Chapter Ten: House of the rising sun

Juice went through a cycle of emotions in a matter of seconds after Jax left. A sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Anger that Chibs had hidden this from him. Happiness that this might be what had been holding Chibs back. Then that sinking feeling again, because he realised that they were done.

When he settled on the anger to tide him over, it was a conscious choice. Anger felt most comfortable. He gripped his right wrist and twisted. The flesh turned white and, when his fingers slipped, red. He smacked his wrist against the sink until he lost count. He tried not to make any noise. The last thing he needed was for someone to come in to check if he was okay.

The pain was twice as bad when the sink connected with one of the old bruises. Good. He wanted to cover those up. Not see Chibs's hand on his skin every time he looked down. Juice bit his tongue bloody to keep quiet.

He would have kept banging away, if Chibs hadn't come in. Abruptly, Juice stopped and slipped his hand into his pocket. He turned away from the other man's concern. Chibs cautiously came closer. As if I'm a goddamn wounded animal, Juice thought.

There was something sweet about the slow approach. Something caring and protective. Juice resented the shit out of it. When Chibs reached out to touch him, he backed away. Without looking at Chibs, Juice delivered the news. Spat it out; really.

'Jax told me to end it,' he said, 'So I'm ending it.'

Simple as that. He smashed his shoulder into Chibs on his way out and slammed the door behind him. Curious looks accompanied Juice as he made his way through the clubhouse, but it was all a haze. Here he had been thinking that he was going to hurt Chibs's feelings or whatever, when Chibs had known all along that they couldn't last. Screw him.

The roads were slippery, but he didn't adjust his speed. He could feel the tires lose their grip ever so slightly and skid occasionally, but he managed not to crash and burn. That was a disappointment.

Juice drank heavily that night. Partly to fuel the anger. Partly to dull the familiar ache of still wanting, wanting, wanting Chibs. His jaw ached with its intensity. In an attempt to get it 'out of his system' like Jax – understanding nothing - had suggested, Juice pulled his dick out and jerked himself off. He thought of Chibs the entire time. Chibs's hand between their bodies. Chibs's mouth sucking him off. So much for forgetting.

Coming was a sad affair. Juice wiped his fingers on the couch and felt like crying. Instead, he poured himself another drink. The glass clanked against his teeth. The alcohol burned his throat and made his eyes water. He drank too fast, coughed and took a bigger sip. The ache refused to be dulled. He didn't know what he had expected; just not this.

They say that for every high there must be a low. Well, the high felt fucking cheap if this was the low. He wasn't sure who he was kidding there. Every single second with Chibs had been worth it. Juice drank while the night grew long and cool. Eventually, he went to bed and sleep claimed him.

(***)

There was blood in his mouth. Not Miles's. His own blood.

'Shh. S'alright. Go back to sleep.'

Everything swung into place awfully quick. There were arms around him. Juice propelled Chibs out of bed. The room wavered as Juice struggled to get up. He took one head-clearing breath before charging.

They crashed into the wall. Juice's forehead scraped along the wallpaper. Chibs groaned. On his first try, Juice missed the intended target. His fist hit the wall with a dull thud. He flinched and tried again. Satisfied, he rained blows down on Chibs until the other man recovered enough to push him away.

Chibs raised his hands in surrender. Unsteady on his feet, Juice glowered at the other man. The bedroom lurched violently. Juice swayed with it and laughed.

'You knew it wasn't allowed. So, why?'

They panted. Chibs didn't answer.

'Well?' Juice demanded, shoving Chibs. He still didn't respond.

'I don't get it. You could have chosen anyone. Why me?' Juice asked. He closed his eyes and remembered the conversation somewhere at the beginning of this whole mess where he'd told Chibs that he loved him. God, he felt sick. He thought about the time when he'd blurted it out during sex.

That sent Juice running for the bathroom. The alcohol burned even more coming up than it had done going down. Dragging himself up by the sink, he saw in the mirror that he looked like hell. His eyes stung. He held his head underneath the tap and washed his face. To get rid of the vile taste, he drank some water.

When he emerged from the bathroom, Chibs was waiting. Again like before; sitting at the kitchen table. The house had stopped moving, but Juice's motions remained shaky. He rummaged in the kitchen drawers, looking for a peppermint. Held it up to the light to inspect it. Popped it into his mouth and swirled it around.

'How did you get in?' Juice croaked. The words were like sandpaper to his throat. Chibs dodged the question.

'What happened to your wrist?' he asked instead, glancing at Juice's mangled wrist. Two can play that game, Juice thought, pointedly ignoring the question. Wordlessly, Chibs offered him a cigarette. Juice shook his head and watched Chibs light a cigarette and inhale deeply.

'It can't go any further than it already has. This has to be it,' Chibs informed him. Juice observed as Chibs gestured with his cigarette to indicate what he meant – you, me, us. Last time Juice checked, he had been the one to break it off, so this little show really chapped his ass.

'You don't need to remind me,' he snapped, adding that at least Chibs had known all of this going in. Out of another drawer, Juice retrieved a packet of cigarettes. Then he sat down and lit one of his own cigarettes. Chibs sighed.

'Tell me you'll be fine.'

Juice raised his eyebrows. The bastard had some nerve. Slowly, with vicious twists, Juice ground his barely lit cigarette to a pathetic stub.

'No, I'm not gonna lie. I don't think I'll ever get over you. But let's not dwell on that,' Juice replied. It sounded bitter and awesome. Hey, I'm getting the hang of this sarcasm thing, he thought. Chibs clearly wanted him to stop, but he continued mercilessly.

'Look at me. Look me in the fucking eye and tell me that you don't want this as much as I do. Tell me that you don't wish we could have it. And don't give me any of your 'it's only gonna trip us up' crap. Tell me that you don't give a damn about me, if that's the truth. I dare you,' he yelled.

The Scotsman looked anywhere but at Juice. His cigarette dangled forgotten between his fingers as he swallowed: thickly and repeatedly. When Chibs finally did look up, Juice realised to his surprise that he had absolutely floored Chibs. Knocked him out. Defeated him.

'You were never just anyone to me,' Chibs admitted hoarsely. Their eyes met and immediately parted. Juice found himself swallowing too. The ache was back in full force. Now it felt a lot like loneliness. He stared out of the window and discovered that it was no longer night, but morning. And it was over.

Juice cleared his throat. Chibs pushed his chair back and got to his feet. Awkwardly, Juice extended his hand towards the other man. It was ridiculous and they both knew it.

'Fuck that,' Chibs said, drawing him in for a kiss. They could have fucked right then and there. One for the road. Maybe they should have. Juice wondered about that later and couldn't decide whether it would have made everything that followed better or worse.

It wouldn't have changed the fact that he couldn't touch Chibs anymore. Or that they would always be reminded - by the Sons surrounding them - that what brought them together also kept them apart. This life was his to live. This ache was his to own.

Juice regretted nothing.

The end.