I disclaim. I own nothing
AN: So this is it, the last chapter. I want to thank everyone who reviewed, alerted, and stuck with this story all the way through. And a great big special thanks to Eve, not just for your imput on this chapter but for letting me bounce ideas off you and getting me through when I struggled towards the end.
Jax realized he should have been prepared for things to go sideways. Ever since his and Tara's engagement party, things could not have been going better for him. He'd gotten the guys to agree to two new business ventures: a tattoo parlor and a collision shop. Neither would bring in gun money, but it would bring in clean money.
Tara had been incredible. He knew Gemma, who pretty much ignored his plea for her to let up, was driving her good and fucking crazy. But his Old Lady had yet to snap, had barely complained. Jax had a feeling that had a lot to do with her deciding against a SAMCRO wedding. The wedding would be just the two of them and the boys, he was almost certain of it. And he couldn't say he was really bothered by that.
So he'd gone to Opie's party in a celebratory mood. And he planned on getting good and fucked up. And he was well on his way. His system was basically washed in beer, whiskey, and bud. Another few hours and he was going to go home and crawl between Tara's thighs. At least that had been his plan before his cell phone rang. Before his mother demanded he get his ass to the bar where they were throwing Lyla's party. Opie and Chibs decided to ride with him, as they both had Old Ladies at the party. Gemma hadn't given Clay a choice. He wasn't entirely sure why Tig came, but didn't bother questioning it either.
When they pulled up in front of the bar Jax figured the lack of police cruisers were a good thing, as he was aware with his mother and Tara just about anything could have jumped off. Stepping into the bar the first thing he noticed was the complete lack of a party atmosphere. There were plenty of women milling around, most he recognized from around the clubhouse and Caracara. There was a blonde sitting at the bar holding a bloody rag to her nose that he assumed was responsible for the party coming to a hault.
"This is not Tara's fault."
Jax frowned, confused not only by Margaret Murphy's presence but also by her being so upset with him. "Huh?"
"That….woman." And clearly Margaret was using the term loosely. "Came in here and provoked Dr. Knowles. Now if-"
"Hey! Hey," Clay held his hands up, clearly annoyed. "We look like the fucking cops to you lady. Just tell us what the hell happened."
"I can tell you what happened." Tig was standing at the bar, Jax wasn't sure when he walked away from the group. There was a large ridiculous grin on his face and his cell at his ear. "Doc beat the shit out of the cum queen here."
Jax's vision cleared slightly, unceremoniously shoving Margaret out of his way, he headed towards the bar. And sure enough it was Ima, her face a bruised and bloody mess. "Ah shit. Is she okay?"
"Do I look okay?" Ima began, her voice muffled by the towel. "She-"
There was a moment where he could only give Ima a baffled look. "I wasn't talking about you. I was talking about Tara. Where is she? She didn't fuck up her hands or anything did she?"
"Jackson," Gemma came out of the back, heading straight towards him but she quickly became distracted by Ima. "Didn't we tell you to get out of here. You have a goddamn death wish."
"Mom," Jax snapped, drawing her attention back to the matter at hand. "Where's Tara?"
"She's fine, Jax. We had to pull her off this bitch and drag her into the back."
"That fucking doctor," Ima began. "Is crazy. I was only here to see Lyla and that bitch just attacked me."
"I told you to stay the hell away from my Old Lady." Jax began calmly. "Now seeing as you can't take direction, you're fucking fired."
"But Jax, she attacked me."
"Tara was simply defending herself." Margaret stepped in quickly. "This was a private party, you came in provoked and lunged for Tara. She responded as anyone would have."
For a moment Jax could only stare at Margaret. He knew she wasn't doing this for him, knew she was once again trying to protect Tara and her career. But he was still grateful to her. "You're out, Ima. And don't you ever set foot in Charming."
"Better do what he says, honey. The only reason you're not dead is because I don't want my grandsons growing up without a mother." A pleased smirk curled at the corners of Gemma's mouth. "Go away whore and don't come back."
There was a sudden commotion at the door, Jax turned to see the rest of the club rush in.
"Tiggy called, he said-" Kozik was the first one through the door and was slightly out of breath. His eyes scanned the bar, lighting up with a horrible glee when they landed on Ima. "Oh, fuck, she did clock her. That's my girl."
"Ho-holy shit." Juice was grinning widely as he walked to Ima and pulled the towel away and practically laughed in her face.
Bobby all but stumbled towards the bar. Pulling out his cell he held it up as if to take pictures. "Piney's going to be sorry he missed this."
"Bobby, come on." Clay's tone was censoring. "Juice, take her home, make sure she doesn't get any sudden urges to stop into any police stations on her way." He stepped forward, large body blocking Ima from leaving. "You cause trouble for my daughter in law again and I'll make sure you regret it for the rest of your goddamn life."
Juice was still laughing when he took Ima's arm and all but pulled her out of the bar.
"I've a question." Bobby was standing next to Margaret, looking at the woman as if she'd grown a second head. "What's she doing here?"
"Tara invited her. I think it was her way of letting us know that anything we decided to do for her wedding, she wanted the redhead there." Gemma rolled her eyes, obviously not at all happy with Tara's relationship with Margaret.
"Op!" Lyla came out of the back, eyes full of unshed tears, and flung herself into Opie's arms.
"Baby, hey, what's wrong?" There was a bit of confusion on Opie's face. "Tara didn't hit you, too, did she?"
Jax would have laughed if he didn't know that was a strong possibility depending on her mood.
"No," Lyla shook her head. "She…I just can't believe…no one has ever stood up for me that way."
"Will someone please explain what the hell happened." Chibs demanded.
"Ima came. I didn't invite her." Lyla turned to the club. "I wouldn't have disrespected Tara that way, I don't even know how Ima found out about the party. But as soon as I saw her I asked her to leave. I tried to make her leave."
"But the stupid bitch wouldn't listen." Gemma picked up the story. "She started insulting Lyla."
"She told me that it didn't matter if I quit porn or who I started hanging out with that I…that I would always be a coked out used pussy."
"That fucking bitch." Opie all but growled the words out.
"That's when Tara stepped in. But Ima, being the brain trust that she is, didn't seem to realize that was the time to shut her mouth." There was a proud smirk on Gemma's lips. "She mentioned something about the bathroom at Caracara, said Tara was just as much of a whore as Lyla was."
"Obviously she wasn't aware that whore seems to be Tara's trigger word." Margaret said with just a little too much knowledge.
Reaching up, Jax ran his hand over his beard. Thought Ima should consider herself lucky, as he put a bullet in the head of the last person who called Tara a whore.
"She's aware now." Lyla couldn't help but to laugh. "I mean, I could see on Tara's face she was about to lose it. But Ima didn't, she started to say something about Abel...Tara stopped her."
"Hey, Doc." Tig had somehow made his way behind the bar. He had shot glasses lined up and a bottle of whiskey in his hand. And the second he saw Tara come out of the back with Fiona and Kerrianne, a grin broke out a cross his face. "I gotta good one for you. A doctor and a porn star walk into a bar…"
"Cut it out, bro." Jax tossed over his shoulder as he made his way to Tara. He wasn't sure if she would accept him. Was a little nervous that seeing Ima would remind her of just how he treated her when Abel went missing. Nervous that it would set them back ten paces. "You okay?" He asked hesitantly.
"Yeah." She lifted her hands, let them fall helplessly back to her side. "I just…I'm upset I let her get to me. I shouldn't have lost it that way."
Taking her hands, Jax brought them up between them. He examined her knuckles, ran his fingers over her palms. Checking for bruises, broken skin, or swelling.
Tara, aware of what he was doing, shook her head. "I didn't hit her. My hands are fine. I…used the bar."
"She slammed the trollops head into the bar." Fiona announced.
"Repeatedly." Kerrianne added.
"Okay," Tara held up her hands when it looked like Lyla was going to add more. "It happened, I'd like to forget it. Everyone didn't have to come, it's fine. It's Opie and Lyla's night, we should get back to it. I'm sure you all have strippers and beer being deprived of your presence back at the clubhouse."
That she was smiling as she said it and gave him a playful shove set Jax's mind at ease as to where her head was. His hand went to her hip, planning to pull her close for a kiss, but he was surprised when he was met with metal. Looking down he couldn't help but grin at the handcuffs hooked to the belt loop of her jeans. "What's this?"
More like my prize, Jax thought as he continued to grin. "For what?"
"We played a game, I won." She held up another pair hooked behind her back. "Twice."
Gemma was frowning at the two of them. "Two of you ever heard of a little thing called a bed. God only knows where my grandson was conceived."
Jax only turned to Tara with a blank look.
"It was a sex game." Tara gave a nervous nod, dropping her voice so as not to be overheard by anyone else. "Place and position thing. I won both times."
"Fuck yeah we did." Because there was no doubt in his mind that he was part of Tara's win. And already his mind was spinning with ways they could put those handcuffs to use. Their headboard wasn't really conducive to handcuffs but he was willing to bet he could find a way to make it work. "We should go test these things out."
"Go back to your party." Her lips curled and there was more than a hint of mischief in her eyes. "I'll stay here and maybe win a couple more pair."
Jax could only grin. "That's my girl."
By the time the prospects all but dragged him to his door several hours later Jax was good and fucked up. But even with his head swimming, he hadn't forgotten about Tara's party favors. They were going to have a hell of a time with those things. As his plan formulated in his booze soaked mind, a shit eating grin spread across his lips and he began to absently pat down his pockets looking for his keys. "Shit, we gotta go back to the clubhouse." He tried to turn, step off the porch, but Phil caught him. "I need keys, can't get in."
The porch light flipped on and Jax had to shut his eyes at the suddenly bright light, when he opened them he was looking into the face of his extremely annoyed Old Lady. He broke away from Phil and stumbled into the house, practically falling into Tara's arms. "Hey, babe." His hands instantly began to move over her, his mouth busying itself at the crook of her neck.
"Someone had a good time."
"Oh, yeah." Jax growled into her neck. His hands went to the hem of the T-shirt she wore as he pushed her against the door.
"You need any help getting him to bed, Tara?"
Having actually forgot Phil was standing there, Jax lifted his head slightly. His confused frown quickly turning into a glare at being interrupted. "No, she doesn't need any help. Now get the fuck outta here so I can knock her up again." He pulled Tara away from the door so that he could slam it shut. "Now where were we." He started to shove her back against the wall but she danced out of his arms.
"Wait, just wait." The look in her eye could only be described as amused. "Come on." She was very clearly laughing at him. "Lyla's going to kill Opie."
Pushing himself off the wall, Jax followed her back to the kitchen. His eyes on the hem of the T-shirt and the way it gave him teasing glimpses of her ass as she walked. "Why? What'd Op do?"
"Besides get completely fucked up the night before her wedding?" Reaching into a cabinet she pulled out a bottle of aspirin then grabbed two bottles of water from the fridge. "Here," She dumped a few pills into his hand. "Take these."
"I don't think Op is fucked up." He tossed the pills into his mouth before taking the bottle of water she offered. After he swallowed the pills, he tried to put the water down but she forced it back up to his mouth until he finished the whole thing.
"When was the last time you saw Opie tonight?"
Jax could only stare at her blankly.
"Did he leave with you?"
"Naw, he was still there." He was grinning again when he reached out to pull her into his arms. "I came home cause I wanted you."
With a smile, she wrapped her arms around his waist. "You are so fucked up, Mr. Teller."
"I am." He nodded proudly.
"And you stink." Because he was drunk she was able to shove him back a step. "You are not getting in my bed smelling like this."
When she grabbed his cut and lead him to the bathroom, visions of taking her against the shower wall dancing in his head, Jax happily followed. Although his eagerness wavered a bit when she went to the tub instead of the shower. "Shower's over here, babe."
She bent over the tub to start the water and the jets going. "I know where the shower is, baby."
"I'm not taking a fucking bath with a bunch of bubbles and shit."
"Well," She picked up a clip off the counter, quickly twisting her hair up into a loose knot. "I'm taking a bath. So if you want to shower you can, but you'll be showering alone."
Jax scoffed. She wasn't getting him in that fucking tub. He hated baths, hated feeling pinned down and trapped. Hated it even more now than he did before he went inside. He knew she thought he'd cave, but this time he wasn't giving in.
Lately Tara had been on this kick where she thought she could get him to do whatever she wanted by doing something really fucking cute or taking off all her clothes. Jax didn't know where she got that shit from. Anymore than he knew why he let her fucking get away with it. He'd been meaning to put a stop to it. Clay was always giving him shit about being pussy whipped and he was getting a little sick of hearing it. So whatever Tara thought she was doing, he was going to put a stop to it.
"See, this is no different than the time we snuck into the Hales' yard and used their hot tube."
Sitting comfortable between her thighs, Jax laid his head back on her shoulder with a contented sigh. He wasn't exactly clear on how she got him into the tub. He'd gone to the shower, had every intention on stepping inside, but then Tara lifted the T-shirt over her head and he was pretty much gone.
He didn't want to be happy about it, had every intention of sulking through it, but none of that mattered once she started to wash his hair. Having her sure confident fingers in his hair, massaging his scalp, had been fantastic. Any complaint he could have made or wanted to make was lost in those moments. Now her fingers were playing lightly over his chest and stomach, her lips at his temple and Jax very seriously considered curling up and going to sleep right where he was.
"I want to get married soon." Tara spoke the words softly, breaking the silence that hung over them.
Lazily, Jax lifted one of her hands up to his lips. "Yeah?"
"Yeah. Jax, I don't see the point of waiting. I don't want to wait."
"Then we won't." With a sigh, because he could hear in her voice that she was getting worked up over something, Jax shifted forward. He sobered up some, he wasn't even sure how she managed that, so he was steady on his feet when he stepped out of the tub and reached for a towel. "Come on."
When she stood up, he wrapped the towel around her. Using the edges to pull her close. "What's going on with you?"
Tara's hands came up to his face, her eyes held his a moment before she pulled his mouth down to hers. "I love you."
"I love you, too." But he knew her and he knew something was bothering her. And he wasn't going to let her get around telling him. They were done dancing around each other on things like this.
The smile touched her lips but didn't quite reach her eyes, she kissed the boys' names before stepping around him and into the bedroom.
"Tara. I can't fix this unless you tell me what's wrong."
But for long moments she didn't say anything. Jax ran the towel roughly over his body even as he kept his eyes on her. All her movements were slow, deliberate. He thought she was working through whatever it was that had her so twisted up. "Tara."
At the sound of his voice she startled, almost as if she'd forgotten he was there. "I…I had fun tonight. Didn't you have fun?"
No, that hadn't been what he was expecting at all. But he was in and figured he'd just go along with her on this train. "Yeah."
"I mean, not even that porn slut showing up and trying to ruin Lyla's night could ruin things. I was there with your mother and Margaret and Fiona and Lyla and…all these different parts of my life, you know. And I felt…not like I do when I'm here with you and the boys, but...I felt part of it. Like that was the way it should be."
"Is that a bad thing?"
"No. No," She crawled onto the bed, moving close until her hip was pressed against his. "These past couple days have been great. But our history-"
"Things don't stay great for long." Jax finished as he brushed a lock of hair behind her ear.
"They go shit side up. When they do, this time, I want us to be married."
He couldn't describe just what that meant to him. He knew that for Tara having that promise, that security from him, meant a lot. She needed to know that when things went bad he was with her a hundred percent. But it meant something to him as well. He liked knowing that she was going to stick. She tried after Abel was taken, staying with him through all his shit until he gave her no other choice but to go. He didn't deserve another chance, but she was giving him one. Letting him know that no matter what comes their way she wasn't going anywhere. Giving it back to her was the least he could do.
Laying back in the bed, Jax pulled her down with him, holding her tight against his side. "Alright. Get next weekend off. We'll get married and then we'll take the boys, go somewhere. Just the four of us."
Tara pressed her lips to his chest again. "Thank you. One more thing."
Jax couldn't help but to laugh. He should have known, with Tara there was always more. "Shit. Of course."
"I want you to decide what to do about your father's letters, Jax."
And just like that, he was no longer laughing. He'd done a very good job with not giving those letters another thought since she gave them to him. But with just a mention he felt the weight of them. "I don't know, Tara. I gotta feeling they're going to change shit. I mean really change shit."
"I'm not going to lie to you, baby, but they are going to change things. A lot of things. But it won't change us, our family. And whatever you decide to do about those letters, Abel, Ben, and I will always be here."
And it surprised him to realize that's all that mattered.
He woke up a few hours later with the most uncomfortable feeling in his ribs. Turning his head he found Abel wedged between him and Tara. He didn't know how the kid managed to climb into the bed, though he had a sneaking suspicion Tara woke up and helped him. Either way he was beginning to regret winning the argument about Abel's toddler bed. He had a feeling the kid was going to be crawling in their bed a lot of nights.
Abel was on his back, his head on Tara's shoulder, his feet shoved forward into Jax's side. Slowly, so as not to wake him, Jax began to shift Abel so that he was laying straight. But Abel only flopped over onto his stomach, snuggling his face into Tara's neck, and his feet once again shoving at Jax's side.
"You're killing me, kid." Climbing out of the bed, Jax reached for the pair of jeans that had been laying on the floor. Pulling the jeans on, he couldn't help but take a moment to stare at Tara and Abel
They had saved him. Jax wasn't sure just what he'd be if it wasn't for the two of them. Letting them go had been the hardest thing he'd ever done, but at the time he was so sure it was what was best for them. And maybe it still was. He was willing to admit that pulling them both back had been selfish. He needed them. Needed them more than either of them probably needed him. But he didn't care. They were his and he knew now how to protect them. And he wasn't going to let anything stand in the way of his turning the club around, of keeping them safe.
Jax wasn't sure what had him going towards the closet, pulling the letters down off the shelf Tara kept them on. Shoving the letters into the back pocket of his jeans he walked down to the nursery. Ben, very much his mother's son, was still fast asleep. He barely even shifted when Jax lifted him out of his crib.
"You'll sleep with daddy, won't you Ben." Cuddling his son in his arms, Jax walked through to the play area. Turning the lights on low, he tossed the letters onto the couch before lowering himself down next to them. Ben snuggled into his chest, hand reaching out to tangle in the chain hanging from his neck.
For the first time since his and Tara's argument, Jax allowed himself to think about just how close he came to not having his baby boy. It twisted him up, clenched his heart so tightly he could barely breathe around it. Ben was the best of him and Tara, he just knew it. Every day Ben looked more like him, more like Abel. And every day he'd make a face that was so much like Tara. The only thing that tripped him out more was watching Abel make gestures that were so distinctly Tara.
He hated that there was a time he didn't want Abel. Hated that things had gotten so bad for him and Tara that she didn't want Ben.
"You're never going to know that." Jax whispered softly to his son. "You and your brother are only going to know how much me and your mom love you." His eyes went back to the letters.
He was going to be better than his father, stronger. He was going to be strong for Tara, for the boys. Whatever happened, whatever he learned, he swore he wouldn't let it break him. Break them. "I'm not going to let anything happen to our family. I won't let any of you get hurt. I promise."
Pressing a kiss to the top of Ben's head, he whispered his love for his son. And with a shaking breath reached for the stack of letters.