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Opie looked over the hood of the car he was working on when he heard his dad start to curse. Piney didn't work on the vehicles that came into Teller-Morrow Automotive anymore, so Opie tried to figure out what had the old man so annoyed. After watching him for a few minutes, he still couldn't tell what bug had crawled up his dad's ass, so he decided he would have to question his father to find out.

He shook his head and laughed softly to himself before he asked, "What's wrong, Pop?"

"What's wrong is that we're missing half of our mechanics, but we still have all of these cars to service. Even if the guys clock OT, we'll still fall behind."

"We could always call someone in to help us."

"Alright, Genius, who do you suggest we call?" Piney asked with a pronounced eye roll. "We can't really tap another charter for this."

"There's always Andie. I'm sure..."

"No," Piney replied over the rest of Opie's statement.

"But I'm sure that if we explain to..."

"NO. That is NOT an option." Piney then turned around and started to walk away. Opie thought that was a signal that that was the end of the conversation, but then Piney paused just briefly enough to add, "DO NOT make that phone call, Son. I already have a big enough headache, I don't need Andie here to make it worse."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

What neither of the Winston men were aware of was that Gemma had had the same idea as Opie. And she didn't have anyone around to talk her out of making that phone call.

"Sweetheart, we could REALLY use an extra pair of hands at the garage. I mean... that is... if you can pare the time."

I could hear the fake humility in Gemma's tone and knew that there was no way she was going to take no for an answer.

"Dare I ask what happened?"

"Oh... just a little payback gone wrong. Most of the club is in Stockton right now."

"Shit... shit... I really wish I could help, but my bartender is out of town for a funeral, so I'm doing double duty tonight. I might be able to give you a few hours tomorrow."

"Anything you can offer would be a blessing."

"Alright... No promises, but I'll try my best."

"I know you will, Baby. Thanks."

"No problem. I'll call tomorrow to let you know for sure."

"Sounds good. See you tomorrow."

After I disconnected the call, I just stared at the darkened screen on my phone and whispered, "I said maybe."

Damn. Now I would be lucky if I got any sleep after I closed down my bar tonight. Why can't I just say no to her? I had a business of my own to worry about. I really didn't need to stress out about TM's lack of manpower because the MC decided to be hot-headed and charge in full boar before they had a proper plan. Most of them acted without considering what the consequences would be. Maybe now they'd actually try using their brains for once.

Nah... That wasn't likely to happen.

I pulled down a bottle of my favorite scotch and poured myself a shot. It went down smoothly, so I poured myself a second one. And then a third. I didn't normally drink at my own bar, but then again, I usually don't have to deal with MC bullshit either. Their recklessness would drive the Pope to drink.

I heard a deep chuckle off to my left as I placed the glass on the bar top. I turned towards the voice as he asked, "Who or what is driving you to drink?"

I pulled a bottle of beer out of the cooler in front of me. As I popped the cap off, I closed the distance between us answering, "Guessing they're the same reason your bar tab has doubled recently."

He nearly choked on his beer as he laughed again. "Yeah. I'm really not sure what I should do with the Sons of Anarchy."

"Ignore them as much as possible is my go-to," I said with a loud sigh.

He raised an eyebrow asking, "And that's not possible for you to do right now?"

"Nope. Gemma just called. With the guys in County, she asked if I would help out at the garage."

"Oh... That's right... The church thing. So? Why don't you just say no?"

"Church...?" I shook my head and said to myself 'not important' before I answered, "Because it's Gemma. I'm going to try to give them some time tomorrow afternoon. That's if I can get any sleep after closing tonight... then again probably if I can't. But... Enough about them. What can I get you to eat tonight Deputy Chief Hale?"

He gave me a wide toothy grin. "Well, it all depends on how my girl is feeling. If she's still mad at me, then I think I'll finally try your garlic fries with a cheeseburger, extra onions."

"And if she isn't?"

"Plain hamburger and a salad, no dressing."

I pulled out another shot glass and filled it with tequila. I then slid it to sit beside his beer bottle and gently patted his hand resting on the bar top. "You shouldn't torture yourself. I'd go with a cheeseburger, hold the onions and fries."

"Really?"

"Really." I leaned over the bar and waited for him to meet me halfway. I gave him a soft kiss then added, "I was never mad at you, I was just annoyed."

"Is that so?"

"Yes. And we aren't going to rehash that conversation or I WILL get pissed off and you'll need more than some garlic fries to keep you warm at night."

He held his hands up in surrender. "I learned my lesson. Agreeing to disagree on that topic. And I most definitely will go with your meal suggestion."

"Smart man," I replied with a warm smile. I filled out a ticked and carried it over to the kitchen. I stopped at David's side on my way back to give him a hug. He looked somewhat surprised, so I gave him a quick kiss then said, "That's my way of saying thank you for dropping that subject. I know we'll never see eye to eye on that topic, so I promise I'll stop picking at it too."

Chapter Text

YOU BETTER GIVE IT TO ME

Opie watched as a familiar looking teal Honda Africa Twin motorcycle with navy blue and silver pinstriping pulled into the lot at Teller-Morrow Automotive and parked by Gemma’s office. He smiled when he noticed that the rider was wearing a helmet that matched the paint job on the bike perfectly. He had heard Andie talk about talk about wanting to do that, so he was happy to see that she had been able to find someone to do that for her. He was secretly hoping that she had taken his suggestion for a place to go to make it for her. Right now, he could use all the help he could for some goodwill between them.

She pulled her helmet off and Opie felt his mouth gape open as he watched her dark brown hair fall nearly to her shapely rear end. Had it really been that long since he had seen her in person? He did a quick mental inventory and shook his head when he had a rough time line figure out. She had visited him on Family Day with a couple of the guys from the MC the first year he was incarcerated. They had argued that day and now it had been nearly six years since they had seen each other in person. (She had called him to welcome him home, but they hadn’t had a chance to get together yet.) When she had come to the prison, she had still been sporting a pixie cut, so he had assumed she would still be wearing her signature look.

“Shit,” he cursed out softly to himself when he realized that with the long hair and weight that she had lost, he could have passed her on the street without noticing that it was her. Now that was one fucked up thought, no matter how true it might be.

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I had noticed Opie when I first pulled into the lot, but I wasn’t really ready to deal with him. He looked healthier than the last time I saw him in prison, but that wasn’t all that surprising. Then again being out of prison seemed to do everyone wonders, so it wasn’t surprising that being home with his kids did the same for him.

Even though I was happy that he looked healthy, I kept my back turned to him. First, I needed to check in with Gemma, then I would deal with him and... everyone else.

Once I had my helmet secured on the back of my bike, I pulled my hair back into a messy bun. I had been so busy lately that I hadn’t had a chance to get my hair cut, so it was the longest I had ever worn it during my lifetime. David loved my hair long like this, but it was starting to drive me crazy. It was either pulled back in a pony tail or bun or braided when I was at work, so it just made more sense to chop it all off again. Alright, full disclosure, lack of time was just a convenient excuse. The real reason I hadn’t made an appointment at the salon was because of David. He was very vocal about how much he loved seeing my long, dark locks frame my naked flesh whenever we were in bed together. He also made it a habit to brush my hair out for me whenever we spent the night together.

A shiver ran up my spine at the memory of him helping me decompress after work this morning so that I could sleep. When I got up to my apartment, he had gotten out of bed to strip me down and dressed me in a tight tank top and shorts. Then he sat me down in front of my vanity and freed my hair from the tight ponytail I had worn for my shift and brushed my hair out for me. I had been so soothing that I had almost fallen asleep in my chair.

I could feel myself smile at the memory of David carrying me to bed so that I could then fall asleep properly in his arms. I just wish that I had woken up the same way. But he had to go to work, so I slept most of the day alone and then woke up entangled in my sheets by myself.

“Andie! You made it!” Gemma nearly shouted jovially as she stepped out of her office.

I met her halfway to give her a hug. “Yeah. I slept like the dead when I got home this morning. So? Where do you want me to start?”

“First…” She trailed off as she stepped back into her office. When she stepped back outside, she passed me a grey work shirt with “Andy” written on it. No… wait… This one said, “Andie” on it. I must have made a face because she laughed and said, “I told you I would get one with your real name on it. Sorry it took so long.”

“Gemma, this… I…” I hugged her then because I was afraid that if I tried to speak that I would start crying. I seriously did not need to have the guys see me do that. Especially not after I got a new work shirt. I’d have to get Gemma to stab me or something to save me from that embarrassment.

While I still had her wrapped tightly in my arms, I quietly said, “Thanks Mom. It means a lot that you did this for me.”

“You’re welcome, Baby. Now… Go find Piney and he’ll tell you where you’re needed for the day.”

I paused as I started to pull my work shirt on over my long-sleeved shirt to ask, “Seriously?”

“Yep. He also has to sign your time card before you hand it in so that you can get paid.”

“Fuck,” I cursed out softly after she stepped back into her office.

When I heard a deep, masculine chuckle from behind me, I realized that I hadn’t been as quiet as I meant to be. Oh… well… I guess this was bound to happen sooner or later. Might as well get over and done with now.

After I finished buttoning up my shirt, I took in a deep breath and turned around. I swear the look on his face absolutely broke my heart. I don’t know how he did it, but I swear there were times when it looked like Opie was about to burst into tears at the drop of the hat, but then a second later he looked like he could look so scary that you thought he might rip your head off. Right now, he was on the bursting into tears side of the spectrum.

I swallowed back my teasing comments and waved awkwardly as I took a couple of steps towards him. “Hey, Opie. Long time no see.”

“Yeah. You… uhh… you look good.”

I could feel my cheeks get fiery hot under a dark blush as I answered, “I… I started going to the gym after I bought my bar. I sometimes have to be my own bouncer, so I needed to put on some muscle to… be the muscle.”

He looked me up and down while I fought the urge to squirm. I came up to his shoulders now, but even with the weight training I had done, I still looked tiny compared to him. Don’t get me wrong, all of my muscles, like my biceps, quads and calves, looked well defined even when I wasn’t flexing, but he still absolutely towered over me. I had hazel eyes that would turn more green or brown depending on my mood or the color of clothing I was wearing. Right now, I’m sure that the green in them was showing prominently in contrast to the red of the color of my cheeks. You see, although I had turned most of the fat on my body into lean muscle, I managed to maintain curves in all the right places. It was something that David wasn’t shy voicing his praise about whenever he had the chance.

There was a playful glint in his eyes as he finished raking his eyes over my body. But there was no humor in his tone when he asked, “Have you been having a lot of problems with that? Because I could…”

“No,” I interrupted with a nervous laugh. “Not really. Most everyone knows my connection to the MC, so that’s usually enough to keep everyone in line.”

“That’s… that’s good. So? You being here…?”

“Gemma called me yesterday. She said that with the majority of the club locked up in County that you guys could use an extra pair of hands.”

“Yeah, we really could.”

We shared a smile then I said. “Alright. She said that Piney gives out the marching orders…” I had to physically force myself not to roll my eyes before I asked, “Do you know where to find him?”

“Dad’s not here today.”

“Oh… fuck… Well… I guess this isn’t the first time Gemma has gotten free labor out of me,” I said more to myself than to Opie.

He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and hugged me into his side. “Hey, you aren’t going to work for free. Don’t forget, I’ve been able to forge Dad’s signature since high school. Even if he won’t do it, his autograph WILL be on your time card at the end of the day. So? Which car meets your fancy?”

“Meets my fancy?” I repeated with a chuckle.

“You know what I mean. Come on, lady’s choice.”

I looked over the three cars in the bays and silently weighed my options. One was a brand-new Beamer. Yuck. It was probably just here for an oil change. Boring. The second was a vintage Cutlass. Could be interesting. Or a colossal pain in the ass. I was just here for the day, so I wasn’t looking to tackle something that would equal a semester long project… No matter how tempting her body might be.

Then I saw it. A ’94 Chrysler LeBaron. I drove one of these beauties as a teen. Back then it was new and state of the art. But she and I bonded until we finally shared a soul. I got to know her better than any car I’ve driven since.

“That one,” I answered as I took a step towards the LeBaron.

Opie caught my hand saying, “Alright, but…”

“I don’t care. If I’m stuck here working… possibly for free… then that’s the one I want to tackle.”

He dropped my hand in surprise and almost remorsefully said, “Andie… You…”

I waved my hand to stop him then said, “I wasn’t trying to for a guilt trip, Opie. You know as well as I do, I know this car the best.”

“Yeah… Of course, you do. Have fun.”

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

After the first hour, I almost went to find Opie to apologize to him. He obviously had been trying to warn me what a headache this car’s engine was going to be. Not that I was going to let that dissuade me because I liked a challenge. By hour three I finally had the problem solved. I swear its owner had left it to rot for nearly a decade before they brought it here. People seem to forget that metal rusts and that means vital connections in an engine can… or more importantly WILL break.

So, after a thorough cleaning, I found the problem. After hour four, I had the problem fixed. Most of the guys had finished their day’s work by then, but I couldn’t stop. This poor car needed a lot of TLC and today might be the only day I could offer it to her. Plus, Gemma had said that I was welcome to clock in as many hours as I wanted, OT included, and Opie was cool with signing off on all of it for me.

After the guys left, I found the stereo and flipped it to my favorite classic rock station to sing along to while I worked. Not that I have a singing voice that anyone should hear. David wasn’t allowed to share a shower with me because I didn’t want him to hear how truly tone deaf that I was. But under a car, no one would hear me, so I was free to sing along with the radio without abandon.

I fell into a comfortable rhythm with the music while I worked and it felt like home. That shouldn’t happen here. I had been trying to distance myself from the club for a few years now. Yes, I had helped Donna with the kids while Opie was locked up, but she wasn’t the club. She and her kids didn’t deserve to suffer just because her husband was so faithful and loyal to the club that he was willing to rot in a jail cell for five years. God save us all if he ever fell into the same kind of pit that Otto had for the MC.

Since I thought that I was alone, I was beyond shocked when I heard a familiar, raspy voice callout, “You got this piece of shit running again?”

I thrust my hand out to give him a ‘thumbs up’. I was hoping that if he didn’t hear my voice that I could keep us from fighting. Today had been going so well and I hadn’t shouted once at anyone, especially anyone from the MC and I REALLY wanted to do everything in my powers to keep that going.

But the thumbs up wasn’t enough. He then called out, “Doc has been trying to revive this beast for weeks. How did you finally figure it out?”

FUCK! I thought as I finished tightening up a few connections and screws. Don’t answer. Just keep your fucking mouth shut.

“Son? Hey! I’m just trying to give you a compliment. Why the hell are you giving me the silent treatment?”

That’s when I let out a soft sigh before I answered loud enough to hear me, “Because…” I then pushed on the floor so that my creeper moved me out from under the car far enough that I could look up at Piney’s shocked face. “I’m not your son… I’m your daughter.”

 

Chapter Text

GOT A WAY OF DISAPPOINTING

I only slowed down from working the punching bag in my garage when I heard someone knock on its open door. I lived in an apartment above my bar, so the two-car garage was actually attached to my business more so than my home. I’m sure that David had checked for me in the bar first, but I hadn’t left the garage since I had returned home from TM.

David watched as I continued to move around the bag and then stepped inside the room, closing the door behind him. Tonight was the first night back for my regular bartender, so it was technically a night off for me. One that I SHOULD have been spending in bed with my boyfriend while the music from my bar drowned out all of the noises that he SHOULD be coaxing out of me with his hands, lips, tongs and… well any part of him that could arouse me.

I continued working the bag as if he hadn’t entered the room, so David stepped in closer to me and just watched me in silence. He had been a quick study about my moods… or rather when he should or shouldn’t intervene. It hadn’t happened often, but that was mostly because I had been avoiding my biggest source of aggravation: The Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Originals.

Well, more specifically my family. Alright, scratch that. I’ve really wanted to see my twin brother. I was avoiding my dad. If I could stay away from Piney, then I probably would have been able to keep my feelings in check.

David caught the bag and mirrored my movements while he kept it steady. With him holding the bag steady I was able to add more power to my punches because I didn’t have to worry about the rebound of the bag knocking me off balance.

After a few minutes, he noticed my punches were losing some of the sheer vengeance they had possessed when he first entered the room, so he took a chance to quietly say, “I take it today didn’t go well.”

“Not entirely.”

“Alright. Do…? Will you tell me about it?”

I paused then put as much anger and rage as I could muster into one last punch before I answered, “Things started off great. Opie and I talked and it was… normal. At first, it was a little awkward because I think we both realized how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other at the same time.”

“How long has it been?” He asked in a genuinely curious tone.

“I haven’t calculated an exact number, but… his first year in prison.”

He was able to mask the shock of that information on his face, but it was beyond evident in his tone, “You two haven’t talked in over five years?”

I had to smile at how appalling he found that thought. “No, Baby Blue. We’ve talked on the phone almost every other day, but we just keep missing each other in person. I’ve helped out with the kids here or there since Donna…” I had to swallow back a sob before I continued, “Well you know what happened to her… But it was always Mom who took over kid duty from me.”

“Speaking of… You must have seen him at her funeral.”

I opened my mouth to reply, but I quickly closed it when I felt a wailing sob building in the back of my throat. As I shook my head, a couple of tears escaped down my cheeks. David rushed to my side so that he could wrap his arms around me and hug me into his chest.

“Hey… hey… I’m here, Andrea. Whatever you want, whatever you need, just name it I’ll make it happen.”

I sniffled in a breath then tried again. “You know that Piney and I, we… uh… I mean he and I…”

“I figured you two had a falling out,” he mercifully cut in when I couldn’t find the right words. “I mean, the fact that you call him Piney instead of ‘Dad’ was a bit of a tell.”

“Yeah, I guess it is. Well… Donna is the reason for it.”

“Really? What did she do?”

I let out a heavy sigh then led him to a table by the door that he had come through from the bar and sat down on it. David stepped in the space between my legs and smoothed down some wisps of hair that came unglued from the moisture of my sweat. Sitting on the table made it easier for me to look him in the eye, but now I was wishing I hadn’t moved out of the protective cocoon of his arms.

“Hey, if you don’t…” He tried to give me an out but trailed off when I shook my head.

“No, it’s… you deserve to know the truth.”

“Alright but take your time. There’s nowhere else I want or need to be.”

“Thank you, David.” I gave him a soft, chaste kiss. “So, the simplest answer to your question is… Donna got murdered while I was on a working vacation overseas.”

“What? I… I don’t understand.”

I tried to take in another deep breath so that I could explain, “After I decided to buy this place, a friend of mine arranged it so that I could learn about different liquors at the source to see how they’re made. It started with a trip to Jose Cuervo in Mexico, then I flew to Ireland to visit the Guinness brewery. When I got the call about Donna’s murder, I was in Scotland. I tried to reschedule my flights home, but no matter what I tried or the routes I could try to take, I couldn’t get home any faster than my original flights, so I just finished my trip overseas. Not that I did any of the activities I had planned, I pretty much just spent my time in bed sobbing or sleeping or talking with Opie.”

“That makes sense. But it sounds like you were still around to help your brother…”

“Yeah, I tried. But when I got home… Piney and I had a huge fight. He told me that I was just a ‘selfish, worthless gash’ because I couldn’t make it back for her burial.”

“Wow, I… I had no idea.”

“No one does because I haven’t told anyone. No one knows that he disowned me and… and went so far as tell the kids to stop calling me. I get why he was so pissed, so I had hoped that by putting some distance between me and the club would give him some time to cool off… to reconsider his stance, especially since Opie doesn’t seem to hate me.”

“I get that. So…? What happened today?”

“Gemma called and begged me to help with their work load.”

He smiled and let out a breath of a laugh. “I know that part, Sweetness. I meant…”

“Right… How did I get to nearly bursting open my punching bag? I was working on a car and Piney came into the garage. I tried everything in my power not to start a fight but… even when I tried to stay silent, I still managed to annoy the shit out of him.”

“What…? What happened?”

His hesitation made me smile. Somehow, I was able to find strength from his uncertainty. “After I rolled out from under the car I had fixed, all hell broke loose. Piney pulled me off my creeper and ripped the work shirt Gemma had made for me off my torso. I finally turned tail and ran when he raised his fist to work over my face. I came home and… well you saw the rest.”

“He wouldn’t…? I mean, not really…? Would he?”

I shrugged as a sob escaped past my lips. “That’s the worst part. I… I honestly don’t know. I’ve never seen him so filled with rage before… When he gives into his anger, he can be terrifying and having that be directed at me… I… I have never been so frightened as I was in that moment.”

He hugged me into his chest and kissed my hair. “I’m so sorry, Andrea. But I’m here now, I’ll keep you safe.”

And that’s when the dam broke. I started to sob into his chest because I knew he was right. Here in his arms, I was completely safe. Safe to be vulnerable and to be completely honest. Right now, that meant letting out all of the pent-up rage, disappointment, guilt and shame come out as big, wet, sloppy tears against David’s chest.

He was smart enough not to try to shush me into silence, he just let me cry. David did hold me close and try to comfort me as much as he possibly could, but I had never broken down like this in front of some before. The last time I did, I had managed to gain passage to Belfast and Maureen Ashby had given me a safe place to mourn. She had held me through the worst nights and had helped me to rebuild myself enough to conjure up the courage to call my brother and try to mend our relationship.

I don’t know how long I cried in his arms before David was just holding me. There was something so calming and serene about finding comfort in silently in a loved one’s company. Our lives were loud, figuratively and literally, and being able to be quiet together was the number one thing that had brought us together.

I gently pushed back on David’s chest until we could look each other in the eyes. He held my face in both of his hands and brushed his thumbs under my eyes to soothe away some of the evidence of my crying. I let my arms hang limply at my sides as I stared up at him in near pure adoration.

“I love you. You know that, right?” I finally asked.

He smiled and almost laughed as he replied, “Yes, I do. And Andrea…? You know I love you too, don’t you?”

I smiled sadly and answered, “I do. But it always sounds better when you call me Andie.”

“I love you, Andie,” he said with a cheeky grin.

“I love you too, David.”

He leaned down to kiss me, but we both hesitated when we heard a knock at the door. I stared a question at David to which he just shrugged. Of course, he didn’t know who was knocking at the door. I didn’t know who it could be, so I could admit to myself how dumb it was to think that David would have some extra sensory perception to figure out who it might be.

I moved to peck his lips then called out, “Who’s there?”

“It’s me, Boss,” Cody called out as he opened the door. Once his eyes found David and I, he let his eyes salaciously rake over my boyfriend’s body every so slowly. “Boss, you have a visitor.”

I wrapped my arms around David’s waist and nearly burrowed my face into his chest saying, “I really don’t feel like seeing anyone right now, Cody.”

“Trust me, I get it, Boss. If I had a specimen like that waiting for me at home, I’d ignore my family too.”

I know David felt me go rigid in his arms as I asked, “Who…? Which…?”

I didn’t see Cody share a sympathetic look with David, but I heard it in voice when he answered, “The lesser of the two evils. It’s your… mmm… handsome twin brother.”

“Shit,” I cursed out before I tried to bury my face deeper into David’s chest.

He, the saintly partner that he is, massaged my skull softly as he said just over a whisper, “It’s okay. I’ll make myself scarce.”

“Baby Blue, I…”

He pressed his fingers against my lips to silence me then replied, “I know, but until we figure out how to tell our families, I’m more than happy to make myself scarce.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” He placed a soft kiss on my lips then whispered, “Love you.”

“Love YOU,” I whispered back with feeling before he turned and walked to the half bath in the garage. I watched him walk away and hide and it made me want to throw up. We had known each other pretty much our whole lives, but we had never hung out together in high school or the years after that for that matter. When we first started hooking up, that’s all I thought it would be, a few great romps in bed together. But no, he wormed his way into my heart and now it almost felt like he knew better than I knew myself.

He deserved so much better than hiding in my bathroom. Maybe Piney was right… Maybe I really was just a worthless gash…

That thought made a mournful sob bubble up through my chest. That meant that by the time Opie found me, I was a wreck. I tried to calm my tears before he could see me, I really did try to calm myself down. But then I hear Opie’s voice and it completely undid all of those efforts.

He sighed out a final, “Drea” before he scooped me up and hugged me into his chest like he had done one more than one occasion when we were in high school.

Chapter Text

THAT YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE

“Here you go Drea.”

I finally looked up as Opie wrapped my hands around an over-sized mug of tea that he had brewed. He waited a couple of breaths to make sure I wouldn’t drop it before he moved to a chair beside min at my kitchen table.

I held the mug under my nose and just inhaled the menthol vapors from the peppermint tea. I don’t know how he did it, but Opie always seemed to know what I needed before I did. If roles were reversed, I would have been pouring him a glass of the strongest alcohol I could find. But when I got drunk, I usually fell into one of two sides of the spectrum: either I was a blubbering mess, or I became so insatiable that I would fuck almost anything on two legs. Opie knew a cup of hot tea would help to ease away my tears while leaving me sober and able to talk.

I kept my eyes closed while I just held the cup under my nose and then I felt a gentle touch against my left forearm as Opie quietly said, “Drea? What’s going on? What happened at the garage?”

I placed the mug on the table top so that I could catch his hand that was brushing against my forearm as I answered, “It’s nothing I can’t handle, Ope. It’s just the same old, same old.”

“Except that you were crying in your garage by yourself and your employees tried to stop me from talking to you.”

I forced myself to keep my mouth closed while I schooled my face before I replied, “I didn’t tell them to do that.”

“Which is even worse. They thought that they needed to run interference for you. Why?”

“Opie… me telling you won’t help the situation, so just drop it, okay?”

“No. It’s not okay. What the fuck happened at TM, Andrea?”

I sat back and dropped his hand to the table retorting, “Mind your tone with me, Harry.”

He just stared at me for a second before he barked out a laugh. “I’m not a little kid anymore, Drea. It’ll take more than a menacing tone to make me back down.”

“Good to know, little brother, because since opening my bar, I’ve learned a few things, so please…? Please press your luck with me.”

“Fuck,” he sighed out softly. “Drea, I didn’t come here to start a fight. I’m sorry, really…” He stopped to shake his head as he said to himself, “I just keep fucking everything up.”

I watched him start to verbally admonish himself before I heard myself say, “No, you don’t. Shit gets fucked up around you and you take the blame.”

“Drea…” He started in warning tone.

I held my hands up replying, “I’m not picking another fight about Kyle. I swear. And I don’t want to fight with you either, Ope. Hell, that’s part of the reason that I’ve stayed away from TM and the club the last few years.”

“And the other part of that reason?”

I sniffled in a breath, but before I could try to rebuff him, he interrupted me to say, “I know something went down between you and Pop. No one seems to know what it’s about and Pop ain’t talking. I was hoping my…” You could practically hear him grit his teeth as he begrudgingly continued, “I was hoping my big sister would finally tell me the truth.”

“Whoa… Don’t strain yourself, Opie. The truth is… What happened between Piney and me… it has nothing to do with you, so you don’t need to shoulder this burden.”

“Drea, don’t do that. If you’re hurting, I’m hurting. Remember?”

He idly scratched at his sternum where he had the Anarchist’s ‘A’ tattooed on his chest. I had gotten a matching one on my back, between my shoulder blades. We had gotten them done at the same time and when the artists had asked why we picked those spots we replied that it was because we were two sides of the same coin. It turned out to be dumbest idea we had ever come up with because since that day, Opie drew attention to it whenever he needed to guild trip me about something. Have you seen ‘White Christmas’? Just imagine I’m Bob Wallace and Opie is a hairier version of Phil Davis, pointing at his arm. And fuck if it didn’t work, every… single… time.

“You’re an asshole,” I commented with zero heat in my tone.

A playful smirk spread across his face as he answered, “And you’re a bitch.”

“I hate you,” I coughed out with a laugh.

“Love you too. Now spill.”

I took in a deep breath then said, “Opie, if I tell you this, you have to promise me that you won’t get mad or let it change anything between you and Piney.”

“Drea…”

“I mean it. If you don’t promise me that, then I won’t tell you.”

He tried to stare me down, but I wouldn’t budge. I had been dealing with all of this on my own for almost a year now and I really didn’t need him to meddle. He had enough on his plate to deal with, he didn’t need to be fighting my battles too.

He let out an aggravated noise then answered, “Fine. I promise.”

I sniffled in a breath because for some stupid reason talking about this immediately brought tears to my eyes. That’s probably the main reason why I hadn’t told anyone about the fight because I really hated crying. Like today, once I started, I found it hard to stop.

Opie, of course, misinterpreted the sob and stood up and kneeled down beside where I was seated to hug me. I let him wrap me in a warm embrace before I made any other attempts to speak.

“Drea, I swear, I won’t do anything unless you want me to. I just want to help you because you’re obviously hurting.”

“It’s not that, Ope… well not just that. I don’t know why, but any time I think about it I cry. It isn’t just today.”

“Shit… What the hell happened?”

This time when I tried t take in a deep breath, I was able to without any issues. After getting Opie to move back to his chair, I squared my shoulders then started, “As you probably remember, I was stuck in Europe and couldn’t get back for Donna’s funeral.”

“Yeah, but you called everyday to check in. What does that have to do with all of this?”

“Well… Piney isn’t as understanding as you are.” The wide-eyed look on his face actually made me laugh. “Anyway… my first stop when I got back was your house. He was there with the kids and well… even though he sent Ellie and Kenny into the house, I’m sure they heard our fight.”

“Fight? About you not being able to get back?”

I shook my head answering, “I won’t go into details, but the gist of it him telling me I was worthless and that I was dead to him. He and I haven’t said a word to each other since then… well until today.”

“Jesus. Drea, I had no idea.”

“I know,” I replied with a soft smile. “Like I said, I haven’t told anyone, especially you because it won’t change anything. Piney’s still pissed off about it and probably will be until the day he dies. But you and I are fine, so that’s all that matters.”

“You haven’t talked to anyone about it? Like at all? Not even Gemma?”

“No. Well…” I quickly closed my mouth before I let some sensitive information slip inadvertently. “No one from the MC knows about it.”

He narrowed his eyes and then asked, “So who DID you tell?”

“Doesn’t matter,” I quickly replied before I started drinking my tea.

Opie waited patiently until I was finished the contents of my mug before he asked, “Who did you tell, Drea?”

FUCK! I heaved out a sigh then answered, “My boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend?”

“Yes. And that’s the real reason why Cody was running interference. He knows that it’s new and that we haven’t told anyone about us, so he wanted to give us the heads up before he allowed you to come into the back.”

“You…? Have a boyfriend?”

That made me laugh. After what I had finally confessed, the only bit of information that he seemed to be caught up on was me being in a relationship. Good to know something so mundane could trip my brother up so badly.

“Yes, Opie. Me, Andrea Winston, has a boyfriend. And before you ask, no I won’t tell you who it is, if you know him, how me met or any other details because we aren’t ready for everyone to know about us yet.”

“So, he’s local.” He made it a statement and observation more so than a question. I just glared at him causing him to quickly add, “Alright, fine. But I have one question.”

“Opie…”

“No, just hear me out. All I want to know is…. Does he make you happy?”

I sighed then stood up to hug him as I answered, “Yes, he does.”

 

Chapter Text

I CAN TAKE A GOOD INTENTION

Gemma looked the Sons of Anarchy clubhouse and marveled at how they had been able to fit everyone inside of it. Normally they only went on full lock down like this at night and would let the kids play outside, but this time they were being more cautious. It was mostly because of how Chibs had been sent to the hospital because of a car bomb. He had been discharged now, but the vivid memory of his lifeless body laying in a pool of his own blood in the middle of their parking lot lingered in the back of everyone’s mind.

But after doing a quick walk through, there was one face that was noticeably absent. She moved beside Mary Winston to unpack some of the sandwiches they had ordered and quietly asked her, “Have you seen Andie?”

“Andie? Who…? Oh… my daughter?” Mary questioned sounding thoroughly confused.

Gemma stared at her for a second then answered, “Yes, your daughter. Didn’t she come here too? Everyone was supposed to be here by now.”

Mary just shrugged then said, “I’d check with Opie because she didn’t answer when I called.” Mary laughed at the incredulous look on Gemma’s face. “It ain’t nothing new. She’s made dodging my calls an art form since she was in high school.”

“Alright. You two finish up here, I’m going to go check in with Opie.”

She then left Tara and Mary to continue getting lunch in order to search for Opie. He wasn’t with the other members of the MC in their chapel, so it took a bit longer than she had anticipated to track him down. In the end he was in the apartment packing something in his duffle bag.

She watched him for a couple of breaths before she called out, “Opie?”

He jumped in his place before he turned around and answered, “Hey Gemma. Can I help you with something?”

“Hopefully. I didn’t see Andie in the clubhouse. Mary said that she couldn’t get a hold of her, so…? Did you tell her that she should come here while you guys deal with the Aryans?”

“I tried to,” he answered with a sad look on his face.

“Tried to… What…?” She stopped herself when another thought came to her. “Does this have something to do with the bullshit going on between her and Piney?”

“You…? You know about that?”

“No, I don’t. And that’s really starting to piss me off. I thought that making her have him sign her time card would help to force them to stop acting like children.”

Opie barked out a laugh then answered, “Hate to break it to you but nothing has changed between them. And back to your first question, yes, I did call her. She doesn’t think that her and Piney being under the same roof would be a good idea. But she promised to stay at her boyfriend’s place and to keep her bar closed until all of this is done.”

Gemma stepped further into the room asking, “Boyfriend? Andie is dating someone? Who is it? Will he be able to keep her safe?”

“Apparently, it’s a really new relationship, so she won’t give out any details. But she reassured me numerous times that he would keep her safe.”

“Opie, we need…”

“Trust me, Gemma, I tried everything I could thing of to get information from her staff since they seem to be the only ones who know anything about her and this guy. But she pays really well and she can be hella scary, so they’re keeping her secret.”

Gemma laughed as she conceded, “Yeah. Your sister sure can be a stubborn one. But… Be honest with me Opie, do you think she’ll be safe?”

He shrugged answering, “I have no other choice but to believe it.”

“Okay… true. But you convinced her to check in with you at least, right?”

He hugged Gemma then replied, “Yes, she promised to at least once a day. She promised to call before she goes to bed at night and possibly once in the afternoon.”

“Alright,” Gemma made her way to the door. Before she left the room, she paused to add, “The next time you talk to your sister, make sure to tell her that I really need to talk to her.”

Opie bit back a smile and forced himself not to laugh before he answered, “Sure will, Mom.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I heard the front door to the bar open while I was crouched down putting supplies away in a cupboard and quietly cursed. Cody must have forgotten something when he left, or worse he forgot to lock up when I forced him to leave for the day.  Normally he or one of my servers would help me put away everything when the supplies were delivered, but we weren’t going to be open tonight, or the next few days, so I sent him home. The only way I could get Opie to back off about me staying at TM while they took on the Nazi assholes who were trying to infest our hometown was by promising that I wouldn’t stay here while they were on lockdown. Saying that I would also keep the bar closed seemed to tip the scales in my favor.

But before I locked everything up and left to stay at David’s, I had to make sure I had everything in order. That meant putting everything that had been delivered today away so that when we re-opened, we would be able to do it like we normally would after our regular days being closed during the week. I hadn’t told Opie that part because I know he would just turn me into doing regular day to day tasks at my business into an argument. If we started to fight, then me staying with a mysterious guy that he couldn’t confirm even existed wouldn’t be good enough for him. I’m sure that he would have shown up here with a couple of his ‘brothers’ in tow and I would be staying at the clubhouse whether I went willingly or not.

Being carried away kicking and screaming was so NOT on my to do list, so I told him I would pack a bag and leave. I hadn’t given him a time-line or definite idea of when I would head over to David’s place, so technically I hadn’t lied to him. My bag was packed and after I was done with this I would head out. I swear I would.

I heard footsteps coming towards me, so I called out, “Cody? Did you forget something again?” There was no answer, but I could tell that the footsteps were getting even closer. I stood up and found a guy that I didn’t recognize standing halfway between the bar and the front door. He just stood there staring at me, so I smiled politely and said, “I’m sorry, we aren’t open right now. But you are more than welcome to come back in a week when we’ve re-opened.”

He smirked and just kept moving towards me. He didn’t look all that imposing, he was definitely shorter than my twin and didn’t have half the muscle mas as my boyfriend. He had a shaved head with tattoos visible up both sides of his neck, but other than that he just looked like every other white boy that I had kicked out of my establishment when they couldn’t follow my rules.

It was for all those reasons that I really didn’t see him as much of a threat as I yelled, “Are you deaf? I said we’re closed, so get the fuck out.”

“Such language,” he commented in a voice much lower and menacing than I thought would accompany that body.

“Alright, so you’re just dumb and not deaf. But the ‘get the fuck out’ still stands.”

Now he was standing right at the bar and I could tell that he was trying his best to looking intimidating. I say ‘trying’ because it took a lot to rattle my cage. My twin brother has always been taller than me and since his growth spurt in ninth grade, he’s been a foot taller than me (depending on what shoes I was wearing). Height didn’t scare me. Or tattoos. Or… Well or anything this guy was doing Seriously, I grew up around bikers who made this guy look like Doogie Howser, a little boy trying to make it in the adult world.

I opened my mouth to tell him off again, but I was silenced by a fist connecting with the left side of my face. I stood there, too stunned to do anything, for a moment, but quickly ducked down when I saw him bringing his arm back for another punch.

“What? No snappy remarks?” He asked as he tried to open the latch on the bar top to open it up and move to where I was behind the bar.

My face felt like it was on fire and when I pressed my palm against the spot that hurt the most, I came back with blood on it. Fuck, he was tougher and stronger than he looked, so I wanted to put some distance between us so that I could regroup. He had managed to get the trap door open just as I ducked under the one on the opposite side of the bar.

“Alright, you little bitch, now…” He fell silent when he found the back of the bar empty. “Where the…?”

I popped up behind him with my trusty Louisville Slugger that I kept by the register in hand. He was turning around to glare at me as I raised the bat to above my shoulders as if I was standing at the plate waiting for my next pitch. “Offer still stands… Get the fuck out of my bar or I’ll introduce you to Little Big Mack here.”

“You think you scare me?” He laughed as he took a step towards me.

Before he could get any closer, I swung the bat with every ounce of energy I could muster. It connected against his skull with a sickening crack. Much to my dismay, he remained on his feet and stared at me with a stunned then angry look on his face.

FUCK. He’s got a harder head than I thought he would, I thought as I took a swing at his knees. That thankfully took him to the ground, but it didn’t totally stop him. He started to move his hands to the floor to presumedly push himself to his feet to mount a new defense, so I brought the business end of the bat down against his back and then his head. I didn’t stop bringing the bat down against his skull until I saw blood and he stopped moving.

“Fuck,” I breathed out as the bat rolled out of my hands as I fell to my knees. My heart was racing so fast I thought it was going to explode out of my chest and I couldn’t catch my breath. I wasn’t at all surprised to see that my hands were shaking when I pulled my phone out of my jeans’ pocket. They were shaking so badly that I almost wasn’t able to type in my four-digit code to unlock it. It also didn’t help that the blood that got on my hands was so slippery that I also had issues not dropping my phone while I tried to type in the code. Panic wanted to overtake me when I typed the password in wrong twice, but I finally was able to unlock my phone on the third try to make a call.

Scrolling through my contacts was surprisingly easy, even with my trembling hands. Once I found the name I as seeking, I slid down the side of the bar until I was sitting on the floor. My hands were shaking so badly that I almost dropped it a couple of times while I listened to it ring.

“Sorry Andie, I can’t…”

“David…” I interrupted with a loud sob. “Please… I need you…”

“Andie?” He asked, no longer whispering. “What’s wrong?”

“I… I…” Another gut-wrenching sob came out before I could finish the thought saying, “I think I killed him.”

 

Chapter Text

AND TURN IT ON ITS HEAD

After Deputy Chief Hale hung up his phone, it didn’t take long for him, a couple of officers and two ambulances to show up. I was still sitting on the floor trying to catch my breath while I was unconsciously crying. As soon as he found me curled up in a ball on the floor against the bar, he immediately helped me to my feet and got me to sit at a table. That gave the paramedics access to their patient who, luckily, didn’t appear to be dead.

“Deputy Chief,” one of the paramedics called out softly to David as he made his slow, cautious approach to the table where we were now seated.

David turned in his chair but didn’t release his hold on me completely as he answered, “Yeah. What can I help you with, Tony?”

“We’re... we’ve loaded the other patient up and officer Clark is following him... but I heard we might have a second victim?”

“Yeah... yes. Just give me a minute.” He then turned to face me and held both of my cheeks and quietly asked, “Andie? Are you okay to talk with the paramedics to get patched up?”

I nodded whispering, “He really isn’t dead?”

“He really isn’t dead,” David answered. But then he noticed that I hadn’t been asking him that question. Instead, my gaze was laser focused over his shoulder, so he twisted at the waist again and said, “Tony, please tell her she didn’t kill him, or we won’t be able to move on.”

“Oh? Oh... yeah... What he said... He isn’t dead. And he’s breathing on his own so that’s encouraging.”

“But it’s bad, right?”

He opened his mouth to speak, but paused when David gave him a warning look, Tony took a second before he more thoughtfully answered, “We’ll know more once he’s had a CT scan. For now, it’s probably better if we don’t speculate.”

“Very diplomatic,” I commented, letting my displeasure be heard.

I didn’t see it, but David smile proudly as he stood up to move away from the table. When I saw him stand up, I caught his arm before he could move too far away from my seat. He looked down at me and quietly said, “I’m not going far. I just want to give him room to work.”

“Okay.”

The paramedic then sat on the chair David had vacated. He started laying out some supplies before he turned his attention back to me. He reached forward to remove the small wad of gauze that David had taped to my face when he noticed how badly the cut on my cheek was bleeding.

I don’t know what look I was wearing, but it prompted him to offer me his gloved right hand and say, “Hi, my name is...”

“I remember you, Ant. He didn’t hit me THAT hard.”

“Sorry, you... never mind. So, I’m going to check out your face. I apologize in advance if I hurt you.”

“It’s fine. I’ve been through worse.”

He laughed then said, “Oh, believe me I know. I still remember that fight you had with Darnell junior year. He had to have his jaw wired shut for a couple of months.”

I tried to shrug, but I was actually too busy wincing as he used something that stung something fierce to clean the cut. “I told him to watch his mouth or I’d make him eat his words. It isn’t my fault he was too stupid to listen.”

“ANDIE!” David cried out in surprise.

“What? The police officer that attended ruled it a consensual fight. It isn’t my fault I was a smarter fighter than him.”

David probably didn’t look happy about that response, but he didn’t say anything else about that topic. Tony tried to muffle his chuckling, but he did a very poor job of it. Now Ant (Tony) and I DID hang out in high school. At one time he thought that he wanted to join the MC, but he couldn’t ride a motorcycle to save his life. Plus, he didn’t really get along with Jax or my brother, so he bowed out before he had a chance to become a hanger-on and never made it to being a prospect. But he and I got along, obviously, really well. We shared the same warped sense of humor and got into our own fair share of mischief when we were younger.

“How many shots did he get in?” Tony asked with a slight nod towards the bar, even though my victim was no longer laying there.

“Just the one before I grabbed my...”

“Okay, I don’t need to hear the rest,” the paramedic quickly interrupted. He kept his voice low as he added, “Don’t want you to incriminate yourself.” He then added at regular volume, “Shit, he drew blood with the first shot? I don’t see that often.”

“I think the ring he was wearing had more to do with it than the actual punch,” I answered in a hasty tone. I then turned (and nearly knocked Ant over), “Am I under arrest and you just forgot to mention that to me, Deputy Chief Hale?”

“What? No,” he replied quickly. “No. But we can get into all of that later?”

“Actually, I’d prefer we discuss it now,” I pretty much demanded.

“Andie...”

“David,” I growled out over his attempt to warn me off the topic. “I’ll refuse medical treatment until you tell me the truth.”

“Well... Then I won’t tell you anything until you get that cut on your face stitched up,” he countered as he crossed his arms over his chest in a show of defiance.

I moved to stand up, but a strong pair of hands, one on each of my shoulders, pushing down on them to keep me in my seat. “Alright, children,” Tony interrupted before we could really start to argue. “You two haven’t changed a bit since high school, eh? Still butting heads and doing everything in you can to get each other’s goats.” I turned my angry eyes towards my old friend prompting him to add, “Hey! Here to help, Andie. Plus, I heard one of the cops saying he forced his way in, picked the lock or something... So...? Now will you let me treat you? Or are you going to insist on making that gash on your face worse?”

I huffed out an angry noise then settled back in my seat facing Andie again. As he continued cleaning the cut, I said to David, “Okay, he’s fixing me up, so talk.”

“Andie...”

I caught Ant’s hand and turned slightly in my chair to more forcefully say, “Talk or we are done.”

“Seriously?” David asked incredulously.

“Seriously,” I answered with a harshness and sincerity he rarely heard from me.

“Jesus, Andie.” He let out an aggravated noise then said, “Tony please get the bleeding to stop at least.”

“I’m trying, but I can’t do it if she won’t stop moving. Maybe if you tell her what I overheard that one officer telling you, then she’ll sit still and let me work.”

“I’m sitting right here,” I commented with an annoyed bite at them talking about me like I couldn’t hear them or wasn’t there.

“Yes, you are,” Tony answered in an overly placating tone. You know the one that parents will use to talk down to their child? That’s what he used on me. “But I need you to stop moving all your muscles, even the ones in your face that you use to talk so that I can tape you up until we can transport you to the hospital to get you stitched up.” I moved to say something, but Tony looked me square in the eye and practically begged me saying, “Please, Andie. Please, let me do my job? If I don’t get it cleaned, then you might get an infection. Please, don’t let that asshole ruin your face or worse. Please?” I tried to say ‘fine’, but he gave me a warning look, so I kept my mouth shut, nodded and closed my eyes to let him work without me interrupting him again.

Since I now had my eyes closed, I missed the look the two men shared. As Tony returned to cleaning my wound, he discretely nodded in my direction to silently prompt David to talk to me. David held his hand up and watched for a couple of moments to make sure that I was remaining compliant.

When I made no move to interrupt or impede the paramedic again, David stepped beside and slightly behind Tony so that he could see my face when he said, “Evans found evidence of your front door being tampered with because there’s pry marks and I had to repair the lock so it’ll close properly now. That tells me he broke into your business and you have the right to protect your property. But more importantly… We also found a bag by the front door. It had rope and tape and… well… Let’s just say that it won’t be hard for me to argue that deadly force was warranted to defend yourself.” I opened my eyes but before I could move to speak, David quickly added, “He’s almost finished. At least let him get the temporary fix done, please?”

I couldn’t nod or say anything, so I just closed my eyes tight while I waited for Ant to finish. I swear his hands slowed down to a snail’s pace while he continued to work. In reality they did slow down, but it was just so that he could meticulously place small lines of steri-strip over the cut to hold it closed until he could get me to the hospital for a permanent fix.

“Finally,” Tony sighed out in relief. My eyes flew open to find him laughing at the look he put on my face. “You can talk now without making your wound any worse. But please refrain from shouting until a doctor has finished what I started. But… If you want to thank me for the work I’ve done, please feel free to lavish me with praises.”

He winked at me then gave me a shit-eating grin that I was used to seeing in high school when we got into trouble together. Just like it did back then, it help to break the tension building between us and make me laugh.

“Thank you, Ant, for making sure I don’t fuck up my face.”

“You are more than welcome, Andie. No, I need to go and check in with my partner. Can I leave you two alone without you going at each other’s throats and tearing a strip off each other?”

“We’ll be fine,” David answered dismissively.

“You, I trust you, Hale. You’re a frigging Boy Scout.” He then turned to me and said, “You know what I want to hear, Andrea.”

I glared at him then answered, “Anthony…. I won’t do anything to harm a hair on David Hale’s head.”

“Good.” He then got up and walked over to where his partner was pacing impatiently and left us alone.

David reclaimed his chair saying, “Dar I ask when you last made that promise to him?”

“Jimmy Collins’ end of the year party. You were being a self-righteous dick… I mean yourself and flushed the weed he had promised to give me.”

His eyes went wide and he was too stunned to speak for a minute. “I wasn’t being… I overheard him bragging about how he got you to help him get an A in History for some weed while he was scoring some GHB to soak it in.”

“What?”

“Yeah. He was going to soak it in it and once it was dry give it to you. He was spouting off about how he couldn’t wait for you to pass out at his party so that he could… fuck you and pass you around to his friends without you knowing.” I forced myself not to react to him using the f-word because I know he did it to try to shock me.

But I couldn’t ignore what he said. “He… That motherfucker, he… Goddammit! If I ever…”

“He was beaten to death in prison two years ago.”

Now it was my turn to stare at him in silent disbelief. “You…? You kept tabs on him?”

“I was the one who busted him for production and trafficking, so I kind of felt responsible for what happened to him.”

“Well he was obviously a piece of shit who pissed of the wrong person. If they didn’t rape him first, they let him off easy. At least that’s what I’ve heard Opie say…” I took in a deep breath then somewhat contritely said, “I never would have done anything to you, even back then. I just talked a lot of shit to sound tough and keep up appearances. And… I’m… I’m really sorry.”

He flinched back then asked, “You’re sorry? Why are you apologizing?”

“For being an unbearable bitch. I was scared and I lash out when I’m scared.”

“I know and…” He leaned in close so that no one else could overhear him as he continued, “And seeing you bleeding like that scared the shit out of me too. I hate that you had to do that and that I couldn’t protect you.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong. I should have just headed to…”

“Sorry to interrupt,” Tony announced as he cautiously made his way back to our table. “But there’s been a multi-car pile up on the 99. They’re asking for any available units to respond…”

“Oh… Umm…” David stuttered out.

Tony smiled sympathetically and said, “I’ve taped it up, so it’ll hold so long as you don’t dunk you head in water. You should see a doctor so that you can get some antibiotics because you don’t know where that guy’s ring has been. Oh… and a tetanus shot because… well… see previous comment. Normally we’d be happy to take you to the ER, but…”

“Go. Please, tend t the emergency. I’ll be fine.” He cocked his head to one side causing me to laugh nervously. “Of course, I mean after I get checked out by a doctor, that is.”

“Good to hear.” He smiled more easily then added, “I’m sorry it’s taken so long for us to see each other again, but now that I know you own this place, I promise I won’t wait until you almost beat someone to death to visit again.”

I laughed softly as I stood up to give him a hug. “I’ll hold you to that, Ant. First two rounds are on me. Thank you for your help.”

Once we were alone again, David picked up my left hand and kissed my knuckles. “I’ll drive you to St. Thomas.”

“That’s okay. I can…”

“That wasn’t a question or request. I’m not letting you out of my sight until I get you somewhere safe.”

“David, you… if…”

“If you don’t let me do this, I WILL drive you over to TM and I will kiss you until your knees go weak right in front of their surveillance cameras.”

“Oh really?” I tried not to sound as impressed as I felt at hearing that threat. I quickly schooled my face and replied, “You know that might just turn into my brother and his best friend beating the shit out of you.”

“It would totally be worth it if it meant they’d let you stay at their compound until we get rid of these Nazi assholes.”

That almost broke me down into tears. I double checked that no one was watching us and placed a quick kiss on his lips. “Alright, Deputy Chief, I’ll let you take me to St. Thomas before you do something insane and get yourself committed.”

 

Chapter Text

I CAN MAKE YOU PRAY TO GOD

I had fallen asleep with my head on David’s right thigh as he drove me to his home from the hospital. Everything took longer than I expected because it wasn’t just a simple stop for stitches and a prescription. No, I had to go for X-rays and a CT Scan. I think I even heard David ask about an MRI, but that might have been the morphine talking. I was still feeling groggy from the pain killers when I felt his truck pull to a stop, but I forced myself to try to wake up.

As soon as I saw where he had brought us, I sat up straight and frantically said, “I did what you wanted me to… I went to the hospital… Why…? Why are we here?”

“I have to stay on duty right now, so I can’t take care of you like I want to. They can. But more importantly they WILL protect you with their lives.”

“I get that, but David, I’ll be fine at…”

“Sweetness, I don’t know that. They found you at your bar, they could find you at my house. Here, at least I know there’s reinforcements.”

He leaned in to kiss me and I almost mirrored his movement, but then I hear it… The very distinct rumbling of motorcycle motors. I flinched back and said, “Baby Bro and Co are coming and… in spite of my many jokes, I really don’t want them to beat you to death.”

He laughed retorting, “You know you sound insane when you call him that, right? Especially since he’s like two feet taller than you.”

“It’s thirteen inches, thank you very much.” I yawned then added, “He should have fought harder to be the first one out of the womb. I have a whole ten minutes of worldly knowledge over him… so he’s my baby bro for life.”

“Is that how it works?”

He honestly did try to lean in and kiss me again, but he sat us straight when he heard Jax call out, “What do you want, Hale?”

“DREA!?” Opie yelled when he noticed me sitting in the passenger seat of David’s truck. He barely got his bike parked before he rushed to my side. “Drea? Are you okay? What did Hale do to you?”

“Nothing,” I groused out sleepily. “Nothing but bring me here…”

“And why would the Deputy Chief of Police do that?” My twin asked with an angry bite when he misinterpreted my sleepiness for something less wholesome.

I sat up a bit taller and turned to face him to attempt to use a more forceful tone as I replied, “Because…”

As soon as he saw the stitches under my left eye, Opie grabbed my face and asked over my words, “Where the hell did you get this?”

“St. Thomas,” I answered dryly before I yawned again.

“Drea, I’m not playing around. What the hell happened?”

I wanted to answer him, but my exhaustion and the pain killers were starting to hit me hard. I tried to formulate a reply, but when I opened my mouth, tears suddenly overtook me. Thankfully, Opie’s protective nature took over and he just pulled me into his arms to comfort me instead of interrogating me. Meanwhile, Jax and Chibs moved in closer to David’s side of the truck to intervene if they saw fit. Shit, this was not going to plan.

As he watched Opie lift me out of his truck, David answered, “One of Zobelle’s guys went after Andie at her bar.”

“What?” Opie asked more out of disbelief than actual misunderstanding.

“He meant to do her a world of pain, but thankfully he only got the one hit in,” Hale answered with a proud tone that was plain for anyone to hear.

“One hit that gave her stitches,” Opie clarified with a snarl.

Jax looked over at his best friend and his twin as he asked, “Where can we find the asshole that did that to Andie?”

“St. Thomas… in ICU,” Hale replied while staring at the same spot as Jax.

The three Sons of Anarchy stared at the policeman, but it was Opie who finally asked, “What did you say?”

“He’s at St. Thomas in ICU. Andie beat him with a Louisville Slugger after he punched her in the face.”

“That’s my Sis,” Opie announced proudly as he rubbed circles over the spot between my shoulder blades where my tattoo laid.

The last thing I remember that night was tucking my had against Opie’s shoulder as I placed my left hand over the spot of his matching tattoo. When I felt his hand cover mine, I finally gave up the fight against my fatigue. Opie had me, had my back, and I was safe with him now, in every sense of the word.

Chibs rushed over to Opie’s side and pulled out the two duffle bags in the back seat saying, “I’ll carry these in for the Lass.”

They watched as he hurried towards the clubhouse, but it was Opie who finally asked, “So what charges is Andie facing for putting him in ICU?”

“None…” Hale snapped out almost defensively.

“Bullshit,” Jax cut in. “Why the hell else did you drive her here?”

“Honestly. The shit he had with him… He’s lucky I didn’t let Andie beat him to death. I swear, I won’t be pursuing any charges because it was purely self-defense. As for me… I brought her here because…” Deputy Chief Hale paused to check and make sure that his girlfriend was sound asleep before he added, “Andie asked me to bring her here. After she was attacked, she thought it would be safer if she was with family… even with the shit that’s been going on with your Dad.”

“Shit going on with…?” Jax turned to Opie and asked, “She’s beefing with Piney?”

“Other way around,” Opie answered. He didn’t react to the shocked look on his best friend’s face as he turned his full attention to Hale. “Thanks for bringing her here and… you know not charging her and taking care of her and… So, thanks.”

“Just doing my job,” Hale lied as he moved to start his truck. “When she wakes up, let her know that he definitely won’t die. But… He WILL be going to Chino in the near future.”

“I’ll be more than happy to pass on that message,” Opie replied before he turned on his heel to carry Andie to the clubhouse.

Jax waited until he knew Opie was out of earshot before he asked, “Did he really only get the one hit in?”

Knowing that Jax was genuinely worried that Andie might try to hide a horrific assault like his mother had covered up, Hale honestly replied, “She only needed stitches because he was wearing a ring with an obnoxiously big stone on it. That’s the only damage he was able to incur before she subdued him.”

“Good to hear. And… Thanks for bringing her here.”

“I did it for her because she asked me to… Don’t let her down… Keep her safe.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Jax was still reeling slightly about everything that had happened tonight and he was trying to come to terms with all of it as he walked through the clubhouse doors. Opie was entering from across the room, from the door to the apartment and he bee-lined to give Lyla a kiss. Chibs’ hands were empty, so Jax made an effort not to draw attention to either of them. He needed to find out more about what was happening with Andie and Piney before he made it public.

He briefly heard Happy’s gravelly voice say, “I’m so proud of you.”

Then all of his brothers raised a toast to their club. After they all swallowed their shot, Jax moved to Opie’s side to quietly ask, “So?”

“She’s out cold. I slipped her in through the back to make sure that Pop’s wouldn’t see her.”

Jax let the surprise show as he asked, “What the fuck happened between her and Piney, man?”

“Nothing we can change right now. You and I both know that she would want us to focus on stopping Zobelle right now.”

“Opie…”

“I mean it, Jax,” Opie said as he placed a firm hand on his best friend’s shoulder. “She took out the asshole that hurt her, let make sure we do the same to the rest… so they can never hurt anyone else in our family.”

“Can’t say I hate the sound of that. For Mom and Andie.”

Opie smiled agreeing, “For Drea and Mom.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

AND WISH WE NEVER MET

When I woke up everything was eerily quiet. I wasn’t used to that at my place because I lived on a busy street, so I usually woke up to the sound of cars outside driving by at the very least. David lived in a more ‘family friendly’ neighborhood, so we usually woke up to the cheerful screams of kids playing in the sunlight when we were trying to sleep off or for a night shift. Every time we did, I was somewhat surprised that it hadn’t somehow turned into a conversation about David and I starting our own family.

But today more than any other, I was beyond elated that David wasn’t looking for any heavy conversations. My head was pounding in a way that told me I needed to talk to him about my aversion to painkillers. Sure, it SUCKED in the moment to feel the searing pain of an injury, but that was far superior to most drug’s aftermath for me. I learned that the hard way after I broke a finger on a Sons’ face when I was in my Senior year. He got a little too fresh when he had a few too many beers and after trying to be polite, I had to be more ‘forceful’ to get my point across. Piney had been so proud of me that he let me skip class for a week because it hurt too much to write and take notes.

Man, those were the days, I thought as I rolled over to look up at the ceiling when I realized David must have already vacated the bed. FUCK!

That so wasn’t the ceiling in David’s bedroom. Unfortunately, I didn’t need to look around the room to know where I was, even though I had only ever been in this room once before. I had never breathed a word of that night and the awkward morning after and I knew that Jax hadn’t either because we both knew no one would believe us when we said we got drunk together and passed out without anything happening. His girl had left town the day before and me… I was supposed to be a fucking nun so no one could know that I was reacting to the fact that the guy no one knew I was dating was leaving because he got a scholarship out of State. So, I got drunk with a friend (who was really like another brother to me) and we commiserated together as we knocked back shots. That’s it.

I stared up at the ceiling and prayed that Piney had business off site right now. All I needed was something strong and full of caffeine and I would be good to go. To go a round with my father? No. But, I would definitely be good to go a round with my boyfriend to try to convince him to let me stay at his place instead of here.

I don’t know how long it took me to roll out of bed, but by the time I stumbled out of the bedroom door everything was silent. I didn’t hear any noise coming from the clubhouse at all. Maybe I slept all day and it was so quiet because everyone was sleeping. The sunlight streaming through the windows told be that that was a totally wrong assumption.

Running into a bald-headed brother wearing a ‘Nomad’ patch when I tried to walk into the kitchen who growled an annoyed sound at me told me it was the worst part of the morning. I was semi-awake, and coffee would make me feel better. But, for the guys it was more along the lines of, it was morning and coffee would make them human… maybe.

“Excuse me,” I whispered with a snarl as I moved past Mr. Surly.

Mercifully when I made it into the kitchen, I was met with a friendly face. My twin was standing in front of me pouring coffee into a bowl sized mug that smelled like cinnamon. When he passed it to me, I almost laughed when I saw a cinnamon stick floating in the drink like a forgotten stir stick. It was a habit I had adopted while I was in high school and it kind of made me sad that my twin didn’t know I had abandoned the habit not long after our high school graduation.

“Sorry about Happy,” Opie offered as I slowly savored my first coffee of the day. I wasn’t quite alert yet, so I just made a face at him prompting Opie to laugh hard and say, “The Nomad…”

“Oh… Mr. Surly,” I finished for him. “Whatever about him. What I want to know is… How much time do I have to properly wake up before I have to deal with Piney?”

“A lot.”

“Fuck off,” I laughed out, not believing him. “How’d you swing that?”

“I didn’t. Cameron Hayes did.”

I tried to glare at Opie, but I know I failed as I said, “Morphine really fucks with my head and I obviously haven’t slept it off. Please, help me out by explaining that comment.”

“Sorry Sis,” he replied with a sad smile. He then sat me down at the table so he could reach out and hold one of my hands. “I’ll give you a bit more time to drink your coffee and wake up if they gave you morphine before they stitched…”

He fell silent as I snatched my hand away to ask, “What the fuck happened while I was sleeping? And don’t even fucking dream of sugar coating it, Opie.”

He smiled sadly because he understood why I was so freaked out and why I needed the truth. “Alright… well… Westin is dead. Zobelle is on the run. The asshole that hurt you… well…”

“Well what?” I questioned frantically when he hesitated. “Is…? Is he…?”

“No… No, he’s alive… But he will NEVER leave Chino. I can promise you that.”

A grateful tear spilled down my cheek as I hoarsely said, “Thank you…” I then took in a moment so that I could more calmly ask, “So…? What happened with this Cameron guy?”

Opie mirrored my deep breath that he took in and let out slowly before he answered, “He killed Half Sack and kidnapped Abel.”

“WHAT?” I cried out as I knocked the chair I had been sitting on down as I stood up. “Why are we just sitting here drinking coffee?”

“Drea… shh…” Opie replied as he picked up my chair. “We’re working on a few leads, but we don’t have anything solid to go on just yet.”

Before he could move back to his seat, I gripped his arm in a death grip in both my hands as I more calmly asked, “What can I do? How can I help?”

“Right now, we’re just focusing on Half Sack’s wake and burial. Our next focus will be on any and all means to find Abel.”

“So… you’ll need money,” I commented somewhat absentmindedly.

“No, Drea… not really… at least not now.”

“Fine… okay… Then what CAN I do to help?”

After he made sure I was settled in my seat, he moved back to his seat and held my hand between both of his as he asked, “You and Hale…? Is there any chance you might be able to exploit his soft spot for you to get us some info?”

“Soft spot? What…? What do you mean?”

“Drea… He said you asked him to bring you here. We both know that’s complete bullshit. There’s no way, even when you were high on morphine, that you would ask him to do that. So? How did Hale manage to bring you here without you ripping his balls off in the process?”

“Like you said, I was high on morphine,” I answered with some level of honesty that my brother obviously missed.

“Fine… Fine, then just keep an ear open for anything that might help us find Abel. We’re seriously open to any and all avenues of investigation to find him.”

I took in a couple of large gulps o coffee before I answered, “Of course. I’ll tap every resource to help.”

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

There wasn’t much for me to do at the clubhouse right now. Most of the people hanging out here didn’t know me. Well, they didn’t know ‘adult’ me. Tig and Chibs knew prepubescent me, but that was it. Opie was spending time with his new porn star girlfriend. Clay was at home because Gemma was on the lam. God only knew where Piney was right now… he was probably somewhere getting wasted. Jax was beside himself with grief while Tara tried to figure out a way to help him. That meant that I encountered no resistance when I packed up and left the clubhouse.

As I packed up my two bags, I called David. He had brought me here, so I was more than happy to task him with helping me to get home.

“Hey Baby Blue,” I quietly said into my phone as I moved around the apartment.

“Hey Sweetness. What’s going on?” He asked just as softly as I had started the conversation.

By this time, I had picked up my bags and slipped out the backdoor of the apartment area answering, “Well, you put me in a bit of a predicament. I’m needing some help to get home because my supposed loving boyfriend pawned me off on the MC that no one appears to like in town.”

“Ouch. And here I thought I was leaving you in the loving arms of your brother.”

I laughed loudly no that I was a safe distance from the clubhouse. “Holy shit! I must have been high on morphine if that’s what you saw. Now I really wish that some kind soul had brought me my Honda since my apathetic boyfriend doesn’t seem to feel guilty about ignoring my dire plight.”

“Woah! Wow… you sure can turn it on,” he teased.

I snarled out an unhappy noise answering, “You have no idea…”

“Sweetness… Turn around,” he coaxed softly over my impending tirade.

I turned to my right and saw my teal colored Chevy Yukon rolling to a stop. I decided not to continue our conversation over the phone and hurried my steps towards my truck.

When David had finally parked, he opened he door to step out, but I immediately called out, “No! Stay there…” I ran to the passenger side of the truck and tossed my bags into the back seat once I had the door open. Once I was settled in my seat, I leant over to my left and pecked David’s lips and held his cheeks as I asked, “If you’re here, what the fuck did I miss?”

“Hopefully me,” he answered as he leaned over to give me a proper kiss.

He tried to pull out of our embrace, but I wrapped my hands around his neck and said against his lips, “I have never loved you more than I do right now. Well… other than the day you tried to rescue me.”

“Rescue you?” He questioned as he kissed me again.

I kissed him breathless then said, “The day you walked into my bar. You tried to warn me about opening a business in Charming and what it could mean for me as a single woman. It still warms my heart that you would do that for a new comer.”

“Except I knew who owned the bar and I was hoping that I would run into you,” he replied with a cheeky smile as he pulled my truck out into the road.

I punched his shoulder none too softly as I said, “I knew you weren’t a Boy Scout!”

He gave me a toothy grin then replied, “Oh just you wait!”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Back at David’s house, I went to place my bags in his bed room and he followed me there. I hadn’t heard him enter the room, so I jumped and him in the stomach when he placed one of his hands on my shoulder. Thankfully I hadn’t hit him very hard, so I didn’t even wind him, let alone hurt him.

“Sorry Sweetness,” he whispered as he wrapped his arms around my waist and placed his chin on my shoulder. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

I leaned my back against his chest and my head on his right shoulder with a heavy sigh. “It’s okay, Baby Blue. I don’t know why I’m so jumpy.”

“You’ve been through a lot, don’t be so hard on yourself.”

I turned in his arms and went up on tip toes to kiss him. “You are too good to me.”

“Only because you let me.”

He then leaned down to kiss me. No, not just kiss, he practically devoured my lips as he lifted me off the floor. He took a couple of steps forward and suddenly felt myself bounce on the mattress of his bed.

I watched him start to unbutton his shirt and couldn’t help but to ask, “Don’t you have to get back to the station?” He shook his head as he pulled his shirt out of his pants. I watched as he made a show of dropping it to the floor as I asked, “You actually have the day off?”

He just nodded as his reply while he worked at undoing his belt. I took that as my cue to get naked. I practically ripped my t-shirt off my body to add it to David’s growing pile of clothes. After I had pulled off my jeans, David suddenly stilled my hands so that he could reclaim my lips. While he kept me distracted with his masterful tongue, David stripped off my bra and kissed his way down my body over the flesh he had just exposed. I felt like a melting puddle of goo as I laid back on the bad, running my hands over his head appreciatively.

He kissed his way down my body until he reached the last piece of clothing left on my body. I expected him to pull it off so that we could make love, so I was beyond confused when I felt him leave the bed completely. My eyes flew open, nearly in a panic, to find David now standing at the foot of the bed. He made a show of pulling his boxers off before he placed a hand on either side of my waist. As he moved my panties down my legs and over my feet, he maintained almost painfully direct eye contact with me.

I raised my right hand up to stroke the left side of his head as I softly and reverently said, “I love you.”

He kissed my palm then moved his hands back to my waist. He used all of the strength I could feel in his hands and arms to shift my whole body down on the mattress until my buttocks was hanging over the edge I didn't move and just let him manipulate my body in any way that it would please him.

He used the gentlest of touches to open my legs to make space for himself between them. He lifted my left leg first and guided it to his waist. I quickly complied with his silent direction and encircled his waist with both of my legs. I was tempted to squeeze my legs to force him to move in closer, but this was his show and we were going to do all of this at the pace that he set.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long. He ran his hands slowly up the sides of my torso then slipped them under my shoulders. Once we reestablished eye contact, three things happened at once. David pulled my body towards himself by my shoulders to meet his forward thrust while he replied, “I love you too.”

I finally gave into my impulse to wrap my legs more tightly around his waist, but that didn’t last long. He needed more room to deepen his thrusts, so he moved my left leg up his chest and partially onto his shoulder. All I could do now was scramble to grab the comforter in my hands to try to gain some purchase in order to try to move in a complimentary motion to his, but he had a different plan. He quickened his thrusts so that I had zero chance of catching up to him before I was crying out in ecstasy. Soon after my orgasm started to subside, David moved his hips in a way that it caused that divine pressure to build again. This time when he pushed me over the edge, I felt him spill himself into me as he reached his own apex.

My body was so relaxed that I couldn’t have moved even if I waned to, but I didn’t have to worry about that. David must have planned for that too because next thing I knew, he was lifting me up and carrying me to the head of his bed. He pulled back the blankets and laid me out on the bed. I had expected him to tuck the covers around my body, but he moved to the other side of the bed and slipped under the covers without tucking me in.

I somehow managed to coordinate my limbs to pull myself to his side and cuddle up against his side. Once I had my head on his chest, he pulled the covers over my shoulders. That’s when I finally felt his whole body relax again.

I moved my head to kiss his chest then after I had my cheek resting on his pecks again, I let out a contented sigh. “A girl could really get used to this.”

Chapter Text

NOBODY KNOWS WHERE THIS RAZOR HAS BEEN  

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” David asked as he watched me pull my hair into a bun at the nape of my neck. “I mean... because of your dad and all.” 

I shrugged as I found his eyes in the reflection of the mirror to answer, “I’m trying not to think about him. He can be as pissed off as he wants, I don’t care. I couldn’t be at Donna’s funeral, but I CAN go to the Prospect’s, so I’m going.” 

After I turned around, he immediately wrapped me in a hug. Damn. I thought I was better than that at hiding my emotions. He didn’t say anything while he held me, which told me how upset I must have looked; he didn’t want me to talk because he thought that might push me over the edge and get me crying. 

“Let me know if I can do anything to help,” he finally said as he released me from his embrace. 

“You being you is help enough,” I answered as I leaned up to give him a kiss.  

Once I was back on flat feet, he replied, “Ms. Winston, you’re going to make me blush.” 

When I spoke again, I made sure that there was no teasing in my tone. I wanted David to really hear what I was saying to him because I was being completely sincere and genuine. 

“I mean it. These last few months... I never would have been able to get through all this shit with my dad if I didn’t have you here to support me. That first day you walked through my door, I thought it was just to give me a hard time. I had no idea it would lead to us being here.” 

“And where’s here?” 

I stared at him for a couple of seconds because I wasn’t sure what he meant or rather I wasn’t sure if he was as confused as he was pretending to be. 

“Here... Me... Andrea Winston in love with you, David Hale. I honestly can’t imagine what my life would be like without you in it.” 

“I feel the same way Andie. When I became a cop, I thought I would be doing everything in my power to get rid of the Sons of Anarchy, not dating one of the founding members’ daughters.” 

“What can I say? Love them or hate them, the Sons are a part of the fabric that is Charming. Trust me, I’ve tried to cut them out of my life, but for some reason it just doesn’t work.” 

“I think that has a little something to do with your twin brother being a member more than anything else.” 

“Yeah... probably. But Jax has always been a good friend of mine too. He’s always had my back, even a couple of times when Opie didn’t.” 

“I get that. Alright... well... I have to head out to work. I’ll see you at the wake.” 

I paused as I picked my jacket up off a chair by the closet and asked, “You’re coming tonight?” 

He smiled at how shocked I sounded, causing me to  blush.  “A member of the local motorcycle gang was murdered, of course there will be a police presence at the wake.” 

“Club,” I replied automatically. “Motorcycle CLUB.” 

He gave me a sad smile and said, “Right, club. Plus, Gemma is still wanted for the murder of Polly Zobelle and Cameron Hayes is wanted for the Prospect’s murder and kidnapping. Any one of those would steer us to attending the wake. Put all three together...?” 

“And it’s a no brainer,” I finished for him. 

“Exactly,” he commented as he turned to leave the room. 

I threw my jacket over my forearm and hurried to catch up with him. “David!” I called out before he could open the back door. He stood there and just looked a question at me, so I kissed him and said, “I wish I could go there with you on my arm. I love you. Be safe tonight.” 

That brought a smile to his face and earned me a kiss. “I love you too. I’ll see you later.” 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 

Since I was attending a wake, I hadn’t expected everyone to be in a good mood, but the atmosphere there was dire. I guess everything else that had happened around Kip’s death had a lot to do with it. Seeing clay without Gemma was like looking at a three-legged dog. Everything looked normal until you noticed them limping and then you realized they were missing a limb. Clay had this sad look in his eye that I knew was from missing Gemma over any of the other grim events that had happened lately. 

“You did come,” I heard a familiar voice say from behind me. 

I turned and hugged Opie saying, “He was a member of the family, of course I came. How is everyone holding up? Any news?” 

“No, nothing yet. But from what I’ve overheard, Gemma is safe.” 

“That’s good to hear. Fuck... things went sideways fast...” As I spoke, he appeared to be distracted and looking around the room instead of listening to me, so I asked, “Are you looking for someone?” 

“I just thought you’d bring your new beau with you.” 

I gaped at him for a moment then said, “You didn’t honestly think that the first time I’d introduce you to the guy I’m seeing would be at a wake, did you? Or at a club function for that matter.” 

“I figured he would want to be supportive, especially since this is a wake, forget about it being a club function.” 

“He’s plenty supportive. I told him it wouldn’t be a good idea for him to come with me. When I introduce you guys, I’d rather the whole club not be around with so many frayed emotions.” 

“Alright, you might have a point. So? Have you...?” 

“Huh... you made it,” a gruff voice interrupted Opie’s thought. 

“Have now,” I quietly answered before I turned to face Piney. “Yes, I did. Since I was on the same continent while it was happening, where else would I be?” 

“That’s... I didn’t mean it that way.” 

I shook my head sadly and said, “Whatever way you meant it... This really isn’t the time or the place for it... Piney.” I looked up at my twin then added, “Give my best to Lyla and the kids. I think I should get going.” 

“Wait,” Piney called out as I started to walk away. “Andrea, please...? Wait?” 

Hearing him use my full name actually gave me a moment of pause. I slowly turned to face him and actually started in my place when I notice how close he was to me. Before I could say anything in reply, he hugged me close then said, “I’m so sorry, my sweet Andie. I was a fool and I am so sorry. Please forgive me.” 

I hugged him back and quietly replied near his ear, “I do. Thank you, Daddy. I love you.” 

“I love you too, Andie.” 

He then turned and patted Opie on the shoulder before he started to weave his way through the crowd. Opie and I shared a surprised look and then I found myself suddenly wrapped up in his arms. It felt like a dark cloud had been lifted from above us that we hadn’t even noticed was there. But now we could definitely feel that it was gone and the atmosphere was lighter around us. 

“I should probably make the rounds,” I announced quietly after we had just stood there silently for a few moments just holding each other. 

“Yeah, I guess I should too,’ he agreed. But neither of us tried to move out of our embrace. 

I don’t know how long we stood there like that but soon enough I was hugging Clay. I offered my condolences and a few words of encouragement to him. Not long after that, I did the same thing with Jax. Our hug lasted a bit longer than some of my other ones because of everything that had been thrown at him. If missing your wife was like missing a limb, then having you child abducted was... hell I couldn’t even come up with a proper analogy for what I knew he must be feeling. 

I had made my rounds with all of the members of the Sons that I knew personally, but after another awkward encounter with Tara I decided I had had enough. Dammit, Opie was right. I really wanted to have David here with me as emotional support.  

“Are you leaving?” Opie asked as I made my approach to his side on the front lawn of the funeral home. 

I caught a glimpse of David’s truck, so I quickly answered, “No, I... I noticed that Unser and Hale are here. I thought that I’d check to see if they have any leads. How did you put it? Exploit that soft spot he has for me?” 

“Hey, you know he had a huge crush on you in high school... plus... I heard he’s been hanging out at your bar, so tell me I’m wrong.” 

I stared at him dumbly because he wasn’t wrong. But I couldn’t tell him that. Well, more like I shouldn’t tell him that. At least not yet. While we stood there, Lyla drifted over our way to hug Opie, so I quickly answered, “He didn’t have a crush on me in high school.” 

“Yes, he...” 

Opie got cut off by the sound of gun fire. He threw me and Lyla to the ground while everyone around us screamed and took cover. Out on the front lawn, the best we could hope for was being lower than the bullets flying our way. But that only worked for us lucky ones. 

After the automatic weapons were silenced, there was the sound of hand guns being fired. Those of us who were familiar with gunfire, knew those last few shots were the local law enforcement trying to stop the gangbangers in the white van, so we got up off the ground, albeit cautiously. I watched as David stepped out to open fire at the driver of the getaway vehicle and that’s when time seemed to shift. I swear it felt like I was watching everything in slow motion. David cemented himself in his spot so that he could guarantee that his bullets would only hit their intended target and not an innocent bystander. I tried to move forward, but it felt like I was trying to run through a ball pit. The more I tried to move, the more resistance I met.  

Then I saw it. The van started to veer off course when a couple of the Deputy Chief’s bullets hit their target. 

“DAVID!” I screamed as the van turned to drive straight at him. “DAVID!” 

Suddenly the spell was broken and I could move freely again. I sprinted towards his unmoving body, completely ignoring the return fire Clay and Bobby had aimed in the direction of the now retreating van. I only had eyes for David. 

“No... NO... DAVID! NO!” I cried out as I fell down to my knees behind him. Oh God, there’s so much blood. I tugged on his shoulder to pull him onto my lap. His head flopped back so that he was now staring up to the night sky. My right hand moved up to his cheek to pet it as I desperately pleaded, “David... David, look at me. Baby Blue, please look at me.” 

My hands started to shake uncontrollably as violent sobs wracked through my body. I let out a loud, mournful wail as I hugged his bloody head into chest. How could he be gone? How could this have happened? Why him? 

I felt two hands touch my shoulders, but I didn’t loosen my grip on David. In fact, I tightened my hold on him when I heard Unser say, “Sweetheart, he’s gone.” 

“NO!” I cried out with another terrifying sob. “Please? NO!” 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 

Opie watched as Andie ran towards the gunfire and almost moved to follow her, but Lyla grabbed him and wrapped herself around his body to comfort herself. He hugged her close while he continued to watch his twin. She didn’t flinch at the sight of Hale’s blood before she pulled him into her lap and wrapped her torso around him protectively. What was she...? 

“Holy shit,” he sighed out when a thought hit him hard. 

Lyla just continued to hug him tightly and didn’t react at all to his words. But Piney wasn’t feeling so shocked. He stepped in closer to Opie’s side and asked, “What is it son?” 

Opie nodded towards the spot where Unser and Jacob Hale were trying to peel Andie off the fallen officer. “I think I know who Andie’s secret boyfriend is.” 

“Hale? No... no way she’d date a cop,” Piney countered in a very confident voice. “She would...” 

He was cut off by his daughter screaming at Unser and watched as she fell, sobbing into the Chief’s arms. 

“I should...” Piney started in a dazed voice. 

Opie passed Lyla to his dad offering, “I got this, Pop. With everything that’s been going on between you...” 

“Go, Son. Go before she hurts someone.” 

Opie nodded then ran over to where Unser was just barely keeping Andie on her feet. She was inconsolable and her sobs were so violent that they almost looked like they would hurt. Opie tapped Unser’s shoulder and the older man gave Opie a look of pure relief that would have made Opie laugh if this situation wasn’t so tragic that it made him feel physically ill. 

“I’ve got her, Chief,” he quietly explained unnecessarily as he easily lifted Andie into his arms. 

She went without a fight, much to both of the men’s surprise and relief. When she noticed who was now carrying her, she threw her arms around him as she bawled into his neck. “Opie... please... no... he... he was... one of... of... the good guys. He can’t be... he can’t...” 

“Shh... Drea... shh...” was all he could muster as a reply. 

Everyone seemed to be in a state of shock. Behind him he heard Jacob calling out to his dead brother, a lot like his sister had done, only he was less intense than Andie. To his left he heard a mother crying out about her baby boy. The uninjured were trying to tend to the wounded. One of the shooters had fallen out of the van and a couple of officers were trying to take him into custody. 

As he got closer to a cluster of his brothers, he heard his best friend let out a fierce cry. Jax practically flew over to where the fallen shooter lay on the ground. He picked up the man’s head and as he watched Jax bound the man’s face off the ground, Opie shoved Andie into someone’s arms and rand over to try to stop Jax. 

Happy could only watch as a couple of the Sons tried to force Jax off the mand he was beating. He could only watch because he was now trying to balance the sobbing mass in his arms so that he could hold her more comfortably. He really didn’t want to drop her. She had endured enough pain tonight and he didn’t want to add to it, even accidentally. 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX 

I forced myself to take a deep breath when Opie passed me to a man I hadn’t formally met before. I tried to move out of his hold, but somehow, he just tightened his grip around my body. How he did that without dropping me was a feat beyond my comprehension right now. 

“I’m... I’m fine.” 

“It’s okay if you aren’t,” he replied in a deep, gravelly voice. “It should never be easy to watch someone you care about die.” 

Wait! I knew that voice. It was Mr. Surly. Why was he being so nice? 

“Andie? Short Stack?” I heard my dad call out from behind us. 

I somehow turned in Happy’s arms to look over at my dad. For some reason, a fresh onslaught of tears overtook me as soon as my eyes landed on him. 

“Daddy... I... he...” 

As I spoke, Happy placed me on my feet with my dad acting as a crutch for me. Dad pulled me in close, me holding him up as much as he held me up. 

“I’m sorry, Andie. I’m so, so sorry. Here, why don’t you let me take you home?” I shook my head profusely in reply, so he asked, “What’s wrong, Sweetie?” 

“I... I can’t... I can’t go back there. He... David... he’ll...” 

Piney finally caught onto what I was trying to tell him. “Alright... alright... I’ll take you somewhere so that you can rest.” 
 

 

 

Chapter Text

BECAUSE I CAN MAKE YOU HURT

I woke up again staring up at the ceiling that I hated the most in the world. Only this time I could tell that I wasn’t alone. As soon as I opened my eyes, I felt the bed to my left dip down under someone else’s weight. I didn’t have to turn my head to see who it was sitting there because I knew it would be the same person who had been there yesterday… and the day before that.

“I’m not hungry,” I mumbled out in answer before he could ask any questions.

A rumble of masculine laughter filled the room in reply. “I didn’t expect that you would be. That’s why I brought you this… But you might want to sit up for it.”

When I saw the tumbler of dark amber liquid in his left hand, I very carefully sat up on the bed. He passed it to me and tucked my hair behind my both of my ears with his now free hands. He wanted to talk, he had questions that he needed to have answered. So far, I had been able to dodge all of his attempts, but today felt different. Today it felt like there would be no wriggle room for me to weasel my way out of this conversation. But that didn’t mean that I still couldn’t try.

After I finished the drink in two swallows, I handed the empty glass back to Opie. I had expected him to stand up and carry it over to the dresser on the other side of the room to put it down. Actually, I was really hoping that he would do that so that we could do this with me talking to his back instead of his stupid, oh so earnest face. But, now. My brother’s an asshole. He just put it down on the floor and immediately turned his attention back to me.

I still tried to snuggle back down into the bed, but he caught my arm to keep me sitting up and kept me totally immobile. Well, if I wanted to wrench my arm out of his hold and risk inflicting some sort of bodily harm on myself, I could have done it. But I just didn’t have any fight in me right now, so I just went completely limp in his hold. He thankfully eased up on his grip, but he made no moves to completely let me go.

Before he could talk, I quietly said, “I don’t really feel like answering any questions, Opie.”

“I know… And I get it, but you should talk to someone. Even if it’s just to get out some of your feelings. It really isn’t healthy to keep it all bottled up.”

“Why? Why should I talk? It’s won’t change anything. David will still be dead and I… I…”

I lost my words to a fresh onslaught of tears. Opie let out a heavy, dejected sigh then pulled me into his arms. He didn’t try to say anything other than some soft shushing sounds while he rocked me softly from side to side.

When he heard my violent sobs start to subside, I felt Opie chuckle, but he didn’t really make any sounds when he did it. I just kept my left temple resting on his chest as I pulled my legs over his so that I was pretty much sitting in his lap. I figured that if he wasn’t going to let me just curl up in a ball and fall asleep again, then I should at least be comfortable while he finished doing whatever the hell it was that he seemed to have planned.

When I thought that I felt him chuckle again without saying anything, I quietly asked, “What’s so damned funny?”

“Nothing,” he answered so automatically that I knew it wasn’t his true answer, so I just sniffled in a couple of breaths while I impatiently waited for his real answer. “Sorry, but… I guess I was just thinking of you and… uhh… you with Hale.”

“And the thought of me being with him was funny?”

He squeezed his arms around my torso because he could hear me starting to get upset. “No, not funny, Sis. Just… Oh… Come on, Drea… You have to admit that it’s kind of…”

“Kind of what? Unbelievable?” I asked when he trailed off so that I could look him in the eye. “Stupid? Inconceivable? Ridiculous? What Opie? WHAT is it?”

There were no longer any tears in my voice, now there was only anger. I had watched the man I loved be brutally murdered and all my brother could do was poke fun at me? Why the hell couldn’t he just leave me to wallow and mourn in peace?

Opie held up one hand in surrender and finally answered, “SURPRISING! It surprised me to hear about you two because I thought you hated him.”

“I never hated him…” Opie narrowed his eyes at me, so I added, “I didn’t know him well enough in high school to hate him.”

Opie nodded then said, “That makes sense. But… I’m sorry, but… I mean… How the hell did you two of you end up hooking up?”

I heaved out a loud breath because I guess this was happening. Despite all of my attempts, all of my protests, my stupid, dumbass brother was going to force me to talk about this.

“Well… it’s like you said before… He started coming to my bar and eventually we got to talking. Then he asked me out and… I really didn’t think much of it. I thought one date and done but… That turned into us having dinner together almost every night until it turned into us having dinner then breakfast together and… well… you know… you can’t imagine the rest.”

“Wow. So? You two were getting serious, huh?”

“Yeah…” I moved off the bed and pulled on one of David’s hoodies that practically swallowed me whole that Opie had packed up when Dad brought me here instead of my apartment. I sat back down on the foot of the bed and tucked my legs up into my chest under the sweatshirt and then wrapped my arms around my shins. “We had even talked about moving in together. We were trying to figure out a night that would work for me to make you, him and mom dinner at his place to break the news of our relationship to you.”

“Really? Mom knew about you two?”

I shook my head and let out a soft groan before answering, “No… again, like you, she only knew that I was seeing someone. And… again like you, she didn’t know who… Fuck… she’s actually been convinced that I wouldn’t give her a name because I’m a lesbian.”

“No! Seriously?”

“Seriously. The real reason I didn’t answer her call about the lock down here was because I didn’t feel like going through yet another round of ‘Just tell me the truth, I don’t care if you’re a dyke, Andie’ with Mom.”

Opie barked out a laugh then said, “Wow… that… Shit, that sounds like something Mom would say. So? You really were going to tell us about you guys?”

“Yes, of course,” I replied letting my anger and annoyance be heard. “Plus… God… Even if we wanted to keep us a secret, it would have been practically impossible to do once he became Chief, so it would happen sooner or later.”

“Really? You think so?”

“Yes, I do. He didn’t want to go to functions alone as the Chief of Police. And… if Jacob becomes mayor, David knew that he would be expected to go to every stupid town event imaginable, so… So, I wanted to tell you guys before he took his new office next… Anyways… It’s not like ANY of that matters now.”

“It matters, Drea, you…”

“NO! It doesn’t,” I interrupted as I stood up off the bed. “NONE of it matters, Opie because he’s FUCKING DEAD! DEAD! What we wanted to do or what I wanted doesn’t fucking matter! Don’t you get it? Fucking gangbangers STOLE that all away from me!”

Opie jumped off the bed to try to hug me, but I immediately moved away from him. I didn’t want to be comforted right now. Despite my protests, Opie had forced me to talk about all of this and I was just as happy to give into my anger. It wasn’t fair that David had had to make the ultimate sacrifice in a turf war that no one thought would be fought here in Charming. He didn’t deserve to go out like that and I couldn’t take my anger out on any of the assholes that brought the fight here so yelling at Opie right now would have to do as a substitute.

“Drea…” He sighed out as he took a step towards me.

“What? ‘Drea it will be fine’? ‘Drea just give it time’? ‘Drea you’ll make it through this’?  WHAT OPIE? What line of bullshit are you going to try to feed me? Because… I don’t fucking want to hear it. David’s DEAD! And I know everyone here thinks that I’m an absolute idiot for even caring. He’s just another dead pig… Which is the only good pig, right? RIGHT?!”

“Drea! No, that is NOT what I was going to say.”

 “Then what, Opie? Because I honestly don’t believe that you actually give a shit.”

“I do…”

“NO! NONE OF YOU DO!” I screamed over his words. “You guys probably had a party afterwards because no he won’t be around to hassle you guys anymore.”

“Drea…”

“WHAT?!” I cried out with a horrific wail. Opie just stared at me with a stunned look on his face so I ‘marched’ up to him and tried to scream in his face. “WHAT?”

He then reached out and pulled me almost forcefully into his chest. At first, I tried to fight him. I punched weakly at his chest as I started to cry again. As my tears started to fall harder and harder, I lost all of my coordination and strength. I started to crumble towards the floor, so Opie did his best to guide me down to the carpeted floor as gently as he could right now. All he wanted to do was to hold me while I cried out a new round of tears and purged my raw emotions.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

What Andie hadn’t noticed was that her screaming had brought a crowd into the room. Opie had swallowed all his protests when he saw his brothers at the door because he didn’t want to air all of this out in from of an audience. His sister had always been very protective about her privacy, and she was especially private about any information pertaining to her relationships. He could never really figure out why, but she hated anything close to a PDA or to be seen with her latest beau in public. He hadn’t ever teased her about any of her relationships, but that was mostly because he never actually knew about any of them.

Even though he didn’t know or understand the reasons for it, he tried to respect her privacy in this arena. Today, that meant that he dropped all of his arguments when his sister’s shouting caught the attention of practically every member of the club. Plus, now that she was crying hysterically there was no point in trying to reason with her. She was way beyond that when she was like this. Not that he could blame her. He was still struggling with his own conflicted emotions about Donna taking the bullets meant for him. He agreed with Andrea, their partners deserved better than having their lives cut short because of club politics and all this bullshit. That’s what he had wanted to tell her and talk about, but he couldn’t do that now. Maybe later she would give him a chance to try again.

Opie carried Andie over to the bed and tucked her in once her sobs had finally started to subside. The crowd had quickly dispersed when they realized that no one was actually in any danger. A few of them had even laughed uncomfortably when they saw that it was Andie yelling at their brother because… really? Even if Opie couldn’t subdue her easily on his own, it wasn’t like she would do anything to actually inflict bodily harm on him, not willingly.

After he had her tucked into bed, Opie kissed his sister’s hair then whispered, “I’m so sorry, Drea. I promise, we WILL make those asshole’s pay.”

He then turned to leave the room but paused for a second when he found his best friend standing at the door. He nodded at the hallway as he got closer to Jax, who then followed him out of the room.

After Opie had the door closed tight, Jax let out a low whistle then said, “Holy shit… Andie and Hale…? That was for real?”

“Yeah, it was So? What do we know?”

“Follow me and I’ll fill you in.”

Chapter Text

I CAN TAKE YOU DOWN SO LOW

I tucked my hands deep into my pockets as I walked down the street. I had a ball cap pulled down as far as it would go on my head to try to block the out the outside world. I wasn’t feeling social and was hoping to look as unapproachable as possible. It was bad enough that I actually had to leave the MC’s clubhouse because of a stupid, impulsive decision, I didn’t need anyone making it worse by trying to strike up a conversation with me.

“Andie?”

FUCK! Great that was not a voice I could ignore. Well, I could, but that would be a total dick move. So, I turned on my heel and tilted my hat back so that it was easier to see the man... no, make that two men who were now standing in front of me.

I smiled softly then answered, “Hey, Chief Unser.”

“It is you. How are you holding up, Sweetheart?” He asked with a sympathetic smile.

I shrugged then answered, “A little better every day. Thanks for asking.”

I then moved to turn around, but paused when the man standing beside Unser asked, “Andie?”

Unser chuckled uncomfortably then answered, “That’s right, you two haven’t officially met. Jacob, this is Andrea Winston, also known as Andie. Andie, this is Jacob Hale.”

I know my eyes went wide when I heard his name, even though I was trying to keep my cool. Jacob didn’t try to hide his surprise at all. He even stumbled over his words as he said, “You... You’re... YOU were the woman David was dating?”

I waved awkwardly as I replied, “Yeah... uhh... That’s me. It’s nice to meet you.”

“You too. Actually...” He paused to pull an envelope out of his inner pocked and passed it to me. “David’s lawyer has been trying to get a hold of you.”

“Me?” I asked as I claimed the envelope from him. “Do you know why?”

“He wants you to be at the will reading. The details should be in that letter.”

“Oh... okay. Umm... Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. Chief? Think about what I said.”

“Of course,” Unser answered.

Unser then moved to stand beside me and we watched Jacob walk away from us. My eyes then shifted down to the envelope in my hands. In the top left-hand corner was the name and address for a local law firm. I guess that made sense since he said that David’s lawyer was wanting to get a hold of me. What I couldn’t figure out was why. Why would David’s lawyer want me to be present when he went over the details of David’s will with his family?

I jumped when I felt Unser touch my forearm. When I turned my eyes up to his face asked, “Andie? Are you okay?”

I nodded replying, “Yeah… yes. Sorry, I was just thinking too hard. What did you just ask me?”

“I was just saying that you’re looking good. Am I going to see you at the service tonight?”

I nodded again. “Now that the cat’s out of the bag, I kind of have no choice but to go, right?”

“That’s true. I know you’ve probably heard this a lot lately, but I’m truly sorry for your loss. If there’s anything I can do, please don’t hesitate to give me a call, okay?”

“Okay. And… Thank you,” I said as I shared a sad smile with him. “And I’m sorry for your loss too.”

“Thanks, Sweetheart. Well, I should get going, but don’t forget you can call me anytime. Alright?”

“Yes, Sir,” I answered just over a whisper as I watched him walk away.

Now that was a perfect example of why I heated leaving the clubhouse. I know everyone had good intentions, but if I heard one more person apologize for my loss, I was going to scream. Being sorry that David was killed didn’t change anything. He was still dead and I still felt like someone had ripped my heart out of my chest and crushed it into a million pieces.

I bit my lip hard to distract myself so that I wouldn’t cry. I don’t even know how I had any tears left to cry because that’s all I felt like I had been doing for practically three days straight. Opie had tried to comfort me, but I had been inconsolable. Hell, I had been incoherent and uncoordinated too. Thankfully my twin knew how to handle me when I was like that. Basically, he just let me cry and didn’t try to get me to stop while he held me and tried to make me feel comfortable.

I forced myself to take in a deep breath to further calm myself down. Crying in the middle of the sidewalk on Main Street was not on my agenda for today. But then again neither was running into Jacob Hale and Chief Unser. That was a weird encounter. But… I guess it was better to get the introductions out of the way now instead of at David’s funeral.

No! You are NOT going to cry! I coached myself as I stuffed the envelope into my pocket. I had ventured out into the real world for a reason, so I refocused my attention on that task. It was like Opie said, I just needed to take each day one step at a time. The healing process might be slow, but so long as it was steady, that was all that mattered.

“Andie?” I heard as soon as I stepped through the open door.

This time I smiled as I repositioned my hat on my head so that I could see the man who owned that voice as I answered, “Hi Daddy.”

He smiled and looked impatient while he waited for Floyd to remove the smock from around his chest. I almost laughed at the frustrated look on my dad’s face, but I managed to hold it in. Things between my dad and I had been pretty civil since Kip’s wake and I really didn’t want to do anything to upset our balance. Laughing at something he was doing at the wrong time could very easily set us off kilter.

“So, what the hell was Jacob Hale bothering you about?” Dad finally asked gruffly while he waited for Floyd to finish.

I did laugh softly then because Dad’s protective streak always did that to me. I was a full-grown woman, but Dad was ready to jump in and take anyone on like I was still five or something. It warmed my heart that he fell back into that role so easily after the months we spent at odds.

“He wasn’t bothering me Daddy.” I pulled out the envelope and continued, “David’s attorney has been trying to get a hold of me to me this.”

“What is that?”

“Instructions for where and when David’s will is going to be read.”

His face dropped then and his voice got hoarse as he said, “Shit… Short Stack…” He was free from the confines of Floyd’s chair no, so he hugged me as tightly as he could in an effort to not just comfort me, but himself too. “I’m so sorry, Baby. Did he say why you’re needed there?”

I shook my head and made no moves to leave his embrace. “Jacob said he didn’t know. Guess I’ll have to go to find out.”

“So, you and Hale…?”

Now I finally allowed myself to laugh louder, albeit uncomfortably. “Yes, Daddy. David and I really were dating. I know it’s hard for you to believe but we were fully committed to each other. We were… were…”

He shushed me then because he could hear the tears that wanted to take me over again. He hugged me a bit tighter then said, “I believe you, Sweetheart. But it’s going to take me a while to come to terms with it.”

That made me choke on a laugh. I know Dad was being completely honest and for some reason that made it even funnier. Everyone had found out about us because of how I had reacted to him being run over by a van being used in a drive by shooting. That meant everyone found out about our relationship the moment that it was being brought to a very abrupt end.

I wasn’t sure what to say in reaction to my dad being so perplexed about my choice of partner, so I just kissed his cheek and said, “I love you, Daddy.”

“I love you too, Short Stack.” He turned and paid Floyd then said to me, “Alright. Why don’t I drive you back to TM?”

“Actually,” I replied as I pulled my had off my head. “As great as it is running into you, I was coming in to see Floyd.”

“What did you do?” Both men asked with their own surprised and worried tone.

I looked over and made eye contact with Floyd as I answered, “I had knots and… I got frustrated so I chopped it off.”

Floyd shook his head with a soft smile on his face because this wasn’t the first time he heard that explanation from me. I finally let myself smile with ease because this felt so normal. Nothing since Kip’s wake had felt familiar and it was refreshing to find something that did. No matter how out of left field it might have appeared to be to some, including my dad.

“Andie, how many times do I have to tell you that you don’t have to start the job for me?” Floyd admonished with no anger or malice in his tone.

I sat down in the barber’s chair as I sheepishly replied, “I really tried this time, I swear.”

“Sure, you did,” he answered, letting me hear how much that he didn’t believe me.

Dad watched us with a perplexed look on his face that almost made me laugh. Instead I just smiled and explained, “Floyd is the only person on the planet that can keep my cowlick from ruining my hair style when I’ve kept it short, so I’ve spent a lot of time in this chair.”

“I can see that. Did…? I mean did you…” Dad start with an awkward stutter.

My smile got a bit brighter as I answered, “I’m parked beside your bike, so I can get home fine by myself.”

“Alright. I’ll call you later, Sweetheart.”

“Okay.” He had turned to leave, so I actually had to almost yell to get his attention and to make sure he heard me. “I still have to pick up my stuff at the clubhouse… I’ll find you when I get back to TM, okay?”

I phrased it as a question because I couldn’t tell if Dad wanted or needed to talk to me about something. He and Opie had been checking in on my or had someone pop into the apartment at the clubhouse since I stated staying there. That totally made sense because I knew they were worried about me and didn’t want me to do anything stupid or drastic. But there was something different about Dad today. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, so I wanted to make sure he knew I wasn’t trying to blow him or his concern off.

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

Floyd had silently started to work on fixing the mess I had made of my hair while Dad and I spoke. And when I say ‘mess’ I mean it. It was an absolute disaster. When I couldn’t comb through the knots that had formed, I found a pair of scissors and basically just hacked away large chunks of hair to get rid of them. When I realized how crazy my new do looked, I pulled my remaining hair into a crude ponytail and cut it off. That hadn’t looked even, so I tried to even it out. That really didn’t work either, so here I was no with the worst home haircut anyone had ever executed.

“What were you hoping this would turn into today, Andie?” Floyd asked one he had my hair wetted down and combed out.

I pulled out my phone and pulled up a photo. “A little bit shorter than what we did in 2004.” (Google a picture of the singer Pink at that Grammy’s in 2014 and you’ll have a good idea of what I was going for.”

“Alright.”

I closed my eyes while he started cutting the rest of the length of my hair. He knew I trusted him, so I didn’t have to watch is every move while he worked. Even if he cut it shorter then I wanted, I really didn’t care because it was hair, it would grow.

Once he fell into a rhythm while he worked, Floyd quietly asked, “So did I hear that right? You were the one who was putting that smile on the Deputy Chief’s face when he talked about his new girl?”

I didn’t open my eyes for fear that they would fill with tears as I hoarsely answered, “Yeah… I guess that was me.”

“Oh Andie…” He sighed out. Just like fixing my hair, this wasn’t the first time he heard such self-deprecating comment from me. I wasn’t comfortable being complimented because most of the time I didn’t feel like I deserved them. I was just being me and never did anything to try to make myself stand out, so having people point out that they were taking notice of me didn’t really sit well with me.

“Well, it sounded like he was truly happy with you. In all the years he sat in my chair, I’ve never seen him smile like he did when he talked about you. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

I sniffled back a breath then answered, “Thanks Floyd. That’s really nice of you to say.”

“Nice nothing, Sweetheart, it’s the truth. You could really hear how much he loved you when he talked about being with you. I can’t even imagine what it much have been like to…”

“Yeah, it’s really sucked the last few days,” I interrupted in the hopes of getting him to change the topic.

Mercifully, a couple of other customers walked through the door then. I guess word had really gotten around that I was David’s grieving widow (yes, someone actually called me that even though we were never married) because each of them offered me condolences. Then we all sat in an awkward silence while Floyd finished his work.

I knew there was some tension building between the community of Charming and the Sons of Anarchy since the drive by shooting, but I hadn’t expected to be caught in the middle of it like this. Not that I really expected to be anywhere else but the middle. The only disagreements David and I ever had been when I felt the need to defend the club and their actions. It didn’t happen often because I tried my best not to pay attention to what they did. I had no say in what they did or didn’t do, so I tried to have no part in any of it because I didn’t want to take any blame for their actions either. So, the rare time I did defend them, I was usually very vocal and passionate about it. It meant that I truly did agree with what they had done and it was next to impossible to convince me otherwise.

Much to my relief, Floyd worked much faster when he was silent. Or maybe the ‘well wishers’ really weren’t all the sympathetic and were actually glaring daggers at me now that I had my eyes closed and Floyd was trying to get me out of his chair faster. Either way, it wasn’t long before I heard the comforting buzzing sound of the electric trimmer that signaled Floyd putting the finishing touches on his masterpiece.

“Alright Andie,” he announced after the trimmer was silenced. “Tell me what you think.”

I opened my eyes and found my reflection in the mirror, I caught the eye of a couple of the men waiting for their turn in Floyd’s chair Their faces dropped into a sad frown when our eyes met and it was all I could do to force myself not to react. I’m sure they thought that the drastic change in my hair cut was some sort of cry for help while I was while I was grieving. I guess somewhere in the back of my mind it could have been, but it really wasn’t all that abnormal for me to do. Just ask Floyd.

“So?” Floyd prompted when I hadn’t made a comment about the new style. “Is your silence a good sign?”

“What? Oh! YES! A very good one,” I replied with a smile. “As usual, it’s so much better than I expected.”

After I passed him my payment, I gave Floyd a hug. He patted my back gently and quietly said, “I’m glad you like it. Take care. I’ll see you later tonight.”

“Alright,” I replied. “See you later.”

When I turned to leave, there was a line up of men that went all the way to the door. All of the men’s faces were familiar because… well this was Charming, we all sort of knew each other. The men I didn’t know personally shook my hand and offered me genuine words of condolences. The men I knew by name, gave me a hug and offered anything from a shoulder to cry on to offers to give me council. I brushed each offer off as politely as I could until I finally made it to the door.

FREEDOM! I cried out silently to myself. NO!!

“Andie!” A newcomer nearly shouted in surprise when we almost ran into each other. “Sweetheart, I just heard the news. On behalf of the whole town, we offer our heartfelt condolences and sympathy for your lost. He was a fine man and a damn good cop. David will definitely be missed.”

I eased myself out of his hug and took a couple of steps out the door as I answered, “Thank you, Mr. Fletcher. I agree about David… On all counts.”

Before he could open his mouth to say anything else, I turned and literally sprinted towards my truck.

Chapter Text

I’LL MAKE YOU WANT TO CRY

When I got back to TM, I barely had my truck slipped into ‘Park’ before Dad was opening my passenger door and asking, “Short Stack? Are you okay?”

I made sure I had my truck shut off before I turned and gave my dad a confused look and answered, “No worse than I was the last time I saw you.”

“Are you sure? Because Floyd called…”

He cut himself off when I let out an aggravated noise and opened my door. I swear to God there are no worse gossips then old men with too much time on their hands. All I wanted was a fucking haircut. I didn’t want or need a therapy session or a round of empty apologies. And I really didn’t need anyone calling my dad to tattle on me. Fuck. I was so beyond done with this bullshit.

“Andie?” Dad called out when I just made my hasty retreat to the clubhouse. “Hey! Andrea! Andrea! Wait up!”

For a second, I thought about ignoring him, but then I reminded myself that I wasn’t mad at him. It wasn’t his fault that he was given bad information and felt like he should check on me. He was just trying to be a good father and I really shouldn’t punish him for that.

I didn’t say anything, but I DID pause and wait for him to catch up with me by the picnic table outside of the clubhouse.

“Hey. What the hell happened after I left? Are you PMSing about your hair?”

He gave me a peeved look but all I could do was laugh. Did he really think I would get this emotional over a haircut? Yeah… yeah he probably did. I love my dad, but he really doesn’t know or understand me, so it wasn’t surprising this would be beyond his comprehension.

“No, Daddy, I actually love my hair. Why…? Don’t…?” I conjured up some crocodile tears as I continued, “Don’t you like it?”

“What?! No…! You look beautiful! I just… When Floyd… And then…”

“I know,” I cut in when I noticed he was getting flustered. “I was just teasing you. Let me guess, Floyd called you because I took off right after my hair cut. But what I’m sure he didn’t mention was the receiving line that appeared while he was cutting my hair. I swear to God, if someone else tells me how sorry they are about David’s passing, I’m going to scream… or punch someone. But the worst part was when Mr. Fletcher started to drone on about the community sharing in my grief. I… I know he doesn’t give two shits about how I feel, but I wanted to be polite because I know he really liked and respected David. But when he hugged me… I’m sorry, but I had to get out of there as fast as I could before I said or did the wrong thing.”

“Floyd didn’t tell me it was Fletcher that was talking to you.”

“I figured as much. So, really, I’m okay, Daddy. I just really wanted to grab a nap before I have to get ready for David’s service.”

“Alright, I understand.” He hugged me then quietly asked, “Are you taking anyone with you tonight?”

I shook my head answering, “Opie offered, but… And please don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t think it would be a good idea to show up with anyone wearing a patch or a cut on my arm.”

“Alright, but… you know we just want you to have someone go with you to keep you safe, right?”

“Daddy, David was a cop. His service is going to be filled with cops from all levels and jurisdictions. I really don’t think I have to worry about my safety while I’m there at all.”

“I didn’t just mean physically. I know you’re tough, Andrea, but I want you to have emotional support too.”

“And I appreciate that sentiment, I really do. But…” I let out a heavy sigh. “But Jacob is trying to demonize the club right now. So… If I show up with you or Opie, especially wearing your cuts, I know he’ll try to make something out of it and… well… Tonight is supposed to be about honoring David’s memory. It isn’t supposed to be about picking a fight with Jacob, no matter how much I would LOVE to put him in his place.”

“I…” He stopped and then seemed to really give what I had said some thought. “Alright. What if it was someone that isn’t a familiar face and he doesn’t wear his cut?”

I stared at him silently for a couple of breaths because I honestly didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t expected him to actually listen to what I was saying, let alone try to turn it into a negotiation.

“I… uhh… Did you…? Do you have someone in mind?”

He shook his head, silently answering ‘no’. “But there are still a few guys in town visiting that were at Sack’s wake. While you nap, I’ll talk to a couple of them.”

“Oh… okay… uhh…” We stood there in an awkward silence for a couple of breaths. I almost literally shook off the feelings of uncertainty before I answered, “Alright, Daddy. Just… Please, make sure he understands the reasons why I don’t want him to wear any colors.”

“I will, Sweetheart. Have a good nap.”

“Thanks, Daddy.” I kissed his cheek. “I love you.”

“Love you too, Short Stack.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

As I walked into the clubhouse, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to fall asleep. My mind was still reeling about how I had gone from just my staff knowing about my relationship with David to the whole damn population of Charming knowing about us. Damn him for not being here to deflect some of the attention away from me.

But by the time I had stripped down and put on an oversized t-shirt to sleep in, it was all I could do to crawl under the sheets to fall asleep. My fatigue hit me hard and I actually drifted off to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

When I woke up, I could hear people milling around the clubhouse, but I ignored them and set a direct course for the bathroom. I wanted to give myself as much time as possible to get ready in case I broke down into tears again. It was silly, but part of the reason I hadn’t left the apartment much over the last week was that I was prone to suddenly bursting into tears for no apparent reason. The last time it happened, Chibs had come in to check on me and after he said, ‘Hello Lass’, I fell into his arms bawling my eyes out. He held me awkwardly until my tears subsided and then made a hasty retreat once I had finally calmed down. I honestly didn’t begrudge him for doing that at all. I had no idea why I was crying half of the time, so it made sense that it would freak other people out when it happened.

But today tears didn’t seem to be the issue.  Instead, hysterical laughter bubbled through my chest when I moved my hands up to rub shampoo into my hair. This happened every time I went from having long, pain in the ass hair, to short, no nonsense locks… it was also the reason this always caused me to laugh. For the first few shampoos, I would forget that I no longer had long hair and I would pour out three times the amount of shampoo that I actually needed. Today while I used the excess shampoo as a body wash, my laughter quickly petered off into a sad smile. It still didn’t feel right to laugh or smile. Most of the time it felt like I was betraying David and his memory by still being able to find joy in the world. Fuck. I sound insane, don’t I?

Before I could let myself explore those thoughts too deeply, I was interrupted by a knock on the door. I still hadn’t decided what I was going to wear tonight, so I wrapped a robe around my body and called out, “Come in.”

“Hey Sis,” Opie said as he stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. “Just wanted to see how you are… HOLY SHIT!”

I nearly dropped the towel I had pulled from my head as I turned to face him and asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. It’s just…” He paused as he walked a circle around me. “Shit… It really is all gone.”

I laughed self-consciously as I raised my hand to the shaved right side of my head. “Oh… that…”

He ran his fingers through the top portion that had been left longer so that I could style it to look almost like a mohawk if I felt so inclined. “Don’t get me wrong, Drea, you look great, but… Holy shit, it’s… It’s all gone.”

“Yes, it is. No time like the present for a change, right?”

“True. But… Dare I ask…?”

I rolled my eyes then answered, “Seriously? Et tu Opie?”

“What?” He asked with an earnest, innocent look on his face.

I glared at him for a second then answered, “I didn’t chop all of my hair off as a cry for help or attention. I’ve always preferred to keep it short, so this was LONG overdue. Okay?”

“Okay. But Drea… You have to admit…”

“No, I don’t,” I cut in abruptly. “I didn’t do this because David was murdered. I did this for me, okay?”

“Okay… Okay. And I didn’t come here to argue with you. I was just bringing you this.” He held out a black garment bag adding, “Cody thought this would help you get through tonight.”

I pulled the zipper down just far enough that I could check what was inside the bag while Opie held it. As soon as it came into view, I moved toward the bathroom without another word. Opie sat down on the bed where he waited for me to change in silence.

I pulled on the black satin slip dress with lace trim and charcoal grey open cardigan then just stared at my reflection. Shit, this was really happening. I really was going to have to say goodbye.

“Don’t cry,” I whispered to my reflection. “Don’t give in yet. You can do this.”

I threw some cold water on my face and combed my finger through my hair. I did a quick finger comb until I was happy with the style of my hair. Okay, that’s a lie. I actually messed around with my hair until I forced myself to stop. All I was doing was staying in the bathroom so I could delay the inevitable.

When I opened the bathroom door, I almost laughed out loud. I guess I must have taken longer than I thought I had because I caught Opie pacing the floor between the bed and the bathroom. We didn’t have to say anything to each other to know what the other was thinking or feeling. Instead I just watched him until I could step into his path so that I could wrap my arms around him so we could hug each other.

“I wish I could go with you,” he said quietly as he ran his hands up and down my back.

I took a step back so I could see his face as I replied, “I do too, but…”

“I get it, Drea,” he interrupted, stroking my cheek where I had just had my stitches removed. “I totally get why you think one of us being there is a bad idea. I just… You shouldn’t have to go through this alone. No one should, Sis.”

“Oh… that…” I answered as I sat on the bed to pull on my strappy black kitten heels. “Don’t worry, Little Bro, Dad’s got that covered.”

“Oh?” He questioned. I nodded towards the shelves behind him, prompting Opie to pick up my purse and pass it to me.

I dabbed on some light pink lip gloss and put int into my purse. I checked my reflection one more time (I wasn’t sure about going out without makeup, but I still thought it was better than having makeup drip off from y tears during the service) then turned back around to face Opie. I opened my mouth to answer him, but I immediately swallowed my words when I heard someone knock on the door.

“Short Stack?” Dad called out as he opened the door and let himself in. “Are you…? Hey…  Are you ready to go?”

I nodded as I turned at the waist to pick up my purse again. “As ready as I’ll ever be. Have you…? Holy shit!”

When I turned back around to face him, Dad was no longer alone. At the door there was the bald-headed brother Opie had called ‘Happy’ standing beside our father. At least I was pretty sure that was the Nomad standing beside him. He was wearing a pair of loose-fitting dark denim jeans along with a black collard shirt under a charcoal grey blazer. I stared at him as he shifted the knot of his black tie from side to side and nearly laughed because our outfits pretty much matched perfectly.

“Happy offered to go with you tonight. And… I know you don’t know him all that well, but…” Dad paused as he picked up my right hand and forced me to make eye contact with him. “He’ll protect you just like me or your brother, so I know you’ll be safe with him.”

 He paused for a second then very authoritatively said, “Now, Andrea…” as I said, “Alright.”

He shook his head then asked, “Did you just say alright?”

“Yes, I did.” I kissed his cheek then took a couple of steps towards the Nomad. “Thank you for volunteering, but before we go just one thing…”

I reached up and tugged on Happy’s tie until it came undone. Once I had it unraveled in my hand, I just let it fall to the floor. He watched me in silence as I undid the top button on his shirt and smoothed down the collar of his shirt over his sport’s jacket.

“There. Now you look… Well… you look less uptight.”

He smiled uncomfortably and took a step back. He then smiled as he nodded up at my hair and commented, “You look more comfortable too.”

I ran my fingers through my mane unconsciously as I answered, “Yeah, starting to feel more like myself again. So? Are we ready to go?”

He held out his bent arm to me in reply. I hooked my arm around his and then we turned to make our way to the door. First, we met my dad who kissed my cheek and whispered, “I love you, Andrea.”

 I pressed my temple against his cheek. “Love you too, Daddy.”

We barely took another step before we were confronted by Opie. He kissed my forehead then said, “Love you, Sis. Call me if you need to talk later.”

“Thanks Bro. I will. Love you so much.”

 

Chapter Text

I CAN MAKE YOU SAY GOODBYE  

My shoes were off my feet even before I had the door to my apartment unlocked. Happy was hot on my heels as I made my way over the threshold. He was like a silent shadow during the service and into the reading of David’s Will. Since we were all in the same room, David’s lawyer decided that there was no use in delaying the inevitable. I would have been happier to have waited, but getting it over and done with was good too, I guess.  

“I could really use a drink, how ‘bout you?” I asked as I stripped off my cardigan and threw it over the back of a chair.  

Happy picked up my shoes and placed them on the shoe rack beside the door. I guess I could have done that, but it was too much effort. I was completely spent and really didn’t have the energy to care right now.  

As he draped his suit jack on the back of a chair, Happy finally answered, “Sure could.”  

“Great. You’ll find the good stuff in the cupboard over the sink. Glasses are beside the microwave. I’m going to go and quickly change.”  

I didn’t wait for his reply before I hurried down the hall and almost slammed my door in my haste. I was tempted to just throw on my pajamas and crawl into bed, but I couldn’t do that to Happy. He had been gracious enough to be a silent pillar of support for me all night. The least I could do was not be a dick by ditching him the first chance I got.  

As quickly as I could, I changed into a pair of yoga pants and an oversized sweatshirt. All I wanted right now was to be comfortable. In a perfect world, I would be curling up on the couch with a bottle of scotch and falling asleep with Die Hard playing on the TV. But with Happy being here, I would have to play hostess, at least for a little while.  

When I got back out to my living room, I stopped short of actually entering the room. Happy had pulled out four bottles and place them on the coffee table along with a couple of glasses. I almost laughed because that actually made a lot of sense. There was no way form him to know that when I said I wanted a drink that I meant a nice, healthy serving of scotch. But having a choice wasn’t the worst thing that could happen either.  

But it wasn’t the alcohol that had given me a moment of pause. It was actually Happy who had done that. Much like myself, he was ready to get more comfortable and was taking off his dress shirt. That left in just a ‘wife beater’ style tank top that gave me an unobstructed view of his muscular arms and the tattoos that adorned them. He wasn’t doing anything especially salacious, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying the view.  

Wow. You need help , I thought as I shook my head to clear away the racy thoughts that threatened to invade my mind. Out loud I said, “I brought you this. I... I thought you’d want to get out of your dress shirt”  

He took the t-shirt I was holding with a quiet ‘thanks’ and unfolded it. When he looked at the front of it, his eyes actually widened. I laughed softly at his reaction because I guess I was surprised at how surprised and shocked he looked.  

“Opie left it the last time he crashed here,” I explained as he pulled on the white tee with “SAMCRO” written across the chest.  

He mumbled out another thank you as he moved to sit at one end of the couch. I sat down in the middle, which seemed to perplex him, so that I could play the role of bartender. “What do you feel like drinking?” I asked as a broke the seal on a bottle of Johnnie Walker Gold Lable.  

He watched me pour it into a glass answering, “I’ll have what the lady’s having.”  

“Good choice.”  

I passed him the glass then poured myself one. After my first sip, I moved to the opposite end of the couch and tucked my legs up under me with my back against the arm of the couch so that I was facing him.  

“Thanks again for coming with me tonight. I know it isn’t exactly the most exciting thing you could do.”  

“It’s no problem.”  

He then sat and slowly drank out of his glass. One thing that I had learned quickly about Happy was that he was comfortable in silence. And I mean VERY comfortable. To the point that it was almost unnerving. Usually I’m okay not talking, but that was normally when I was with someone I knew. The man sitting at the other end of my couch was a virtual stranger and it was all I could do not to ask him a thousand and one questions right now.  The only reason I managed to hold my tongue so far is that all of the questions I had asked him on the way to the service had been answered with clipped, one-word responses. Now I wanted to try to figure out a way to coax more information out of him without it feeling like it was an interrogation.  

“Can I ask you a question?”  

I startled out of my thoughts and almost spilled my drink as I turned to look at him. “Yeah... Yes, of course. What do you want to know?”  

“After the will reading... you... you got really quiet...” He stared down into his barely touched drink as he spoke. “I guess I’m wondering why. I mean... If you don’t mind me asking.”  

“Not at all,” I answered as I placed my nearly empty glass on the table and stood up.  

When Happy saw me move to leave the room, he called out, “Andie, if...”  

I paused at the door to interrupt him saying, “I don’t mind answering, but I have a visual aid that will help to illustrate my point better.”  

“Oh... okay.” He visibly relaxed back into his seat and took a drink from his glass.  

Although I really was alright with answering his questions (it would be hypocritical of me not to after I had already tried to play 20 questions with him), I needed a moment to collect my thoughts. I knew tonight would be emotional, but damn, it felt like someone had ripped my heart out of my chest again. It was like a whole new level of pain that I didn’t know could exist and it was all I could do to keep my tears at bay.  

I pulled the box David’s lawyer had given me out of my purse and carried it back to the living room. Instead of trying to find the right words, I just pulled the lid back and placed the opened box on the coffee table so that Happy could look into it. I then picked up my glass and reclaimed my seat. I didn’t notice the questioning look he gave me before he picked up the box to examine its contents more closely.  

“Rings?” He asked sounding like he was talking more to himself than to me.  

I nodded and emptied my glass with one big gulp then answered, “David changed his will a little over a week before... well before to make sure that I got to keep those. He... He was going to propose before we moved in together, but... but...”  

I let my thought trail off there because I really didn’t know what else to say. I had no idea that he had wanted to get married. In fact, that revelation seemed to take his brother by surprise too. Add to that the fact that he had already changed his will to reflect all that and... I was at a loss for words.  

“I take it you two hadn’t talked about those,” Happy commented as he closed the box and put it back on the coffee table. I shook my head answering, “No. He had talked about moving in together because... it seemed to make sense. But...  the subject had never really come up because no one knew about us.” Happy leaned forward to refill my glass and then we just sat in silence for a couple of minutes. I looked over at the box again and let out a humorless laugh. Happy raised an eyebrow as a question when he heard that noise. “Sorry. It’s just... I’ve been wracking my brain to try to figure out what David might have added to his will but that... that never crossed my mind. Sorry, I think you have to be in my head to see the humor.”  

He just nodded but didn’t look like he was convinced. Not that it really looked like he was bothered about that at all. That also seemed to be the only thing he wanted to know about because conversation ceased after that. Happy ended up becoming the bartender and silently refilled my glass whenever it was empty. It didn’t take long for the alcohol to kick in and my ability to speak was beyond impaired, so I stopped trying to restart our conversation.  

Soon enough I woke up to the sensation of someone picking me up off the couch. I tried to wrap my arms around his neck to make it easier to carry me, but they felt like they were made of led and I couldn’t coordinate them at all. Once he got them wrapped around his neck, I immediately noticed his lack of hair. In my mind’s eye I saw David carrying me to bed, so I leaned up to kiss his lips before I let my head rest on his shoulder as I fell asleep again.   

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX  

Happy stopped mid-step when Andie leaned in to kiss him. He had contemplated laving her on the couch but she didn’t look entirely comfortable on the couch, so he hoped she would sleep better in her own bed. But now he was starting to regret that decision. If she woke up and remembered the kiss, would she be upset with him? Or was that something she had wanted to do and the alcohol had given her the courage to finally follow through?  

Since Happy didn’t know her very well, he didn’t want to speculate. Instead he just focused on placing her in bed as gently as possible to keep from disturbing her slumber. Much to his relief, she didn’t stir at all and just curled into a ball under the covers as she continued to snore softly.  

After he had her tucked in, Happy took off the t-shirt Andie had loaned him. He kept his eyes laser focused on her sleeping form as he carefully folded it and place it on her dresser. He didn’t feel right leaving her alone, so he had called Opie to check if he could stay with her until she woke up before he picked her up to take her to her room. At first, he was worried about her emotional state, but after the amount of alcohol she had ingested he was also concerned about her physically.  Sure, he was the one pouring the drinks, but he had been convinced that she would tell him to stop when she had had enough (which never happened, she just passed out on him). Not that he wasn’t impressed by her stamina because it had been a while since he had met a woman that could drink like that and not become a sloppy drunk.  

After he backed out of her room, he eased the door shut. He startled in his place and almost jumped (hard emphasis on the word ALMOST) when he nearly ran into Opie’s broad chest.  

“How is she?” Opie asked with no attempts to hide his concern.  

A hint of a smile ghosted over Happy’s lips as he answered, “She’s tougher than she looks. And she can knock them back better than some of our brothers.”  

“Oh no... she didn’t get hammered at the reception, did she?”  

“No,” Happy answered as he shook his head. “She waited until we got back here.  

“Thank God,” Opie breathed out with a sigh of relief. He then clamped a stong hand on Happy’s shoulder and added, “Thanks for being there for her, Brother.”  

“Glad I could help.”  

 

Chapter Text

AND THEN YOU’LL KNOW THAT MAYBE  

When I woke up the next morning, I had to run to my ensuite to expel some toxic looking bile. Expecting more to follow, I pulled a towel out of the cupboard under the sink to act as a cushion under my knees. I then rested my forearms on the toilet seat and laid my head on them. It had been a while since I had nursed a massive hangover, but sleeping on a toilet seat came back to me as easily and naturally as riding a bike.  

But after laying there for a few minutes, I realized that I really didn’t feel like I needed to vomit anymore. I still felt tired, but I’m sure that had more to do with emotional fatigue than anything else. This last week had been the hardest one I had ever lived through and its effects were really kicking my ass.  

Not that I could allow it to stop me from living. Happy had said something at the reception before the will reading that really stuck with me. The worthless assholes had stolen David from me and I couldn’t let them take anything else. I needed to continue living just so that they didn’t win. I didn’t have to be happy or light-hearted yet (or ever), but I had to keep living. Okay, that’s my interpretation of his words. What he actually said was, “Don’t let those assholes steal your life too.”  

I got up off the floor and peeled my pajamas off my body and then turned on the shower. While I waited for the water to heat up, I pulled out a fresh set of towels and piled my PJs with the towel I used as a cushion behind the door. I was hoping that a shower would help me feel more human again. Because really can you think of anything better than a hot shower after you’ve spent a day in bed and the urge to vomit is what woke you up and forced you out of bed?  

I probably lingered under the hot water longer than I normally would, but I wasn’t too worried about that. It wasn’t like I had anywhere to be today or tonight... or tomorrow. I had given my staff two weeks off with pay because of the club’s lockdown, so I couldn’t open my bar even if I wanted to. Not that I did because, just like my apartment, David’s presence lingered throughout my bar too. He spent every night that he possibly could eating dinner there. Even nights when he was still on shift, he would come and sit at the bar in uniform and eat his dinner and keep me company so that he could spend time with me.  Hell, the first time I saw him strip his uniform pants off was when the mustard from his burger had dripped on his thigh and we had washed them in my apartment.  

He was everywhere in my life because he was supposed to be in my life and be a key player in my future. In spite of my best efforts, he had become the center of my universe. I had never planned on falling in love. Hell, I hadn’t even expected to move back to Charming when I was finished school, but my friend told me about a great business opportunity and the rest, as they say, is history.  

I stepped out of the shower and wrapped my hair... err head in a towel turban. I stared at my reflection as I started to dry my body. Today was day one, the first day of the rest of my life. I just needed to remember that life wasn’t a sprint, it was a marathon and I had to remember to take it one step at a time.  

While I was drying off, I could hear my home phone ringing. At first, I was tempted to ignore it because no one called my house. Everyone used my cell or the bar’s number to reach me. The only people who had used it on a frequent basis were my parents and David. Opie was prone to using it once in a while, but that was only when there had been an emergency.  

“CALL FROM HARRY WINSTON... CALL FROM HARRY WINSTON...” my audio caller ID announced.  

“Opie? Why...? Oh shit!” I cried out as I dropped my towel and ran to the kitchen. Despite tripping over my pile of laundry, I made it to my phone before it rolled over to my voicemail. “OPIE! HEY!”  

“Hey Drea . I know it’s late, but I need to ask you to do me a favor.”  

“Late?” I turned and saw the time on my microwave. Holy shit! No wonder I wasn’t feeling hung over, I had slept the entire day away. “I mean... What...? What can I do for you?”  

“Can you go to Jax and Tara’s place to look for Gemma?”  

“Jax...? Why would...? Shit! Opie, what going on?”  

“I don’t really have time to explain, but Gemma’s looking for Abel. We’re on our way back, so...”  

“So, you’ll explain it all when you get home. Alright, I’ll get dressed and head over there.”  

“Thanks, Sis. I really appreciate it.”  

“No prob, Ope. That’s what family’s for.”  

“I know, but still...  Thanks again, Drea.”  

“I’ll have my cell with me in case you need to get a hold of me.”  

“Alright, I will too. See you soon.”  

After I hung up the phone, I sprinted into my room. I quickly pulled on a pair of jeans and long-sleeved shirt after I pulled the towel off my head. One of the best parts about going back to this hairstyle was that I didn’t have to fuss around with it at all. All I had to do now was throw on my leather motorcycle jacket and helmet and I was good to go. Since time was of the essence, I jump onto my bike to race over to Jax’s house. Everyone on the force at Charming PD knew my bike, so I was banking on some sympathy for a grieving widow to keep me from getting a ticket. Not that any of them were stupid enough to give anyone from or connected to the MC a ticket. The last officer dumb enough to try had gotten an earful from Unser and the ticket was thrown out so quickly the poor officer couldn’t believe it. Unser really did hold up his side of whatever bargain he had made with Clay so many years ago.  

When I turned onto Jax’s street, I finally slowed down because there were no vehicles parked out front of his house. I made sure to check the carport as I slowly rode past it. Just as I had suspected, it was as empty as the street.  

Shit! Where else would she go?  

Since it was on the way to TM, I checked Gemma and Clay’s house. Of course, she wasn’t there either. Why would Gemma think that her grandson would be at her house? Whenever someone took care of Abel it was either at Jax’s house or the MC’s clubhouse. Or the hospital, but that was a different issue all together. The little guy had been doing so well lately that there was little to no reason for her to believe that he would be there. At least that’s what I hoped as I made my final approach to TM.  

The first thing I saw when I arrived at TM was Tara’s cutlass. That must have been how Gemma got back since both of her vehicles were at her home. I parked beside the car and pulled my helmet off. I hated doing it, but I actually hooked it on the handles of my bike instead of locking it down properly on the rack on the back of my bike so that I could run to the clubhouse faster.  

Not that I made it that far. Once I was halfway to the clubhouse, Gemma came bursting through the door. She was running towards her car, which put her on a direct route to where I was standing, frozen in nervous anticipation. Alright, now just to figure out what I was going to say to her.  

I wanted to be reassuring and inspirational, but all that came out was, “Gemma?”  

“Andie, Sweetheart, do...?” She stopped and held up a finger to keep me silent while she pulled out her cell phone to answer it.  

I was too far away to hear what she was saying or with whom she was speaking. Then she nearly dropped her phone as her knees appeared to give out on her, causing me to yell out, “Gemma!”  

She couldn’t hear me, but that probably had more to do with the pack of motorcycles rolling into the parking lot more than anything.  

“MOM! MOM!” Jax called out as he parked his bike.  

I felt a hand touch the small of my back as someone quietly said, “Drea?”  

I batted his away replying, “I’m fine. Go... Go help Gemma.”  

“TARA! TARA!”  

Hearing Jax’s frantic cries prompted me to shove my brother towards the growing mass of bodies around Gemma’s fallen form. That got him moving, so I pulled out my phone and dialed 911.  

“911. Do you...?”  

“Ambulance,” I interrupted. “We need an ambulance, please.”  

“Where is the emergency?”  

“TM... uhh... Teller-Morrow Automotive. It’s located at...”  

“I have the address. What’s the nature of the emergency?”  

“Well... uhh...”  

“Andie? Who’s been shot?” Debbie asked with an annoyed bite.  

I startled out of my shocked state and answered with my own angry under tone, “No one, Deborah! Jesus. Gemma’s having a heart attack, for fuck’s sake.”  

“Heart...? Is she breathing?”  

“Shallowly.”  

“Conscious?”  

“Yes, but she collapsed.”  

“Alright. Help is on the way. How...? How old is she?”  

“Like fifty. But she has a history of heart issues. I... I think it’s hereditary or something because of Abel and all.”  

“Right. Of course. Can you give me an update on her condition?”  

“Sure,” I replied as I took a couple of steps towards the huddled mass. “I... I can’t really see her, but Tara is checking her vitals.”  

“Tara? Oh... good. That’s good.”  

There was an awkward silence that lasted a couple of minutes until I asked, “Is the ambulance almost here?”  

“What? Oh... Yes, yes it should be turning into the parking lot any second now.”  

“Alright, so then...? I mean... Can I hang up?”  

“Yes, of course. Sorry. I... I hope she’ll be okay.”  

“Thanks,” I replied before I disconnected the call.  

The ambulance had parked and the two attendants were pulling out a stretcher when I walked up beside it. I let out a soft sigh of relief when I saw who had been sent here.  

Ant looked up from gathering supplies and froze when our eyes met. “Andie. Hey... How...? How are you doing?”  

“I’m fine, but Gemma could really use your help.”  

He let out an uncomfortable laugh then said, “And we’re heading over there. But I meant how are you...? You know after... and all... I had to work the night of...”  

“Oh that...” I followed as he hurried towards his patient. “I’m surviving.”  

“I’m really... well, fucking shocked,” he quietly said. “You and Hale? Seriously? I was right there with both of you and I had no idea.”  

“No one was supposed to know about us yet. Hell, even Opie was in the dark until... well... you know.”  

“Opie? In that case I don’t feel like such a dupe.” He then winked before he turned to the circle of men surrounding Gemma. “Gentle man? Could you please give my partner and I some room to work?”  

Everyone but Jax, Clay and Tara moved back. Ant turned his attention to Tara and asked, “Dr. Knowles, can you give me an update on the patient’s condition?”  

Opie stepped over to my side, so I wrapped my arms around his waist and hugged him tightly.  

“She’ll be okay,” he said as much to himself as he did to me.  

I laughed softly and squeezed my arms around his waist. “Of course, she will be. Even if the heart thing was fatal, she wouldn’t let the Reaper take her until she knows Abel is home safe.”  

He laughed at that then kissed the top of my head. “You are so not right in the head sometimes, you know.”  

“Yeah, but after this last week, can you blame me?”  

“Oh shit, Drea. I...”  

“No, Opie,” I interrupted as I pushed back to look up at him. “That was a joke. Please, please don’t make me cry.”  

He smiled softly then answered, “Good one, Sis.”  

 

Chapter Text

YOU’D BE BETTER OFF WHEN I'M NOT AROUND  

I shifted again but found myself waking up despite my desire to stay asleep. It had been a long night of waiting around to hear very little about Gemma’s condition. I finally allowed myself to curl up in a ball to fall asleep when I heard that she was stable and out of the woods.  

That somehow turned into me being curled up on Opie’s lap with my legs draped over the arms of the chairs and Chibs ’ thighs. Chibs was petting my legs to get out his nervous energy while Opie massaged the back of my neck. Usually either of those comforting touches would have helped me to stay asleep, but there was something in the air that jostled me to become more alert than I wanted to be.   

As I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes, I noticed Jax and Bobby talking quietly. That had to be about club business. Jax looking over at the group and nodding down the hall with a loud ‘ yo !’ confirmed that suspicion.   

I started to move off Opie’s lap, but he stopped me with a firm hug.  

“Ope, go. If... when she wakes up, I’ll tell Tara where you guys went.”  

“Are you sure?”  

“Yes. I’m fine.”  

Jax appeared at Opie’s side as he placed me on his seat with my legs draped over the arm of the chair. “Everything okay?”  

“Yeah,” Opie answered. “She had a rough day.”  

“Did...?”  

Opie smiled then interrupted him saying, “It’s fine. She was visited by Johnnie Walker and crushed a bottle of gold label on her own.”  

“Did not!” I cried out indignantly as I sat up straighter in my seat. “Happy had a few glasses too.”  

That earned a huff of a laugh from my brother and his best friend. Jax then walked over to my side and kissed my head. “Here, drink this. It should help. PS... Love the hair.”  

“Thanks, Jax.” I waited until he and Opie had walked away before I tried a sip of the coffee. As soon as it hit my tongue, I almost spat it out because of how sweet it was. I swear it was almost pure sugar. Seriously, I don’t know why Gemma and Jax put coffee in the cup when they could have just used hot water to dissolve the sugar. The farce that was known as a cup of coffee forced me out of my seat so that I could fix myself a proper cup. Black with just a hint of sugar, unless I was at home. At home I would add a splash of whatever International Delights coffee creamer I had in my fridge.  

Jax was right, a real cup of coffee did me a world of good. Not that I was really all that hung over. It was more like pure exhaustion. Over the past couple of days, I had had a lot of adrenaline pumping through my veins and now that I had time to think about it, the post adrenaline rush fatigue was hitting me hard. But caffeine was like a miracle drug that help to cure so many ailments.  

I hadn’t noticed I had closed my eyes while I savored my coffee until they flew open when I heard someone softly cursed out, “Oh shit.”  

“They’re in the chapel,” I announced as I turned around to face Tara.  

She smiled uncomfortably then said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.”  

“Jax and the guys,” I replied as I motioned down the hall with my head. “I assume that’s how you’re looking for. They in the chapel discussing some business Bobby got a lead on.”  

“About Abel?”  

She had this wide-eyed, cautiously hopeful look on her face that slightly broke my heart. “Sorry, I’m not a member of the MC, so I wasn’t told any details. But I can’t imagine it would be about anything else.”  

“Oh, right. That makes sense.”  

She lingered in her spot for a second, so I walked over to her side and quietly asked, “How’s she doing?”  

“Much better than last night. They’ll want to keep her here for a couple of days to make sure she doesn’t have a reaction to the new meds, but otherwise she seems to be out of the woods.”  

“That’s good to hear. Do you think I could...? I mean, I know I’m not family, but...”  

“Once she’s settled for the day, I’ll see about getting you permission to visit her. You’re her niece, right?” Tara asked with a sly wink before she turned to walk away.  

I just smiled and turned my attention back to my coffee. That was probably the first conversation I had had with Tara that didn’t leave me scratching my head or itching to scratch her eyes out. She had been thoroughly convinced that my friendship with Jax was more than that. Well, I guess it was. But it was SO not in the way she accused us of it being. He was like a brother to me, like in the literal sense. Any time she accused us of messing around, it actually made me queasy. Of course, she only ever accused me, she never confronted Jax with her ludicrous delusions, so he never understood why things were always so tense and awkward between the two of us. Who knew it would take a public outing of epic proportions to get her to finally believe that I wasn’t trying to pursue Jax and had a boyfriend?  

I let out a heavy sigh because great, yet another thing that David’s death had changed. Tara was finally treating me like a normal human being. I guess becoming a hysterical sobbing mess while you hugged your dead boyfriend’s bloody, crushed skull to your chest had its perks? No, no it didn’t at all. Fuck. Why did everything have to get so weird?  

I loved back to the urn of coffee to refresh my drink when I heard someone clear their throat behind me. I really wanted to stay with my own thoughts to explore them more thoroughly, so I was all geared up to be annoyed until I turned around and saw who it was that was trying to get my attention. “Hey Chucky. When did you get here?”  

“Just a few minutes ago. How...? How’s Gemma doing?”  

I nodded towards the chars and took a step towards them when another thought hit me. ‘Did you want a cup of coffee? I could fix one for you.”  

He smiled then answered, “Do they have tea?”  

“Yeah, actually they do. I’ll meet you at the chairs.”  

His grin widened as he turned and skipped slightly. I chuckled as I watched him. His quirkiness never ceased to amuse me. He had this child like naivete about him that made me overlook a lot of his weirder habits. He made me wish I could see the world through his eyes sometimes because I felt like I had become really jaded at a young age.   

After I filled a cup with hot water, I dunked a tea bag in it until the water started to change color. Then I snapped a lid on it and snaked two straws through the drink hole. When I passed the cup to him, Chucky’s face absolutely lit up with delight. I knew it would make it easier for him to drink, but I had no idea he would be so shocked that I remembered.  

After I sat down beside him and patted his forearm gently. “Tara says that she’s doing much better. They’re trying some new meds so she’ll have to stay here under observation for a couple of days. But that’s just a precaution.”  

“That’s.... that’s good.” He gave me one of his crooked half-smiles then asked, “Have you seen her today?”  

“No, they’re only letting family visit right now. Tara’s going to try to get me on the visitor’s list. But who knows if that will pan out.  

“If...? If you do, can...?” He hesitated slightly then finished, “Can you say hi to her for me?”  

“Of course, I will.” We sat and silently drank from our cups or a couple of minutes. I moved to touch his arm, but froze mid-motion when I notice Tara trying to catch my eye. I instead stood up and quietly said to Chucky, “I’ll be right back.”  

I then hurried over to Tara’s side. She motioned for me to follow her, so I did so without comment. “You’re on the list as her niece. Now would be a good time for you to visit her.”  

“Are you...?”  

Tara silenced me with a look. We stopped in front of a Sheriff’s Deputy who gave us a questioning look. Tara nodded at me saying, “Gemma’s niece is here to visit her.”  

He looked me up and down then said, “Go ahead.”  

She led me over to a door guarded by a guy in a suit. The Federal Agent asked in a fairly condescending tone, “More family?”  

“They’re all worried about her,” Tara replied.  

He looked me up and down, so I stepped in front of him and held my arms out saying, “You can frisk me if you want. I honestly just want to make sure that my Aunt’s okay.”  

He stepped forward and did the fastest frisk search I had ever experienced. Seriously, there was a number of weapons I could have concealed to sneak into the room with that search. I mean that’s IF I knew it would be the lamest search ever and I wanted to sneak shit in.  

“Go ahead,” he finally commanded as he stepped out of my way.  

I almost did something stupid and made a smartass remark, but Tara stopped me. He guided me through the door by the elbow but she didn’t say a word. I decided that holding my tongue was probably the smarter thing for me to do right now.  

We almost ran into Chief Unser as he left the room, so Tara fell back while he caught my arm. “Andie? Sweetheart?”  

I smiled at him answering, “Hey there Chief.”  

He brushed his hand over my head then said, “Hi Andie. You’re looking good. How are you doing?”  

“Taking it one day at a time, Sir. And you?”  

“About the same, Sweetheart.” He then let me walk past him, but not before he added, “Take care.”   

I whispered, “You too.”  

After I finally made it through the door, I hadn’t noticed I was staring at my feet until I heard the door close behind me. After I raised my head, I smiled with tears gathering in my eyes and greeted the two people in front of me saying, “Hey Uncle Clay.... Hi, Auntie Gemma.”  

Clay barked out a laugh as he took a couple of steps towards me. He wrapped an arm around my neck and quietly said in my ear, “Hey yourself, Andie.” After he kissed the side of my head, he added, “I’ll give you two ladies some space to talk.”  

“Thanks Clay.”  

He released me, so I moved over to Gemma’s side. I only had eyes for her, so I didn’t notice that Clay hadn’t left the room. I instinctively had walked over to her left side, so she lifted her arm and motioned towards the empty spot on her bed. I climbed up on the bed, curled up into her side and placed my head on her shoulder while she wrapped her arm around my neck.  

“I can’t tell you how relieved we all were to hear you’re going to be okay,” I stated just barely over a whisper as I settled at her side.  

“Yeah, me too,” she answered as she ran her hand up and down my arm. “But I didn’t ask to see you to talk about me.”  

I swallowed hard then said, “I’m sorry.”  

“Sorry? Sorry about what, Baby?”  

I kind of wanted to sit up to look at her, but I let my cowardice win. Instead, I stayed snuggled into her side as I answered, “No one knew. I didn’t keep it from just you.”  

“Keep what from me?” She asked in the same faux innocent voice she had used the last time she had become privy to information I had kept hidden from everyone. That time it had been that I had planned to go out of State for college and not a relationship, but I’m not sure that mattered to Gemma.  

“No one knew about me and David.”  

“You and David? You mean...? You and David Hale were an item?”  

I sat up them and scowled at her. “You’re hooked up to heart rate monitors, so I can finally say with confidence that you suck at pretending to be dumb. I know everyone must have told you what they saw at Kip’s wake. I really wish that wasn’t how everyone found out, but... well... I can’t undo it.”  

“But you two? How...? How serious were you?”  

She had let me stand up off the bed without protest. I don’t know why but I really felt like I needed some space between us for me to continue.  

“He wanted to get married. I wanted to move in with him.”  

“You... you... Wow. Andie, I had no idea that you... Wow...” She stuttered out without attempting to hide her shock.  

I smiled saying, “Like I said, no one did. Dad and Opie are still trying to wrap their heads around it too. If you want some time to figure out how angry you are with men, then I’m okay with giving you that.”  

“Angry? Baby, why would I be angry?”  

I coughed out a laugh then answered, “Why wouldn’t you be? I was sleeping with the enemy. I figured you would want to disown me for that.”  

“Hale? He wasn’t the enemy.” I gave her an unfriendly look causing her to smile. “He wasn’t... well not completely. But him being... well the two of you being in a relationship helps me to understand why he tried to help the club a couple of times. I was almost worried he was setting us up or something, but really he WAS trying to help. Thank you for that, Sweetheart.”  

“No,” I whispered as I shook my head. “Don’t thank me. I never asked him to do the club any favors. What he did, he did because he loves... he loved this stupid town and knew that everything isn’t always as black and white as we all want it to be.”  

She reached up and touched the very visible scar on my cheek and asked, “White?”  

“Something like that.”  

She nodded then asked, “And the hair?” I rolled my eyes causing her to laugh. “Alright, maybe I shouldn’t ask.”  

I gave Clay a brief look over my shoulder before I leaned in to quietly say to Gemma (hopefully so that only she could hear me), “I had wanted to chop it all off for a while, but... But David liked it long. Please don’t hate me for keeping it long for him.”  

“Hate you? Sweetheart, that could never happen.” She pulled me down and kissed my forehead. “I’m sorry you had to see that happen to him. You don’t deserve that kind of pain, Baby.”  

And that broke me in half. I let out a sob as my face fell onto her shoulder. I didn’t even feel Clay step up behind me to catch me before my knees gave out. He pulled a chair up to sit down with me seated on his lap as I continued to cry into Gemma’s shoulder. They shared a look over my head because neither of them knew what to say to me right now. If they had asked me, I wouldn’t have had a good answer for the breakdown. I guess I was still prone to having them if I was in the right environment.  

Great. I thought I was over this shit.  

After I cried myself out, I just let the two of them hold me and comfort me for a few minutes. I was still sitting on Clay’s lap, bent over with my head on Gemma’s shoulder while they held me when I quietly said, “Thank you for indulging me. I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear that you aren’t mad at me.” I sat up and kissed Gemma’s then Clay’s cheek. “I love you both. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help the club or either of you.”  

I stood up and left the room. Clay and Gemma shared a stunned look but neither of them could find the right words right now. Not that they really needed words to communicate, the look they shared told the other exactly what they were thinking.  

Chapter Text

YOU’D BE BETTER OFF WITH SOMEBODY ELSE

I placed an open bottle of beer in front of Happy as I sat down at the table in the clubhouse with him. Both of our eyes were following Bobby while he was pacing, talking on the phone. Jax was following close behind him which sort of told me the answer to my question. But me being my I had to ask, I had to know for sure.

I jutted my chin towards Bobby and asked, “Do you know what that’s all about?”

Happy nodded and took a drink from his bottle. Since he gave no indication that he was going to elaborate, I asked, “By chance, would you be inclined to enlighten me about it?”

“He’s negotiating with his ex-wife’s husband.”

I remained silent for a couple of breaths expecting him to elaborate, but when he didn’t, I let out an exasperated sigh then asked, “And what you they arguing…? I mean… What are they negotiating?”

“He’s trying to get their money back.”

“Money? From who?” Before he had a chance to ignore my question, I noticed Opie step inside the clubhouse. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Happy. He turned out to be nicer than I had expected but getting information from him was like pulling teeth. So, I jumped up to my feet with a quick ‘Forget it’ before I practically sprinted to Opie’s side.

My twin noticed me right away and diverted his course in my direction, “Hey Drea, I didn’t know you would be here.”

“Yeah, I… it doesn’t matter. Can I talk to you for a second?”

“Sure,” he replied as he nodded to the far wall of the clubhouse. Once we were huddled together, away from everyone else, he asked, “What’s up, Sis.”

“Happy said Bobby’s trying to get your guys’ money back from Bobby’s ex. Is that true?”

“Yes and no. The money went to a mercenary.”

“Okay. So… If you don’t need him anymore, does that mean you know where Abel is?”

“Yeah. McGee’s Old Lady called Gemma and told her where to find him.”

“McGee…? You mean Maureen Ashby? Does that mean Abel’s in Ireland?” He nodded but before he could say anything I added, “So you guys will need money to go overseas, then right?”

“Well, yeah… But…”

“No, buts.” I moved back to the table where Happy was still sitting. I then pulled out the ring box out of my jacket pocket and turned to head back to Opie’s side. He, of course, had followed me so I nearly ran into him when I turned around. I opened his right hand and closed it around the box as I explained, “You can probably get a better price for those than I can.”

“Price…? What…?” He opened the box then stared at me with wide eyes when he asked, “Where did you get these?”

“David’s lawyer.”

“David’s…? You mean Hale? You two were…?”

I shook my head to cut him off then replied, “No. He made plans, I had no idea that he wanted to propose. But like I told you before, it doesn’t matter. He’s gone and so are all of those plans.”

“Alright, I get that, but Drea…”

“No, buts,” I interrupted. “That chapter is done. I need to move on and if I keep those… well… getting rid of them helps to give me closure. Plus, it will help you guys find Abel, so it’s win/win.”

“Okay, but…” He cut himself off when I gave him a peeved look. “I just… Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. Opie, really, I’m fine.” I watched as Tig stomped through the clubhouse towards their chapel and Kozic was following not far behind him. “But you should get going. Big vote today.”

He smiled sadly answering, “Yeah. Are you going to be hanging out here for a while?”

“That was the plan. Well… either here or in Gemma’s office. Why?”

“Just want to pick your brain about a couple of things.”

I could feel a scowl form as I said, “Okay. Should I be worried?”

“No,” he answered simply before he kissed my head then turned and walked to their chapel.

That left me alone with the three potential prospects. One of them, Phil I think his name is, carried over a cold bottle of beer and placed it next to my nearly empty bottle. He smiled and looked like he wanted to say something, but he was interrupted by Tig yelling at them to get into the chapel. So, that left me alone in the clubhouse.

While I sat at the table drinking my beer, my mind started to wander. The primary topic occupying my thoughts was Opie’s last comment. What did he want to pick my brain about? Maybe it was about Maureen Ashby and Ireland. He knew that while I was stuck in Ireland, I had spent the majority of my time with her. I hadn’t been able to get a refund from the hotel I had stayed at in Scotland after I checked out to try to fly home. At one time I thought that I would be able to get a flight out of Dublin to get back to California sooner, but those plans fell through once I got to Dublin. When I got a hold of Maureen and she heard my sob story, she sent on of the Irish Brothers to pick me up so that I could stay with her.

Yeah, that makes the most sense, I thought while I finished my beer.

I was just about to stand up to toss my bottles out when I saw the chapel door open. The three potential prospects were exiting into the clubhouse again. They were all wearing shiny new cuts with the ‘Prospect’ rocker on them. Good for them. They make it past the first hurdle.

When the tall one saw me standing with a bottle in each hand, he rushed over to my side and put his hands out. “I’ll take care of those for you, Ma’am.”

“Woah!” I cried out as I pulled the bottles back towards me. “How old does this hair cut make me look?”

“What? No… no… Your hair looks good… Great and… and so do you. I just… I meant… uhh…”

I watched as he got increasingly flustered and laughed. “It’s okay, Biggie, I get what you were going for. But ‘Andie’ is enough to show your respect. Save the Ma’am shit for someone old like my mom, okay?”

“Okay, M… Andie,” he answered with a nod and I finally let him take the bottles. As he moved towards the bar, he said, “I’m Phil by the way.”

“Right. Sorry, I keep forgetting.”

“It’s fine. Did you want another beer?”

I sat down at the bar, but I didn’t answer him right away. Did I? I thought before I answered, “I probably shouldn’t, but sure. Ans while we’re at it, what scotch do they have back there?”

After he popped the lid off a bottle, he pulled out two bottles and placed them on the bar top. I felt my nose wrinkle in disgust as I read their labels. I then picked up my beer saying, “I think I’ll just stick with the beer thanks.”

He laughed softly then put the scotch bottles away. The other two prospects were behind the bar, moving boxes around and unpacking them. Watching that made me smile because Juice had taken on the role of being the Club’s bitch after Kip’s death. His prospect year had been brutal and grueling He was prospecting with three other guys who hadn’t made it more than a couple of months. You would think that once they dwindled the number down to one that the club would ease up on their prospects, but no. They were just as harsh once it was just Juice. Like I used to warn new hangers on, Prospecting was like Frat hazing. Only there was no University reputation to tarnish and the punishment for the authorities finding out was worse than anything a dumbass frat boy could conjure up. Seeing some fresh new faces hopefully meant Juice wouldn’t be treated like the club’s bitch. Well, at least not as much. Some of it he totally brought on himself, but that’s a whole other story.

Seeing the three of them also meant that the club was moving on from Kip’s untimely death. He had been made a member posthumously, which had left the club without a prospect for the first time in I can’t even remember how many years. So, the three new faces meant the club was moving on. That the club was moving forward. I guess I should take a page from their book and do the same. But, how could I do that? What was the first step that I should take?  

Before I could let myself get too melancholy with thoughts of the unknown, the chapel door opened. Shit, that was a fast vote. But was fast good or bad? I remained seated at the bar, finishing my beer while I just watched all the men exit the other room. A few of them were patting Happy on the back. Bobby pulled something out of his pocked and waved them in Happy’s face.

What the…? I thought until Happy took them from Bobby and hugged him. Oh. Duh. His new patches because he’s SAMCRO now.

“Phil, you should pull out a few more bottles of beer and that shit they call whiskey,” I said without taking my eyes off Happy, who was no embracing my twin.

“All over it, Miss Andie,” he replied along with the sound of bottles being placed on the bar top.

I turned to admonish him that it was just Andie, but I stopped myself. Miss Andie was better than Ma’am, so I took it as a win. I was fairly confident that I would be able to work him down to calling me just Andie sooner or later. I picked up two of the beers and smiled answering, “Thanks Phil.”

I watched Dad pat Happy on the shoulder and stepped closer to Dad’s left side. “It looks like congratulations are in order. Welcome to the SAMCRO family.”

He took the beer I was offering him while Dad claimed the other. Happed opened his mouth to reply but before he could utter a sound, he was stumbling forward. I instinctively caught him and helped to right him on his feet. Before I could ask him if he was okay, he was turning around with a soft growl trickling from his lips. Behind him, Tig was doing the same thing. Only difference was that he was turning to confront the man behind him. Dad quickly tugged on my arm to pull me towards the bar.

Kozic stepped into Tig asking, “It’s no fun getting sucker punched is it?”

“Oh shit,” I sighed out. Then I turned to Dad and asked, “I take it Tig hasn’t changed his mind?”

“Nope.”

“Fuck.”

As Tig and Kozic started to beat the ever-loving shit out of each other, Juice raced around the pool table to push the tables and chairs out of their way. Everyone else moved back so that they could watch and cheer them on. When I looked to my left, it looked like Opie had gotten a bowl of popcorn to eat while he watched the show. Fuck, this was entertainment to them. But this fight wasn’t like watching Tig box Happy; that was good-natured fun that ended in a hug. The hatred these two shared was deep seeded. And Tig really was out for blood.

“Oh… fucking gross,” I groaned out when Tig spat out blood and… I don’t even want to know what else.

Kozic took a second to regain his footing before he charged towards Tig. When I noticed the blood dripping off Kozic’s arm, I had had enough. I just couldn’t stomach anymore of this. I covered my face with my hands and turned my back on the fight. I wasn’t worried about getting hurt because there was a line of Brothers between me and the fight. If I thought I could sneak out without anyone noticing, I would have, but I was worried I would accidentally cross through their bloody street fight.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

What Andie couldn’t see with her face buried in her hands was her brother and his best friend silently plotting against her. After having a silent conversation with Jax, Opie turned slightly so that he could get a better view of what he was sure would be the new show.

Jax elbowed Phil gently in the side and jutted his chin in Andie’s direction and said, “You wanted something to do? This really isn’t a place for a lady. You should get her out of here.”

“What? Oh… oh yeah, I can guide her out of here.”

“Guide? No, you’ll need to get her out of here… Like by carrying her out so you can get her out faster and without a fight.”

“Fight? You think…?”

“No, I know she will. But, either way, she shouldn’t be watching this.”

“Alright I… I can do that.”

Phil then stepped up behind Andie and tapped her on the shoulder. After she had turned around, he picked her up at the waist and threw her over one of his shoulders in a ‘fireman carry’. He took advantage of her shocked state to hurry his steps towards the door. Piney pushed off the bar to intervene, but Opie quickly caught his dad’s eye and shook his head. Piney didn’t hide his eye roll before he turned his attention back to the main event. He really didn’t want to get caught up in whatever stupid scheme his son and VP were playing out with the Prospect and his daughter.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

When Phil started walking, I was finally jostled out of my stunned state. “Phil!” I yelled out as I punched a pot over his ‘Prospect’ rocker. “PHIL! Let me go!”

He didn’t slow down or listen, so I tried to kick at his gut. I couldn’t find the right leverage to land a proper kick that would do any damage, but that didn’t stop him from tightening his hold around my waist to make it even harder for me to lash out at him.

I continued to punch his back while I yelled for him to let me down. When he crossed my brother’s path, I reached out ad grabbed at Opie’s arm. He almost dropped his bowl of popcorn, but he managed to catch it and get it onto the bar without dropping a kernel.

When he didn’t move to help me, I yelled out, “OPIE! OPIE! HELP ME!”

He just shrugged, so I redoubled my efforts to get out Phil’s hold as I screamed at the top of my lungs, “OPIE!”

“Sis be careful. You’ll hurt the Prospect.”

“OPIE!” Phil kept moving and my brother did absolutely nothing to help me, so I decided to try a drastically different tactic. “HAPPY! Please Hap, help me!”

Now I was able to hear all of the chuckles coming from the members of SAMCRO. Fucking fantastic. My pathetic display had taken over from them watching Kozic and Tig trying to beat each other to death. Great, now I just looked like a pathetic little girl who couldn’t fend for herself and needed a big strong man to save her.

This time when I tried to fight for my freedom, I forgot about trying to be nice and decided to fight dirty. First, I tried to use the flat side of my hand in a modified chopping motion. The first one staggered him slightly, but really it was as effective as my previous punches, no damage done at all. I then tried as couple more kicks, but they failed to reach their target, so I finally gave up. I had embarrassed myself enough today, so I gave up.

“Alright, Filthy, you should put Andie down now,” a voice commanded from somewhere behind me.

Although Phil did pause, he didn’t let up on his uncomfortably tight grip as he answered, “But Jax said she shouldn’t watch the fight.”

“Right.” I could now tell that Tig was my savior, but the sound of him spitting out more of… well I could only assume it was Kozic’s blood or worse still turned my stomach. “And as you can see, the fight is over.”

“Oh… yeah…” Phil seemed to think about it before he placed me on my feet between him and Tig. As I straightened out my shirt, Phil leaned down to quietly say, “I’m sorry, I was just…”

“It’s fine,” I interrupted. I then patted his arm and added, “Go grab Tig the First Aid kit and get one of the other guys to grab him a couple fingers of vodka to clean out his mouth.”

“On it,” he answered before he moved to follow my orders.

I turned to look at Tig and almost leaned in to hug him but stopped when I noticed how much of Kozic’s and his own blood he had all over him. “Thanks, Tiggy. When you’ve cleaned up, come find me so I can thank you properly.”

“You’re welcome, Sweetheart. Are…? Are you okay?”

“I’ll be fine. Thanks again for the save.”

“Anytime Andie, anytime.”

I then made my way to the door, but my path was quickly blocked by a big, dumb, hairy beast. Okay, it was just Opie, but I still stand behind the big, dumb and hairy description for him.

“Look, Drea…” He started with an obvious chuckle in his tone.

Before he could continue, I reared back and punched him in the stomach. That forced the air out of his lungs, so he doubled over to catch his breath. I caught his straggly hair through his toque and pulled his head up to force him to make eye contact with me and snarled out, “Unless the next words out of your mouth are ‘I’m sorry Drea that my best friend and I are immature assholes’, I don’t want to hear it.” I waited a couple of breaths before I threw him to the side and said, “I didn’t think so.”

I then left the clubhouse without looking back even when Jax and Opie called out my name.

 

Chapter Text

SO PUT ME BACK ON THE SHELF

There was a knock at the open door to Gemma’s office, so I put down the stack of invoices I was sorting and turned my eyes to the door. Tig looked a question at me and I nodded in reply. Once he entered the room and had the door closed, I stood up to walk to the end of the desk so that we could talk.

He stood awkwardly and looked so unsure of himself that I almost laughed. Almost. However, I did step up to him and wrap him in a tight hug saying, “Thank you again, Tiggy. I really appreciate you sticking up for me like that.”

“You’re more than welcome, Sweetheart. But…” He stepped back then ran his hands over the shaved sides of my head and asked, “But…? Is everything okay between you and Opie?”

“Yeah…” He gave me an unimpressed look that caused me to laugh out loud. “Really, Tig, we’re fine. What happened back there… It’s just the usual sibling rivalry bullshit. It’s been a while since Jax and Opie have ganged up on me like that, so I guess I was due.”

“Shit. I’m…”

“Don’t apologize for their immaturity. But, feel free to remind both of them, especially my twin, about this day if you don’t see me hanging around here much.”

“Oh, don’t say… Wait! Is that why you’ve been avoiding us since you moved back home?”

I bobbed my head from side to side answering, “Yes and no. Family drama? Yes. With Opie? No. Am I going to tell you about it? Not today.”

“Alright, that sounds fair. So? Can I ask you a question?”

“You mean beyond the hundred and one you just asked?” He narrowed his eyes and tried to look annoyed, but he couldn’t quite pull it off. “Of course, you can. But like always, I reserve the right not to answer if I don’t want to or if it will incriminate me.”

“Okay, Andie, deal.” He sat down on the couch and seemed to really thing about what he was going to say next. Shit! How bad was the subject he wanted to question me about? “We were talking with Lumpy the other day and… well… he’s had some developer harassing him to sell his place to them. He says that’s why the whole block has gone derelict lately. Has…? I mean… Have you had anyone hassling you to sell your place?”

“Oh that? Yeah, I’ve heard about it, but no… I mean no one’s been sniffing around my place at all. And…” I let out a heavy sigh then continued, “And I’m more than cert it was David who had been keeping them away.”

“Really? What makes you say that, Sweetheart?”

“Coby mentioned seeing David have an argument with some guy wearing a cheap suite while I was taking care of a delivery. When I got back to the bar area, David was on the phone arguing with someone else. He never told me who or why, but when I noticed places around mine closing, I kind of put two and two together.”

“Wow. Hale would really help you out like that… huh…” He paused while he was lost in that last thought for a few minutes. I was just about to ask him what he was thinking when he turned his attention to me and asked, “No that he’s…? I mean since…?”

“I’m sure they’ll be coming around again. But that might actually be a blessing in disguise for me.”

“A blessing?” He scowled and clearly wasn’t able to follow my train of thought on the subject. “Why would you say that?”

I moved to sit beside him on the couch and took one of his hands into both of mine and kissed his bruised knuckles. “Since the night of Kip’s wake, I kind of hate going back to my bar.”

“What? Why? You’ve built an awesome bar.”

He squeezed my hand, so I returned the comforting gesture by hugging his neck. After I sat back in my spot, I re-established eye contact, I answered, “It’s where we met… as potential… y’know… And then it became the setting for us to… to… to fall in love. Now that he’s… gone… it just hurts to go back there because… well it hurts. So, selling doesn’t’ sound like the worst thing that could happen.”

“Damn. That makes sense. Alright, thanks for the info. I’ll get out of your hair now.” He stood up and kissed my forehead. “As minimal as it is, Beautiful.”

“Thanks, Tiggy.”

 I watched him leave and then returned to the desk to sort invoices. With everything that was going on, it was somewhat surprising that the guys had been able to keep up with all of the work that had been coming in. Now to get caught up on settling some of the money still owing on the services that had been rendered by TM Automotive.

Before I thought about making calls, I wanted to get an idea of which invoices had held a negative balance for the longest. When I was trying to get people to settle their tabs at my bar, I did the exact same thing; each invoice was separated by month then each monthly pile was sorted by day. After that was done the newest ones got filed away and I used the ones left for phone calls. I was still at the monthly sorting stage when I heard a knock at the door.

I looked to my right to check who it was. When I saw that it was my twin, I turned my eyes to the papers in my hand saying, “I have a lot of work to do. If you’re going to insist on being an unbearable jackass, just turn around and walk away now.”

“Drea…”

“I mean it, Harry,” I interrupted in an incensed tone.

He stepped inside the office and closed the door behind him. I still hadn’t heard anything close to an apology from him, so I didn’t pause or turn my eyes away from the task at hand. When I heard him let out a soft sigh, I mentally smiled because that told me he knew that I meant it. No one could give a cold shoulder and ignore someone like I could when someone pissed me off enough.

“I’m sorry, Drea,” he finally said as he sat down on a chair on the opposite side of the desk from where I sat. Those words got me to finally stop, sit back and look up at him. “And even though I’m sorry, I swear it was for a good reason.”

I rolled my eyes at that response. “Yeah, right. Come on, Ope. You, of all people, know how much I HATE it when people use my petite stature against me. You KNEW I’d be pissed, but you STILL did it!”

“I know and I’m sorry that we couldn’t explain before it happened, but time was of the essence.”

I folded my arms over my chest and sounded as unimpressed as I felt when I said, “Right. But you and Jax managed to have a telepathic conversation before he told Gigantor to carry me out of the clubhouse? Give me a fucking break.”

“Well… no… but…” He pinched the bridge of his nose like he was trying to stave off a headache as he talked. “But I know we were on the same page about this.”

“You were, were you? And what fucking page was that, Little Brother?”

“Tig and Kozic… We needed a way to stop them before Tig killed him. I knew that if you sounded like a damsel in distress that one of them would come to your rescue. And… well… Tig did.”

“Great, so you WANTED me to look like a weak little girl who HAD to be save by some stupid big strong man. You know I fucking hate that more than… than… anything.”

“I do! But… Come on! Even you couldn’t watch them fight. We needed to do something before it got way out of hand.”

He then flashed me the biggest set of puppy dog eyes that only Sam Winchester from the TV show ‘Supernatural’ could rival. FUCK. I couldn’t stay mad at that face and my stupid asshole brother knew it. Then he moved his hand to rub circles on his sternum. Goddammit.

I let out a dejected sigh and dropped my arms to the desktop. “Fine. Desperate times, desperate measures or whatever. I guess I forgive you. BUT! You better make damned sure that you explain to the Prospects that none of them, especially Phil, should expect that behavior to fly in the future. They won’t be the first Brother I’ve sent to the ER if it happens again. Understood?”

 Opie reached across the desk and squeezed my right hand. “Yes. And trust me, they all know. Juice already enlightened the three of them about the Prospect that almost lost an eye and how you broke your hand in the process. They get it… so do I.”

“Good. And…” I shuddered then continued. “Tig bit a chunk of flesh out of Kozic. You know I can handle a lot, but I can’t stand watching Tig slip into full cannibal mode.”

“That I do, Sis. That’s also the reason I knew we had to stop him. I was worried this would be the time he finally ripped out Kozic’s jugular. I’m down with watching a beat down, but I didn’t want to watch Tig actually kill him.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.” I sat back and felt a lot of the tension I had been feeling ear out of all my muscles. “The longer Kozic stays here, the more likely it is that will actually happen. You know that, right?”

“No, actually I didn’t. I was thinking that they had buried the hatchet because Kozic is asking to transfer back here.”

That comment made me laugh out loud. Opie looked offended and confused by that reaction, which made me laugh even harder. “Sorry, but the only place Tig will be burying a hatchet is either in Kozic’s back or in his skull. I honestly don’t think he’ll ever get over hating him.”

“Fuck. You really believe that, don’t you?”

I motioned to draw a cross over my heart. Opie smiled at that then asked, “So? What about you and me? Are…? Are we good?”

I took in a deep breath and made a show of thinking over my answer. “We’ll be good so long as you promise this won’t become a habit. If I’m going to be spending more time here at TM and clubhouse, I don’t want anyone getting the idea in their head that they can treat me like a ragdoll.”

“They won’t, I… wait! Did you way MORE time?”

“You heard me right. I told Gemma and Clay that I would help out here at the office until we know what’s going to happen with her.”

“Wow. That’s awesome. But…? What about your bar? Who’s going to run it?” I bit my lip and cast my eyes down to the desktop, prompting him to worriedly ask, “Drea? What’s wrong? What happened to your bar?”

“Nothing, Ope. Nothing’s happened to it. It’s… Well… I’ve been thinking…”

“You’ve been thinking what?” He asked when I trailed off.

“I’ve… Did Bobby and the guys tell you about their visit with Lumpy by chance?” He nodded so I continued, “Well, I’m thinking I might contact that developer to see if they’ll make me an offer.”

“What? Why? I thought that your business doing well for you. If it isn’t, I could…”

“It is!” I jumped in. “It definitely is doing fine… I mean really well. But going back there… well it’s like the rings. I’m not sure I can move on if I keep it.”

“Drea…”  He stood up and walked over to my side to give me a hug. “I’m sorry, Sis.”

I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him back. “None of that is any of your fault. I know it might seem drastic but after talking with Gemma and Clay, it sounds like you guys will need more help here over the next couple of months and I’d rather spend my time helping out here.”

“That makes sense, but…”

“I can’t live there anymore, Opie. At least not without drinking myself to death. Trust me, it’s for the best.”

He squeezed me saying, “Okay. If you say so. But in the meantime, you are more than welcome to stay at my place until you find somewhere new.”

“Thanks.” I sat back to look up at him. “But Dad’s going to have the Prospects move my stuff to his place after I finish packing up tonight.”

“You…? At…? At Dad’s? Really?”

“I know. I was surprised too that I said yes. But he says he’s turned the garage into an apartment for visiting Brothers, so I’m going to stay there. Plus, this way I’m still close enough that I can help you and Layla with the kids when you need it.”

“Wow. You really have made your mind up about this, haven’t you?”

“Yep, I have.”

“Okay, then I won’t try to argue with you.” He then moved back to the chair he was sitting in previously then asked, “Now that we’ve cleared the air, can I ask you a question?”

A question? Haven’t you already played ‘20 Questions’ with me?”

“Drea…” He replied with an exasperated sigh.

SHIT! I thought as I felt slightly guilty. “Okay, stowing the sarcasm and jokes for now. Alright, Hay, what would you like to ask me?”

Calling him by his legal name earned me another well-placed eye roll. “Alright, Drea. If I’ve heard your stories right, you spent some time with Maureen Ashby. What’s your impression of her?”

“Oh… Is this what you wanted to pick my brain about?” He nodded, so I settled to be more comfortable in my seat. “She was my savior while I was stranded in Ireland. She gave me a place to stay and a shoulder to cry on. But the most important thing to remember about her is that you can’t let her looks fool you.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s an even slighter build than I am. She can play up the helpless blond waif persona when she needs to, but it’s all just an act. Her brother is a Shot Caller with the IRA. And as McGee’s Old Lady, she rules with an iron fist and fierceness that is only rivalled by Gemma’s intensity.”

“Holy… Wow… Okay, so…? Do you think that she can be trusted?”

I felt my forehead crinkle as I asked, “In what way?”

“I’ll take that as a no.”

“No,” I quickly countered. “Not… I don’t mean it like that. It’s just… she’s an Old Lady with ties to the real IRA. Imagine Gemma, but with the added bonus of having ties, through blood family, to the Mafia.” When I saw Opie shudder, I chuckled softly. “Exactly. You can’t survive in either world without being a little deceptive.”

“Right. Of course, that makes sense.”

 We sat in silence for a couple of minutes, lost in our own thoughts. After staring at him I finally asked, “Now can I ask you a question?”

He blinked slowly a couple of times then shook his head to clear his head. “Yeah, sure. What do you want to know?”

“Have you guys figured out how you’re going to travel to Ireland?”

 “Clay and Jax are working on a way to get us overseas. And by ‘us’, I mean you too, Drea.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you.”

He looked as confused as I felt as I replied, “But I’m not going to Ireland.”

“Yeah. Of course, you are.”

“No, Opie,” I countered in a firm tone. “I’m not going overseas.”

“Why not?”

I closed my eyes to take in a couple of deep breaths to keep myself calm. “There’s a lot of reasons. First and foremost, someone needs to stay here to keep this place running properly. We have people to work on the cars while you guys are gone, but there really isn’t anyone to take care of this office side of things.” I motioned with my hands to the piles of papers on the desktop. “As you can see. Plus… you know just as well as I do that bad shit happens when I go overseas.”

That comment earned me a very prominent eye roll from my brother. “I’ll give you the first one, but I refuse to acknowledge the second one. You know that just a stupid superstition.”

“It isn’t superstition, Ope. Someone important to us has died every time I’ve gone overseas. I can’t go now… I don’t want to chance it.”

“That was just a coincidence,” he stated sounding a little less sure of his stance. “Plus, I thought after what happened recently that you would be chomping at the bit to get away from here.”

“Yeah, I did too. But this… this just makes the most sense.”

He got up to walk over to my side to give me a hug. “But if you change your mind, we probably won’t be leaving until tomorrow or the next day.”

“I won’t.”

“But if you do…”

I sat back and punched him weakly in the arm. “Opie, stop. I won’t.”

“Alright, Drea.” He kissed my head then walked to leave the office. At the door he paused again to say, “But if you change your mind…”

I started laughing when the pen I threw at him pounced off the now closed door. Then another bout of giggles bubbled up through my chest when I hear his deep chuckles on the other side of the door.

 

Chapter Text

SEE I’M THE KIND OF PERSON

“I can schedule you in…”

“HANDS IN THE AIR!”

I jumped in my seat and dropped the phone when I heard the office door rebound off the wall. My hands shot up in the air when I saw the muzzle of a shot gun aimed at my chest. I could hear the customer I had been speaking to on the phone trying to call out to get my attention, but my eyes remained steadfastly focused on the gun’s barrel.

The Sheriff’s Deputy managed to reach over and hang up the phone before he motioned to the floor with the gun and ordered, “Get down on the ground.”

I kept my hands over my head as I slipped off the chair onto my knees. That seemed to please him because he took a step back, which gave me room to lay down on my stomach. Although it wasn’t the most comfortable place to be laying down, it was definitely one of the cleaner places here at TM to do it.

“Alright, don’t move while I… uhh…”

I almost laughed at how his voice morphed from scary and authoritative to slightly confused, but I managed to suppress it. I’m sure that he was noticing that with me laying down in the middle of the room that it didn’t really give him any room to maneuver.

“Office is occupied times one. Yes, I’m just trying to figure out the logistics.”

“I might be easier if I go outside.”

He stomped over so that his boots completely filled my field of vision. “What did you say?”

“It’s a small room,” I started in a cautious tone. “You’ll be able to search it more easily if I’m outside. Just sayin’.”

“10-4. The worker is female. Copy.” He took a step back then said, “You are not under arrest, but for my safety and your own, I’m going to detain you. I will be placing you in cuffs so that I can move you outside to be frisk searched by a female officer. Do you understand what I have told you?”

I moved my hands behind my back and crossed my wrists over the small of my back while crossing my legs at the ankles. After I was in position I answered as loudly and clearly as I could, “I understand, Sir.”

He then placed the cuffs on my wrists. Once they were secure, he picked me up so that I was kneeling in front of him. Getting me to my feet was a bit of a struggle, but he managed to help me up to my feet without having to call for back up. I guess being petite came in handy once in a while.

As we started towards the door he quietly commented, “You seem to be taking this in stride.”

“My dad’s a founding member of the MC. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to do this. And it probably won’t be my last.”

I’m not sure if I was hallucinating or not, but I swear he actually chuckled as he replied, “You have a point.” He then took the cuffs off and I moved my hands back up to my head. He stood and watched as I laced my fingers at the back of my head in silent awe.

I was just about to ask him what he wanted me to do next when I heard a familiar voice ask, “Deputy, you have someone you need searched?”

“Yeah, Constable Eglee, I have… uhh…”

I suppressed another ill-timed laugh as I heard the realization hit him that he hadn’t gotten my name. I then turned around and smiled when I saw the woman whom came with the voice. “Hey Candy. He has me detained.”

“Shit. Hey Andie,” she replied with a soft smile. “I didn’t recognize you with the haircut.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to. So? Where do you want to do this?”

She looked over her shoulder which brought my attention to the door of the clubhouse. Everyone from the MC was filing out one by one and congregating by the picnic table. Opie was the first one to notice me standing outside of the office. He started to take a step forward, but he was quickly blocked from moving forward by a tall, burly looking Sheriff’s Deputy.

A look of concern flashed over Eglee’s face for a brief second before she schooled her expression. “Why don’t we step into the garage here so that we can have some privacy?”

“Oh… okay,” I replied sounding slightly confused. How thorough of a search was she going to do?

I moved so that I could walk beside her. She paused hen said just over a whisper, “You can put your hands down. I know you won’t pull a weapon on me or try to run away.”

I didn’t say anything, but I did lower my hands. Once we were in the garage, she made a show of having me put my hands against one of the toolboxes while she patted me down. Although she wasn’t doing it in earnest, her search was actually more thorough than the one the Fed had done at the hospital.

“So? Do you know why we’re here?” She asked when she started the search with her hands on my shoulders.

I shook my head answering, “My best guess is something to do with Gemma.”

That earned me a laugh. Okay, so NOT anything to do with the MC aiding a Federal felon on the lam, I guess.

“You can turn around,” she said with laughter still evident in her tone. Once I was turned around, her expression got very serious and her voice was barely audible when she said, “They’re looking for drugs. They got a tip that SAMCRO has started dealing illegal pharmaceuticals.”

Now it was my turn to laugh. “Drugs? Seriously? You guys can turn this place upside down, but you won’t find any illegal prescriptions, let alone any other drugs here. Well… other than pot.”

“I know and I tried to tell them that, but the Sheriff says he got the tip from a reliable source, so here we are.”

I stepped closer to her and lowered my voice to ask, “Do you know who tipped off the Sheriff?”

She shook her head to answer no. “Ms. Winston, you can join the rest of your coworkers at the clubhouse.” I scowled at her causing her to add with a whisper, “You can’t be in here when we start the search.”

“Oh… right… Sorry.”

I then hurried across the lot to join the crowd. Opie immediately wrapped me in a hug and worriedly asked, “Are you okay? Why did they cuff you?”

“For my safety and his own,” I answered in a weird, disconnected, monotone voice.

“What?” Opie questioned as he pushed me to arm’s length away so that he could see my face. “What does that mean?”

“I pet his arm to try to calm him down. “It’s just standard procedure, Opie. I’m fine.”

“They didn’t cuff any of us.”

I shook my head with a humorous smile. “He was alone in a confined space with me, not a huge clubhouse with the whole Sheriff’s and Police Departments behind him. Seriously, it’s nothing bad or abnormal.”

“How do you…?” He stopped and his face dropped into a sad frown. “Did…?”

“Yes,” I cut in over the rest of his question. “He’s why I know so much about police procedures.”

“Shit. I’m sorry, Drea.”

He then pulled me against his chest again. I don’t know why, but Opie always felt the need to apologize whenever he mentioned David, either by name or just in vague passing. I knew he wasn’t bringing him up on purpose, so I really didn’t see the need for him to constantly apologize, but I didn’t tell him to stop. He was being sweet and protective, so I took it in stride. Plus, I like this Opie better than the mischievous one who plotted with Jax to torment me.

“I wonder what they’re looking for,” he asked with me still wrapped in a hug.

Someone in the garage yelled something I couldn’t hear. Jax sis and he quietly said, “This isn’t about Pozo. This is about search and seizure.”

“They’re looking for scripts,” Bobby commented.

I turned so that I was standing at Opie’s side with one of his arms wrapped around my shoulders. “Eglee said the Sheriff got a tip about there being a stash of Pharmaceuticals here.”

“A tip?” Jax questioned as he took a step closer to me. “From who?”

I shrugged answering, “She didn’t seem to know.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

When I got back to the office, I almost wanted to burst into tears. Not only had they messed up all of my neat piles of paperwork on the desk, the assholes had torn apart all of the drawers in all of the filing cabinets too. I get that they have to be thorough in their search, but this? This was just petty… and mean. They could have checked the drawers without pulling out all of the paperwork int eh process. And the desk? How the fuck would I be hiding bottles of illegal prescriptions on the desktop?

I leaned against the door jamb and sighed out, “Goddammit.”

Officer Eglee was exiting out the door that led to the garage, but she stopped to turn and say, “I’m sorry, Andie.”

“It’s fine. Wait… You…? You didn’t do this, did you?”

She shook her head with a sad look on her face. “Unser and I weren’t allowed to search. We were just here for crowd control.” My next question must have been plain on my face because she let out a humorless laugh. “The Sheriff thinks we’re too close to the club.”

“What? I mean… Unser, I get that, but why would he say that about you?”

She stepped back into the office as she answered, “I went to high school with you and the guys.”

“So? There’s only one high school. Where else would you have gone?”

“True. But since word got out about you and Hale, they’re suspicious of anyone who has any personal ties to you guys.” I opened my mouth, but she continued saying, “Before the Prospect’s wake, we all thought that you and Hale were just old classmates.”

“Fuck,” I sighed out as I started to rub my temples with my fingertips to stave off the headache I felt brewing. “Look, Candy, I’m…”

“Don’t,” she jumped in with a kind smile. “You don’t owe me an explanation or an apology. I had my suspicions because he was spending so much time at your bar. And I get it. I mean… I understand why you two didn’t want to go public. I know it couldn’t have been easy on you.”

“Actually, sneaking around was a vacation compared to the fallout I’ve been having to deal with lately.”

“I get that. And again, I’m sorry. I hope it doesn’t take you too long to reorganize everything.”

“Thanks. I really mean it. I know you tried to make this as painless as possible for us.”

She smiled and turned to leave, so I called out, “Candy?”

“Yes?”

“I’m sorry that we’re such incredible pains in your ass. I know your job is tough enough without us complicating things for you.”

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t mind.” We both let out a polite laugh then she said a final, “Take care Andie” before she turned and left.

XXXXXXXXXXXXX

I gasped in a breath as my hands released the death grip I had on the comforter I was laying on. Another gasp escaped through my lips as my hands fell to the back of Happy’s head. He didn’t seem to notice anything I was doing. Not that I would ever imagine complaining about that. His attention was focused on using his lips and tongue to coax another orgasm from me. I had almost screamed myself hoarse during the last one, but that didn’t seem to satisfy him. He was so task driven that it felt like he wouldn’t be satisfied until I had passed out from oxygen deprivation from screaming out in ecstasy.

My grip on his head tightened as I felt pressure in my lower abdomen start to build. Thank I felt his teeth graze ever so lightly over my clitoris before he sucked it between his lips. That pushed me over the edge again. A strangled scream started low in my throat as my hands pressed his face tighter against my body. Happy let out a soft growl that vibrated over my flesh to make this orgasm last even longer than the last one.

As I started to come down from my high, my hands started to fall away from Happy’s head thinking that he would back off. But he didn’t stop. He continued to lick into my nether lips with the same vigor he had my mouth when we both finally gave into the sexual tension that had been building between us while we were eating dinner.

Soon enough, the attention he was paying my clit became too much stimulation. I then used my grip on his head to try to push him away as I protested, “Too much… too… Please, Happy… too much…”

That got him to release his hold on my clit, but he didn’t back off completely. Instead, he placed a chaste kiss against my burning flesh before he kissed and lightly bit his way up my body. I had melted into the comforter at this point because he had worked so expertly to satisfy me.

Once he reached my breasts, he sucked my left nipple into his mouth. At first, I just moaned softly at the sensation of his tongue brushing over the hardened nub. But then the suction stopped and he bit down on my nipple. I wasn’t hard enough to cause any real damage, it was just a sharp pain that helped to get my attention. My hands flew up to his head again as I started to sit up.

 Once I was in a modified sit up, he rewarded my bruised flesh with a couple of soft laps with his flattened tongue. When he felt my grip on his skull loosen, he kissed my nipple then move his lips to my left ear.

“I want you on all fours,” he quietly commanded before he gently bit my ear lobe.

I think I said ‘okay’, but I can’t be sure. I was so blissed out at this point that I couldn’t form a coherent thought. His words had penetrated through the haze of desire, but I couldn’t move. Up until then every movement my hands had made had been a reaction to how he had been stimulating my body. Now that he wanted me to move of my own accord, I was finding it hard to get my muscles to comply.

When he noticed the difficulties I was having, he wrapped his hands around my waist and pulled my whole body down to the foot of the bed. He stood up off the bed so that it was easier for him to rearrange my body on the bed. I swear I was trying to do whatever I could to help him, but for some reason I just couldn’t manage it at all.

Once he got me up onto my hands and knees, he pet the side of my face then cupped my cheek to tilt my head so that I was looking at him. Well, so that I could try to make out his face through my hooded gaze.

“Andie?” He called out softly. “Andie? Are you okay?”

I let out a contented sigh saying, “Yeah.”

“Do you want me to continue?”

I felt myself scowl because was he kidding? Why was he asking all of these questions? Of course, I was fine, better than fine, and wanted him to keep going. What else would I want him to do?

“Andie? Do you want me to stop?”

My eyes flew open when that question registered as I shouted, “No! Don’t you dare!”

“Good,” he replied with a shit eating grin. “Keep yourself up.”

I think I nodded, but I was mostly focused on keeping myself from falling over while he climbed back up onto the bed. He stroked his hands down the middle of my back, down the length of my spine until he reached my firm, round buttocks. His hands parted at the small of my back and didn’t stop moving until they took a firm grip on my hips.

He pulled up on each side of my hips to tilt my buttocks up to ender me with one powerful thrust. I know I screamed out in ecstasy as he claimed me. I also staggered under the force of his thrusts and I fell down onto my elbows. I immediately tried to push myself back up onto my hands and knees, but I stopped when I felt one of his hands press down on my back between my shoulder blades.

“Stay,” he commanded in a breathy voice. “Good angle… so tight.”

All I could offer in return was a low whine as my body tried to accommodate his girth. That quickly morphed into appreciative moans as my body started to become reignited under his punishing pace. I stayed leaning down on my forearms, but now I was using it to brace myself so that I could rock myself on his length in unison with his thrusts.

It didn’t feel like I was doing much, but when I felt his fingers start to dig into my flesh, I knew I was helping. He let out a soft growl as his pace started to quicken. I somehow managed to keep up with him, but it was a bit of a struggle. What can I say? The man may not talk all that much, but that didn’t mean that he didn’t possess a magnificent oral talent, if you know what I mean.

While I was still trying to keep up with his vigorous pace, it started to become erratic and choppy. He became so erratic that I gave up on meeting him thrust for thrust. Instead, I let him use my hips as makeshift handles as he pulled my body onto him in perfect flow with his in and out motion.

“Oh… oh… OH GOD!” I cried out as I felt that familiar pressure building low in my abdomen.

His breathing started becoming as stuttered as the motion of his hips, but he kept going. “Come on,” he repeated softly with a punctuated thrust after each ‘on’.

When he heard my breathing turn into excited pants, he moved his hand to the front of my body. I cried out as his middle and ring fingers met their target. They started to press against my clit in a circular motion as his thrusts got longer and deeper.

“Ha… Ha… HAPPY!” I screamed out as the dam broke and my next orgasm claimed me.

He grunted out a few excited noises with a few inarticulate words as he pulled my body impossibly closer to his body. His last thrust hit so deep that it made me cry out again before I fell, boneless onto the mattress under us.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I don’t know when it happened, but I actually passed out. When my eyes drifted open, I was laying on my right side with y head on a pillow. As soon as my eyes could focus, they did so on Happy’s face. He was laying on his left side with his head on his own pillow.

He had a look on his face that I couldn’t quite interpret. But I honestly didn’t care to figure it out right now. All I wanted to do was lean in and kiss his lips. So, that’s exactly what I did. I reached out with my left hand and ran my palm over his cheek until I reached the base of his skull. He didn’t move, so I leaned in and pressed my lips against his. He didn’t reciprocate until he felt the tip of my tongue trace against the seam of his mouth.

I reluctantly pulled back before I could get too breathless and gave him a dreamy smile. “Do you really have to leave? Can’t you just stay here so you can fuck my brains out every day?” The soft smile on his face evaporated and every muscle in his face stiffened as his expression hardened. Shit! That so was not the reaction I had been hoping for. “I’m joking… It was… a bad joke. I know you’ve made a commitment and you’re going to honor that.”

“You do?” He questioned, suspicion dripping off each word.

“Yes, I do! I… I’m bad at this. I was trying to compliment you and your skills. I really didn’t mean to offend you. Especially not after everything you’ve done for me. And I don’t mean more mind blowing…”

He surged forward to silence me with a kiss. I gave him a long, slow blink after he finally released my lips. He gave me a half smile as he dryly commented, “You talk a lot.”

“I do!” I quickly agreed. “But it’s because I’m nervous.”

“Nervous?”

I waited a couple of seconds, but he didn’t elaborate any further. I then nodded and answered, “You, you don’t say much and I don’t know you well enough to read you. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make this weird.”

He leaned in to kiss me again then said, “You didn’t.”

“I didn’t?” I opened my mouth to continue questioning him, but I quickly closed it and just bit my lip instead.

He smirked then repeated, “You didn’t.”

We stared at each other for a couple of breaths then I pecked his lips and said, “Good. So? Are you okay with me falling asleep in your arms?” He rolled onto his back and wrapped his left arm around my waist. I snuggled into his side and placed my head on the part of his chest where his pecs met his shoulder. “Good answer.”

 

Chapter Text

WHO CAN BARELY BE LOVED

When I woke up with the sun shining on my face, I was on my left side with Happy wrapped protectively around my back. His left arm was draped over my waist with his hand cupped over my breast. I shifted slightly and realized that no, his hand was cupped on my chest right on top of my heart. His fingers were unconsciously drumming against my chest to the same rhythm as my heartbeat.

I settled into the crook of his body and almost let the drumming of his fingers lull me back to sleep. Almost. But I couldn’t fall back asleep because my thought started racing through my head.

Happy? I’m fucking…? I laughed softly to myself at the accidental double entendre that play on words inspired. I’m fucking happy? No, not happy, but how do I feel? I should feel guilty though, right? But I don’t. Is that okay? Is that allowed? I don’t know. How long…?

That thought got cut off when I felt Happy let out a sigh that ghosted over my neck. The he rolled away from me and onto his back. I laid still for a couple of breaths to make sure that he was going to stay asleep. I don’t know why, but that was really important to me right now. My head was a jumbled mess of thoughts and I wanted to have a better handle on them and my feelings before I spoke to Happy again.

When I had confirmation that he was still sleeping, I very slowly and carefully eased myself off his bed. None of my clothes had made it into his bedroom, so I tried to find something to wear. He was in the process of moving to Charming, which ended up working in my favor. He had some clothes still in suitcases that were sitting on a chair by his closet. I found a t-shirt and pulled it on over my head. Thankfully it was big enough, or I was short enough, that it fell to mid-thigh and cover me up.

As I made my way to his kitchen, I picked up the clothes Happy and I had discarded haphazardly in the hallway as we made our way to his bedroom. I stepped into his living room and folded our clothes into two neat piles. I felt comfortable enough in Happy’s t-shirt, but now what I had found them, I pulled on my panties before I place the piles of clothes on his coffee table.

My next stop was his kitchen. I know Gemma has trained of the Crow Eaters what should be considered the minimal necessities that they should buy when we had Brothers visiting Charming, so I was confident I would find a few staples in his kitchen. I laughed out loud when I opened the fridge because there was a lot more than just the basics. Hell, he even had a steak defrosting in the there.

Huh… Guess he went grocery shopping instead of unpacking… I love his priorities… All the more reason to… STOP! I thought as I pulled out a carton of eggs, a package of bacon and a jug of milk.

My plan was to make breakfast for him and I then after we ate, I would leave him to pack. I knew that Jax, Gemma and Clay had finalized their travel plans with Elliott Oswald, I just didn’t know any of the specifics. Well, anything beyond them leaving tonight.

As I laid the food out on the counter, I noticed an empty coffee pot. Beside it was a canister of Folgers medium roast coffee. Perfect, I could get the coffee brewing while I started cooking. This was working out better than I had hoped. Actually, it was kind of weird how easily this was coming together, but I forced myself not to over-analyze it and to just be happy in the moment.

That was my new mantra and outlook for life. Tomorrow wasn’t a guarantee, so I was going to live my life one day at a time. If it made me happy, then I was going to give myself permission to do it without guilt. Okay, with the promise to myself that I didn’t have to feel guilty. I was pretty sure that those nagging feelings would find me sooner or later, no matter what I told myself. Last night was my first attempt to follow this new philosophy and so far, this morning there was no butterflies or gnawing feeling in my gut. The only thing I was contemplating was if I should make French toast with bacon or scrambled eggs toast and bacon.

Maybe this will work, I thought to myself as I carefully placed the strips of bacon, one by one, into the hot pan. As the bacon started to sizzle another thought hit me. Omelets made in the bacon grease! Perfect.

With that decided, I felt even more at ease as I continued to cook. If I was at home, I would have pressed play on the CD player in my kitchen and been singing and dancing while I prepared our meal. And you’re right, those shenanigans had resulted in a few minor burns and cuts in the past, but that didn’t stop me. Today I didn’t look for a radio or CD player because I didn’t want to disturb Happy’s sleep.

While I moved the bacon from the pan onto a couple of sheets of paper towel to absorb the excess grease, I noticed that I had started humming. When had I started doing that? And why was my choice of song ‘California Love’ by Tupac Shakur? I wasn’t even that much of a fan of rap music, why…? No! I silently shouted to myself. Just hum, don’t think about anything but the meal.

“You’re a morning person?”

I turned with a plateful of bacon in my hand to face Happy as I answered, “Not usually. But… When I couldn’t fall back asleep, I thought that I’d make myself useful and start breakfast for us. You can go back and get a few more hours of sleep if you want.”

He grunted out a noise as he reached into the cupboard and took out two mugs. I thought that was going to be his only reply, so I turned my attention back to the stove. I cracked two eggs in a bowl and whipped them with a fork while adding in some salt and pepper. I kept the bacon grease hot in the pan to help keep the omelet nice and fluffy.

Happy placed a full mug of coffee beside the remaining eggs on the counter before he moved to my left side and watched me work.

“Wasn’t sure how you like your coffee, so I just added a spoonful of sugar. Hope that’s okay.”

I didn’t take my eyes off the pan as I smiled and said, “That’s perfect. Thanks.”

By this time the omelet was finished cooking. I looked for one of the plates I had placed on the counter, but neither were in the spot I had left them. I turned to ask Happy if he moved them, but I swallowed that question when I noticed that he was holding them.

“Figured helping you plate the food was the least I could do after all of your hard work.”

I smiled replying, “Thanks. You’re free to start eating. I’ll join you in a minute.”

“I can wait.”

I was going to argue with him, but I stopped myself. Instead, I asked, “Did you want toast?”

“Sure. I’m good with one piece.”

I continued cooking while I listened to him move around the kitchen. I was fairly certain that he was getting things like butter for our toast, so I tried to just focus on my task. That was until I heard him ask, “Hot sauce?”

“What?” I questioned automatically because his question had taken me out of my own thoughts.  Luckily, I had turned to join him, so I saw him holding a bottle of hot sauce in each hand and I could properly reply with more volume, “Oh! Yes, please.”

He smiled then met me at the table. After I placed a piece of toast on his place, we both dug into our meals in complete silence. Trust me, it took a lot of effort and will power for me not to try to start a conversation consisting of an inappropriate amount of questions with him. From what I had already witnessed about Happy, he was more like ‘Grumpy’ before he had coffee in the morning. Plus, I was in his home, so I was trying to follow his lead. When we had a repeat of this at my place, you bet your ass I would be forcing him to chat with me about any subject I chose.

“Don’t worry about the dishes. I’ll take care of them while you get changed.”

He said it so mater-of-factly that I couldn’t react for a few seconds. I sat and stared at him while he continued to eat. When I still had yet to answer him, Happy finally looked up from his plate of food. I don’t know what expression I was wearing, but it made him scowl and look unhappy.

He put his fork down then as he asked, “Did you have other plans? I thought you’d want to get to TM.”

I shook my head to clear away the destructive thoughts that were trying to run around in my head so that I could sound more composed when I said, “Yeah, I do, but…” I stopped myself and shook my head while I laughed at myself. “I mean… Yeah, sounds like a good plan.”

“Tell me what you were really thinking,” he stated in a firm tone that managed not to sound demanding. When I answered by shaking my head, he added, “Please, Andie? This won’t work if I don’t know what you’re thinking or feeling. You said that all I had to do was ask you out right and you’d tell me, so please… tell me.”

“This?” I questioned softly. That made his scowl deepen, so I quickly added, “Sorry, I’m honestly not trying to be dense or anything. I’m just wondering what your definition for ‘this’. Are…? Do you want us to be…? Well… ‘us’ in the relationship sense?”

He nodded answering, “Given who you’re related to, I wouldn’t have invited you here for just a one-night stand.”

“Who I’m…?” I stopped and forced myself to take in a deep breath to calm myself down. “You aren’t sleeping with my dad and brother, so they aren’t a part of this equation. If you want us to just leave this at a one-night stand, I’m a big girl and will respect that. Don’t fell like this has to be anything deeper just because my last name happens to be ‘Winston’.”

“I… that… I didn’t mean it like that,” he answered in a defensive tone.

“Okay. Well… Like you said, I need to know what you mean so there’s no further confusion between us.”

His expression softened and I could only assume it was because he knew that I wasn’t trying to be difficult and that I wasn’t trying to play games. We both were trying to make sure that we were on the same page and for some reason that seemed to be making everything more complicated instead of helping us to understand each other better.

“Alright. What I meant was… I’ve liked the time that I’ve spent with you and I want to get to know you even better. I wouldn’t have invited you here if I didn’t want to consider us being more serious than a one-time romp in the sack.”

“We could just be fuck buddies,” I countered in a nonchalant voice. When I saw the sourpuss look that comment put on his face, I bit back a smile and added, “Or not. Sorry. I was just saying that’s always an option. If you don’t like that term, we could go with ‘friends with benefits’ instead.”

“Maybe if you were just a Crow Eater,” he replied. “But… Does that mean that you aren’t looking for any relationship beyond being friends with me?”

I shook my head replying, “Honestly, I don’t know. You’ve been a really good friend to me. Especially during… well that memorial service. I didn’t think I’d be jumping into a new relationship after… after David… but I can’t say that I hate the idea of getting to know you better… every part of you and getting to spend a lot more ‘quality’ time with you.”

“Good. So, we agree on that at least.”

I felt myself blush as I smiled at the heated look he gave me. My cheeks turning pink and then red actually made him cough out a laugh. Great, now he knew how easy it was to tease a blush out of me. Awesome.

“That we do.”

We both returned our attention to eating our food, but after a couple of bites he asked, “So did you mean it when you said that you aren’t coming with us to Ireland?”

I nodded replying, “Absolutely.”

He raised an eyebrow at my brief reply. Hell, he actually looked impressed by it for the briefest of moments. “Alight. But if you changed your mind then we could continue this overseas and I could… how did you put it? I could… Fuck your brains out every day?”

“Oh my God,” I groaned out softly as I felt my cheeks heat up again.

“What?” He asked in an innocent tone that should be impossible for him to use.

I shook my head and forced myself not to laugh at the look on his face. “Now I get why you looked so annoyed last night… That sounds much worse out loud than it did in my head. But to answer your question, I can’t go… for more reasons than I can name, but I’ll add our budding… whatever you want to call it to the list. You’ll need to keep your focus on finding Abel while you’re there. I would hate myself if I distracted you and someone got hurt because of that.”

He paused to let my words sink in before he gave me a curt nod. “Alright, that makes sense.”

That’s it? I thought as I watched him return to eating his food. Shit. That was easier than dealing with Opie.

I finished my breakfast before Happy. I got up and placed my dishes in the sink then walked over to his side to kiss his cheek. “Thank for doing the dishes. I won’t take long, I promise.”

He caught my hand as I started to walk towards the door. When I turned to look at him, he said, “I pulled out a couple of fresh towels if you want to take a shower.”

“Oh. Okay… Thanks.” When he didn’t let go of my hand and I felt his thumb run back and forth over my wrist, I quietly asked, “Happy?”

He gently tugged on my arm until I walked back to this side. He then pulled me down onto his lap and smothered my weak protest with a kiss. I barely had a chance to reciprocate before he released my lips and said, “I can’t wait until I can get you out of those clothes and back into my bed again.”

I felt myself give him a dreamy smile before I leaned forward to kiss him. “I can’t either.”

He then let me slip off his lap and walk out of the room. At the kitchen door, I paused and turned back to look at him and playfully say, “Guess that means you guys should doddle while you’re in Ireland. The sooner you find Abel, the sooner you can get me naked and keep me that way in your bed for as long as you want.”

He was up on his feet and picking me up to throw me over his shoulder before I got that last word out. I smothered my laughter into his back as I tried to get a grip on his belt to keep myself from falling. Guess we weren’t going to wait until they got back from overseas for us to go another round. Not that I was complaining about that at all.

Chapter Text

I SOLVE EVERY EQUATION WITH A PUSH AND A SHOVE

I kept myself plastered to Happy’s back and my arms wrapped tightly around his waist as he manually pushed his bike back into its parking spot. When I noticed Tara driving away, I hugged his waist even tighter so that I could put my chin on his shoulder to watch the show. One of the Porn Stars affiliated to the Club’s business (sorry, not sorry for not remembering her name. Lyla was the only one I cared about because she was basically the stepmother to my niece and nephew. In my head the rest were just Skinny Bitch One, Skinny Bitch Two or Blond Skinny Skank A and so on) had stepped out of the clubhouse right behind Lyla. I couldn’t hear what they said to each other, but whatever Skinny Blond Skank said had Lyla smacking her so hard that it almost brought the leggy Porn Star to her knees.

“Holy shit,” I gasped out softly as I eased myself off the back of Happy’s bike. “Looks like we got here just in the nick of time.”

He took the helmet I was passing him asking, “You think?”

“Absolutely. I’m pretty sure the worst of the drama is over now that the three of them have left.” He gave me a wide-eyed look of shock at that comment. I placed my left hand on my cocked left hip and asked, “What? I can be a girly girl when I want to, but you have my permission… no… I’m ordering you right now to dump my dumbass if I EVER start acting like a Drama Queen.”

“You’re ordering me?” He asked with a smirk I couldn’t quite decipher.

“Well… no… I’m… Just don’t let me act like a little bitch, please?”

He pulled me into a side hug with his arm around my neck. He kissed the side of my head then said, “Deal.”

When we got to the door of the clubhouse, I stopped him from pulling the door open so that I could smother him with a kiss. When I released his lips, he just looked a question at me, so I gave him a cheeky smile replying, “Just sealing the deal with a kiss.”

“Oh… well then…” He wrapped his right arm around my waist and pulled me into his chest. He steadied my head with a hand on the side of my face so that he could devour my lips. I mean it… it was an AMAZING kiss that literally made me weak in the knees. Hand to God, I was actually swooning when he released my lips. When he saw the look on my face, he smirked and declared, “There. Now the deal has been properly sealed.”

He then moved towards the door but halted suddenly when I didn’t make any attempts to move at all and it caused him to stumble slightly because he was still holding my hand. He took half a step towards me asking, “Andie?”

I glared playfully at him and ‘threw’ his hand at his side replying, “Show off. When you get back…”

I didn’t finish my thought. Instead, I closed the distance between me and the door. Happy caught my arm as I passed him to stop me and asked, “When I get back, what?”

I leaned in to answer in a quiet, husky voice, “I’ll pull out a few of my won dirty tricks to get back at you. Just you wait.”

“You will, will you?” He questioned in a low voice that boarded on a seductive growl.

I started opening the door then because I didn’t expect him to take a playful nip at my ear lobe. That caused me to shriek out an excited ‘YES!’ as I finally got the door opened. When Happy noticed that we had an audience, he dropped his arm that had been wrapped around my waist so that he could hold the door open for me.

I almost turned to ask him if everything was alright, but I froze in my spot when I heard Opie call out, “Drea?”

I turned my attention to the opposite side of the room from where Happy was standing to find my brother looking completely confused. It looked like he had been walking towards the apartment, but he stopped suddenly for some reason. Okay, I guess him hearing me shriek in a way he hadn’t heard from me since the last grad party we attended together had made him stop. Shit… SHIT and triple shit.

Happy slipped past me with a quiet, “Coffee?”

“Please,” I breathed out without really moving my lips as I took a couple of steps towards my twin. “Heya Opie.”

“Hey yourself,” he replied as he took a couple of large strides towards me to meet me halfway. He watched as Happy claimed two mugs from one of the Prospects and asked, “Did you come with Happy?”

I shrugged then coyly answered, “A lady doesn’t kiss and tell.”

That reply caused his eyes to bug out comically wide. “Drea? You…? You and Happy?”

“Opie,” I started as I used my fingertips to close his now gaping mouth. I then more forcefully stated, “A lady DOESN’T kiss and tell. Now can I ask you a question?”

“Only if you actually answer mine.”

I rolled my eyes and almost refused to give him a proper reply. I say almost because my gaze instinctively found Happy where he was standing by the bar and he gave me an almost imperceptible nod. I knew that was his way of telling me to come clean with my brother, so I tried to figure out a way to answer him without scaring him for life.

“Alright… fine. Yes, we… we did. But last night was our first time… y’know… like that.”

“You…? And happy? Shit…”

“What?” I demanded when he trailed off as I crossed my arms over my chest. “See? This… THIS is why I never tell you shit like this. Dammit Opie.”

“What?! No… sorry… Drea, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean… It’s just… He’s… you… it’s…” I raised an eyebrow as I ground my teeth together angrily. “Fuck… Drea, it caught me by surprise. Not in a bad way… Just… I didn’t see that coming. I mean… I know you’ve been hanging out and all, but… But hey… if you’re happy, I’m happy. Really. So… what…? What was your question, Big Sis?”

I took in a deep breath and let my hands fall to my sides. If he was willing to make an effort (trust me, it took more effort than you know to call me ‘Big Sis’ without gagging or dry heaving on his part) then so could I. “Why was Lyla going all hardass pimp on one of your Porn Star’s outside?”

“What? What was Lyla doing?”

I smirked then answered, “In the immortal words of Cypress Hill, ‘If your girl steps up, I’m smacking the hoe.’ But not me, Lyla.”

“Drea… Come on, I’m being serious.”

I straightened to my full height in my spot then said, “So am… Okay sorry. But when we got here, Lyla was…”

“Lyla almost knocked Ima on her ass she smacked her so hard,” Happy finished for me. He then passed me a mug with a quiet, “Black with one spoonful of sugar.”

“Perfect. Thanks.” He nodded then sauntered over to the bar to prepare his own mug of coffee. “Alright… What he said.”

“Oh… That… Uhh… Jac and her…”

“Hooked up?” I interrupted inadvertently in surprise. When I saw the shocked look on Opie’s face, I more somberly added, “Sorry. You were saying?”

“Well I was saying just that. I was heading down to ask him what the hell he was thinking last night when he hit that.”

“Okay, but…” I gently brushed my right index fingertip down his left cheekbone. “Did someone go all pimp on you too?” He nodded with an embarrassed look in his eye. I took a step back and dropped all of the humor from my tone as I all but demanded, “What did you do?”

“It’s fine, Drea. I…”

“Opie…” I tried to pat the spot between my shoulder blades but it didn’t look as damning or graceful as Opie did when he tapped his sternum, so I grabbed one of his hands and placed it over my tattoo, forcing him to hug me into him as I placed my left hand over his tattoo. “Don’t you dare lie to me. What did you do to piss off my future sister in law?”

“Drea…” I gently punched him on the chest, causing him to catch my fist before I could thump his chest with more force. “I’m going to apologize to her, I swear. First, I really need to check in with Jax… I mean… if that’s okay with you.”

“Of course. And Baby Bro? If you need me to smack some sense into Jax like Lyla did with you, don’t hesitate to let me know. I would be more than happy to do that. MORE than happy.”

“Alright, Sis,” he replied with a chuckle as he pulled me into a hug. “I’ll definitely let you know. Promise. I love you, Drea.”

“I love you too, Ope. Good luck with him.”

He gave me one more squeeze before he turned and hurried down the hall. I picked up my mug of coffee off one of the tables and started sipping form it while I watched Opie walk away. My brother didn’t spare even a single glance back before he stepped into the apartment. I don’t know what I was expecting from him since this was technically club business, but it kind of bugged me. I have worked really hard not to mettle in clubhouse business, especially in the last decade. Add to that that this all boiled down to Jax possibly cheating on Tara. I so didn’t want to touch that with a ten-foot pole. I mean that was a whole world of no; so not a subject I wanted to get myself involved in at all.

Instead of spending another second thinking about that, I carried my coffee over to one of the couches where Happy was sitting and drinking his coffee. When he saw me approaching, he said, “Should I ask?”

I shook my head as I curled up on the couch beside him. “This is the perfect cup of coffee. Thanks again.”

He smiled as he wrapped an arm around my shoulders to pull me properly into his side. He kept his eyes trained on the Prospects working behind the bar while he lowered his voice to ask, “What about your brother?”

I almost sat back to ask him what he meant, but I stopped when the answer hit me. I dropped my left shoulder so that I could tuck myself into his arm pit and snuggled more closely into his side. “He’s fine.”

“That’s it?” He asked, suspicion clear in his tone. “Opie’s fine…? You don’t have anything else to say?”

“Oh… I have more to say… A LOT more. But that’s the gist of it. He said that he’s happy if I’m happy. Since I’m better than good, he’s fine too.”

“Alright. But…? What about your dad?”

I put my empty mug down on the coffee table so that I could give him a proper hug. “I was going to check outside to see if he made it here yet or not. I want to tell him about us before any of these nosy bitches get a chance to tell him they were jealous watching me cuddle with you on this couch.”

“You don’t think…?”

“No,” I quickly answered. “He an I have an understanding.”

“An understanding?”

“Yep.” I stood up and placed a soft, chaste kiss on his lips. “I’ll let you know how it went later.”

He just nodded and returned to drinking his coffee. I paused at the door to watch him for a couple of seconds while I marveled at the changes in my life. When Opie had dumped me into the arms of a relative stranger, I never would have guessed that we would have ended up here. It all really stated with him going with me to David’s service. After being a pillar of support that night, he started making it a habit to check in on me whenever he could. That turned into us spending almost all of our free time together. Hell, he had even popped his head into the office to see if he could help me clean up after the Sheriff’s raid. He said that it looked like a tornado had blown through the room and just started helping me rearrange everything until he had to leave with the club to take care of some business.

I still found it kind of unnerving how comfortable he was to exist in silence, but he was also the only person I had been able to tell some of my weirdest thoughts and feelings since David’s death. At first, I thought that I had been able to bare my soul to him because I thought of him as a stranger. You know, how you tell someone you don’t know all that well some really embarrassing shit because you don’t really care what they think of you? They could think whatever they wanted about you because they weren’t a permanent fixture in your life, so you didn’t spare any energy on it.

But that wasn’t what had happened with Happy. While I was in the shower one day, I realized that I had been so transparent with him because I felt comfortable with him because I considered him a friend. Growing up I had a lot more male friends than female because I had more in common with guys. For the most part, I had just been friends with them and we never crossed into the realm of romance, except for a couple of rare exceptions. I guess I was going to be able to add Happy’s name to that second list now.

I left the clubhouse as a goofy smile spread across my face at that last thought. I hadn’t been wanting or expecting a new romance to blossom, but I can’t say that I was upset that one was growing with him. Maybe I felt okay about it because it had come about so organically. Neither of us forced this to happen. Hell, Happy had asked more than once if I had a change of heart after I kissed him and then followed him to his bike. There had been more than one chance for me to completely back out, but I never hesitated. Not once to kiss him and tell him that I was good with what we were doing.

“Short Stack? Are you alright?” I heard Dad call out as he lumbered towards me.

I rushed to close the distance between us in the parking lot and gave him an enthusiastic hug. “I’m fine, Daddy. But there’s something I want to talk to you about.”

“Alight.” He took my hand and led me over to the picnic table. Once we were seated facing each other on opposite benches, he asked, “What is it Andie?”

The worried look on his face made me reach across the tabletop and take one of his hands into both of mine. “It isn’t anything bad… Well… At least I don’t think it is.”

He smiled and looked more at ease as he answered, “That’s a relief to hear. So? What is it then? Have you changed your mind about going to Ireland so that you can keep an eye on your brother for me?”

“No,” I replied with a soft chuckle. “Still SO not going to Ireland.” I then took in a deep breath and started stroking his forearm as I continued, “You know why I can’t go overseas.”

“Is this about your silly superstition?”

“No, Dad, it isn’t. I promised Gemma that I’d help keep TM running smoothly. It’ll be too much for you to be in charge of TM and help Lyla with Kenny and Ellie. So… because of those commitments, I’m staying State’s side.”

“Alright. Then what did you need to talk to me about?” Something about his tone made me pull my hands back and tug my shirt sleeves over my hands. I stared at them while I tried to decide how to start this conversation with him. He stared at me in silence for a couple of minutes and then he narrowed his eyes and asked, “Isn’t that what you were wearing yesterday?”

SHIT! I thought as I looked down at my outfit. Who would have thought that out of everyone, it would be Dad that noticed that one minor…? Okay not so minor detail? Well, I guess that’s a good place to start.

“Yeah, actually it is,” I answered as I felt my cheeks start to heat up. Great, now I looked like I was embarrassed about this when was feeling anything but.

“Short Stack? What’s wrong?” He worriedly asked when I hesitated.

“Nothing…” He gave me a peeved look that made me laugh softly. I was finally feeling more at ease as I answered, “Really, Daddy. Nothing’s wrong. I’m just… I guess I don’t really know where to start.”

“The beginning is usually the best place.”

That made me laugh again. It sounded so simple. Fuck, maybe it WAS that simple and I was the one overcomplicating things again. “Alright… The beginning… When I started hanging out here in high school, you said you wouldn’t interfere if I wanted to hook up with anyone from the MC…”

“That’s right. That was unless you wanted me to step in. Do you…?”

“No, Dad. No, I don’t. But you also said that you wanted me to be upfront with you so that you wouldn’t be blindsided by it. And… well… That’s what I’m trying to do now.”

“You…? Oh.”

I reached across the table again and squeezed his hand because I totally understood why he seemed so shocked. Although he had laid out the ground rules over a decade ago, this was the first time we had ever had this conversation. Part of the charm of dating outside of the MC was that I didn’t have to advertise to my family anything about my relationships. I could keep all the details, including the identity of my beau, confidential and fly under the radar. That had always worked well for me because then I didn’t have to worry about my twin and his brothers doing anything stupid, like having a ‘talk’, with my boyfriend.

“Yeah,” I tried again. “So… You know that I’ve been hanging out with Happy a lot lately…”

He nodded saying, “You said he was one of the only reasons that you made it through Hale’s service without imploding.”

“That’s still true. But since then we’ve been hanging out a lot here at TM. We’ve had lunch together most every day and last night we sort of decided that we were going to take the next step.”

Dad raised a questioning eyebrow then asked, “Decided or…”

When he trailed off, I felt my blush return with a vengeance. When he saw my cheeks start to turn red, he barked out a loud laugh. “I take it that you took the first step to change your relationship status?”

I nodded and quietly answered, “Yeah, I did.”

He stood up and walked around the table to hug me. “Hey, don’t sound so scared. I don’t want or need to her any of the gory details. But, if you took the first step then I know you weren’t pressured into anything, so I don’t have to beat him down to defend your honor.”

“No, Daddy, I wasn’t pressured at all,” I replied with a bit of a chuckle as I hugged him back. “So…? Really? You’re really okay with this?”

He released me from his hold so that he could reestablish eye contact with me. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little surprised… I didn’t think you and Happy would click this well. I was actually thinking that Kozik was trying to court you again and you were going to let him.”

“Court? Did you really just say that?”

He tried to glare at me for teasing him. “You know what I mean.”

“I do. But… nothing has changed between me and Kozik. And I honestly don’t think it ever will. He just…”

“You don’t have to explain it to me, Sweetheart. So? You and Happy, eh?”

“Yeah. You’re…? You’re okay with that, right?”

“Happy as my son in law?” He mused quietly to himself as he stroked his chin and tried to look pensive.

“Son in law? Dad, we’re just…” I stopped myself before I accidentally said ‘we’re just fucking right now’ because that wasn’t true, not completely. Instead, I said, “We’re just at the beginning stages, so don’t start picking out china patterns and planning a wedding just yet.”

“Alright, if you say so. But if you have a new romance starting, don’t you want to keep an eye on him while he’s overseas?”

I rolled my eyes at his innuendo, but before I could answer, the door to the clubhouse opened. Juice’s head appeared out the doorway and he quickly found where Dad and I were now standing.

He smiled apologetically and said, “Sorry to interrupt, but we’re ready to go over the final travel plans in the chapel.”

“Alright, just give…”

“He’ll be right in,” I interrupted over Dad’s reply. Juice smiled uncomfortably and disappeared back into the clubhouse without another word. When we were alone again, I hugged Dad saying, “Go. We can finish this later. Plus, we’ll have lots of time for you to tease me about it while the guys are away.”

“Andie,” he started in a firm voice as he gently pushed out of my embrace. “I would never make fun of you… not for this.”

“I know. But I fully expect some teasing from you and Opie. Don’t forget, I’ve heard the stories you all have told about each other over the years, so I know all about Happy’s reputation.”

“And yet you still…”

He didn’t have to finish that thought because I knew what he meant. “He’s never been like that with me.”

“That’s good to hear.”

We hugged one last time before we parted ways. Since they were going over their travel plans, I knew the club would be busy for the next little while. I then went to the office to finish reorganizing the business files. What can I say? Since I could start from scratch, I organized everything to mirror how I had put together my files at my bar. It wasn’t how Gemma kept the records, but I was going to be in charge now, so I could have things my way… At least for the next few months.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I must have lost track of time while I was working because the next thing I knew, the door to the office opened without a knock or waring. Miles steppe inside with Gemma’s bird in a cage in his hand. When he saw me sitting at the desk, he froze in his spot, mid-step.

“Oh sorry, Andie. I didn’t… I mean, I thought…”

“It’s fine, Miles,” I cut in when he stammered out his explanation. “I take it that everyone’s ready to leave?”

 He nodded answering, “Jax and Clay are stopping by St. Thomas before heading to the airstrip, but other than that… Yeah, we’re just finishing loading the van.

Everything I had been working on into a pile and left it on the desk. I could feel Miles watching me, so I explained, “I told Dad that I wanted to see everyone off and say goodbye at the very least.”

That seemed to make sense to him, but I didn’t wait around to hear his reply. I knew the guys were on a bit of a time crunch, so I didn’t want to waste any of it or delay them in any way. Plus, Miles was a Prospect. I really didn’t owe him an explanation. If he didn’t like or understand what I was doing, didn’t really matter. Usually I wasn’t that calloused, but I didn’t have the luxury of spare time to stroke his ego. If he was still bothered by it tomorrow, I could always apologize to him then.

Chapter Text

NOW THAT I LOVE YOU  

Since Clay and Jax had taken the tow truck to visit Gemma at the hospital, I decided to ride with everyone else in the van to the airport. I figured that that way the Prospects could drive the truck back to TM while I rode with Dad in the van. I would never say it to him, but I hated watching Dad ride or drive on his own lately. I was worried that something might go wrong because of one or more of his medical conditions and he would get into a wreck. I hated the idea of him getting hurt or, heaven forbid, hurting someone else accidentally. However, I knew I could never say anything to him. The one time I tried, it hadn’t ended well, and I didn’t want to end up in a fight where we avoided each other and refused to speak again.  

When he saw me get into the passenger seat of the van, Opie instantly perked up in his seat. I chuckled to shook and myself my head vigorously as I said, “Don’t get your hopes up like that, Little Bro. I’m just riding with dad because we have some supplies to pick up after we drop your asses off at the airport.”  

“Sure, you do,” Opie replied, sarcasm dripping off each word he spoke.  

I was going to try to mount a new argument with him, but I quickly decided against it. For one, the guys had enough shit on their mind, they didn’t need to listen to the two of us bickering before they flew overseas. For two, I didn’t want Happy to see how truly immature Opie and I could be when we locked horns together. What can I say? I was a big girl and I could admit that fact to myself, but that didn’t mean that changing my behavior would be just as easy or that I wanted my newest romantic prospect to see that side of me this early in the process.   

When we arrived at the airstrip, I hung back and watched as the guys unloaded their luggage and gear and divided up some of their supplies to carry to the plane. We were still waiting for Jax and Clay to arrive, so they seemed to do what they could to stall. The plane had already been loaded with Oswald’s supplies, so everyone was getting antsy waiting for their President and Vice-President to join us…err… them.  

I had said my goodbyes to everyone as we unpacked, so I lingered close to Dad and the van while we waited for Jax and Clay. Opie quickly found himself drifting in my direction, so I quietly asked him, “Lyla has my number, right? She knows that I’m more than happy to help with the kids…? Parker too?”  

“Yes, she does,” he answered with a warm, proud smile. “And I told her to try TM first if she needs to get a hold of you or Dad during the day.”  

“Okay. Good… Good because…”  

Opie wrapped his arms around me and crushed my face into this chest to silence the rest of my nervous rambling. “I apologized to her… We’re good, so she won’t hesitate to call If she needs help from either of you, I promise.”  

“Alright… Good to hear…” I repositioned myself so that I was now tucked against his side. That way I could see everyone while we continued to wait for Clay and Jax’s arrival. Where the hell are they?!  

“Where the hell are they?” I heard Oswald’s words echoing my own thoughts. “The plane has to…”  

He trailed off when he saw a vintage black car turn into the hanger. We all watched in silence as Tara’s car was parked itself by the van. What the hell was she doing here? Tara wasn’t going to Ireland. Hell, after what she walked in on this morning, I hadn’t expected to ever see her anywhere close to the club again. Well, except at the hospital or randomly on the street. I figured she’d steer clear of anywhere remotely connected to the club and yet here she was… or rather, there was her car.  

Opie released his hold on me the second the car appeared in the hanger. I’m not sure what he was expecting to happen right then. He and everyone else looked as tense and apprehensive as I felt until we all saw Jax sept out of the driver’s seat after the car came to a stop.  

What the hell?  

“Cutting it close,” Oswald pointed out to the newcomer unnecessarily.  

Jax gave him a peeved look as he answered, “Sorry. We had to give someone a ride. NOT my idea.”  

Just then Clay got out of the car followed by Gemma. Holy shit. Last I heard she was being discharged from the hospital and was going to transferred to County jail. Fuck, that ATF bitch was going to be pissed when she found out that Gemma had skipped town again.  

The guys all rushed to Clay’s side to grab Gemma’s bag from him. Jax tossed the car’s keys towards Dad, but I caught  them and said, “I’ll make sure she gets her car back as soon as possible.”  

Jax smiled replying, “Thanks Andie. Alright... Are we ready to go?”  

Everyone nodded then Clay announced, “Let’s go find your son.”  

As we watched the club, plus Gemma, walk with Oswald out to the plane, I moved up to Dad’s right. He pulled me into his side and sort of used me as a crutch. It was times like this when I could really see and feel his age showing. The oxygen tank he had to use really made him look more fragile than he wanted everyone to think he was. Not that I would ever be dumb enough to point that truth out to him.  

While we watched the club walk away from us, I hugged Dad around the waist and asked, “I missed it. Where are Tig and the tow truck right now ?”  

“Keeping the cops off Gemma’s trail.”  

“Shit,” I breathed out as an involuntary shudder ran up my spine.  

“You can say that again.” He hugged me closer into his side and let out his own heavy sigh. “Don’t take this the wrong way, Short Stack, but I wish you were going with them.”  

“Dad...” I started to protest.  

When I tried to release myself form his embrace, Dad tightened his hold around my neck. It became so tight that he actually started to cut off my oxygen supply. I’m sure it was accidental, but I stopped struggling against him just to make sure his arm didn’t get any tighter around my throat.  

“I know why you’re staying and I really appreciate it. But now that Tig is staying here too, I would feel better knowing that you were watching your brother’s back.”  

I smiled and turned so that I could hug him properly. “Oh that? Don’t worry, Daddy, I’ve got that covered.”  

“You do?”  

“Yep. I recruited Happy to make sure Opie makes it home in one piece.” Dad gave me wide eyes causing me to laugh. “Exactly. Can you get one of the Prospects to pick me up at St. Thomas in a couple of hours?”  

Dad still looked slightly stunned so I turned back from walking towards Tara’s car as I called out, “Dad...? Are...?”  

He shook his head then replied, “ Sorry . Yeah, one of them will pick you up.”  

“Dad...?”  

“I’m fine,” he cut in. “Just... Nevermind , it’s fine. You drive safe.”  

“You too.”  

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX  

It took more time than I thought it would to find Tara and get her car back to her. When she arrived at the nurse’s station and saw that it was me waiting for her, she froze mid-step for a couple of seconds. Thankfully, she finished her approach before everything could get too awkward.  

“Andie, I... I wasn’t expecting to see you,” she admitted as I handed her the keys.  

I smiled softly and stifled a laugh to answer, “Normally one of the Prospects would have come, but I was hoping you’d have a couple of minutes to spare to chat with me. I swear I won’t take up too much of your time.”  

“Yeah... sure. Is...? Are...? Are you okay?”  

“Me? Oh, yeah. But... Umm... It’s kind of a sensitive subject that isn’t really for public consumption.”  

That got her attention. She looked over both of her shoulders and noticed how many people were milling about the wait room, both hospital staff and civilians. Tara then gestured down the hall, so I followed her to a supply closet that she had to use an ID card to open.  

After the door was shut tight, she asked, “What did you want to talk about, Andie?”  

“A couple of things. Number one, I heard what Jax did and... Fuck... That was a douchey move on his part. I... I guess I just wanted you to know that most of us are on your side, so if we... I can do anything to help, don’t hesitate to let us know.”  

“Not sure there’s much anyone can do right now.”  

“True, but if you need help moving or anything like that, the Prospects are still here, so they can help with that.”  

“Oh... right. I’ll... I’ll keep that in mind, thanks.”  

“No problem. And I know Lyla already tried to smack the stupid out of Ima, but if you want to do it yourself, I’m sure that could be arranged.”  

Tara actually laughed at that offer. It was one of those surprised, ‘did I hear that right?’ kind of laughs. She wasn’t trying to mock me or my offer. In fact, when she finished her brief laughing fit, she actually looked genuinely more at ease with me.  

“That’s a very tempting offer, but I don’t think getting into a catfight with a Porn Star will make me feel better.”  

“Fair enough. But, don’t forget that it’s a standing offer with no expiration date.”  

“I won’t. Is...? Was that all you wanted to talk about?”  

I shook my head and lost all of the humor out of my tone. “No, actually there’s something else. Since they all showed up in your car, I take it that you know where Gemma is...? Well where she’s heading to right now, right?”  

“I do,” she answered with a familiar suspicious tone in her voice.  

“Look, I don’t know nor do I want to know any details about how she ended up in your car with Jax and Clay... You know I would never rat so I don’t need to know about that. I... I’m just worried about Gemma.”  

“Worried about her? Why?”  

“I... I watched her collapse and... God there’s nothing scarier than watching Gemma be taken out. Add to it that it was her own heart that did it...” I paused as an involuntary shudder ran through my body. “That was one of the scariest things I have ever had to witness.... Second only to... to...”  

“I understand, Andie. She’ll be fine. The new meds are working really well for her and she has enough of them to cover a short stay. So long as she takes them on a proper schedule, her heart shouldn’t be an issue.”  

“You mean that?”  

“Absolutely. I can’t say that her emotions won’t take a toll on her physical health... But medically her heart is functioning better than we thought it would when she was rushed here by ambulance.”  

I let out a relieved breath at that explanation. “Thank God. Seriously, I can’t tell you how relieved I am to hear you say that. And thank you for everything that you’ve done. I really appreciate it.”  

“You’re welcome. But most of it, I was just doing my job.”  

“True. But thank you for being so damn good at your job.”  

She chuckled again. “You’re welcome. So, can I maybe ask you a question?”  

Of course, you can.”  

“Have you heard any updates about Tig?”  

“Nope,” I replied with a shake of my head to emphasis the negative. “I was thinking about stopping by the police station to ask Unser about him, but I’m guessing that most of us are on his shit list after Gemma’s escape.”  

“Yeah, I have a feeling you might be right. I have to go down there to give an official statement, so I’d be more than happy to check on him if you want.”  

“That would be amazing. Here...” I pulled a business card for TH out of my pocket and passed it to her. “My number’s on the back if I can help with anything.”  

“Perfect. I’ll let you know what I find out.”  

“Great. And feel free to use it for anything else. I mean it.”  

“I promise I will. Did...? Do you need a ride?”  

I followed her as she opened the door and made her way back to the nurse’s station. “No, I should...” I stopped myself there when I saw Phil walking down the hall towards us. “Perfect timing, there’s my ride.”  

Tara smiled then said, “Okay, good. I guess I’ll talk to you later.”  

“Great. And Tara? If you want to talk about other stuff or grab a drink or... I have a punching bag set up at my old place, don’t hesitate to call.”  

“All very tempting offers. I’ll be sure to let you know.”  

She turned and left me to wait for fill to finish his approach. He looked kind of unsure when he finally made it to my side, so I patted his arm and then used it to turn him around so that we could walk down the hall towards where he had just come from. “You have impeccable timing, Phil.”  

“I do? Really? Because I thought that maybe I had interrupted you and Tara.”  

“Nope, we were done.” I laughed self-consciously then added, “But normally, if you see me alone with Tara, it’s a really good idea to interrupt us.”  

“What? Why...? I mean... Okay, I’ll keep that in mind.”  

“Phil,” I called out as I pulled him to a stop. “Hey, I’m not a member of the club or anyone’s Old Lady, so you’re allowed to ask me questions.”  

“No, I’m... we’re... Us Prospects aren’t allowed.”  

“Excuse...” I stopped myself there and swallowed some of the anger I felt creeping into my tone. Phil was just following orders; he wasn’t the person that my anger should be directed at right now. “Who told you that?”  

He just shook his head and turned to keep walking towards the exit. I rushed to cut him off and stopped him with a hand on each of his biceps. “Phil, I swear I won’t say anything to get you into trouble. Please, just tell me the truth. It was my dad that said it, wasn’t it?”  

He just shook his head ‘No’ in reply. I straightened up in my place in surprise and asked (all be it sounding slightly confused), “Opie?”  

That elicited a soft chuckle form him as he answered, “No.”  

I let go of his arms while I took in that information. Who else could it have been if it wasn’t Dad or Opie? Finally, I just crossed my arms over my chest and more timidly asked, “Jax?” He shook his head again. “Clay?”  

That earned me another laugh as he replied, “Nope.”  

“But those...” I stopped as another name came to me from out of the blue. I then stepped closer to him so that I could lower my voice to ask, “Was...? Did Happy say something?”  

His eyes went wide as he answered, “No. But then again he’s just as scary when he’s silent and gives us ‘the look’.”  

Now it was my turn to chuckle. “You’re so not wrong. Alright... Seriously, I give. I can’t for the life of me figure out who would go all Papa Bear on you guys if it wasn’t Dad or Ope. Please, Phil... It’s killing me. Please tell me who it was?”  

He stared at me with an assessing eye and after a couple of seconds he seemed to completely deflate. “Alright... alright... it was Tig.”  

“Tig? Seriously?”  

He nodded then explained, “He laid down some ground rules for us while they are gone. He also said to keep Kozik away from you as much as possible.”  

“He did? Wow. I guess I forgot about his protective streak. Okay, so his heart was in the right place, but he’s being a little harsh on you guys. If I don’t want to answer a question, I’ll just tell you that it’s none of your fucking business. If you press me, then I’ll be pissed. But, if you just drop it, then we’ll be fine. Deal?”  

“Deal.”  

We resumed walking towards the exit then. Once we were outside, Phil finally asked, “So why is it a bad idea to leave you and Tara alone?”  

“Up until recently she and I got along about as well as throwing water on a grease fire.”  

“What happened recently to change that?”  

“Everyone got a front row seat to watch me have a meltdown of epic proportions after we all watched my boyfriend be murdered.”  

“Oh man, I... I’m...”  

I wrapped myself around his right arm and hugged it tightly. “Nothing for you to apologize for. But long and short? Time seems to have changed her mind about me and things are more civil between us now.”  

He moved his arm so that it was wrapped around my shoulders and gave me a quick hug. “That’s good to hear. We can always come up with a signal or something if you need help with a quick exit from a conversation with Tara.”  

“Phil,” I replied with a huge smile evident in my tone. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”  

 

Chapter Text

I’M AFRAID IT’S TOO LATE

“Hey! Did I say you could touch that?”

I continued to dig the pointer and middle fingers of both my hands into my temples to try to massage my headache away as I turned my eyes to the office door. I’ve never had a migraine before, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to say that about myself much longer if I had to keep listening to Tig and Kozik fight. No, not fight. If I had to listen to them bitch and snipe at each other like teenage cheerleaders fighting over the star athlete, they both wanted to bone.

Fuck! Why didn’t I listen to everyone and go to Ireland? Why did I think it would be a better idea to take over here at the garage?

“Short Stack?”

I kept my eyes focused on the desktop while I kept massaging my temples and answered, “Just a couple more minutes, Dad. I think I finally got this headache under control.”

He chuckled at that and I felt his hand grip my neck to massage it. “I think it’s going to take more than massaging your temples to make that headache go away.”

“I know. But I’m pretty sure Jax and Clay wouldn’t be too happy if I kill Tig or Kozik, so it’s the best I can do right now.”

He laughed a little louder even though I was being completely serious. Well, not completely, but the longer I sat here listening to them, the more I thought that I really could end one, if not both of their lives.

“You have a point there, but I think I can offer an alternative to homicide.”

“Maiming them?” He shook his head. “Send one of them on a supply run?”

“No,” he replied firmly. “I’m not giving up my chance to get away from them, so I’m doing the supply run.”

“And you’re taking me with you? Please, Daddy?” He shook his head again with an amused smile. “Please? I’m your favorite daughter.”

“You’re my only daughter,” he countered with a boisterous laugh.

“Exactly. I’m your favorite, even if it’s by default, so take me with you. Please!”

He shook his head again then answered in a more somber tone, “I need to make a couple of stops on club business and I don’t want you getting tangled up in that.”

“I can just stay in the van.”

The expression on his face hardened as he said, “You know why that won’t work. I’m sorry, Sweetheart, but I need you to stay here.”

“Fine. But if anything happens to those two while you’re gone, I claim no responsibility. I’ll plead temporary insanity.”

Dad chuckled as he hugged my head and kissed the top of it. “Or you could go work in the office in the clubhouse. Chucky can call you when you’re needed to deal with any costumers.”

“What? No, I can’t do that. That’s Juice’s office.”

He had started to exit Gemma’s office and stopped at the door to say, “True. But I don’t think he’ll be needing it any time soon.”

I just stared in stunned disbelief as I watched him leave. He was right, just like the office I was sitting in right now, its usual occupant was halfway across the globe, so me working in that office wouldn’t disrupt Juice from any of his hacking duties or whatever else the club needed him to work on.

After I had everything I needed bundled up, I called out, “Chucky!”

He appeared almost instantly at the opened office door to ask, “What can I do for you Miss Andie?”

“I’m having a hard time concentrating, so I’m going to hid away in the office in the clubhouse. Will you be okay manning the phones?”

“Of course. And I can just transfer any customers with questions I can't answer to you in that office.”

“Perfect. That’s exactly what I was hoping you would say. And don’t forget to call if anything else starts to get out of hand.”

His gaze followed where I was jutting my chin in Tig and Kozik’s general direction. The two bikers were still bickering about something, albeit in a lower tone than they had been using earlier. He laughed for a couple of seconds and then a thought hit him. He did a skip jump then ran to catch up with me. I hadn’t noticed him trying to get my attention, so he had to grab my shoulder to get me to stop.

As I turned to face him, I asked, “What is it Chucky?”

“You...? You don’t really think it will come to that. I mean them getting into an actual, physical fight, right?”

Before I answered him, I watched Tig and Kozik work. They were finally working in silence and kept their full attention on the task they were working on.

“I hope not. But... Try to keep as much space and a Prospect between them as much as possible just to be on the safe side.”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

I was nearly finished my phone calls for the day when I heard footsteps walking towards me. Since I was basically done, I packed everything up into two piles in anticipation of leaving for the day.

“OH! Andie, I didn’t realize you were in here.”

I left the two pile and turned to face the door. “Hey Tara. I had a lot of calls to make so I relocated here because it’s quieter.”

“I don’t blame you for that. But Tig and Kozik? What the hell is going on with the two of them.

“A long-standing feud.”

“Do you know what it’s about?”

I shook my head answering, “But even if I did, it’s isn’t my story to tell.”

“Fair enough. So? Are those the receivables?”

My gaze followed hers to my two piles of papers. “Most of them. Do you need them for something?”

“Yeah... well... No, I guess I don’t anymore. I was going to help Chucky out with all of that, but I guess I don’t need to anymore.”

I smiled then answered, “No, we’ve got it covered. Chucky’s actually really good at balancing the books, so he deals with most of the paperwork while I deal with the people.”

“That sounds... kind of perfect. Okay... Well I guess you have it covered here, I’ll head back to work then. Talk to you later, Andie.”

“Later.”

I turned my attention back to the desk with the full intention of picking up my work and leaving this office when a thought came to me. I quickly picked up the papers and sprinted towards the exit in an attempt to catch up to Tara. As luck would have it, I caught up to her before she could leave the clubhouse.

“Tara!”

She paused before she opened the door to ask, “Did you need something?”

“No... Well... yeah... kind of. I just wanted to say thank you for bailing Tig out. Even though I kind of want to murder him and Kozik most of the time, I really appreciate your help. I... I have a cheque for you to cover the cost.”

“Oh? Okay. Really, it’s no problem, I’m happy to help.”

We walked back towards the main office side by side in silence for a couple of steps. “When they got back here, I... I was really surprised when Tig said you were the one who bailed him out. Honestly, after... after what Jax did, I thought that you would have written us all off.”

“You’re right. It’s something that JAX did, not the club. Plus, I don’t scare off that easily.”

“Thank God for that.” Tig was just finishing a phone call at the desk, so I smiled at him and asked, “Hey Tiggy, can you pass me that envelope?”

“Of course.” After I took it from him and passed it to Tara, he sat down on the edge of the desk and said, “I have to borrow the guys for an errand. Will you be okay here on your own?”

“Sure. We don’t have any other appointments scheduled for today, so we can close up shop and Chucky and I can get caught up on some of our paperwork.”

Tig stood up and kissed my cheek. “I like the sounds of that. If you need us, for any reason, you call. Understood?”

“Absolutely. Plus, Dad and Phil should be back soon. We’ll be fine.”

“That’s true. Okay, we’ll get back as soon as we can.” As he passed Tara to join the guys by their bikes, he patted her shoulder quickly saying, “Hey, Doc. Good to see you.”

“You too.” Once he was out of earshot, she asked me, “Do you know what ‘errand’ they’re running?” I just shook my head. “Are you going to ask him about it?” Again, I shook my head to answer ‘no’. “Aren’t you curious? Don’t you want to know?”

I shook my head again. “Even though I am curious, it doesn’t really matter. It’s club business, so they’ll tell me if it’s something I need to know. Otherwise, I’m just as happy to keep my nose out of it.”

“Wow. I didn’t know you were such an obedient... daughter. I thought you were the rebel of the family, not another sheep.”

“That has nothing to do with it. I like having plausible deniability on my side. It came in really handy when I didn’t want to have to lie to my cop boyfriend. Anytime I told him I had no idea what the club was doing, it was the honest truth. That worked and continues to work well for me.”

“Shit, Andie, I... I...”

“It’s fine, Tara. You didn’t know me in high school and you don’t know me know, so it’s fine. Think whatever you want about me. I don’t... I can’t stop you.”

“Andie... I’m really sorry for... judging you. You’ve really stepped up to help out here and with the club. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“It’s fine. Like I said, you don’t really know me. I’m used to people making shitty assumptions about me. After we get to know each other better, you say shit like that to me again, I WILL be fucking pissed. And you WILL feel my wrath. I don’t give a shit whose Old Lady you are, okay?”

Her eyes went wide and I almost apologized. Almost. “After we...? You mean...?”

“You bailed Tig out. You... helped Gemma. You have every reason and right to turn your back on the club right now and yet... you bailed Tig out and so on. That gives me hope that you aren’t the stuck up, prissy bitch I thought you were in high school and that... well that you’re worth getting to know better.”

She laughed nervously at that. “Alright. I... I would really like a chance to prove that you’re right about me.”

“Good to know. Plus...” I laughed at my own thought before I finished, “Plus, if I have to keep listening to Tig and Kozik bitch and moan like two spoiled brats, I WILL have to beat one of them half to death, so I’ll be counting on you to keep them alive so that I don’t piss off Clay and Jax too much.”

“Just Clay and Jax? What about Opie and the rest of the club?”

I smiled coyly replying, “Meh I can easily convince the rest of the club that it was a necessary evil. Opie? Bah, he’s my little brother, he knows he has to have my back or else.”

That made her let out a very boisterous laugh. It was so genuine that it made her eyes sparkle. “Alright that makes perfect sense. I really have to get going now, but we’ll talk later, right?”

I nodded and sat down on the desk to watch her leave. As I watched her walk away, I raised my right hand to touch my face. Even though I could feel that my lips were pulled back into a smile, I still couldn’t believe it. Seriously, me smiling after a conversation with Tara was as likely as Elvis rolling into TM in his pink Cadillac to have us work on it. But maybe it meant that this time around was going to be different for Tara and I. FINALLY.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

“Chucky! Out!”

I looked up and watched Chucky hurry out of the room and nearly slammed the door in his haste to leave. What the hell? I felt a confused scowl form on my face while I watched chucky scurry into the garage. As I turned to face the man who had entered the room, I know my expression hadn’t changed much.

“I need to talk to you.”

I scowled even more profoundly as I watched Tig sit down in the chair Chucky had just vacated. “Alright, but you aren’t my dog, so don’t for one second think that barking at me to intimidate me will work. And on the flip side, I ain’t your bitch. Don’t think that I’ll jump to like Chucky just did when you snap out orders at me.”

He held his hands up and flashed his apologetic baby blues at me. “Right. I’m sorry, Andie. What I meant to say is, can I please have a moment of your time to ask you a couple of questions, please?”

I rolled my eyes and snorted out a laugh. “Even though you’re being a facetious asshole, go ahead. What do you want to know?”

“Andie… Sweetheart…The most beautiful of the Winston twins…” He reached over to pull mu hand over the desk to kiss my knuckles. “I really am so sorry that I offended you.”

I let out a fairly loud laugh as I gently pulled my hand out of his hold. “Seriously, Tig. We’re good. What do you want to ask me?”

He gave me a cheeky smile and sat back in his seat. “First, are you spending so much time here because you promised to help or is it because you’ve started being harassed by the developers again? I know you said you were thinking about selling, but are they trying to pressure you into giving up your property for a lower price than you think is fair?”

“What? No. Cody offered to run the place as a general manager and head bartender while I try to figure out what I want my next move to be. I check in with him regularly and he hasn’t mentioned anything about anyone representing the developer coming around again at all.”

“What about you? Have you talked to them?”

“No,” I replied shaking my head. “With everything that’s been gong on with the club and moving to Dad’s, I haven’t had a chance to try to get a hold of them. Plus, I don’t even know who I’d be trying to call, so I need to look that up still. Why…? Why do you ask?”

“We just had a chat with Lumpy about the developers trying to pressure him.”

“Just a chat? Because I don’t usually get bloody when I’m just talking to people.”

He laughed softly as he tenderly touched one corner of his mouth with the fingertips of his right hand. “This? Nah, I had to put someone in their place while we were at Lumpy’s gym.”

“Should I call Tara so that she can stitch Kozik up?”

Tig barked out a laughing replying, “No, he’s fine. It was a fair fight and he doesn’t look much worse than me.”

“Too bad,” I muttered to myself.

That caught Tig’s attention. He leaned forward and very sternly asked, “Is there something I should know?”

I just stared at him for a second before I realized I had said my comment out loud. “Shit. No, Tig. You already know the story.”

“Yeah, but that happened…”

When he trailed off, I smirked retorting, “You’re going to lecture me about holding a grudge?”

“No, Beautiful,” he quickly replied. He then stood up and moved around the desk to kiss the right side of my head. “I would never do that to you. But, really? No one was sent to your bar to ‘persuade’ you to sell?”

“I swear it, Tig. But if you’re asking so insistently, I’m guessing someone paid Lumpy a visit?” Tig nodded but didn’t verbally reply, so I asked, “Any chance I can persuade you to tell me who it was?”

He scratched his chin while he gave my question some serious thought. Shitfuck. This was bad. Dam, I really hope he’ll clue me in because I hate when I’m in the dark about shit like this. Plus, if the developer was resorting to sending someone to try to intimidate someone like Lumpy, then maybe I didn’t actually want to sell after all.

“Alright, but if Piney asks you, you didn’t hear this from me.”

“What?” I questioned in mild shock. “Shit, Tiggy how bad is it?”

He picked up my right hand and kissed my knuckles again. “It’s definitely not good. Lumpy said that Darby was sent to his place to ‘persuade’ him to sell. When we talked to Darby, he confirmed Lumpy’s story.”

“Darby? Who would be stupid enough to send him to harass Lumpy? One look at any of the swastikas Darby has inked on him and Lumpy would be digging his heels in even further than he already has. All they would have done is make the old man more suborn and determined not to sell. Geez.”

Tig smiled then kill the back of my hand again. “I really have missed you, Andrea. You can’t ever shut us out like that again. We need someone as smart and clover as you around us as much as possible to make us all smarter.”

“Tiggy…” I started as an embarrassed blush heated up my cheeks.

“It’s true, Andie. And you’re right about Lumpy, but I think Hale has his head too far up his ass to think straight.”

“Hale? You mean, Jacob Hale? He has something to do with the developer?” Tig just nodded causing me to softly curse out, “Shit… fuck… now it all makes sense.”

“What makes sense?”

“David’s reaction. You know how I told you about the arguments he had, after he got off the phone he was almost shaking with rage.  When I tried asking him about it, all he would say was that the developer could have my place… over his dead body. Shit… and here I almost…”

Tig stood up to hug me when he heard me sniffle in a breath and stifled a sob. “Hey, it’s okay, Sweetheart. You didn’t sell, you just thought about it. No one can condemn you for that.”

“Thanks, Tiggy. So…? Hale’s the one buying up properties and now he’s playing dirty. What can we do about that?”

“Piney and I tried to tell Unser about it, but he wouldn’t listen to us.”

I stared at him for a second then the answer hit me. “Right. You guys are from a motorcycle gang and Hale’s a friggin’ Boy Scout.”

“That isn’t exactly how it went… but that’s pretty close.”

“Did…? Did you want me to try to talk to the Chief?”

Tig shook his head replying, “It’s club business, so we’ll take care of it. I just wanted you to know the truth in case it might sway your decision at all.”

“Oh, you better believe it does. Now those assholes can have my place over MY dead body. Fuck ‘em.”

Tig let out a surprised laugh. “That’s my girl. Okay, I’ll let you get back to work.”

“Thanks, Tiggy. And I know you said that it’s club business, but if I can help in anyway, please let me know, okay?”

“You better believe I will,” He answered as he gave me another tight hug.