Disclaimer: I do not own Sons of Anarchy.
Having been to two toy stores already, this one in Stockton was her last hope. Following the directions of the sales person, Donna headed up the aisle checking out the toys on the shelves hoping to find what she was looking for.
Having wrestled with Jax's invitation for several days, Donna had finally decided to take the kids to Abel's welcome home party. It hadn't been an easy decision to make and she had only let herself cave because of her feelings for Jax. He was her friend—probably the only one she had—and he was good to her and the kids. It was obvious how much he wanted them there and, if Opie had been alive, there was no doubt in her mind that the Winston family would have attended, in spite of whatever misgivings she may have had.
Knowing that this would be a special day for both Jax and Abel, Donna decided to view it as a family function and not as a Club-sponsored event. She had yet to see Abel Teller in the flesh as visitors were restricted to just immediate family. This would be the first time she would get to witness Jax not as an outlaw biker, but as a loving father and, if that was the case, the pros for her to attend certainly outweighed the cons.
Having already loaded up on tons of baby gear in the form of clothing for Abel to grow into, Donna was now on the hunt for a gift to come from Ellie and Kenny and her kids had been pretty specific about what they wanted for their Uncle Jax's new son. Suddenly coming to a dead stop, Donna's big blue eyes rounded as they landed on the very item she was looking for. Picking up several different toys, Donna grinned.
Jax is gonna love these!
"Damn, little man. That was a big one." Jax grinned as he flipped his son away from his shoulder and back into the crook of his arm. In Jax's mind, it was nothing short of a miracle at how quickly he had grown accustomed to feeding and burping his son. Placing the now empty bottle on the table next to him, Jax smiled down as Abel quite happily cooed and kicked his feet out against his father's tight abs. "Whoa, there, buddy. I don't think you're ready to take your old man on just yet. You might wanna pace yourself 'cause I gotta warn ya, it won't be a fair fight."
"Not afraid to take on a younger man, are you, Teller?" Jax looked up and found Tara standing next to him. He had been so enthralled with his son's antics that he never even heard her enter the nursery.
"Hey, Doc." Standing up, he grinned down at Tara. "I'm never afraid of a little competition, darlin'. I might even let him win our first tussle."
"I'm willing to bet that letting him win won't even be an option. If he's inherited just a drop of that legendary Teller ego, he'll be ready to take you on as soon as he starts walking and talking." Tara teased with a huge smile.
"Feeling a little cheeky, huh, Doc?" Jax snarked. Suddenly sobering up, he looked Tara in the eye as he softly jiggled his son. "That's a good sign. How are you holding up? Everything else quiet down for you?"
Tara sighed. "I assume you're referring to my ATF shadow?" She asked and Jax nodded. "So far, so good. Whatever you said must have scared him away for good. No more rose petals or sick photos, so thank you once again." She smiled.
"No sweat." Jax smiled back. "I also spoke to Hale." He announced as Tara's eyes widened. "Tara, he needed to know about Kohn being the asshole you have the R.O. against. If ever I'm not around, out of town on a run or something, and this Kohn guy shows up, do not hesitate to contact Hale." Jax saw her dark green eyes cloud up. "Hey, I don't want you worrying about this, a'ight? It's taken care of."
Tara took a deep breath and nodded. "Okay." She smiled and quickly moved to change the subject. "So are you ready for the big day tomorrow?"
Jax shrugged his shoulders and placed his suddenly sleeping son into his crib. "Honestly? I'm not so sure, but I'm excited as fuck." He turned to face Tara. "For a long time I was sure that he was never coming home. I have you and Dr. Namid to thank for making that happen for us."
Tara blushed as she placed a hand on his arm. "I'm just glad I was able to do my part to help him. He's a special little boy. A real fighter."
"Yeah, he is." Jax grinned proudly. "You know, we're having a get-together to welcome him home tomorrow night. I really would like it if you were there because he wouldn't be without you."
"Oh, Jax, I don't know." Tara bit her lip. "I mean, I don't think Gemma would want me—" She started, but Jax interrupted her.
Wrapping both arms around the suddenly-startled doctor and pulling her close to him, Tara felt as if she were unable to breathe as she looked up into Jax's deep blue eyes. "Fuck that, Tara. Ma may still be carrying leftover angst from our teenage days, but she really appreciates what you've done for her grandson. It wouldn't be as special for me without you there. Please?"
Tara swallowed the lump in her throat, her heart beating rapidly. "Okay," She whispered. "I'd love to come."
"Good." Unexpectedly, instead of pulling away, Jax found himself resting his forehead against Tara's. The simple action of being this close again seemed so familiar and peaceful. Knowing those days were long behind them both, however, Jax raised his head. His intent was to place a brief kiss on her forehead, but as Tara raised her chin, Jax suddenly found his mouth pressed against hers.
Tara swallowed the gasp that she would have let out if the full, warm lips of the man she considered to be the love of her life were not locked on her own. Suddenly, the feelings and emotions that she had once experienced with Jax so many years ago came flooding back to the surface. With a little groan, Tara allowed her arms to slowly wrap around his neck so she could bury her hands in his hair, deepening their kiss.
What the fuck am I doing? Jax thought as he felt Tara's arms wrap around him. He hadn't meant to kiss her like this, but having done so, he couldn't bring himself to pull away now. Gently cradling her against him as he continued his assault on her senses, it was as if he and Tara were once again in a world of their own making.
But they weren't.
Standing in front of the nursery window, Wendy Teller looked on as the old high school sweethearts remained locked in a close embrace. Seeing her old man—the father of her son—tenderly kissing the woman who had saved the child she had almost killed, Wendy felt her world collapse as she turned around and stumbled away.
Bursting through the front door, Wendy found herself breathing almost uncontrollably as she walked across the short hallway to confront the Queen Mother of the Heir Apparent. After what she had just witnessed, Wendy was in a very bad place emotionally. Seeing her husband locked in an embrace with the woman responsible for saving Abel's life had not just thrown Wendy for a devastating loop, but it had finally opened her eyes as to what were Gemma's true intentions for grooming her into the perfect old lady for her son.
While not prepared to confront Jax about Tara, she couldn't let Gemma go on thinking she had fooled anyone. She had to know that even though she was manipulating the situation, she wasn't in control of it.
"I know what you're doing." Wendy accused as she threw her handbag onto the leather couch.
Standing on a stool as she pinned a baby blue banner that read "Welcome Home Abel" to the ceiling, Gemma looked over her shoulder and down to eye her visibly upset daughter-in-law. The angry, almost hurt emotion she could hear in the woman's voice had managed to cause the Queen of Charming a bit of a surprise. "I would think it was obvious. I'm hanging a banner."
"No, damn it! I'm not talking about a fuckin' banner! I'm talking about what you're doing with me. And Tara." Wendy shot back.
Gemma arched an eyebrow at the fervor in Wendy's voice. "And just what am I doing, sweetheart?" She asked calmly all the while wondering what damage control she would be doing in the very near future.
"Using me to try and keep her and Jax apart. I was so stupid, too! I should have known that you had an ulterior motive." Wendy threw her hands up as she paced around the living room in anger. "Asking me if I still loved Jax, if I still wanted to be with him, taking me shopping, giving me a makeover, and including me in planning Abel's nursery and this party—that was all about keeping me in Jax's orbit and Tara out of it, wasn't it?" She finally whirled back to face her mother-in-law.
Part of Wendy was hoping that the Queen would deny it. That maybe on some level Gemma was helping her because she had forgiven her for what she done to her grandson and cared enough about her to at least help her keep her family together. But the callousness with which Gemma delivered her next words, however, was enough to convince Wendy that she had only been fooling herself.
Gemma chuckled wryly, acknowledging the truth of Wendy's words. "It doesn't matter why I did it. It doesn't change a damn thing. I still meant everything I said, so what do you care what my motives are? You'll still get the thing that you want the most. And so will I."
Wendy's heart sank in her chest. She swallowed the lump in her throat. "You know, I was okay with you slipping me enough crank to kill a horse. Because of what I did to Abel, I deserved that. But I am not the same person I was four months ago and I can't be a part of this. You are playing with people's lives, Gemma!"
"Bullshit! I'm protecting the innocent," Gemma retorted. "And if I step on a few toes in the process, so be it."
Wendy slumped down onto the sofa and looked up as Gemma continued to work on the banner. "You really believe that, don't you?" She replied bleakly.
"So what if I do? You're out of your fuckin' mind if you think that putting down that needle for a few months somehow gives you the right to judge me. You better take a good, long look at yourself, sweetheart, 'cause you're burning a hole through the very thing you can't wait to become. Maybe that's why you hate yourself so much."
Gemma finished adjusting the banner and got down off the stool to face the younger woman. "The reality is that you messed up with Jax big time and I'm giving you the opportunity to rectify that mistake—to get your husband and your baby back. As much as I love my son, he can't see the truth of his situation right now and that truth is that Tara Knowles is not the woman for him. She wasn't any good for him ten years ago and she's no good for him now."
"That's not a choice you get to make." Wendy argued.
"The hell it isn't!" Gemma sat down in a chair opposite Wendy and crossed her legs. Grabbing her handbag from the coffee table, she dug for her pack of cigarettes and lit one up, blowing out a trail of blue smoke. "The one thing that you have never been able to understand about an old lady's role in this Club—because you spent most of your marriage to my son tweaking—is that SAMCRO is the glue that keeps all of our families together and that behind every strong patch is an even stronger old lady.
"One day, my son will be at the head of the table and I need to know that the woman standing behind him can give him the support he needs. And what he needs is an old lady that can handle this Life—the good, the bad and the downright ugly because sometimes the brotherhood won't be enough to keep him together." Gemma explained. "I respect Tara for what she's accomplished in her life, what she's done for my grandson, but that's where it ends. She may deal with life and death on a daily basis down at St. Thomas, but she doesn't have what it takes to hold shit together when things go sideways in the Clubhouse. She never did. Wearing his crow made her no more a proper old lady than that wedding ring you're sporting made you a proper wife. The difference between the two of you is that she will never learn from her mistakes. Tara didn't love the Club then and she sure as shit don't love it now. She doesn't see that Jax is SAMCRO and you can't love the man without loving the Club. Tara and Jax are two different people now and any hope she may have of getting back together with my son will not end well." Gemma concluded.
So in the meantime, I have to make do with you.
"I don't think Tara would agree with you," Wendy whispered. "And neither would Jax, for that matter."
Gemma narrowed her eyes. "What happened? Why would you say that?"
Wendy chuckled bitterly. "Because I saw the two of them at the hospital today. Together. And they weren't just talking."
Shit! Gemma unintentionally crushed her lit cigarette in half. She had been afraid of something like this happening. Afraid that the doctor bitch would use her ties to Abel to get her hooks in her vulnerable son. She knew that once they started taking a trip down memory lane that Jax would get lost, focusing on what they once had, not realizing that that shit had never really been real.
Gemma leaned forward as she bore a hole into her daughter-in-law. "Then I suggest you find a way to change Jax's mind. Otherwise, not only will you lose your husband to the good doctor, but you'll lose your son, too."
Donna could hear the music as she turned up the block.
"Boy, it's really jumping, huh, Ma?" Kenny exclaimed from the passenger seat.
"Yeah. Sounds pretty intense for a baby's welcome home party, though." Donna eyed her daughter through the rearview mirror and noted her anxious expression. "You okay back there, honey?"
"I'm fine, Mom. I just hope Uncle Jax likes the gift you picked out from me and Kenny." Ellie replied placing her hand on one of the two gift-wrapped boxes sitting next to her.
"Uncle Jax is gonna think it's totally cool." Kenny enthused. "Way cooler than a bunch of baby clothes."
"I'm sure Jax will appreciate all of the gifts little Abel is getting tonight." Donna replied as she angled her small sedan into a parking space halfway down Jax's block. Grabbing the large container of double nut fudge brownies from Kenny's lap, they all exited the car together and slammed the doors shut. Unwilling to play the game of twenty questions she would have undoubtedly been dragged into had she called the SAMCRO Matriarch to ask what she should bring, Donna opted to make one of Jax's favorites.
And not only because he loves them so much, Donna tried to convince herself. But because I just can't show up empty-handed.
Making their way through the line of parked bikes and cars, the Winston family went up the walkway to the Teller home. With the sun starting to set, the sky was slightly dusky with hints of mauve and orange, but Jax's small home was lit up with what seemed like every light in the house. Taking a deep breath, Donna rang the doorbell and it was summarily snatched open.
"Well, uh, hey, shit." Tig almost stammered as he eyed Opie Winston's petite wife and her two kids hovering behind her. "Donna, it's real nice seeing ya." Opening the door wide, he gestured. "C'mon in. Everybody's inside."
Donna nodded and quickly grabbed her children and inched by the tall crazy-eyed man who was the Club's SAA. While she kept pretty much out of the Club scene, she knew enough about its hierarchy to know that Tig Trager was not a man to be messed with.
Walking into the non-existent foyer, Donna looked around the Teller living room, which was packed wall-to-wall with people—patches with their old ladies and their families. The children were running in and through the tiny space and out the patio doors leading to the backyard. It was all just a bit too intimidating to be there without Opie.
"I shouldn't have come." Donna murmured to herself. I should just drop off the brownies and the gifts and split. I can always take the kids to a movie.
Just as Donna was making a move in that direction, a familiar voice called to her. "Hey sweetie! Gem didn't tell me you were coming." Luann Delaney said warmly as Donna suddenly found herself wrapped in an armful of blond extensions and unbelievably firm and perky boobs.
"Hey, Luann," She replied sheepishly. "It's nice to see you. Actually, Jax invited me and the kids to stop by. I guess he forgot to mention it to Gemma."
Big Otto's old lady literally towered over Donna in four-inch Jimmy Choos and laughed uproariously. She was not known at all for being discreet. Having endured over 25 years in the porn business, the last ten of which she spent as the principal owner and producer of Cara Cara Productions, had allowed the woman to develop a no-holds barred approach to telling it like it is. "Well, it's good that he did. Invite you and didn't tell Gemma, that is." She winked at the astonished woman. "I love Gem, but sometimes she gets just a little too territorial. I mean, I get it as she's the SAMCRO Queen and all, but sometimes she takes herself just a little too seriously."
Uh, ya think?
Luann continued to greet Donna's children. "Look guys, there's a table over in the corner for the gifts. Why don't you put what you have over there and join the other kids in the backyard? There's plenty of snacks and soda outside."
"Can we, Mom?" Kenny said excitedly.
Realizing that her attempted getaway had been foiled even before it had began, Donna nodded reluctantly. "Go ahead, but keep an eye on your sister, Kenny."
"Hey! I'm older. Why does he have to look after me?" Ellie complained, but was promptly dragged off by her brother.
"Kids." Luann laughed. "Every time I think me and Otto should have had some, I get reminded why I'm glad we didn't." Wrapping an arm around Donna shoulders, she dragged the woman to the kitchen. "So let's go have some fun and beard the Queen lioness in her den." She cackled.
She has absolutely no idea, Donna thought.
Gemma was directing one of the old ladies when she got an unexpected surprise.
"Hey," Luann crowed. "Look who showed up to the party bearing gifts."
Donna wanted to sink through the floor as the entire room of old ladies turned around to get a look at the newcomer. In turn, Gemma was glad that she had just handed off a plate of sliced turkey when she saw Donna standing in Luann's embrace.
"Well, this is certainly a surprise." As a chorus of hellos were offered from the group of worker-bee old ladies, Gemma walked over to the younger woman. Taking the container of brownies Donna was holding and passing it to the old lady standing behind her, Gemma gave Donna a brief hug. "It's been a while since we've seen you and the kids. How are you doing?"
And why are you here? Gemma wondered.
Donna looked directly into Gemma's dark eyes. "The kids and I are okay, all things considered." Donna moistened her lips. "Jax stopped by earlier this week to check on the kids, invited us to come by for Abel's homecoming. I hope you don't mind."
"Of course not, sweetheart. You're family. Always have been. I'm just glad you decided to come." Gemma replied.
Seeing that Gemma had decided on being civil, Donna allowed herself to relax. She wasn't sure what reaction she had expected from the Biker Queen, but if Gemma had chosen to get out of line because Jax had invited her without her knowledge or approval, Donna was sure she would not have hesitated to lose her shit in front of everyone. Although Donna was sure that it would have been immensely satisfying, it also would have cast a shadow over Abel's homecoming.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Donna asked.
Luann cackled. "Now here I was thinking you were the smart one for keeping yourself out of Club life. Instead, you willingly volunteer to become my lady's handmaiden. Well, that's good for me, I guess, because you can take over my job cutting up salad with Wendy." Luann shoved Donna over to the counter towards the other woman. "I'm going on break." Luann gleefully directed at Gemma as she sashayed out of the kitchen and over to the mini-bar run by one of the Prospects for a glass of wine.
"Bitch!" Gemma called out exasperatedly before turning to face the rest of her unpaid kitchen labor. "And don't think that any of you bitches are getting off too." She eyed everyone with a hard look. "Everybody get back to work. And you," She nodded at Donna. "Help Wendy finish that salad. We're leaving in ten minutes to get Abel."
"Yes, ma'am." Donna replied under her breath. Rolling her eyes behind Gemma's back, she headed towards the sink to wash her hands before reporting to Wendy Teller for salad duty.
Wendy offered her a soft grin as she nudged her head in Gemma's direction. "Congratulations. It looks like you survived the first assault." She whispered.
Donna met Wendy's knowing eyes. "Yeah, but I probably shouldn't sleep on her and prepare for a sneak attack from the rear with that one." She mumbled as she picked up a knife lying on one of the cutting boards and started slicing cucumbers.
"Too true. No one ever gets off that easy with Mother Gemma." Donna noted the slightly hard edge to Wendy's tone of voice.
"Never mind her. Right now, the most important thing is that Abel's coming home." Donna commented.
Wendy nodded as she added her pile of sliced tomatoes to the large salad bowl. "You're right. It's a miracle he survived, no thanks to me." Wendy avoided Donna's gaze. "I know that on some level that's what everyone here is thinking. In spite of that, they're still being nice to me, so I guess that's something, right?"
Donna put a hand on the woman's shoulder. "If there's one thing I've come to understand about making mistakes it's that you can't undo them. All you can do is promise to do better going forward. Remembering that is pretty much the only way I keep from losing it with my own situation."
Wendy sighed. "I'm so sorry. I must seem like a real bitch moaning about my own shit. Sometimes I get so wrapped up wallowing in self-pity that I forget that others might be going through worse. How are your kids dealing with—" Wendy trailed off.
"Losing their Dad?" Donna nodded. "One day at a time."
"Well, Queen Gemma is right about one thing. SAMCRO is a big family. I love Jax and my son and even though I may not always appreciate all aspects of my family, it's better than doing without any family at all."
"I am so glad to hear that you finally understand that." Both women jumped as Gemma's voice echoed over them. Whirling around, they saw the matriarch suspiciously eying them, her leather jacket on and her slouchy hobo bag draped over her shoulder. "But the time for whispered chitchat is over. Wendy, it's time to go get your son. The rest of you keep going because we'll be back with Jax and my grandson in an hour. I want dinner ready to be served as soon as I step through the front door." Gemma ordered.
Donna put her hand over her rapidly beating heart. "Damn!" She whispered. "Someone needs to put a bell around her neck."
As Wendy snorted with laughter, Gemma's voice rang out. "I fuckin' heard that!"
"Well, what have we here?"
Donna looked up from placing a large aluminum pan of sliced honey and pineapple glazed ham on the already-crowded buffet table as she heard a familiar and gruff-sounding voice.
"Hi, Dad." Donna smiled as Piney Winston reached out and wrapped his arms around his daughter-in-law and gave her a bear-sized hug.
"I didn't know you were coming tonight." Piney said.
"Neither did I. That is, Gemma didn't mention you were coming." Hearing that voice, Donna looked up while still in her father-in-law's embrace to meet the steely blue eyes of Clay Morrow.
"I think Jax may have forgotten to mention it to her. It's nice to see you, Clay." Donna responded.
Okay, that's probably a stretch, she thought.
Looking at the SAMCRO President, it suddenly hit Donna like a ton of bricks that Clay was the reason why she had been so uneasy about coming to Abel's party. Even though Donna couldn't say that he was the most attractive man she had ever met, there was no doubt that Clay had a certain appeal. He had an almost debonair, gentlemanly air of charisma about him. A commanding presence, if you will, that was so obviously manifest about him, but that didn't do much to hide the fact that Clay Morrow had a propensity for ruthlessness in how he lived his life and how he ran his Club.
For regardless of what was generally believed, Donna had a feeling that Clay Morrow was the Club.
"Well," Clay drawled. "It's real good having you here. I'm sure Jax will appreciate you turning out to welcome his boy home." Nodding at both Piney and Donna, Clay headed towards the bar to get himself a drink.
Piney's eyes narrowed as he felt his tense daughter-in-law suddenly relax in his arms.
"You all right, little girl?" Piney asked, calling Donna by his pet name for her.
Donna brushed off his concern with a bright smile. "I'm fine. It's just a little . . . weird being here. Without Ope, I mean."
"I know, but it's real good that you came. Opie would want you to be here. Never doubt that."
"I don't." Donna nodded. "I need to get back to the kitchen. Kenny and Ellie are in the backyard. You should go say hi."
Watching Donna head back into the kitchen, Piney's eyes narrowed as he took a hit of oxygen.
Forgive me if I don't believe ya, girlie, but there's more than doubt written all over your face.
Donna stood in the sidelines watching as the newest Prince of Charming was being passed around. Having arrived a couple of hours before, Jax and his son had been welcomed with resounding cheers and open arms. Donna smirked as she realized that Gemma was in her element as the new grandma and had managed to steal no little amount of thunder away from Abel's mother.
Donna had to admit that she was not quite sure of what Wendy's role to Jax was. Even though Wendy had not left Jax's side ever since they had arrived with their son, it appeared to Donna that there was a measure of distance between the couple. It wasn't as if Jax were being unkind to her, but if he still harbored any feelings for the mother of his son, it wasn't clearly evident to Donna.
Donna was so busy mulling over her thoughts that she was quite literally taken by surprise when she suddenly found her arms full of sweet smelling baby. "I think it's about time that Abel met his kick-ass Aunt." Jax teased his best friend's wife.
"Yeah, I am gonna kick your ass later for scaring the shit out of me. Again." Donna retorted as she looked into Abel's deep blue eyes. "Oh my God, he's beautiful. Damn, Jax. Is there anything of this child's mother in him?"
"Nope, I'm afraid he's all Teller." Jax grinned proudly. Wrapping an arm around Donna's shoulder, he grinned down at the two of them. "I'm really glad you came, Don." He said pressing a kiss on her temple as she continued cooing and babbling at the sweet-tempered baby in her arms.
"I couldn't miss this." She replied, glad she had stayed after all. "I just had to see for myself if the son's as pretty-looking as his daddy. God help your poor old lady. Wendy's gonna have her hands full trying to keep a condom on him by the time he turns twelve."
Jax brow suddenly scrunched up. "Wendy?" He asked a little confused.
"Oh, I'm sorry." Donna looked at the outlaw biker, his arm still wrapped around her shoulders. "I just kinda assumed—"
"Nah, its okay, Don." Jax laughed a little self-consciously. "I just haven't been thinking that far ahead into the future. Wendy and I," He continued. "We're not really sure what the future has in store for us."
Now it was Donna's turn to quirk an eyebrow. That's not the impression I got from Wendy, she thought, but wisely didn't say so out loud.
"It's early days yet, right?" She tore her eyes away from the gorgeous baby in her arms to his gorgeous father just a breath away.
Jax's eyes searched Donna's face, wondering why they kept falling to her lips. "Right." Jax finally agreed. "Early days."
Okay, somebody needs to clue me in, because I'm not sure what's going on.
It was getting late and Donna was starting to think that she and the kids had spent a socially-acceptable amount of time hanging out at Abel's party. In spite of her initial reservations, however, she was actually enjoying herself and decided to stay a little longer.
Donna had spent the majority of the evening in the company of Luann and a few other old ladies. After completing their duties in the kitchen and serving dinner, the Queen had graciously released them from pulling clean up detail. Instead, she had placed a call to the Clubhouse and had a couple of sweetbutts come over to deal with the dirty work in the kitchen.
After spending time doting over Abel, the women took up residence in a quiet corner of the living room and got down to the real business of old ladies at one of these events: sharing Intel currently churning on the MC's gossip mill. Sitting back and nursing a glass of wine Luann had shoved into her hand, Donna participated only as far as listening to and observing the other old ladies was concerned. Hearing some of the rumors and stories floating around Redwood and other charters, Donna realized that, even though the Club was strictly outlaw, when it came to the often mundane and personal matters of its members, living the Life often resembled a daytime soap opera.
Donna was pretty sure that her own situation had kept the Old Lady Gossip Mill quite well-fed for over five years. Most recently, there had been Opie's death and the fact that Donna had pretty much reverted back to her MIA status full-time now that he was gone.
Donna knew that, even before those recent events, some of the old ladies sitting with her right now had made pointed remarks about Jax exercising the "prison clause" while Opie was in Chino. Donna could only assume that that very juicy, but inaccurate, bit of gossip had never reached Gemma's ears or she probably would have been gutted like a fish by the Queen years ago.
Donna laughed softly to herself as she took a sip of her Pinot Noir. Barely a year ago, these heifers had all but called her out and slapped an "A" on her chest for spending time with her husband's best friend while Opie had been in prison.
And it wouldn't have stood for "Anarchy" either, Donna thought bitterly. If they had any idea that Jax has been hanging around my house every Saturday morning for the last couple of months, they'd probably think I was poaching all over Wendy's property.
As Wendy was still Jax's old lady, Donna's name would be mud if there was even a hint of a rumor that she and Jax were hooking up on the regular. Not that Donna gave a shit anyway. The convoluted rules that the Club's old ladies set for themselves or adhered to sometimes made absolutely no sense to her. An old lady was expected to fake ignorance when it came to her man's infidelities while on runs, but God help any old lady who saw fit to share her lady bits with anyone other than her old man. Sweetbutts and croweaters had a purpose and a place in the biker world and were to be tolerated in the Clubhouse. As long as none of the Club whores stepped out of line or disrespected an old lady because she had been with her old man, old ladies had no choice but to turn a blind eye.
With the appearance of a former old lady on the scene, the Old Lady Gossip Mill kicked into high gear the moment Dr. Tara Knowles arrived.
Donna was the first in her group to notice Tara's arrival. The quiet and somewhat demure woman—something that was unheard of in a Club full of rough and tough old ladies—entered the house and placed her handbag on the railing above the couch that served as a makeshift bar. Donna kept an eye on the woman wondering when someone else in the group would notice her.
Suddenly, as Jax emerged from the kitchen with his son in tow and Abel's supper in hand, Donna saw the doctor's face light up and watched as she walked over to greet her ex. Seeing Jax's look of pleasure splashed across his face when he spotted Tara, Donna watched with growing astonishment as he hugged her warmly.
"Oh shit!" Luann exclaimed as her tipsy director's eye had finally honed in on the couple. "What the hell is she doing here?"
"I don't know," Maggie, an old lady for nearly 25 years, replied. "But she better get her ass out of here quick before Gemma sees her."
"Yeah, otherwise one of the Prospects will be taking a ride out to the desert tonight to bury the body." Cheryl snarked, another old lady veteran. Everyone, except Donna, burst out laughing.
I may not have been overly fond of her in the past, but Tara has my sympathy tonight, Donna thought.
"Too late now." Rosie, a cute and naturally blond-haired newbie old lady with barely a nickel under her belt, chimed in. "The Queen has spotted her prey."
"I can't say I blame Gemma. That chick left town so fast she left a trail of smoke behind her a mile long." Luann responded, her eyes avidly watching Gemma's slightly chilly reception. "Jax was good to her. I don't get why she ran out on the patch next in line for the gavel. Life with the Prince had to be a hell of a lot better than life with her drunk and crazy daddy."
"Is it really that hard to figure out? Jax is a package deal. Hook up with him and you're gonna have to put up with Gemma." Maggie said derisively. As the other old ladies eyed each other over the woman's boldness, she shrugged her shoulders. "Hey, I like Gemma, but she's a pretty big pill for any young girl to swallow as a future mother-in-law."
"Yeah, and it looks like she still hasn't warmed up to the bitch. Look at the cold shoulder she's giving her. You can see it from here." Cheryl added.
"Well, it looks like the girl has a little back bone." Rosie observed. "She's not letting herself get chased off."
Donna noted that despite Gemma's cold reception, Tara made herself comfortable, sitting next to Jax and Abel on the couch.
"Well, isn't that cozy?" Cheryl said cattily. "And look, I'm thinking Jax's old lady ain't too happy about her hanging around either. I know wouldn't be."
Donna had to agree. Wendy's arms were crossed over her chest, and the tight-lipped expression on her face spoke volumes. She was watching from the kitchen doorway as Tara played with Abel while Jax held him in his arms. Donna could see the green-eyed monster rearing its ugly head from where she sat, noting just what an appealing picture Jax and Tara made with Abel.
And Donna wasn't sure why the picture bothered her too, but it did.
"Uh, oh," Luann murmured. "It's about to hit the fan now."
"Holy shit!" Maggie said gleefully. "Looks like the Good Doc is putting in her bid to be Jax's old lady again."
Donna watched as Tara leaned in to Jax and nearly sucked the tongue out of his head.
What the fuck? Donna thought, flabbergasted. Jax abruptly pulled away from Tara and Donna, feeling like a mean girl, couldn't help but smile as she noted the dazed and not necessarily happy expression on Jax's face.
"I can't believe the crank whore—" Rosie began.
"Ex-crank whore." Luann corrected.
"Ex-crank whore ain't doing shit to put that bitch in her place." Rosie finished.
"Yep. That's kinda weak." Maggie chimed in. "The doctor may have been with Jax once upon a time, but that was years ago. She's disrespecting his old lady in her own damn house. I may not care for Wendy, but that shit ain't right."
"Heh, heh." Cheryl chuckled salaciously. "Whether or not its right, looks like the Prince is ready to push up on that." She commented said as they all watched Jax hand his son over to Bobby Elvis. Getting up from the sofa, Jax pulled his former old lady up from her seat and down the hall to one of the bedrooms.
Maggie was watching it play out, her mouth agape. "He's gonna tap that ass right here under his old lady's nose on a day like today? A patch with balls that big must have a dick to match!"
"Lucky bitch!" Luann cackled.
"Can you blame him? The expiration date on his old lady is long overdue. What man, even a patch, wouldn't want a doctor instead of a former junky show girl?" Cheryl said derisively.
"I think you're wrong, Cheryl." In unison, the group of women turned to face Donna. "It looks to me like Jax was a little upset about the Doc making a move like that in front of everybody."
"Ten bucks says your wrong." Rosie eyed the petite widow. You know, she's not as stuck up as I thought.
"I'll take some of that action. Put me down for twenty." Maggie snarked. "I'm good for it."
Luann shook her head. "I'll take some of that action too, but I'm siding with Donna."
Suddenly, the women gaped as they saw Tara bolt down the hallway, grabbing her purse from the bar and heading out, slamming the door behind her. Not five seconds later, Jax reappeared with what looked like a bright red mark on his face and a pissed and confused look to go along with it.
"Hah! Pay up, bitches! Donna was right after all. He sent her packing." Luann crowed.
"I can't believe I just saw what I saw. I was sure he was gonna hit that." Rosie moaned as she dug around in her purse for her wallet.
"Well, it's probably a good thing anyway. Gemma would not be too happy if those two reunited." Luann advised.
"Like Jax needs permission from his mommy to take on whoever he wants as his next old lady. He's a fuckin' patch, for chrissake's." Maggie said sardonically. "He may have a lot of respect for his mother, but he's a man all the same. One day he will put the Queen in her place." She predicted. "It's just a matter of time."
Donna thought that the older woman was probably right. She had known Jax for a long time, but with the recent changes in his life—losing his best friend, becoming a father—she wouldn't be surprised if he started relying less on his mother and more on himself. And after what she had just witnessed, Donna would be surprised if either Wendy or Tara were seriously in the running for the top spot as Jax's old lady. From what little she did know about both women, they were both weak.
And whoever ends up with Jax is gonna have to have a serious set of stones to contend with Queen Gemma.
"Boy, what the fuck just happened?" Bobby chuckled as Jax sat down next to him on the couch, and willingly relinquished his hold on Jax's son.
"Bobby, your guess is as good as mine because I'm not sure I really know." Jax sighed.
"You must have done something, lover boy, which would explain why you're wearing somebody's handprint on your face right now." Bobby grinned. "Did you have something to say that ignited the good doctor's temper?"
"Yeah, something like that."
"Well, don't turn around, son, but she's not the only broad lookin' a little pissed off at you right now. Your mother and soon-to-be ex have been staring daggers at you since the good doctor showed up. Now that she's gone, you might wanna start damage control and get your ass out of the doghouse."
Jax shook his head as he looked Bobby in the eye. "I didn't do shit."
"Really?" Bobby rolled out the word. "So sucking the tongue out of your former old lady's head in front of her replacement and your mother—who has hated the Doc since day one—seemed like a good idea to you?"
"What? You didn't see what happened, old man? Tara kissed me, not the other way around." Jax defended himself.
"She must have thought she had good reason to lay one on ya." Bobby replied. "Did you give her a good reason?"
Jax sighed, rubbing the hair on his chin. "Maybe," He mumbled, thinking about their encounter at the hospital the day before. That had certainly been a bone-headed move on his part. As if he didn't have enough on his plate to deal with, why not throw yet another woman in the mix looking to stake a claim?
Seeing the young man look so forlorn and put upon while holding his son, Bobby decided to cut him some slack and end the ribbing. "Look, I'm sorry. I shouldn't be busting your chops, but you'd think that someone as smart as you would've learned his lesson by now. Women are God's most beautiful creation, brother, but the majority of them are bat-shit crazy." As Jax snorted, Bobby continued. "That's why I've got two divorces under my belt and the reason I have two is because I don't want three. Maybe you need to do the same brother."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you need to try and keep your head above water and not let these women mess with your head. You've got two old ladies—a former and a soon-to-be ex—yanking on your jock, your son just got out of the hospital. With Opie gone and the Club and Clay pulling at you, maybe you need to try and focus on one thing at a time. Try and figure shit out first. You're about to free yourself of one old lady. Don't rush and hook up with the next. You have Abel to consider now and not just any old lady can be a mother for your son."
Jax rubbed the bridge of his nose with his fingers and sighed. Looking at the bushy haired man sitting next to him, Jax smiled. "Thanks, old man."
"For always managing to say the shit I really need to hear when I need to hear it." Jax replied.
After only finishing half a glass of wine, Donna decided that it was time to call it a night. Falling back into Club life, even if for just a few hours, was a lot to take in all at once. While watching the antics between Gemma, Jax, Tara and Wendy had been a little entertaining, she couldn't help but be troubled by it as well. Even though Donna couldn't really put her finger on what it was that bothered her the most about the whole situation, all she knew was that it did.
Stepping out into the backyard, Donna called for her kids, who were currently engrossed in a board game with a group of other SAMCRO children under the light of several large lanterns. "Ellie, Kenny, it's time to go."
"Come on, Mom." Kenny whined. "Let us finish this round. I'm winning."
Donna sighed. "Okay, you got five minutes to wrap it up, sport."
"You know, he's a lot like his old man." The unexpected voice coming from the darkness behind her made Donna jump.
Clutching her hand to her heart, Donna turned to see the outline of a large man. It didn't take the flare from the lighter to illuminate his face as he lit his cigar for her to recognize Clay Morrow. He had a very distinctive voice.
"Sorry," Clay gave her a shit-eating grin. "I didn't mean to scare ya."
"That's okay." Donna sighed. She couldn't remember being this jumpy before, but was sure it was just an unhappy by-product of re-immersing herself in MC life, even if for just one night.
Clay strolled over and stood next to Donna, keeping his eyes focused on the group of children in the middle of their game as they laughed and argued amongst themselves. "I'm right, though. Young Kenny is a chip right off the old block."
"Yeah. I have to agree." Donna replied nostalgically as she eyed her growing son.
"You know, I never really had an opportunity to express to you on a personal level how much I miss Opie. He was a good brother and a good man."
"Yes, he was." Donna swallowed the sudden lump in her throat.
"Ope was loyal. He loved the charter and was loved by all of us, me especially." Clay said. "You might not know this, but I sponsored Ope when he prospected."
"No, I wasn't aware of that."
Where is this conversation going? Donna wondered.
"I know that there were times when it was hard for you, dealing with his commitment to the Club. That's why it's good to see you here with the kids tonight. SAMCRO takes care of its family."
"I appreciate you saying that." Deciding to take the bull by the horns, Donna licked her lips. "Jax hasn't shared any details, but he did assure me that on a Club level the person responsible for killing Opie is no longer an issue. The Club has my sincere gratitude for that."
Clay looked down at the small woman and nodded. "It's good that you know that. The cops sure as shit had no real interest in solving the case."
"I know. Opie was just another felon to them." Donna agreed. "A little part of me, though, doesn't feel that sense of closure that I probably would have gotten had the man responsible had been tried in court. I can't escape the nagging feeling of not really being sure that the right person really paid the price for robbing my family of a loving husband and father."
In the dark, Clay tensed at hearing Donna's words. He rolled his cigar between his thick fingers for a moment before he spoke.
"As someone older and wiser, I'd advise you to let go of that nagging feeling, especially since Jax himself assured you that Ope has been avenged. No court of law was going to give you the kind of closure you need. Take it from me, there would be no satisfaction in knowing that Opie's murderer was rotting away in prison or on the row because everyday he lives is another day your old man doesn't." Clay advised. "Ultimately, all you need to know is that outlaw justice prevailed. You have a couple of wonderful kids, both who need their mom to be there for them, now more than ever. Allowing yourself to get twisted up about the fate of Opie's killer won't be healthy for you, mentally or physically. You need to focus all that energy on taking care of Ope's legacy, his children."
Clay spoke softly, with a great deal of concern and empathy in his voice, but even Donna could detect the slight hard edge in his voice. And she shivered.
"You're right." Donna conceded. "My focus needs to be on Ellie and Kenny's welfare."
"Good girl." Clay said as he placed an arm around her shoulder to give her a brief hug before heading back inside. That gesture, one that Jax had done on countless occasions and that had often made her feel warm and safe, Donna now found slightly repelling.
Calling to her children again, Donna gathered their belongings, said her goodbyes, and quickly headed towards her car. Getting into the driver's side, Donna rested her head on the steering wheel as she thought about her conversation with Clay Morrow. Donna was no fool. That was a subtle warning disguised as a friendly conversation.
For the sake of my children, I'd better heed it and get my family out of Charming.
Later that night, as he sat in his favorite chair in Gemma's greenhouse, Clay thought long and hard about the conversation he'd had with Donna Winston.
He had been quite surprised to see the young widow at the party as she had kept herself and her kids away from any of the Club's family-oriented activities in past, both before and after her old man had gone to Chino, and even more so after his death.
Maybe it would have been better had she continued to stay away.
As President of the Club for over 15 years, Clay didn't take kindly to having his leadership called into question, especially not by an outsider. When issues arose within the Club, they were quickly and quietly put to bed. With Opie's death being avenged by his brother, his "killer" taken care of over a month ago, he didn't like the idea that anyone would doubt the validity of the vengeance that had been meted out.
Especially after all the trouble Tig and I took to put this shit to bed.
Clay Morrow was not a man to rehash his mistakes. The executive decision that he had made to kill a brother believed to be a rat had been a decision made for the good of the entire Club. He thought that, by getting rid of Opie, he would be keeping Bobby off of death row. It was unfortunate that he had made an error in judgment that had resulted in an innocent brother's death.
On the other hand, the cover up that he had affected with Tig did benefit him, thereby keeping the rest of the Club from finding out that he had given the order for the death of Opie Winston.
From a strictly analytical aspect, if presented with the evidence, most of those sitting around the table would have likely voted to patch Opie out. Even Jax himself, when confronted with evidence of the Feds paying off Opie's debts, had stated that if Opie had turned rat, he would kill him himself. But Clay knew enough to know that had the Club been tasked with deciding Opie's fate, the effects of that decision would have eventually fractured the charter. Faced with additional evidence in the form of the bugs in Opie's truck and phone, Clay had felt that his hand was being forced to make the decision on behalf the Club, without their knowledge, in order to keep it whole. It had been Agent Stahl's plan all along to turn the Club in on itself and, to a certain extent, her plan had succeeded.
Now that the damage had been done, there was no use in lamenting over the what-ifs. He and Tig had managed to clean up the mess and Clay was not about to give anyone the leeway to start questioning the cover up he had put into place, thereby exposing himself and his SAA as the ones responsible for Opie's death.
For the time being, Clay had decided that he might be better off keeping a close watch on the Widow Winston. Having caused irreparable damage to that family already, Clay could only hope that he had managed to get his point across to Donna.
Because if she didn't get the message loud and clear tonight, Clay thought. I just might need to reinforce the point.
A/N: Finally, I'm back! I'm sorry it took me so long to get back into the groove of this story. I think the problem for me was that I was writing Charming Revisited at the same time as this fic and both stories are somewhat angst-ridden and I simply overloaded. Now that CR is done and with Beauty and the Charming Outlaw getting up to speed (and definitely being a little more on the light-hearted side), now I can finally re-immerse myself in Jax's troubles and all his darn women!
I had a lot of fun with this chapter. I'm only a couple of chapters away from bringing the events back to the present day after Jax has finished reading his father's manuscript, which should have a marked impact on how he deals with the women in his life going forward and how he will come to grips with the situation building up within the Club.
Do you think Gemma's motives are more to do with controlling Jax than they are about securing his and Abel's happiness? Do you think Gemma's take on Tara is correct about her ability to be a good old lady for Jax? How do you like my crew of OC old ladies? Will Donna allow Clay's implied threat cause her to flee Charming sooner rather than later? Do you think Clay is going to be able to keep his house of cards from falling apart?
I want to give a special shout out to susy, Lone Palm and ChloeTeller2k11 for trying to consistently review. Your reviews are helpful as they allow me to know how well I am doing and if my readers like the story. So I really hope that more of you guys will tune in and give me some feedback.
Also, if you've read my other stories, please make sure to check out my first Photobucket listed on my profile for Chamring's Worst Kept Secret, and if you like it, please leave a review under that story. I plan to post another Photobucket in connection with another one of my stories very soon.