Characters: Opie/Donna, Jax

Spoilers: Set pre-series

Warnings: none

Disclaimer: I own absolutely nothing, nothing at all.

Summary: A scene between Jax, Opie, and Donna before Opie goes to prison. Opie POV.


Pause

The verdict is in. It's just a matter of walking into the courtroom now. There's about ten minutes before court is scheduled to reconvene and he isn't going to step one foot in there until he absolutely has to. So, he's just going to sit here, on this uncomfortable bench, and hold his son.

He's in a suit and tie and uncomfortable shoes. Gone is the bandana, leather, and motorcycle boots. He's even clean shaven. The tattoos are hidden underneath a crisp, white, button-up shirt that Donna ironed every wrinkle out of. As he laced up his only pair of black dress shoes this morning, he almost said to hell with it. If this is his last day as a free man, than he would at least like to feel like himself.

His father walked by him a few minutes ago and all Opie could do was offer him a sad smile. This has been hard on the old man, and Opie's worried about his health. Clay and Gemma, Tig, and Bobby are already seated. He knows the whole club was notified and everyone will be there in a show of support. They aren't disguising who they are today. His fate's already decided.

Donna disappeared down the hall a few minutes ago, muttering something about taking their daughter to the bathroom as she walked away. At this point, he thinks she just doesn't want to be near him. The kids are only here because of the verdict. They stayed home with Donna's mother the other days because Opie wasn't about to let anyone use his kids, even if it was for sympathy for him.

He's pretty sure that if the verdict comes back guilty they aren't going to let him stay out until the sentencing. This might be his last chance to see his kids for a few years. He's facing a maximum of eight. He knows men that have gone away for decades and some that never came back. While eight years might not seem like a lot compared to that, his kids are going to grow and change so much that it might as well be decades.

With each passing day of the trial Donna has gotten colder and more distant. He can't really blame her. He's pretty sure he made some promise to her that something like this would never happen… he really should have known better. Maybe she's trying to prepare herself for life without him, Opie honestly has no idea. He just knows that right now he needs his wife… but apparently he is the last thing she needs.

"Hey man." He didn't notice Jax's approach, but it's nice to have his friend sitting next to him now.

"Hey 'lil man." Jax leans down to give his son a smile and takes a hold of one of the tiny fists. He gets too close though, and the other gets tangled in all that blonde hair.

"'Lil guy's got a grip on 'im," he says, laughing as Opie helps him untangle the hair from the tiny fingers.

"Maybe you just need a haircut," and a small chuckle escapes him as his son is smiling and waving his little fist in the direction of the hair that is too far out of his reach now.

The moment is over too quickly, and the weight of the day falls back on him as he leans his head back against the dark wood paneling of the courthouse hallway.

"Hey, it's gonna be fine." Jax tries to sound reassuring, but Opie lost his optimism somewhere along the way.

"Yeah, sure," is his standard response. He used to try to sound encouraged, but he doesn't even bother now. He's been there every day and heard all the arguments. It's grim. There's no point in denying it now.

"Ope, man, you can't..."

"Can we just not do this right now?" There isn't a lot of time left and he just doesn't have the energy.

"Okay, yeah, whatever you need." Opie's pretty sure that Jax can't give him what he needs. He needs a not guilty verdict and a warm, loving wife. Both of those are far out of his reach now.

"Jax, if it goes badly… I need… I need you to look out for Donna. She's not going to want any help, but she's going to need it." He really doesn't want to make the request, because dammit, he's the one that's supposed to look after his wife and kids. It's hard for him to ask another man… even one that he would trust his life and theirs with.

He fully expects another optimistic answer. One full of "don't worries," and "it's going to be fine." Maybe his best friend is a little more insightful than Opie normally gives him credit for.

Jax looks him in the eyes. He's serious now. Gone is the easy grin, although Opie's pretty sure it's been forced these past few minutes, and he looks years older. "You know I will."

He's about to reply, but Donna's walking back towards them now. He gives his friend a nod and he knows that Jax understands.

"Ready?" she asks and he hates that her tone is so casual. He's mostly sure it's all an act, but he almost wishes that she looked as lost as he feels inside. Almost.

"I guess." Jax gives him a pat on the back and his hand lingers a second longer than usual. They've been there for each other since before they could walk. The idea of being somewhere without him for years kinda feels like someone's cutting off a limb.

He watches Jax disappear into the courtroom and turns to his wife, passing her the baby. She looks down and smiles warmly at the little boy cradled in her arms. Another picture to remember in his head just in case…

He bends down and picks up his little girl. She wraps her arms around his neck and lays her head on his shoulder. He rests his cheek on her silky hair and breathes in the scent of baby shampoo. She's three years old and already such a big girl. Her little face is so serious and Opie feels even worse knowing that the tension from the adults has gotten to her.

"Well…" Donna starts, but Opie feels like if he's going to say anything it has to be now.

"Hey, Donna… if…" He stops as her eyes close tight and he realizes that she's trying not to fall apart. He feels the weight of his daughter in his arms and looks at their son and he suddenly knows why she's already started to let him go. If this is what she needs to be strong for them, then he will support her.

He's turning towards the heavy wood doors of the courtroom when a hand on his arm stops him. He looks down at his wife and she's leaning up towards him. Her lips are soft and pliant beneath his. A small sigh escapes her when he pulls back and he leans his forehead against hers.

Looking in her eyes he can see the fear and anguish that she's tried to keep hidden from him and he knows the kids aren't the only ones she's trying to protect. There's a lump in his throat and he pulls her close as he takes a few calming breaths. They stand there for a moment, his free arm around her back, kids between them. Another picture.

"Let's go," she says softly.

He's ready.