I Got This-
"I got this." He said it to her to reassure her. But neither of them knew it was the last time she would hear him say it.
Tara hated that phrase, it always was said with the best of intentions but still, the road to hell was paved with good intentions. It didn't matter if it was Jax or Opie saying it; it always meant trouble was to follow. She gave him a half a smile; she couldn't bring herself to do more. When would they learn? No, in her heart she knew they never would. They were still little boys playing pretend sometimes. She watched him ride off, off to stay by his best friend's side until the end. And as he disappeared she kept hearing him tell her, "I got this."
"Hi! Welcome to the neighborhood." Mary Winston greeted the new neighbors. They were a couple who looked like they had recently married. The house they had bought next door wasn't much, a small two bedroom starter home. She had been outside with Harry, trying to keep him out of trouble while Piney was sleeping off his last run with the guys.
"Hi!" The young woman says as she walks across the yard. She holds out her hand and greets Mary, something inside her senses that they will be good friends. "Who is this handsome young man?" She asks looking down at the toddler who is trying to find some kind of trouble to get into.
"This is Harry, my son. He just turned a year a couple of months ago. And I'm Mary." She can't help but smile. The only people she has really gotten to know since Piney moved them here with his friends to start an auto repair shop were those 8 men and their significant others, or rather two bit whores that they showed up with when they had someone with them. Gemma Teller was the closest thing she had to a friend here, and it would be a welcome change of pace to make a new friend.
"'I'm Sarah, my husband Richard and I; well I guess it is pretty obvious that we just bought the house." She was rambling, but she was so excited to meet a friendly face she didn't care. "Rick, that's what he prefers to be called outside of the office, he got a job here and well it beats living with family in Southern California. Oh listen to me rambling on; I'm sure you don't care. I, just, well we don't know anyone in Charming."
"Well, Sarah it is wonderful to meet you." Mary smiled at the brunette. They spent the next 20 minutes chatting about various things and then a car pulled up to Mary's driveway.
"Sarah, I'm going to warn you now, just smile and go with it, you are about to meet Gemma Teller. Her husband JT is best friends and colleagues with my husband. She can be a bit much." Mary said as quickly and quietly as she could to her neighbor as Gemma, got herself and then her son Jackson out of the car.
"Don't worry, I got this." Sarah said as she smiled at the woman who walked up to where they had been talking. Clearly things were about to get interesting.
Sarah was watching the three children that had become fixtures in her yard. It seemed that where ever Harry, or rather Opie as Jackson had taken to calling him since he looked just like Ron Howard's character on The Andy Griffith Show, was the other two were as well. Today they ended up in her care because Mary had to work and Gemma was at St. Thomas Hospital delivering Jackson's little brother or sister. It pained Sarah that she couldn't provide a younger sibling for Tara, but her pregnancy had been hard and the doctors advised against it.
"Okay, I'll count and you two hide." Opie instructed.
Jackson looked at Tara and groaned, " Come on Opie can't we do something else? She can barely play right."
"Hey, be nice Jax she's my friend just like you!" Opie was getting tired of his best friend complaining about his younger neighbor. Their mom's were close and he spent a lot of time with little Tara. He'd known her as long as he could remember, not that 6 years was a long time, but still.
"Fine, but if she gives up our hiding space, or looks at me with those goofy eyes I'm done playing." Jax complained.
"Hey smarty what are you going to do when your mom brings the baby home?" Tara asked, she might be younger than the two boys but she didn't want to be treated like it. Knowing there was going to be someone else to take that place was a relief.
"Well I won't be hanging out at your house." Jax snapped back, he didn't like be reminded that there was going to be someone else taking up all the attention he barely got at home.
Sarah watched as another argument broke out between the three of them. They never lasted long, and Opie seemed to be the peace keeper. Well when he wasn't forced to choose a side at least. Tara hadn't learned to be manipulative like that yet, but Jackson, well he had a hell of a teacher at home.
"Jax, don't be such a jerk." Opie spoke up, he hated when the two of them fought.
"I'm a jerk am I? Well I'd hate for you two love birds to have to hang out with a jerk like me." Jax said stomping off to pout under the tree in the front yard.
Tara started to say something and Opie stopped her, "Wait here Tara, I got this."
It had been a rough day, Tara and Opie stood with Jax as the priest read the last rites to Tommy. Jax was angry, he didn't understand how he could have survived the family flaw this long, but Tommy couldn't.
Opie stood between Jax and Tara, it seemed like that was always his spot. Sometimes he wondered it Tara felt like the third wheel? She ended up tagging along with him, and he was always with Jax. It was kind of expected of them, their fathers had started SACRO years ago, and traveled together until they settled down in what had been Gemma, Jax's mom's hometown. Truth be told she was from the outskirts of the area, and they lived smack dab in the middle of it all but when she was expecting Jax she made JT settle down and move here.
Opie looked at little Tommy and then over to Tara. It occurred to him that growing up she had been more of a little sister to him because neither of them had any siblings. Jax was his best friend and he would always have his back, heavens knows they had been in enough scraps already, but Tara, well he would go to the ends of the Earth to protect her. The more Opie thought about it he could hear Jax in his head "Dude did you see her?" Jax had taken to noticing members of the opposite sex recently; thankfully he had not noticed Tara as a member of that group. However it didn't keep Opie from wondering, would he always think of Tara as a sister? What if when they got older, what if he liked her as more than that?
Jax moved out of the hospital room and the pair followed after him, he was so angry he hit the wall in front of him. Tara bit back the scorn she was about to give him when it ended up being concrete and he actually hurt himself. "Jax..." Tara started toward him as he gripped his hand.
"Don't bother doc, I don't want or need to hear it right now." Jax snapped at her.
Tara looked to Opie, it was clear their friend needed them, but he was famous for his stubborn side, one of them needed to reach him before he did something he would regret.
"Tara why don't you see if you can get an ice pack for his hand, I'll try and talk with him." Opie seemed to read her thoughts.
"Are you sure Opie? He doesn't seem to want to talk." Tara said not taking her eyes off of Jax.
"Yeah, I got this." Opie said putting a hand on her shoulder.
Jax was harping on Opie to hang out more at the clubhouse. The two of them were bound to prospect for the Sons in a couple of years and while they were known Jax felt they needed to start acting like it. Opie was struggling to split his time with his two closest friends. Thankfully Tara had started to make other friends so that he didn't feel quite as bad when he was with Jax and not her. They were working on fixing up a pair of Harleys that they bought at the scrap yard. JT and Piney had told them it would mean more to have their hard work be their first bikes than some brand new piece that was bought for them.
Opie was wiping the sweat from his brow when he saw Tara. She probably thought no one was around which lately had been true. She was sitting under her tree as she called it, with a book in her lap and it looked like she was crying. Opie set the rag down and gestured to Jax. Both watched the petite girl fold farther into herself. Jax felt a prang of guilt, her understood that language, something was not right. Tara was as much his friend as Opie's, and he would never admit it, but he had a bit of a thing for her.
"I'm gonna go check on her." Jax said to Opie, causing his friend to give him quite the suspicious look.
"Nah man, I think I know what this is about. I heard Mary talking on the phone the other day. Her mom went in for some tests because she hasn't been feeling well for a little while. I'm taking it, things didn't go well." Opie was worried; he'd never seen Tara like this.
"Yeah, well who between us gets that shit better than me. Hello, I'm like the king of bad news." Jax was trying not to take offense to his friend stepping in. He got it, he understood. He'd lost Tommy.
"You mean you are bad news. Just give me a minute with her okay? I got this." Opie said as he headed over to the wreck that was Tara.
It seemed like all he was doing lately was attending funerals. Opie was over it. First there was Tara's mom, the cancer they had discovered was farther along than they first thought, and it was aggressive. In less than a year Tara went from trying to deal with the diagnosis, to trying to deal with being completely without her mom. She'd handled it surprisingly well, but then Piney and Opie discovered why a few weeks ago, her dad wasn't handling it at all.
They'd heard a major ruckus in the middle of the night, shit breaking, yelling, Piney was sure that someone was trying to rob Tara and her dad. He made Mary call 911 while he and Opie went to investigate. What they found was worse. The front door was unlocked; Piney called out for Rick and Tara but there was no answer over the yelling and the noise throughout the house. The living room was a mess, the coffee table was over turned, there was shit everywhere, and the smell of booze was overwhelming. Piney called out again, his handgun at his side ready. Opie had a baseball bat; Mary would have murdered both of them if Piney let him handle a gun. Suddenly they heard the scream, it was Tara. Opie was ready to weld the bat like he was swinging for the fences at the World Series; whoever made her scream like that was a dead man.
"You little bitch! What did you do with it? Huh? Where is it?" They followed the sounds, Piney keeping Opie back so that he didn't kill someone. The voice sounded familiar, but it was rough, scratchy.
"I don't have it dad. Owww, you're hurting me. Stop! I don't have your money!" Tara sobbed. Piney turned to Opie. He looked at him with wide eyes, and mouthed 'dad'? That meant, looking back around now it was clear, Rick had gone over the deep end. Opie felt a sudden rush of rage, now he was positive he was going to kill the man.
"Dad stop! Please!" Tara's sobs were punctuated by sounds Opie knew from Jax when he got into it with some of the guys. He was hitting her, from the sounds out it, punching.
"I need that money! Where is it?" Rick yelled through clenched teeth.
"You probably drank it away, because I don't have it!" Tara snapped between the sounds of fist hitting flesh and her own quieting sobs. Opie didn't like that, she sounded like she was giving up, and Rick might be drunk and crazy enough to actually beat her to death.
Unser the police chef walked into the house, gun drawn but aware. Mary must have told the dispatcher they had gone over to check on the neighbors. As Unser approached Piney signaled that they were in Tara's room from the sounds of it. He gestured for them to leave the house, and another officer was coming in to back Unser up. Opie shook he head, he would not leave her. Piney tugged him along and when they got out of ear shot he scolded him.
"Boy, you realize that we would be taken in on trespassing or hindering them from doing their job right? You do what he says and stay on the right side of him, so that when you are patched in, he doesn't have cause to be watching your every move." Piney finished as he dragged him to the middle of the lawn and they waited. An ambulance pulled up, and the EMTs waited for Unser to give them the okay. Rick Knowles was escorted out of the house in cuffs, using the young officer as a support to walk because he was so drunk. Unser followed and waved the EMTs in. Tara was sobbing on the couch; curled up in a ball it was clear there would be bruises, and lots of them. Unser took Piney and Opie's statements, and thanked them at the EMTs walked Tara out to the ambulance.
Opie panicked "Where are they taking her?"
"To St. Thomas, just going to give her a look. Make sure Rick didn't do any major damage." Unser stated nonchalantly.
Piney scoffed, he was sure Rick had done plenty of damage. Opie couldn't help it; something in him couldn't let her go alone. Clearly she no longer had both parents to depend on; he wasn't going to let her feel like she didn't have anyone.
"I'm going with her." Opie informed his father. Piney understood, Tara was like a daughter to him. He got that Opie was protective of her like a big brother.
"Son, I don't think that is such a good idea." Unser dismissed him, heading toward his patrol car.
"Yeah, well I do." Opie snapped back at the older man. "I'll call you or Mary when they are ready to release her. I got this pop."
And now here he was another funeral. Tara stood next to him, where she had been a permanent fixture since the ride to St. Thomas's those weeks ago. Jax was next to Gemma, who was crying, but something in Opie told him it wasn't the same as when Tommy died. She was sad, but not grief stricken, not like Rick Knowles was. Tara squeezed Opie's hand; he knew she was thinking about her mom buried not too far away from JT. Man, talk about a way to go. It wasn't cancer like Sarah Knowles, it had been an accident on the highway, JT was coming back from a solo run. The sad thing was, another motorist was killed in the accident. They had buried her a couple of days ago, since JT had held on to life just a little bit longer.
Opie felt a shiver go down his spine, they said deaths came in threes, it was a bit creepy standing here thinking about the fact that three people had recently died from his hometown.
After the funeral there was a 'party' to honor the life of JT Teller over at the SOA clubhouse. Mary wasn't happy about it. Opie heard his parents fighting, again. Things had been getting worse since Tara's mom had passed. It seemed Sarah Knowles was Mary's rock and without her she wasn't up for anymore of the club shit.
"I'm sorry Op," Tara began as they sat out on her front step. Rick was off having his usual everyday bender so she wasn't too worried about him being home, because he never was. Opie had taken to even sleeping on her floor some nights so that if he came home he would be there to get her out of the house, a fact that he had not shared with Jax.
Opie just shrugged at her. "Shit happens." He took a deep breath, "She wants to go to my aunt's in Oregon, and she wants me to go with her."
Tara's eyes widened. He could see the fear in them. "We need to tell Jax about your dad, so that you can call him if there is a problem and I'm not around. He'll protect you just like I would." Opie tried to reassure her.
"Op, I, I don't know. Jax and I aren't, our friendship isn't the same as how you two are, or even how you are with me. I'm just the extra person to him. Once you leave, if you were to, he's not going to bother with me." Tara stammered.
"Tara, trust me. You aren't an extra person to him." Opie smirk knowing that Jax had a thing for her, he would be pissed when Opie told him what the two had been keeping from him, but he would get over it. Piney and Mary came out of the house, both in a huff and waved for the two to join them in the car. Looked like they were all going to the clubhouse.
"Don't worry Tara, I'll talk to him." Opie said as they approached the car.
"I don't know, Opie." Tara worried again.
"Trust me, I got this." Opie smirked as he opened the door to the car to let her get in.
Six months, he'd made it six months with Mary before he took off. In that time Tara had gotten closer with Donna and Jax had taken to following her around. Opie found it to be a similar manner to when they were little and Jax complained about her. He claimed it was to keep an eye on things because Rick had a few run ins with trouble.
Currently the two of them were sitting, beer in hand, at a bone fire out in the back woods of property owned by a well to do family. Jax was eyeballing a football player who was chatting up Tara. Jax grumbled the name David Hale when Opie asked. Next to Tara was Donna, twirling a strand of her hair staring off into space.
"You know, you should just go talk to her." Jax grumbled.
"Nah, man. I'm here to hang out with my best friend. You know I've been gone for six months." Opie watched his friend out of the corner of his eye. Jax's jaw began to tick.
"Maybe you are the one who needs to go do the talking." Opie joked.
Jax turned and growled at his friend, "Fuck you, asshole."
The two went back to staring across the fire, and nursing their beers. Hale was called over to another group but watching Tara as intensely as Jax. Out of nowhere a drunk senior from their school dropped down next to Tara, grabbing a hold of her has be landed on his back. She tipped over with him, partly shocked. Jax jumped to his feet ready to pounce until Opie grabbed his arm. Donna helped her up and the two of them were laughing. The two girls must have sensed Opie and Jax watching them because they stopped laughing and began whispering while holding eye contact with the boys. Tara winked across at the two of them, and Donna waved at Opie.
"I don't like the way some of these guys are staring at Tara. She shouldn't be here. Most of them are juniors and seniors." Jax complained. Opie chuckled at him.
"How'd they get here?"Opie asked.
"They rode with Hale. Prick."Jax sipped his beer. "I think I better," Jax began but Opie stopped him.
"Oh yeah? You think?" Opie began to laugh, "Don't worry, I got this."
Opie could hear the fighting coming from the apartment Jax used from time to time at the clubhouse. Tara and Jax had been dating for almost three years since the two of them rescued her and Donna at the bon fire.
Tara and Jax were both smart, stubborn people, who were loyal to the people they cared about and their beliefs. Opie worried that the two of them were a lethal combination, and from time to time they were. But Opie had also seen a side of his best friend that was rare and only Tara brought it out in him. And Jax well he got their 'Doc' to unwind a bit. They loved each other intensely, and it not only scared the hell out of them it had Gemma freaked as well.
The fights had increased since Jax's latest thrill seeking adventure had landed him and Tara in Unser's jail cells overnight. Gemma had insisted they needed the time to help them learn a lesson. Jax could care less, but Tara was beginning to worry that no college was going to take her seriously if her record kept looking like a bad Bonny and Clyde retelling.
The door swung open and Tara stalked out. Her face as red, and there were tears streaming down her face. Opie stood to stop her and see if she was okay. Jax might be his best friend but Tara for all intents and purposes was his little sister. Tara held up a hand to stop him.
"Not now Opie, I just need to go home." Spoke quickly as she stormed past him. The fact that Jax wasn't hot on her heels wasn't a good sign. Opie watched Tara walk out of the clubhouse, he debated going after her to make sure she was okay. The door slammed behind her, and Opie turned to look toward the apartment where he heard Jax swear.
Opie walked over and stood in the doorway. He looked at his friend who was sitting on the end of his bed and shook his head. Jax ran his hands over his face.
When he looked up at Opie he sighed, "I fucked up man."
This statement wasn't new to Opie; Jax must have said it at least once a week for most of their lives. Opie eyed his friend suspiciously this time.
"What happened?" Opie asked, but deep down he wasn't sure he wanted to know.
"She wants to go to school in San Diego; apparently she was accepted on an early decision." Jax looked to his friend for support as he continued his tale. "She said her scholarship offered housing and asked if I would go with her when it was time."
"I'm going to assume you said no." Opie felt himself being torn between wanting to tell his friend to get the hell up and go after Tara, and congratulating him on sticking with the club. Jax and Opie had prospected and been patched into SOA, the motorcycle club their fathers had started, they were in line for running it together one day, why would Jax turn his back on that? He wouldn't, but part of Opie thought that he was foolish to let Tara go, just for the chance to one day take over the club.
"I better go talk to her." Jax sighed "What are the chances she's still out in the lot?"
Opie shook his head. "Listen shit for brains; maybe you should let her cool down. I'll check on her and let you know if she's planning on castrating you or not and then you can prepare accordingly to talk with and apologize for being a dick head." Opie said smugly.
Jax stood up, and approached his friend. "Alright. But I need a drink after that. You want one?" They headed out toward the bar in the clubhouse.
"I could use one. Donna will be up my ass once she gets done talking to Tara." Opie sighed.
"Sorry man, shit I never thought about Donna and you having an issue because of Tara and me." Jax took a sip of the beer he had opened and handed one to Opie.
"Don't worry about it. I got this." Opie took a swig of his beer. He hoped that he did, but after seeing Tara, this time he wasn't so sure.
Opie took a deep breath, taking in everything around him. He had struggled so many times over the last 16 years. He'd lost his little sister when she took off without so much as a goodbye, he'd done time for his club, lost his wife, lost his father, through it all Jax had been there. They'd been there for each other. Tara had come back, but things weren't the same. She wasn't the same old Tara, and he wasn't the same old Opie. But as he watched his best friend be taken away, and saw the struggle in Tara's eyes watching him yet again be cuffed and put in the police car for club related business. He hadn't been a part of what had caused this, but he felt it in his gut. He couldn't let Jax go in alone this time; if he did Opie feared his best friend wouldn't come out alive. He looked at Tara and walked up to the closest officer and head butted him square in the face. It earned him a free ride to jail with his best friend, and brothers from the club. Opie knew that he needed to be there, Jax needed him.
Opie looked at Jax, his resolve was set. His best friend needed him so that he could get home to his wife and children. Opie's family hadn't been the same since Donna died; he hadn't been the same since Piney was killed. There was nothing but Jax and Tara holding him here, and to get Jax home to her, he had to make this choice.
"I got this." He said to his best friend and brother, knowing that he was setting both of them free. Jax didn't understand. It would take him a while to understand it all but one day he too would be able to tell his brother, "I got this."