Nothing you recognize is mine. Ari definitely is my original creation though.
"48, 49, 50, Shit!" I slammed the bar down as soon as her face came into view. "Trying to give me a heart attack?"
"You're doing a pretty good job of that yourself. Why don't you have a spotter?" Gemma sat on the next bench and stared.
"Don't need one, just doing multiple reps of thirty. Going for tone not mass." I grabbed the towel off the floor and wiped the sweat off my neck and shoulders.
"Been trying to get a hold of you all morning. We need to get things ready for after the funeral." I shook my head.
"Can't do it, can't be around that. I can't look into Opie's eyes and relive it. Fuck, I didn't sleep last night because it was like a highlight reel, Sam dying, Sam and I in love, Sam dying, lather rinse and repeat." I moved to the bag and started punching, not bothering to wrap my hands. Gemma grabbed the bag and offered resistance.
"Wanna talk about it?" She was the mother I'd always dreamed of. Starla French, she of the donated genetic material, couldn't compare to the woman in front of me.
"What's to talk about, I'm weak. Thought I was stronger but nope, thought I'd put enough distance between me and the pain but nope. Fuck." I stopped punching and went to the bench where I collapsed. Gemma joined me and pulled me into her arms.
"You need to be strong baby, for your man and this club. I know it's hard but I have faith in you, you can do this." I didn't believe her but I tried to.
"What can I do that's not at the center? I can't deal with grieving people." I could offer my assistance and she nodded.
"Come shopping with me and Lu, we'll get the stuff, then you can help your man by calling the other charters and setting up the honor guard. Think you can do that baby?" I nodded.
"Yeah, I can do this." I pulled myself out of her arms and stood up. I needed to shower before I did anything else.
"So she just abandoned us at the store, typical." I smiled for the first time that day as Luann complained.
"She had to go check on Abel, we can't blame her for being worried about him in the junkie's care." I handed her the box of pasta and she put it in the cart.
"Not a fan of Wendy are you?" She smiled and I shook my head.
"I hate her, she had the chance to have a good life and threw it away for a high. That's not the kind of person I want to associate myself with." I reached up to grab some parmesan cheese and looked back to see her smile.
"You're pretty judgmental aren't you? Have a problem with me?" She was honestly curious.
"You making your girls work for slave wages and with the fear of death?" She shook her head, "Then no. It's their choice to do porn and your choice to produce it. You see the key is choice and free will. As long as you have it you're golden. That's not to say that some choices aren't bad like drugs and pimping."
"You're strange Ariel Singer, but a good person." This made me smile as we moved to another aisle.
"A quick fyi, I have no problem with sex work. Be it prostitution or porn, my problems are with people taking the choices from others. If a woman wants to fuck in front of the camera for an ungodly sum of money it's her deal. If her partner makes her do it then I will call foul on that shit." That made her laugh.
"You've got a hero complex, no wonder why Juice chose you. That boy needs some saving. We should see about getting a cake from the bakery, just something simple no words just flowers." It was a good idea and I nodded.
"I'll head over, you finish this and see about securing us a ride. I know Juice and the boys are busy."She made a shooing gesture and I took off. I crossed the street to the bakery and saw Micah with a sign sitting at the corner. Her eyes met mine and I made a beeline, being sure to take money out of my pocket to give credence to the exchange.
"Ariel, darling dear, come to ask about the events that have transpired since we last spoke?" She asked in the beginnings of angel speak and it set my teeth on edge.
"Yes, is this the start of a war?" I handed one ten over to her and she gave me a vacant smile.
"No, mortals will not begin the war, they will finish it. This is the preparation of the Son's journey. The Catalyst will force the journey to begin, the events of last night and of months to come will give him the strength to commence and complete the journey. Remain faithful and true Ariel, lion of god; you were named such for a reason." I gave her another ten to keep the conversation going.
"Will the soldiers survive this sneak attack?" I could do angel speak too.
"Like the Son the army he leads will gain strength. That is all I have for you. If you wish to know more summon Sephariel, she will know." Suddenly she poofed and I looked around, glad of the nearly vacant street. I straightened myself up and went into the bakery quickly ordering three cakes, taking into account the crowd that was going to come for an Old Lady's funeral.
Later that night I sat in the clubhouse, not wanting to go home alone. The atmosphere of the clubhouse was interesting, not as dire as the previous night but somber. Sons from Tacoma and Portland were already here as well as smaller charters like Folsom and Montecito. Many of the Nomads were also here I ghosted my eyes over the group I notice the hard eyes of the Killer taking me in. He took the look for an invitation and stalked over.
To say I wasn't scared of Happy would have been a straight up lie, he's one of the scariest motherfuckers I've ever met, but to say I felt like he was a danger to me was another lie. That's not to say that there wasn't tension between us. I had one simple rule I'd been raised with "kill monsters, protect humans", Happy had no problem offing a human if they presented a problem to him or his family. In the back of my mind he was one of the monsters, a predator killing and maiming, but what got me hung up was the fact that it all had a purpose. He killed for a reason, a reason I could understand and that's where most of the tension came from. He made me question everything I knew and believed in. As he approached me he grabbed a chair from a nearby table and sat down, looking at the crow I was sketching.
"He finally making you his Old Lady?" I nodded and he set down his beer. "I'll do your crow. You're pretty good but you can't do your own neck. I'll do it."
He was offering a truce, an end to hostilities and I didn't know if I could do it. Juice practically idolized the man but there was still the nagging voice in the back of my head. I knew every artist to tattoo my body and had even given myself quite a few of the tats. I had to trust them before I'd let them do it. Could I trust the Killer?
"What do you think of this?" I slid the paper over to him and he snorted.
"Looks like a textbook, I can do better." I looked and he was right it looked like a textbook drawing of a crow in flight, too dry, scientific. I needed something that looked more like Gemma's, Luann's but NOT Wendy's.
"You do Wendy's?" I asked and this got a slight upturning of his mouth, what probably passed for a smile, he saved his real smiles for his brothers.
"Do I look like a hack?" He rasped and the look in his eyes, the human look, was what did it. I could trust the Killer, he was still human like us.
"Not a hack, never a hack. Once everything calms down let's do this." He nodded and picked up his brew again. We sat in silence before he was called into church with Juice, Tig and Chibs. My bet was retaliation and it made me feel a little sick, I knew they had to do it but I still wasn't used to that part of the life. They came out a few minutes later and Juice made a beeline for the bar and his laptop while the others went out. Once he was settled at the bar I went to him.
"Baby, you ok?" I asked as I stood at his side. He took a drag of his cigarette and I saw the indecision and guilt in his eyes.
"I can't tell you what's up baby, god damn it." He cursed and I sat next to him.
"You don't have to tell me anything, want me to do something?" I took his hand in mine and kissed it.
"Go home, I don't want you around for whatever goes down here ok?" He asked and I shook my head.
"I can't be home alone; I need to be around people." I looked in his eyes and saw that he understood.
"Ok, I'll stick around here for a while but as soon as Clay doesn't need me anymore we're out." I nodded and kissed him.
"I'm gonna go to the storage room, make sure we have enough of everything for tomorrow, I'm sure Gemma would appreciate it." He nodded and I went back, grabbing a notepad and pen from the bar. It was busy work but it needed to be done.
We went home later and he was on me before the door was even closed. Last night he needed to drink into oblivion. Now he needed a show of life and what was better than the procreative act? I let him do whatever he needed to do and was exhausted for my efforts. It turned out to be what we both needed and I fell into a dreamless sleep. Anything was better than the highlight reel that had been going through my head all last night.
The next day I dressed in my nicest black slacks with a black button down and boots to complete the ensemble. I really didn't want to go but I owed it to Donna to show respect and owed it to my man to be there in the capacity as an Old Lady. I hated it, hated every second as I got hugs from the other Old Ladies and stood at Gemma's side like a damn ornament. Eventually things settled down and we could hear the sounds of Bikes coming down the road. They were here. I stood in the knot of people with Gemma and frantically looked for an escape. As the pallbearers brought the casket I found it and walked to a nearby stand of trees. It was a testament to my willpower that I didn't run.
I watched the procession from my location by the tree. I made sure to get Juice's eye so he knew where I was and he nodded. We had talked about how this was affecting me and as long as I was there that's what mattered to him. I watched as the ceremony progressed and Jax walked up to the casket, he didn't know it but he'd been marked. Micah had put her mark upon him and he was now in her care, poor bastard. I was watching everyone mourn in their own way, so engrossed in stopping my own misery that I jumped when a hand landed on my shoulder I whirled around and caught myself face to face with my father. I didn't know why he was there or care as I threw my arms around him.
"Oh darlin' I'm so happy you're alive." I had started crying into his shoulder so I had to collect myself before I looked up.
"What?" I asked as I moved from his arms and wiped my eyes. He led me away so that we were walking in the cemetery.
"I was working a case in Oregon and stopped by a diner. A bunch of Sons of Anarchy fellas came in while I was eating and were talking about how they had a funeral to get to, an Old Lady had died. Knowing you and the trouble you get into and knowing you're with one of them I rushed down here. If it woulda been you I don't know what I would've done." I threaded my arm in his and rested my head on his shoulder.
"I'm fine, the woman who died was a friend. They're dealing with it, we're dealing with it." He nodded and we sat at a bench.
"I want you to come home Ari, back with me. I know the demons aren't after you anymore and I need to keep you safe. I thought you'd be safe here." He placed his hand on my cheek and I leaned into it.
"I am home Daddy, I sacrificed a lot to be here and I can't leave. I have a man who loves me, a surrogate mother and a community that supports me. I can't leave." I looked into his eyes and saw that they were misting up.
"It was worth a shot. I miss my little girl." I hugged him and he hugged me back fiercely.
"I miss you too Daddy and I promise to visit if I can. Are you gonna stay? I have a couch if you want to." He smiled and wiped his eyes.
"I suppose I could stay the night, be sure your man treats you good. You know I love you with all my heart don'tcha?" I nodded and hugged him tight.
We stayed seated for a while longer before the mourners started to pour out. Juice moved out and was obviously looking for me. I waved in his direction and saw the look of relief when he saw me. He walked over and pulled me into his arms, kissing me for all I was worth. Eventually he let me go and looked at my Dad.
"What are you doing here Mr. Singer?" So blunt, looked like I was rubbing off on him.
"Worried about my daughter. If anything happens to her you better find a way to let me know, got that?" He asked, getting as menacing as he was able.
"Yes sir." He nodded and the three of us left the cemetery, Juice on his bike, me in Stevie and Dad in his Charger, the Charger that always found its way to TM. As soon as I looked at it and raised my eyebrows my father gave me a smile.
"You think I wouldn't have someone watching out for ya?" I smiled and shook my head, no I knew he had his sources.
We met up again at the apartment and caught up on everything that had been happening the last few months. Once that was done I sat back and watched as Juice and Dad poked fun at each other and swapped stories. They were acting like old pals and it made me smile and laugh to myself. At one point I'd hoped that they'd like each other in time. It looked like my hopes had been fulfilled. Now if Juice could just clear the hurdle that was Dean we'd be set.
Author's Note: That's it, A New Life is complete. Thank you all for reading and reviewing. I have a oneshot ready to publish. I don't know why but my muse has set me on this path lately and Ari is inhabiting my head. I hope you enjoy more to come and I promise there are sequels in the making. Again thank you all.