while. It had not been kind to her lately.
Everything that was happening wasn't easy to Jo by any means but he was coping an pretending to the best of her ability. She knew that she could control what she could control and so when she was awake, that was what she was doing. She focused on pushing through with this story and she made sure that her daughter was safe. At the end of the day those were things on a small list that made her feel a little bit better about everything. But when she went to sleep, that was the time that she couldn't control anything. That was the time that she slipped off into uncharted area and she had woken up in a sweat several times in the past couple of days. She had, moved Gabi into her room so that she could keep a better eye on her daughter and also because it was more comforting to her when she was able to focus on Gabi when she woke up from a nightmare. If her nights were going to be awful, Jo's thinking was that she could make sure her days were alright and for now that was going to include getting take out so that they didn't have to worry about cooking. "Cool," she nodded, knocking the flyer that she had in her hand against the doorframe. She'd just order dinner for two or something and they could figure it out when it got here who wanted what she figured. She didn't have a huge appetite these days and she thought Noelle must be the same.
A part of Jo had realized that Noelle would probably tell Jeff what had happened, but what Jo hadn't accounted for was how telling Jeff would impact her. She stared at Noelle for a moment when she said that he was getting them a plane to fly out there. She had said us, she hadn't said her, singular. She was at a loss for words for a moment because Jo knew that there wasn't a chance in hell that she was going over to where the boys were. "I'm..." she trailed off as she knew where this conversation was going to head and it was a conversation she had been hoping to avoid. "I'm not gonna go," she replied, wincing a little bit before she squared her shoulders. Getting out of New Orleans was just a temporary situation. For one, Jo wanted to see this through. Two, she didn't want to run away because problems would just follow her. Three, she couldn't go to Europe when divorce papers were also on their way there. "I can't," she rephrased, walking into Noelle's room and she settled on the edge of Noelle's bed. It would defeat the entire purpose of what she had set up, she had planned all of this so carefully.
Noelle had never been in a situation where she felt unsafe, like someone might be so angry with her or so desperate that they might hurt her or worse. She’d been in some pretty messed up situations, but this felt different. This was not a couple of girls with loud mouths in an airport trying to get their fifteen minutes of fame by shouting venomous things for attention. This was not her mother being manipulative to get what she wanted. This was powerful men feeling entitled to do as they pleased because they knew they could get away with it, and that was the thing. Noelle didn’t know how Jo was ever going to come up with the proof that she needed to put an end to this. Christian and Antoine had the money, and where the money was, so too was the power. Even if Jo could gather enough evidence and those two were sent to trial, they’d likely buy off a jury – hell, they might even buy off the prosecutors. For sure they wouldn’t do serious jail time. They’d get out, and then what? Would it be done, or would they want revenge? Noelle just felt very uncertain about a lot of things, and she didn’t know what her next step should be. She was trying to figure it out, trying to come to a decision about what she should do to move forward from here, but it was difficult to do without having all the information and knowing how this situation was going to play out.
She did know that her immediate next step was to go to JJ though. Noelle knew that she wasn’t going to feel safe until she put some distance between her and home, at least not if JJ weren’t there with her, and since he couldn’t come to her…she was going to go to him. She thought the distance would help her think clearly too, without the specter of what might happen next hanging over her shoulder. Being thousands of miles away would allow her to gain some clarity, she hoped, and then she would be able to formulate a plan with a clear mind. She was ready to be on a plane now, in fact, but she knew that she was going to need to get some things in order here before she left. Noelle just assumed that Jo would be ready to come, too. It hadn’t been a question in her mind that she wouldn’t want to come, because Noelle perceived this as the safest option. Besides, when Noelle felt threatened or scared, she preferred to be in the company of people that she knew she could trust. So when Jo said that she wasn’t going to go, the surprise was written all over Noelle’s face. ”What?” she asked with a shake of her head, ”why?” As Jo came further into the room, Noelle closed the laptop and set it on her bedside table, scooting closer to the foot of the bed where Jo was now sitting and telling her that she couldn’t go. ”Yes you can,” she said, making the mistake of assuming this was about the story. ”The story isn’t gonna go anywhere. Just for a few days…”
She should have thought, or expected this but she hadn't. No part of her had expected it and she didn't know what she was going to do because if news heof this made its way to Brent, he was going to be calling. And there was only a certain number of times that she could avoid his calls. She couldn't pick it up though because if she did that then she'd have to pretend. She'd have to pretend that he wasn't hurting her so monumentally every single day. She'd have to pretend that she hadn't fired off divorce papers in the mail which would get to him soon. She couldn't do that, that almost seemed too cruel to her. But most of all, Jo could not go over to where he is because he was Brent, and he knew her better than anyone else in the world. He'd be able to give her what she had needed to hear months ago, and she'd fall right back into old habits with him of simply being content instead of being happy like they used to be. She wasn't even content anymore, he'd been neglecting her for so long - for so long and if he thought that she wasn't the kind of person that would do something about it, he was completely wrong. She would, and she had.
"No," she repeated, shaking her head back and forth as she looked up at the ceiling for some kind of strength in communicating this. "Noe, I sent Brent divorce papers," she said, summarizng it into one sentence as she looked back down and over to the other brunette. Jo had never been like Care, talking in circles till she got to the point, she just, went to the point. "He'll get them on the twentieth and I can't be there, I can't be around him," she emphasized, shaking her head back and forth. It would undo every single thing that she had done in sending those divorce papers. That was why she couldn't go. Not because of this story, though that was a motivating factor. It was just that she couldn't go there. She could go somewhere, but not anywhere near where he might be. She steeled herself for a moment, waiting an wondering what Noelle's reaction to that might be. She had imagined a couple of different ones. Hakim had just kind of accepted it, it hadn't been entirely surprising to him. Cadence had been floored. Jo thought Noelle might be somewhere in the middle of those two.
Jo was stubborn, and determined. Noelle got it. To Jo, leaving now would only be admitting defeat or fear, neither of which would be high on her priority list. She wouldn’t want to give either of those men a reason to believe they had intimidated her or affected her at all, but Noelle was now to the point that she didn’t care what either of them thought of her. They could think she was a coward or a quitter or whatever else because she would much rather people who didn’t matter to her think poorly of her than find herself in a situation that she couldn’t come back from. Noelle admired Jo’s bravery and steadfastness, but she was also afraid of it in this particular situation. Noelle’s instinct for self-preservation always won out over her sense of pride; apparently Jo’s did not. Hearing no again had Noelle mentally preparing some salient arguments to make pleading for Jo and Gabi to come with her, but Jo beat her to the punch. Literally. Noelle felt like she had been punched when Jo said those words,, her eyebrows pinching slightly together and her lips parting in surprise as her brain struggled to take in this new information. Jo had mentioned that she and Brent were not happy, and Noelle had heard her, but she really thought…she really thought Brent would have fixed it? Done something about it? When she hadn’t heard about it again from Jo, she had assumed it was better.
Apparently, it was not.
Noelle hadn’t said any word in reaction as she processed this information, and Jo plunged forward with the real reason why she couldn’t go to Europe with her. Given these circumstances, that made sense, but it still did not solve their immediate problem. Jo, singularly, had a lot of problems that needed to be solved. ”Okay, well, we’ll go somewhere else,” she said with a shake of her head. She didn’t feel like she could leave Jo behind period, but especially not after learning this news. ”Anywhere,” she said, her head still shaking back and forth. JJ would send them without a question. To Noelle, focusing on the problem at hand – the need to get out of New Orleans – was easier to take on than the problem of Jo sending Brent divorce papers. She didn’t know what to do with that, but she understood that…it wasn’t her problem. It was Jo’s, and Brent’s. Noelle was their friend, but this wasn’t happening to her…it was happening to them. Her shoulders wilted. ”Jo, I’m sorry,” she said. She knew it wasn’t her fault or anything like that, but…this must have been the most difficult thing Jo had ever done? And Noelle…hadn’t even really known. ”I thought things were getting better when you didn’t mention it again. I…” She shook her head again. ”I can’t imagine dealing with that on top of all this.” It wasn’t her place to judge whether she thought Jo had made the right move or not. It was her marriage, her life, and her happiness. Noelle knew what it did to a marriage when a husband was away a lot, when he didn’t make his family his focus, when a wife felt neglected in favor of other things. It certainly didn’t make for a happy home, and the children who grew up feeling that toxicity there usually paid the heaviest price for it. Noelle knew. And she would never want that for Gabi. She would never try to talk Jo out of this, for more reasons than one, but she wished she would have been more cognizant of it just so she could…she didn’t know, listen…be a better friend about it. Help her through it?
Jo knew that Noelle's desire to leave was fuelled by her wanting to be with Jeff and Jo didn't want to deprive Noelle of that. She was glad, that Noe and Jeff still communicated, cared about each other, but most importantly listened when the other one was talking. That was where her and Brent had gone wrong. She was happy, that Noelle could still get a sense of comfort out of her boyfriend, a feeling that Jo had not had in months, if not the past year. Noelle should go to, well, wherever the boys would be. Just because Jo couldn't, and wouldn't go didn't mean that they had to go somewhere else. What Noelle needed and wanted right now was very different from what Jo needed and wanted. "It's okay," she replied, shaking her head as Noelle suggested going elsewhere. There was no point in them doing that. Jo would be alright and Noelle would be better off if she went to see Jeff. "You go," she encouraged, "I just can't go with you." Her and Gabi couldn't go. But maybe, maybe she'd go somewhere in a couple days. Her and Gabi. Complete radio silence so that Brent couldn't contact her, she could make sure she was gone when he got those divorce papers. She just needed a little bit more digging so that she could give the DA's office enough evidence to arrest Christian and Antoine to hold them, enough so they wouldn't get bail or something.
Jo did have a lot of problems going on right now but she was dealing with them. She was doing what she needed to do and at the end of the day, that was all that she could do. She shrugged her shoulders when Noe apologized. It should be Brent that was doing that. Not her. He was the one that had ignored and neglected her. He was the one that had brought this on them. "I just got preoccupied with all this," she shrugged her shoulders. It was a good distraction for her, and at the end she knew that both her and Brent were at fault here, but it was him a lot more than her, that much she believed. She didn't think this would be fixed. Brent was her best friend and you were supposed to listen to your best friend. She couldn't remember the last time she had a meaningful conversation with him. She talked to Noelle far more. She talked to her brother more, she talked to her damn pharmacist more.
Noelle wasn’t going to feel right about leaving Jo behind – she just wasn’t. If the shoes were on the other feet, she didn’t think Jo would do that to her; how was she supposed to do it to Jo? But she also couldn’t demand that Jo come with her, not now that she understood the circumstances. Noelle couldn’t blame her for not wanting to confront Brent in the wake of divorce papers; she wouldn’t want to deal with that either. Obviously Jo was going to have to face Brent eventually – they did share a kid, among other things – but she suspected that this was all still very new to Jo and seeing him for the first time post-papers was going to be rather overwhelming, to say the least. Noelle wished there were something for her to do here. She didn’t want to leave Jo, and she didn’t want to stay here. She fumbled with herself, her words, as Jo insisted that it was okay and she should go. ”But—“ she stammered, shaking her head. ”How am I supposed to go and leave you here?” she asked, not really expecting an answer. ”After everything we’ve been through, especially?” Even under ordinary circumstances, Noelle would have felt guilty jetting off to Europe to join the guys if Jo were, say, busy with work and unable to come along for the ride. Given that there was someone around town who might literally want her neck certainly raised the stakes and Noelle’s guilt.
Brent and Jo had never been a fairytale, but that was what Noelle had always rather admired about them; they were real. She had always sort of looked at their relationship with the attitude of well, if they can do it, I can do it. She didn’t like being confronted with the reality that they hadn’t done it…or at least that they weren’t currently. Noelle was not inside their marriage. She knew only what she was told, and all she had been told was of the distance between them and Brent’s negligence. She suspected it must have been building behind the scenes for quite some time, long before Jo had finally expressed the concerns to her, if she were filing for divorce. She no longer wanted to look at them as a model for what she could or could not do. ”Does anyone else know?” she wondered. JJ had specifically inquired about Brent tonight, and Noelle hadn’t really had an answer for him, because she hadn’t had the answer herself. Now she did, and it was a doozy. She wouldn’t betray Jo’s confidence though. She wouldn’t tell JJ until Jo or Brent told him, because that was theirs to share. ”What…” She wasn’t even sure what she was trying to ask here. ”What happens next?” she managed. Was it wham, bam, thank you ma’am and they were separated? Was one of them moving out? What happened with Gabi? Was this meant to be a wake up call to get Brent’s attention? Was the decision finalized in Jo’s mind, even before it was finalized in a court?
Jo wouldn't. She wouldn't want to leave Noelle anywhere right now because... well Noelle had been the only person that was around and there for her in the last little while other than her brother and Cadence - and with Cadence she had just got to New Orleans again so it was really just Noelle. She could understand why Noelle didn't want to leave her but from Jo's perspective she believed and she wanted Noelle to do what she had to do, to go where she needed to go and that was to go and be with her boyfriend. "I'll get Tim to come stay with me," she reassured Noelle, "Or i'll go stay with my dads, state of the art security there," she said with a grin. It'd be fine, and she was trying to encourage Noelle to go here because that was what was best for her. Jo would be fine here, she'd make sure of it. Maybe she'd take a trip with Tim or something. Cadence had offered her place for Jo to stay, but Jo didn't trust the security there as much as she did here or her dads place. She knew what Noe was thinking, they'd been through a lot and they should stick together but this one time, for a couple of days, Jo thought it'd be alright for Noelle to go. She should.
This was what happened when one party stopped putting in effort. Jo couldn't even begin to explain how frustrating it was for months on end, try, and try, and try to get the other person to see what she was thinking. To have it acknowledged, a promise of doing better only for nothing to happen. It was... it was honestly rude. It was so disrespectful and that was something that could fester and ruin a relationship. Disrespect. Brent had disrespected her when he stopped being there, and she wasn't going to take that anymore. "Just Hakim," she said with a shrug. She only counted with who was in their friend group. She had told Cadence but Cadence was... well she was like hers, just Jo's, none of the other's. She wasn't planning on telling anyone else, she didn't want all these people to know and for Brent to feel like people were lying to him. She wouldn't have told Noe if this hadn't happened. "No... we have to live apart for a year before it goes through," she explained. That was the next step because they had a kid.
As far as Noelle was concerned, Jo could stay at the house even while Noelle was gone. That security system JJ had really was impressive, and James had mentioned sending someone by every once in a while just to keep an eye on things. Tim could come stay in the house with Jo; even that wouldn’t be a problem. None of the solutions she and Jo were coming up with really satisfied Noelle though. She knew it was ridiculous, because it wasn’t like she was going to be able to swoop in and save the day if someone were to try to do something. Tim would probably be a much better protector than Noelle would be, and yet she still felt like she wanted to be around, with Jo, for safety reasons. And for sympathetic ones, too. The girl had just mailed off divorce letters to her husband and the father of her child; Noelle did not want Jo to be alone in the fallout. Brent would have four of his best friends there with him when he got the news; if she left, Jo would be alone with all of it. That didn’t sit right with Noelle either. Tim was in town, and Cadence, but still. ”It just doesn’t feel right,” Noelle sighed. ”Are you sure?” She’d be Jo’s personal body guard. She would get in Brent’s face and tell him to leave her alone if that’s what it took. She just did not, and would not, like the idea of Jo being alone right now.
There weren’t many things that Noelle kept from JJ, but this would be one of them. It wasn’t her story to tell, and she wouldn’t want to put him in the position of potentially knowing before Brent even found out. It didn’t really surprise her though that Jo had told Hakim, and she did think it was probably wise to give one of the guys a head’s up even though she doubted that had been Jo’s intention at all. It was just going to be a useful side effect of Jo turning to a friend. He could maybe run some damage control on the other side of things since he would be privy to what was happening. Living apart for a year seemed like a long time…a lot could happen in a year. And what did that mean, anyway? [b}”So…who goes where?”[/b] she blinked. Did Jo move out? Did Brent? ”Nevermind,” she said, shaking her head again. She was asking questions that Jo had no way to know the answer to. Brent didn’t even know he was getting divorced; it wasn’t like the two of them had time to sit down and hash out what this was going to look like. ”Well, you know you can stay here as long as you want,” she offered. ”I’ll gladly kick Spencer out of his room,” she joked, even though there were other guest rooms in the house. There was even a play room for Gabi – hadn’t started out that way, but it had just sort of happened because…well, JJ and Noelle tended to spoil her and wanted toys at their house too for her to play with when she was over.