Author's Note: So, after writing 'Coming Home', I really wanted to dig into the character of Shelby and develop her story in the SOA world. Needless to say, she took me in quite a different direction than I anticipated, pulling my boy Tig into the mix. This story isn't anywhere close to finished, but I seem to be going at a decent clip, hopefully it stays that way. This is pretty much AU after the season 1 finale, so obviously there will be differences from the show. I'm really not following that storyline at all.
Disclaimer:I have no claim to SOA, Opie, Tig, etc. Those rights belong to Kurt Sutter, Ryan Hurst, Kim Coates, etc. But thank you to them for bringing them to my life, ha. 'Madness' belongs to Muse, 'Explosions' to Ellie Goulding. All I can truly lay claim to is Shelby.
'Explosions… on the day you wake up needing somebody and you've learned… it's okay to be afraid… but it will never be the same...'
She was gone…
Opie cradled his head in his hands, hands that he didn't think would ever be washed of Donna's blood, no matter how many times he ran them under scalding hot water. He could feel the stain on his skin, collecting under dirty nails. He had never meant for it to come to this. He had known how dangerous it could be for both Donna and the kids… all with his involvement in SAMCRO…
"Donna," he bit out, his voice low. God, he missed her. She'd stood by him for all this time, even staying with him while he'd been in prison for 5 years no matter how much he'd tried to push her away, how many times he told her to take the kids and not look back. And this was how she was repaid.
"God DAMMIT!" he shouted, slamming his fist into the wall, barely noticing the crack he left in the plaster. He fell to the floor at the foot of his bed… their bed… His hands fisted in his hair and he squeezed his eyes shut trying to stop the burning of tears and the influx of memories.
Why her? Why did she have to be the one to die? It should have been him… He'd always known that he probably wouldn't last all that long, not with the decisions he was forced to make, the lifestyle he'd been born into. He often thought it was a miracle Piney was still kicking around after all these years.
But not Donna. Donna was supposed to be the one to grow old, take care of their children. They'd talked about it, the 'what if' game that parents tended to play. But they'd never considered that she would go before he would, that he would be the one that the kids were left with. Why would they? She had still been so young… good health… took care of herself. And he had tried so hard to keep her separate from his life of violence. He loved his club, but he loved her and the kids just as much, if not more. He'd tried to protect them.
But he'd failed. He'd failed her. He'd failed their children. He'd broken every promise he'd ever made to her as soon as that first bullet penetrated her skull…
He curled up on the floor, hugging his knees to his chest, trying to push the pain away. He knew Donna wouldn't want to see him like this, that she'd expect him to be stronger. If not for himself, then for Kenny and Ellie.
But he couldn't even look at them… not when Ellie had Donna's eyes… when Kenny gave him Donna's smile… What kind of father was he that he couldn't even look at his own children? He squeezed his eyes shut, screwing them so tight that all he could see were fractures of light behind his eyelids...
Slowly he opened his eyes, shocked to find the room covered in darkness as he rolled to his back, his eyes on the ceiling. Was the day already over? What day was it, now that he thought about it? Since seeing Donna's body, he'd lost track of time...
"Hey, Op! You in here?"
He could hear Jax's voice, but he couldn't bring himself to respond, didn't really see the point. Maybe if he stayed quiet, Jax would go, leave him to mourn…
Opie shifted, letting out a quiet grunt. He noticed his back was stiff. He was getting too old to lay on the floor like this. But he refused to move, give himself any sort of relief. He deserved this pain, this discomfort. If anything, he deserved a hell of a lot more misery than what he had gotten. He should be forced to suffer...
Jax's footsteps moved across the carpet and Opie saw the familiar scuffed white shoes out of the corner of his eye. He heard the shifting of denim and leather as his best friend crouched down, his hand gently resting on his shoulder. "How are you?" Jax asked quietly, cautiously, though they both already knew the answer.
Opie blinked, his eyes still frozen on the ceiling. "I killed her," he muttered, a tear falling from his eye.
Jax let out a sigh and sprawled on the carpet next to his oldest friend. "You didn't pull that trigger," he replied, folding his hands on his chest. "It wasn't your fault, Op. You gotta stop blamin' yourself. Isn't good for you or the kids."
Opie shook his head, pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes. "I should've been in the truck…" he choked out.
The blond really didn't know what to say. He couldn't blame Opie for tearing himself apart over this. He could only imagine how he himself would be acting if roles were reversed and he had just buried Tara. Just the thought made his heart hurt… losing Tara… or Abel…
Jax internally shook those thoughts from his mind. He couldn't think that way. Not when his best friend was teetering on the edge like he was and had been for the last month. He pushed himself off the floor, reaching his hand out. "C'mon."
Opie blinked up at him with bloodshot eyes. "What?"
The VP reached down and grabbed his friend by the arm, forcing him to his feet. "It's not doing you any kind of good to leave you here in this house," he reasoned, putting his arm around Opie's shoulders. "Let me get you a drink, alright?"
The taller man shook his head. "I really don't wanna see anyone, brother," he admitted. "Just want to be alone for awhile." He shrugged out from under Jax's arm.
The blond wrapped a hand around his elbow, stopping him in place. "It's been over a month," he argued. "I've given you time, you gotta get back to normal at some point."
Opie let out a sigh, his shoulders drooping. He knew Jax wouldn't leave, not until he got his way. And he always seemed to manage to get his way… Opie really didn't have the energy to fight him. He snagged his skullcap off the bedpost, tucking it over his hair and giving a shrug. "You lead," he said quietly, motioning that he would follow.
Opie sat alone, his hands loosely surrounding a bottle of beer. He stared at a knot in the table, barely aware at the chatter and laughter around him. He could feel different sets of eyes watching him from different corners of the bar, but no one had really approached him since Jax dragged him into the clubhouse. He knew they didn't know what to say. It's not like any of them knew what it was like to have their wife gunned down in cold blood.
He sighed, letting his nail scratch against the corner of the label on the bottle. He wasn't being fair. Everyone here understood loss. Hell, Jax had lost his father a long time ago and it wasn't like Clay had replaced JT for him. Gemma had lost a son and a husband. It wasn't like they hadn't all lost someone being in the club.
But they didn't know what it was like to lose Donna. They didn't know what it was like when Opie woke up in the morning and had to relive that she was gone all over again. When he'd open his eyes, he'd still reach towards her pillow, expecting to feel the silky strands of her hair under his fingers. But when his hand would find the cold pillowcase instead, it all came crashing back down, reminding him that Donna was long dead.
He let out a grunt, lifting his other hand to rub the back of his neck, blinking back the threat of tears. Jax was right, he had to get back to normal. But what the hell was normal anymore? Normal had been Donna, doing work around the house, making love to her in their bedroom, arguing about absolutely nothing. What did he have now to consider 'normal'?
Shelby Lerner tightened her arms around her torso, staring up at the looming clubhouse. She hadn't seen this place for over a decade, but it looked just as ominous as it always had. She could hear the thumping beat inside, mixing with muted voices and laughter, the clinking of beer bottles...
"You lost, sweetheart?"
The brunette glanced over her shoulder, startled by the voice. She couldn't make out much in the dark, the light illuminating behind the figure as she lifted her hand to her forehead, shielding her eyes. "I'm looking for Opie Winston," she replied. "Figured he might be here. Or someone might know where I could find him."
The man stepped forward and she couldn't help herself from giving him a once over. He looked to be an inch or two over 6'0, unkempt dark curls sprouting from his head making him seem even taller, giving him an air of menace. His eyes were covered by a pair of dark lenses, not seeming to be concerned about clear vision at this late hour. She recognized the cut, realizing that he must have been one of Opie's 'brothers'.
"Sergeant at Arms, huh?" she asked, her eyes traveling over his patch before moving back to his face, a dark eyebrow arched.
She could see the tightening around his mouth as he regarded her carefully and she imagined his eyes narrowed in scrutiny behind the glasses. "You lookin' for a ride, doll?" he asked, lighting a cigarette and tucking it into the corner of his mouth. "Don't know if you heard, but Opie's a bit out of commission these days."
Shelby wrinkled her nose and shook her head. "Well, aren't you just a charmer?" she retorted. "I just need to talk to him, that's all."
The man regarded her carefully as they stood in silence, seeming to size each other up. Slowly he reached up and lowered his sunglasses down the bridge of his nose to give her a closer look. Her breath hitched as she met his eyes, caught off guard by their unexpected intensity. They were an icy blue and she felt like he could see right through her. His mouth twitched at her reaction, but she wasn't sure if it was due to amusement or something else.
"Let me see if I can round him up for you, doll," he finally replied, sliding his glasses back into place. "You got a name I can give him?"
She swallowed. "Just tell him Shelby's looking for him," she replied, hitching her bag higher on her shoulder.
He shoved a hand in his pocket, the other pinching his cigarette, giving it a drag before pulling it from his mouth. He gave her a nod before ducking through the door, disappearing into a cloud of smoke and volume. She exhaled a breath that she hadn't known she was holding as a shiver coursed down her spine.
Tig glanced around the clubhouse, his eyes settling on Opie sitting alone at a corner table, shoulders hunched. He ran a hand through his dark curls and tried to tap down the lump of guilt that had settled in his throat, a lump that seemed permanently lodged since he had to see Donna slumped over the steering column, her head bloody, her dead eyes staring at him accusingly.
"Hey, Op," he called, sliding his sunglasses to the top of his head as he approached the table.
The bearded man looked up, seeming slightly surprised that Tig was even acknowledging him. "Yeah?" he croaked, clearing his throat.
Tig jabbed his thumb towards the door and jerked his chin over his shoulder. "Some gash is outside lookin' for you, asked me to come get you."
Opie shook his head. "Not in the mood to entertain some croweater or sweetbutt tonight, Tig," he replied, his blunt nail picking at the label on his beer bottle, his eyes downcast. "Little soon, don't you think?"
The darker man gave a scoff. "You think I'd be in here wastin' my time with you if it was just some fuckin' croweater, man? Hell, if that's all she was, I'd take care of it myself." He shook his head. "Seemed like she knew you, said her name was Shelby or some shit like that."
Opie seemed to freeze at the name as it tumbled out of Tig's mouth, his eyes growing wide in surprise. "She give you a last name?"
The older man shook his head. "Nah, man, just Shelby. She didn't want to offer much except she was looking for you."
Opie slowly stood up from the table. "What'd she look like?" he pushed, resting his knuckles on the tabletop.
Tig let out a quiet groan of frustration. "Shit, bro, she looked like some broad, what the hell do you want from me?"
Opie pushed his way past towards the door. "You're welcome!" Tig called after him, swiping the still full beer from the tabletop and taking a swig. "Last time I do him any favors," he muttered, letting his eyes scan the crowd for his evening entertainment.
Opie shoved open the door, his head turning from side to side as he searched the lot, his heart pounding in his chest. Shelby couldn't be here… could she? How would she even know? He'd wanted to call her, but didn't know how to contact her. He hadn't heard from her in so long… it had been even longer since he'd actually seen her. Would he even recognize her? How'd she know where to find him?
He spun around, his eyes scanning the darkness to his left. He saw the glow of a cigarette cherry in the shadows before it tumbled to the ground and disappeared. A woman slowly stepped out of the shadows, her feet shuffling against the pavement.
His breath caught in his throat as he came to recognize her. Waves of dark chocolate tumbled past her shoulders, wide green eyes framed in black… Her white blouse hugged at her curves, meeting a pair of tight dark blue jeans, a hole in the knee.
"Shel," he breathed, stepping forward, closing the distance between them.
She gave him a sad, almost shy, smile and wrapped her arms around him tightly. "Missed you, Opie," she whispered, pressing her face to his neck.