Jake lit a cigarette as he stood out on Clay and Gemma’s back patio, watching what had initially been Den and Baby Princess playin’ tag to keep Soph out from underneath the women’s feet as they cleaned up dinner and got dessert ready. At this point the two of them had dragged Opie’s kids, Eric, and the sperm donor into the game.
He was a little surprised Eric let the Baby Princess pull him into the game. Normally, Eric would have declined, but he supposed since the girls were staying and he and the boys would be leaving in the next day or two, Eric wanted as much time with Sophie as he could get.
It was also why he had taken Gemma up on the offer to stay with her and Clay instead of at the clubhouse. He wanted the kids to have some time together without him or Soph to think about.
Clay walked over and stood next to him as the SAMCRO president lit a cigar. “Quite the game they’ve got goin’ on.”
“It’ll keep Den and Soph occupied until dessert.” He exhaled a lungful of smoke. “Opie’s kids seem to be enjoying themselves.” He noticed Clay twitch a little at the mention of Opie’s name. Jax was right, Clay was thinking about getting rid of Opie. He sighed internally.
He glanced over to Clay. “I think we need to have a little chat about Stahl.”
Clay’s eyes narrowed. “What about her?”
“Den hacked ATF.” Clay cocked an eyebrow, so he went on. “Had to know what was going on around you guys.” Clay nodded in understanding.
“And he found…” Clay seemed to be listening.
“Stahl has permission from her higher-ups to try and make it look like Opie flipped. They all think he’s the wedge to put in between you and Jax. Make you think Opie is a rat, you kill him and the club is in ruins because they broke you and your son.” He took a breath and nodded towards Opie. “That boy wouldn’t sell out SAMCRO for anything.”
Watching his boys and his granddaughter, he continued. “From the minute I was old enough to walk and talk, all I wanted to be was club, like my father.” He nodded at Eric and Dennis. “It’s all they’ve ever wanted. Hell, Butch would give up national secrets before he gave up club ones.”
“Your point?” Clay’s tone was mild, like the man had already capitulated, but was willing to let him say his piece.
He turned to Clay. “My point is that you kill that boy and you might as well shut SAMCRO down right now, because that’s what’s gonna happen. You think Stahl isn’t all over Opie right now? You make a move and you’re going away. Period. And you’ll lose Jax in the process.” His tone turned to steel. “You really want to lose your boy? And play right into Stahl’s hands?”
Clay stood there for a few minutes, puffing on his stogie and watching the chaos in front of them. He was fine watching Sophie chase Eric yelling about how she was going to get him. In fact, he could probably watch that all damn day and be just fine.
Clay sighed and he looked over. Clay gave a slight nod towards Opie, who was sitting on the opposite side of the patio. “You’re sure that this is just Stahl setting us up?”
“Yeah. If you want to see the memos, Den can show you tomorrow.” He wasn’t stupid, he had Dennis keep proof. SAMCRO was a source of untraceable weaponry for the Satan Son’s, he needed them intact.
Clay was looking at Opie, whose wife had just come outside. “Good.” Then shook his head. “Stahl’s a sneaky one, isn’t she?”
He nodded. “Yeah, but we’re better.”
Clay laughed and clapped him on the back. “Yeah. We are.”
Opie was watching Kenny and Ellie play tag with Tig’s grandkid and her uncles. They had even managed to drag Tig out there. He had to admit, it was immensely entertaining to watch Tig be led around by a toddler. Almost as entertaining as it was to see Jax led around by that little girl.
He looked up as Donna came outside and over to him, with an odd expression on her face. Pulling her into his lap, he kissed her. “You okay?”
“Yeah.” Watching the kids, both little and big, run around. “Hard to believe what that little girl has been through. Other than the bandage, you wouldn’t know if you saw her running around right now.” There was an odd tone to his wife’s voice, like she was building up to something.
“Yeah.” He figured he’d keep his end of the conversation to a minimum.
“She feels safe because she’s here.” And then like it was a revelation. “With the club.” His wife’s voice was nearly a whisper. “They trust us just because we’re club. That’s all they needed to know.”
He was almost sure what his wife was getting at, especially with all the ‘we’ his wife was throwing around, but just to make his life easier, he decided a little clarification was in order. “Does this mean you’re done hating the club?”
He took an elbow to the ribs, but his wife was smiling. “Yes.” The smile dimmed a little. “I don’t think I hated it. I think I had forgotten some things and with you in jail it was easier to be mad at the club than it was to be mad at you.”
He hugged his wife. He was always going to feel guilty for leaving Donna holding everything together while he’d been inside, but he had done the right thing. He had stayed loyal to his club; his family. He can look himself in the eye every morning when he gets up. “I love you, babe.”
Donna leaned back into him. “I love you too.”
Across the yard, he spied Chibs and Bobby with their heads together. Chibs looked over, saw he and Donna and raised a beer bottle in their direction. He nodded back.
Leaning back, he and his wife cheered their kids on, watching the game of tag continue.
Chibs was leaning on the back fence, watching the kids and the Lyons boys running around the backyard. He was havin’ a time gettin’ his beer down with all the laughin’ he was doin’.
“Tha’s right little lassie!” He cheered Sophie on as the little lassie grabbed at Tiggy’s arm, getting him to join the game. “Yer Other Papa needs to run off his dinner!” Waving off the bird Tig flipped him behind Sophie’s back.
“Let’s hope he doesn’t have a heart attack.” Bobby’s wry humor coming out in his voice.
“I think Tiggy can handle running around the yard a little.” He grinned. “Be good practice for ‘im.” He had the feeling Tiggy would be chasin’ the little lass around quite a bit. He’d forgotten how much energy a toddler could have. “That is if the lassies are actually stayin’.” The only word he had on that subject was from Sophie herself, who stated that they were staying so she could ‘hold da baby’.
So, even though he was pretty sure where Jackie and Tig stood on the issue, he wasn’t quite as sure about Jules, or Jake for that matter. You could see the barely restrained dislike for Tig in Jake’s eyes, so it wouldn’t shock him if Jake ordered the lassies back to Chicago when they left.
Bobby smiled. “They’re staying for a while.” Then there came a small chuckle. “Although I doubt it takes Romeo much time at all to seal that deal.”
He laughed. “Romeo? Really, Bobby?” He shook his head. “Let’s hope for a better ending than that.”
“No, you asshole.” Bobby shook his head. “Since her name is Jules…”
He rolled his eyes as Dennis Lyons stopped briefly, overhearing Bobby. Dennis shook his head with a laugh. “Her name isn’t Juliet, or Julia. It’s Julian. Ma was convinced she was having a boy so she didn’t even think of girl names. So, when baby sis was born, Ma went with her first choice, just changed Alexander to Alexandra.” Dennis grinned. “That’s why she’s Jules.” Then Dennis ran off as Sophie came closer to them. “Glad I could clear that up for ya!”
Both he and Bobby waved back at Sophie, who was waving as she sped past the two of them. The little lass was quick, he’d give her that.
Bobby grinned again as the older man was looking back towards the house. Jules had just come outside, which meant dessert was probably ready. But, instead of calling everyone in, she went and stood by Jax, and watched what had originally been a semi-organized game of tag, but somehow just devolved into Sophie chasing everyone around, laughin’ her little head off. He figured that should give Jules a bit of a boost; seein’ her little one smilin’ like that after everything they had just been through.
Like Bobby, he watched Jax and Jules chat about the chaos in front of them. At least that was what he figured they were talking about judging from their gestures. Then, Jax turned into Jules just a bit, and Bobby’s grin got even bigger. He looked at the other man question clear on his face.
Bobby shrugged, but the grin hadn’t diminished. “Just a bit ago, Jax asked me where that place in Stockton that has the desserts I like is.” Bobby nodded his head towards the two of them. “My guess is right now, Jax Teller, who usually just has to smile at a chick to get her to drop her panties, is actually having to ask someone on a date.” Then Bobby started to laugh his ass off.
But as he thought about it, he couldn’t help himself, he burst out into laughter too. When he was done, he looked over to Bobby, who was getting himself under control. “Well, hopefully she says yes.”
Jax was still watching Sophie play tag with everyone when Jules came out of the house and stood by him. He nodded towards the house. “Time for dessert?”
“Almost. Your mom said she would come get everyone in a few minutes.” Jules smiled a little. “Thought I’d make sure Sophie wasn’t running everyone into the ground.” The smile got a little brighter and man, did he want to just drag her out of here right now. “Because this game is her jam. She can do this all-day long.”
“Shocker.” He looked at her with a wry grin. “Then again, bet it wears her out by the end of the day.”
“One of the bonuses.” Jules smiled. “Along with usually sleeping like the dead.” The smile faded. “Last night was not usual. At all.”
He turned towards her a little, inching into her personal space. “Hey, she’ll be good tonight. She’ll probably be out seconds after her head hits a pillow.” He mentally crossed his fingers. He hoped that Sophie had wore herself out enough today that there would be no dreams for her at all.
“Yeah, and Pop will be with her.” The smile came back a little. “Plus, I’m going to make sure that your mom gives her some baby aspirin before she goes to bed. I think if she hadn’t been in pain, I could have probably gotten her back to sleep before she had even really woken up.”
Made sense to him. “Okay.” Then opted to finally ask what he wanted, kind of. “So which dessert are you choosing? Both look pretty good to me.”
She shrugged. “Neither. I’m allergic to strawberries and not a fan of chocolate pie.” She gave him a bit of an embarrassed grin, and if he looked hard enough, he could see slight traces of pink on her high cheekbones. He thought it was kind of adorable. “Don’t get me wrong, I love me some chocolate, just not pie.” She smiled again. “Chocolate cake, chocolate ice-cream, pieces of chocolate…”
“…Just not pie.” He finished for her with a smile. “Well, in that case, do you want to get out of here and go get a dessert up to your standards?”
She laughed. “Dude, a Twix bar is up to my standards. So is a Reese’s, or better yet, a Mr. Goodbar.” Then leaned into him while still chuckling, her breath warm against his ear. “But if your offering me something better, I wouldn’t say no.”
He barely stopped himself from offering up him and a bottle of chocolate syrup for dessert, and was proud that he had managed it. “There’s a place in Stockton that has desserts that give Bobby hard-ons.”
Her eyes lit up with laughter and he felt nearly giddy that he’d put that look there. “Well, a recommendation like that can’t be ignored. Count me in.” She bumped her shoulder against his as she twined their fingers together. “Let’s get Sophie set up with pie and give Gemma care and feeding instructions of the Miss Thing and then we can go.” She squeezed his hand. “I’ll go find Gemma.” Then she nodded towards the back yard. “You can wrangle Miss Thing inside.” Then let go of his hand and walked back into the house.
He turned back to the chaos that seemed to be winding down, if Tig and Eric sitting on the lawn panting was any indication. As Sophie ran past him chasing Kenny who was running towards Ope and Donna; he reached down and scooped her up. Her shrieking giggles were like music to him. “Jax! I’ma gettin’ him!”
He laughed as he cradled her closer to him. “Yes, you were. But I think it’s almost time for pie and so I think maybe we should go wash our hands before that.” He was working on the parental thing.
“You sure it’s almost time for pie?” Like she wasn’t going to be convinced to wash her hands one second sooner than she had to. He grinned. He can remember Thomas being like that when he was little.
“I’m sure.” Taking the little sigh she let out as her surrender, he headed towards the house, the others starting to straggle in behind him.
He made his way past Jules and his mom, the latter giving him a shit-eating grin. If his arms weren’t full he’d flip her off. Sophie turned in his arms. “Is it time for pie?”
His mom nodded. “Yeah, sweetheart it is, so you’ll need clean hands for that.” Her tone gentle.
“Jax is takin’ me!” Sophie hollered back from down the hallway.
While Sophie was washing her hands, using the step-stool his mom had the foresight to put in the bathroom, he leaned in the doorway watching the small girl as she carefully washed her hands. “Sophie can I ask you a question?”
The little girl nodded as she rinsed her hands. When she was done, he turned the water off and handed her the towel to dry them. When she was finished he sat her down on the stool and kneeled down in front of her.
“Would it be okay if I took Mommy somewhere?”
“Where?” Sophie didn’t look concerned, just curious.
He cleared his throat a little. If talking to Jake this afternoon was nerve-wracking, he wasn’t sure what to categorize this as. “Um, Mommy doesn’t like the desserts that Gemma made tonight, so I thought I could take her somewhere to get something she likes.”
“Oh.” Then perked up. “Can I go?” Then the little girl stopped and looked at him slyly. “Or is dis like when Grampa and Gramma go on dates? ‘Cause I can’t go on dates. Grampa says maybe when I’m fifty I can go on dates. Maybe.” Sophie’s curls bounced as she nodded her head. “That’s what Grampa says.”
He smiled. “Grampa is very smart.” And damn if the man wasn’t. Gave him a good reason that Sophie seemed to accept gracefully. “And yes, it’s a date.”
“Okay.” Sophie got up from the stool. “Can I have pie now?”
He nodded. “Sure. Hands look clean to me.” He took one and the two of them started to make their way back to the kitchen. “Let’s go say goodnight to Mommy and get you set up with pie.”
“So you and Mommy can go on your date!” Enthusiasm radiating from the child.
Hearing snorts of laughter and chuckles, he looked up and saw that they had arrived back at the kitchen as Sophie was speaking. He tried to keep his cheeks from turning flaming red. This had to be love, because the levels of embarrassment that he had reached over the last almost twenty-four hours…yeah, it had to be love.
Gemma nearly choked on the sip of wine she had just taken at Sophie’s announcement. Turning around, she had to turn away quickly so her son wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes. He had made sure that Sophie was okay with him and Jules bailing before everyone else. She was proud of the man her son was becoming. He was going to be a good father to both kids.
Blinking the few tears away, she turned back and gathered Sophie up. “Let me see your hands, are you sure they’re clean enough?” Teasing her gently.
She inspected the hands that were shoved in her face. “Hmm…that one looks clean.” Giving Sophie’s right index finger a kiss and then doing the same with the other.” She set Sophie down and turned her towards the dining room table. “Your pie is in there, sweetheart. But, go say goodnight to your mommy first, okay?”
Sophie nodded and toddled off to Jules, who was probably giving Jake the same set of instructions she had just gotten. Pie. Bath. Baby Aspirin. Story. Bed.
She turned back to her son, who was far more interested in watching Sophie and Jules. “I’m proud of you Jackson.” She smiled at him. “You’re a good man.”
Her son look surprised, but pleased. He smiled at her as he leaned in and kissed her cheek. “I’m not sure what brought that on, but thank you.”
“Even six months ago, you wouldn’t have given what Sophie wanted two thoughts.” She felt the trace of a smile on her face. “If Sophie had said no, you wouldn’t be leaving.”
He nodded, his face becoming more serious. “And if she freaks after we leave, I expect a call right away and we’ll come back.” He sighed. “After what she’s been through, I couldn’t just take Jules out without telling her myself.”
She nudged him with her elbow. “And that would be the proud of you part.”
She smiled as Sophie came running back, Jules trailing behind. “Okay! I told Mommy night-night! Time for pie now!”
Jules caught Sophie by the hood of the zip-up sweater the girl was wearing. “Did you tell Jax night-night?”
Sophie shook her head. “I sowwy Jax.” Then lifted her arms to be picked up. Once up in Jax’s arms, Sophie wrapped her arms around his neck. “Night-night Jax. I wuv you.” Sophie kissed his cheek. “Take Mommy somewhere dere’s cake. She likes cake.”
“Thanks, sweetheart.” Her son gave Sophie a kiss on the forehead. “I love you, too.” Her son winked at her. “Be good for Gemma.” She rolled her eyes. Even though she was proud of him, he could still be a jackass sometimes. Her son put Sophie down. “Now, you can go get pie.”
Sophie hugged her mommy again and then ran off to the dining room where she dug into the pie immediately. Bath next made sense. She turned to her son, who was helping Jules into a leather jacket she was borrowing for the ride. It was an old one of hers that had always been a touch too long, Fit Jules like the glove she knew it would.
Noticing both of them looking towards the dining room, she stepped to the side and blocked their view of the mess Sophie was making of herself and the table. “Get out of here.” She put a hand on her hip. “You think this is my first rodeo with a messy eater?” She grinned at Jackson. “Would you like me to get out the photo…” Her son had nearly leaped over to put a hand over her mouth. She managed to convey the mocking with her eyes.
Then just as quick, stepped back and took Jules by the arm. “No need, we get the point.”
Jules dug her heels in for just a second. “Photos?”
She made a shooing motion with her hands. “Another time. All the blackmail material you could ever want.” She grinned at her son.
“Jesus Christ.” Her son laughed a little. “Let’s get out of here before I decide to forbid you two from ever being alone together.” Then added in haste. “And no, Sophie doesn’t count as a third. Or Tig.”
Jules laughed as she gave in and started moving again. “Thanks Gemma. Remember, if anything comes up, call.”
She nodded with a smile. “Anytime, sweetheart. She’s an easy kid.” Waving away the last part. “She’ll be fine. Jake is here. Now, get gone.”
As the door was closing behind them, she heard Jules. “Bobby would be my choice for a third. He’s been around. I bet he has great dirt on you.”
She loved that Jules was always ready to get right back up into Jax’s face and go toe to toe with him. Her son needed that. Laughing, she started towards the dining room to start doing some damage control.