Disclaimer: I do not own Sons of Anarchy.
It rained more often than not in Seattle, the sky perpetually overcast and grey, with the sun seemingly making an appearance only a few times a year. Today was one of those few days that the strong, early morning sun decided to show its face and drifted through the window blinds and into the bedroom. As the sun fell across the face of the occupant in the double bed, a moan emanated from the small figure. She lifted her arm to shield her eyes from the intrusion, hoping that she could ignore it and continue sleeping. Suddenly, the blaring sound of the alarm clock obliterated the peace and quiet of the room.
Reaching out to slam her hand down on the piercing wail of the unwanted alarm, Jolene Morrow let herself fall back against her pillows, exhausted and bleary-eyed from lack of sleep. Unfortunately, she was also now fully awake. Well, fuck! She thought. How could I forget to turn that damn thing off?
Cutting loose with a long and tired yawn, Jolene rolled onto her side. Grabbing the pack of smokes and lighter next to the alarm clock, Jolene lit up a cigarette and took a long, deep drag. Lying back on her bed as she lazily blew smoke rings towards the ceiling, she contemplated whether she should get up or try to fall asleep again. She had worked the late shift last night, not getting in until after four o'clock that morning.
Even though it was barely nine o'clock now, Jolene knew that once she was awake, she was awake for the duration and there was no point in staying in bed if she had shit to get done. Finishing her cigarette, she rolled out of bed and headed to the bathroom to shower. Turning the water on as hot as she could stand it, Jolene allowed it to pour over her achy muscles while she re-evaluated her present state of affairs for the millionth-and-one time. For the most part, it was never a pleasant reflection.
Stepping out of the shower and pulling on a clean pair of thong underwear and a faded and oversized SAMCRO t-shirt, Jolene padded barefoot through her small apartment and into the even smaller kitchen. Deciding to start her Sunday morning off with her usual ritual, Jolene turned on the old laptop that was sitting on top of the small kitchen island and propped herself up on a bar stool. The computer was refurbished as Jolene couldn't afford a new one, but it did what she needed. While she waited for it to boot up, she went about making a small pot of coffee.
Thinking that the coffee would brew before she'd ever get on the Internet, Jolene was pleasantly surprised as she was finally able to log on. It still amazed her that a business in Charming had finally joined the 21st Century and she was grateful for it. Being able to read the Charming Gazette's online edition was one of Jolene's guilty pleasures. Ever since she had cut ties with Charming and her SAMCRO family, it had been a matter of pride to be able to survive on her own, without any help from, or communication with, the people she had left behind. So when she stumbled onto the website over six months ago, Jolene made use of it to keep an eye on her former hometown.
Jolene had tried to keep her little forays into the idyllic world of Charming to herself, but Ronnie had unexpectedly shown up at her apartment one morning and busted her in the act of surfing the net. Jolene tried to play it off as if it was nothing, but Ronnie said that Jolene could lie to her, but she shouldn't lie to herself. And Ronnie was right. Even after all this time, Jolene loved and sorely missed her family, her heart, body, and soul aching for one person in particular.
Jolene knew that she couldn't find a truer friend than Ronnie Armstrong, a childhood friend who had welcomed her with open arms when Jolene had fled San Diego over three years ago to Seattle. Ronnie had proven to be a shelter in the storm and a great comfort for Jolene. No woman should have to go through what Jolene had without the benefit of a deep friendship with another woman. Ronnie was there for her during the worst time of her life, helping her to deal with so many losses when she had left Charming and had helped Jolene through the times when she literally felt like she wanted to die. So when Ronnie would call her out on her bullshit, Jolene tried to accept it as words that were coming from the heart.
At first, Jolene would go as long as a week, maybe even two before she would break down and go to the website again. There she would read about the activities in the small town, the different local and charity events, including Gemma's annual fundraiser, Taste of Charming, the political maneuverings of the Hale family and, of course, the antics of her SAMCRO family. But the more she indulged in her addiction to the website, the more homesick she became and Jolene had to force herself into a weekly routine of going online only on Sunday mornings.
As the website was coming up, Jolene fixed herself a large cup of strong black coffee and, as she settled back down in front of her computer, her gaze fell across the screen. Suddenly, Jolene's coffee mug fell from her fingers and hit the kitchen floor with a shattering crash. She barely noticed the hot coffee splashing against her bare legs as she looked on in horror at the attention grabbing headline:
LOCAL WOMAN DIES IN HORRIFIC CAR ACCIDENT
A picture of Luann Delaney, perched on the front of her candy apple red convertible appeared below the headline.
"Oh my God!" Jolene cried. She felt a vise clamp down on her chest as she tried to get air into her lungs as she focused on the picture of Luann, dressed to the nines in what was obviously the very latest in designer gear for the aging gracefully ex-porn star. She quickly scanned the following article:
Luann Delaney, 49, was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the Emergency Room at St. Thomas Hospital on Friday night. According to Deputy Chief David Hale, Mrs. Delaney was returning home from Stockton when her car spun out of control southbound on the I-22 and went down an embankment. It has been determined that Mrs. Delaney was not wearing a seatbelt and was subsequently propelled out of her 2005 Lexus convertible when the vehicle flipped over. The other passenger, Gemma Teller-Morrow, 51, also a resident of Charming known for her fund raising and charitable acts, and the wife of Clarence "Clay" Morrow of Teller-Morrow Auto Services, was also seriously injured, but has since been released from the hospital.
Mrs. Delaney, a former actress, now turned Producer and Director, was one of the principal owners of Cara Cara Productions, an extremely successful promoter of adult entertainment films. She was known as a dedicated and hardworking woman by all of her employees.
"She was a complete jewel," said Dondo, one of Mrs. Delaney's former actors, recently promoted to the Director's chair at Cara Cara Productions. "She was my mentor in the business and took great care to let me know that I was more than just an actor with a big [expletive deleted]. She will be truly, truly missed."
Mrs. Delaney is survived by her husband Otto Delaney, who is currently an inmate at Stockton Correctional Facility. Funeral services have been scheduled for this Saturday at 2:00 p.m. in Dubrowski's Funeral Home, 143 North McGuff Street, Charming, CA, with interment to follow at Charming Memorial Park.
As Jolene looked at the photo of a bright, happy, and full of life Luann, she broke down and wept bitterly.
Otto looked up as the guard opened the door to admit another visitor. He had just returned to his cell from laundry detail when word came that someone was here to see him, which seemed to be the norm lately. He had to be grateful for that. The support he was getting from his brothers was overwhelming and the only thing that was keeping him focused and sane. The Club had gone the extra mile for him and had Rosen apply for a temporary release from Stockton Prison so that Otto could attend Luann's funeral. Unfortunately, because of Otto's "proclivity towards violence" and his "inability to get along with other inmates in a peaceful and orderly fashion," the request had been summarily denied.
Otto was having a hard time adjusting to the fact that Luann was gone. Having accepted his loss of freedom over four years ago, Otto had been pretty philosophical about it all, never believing that he could end up losing the one thing that he had left to live for. Otto never thought that Luann's last visit to him would be the last time he would ever see her again. She had just been up to see him two weekends ago for their first conjugal or "Sunday Visit" in over six months. Otto had been the instigator of an altercation in which another inmate ended up in the infirmary minus part of an ear. As a result, Otto had spent a month in solitary and had all of his conjugal privileges revoked.
Maybe if he hadn't been such a fuckin' hothead, maybe the shit wouldn't have hit the fan, maybe the Warden would have shown mercy, and maybe he would have allowed Otto to be present when his wife was laid to rest. Maybe Luann would have been up here with him instead of in Stockton with Gemma on the I-22.
Maybes could drive a man insane.
"Delaney," A C.O. called out. "Your visitor's up next."
Otto figured it was Bobby or maybe Clay who had stopped by to fill him in on more of the details for the funeral. In spite of his current situation, his brothers were making sure that Otto was involved as much as possible in making the final arrangements for his wife. With many of the charters coming to pay their respects, his Club's Pres was making sure it was a final send-off befitting the old lady of one of SAMCRO's most loyal members. So when the door opened and a small figure walked in, Otto was truly shocked.
Jolene Morrow, her trademark long black curls pulled back into a low ponytail, stood in the doorway, wearing a black leather jacket, black V-neck sweater with skin tight jeans, and black knee-hi leather stiletto boots. She strode slowly and somewhat hesitantly across the room until she was facing Otto.
"Hey, Big O." Jolene's voice shook with emotion. Without saying a word, Otto stood up with open arms, enveloping Jolene in a bear hug as she ran into them.
Big Otto and Jolene were sitting at a small table towards the back of the Visitor's Center. It took them out of the middle of the room and gave them a little more privacy.
"I can't believe you're here." Otto said, still shaking his head in stunned, but happy disbelief. He looked at Jolene. She had always been a beautiful girl, but now at 25, she had metamorphosed into an even more beautiful, slim, but full-figured woman with lush curves. And a hard woman too, if Otto's guess was right. He could see it in her always-expressive eyes. The last four years had done a number on her. "You're the last person I would have ever expected to see today."
"When I found out about Luann, I had to come." Jolene whispered softly, her bright eyes brimming with unshed tears.
"Who told you?" Otto wondered.
"No one told me. I found out from the Charming Gazette's online website." Jolene replied. "Otto, what happened? The article didn't have all the details. How's Gemma?"
"Gemma's fine, sweetheart. She suffered a concussion and got banged up a bit, broke her arm, but she's fine. I haven't seen her, but Clay tells me she was very lucky." Otto sighed as he shrugged his shoulders. "She and Luann were heading home after a girls-night-out in Stockton. Their typical Friday night, you know, dinner and a movie. Apparently, Luann had a couple of glasses of wine with dinner, not enough for her to be legally drunk, but enough so that her reaction time was slow and she was buzzed enough to forget to put on her seat belt." He took a deep breath, which came out in a shudder and Jolene's heart tightened in her chest as it seemed the tough guy former VP was going to cry. He squeezed his eyes shut and rubbed them with his thumb and index finger as Jolene held onto his other hand.
Taking another deep breath, Otto forced himself to continue. "Luann managed to avoid a head-on collision when a tractor trailer jackknifed the divider on the I-22 on their way back to Charming. Unfortunately, even though the trailer barely clipped her on the back, the car spun out of control, flipping over and down the embankment at about 90 miles an hour. Luann was ejected from the car and died on impact. It could have been a lot worse, but thank God Gemma had been wearing her seat belt."
Hearing the details of the accident was hard enough for Jolene, but watching Big Otto's pain and suffering as he relived each moment of the horrifying accident, as if he had witnessed it himself, broke her heart. Aside from the MC, Otto's world had revolved around his old lady. It was an unfair twist of fate that, so soon after losing his freedom, he should lose her as well. Jolene closed her tear-filled eyes and said a silent prayer of thanks that Gemma had survived such a horrible accident with non-life threatening injuries. She loved Luann and was devastated by her death, but Jolene knew that losing Gemma as well would have had a crippling effect on her.
"How are you holding up?" Jolene asked as Otto grabbed her hand with both of his and squeezed gently.
"It's been hard—the hardest thing that I have ever had to deal with in my life. I find solace in that at least we were able to spend the weekend before last together. She was so happy, too." He flashed Jolene a quick, but broken-hearted smile. "We hadn't been together for a few months. My fault, of course." Otto said bitterly.
"Are they allowing you a furlough so you can at least attend the funeral?" Jolene asked hopefully. The man deserved the chance to say his final good-bye in person.
"No." Otto's deep blue eyes met Jolene's. "The Warden and I have been involved in a pissing contest for a long time now. He doesn't like me very much. Can you imagine that?" He chuckled good-naturedly, forcing a slight smile out of Jolene. "He finally has one up on me and exerted his authority by classifying me a flight risk, which is funny considering that my only reason for even contemplating an escape has already been taken from me."
Jolene was feeling his pain so keenly, she couldn't avoid crying softly as Big Otto patted her hand. "It's okay, baby girl. Don't worry about me. I've said my goodbyes to Luann and I'm at peace with myself." He gently swiped away her tears with his thumb. "I know how much you loved her and she loved you right back. I'm really glad you came. I'm just sorry that it took this to bring you back."
Jolene sniffed loudly. "I'm sorry too, but—"
"No buts, Jolene. I may be just one of your many surrogate fathers, but you have truly always been like a daughter to me. I have no problem speaking my mind with you. It's been over three years. Where the fuck have you been?" Otto demanded.
Jolene's shoulder shifted uncomfortably as she pulled her hand away from his. "I was where I needed to be. I've was living my life and, until recently, I was working as a teacher." As Otto glared at her, Jolene replied heatedly. "I was alive, okay? I was out of Charming and out of the Life, just like my so-called old man wanted. I really saw no point in keeping in touch."
"Really? That justifies you dropping off the face of the earth? Your family has been worried sick about you. You left town while you were still recovering and they had no clue if you were alive and well or had ended up an unclaimed Jane Doe in a morgue somewhere." Otto said grimly.
"With all due respect, Otto, the day I left Charming, no one tried to stop me. My family broke my already-damaged heart by just letting me go. I have a hard time believing that anyone has missed me all that much." Jolene said bitterly.
"Well, you thought wrong, little girl. Everyone, from your father and mother to Bobby, me, and the rest of charter, we were all broken to pieces when you left. You surprised us all by what a selfish little brat you turned out to be." Otto accused as Jolene's eyes widened in shock and pain. "You mean to tell me that you never even thought about picking up the phone to call your dad just to let him know that, at the very least, you were still alive?"
"I thought about Dad all the time." Jolene replied in a small voice. Her heart broke every time she thought about her father, her knight in banged up armor. Even though Otto was right about her being selfish—brat, on the other hand, was debatable—Jolene had her reasons for staying away.
"And let's not forget Jax—" Otto started.
And just like that, Jolene's demeanor did a complete 180, her anger blazing as hot as a furnace. "Oh really? You wanna talk about selfish little brats, let's start with your VP. No, you know what—let's not. Forget Jax! I sure as hell did. I refuse to be cast as the villain in this. I was only guilty of doing what he wanted me to, which was to go on with my life without him. You weren't around when your VP decided that his life would be a lot better off if I wasn't a part of it." Jolene spit out.
Otto was shaking his head. "Jo, from how I heard it told, it was a little more complicated than that. What he did, he did for your—"
"Please! Please spare me your 'rah-rah-Jax' speech. I know brothers stick together, but this is a goddamn joke. You weren't there. Had you witnessed the humiliation and devastation I suffered at the hands of your VP, you'd understand and you'd see that it wasn't for my own good." Jolene said softly, but fiercely. "I took two bullets in my chest for that man, bullets that were meant for him. My reward for being the old lady I knew he needed me to be was to have that Reno Whore show up in Charming, all smiles and giggles, just so she could rub her two passion-filled weeks with my old man in my face. After that very public humiliation, each and every fuckin' croweater on that lot took a swing at me because they felt they could, so don't tell me that what he did was for my own good. Walking out of Charming and leaving him behind is what I did for my own good." She grabbed her purse and started to rise as if she was about to leave.
Putting his hand on her shoulder, Big Otto shoved her firmly back down and into the seat, hard enough so that the metal chair made screeching noises as it slid across the floor. "Delaney? What's going on over there?" The C.O. called out from his corner of the room.
As the guard started to walk over towards them, Jolene called out, "Everything's fine officer. No worries." The guard eyeballed them both, then slowly backed away, and returned to his post by the door.
"You need to calm down." Otto said sternly as he looked hard into her eyes. Jolene wavered as Otto was still a fully-patched member. She nodded her assent as her temper subsided.
"Now it's your turn to listen. I'm not gonna justify anything Jax may have done by saying its just part of the Life. I have no doubt that you were badly hurt, humiliated even. You definitely got a raw deal, sweetheart, but can you honestly sit here, look me in the eye, and say that Jax did what he did because he hated you or because, in his own warped and fucked up way, he loved you too damn much?" Otto challenged.
Jolene knew where Otto was going with his line of reasoning and knew in her heart that he had a point, but she still wasn't willing to admit it. "That's kind of hard to answer, Otto, especially when that love that Jax supposedly has for me was so strong, it compelled him to marry the Reno Whore." Jolene grumbled sarcastically.
Otto quirked an eyebrow. "How did you find out about Jax marrying Wendy? From that website?" He tried to alleviate the tense situation with a little humor. "I know Gemma's something of a rocking Martha Stewart, but I didn't think she would go all Emily Post and start announcing SAMCRO weddings in the local rag."
Jolene shook her head and smiled ruefully. "No, I got that little nugget from an alternative source." Thinking about the conversation that took place several months ago, Jolene remembered how the revelation that Jax was now a married man had totally ripped her to shreds, even after all this time away from Charming and from him.
"Is that all your source had to say 'cause I'm thinkin' maybe you haven't heard the good news." Otto said as Jolene raised her eyebrows questioningly. "Jax suffered from buyer's remorse almost immediately. He filed for divorce so damn fast, I think that cranked-up croweater's head is still spinning."
Jolene hid her shock well, but Otto could see the hope in her luminous green eyes. "That's not true." She almost whispered disbelievingly.
"You calling your Uncle Elvis a liar because Bobby couldn't wait to tell me about it almost eight months ago. As a matter of fact, in another six months, Jax should be a free man in more ways than one." Otto stated. "Jo, there's something else that you need to know."
Jolene cracked a smile. "You mean the fact that Jax and Opie are doing time in Chino?" As Otto raised one eyebrow, she nodded. "My source dropped that bomb on me, too."
"Did your 'source' tell you that Jax had been searching for you almost non-stop since you fell off the grid?" Otto asked. Jolene swallowed hard as her heart skipped a beat, the memory of the day Jax had shown up at Ronnie's house seared on her soul. Misinterpreting the look on her face, Otto continued, "You can deny it all you want, Jolene, but you know better than anyone that the love Jax has for you wasn't going to just wither and die. Jax has been a broken man going on four years now. According to Bobby, if he didn't have the Club and his obsession with finding you again, there's no telling how long he would have lasted. Going to jail probably saved his life. You remember what he was like after his first girlfriend left town?" Otto asked and Jolene nodded slightly, remembering the drunken lout Jax had become, picking fights in bars with the hope that someone would put him out of his misery. "Well, you were the real deal for him, baby girl, and losing you fucked him up far worse. He hasn't been the same since. I was kinda glad when he stopped coming to see me because it broke my heart to see my brother merely going through the motions of living. He was a dead man walking and, I have to tell you, Jo, you may look good on the outside, but the eyes never lie. I know you still love him. It's written all over your face."
Jolene had to close her eyes in order to stop the tears from running down her cheeks.
For the first time since learning of Luann's passing, Otto felt his heart beat with the rhythm of joy as he realized he was finally getting through to her. "The love that you two have for each other is a rare thing and instead of looking for a way to work shit out, you've wasted the past four years pining for each other. Do you understand what I would do to have those four lost years to share with Luann?" Leaning back in his chair, Otto shook his head. "If I could go back in time, I would do anything to be with her again, but I can't. It's too late for me." He pointed a finger at Jolene. "The best advice I can give you is to fix the mistakes of the past and change the course of your future before it's too late."
"How can I possibly fix this?" Jolene cried, throwing her hands up in the air. "It's been a long time, Otto. No doubt we're both totally different people now. There's just too much pain and bitterness to overcome." Too many things lost, she thought to herself sadly.
"You'll never know unless you try and you can start by getting your ass back to Charming. Reclaim your family, reclaim your home, and reclaim your old man." Otto stated forcefully. "Jo, don't let this opportunity slip through your fingers. With that crank-sucking croweater as good as gone, this could be the only second chance you and Jax get. Don't let your stubborn streak make you throw away the chance of finding true happiness with your old man again."
As Otto's words poured over her, Jolene wondered if going back was really at all possible. Ronnie's admonition that she stop lying to herself reverberated in her head. The reason she spent so much time devouring as much information as she could find about Charming was because she desperately missed her family and her home. The last four years without them—without Jax—have been devastating. Although she had enjoyed some moments of happiness, for the most part, her life has been one painful and stressful series of events after another. As she drove to Stockton on her way to see Otto, Jolene had almost convinced herself that Luann's death was a sign and that maybe, with Jax in prison, now might be the time for her to go home, if only for a little while. But Ronnie was right. She may be able to lie to those around her, but Jolene couldn't lie to herself.
I miss Charming and my family, but it's the love of my life that I need the most.
In the three-plus years since she had been gone, there had been other men. Men who tried to enter her life, wanting to be her man, making promises to be there for her no matter what, but there was ever only going to be one man for Jolene. She had loved Jax since she was ten years old and, no matter how hard she tried, Jolene knew she could never love another. Maybe now was the time to take that difficult first step towards a reconciliation.
Jolene looked up at Otto. The hard glint that he saw reflected in her wide green eyes was enough for him. "So before you go home, will you do something for me?"
Jolene flashed him a half-smile. "Anything for you." She said, acknowledging her unspoken agreement to return home.
"First, go see your old man in Chino. He needs you, now more so than ever."
"I want you to represent me at the service for Luann this coming Saturday. I want—" Otto's voice broke a little, before he steadied it. "I want you to put her favorite flowers on her grave for me. She really loved yellow roses."
"I'd be honored to represent you." Jolene squeezed his hand. "And, Otto? Thank you."
Otto gave her a sad smile. "What for, sweetheart?"
"For caring so much about your brother—and me—and for giving me the kick in the ass I needed." Jolene replied as she reached across the table and wrapped her arms around the man she was proud and happy to have in her life again.
Stubborn she may be, but Jolene wasn't delusional. After four years of hard lessons learned, it was time to go back home. Jolene knew it was destined to be a hard road back, but nothing worthwhile was ever easy.
"So do you know who's here to see me?" Jax asked as he was escorted by a big and burly C.O. along one of the many dingy corridors of Chino Correctional Facility. "I wasn't expecting another visit for a couple of weeks."
Billy shrugged his huge shoulders. "Yeah, I've been looking forward to that visit, too. Man, that little fat dude sure can make some killa banana bread. A slice of that with a cup of coffee in the morning is pure heaven. You still going to break me off a piece of that, right?" The surprisingly soft-spoken guard asked expectantly.
"Hey, man, you know I'll look out for you. Just keep looking out for me and Ope." Jax grinned as they approached the door leading into a small room adjacent to the Visitor's Center.
For a C.O., Billy Jenkins had proven to be quite useful for scoring smokes, weed and on occasion, some really good porn. It had gotten relatively easy for Jax to pass off the contraband cash he got during his visits from Gemma and his brothers and pass it along to Billy before he was searched again once his visitors had left. Lately, though, Billy had developed quite a taste for Bobby's organic banana bread, so when Bobby came to visit, he always made sure to bring two loaves for Jax and Opie. After going through the scanners and getting the all clear, Jax would always break off half a loaf for Billy.
Upon entering the Inmate Processing Section, Jax was put through the normal procedure before an inmate can see his visitor, including a thorough pat down to confirm that he had nothing illegal on his person and then he was passed back to Billy to be escorted into the Visitor's Center. Jax nodded his thanks at Billy as he moved him towards his favorite table at the northeast corner of the rectangular shaped room. Right above the table was a series of small windows with a view of several cabins that were reserved for use by inmates and their spouses for conjugals and family visits with their children. As Jax sat down in the cheap metal chair, the C.O. retreated to take his position against the wall several feet away.
The table that Jax had chosen was far enough from the others so that his discussions with his visitors could not be easily overheard. In that corner far away from the rest of the inmates and their visitors, Jax could fantasize that he was really sitting down with Gemma at her kitchen table. When Bobby would come, sometimes he would imagine that he was sitting at one of the tables across from the bar at the Clubhouse smacking down on Bobby's famous Chili with jalapeno corn bread and a super-sized mug of the sugary sweet coffee he loved.
But sometimes Jax would sit at that table and stare at the door to the Visitor's Center and imagine it opening to reveal Jolene. And each time the door would open and it wasn't her, it was the worst feeling imaginable.
Having served eight months of a 14-month sentence had given Jax a lot of time to contemplate the miserable existence that was currently his lot in life. Having all this "me time" to analyze and re-analyze every major decision that he had ever made about Jolene over the last four years had given Jax clarity of mind and purpose of thought that was mind-blowing.
Bottom line, Jax thought, I'm a complete and utter asshole.
He had pretty much come to that conclusion shortly after Jolene had left Charming. He missed her so badly that Jax started doing "surveillance" runs to San Diego. He had convinced himself that he was taking the seven-plus hour ride just to make sure that she was safe, but sitting here in the cold light of day, Jax realized that he had been more like a stalker and a perv to boot. That feeling only intensified when he remembered getting caught red-handed by Jolene. She had looked so good and he had missed her so much that the thought of being with her again overrode any sense he had. He had almost convinced her that they should go back to her apartment for a little quality time between the sheets, with the condition that it was a no-strings attached deal and that things would continue the way they had since she had left Charming.
Jax cringed in his chair as he recalled the bitter words that spewed out of her mouth as she disabused him of the notion that he could treat her like she was no better than a sweetbutt on a run. He had returned to Charming more like a battered dog with its tail between its legs than a powerful outlaw biker.
It was only when Jolene disappeared completely off the map several weeks later that Jax was forced to face the overwhelming truth that he could never let her go. His searches took him all over California and Washington. He had even tracked her bitter egg donor down in Tacoma, but Valentina hadn't seen hide nor hair of Jolene since she had returned to Charming when she was 17.
Jax sighed as he ran his hand through his short hair, across his face, and down to the goatee that Jolene had loved so much. Jax's feelings of urgency only increased when Bobby brought the tragic news of Luann Delaney's death in a car accident. There was no doubt in his mind that Otto, his brother and his mentor, was devastated by his loss. Jax was further shaken to his core when he heard that Gemma had been with her that night. Nearly losing his mother had convinced Jax that losing his old lady was a wrong he had to move heaven and earth to fix before it was too late.
I have to get Jolene back.
In reality, Jax realized, wanting to get Jolene back had never been the problem. It was finding her that had proved to be so elusive. The tragedy of the Delaneys' ill-fated love had Jax feeling an urgency that was almost too much to bear. It hit him rather suddenly that if he didn't do everything in his power to get his woman back and soon, he may never get to see her again. He may never get the chance to say to her "I love you" and hear her say "I love you more" back.
Only now, in prison, had Jax come to understand what Otto had said to him all those years ago.
That's what the love of a good woman does to you, bro. Makes you forget all the past bullshit. It makes you feel like Superman 'cause with it, you feel like you can do anything. Plus, there's no greater feeling, Jax than having the woman you love look at you like no other man exists. Like she knows you were made for her and only her and trust me, this is something Jolene's known for years . . . Don't fuck it up.
And what did he do? He did precisely the opposite and fucked it up royally.
But he was going to make this right. Jax had a plan and whoever came to see him today had better be ready to take down some instructions because Jax Teller was on a mission to find Jolene Morrow—even if he had to do it from prison.
So lost in his recriminations and plans, he barely registered the voice over the P.A. system, "Teller. Visitor!"
Jax stood up as he saw the door open.
In a small waiting room adjacent to the Visitor's Center, Jolene was anxiously waiting to see Jax. It had been over an hour since she had gone through the initial identification process as it was her first time visiting the state facility. Finally, after going through a gauntlet of questions and producing several forms of identification, she was escorted to the final waiting area before she would be allowed to see Jax.
Jolene's head was down as she nervously wrung her hands. Her anxious state was noticeable to other visitors.
Jolene looked up and saw a woman, in her mid-to-late twenties, sitting in a chair opposite Jolene. With her were two children, a boy and a girl, approximately five and seven years old. The girl was sitting quietly reading a book, while her brother made serious boy-noises as his thumbs quickly navigated over the electronic game he was working maniacally.
Jolene smiled ruefully. "You can tell, huh?"
The woman laughed, exposing a large white smile made more intriguing with the little gap between her two front teeth. "Girl, I can pick out the newbies a mile away. Here to see your man?"
"Me too. It's going to be a good visit, too. The whole weekend, just me, my man, and our babies." As Jolene raised her eyebrows, the woman explained, "They have a bunch of cabins here for inmates who are legally married." She waived her left hand to show off a modest gold wedding band. "You married or are you a girlfriend?"
"Well, we're not married and it's been a while since we've seen each other, so I don't think I can technically be classified as his girlfriend." Jolene replied, a little sad.
"Well damn, sister, that's too bad. Girlfriends can't get laid, so I'm afraid you fresh out of luck, but at least you can still see him. You real nervous?"
Jolene nodded again. She had already thrown up twice in the women's bathroom.
"Don't be. He love you?"
"I think so. No, I know so," Jolene replied confidently.
"Well, shit, girl, then go get your man!"
Just then the door to the room opened and all of the occupants looked at the C.O. standing in the doorway. "Jolene Morrow? You're up next."
Shakily, Jolene got up to her feet.
"Now don't you worry none. When he gets a load of you in that outfit, I guarantee you won't have any problems." The woman said with a loud laugh and a wink.
"Thanks." Jolene smiled. "It was really nice talking to you." She said as she walked towards the door.
At first, Jax thought it was a mirage.
God, I've been thinking about Jolene so damn much that I'm hallucinating.
He saw the woman hesitantly walk into the room. She sure as hell made an entrance wearing a sexy off-the-shoulder deep green blouse, a wide silver and black leather belt draped around a supremely fine-looking ass showcased in skintight black leggings, with a pair of bad-ass biker chick boots, and her cascade of long, thick dark curls falling across her shoulders and down her back . . . And it was then that Jax focused on her beautiful face with trembling full lips and moist, wide seafoam green eyes.
Jax couldn't breathe. He tried, but the air simply wouldn't enter his lungs. Jax staggered on his feet as waves of emotion hit him dead center in his chest. He finally attempted to speak, but it came out like a whispered prayer, "Jolene?" Then he shouted "JOLENE?"
Like a deer caught in the headlights, Jolene was cemented to the floor, transfixed by the sight of her old man for the first time in almost four years. One moment Jolene was standing in the middle of the room and in the next, as an entire room full of onlookers stared, she barreled across the room at a dead run and leapt into Jax's outstretched arms, wrapping her legs around his waist. Jax's arms closed around Jolene's small frame with stunning force, as his lips bore down on hers.
And for a brief moment, time simply stopped.
Like all the other onlookers, Billy was caught up in the obviously heartfelt reunion, but rules were rules. As this reunion was quickly turning into a grope fest, Billy saw one of his supervisors, a middle-aged sour puss by the name of Wilson, heading in Teller's direction and it dawned on Billy that he had better break them up and in a hurry.
"Hey, man?" Billy tapped Jax on the shoulder, but got no response. "Yo, my man!" Billy raised his soft-spoken voice a little louder, but Jax and Jolene were in another world of lips, tongues, and roving hands.
Finally, Billy grabbed hold of Jax by his right arm and forcibly dragged him away, forcing Jax to drop Jolene onto her feet. As Jax's left fist came up to connect with the C.O.'s face, Billy stopped Jax's balled up hand in mid-air. "Either you get yourself under control or your woman will be escorted out of here. Now what's it going to be playa?" Billy's dark eyes bore into Jax.
Just then C.O. Wilson intruded on the conversation. "Teller, do you have a problem remembering the rules around here? If so, maybe you'd like a day or two in solitary and a ban on all visitors to help you remember."
Jax's nostrils flared as he realized that all he wanted to do was to pound the pasty-white grunt into the ground, but as he looked over and saw Jolene making tiny head shakes, Jax backed down. "It won't happen again."
"Good." Wilson said snidely, nodding at Billy. "Do your job and keep him in line or I'm gonna have to write you up."
"No problem." Billy said. As his supervisor walked away, Billy nodded over to the table. "Why don't y'all sit down and try to behave yourselves?"
Jax nodded, then held out his hand to Billy. "I'm so sorry, bro."
Billy took his hand. "Go be with your lady."
Jax took Jolene by the hand and walked over to his table. Sitting across from each other with Jolene's small hands locked in between his, it was taking Jax a few minutes to believe what all his senses were telling him. He wasn't dreaming.
Jax was shaking his head, his bright blue eyes moist as he drank her in. "Happy to see me?" Jolene teased as she lost the battle to keep her tears from falling.
"You have no idea, darlin'." Jax smiled. Momentarily forgetting Billy's advice to stay on his best behavior, and ignoring the rules barring physical contact during a visit, Jax leaned over the table as he pulled her towards him and kissed her. Pulling away slightly, Jax chuckled as he pressed his forehead to hers and Jolene ran her hand over the hair on his jaw. "I've been living for this day for a long time, Jo. Now that I'm seeing you and feeling you, everything I wanted to say is gone."
Jolene closed her eyes as Jax cupped her face in his hands and wiped her tears away with his thumbs as he pressed another kiss on her lips. "I don't know what more I can say, except that I love you, darlin'." Jolene's eyes flew open as he lovingly held her face steady. "I have always loved you and I will love you forever. I know that may be hard for you to believe right now, considering everything that's gone down between us, but it's true. Jolene, baby, I want to spend the rest of my life making up for what I did to you, if you'll let me."
As Jax spoke, a steady stream of silent tears continued to roll down Jolene's face. As soon as the door had opened into the Visitor's Center and she had laid her eyes on him, Jolene realized that despite all of the hurt and pain he had caused her, Jax was the only man she was ever meant to be with and she would do anything to make that happen again.
"Please, say something, anything. Let me know what you're feeling, Jo." Jax implored.
Jolene broke free from Jax's hold so that she could wipe her face. "Can't you tell?" She smiled. As she pulled her hands away, Jolene chuckled as she saw they were covered in mascara. "That bitch!" She exclaimed. As Jax looked at her like she had two heads, Jolene replied sheepishly, "The sales clerk promised me that this stuff wouldn't run. I paid way too much for that mascara because I wanted to look perfect for you."
With both hands, Jax lovingly caressed her face again. "You are perfect, darlin', even though you're looking a little Goth right about now." He teased.
Jolene couldn't resist flashing him a half-grin to go along with the stink eye she was giving him. There's my girl, he grinned and in that moment Jax knew that things would be okay.
"At least I can clean up my face, Teller. I leave Charming for a minute and come back to find that not only have you forgotten how to compliment a woman, but you went along and did this." Jolene teased as she grabbed hold of Jax's short hair and tugged. "What the hell have you done to my hair?"
"Baby, I had to cut it. You know I'm too pretty for prison." Jax winked while dazzling her with a wicked smile.
He's right, Jolene sighed. He is too damn pretty. Gone, though, was the youthful pretty boy with the sinewy physique she had last seen swaggering towards Ronnie's front door so long ago. In his place was a beautiful and muscular manly man with laugh lines and whose eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled. In the four years since she had left Charming, Jax had not only changed physically, but mentally too. She could see the harshness of the life he lived reflected in his eyes. But the joy she also saw pouring out of that intense blue gaze showed her just how much he had truly missed her.
"Where have you been, darlin'?" Jax asked quietly as he gripped her hands and squeezed.
"Jax, I know I have a lot to account for, but—" Jolene started. She sighed softly and came dangerously close to breaking down completely.
"What is it, baby?" Jax asked quietly as he ran his fingers through her hair. Oh my God, he marveled as he realized how much he had missed her hair and those beautiful bright green eyes.
"I missed you, so much." Jolene closed her eyes briefly and Jax could hear the pain in her voice. "Even when I hated you, thought the worst about you, and tried to forget you, I couldn't convince myself to stop loving you." She said looking up at him. "I wouldn't be here if I didn't want the chance to start over somehow, but—"
"But what?" Jax's heart tightened painfully in his chest.
"I reconciled with what happened between us a long time ago, Jax." Jolene started, looking Jax straight in the eyes. "It was hard, but I understood and accepted it for what it was and tried to move past it. At that point, what had happened was no longer as important as the fact that I still loved you and missed you so much. So much that I almost came back."
"Why didn't you?" Jax was almost afraid to ask.
Jolene shook her head sadly. "I'm sure if you think real hard, you'll know the answer to that question." She replied, incapable of mentioning his marriage to the fucking crank whore from Reno.
"Oh shit." Jax nearly moaned, the realization of how much he had really fucked up hitting him square on the jaw as he ran his hands over his face and through his closely cropped hair.
"Out of everything that's happened between us, that's the one thing I just don't know if I can move past." Jolene said with a touch of anger and hurt in her voice.
Jax was heartbroken. He started, then stopped, then started again. Finally, he said "Jolene, you can never think of Wendy as my wife. I don't. She was a horrible, horrible mistake in a long, sad series of bad decisions that I made." He started explaining, but the look of utter disappointment on her face was tearing at his heart.
"Why then? Why would you marry someone you didn't love?" Jolene asked. "Did you love her, Jax?"
"No." Jax insisted. He rubbed his face hard to try and clear his thoughts. "By the time you fell off the grid, I was a miserable fuckin' prick, Jolene. Nothing made me happy and I fell back into old habits. There were a lot of women and a lot of alcohol. I'm not blaming the booze, but there is a huge chunk of the past 3½ years that I just can't remember. Wendy fell in with that chunk. All I know is that after spending the better part of two years looking for you, when I couldn't find you, Reno became my second home. I was tired of the endless disconnect and Wendy kept the other croweaters off my back. It pissed everyone off, too and I didn't give a shit. I wanted everyone to be as miserable as I was. Gemma hates her, Clay can't even look at her, and Bobby doesn't waste an opportunity to tell her how she is so not you. Hers was just another life I was fucking up out of sheer stupidity. I felt obligated to help her."
Jolene shook her head in disbelief. "Help her how?"
"Rehab. I got her to go twice, but each time she fell off the wagon." Jax explained.
It was all she could do to stifle a guffaw from bursting past her lips. Boy, he really was far gone if he thought he could help that crank slut get sober. Jax might have had better luck had he been able to stay sober himself.
"Shortly after the last rehab failed, I went on an extended run to Reno. Baby, I was fucked up. By then, normal for me was perpetually drunk and stoned. I never would have married her, but she told me she was pregnant." Jax said bitterly.
Jolene was horrified. "Oh my God, Jax. Did you have a kid with that—"
Before Jolene could finish the sentence, Jax was hastily shaking his head. "No, God no. She lost the pregnancy about three weeks after we got married, about a week before the mess in Oak-Town that landed me and Ope in here." He assured her.
Jolene rolled her eyes. "She lost the baby?" She could do damn near next to nothing to hide how naïve she believed some badass bikers could be. Jax wasn't surprised, though, as Gemma had had the same reaction.
Jax continued, "The jail time was a blessing in disguise. Soon after I got here, I pressed Wendy for a divorce. It took a little doing, but I convinced her and she finally signed the papers and had them filed six months ago." Jax smiled. "By the time I walk out of here, I hope to be a free man in more ways than one, Jo. If you'll have me, darlin', I'll be free to come home to you and only you."
Hearing Jax's side of the story about his marriage to Wendy had mollified Jolene a little. In spite of everything that had happened between them, Jolene knew that Jax had never lied to her. Even when nothing good came from telling her the truth, he never kept it from her. Even though it was going to take some time for her to accept that sometimes people did foolish things out of guilt and a warped sense of obligation, the truth was Jolene had forgiven Jax a long time ago. Besides, in her heart, Jolene knew she was guilty of far worse.
Watching her process everything he had told her, a thought suddenly dawned on Jax. "How did you find out about me marrying Wendy and that I was Chino? Was it Donna?" Jax asked ominously. Jax had always suspected that Donna had more information about Jolene's whereabouts than she was telling. Her constant denials and Jax's anger had almost caused a rift between him and Ope.
"No, it wasn't Donna. I knew that it would cause problems for her if I kept in contact, so I didn't." Jolene replied hesitantly. She tried to tread carefully. "Actually, it was David Hale."
"Hale?" With one word, Jax's entire demeanor changed completely. "You kept in contact with Hale?" He asked, his jaw clenched tight.
Jolene shook her head. "No. I've been living and working in Seattle for a while now and I ran into him a few months ago. He was in town for a law enforcement conference." She explained quietly.
"Seattle?" He asked and Jolene nodded. Jax shook his head and chuckled bitterly. He was willing to bet his life that the day he had shown up on Ronnie's doorstep, Jolene's friend had known exactly where she was.
Thinking of Charming's new deputy chief, Jax's brain went into overdrive. It was just too much of a coincidence that David Hale would have the luck that had eluded Jax for years and that he would simply just run into Jolene while in Seattle. Juice had tapped into every database imaginable, only to come up empty in his search for Jax's old lady. Jax was convinced that the son of a bitch pig had used connections to get information on Jolene from databases that Juice had not been able to hack into just so that he could accidentally on purpose run into her. He knew this for a fact because, quite aware of the hard-on the deputy chief harbored for his old lady, that's exactly what Jax would have done in Hale's shoes.
Jax looked at Jolene, who was suddenly having trouble looking him in the eyes. He reached out and gently caressed her cheek. "Is there something you need to tell me about Hale?"
Jolene considered not telling him the full extent of her contact with Hale. In other words, she considered lying to Jax, but knew that he had the right to all the facts before deciding to pursue a reconciliation. For all Jolene knew, and this is what frightened her the most, what she had to share might be a deal-breaker for Jax. On the bright side, Jax couldn't kill her, or Hale, for that matter, while he was still in prison.
"When David told me that you were in Chino, I was pretty upset." Devastated would have been the proper way to describe how she had felt. "I was so worried about you and Ope that I thought about coming to see you then, but—"
"But what?" Jax asked quietly.
"But then he blindsided me by telling me that you had married Wendy. I didn't see that one coming, Jax." Jolene looked at him with strong resolve. "I was hurt and I was angry and I was so tired of feeling that way. I needed to feel something else for a change. I needed someone to hold me and comfort me. I needed somebody to want me, so we—"
"Don't." Jax was shaking his head vehemently. "Baby, please don't say it." He fought back tears as his anger blazed. The son of a bitch had deliberately played on Jolene's emotions and used them against her to creep into her bed.
That fuckin' piece of shit!
Jax jumped out of his seat and paced back and forth to try and calm his inner rage. Jesus Christ! He was going to leave Chino an outlaw biker and only to come back a cop killer.
As Jax returned to the table and sat down, Jolene put a hand on top of his. "I can't apologize for what happened, Jax." She started softly. "I've gone through acres of shit ever since I left Charming. I can't apologize to you or to anyone else for the life I've had to live or the choices I've had to make. If we can't move past what happened between me and Hale, and I promise, it was only one time, tell me now and I'll leave."
"Over my dead body." Jax replied earnestly, looking her dead straight in the eyes. "I can't blame you, darlin'. This is all on me." And that motherfucker Hale. "I can't pretend it's not killing me, though. It fuckin' hurts, a lot. I guess now I know how it feels, huh?" He gave her a sad smile. "I won't bring it up again if you won't."
Jolene reached up and tenderly kissed him.
Jax cleared his throat before speaking again. "Okay, so you've been living and working in Seattle. I need to know more, Jo." He started. "I know it's gonna take us a long time to fix what I broke, baby, but it's best if we do it with a clean slate. Is there anything else I should know, about Hale, anything?" Jax asked, dreading the answer.
With her mind racing sixty miles an hour, Jolene knew that there were a couple of somethings he may want to know, but Jolene was sure he didn't need to know. For one, the fact that Hale had been looking for a whole lot more than just a one night fling with her.
After running into David outside her favorite diner, he had convinced her to join him for dinner at a slightly more upscale restaurant. Although reluctant at first, Jolene had to admit that she had truly enjoyed herself for the first time in a long time. She had been able to tease some information out of David on what was going on back home and about the family that she had missed so much. She had been pretty careful to only reveal as much about herself as was absolutely necessary, even though, after a few glasses of wine with dinner, David had managed to get out of her that she was working at an exclusive private school in Redmond. Jolene had asked him to keep her whereabouts confidential and he seemed very happy to do so. It was only later, when they were having more drinks after dinner, that she had finally been able to muster enough nerve to ask about Jax. It was then that David dropped the bomb on her that both he and Opie were in Chino, doing time for their alleged involvement in a shooting resulting from a turf war between the Niners and the Mayans. But nothing could have prepared her for the shock of hearing that her Jax had married the Reno whore, Wendy Case.
Jolene had been gutted and, unable to hide her reaction from David, broke down into a puddle of tears. He had tried to comfort her by telling her that she was well rid of Jax, that there were more honest, loving men who could make her happy, so when he kissed her, she accepted it. He was what she needed at the time and he had been a wonderful and attentive lover. But he wasn't Jax. She left his hotel suite early the next morning and never expected to see him again.
It wasn't until a week or so later, after the flowers started arriving at the school, followed by letters and gifts, that Jolene reached the conclusion that maybe that first meeting wasn't a chance encounter at all. She was convinced that David had tracked her down with the intention of seriously courting her. Still reeling from the pain of having lost her old man forever, Jolene started to think that maybe, just maybe she should consider giving David a chance. In the end, in spite of the unexpected turn her life had taken, Jolene realized that there would only ever be one man for her. And it took Otto to knock the sense back into her head.
Jolene was all for full disclosure, but to tell Jax that Hale had been pursuing her? She couldn't do it. She owed Hale her life for one thing and, if Jax ever found out that Hale had known exactly where she had been and had wanted more than just a casual fling, he'd end up in a fuckin' pine box.
But when it came to shameful secrets, Jolene certainly had her share. At this point, she had to pick and choose what was important for him to know now and what would only bring him needless pain. Being in lock-up, Jax was already in a vulnerable situation and although he had handled the Hale situation better than she had anticipated, there were certain things that the man she loved just didn't have a need to know. So Jolene did the only thing she felt she could do under the circumstances. She looked into the eyes of the man that she loved like no other and lied her ass off.
"No, there's nothing else regarding Hale."
Jax sighed with relief, but it is short-lived as Jolene continued.
"But there is something you need to know and that I'm afraid you might not be able to forgive me for."
Jax took a deep breath, and let it out slowly. "Jo, after all the shit I've put you through, I'm too grateful to have this second chance with you, darlin. There's nothing that you could have done that's unforgivable."
Jolene wasn't so sure about that.
"Then you need to know that there is someone else in my life." Jolene said, her voice full of emotion.
As the shock and pain radiated across Jax's face, Jolene grabbed his hand in both of hers. "Not like that, baby. Hold on." She opened her purse and pulled out a small photo album. Opening it, Jolene showed Jax a picture of a little boy, about 3 years old with a mop of blond wavy hair, big seafoam green eyes, and a big smile.
As Jax's wide eyes moved from the picture to Jolene and back to the photo album, Jolene said, with a catch in her voice, "This is your son, Abel."