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The Other Trager Girl

Chapter Text

Happy pulled into the graveled lot of the diner behind Jax and Chibs who had met him at the Oregon-California border to escort him down to Charming. He was coming to lend a hand since shit with the Mayans seemed to be heating back up.

Because they were late getting back to Charming, Jax decided they would stop at the diner about fifteen minutes outside of town. Which was fine by him, he hadn’t eaten since about noon.

As they were parking their bikes they noticed a guy dragging a woman who was trying to keep hold of a wailing toddler. “Move you fuckin’ bitch and shut that fuckin’ brat up or I will.” The guy’s voice was loud and obnoxious.

He couldn’t hear what the woman said, but it obviously set the dude off. He tried to backhand the chick, catching the kid’s face in the process. He looked over to see Jax and Chibs heading for the woman and child who were once again being dragged towards a red Beemer with Illinois plates.

As the three of them silently approached he could see that the toddler had blood coming down her face. He could hear the woman trying to calm the kid down. “Shh…it’s okay Sophie. Mama’s got ya and eventually your Grandpa and uncles will realize that this stupid fuck snatched us and they’ll put his stupid ass where it belongs. Six feet under with the rest of his Nazi friends.”

“Shut up you fuckin’ whore. By the time my so-called Dad’s fuckin’ MC figure out shit, you’ll have gotten me what I need and both you and that fuckin’ brat will be history before your Dad and brothers can do a fuckin' thing.”

The fuck had his back turned to the three of them, but the chick had spotted them. He put a finger to his lips indicating he wanted her to keep her mouth shut that they were there. She glared at the guy. “Dougie, there was a reason your Dad disowned you. You’re a Nazi piece of shit.”

“Shut up you fucking whore!” He gave a grim smile, He could see she was keeping the douche focused on her so they wouldn’t be noticed. And by the aggravation in the guy’s voice, she was doing a fine job.

“I work at a record store. Get it straight you moron. My mom was the whore. And a good one at that.” The chick was holding her hand to the cut on the kid’s face. “Although I’d rather be a whore than a Nazi bitch.”

He looked over to see Chibs grinning. The chick had balls, he had to give her that. She acted like the three of them didn’t exist and continued her needling. “You’ve always been a little fuckin’ bitch Dougie. Why do you think your Dad went and found a kid that wasn’t? Needed to have at least one kid who wasn’t a total fuckin’ embarrassment.”

The moment the guy raised his arm to hit her again, Jax put his gun to the back of the dude’s head. “Didn’t anyone ever teach you it’s wrong to put your hands on women and children?” Jax’s voice was quiet, but deadly serious. He'd always thought that SAMCRO's VP was a little soft, only getting where he had due to the fact that he was John Teller's son. But now, he could see that if this prick made the wrong move, Jax would pull the trigger.

The chick looked at him, Jax and Chibs, then grinned. The grin reminded him of someone but he couldn’t place it. “They tried. But Dougie is a moron.”

He barked out a laugh as he grabbed the guy’s arm.

Jax nodded at Chibs who went over the chick and the kid. “Let me see the little lass’ wound.”

The chick nodded and pulled the blood soaked hand back. Chibs looked at Jax. “Little one is gonna need stitches Jackie.” Jax pulled out his cel and called the clubhouse telling someone to bring the van. Now. After that Jax dialed another number. “Tara. Meet me at the clubhouse, bring your medical bag.” Jax didn’t give the woman a chance to argue. “It’s a kid Tara, just do it.” Then hung up again.

The guy was struggling to get out of his grasp. “You fuckers have any idea who I am? If you know what’s good for you, you’ll let me go and…” Jax gave him another nod.

“Shut up.” He pulled his arm back and cold-cocked the asshole, knocking him out.

Jax looked at the chick. “Care to tell us what the hell is going on here?”

He had let the unconscious guy fall to the ground and leaned against the car looking at the chick. She had dark hair that was long and full of unruly curls and even in the low light of the parking lot he could see her eyes were a vivid blue. She was wearing a pair of faded Levi’s with a couple of racer back tanks. The perfect nipples from small pert tits poking through proof that there was no bra under the tanks. If he’d been forced to guess he would say she was about five-ten, all arms and legs. She probably didn’t weigh any more than a hundred and twenty pounds.

The chick sighed and indicated at the unconscious fuck. “Dougie’s Dad, who was kind of my adopted Uncle died a couple months ago. Dougie found out that he had left me a safe deposit key that goes to a safe deposit box in Charming.” She closed her eyes and hugged the kid a little tighter. “Two days ago, Dougie shows up at my apartment in Chicago, ranting about how he needed the money that was in that box. Killed Sophie’s dad right in front of her and then when I got home he forced us in my car and we’ve been driving ever since. Finally convinced him to stop here to get real food for Sophie.”

Jax nodded. “He mentioned an MC.” The SAMCRO VP’s voice was tight. There were a lot of MC’s who hated the Sons.

The chick nodded. “Satan's Sons. Chicago charter. His Dad was the Sargent-at-Arms.”

He relaxed. Satan's Sons were a brother club. Twenty charters throughout the Midwest and the South. And the Chicago charter was the Straight Satans mother charter.

Jax nodded while he was thinking. Then the VP looked back at the chick and then down to the dude. “That’s Ripper’s kid?”

She nodded. “Was. Rip disowned him about five years ago. He was patched into the club, but helping white hate run meth behind the club’s back. Since he was Rip’s kid, they stripped him of his patch, beat the shit out of him and banished him from Chicago. Guess he didn’t learn his fucking lesson.”

Jax looked at him and Chibs. Both of them shrugged, letting Jax deal with the chick. Now that he knew that this was Ripper’s kid, he knew who the chick was. Life around Charming was going to get interesting.

Chapter Text

She stood there looking at the three Sons that had come to her and Sophie’s rescue. She knew who the Sons were. They were a brother club of the Satan's Sons. When Rip told her about the safe deposit box, she had asked why it and the key were in Charming. He had just smiled and said that if she would ever need to get into it, he wanted it in a place where she could be protected and SAMCRO could do that. That the box was a last resort if shit ever went truly sideways.

The one with the VP patch was maybe four or five years older than her twenty-five years with blonde hair and a pretty boy face under the beginnings of a beard. But he had put two and two together quickly, so he must have a brain in his pretty head.

The Scot who had looked at Sophie's cheek was a little taller than the blonde. He had dark hair that had started to silver with dark eyes that she could tell smiled more often than they did not. She could also see the scars that went from each corner of his mouth. He was gentle with Sophie which she appreciated.

The third guy was taller than the other two and looked like a whole barrel full of naughty fun. Shaved head with a tat on his skull with black eyes and long legs. He was trim and muscular. She also noted his ‘unholy ones’ patch on his cut. He was an enforcer. The one who meted out biker justice to those that had betrayed his club. She could only hope Dougie ended up in his hands.

The blonde nodded. “I’m Jax. That’s Chibs and Happy.” Pointing at the Scot and her possible future fuck. Although she could certainly see the appeal of Jax as well. Oh hell, if she was being honest, she wouldn’t throw any one of them out of bed. But as always, no one, but no one saw her bed without Sophie being okay with them.

She nodded. No reason to let him know what she was thinking. “Jules. And this little charmer is Sophia.”

Her daughter had stopped crying and screaming when Jax had put a gun to Dougie’s head. Her girl’s dark eyes took the three in, landing on Jax. “Sophie.” The little girl’s voice was hoarse but unafraid.

She rolled her eyes and kissed her kid’s head. “Sophie.” She grinned. “That’s what the MC calls her.” She gestured to their cuts. “She recognizes the general shape and look. So in her almost three year old head, you’re to call her Sophie like the others do.”

Chibs smiled. “Well Miss Sophie. We’re gonna take ye and yer Mum to our clubhouse and get yer cheek looked at.”

She looked at Jax and the others. “Can I follow you in my car?” She wasn’t gonna run from them but didn’t want to be stuck either. “Her car seat is in there.”

Jax nodded at Happy. “You and Chibs get her and Sophie to the clubhouse. I’ll wait for Juice and Sack here.” He kicked Dougie, which was earning him points with her. “Clay said to bring him to the garage.”

Happy looked at Jax and tossed him some keys. “Have Juice ride my bike to the clubhouse. I’ll drive her and the kid there.” His voice was raspy and low. Kind of like hers. He looked at her, his dark eyes giving nothing away. “Where are the keys?”

She pointed down at the stupid fuck. “His pocket.” Happy crouched down and found them in Dougie’s front jeans pocket. He hit the button to unlock the door.

“Get in the back with the kid.” His voice brooking no argument. “I need to talk to Jax for a second and then we’ll get her some medical attention.”

She knew better than to argue. Rip had been an enforcer and then eventually SAA for the Satan's Sons. Plus, with Pop being Pres and her eldest brother being VP, she knew when to argue and when to just shut the fuck up and follow directions.

She nodded and got Sophie in her car seat and went to climb in the back when she felt a hand stop her. She looked over to see Chibs. “Here lass.” Handing her a dark bandana. “Hold this to her cheek. Doc will take a look at her as soon as we get there.”

“Thanks.” She got in the car and Chibs closed the door. She turned to see Happy talking with Jax, looking back at the car a couple of times. She shook her head and looked at Sophie. “Well girlie, I have no idea what we’re in for but it has to be better than the last couple of days.” Her daughter nodded mutely. She was starting to worry. Other than just saying her name now, her kid hadn’t spoken in over two days. That wasn’t normal, usually Sophie was a chatterbox.

Happy got into the car and started it. He pulled out of the parking lot and onto the highway.

She sat by her daughter holding the piece of cloth to Sophie’s cheek, staunching the blood flow. She looked at the eyes in the rearview mirror. “How long ‘til we get there?” She was trying to keep her voice calm, but the fact that the split cheek hadn’t stopped bleeding was getting to her. Along with everything else over the last two days.

“Ten minutes.” She nearly smiled. He was a succinct man. It was a trait she didn’t share, but could appreciate.

She simply nodded as she continued to look into the dark eyes that were still studying her in the rearview mirror.

Chapter Text

After Happy and Chibs took off towards the clubhouse to get the little girl looked at, he pulled his cel out and called Clay back. His step-dad answered on the first ring. “What do we know?”

He sighed. He hoped Hap was wrong. With all of the shit going down with the Mayans, Irish, and ATF right now, this was just what he fuckin’ needed. “Chick’s name is Jules. The guy is the disowned son of Ripper Jones, the late SAA of the Chicago charter of Satan's Sons.” He took a breath. “Hap said…”

Clay cut him off. “I know who she is. “ Clay sounded tired.

“So then she’s really Tig’s kid?” While she certainly had the hair and the eyes, he didn’t see much of Tig in her looks. She was far better looking. Well, maybe the height. She was almost as tall as he was. “Does he know?” He knew he should be at least marginally surprised, but he wasn’t. This was Tig. He was surprised it didn’t happen more often.

Clay sighed. “Yeah she’s Tig’s kid. This kid is from a life before the Sons.” The man sighed again. “And I have no idea if he knows or not. He’s never mentioned it, but her Mama was a pretty independent lady. She wanted a kid, not a man, at least according to Rip. I know Tig went back for the funeral when she died. That was over fifteen years ago.” Clay sighed again. “What the fuck are they doing here?”

He told Clay the story that she had told them. Clay chuckled. “She’s a smart one. Let the fucker bring her here.”

He was confused. “What do you mean?”

Clay laughed again. “Ripper left the key with me. He knew what a piece of shit his kid was. This box is a last resort in case anyone comes after her. Making her come here to SAMCRO where we could protect her. Guess she left that part out with the shithead.”

He looked up and saw the van pull into the lot. “Juice and Sack are here. We’ll be there in a bit.”

“Yeah. See you when you get here son.” Clay hung up.

Juice and Sack got out of the van and walked over to him. He looked down at the stirring Nazi. He kicked him in the head, knocking him back out. “Tie this fuck up and get him in the van. Sack, you’ll drive the van back.” He threw Hap’s bike keys at Juice. “Hap said you’re to ride his bike back.” He looked at the two of them. “I’m heading back now. See you two in a little bit,”

He didn’t look back when he rode off. He wanted to get to the clubhouse. Mostly to see what Tig’s reaction to this new situation would be. It had nothing to do with wanting to see Jules again and to see how little Sophie was doing. Okay, next to nothing.

'You keep lyin' to yourself, buddy boy.' A voice remarkably like his own whispered in his head.

Chapter Text

Clay sighed as he got up from the table in the chapel. He walked to the doorway, seeing Tig on the couch, buried underneath a couple of croweaters. “Tig. Get your ass in here. Now.”

He hid a smile behind his hand as Tig stood up, upending both the croweaters on his lap and stepping over them as he headed into the chapel. “Close the door Tig.”

“Sure.” Tig closed the door and sat down in his normal seat. “What’s up?” He could see the manic light that was ever present in his SAA’s vivid blue eyes.

“Hap’s about five minutes away with Marina Baroja’s daughter Jules and her daughter Sophie.” He studied Tig’s reaction. And for as expressive as Tig's eyes usually were, right at this moment they were void of expression, Tig's wall had gone up. He wasn't sure what to make of that, Tig had never been that way around him unless they were conducting business.

Then Tig closed his eyes for a minute. When Tig opened them, he was a little surprised to see real grief in them. Which meant he knew. Knew and hadn’t said anything in all of the years Tig had been with SAMCRO. Tig looked at him. “Why?”

Clay sighed. “Guess Rip’s son snatched her and the kid after killing the kid’s dad. Wants what Rip left her in the safe deposit box he got for her here.”

Tig looked at him. “You know what’s in it?” He could have sworn that Tig wasn’t asking out of curiosity, he was asking for verification.

Clay nodded. “A deed to a house here in her name and about a hundred grand in cash. Told me he told her this was a last resort kind of deal, if shit ever went bad she’d have a safe place to run. That’s when he told me about her bein’ your kid. Said she didn’t know, all Marina told her was that she wanted a baby, not a man. That she hadn’t told the kid shit about her real father.”

Tig nodded. “That’s what he wanted when he was here six months ago.” Tig got up and started to pace a little, his hands in his curls. “Tying up loose ends before he died.” He had a feeling there was a lot Tig wasn’t saying. And he knew now was not the time to press the man on the matter. He knew how long Tig and Rip went back and how complicated of a friendship it was.

He nodded. “Yeah. Since the club hadn’t ended Dougie out of respect for Rip even though he was a yea vote, Rip was afraid the kid might come after her.” He supposed only a man faced with certain death could be that honest about their life.

Tig nodded again. Then stopped pacing and looked at him. “Why’s Hap drivin’ them here?”

He looked at the table. This was the part he really wasn’t looking forward to. “Guess Jax, Chibs, and Hap ran across them at the diner fifteen minutes east of here. Dougie was draggin’ them across the parking lot. I guess she said something and Dougie went to backhand her, catching the kid instead. Split the kid’s cheek, Jax has Tara comin’ to stitch it up. Why Hap is drivin’ them here, I have no idea. Jax just said Hap volunteered.”

He watched as Tig began to seethe. Three, two, one...

Tig punched the wall. “Where is the son of a bitch?” The sheer threat in the man's tone would have most people shitting themselves.

He put his hands up, placating his SAA. “Juice and Sack took the van so they could bring him back here. I want all croweaters and hang-arounds out of here. Gemma should be here in a little bit. She was at the hospital with Abel.”

Tig nodded and headed out of the chapel, letting everyone who wasn’t truly SAMCRO to get the fuck out. Now. He knew Tig was taking out some of his frustration on them, but since all he was doing was yelling and looking scary, he didn’t stop the man.

Bobby sidled up to him. “What the fuck is going on?”

He glanced over at the club’s Treasurer as the door opened. “Wait for the others to get back, by then I should have a better picture of the whole story. But the short version? Tig’s about to meet his oldest daughter and granddaughter.” Enjoying the look of shock on Bobby’s face.

Chibs was first in the door, followed by a stunning black haired beauty with Tig’s curls and blue eyes. She was carrying a girl who looked to be two or three, who had the same dark curls as her mother but her eyes were a dark. He could see Jules holding a piece of blood soaked cloth to the girl’s cheek. Hap followed the two in.

Chibs led them over to a table. “Doc should be here any minute. But I’m gonna go get my kit and at least get the little one cleaned up a bit, yeah?”

Jules nodded. “Yeah. Thanks.”

He walked over. “I’m Clay Morrow.” He nodded at Tig. “That’s Tig Trager.” Then at Bobby. “Bobby Munson.”

She nodded at them all. But he noticed her taking a special interest in Tig. “Jules Baroja.” She continued to look at Tig. “You were at my Mom’s funeral. And at the clubhouse afterwards.” Girl didn't seem to be anything other than mildly curious, but looks could be deceiving.

Tig nodded, not saying a word. But then again what do you say?

The little girl looked up at Tig. “Papa showed me pictures.”

Jules looked at her daughter. “What do you mean baby? Papa showed you pictures of Tig?” He nearly chuckled at the confusion in the young woman’s voice.

The little girl nodded. “Papa say my other Papa.” He wondered if this was part of what Tig meant when he referred to Rip ‘tying up loose ends’. "Say it was a secret."

Before anyone could say anything else, Chibs had come back down with his bag. He pulled a chair close to the young woman and child. “Okay little lassie, let’s take a look.” When Jules pulled the cloth away, they could see that the split cheek had stopped bleeding profusely, but was still oozing blood.

He glanced over at Tig. The man had gone pale. But then again, he wasn’t feeling the best himself. While bloody and broken bodies barely bothered him anymore, seeing a little kid like this made him a little sick.

He looked up as the clubhouse door opened. Tara came through it. Hap nodded at her and then to the table where Chibs was. Tara walked over. “I’m Dr. Knowles.”

When Jules looked at her, Tara took a step back and then looked at the young woman again and then at Tig. He tried to shake his head at the good doctor to not say anything, but he was unsuccessful. “Jax didn’t tell me I was stitching up Tig’s granddaughter.”

Jules looked at Tara. “Well, Jax didn’t tell me I was Tig’s daughter, so you're not the only one out of the loop.” He was a little thankful for the tinge of dry humor in the young woman’s voice.

Everyone looked at Hap when he barked out a short laugh. Hap shrugged at them when they all turned and looked at him. Well, all but Jules and Chibs who were focused on the little girl.

Tara went to the three of them and looked at the cheek. She looked at Jules. “I’ll have to give her a few stitches.”

Jules looked at her, blue eyes narrowing in assessment of the other woman. “Don’t take this wrong, but what kind of doctor are you?”

Tara smiled. “Actually I’m a pediatric surgeon.” There was the little sneer to Tara's voice that was usually present around them.

Jules nodded. “Well, then get to it Doc. It’s late and I’d like to find a hotel.” He liked the fact that Jules seemed to take Tara with a grain of salt.

“You’ll stay here.” Everyone was surprised when Hap uttered those words.

“We’ll see.” The girl turned back towards Tara and her daughter. There was still a tinge of dry humor to her voice.

If looks could kill, Jules would be ice cold with the look Hap was giving her back. But she wasn’t focusing on anything other than her kid.

Before Tara had gotten the little girl stitched up, Jax came in. He walked over to his step-son. “Juice and Sack back with the Nazi punk?”

Jax shook his head. “Not yet, they should be here soon. They’re probably about ten minutes behind me.” Jax lowered his voice. “How’s Dad takin’ it?” His step-son snickered.

He shrugged. “He’s been fine. Jules didn’t know until Tara pointed it out. Great way to learn someone is your Dad.” He looked at Jax. “Speaking of crazy parents, your Mom should be here any minute.” He gave his step-son a good natured grin. “She was stoppin’ by Ope and Donna’s first. Hoping she had a few toddler clothes still around. And to bring Jules a few things, although I doubt any are gonna fit her being that tall and thin.”

Jax nodded. “Where they gonna stay?”

He chuckled low. “According to Hap? Here.”

His step-son gave him the same amazed look that they had all looked at Hap with when the NOMAD made the announcement. He shrugged. None of them had ever seen Hap give two shits about anyone who wasn’t part of the Sons family other than his Mom and Aunt in Bakersfield. But then again, Hap knew that this girl was Tig’s daughter, so maybe in the NOMAD’s head, she was ‘family’, even if she didn’t know it. Or it could be he just wanted to fuck her. One never knew with Hap.

His wife stepped into the clubhouse as Tara was putting a bandage over the stitches she had given the toddler. She came over and gave him a kiss. “Donna found a pair of pajamas and a couple pairs of pants and t-shirts for the little one. But I’m pretty positive I don’t have a thing that’ll fit her Mama. You didn’t tell me she was a skinny amazon.”

He shrugged. “Had no idea. We’ll get that shit worked out in the morning.”

When Tara was done, she packed up her kit and walked over to Jax. “I’m going to go home, I have an early shift at the hospital. You coming there later?”

His step-son looked at him, he gave the boy a shrug back. Jax looked at Tara. “No idea, gotta deal with the creep that did that to Sophie. I’ll probably just crash here.” His step-son gave the Doc a quick kiss on the cheek as she left. He had the feeling that the kid wasn't the only reason his step-son was looking forward to dealing with Dougie. He was pretty sure the Doc now had some serious competition.

He walked over to the table with Gemma. “Jules.” The young woman turned around. “This is my wife Gemma.”

Jules nodded. “Jules Baroja, and this is Sophie Perry.”

Gem smiled at the two. “Got some clothes for Sophie. Just some pajamas and a couple pairs of pants and shirts. We can go get you two things in the morning, ‘cause darlin’ I’m positive nothin’ I brought for you is gonna fit.”

Jules nodded at his wife. “Thank you.” The girl looked at the rest of them. “There are obviously a lot of things that we need to talk about, but I’ve just spent the last two and a half days in a car with a cranked up Nazi moron who has bad taste in music.” She said the last part as if it were a mortal sin. “I would like to feed my daughter, get both of us bathed and sleep for about twelve hours. I don’t care what you do to Dougie and all I can tell you is that he isn’t the brains of the operation. I know he was giving someone updates on our progress.”

He nodded. “We’ll find you two a room. Why don’t you both get cleaned up and then we’ll get some food into you both. Then you can get some rest.”

Before his wife could say or do anything, Hap grabbed the bag his wife had been holding and then tapped Jules on the shoulder. “Follow me.” As he walked back to the dorms.

The girl shrugged like she was too tired to argue and got up with her daughter and followed Hap back to the dorms.

Gemma turned to him and the others. “What the fuck was that?”

The rest of them shrugged at his wife who was glaring at Tig. Tig looked at her. “What?”

His wife stalked over to his SAA. “Your kid and grandkid show up like this and you don’t say shit to her? What the fuck is wrong with you? You’re just gonna let Hap order her around?”

He was as surprised as everyone else when Tig didn’t blow up at Gemma. Instead, Tig deflated. “What was I supposed to say Gem? Go to my room? You really think I want my kid and grandkid in there? Think I need a three year old askin’ me about the handcuffs on the bed posts? God only knows what she’d find if she started to look.” There was a slightly wounded tone to his SAA’s voice.

That calmed his wife down and made sense all at the same time. “Good point.”

Bobby looked at his wife. “C’mon Gem, let’s go in the kitchen and see what we can find to make the girls.” He nodded at Bobby gratefully as the man led his wife away.

He looked at the other three. “Why don’t we go outside? Juice and Sack should be back by now. Once we get Dougie settled in and the girls down for the night, we’ll come back and find out what the hell is going on.” Then he sighed. “And I need to call Jake in Chicago and see what he wants to do.”

The others nodded as they followed him out to the lot where Sack had just pulled in and Juice was parking Hap’s bike.

Chapter Text

He let them into the dorm room he used when he was in Charming. “Bathroom in there. Should have towels.”

The chick nodded. “Thanks.” Then turned to take the kid into the bathroom. When she reached the door she turned back to him. “I need the pull-ups out of the trunk.”

He just stared at her. “What?” He had no idea what the fuck she was talking about.

“They’re diapers.” She rolled her eyes. “She’s fine during the day, but at night she needs a pull-up in case she can’t wake herself up.” She smiled at him.

He nodded and left the room. He walked through the clubhouse and out to her car. Getting the diapers out of the trunk he started back inside. As he reached the door, Jax came out of the garage and looked at the diapers. “Guess we didn’t think of that.”

He nodded, waiting for a smart-assed comment. Jax just nodded. “You should probably get those to her. Clay decided to wait on talking with Dougie until Jules and Sophie are down for the night.”

He nodded again. Good. He wanted in on that. Fucker thought he could get away with hurting a kid, he needed to be taught a lesson.

He went into the clubhouse, walking back to the dorms, ignoring the looks the others were giving him. He understood why they were looking at him like that. But he liked the fact that this chick kept her head in the situation. Plus she was hot as hell. Way hotter than the usual sweetbutts and croweaters he was used to.

He let himself into the room. He could hear them in the bathroom. He went and stood in the doorway and watched them. Jules was gently dipping Sophie back to rinse shampoo from her hair. When she had her upright the little girl looked at her Mama. “Stay here?”

Jules kissed her daughter’s wet head. “For a little bit baby. Need to figure out some stuff.”

The little girl nodded. “Other Papa.”

Jules chuckled. “That would be one of the things we need to figure out. What did Papa say to you?”

The girl looked at her Mama. “Papa say other Papa love me.”

Jules laughed again. “Papa thought everyone should love you.”

The girl nodded. “Papa was smart.”

Jules laughed as she was getting the girl out of the tub and wrapping a towel around her. “Papa was whipped by an almost three year old, that’s what Papa was.” Then looked back at him. “You bring those in?”

He nodded. “On the desk.” He stepped aside so she could get past him with the kid in her arms. She sat the kid on the bed so she could finish drying the kid off.

She looked back at him. “Can you hand me one of the pull-ups?”

He reached back and handed her one. She stood the girl on the bed so the kid could step into the diaper. Then she reached into the bag that Gemma had brought to her and pulled out a pair of blue pajamas that had motorcycles on them. They must have belonged to Opie’s son at one point.

But the little girl looked thrilled because she was bouncing up and down on the bed. “Bikes!”

Her Mama chuckled. “Yeah baby, bikes. You like bikes huh?” Getting the wiggling kid into them as there was a knock on the door.

He opened it to see Tig standing there. He stood aside so the SAA could enter the room. Tig looked at Jules. “Here, Chibs grabbed these for you. They’ll be big, but they should be long enough.” Handing her a pair of sweats. “Bobby and Gemma have food for you guys.”

Jules nodded. “Thanks.” Then looked at Tig closely. Like she was sizing him up. “Would you mind taking her down so I can take a shower? I should only be ten, fifteen minutes.”

Tig nodded. “Yeah, I can do that.” He reached out and took Sophie from Jules. The kid seemed to go to Tig happily. Then Tig looked at Jules with an odd look when Sophie started to pat his cut down.

Jules laughed. “Rip kept candy in his cut for her. I think she thinks you do too.”

Tig clenched the little girl tighter. “Sorry baby doll, no candy here. Maybe after you eat we can find ya some.”

Jules shook her head. “No candy tonight baby. After we eat it’ll be time for bed.”

The little girl shook her black curls. “Not tired.” Then looked at Tig. “Tell Mommy no.”

Tig shook his head with a laugh. “Let’s go get you something to eat baby doll. We’ll see how ya are after that.”

The little girl studied Tig for a minute. “Okay other Papa.”

Tig shook his head good naturedly and walked out of the room, closing the door.

He watched her sit back on the bed and put her face in her hands. “You gonna lose it?”

She shook her head full of black curls. “No, too tired to. Just trying to find the energy to get up and get in the shower.”

After kicking off his boots and peeling his socks off, he walked over and grabbed her by the elbow and pulled her up, dragging her towards the shower. He turned the water on, making sure it was as hot as he liked it. He looked back to where she was leaning on the sink. She didn’t look like she was close to falling apart, she just looked like she had hit a wall, being up for over two days and being dragged halfway across the country. He looked at her. “Get out of the clothes.”

She smiled at him. “You’re not much on asking are ya?” She started to unbutton her jeans.

He shook his head. “Askin’ means someone can say no.” He kept his eyes on her as she stepped out of the jeans revealing a pair of leopard print bikini panties. He could see a few bruises here and there. He guessed that Dougie had probably managed a few shots here and there.

She nodded. “I suppose that’s true.” She stripped off the two tanks and he could see that her tits were as perfect as he had imagined. Smaller than he preferred, but perfect nonetheless. He reached out and traced the ink on the underside of her left breast. It was a small pair of angel wings with Sophie’s name and what was probably her birthdate. Which looked to be in a few weeks. She didn’t stop him. Again, he could see a few bruises along her torso. None of them seemed to bother her, so if she wasn't sayin' somethin', neither was he.

Pulling his hand back, he pulled his shirt off, and then his jeans and boxers. She looked at him, reaching a hand out and tracing one of his smiley faces. She looked up at him with the same blue eyes her father had. “You gonna put another one there if you off Dougie?”

“Only if Clay orders it. Otherwise…” He shook his head. “It’ll be for fun. These are for club ordered kills.” He hooked a finger in her panties and pulled them down. “Get in.”

She stepped into the shower in front of him. He put her under the spray and got her hair wet. He reached over her and grabbed the shampoo that some croweater must have left in there. As he lathered her hair, she rested her forehead on his shoulder. It was strange having a woman this tall with him. Usually after croweaters took their bitch heels off, they barely made it to the top of his chest. He liked having his hands in her hair, it was thick and soft. After he finished getting the shampoo in, he leaned her back into the spray. He repeated the process with the conditioner.

Soaping up a washcloth, he started washing her body down. While he was soaping up her legs, she had her hands on his shoulders. He could feel her eyes on him. When he looked up she gave him a tired smile. “Just fair warning, I’m not usually this compliant. I’m just too tired to argue. Normally I would have told you to fuck off and then do whatever the hell I want.” Then she grinned. “Sometimes you might get lucky and it’ll be what you want too.”

Running his thumb down the inside of her thigh, he smiled slightly. “Figured that with the way you kept mouthin’ off to a cranked up Nazi moron.” He put her back under the spray to get rid of the soap.

She shrugged. “I didn’t really start mouthing off to him until I heard bikes. Knew we were close to Charming. I bet it was the Sons.” Then smiled at him. “And I was right.”

He soaped up and rinsed off quickly, then pulled her out of the shower and handed her a towel. He looked at her. “Pretty big risk to take. Could have been Mayans. And they aren’t friendly with us or the Satan's Sons.”

She shrugged again. “I know. But Dougie was starting to get more erratic. And I was tired, cranky, and in need of real food. Not snack shit from gas stations or fast food.” She walked out of the bathroom into the bedroom. He dried himself of quickly and followed her out there.

She had dried off and had gotten into the sweats that Tig had brought for her. He grabbed a t-shirt out of a drawer and handed it to her. As he was getting dressed she was drying her hair with a towel.

When she had decided her hair was dry enough, she got up and went and put the towel back in the bathroom. He chuckled a little when she came back out holding both of their dirty clothes. “Is there some sort of clothes hamper here? I can’t stand a mess.” Then smiled at him. “And from the looks of things, neither can you.”

He pointed to the laundry basket he kept in the corner of the room. She went and dumped the clothes in it. “We should get back before Sophie has managed to talk Tig into candy. Which I’m sure would take all of five seconds.”

He had to grin at that. “Nah, I’m pretty sure Tig could hold out for at least ten.”

She arched an eyebrow. “You don’t know my daughter’s powers of persuasion. She puts fucking politicians to shame when it comes to talking someone into doing something against their own interests.”

He shrugged. To be honest, while he didn’t like what had been done to the kid, he wasn’t a kid guy. They held zero appeal for him. And he had a feeling shit like that mattered to this chick. Which, when he thought about it, was a good thing. It meant her kid meant more to her than fucking some guy did. “You should go down, I’ll be down in a minute.”

She shrugged back, sensing the changing dynamic. “Probably should. Make sure Sophie hasn’t managed to wrap another MC around her little fingers.” Then turned around and walked out, closing the door behind her.

He sat down on the foot of the bed, putting his boots back on. He knew she’d be sleeping somewhere else tonight. Luckily there were still a couple of open rooms. It was probably for the best. She was Tig’s kid and who knew how that crazy fucker would react to him tryin’ to nail his daughter. Because that’s all it would have been. He wasn’t lookin’ for an old lady.

When he got down to the main room of the clubhouse he saw Jules sitting between Tig and Jax, the latter with Sophie on his lap feeding her bacon. As he walked by Bobby, the man handed him a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast. He noticed both Chibs and Jax had plates in front of them also. One of them must have said something about the interrupted attempt at getting some chow.

He took a seat at the bar and the Prospect handed him a beer. As he was eating he could hear the banter between Jules and SAMCRO’s VP, especially once Tig let it slip that Jax had given the kid a piece of chocolate.

He turned just in time to see Jules give Jax a good natured slap to the back of the head while the others snickered. “You gave a three year old candy at almost ten in the evening?! Do you normally smoke a lot of crack?” Tig started to laugh and she turned to her newly found father. “And do you like have early onset Alzheimer’s? I clearly remember that I said no to candy.” She poked Tig with a fingernail. “You should have stopped it.”

The rest of them were starting to laugh harder as she turned back to Jax. “You will be the one getting up with her when she can’t sleep because she’s still jacked up.”

The kid was bouncing in Jax’s lap. Looking like the candy was taking hold. Jax put up a hand in surrender. “I get the point.”

The kid was pulling on Jax’s cut. “More bac’n!” Giving the VP a bright candy fueled smile. Even though he wasn’t a kid person, this one was kind of cute.

Jax chuckled. “Why don’t we try to eat some of the toast and eggs Gemma and Bobby made for you?” He could see a small plate with eggs and a half piece of toast.

The kid shook her head. “Toast yucky. No jelly.”

Jax nodded like he was agreeing with the kid. “How about eggs then?” Jax speared a little piece onto a fork and the kid closed her mouth and shook her head.

Jules laughed and looked at the others, who were chuckling also. “You might as well give her your bacon Teller. I’ve seen her bring club Presidents to their knees.”

Clay’s cel phone went off and the laughter died down. Family sit-com moment was over and back to reality.

Chapter Text

Tig looked over at Clay when the phone went off. He was sure it was Jake Lyons, the President of the Chicago chapter of the Satan's Sons. He looked over at his kid who seemed to know it too. He looked into her eyes, eyes so much like his own, it was a little freaky. Neither of his other daughters had his eyes. And what he saw filled him with so many emotions he really wasn’t sure which way the world was spinning at the moment.

His kid was so anxious it wasn’t fucking funny at all. And suddenly very aware that she was basically in the company of strangers. He watched her restrain herself from grabbing his grandbaby from Jax's lap and making a break for it.

He wanted to wrap his kid up in the biggest hug he could give her and reassure her that they’d be fine, SAMCRO would make sure of it. That the club takes care of their own. But he couldn’t for a whole lot of reasons. He wasn’t sure that she didn’t hate him. And things around the club weren’t the most stable at the moment, so he couldn’t guarantee that shit wouldn’t come down on them from this side.

Clay was off in a corner having a very intense conversation with the Satan's Sons President . He looked over to see Jules studying Clay intently, like if she looked hard enough she’d be able to hear the conversation.

He looked around the clubhouse and found that everyone’s attention was on Clay with the exception of three people. Sophie, who was concentrating on getting Jax’s bacon. Jax, who was busy looking at her Mama, and then Happy, who was looking at the three of them.

He looked back and saw what Happy saw. From the outside it certainly looked like a cozy little family. He sighed internally. If the Doc wasn’t back he’d have no problem. Even though he and Jax didn’t always agree on how things with the club should go, he knew Jax was a good man with a good heart. And while he was a lot of bad things, his moral compass wasn't so far gone that he wouldn't demand that for his kids.

But even with the Doc back he was gonna stay the hell out of it. First of all, didn’t matter how much Jax and Tara claimed they loved each other, he was club and she wasn’t, and probably would never want to be. He didn’t think it was quite the issue with his daughter as it was with the Doc. Secondly, his daughter was a grown ass woman with a kid of her own, who the fuck was he to say a goddamned word.

He was brought back to the moment when Clay came over and handed the phone to Jules. “Jake would like to talk to you sweetheart.”

Jules nodded, then stood and looked at Jax. “Can you watch her for a minute longer?”

Jax gave her a smile. “Sure darlin’, take your time.”

His daughter, how weird was it to think that and not be talking about the twins. Yeah, his daughter walked into the hallway where she could speak to the President of the club she had been raised in. And even though it pissed him off to no end, the man who had raised her, the man she considered her Dad. He couldn’t hear what was being said, nor could he see his kid’s face since she had turned her back to them. But he could see the tension in her shoulders, in the way she was holding the phone.

He looked up at Clay. Clay grimaced. “That little…” Then the Pres looked at Sophie and gave a very sad smile. “…jerk did quite the number on a certain toddler’s male parent.” He blanched remembering that Jax had mentioned his granddaughter had been in the room when that little waste of flesh killed her Daddy.

Clay shook his head and went on. “Took them all of a couple hours to figure out it was Dougie and what he was after. Jake, Red, and a couple others will be here in the morning. We’ll go ahead and move him somewhere more private in a little while.” Clay looked at Happy, Juice, and the Prospect. “You guys can move him after the girls go down.”

Jax looked up at Clay while trying to protect his last piece of bacon from the thieving hands of Sophie. “They know anything?”

Clay shrugged. He knew Clay didn’t want to have the conversation here and now. Not with Gemma and the kid in the room. Plus Jules would be back any minute.

Jax nodded like Clay had actually told him something then looked down to Sophie eating his last piece of bacon. “Did you like my bacon?” SAMCRO’s VP chuckled.

He smiled a little when his grand-daughter gave Jax a very satisfied smile. “It was yummy.” Then the little girl seemed to remember something. “Thank you.”

Jax gave her a kiss on the head. “Anytime sweetheart.”

He had the feeling if his daughter and grand-daughter stayed in Charming, Sophie would have SAMCRO wrapped around her finger in record time.

All of a sudden they heard what had to be Clay’s phone dropping to the wood floor of the hallway as Jules rushed out of the clubhouse, obvious tears streaking down her face.

He wasn’t sure who was on their feet first, him or Jax. Jax handed Sophie to Gemma. “Here take her. DO NOT bring her outside.” Sophie started to fuss, and Jax stopped for just a second. “It’ll be okay sweetheart. You stay with Gemma and me and other Papa will make sure Mommy is okay.”

He exhaled the breath he’d been holding when Sophie nodded and hugged Gem.

They got outside, the others following, and she was nowhere to be seen.

Then the screams from the garage started.

Chapter Text

Jax knew where she had gone before the screams started and was heading for the garage. He could feel Tig on his heels and the others following.

The screams from the fucking douchebag punk didn’t really bother him. It was the screams that were coming from Jules that were scaring the hell out of him.

He opened the door to the garage to find her pummeling her kidnapper. “You castrated him?! In front of his daughter?! My daughter?! What kind of worthless piece of shit are you?!” He felt nauseous at the thought that Sophie had been witness to something that atrocious.

The worthless piece of shit looked up at her almost defiantly. “Faggots get what faggots deserve.” The words slurred due to the swelling of his jaw where she had already landed blows.

She reared back onto the tips of her toes with her arm fully extended. He could see Tig grinning like a maniac out of the corner of his eye as her arm came down and she laid a smack on Dougie hard enough to give him whiplash. “WHAT did you just say?!” He could literally see her shaking with grief and rage, tears running down her face like a faucet had been turned on. But even with all of that he could see the wheels in her head turning. She smacked the shithead again. “Faggots get what faggots deserve hmm??” He could see her eyes start to bounce around the garage.

She then spun around and oh. Holy. Shit. She had the same goddamned look in her eye that Tig gets about thirty seconds before he goes completely psycho. Although there was this part of his brain that was also registering that her psycho look was light years hotter than Tig’s.

Still shaking, she made a move for the knife hanging off his belt. Tig caught her just as her hand grazed the handle, and wrapped his arms around her. “Shh…I gotcha doll. I gotcha.”

They all kind of stood around as Tig eased the two of them down to the floor of the garage, pulling Jules into his lap as he went. She continued to sob into Tig’s chest. “She was supposed to have a Dad. Her Dad, not just someone filling in.” Another sob. “And that little prick just took that away from her, FOR NO GODDAMNED REASON!” Her voice broke as she continued to cry.

His heart damn near broke when she went on, looking up at him, her voice shot. “No wonder she didn’t say a word until you guys found us in that parking lot. Not a single word for over two days.” He hung his head trying to corral his own tears as the room went silent.

Then the little Nazi fuck started to laugh.

Before he could even move, Chibs had tipped the chair over and kicked Dougie in the head. “Shut yer mouth, ye pathetic piece of Nazi shite.” Knocking the stupid fuck out once again. He gave the Scot an approving nod.

As Jules was calming down, Tig looked up at the rest of them, hands still stroking his daughter’s hair. He felt his hands itch a little, wanting to do the same thing. “I got a question. Do my eyes look like that right before I’m about ready to go after someone?”

“Yeah.” They all answered basically as one voice.

Tig nodded. “Cool. Always wondered what that looked like.”

He smiled a little when Jules looked up at Tig. “You’re strange.”

Tig chuckled as he pulled his newly found kid to him. “Oh doll, you have no idea.”

They all laughed because A) Tig wasn’t wrong. And B) it was going to interesting to watch her find out.

He walked over and put a hand out to pull her up, trying to ignore how natural it felt. He loved Tara, had since he was a teenager and he was finally getting his second chance. But the luster of the second chance was starting to diminish as he was figuring out she had only come back to escape, of all things, an ATF stalker. On the other hand, she had saved his son who was still lying in the toaster in the NICU at St. Thomas. He owed it to her to try, didn’t he?

Those thoughts left his head the moment Jules was standing in front of him looking tired, furious, and incredibly heartbroken. Mindful that all of the other guys with the exception of Bobby were in the garage, he looked at her with a gentle smile. “You okay darlin’?”

She shook her head with a very rueful chuckle as she wiped her eyes. “You know, why don’t you ask me that in a day or two. Right now I have no fucking idea. I just need a cigarette, and then try to get Sophie to go to sleep so I can have a drink and smoke a joint. So I can get some sleep.” She took a drag of a smoke that Juice handed her.

She threw it back at Juice's face as she was exhaling. More proof she was Tig's kid. “Let me rephrase that. I need a real cigarette.” She looked over at Juice. “I bet you’re really into hip-hop aren’t you?”

Juice nodded, eyes wide. “Yeah. How’d you know?”

She snorted. “Seriously. You smoke fucking Newport’s.” Like that explained anything. She failed to elaborate.

He handed her one of his. “Not a menthol. I promise.” Lighting it for her as she put it in her mouth. He had to look away for a moment as she took the first drag, because he was suddenly overcome for a moment by a vision of her on her knees, lips wrapped around something far more precious to him.

When he looked back to her, he could see the smirk in her eyes. Goddamn, she knew exactly what he was thinking.

She looked over to Clay. “Did Jake say when in the morning they would be here?”

Clay shrugged. “He thought it would be early, like before nine.” Clay lit his own cigar. “Why sweetheart?”

She shrugged. “Son of a bitch made me leave my purse, Jake is bringing me my wallet and my phone. I’ll let Gemma know that shopping will have to wait until they get here.”

Tig frowned at his kid. “Why are ya worried about that doll? I got you and Sophie covered.” Tig seemed confused that he had a kid who didn’t even think about his money.

Jules shrugged and he hid a smile behind his hand. He had a feeling that Jules was as stubborn as her father. “If Jake and the others are here before nine, it’s a moot point. If they aren’t, I guess we can argue about it then.” She took a final drag of the cigarette that he’d given her. “I’m going to check on Sophie, see if I can’t get her to fall asleep.” She looked down at the unconscious Dougie. “This fucker wouldn’t even let her bring Spook with her.”

Clay arched an eyebrow. “Spook?”

Jules kicked Dougie in the ribs. Looked like it made her feel better. “Spook is a stuffed German Shepard that Red bought her when she was born. She doesn’t leave the house without him. She doesn’t go to bed without him. I have to wash and dry him in the middle of the night when she’s passed out or she has a meltdown.” Then realized she was rambling a little. “Yeah. Gonna go check on Sophie.”

He watched, along with the rest of them as she walked out of the garage. He had to at least be honest with himself. He was as mesmerized by the back of her as he was of the front. He was fucked. And not in the fun way. At least not yet.

Chapter Text

Clay continued to puff on his cigar as Jules walked out of the garage, smirking just a little at his step-son's back. He had the feeling for the first time ever Jax may not be thinking of Tara much at all. That would make his wife happy, which in turn, would make his life easier.

He could feel Tig's gaze on him. When he turned to his SAA, Tig's expression was serious. "What else did Jake say?"

He sighed. He didn't like it, but he could see where Jake was coming from. "We can't kill this little fuck. They can't kill this little fuck."

Tig's expression turned thunderous. "Why the fuck not?"

He gave Tig a hard look. "Guy he killed had people who would notice he was gone, so they had to call the cops in." He raised a hand before Tig or anyone else could say anything. "Plus, this guy had money, legit money, and for that little girl to get what's hers, things gotta be official."

His step-son nodded. "Makes sense, but the last thing we need are some Chicago homicide cops hanging around."

He shrugged. "Jake said they had come to some sort of a deal with the Chicago cops. After they get here and have their own little talk with Dougie here, we'll call Unser to haul his ass in and then he'll be turned over to Chicago PD then." Then knowing where Jax's head was heading. "They've already been warned that Dougie won't be in the best shape." He took another puff on his cigar. "Jake didn't seemed concerned at all."

Tig shook his head. "I don't know Clay."

Clay looked back at him. "Like I said, they knew right away it was Dougie and where he was heading and what he wanted. If they hadn't made that deal, there would have been Amber alerts and shit like that. Both clubs need to know what the fuck this is about. This was the only way that gets everybody what they need." Then he gave his SAA a hard smile. "And no one said that Dougie won't get exactly what he deserves at a later date."

He noticed both Jax and Tig nodding at that. The others had started to scatter, with the exception of Juice. He looked at the mohawked Intel officer. "What do you want Juice?"

Juice gave both Tig and Jax a nervous look. "Umm...did you want me to do any sort of background check on her..." Juice gave Tig another nervous glance. "You know, make sure she's cool."

He almost laughed out loud at the looks on both Jax and Tig's faces. Jax looked ready to just punch Juice in the face, while Tig just looked...well, like he already knew his kid was okay and Juice just needed to shut the fuck up.

Tig shook his head and then sighed. "Jules is just fine you Puerto Rican moron. She doesn't want my money and if it's the club you're thinking of, she was raised in an MC you idiot. You think the Satan's Sons are a fucking sewing circle?" Tig was really warming up. Getting right into Juice's face. "Plus, I've known she was my kid since the day of her mother's funeral. You really think I didn't keep track of my kid?!" That caught his attention. He wondered exactly how much Tig knew about his daughter and grand-daughter.

He could see Tig was about a heartbeat away from going after Juice and was about to put a stop to it when Jax stepped in. Putting a hand on the SAA's shoulder. "C'mon Tig, forget about idiot boy here." His step-son shot Juice a dirty look. "Let's go in. Check on the girls." He did smile as Jax gave Tig's shoulder a squeeze. "Make sure your grand-daughter hasn't managed a coup in the time we've been out here. I have the feeling she'd be a demanding Pres." Juice took the distraction as an opportunity to leave the garage.

That made him laugh because he had the feeling his son could be right. It had taken that little thing all of ten minutes to get Jax and Tig wrapped around her cute little fingers. It would take her little time at all before the others, including himself, fell in line.

Tig looked over at him and grinned. "She is pretty fuckin' cute isn't she?"

He stuck his stogie between his teeth as he clapped Tig on the shoulder. "She is...Grand-dad." Thinking he'd needle Tig just a little.

But Tig just grinned. "Grand-dad....Yeah. I like it." Then strutted out of the garage towards the clubhouse.

Jax turned to him with a grin of his own. "So who do you think gets the 'ask me about my grandkid' bumper sticker first? Tig or Mom?"

He took his cigar out of his mouth and threw his head back in laughter. "Knowing those two, they'll shop for them together."

His son laughed as the two of them headed back to the clubhouse.

Chapter Text

When she walked back to the clubhouse, she was still shaking a little from the revelations that Jake had made. She knew Dougie had always hated her. Okay, that wasn't true, she knew when he had started to hate her, but he had brought that shit on himself. But otherwise, yeah, Rip had been legal guardian, but she had been raised by Jake Lyons because her Mom had been afraid that her real Dad would try to take her from Jake if her Mom made Jake her legal guardian.

He did what he did to Ray because he hated her, and by extension, Sophie, and had wanted them to suffer. She knew that she would never be able to stay another night in her apartment again. Hell, right now she wasn't even sure she would be able to go back to Chicago and pick back up any semblance of a life again.

Going through the door, she shoved all of those thoughts aside. The only thing that mattered at the moment was Sophie. While she seemed to be doing okay here, she wasn't really comfortable having strangers looking after her.

She shouldn't have worried. When she walked in, she found Sophie being held by Bobby, who was dancing and singing to her. Her daughter was bouncing around happily, arms in the air. "More!"

She walked over and took her daughter out of the rotund man's arms. He looked a little grateful. "Thanks darlin', I'm not as young as I used to be." Then bowed to Sophie, a highly amused smile on his face. "Thank you for the dance Princess."

Her daughter gave Bobby a cracked out candy bar smile. "You welcome!" Then Sophie turned to her. "Dance Mommy!"

She shook her head with a tired chuckle. "Mommy's too tired to dance baby. Plus it's night-night time for you Miss Thing." As she was moving Sophie to her hip, she saw Chibs slip in.

Her beautiful, sweet, stubborn daughter shook her head. "I not tired Mommy."

She gave Gemma and the others a mild glare as they snickered. She looked back at her daughter who actually looked exhausted. The only reason her midget had any energy was because of the chocolate Jax had given her. She smiled at her daughter. "Yes, you are. You just don't know it. Trust me honey, Mommy knows these things."

Sophie narrowed her eyes at her, thinking over what she had just said, one side of her mouth quirked up noting that she was thinking hard. Then shook her head. "Need to say night-night to ev'rybody." Thinking this would be her ticket to staying up. Her kid was a master level practitioner of the prolonged goodnight.

She gave a good natured sigh. After what Jake had told her, the fact that her baby was showing some of her natural effervescence, who was she to say no to the production of Sophie's goodnights. At least here it would be a lot shorter than it would be if they were at the clubhouse in Chicago. Fuck, she'd seen Sophie stretch one of those goodnights into over an hour.

She looked at her daughter again with a tired smile and saw the look of triumph in her baby's dark eyes, as the others, save Happy and the Prospect had come back in. "You know what honey? Mommy's too tired to argue. You win."

Sophie grinned as she wiggled out her arms and down to the floor.

Chapter Text

Gemma smiled a little as she watched the little girl scoot across the clubhouse floor triumphantly. Looking over at the girl's Mama, she gave an internal sigh. The poor girl looked about ready to pull her hair out, but to her credit, merely took a seat at one of the tables as if she were getting ready to watch a show.

She walked over and took a seat next to Tig's oldest daughter, and the two of them sat together quietly and watched the toddler say goodnight to Bobby and then the little girl turned to Chibs.

The small girl looked up at the scarred Scot. "G'night..." Then looked up at the man with a quizzical look. "What's you name?"

Chibs chuckled. "Chibs, lassie."

The little girl shook her head. "Don' like that. What's you real name?" She chuckled a little. Looks like the little one already understood the MC penchant for nicknames.

Chibs and the others chuckled. "Filip, lassie."

"G'night F'lip" Sophie skipping the first 'i' in the man's name, coming up with her own nickname Gemma guessed. "Thank you for helping with my owie." She reached up to give the Scot a hug.

"Anytime lassie." She could see Chibs close his eyes as the little girl wrapped her arms around his neck. With her dark curls and eyes, Gemma was sure that Sophie was reminding Chibs of the daughter he had been forced to leave behind in Belfast twelve years earlier. And that made her heart ache just a little for the man.

She smiled as her husband came and sat down next to her, giving her a kiss on the cheek. Then wanted to scream as Tig sat down next to Clay instead of going and sitting by his kid. She thought they had made progress when they were eating. She wondered what happened in the garage.

But she couldn't deny the small flare of delight when her son came and sat down next to the young woman, throwing an arm over the back of her chair. Maybe Tara fucking Knowles would finally be regulated to the past where she fucking belonged.

She turned back to the show as the toddler had moved onto Juice. The girl looked at the mohawked young man. "G'night..." Sophie stood there looking at the young man expectantly.

Juice swallowed. "Uh...Juice...or, um...Juan Carlos is my real name, you could call me that I guess..."

Sophie just patted Juice's knee. "G'night Juice." Trundling away shaking her head at the young man like she wasn't quite sure how someone could be so stupid.

Both her and Clay started to chuckle. It was such a Tig mannerism. Especially when dealing with Juice.

Jules looked over to them both. She leaned over the table. "That little head shake at Juice was pure Tig."

Jules nodded with a small smile. "Everyone in Chicago says it's pure me. I guess I know where I got it from." She could hear an almost wistful curiosity in the young woman's voice. Like she was finally going to get answers to questions she'd always had.

She bit back a smile as her son put a comforting hand on Jules's back as he handed the young woman a smoke. The girl looked over at her son with a smile. "Thanks."

Jackson gave her one of his best smiles in return. "Anytime darlin'."

Her attention was pulled away as Sophie came to a stop in front of her husband. Clay looked down at the small girl with Tig's curls and large dark eyes that were starting to fade fast.

The girl looked at Clay for a few moments. "G'night Gemma ol' man."

For a moment the clubhouse went totally silent until Clay's laugh boomed throughout, everyone else following suit. She didn't hold back her grin as Clay picked the girl up and placed her in his lap. "Good night little lady." Giving her a kiss on the head. "We'll see you in the morning."

Her brow furrowed for a moment when she heard Jules snicker. Sophie looked at Clay with an impish look on her small face. "Not if I see you first." Then gave Clay a hug before sliding off his lap and moving towards her.

She smiled as Sophie climbed up into her lap and wrapped her small arms around her neck. She really couldn't wait until Abel was old enough to do this.

Sophie gave her a kiss on the cheek. "G'night Gemma. Thank you for bac'n and eggs. And the 'jamas."

She gave the girl a kiss. "You're welcome sweetheart. We'll go shopping tomorrow and get you and Mommy some clothes. Okay?"

Sophie nodded, then looked up at her. "Can I get a princess dress?" She heard the guys’ chuckle.

She didn't look but she was pretty sure she heard Jules's head hit the table. And even though she knew she probably shouldn't, but fuck it, she was a Grandma now and if she wanted to spoil the fuck out of a kid, she could. She looked back at Sophie. "Sure darlin'. Why not?"

Yeah, even if her Mama was gonna be pissed, it was worth it for the smile it brought to Sophie's face. "Really?" She nodded at the little girl whose smile only got bigger. "Thank you!" Getting another hug.

She gave the girl another kiss. "But you have to go to bed for your Mommy after you finish saying goodnight. No arguing. Okay?"

Sophie nodded. "Okay." Then slid off her lap and made her way to Jax, who scooped her up, making the little girl squeal with delight and earned her son another mock smack on the back of the head from her mother. Personally, she was just fine with it. Jules could mock slap her son all she wanted to if it kept Tara away from him.

She couldn't help the smile that broke out on her face at the sight of her son and Sophie together. All of her fears about what kind of father her son might be were suddenly gone.

Sophie was nose to nose with her son. "Did you hear, I gonna get a princess dress. Gemma gonna get me one. Gamma Lu won't. Gamma Lu says biker princess don't wear dresses, but all the princesses in my books wear dresses, so I need a princess dress to be a princess. Right?" Couldn't argue with the girl's logic.

She put her hand over her mouth to cover up the grin at how flummoxed her usually confident son looked for a moment. Then Jax gave Sophie a game smile. "You sure do sweetheart."

This time she didn't hide her grin as Jules head lifted up from the table. "Honey, just for fun, what does Grandma Lu say biker princesses wear?" Jules sounded tiredly amused. Apparently Grandma Lu was a bit of a handful. Gemma knew that the woman was the old lady of Jake Lyons, therefore was Queen of the Satan's Sons.

Sophie looked over at her mother with a smile. "Leafer and diamons." And then the little girl tilted her head for a minute. "And fur." Then the little girl nodded. "That's what Gramma said."

She had to admit, she liked Grandma's idea of what biker princesses wear.

Jules nodded with a tired smile. "Honey, was Grandpa Jake in the room when Grandma said this?" The rest of them chuckled seeing exactly where Jules was heading.

Sophie nodded into Jax's shoulder. The little girl was starting to fade fast. "Yeah." Even her little voice was tired.

Jules reached over and brushed back her curls. "Grandma was yankin' your chain and tryin' to get Grandpa to buy her more bling at the same time."

Sophie nodded again. "Gramma likes bling." Her eyes were starting to close.

Jules stood up and went to take the girl from Jax. Sophie looked at her mother. "Other Papa carry me."

She looked over to see a flash of pleased surprise cross Tig's face before he schooled it back into his usual cool facade. God, she wanted to slap him. "Sure, baby doll."

When Tig walked past her, she stopped him for a second. "We moved them to the room across from you and next to Jax." He nodded as he took Sophie from Jax. She smiled as the little girl wrapped her arms around Tig's neck and buried her face in his shoulder. She could see the SAMCRO SAA gently cradle her head with a hand as he led them back to the dorms.

Her son stood as the three of them disappeared behind the closed door. The others, save her husband, dispersed. Before she could open her mouth Jackson turned to her, his face serious. "Just don't Mom. Just don't. I know you, know exactly what you're thinking, and now is not the fucking time for this. I don't want to talk about any of it and until I get shit straight in my own head, I'm not going to." Her son took a breath. "I'm going to go take a shower." He gave her a kiss on the cheek. "I'll see you in the morning. I love you." Then walked back to the dorms.

When she went to follow, Clay grabbed her arm. "You heard what he said Gem, leave him alone." Then lowered his voice. "If you want to get the outcome you want, stay the fuck out of it. You try to push him one way or the other you're just gonna end up with Tara as your daughter-in-law and Abel's mother. You stay out of it and let nature take its course, it'll be Jules."

She sighed. Her husband was probably right, but it was going to be hard not to meddle, it was her natural gear. "Fine."

Clay gave her kiss. "That's my girl. Let's go home." Putting an arm around her he walked her out of the clubhouse.

Chapter Text

As the three of them reached the threshold of the room that Gem had told him she had put the girls in, the door between the main clubhouse and the dorms opened and Jax came through.

Tig was simultaneously irritated and grateful at the intrusion by the VP. Irritated because he was finally getting a chance to be alone with his kid and grandkid, and grateful, well, for pretty much the same reason.

His kid looked over to Jax who was unlocking the door to his own room. The SAMCRO VP gave her an easy smile. "Rode to the Cali-Oregon border and back. Feeling a little grimy."

Jules gave him a knowing nod. "That would certainly do it."

Sophie lifted her head from his shoulder and put her arms out to Jax, who took her like it was somethin' he did every damn day. His cute as a fuckin' button of a grand-kid gave Jax a kiss on the cheek. "Night-night."

Out of the corner of his eye, he could see his daughter smile as Jax placed a kiss on Sophie's temple. "Night, sweetheart." Then handed the half asleep girl back to him as he looked over to Jules. "Still going back out for your drink and smoke?"

His kid nodded. "I'm a little too worked up to sleep yet. It'll probably be fifteen, twenty minutes before Miss Thing is down for the count though."

Jax nodded with another smile. "I'll see you out there then." Then he disappeared into his room.

Jules opened the door to the room that Gem had moved the meager bag of things that Donna and Opie were nice enough to put together. He was amazed they had what they did considering how old their kids were. He followed his daughter through the door.

When he laid his grand-daughter down on the bed, she looked up at him with sad, tired eyes. "Want 'pook." Her little eyes growing teary.

Her Mama sat down next to her, running her fingers through her curls. "I know baby. Spook will be here in the morning. Uncle Red is bringing him to you." His daughter sounded a little teary too. And he fuckin' hated it.

"Hold on a sec." Both of his girls looked at him. "Be right back." He went across the hall to his room, unlocking the door.

As he entered the room he noticed how raunchy it really was. Stuff strewn everywhere, reeking of booze, weed, and pussy. He shook his head. He'd have a croweater come in and clean up. Eventually, Sophie would probably want to come in here. Or, at least he hoped she might.

Looking around quickly he spied the bag he was looking for. Grabbing it he went back to the room across the hall.

When he went back in Sophie's eyes opened, looking at the bag in his hand.

Feeling more than a little self-conscious, he reached in, pulling out a small bear with a SAMCRO t-shirt. He'd gotten it for Abel, but the little guy wouldn't know and he was sure that Jax would understand. "I know he's not Spook..."

He relaxed just a little when Jules smiled at him. Ok, he hadn't totally fucked up and overstepped.

Sophie was still looking at the bear. "Wha's his name?" Her little voice barely forming the words she was so tired.

He shook his head. "I don't know sweetheart. You'll have to give him one."

His grandbaby looked at the t-shirt on the bear. "Wha tha say?"

"SAMCRO baby doll. It's what we call this charter." He shuffled a little closer to the bed. He really wanted to sit on the bed with them. Here was a kid he hadn't fucked up, with a kid of her own who seemed to like him. Fuck. He wanted so badly for this to work. The only times he ever heard from the twins was if they needed money. Never a call just to see how he was doin'. Never a visit to just to shoot the shit. Either they wanted something from him or they wanted nothing to do with him.

Sophie reached for the bear. "Hi Sam." He let go and the tiny girl pulled the bear to her, wrapping a small arm around it as she closed her eyes.

He continued to stand there stupidly staring at his grandbaby when he heard Jules clear her throat softly. He looked over to see her roll her eyes a little. "You can sit down." It suddenly occurred to him that she was probably as nervous as he was. "If you want."

He sat down at Sophie's feet and really took a look at his daughter. She may have his hair and eyes, and maybe his smile, but the rest of her face was her mother's. Which was a good thing. Marina had always been beautiful, since they were kids. At least to him. And even with all of his years in California, his kid was a little darker than he was thanks to Marina's Basque heritage. But Jules' build was his side though. He'd had an aunt who'd had the same build. But he already knew all this. Knew a lot about her and Sophie. Rip had always been pretty good about keeping him up to speed after he'd found out about her when Marina had died. It was the deal he'd made with his oldest friend. Rip would tell him about his kid and he would stay the hell away, abiding by Marina's deathbed edict that Jules stay with Jake and his boys. She had seen the changes the military had made in him, and wanted him nowhere near their daughter.

But there was the rub. He knew all sorts of shit about her and she hadn't even known he was her Dad. While he really didn't want her to be pissed that he'd gone along with Marina's wishes, she was gonna be, and he couldn't really blame her. So he was gonna do what he usually did. Jump the fuck in and see what the hell happens.

His daughter was looking at him expectantly. He gestured to her right knee. "How bad is it?" He'd noticed her favoring her left leg just a touch as she was leaving the garage and as they were walking back to the room.

She shrugged. "No idea what you're talking about." Although her face, body, and tone of voice all said differently. Cool. First lie out of the way. Perfect time to let her know that he could read her pretty well already.

He grinned just a little. "Don't bullshit a bullshitter, doll. I was at Stanford when you tore your ACL at the NCAA's."

A flash of surprise crossed her face quickly before she schooled it back into a nonchalant look. "It's been better. But being cooped up in a car for two and a half days, it's to be expected." She shrugged. "It's just a little stiff."

He nodded. He had more than a sneaking suspicion that she was underplaying how bad it was. He knew when she had originally hurt it she had continued the match she was playing. It was another way she was like him, she had an unnaturally high tolerance to pain. "Got some muscle relaxants if you want 'em."

She shook her head with a small smile. "I'd love one but I think a drink and smoke will have to suffice for the night." She gestured towards Sophie. "She'll be out cold for a little while, but I'm not sure how she'll do through the night. I should be relatively sober just in case." Then smiled again. "But if you've got Advil, that would be cool."

He nodded. "Yeah, I'm sure we can come up with a few of those." Then swallowed. "And how are ya seein'?" Remembering the glasses the eight year old Jules was wearing at her mother's funeral.

She shrugged. "Things are a little blurry. I can see what everyone looks like, but don't ask me to read anything with small print or drive at night. I didn't have my contacts in when I got back to my place and Dougie made us leave. My glasses were another thing he made me leave." His kid looked at him seriously. "Rip kept you pretty well informed." She didn't really sound angry, but she did sound a little hurt.

He nodded. Then sighed. "Yeah." Sighing again. "Look sweetheart. When your Mom died..."

She put up a hand. "Can we save all of this heavy emotional shit for a little further down the road? It's already been a hell of a couple of days and not looking to get any easier over the next couple." He could feel his heart sinking. His kid didn't want to hear shit from him. "We'll have plenty of time for blame and anger and making up and all that shit later on."

He was so busy beating himself up that he almost missed the last part, as it sunk in he looked up with a smile. "Sure doll." He looked down at Sophie who seemed to be passed the hell out. "Want to go back out? I can stay with Sophie."

She shook her head. "Nah, whoever packed this bag was nice enough to put baby monitors in with the clothes. If they work."

He gave her a small smile. "They'll work. Opie and Donna wouldn't have put them in there if they didn't."

Jules brow furrowed. "Opie and Donna?"

He grinned. "Opie is like Jax, born into SAMCRO. You'll meet his dad Piney in the morning. Piney is one of the first nine and a crotchety old fuck. Opie just got out of Stockton. Did five years. Donna is Ope's wife. She's not really a fan of the club, so it was really pretty cool of her to put that bag together."

His kid nodded. "Yeah, I don't think Soph is gonna want to give the jammies back. She's pretty enamored of them. I'll have to do something to thank them." She stood with one of the monitors in her hand, putting the other where Sophie could see it if she woke up, then headed for the door.

He stood and followed his kid back to the main clubhouse.

Chapter Text

When he got into his room and closed the door, Jax leaned back against it for a moment with his eyes closed. A calloused hand closed over his cheek where he could still feel where small lips had kissed him goodnight. Letting his hand fall, he shook his head. Fatherhood must be turning him into a total sap.

'Or maybe it's just Jules and Sophie.' A very traitorous part of his brain started spouting off.

He groaned a little as he pushed himself off the door and shrugged off his cut, letting it fall onto the chair at his desk. Kicking off his tennis shoes, he left a trail of clothing as he made his way to the shower.

Turning it on, he stood there for a minute letting the water warm up thinking about his dilemma. Although there was no actual dilemma unless Jules was as interested in him as he was in her. Stepping into the spray, he was going with the theory that she was as into him as he was her. So far the evidence was pointing that way.

On one side there was Tara. He had loved her since he was sixteen and had held onto that love even after she had left him. And it seemed, and he was stressing the seemed, to still love him.

'But...' The other part of his brain started. 'She still hates SAMCRO. She still hates your mother. You saw how she looked at everyone here tonight. Like they were beneath her. Is that how she looks at you when you aren't looking?'

He wasn't sure if that was his angel or his devil talking, but they made sense. "But she saved Abel." He whispered. Hell, if he was going to talk to himself, he was going to make damn sure no one else could hear.

'You mean she did her job?' The other voice that sounded like a snarkier version of his own, snickered. 'That's what she's paid to do, sport. Why'd she come back?' The voice nearly sneered.

He sighed. This is where he stumbled. "Her Dad died."

'Yeah. Take a week. Settle the estate, pack the house, and go back to where she came from. Why'd she stay? Because St. Thomas is the pinnacle of her profession? Hardly.' The snarky voice got snarkier. 'Brought another fucked up ATF agent to your damn door buddy boy and didn't think twice about it. Just thought about saving her own ass.'

"What about Jules? Who knows what she's brought to our door." He knew it was lame, but it was all he had.

Snarky voice snorted. 'First of all, she's family. Secondly, pretty sure if the kid hadn't been in the car she'd have dealt with that little Nazi fuck before they ever crossed the Illinois border and we wouldn't be here now. And last, still no Feds to be found with her.'

Snarky voice went on. 'Aren't you already tired of the judgmental looks that the Doc gives you anytime you leave to go do club shit?'

"Okay smartass. What about Jules? You got all of this negative shit about Tara, what about Jules?" Throwing the gauntlet down. Wait, was he really having this conversation with himself? Yeah. He was.

'She's Tig Trager's kid. You really don't know her. Yeah...that's all I got.' Snarky voice became far less snarky and then went silent.

He leaned his head on the shower wall. From the moment Sophie crawled in his lap and conned chocolate out of him and then Jules came out and sat between him and Tig, he felt something in him change and change in ways he couldn't quantify. As much as he loved Tara, he had to admit that he had trouble envisioning her, Abel, and him being a happy little family. But sitting with Jules and Sophie, not so hard. And he had no idea what to do with that. He had loved Tara for so long the idea of not loving her was almost frightening. Almost.

He sighed and turned the shower off. He certainly wasn't going to get this figured out tonight. After drying off and getting into some clean clothes, he made his way out to the main clubhouse to see if he couldn't get to know a certain someone a little better.

Chapter Text

Chibs sat back in a chair in the main clubhouse with a beer in his hand, glass of whiskey on the table. Hap and Sack had left to take the Nazi piece of shite somewhere far more private so when the Chicago lads got here in the morning they'd be able to have a productive conversation with the fuckwad.

As usual, Bobby and Juice were arguing over music. While he stayed out of it, privately he agreed with Bobby. He wasn't sure what Juicy-boy listened to, but most of it was noise to him. Usually there were croweaters and sweetbutts around to distract him from the noise, but with what was going on tonight he understood why Clay had them sent away.

He was just getting ready to bellow at the two of them to shut their gobs when the door to the dorms opened and Tig and the lass came through, the lass holding a baby monitor.

She looked over at Juice and Bobby and shook her head at Juice. "Dude. Why in the fuck are you trying to get him to listen to your new metal bullshit?"

He and Tig laughed as Bobby looked over at her with a thankful grin. "Thank you for speakin' sense to him darlin'."

He saw Jackie come in and his smile broadened. Ye'd have to be dead not to notice the lad's reaction to Tig's daughter and grand-daughter and despite the early interest in Hap, he had the feeling no man saw Jules bed without Sophie's approval and the lassie hadn't shown one iota of interest in Hap while Jackie was already a favorite, candy or not.

Juicy looked to defend himself. "His musical tastes are stuck in the sixties and seventies. I'm just trying to bring him into the twenty-first century."

Jackie had gotten a beer for himself and had brought one to the lass, who took it with a nod of thanks. After taking a swallow, she gave Juice a withering look. "First of all, nothing wrong with being stuck in the sixties and seventies musically. Seriously, you're going to dis the Beatles, Stones, the Who, Zeppelin, Dylan, do I need to go on? Plus, he was singing Elvis to Miss Thing when I came in." She turned to Bobby. "Really well too. Sophie thinks that's a Pearl Jam song by the way." Then turned back to Juice. "And if you want to bring him into the twenty first century you don't play him fucking Linkin Park. Play him White Stripes. The Black Keys. Kings of Leon." She looked back at Bobby. "You love Elvis, right?"

Bobby nodded. "You could say that darlin'. I do an Elvis act." The rest of them chuckled.

Her eyes widened happily. "Cool. While we are here, you are welcome to sing to Sophie whenever you want. She will worship you forever." Then grinned. "Back to the point." She looked back to Juice. "You want to introduce new music to people you have to build off what they already like. He's a classic rock dude, you gotta give him blues based modern rock." Then shook her curls again. "Then again, from what little I've heard, I'm pretty sure Sophie has better taste in music than you do."

Tiggy was sitting back with a grin splittin' his face at his kid takin' Juicy down. "What does the baby doll like?"

Jules turned to her Da. "The order changes day to day but her top four are the White Stripes, Pearl Jam, Eric Church, and Garbage." Then chuckled. "This month."

Juice frowned. "I've heard of all of them except the guy." Juice sounded put out. He thought himself up on things.

Jules shrugged. "Country artist. Only has one album. But she likes it. So do I." She shrugged again. "I'll tolerate most anything for a little while, and actually like most anything other than well, a lot of heavy metal, you know, thrash and speed metal. Sorry, I like melody and am a sucker for a well-crafted song." Then the lass tilted her head and grinned, and once again there was no doubt to who her father was. "And I refuse to listen to Mexican polka. I hate that shit. I'd rather have to listen to that God awful hate metal that Dougie was poisoning my sound system with than listen to that excuse for music."

"But you're half Mexican." Juice looked confused.

Jules look turned back into Tiggy's psycho look. "I am not Mexican. I am not Latina. I am not Spanish. I am Basque." Then looked back to Tig. "Or at least half Basque." Tiggy chuckled behind her while everyone other than him and Tiggy looked confused. Tig, because he was assumin' Tig knew the lass's Mum's history, and him, well he was from Europe and the Basque weren't all that dissimilar to the Catholics in Northern Ireland.

Jules looked around and noticing the look on his face, gave him a wry grin. "Yeah." Then looked at Jackie and Bobby. "Technically Basque country is parts of Spain and France. It spans the border along the north." Then glanced back her Da. "My mother's father is from the Spanish side. Navarre. My mother's mother is originally from the French side. Labourd. Well, before her family moved to Paris not long after she was born. They both came to the States after World War II. My grandfather went back a couple of months before my mother was born. He's a founding member of the ETA."

He arched an eyebrow. Jackie looked at the lass. "Okay, I'll admit it. I have no idea what the fuck you are talking about." Then looked over at him. "But I'm guessing you do."

He nodded and took a drag of his smoke. "ETA is kinda like the IRA Jackie. Basque nationalists. Terrorists to others." He looked over at the lass. "Didn't they break a cease-fire not that long ago?"

She shrugged. "Probably. Aitona Baroja sends letters from prison in France, trying to get me into the cause, but I think he forgets I'm a couple of generations removed. And American." Then looked at Juice. "But I'm Basque enough to take offense when someone calls me Mexican." She shook her head. "Seriously, the Basque were there when Caesar came to Gaul and he calls me a Mexican." With a chuckle she rolled her eyes to the ceiling. "No wonder Sophie shook her head at you. You're another Dennis. Put you in front of a computer you're a fucking genius. The rest of the time, someone should follow your pretty boy ass around to make sure you don't do something retarded." The lass took a long swallow of her beer.

At that Tiggy nearly fell out of his chair laughing, Bobby and Jackie not far behind. He had a pretty big grin on his face himself. The lass had kinda hit the nail on the head when it came to Juicy. Tech wise the boy was a genius, the rest of it, not so much.

The lass looked at Juice with a smile. "Sorry dude, I've had a really crap couple of days and a bit of a temper on my best day, and this is nowhere near that. And you've been an exceptionally easy target."

Juice gave her a shaky smile back. "Well, you haven't tried to punch me, so we're cool." Then Juice slid his chair back and got up. "Think I'm gonna head out. I'll see you guys in the morning."

The lass looked a little dismayed. "I didn't mean to run you out of your own clubhouse, dude."

Juice shook his head. "You're not." Then grinned a little. "I'm almost through a level, kind of want to finish it tonight."

He shook his head. This was another time that most of them had no bloody idea what the fuck Juice was talking about. But the lassie nodded. "Ah...you're a gamer." She shook her head. "So not a gamer, but have plenty of friends who are. Halo or Call of Duty?" He grinned behind his hand, the lass was doing a fine job of assuaging any hurt feelings.

"Call of Duty." Juice grinned while the rest of them rolled their eyes.

Jules nodded. "Okay. Like I said. So not a gamer." Then laughed. "Unless you count Candyland."

Juice waved his goodbye and as the door closed behind him Jules looked at the rest of them. "He was patched because none of the rest of you know how to use a computer, right?"

Jackie looked at her with an amused look. "That obvious?"

She grinned. "He's Dennis all over. Seriously, even the legacy was close to not being enough for him."

Jackie frowned. "Legacy?"

She looked at all of them. "Yeah. Oh, I forget you guys probably don't know. The Chicago chapter of Satan's Sons you only get to prospect if you're a legacy or if you're former military. And they prefer Special Forces. And what they really prefer is both. Other charters don't have that particular rule, but we do. Rip got in because he was Recon. Jake is both. His Dad, Old Jake, was a fighter pilot in Korea and Satan's Sons President until about ten years ago. Jake was Recon with Rip. Red is Jake's son, so he's third generation and he did six years in the Marines, Recon also. Red is six years older than me. Dennis is Jake's middle kid. Went to M.I.T. at fifteen but wanted to be MC. He's three years older than me. Butch is Jake's youngest. He's the odd one. Kinda. Went to Annapolis then BUDS school for the SEALS. He's a Lieutenant. Last I knew he was somewhere in Afghanistan. But who knows, since he's been a SEAL, 'it's classified' comes out of his mouth on a pretty regular basis. He's a year and a half older than I am." She nodded with a smile. "Shit, those three are more my brothers than Dougie. Rip was my legal guardian, but Jake, and then Jake and Lu fuckin' raised me." She laughed. "More proof that woman needs her head examined. Hook up with a guy who has four kids ranging from sixteen to ten?" Then looked around. "I'm rambling again. I do that sometimes."

He wasn't sure who was more okay with it, Jackie or Tiggy. He wanted to laugh so badly. One man who usually didn't give a flying fuck about anything other than his own base wants and needs unless it was club related, and another who had spent the last two months mooning over a teenage love come back, both now happily hanging on every word coming from well, he'd never say it aloud for a number of reasons, one of the most fetching females that had stepped foot in SAMCRO's clubhouse in his tenure here. And both men eager for more. Well, no one could ever say that he didn't help a brother or brothers in need.

"No worries lassie. But I do have a question for ye, if ye don't mind?" He lit a joint and took a hit and handed it to her. She took a hit and gestured for him to ask away. "That was quite the smack ye laid on the little Nazi shite. Ye've made that motion more than once. Do ye go around smackin' people like that often?"

She grinned as Tig choked on the hit of the joint she had passed to him. "No."

He grinned back. "Lass, I think this may be one of those times ye need to ramble a bit."

She looked over at Tig. Then looked over at Jackie and Bobby. As she went to answer, the clubhouse door opened and Sack and Hap came through. As the two went and grabbed beers, she looked back to him. "I don't hit people like that often, but I have spent more hours than I really care to think about hitting tennis balls. That was the down swing of a tennis serve."

Tig broke in. "Which at her best was close to ninety miles an hour." Then Tig looked at her. "Didn't you set the Illinois state record for aces in the state tournament?" Tiggy's tone implied that the SAA already knew the answer.

She shrugged. "Yeah. My junior year. Then set it again my senior year. I'm sure it's been broken. That was seven years ago." She made it sound like it was something that anyone could do. Maybe tennis was easier than it looked to him. Or maybe the lass was just modest.

Jackie finally got in on the conversation, but it was directed at Tig. "You know about that?"

Tig shrugged, looking a little embarrassed. All of them kept some things from their brothers, but something like a kid, that was kind of big. And the VP was calling him out, just the tiniest bit. "Like I said in the garage, I kept track of my kid. Even went to some matches when she was at Stanford for a year. Was at the match she tore her ACL at during the NCAA's." Tig looked over at his daughter with such pride it nearly made his own chest swell. "Finished the goddamned match before it totally gave out. Won too."

Jules shook her head. "Like that matters, had to forfeit the next one. Luckily we still won the National Championship." Ah, the lass was just modest.

Jackie looked at her questioningly. "Athletes rehab from that all the time and go right back. Why didn't you?" It seemed to him like the lass's answer was really important to Jackie. Like it was going to answer so much more than only the question he'd asked.

She shrugged. "As much as I love playing tennis and still do, I found out I didn't miss playing competitive tennis much. You have no idea how many hours a day get devoted to it. Between practices and then just working out so you have the stamina to play a three set match, which can go for hours, then always having to watch what you eat. That part sucked the most. And I'd been doing it since I was ten." Then an almost beatific smile crossed her face. "Plus if I'd gone back, there would be no Sophie and Sophie is better than tennis any minute of any day." Then the lassie chuckled. "Even when I have to fight every urge to give her a small dose of Benadryl so she'll stop bouncing around for five minutes."

Jackie chuckled. "Really. I can't see her that way at all." Then laughed as the disposable lighter the lass had been holding hit him square in the chest. "Hey! What, you played softball too?"

Tig grinned. "Basketball. Point guard. Sister Mary Pat would be proud."

Jules gave him a withering look. "Now I know why she'd walk around and shake her head at me and mutter 'just like your father'."

Tig's grin got wider. "She loved me."

Jules started to laugh with an incredulous look on her face. "No. She didn't."

Tig looked at her, amused. "She always told me she was praying for me."

Jules shook her head. "Because she thought you were touched by Satan." While her voice was filled with amusement, it was matter of fact. The rest of them started to laugh. He had to admit, the lass had a quick wit and good timing.

Bobby laughed. "So she knew Tig then."

He looked at Tig curiously. Tiggy had always been circumspect about his life before the Sons, saying it was the past and that was where it belonged. He knew the SAA was from the Midwest and had a fucked up relationship with his parents, that much was obvious, and had been Recon in the Marines. That was it. So he was going to take advantage. "Catholic school Tiggy?"

Tig shrugged. "Yeah, so?"

Jackie looked at Jules. "And you went to the same school and had some of the same teachers and no one said anything?"

Jules looked at Jackie like he was a little slow. "I just figured they were talking about Rip or Jake." She looked at Tig.

Tiggy sighed. "Me, Rip and Marina were friends since elementary school." After a minute. "And that's all you’re gettin' tonight." Then grinned at his kid. "I'm a mystery wrapped in an enigma to them."

"Then bubble wrapped in weird." His kid shot back. He almost fell out of his chair with laughter. He was kind of hoping the lass and lassie stuck around for a little bit, it would be fun, at least for him, to see what they would do for a couple of members of the Redwood Originals.

Chapter Text

Bobby was chuckling at how quick on the draw Jules was with Tig. The girl was holding up pretty well for being thrown into what could have been an ugly, awkward situation. Well, had she chosen to make it that way. It was becoming obvious that Tig had known about her for a very long time and she'd had no idea. He was amazed she was handling it all with the grace she was. If it were him in her shoes, he'd be beyond pissed.

He hoped it wasn't an act. He knew that even though Tig tried to act like it didn't, it killed Tig that he had almost no relationship with the twins. He hoped that Jules would really give the crazy fucker a chance and see that underneath all of that shit was still a man worth being a father and a grandfather.

And he also wasn't blind to how the girls had affected Jax. Something in the boy had changed since Abel was born to be sure, but it was like it had solidified tonight. Like Jules and Sophie had shown the boy part of what having a wife and kids was really about. Not that bullshit sham of a marriage that he had with Wendy. And with everything that surrounded Abel's birth and the little guy having to be in the toaster, he was sure that being a father was still ephemeral to Jax. And he kind of hoped the Jules kept her word, if Sophie had trouble sleeping because of the candy, she'd make Jax get the hell up and deal with it. Give the boy a real taste.

He took a hit off of the joint he'd just lit, continuing to watch the interaction between Jax and Jules. They seemed to have an easy time of it, moving over to the couch, the conversation never stopping. And while they sat close, it was the kind of close where Jules was telling the boy, 'you may get this one day, but not this day'. And for once the James T. Kirk of the MC world seemed just fine with that. Not even Tara could put a stop to that shit. Then again, as pretty as she was, Tara didn't look quite like that and Tig Trager was not her father.

He smiled as the man sat down by him, taking the joint from his fingers. He nodded his head towards the couch. "How long?"

Tig snorted. "What? Before they're sleepin' together or how long have I known about her?"

He rolled his eyes. "The latter, Tig."

Tig shrugged. "Since her mother's funeral. She was eight. So, seventeen years."

He looked over at Tig, whose vivid blue eyes never left his kid, like if he looked away, she'd disappear. "And a year of that just a couple hours away."

Tig nodded and took a drink of his beer. "Yep."

He shook his head. "You're not giving me much Tig."

Tig looked over to him, eyes placid. "Only one person I have to explain myself to. And it ain't you." Tig stood up. He didn't like it, but the man had a point.

He watched as the SAA walked over to his daughter. "I'm gonna go crash doll. You want me to check on Sophie for you?"

Jules shook her head. "Nah. Sleep is probably a good idea. Plus I don't want to run the risk of her waking up by herself in a new place." The young woman sighed. "Especially with everything that's happened." She stood up and even in the baggie sweats and t-shirt he couldn't get over how much of Tig was in her body language. When standing, both stood proud, almost defiantly so. And when they sat, they tended to sprawl out like they owned the space. Tig nodded and headed off towards his dorm room.

He stifled a chuckle as Jax was quick to follow suit. "Think I'll head that way too."

Jules nodded towards Hap and Sack, then smiled at Chibs and him. "Night Chibs, Elvis." Chibs raised his beer to the girl.

He chuckled. "Night darlin'. By the way, what will the Princess eat for breakfast?"

The young woman smiled her father's smile. "Make her pancakes you will be her best friend for at least an hour."

He laughed. "I'll see what I can do."

Jax had opened the door to the dorms, and as she began to walk through, she stopped and turned back towards him. "Seriously, do not go and do anything above and beyond for her. You guys have been wonderful already and she already has a couple charters wrapped around her finger..."

Jax chuckled. "And I think a third by the time she's three is only fair. And it's only right that it's SAMCRO."

Jules flipped him off behind her back as she was walked through the door. "You are so getting up if she does now. I was gonna be nice, but it is so on if she wakes up..."

They couldn't hear Jax's reply as the door closed.

Sack looked at him, Hap, and Chibs. "He does know she's TIG's kid? Right? He can't just hit that and walk away, can he? What about that Tara lady?"

He, Chibs, and Hap all looked at each other, and then Chibs looked at Sack. "Aye. Aye. Noooo. And that would be the million dollar question lad."

He looked at Hap. "Ain't that the truth brother."

Hap threw back a shot of whiskey. "Nah. Jules is club. Doc ain't. Pretty simple. Jax will see that sooner rather than later. Shit's comin' down fast." Then got up and went outside.

He sighed and looked at Chibs. He had a bad feeling Hap was right.

Chibs looked back at him. "Aye."

Sack just looked confused. "So does that mean Tig will be Jax's father-in-law?"

He shook his head. "Shut it. Prospects are meant to be seen and not heard. Go get me a beer."

As Sack ran off to get him his beer, he looked towards the dorms and hoped that in the end things worked out.

Chapter Text

"Really? Bring it darlin'." As the door closed behind them, Jax smiled at Jules' back. He wouldn't admit it out loud but if Sophie did wake up tonight, he wanted to be up with them.

"You think I won't?" Jules had turned around and was leaning back on the wall between the doorways of their respective rooms. Her lips quirking up into a smirk.

And though he wanted to be right up next to her, he leaned back on the opposite wall and gave her a wry smile. "No, I think you probably will." Then he shrugged, trying to give the appearance of him being resigned to it, rather than him weirdly hoping for it. "It'll be good practice for when Abel gets home."

He'd told her about Abel after she'd told him about Tig and the SAMCRO bear the SAA had given Sophie. Jules had been curious to why Tig of all people would have a teddy bear in a bag ready to be gifted.

There had been no judgment about his fucked up marriage, divorce, and reconciliation with Wendy like there had been with Tara. Just concern for him and his son and relief when he had told her Abel was getting stronger every day.

She nodded with a slight smirk. "A three year old up in the middle of the night is a whole different animal than a couple month old, but I suppose you could look at it that way."

He smirked right back. "Maybe I'll get lucky and she won't wake up at all during the night."

Jules leaned her head back against the wall and closed her eyes. "From your lips to God's ear." Then opened her eyes and looked at him seriously. "Because if she wakes up, it's not gonna be because of the chocolate."

She hung her head a little and all he wanted to do was go over and wrap his arms around her until all of the hurt and anger went by the wayside. But he stayed put.

When she raised her head, she gave him a slight smile. "Think I'm going to go try to get some sleep." Pushing herself off of the wall she leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek opposite that Sophie had. "Goodnight Jax. Hopefully we won't see you until morning."

"Night, darlin'." He watched her go into the room, catching a glimpse of Sophie sprawled out on the bed, teddy bear clutched like a lifeline in her arm.

When the door closed, he went into his room. Stripping down to his boxers, he got into bed. Lying there in the dark, he could still feel where she had kissed him, almost like she had branded him. Fuck, maybe she had.

Rolling over onto his side, he let sleep claim him.

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When she closed the door behind her, she shook her head. This was the absolute last thing she needed right now. Happy would have been just a roll in the hay. But Jax, fuck, Jax was kind of a forever proposition. And that scared the hell out of her.

Plus she wasn't blind. There was something going on between him and the doctor chick. And she wasn't stupid, she knew that there was no way on God's green earth that Tig was going to allow any of his brothers to just bed her and walk away. He'd have the same rules that Jake and Rip had. She was either going to be someone's old lady or nothing at all. Plus, there was one other factor that she really preferred not to think about.

She sighed, she was too tired and too emotionally fucked up right at the moment to try and figure anything out. And anyway all she really wanted right now was to get a little sleep, for Sophie to not wake up until morning, and have Jake and the others get to Charming. She knew it wouldn't be only her wallet, phone and Spook they would be bringing. She was really looking forward to clean underwear.

Lying down, Sophie instinctively curled into her. Wrapping her arms around her baby, she placed a soft kiss on the small head. It didn't take long before she was as asleep as her daughter.

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When he had gotten back into the dorms he had wanted to check on Sophie, but when he had heard the door between the clubhouse and the dorms open and could hear Jules and Jax, he slipped into his room.

Standing by his door, he smiled a little at the conversation between the two. It seemed to be an easy thing for the two of them, no awkwardness to be found. Hell, he was pretty sure that things had never been that easy between Jax and Tara.

When he'd heard both of them go into their rooms, he waited about fifteen minutes, taking a few swallows from the bottle of Macallan he kept in his room, not for courage, just because he felt like it. Or, at least that was what he was telling himself.

When he was sure the coast was clear, he stole out of his room. Going across the hall, he put an ear to the door. Not hearing anything, he cracked the door. Peering in he could see both girls were asleep, Sophie clutching the bear he'd given her while lying in the safety of her Mama's arms, sleeping peacefully.

While she was sleeping, Jules didn't look peaceful. She looked tense and pained. His hand gripped the doorknob just a little tighter. He wanted to go in and make it better for her, but knew he couldn't. This was a tense and painful situation and the only thing was gonna make it better was time. He just hoped he would get that.

Sighing softly, he closed the door and went back to his own room. Taking another swig from the bottle, he went to the closet. Reaching up to the back of the top shelf, he pulled the lock box out.

Taking it, he went and sat on his bed, whiskey bottle by his side. Pulling the key from the hiding place in the bed stand, he unlocked it and upended it, photos and newspaper clippings falling like snow.

He spent a couple of hours looking through the pictures Rip had sent him over the years, plus the newspaper clippings he'd cut out himself. Granted most of those were the equivalent of baseball box scores, except for tennis, but there were a few articles from when she was still in high school. He knew the other guys had been shocked that he had a kid who wasn't a fuck up. But then again, none of them really knew he hadn't been a fuck up as a kid or a teenager. A bit of a hellraiser, sure. He was sure that other than Clay, none of them knew that he'd gone to college, was Marine ROTC, and actually fucking graduated. What he'd been asked to do for 'God and Country' had made it impossible for him to go back to any kind of normal life, made it impossible to go home. So after his discharge, he'd bought a bike and just rode. He'd met Clay at a bar in Reno after Clay had jumped into his side of a bar fight. When it was over, Clay offered him a prospect spot in Charming. That was twenty-two years ago.

By the time he was tired enough, or drunk enough to fall asleep, he was too tired to hide what he secretly thought of as his treasure chest back where it belonged. Oh well, not like they were a secret anymore. He didn't have to hide them from anyone any longer.

He fell asleep with a slight smile on his face.

Chapter Text

The second Sophie started to whimper, she was awake. She looked down at her daughter who was awake with tears coming down her face. She wiped them away with a finger. "Bad dream honey?"

Sophie nodded, still whimpering. "Owie hurts."

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. She couldn't believe she was so spun out that she had forgotten to ask either the Doc or someone else for a pain reliever for Sophie. She knew that the Doc had numbed Soph's cheek when she'd put the stitches in and had given her a little something for pain, but none of them had thought ahead, too caught up in the drama of the moment.

She nodded as she got out of the bed bringing Sophie with her. When she got to the door to open it, she stopped. "Other Papa or Jax?" She whispered, mostly to herself.

"Jax." Sophie said through her tears.

She smiled a little in the low light she had left on in the room. Sophie had taken to Jax like she had really never taken to any guy that wasn't family. And she didn't think it was just the chocolate.

She kissed Sophie's head. "Jax it is then, Miss Thing." She opened the door and the two of them stepped to the room next door.

Taking a deep breath, she knocked lightly, hoping it was loud enough to wake Jax but none of the others. The two of them stood there for a few moments and as she was getting ready to knock again, she could hear the rustling of blankets and Jax's voice rough with sleep. "Just a sec."

A moment later the door opened. She nearly smiled, he had taken the time to put on a pair of jeans. At first his summer sky eyes were clouded with sleep, but the second they landed on her tearful daughter they became instantly alert. "What's wrong sweetheart?" Reaching out and carding his fingers through the curls at Sophie's temple.

Then her daughter did something that surprised, thrilled and dismayed her in equal measure. Sophie reached back for SAMCRO's VP, her baby starting to sob quietly as Jax took Sophie from her arms and held her to him, starting to rock her a little.

He looked at her with concerned eyes, and gestured her into his room. She stepped through the doorway and even with all of the shit going through her head, she almost fucking laughed. It was like stepping into Red's room at the Satan's clubhouse. It was the room of a guy who had enough other things going for him that he could get away with the room of a teenage boy at the age of thirty. Well, minus the pictures of the naked chicks.

She sighed instead. "Combo of a bad dream and her owie hurting. And tonight's the night I totally forgot how to be a fucking parent and make sure I had stuff to give her for it before everyone left or went to bed." She knew she sounded aggravated and she was. With herself. Between the sleep deprivation and the trauma of how she had gotten that way, the shock of meeting her actual father, her breakdown in the garage, and then this guy, standing in front of her looking like a wet dream and holding her baby like she was one of Seven Wonders of the World, she had dropped the ball. And it pissed her off. She sighed again. "Do you have any regular aspirin? I can make do with that. This doesn't strike me as a town that's got a 24 hour convenience store right down the street."

He shook his head. "Not in here. But there are a couple of places we can check in the main clubhouse and the office. I'm sure there's some around here." Then gave her a soft smile. "And while it's not right down the street, there is a place open 24 hours." He handed her Sophie back, who was still teary and grabbed a t-shirt and pulled it over his head. "We're not totally removed from modern civilization." His voice laced with wry humor. "And I don't mind going and getting kid friendly stuff. It'd only be about fifteen minutes max."

She shook her head as gave him a slight grin. "Let's see if we can find aspirin here first." She looked at Sophie. "Let's go find something to make your owie feel better honey." Soph nodded a little as she shifted her to her hip and her daughter laid her head on her shoulder. She could feel the t-shirt she was wearing soak up the tears still falling from her daughter's eyes.

When she started to turn for the door, she saw Jax stop and a step into his tennis shoes, another thing she found kind of wonderful about him. Even though boots would be more practical, the stark white tennis shoes did have a certain flair she could appreciate being the clothes horse she truly was. Then he grabbed a flannel and hoodie. When she raised an eyebrow, he shrugged. "Just in case." He held up placating hands. "We'll do it your way first." His lips quirking up into a slight smile.

She almost chuckled. "Get used to saying that Teller." And started to walk out the door towards the main clubhouse. Fuck it, Doctor Knowles or not, she was throwing her hat in the ring.

And here was the thing. She was a trained competitive athlete at her core. A champion. She didn't lose. Not when it was all on the line. That's when she was taught to exploit every advantage she had and every weakness her opponent possessed. She was very good at that. As Doctor Knowles was going to find out.

Chapter Text

'Holy fuck.' Jax nearly groaned as he stopped cold and stood there for a moment after Jules and Sophie walked out of his room. For two reasons. One, regardless of the situation, he was a little hard after her parting shot. And two; Snarky voice was back with a fucking vengeance. He wasn't gonna find aspirin whether it was there or not. He needed to clear his head for a minute.

'Yeah...good luck with that. Because, well damn, that was hot. She all but put a fucking crow on you buddy.' Snarky didn't sound displeased with the notion.

He sighed as he gritted his teeth. He was gonna go do a cursory check and then go to the Fast Mart. He'd argue with himself then. Although at the moment he wasn't quite sure how much of an argument it would be.

He went out to the main clubhouse and once again was stopped cold. Jules had found the radio and since Bobby usually controlled that, it was on a local classic rock station. She and Sophie were swaying to a familiar song that he couldn't name if someone put a gun to his head.

"...You can't stop us on the road to freedom. You can't stop us 'cause our eyes can see." Jules was swaying and singing along softly to Sophie who it seemed to calm almost immediately. He shook his head, and she was fucking beating herself up for not being totally one hundred percent on top of shit. Like anyone expected that of her right now. She'd been through a lot of shit in the last couple of days, and as much as you could try to not let shit affect you, it just does.

"...Men with insight, men in granite." She continued to sway and sing as he went behind the bar to check there. She smiled softly at him. "...Knights in armor, intent on chivalry." He could feel a slight rush of blood in a couple of places. High on his cheekbones and, well, he was glad he was behind the bar.

'Let me reiterate. Ho-ly fuck.' He shook his head, clearing it. Jules thought he was saying there was no aspirin. He looked around quickly. Luckily there was none. She was still dancing and singing to her daughter. "...She's as sweet as Tupelo honey. She's an angel of the first degree..." She had spun them so her back was to him again, hips swaying in a languid rhythm, her dark curls moving like waves on a moonless night. "...She's as sweet as Tupelo honey. Just like honey baby, from the bee." Once again turning and smiling at him as her daughter's head rested on her shoulder, sleepy but not asleep.

'And aren't you just dying to find out.' Swallowing hard and thinking of what had brought the girls to Charming, he willed his dick to stand the hell down. This was sooo not the time. He came out from behind the bar. "I'm gonna check the office real quick. I'll be right back."

She nodded. "Okay. So far this seems to be holding her over for the moment." Still swaying to the song as it continued.

He was getting ready to turn to go to the office when he stopped. "Who's this?" Gesturing towards the radio.

She smiled and rolled her eyes at him like he was retarded. "Van Morrison's Tupelo Honey." She shook her head and then looked at Sophie. "Looks like we're gonna have to give Jax some music lessons hmm kiddo?"

Sophie nodded with a sleepy smile. "I like music."

Jules laughed a little. "I know honey."

He couldn't help but shake his head and smile. "Any other plans for my life you'd like to tell me about?"

She smiled at him and those vivid blue eyes twinkled mischievously. "Yes. But I prefer to surprise you with them. Keep you on your toes. It's good for your heart rate."

'I can think of much better ways to raise the ol' heart rate. Seriously. How is this even a decision? Are you so fucking hung up on a past that you'll never get back no matter how hard you try, to pass her, them up? 'Cause I'm just not seeing how you do that unless you're plannin' on ignoring every fuckin' instinct you have as a man. Really. Doc's not doin' this shit to your dick is she?' Snarky was on a fucking roll now.

He rolled his eyes at what was becoming a voice screaming in his head, but covered. Pretty well he thought. "Great, while you're coming up with those, like I said, I'm gonna go check the office." Then booked the fuck out of there.

When he got to the office, he unlocked it and went in and started to give it another cursory toss, mostly trying to calm himself the fuck down.

He thought of Tara. He loved her. He was sure of that. He just wasn't sure he was in love with her anymore. He knew he had married Wendy because he was lonely and wanted a family, wanted to have someone to be all his, and to be all theirs. Maybe he had been wanting Tara back less out of real love and passion than for the stability he craved on some levels.

'Now we're gettin' somewhere sport. Keep thinkin.' Snarky sounded pretty pleased about that.

He shook his head. Who even knew if Jules was stable? Yeah, she certainly seemed to be, but she was Tig's daughter and who knows what kind of crazy got passed along in that gene pool?

'Like you have any room to talk? Gemma isn't the poster child for sane now is she? Seriously. Do want her judging you by your mother? Although even money says they get along just fine. Which you know deep down is what your Mama's boy ass really wants.' He was getting really tired of Snarky making all of these really good points. While twenty-four hours ago, his life was certainly complicated, this was a whole new level of clusterfuck.

Yeah, the fact that Gemma and Tara could barely stand each other did kind of bother him, but it wasn't a deal breaker. Hadn't been when they were teenagers, it wasn't now. And honestly there was a very small part of him that he refused to examine that enjoyed the tug of war the two women played with him.

'And you say Tig's fucked up. Okay Oedipus. You know what? I've given you what you need to know to make your decision. The rest of this is just a bunch of fucking hand wringing. You were in love Tara. You may still love her, but not in any real way that's gonna give you any real satisfaction or contentment. Ever. A part of you will always be waiting for her to leave you again. And then you have Jules, who by the way, you spark enough electricity with to light up all of Stockton, standing right in front of you basically offering you forever. And I have the feelin' she's not the cut and run type. But whatever. Make yourself happy or set yourself up for misery. It's all on you buddy.' The snarky voice went silent.

He sighed. His subconscious, his conscious, whatever, had made it's point. He still wasn't sure how this would play out, but he was pretty sure that his hand would be forced sooner rather than later.

He went and opened Gemma's desk drawer, and there was a bottle of baby aspirin. He shrugged. His head was probably as clear as it was gonna fuckin' get, so he grabbed them and headed back into the clubhouse.

Jules was still swaying as a different song played, Sophie's head still on her shoulder, the little girl's eyes exhausted and teary. They looked over as he came in. "Gemma apparently keeps baby aspirin in her desk." He held up the bottle like a prize.

Jules smiled. "Score. Shake out one, we'll give that a bit and see if that will work before I give her another." Then her look became a little more serious. "With everything that's happened I don't want to over-medicate her." She rubbed Sophie's back. "Her little system has already had enough stress on it."

Well that sobered shit right on up now didn't it? He nodded sadly. "Probably for the best." He opened the bottle and shook out a small orange-ish pill into Jules' open hand.

Jules nudged Sophie's head with her shoulder. "Open up honey." The small girl opened her mouth and Jules put the aspirin on her tongue. Sophie closed her mouth and chewed it up quickly making a small face at him.

He gave her a smile. "I know, it doesn't taste real good does it?" She shook her halo of black curls. He reached over and brushed her bangs off of her forehead. "Would a small glass of orange juice make it better?" Feeling a warmth blossom in his chest when she gave him a small smile with her nod.

Before he embarrassed himself he went to the kitchen and found a carton of orange juice. Grabbing that and a couple of glasses from the cupboard he went back out. Jules had finally sat down at a table with Sophie on her lap, the girl's head resting on her chest.

Putting a glass in front of her, he poured about half a glass, thinkin' maybe Sophie's Mama would like some too. Jules smiled at him and that heat in his chest was back. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." As he poured himself a glass, out of the corner of his eye, he watched Jules lift the glass to Sophie's mouth, allowing the girl to take a few small swallows. When Sophie was done, Jules lifted the glass and drank the rest herself. Like earlier tonight, he had to stop himself from licking his lips as he watched her swallow.

Once again, before he did something totally stupid, like say, prostrate himself at their feet and declare his undying love, he took the out of taking the juice back into the kitchen. After putting the OJ back, he leaned his forehead against the freezer door. He had to get his shit together. They had been through some really fucked up shit over the last couple of days, and this was the last thing she needed. He needed to at least wait until she managed a little sleep for fuck's sake.

Manning up, he went back out. They were no longer at a table. They had moved across the room to the couch. He wanted to laugh, and not in a good way. It was like she jumpin' out of her skin, unable to stay in one place. She just wasn't going to make this easy for him.

He stopped at the table and drank down the orange juice quickly. What he really wanted was a smoke. He patted his jeans pockets. Damn, they were in his cut. He looked over to Jules as he walked towards the dorms. "I'm gonna grab a smoke, you want one darlin'?"

She nodded with a smile, then flicked her eyes towards Sophie who was starting to doze.

He lit his in his room, heading back out quickly. He sat next to them on the couch. Close, but not too close. Not nearly as close as he would like. He handed her the cigarette. She nodded her thanks. He gave her a smile in return.

After he sat down, Sophie looked at him again, her eyes dark as the piece of chocolate he had given her earlier. Sophie started to crawl out of Jules' lap into his until she stopped the little girl from doing so. "Honey, let Jax finish his smoke first and then if he wants to hold you, that's fine. Okay?"

Sophie looked at him with eyes he just couldn't say no to. Just couldn't. "The second I'm done, okay, sweetheart?"

The little girl nodded as she settled back into her Mama's lap. For the couple of minutes it took him to finish his smoke, the three of them sat there in comfortable silence.

The moment he was done and snuffed his smoke out, Sophie climbed out of Jules' lap and into his. And the moment Sophie cleared her lap, Jules got up, snagging the Zippo he still held in his hand, handing it back after she lit her cigarette, her fingers brushing his briefly, spending sparks up his arm.

He sat quietly, rubbing Sophie's back as the little girl started to drop off in his lap while they both watched her mother pace the floor while smoking her cigarette. It didn't take a genius to see Jules was probably thinking about everything that had happened over the last couple of days and how she was gonna deal with all of the fallout that the little Nazi fuck had created.

As she continued to pace and smoke, he could see her anxiety rising. Her hands were starting to shake a little and speed of her pacing had increased. He was getting ready to call out to her when he looked down and saw Sophie fast asleep. He couldn't help himself, he smiled as he ran his fingers through her black curls.

But he still needed to get Jules' attention before she really worked herself into a state. It was two-thirty in the morning and she really couldn't do a damn thing about any of it at the moment except freak the fuck out. And he was pretty sure she had been doing her level best to prevent that from happening from the moment she got to Charming.

Looking over he saw a pillow. Grabbing it, he waited until her pacing brought her directly in front of him and Sophie. The moment she was in range, he let loose.

When it hit her she spun towards the couch, the exclamation on her lips dying when she saw Sophie sleeping. Instead, she arched a 'what the fuck?' eyebrow at him, her eyes flashing between annoyed and amused.

He tried to convey everything he wanted to say with a look. That this wasn't the time to freak out. She wasn't in this alone. And it would all probably look, well a little less like a complete clusterfuck after she got some sleep. And there may have been a little bit of I'm thinking of taking up worshiping you as a hobby if you don't mind in there too. He was kind of hoping she didn't notice that last one quite yet. He'd like to actually have sex with her before she knew he was whipped.

She started to nod with a rueful smile as she put out her cigarette in an ashtray on one of the tables. When she started to make her way back to the couch, she flinched, hard. "Fuck." Grabbing her right hamstring.

He nearly forgot he had Sophie on his lap as he went to get up, but stopped himself at the last second from jumping up. He carefully stood up, making sure not to wake the sleeping girl and walked over to Jules who was trying to rub on her leg. "You okay?" Wanting to kick himself as the words left his mouth. At least he'd done it quietly.

She rolled her eyes. "No." She whispered through gritted teeth. "Being cooped up in a car for two days has fucked my knee up. It's used to a hell of a lot more activity, and because it's fucked up, my hamstring has decided it wants to be tighter than a virgin asshole." She stopped for a second and gave a wincing grin. "Wow, totally channeled Den there for a second." She shook her head. "I hate to say it, but can you go get Tig? I need someone to stretch this, and she..." Jules nodded her head at Sophie. "Needs to get some sleep, and she's comfy with you..."

He noticed the apologetic tone her voice had taken on, like she was sorry that she wasn't asking him to stay and help her. And as much as he certainly wanted to, the fact that she was trusting him with the most important thing in her universe, well if that wasn't another check in the pro column, not much would be.

Before he could say anything, she flinched again with a pained chuckle. "Plus, Tig said something about muscle relaxants. I think one of those would be handy right about nowish."

He smiled. "I'll go get him. I'll be with Sophie in the room Mom put you two in."

She had already sat on the floor of clubhouse and was trying to stretch her leg on her own. He had to look away otherwise he was just gonna hand Sophie off to Tig and she was most certainly going to get stretched out. Luckily for him she had her head resting on her knee and hadn't noticed. "Thank you."

"No worries darlin'." He left her alone in the clubhouse as he and a sleeping Sophie went back to the dorms to wake Tig.

Chapter Text

He was used to being woken up by sudden knocks on his door in the middle of the night, but he really hadn't expected it tonight.

"Yeah?" He croaked as he looked over at the clock on the nightstand. Two-forty. He hadn't even been asleep an hour.

"Tig, you need to get up. Jules needs you in the clubhouse." Jax's voice was barely above a whisper.

He threw the covers off and grabbed a pair of jeans and threw them on. He opened the door to see Jax standing there in jeans, t-shirt, and shoes, holding a sleeping Sophie. Before he could open his fuckin' mouth Jax put a finger to his. "Grab one of your muscle relaxants. Jules has a cramping hamstring and needs you to help stretch it. I'm going to go put Sophie back down and stay with her." Then the VP walked across the hall and into the room the girls were in and shut the door like it was the most natural thing in the world.

He stood there like someone had clocked him upside the head for a second. Jax was dressed. Jules was in the clubhouse. Jax was putting Sophie back down. The three of them had been up. Together. Okay.

Oh yeah, his kid needed him. He shook his head and went to his dresser and rummaged through the various bottles on top until he found the bottle of Flexeril he was looking for, and then headed to the clubhouse.

He could hear her when he opened the door. "Fuck. Fuck. Fuck." A little chant whispered through gritted teeth. He hustled over to the bar and grabbed a beer and opened it, getting back over to his kid. He opened the pill bottle and shook out a pill, handing it and the beer to her. "Take this doll, then we'll start stretchin' it out."

While she was taking the pill, he put a hand on her back and could feel her shaking. "How long has this been buggin' you?" He knew he didn't sound happy and he wasn't. He got that she wasn't real comfortable with them, her whatever with Jax aside, but to not let them know she was hurting was beyond fucking ridiculous.

She shrugged. He shook his head. "That's not really an answer doll."

"It's been mildly cramping for the last twelve hours. It started to really tighten up while I was sleeping, then got to the point I couldn't ignore any longer about fifteen minutes ago. I tried walking it off." She sounded defensive. "And I've had bigger problems to think about." She laid back onto the clubhouse floor and pulled her right knee towards her shoulder.

He sighed a little. He didn't want her defensive. Grabbing her ankle, he extended her leg, continuing to try and stretch her hamstring. "I know that doll, but you if ya'd said something earlier, it wouldn't have gotten so bad." He moved his hand down to her hammie, hoping to start working out the cramp, but found it as hard as a rock. "Holy shit honey, this thing's as tight as a..."

His kid gave a pained laugh. "Virgin asshole?"

He laughed, hard, as he sat down on the floor. "That's certainly one way of putting it." He shook his head with amusement. Rip hadn't been wrong, his daughter was a lot like him even if he'd had no hand in raising her. "Give me your leg doll." She brought her leg back down to where her calf was resting on his shoulder. He started to try and dig his fingers into her hamstring to try and loosen it a little. "So, the baby doll woke up?" He wasn't gonna try and hide his curiosity.

She grimaced a little as his fingers were working. "Yeah." The grimace became more obvious and he had the feeling it wasn't just her leg. "Bad dream and her cheek hurt."

He nodded. He wasn't gonna lie to himself, he was a little hurt that Jax had been woken to deal with the situation and he hadn't. But he didn't want to lay some sort of guilt trip on his kid, so he kept his mouth shut.

But it looked like he didn't need to say anything for her to see what he was feelin'. She shrugged. "I told Jax if she woke up, his ass was getting up with her. I try to keep my word." He noticed a touch of uncertainty in her eyes. "So what's the deal with your VP and the doctor chick?"

He shook his head. "No idea doll. They were together in high school and then Tara left to go to college. She came back a couple months ago. Brought some ATF stalker with her." He snorted at that. Really, how fuckin' dumb was she? "But I don't know if they're sleeping together."

She shook her head. "They're not." She flinched as his fingers dug in again. "The body language is too awkward." His daughter propped herself up on her elbows. "He doesn't trust her motives and she just..." His own eyes looked back at him, serious as a heart attack. "Wants to be anywhere but here."

He sighed, his kid probably wasn't wrong. Tara had never liked SAMCRO. Oh, she had liked that Jax was the 'bad boy', but hadn't liked the reality that the title came with. "They've got history doll."

His kid shrugged again. "You know why they call the past, the past?" He shook his head. She gave him a smirk. "Because it's behind you and that's where it needs to stay." The smirk faded. "You should always remember it, but you shouldn't try and go back there. You gotta move forward to get to the future."

He arched a wry eyebrow at her. "Where'd ya get that doll? Some self-help book?"

She shook her head, her face dead serious. "My mom. About a month before she died. I've never forgotten it."

Well, didn't that just wipe the smirk off of his face pretty fucking fast? He looked back at his kid who was studying him, a thoughtful look on her face.

His daughter gave a small, sad smile and for a second looked so much like her Mom he was sure he was gonna break down bawling. "You loved her." She sounded a little surprised.

He nodded while trying to speak without the bawling. "Since we were seven." He couldn't help the stupid, goofy smile that crossed his face. "I thought she was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen." Not bothering to add that she still was.

Jules smiled back. "She really was wasn't she?" The smile faded some. "Sometimes I think Sophie looks like her." She flinched again as he dug back into her hamstring. But it was starting to loosen some.

He nodded. "She does." Then smiled at her. "Not a shock doll, you look an awful lot like her too." He realized they were venturing into some really emotional territory, and he wasn't real sure it was the right time. He knew he really wasn't up to it at the moment, so he steered things back to where they had been. "So, not from a self- help book then." He grinned when she started to snicker a little. "Is that your plan? You quote that to Jax and he just agrees?" He had the weird feeling that it could actually work as taken with his kid as Jax seemed.

She laughed. "Not quite." She stuck her tongue out at him. "Smart-ass." She shook her head. "No, my plan is to be me." Oh, and he was the smart-ass. Her face grew serious again. "That chick obviously has some issues. My guess would be she didn't have the greatest childhood, and wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of this town. That's what's driven her to be a doctor. Well, that and ego. Even with the little exposure, I could see she's got a serious superiority complex going on when it comes to the MC. That's not good."

He shook his head. It really wasn't. Tara did seem to underestimate the levels of intelligence that he and his brothers possessed. Education didn't necessarily equate intelligence. Jax had dropped out and gotten a GED, but he also knew that the kid had read more philosophy than most college graduates. And understood it. He had always secretly wondered what Jax would have been had he not been raised in SAMCRO, because the kid really was off the charts smart.

His daughter went on, looking almost apologetic. "And even though you would think I'd have more issues than a TIME subscription, I really don't." She smirked a little. "Plus, I don't hate MC's. And I don't underestimate the men in them. Like I know for a fact that you have a history degree from Northwestern."

He grinned a little. "Yeah, let's not spread that around. I like them thinking I'm barely civilized."

She chuckled and shook her head. "Oookay. I'll play along with that. But that's my point, she just assumes that all of you are uneducated heathens, and you're not." She laid back down, looking up at the ceiling.

Then she popped back up with a grin. "Plus, I look like me, and she looks like her." Her grin became even cheekier. "And, I always get what I go after."

He had to laugh at that, because she wasn't necessarily wrong, but it showed a level of confidence that he was sure Tara didn't possess. "I'm sure you do. But like I said she came back because she needs Jax and that's something that Jax likes."

His kid shook her head. "Not really. He likes to be the white knight for sure, but what he really wants is to be wanted for himself. Not because he can keep someone safe, like Tara. Not because he's the VP of SAMCRO, like Wendy. But someone who wants him just because he's Jax." She smirked at him. "I have plenty of people who are more than happy to make sure I'm safe, and my brother has been VP of the Satan's Sons since he was twenty-four. I was barely eighteen. Not really something that gets my panties wet if ya know what I mean."

He chuckled, because he did get it. "Then what..."

His kid laughed. And in it he could hear wonder and a touch of, well the only word he could think of was joy. It was a laugh he hoped he would hear often and for a very long time. "Let's start with the fact that he looks at Sophie like she's one of the Seven Wonders of the World."

He had to smile at that because she wasn't fuckin' wrong. Sophie had Jax around her finger from the minute he had brought her down from Hap's room. "Who wouldn't doll?"

She nodded like he had said something profound. "I know. But trust me, plenty of guys looking to date me don't look at Sophie at all. And if they do, it's as a hindrance, not a blessing."

"Let me guess, those guys don't get very far with you." He chuckled. "Let's try stretchin' this again." Grabbing her ankle to extend her leg as she pulled her knee towards her shoulder again.

She looked up at him, grimacing a little as the muscle was finally starting to loosen some. "Not at all. She may be only three, but Soph is a pretty good judge of character. If she doesn't like you, what I think doesn't matter because it's all about her."

He smiled down at her. "Can't say I disagree with that. Okay, so Jax thinks Sophie is awesome, as he should, because she is. So..."

Jules interrupted him. "Oh God. You've only known her like not even six hours and you're already this way." She gave him a mock groan. "You're gonna be worse than Jake and Lu aren't you?"

He tried to give her as innocent a look as he could muster, and being him, it was probably a pretty crap one. "No idea what you're talking about doll."

"You know exactly what I'm talking about." Giving his arm a light slap. "My grandkid is the smartest, cutest, whatever-est in the whole damn world and basically letting her think she runs the universe."

He grinned. "Oh. That. Well, yeah. I'm totally gonna be that way if you let me be around."

She frowned. "Why wouldn't I let you be around?" She gestured for him to let go of her leg. When he did, she sat up and looked him dead in the eyes. "This is gonna be the one emotional moment before we get into the rest of this after this whole stupid Dougie thing gets taken care of. Ready?"

He nodded. Not wanting to say anything that could fuck this up because he had the feeling that for once, this kind of shit may actually go his way.

She took a breath and looked at him again. "Jake Lyons has raised me, loves me like one his own and I do call him Pop like the boys do. But you are my Father, the only flesh and blood that I have left and that means something to me. I think because I lost my Mom so young." An embarrassed smile crossed her face. "For the last seven years, you've been my New Year's resolution. This year I find my Dad." The smile turned melancholy. "When I told Jake I was gonna do it, it was after Rip had been diagnosed. Jake asked me to wait, that it would upset Rip because of some promise Rip had made to my Mom." She took another breath. "So, the only way you won't be in our lives is because that's what you choose." Then her smile was back and it was quite possibly one of the most glorious things he had seen. "Plus, if things work out the way I would like them to, I think we'll only be going back to Chicago to pack."

He couldn't believe it. She wasn't telling him to fuck off. She actually talked to him like his opinion was valued. Told him what she was thinking. What she was feeling. His daughter. His grown, beautiful, smart, funny daughter was giving him a chance. And she was still talking to him.

"...If that's okay with you? Hello?" She waved a hand in front of his face.

He nodded his head, agreeing to whatever and trying to clear it at the same time. Plus he was trying really hard not to cry. "Anything you want is okay with me doll. Anything at all."

She grinned and patted his knee. He couldn't help himself, he grabbed her hand and held it tight. "First, I never want to hear you say those words to Sophie. Ever. Second, at what point did you space out?"

He gave her a sheepish grin. "Right after you said if things work out, only going back to Chicago to pack."

She laughed. "Okay. You didn't miss much. Basically I just asked you if you were okay with me being with Jax." Still laughing. "And I'm going with the answer you gave me. And just for future reference, you probably shouldn't say that to me either." Once again her grin was a little embarrassed. "I'm a little spoiled myself."

Without thinking, he wrapped his arms around his kid. And unlike in the garage, this wasn't about trying to calm her down, he just wanted to hug his kid. He kissed her head. "Still sticking with my original answer doll."

She hugged him back. "Like I said, works for me." She pulled away a little so she could look at him. "Can I ask you something?"

He squeezed her a little. "Sure."

"So, do I have any siblings?" He could hear her hope and it made his heart ache because he was gonna have to tell her the truth.

"Yeah. Twin sisters who are six years younger than you. My ex-wife left with them when they were about six." He sighed. "I'll be honest Jules. They only call me if they need money. I wasn't a good Dad after they left and my ex certainly didn't make it easy, but I kinda stopped really tryin' early on. And I would bet that there was very little good said about me by her to the girls." He shook his head ruefully. "And I'm not Ward fucking Cleaver." He looked at his daughter who, much to his shock had no judgment in her eyes, so he plowed ahead. "I'm not a nice guy. I've killed people and not thought twice about it. I drink too much and do too many drugs. To say I'm a sex addict is putting it kindly." A derisive snort left him. "That the kind of guy you want for a Dad and Grand-dad?"

She shook her head, smiling sadly. "For someone as smart as you are, you can be really stupid sometimes." She slapped him lightly upside the head. "Raised in an MC. And not just some dude who was patched. VP then Pres. The description you just gave isn't that far off from Jake, and almost spot on for Rip." She was still shaking her head. "And for the rest, if your ex was an unreasonable bitch who talked shit about you to the twins, you're just kind of fucked there. By the way, do they have names by chance?" Her tone was somewhere between amused and full on smart-ass.

He cringed. "Yeah. And before I tell you, I'm gonna tell you I had nothin', and I mean nothin' to do with them. Got it?"

She nodded. "Can't be any worse than the boy name I have. Hit me with them."

He closed his eyes. "Fawn and Dawn." He opened them.

She was looking at him with wide eyes. "I'm sorry, did I hear that right?"

He nodded.

Her head started to slowly nod. "Well if that isn't just..." She started to shake her head. "Really? Was she high when she named them?"

"Nope." He had to grin at that. He'd wondered the same thing at the time.

"So, you married a crazy woman?" He decided she was having way too much fun with this. Oh, he was going to like having her around. His kid was certainly going to make life interesting.

"Exactly, doll." He stood up, he was too fucking old to be sitting on the fucking floor. "How's your leg?" Extending a hand to help her up.

She stood. "Better than it was, the muscle relaxant should be kicking in soon." She looked over at the clock. Three-fifteen. "And I'm pretty positive we could both stand to get some sleep. That'll help it too."

He pulled her into another hug. "Sounds good hon." Steering her towards the dorms. When they reached her door, he put the bottle of muscle relaxants in her hand. "Just in case ya need them. Night doll." Giving her a kiss on the head.

When she opened the door, they both stopped for a minute. While he and Jules were in the clubhouse, Jax must have gone over to his room for a minute, because he was no longer in his jeans, but in a pair of shorts. Both Jax and Sophie were asleep, Sophie tucked into Jax's side, head resting on his chest. Both looked rather content.

He kind of gently shoved his kid into the room. "I got the door doll, go get some sleep." Keeping his voice low to not wake Jax and Sophie.

She nodded and he watched as she crawled into the bed, curling up behind her daughter, resting a hand on Sophie's back.

As he was closing the door, he heard movement and then his daughter's voice. "Stay." He grinned a little. His daughter's tone was a more an order than a request.

Standing there, ear to the door, feeling like both an idiot and a stalker, he heard Jax's sleepy reply. "Wasn't plannin' on goin' anywhere babe."

He shook his head as he went back to his room. Yeah, he was definitely going to have a croweater clean his room. He had the feeling Sophie was going to be spending some time in it.

Chapter Text

She woke suddenly and disoriented, for a second having no clue to where she was. Then it all came back. Dougie. Driving halfway across the country. Sophie's cheek. Sons to the rescue. Meeting her real dad. Jax.

Well fuck. She was now wide awake and there would be no going back to sleep. She looked over at the cheap alarm clock on the night table. Six-fifteen. Ugh. But three hours was more consecutive sleep than she'd had in days.

She looked over to see Sophie still cuddled into Jax's side. She smiled a little. As good as he looked awake, he was absolutely gorgeous when he slept. All of the cares and worries he carried as VP of SAMCRO faded in his sleep, making him look far younger than he was.

While she was staring, his eyes started to open. They tacked over until they came to rest on her. "You okay darlin'?" His voice was thick with sleep.

She nodded. "Just awake." Keeping her voice low so as to not wake her daughter. "Go back to sleep. I'm gonna go down to the clubhouse."

He gave her a sleepy smile. "Stay."

She grinned a little, having her own word thrown back at her, but she shook her head. "If Miss Thing wasn't here, that would be a far more tempting offer, but I'm actually awake, so movement is kind of necessary."

"What time is it?" He was having trouble keeping his eyes open.

"Six-twenty." She couldn't hold off any longer, she'd been dying to do it since last night, she ran a hand along his cheek. "Go back to sleep. Sophie'll probably sleep as long as you do."

He turned his head into her hand, nuzzling it just a little. "'Kay. Bobby should be up with coffee made, if not, hunt around the kitchen." As he was drifting back off to sleep.

She got out of bed carefully so she wouldn't wake either of them. When she got out into the hallway, she nearly kicked herself. She meant to ask Jax about smokes. Oh well, she wasn't going to go back in and wake him up just so she could get a nicotine fix.

She looked at the door across the hall. She wondered if Tig was anything like Jake. Unless he went to bed totally fucking hammered, he was up every day at six, pretty much regardless of what time he went to bed. He said it was an unfortunate side effect of the Marines. Which the son of a bitch passed on to the rest of them. Well, all but Dennis. She was usually kicking his ass out of bed around nine when he crashed at her place.

She went and put an ear to the door. She could hear water running. Tig was probably in the shower, so that meant he'd be down to the main clubhouse sooner rather than later, plus Jax said Bobby should be down there and he smoked too.

She sighed. She just felt so stupid. She was a grown ass woman with more than enough money of her own and here she was trying to figure out who she was gonna cage a smoke from. It was a good thing that Clay had Dougie moved, otherwise she would be out there smacking him again.

Shaking her head, she decided standing in the middle of the hallway was probably not the thing to do, so she made her way to the main clubhouse.

When she opened the door, she could smell coffee and something delicious baking. Then as she stepped through the door, she stopped. Sitting at one of the tables reading a paper was an older guy in a denim cut, oxygen tubes in his nose leading to a small canister down by his side. She noticed the 'First Nine' patch on his cut and smiled.

"You must be Piney."

Chapter Text

He had gotten to the clubhouse a little after six. He was in need of coffee and Bobby made better coffee than he did. Plus, he wasn't sure his coffee maker even worked anymore.

After getting his cup of coffee and adding the requisite shot of tequila, he sat down to read the paper before the others started coming down to ruin his peace and quiet.

He could hear the door to the dorms start to open and he figured it was Tig or Happy, the two former military men. Juice usually went home at night, Chibs would wander down around seven, and they would be lucky if they saw Jax before seven-thirty.

So, he was a little surprised to see a traffic stopping beauty step through the door. Particularly one in a pair of baggy sweat pants and a SAMCRO t-shirt. He was almost certain she wasn't a sweetbutt or someone's pick-up of the night. This was someone who mattered.

The two of them stared at each other for a moment, and then the girl gave him a familiar grin. "You must be Piney." Her alto voice was a little husky and tinged with a Midwestern accent.

He put down the newspaper and really looked at her. She probably stood around six feet tall in her bare feet, and while lean, he could see it was all muscle underneath, this wasn't a soft girl. Her hair was a mass of black curls that went past her tits. She had vivid blue eyes that reminded him of...that wasn't possible.

He frowned. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were a Trager kid, but Tig doesn't have any kids your age." Then chuckled. "Unless you just came out of the woodwork."

She eyed him with a slight smirk. "For you guys, yeah, I'm fresh out of the woodwork. For Tig, he's known since I was eight. So that would be seventeen years." Then walked towards the table he was at. "I'm Jules by the way."

He put out his hand, as he stood up. "Piney Winston. But you already knew that didn't ya darlin'?"

She shook her head as she waved at him to sit down. "Nah, I guessed. Tig said you were one of the first nine and a crotchety old fuck." She grinned and goddamn if it wasn't Tig's grin. "You seemed to fit the bill."

He chuckled. "That I do darlin'."

She eyed his coffee mug. "Is there more of that in the kitchen?"

He nodded. "Yeah. Bobby ran off to the store muttering something about pancakes."

She groaned as she got up to go get coffee. "I told him not to put himself out..." She continued to mutter to herself as she went into the kitchen and was still muttering when she came back out. "...spoiled fucking rotten already..."

He chuckled. "You're really complainin' about Bobby wantin' to spoil ya a little?"

She shook her head. "Not me. Sophie. My almost three year old. She's still sleeping." Then noticing the look on his face. "Jax is with her." She gave him a rueful smile. "They've bonded."

Well, that was interesting, especially with Tara back. But didn't tell him shit about how a kid of Tig's that none of them knew about was now in their clubhouse. And it must have showed on his face because the girl sighed.

"I'm gonna give you the Reader's Digest version okay?" He chuckled as he nodded. The girl heaved another sigh. "I was raised by Jake Lyons, President of the Satan's Sons, Chicago Charter. But Rip Jones was my legal guardian. Rip, Tig, and my Mom had all known each other since they were little kids. Tig and my Mom were sweethearts through high school and all that. When my Mom got pregnant, she had already seen the changes the military had made in her Alex, so she didn't tell him. When Rip got out of the Marines and became a Straight Satan, my Mom and Jake hooked up. I was like two. When she died, she made Rip my guardian because she was afraid if she made Jake my guardian, Tig would try and take me. Fast forward to five years ago, Rip's kid gets his cut taken because he's a fuckin' meth dealing Nazi and banished from Chicago, and disowned by his father. Rip dies four months ago leaving everything to me and Sophie, including a key to a safe deposit box here. Well, three days ago, Dougie, Rip's kid, decides he wants what's in the box so he goes to my apartment in Chicago where Sophie was with her Dad. Dougie kills Ray and the cat in front of my daughter, waits for me to get home, makes me leave my purse, my phone, my glasses, made me take off my tennis shoes and put on flip-flops, and then strip out of my thermal and sweater so I'm only in my tanks, gets the two of us into my car and starts fucking driving. Last night we were at a diner about fifteen minutes from here when Jax, Chibs and Happy pull up. Too bad it was after I'd mouthed off enough Dougie felt the need to take a shot at me. Of course the idiot misses and catches Sophie. She's now got four stitches in her face and Dougie is sitting somewhere waiting for Pop and the others to get here so they can chat with him before he gets handed over to the cops."

He sat back, that explained Rip's visit six months earlier. "That's quite the story darlin'. So, you say Tig's known about you for a long time. How long have you known about him?"

She shook her head. "It's a little complicated. I've known that Alex Trager is my Dad since I was ten or eleven. But I had no idea that Alex Trager was a Son named Tig. Now I totally get why I've never been allowed to be around the Satan's clubhouse when any Son is. Jake and Rip wouldn't have wanted me to know that Tig was in an MC, he would have been too easy for me to find. I'm amazed Jake let me come to Stanford the year I was there."

He nearly choked on his coffee. "Stanford? Are ya like a genius or something?"

She laughed. "Or something. Tennis scholarship. Although I am pretty smart. But that's not a shock. Both my parents were kind of brainiacs."

He started to laugh hard. "Tig a brainiac? You must still be sleep deprived darlin'."

She smirked at him. "Or he's a really good actor. Knew all about me for seventeen years and none of you had a fucking clue. Ponder that. Not to mention the more than likely staggering amounts of drugs and alcohol have probably shaved a few IQ points."

He was getting ready to reply when Bobby came into the clubhouse with grocery bags. The girl jumped up and took a bag. "I thought I told you not to put yourself out."

Bobby chuckled. "Good morning to you too, darlin'. We were low on a few things, I wouldn't have even been able to do bacon and eggs for her this morning." The man laughed a little harder. "Considering she'd go through hers, yours and Jax's."

The girl laughed. "True that. She does love her bacon."

Bobby looked at the girl seriously. "How'd she do last night?"

The girl shrugged. "Woke up about two. Had a bad dream and her cheek hurt."

Bobby smiled a little. "So...did ya make Jax get up?" He was sure there was another story there. Bobby turned to him. "Boy gave the kid candy at ten last night. Missy here told him if she woke up, so was he. Hope you kept your word." Bobby chuckled.

So did he. He loved the boy, but he had been a little spoiled his whole life. The little prince of SAMCRO. Luckily, he was JT's son and still turned into a good man.

The girl grinned. "Damn straight." Then her smile became softer and she looked far less like Tig and more beautiful than when she had walked in. "She wanted Jax." She shook her head full of curls. "I've never seen her act that way with anyone who wasn't family."

Bobby smiled. Before he could say anything, the door to the dorms opened and Tig came through. He stopped when he saw his daughter. "Morning doll. Your leg still buggin' ya?" Both he and Bobby looked at each other confused.

The girl shook her head. "Stiff and sore and it will be that way for a while. Just couldn't sleep any longer." Then the girl seemed to remember something. "Hey, did any one shake Dougie down?"

Both Tig and Bobby shrugged, Tig answering. "Other than his phone and making sure he didn't have any weapons, I don't think so honey. Why?"

The girl got a nasty look in her eye. "Because he took my necklace and I want it back."

He frowned a little. "Is it valuable?"

"It is to me. I suppose the chain is, it's platinum. But the rest of it is sentimental. It's got the crucifix that my Grandma gave my Mom on her first communion. Which Jake gave to me on mine. Then a bunch of dog tags. One I got from my Mom, and then the others are Jake's, Red's, and Butch's from BUDS training."

You didn't need to be a brain surgeon to know whose she got from her Mom. The look on Tig's face said it all.

Tig reached over and squeezed her shoulder. "We'll get it back for ya doll."

She nodded vigorously. "Yeah, because I'm gonna tell Red he took it." Then she noticed the hurt look on Tig's face. She reached over and patted Tig's arm. "Dougie is scared to death of Red." There was a tone that implied that Dougie had good reasons to be scared of Jake Lyons' oldest son and VP.

He looked at her. "What did Red do to him?"

She grimaced. "It's more like what did Dougie do to deserve what Red did to him." The girl shook her head. "When I was thirteen, Red was home on leave from the Marines. There was a big party at the clubhouse for him. Dougie was eighteen and had just started his Prospect year. He said there was something he wanted to show me, so I went with him. He was Dougie. He wasn't a piece of shit at the time, he was like a cousin. I trusted him. Well, long story short, he tried to feel me up. I went and told Red. Dougie ended up with a broken hand with four broken fingers, a broken nose, and a warning." The girl grinned and once again, there was Tig all over her face. "So Red is already gonna be out for blood, this will just be the icing on the shit cake that Red will make that little fucker eat."

He chuckled. "You seem pretty confident about that sweetheart. Didn't you say something about the piece of shit being handed over to the cops? He can't be all beat to hell darlin'."

She snorted. "He can if the lead detective's son is Butch's best friend since elementary school and my boyfriend through high school. Mikey's an orthopedic surgical resident at John Hopkins in Maryland. Big Mike isn't gonna give two thoughts about what shape Dougie's in as long as he doesn't need medical attention." She laughed. "In fact, if they come here first, Big Mike may take his own shots at Dougie after he sees Sophie's cheek." She laughed again. "Another person under Sophie's spell."

Both Bobby and Tig started to laugh. Tig wrapped an arm around his kid's shoulder. "As he should be."

She rolled her eyes in amusement. "Yeah." Then looked over to her new found father. "Hey, do you have a cigarette? I forgot to ask Jax and I didn't want to wake him back up and run the risk of waking Miss Thing. Far as I can tell, she hasn't woken at all since he put her back down."

Tig grinned and fished a smoke for her out of his cut. "Here ya go, honey." Then walked off to get a cup of coffee.

Bobby wandered off behind Tig with the groceries he'd gotten, leaving him alone with Jules again.

He looked at her carefully. "You're not uncomfortable here."

She shook her head as she lit the smoke Tig had given her. "An MC clubhouse? Not at all. Although this is a lot smaller than ours in Chicago."

He shook his head. "No, I mean with Tig."

She smiled. "Been waiting a long time to meet him. I won't get what I want if I'm uncomfortable."

That made him nervous, she had an agenda. "And what do you want?"

She grinned. "Relax, old man. Not looking for money. Got more than enough of my own. I'd just like to get to know someone who I share DNA with. My only other living relative is in prison in France where he's been serving a life sentence since 1982." She took a drag of the smoke and exhaled. "Jake is my Pop. Red, Dennis, and Butch are my brothers. But it would just kind of be nice to know..."

He nodded. "I getcha darlin'." He relaxed. She just wanted more family. Family she could see herself in. He could understand that.

The two of them sat there drinking their coffee.

Chapter Text

His cel phone went off and he tried to get to it before the small body curled into his woke up. "Yeah." Keeping his voice low. He looked over at the clock. Six-fifty. It still felt way too fucking early.

"Just got a call from Jake Lyons. They're in Lodi and asking for an escort." Clay's voice came through the cel. "Guess they got in around midnight last night and checked into a motel. Some Mayans must have seen their cuts when they checked in, because Jake says they took them off when they left to go get something to eat."

That woke him right on up. "And?"

"And, according to both Red and Butch, Mayans have lookouts posted outside the motel." Clay did not sound happy. "They were approached last night, and Jake managed to sell it as family shit since he only brought his kids with him, but since they're riding to Charming..."

"Yeah." Now that he was fully awake, he realized what Clay had actually said. "Jules said that Butch is in Afghanistan."

Clay chuckled. "On leave between missions. What a way to spend your leave huh?"

Sophie woke up and barely awake dark eyes looked up at him. "Where's Mommy?"

"Hold on Clay." He put a hand over the phone. "Mommy is in the clubhouse. We'll go out in a few minutes okay honey?"

She nodded and laid back down. He put the phone back to his ear. "So, when do we leave and who's all goin'?"

"Who were you talking to?" Clay sounded vaguely amused.

He sighed. "Sophie. Do not tell Mom. But Sophie woke up in the middle of the night and Jules woke me up to help look for baby aspirin. Jules ended up with a bad cramp in her hamstring because of how messed up her knee is from being in a car for so long. So while Tig was helping her, I put Sophie back down in their room and just kind of stayed."

Clay laughed. "Sure son." Then he was back to business. "Let's keep it small to reinforce the whole family thing. Me, you, and..."

He was surprised to not automatically hear Tig's name. "What about Tig?"

Clay sighed. "It might be best for Jake and Tig to meet with Jules and Sophie around as their guarantee to behave. From what Rip told me, after Marina's funeral there was an incident."

He sighed, he could imagine what kind of incident. He'd had trouble imagining that Tig would just walk away from one of his kids. Guess he hadn't. "How about Chibs? If the Mayans see Hap, they'll know that it's more than just family."

"Sounds good son. Your Mom and I will be at the clubhouse in about fifteen minutes." Then Clay chuckled. "I'd make sure you're out of Jules's room by then. Or you will end up having that conversation you don't want to have with your mother."

He chuckled. Clay wasn't wrong. "Yeah. See you in a few." He closed his cel, setting it back on the nightstand and looked down at dark eyes looking back at him. "You okay?"

She nodded. "Gotta go potty."

Well, this was new territory. "Do you need help?"

She shrugged. He got up and carried her to the bathroom. He put her down and she looked back at him. It took him a second. "You need me to help you up there?"

She nodded as she pulled down her pajama bottoms and the pull-up. He lifted her up onto the toilet. While she did her business, he splashed some water over his face, drying it with the towel on the rack.

Looking over he could see she had what looked to be a good handful of toilet paper. "Whoa darlin', that's an awful lot." He took the handful from her and pared it down and handed it back.

When she was done and pulled her pants up, she came and stood in front of the sink. He grinned as he lifted her up and started the water for her. After she washed her hands, he dried them for her with the towel he'd used on his face. "Okay. Looks like we're done in here. We gotta stop in my room so I can get dressed and then we'll go find Mommy, okay?"

Sophie nodded, she was still half-asleep. "'Kay." Then raised her arms to be carried.

He took Sophie into his room so he could get into some clothes so they could go escort Sophie's Grandpa and Uncles to Charming. Getting into his room, he laid Sophie on his bed while he grabbed clothes to go into the bathroom to change into.

When he came out, Sophie was sitting up, looking around. He smiled at her. "You like my room?"

She nodded. "Like Unca Red, 'cept Unca Red has more naked girls."

He raised an eyebrow. "And Mommy is okay with that?"

The little girl nodded. "Mommy says God made us and he made some of us so pretty that we just have to show it." Then the little girl added. "Mommy naked at home a lot when it just us. Me too. Da Ray and Da Will think it funny. Call us naked girls." Then Sophie's bottom lip started to quiver. "My Da Ray is in heaven now isn't he?"

He took a deep breath. He wasn't sure if he should even be dealing with this, but here he was, and she was asking him. He sat down on the bed and pulled her into his lap and put his arms around her small body. "He is honey. And I'm so sorry for that. But your Da Ray will always be with you, he'll be your guardian angel and make sure you're always okay."

"Will Papa and Nana take care of him in heaven?" His heart just ached at her small voice.

"Yeah darlin', they will." His voice sounded rough even to him. He cleared his throat. "C'mon honey, let's go wake up Uncle Chibs and then get you to Mommy." He picked her up and left the room, locking the door behind him.

With Sophie on his hip he went and knocked on Chibs door. The Scot pulled it open wearing only a towel. "Oh, dinnea realize ye had the lassie with ye Jackie." The man grinned at him and Sophie. "Mornin' lassie."

"Good morning Unca F'lip." Both he and Chibs smiled at Sophie's new nickname for the Scot.

Chibs looked at him. "Whatcha need Jackie?"

"Clay called. Jake and the others called wanting an escort from Lodi. Me, you, and Clay are gonna go. Mayans spotted them last night. Jake sold the family story since he only has his sons with him, but according to Red and Butch, Mayans have the motel staked out." He really hoped Sophie didn't understand a damn thing other than the names. If not, he was probably gonna get hit upside the back of his head again.

Sophie looked at him. "Grampa here?" She sounded pretty excited.

Chibs smiled and reached over to ruffle her curls. "Almost lassie. Me and Jackie here are gonna go get 'em for ye and yer Mum."

Sophie looked at him. He nodded to her. "In about an hour or so honey. Your uncles will be here too." He looked back at Chibs. "Clay will be here in about five minutes."

Chibs nodded and closed the door so he could get dressed. He looked at Sophie. "Should we go find Mommy?"

Sophie nodded as she wrapped her arms around his neck. "Other Papa too."

"Other Papa should be with Mommy. He gets up early." He was amazed that Sophie seemed to be just fine being with him without Jules right there. He was also a little amazed at how good that felt.

When they reached the clubhouse, not only were Jules and Tig there, but so were Piney and Bobby. Sophie lit up when she spied Tig, wiggling in his arms. He chuckled. "Would you like down?"

"Yes please." He put her down and watched her run to Tig. "Good morning Other Papa!" Jumping up into his lap.

Tig caught her before she landed. "Mornin' baby doll." The SAA grinned down at his grand-daughter. "You're in a good mood."

Sophie nodded. "Jax and Unca F'lip gonna get Grampa!" Still wiggling around excitedly. "And Unca Red and Unca Butch!"

That caught Jules attention. She looked over at him. "Butch?" He caught a flicker of something go through her eyes, but before he could even begin to process what it might have been, it was gone.

He nodded with a smile. "On leave." He looked over his shoulder as Clay and his Mom came into the clubhouse, then back to Jules. Fuck, even with her hair in disarray, no make-up, and in borrowed, baggy clothes she looked like sin and redemption in one tall, thin package. Yeah, he was screwed.

Jules got up and started to head to the bathroom off the main clubhouse. His Mom put a hand on her arm. "Darlin', I’d go to your room. I wouldn't walk into that bathroom with bare feet for all the money in the world."

Jules's full lips quirked into a smile. "Good to see some things are universal." Then headed back to the room that she and Sophie had been put in.

Clay looked at him as Chibs came out of the dorms. "You two ready?" Chibs nodded as he patted his cut and pockets down. Shit, he had left his cel in Jules's room. He shook his head. "Forgot my cel in my room, be right back." He hustled back to the dorms.

When he reached Jules's room, he knocked on the door. "Jules? I gotta come in for a sec and grab my cel. Forgot it after getting Sophie up."

"Come on in." She sounded like she was in the room, not the bathroom.

He opened the door. She was lying back on the bed, looking at nothing on the ceiling. "You okay darlin'?" As he walked over and grabbed his cel.

She shrugged. "For two days all I worried about was making sure Dougie didn't kill me and Sophie. Then after we got here, it was just worry about Sophie and deal with the whole 'holy shit that's my real dad' stuff. Now with Pop and the boys so close, the real world is coming back and it's just a little overwhelming. I didn't want Sophie to see me on the verge of losing it." He had the feeling there was far more to it, but he wasn't gonna press her. He didn't have the time and he wasn't sure he wanted the answers.

He looked down at her and since her t-shirt had rucked up some, could finally see some skin. Her abdomen was almost as toned as his, hipbones jutting out slightly, just begging for his mouth on them. Then he saw the bruises. He leaned down and pulled the t-shirt up a little more, exposing more skin and more bruises. "What the fuck Jules?"

She grabbed the hem of the shirt and pulled it back down. "You really thought Dougie didn't take his shots at me?" She shook her head. "Don't worry about them. They're only bruises. He didn't do any other damage." She rolled her eyes. "Fuck, Denny has hit me harder just trying to get the remote out of my hands."

He ground his teeth together. "Where else?"

She went back to looking at the ceiling.

He took a deep breath in through his nose. "I asked you where else." Trying like hell to keep his voice even. "If I have to strip those clothes off of you to find out, I will."

Closing her eyes, she shook her head with a ghost of a smile on her lips, like she was remembering something. "Some on my back, a few on my legs. Dougie made sure they were where no one could see them when we stopped." Then she sat up. "Don't tell Pop. Or if you do, make sure Butch is nowhere, and I mean nowhere near that conversation." Her very blue eyes found his. "Butch will kill him. No joke. Fucking kill him."

He clenched his jaw. He was thinking that Nazi prick dead sounded pretty fucking good to him. But knew that they couldn't, so he nodded. Then he sat for a minute. "Did Happy see them?"

She nodded. "Yeah. In the shower." He knew she could see his jaw clench again. "It was just a shower Jax. Nothing happened." She chuckled. "Sophie didn't even look twice at him." Still chuckling a little. "My love life is pretty simple, Sophie has to like you or you get nowhere." She bumped his shoulder with hers. "So, you should go get her Grandpa and her Uncles and make her adore you even more than she already does."

He smiled. "Yeah. I can do that." He got up. When he reached the door, her voice stopped him.

"Can you do me a favor?" He nodded with a smile. "Can you call here when you guys are on your way back with them?"

"Yeah darlin', I can do that." He stepped out of the room and into Chibs.

"Clay is ready to go Jackie."

He nodded. "Just a minute." Then stalked over to Hap's room, knocking on the door. When Hap answered it, he shoved the enforcer back into the room, kicking the door shut. "That Nazi prick put his hands on her and you didn't say a fucking word to any of us?" This time he didn't bother to keep the threat out of his voice.

Hap righted himself. "They were superficial." Crossing his arms across his chest, dark eyes bored into his. "And she ain't your old lady."

He took a breath. Point to Hap, but still. "She's Tig's kid."

Hap nodded. "Exactly. Fucker knew that Nazi put hands on both of 'em? None of us was gonna be able to hold him back. Rather not shoot a brother over a Nazi fuck."

He shook his head. Hap wasn't wrong. "Yeah." He looked at the Tacoma Killah. "Sorry man."

Hap shook his head. "I get it." Then the man stalked over to him. "But don't do that again."

He shrugged. "You know how it goes Hap, can't make promises like that." Then turned and walked out the room.

Chibs looked at him with exasperation. "What the fuck Jackie?"

He was still at a high simmer. "Dougie put his hands on her and Hap fuckin' knew and didn't say shit." He shook his head. "Let's go. I need to get the fuck out of here for a minute."

Chibs slung an arm around his shoulder, laughing a little. "Let's go bring the lassies their Chicago men."

He shook his head ruefully and let Chibs manhandle him outside.

Chapter Text

Jake Lyons sighed as he closed his cel. He looked around the motel room. Dennis was sitting at the table doing something with his laptop. He stopped trying to figure out what Dennis did with that thing years ago. Eric and Brendan he understood. They were warriors, soldiers. Dennis was a whole other animal. Boy was a fucking genius and yet he chose the MC life. Guess Dennis took all of those lectures about family loyalty to heart. It was the only explanation he could come up with that made any sort of sense.

"Was that Clay?" He turned to the voice of his oldest, Eric, better known as Red, who was stretched out on the other bed, all six foot four inches of him. He smiled, Red was the son most like him, meticulous, fairly even-tempered, and able.

"Yeah. They're on their way. Should be here in about half an hour." He lit a cigarette. "Clay, Jax, and one other guy."

Brendan, or Butch as he had been called since infancy, his youngest son, came out of the bathroom, towel around his hips. "Jax is Clay's step-son right?" Butch was his soldier, the one that if he wasn't actually in the military, would be his SAA. Butch was fire and ice, all wrapped in a deceptively pretty package. He had the face of an angel and the soul of an assassin.

He nodded. "Yeah. And his VP. He's John Teller's boy."

Butch nodded with a wry smile. "Damn, they're as bad as the Satan's." Then bent over to get into his go bag to get clothes.

Dennis rolled his eyes. "Why can't you be like the rest of us and take your damn clothes into the fucking bathroom with you?"

Butch wiggled his ass at his brother. "Why Manny? This gettin' you all hot and bothered? Thought the blowjob from the waitress last night would hold ya over for at least a day." He could hear the fucking smirk on his youngest son’s face.

Dennis rolled his eyes as Red was laughing on the other bed. "Please. Why would I want to go where half the fleet has already gone?" Red was almost curled in on himself laughing so hard.

Butch just grinned. "Aww Manny, who knew you'd be the jealous type?" Then grabbed his clothes and went into the bathroom.

Dennis looked up at the ceiling. "How is this my life?"

He shook his head, trying to hide his smile as Red answered. "It's what ya get for bein' a manwhore Den. Butch is just tryin' to get a rise out of ya. He wants to beat the shit out of someone, and you're the easiest to rile up. Always have been."

Before Dennis could start an argument he got up off the bed. "Let's get this shit together and get the bikes loaded up." He looked at Dennis. "Eric isn't wrong, and we're all wound a little tight right now." He looked over to Red and then raised his voice so Butch could hear him. "And this ain't just some fuckin' run you three. This is about your sister and your niece so get your heads out of your asses and get the fuck along or I will intervene."

"Yeah, Pop." All three answered in unison. Good. The last thing he needed was these three squabbling like they were kids again. He was not happy about any part of this. His grand-daughter's father had been murdered in front of her, brutally. Then both her and his daughter, yeah, his daughter, he didn't give a fuck about Trager, far as he was concerned the man was a fucking sperm donor, kidnapped by that little fuck of Rip's and then ended up exactly where he never wanted them to be. Charming. Son of a bitch.

The four of them got shit packed up and bikes loaded, and Dennis got them checked out of the motel. They were hanging around their bikes when they spotted three riders approaching.

He lit another smoke as the three of them came to a stop. He waited for them to get parked and walk over to them.

He nodded to Clay. "Clay." Stretching his hand out.

Clay took it with a smile. "Jake. I'd ask how you were doin', but I'm pretty sure I've got a good idea."

He nodded. "Yeah." He looked back over at his boys. All looked anxious to get on the road, especially Butch. He sighed internally. He knew that there had been no way he could have ever talked his youngest into not coming, but...no, he wasn't gonna let his brain go there. Again. "Guess we should get the introductions out of the way, so we can get going."

Clay nodded. "Sounds good."

Chapter Text

When they pulled up to the motel, he could see four guys standing around bikes. After they got parked and ambled over, he finally got a look at Jules and Sophie's other family.

'Don't you mean family buddy boy? Just because Tig's her father doesn't make any of you their family yet. And by the looks of those four? You fuckers aren't family at all.' Great, Snarky was back.

He heard Jake say something about introductions. He started to pay closer attention. Clay looked back at him and Chibs. "This is Jax Teller, my VP." Then nodding towards Chibs. "That's Chibs." Chibs nodded to the Lyons men.

The four nodded. Jake turned. He was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that the four of them were almost too good-looking to be bikers. Shit, Jules fit right in with this bunch.

"This is Eric, we call him Red. He's my VP." Red was at least six-four, with short dark blonde hair and trimmed beard to match. Looked like a fuckin' GQ model posing as a biker. But he could see a calm intelligence in the man's blue eyes.

"That's Dennis." Nodding to the guy who was about five-nine, with long dark hair and beard hiding an almost feminine pretty face. There were bright blue eyes full of mischief, looking back at them, taking in everything. That's right, he was the computer genius.

Then Jake turned to the last guy. A guy roughly his height, maybe a hair taller, with short dark blonde hair, green eyes, and another pretty face. But unlike Dennis who was slight, Butch had broad shoulders that narrowed down into a trim waist and slightly bowed legs. "That's Butch."

If you didn't have Jake standing with them as a reference, there was no way you'd guess they were brothers. At least from their looks. Red had a lot of the same facial features. Both Red and Butch had his dark blonde hair. Dennis and Red had his eyes. He stood between Dennis and Butch in height, probably about an inch shorter than Jules. He was lean like Dennis and broad shouldered like his other sons. He thought he'd heard they all had different mothers.

Butch nodded to them. "Can we get this show on the fucking road? I'd like to see my sister and my niece."

He noticed the sideways look both Jake and Red gave Butch. Dennis just looked vaguely amused.

'Well, isn't that interesting? And possessive?' Snarky sounded amused.

'It's his sister who he hasn't seen in probably quite a while. He's worried.' Trying to justify that level of intensity.

Clay nodded like Butch hadn't just been a total prick. "Sure." Then headed back towards his bike.

He pulled out his cel, dialing the clubhouse. Butch noticed immediately. "Who the fuck are you calling?"

Jake shook his head. "Butch, get on your bike." There was a slight warning in the man's tone.

He shook his head at Jake, then looked at Butch. "Your sister. She asked me to call when we were on our way back." Then walked, or tried to walk away. He felt a hand on his arm. He looked up the arm to see Butch right there. This close he could see the freckles that covered the SEAL's face. "Do you mind?"

Butch nodded. "Yeah." There it was again, a certain possessiveness that didn't sit right.

He turned, getting ready for something. He wasn't sure what, but something. Then Tig answered his cel. "Yeah?"

"Let me talk to Jules." Keeping his tone casual and his eyes on Butch, who looked strung way too tight.

"Sure. Hold on, she's helping Bobby and Gem get breakfast together for everyone." He could hear Tig walking. "Hey doll, it's Jax."

"Hey." Her voice soothing whatever nerves Butch was riling up. "You guys on your way back?"

"Yeah." Trying to keep things simple.

"You okay?" She sounded like she was truly concerned. Then sighed. "Butch is being a dick isn't he?"

He looked at Butch who heard that. The man managed a feat he thought impossible, looking unrepentant and guilty all at the same time. He gave the Navy SEAL a smirk, probably not a wise move, but oh well. "Yeah, kinda."

"Give him your goddamned phone." She did not sound happy.

He handed the phone to Butch with a smirk. "Your sister would like to talk to you." Barely realizing that he had emphasized the word sister.

'That's bright. Mess with a SEAL, then imply the man has less than brotherly feelings for Jules. Although could ya blame him, man, growing up with her right there...knowing you really aren't related...' His subconscious had gone back to mocking him. And what did it say about him that he was far more jealous than disgusted by the thought.

Butch walked away from them all, his family included, so none of them could hear what was being said. He also kept his back to them all so that none of them could see his face. After a minute you could see his head hang down a little and his shoulders tense.

He looked over to the other Lyons' men. Red looked at him, then back to Butch. He then leaned down and said something in Dennis's ear, putting a thoughtful look on the tech geek's face. After a second the shorter man nodded to himself with a smirk.

Jake must have heard whatever Red had whispered, but it had a far different effect. The man did not look thrilled. At all.

'Daddy Jake doesn't want his little girl anywhere near Tig. That means he wants her nowhere near you, buddy boy. And right now he's stuck picking between two evils. Poor bastard.'

He didn't want to think it, he was trying hard not to think it, but fuck. Snarky was making fucking sense again. He watched the phone conversation continue, Butch's shoulders relaxing, and instead of hanging down, his head was tilting to the side, and he could see a smile on his face.

He looked back over at Clay and Chibs. Clay looked like a statue with his shades on, giving nothing away. Chibs just gave him a slight shrug as if to say 'got no idea Jackie'.

After another minute or two, he saw his cel snap shut and Butch put on his shades before turning back to them. He walked back and handed him his cel without a word and headed to his bike.

Jake looked at him. "What did your sis say?" Was it his imagination or did Jake emphasize the word 'sis'?

Butch shook his head with a wry smile and then looked at Dennis. "She's fine. But said you better have packed Soph's laptop or you might as well take your skinny manwhore ass back to Chicago now."

Dennis flipped him off. "Packed right after Spook, slut." There was no real heat in what sounded like a typical insult between the two brothers.

Before Butch could retaliate, Red cut them both off. "Would you two drama queens get on your goddamned bikes so we can actually get to Charming?" Shaking his head. "Are you both on the fucking rag?"

Butch and Dennis looked at each other, and then back at Red. "Blow me, Gigantor." Nearly in unison.

This time it was Jake cutting them all off. "Bikes. Now." There was no idle threat in the man's voice, only the father tone of doom.

"Yeah, Pop." The three got on their bikes, getting their helmets on.

Jake looked at him and then Clay and Chibs, shrugging. "Brothers." In a voice tinged with dry humor.

He had to chuckle just a little, because really, what else could sum that exchange up?

Chapter Text

After she got off his phone, Tig looked at his kid. She had an odd look on her face, a combination of anger, anxiousness, and the anticipation you see in a kid's eyes on Christmas Eve.

When she handed it back to him and tried to head back to the kitchen, he put a hand on her arm. "Everything okay?"

She nodded. "Sure. Butch wants to be a dick, but other than that, it's all good." Her voice laced with exasperation and laughter.

He frowned at that. Never a good thing to have a pissed off Navy SEAL in the house. "Why's he bein' a dick?" Part of this was the dad in him wanting to know and part of it was the SAA of SAMCRO wanting to know.

She shook her head, then shrugged. "Because he can?" Then gave him a rueful smile. "You're not accepting that as an answer are you?" She had heard the SAA in his tone.

He shook his head. "No doll, really not."

She sighed and pulled him back into a corner. "Okay, you’re not gonna like it, but here's at least one reason. Red may be Po...Jake's VP." He tried not to blanch at how she almost called Jake 'Pop'. "But Butch, Butch would be his SAA if he had his way." She peered at him with the eyes that looked back at him in the mirror every day. "As far as Jake's concerned, you're a sperm donor that got him his only daughter. This is Butch doing and saying all the things he can't."

She was right. He didn't like it. At all. But he wasn't surprised. Jake Lyons had said as much when they had fought after Marina's funeral. He rolled his shoulders. "You said at least one reason."

She nodded. "Yeah. And the other reasons don't concern anyone outside the family." She gave him an apologetic smile. "The Lyons family."

He nodded. He was gonna have to accept that there were parts of her he was never gonna know, never gonna get. They weren't for him. He hadn't earned them. They were things earned over years and with small gestures. Like breakfast in the morning and a story at bedtime. Bandaging scrapes and kissing bruises. Parent-Teacher conferences and doctor appointments.

"I get it doll." He took her hands. "I really do. I may be blood, but they're family." He squeezed them lightly. "Hopefully we'll get there someday, all I can say is I'm here, and I ain't goin' anywhere."

She smiled at him. "Yeah." Then slipped her hands out of his. "How long does it take to get back from Lodi?"

He shrugged. "Half-hour give or take."

"And if I'm in the lot facing the street, which way would they be coming from, my right or left?"

He thought for a second. "Your left. Why?"

She gave him a bright smile. "Tradition." Then walked back to the kitchen.

Tradition? What the fuck? He shook his head with a smile. She was certainly his kid. Cryptic and weird.

Chapter Text

The ride back to Charming was fairly uneventful. The Mayans that had the motel under surveillance skittered the minute he, Clay and Jackie had ridden up. He was sure to scurry back and tell Alvarez that the Sons had come to escort the outsiders to Charming.

Not that he was especially worried. Both Jackie and Clay were able and from what he had gleaned from the Chicago lads, with the exception of the techie, were more than capable. In fact the youngest Lyons seemed to be itchin' for some kind of dust up. He wasn't sure if he was seein' things or not, but the lad seemed to far too out of sorts about what had happened with the lassies.

But it really wasn't his concern, other than it seemed to rattle Jackie some. He knew when he had answered his door this morning that whatever internal debate Jackie was having seemed to be done and he'd made his choice. With the little lassie in his arms Jackie looked well, content, and in a way he never had before. So, he hoped Butch got his head out of his arse soon and got with the fuckin' program.

They were about six blocks from the clubhouse when he could see Jules sauntering down the street. That really was the only word for it. Looking over, he could see the middle Lyons boy grin. Ah, this must be a usual ritual for them. He shook his head for a second trying to block out the thought of Kerrieanne, did no good for him to wallow there.

Over the roar of the bikes he could hear Jake Lyons holler at the lass. "You can ride with Red, he's got room for ya."

Jules nodded and he nearly laid his bike down as he watched her swing up behind her eldest brother without the lad slowing down a fuckin' bit, like this was something that had been done hundreds of times. The lass wrapped her arms around her brother and rested her head on his back, flashing Jackie a wide grin.

He could see Jackie shaking his head in front of him like he was havin' trouble believin' what he was seein'. He could hear the younger two Lyons laughing and for one moment he almost forgot what had brought them all to this place.

It was all brought back home when they reached the lot and Tig was standing there with the little lassie in his arms, white bandage like a beacon on her cheek. But even with her wound the little lassie was bouncin' around, happy as a lark.

After he, Clay and Jackie got their bikes parked they walked over to the picnic tables where everyone else had seemed to gather. Looked like Ope had shown up while they were gone, still lookin' a little shell-shocked at the events of the last ten hours. Couldn't blame him, it was kind of a mind-fucker.

While the Lyons were getting their bikes parked, the lassie made it clear now that Jackie was back, that's where she wanted to be until her Mum and rest of the clan made their way over. Jackie took her happily, listening as the lassie told him all about Bobby's pancakes and helping with the eggs. Ope looked over at him and raised an amused eyebrow. He shrugged back with a smile. He had no answer for Ope, he'd never seen Jackie like this. Oh, sure the lad was head over heels for Abel, but the boy was still in the hospital, and Sophie was here. And she was mobile, verbal, and at the age she was, it was all about her. But here was Jackie, soakin' it up like he'd been there from day one.

Hell, didn't even seem to bother Tiggy that much. The SAA just looked over at the two with a slight softening around the eyes. Ah...he got it. Tiggy could handle the bond being forged if it meant the lassies would stay in Charming.

But looking over at the gaggle of Lyons', he had the feeling that Papa Lyons was feeling quite the opposite. Jake Lyons had gotten off of his bike and gone right to Jules, pulling her into his arms and planting a kiss on her temple. He could see the man speaking to her and after a minute or two, the older man nodded and then let her go, jerking his head towards the two youngest lads.

While Jake had been talking with Jules, Red had been digging in a saddlebag. When Jake was done with her, he stopped for a moment to speak with his eldest son and VP. While he couldn't see the younger man's face completely, he could see the man's jaw clench and then his head nod. Jake clapped him on the shoulder and started to walk towards the tables where SAMCRO had gathered with Sophie. Red stopped him for a second by shoving something into his chest. Jake looked down and smiled a little and nodded, then continued his walk towards his grand-daughter as his son walked over to his siblings who were in a huddle of their own, arms wrapped around each other, heads down so that their conversation could be private. He smiled just a smidge. He hadn't had siblings, but he'd had plenty of cousins and he recognized the move. It was a way to have a private family talk in public.

When Red got to them, he put his, well, the other two hadn't been wrong to call him Gigantor, arms nearly around the other three and leaned his head between Butch and Jules.

He looked over to Jackie who was staring unabashed, like if he looked hard enough he'd be able to figure out what was being said. The lad was so caught up that he almost didn't notice Jake Lyons until Sophie squealed in his ear. "Grampa!" Jackie jumped a little and Jake chuckled.

"Maybe not so loud baby Princess. I'm sure Jax likes his hearing." The man reached and took the lassie from Jackie.

Sophie looked back at Jackie. "I sorry Jax." Then hugged her Grandpa. "Hi Grampa."

Jake hugged her like he hadn't seen her in years. "Hi baby." Then pulled away to look at the lassie as he pressed something into her arms. "Uncle Red brought you somethin'."

The lassie beamed. "'Pook!" Then waved the little stuffed German Shepard at Tiggy. "Look Other Papa! ’Pook!" Then looked back at Jake. "Other Papa gave me a Sam bear so 'Pook has a friend."

Jake looked at Tig with neutral eyes and then back to Sophie and his eyes softened. "Well...isn't that just a little bit of alright." The lassie nodded and hugged her Grandpa.

The lassie looked over at the Lyons' siblings. "Want Unca's and Mommy."

Jake gave her a kiss on the head. "In a few minutes baby. Uncle Red wants to talk to them for a minute."

He laughed to himself. Right. No, the lad was doing his father's dirty work. But he had the feeling that wasn't a new thing. He knew how MC's were. Da's were gone. A lot. He had the feeling, especially for the two youngest, that Red was as much a father figure as Jake was.

Chapter Text

Red took a deep breath as he made his way over to the huddle that was Den, Butch and Jules. Pop had been very specific, Butch was to get his shit together regardless of whatever happened on his last mission or with Jules and Sophie, Dennis was to not be an instigator, and he was to find out what exactly happened with Dougie and with SAMCRO from Jules. Sometimes being the oldest sucked.

Reaching them he had to smile just a little, overhearing them. "...you sure you're okay?"

"Bitch, how many times is she gonna have to tell you she's okay before you believe her?" Dennis trying in his own warped way to make Butch feel better.

He put his arms around the three of them and leaned down between Butch and Jules. Two sets of blue eyes and one set of green looked at him. He stilled for a second. For as much as he loved Pop, loved the club, these three and Sophie were the things he loved most in the world. Even when that love felt like a punch in the gut.

Butch kicked at some invisible rocks. "What'd Pop say?" Trying to sound casual.

He snorted. "You need to get your shit together. Period. Or you'll be heading to Coronado way earlier than you want to." Then he looked at Den. "You're not to..." He shook his head, instigating trouble for Butch and Jules was far too ingrained in Den's psyche. "Instigate."

Dennis looked offended. "Me? When have I ever?" Then grinned. "Oh, yeah. I do that, don't I?"

He smiled, just a little. "Like it's second nature." He looked back over his shoulder. Pop was busy with Sophie, but all of SAMCRO was trying hard to pretend they weren't paying attention to their little huddle. Well, all except Jax, who was unapologetic in his staring.

He turned back to the other three. "Look, Pop is a heartbeat away from def-con one kids. So let's be on our semi-best behavior and make my life easier." He looked at the three of them. Since he was now blocking a great deal of the view, Butch had grabbed Jules hand like it was a lifeline. He looked down at the clenched hands and then to the two of them.

Jules let go and Butch scowled. He popped Butch on the back of the head. "This is some of the shit Pop is talking about." Jules nodded and then reached into Den's cut and grabbed the smokes she knew were there, lighting one. He looked at Butch. "You wanna get sent away again?" Butch shook his head. "Then act right."

Jules looked at him. "What'd Pop say about me?" She sounded tired. Looked it too.

He rested his head on hers. "I need to talk to you alone for a few minutes, but that can wait for a little bit. We should get over to the baby Princess."

The three nodded. Then Den pulled on Jules's hair. "So, the one standing next to Jax is your real Dad huh?"

Jules nodded. "Yeah. He was at Ma's funeral, you remember?"

He and Dennis nodded. Butch shook his head. He wasn't shocked that Butch didn't remember. Butch hadn't even wanted to go to the funeral, it had taken everything that he, Dennis and Jules had to get him to go and Butch had spent the whole thing with his face either pressed into his shoulder or Jules’s. But he was the only one who knew what had happened at the clubhouse afterwards. It had been an epic fight that had ended with Rip having to bodily remove Trager from the premises and from what he had overheard later, hours of convincing to get the man to back the fuck off.

Jules nodded. "Well... He seems okay enough. Knows a hell of a lot about me. That's a little weird."

Den shrugged. "Maybe that's how Rip got him to back off and let you stay where you belonged."

He squeezed Jules's shoulder. "Guess we'll find out."

She took another drag of her stolen smoke. "Guess so." Then grinned at the three of them. "Let's get over there, think we've freaked them out long enough. Plus, breakfast is getting cold."

Both Den and Butch perked up at that. "Breakfast?" A slow smile spread across Butch's face. "Well, shit, sis, you should have mentioned that sooner. I'm fuckin' starvin'."

He shook his head. "Okay, let's remember. Pop almost at defcon one. My ass on the line." Then sighing. "And family laundry does not get aired in front of strangers." He looked at Jules. "Related or not."

The three nodded. He smiled. "Then let's go see baby Princess."

The four of them broke apart, Butch and Dennis going to their bikes to get all the bags they had been hauling for the girls. He did the same thing. Lu and Mercy, Den and Butch had packed enough for the girls for at least a week. Even though Pop was positive that this wasn't connected to the Satan's, in case it was, he wanted the girls to have enough stuff for a stay in Charming. And Pop wasn't stupid, as much as he hated it, he knew that Jules was gonna want to get to know Trager.

It made sense, at least to him. Ma had started to get sick when Jules was three. Butch was four and a half. They really only had memories of a dying mother. Trager was a way to get more memories of a vibrant and alive mother, even if it was from a time long before she was born. It was why she and Butch always liked to hang out with Rip. Fuck, who was he kidding, it's why they all liked to hang with Rip.

As the four of them walked towards the picnic tables, he made sure to stay between Butch and Jules. He wasn't worried about Jules, she would behave, if he asked. She always did. But Butch, right now, Butch was not to be trusted. He was strung too tight, a deadly bundle of guilt, need and want. And what Butch wanted and felt he needed was Jules. Always had. Always would.

He shoved all that shit aside when they reached Pop. He laughed at his niece, who was already squealing. "Unca Manny!"

Butch looked over at Jules with a shocked grin. "Really?! You got her to call him Manny?! That's..." Butch grinned at Den who didn't look as thrilled. "Freakin' awesome!" And started to laugh.

He and Jules joined him after Dennis glared at Jules. "Thought we decided that she wasn't gonna use that nickname."

Jules shook her head. "No Manny, you decided she wasn't gonna use that nickname. If you want it to stop, you know what you have to do." Their sister smiled her sweetest smile at Dennis. "And since anyone who's known you for longer than two days knows that's impossible, better get used to it."

Dennis just gave her another mild glare and took Sophie from Pop. As they were going through their rather elaborate greeting, he noticed his sister go stand by Jax who leaned over to her. "Manny?"

She leaned back into Teller. "Short for manwhore." As Teller was chuckling, Jules went on. "Told him we would stop if he dated someone for at least a month. That was twelve years ago."

He was almost shocked to see Butch on Teller's other side. "Seriously, look up manwhore in the urban dictionary and Den's picture is right there." Butch grinned. "This is so awesome. He hates that nickname and now he's fuckin' stuck with it."

Teller just looked at him with a questioning look. He gave a slight shrug as he took Soph from Den, hoping the man would let it drop for the moment. Luckily, his SAMCRO counterpart did, and just nodded at Butch with a smile.

He relaxed just a bit as introductions were out of the way and Gemma Morrow announced that breakfast was waiting.

Shifting his niece to his hip, he followed Pop into the SAMCRO clubhouse and hoped that all of this didn't blow up in his face.

Chapter Text

Breakfast was still going on when she decided she needed some peace and quiet. The boys had taken her bags up to the room and she was curious to see what had been packed.

Seeing that Sophie was perfectly happy tucked in with Pop, who seemed to be dealing with Tig fairly well. Oh, it was obvious to her and the boys that Pop wasn't happy at all, but you had to be fluent in Lyon-ese to know that.

She eased her chair back where she had been sitting between Red and Jax. Butch on Red's other side. Red looked at her. She gave him an amused look. "I'm going to go get into real clothes." Then looked at Soph. "You ready to get dressed Miss Thing or are you still munching?"

Pop waved her on. "Baby Princess is fine here. Go get dressed. There are some people you should call." She nodded. She needed to call Will. She needed to call Lu. Neither was a call she wanted to make.

Getting to the room her and Sophie were calling theirs for the moment, she rested her head on the door. This was way fucked up before Butch was in the picture. Now it was totally FUBAR. She had no idea what the fuck to do.

She lightly banged her head on the door. That wasn't true, she knew exactly what to do. She just wasn't sure if Butch would even fucking listen right now.

Sighing, she went and started to go through the bags that the boys had brought. As she was pulling stuff out there was a knock at the door. "Jules?"

"Yeah, come on in Eric." She sat down on the bed as her oldest brother slipped in the room. She looked up at him. "If you're here to lecture me about Butch...just...don't."

Eric came and sat next to her. He shook his head with a slight smile. "Nah. You'll behave as long as Pop is here." Then his smile widened some. "Plus you have incentive to behave." He nudged her with his elbow. "But I gotta ask. Are ya tryin' to see Pop's head explode? Really, the VP of SAMCRO?"

She shrugged, giving her eldest brother a slightly cheeky smile. "Who knew that Cupid had such a warped sense of humor?" Eric rolled his eyes and she shrugged again. "Look, he treats Soph like she's one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and hell, you saw, she looks at him like he invented Ariel."

He brother started to laugh. "I'm not sure I'd put it that way, but yeah, she certainly seems pretty attached already."

She got up and started rifling through the bags the boys had brought, grabbing her make-up bag and some clothes. "Who packed?" As she closed the bathroom door.

"Way to change the conversation Jules. But, to answer your stupid question, Lu, Mercy, and Den packed your stuff. Figured he spends the most time at your place, he knew where most of your stuff was. So..." Her brother had gotten up, she could hear him walking around. "What the fuck happened Jules?"

She sighed as she was stripping out of the sweats and t-shirt she had borrowed last night. "Uh, Dougie lost his mind?!" Slipping a pair of red bikini cut lace panties on. "I think he's gotten in deep with some people who play way above his level and he needed the money that was at the end of this road." Putting on a pair of black leggings on. "He's spun out as all hell." She slipped a men's undershirt on before finishing with a rusted orange cable neck sweater.

Now that she was dressed, she cracked the door back open and pulled her hair up into a messy bun. "How bad is it at home?"

Eric sighed and sat down again while she rinsed last night's sleep off of her face. "Not good. Will is a fucking mess and already talking about going back to New York as soon as the cops release Ray's body for a funeral." She grimaced, but wasn't shocked. Ray and Will had gotten together when Soph was about six months old. He accepted her, but kids just weren't part of the life he'd imagined with Ray. And even though she knew that she would do it to Soph's face when Soph was older, she wasn't gonna lie to herself. As much as Ray loved Sophie, and totally provided for her, spending time was not his priority. What was really burning her ass about this whole sitch was that this had been the first time in almost a month that Ray had spent more time than hi/bye would take with her.

Sighing, she started to put her make-up on. Eric got up and leaned up against the bathroom doorframe. "Lu just wants to know you and Soph are okay." Eric looked down for a second. "Her and some of the old ladies are packin' you guys up." She glanced over as he looked back up from the floor, his eyes hard. "You two aren't going back there." It wasn't a suggestion.

That was alright, she had no intentions of ever darkening the threshold of that apartment again. While she hadn't seen Ray's body, the amount of blood she had saw still made her slightly nauseous. "Not going to argue with you about that. I'll call Lu in a bit." She sighed again. "I don't think I've had enough sleep to deal with Will."

Eric chuckled a little. "Can't say I blame you there." He flipped back to serious. "Did he hurt you guys other than Soph's cheek?" Taking a pack of cigarettes out of his cut. He shook two out and lit them, handing one to her.

Well, fuck. She took the smoke and inhaled. As she exhaled, she set the cigarette on the sink and shrugged. "He took some pot shots at me, but I'm just bruised. Hell, Den hits me harder for calling him Manny." Eric snorted a little at that. "Seriously, I'm almost totally fine." The best way to deal with Eric was to just be honest. At least it was for her. Any time she's ever tried lying to him it's come back to bite her in the ass like a junkyard dog, so she just stopped. "My knee is a little stiff and it's fucking with my hammie some." Jerking her head towards the bags. "Whoever fucking packed for me didn't put my running shoes in, so I have to wait until after Gemma and I take Sophie shopping. I'll get shoes then."

Eric frowned. "You have your stuff, why do you need to take Soph shopping?" She grinned at him.

"Gemma promised her a princess dress and trust me, she's already confirmed with Gemma about half a dozen times this morning that she was still getting it."

Eric grinned back at her. "Of course she has." He wandered back out into the room and grabbed an ashtray. Coming back to the doorway, he set it on the sink and put her rapidly disappearing on in it as to not burn the sink. But damn it, he had serious face again.

"What now?" Putting a smattering of blush on her cheeks.

"Probably after we get back from dealin' with that little piece of shit, Pop is gonna call Gramps and let him know what's goin' on." Eric took a drag and as he exhaled watched the smoke drift. "Pop didn't want to call him until Gramps would be able to talk to you and Soph."

Grabbing some toilet paper to dab her eyes, she was glad she always waited to put mascara on last. For whatever reason in all of this she had forgotten all about Gramps. When Pops took over a decade ago, Gram and Gramps retired to an acreage outside of Nashville, not far from where they both had grown up. Gram died a couple of years ago, but Gramps still rattled around, building bikes and enjoying being feted like the legend he was by the Satan's Sons Nashville chapter.

"Yeah, he'll be too happy to talk to us to bitch anyone out." As far as Gramps was concerned, Lu, her and Sophie would be like Gran had been in Chicago, always with a bodyguard/gopher. And had been on Pop's ass about it hard for the last year.

While he adored Soph, Gramps was not thrilled about who her father was. Not only was Ray a gay man, or well, mostly gay, since, well, Sophie. But he was also a generation older than she was and it had long been rumored that he was one of the legit fronts used by the Chicago Outfit. Which she had always found to be so not funny that it was.

Even though the Satan's Sons did not put one-percent patches on their cuts, they were a one-percent club. SAMCRO had guns, the Hell's Angels and Mongols had drugs, Satan's Sons were assassins. They were a club of government trained killers who put their skill sets to work in the civilian world. Including for the Chicago Outfit. Get Gramps drunk enough and he'll tell you what a fuckin' pussy 'Momo' Giancana was and how he'd been lucky Acardo hadn't put him down sooner.

But they were also the diplomats of the MC world. When rival clubs had beefs that they couldn't afford to have escalate, they came to the Satan's Sons table to work them out.

"Yeah. I think Pops is calling Slim down in Nashville to have someone at the house in case Gramps gives himself an aneurysm screamin' at 'im." She smiled a little at the drollness of Eric's tone.

"Probably not the worst idea ever." She stuck the mascara wand back in the tube and screwed it shut, tossing it back in the bag. Turning to her big bro. "How do I look?"

Shaking his head as he rolled his eyes, Eric gave a bit of an exasperated sigh. "Like you. Can you focus..."

Lucky for her his lecture was stopped by a knock on the door and Jax's voice. "Hey, is okay if we come in? Sophie wants to get dressed."

"Hold on one second." She looked at her oldest brother, who at the moment looked less than thrilled with her. "I know we gotta talk about some shit. But I didn't sleep for almost two and a half days and then only got about three hours last night. I really don't know shit about Dougie and his deal, I'll call Lu and Will. Can the rest of this wait until I've gotten like at least five hours of continuous sleep?"

"Yeah, I suppose." Eric still didn't look thrilled, but he wasn't gonna press her and that's all that mattered to her at the moment.

As she was getting ready to tell Jax to come in, they heard Dennis. "Just go the hell in...Jules, we're comin' in. Miss Thing wants to get ready so she can go get her princess dress."

The door opened and Dennis came in with Jax following. He had Sophie attached to his back, arms wrapped around his neck. She looked over at Eric, giving him a slight grin and head shake, and in sotto voice. "Like he fucking invented Ariel."

All Eric could do was nod. Because she wasn't fucking wrong.

Chapter Text

Barely five minutes had passed since Jules had made her way back to the dorms, eldest brother on her heels when Sophie had decided to crawl down from Jake's lap and make her way over to him, climbing him like he was a fuckin' jungle gym.

Once she had settled in, he could see her scoping his plate. He'd learned his lesson last night and made sure to grab extra bacon.

Chuckling, he pulled the plate towards them. "Have at it sweetheart. It's all you." To the laughter of everyone who'd been around the clubhouse last night.

They were all laughing as she dug right in, with one exception. Jake Lyons was looking at the two of them with a thoughtful expression. He couldn't tell what the man was thinking, not that he really cared other than the fact that he had the feeling Jules would. After a moment, the man gave a slight smile. "Looks like Jax has you figured out Missy."

Soph nodded happily as she continued to shove bacon in her mouth. He shrugged. "Better than her eating all of mine."

Dennis, or Manny, or whatever the hell they called him, leaned over and ruffled Sophie's hair. "That's because bacon is..." Like the man was leading his niece into something.

With her mouth still half full, Sophie smiled at her Uncle. "Pwoof God wuvs us." Her little voice all cute and shit. A few months ago, he would not have found this to be as awesome as it really kind of was.

If someone would ask him later, he'd be hard pressed to decide who laughed harder, Tig or Jake.

Dennis however, just gave Sophie a wink. "That's right." Then started to reach out for her. "C'mon Miss Thing, let's go get you dressed."

Sophie shook her head and he could see both Dennis and Jake give silent sighs. Like they knew this could go totally sideways if not handled correctly. "No. Jax take me." Once again, he felt a faint flush on his cheeks as pretty much everyone in the room was now staring at them.

Jake raised an eyebrow at him. "Princess, let your Uncle Den take you to Mommy."

Sophie shook her head again. This time folding her little arms across her chest. "No! Jax take me!" Her voice a little louder.

He could see both Gemma and Tig wanting to throw their opinions in the ring, but he shook his head at the two of them. If Sophie wanted him to take her to her mother, then that's what was going to happen whether Jake liked it or not. As far as he could see this wasn't a battle worth fighting a three year old over.

But before he could say a word, Dennis, who he was pretty sure he was gonna like a whole lot, spoke up. "Really Pop?" Then looked over to him and Sophie. "She wants Jax to take her to get dressed, does it really fucking matter who takes her?" Dennis jerked his head towards the dorms.

Jake shook his head. "No, guess it doesn't." The man did not look thrilled with his middle son.

Butch, who had spent most of breakfast shoving food in his face, looked at Jake and Dennis, but before he could say a word, they all heard the cel in his pocket go off. Pulling it out, he frowned as he got up and started to walk outside. "Sir."

For a second he could see a flash of worry in Jake Lyons' eyes, but it was gone nearly as quick as it had come. It took a second. Butch was probably being called back to duty.

He couldn't do shit about that so he looked down at Sophie. "You ready to go get dressed?"

"And get a princess dress?!" Good to see she had her priorities straight.

"We'll go in a little bit to get your dress, you can't wear pajamas to get a princess dress, so you need to let Jax take you to your Mommy." His mother couldn't even begin to hide the satisfaction in her voice. He was a little proud of himself for not rolling his eyes at her.

Sophie looked to him and he nodded. When he did, man, the smile that lit her face? He was pretty sure he'd be happy seeing that smile for the rest of his life. Yeah, he was fucked. "Piggy-back?"

Shaking his head with a laugh. "Why not?" As he was arranging her on his back, he struggled with the urge to totally flip off the SAMCRO peanut gallery that was finding all of this highly amusing. He got it, if he were the one in the gallery, he'd be laughin' just as hard.

As he and Sophie were going through the door leading to the dorms, he heard the door to the main clubhouse open again and Butch's voice low and displeased.

Getting to the door, he knocked. "Hey, is okay if we come in? Sophie wants to get dressed."

"Hold on one second." He could hear Jules continue on in a low murmur.

They were standing there waiting as Dennis came through the door. He rolled his eyes at the two of them. "Just go the hell in...Jules, we're comin' in. Miss Thing wants to get ready so she can go get her princess dress." Shoving the door open.

Following Dennis inside, with Sophie's arms wrapped around his neck, he nearly stopped in his tracks. If he thought Jules had looked good last night and this morning, it was nothing compared to how she looked now. Damn, she looked so good even Snarky was speechless.

She murmured something to her eldest brother and he just nodded. Then she looked over to Dennis. "What do you want?" As she walked over and took Sophie off of his back.

"Thought you might like your contacts. Plus, Butch is being called back to Coronado. He's gotta leave in a half-hour." Pulling a case out of his cut and handing it over.

"Hand them over." Reaching for the case. "Den. Will you help Soph get dressed while I put these in?"

Eric stuck his head in the bathroom where Jules was. "I'm going back out. Remember, we still have things to talk about."

"Yeah, yeah. Tell Pop and Butch we'll be down in a few."

"Okay." Eric turned and gave him an assessing look before giving Soph a kiss on the head as Dennis was holding up two pairs of leggings for her to choose from. "Think you should go with the pink ones Uncle Butch gotcha. They'll go with a princess dress." He had to admit it was a little weird watching this huge biker give fashion advice to a three year old. But as far as he could tell, these two girls pretty much had the Lyons' men firmly wrapped. Fuck, they'd been here less than twenty-four fucking hours and he was fairly well wrapped himself.

As Dennis was holding up two t-shirts for Sophie to choose from, Jules came back out of the bathroom. "Are you really making her choose between a SEALS t-shirt and a Devil Dog t-shirt?" Shaking her head with a low laugh. "That's messed up Den."

Dennis grinned as Sophie grabbed the Devil Dogs shirt. "Yeah, but with all of..." Waving an arm around. "I haven't gotten to mess with him hardly at all, so I'm taking my pleasure where I can." Helping Sophie wrangle herself into the t-shirt. "Plus, good to know you can see again." Grabbing socks and oh, they were little motorcycle boots. He almost grabbed himself to make sure he still had his dick. "C'mon Miss Thing, I think Mommy and Jax want to have a little talk. Why don't we go say bye to Uncle Butch and show him your awesome t-shirt." There was too much glee in his voice. The man did seem to be in his element messing with his brother and sister.

And it seemed Sophie knew it too. But she was completely on board with the plan. "Are we playin' joke on Unca Butch?"

Dennis smiled as he picked her up. "Less joke, more a general messin' with, like when we move stuff around in Uncle Red's room." Giving them both a cheery grin before taking Sophie out the door.

When the door closed, he turned back to Jules, who had a fond smile on her face. He guessed it was for the two that had just left. "I'm guessin' they're co-conspirators." Nodding towards the door as he inched his way closer to her.

"And you would be correct." The fond smile turned a little sad. "Then again, he is the primary dude in her life."

"What about her Dad?" He could feel the frown on his face. And hear the confusion in his voice. After all, Sophie had been with the man when Dougie killed him.

"He went above and beyond providing for her." She gave a rueful head shake. "Who the fuck am I kidding, for both of us. But spending actual time and like hanging out with her and doing things with her, let's just say it wasn't his strong suit." Was it his imagination or was she finally moving closer to him? "And I'm pretty goddamned sure this is not the kind of talk Den was referring to when he said we needed to do so."

"Really." He felt his lips quirk into a lazy grin, while his heart on the other hand was pounding like he was doin' ninety on a straightaway on his bike. Fuck, he hadn't been this nervous about a goddamned kiss since he was fourteen. "What exactly do you think he had in mind?"

Her eyes lit up with a gleam that matched the cat who had the mouse in it's sights grin. Damn, she was getting closer and oh, shit. He was the mouse. "I'm pretty sure, Den being the perceptive brother that he is, was thinking something along these lines." As a hand reached out to grab him by the back of his neck.

Not to be outdone, he wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her flush to him. When she finally pressed her lips to his, as soft and sweet as he just knew they would be, it was surprisingly chaste considering the nearly combustible energy between them.

Of course the second that thought crossed his mind, she turned the kiss filthy hot, her tongue seeking entrance as she snaked a leg between his, pushing in even closer.

Just as he was starting to walk her back towards the bed, there was a pounding on the door. "Jules! Get out here, Butch needs to get goin'." Red's voice came through the door. "Plus Pop and Clay want to get movin' too."

The two of them broke apart, both of their chests heaving just a little, trying to get oxygen back to their brains. Jules rolled her eyes. "Yeah. In a minute." Taking a step back from him.

He resisted the urge to pull her back to him, but kept a hold of her hand. "That was a great talk. I think the subject needs a deeper discussion." Grinning at her. "Maybe later tonight?" Then realized something. "Oh, Sophie..."

Jules grinned back. "Has two grandfathers. Plus two uncles." Then her grin became very Tig, which he didn't find as disturbing as he should. "Plus a woman who is dying to spoil a grand-kid." The grin was as fond as Tig's was when referring to Gemma. "Even if it isn't hers. So I think we're covered."

As tempting as that sounded, he thought about everything Sophie had been through in the last few days. "But..."

She squeezed his hand and gave him a very light kiss on the lips. When she pulled away, the smile was dimmed just a bit and a sheen of tears were in her eyes. "Sophie is good. She watched you guys take down the fucking prick who did this to her." It had happened to her too, but he wasn't foolish enough to point that out. Yet. "I'm far more worried about when we start having to talk about going home. I have the feeling that's when it's really going to hit her."

His stomach dropped at that thought. Both Sophie having to deal with any of this and the thought of them leaving Charming. Looking over her shoulder at the bags on the bed, it looked like they were staying for a bit, so he had time. Time to spend showing the both of them that Charming could be home, that SAMCRO could be home, that he and Abel could be home.

But all he could say was. "What will you do then?"

She rolled her eyes. "WE.." And damn if his heart didn't leap at that. "Will love her, assure her she's safe..." Her vaguely amused smirk was back. "Maybe spoil her a little more than usual for a while. She's almost three Jax. Kids this age are pretty resilient. In just a few years, this will all be a distant memory for her. We're the ones that are going to remember. Not her." Her face had gone deadly serious. "And I'm just fucking fine with that."

"Yeah." So was he. Sighing, he let go of her hand. "We should get out there."

Reaching back, she grabbed a bag that looked like a smaller, more expensive version of his messenger bag. "Yeah, because the next person Den will send up will either be your mother or one of my dads." Then blinked. "Did that sound as sit-com fucked up as I think it did?"

He laughed. "Just a touch darlin'." Opening the door. When she went to exit the room, he stopped her with a hand on her stomach. "We'll finish that talk we started earlier." Letting all of the want and need he was feeling color his voice.

She looked at him, her head tilted thoughtfully, sapphire blue eyes gauging every atom of his being. And before the next thought could even firmly form in his head, she had grabbed him by his cut and pulled him into a kiss that felt as much like a punch to the soul as anything else. "Count on it." Then once again. turned on her heel leaving him standing like an idiot gaping after her.

Fuck.

'Might as well put a fucking crow on you buddy boy. Think she pretty much owns your ass already.' Snarky sounded awfully fuckin' cheerful.

Yeah.

Shaking his head, he pulled the door to the girls' room shut behind him and made his way out to the main clubhouse to get on with business.

'So you can get back here and finish that talk.' Snarky sounded as impatient as he felt.

Fuck, yes.

Chapter Text

As Jax was taking Sophie back to Jules in the dorms, Butch Lyons came back in, unhappy look on his face. Tig noticed Jake Lyons give a silent sigh as he looked at his youngest son. "When do you leave?"

Butch shoved his phone back in his pocket. "Gotta leave in the next thirty minutes or so. That'll get me to Coronado with some time to spare."

At that comment, he watched as Jake's middle son slipped back to the dorms. Probably to let Jules and Eric know.

Gem had started to hustle the couple of croweaters that had come back this morning to get started on breakfast clean up. When Annie, a cute petite blonde reached over him to grab a plate, he stopped her for a sec. "Hey doll, when you get finished helpin' Gem with this, can you do me a favor?"

With mischief in her hazel eyes, she grinned. "Little early for that isn't it Tig?" He knew he liked her for a reason.

He shook his head with a grin, while flippin' off Bobby, who was chuckling. "Never doll." Giving her ass a quick pat. "But, that ain't it. Need you to clean my room for me."

She gave him a sideways look. "That's not a favor Tig, that's a fucking job."

Bobby cackled as he got up to go do whatever he was gonna do. Rolling his eyes he looked back at Annie. She had a hand on her hip an eyebrow cocked. He grinned. "What do ya want?"

She thought for a second. "Bottle of Don Julio and enough cash to cover a mani-pedi." Then leaned over. "And I'll even share the Don Julio." Showing her impressive cleavage.

"Deal." Giving her a kiss on the cheek. "Thanks doll. The door's unlocked."

Taking the plates, she gave him a wink before heading to the kitchen.

Taking a last drink of coffee, he looked over at Clay, who gave him a look. Getting up, he ambled over to where Clay was standing with Jake and Bobby. Jake looked at him, then Clay. And didn't look thrilled. "When Gemma mentioned the shopping, I figured Butch would tag along, be some protection..." Jake shook his head. "We still don't know which end this shit is coming from. All we know is they want what Rip left in that box and the only one who can access it is my..." Jake stopped himself, taking a deep breath. "Jules." Shaking his head. "I don't like the idea of the girls being out and about by themselves. Den can tag along, but he..."

He and Clay nodded. It wasn't that Dennis couldn't and wouldn't protect the girls, he just didn't know the players out here. Both Eric and Butch had their military training to fall back on. Just assume everyone is a threat and go from there. Plus, he had a feeling that Dennis would be too busy being Soph's playmate from everything Rip had told him about the relationship between the two.

Jake looked over at Hap. "What about him?"

He wanted to object right away, for Jax's sake, but knew if he did, Jake would dig in. Thank God Bobby was paying the fuck attention. Shaking his head, Bobby fished a smoke out of his cut. "If it's someone out here, sending Hap just lets them know we're aware, they'll skulk back into the background before we get a chance to find out what the fuck is going on."

"Then who do you suggest?" Clay smirked at Bobby, probably thinking what he was, that Bobby was thinking Jax would accompany the outing. So he was a little thrown at Bobby's answer.

"Tig." Rolling his eyes at the evil eye Jake was giving him. "Look, if it's Tig and Dennis, it's just a family thing." Then gave Jake the evil eye right back. "There's no mistaking Jules for anything other than Tig's kid. Gives us all the cover we need. Whether you like it or not." Then took a step towards the President of the Satan's Sons. "And..." Shit, he needed to be the bigger man. And regardless of well, everything, Jake Lyons was a fellow Devil Dog and that counted for somethin'.

"Think you made your point Bobby." He put a hand on the shorter man's shoulder. But that was as far as being the bigger man went. He looked at Jake, whose blue eyes had gone ice cold. "But he ain't wrong."

"No, he's not." Butch's voice was behind him. They all turned to see Butch leaning against a table. The younger man nodded at his older brother as Eric came back in from the dorms. "How soon are they comin' out?"

Eric shrugged. "Den and Soph will be out as soon as she's dressed." Then grinned. "As for the other two? Could be a minute."

"Then I'll make it quick." Rolling his eyes with a good natured grin. He knew through Rip that Jules and Butch had what could only be called a 'complicated' relationship. Butch was weirdly possessive of Jules and from what Rip had told him, had been since they were toddlers. Rip said a lot of others, including Jake, saw something else entirely, but Rip felt like it was just something that was so ingrained in the young man, that Butch had no idea how to not be that way. And he knew for the most part Jules was so used to it, she just navigated around it instead of dealing with it.

The good natured grin went away as Butch looked over at Jake. He could see the SEAL peeking out. "Look Pop, I get you think you're doin' what Ma wanted, but I hate to say it, it isn't want Jules wants. And that's what fuckin' matters now." Butch shook his head. "And quite frankly, I'd feel a shit ton better if Trager was watchin' their backs with Den." Then he grinned again. "And go through his trial by fire." Both Eric and Jake started to smile. "Shoppin' with the girls." Butch turned to him with a mega-watt grin in place. "Dude, I'd rather go thru BUD/S again." The door to the dorms opened and Dennis emerged with Sophie in his arms. Butch took one look at the Devil Dog t-shirt that his grand-daughter was wearing, rolled his eyes at Dennis, and looked back at him. "Especially if Manny is gonna be with you."

Everyone kind of chuckled as Dennis grinned at his younger brother. "What?! She choose the t-shirt, not me."

Soph was bouncing in her Uncle's arms, like she was in on the joke. "See Unca Butch?! Puppy!" Holding out her t-shirt.

Butch grinned at all former Recon members. "That's right. Puppy."

He, Eric, Jake, and Happy all looked at each other. Then at Dennis, who shrugged. "So that didn't really go to plan." Then noticed that there had been some slight tension in the air. "Did we interrupt something? 'Cause we can go back and..."

Jake looked at him and gave a look of capitulation. "You and Trager are gonna stay with the girls." The adults in the room could detect the small eye roll, but it went right over the head of their shared grand-daughter. "Go with them when they go shoppin'."

Sophie started to squeal, but Dennis gently put a hand over her mouth. "Inside voice, Princess, inside voice." Obviously waiting for Sophie to nod her agreement, lifting his hand when she did so.

"To get my Princess dress?" He bit on his hand to stifle his laughter at the exaggerated whisper that came out Sophie's mouth. Looking around the room, he was glad to see he wasn't the only one. Dennis only nodded as he laughed outright.

Shaking his head, Jake looked over to Eric. "Go get your sister." Jake's smiled faded some. "Butch has to get moving." The President of the Satan's Sons looked over to Clay. "And so do we. We've got about five hours before we gotta turn him into your cop."

Eric nodded and made his way back to the dorms. While those that were going with Clay and Jake; Hap, Bobby and Chibs, along with Jax and Eric, got ready to leave, he settled back into a chair to wait for the girls to be ready to go.

Dennis settled in a chair beside him, looking over with a grin as Sophie climbed down. "Go say bye to Uncle Butch, he's gotta go back to being a superhero." Watching her run off. "So we're on shopping duty then?"

He nodded, trying to look bored by it. "Looks that way."

Dennis rolled his eyes. "Dude, don't even try to front." The young man pulled out a cigarette tin as he watched his younger brother walk outside with Sophie. Getting out a joint, Dennis sparked it, took a hit and handed it over. "You know that you'd rather be doin' this today than kickin' some little Nazi fuck's ass." Dennis waved a hand. "I guarantee Dougie shits himself the second he lays eyes on Eric. Dougie's too stupid to be scared of any of you, but he's got first hand experience with the bad-ass that is our eldest sibling." Dennis gave a fond grin. "Fuckin' Viking."

He took a small toke as he grinned. "Okay, maybe a little." Taking another small toke. "Although there is something to be said for kicking Nazi ass."

Dennis waved him off again with a lazy grin as the young man snatched the joint from his hand. "Don't fret then, man." Dennis took a hit, held it, grinning on the exhale. "They'll be plenty of douchebags you can make piss themselves." Grinning as Jules walked out from the dorms. "Trust me."

Like Dennis, he had to grin just a little as the SAMCRO crew all kinda stared as his kid for a second. As her father, all he would say is that she cleaned up well. Fuck that, this was his kid, and she was gorgeous and Jax, who had followed her out, looking a little dazed himself, was probably one very lucky young man.

Reaching over, he snatched the joint from Dennis's fingers and took a large hit. Just seemed like the right thing to do. He had a feeling being moderately high was going to be a good way to navigate the rest of the day.

Chapter Text

When she walked out of the dorms, with Jax following, everyone kind of stopped for a second. Well, those connected to SAMCRO at least. Deciding she was going to do what she always did when others stopped to stare, she went on about her business like it hadn’t happened. She was aware of what she looked like to others. Fuck, she’d been modeling around Chicago since she was fourteen.

But like her Gran had told her when she first started modeling and her ego had gotten a little big for her britches, Gran shook her head and nailed her with a look. “You can be as pretty as pretty can be on the outside honey, but if you aren’t pretty on the inside too, that outside isn’t really gonna mean a lick.” And she took that to heart.

She wasn’t gonna lie though, it was fun getting all dolled up and doing photo shoots. It fucking beat a three-hour tennis practice any day that’s for damn sure. And it helped pay for grad school, which she was trying to complete one class at a time.

Looking around, she could see Butch and Soph come in from outside and that Soph was in the process of saying good-bye to him; Den was sitting with Tig smoking a joint. She rolled her eyes at the two of them. Eric was standing by Pop, watching Soph and Butch with a half-smile.

Pop caught her eye and nodded to her. Mentally rolling her eyes, because there would be hell to pay if Pop actually saw her do it, she made her way over to them. She knew as soon as Butch’s bike pulled out of the SAMCRO lot, Pop was going to want to talk to her. And she could readily say it wasn’t something she was really looking forward to.

After she got over to them, she looked back over at Jax, who gave her a slight smile before making his way over to Clay and Bobby. Glancing over at Pop, who didn’t seem as upset as he had been earlier, she gave him a slight smile in return. She was looking forward to later tonight and continuing their ‘conversation’. She was pretty sure she wouldn’t fuck him tonight, but that didn’t mean that there wasn’t a whole world of other things they could do. Because if he did other things as well as he kissed, they were in for a fun evening regardless.

Pop looked at her with a slight eye roll. Awesome. “After your brother leaves I want to talk to you and Den for a minute.” The tone of his voice letting her know that her and Den were in for a lecture.

“Sure, Pop.” There really wasn’t anything else to say. She and Den would do what they always did. Listen to what Pop had to say, and then straddle that fine line between doing what they wanted and keeping Pop from going nuclear.

As Pop nodded, Butch came over holding Soph who was talking his ear off about the princess dress she was going to get. Reaching out, she took her kid from her brother. “Did you actually tell Uncle Butch good-bye, or did you just talk about princess dresses?” Shooting Butch a grin. Den was cool with all of the girly stuff, but other than buying her pink shit, Butch really wasn’t equipped to deal.

Soph looked at her for a second and then back over to Butch. “Bye Unca Butch.” Reaching back to her uncle for another hug. “I wuv you.”

She smiled a little as Butch hugged her back. “Love you too, Baby Princess. Be good for your Mommy.” Then Butch grinned at Den then back at Soph. “But make as much trouble as you can for Uncle Manny.” Grinning even wider as Den flipped him off.

But, Soph had Den’s back. She shook her head. “No, Unca Manny and me make trouble for everyone else.” Looking over at Den, who gave her a thumbs up.

Pop barked out a laugh, as did pretty much everyone else in the room, including herself. Den was grinning so wide she was sure she was going to see his face split open. “Aww…foiled by an almost three-year-old.” Next to him, Tig looked like he was going to burst trying to contain his laughter.

She shook her head at Butch with a grin. “Wow, Butch. When did you become so dumb?” She shook her head mockingly at the brother closest to her in age. “You should know better. Pretty sure when you talked to her last month, she spent the entire time talking about all the trouble they get up to.”

As everyone else was chuckling, Butch shrugged with a wry smile. “Had to take a shot.” Then his smile was gone and she knew what was coming. “I gotta get movin’.” Yep.

She nodded and hugged Soph a little tighter. Even though Butch could be a pain in her ass with his weird possessiveness, he was her brother and she loved him. And really hated the fact that he was leaving so soon. She knew what Pop thought, along with a slew of others; but it wasn’t what they all thought it was. Everyone seemed to forget that she and Butch had been so young when Ma had gotten sick, that she’d had a few years to drill into Butch’s head to ‘take care of your sister’ when Butch was at an age that mantra became a core tenant of his being. And they’d been so young when she’d died, that they had clung to one another as much as they’d clung to any other family members. Since leaving for Annapolis, he’d gotten better about his behavior, so something bad must have happened on his last mission for him to be acting like he did when they were younger.

Eric wrapped an arm around her as Butch said good-bye to the SAMCRO crew, making sure to play up to Gemma to get extra hugs. She was glad to see he wasn’t going to be a prick and do the whole ‘shovel speech’ to Jax.

After shaking Tig’s hand, Pop looked at the five of them clustered together and jerked his head towards the clubhouse door. Luckily the SAMCRO people understood and stayed inside while she, her daughter, her siblings, and Pop went outside to finish their farewells.

Pop pulled Butch into a tight hug, clapping him on the back. “Let me know when you make it to Coronado. Be smart.” Pop knew better than to say safe. He was former special forces. He knew the drill. “I love you.”

Butch nodded as he returned the hug. “Love you too, Pop.” Smiling as he let go.

Pop nodded and reached over to her for Sophie. “C’mon Baby Princess, let’s let your Mommy and Uncles say good-bye to Uncle Butch.” Pop had always been understanding that the four of them had a bond that at times could exclude everyone else, other family included. She smiled a little as she heard Soph hollering for ‘Other Papa’ as the two of them went back into the clubhouse.

“Ooooh… Pop’s gotta love that.” Butch gave a wry grin as he turned back to the three of them. Her, Eric, and Den all looked at each other and then Butch. It was obvious to the three of them that Butch was still strung a little tight. Butch rolled his eyes. “I’ll be fine.” Looking at Eric. “Seriously. Untwist those boxer-briefs big brother.”

Eric grinned. “You sure? I know you SEALS are the sensitive types.” Laughing when Butch flipped him the bird. “Love you bro. Watch your six.” Pulling him into a hug.

“Yeah. You too.” Butch patted him on the back as he was letting go. “And give that little Nazi prick a couple of shots for me.” Eric nodded.

Butch turned to Den and just shook his head. “I’d tell you to stay out of trouble Manny but…”

Den grinned. “You know there’s no fun in that Bitch.” The grin wavered. “And I think I’m the one that needs to be saying that to you.” For all of his irreverence and teasing, Den was easily the most emotional of all of them.

“Hey, trouble is scared of me.” Butch pulled Den into a tight hug and was whispering in his ear. After a few minutes the two broke apart and Den had a small smile on his face. Butch just smirked. “I’ll be fine Manny.”

Den nodded. “Yeah. Watch your back.” Pulling Butch into another hug. “Love ya bro.”

Butch turned to her, his grins and smirks gone. She glanced over at Eric and Den and they got it. Both nodded and went back into the clubhouse.

When the door closed and the two of them were left alone at the picnic tables, she looked at her brother. Really looked at him. He was thinner than he had been the last time he was home five months ago. “What the fuck happened Brendan?” She was the only person other than Pop who could call Butch by his given name and get away with it. Both her and Pop used it judiciously.

He shook his head. “Can’t really tell you Jules.” Looking at her dead on, his eyes serious. “But things went wrong, people got hurt. Badly.”

“How bad?” She swallowed. She had met some of Butch’s team almost a year ago when they had been at the Great Lakes Naval Base doing a training exercise. She had liked them and really hoped no one was dead.

Butch shrugged. “Josh will end up either riding a desk or getting a med discharge.” There was a lot her brother wasn’t saying and she knew he wouldn’t. Fuck classified. Fuck it up the ass with a knobby stick and no lube. How could she help her brother when he had to carry the burden alone? Sometimes life just sucked.

Shaking his head, Butch gave her a genuine smile. Not a grin, not a smirk, but a smile. “I’ll be fine Jules, really.” Now he grinned a little. “As much as the reason for it sucks, the ride out here with Pop, Eric, and Den really did help clear my head.” Then the smirk came. “So did the waitress in North Platte who could probably suck the chrome off of every tailpipe here and still have energy left over.”

“Great.” She shook her head, laughing. “Did you warn her you were probably passing along some exotic STD from some Thai she-male you fucked on some blackout Libo?”

“Nah, figured I’d let that be a surprise gift later on.” Butch grinned back, briefly. The grin faded to a more serious look. “You’re gonna stay here aren’t you? You and Soph?”

She looked over to the clubhouse door, feeling a little caught out. Whatever was happening with Jax Teller wasn’t just chemistry. It wasn’t just lust. She actually LIKED him. He was smart with a dry sense of humor, who obviously cared deeply for those he chose to let into his heart.

“Probably.” Just like with Eric, she never lied to Brendan. Although unlike with Eric, she had never even remotely thought about lying to Brendan. Lying to Brendan would be like lying to herself, and that was something she didn’t do. “I…”

“I know.” Brendan smiled at her. “If it makes you feel better, I do like him. Seems like he’s an okay dude.”

She laughed. “I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to know he has the Butch Lyons seal of approval.”

“You fucking know it, sis.” Butch pulled her into a fierce hug. “And he should be.”

Wrapping her arms around her brother, she returned the hug. “I love you.” She knew they had mere moments before Pop’s patience ran out and the rest of the clan came out to see Butch off.

“’Course you do.” Butch gave her a squeeze as he kissed her forehead. His green eyes smiling. “Love you too, sissy.” Butch lightly knocked their foreheads together. “You or Soph need anything…”

Letting go of her brother. “I know.” Smiling at him as the clubhouse door opened and with Pop in the lead, everyone started to gather around the tables to see Butch off.

Clay looked at Butch. “We got time. You want an escort for a stretch?”

Butch shook his head with a smile. “Nah. Got no patch on my back, and…” Mindful that Soph was right there. “You guys have more important things to do than babysit a SEAL.”

Clay nodded and shook Butch’s hand. “We do.”

Once again, the SAMCRO people stayed by the tables as Pop led the Lyons clan towards Butch’s bike. After saying their final good-byes, the five of them stood together as they watched Butch pull out of the T-M lot and hang a left.

For a minute after Butch’s bike disappeared, Pop stood there staring at the empty parking space at the end of the row of bikes. After he was done with whatever the fuck was going through his head, Pop turned and handed Soph off to Eric while pinning her and Den with a look. “Eric, go get Princess set up with a movie or something because it’s gonna be a bit before they go to get a princess dress for her.”

Holy fuck. It was the tone of voice even Soph knew not to argue with. Eric nodded and that Viking turncoat turned tail and got the hell away while the getting was good.

She glanced at Den who looked at her with a shrug in his eyes. They all knew Pop wasn’t thrilled, but this was a pissed off Pop.

“I’ve gotten six texts from Lu in the last hour.” Oh. Yeah. That would piss him off. Even though he’d never married her, he loved her as much as he had loved Ma, and didn’t like her upset. “I told you to call her.”

“And I will…”

Pop cut her off by shoving his phone into her hand. “Yeah. ‘Cause you’re gonna do it now.”

The phone was open and she could see the call was already placed. Great. She took the phone and heard her step-mother’s voice. “You should know better Julian Alexandra. Your Daddy is already not thrilled about where you are, and then you don’t do what he tells you to?” She could almost see the smirk on Lu’s face. “You’re lucky he pretty much thinks you hung the moon and stars.”

“Yeah.” She should have taken the five minutes to call when she was in her room earlier, but she had gotten distracted. Because that’s all Lu really wanted, just five minutes to know she was relatively okay. “I’m sorry, I should have called sooner.”

“That’s okay honey. You and Sophie are okay though? Other than her cheek?” Lu was past whatever hurt feelings and getting down to the nitty gritty.

“Yeah, so far at least. I’m sure the doctor that stitched her up will take another look, make sure it’s healing okay. Dr. Knowles is a pediatric surgeon.”

“Tara Knowles?” Lu’s voice was intensely curious. “I had wondered where she had gone to. Sophie is in good hands with her.” Lu was now speaking in her ‘professional’ voice. Lu was a trauma surgical nurse. She had met Pop when Rip had been in what could have been a fatal bike wreck, but luckily for him, wasn’t. Although, now that she thought about it, he’d probably preferred to have gone out that way instead of the way he did.

“Cool.” She didn’t want to broach it, but knew she had to. “Is Will around?”

“No. He’s staying at a hotel.” Lu sighed. “He said if you called to tell you that there’s legal things to be taken care of. Ray pretty much left everything to you and Soph.” She looked over to Pop, who’d pretty much been unashamedly eavesdropping. Pop just nodded.

“Already have Mason looking everything over. All of his business interests will be sold to the partners, then it’s to all go into trusts for you and Soph.” Then Pop rolled his eyes. “And Dennis and Eric are co-executors of Soph’s trust.” Pop didn’t sound surprised in the least, but she knew that he’d also had a few more days to process shit.

“The police will be releasing the body either tomorrow or the next day.” Lu’s voice started to shake a little, and it wasn’t grief. “That little fuck is going to have the memorial service right away. When I brought up you and Soph, he said Soph was too young and that he wasn’t going to hold things up just for you.”

She wanted to roll her eyes, but knew if she did, there was a good chance she’d get a cuff to the back of the head. She really didn’t need Jax seeing her be treated like a kid. Well, any more than she already was. “He’s right about Sophie. She’s too young to go to something like that.” She shook her head. “And Will is right.” Plowing on before Lu could protest. “Also, don’t forget where and why Ray was killed. Will has a right to be angry with me, even if it isn’t logical.” Which she knew. Logic told her this wasn’t her fault. It was Dougie’s and whatever entity he was working on behalf of. But emotion? Emotion told her this was at her feet and Will should be pissed as hell at her and the entirety of Satan’s Sons family.

“I know honey, but…” She knew Lu was looking for a reason to be pissed instead of stewing in worry.

“No buts, Lu. Jules is right and we’ll leave Will be. He’ll reach out if and when he’s ready.” Good, Pop’s voice was back to normal. She looked over at Den and saw the relief on his face too.

“Fine Jake.” Lu sounded a little put out that she wasn’t allowed to be bitchy about Will and the memorial service. “Jules, when I talked to him about an hour ago, he was getting ready to take a sleeping pill and get some sleep. He hasn’t slept much.”

“I know the feeling.” She was still bone tired, but another few cups of coffee and maybe an energy drink or twelve, she’d be, well, still bone tired but with enough fake energy to get through the rest of the morning. The odds were good she would be sharing her daughter’s naptime today. “If you talk to him, tell him to text me when it’s good for me to call him. That way I don’t interrupt him in the middle of something and get bitchy Will.” Because bitchy Will made her want to slap him upside the head. And she didn’t want to feel that way about him at the moment. “Bitchy Will makes my teeth itch.”

Lu laughter was tinny through the cel speaker. “I know THAT feeling.” The laughter faded away. “I’m glad you and Soph are relatively okay. Call later when you and her have a little time to talk.”

“Okay.” She looked over at Pop who seemed a lot less stressed than he had a few moments ago. Thank you baby Jesus. Although she could almost hear Eric’s voice in her head. ‘What part of Pop at def-con one didn’t you hear the first time?’

“Plus, I’m pretty sure your Daddy has a few things to say to you, so I’ll let you get that over with.” Lu sounded way too entertained by that thought. “Love you honey. Be good. Listen to your Daddy.” Then she was gone.

She looked over to Pop, who was back to looking not so thrilled. He shook his head at her and Den. “I’d like to tell the two of ya not to act like knuckle-head goofballs, but I know I’d just be spittin’ in the wind with that.” She had to give Pop credit, the man knew his kids. “And I can’t believe I’m even sayin’ it, but listen to Trager if he tells the two of you something.” Pop’s eyes went hard and he pinned her to the spot she was standing in. “Since what’s in the safety deposit box seems to be what whoever the fuck that little prick is working for wants, my guess is it’s connected to SAMCRO and not us. So Trager will know the players.”

“What the fuck is in that box that someone wants so fucking bad?” Thank fuck for Den.

Pop sighed. “Cash and a deed to a house here in Charming.” Pop’s eyes flicked over at the SAMCRO guys milling around the table, then back to her and Den. “My guess is someone wants the house. Considering what the little prick and his Nazi friends are into, they want it as a cookhouse and as a way of getting a foot into Charming.”

Her and Den nodded. She guessed it made sense. To be honest, she paid little attention to club business at home. She was the daughter of the Pres, and sister to the VP, so while she had a certain status, she wasn’t an old lady and therefore not really in any fucking loop. “You mean Charming has managed to miss the Nor-Cal meth explosion?” It had been a problem in the area going back to her time at Stanford.

Pop shook his head. “Nah, SAMCRO keeps it out of the town.” Pop grinned a little. “You can sell all the weed you want in this town, but you’ll get shut the fuck down for anything harder.” Pop sounded as tickled by that as she knew he was. While that was the rule with the Satan’s Sons, it was impractical to think you could have that mandate in Chicago.

“Oh. Okay.” She looked over at the clubhouse and started to fantasize about another cup of coffee. And maybe a cigarette.

Pop glanced over at Den. “You’re off the hook. Go make sure your brother isn’t letting Baby Princess run amok.”

Den nodded as he shot her a sympathetic glance. But that didn’t stop him from running off as fast as he fucking could with a shred of dignity intact. She wanted to flip him off, but that whole Jax seeing her get treated like an errant child stopped her.

She looked back at Pop, who was looking at her with an eyebrow raised like he knew what she was thinking of doing. He sighed. “You know I never wanted you to come out here.”

Yeah, she was pretty sure the last couple of hours had hammered that home. Pop went on. “But you’re here and it’s pretty obvious that you’re already thinking of staying.”

She looked at him, surprised that he’d managed to say it and not sound like he was chewing glass. “I like California.” Thinking she’d see if Pop would buy that.

“Yes, you do.” Pop gave her a wry smile. “And certain blondes that live here too.”

“Maybe.” She was going to try and make this conversation as short as humanly possible. She didn’t care how ‘cool’ most thought her parents were; she really didn’t like talking about her love life with either Pop or Lu.

“Give me some credit Princess, I have eyes.” Pop smiled at her. “He’s good with Sophie.”

“He is.” He was amazing with Soph, but she wasn’t gonna say that to Pop.

“She really likes him.” Another obvious fact. Pop chuckled. “And seems to already know how to work him.”

This time she chuckled along with Pop. “Yeah, she does.” Then she stopped chuckling and looked Pop dead in the eye. “What are you gettin’ at Pop?”

He looked at her seriously. “If you were thinkin’ of stayin’ here only for Trager, I’d put my foot down.” She wanted to protest, but Pop went on. “Your Ma had her reasons for why she cut him out and I’ll respect those until the day I take my last breath.” Here it comes, she was certain. Pop was gonna tell her she had to come back to Chicago. “But your Ma will haunt me if I get between you and Jax.” He shook his head ruefully. “So, if you want to stay, I’m not gonna stop you.”

She stared at Pop, pretty sure her lower jaw was brushing the asphalt of the parking lot. “Where’s Pop and who the hell are you?”

Pop grinned and she relaxed a little. “Smart-ass.” Pop gave her a hug. “See if I’m nice to you again today.” He gave her a kiss on the forehead. “You’re off the hook now too.” Letting her go. “So you can go get your cup of coffee and let your brothers know the coast is clear.”

She smiled at Pop as she walked back towards the clubhouse. While yeah, she was looking forward to spending time with Tig and getting to know him; Pop would always be Pop. He was the one that knew the four of them as well as they knew each other. And the fact that Pop was okay with her and Sophie staying here? Man, it felt like he’d given her a gift she hadn’t known she had wanted.

Chapter Text

Jax watched Jake Lyons stare at the empty space where his youngest son’s bike had been. When the man turned back to his kids, Jax wasn’t sure what had been said but saw the looks on both Eric and Sophie’s faces when they rushed past those from SAMCRO that were still lingering by the tables. Both looked relieved that they got to run off.

Looking back over to where Jake was standing with Jules and Dennis, he could see the abashed look on Jules’s face, like she had been told to do something and had blown it off. Then seeing the cel phone in Jake’s hand remembered that Jake had mentioned she had some calls to make.

As he lit a smoke, Ope leaned over. “What the fuck?” He looked over to see the smirk on his best friend’s face.

He shrugged. He really wasn’t sure. “No idea man.” He grinned over at Ope.

Ope shook his head with a light laugh. “Leave here last night and you were mooning over Tara. Get back this morning…”

He knew how out of character it was for him to be like this with anyone other than Tara, but he couldn’t deny that this whatever was going on with Jules, and by extension, Sophie, felt good. He looked over to see Jules handing Jake back his cel phone. “I know bro, and if I had a real answer for you, I’d give it to ya. But…”

Ope clapped him on the back. “Yeah. I get it bro.” Ope looked over at Jules and then back to the clubhouse where Soph was. “Sometimes things just sneak up on ya.” Then Ope laughed. “But I have to admit; it’s a whole lot of fun watching you get led around by your nose by a toddler. I always knew you were a sucker for women, but this is a whole new extreme, man.”

“Laugh it up.” He glanced over to his best friend who was certainly enjoying all of this.

Noticing that his Mom had snuck off to the T-M office, he followed her in. As she was lookin’ at some paperwork, she glanced up. “What do you need darlin’?”

He reached into his jean’s pocket and pulled out his cash roll. Peeling off a hundred in twenties, he handed them to his Mom. “This is for Sophie’s dress.” Then sat down on the couch in the office knowing that with this, along with everything else this morning, he was going to have to talk to his mother.

Gemma sat down in her office chair, laying the money on the desk. “The dress won’t cost a hundred dollars Jackson.”

“She might want some other things.” He wasn’t entirely sure what else would go with a princess dress, but he was sure in this day and age there would be accessories.

His Mom nodded with a knowing smile. “She might.” Tapping her index fingernail on the cash. “Am I supposed to tell her Mama about who is really buying the dress?” First fishing line cast. Point to his mother.

He shook his head. “No.” Then rolled his eyes. “This isn’t about gettin’ into Jules’s pants…” He shot his mother a look before she could open her mouth. “It isn’t.” He didn’t hide much from his mother; it was too much work. “I just want to do it.”

His mother gave him a good, hard, long look. When she saw whatever it was she was looking for, she smiled. “You like them.” He must have looked confused for a second because she rolled her eyes. “Jackson, for all of the love you claim to have for Tara, I’ve never seen much like in all of it.”

He thought about that. His mother wasn’t really wrong. Oh, when they were younger he and Tara had liked each other and had been friends as well as lovers. Now, he was pretty sure that even though she loved him, Tara didn’t like him much, and he hadn’t thought of whether or not he liked her still, just that he had loved her and she was back.

“Yeah.” His Mom must have had some sort of inkling of what was going through his head. “But it seems to me that you actually like Jules.” His Mom smiled. “So do I. She’s a good girl.”

He could hear the unspoken ‘for you’ at the end of his mother’s sentence. And as much as he wanted to, he didn’t roll his eyes, mostly because he didn’t want to deal with the Gemma fallout. He smiled a little. “Yeah. She is.” He knew he sounded as gone for them as he felt. And it was ‘them’. Jules had been very clear about the fact that her and Sophie were a total package deal and how someone felt about her daughter was more important than how they felt about her.

Just like with this dress. He really didn’t care if Jules ever knew he bought Soph’s princess dress for her. It was enough for him to know that he had. He looked at his Mom. “It’s not about Jules. It’s about making Sophie happy.” He blinked a little as he voiced that thought and looked at his mother. “What the fuck happened to my dick?!”

“It grew the fuck up.” His mother snickered, then shook her head. “Yeah, you have somethin’ with her Mama, but you’re figuring out that all that shit takes a backseat when you’ve got a kid. Sophie should be more important, because she is.” The smile on his Mom’s face was almost sweet, but there was a sadness in her eyes that he knew was Thomas related. “Jules knows that.” Then his Mom’s eyes went a little hard as she looked at him. “She wants a partner, not a fuck buddy Jax. You need to be sure.” The look softened some. “I don’t want anyone, especially three-year-old anyones, to get hurt.” Then leaned back in her chair. “You feel me?” His Mom lit a cigarette and inhaled the first drag as she waited for him to answer her.

He had thought about it. He’d thought of little else since Jules had cuffed him on the back of his head for giving Soph candy last night. He was in the same boat as Jules. He wanted a partner, not a fuck buddy. He was tired of fucking faceless, nameless women. Sure, it got him off physically; but it didn’t do much for his heart or his soul. He’d made the mistake of marrying a fuck buddy and look how that worked out. And the more that he thought about it, he and Tara getting back together would probably end in disaster.

“Yeah, I feel you.” He stood up from the couch. Walking over to the desk, he leaned down and gave his mother a kiss on the cheek. “Whatever she wants.” Tapping the money on the desk. “I’m gonna get a last cup of coffee before we get goin’.”

“Love you, baby.” His mother’s voice was smug behind him. “Talk to you later.”

Leaving the office, he noticed that Jules was no longer in the lot. When he walked over to Jake and Clay the two nodded at him. “We’ll take off in about fifteen minutes.” Clay smirked. “Apparently Red isn’t allowed to leave quite yet.”

He was failing at suppressing a grin. “Really? Any particular reason why?” He really didn’t give a fuck, he just figured the answer would be amusing.

“Instead of a movie, Baby Princess talked him into one of her computer games.” Jake grinned. “She told him he had to finish ‘cause, and I quote, ‘Unca Manny is too bossy when we play this. You stay.’.” Jake shrugged like it was not an unusual occurrence. “Den is a little bit of prick when he gets into that game with her.” Jake smiled. “It’s some sort of learning game and he’s not good about letting her make mistakes, wants to get it for her if she doesn’t right away.” Jake gave a rueful head shake. “All because he doesn’t want her to feel bad, and all he does is piss her off. So she only plays with Jules and Eric. You’d think he’d learn; it was the same damn thing with his sister when they were kids.” The grin was back. “Although Soph hasn’t punched him in the nose for it.”

And there it was, he laughed. He could see a young Jules decking a young Dennis for something like that. “Okay. Think I’ll grab another cup of coffee while we’re waitin’.” Nodding to Jake and Clay before wandering into the clubhouse.

Getting inside, he could see that Jules was sitting at a table with a fresh cup of coffee, watching Sophie and her uncle, but also watching Tig, who was obviously fascinated by the ease at which Sophie navigated her game.

Quickly grabbing a cup of coffee for himself, he joined Jules at the table. She smiled at the cup in his hand. “Bobby makes great coffee.” Then grinned. “Food too.” The grin became wider and more teasing as Bobby walked into earshot. “If he cleans too, he’ll make a nice wife for someone someday.”

Bobby chuckled at her as he ambled by. “Nah, I ask too much for the bridal dowry.”

Jules’s laugh was long and genuine, and by the time she was done, he could tell that it was something that she had needed. She reached out and grabbed Bobby’s arm. “You’d be worth every penny.” The laughter faded but the smile remained. “Seriously, on the list of ‘Favorite Humans of Jules and Soph’.”

“Back at you sweetheart.” Bobby leaned down and gave her a quick kiss on the top of her head. Then shot him a wink. “Just because your kid is cute.”

Jules was nonplussed. “Well…yeah.” The grin was back as she looked over to Soph and Eric. “She is the very definition of awesome.”

Bobby nodded with a smile as he walked off and then outside. The game seemed to be done, because Soph had crawled off of her uncle’s lap and had scampered over to climb up into his. He looked over to Jules. If the game was done, then he had to go. There was business to be dealt with.

With an understanding smile, Jules got up and lifted Sophie from his lap. “Jax needs to go with Uncle Red and Grandpa Jake. They have to go do some big guy stuff.” And before her daughter could lodge the protest they could all see on her face. “And while they’re doin’ that, Uncle Den and Other Papa are gonna come with us to get your princess dress.”

Thank whatthefuckever the protest on the little girl’s face went away, because he wasn’t entirely sure he wouldn’t totally fucking cave to the whims of a toddler today. Soph looked at Jules and then to him and then back at her Mommy. “So I can ‘prise Jax? And Grampa and Unca Red?” That sounded like an idea that she could get on board with. He fought a smile.

Jules on the other hand, did not. In fact, she laughed. “Exactly.” Looking over at him and giving him a wink that he felt in a number of areas. “You have the best ideas.” Giving her daughter a kiss on the head. Sophie beamed at the praise.

The others leaving had already headed out of the clubhouse, and Tig and Dennis were being nice enough to give the three of them a little space. He smiled at the two. “Your Mommy’s right.” He leaned in and gave Sophie a kiss on the cheek. The one Dougie hadn’t messed up. “You can surprise us. I’ll see you later, okay?”

Sophie nodded with a smile. “’Kay, bye.” Then slithered out of Jules’s arms and sped her way over to Dennis who snatched her up and threw her in the air, to her delighted squeals.

Jules rolled her eyes affectionately at the spectacle, then turned to him. “Make sure somebody hits that little bastard for her would ya?” She gave him a cold smile. “Got mine in last night.”

“I can do that.” He nodded towards the door. “Although I’m pretty sure that’s already high on some people’s priority lists.”

“That wouldn’t surprise me in the least.” She sounded okay with that, too. Looking at him with a smile. “You need to get going. Clay doesn’t strike me as the world’s most patient dude and I can guarantee you Pop isn’t.”

That was a great point. “Yeah. I’ll see you later I guess.” He felt awkward in a way he hadn’t since his teens. He wasn’t sure if he was to kiss her good-bye, or if he was to just go, or…

She leaned over and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. “Have fun with the Nazi. I’m sure Soph will have the entire shopping tale for you to enjoy later.” And with the cheekiest, as Chibs would say, grin on her face, popped him on the ass. “Now leave so we can go shopping.”

With every ounce of will power he ignored the cackles coming from Dennis and Tig so that he wouldn’t flip them off in front of Sophie. While the Lyons’ seemed to be a bit more free with their language and gestures around Sophie, he didn’t feel like he had quite earned that level of freedom around her. When he’d been young, he remembered that even though everyone around SAMCRO cussed, it was weird when adults he really didn’t know did.

Giving Sophie a final wave, he walked outside and towards his bike. Keeping in mind Jules request. Yeah, he’d make sure Dougie would hurt more than the prick had made Sophie hurt.

Clay looked at him in askance and he nodded his head. With a satisfied look, Clay swung a leg over his bike and started it. He and the others followed suit. He pulled into line behind Clay and Jake, he looked over to his left to see Red beside him. As they picked up speed Eric looked over at him with a grin as he looked around.

“Nice day to play ‘Beat the Nazi’.”

He laughed and shook his head. Red wasn’t wrong. It was a nice day. And a Nazi would be beat.

Chapter Text

As everyone scattered after Butch Lyons took off, Tig went back into the clubhouse to get another cup of coffee. Not even five minutes after he sat down, Red Lyons comes striding back into the clubhouse, Sophie in his arms. Soph’s eyes were wide.

“Grampa is mad.” Looking to her uncle for confirmation.

Red nodded. “I think so.”

“At Mommy and Unca Manny?” Soph sounded confused. Like she couldn’t understand what the two of them had done to upset her other grandfather so much. He was with her on that. He knew Jake wasn’t very happy about, well, a lot of shit, but nothing that would provoke real anger at his kids.

“Mommy was supposed to call Grandma Lu and she didn’t.” The tone of Red’s voice implying that even Sophie should know what a wrong move that was. “And who knows about Uncle Manny, Baby Princess. You know it doesn’t take much for Uncle Manny to get Grandpa goin’.”

“Grampa says all da time that Unca Manny is too silly.” Said with all the authority an almost three-year-old could muster.

“He is.” Red set her down at the table Dennis had been sitting at. Reaching down into a messenger bag, he pulled out a pink laptop. “Let’s get you set up with somethin’ to watch. You want Ariel? Or do you want Belle?”

He was a little amazed when Sophie opened the damn thing and started it up like she knew what the fuck she was doin’. He scooted his chair a little so he could get a view of the screen.

“Wanna pway my game.” Soph was staring at the screen, waiting for something to happen. A few seconds later, a picture of a cartoon mermaid came on the screen.

“Okay, but I’m gonna have to leave soon, so Mommy might have to finish the game with you.” Red looked over at him and gave him a wink. “Or maybe Other Papa.”

Sophie turned to him. “You know how to pway my game Other Papa?”

He shook his head and smiled at her. “Nah, honey I sure don’t. Why don’t you and Uncle Red show me.” Getting the reaction from her that he so wanted. She beamed at him.

Red gave him a sideways look. “Suck up.” Under his breath and amused.

“Duh.” He took a sip of his coffee. “And I ain’t the only one.” And wasn’t that the fuckin’ truth. As much as it seemed Soph already had most of SAMCRO wrapped, it really wasn’t shit compared to how she led the Lyons’ men around by their noses.

“Point.” Red smiled down as Sophie was moving her finger around on a small pad, lookin’ up at the screen he could see a white arrow moving around. When the arrow settled on a little picture, Sophie tapped the little pad twice and another screen came up.

“Holy shit, she can work a computer?” Juice’s voice rising nearly an octave by the end. He wanted to roll his eyes, but on some levels he was as amazed as Juice.

“Yeah.” Dennis’s voice at the clubhouse door was a combination of ‘duh, you fucktard’ and sincere pride. “I built this one for her second birthday. Of course it’s got movies and cartoons and shit like that, but it’s also got word games, math games…” Dennis grinned at Juice. “I even created a coding game for her. She’ll be able to hack your shit by the time she’s five.” How cute, the computer geek version of ‘my dick is bigger than your dick’.

“Quiet Unca Manny!” Soph’s voice was mildly irritated. He swallowed a laugh. Rip had told him that Soph had he and Jules’s temper in fucking spades. “Me an’ Unca Red twying to play!”

Dennis rolled his eyes as he ruffled Sophie’s hair. “Yeah, yeah.” Then wandered off towards where Juice had his computer shit set up. After approximately thirty seconds the two were jabbering at each other in a language only the two of them understood.

Gemma came out from the kitchen, and as she passed him, stopped for a second. She was looking over at Soph and Red playing Soph’s game. It looked to be some sort of basic word game that in the end was teaching an almost three-year-old to read and spell. Gem looked back at him with a wry smile. “I’m gonna go to the office and get some work done. I really don’t need to watch a toddler work a computer better than I can.” She leaned down and gave Soph a kiss on the cheek. “I have to do some work, but we’ll go get your dress after the big boys leave.”

“’Kay.” Sophie barely looked away from the screen, her little face scrunched up in concentration. “I be wight here.”

Gen shot him a smile and he grinned back. She looked down at Sophie and gave an amused head shake and walked out of the clubhouse to the T-M office.

Turning his attention back to Sophie and Red, he was genuinely floored at how well she did with the game. Every once in a while Red would patiently talk her through a word, never giving her the answer, but pointing her in the direction that would help her get there herself. Rip had told him that Jules had been working with Soph since she wasn’t even a year old. It was all in the guise of games and things like that, but he was still pretty goddamned impressed with both his kid and grandkid.

Hearing the clubhouse door open, he turned and gave a slight head nod with a smile to his kid, who he had to say look pleasantly shell-shocked. She looked over to her daughter and brother, saw the game and grinned. “Thought Pop said a movie Eric.”

Red shrugged. “She wanted her game.” Then grinned at her. “And I’m not in the mood for Disney.”

Jules shook with laughter. “You’re never in the mood for Disney, ever, Eric.” His kid started to walk towards the kitchen. “I need more coffee.” Patting his shoulder as she walked past.

When she came out of the kitchen, holding a coffee cup like it was precious cargo, Jake and Clay had come in. Jules took a seat at a table over from him and pulled a cigarette out of her bag.

Jake looked at Red and Sophie playing the computer game with amusement. “Baby Princess, let Uncle Den finish the game with you. Uncle Red has to go with me and Clay and Jax to go do somethin’.”

Sophie looked at Jake, then back to Red, then over to Dennis. “Unca Manny is too bossy when we pway this. You stay.” Looking at Red, who rolled his eyes upward as if he were trying very hard not to grin.

Jake looked to be in the same boat as his son. He, on the other hand, was not. He was openly grinning his ass off.

Jake just shook his head with a smile. “I know baby.” Jake looked over to Dennis who shrugged with a grin, then back to Sophie. “You can finish this one game, but no more. You hear me?”

Sophie nodded. “’Kay Grampa.” Then turned to Red. “Grampa says you can onwy pway one game.”

Red gave her his best sad look. “Yeah, I heard him.”

Sophie patted Red’s hand. “It’s okay. Other Papa will pway wif me.” She looked over to him waiting for him to agree.

“Sure, Baby Doll.” Not bothering to hide the finger he was using to flip off Clay who he could hear snickering behind him. “I’d love to play your game with ya.”

Sophie smiled at him and he really couldn’t give a flying fuck if the entire club wanted to laugh at him. “But Unca Red has to finish pwaying first. Then you turn.” Soph looked over to her Mommy. “Right Mommy? Unca Red and Other Papa have to take turns?”

He had to give his kid credit; she didn’t fall to the floor laughing hysterically even though he could tell she was thinking about it. The smile she gave Soph was nearly blinding. “That’s right honey, Uncle Red and Other Papa have to take turns playing the game.” He was a little worried she might actually hurt something keeping her laughter in.

Jake and Clay on the other hand had absolutely no fucking qualms about laughing their asses off. Clay looked at Red. “We’ll be outside. Come on out when she lets you go.” Still laughing as the two headed back outside.

Red just threw up a middle finger towards the door as he continued to play the game with Sophie.

Even though he would never be totally okay with what Marina had done, and the fact that he missed the first eight years of her life completely; or the fact that he had to live on scraps and glimpses for the next seventeen years; he was actually inching towards almost okay with it. It really hadn’t mattered that Rip had assured him of how truly adored and accepted the two of them were by the Lyons family, it wasn’t until he had witnessed it up close and personal that he was able to totally believe his oldest friend.

And while both Red and Dennis seemed just fine with Jules and Sophie meeting him and being here in Charming, he was sure that if he tried to overstep, they’d both come at him. Hard. And as headstrong as his kid seemed, he knew, through Rip, that if either Jake or Red really put their foot down about him, she’d follow their lead. Like Rip had said. “Sure, she’s a little wild, likes to party some, but she’s a good girl who listens to her Dad and brothers when it matters.” Rip wasn’t wrong. Hell, Jules had basically let Jake call her out on the carpet in front of all of SAMCRO, Jax included, because even though she was an adult, she’d blown off a parental order and knew that she was gonna have to pay the price. No matter how much it embarrassed her.

So yeah, even though he was never gonna be completely over how things in Chicago went down, he was happy to have the confirmation in front of him that as much as he hated himself for it, he made the right choice in listening to Rip all those years ago. And maybe there was a little gratitude in there too. His kid and grandkid were pretty fucking amazing. At least to him. And probably Jax.

Who, as he was thinking it, came into the clubhouse and headed directly to the kitchen. When Jax came back out, he too was holding a cup of coffee and made a beeline for the table Jules was sitting at.

While he couldn’t make out what was being said, and he was still paying far more attention to Sophie and her game, he could hear a teasing quality in his kid’s voice. It must have been directed at Bobby ‘cause the guy stopped at the table for a second.

Whatever Bobby was saying to Jules and Jax, it set his daughter into a laughing fit loud enough that even Soph stopped her game for a second and looked over, then seeing her Mommy was fine, went right back to her game.

As he was turning back to see if Jules was done laughin’ her ass off, he saw Bobby plant a quick kiss to Jules’s head and shooting Jax a wink before heading outside.

When he turned back, it looked to him as if the game was over. Red gave Soph a kiss on the head. “Good game honey. I gotta go with Grandpa now.”

When Sophie slid down off of Red’s lap, he really should have known that she would go directly to Jax. He was pretty goddamned sure that at this point, Jax was outranking everyone except her Mommy. Feeling a tap on his shoulder, he hid his grin as he turned. Jax looked about as sorry as he’d ever seen the kid. With Red heading out, that meant Jax had to go also.

Dennis nodded his head towards the other end of the clubhouse. And as much as he wanted to totally pull up a chair and just watch his kid, yeah, they should probably give the three of them a little space. Jules was getting up and snagging her daughter out of Jax’s lap. He thought he could hear her explaining to Soph that Jax had to leave with the others.

Dennis shook his head at him. “Man you’re almost as gone as Teller is.” The slight man’s grin a bright spot in the darkness of his beard. “You can have ‘em. They’re hella high-maintenance.” Dennis’s grin got bigger as Jules set Soph down and the Baby Doll was makin’ a straight run for him. “And bossy as hell.” He scooped his niece up laughing as she squealed.

Nodding slowly as the grin overtook him, he raised an eyebrow at the middle Lyons’ boy. “Don’t you like practically live with them?”

“Duh.” Dennis laughed at him. “How do you think I became the expert on the absurdly high levels of maintenance these two require?” Then looking over to Jax and his sister, the laughing died down but the smirk remained. “He always this awkward with girls?”

He looked over and damn near started laughing himself. Jax did look like he really wasn’t sure what the fuck he was supposed to be doing. Fuck, Jax hadn’t even been this awkward when he was thirteen, fourteen. Then again, no need for awkwardness in a clubhouse full of croweaters. He shook his head with a smile. “Nah, man. Jax is usually smooth as silk.”

Dennis’s smirk disappeared, replaced by a thoughtful smile. “Good.” Bouncing Soph in his arms. “Wanna play a different game?” Soph nodded furiously.

“But not da word one. The other one.” He liked that she was clear that she wasn’t havin’ bossy Uncle Manny in the house. “Mommy kissed Jax.”

“Math game. Gotcha.” Dennis grinned at him. “And yes, Mommy kissed Jax. We’re pretty sure Mommy and Jax like each other.”

“I wike Mommy and Jax too.” Sophie started to wiggle in Dennis’s arms. “I should go give dem kisses too.” Dennis held on.

“You can give Jax and Mommy their kisses later.” Dennis leaned his head closer to Sophie’s. “Right now it’s time for big people kisses.” His voice a whisper. “Like when Grandma give Grandpa a kiss good-bye.” And like he knew what she was gonna say. “And Jax already gave you a kiss good-bye.”

“So it’s Mommy’s turn?” Sophie matched her uncle’s whisper. He just grinned.

“That’s right.” Dennis gave her a kiss on the head. “Let’s go play your game. Miss Gemma said it was gonna be a little bit before we leave.” And like he knew she would be askin’ again. “Yes, to get your princess dress.” Rolling his eyes.

The three of them had just taken a step towards Sophie’s laptop when they saw Jules pop Jax on the ass. “Now leave so we can go shopping.”

Both he and Dennis were laughin’ their asses off as Jax made his way out of the clubhouse. He was slightly amazed Jax hadn’t flipped the two of them off. Probably because Soph was with them. He’d noticed that Jax watched his mouth around the Baby Doll even if the rest of them really didn’t.

When the clubhouse door closed, Jules looked at Dennis and Soph. “You good with Uncle Den, Miss Thing?” Smiling as Soph barely looked away from the computer screen when she nodded. “Awesome. I’ll be outside if you need me.” Then walked back to the kitchen for what looked to be a refill on her coffee and then headed outside.

He was a lot torn. He wanted to stay inside and watch Juice’s head explode from the fact that Soph was cruisin’ around her laptop like a pro. But he also wanted to talk to his kid. As the morning had gone on and she’d obviously had gotten more information on what had been happening at home, she had started to look like she was really having to work on holding it together.

He looked over at Sophie and Dennis who were engrossed in her math game. Soph wouldn’t even notice he had left. If Rip was to be believed, and he was pretty positive that Rip was; Soph was now hanging with her co-conspirator. Knowing that made his choice easier. He scooted his chair back and got up. “Goin’ outside for a smoke.” The two barely acknowledged his exit.

Jules was sitting at one of the picnic tables, cigarette in one hand, pen in the other. He could see a small notebook in front of her. Lighting his own smoke, he nodded to the notebook. “What’s goin’ on? You okay, doll?”

She looked up from her notebook. “List of shit I have to deal with.” She sighed. “You know lawyers, realtors, various other and random bullshit you have to deal with when you get abducted by a Nazi meth-head.” She shook her head. “Sorry. I shouldn’t snap at you. Not your fault.” Then a wry smile graced her face and for a second, she looked so much like Marina that his heart skipped a beat. “But I guess on some levels I owe that little prick a fruit basket or somethin’.”

He gaped at her for a second. Then shook his head. “Really, why’s that?”

“He brought me and Sophie here.” She smiled at him and godddamn if Dennis wasn’t right. He was as gone for these two as Jax was. They’d been here less than twenty-four hours and he was sure he would do whatever either asked of him. “But I think I’ll skip the fruit basket and let Eric beat the crap out of him.”

“I can get on board with that.” He smiled back at her. “I’m sure Jax will get some shots in too.” Throwing out his VP’s name to see the reaction he’d get.

Her smile widened and her eyes sparkled. “More than likely.” The smile turned to a grin. “Told him to get some shots for Sophie in.”

He grinned back. “That would do it.” He could feel the grin fade to a smile. “Anything I can help with?” He nodded back to the notebook.

She shook her head. “Not really.” His heart fell just a bit. He wanted to be able to do something, anything to help lighten her load. Then looked over to the red Beemer sitting in the lot, then back to him. “I don’t know where the keys to that thing are, I think Happy may have them, but I’d really like to not see that fucking car again.” She took a drag of her smoke. “I’ll have to get Lu to get into my safe and get the title and overnight it out, but…”

“Got it in my bag.” Dennis’s voice was matter of fact as he lit a smoke.

“Where’s Sophie?” Jules looked over to her brother. “Thought you guys were playing her math game. And you brought the title to my car?”

“Soph is currently showing Juice how awesome she is on her coding game, I needed a smoke.” Dennis exhaled his drag. “And considering that you refused to go back into the house after Ma died? Yeah, Red thought maybe having the title on hand was a good idea. Pop agreed. Since I know the combo to the safe at your place, I got to get it.” Dennis smiled at his sister. “And you know it’s weird to have pictures Soph has drawn for you in your safe. Right?” Dennis rolled his eyes. “Along with her hair from her first haircut, her first binky…” Dennis smiled at his sister.

He looked back over at his kid, who just shrugged at her brother. “So. They’re valuable to me and I don’t want to lose them.” Then Jules was back to business. “You have the title?”

“Yeah.” Dennis looked at him. “There’s project number one for you.”

He nodded. That was fine. He’d find his kid a new car, whatever kind she wanted. And if the Beemer trade-in wouldn’t cover the new car, he’d make up the difference. “You said project number one. That usually means more than one.”

Dennis shot him a ‘duh’ look. “Yeah. The second is I need someone to help with Soph’s birthday present.” He was now all ears. Two projects, both for the girls? Sign him up. “She keeps sayin’ she wants a bike.” The man grinned. “Not pedal bike. Harley bike.” He looked over to see Jules grinning. “So my plan was to buy a little trike and trick it out, make it look like…” Then Dennis spotted Piney’s trike in the lot. “Like that.” Pointing to it. “I’m staying for as long as the girls are, so we’ll have enough time before Miss Thing’s birthday in a few weeks.” Dennis grinned at him. “You in?”

“Hell yes.” He grinned at the two of them. “Build a bike for my grandkid? I’m so fucking in.” Seeing Gemma come out of the office, he stood up. “I’ll go track down your keys so we can get Soph’s car seat out of the Beemer and into Gemma’s Caddy.”

Jules nodded. “Thank you.” Then turned to Dennis. “Go get Soph and her backpack. That’s still in the room.” As Dennis turned to go back into the clubhouse. “Thanks Den.” He waved his sister off.

Jules stood up from the table. “Guess it’s time for some shopping therapy.” She sounded exhausted but ready to be doing something.

“It is.” He put an arm around her to give her a quick squeeze, but she turned and hugged him full-on. Wrapping his arms around his kid, he buried his face in her hair. “It’s gonna be alright Jules. Everything is gonna be just fine.” Holding her tighter and hoping he wasn’t lying to her.

Chapter Text

Eric got off his bike and looked around the small clearing that was off of a pretty shit dirt road if anyone had wanted to ask his opinion. He looked over to Jax Teller who was hanging his helmet off of his Dyna’s handlebars. “Don’t see a Nazi here.”

Jax shook his head. “Gotta let Unser and Hale know what’s goin’ on.” Glancing over at Clay, then back to him. “Normally we’d just deal with Unser, but since your Chicago cops are comin’, Hale’s gotta be in on it too.” Jax looked skeptical.

“Hale is a problem?” He didn’t like cop problems. One of the best things about Chicago was the notoriously corrupt police department.

Jax shrugged. “He’d like to see SAMCRO gone, that’s for fucking sure.” But the SAMCRO VP didn’t look highly concerned. “But once we explain the situation, he’ll be fine.” Jax gave a wry smile. “As much as he’d like us gone, he actually believes in that protect and serve stuff.”

He nodded. Pop and Clay were talking quietly, probably trying to figure how much they were gonna tell the cops. The Scot and the dude that Miss Thing had called Elvis were both leaning on their bikes, smoking cigarettes, looking bored.

He turned at the sound of a vehicle. There was a police cruiser with two men in it. One, who had to be the Chief, was older and looked like life was beatin’ him down. The other was he and Jax’s age, with an annoyed, vaguely condescending look on his All-American boy face.

When the cruiser came to a stop, and the two cops got out, the older of the two, Unser, glanced at him and Pop and then gave Clay a weary look. The younger, Hale looked like he wanted to be anywhere other than where he was, although he did give Jax an acknowledging nod.

“You didn’t tell me you fellas were havin’ company Clay.” Unser looking pointedly at him and Pop.

Clay shrugged. “They were unexpected.” Then nodding to him and Pop. “Jake and Eric Lyons. Pres and VP of Satan’s Sons Chicago Chapter. And adopted father and brother of Tig’s oldest daughter.” He looked over to Pop who, to his credit did not call Trager the sperm donor he normally did.

Unser didn’t bother to hide his surprise, nor did Hale. Unser shook his head. “Do I even want to know Clay?”

Jax stepped forward, determined look in his eyes. Jax looked at him for a second and gave a slight eye roll. “Yeah, you kind of do, because in about an hour or so you’re gonna be picking up the Nazi piece of shit that coerced her and her daughter on a two-day car trip after killin’ the kid’s Dad in front of her.”

Hale spoke up. “Why an hour from now? Why not now so we can call the Chicago PD?”

Jax shook his head. “Because we need to have a little chat with him and in about four hours the Chicago PD will already be on your doorstep.”

Unser gave Jax a wry look. “Will this little Nazi piece of shit be whole for the Chicago PD?”

Pop shot him a quick look and he stepped to Jax’s side. “Whole enough for Detectives Murphy and Schulte.” He grinned a little, partially because Mike Murphy will be shocked at the fact that Dougie won’t be beat to a pulp, and a little because Jax’s reaction was gonna be fun. At least for him. “Mike Murphy’s son, Mike Jr, was Jules boyfriend when they were in high school. Mike and his wife adore her and Sophie.” And this is where the fun comes in. “She and Soph have lunch with them on Sundays Jules actually gets the two of them to mass.” Yep, Jax’s head turned like it was on a swivel. He grinned. “So about once a month.”

Unser raised an eyebrow at him. He shrugged. The Satan’s Sons didn’t do any jobs in Chicago. Ever. It was one of the first rules about what they did. Keep it away from home. So the Satan’s Sons had never really had any issues with the Chicago PD and as kids, none of them had any idea that the Satan’s Sons were anything other than an MC that owned a custom bike and car shop. Some of the guys, like him, didn’t even work there. He worked at a gun shop as a gunsmith. Granted it was owned by him, Pop, and Gramps, but it wasn’t connected to the club in any other way. And while SAMCRO took pride in their arrests and convictions, the Satan’s Sons tried very hard to stay off of police radar entirely.

“Dennis is the only one of the kids that has ever even been charged with a felony.” Pop spoke up. “And when Jules was datin’ his kid, none of mine were in the club.” Pop nodded at him. “He’s the oldest and he was still in Recon.” Pop was out of patience. “Mike Murphy and his partner aren’t going to be an issue. They’re rentin’ a car to drive the little bastard back to Chicago, so they don’t have to explain shit to any airline and like Mike said, ‘If he dies in the backseat on the way back, no skin off of anyone’s nose’. Pop looked over to Hale. “That answer your question? Because I’d like to go find out why the hell Dougie Jones dragged my daughter and grand-daughter out here.”

Hale was getting ready to step up to Pop, some smart remark on his tongue, when Unser brought him to heel with just a look. Then Unser looked back to Clay and Pop. “Give us a call when we need to come pick him up.” Then looked pointedly at Clay. “And I expect there will be a whole lot better explanation comin’ my way?”

While he could see Pop bristle a little, Clay just gave the Charming Police Chief a serene smile. “I’ll stop in this afternoon and fill you in.”

Unser just nodded. Then jerked his head towards the cruiser. Hale looked back at Unser for a second, then looked back to Jax. The younger cop stepped up to him and Jax and started speaking low. “What did you mean by coerced?”

Jax looked over to him and he nodded. Hale seemed to trust Jax even if he didn’t like him much. Jax looked back at Hale and for a second he was taken aback by the level of real anger in his counterpart’s eyes. “The little fuck pointed a gun at a three-year-old and told her Mommy that if she didn’t go, Sophie was dead.” Jax swallowed hard at those last words, as did he. Now he knew how the little fuck got his sister in that goddamned car.

Hale wasn’t stupid. “He’s gonna need a doctor now isn’t he?” Hale was looking right at him.

He shrugged, because he really had no idea. “Depends on how long the ride from here to wherever the fuck they’ve got him stashed is.” He was trying to get his temper under control. “If it’s a short ride, there’s a possibility.” He was glad they were keeping their voice low, ‘cause if Pop heard that, Dougie was a dead man now. Pop wouldn’t even give the little fuck a chance to open his mouth. He was so angry he was nearly shaking. Soph had a gun pointed at her. He’d been a Recon Marine and seen shit that would make most people piss themselves, but the idea of Baby Princess with a gun on her was too much.

All of a sudden, everything he had eaten at breakfast came up and was on the ground at his feet. Pop at his side in a flash. “Eric, what the hell?” Pop’s hand on his back as he finished heaving.

When he stood back up, Pop looked worried. Jax and Hale looked like they understood. The Scot shoved a bottle of water at him. “Ye might want this.”

He took it gratefully with a nod. Twisting the cap off, he took a drink, rinsing his mouth out. He looked at Pop. “I’m fine.”

Pop shook his head. “Unless we all start pukin’ in the next five minutes, no, you’re not. ‘Cause unless you’ve got food poisoning, you don’t puke.” And, one of the downsides to being in an MC with your father. He knows you too well.

“You know how none of us could figure out how Dougie got Jules to leave with him?” Pop nodded. “That little fuck…” He was starting to shake again. He looked over to see that Hale was still standing there. He really didn’t want to tell Pop with the cop right there.

Luck must have heard his plea, because Hale nodded at Jax. “Just call when the prick needs to be picked up.” Jax just nodded and Hale turned and got in the car. After it started and pulled away, and he felt a little more in control, he turned to Pop.

“Dougie pointed a gun at Soph and threatened to kill her.” Every scrap of training he’d ever had was abandoning him. He was shaking again and on the verge of tears for the first time since Rip died. “That’s how he…” He couldn’t even finish.

Pop just stood and stared at him for a second. “How do you know this?” Pop’s voice was low and dangerous.

To his credit, Jax stepped forward. “Jules told me about it last night.” There were also points in his favor that he looked as shaken as him and Pop. Then he looked around, all of them looked as shook up as him and Pop were. He shouldn’t have been surprised. Even though the girls had only been here since last night, they carried Trager’s DNA, so to SAMCRO Jules and Soph were family too. “She said she couldn’t risk Sophie and she was pretty sure that if they went Dougie wouldn’t kill them.”

Pop blinked at Jax and then nodded. His mouth was a hard line for a minute. Then Pop nodded at Clay. “Let’s get going.” Pop looked back to him. “You okay to ride?”

He nodded. “Yeah. Let’s go find out why all of this shit happened.” He started to walk towards his bike. Pop stopped him with a hand on his arm. He looked down at Pop, who looked as serious as a heart attack. “No need for doctors Eric, that’s the deal I made with Mike. It’s how the girls’ get what’s theirs and we’ve already made the deal to have Dougie dealt with. Remember that.” Pop glanced over at Jax. “You too.”

Jax nodded as he swung a leg over his bike. “No doctors. Sure.” Then Jax gave Pop a wry grin. “But Jules did ask me to get some shots in for Sophie.” The grin got bigger. “Said she got hers in last night.” Now the grin was almost as wide as his face. “She was smackin’ him like he was a tennis ball.”

He and Pop looked at each other, then around to Clay, Elvis, and the Scot who were all nodding with amused looks.

Pop looked back to Jax, and gave the SAMCRO VP a sly smile. “Well, can’t have you breakin’ promises to the Princess this soon.” The grin was gone. “No doctors. No hospital. Other than that…” Pop scanned the two of them. “Have at it.”

Looking over to Jax, the other VP looked back at him with a smile as they started their bikes. “Like you said earlier, nice day to play ‘Beat the Nazi’.” Taking off and pulling in behind Clay. Pulling in behind Pop, he could hear the other two pull in behind him and Jax.

The ride to where they had Dougie stashed was just long enough to curb the urge to strangle Dougie on sight. They pulled into a clearing in front of an old barn. Parking their bikes, all of them congregated in front of the closed barn doors.

Pop looked at Clay. “Why don’t I go in with you and your guys first.” Pop glanced at him with a smile. “Let’s save Eric as a surprise.” Pop looked at him. “Give us five, ten minutes?”

He nodded. When the others went in, he pulled his phone out and hit the contact icon for his sister. After a couple of rings, she picked up. “Yeah?”

“Your phone etiquette sucks.” Feeling calmer already. His sister was still his sister; mouthy and brash.

“Only because it’s you.” He could hear the smile in her voice. “Everything okay?”

He gripped the phone. “Dougie put a gun on Sophie?” Gravel in his voice.

“Damn, knew I should have told Jax not to spread that.” He was getting ready to bitch her out. “I’m sorry Eric. I really didn’t want you and Pop to know until after Big Mike picked Dougie’s sorry ass up.” Her voice became quieter. “I didn’t want you guys to be tempted.”

His anger dissipated, a little. He still wasn’t thrilled that this was information he’d basically been slapped in the face with. And even though he knew this hadn’t been a walk in the park for his sister and niece. Him, Pop, and the others had literally almost three days to imagine the worst case scenarios. They were still strung a little tight and being blindsided with shit really did not help his head-space right now. So he took a deep breath.

“I get that Jules, I do. But you gotta understand, as crap as it’s been for you and Soph? We had no idea if you two were anywhere near okay until Clay called last night. We had an idea of where he might be taking you, but it was pure speculation and Pop’s certainty that he knew where Dougie was heading.” He paused. “And having Jax Teller be the one to spill that nugget? I guess the only thing I can say about that is at least it wasn’t Trager telling me and Pop.”

Jules let out a half-snicker. Oh, she tried to hide it in a cough, but she was trying not to laugh. He counted to ten in his head. She was sleep deprived and when that happened, she got goofy and mouthy. Well, goofier and mouthier than usual. He sighed. “Get it out.”

She laughed. “Yeah, I hear you Eric.” The laughter died out. “And I’m aware. I guess Pop wasn’t in the room with you guys when I talked to him last night.”

He thought about it. Oh, that was when Pop had them get off on an exit and park at a truck stop for about half an hour before finishing the night at Lodi. Pop had been pretty quiet when he came back from wherever he had gone off to, just mentioning that the girls were relatively okay and in Charming. “No, guess not.”

“Pop has already made me well aware of how worried everyone was.” She was starting to get defensive and he didn’t want that. “What was I supposed to do Eric? He…”

“You did exactly what you could have done without getting you and Sophie…” He couldn’t even say it. “You did good, sissy. Kept your head and got you and Soph here. All you could have done.”

He looked at his watch. “I gotta go. Think I have some things I’d really like to say to Dougie.” Looking over to the barn, Jax Teller was coming out towards him. “Talk to you later.”

“Yeah, bye.” He was amazed he got that before she hung up. While she’d never dream of just hanging up on Pop or Lu, him and Den were another story.

He shoved his phone in his pocket as Teller came over to him. The man looked not happy. Nodding his head towards the garage, he took the cigarette Jax was offering. “My guess is Dougie has shut his mouth?”

Jax nodded grimly. “After I shut it for him.” Jax gave him a wry smile. “I was told to come out here and ‘cool off’. We’re waiting for his bell to stop ringing, he’s not real coherent at the moment.” Jax wasn’t repentant at all.

“What was he saying before that?” Watching the smoke from his cigarette curl up into nothingness.

“Just a bunch of shit.” Nearly snarled through gritted teeth.

“Really?” He arched an eyebrow. “You usually get this worked up over someone talking a bunch of shit?” This could be an interesting distraction. Better than thinking of Sophie with a … “Or was he maybe talking a bunch of shit about a certain Jules?”

Even though Teller’s skin took on the slightest blush, the man didn’t seem the least bit embarrassed that he was reacting this emotionally to Jules and Sophie. Jax gave him a curt nod.

He patted the dude’s shoulder. He could imagine what that little fuck would say. “Don’t even hear a word of it man, I can just guess what he said and it isn’t true.” Jax didn’t say anything, just kept smoking. “My guess is he called her a whore? Maybe said something about getting knocked up for money?” Yeah, Teller bristled with every word.

He thought for a minute. Whatever was goin’ on here between Teller and his sister, Pop was fine with it. If he hadn’t of been, Teller would have already been warned off. He nudged Jax in the ribs with an elbow.

“No dude, really. Don’t listen to single word. How Sophie got here? That’s so out of character for Jules is ain’t even funny. Ray was a blind drunk thing right after Rip had told her about his diagnosis.” He sighed. “It was the same as Ma’s.”

Jax looked over at him and seemed to be calming down, so he went on. “Me and you, we’ve been with so many chicks, we’ve lost count.” Teller at least had the good sense to look a little chagrined. “But Jules?” He grinned. “There was Mikey Murphy when she was in high school. There was a kid named Sam when she was at Stanford.” The grin died down. “And a couple of other boyfriends over the last few years, but nobody in like the last six months at least.”

He looked at Teller. “Not a lot of girls raised in SAMCRO huh?”

Jax shook his head. “Nah. Really none at all. Tig’s other daughters were gone with his ex by the time they were six or seven. Chibs’s daughter is in Belfast, and the only other girl is Opie’s daughter Ellie, and no, she doesn’t come around much.”

He nodded. “See, Jules was only allowed around the shop and clubhouse during the day when we were kids. Even now, unless it’s a whole club family thing, she doesn’t spend a lot of time there at night.” He smiled because as much as she’d deny it, it was true. “She really didn’t pay any real attention to the club until Den patched.” He looked at Jax. “My sister is actually a pretty good girl who gives a great impression of being the wildest thing in town.”

“You warning me off?” Jax’s tone telling him there would be a fight if he did.

He shook his head. “No.” He looked down at Teller. “Just letting you know she’s not a ‘hit it and quit it’ deal.” Then putting steel in his own voice. “She’s an all or nothing deal.”

Teller relaxed. Then gave him a wry smile. “At least you didn’t say fuck buddy.”

“Point.” He smiled back. His guess was Gemma Teller-Morrow may have had a little chat with her son. He nodded towards the barn. “We should get in there.”

Jax threw his smoke on the ground and stomped it out. “Yeah, he should be coherent enough by now.”

He followed Jax into the barn. Once his eyes had adjusted, he saw Dougie tied to a chair. When Dougie looked up at him, the pinched face the little fuck got from his mother, dropped. He gave the bastard a grim smile. “How’s that hand Dougie?” Noting that the pinky on Dougie’s left hand never had healed properly from the last time he had to break this fuck’s hand.

Dougie didn’t even bother with the smart-mouthed tough guy act with him in the room. He and Dougie were around the same age, Dougie a year younger than him. He knew Dougie was a little rat that fed off of the shit others left behind. He’d been that way since they were kids and always would be. He knew the only reason that Dougie had ever been patched was because of Rip.

He went and stood over Dougie, staring down at him, arms crossed over his chest. “You’re not smart enough to think of this on your own, and you were obviously giving updates to someone with a burner phone, who is it and why do they want what’s in the safety deposit box?”

He could see Dougie was trying to think of a way to say nothing and not get beat. He took a hold of Dougie’s right pinky. “How many surgeries did it take to get your left pinky to that point?” Knowing full well that it had taken three to get Dougie to the point where they wouldn’t take the finger. “Should we see how many it will take with the right. Because you know the last time I fucked your hand up I wasn’t even Recon yet. I know all sorts of new and better ways to break bones Dougie.” He put some pressure on Dougie’s right pinky, and could see the panic building in Dougie. So he put a little more, being careful to give the little fuck all of the pain without the breakage.

He could see capitulation in Dougies’ eyes. He took a step back. “Tell us what you know Dougie and I don’t break every fucking bone in your body.” He loomed over the trussed up man. “And you know I can and will.”

Dougie swallowed heavily. “Took three fucking surgeries for me to get back twenty percent usage of my finger. Fucking bastard.”

He gave Dougie a light tap upside the head. “Back to the point Dougie.”

Dougie shook his head. “I really don’t know Red, some guy in Gary that knows my Mom got a hold of me and asked me if I’d do this job. The only reason I killed that fag.” He raised his hand again. Dougie flinched. “That guy, is because he was gettin’ ready to call the cops.”

“Who are you calling then?” He knew that wasn’t the only reason Dougie killed Ray, the little douchebag killed Ray because Ray was queer as a three-dollar bill, except for one stupendously drunk night trying to console a friend. But in reality it wasn’t pertinent, so he let it slide.

“No idea.” Dougie looked to be telling the truth. The little fuck was clueless as to who was behind this. “Once I got here and got Jules to open the box, the cash was mine and I was to have her sign the house over to me. After that happened, I was to call the number and then we would set a meet so I could sign the house over to them and get the rest of my payment.”

“How much was that?” He looked over to Clay and Pop, thinking they might want to know. How much Dougie would be getting paid would tell them how important this was to whoever the fuck was behind all this.

“Hundred grand.” Huh. That was a hell of a lot more than he’d thought. Whoever wants this house and a foot into Charming must have avenues of recouping the money quickly.

“Anything you can tell us about the voice on the other end?” Dougie looked confused. “Old? Young? Accent? No accent?”

Dougie looked to be thinking, he hoped the little fuck didn’t sprain something. Then Dougie spoke. “Not real old, but not real young. Had a slight accent. I think it was foreign.”

“Foreign how?” Jax was now standing beside him looking down at Dougie. “Mexican? Chinese?”

Dougie squinted at the SAMCRO VP. “I don’t know, foreign. You know, not American.”

Jax shook his head and took a step back, and looked over to him. “Not the brightest bulb in the box is he?”

He grinned at Jax. “Not even if all of the others were broken.” He glanced back over to where Pop and Clay were standing. Pop raised an eyebrow and he shrugged. He was pretty goddamn positive Dougie didn’t really know shit.

Clay looked at him and Jax and then over to the other two. “Let’s go outside.” He looked at Dougie. “Charming cops will be here anytime to pick you up so they can turn you over the Chicago PD.” Clay turned to walk away and then looked over at Jax and the other SAMCRO guys and gave them a slight smirk. Then turned back around and fucking clocked Dougie the hell out.

“Wayne will appreciate not havin’ to listen to that fuck on the ride back to Charming.” Clay looked at Pop with a smile.

“I’m sure he will.” Pop grinned. “I suppose you and I should follow him back to Charming and fill the man in.” Pop looked over to him. “You comin’ with me or you heading out with Jax and the others?”

He looked over to Teller and the others. Jax shrugged at Clay. “I was gonna head for the hospital to see Abel…” Jax looked over to him. “Chibs and Bobby are goin’ back to the clubhouse, I’m heading to the hospital. If you wanna tag along with me, that’s cool.”

He looked over to Pop who was silently letting him know he was to stick with Teller. He wasn’t a fan of hospitals, but he did have a thing for nurses. He turned to Jax. “Any hot nurses up there?”

Jax clapped him on the back with a laugh. “I’m sure there’s one or two that will fit the bill.” Then headed off towards his bike. “Let’s go.” Chibs and Bobby followed the VP’s lead.

He waved to Pop and then got on his own bike. If his sister and niece were gonna end up staying here, he wanted to know the man whose hands they would be entrusted to a lot better than he currently did. So if that meant being Teller’s shadow for the day, that was okay by him.

Chapter Text

Gemma looked over to the passenger seat of her Caddy as they were heading to the Target in Lodi to go get Sophie her princess dress. Almost since she’d gotten in the car, Jules had been on her phone texting back and forth with someone. And whoever that someone was, they were aggravating the hell out of Jules. The girl was trying to hide it, but her mouth was the same hard line as Tig’s when he was annoyed.

Looking in the rearview mirror, she could see Sophie in her car seat, her head going back and forth trying to take everything in. She also kept trying to twist around to get glimpses of Tig and Dennis Lyons who were riding behind them.

Jules shoved her phone back in her messenger bag like it had offended her. She raised an eyebrow to the young woman. “That phone do something to you?”

Jules shook her head of black curls, a look of pure aggravation on her face. “No.” Then glanced back at Sophie. She waited for Jules to speak, knowing the she was trying to find a way to say what she wanted without having Sophie getting alerted to her high emotions.

Jules sighed. “I get that not everyone grieves the same way, and it’s natural to lash out at people, but…” Jules looked out the window. “It’s frustrating.”

She nodded. She could understand that. “Give it a little time honey, they’ll come around.”

Jules shook her head. “No. They won’t.” She looked back at Sophie, who was making faces at Dennis, who had pulled alongside of them. She continued in a soft voice. “Will is having the memorial service day after tomorrow, and then will be back to New York a couple of days after that. He’s just got to finish packing his things and the few things that Ray left to him and then he’s giving the keys to Lu and walking the fuck away.” Jules’s mouth was a hard line. “Soph loses Ray and now Will takes a bunk without a second thought of her.” Jules glanced back to Soph. “The only good thing is even if she called him Da Will, they weren’t close. Kids make Will nervous.”

“Then she won’t miss him and will forget him soon, sweetheart.” Thinking if things went the way they seemed to be, Sophie wouldn’t be thinking of this Will person at all.

“Yeah.” Jules sounded exhausted.

“My plan was to go to the hospital and visit Abel after shopping. If you want, I can drop you guys at the clubhouse before I go so you can get some rest.”

Jules shook her head as she glanced back at Sophie who was all ears. “Nah, I’d like to meet the little dude.” Then nodded towards Soph. “And I’m sure she would too.” Jules laughed. “Loves babies, hates dolls.” Jules smiled back at her daughter. “Gotta love it.”

She nearly choked on her laughter. “Hates dolls? Is she just not into them or is it an actual phobia?” She turned into the Target parking lot.

Jules shrugged. “I’m not sure I’d call it a phobia, but there is intense dislike for them.”

She nodded as she put the car in park and turned the car off. Stepping out of the car and looking at Jules over the roof after she grabbed Sophie, she grinned at the young woman. “You know, Tig has a doll phobia.” She looked over to Tig and Dennis as they were getting off their bikes and stowing their helmets. “Like an intense phobia about them.”

Tig rolled his eyes at her. “Telling them about my doll phobia? Really Gem?” As Dennis started to howl with laughter.

Jules looked at him with a wide smile. “Don’t feel bad, you’re in good company.” She bounced Sophie in her arms. “Miss Thing hates ‘em too.”

Tig looked over to her with a smug look as he took Sophie from Jules arms. “See, it’s not weird at all.”

Jules looked at her and then back to Tig, the wide smile still on her face. “Oh, no. It’s weird, no doubt. They’re inanimate objects.” She rolled her eyes. “They can’t do a thing to you.”

Dennis snickered and gave his sister a playful shove on the shoulder. “Says the woman who has a phobia about clowns.”

Jules shoved him right back. “John Wayne Gacy was a clown.” Jules flipped her brother off. “Case closed. Clowns are evil.”

She stood there for a minute as Dennis laughed, looking at Tig with Jules and Sophie. She was amazed at how much both girls took after Tig. Neither of the twins really did at all. And for the first time in a very long while, Tig looked almost sane. And Jules looked ready to drop. Sophie just looked impatient.

Smiling at the three of them. “Let’s get going.” Turning and walking towards the store. Dennis caught up with her not far from the entry.

“We were followed here.” His voice low so Jules couldn’t hear him. She glanced back at Tig, who gave her a very slight nod. “White dudes, in an old Cutlass.” Dennis put a hand on her lower back to keep her moving. “They just pulled into the lot.”

As the automatic doors opened up, she looked back at Tig with his kid and grand-kid. Behind him she could see the Cutlass looking for a parking spot. Turning back to Dennis in a voice just as low. “Shouldn’t we be calling Clay and the others?”

Dennis grabbed a cart and pushed it towards her. “Texted Pop. He said to go on about our business and keep our eyes open. This is probably intel gathering.” Then grinned. “But was sending Chibs and Bobby our way.”

Nodding she looked back at the Trager trio, smiling at Sophie. “You wanna ride in the cart darlin’?” Thinking that Tig should have both hands free.

Sophie nodded enthusiastically. “To get my princess dress?”

Jules started to chuckle as she grabbed her daughter from Tig’s arms and placed her in the cart. “We are actually at the store and you still feel like ya gotta make sure, huh?” Jules gently grabbed her daughter’s face in her hands and gave her big, exaggerated kisses on each cheek, making Sophie giggle. “Yes, Miss Thing; the time to get your princess dress has arrived.” Then started pushing the cart into the heart of the store, Tig on their heels.

She hung back with Dennis Lyons, who was taking pictures of the two guys in the Cutlass. He looked over to her after a minute. “Sent those to Pop. He’ll show them to Clay.” The young man looked over to her. “You recognize them?”

“No.” She studied them a little more. “They aren’t Nords. Too clean cut for Darby and his crew.” She looked over to see that Dennis was still fiddling with his phone. “What are you doing?”

Dennis barely glanced up. “How much do you know about computers?”

“I can barely get the one I have to do what I want, so next to nothin’ darlin’.” Letting out a sarcastic chuckle.

Dennis spared her a grin. “I can help with that.” Then shook his head. “But, not right now and it’s too complicated to really explain, but the short of it is I’m finding out who those dudes are.”

She looked at the phone in his hand. “You can do that?” She scoffed. “From that phone.”

Dennis looked over to her and let all façade drop and the level of intelligence in the young man’s eyes was startling. “Yeah.” He grinned. “I can.” The man looked up and scoured the immediate vicinity for his sister and niece. Laying eyes on them, he relaxed a fraction and glanced back at her. “Spent seven years at M.I.T. got Master’s in Computer and Electrical Engineering. I can make a computer do whatever the hell I want it to.” Then grinned. “Except two things. Laundry and make my sister shut the hell up when I’m hungover. Other than that, pretty much anything. And right now I’m telling mine to find out who those fuckers are.”

She patted him on the shoulder. For a computer nerd, he was better than Juice. That boy was so awkward sometimes it was painful. “You know your sister doesn’t shut up because she knows you’re hung the fuck over and it amuses her, right?”

Dennis grinned again. “Of course.” He chuckled. “It’s in the sibling handbook. There’s a whole chapter on drunk/hungover sibling etiquette.” He made a face at his sister’s back. “Too bad she doesn’t really get drunk very often and if she does, there’s no hangover to torture her through. Sucks balls.” The young man shrugged with a smile. “Oh well, she usually makes me a badass breakfast, so I suppose it’s forgivable.”

She shook her head. Dennis, Jules and Sophie seemed to be quite the trio. “Good to know I can be a total bitch to you as long as I keep you fed.”

Dennis’s grin became wider. “Now, you’re getting it.” He subtly urged her to catch up with the others when they both noticed the guys from the Cutlass come in. Dennis leaned into her. “Why don’t you go push the cart for a minute so I can fill Jules and Tig in.”

She nodded as Dennis poked his sister in the back and jerked his head. Jules frowned at him for a second and the two of them had some sort of totally non-verbal conversation. Jules looked at Sophie. “Since this is you and Gemma’s shopping date, I’m gonna let her push the cart. Okay honey?” Sophie nodded, not really caring who was pushing the cart as long as she got her dress.

When she took over, dark eyes looked up at her. “I gotta go potty.” She glanced over to Tig, Jules, and Dennis who were talking.

She sighed. With God only knows who in the damn store already, she didn’t want to take off without at least one of the guys with her and Sophie. She caught Jules’s eye and nodded down towards Sophie and mouthed ‘potty’.

Jules said something because Dennis turned and walked over. “Come on, I’ll walk with you and Gemma to the bathrooms.” Taking the cart and taking off. She looked back at Jules, who looked anything but okay.

“You okay honey?”

Jules shook her head. “Not particularly, but that’s been the case for days now, so I’m acclimating.”

Tig looked like he’d like to kill any and everything making his kid’s life suck at the moment. “Go with Sophie and Dennis, Gem. I’ll stay with Jules.” Giving her a look that was more SAMCRO SAA than she was comfortable with considering the situation.

She nodded and headed off towards the restrooms, catching up with Dennis and Sophie. She lifted Sophie out of the cart. “C’mon sweetheart, let’s get you taken care of.” Taking the toddler into the restroom.

After Sophie was done going potty and she was helping the little girl wash her hands, Sophie looked at her in the mirror. “Mommy kissed Jax.”

She tried suppressing a smile, but it was a total failure. “Really?”

Sophie nodded while she was rinsing her hands off. “Unca Manny says Mommy and Jax wike each ofer.”

“I think Uncle Manny is right.” She grabbed a couple of paper towels and was drying Sophie’s hands. “What do you think about that?” Pretty sure she already knew the answer.

Sophie smiled at her. “I wike Mommy and Jax too.” Damn, well, close enough.

“Yeah, me too.” She threw the paper towels away and picked the little girl up. “Let’s go get your dress.”

Leaving the restroom, she sat Sophie back in the cart as she glanced over to Dennis who was checking his phone. Looking back up at the two of them, he gave a slight smirk. “Jules is in the shampoo aisle.” He shrugged. “We figured she could get things like that out here instead of dragging bottles of crap halfway across the country.”

Seemed to make sense to her. She steered the cart towards the health and beauty section. As they made their way over, she looked over to Dennis with a smirk of her own. “So I’ve been told Mommy kissed Jax because they like each other.”

Dennis rolled his eyes and ruffled his niece’s hair. “Blabbermouth.” Sophie seemed to know what he meant because she stuck her tongue out at him. Dennis grinned at his niece and then turned to her.

“Think we’re all aware of the little mating dance going on between my sister and your son.” Wow, she’d not heard the man speak without a smirk in his voice. “As long as he treats them right, I’m fine with it.” The smirk was back. “He doesn’t, next thing he knows he’s a transvestite hooker on the web. Or he gets put in small room with Butch and Eric.” Dennis mock shuddered. “I know which one I’d go with.”

She smirked right back. “Yeah, but you’d look better in a dress than my son.” She lost the smirk, fast. “I’ve already warned him.”

Dennis nodded, looking pleased. “Thought you might.” Dennis looked ready to say something, but then they were to the shampoo aisle and his sister was in earshot, so he shut his mouth.

Jules looked over from the wall of shampoos for a second before grabbing a couple of bottles. “We’ll have to go to the baby and toddler section to get hers.” Nodding at Sophie as she set the two bottles she had grabbed along with what looked to be a bottle of body wash.

“The toy section is on the way, we’ll get her dress and then grab the other stuff and go.” Tig looked at his kid, serious as all hell. “Get back to Charming.” Tig was eyeing the two guys from the Cutlass who seemed content just to shadow them.

She knew Tig wouldn’t relax until they were back in Charming where SAMCRO ruled the roost. Seemed like Jules had figured that out too, because she nodded immediately. “Sounds like a plan.” Turning and heading towards the toys.

Luckily there were princess dresses in the toy department. She had to admit it was pretty nice to see Sophie’s eyes light up at all of the choices. The little girl looked at her Mommy, but Jules shook her head with a smile. “This is all you and Gemma, Miss Thing. The rest of us are along for the ride.”

She started sifting through the rack, keeping an eye on Sophie’s face. When she came to one that was a swirl of pinks and purples, with pink gossamer wings that were separate from the dress, Sophie’s dark eyes got huge and her little mouth turned into a perfect ‘o’. Bingo, they had a princess dress. She looked at the tag, the dress barely made a dent in what Jackson had given her.

She grabbed the dress and put it in the cart, to Sophie’s delight. Then looked over to Jules and Dennis. “Did you bring her anything other than her dog and her computer?”

Dennis shook his head. “No, had to think of space.” What she thought. She looked down at Sophie with a smile.

“Then we should probably get you some colors and coloring books too then, huh?” Smiling as Sophie squeaked a little.

“Then Other Papa can color wif me!” She looked over to Tig, trying to not laugh at the idea of the SAA sitting down and coloring with Sophie.

But Tig just kissed Sophie’s forehead. “You bet Baby Doll.” Then looked at her. “You and Dennis help Soph pick out her colors and coloring books. I’ll go with Jules to get the other things. We’ll meet up front.” Tig leaned into her. “I’m not fuckin’ jokin’ about gettin’ back to Charming as soon as we fuckin’ can.” Tig’s breath was hot on her neck. “They ain’t interested in anything other than Jules. They’ll leave you guys alone.” Tig stood back up and grinned at his grand-daughter. “I can’t wait to see what you pick out for us to color.” Then turned to his daughter. “Let’s go get that other stuff.”

As the two of them walked off, she saw the guys from the Cutlass stay on Jules and Tig’s trail. She turned to Dennis who was watching with jaw clenched. She put a reassuring hand on the young man’s arm. “Hey.” Dennis looked at her. “Nobody will even get close with Tig there with her.”

Dennis took a deep breath and nodded, looking at his niece. “Let’s go get you colors and all that fun stuff, Baby Princess.” Taking control of the cart and looking around for the aisle that had what they were looking for.

After grabbing crayons, markers, glue, glitter, paper and coloring books, they made their way to the check-out stands, Jules and Tig waiting for them.

Jules separated out her purchases from what she was buying Sophie and set them on the conveyor belt. Then looking over at the gift cards, grabbed two one-hundred dollar cards, throwing them on top of the shampoos, conditioners, and such.

When the young woman caught the confused look on her face, she showed her the ‘thank you’ that was printed on each card. “Thought I should do something for the Doc and Opie and his wife.” The girl shrugged. “They did something for someone they didn’t even know, that deserves a thank-you.”

She liked Jules style. “You aren’t wrong sweetheart.” She nodded at the cards. “Tara will probably be at the hospital when we get there.” And wasn’t that a show she was looking forward to. “And we’re havin’ everybody to the house tonight for a family dinner; you can give Ope and Donna theirs then.” She smiled at both of Jake’s kids. “Jake is stayin’ at our place.” She had made the offer to the President of the Satan’s Sons, mostly to give Jax and Jules some space from the man, but also so Tig could spend some time with his kid and not have Jake Lyons glare daggers at him.

Jules nodded, looking like she was losing what little energy she had. “Cool.” The girl gave Jules her total and the girl swiped her bank card. “Can I get cash back?” The cashier nodded.

“Up to a hundred dollars ma’am.” The cashier looked at Tig and Dennis a little nervously.

Jules nodded. “Then let’s do that.” Punching buttons on the pin pad and finishing up. She watched the girl shove the hundred in twenties she had been given into her wallet along with her card, sticking the wallet back in her bag. Jules looked over to her and Tig. “I understand the rush, but at some point I need to stop at a grocery store.” She looked down at Sophie. “I’m pretty sure the clubhouse pantry isn’t really full of stuff for toddlers.”

She shook her head. “We can stop at the market after the hospital.” Dennis was laying the rest of the stuff from the cart onto the belt. After the princess dress was scanned, she looked at the cashier. “Can she hold onto it?” Nodding at Sophie, who was bouncing up and down in the cart.

Cashier shrugged like she could care less what they did with the dress. So Dennis handed it to Sophie sans wings. Sophie looked at the wings in his hands.

Dennis shook his head. “You can have these later.” Then smiled gently at her. “You don’t want to break them before you can surprise Jax and Unca Red do you?”

Sophie shook her head solemnly. “No, Unca Manny.”

Dennis smiled at her again. “Then how ‘bout if I carry them to the car for you?” As she was paying the cashier. Even with everything she had bought Sophie, she still had over a third of the money Jackson had given her left. She stuck it in her wallet, thinking since the girls were gonna be in Charming for a while, she’d have other opportunities to spend it on the girl.

As they were checking out, she noticed that the guys in the Cutlass had left the store when they got to the check-outs. Hopefully they’d be gone from the parking lot too, going back and telling who the fuck ever that coming after Jules was a lost cause and they’d just slink back into the woodwork.

When they got outside, Bobby and Chibs were leaning on their bikes, smoking. Bobby smiling at Sophie. “Looks like ya got your princess dress sweetheart.”

“I gonna be a fairy princess!!” Sophie was all smiles as she pointed to the detachable wings in Dennis’s hands.

Chibs and Bobby chuckled at the small girl. Chibs ruffling her curls. “That ye are lassie.”

“We gonna go see da baby and then I gonna ‘prise Jax and Unca Red wif my dress!” Sophie shaking the dress at the two of them as Jules was trying to wrangle her into the back of the Caddy.

Bobby stuck his head into the driver’s side of the Caddy to grin at Sophie. “I’m sure they’ll love it sweetie.” Then in a lower voice only she could hear. “Cutlass sped off, we should be fine getting back.”

She felt tension she didn’t even realize she had leave her body. She nodded to Bobby. “Good.” Then glanced over at Jules who was saying something to Dennis they couldn’t hear. “She doesn’t need any more drama today.”

Bobby quirked an eyebrow. “And you’re taking her to see Abel?” He gave her a wry smile. “Considering that’s where Jax was headed too? Think there’s more drama ahead Gem.”

She patted the hand Bobby had resting on her open window. “Yeah, but that’s going to be entertaining.”

Bobby shook his head. “You’re a menace Gem.” The man was smiling a little. “But it should be quite the show.”

She nodded as Jules got into the car. “I’ll fill you in later.” Then looked over to Jules and Sophie. “You ready to go to St. Thomas?”

Jules nodded. “Yeah.” She looked back to Sophie who was nearly hugging her dress. “You can put your princess dress on before we go in. It can go over your clothes.” She put up a hand as soon as Sophie went to open her mouth. “Only if you have quiet time on the way back.” Jules rubbed her neck. “Mommy’s head hurts.”

She smiled at the young woman as she watched Sophie close her mouth in the rearview mirror. “You need aspirin darlin’?”

Jules shook her head. “No, took some before we left.” She stifled a yawn. “I need some sleep.”

Patting the girl’s leg, she smiled again. “Try to catch a cat nap in the car on the way back. I’ll wake you when we get there.”

Jules nodded and laid her head back and closed her eyes. “Yeah, wake me when we get there.”

Pulling out of the parking lot, Tig and Dennis leading, Bobby and Chibs following; she headed for Charming. She wasn’t necessarily proud of it, but she was looking forward to seeing the look on Tara’s face when she realizes she’s been replaced.

Chapter Text

When he and Red got close to Charming, Jax pulled off into the parking lot of a gas station. Taking off his helmet, he looked over to the Satan’s Sons VP. “Want somethin’ to drink and need to get smokes.”

Red shrugged and followed him inside. He figured he should also maybe give Red a little background on Abel, and Tara since she was more than likely going to be at the hospital when they arrived.

Grabbing a Gatorade, he went up and paid for it and his smokes. He waited at the door while Red bought a pack of smokes of his own. When they made it back out to their bikes, he opened his Gatorade and took a long drink trying to figure out what the hell to say.

“So, your kid is in the NICU?” Red decided to jump right in.

“Yeah.” He smiled. “But he’s gettin’ stronger every day and should be able to come home soon.”

“That’s good.” Red leveled an even look at him. “Where’s his Mom?”

“Rehab.” He sighed. “Wendy and I married, got divorced, and then lost our minds and tried it again for a minute. It didn’t work, but she got knocked up.” He drank the rest if the Gatorade, tossing the empty bottle in the trash can, not far from where they were parked. “I was so not into it that I didn’t notice she was using again.” He gritted his teeth as he remembered the day Abel was born. “Mom went over and found her passed out and bleeding in the kitchen, the house a fuckin’ disaster area.”

“So now she’s in rehab.” Red sounded like he got it. Most didn’t.

“Yeah.” He shook his head. “I don’t know that I’ll ever trust her to be alone with Abel again, but she is his mother.”

“And that means something.” Red finished for him. The taller man nodded. “Hey man, I get it.” Red grinned. “I have three siblings, not one of us has the same biological mother.” Then the man got serious. “And while there was no way in hell Pop was ever gonna let any of us live with our mothers, he won’t have any one disrespect them.”

Yeah, Red got it. He took a deep breath because this was the part that was really going to possibly suck. “Yeah, well the doctor that saved my kid’s life is actually my ex.”

An eyebrow went up. “Ex what?”

“Me and Tara were together from the time we were sixteen right up until she left my ass when we were nineteen.” He took another breath. “But she’s got a crow on her, and we were heading towards…” He ran a hand through his hair. “Fuck if I know what.” Then looked at Jules’s brother straight in the eye. “And we’re not headed there anymore.”

Eyebrow was still up. “Is she aware of that fact?”

Cringing internally. “No.” He rolled his eyes at the other man, who started to smirk at him. “Fuck you dude.” He shook his head. “I had no idea any of this was gonna happen.” He leaned back on his bike. “Your sister and niece…”

Red smiled, leaning on his own bike smoking a cigarette. “Trust me, Jules is as dumbfounded by all of this as much as you are.” The man shrugged. “Sometimes things happen and your world changes immediately.” The smirk was back. “Those things usually don’t give you enough prep time to warn the other people in your life. She’ll deal or she won’t.” Eric took a last drag and threw the smoke to the ground, stepping on it. “Is this the doctor that stitched Soph last night?”

He nodded. “Yeah.”

Red pulled his phone out of his pocket and touched the screen, looking at something for a moment and then shoved the thing back in his pocket. “Yeah, Lu knows her. Says she’s a great doctor. She likes her.” Then leveled a harder look at him. “Lu also mentioned she had a Fed stalker. Lu was gettin’ ready to talk to Pop about it when Dr. Knowles left Chicago.”

He sighed. “Yeah. Kohn.”

Red nodded. “ATF, right?”

“Yeah.” He sighed again. He really didn’t want to tell the other VP about Stahl, but he had to. It seemed like the Lyons’ men were preparing themselves for Jules and Sophie stayin’ here, so he felt like they deserved to know what was goin’ on. To a degree. “Also have another…”

Red nodded. “Yeah. We know.” Red shook his head with a smirk. “Dude, Dennis found most of this within ten minutes of Pop sayin’ Dougie was bringing the girls to Charming.” Gray-blue eyes met his. “You do know she’s trying to turn your club against Opie, right?” Red’s face was serious.

He nodded sadly. He’d been trying to talk to Clay about it, but things were not looking good. “Ope would never sell the club out, never.”

Red nodded. “I know.” He looked at the man in surprise, he didn’t know Ope. Red shook his head at him like he was stupid. “Born into an MC. Fuck, Butch would sell out the oaths he took as a SEAL before he’d sell out the club, and he isn’t even patched.” Red lit another smoke. “You should talk to Pop. Have him talk to Clay about it.”

“Talk to Jake about it?” He was confused.

Red rolled his eyes. “Pop was raised in the Sons too.” Taking a drag of his cigarette, he could see Red thinking as he exhaled. “See most of the guys in both of our clubs, they had lives before the club. Doesn’t matter if Clay is wearin’ that ‘First 9’ patch; he wasn’t raised club. He doesn’t understand what that’s like. Pop can get him to see it.” Red smirked. “We’re their actual kids, sometimes they forget to treat us as VP’s and treat us like the sons we are. All Clay hears is his kid stickin’ up for his best friend.”

“That makes actual sense.” He blinked at the taller man with a smirk of his own. He grabbed his helmet. “We should get goin’.”

“I’ve been known to every once in a while.” As Red flipped him off. “Yeah, Den texted a few minutes ago that they were leaving Lodi to come back. Said the girls were heading to the hospital.” Before he could ask. “Said all the dudes in the Cutlass did was follow Jules around. Were gone before they were done checking out.” Red put his helmet on.

“Good. Hopefully they’ll stay gone.” As he started his bike. He was looking forward to seeing his son. He also could admit, at least to himself, he was looking forward to seeing Jules with his son. “Let’s go.”

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

It was almost noon when Tara got out of surgery. After getting back into her clothes, she checked her phone. She was a little surprised not to see a call or text from Jax. He usually checked in with her to at least get a progress report on Abel.

Although with the unexpected visitors at the clubhouse last night, he’d probably been busy trying to figure out what the hell was up with Tig’s daughter and granddaughter. For some reason the little girl looked familiar, but then again so did her mother. Had to be the connection to Tig.

Glancing at her phone, she saw that she had about an hour and a half before her next consult. That would give her time to check on Abel. She just hoped Gemma wasn’t around. She knew even though Gemma was grateful that she had helped to save Abel, the woman didn’t like her and did not trust her in the least. That was fine, she didn’t like Gemma either. Actually, she wasn’t even sure how much she liked Jax anymore. He was so different from the young man she had left a decade ago.

And to be honest with herself, if Josh hadn’t decided to stalk her, she probably wouldn’t have come back to Charming when her father died except to deal with the burial. She’d made enough money in Chicago to keep up on the house here until she could have dealt with it on a vacation or something. There was a reason she couldn’t get out fast enough when she was younger. But since she couldn’t get Josh to leave her alone, she was stuck here where Jax would protect her. She wasn’t sure how she felt about that. It was bringing her closer to getting back with him, which meant back with the club. And that she did not want. She wasn’t even sure if she really wanted Jax or just his protection. And that really wasn’t fair to either one of them.

Sighing, she left the locker room and made her way to the NICU that at the moment only housed Abel Teller. When she got there, she could see that Jax had made it up to see his son, but he wasn’t alone.

The biker with him had a patch from another club; Satan’s Sons, and great; he was from Chicago. Just what she needed, a reminder of the place she had loved and been forced out of. The guy was taller than Jax. Probably as tall as Opie, but not as husky.

When Jax spotted her, she didn’t get his usual smile. But then again, he was with a biker from outside of SAMCRO so he had to be the VP right now and not just a new dad with a sick son. Jax elbowed the other man.

Holy hell, the other guy was good-looking. Possibly even better looking than Jax. She walked over to the two of them. Jax gave her a quick, impersonal kiss on the cheek. “Hey. Dr. Tara Knowles this is Eric Lyons.” He motioned between her and the new guy. “He’s Jules and Sophie’s adopted brother.”

She shook the man’s hand. “Good to meet you.” Then looked at Jax. “So Tig’s daughter who didn’t know she was his daughter has a brother who’s a biker?” She raised an eyebrow. Talk about symmetry.

Eric shook his head with a laugh. “Not just me. Pop and Dennis, our other brother is patched too. Butch is still in the NAVY, but when he retires, he’ll patch also.” No wonder neither Jules or Sophie seemed too uncomfortable last night. They were used to bikers.

“Okay.” She really wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so she decided not to. “How is your niece’s cheek today?”

She was confused when Red looked at Jax. Jax gave the other man an eye roll, so slight, that if she hadn’t been staring Jax in the face she wouldn’t have noticed. Jax looked back to her. “She woke up about two, two-thirty with it hurting. Jules gave her a baby aspirin and she seemed okay after that. Slept ‘til seven.” She wondered how Jax knew all of that.

The other guy took over. “Pop said Jules changed the bandage when you guys were meeting us in Lodi. She didn’t mention anything, and she knows what to look for.” The guy glanced over at Jax. “She’s been cut into plenty.” Then back to her. “They’re on their way here, so you can check for yourself if it makes you feel better.” Implying that was fine by him.

“I probably will if her mother will let me.” Looking at Jax trying to gauge a reaction. But he was busy looking into Abel’s room.

Eric Lyons just smiled. “Yeah, she’s not gonna argue with that.” The tone in the man’s voice clear that if she did, he would be changing her mind immediately.

“Good.” She gave Eric a small smile. “Your niece was very brave. She didn’t cry at all when I was giving her the stitches.”

Eric beamed at her. Looked like complimenting his niece was a sure way to bring a smile to the man’s face. “She’s a good girl.” Then looked over to the NICU. “How’s the little dude?”

Jax turned his attention to her. But he still wasn’t looking at her the way he usually did; a weird mix of want and guilt. He was looking at her like… like she was someone he had once loved and while still cared for her, was moving on. She wasn’t sure how she felt about that.

“He’s getting better every day.” She smiled at Jax. “I’m hoping he’ll be going home sometime in the next week.”

Now she got a smile. “Really?” He looked back into Abel’s room. “That’s great.” Jax looked over to Eric Lyons. “Hey, you wanna come in and meet him?”

Before the other biker could answer, they all turned when they heard the squeal of “Jax! Unca Red!” Seeing Sophie trying to squirm out of Tig’s arms. She had a pink and purple princess-like dress with corresponding pink wings on over her clothing.

And now seeing her mother all put together and not the disheveled mess she had been the night before, she knew why she looked familiar and it wasn’t just Tig. She’d seen Jules, or at least her picture, in a number of places around Chicago; she was a local model.

Tig set his grand-daughter down and the little girl made a beeline to Jax, who didn’t look surprised in the least. He caught her easily and swung her up. “That’s quite the princess dress sweetheart.” Being careful not to crush the wings as the little girl settled in his arms.

“I a faiwy pwincess!!!” The little girl looked like she couldn’t be happier.

Her mother reached over and put a finger on the little girl’s mouth. “What did we talk about before coming in?” Jules’s tone was firm but kind.

The little girl lowered her eyes, then looked back to her mother. “I sowwy.” Her voice quieter. “No loud ‘cause of people twying to get better.” Sophie looked at Jax. “Can I see da baby now?”

She felt like dirt doing it, but it had to be done. “I’m sorry…”

Jules took back over, looking at her daughter with sympathy. “I told you honey; you might not be allowed to see the baby.” Jules smiled at her daughter. “Little ones like you have all sorts of bad germs that could make the baby sick, you don’t want to make Abel sick do you?” Sophie shook her head.

Jax looked at the her, eyes nearly begging her to change her mind. But she didn’t want to risk either child. Sophie was as prone to infection right now as Abel with the wound on her cheek. She gave him a slight head shake.

Jax nodded and looked at Sophie. “Hey honey, why don’t I hold you and you can watch Mommy and Gemma go in and see Abel.” Jax gave the little girl a kiss on her temple. “He’ll be comin’ home soon and you can spend all the time you want to with him.”

That seemed to pacify the little girl. She looked at her mother and Gemma. “Me and Jax be wight here watchin.” She could have sworn she heard a little bit of a threat in the little girl’s tone. Like if the two women did something that she didn’t like, they’d hear about it. That made her smile a little.

Eric Lyons must have noticed because he leaned down to her. “She’s a bossy Miss Thing.”

She glanced over to where Sophie seemed to be talking Jax’s ear off. “Apparently.” Still looking at Jax and Sophie, who she had to admit, looked thick as thieves. She glanced at the tall biker. “Maybe now would be a good time to look at her cheek.”

Eric shrugged. “You’re welcome to try. She may be hard to pry away right now.” Eric glanced towards the NICU.

Jax would talk Sophie into letting her look at the stitches she put in last night, she was sure of it. Walking over she put a hand on the little girl’s arm. “Hi Sophie, do you remember me?”

Sophie looked away from the room where Jules was sitting in the rocking chair, holding Abel and saying something to Gemma. Whatever the younger woman said made Gemma smile. The Queen of SAMCRO looked up and spied her, giving her a smug look. Sophie studied her for a second. “You fixed my owie.”

“That’s right.” Reaching for the gauze that had been put over the stitches. The little girl pulled away. “I just want to check that I did a good job, it won’t hurt at all.” The little girl shook her head.

She looked at Jax, who did not look thrilled with her. “Why don’t you wait until her mother is out here.”

She looked back to Eric who looked like he agreed with Jax. But she had a reason. She looked at both men. “If there’s no sign of infection, I don’t see why she can’t go in for just a minute to take a look.” She looked at Sophie. “But you wouldn’t be able to touch him. Just look.”

Eric looked at his niece. “Baby Princess, let Dr. Tara look at your cheek so you can go see Abel.”

Sophie looked at Eric and then Jax who nodded. The little girl then looked over to Tig, who grinned at her. “I bet Jax would hold ya while Dr. Tara…” The man rolled his eyes a little. “…takes a look.”

Sophie looked back to her and this time didn’t pull away as she pulled the gauze off. The four stitches she had put in last night were doing fine. There was a little bruising around the area, but that was to be expected. It looked good. She touched the area lightly feeling for any excess warmth that could signal an infection was brewing, but there was none.

She smiled at the little girl as she put the gauze back over it. “I think you could go in for a few minutes to say hi to Abel.” She looked at Jax who she had the feeling would be taking her in. “She can’t get right up into his face.” She didn’t want to sound like a total bitch. “With the wound on her cheek, she’s as prone to infection as Abel.”

Jax nodded with a smile. “Yeah, okay.” He looked at Sophie. “You ready to go meet Abel?” The little girl bounced in his arms. Jax chuckled. “I’ll take that as a yes.” Putting his hand on the doorknob to the NICU. As they were going in, he turned back for a second. “Thanks, Tara.”

In that moment, she knew. Knew that wherever her and Jax had been heading to was over. He may still care about her, but he wasn’t pining away for her any longer. Whatever happened last night, Jax had decided that she was no longer what he felt he needed in his life. In Abel’s life.

She swallowed hard, wondering where that would leave her with Josh. She knew she should be more upset about Jax not being in love with her anymore, but she had been ambivalent about that to begin with, so it was hard to be really upset about it.

She turned to Tig and Eric, not needing to see the scene in the NICU. She may not be completely heartbroken over what just seemed to happen, but there was no reason to punish herself.

Tig looked at her as kindly as he had ever looked at her in all of the years she’d been around the club. “Thanks, Doc.” He smiled at her. “For everything.”

She nodded. “You’re welcome.” Taking a breath. “I should maybe prescribe an antibiotic cream for Sophie.” Reaching for her pad.

“Don’t worry about it.” Jules voice was behind her. “Already have one I need to go pick up.” She turned to see Jules stepping out of the NICU. Jules smiled at her. “Thanks though.” The young woman looked at her for a minute. “Can I talk to you for a sec?” Nodding her head away from her adopted brother and biological father.

“Sure.” Jules seemed friendly enough. She followed Jules around the corner. “What did you want to talk about?” Thinking if the girl wanted to talk about Jax, she was out of luck.

The girl reached into her messenger bag and pulled out a small envelope. “It’s not much, but I just wanted to thank you for helping Sophie last night. Because I know I was in no shape to sink stitches in her face.” The girl looked serious.

She frowned. “You know how to give stitches?”

Jules nodded with a smile. “You know my step-mom. Lu Collins.” The girl was still smiling. “Lu has nothing but good things to say about you.”

That explained why Sophie looked mildly familiar. She had seen a picture of the girl when she was about eighteen months old. Both she and Lu had been called in on a trauma surgery involving a ten-year old. After the surgery she had suggested getting coffee to the older woman, who declined stating that she and her ‘husband’ were watching their grand-daughter, and she should probably get home before her husband totally spoiled the girl.

“She’s a great surgical nurse.” And thought about everything she had told the woman over the years they had worked together. “A pretty great lady.” Then shook her head. “I had no idea she was a biker’s old lady.”

Jules shrugged. “She doesn’t hide it, but she doesn’t advertise it either.” Then looked around. “And that’s a hell of a lot easier to do in a place like Chicago than here.”

She laughed, dammit, she kind of liked Jules. “Yeah.” Then looked down at the envelope in her hands. She opened it and pulled out a hundred-dollar gift card. “You didn’t have to do this.” She thought for a moment. “Jax is my friend. I was happy to help.”

Jules raised an eyebrow. “No, he isn’t.” And then a sarcastic laugh. “And no, you weren’t.” Before she could defend herself, the girl put a placating hand on her arm. “Hey, I’m not trying to be a bitch. You and Jax aren’t really friends. You are two people who care for each other deeply, but I wouldn’t necessarily call you friends.” Okay, she had a point. “And even as not with it as I was last night; you were not thrilled to be called to the SAMCRO clubhouse until you saw it was actually a kid.” Another good point. The girl went on. “And that’s cool, I get it. Kind of. But we have different experiences with MC’s, so it’s understandable.” The girl leaned back against the wall. Damn, she was a freakin’ amazon. “So yeah, I did have to do that. You went out of your way and comfort zone to help someone you didn’t know.” The girl gave her a nod. “That deserves a thank-you.” Then gave her a grin. “So, thanks.”

She stood there for a minute, looking down at the card. A part of her wanted to be a petty bitch and throw it back in her face and walk the hell away. But that was just a small voice in the back of her head. The louder one was telling her to take it in the spirit it was offered and make nice. For a couple of reasons; one, she kind of liked Jules already; and two, she still needed SAMCRO protection from Josh. She looked back up at Jules and smiled. “Well, you’re welcome.”

Jules laughed. “C’mon, I should get back there to make sure Gemma and Jax haven’t let Miss Thing talk them into letting her hold Abel.” She shook her head ruefully. “They’re already as bad as Den and Eric.” Rolling her eyes. “Like they forgot no is a word in the English language.”

She chuckled a little as she followed the young woman back to the NICU area. While she knew she should feel a hell of a lot worse about what had seemed to transpire between Jax and Jules, she really didn’t. While a part of her would always love Jax, she wasn’t in love with him any longer.

As they reached the NICU, she could see that Eric and Tig had been joined by a third guy. He was smaller and slighter than Eric, but wearing the same cut.

Jules looked over to her. “Our brother Dennis.” Then a little louder. “Hey Den, this is Tara Knowles, the doctor that fixed up Soph’s cheek.”

Dennis Lyons smiled at her. “Hey Doc, nice to meet ya.” Then grinned. “Lu says to tell you hello.”

“Uh…thanks.” She was a little bowled over by how friendly these people were. But, she supposed since she had stitched Sophie up, she was considered okay.

Jules looked over to the NICU. “Yeah, I gotta get in there.” She shook her head at her brothers. “Were either of ya paying attention to what was goin’ on it there?” She shook her head again as she opened the door. “I thought it was clear she was NOT to be touching the baby.” Her voice a little amused and a lot exasperated.

Tara looked into the room where Sophie was sitting in the chair with Jax and Abel. She looked over to the three bikers left in the hallway. “I’d say something, but I’m pretty sure your sister and daughter will have that covered.” She gave them all a wide smile. “As nice as it was to meet you two, I think I’m going to go.” She was trying hard not to laugh at the scene in the NICU. “I have a consult I need to get to.”

Eric Lyons looked at her like he knew she was just going to find the closest room and possibly die of laughter. She had never seen Gemma look so caught out before and quite frankly, it made her day. “Well, then you should get to that.” He held out a hand. “It was good to meet you.” She shook his hand, which made hers look like a child’s. “Thanks for helping Jules and Soph.”

“You’re welcome.” She let go. “Tell your sister if she notices anything, just to give me a call.” Then nodded to the other two as she walked away.

Ducking into an empty exam room, she locked the door. Once it was locked; she started to laugh until she cried.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

After thanking Tara, Jax closed the door to the NICU. Even though Sophie was wiggling to get down, he held her tighter. “Remember what Dr. Tara said. You can look, but you can’t touch.”

He looked at Jules who was holding his son like a gift. She looked up at him and Sophie with a smile. “Tara said it was okay?” She glanced through the window at Tara’s back. “I saw her look at Soph’s cheek.”

He nodded. “Yeah, said she can look, but can’t touch him.” He smiled at Jules. “I think once she saw Sophie had no sign of infection and the fact that Abel should be coming home within the week…”

His mom interrupted. “Tara said that?” She looked immensely pleased.

“Yeah.” He knew he had the same damn look on his face. It felt like it was a day that was never gonna come.

“And den I can hold him?” Sophie was staring at Abel. “I pwomise to be caweful. I won’t dwop him.”

Jules grinned at her daughter as she stood with Abel in her arms. Abel looked to be pretty at home, looking up at Jules. He smiled. His son already had good taste in women. “You’ll have help holding him honey, just like with Rosie.” Jules looked at him and his mom. “One of the guys in the club; his old lady had a little girl about six months ago.”

“I wuv Wosie.” Sophie was all smiles. “I give her kisses, but she too wittle for hugs.” Looking to Jules for confirmation.

Jules leaned over and kissed Sophie on the nose. “That’s right.” Abel squawked a little. Jules looked down at him. “You want Daddy, huh?” Jules smiled wide at him and then down at Abel. “Can’t say I blame ya buddy.” Then looked at her daughter. “Honey, why don’t you let Gemma hold you and let Jax hold Abel for a little bit.”

His mom took Sophie from him and looked at Jules. “You going to go talk to Tara?” He could hear the victory in his mother’s voice. He knew she didn’t really hate Tara, she just hated the pull she felt Tara had on him. He didn’t know how to get it through his mother’s head; if Tara hadn’t been able to pull him away from SAMCRO a decade ago, she certainly wasn’t going to be able to do it now; he was in too deep, and wouldn’t walk away even if he could.

Jules nodded. “Yeah. I wanna give her that gift card and thank her for helpin’ Sophie last night.” Putting Abel in his arms. “There ya go little dude.” She smiled at him and like with Sophie at breakfast, it was a smile he was pretty sure he’d be happy to see the rest of his life. “Right where ya belong.”

In the moment, he had no words. Not a single damn one for what he was feeling. He’d never felt it before, this level of contentment. There may have been other times in his life he was as happy, but never this content.

Jules looked over to Sophie, who was in his mother’s arms. “Be good while I go talk to Dr. Tara. You listen to Jax and Gemma.” Then looked at the two of them. “And you two remember what Tara said and do not let this benevolent dictator tell you otherwise.”

Both he and his mom nodded, but he could already see Sophie planning. She seemed to know that Jules was pretty much the only obstacle to getting what she wanted. The Lyons’ men seemed to have capitulated long ago and it wasn’t taking SAMCRO long to fall in line. He supposed with what was happening with him and Jules he should probably start being a little more disciplined with her. He didn’t need a bald spot from Jules continually hitting him upside the back of the head.

Jules rolled her eyes and left the NICU. The second she and Tara were out of sight, his mother put Sophie down. “Okay baby, you can go look at Abel, but remember, no touching.”

He sat down in the rocker so Sophie could get a better look. The little girl inched closer and closer until she was only a few inches away from Abel’s face. Sophie smiled at Abel. “Hi baby, I’m Sophie.” She was standing on her tip-toes, her little voice soft. Abel gurgled at her.

She let out a surprised giggle and nearly fell on her butt, catching herself on his knee. “He wikes me!”

His mother leaned down to help steady Sophie. “Of course he does honey.” His mom looked at him. “He already knows that you’re part of his family.” He wanted to tell his mom not to put ideas into a little girls’ head. His mom gave him a wink. “Because Other Papa is like is uncle, so you’re kinda like his cousin.” Whew.

“Wike wif Wosie?” Sophie looked to him. He wanted to really say no, not like Rosie; like your Mom and your Uncles; brother and sister.

Instead he nodded with a smile. “Yeah, darlin’.” Sophie at least seemed thrilled with his answer.

His mother looked at him. “You know if you moved Abel a little, Sophie could get up on your lap and they still wouldn’t be touching.” Knowing full well that now that she had put the idea in Sophie’s head, the little girl wasn’t gonna let it go. He shot his mother a dirty look that she blew off like she normally did when she was getting ready to have him do something he’d regret in one way or another.

But like most times, he went with her crazy and would live with the consequences. He moved Abel, cradling him in his left arm. Once Abel was settled, his mother helped Sophie settle into his right side. His mom stood back with a smile. “See, no touching.”

Sophie smiled at him and then Abel and he couldn’t help it, even though he knew she shouldn’t be up there, he smiled back. It felt good and right to be holding his son and well, yeah; it felt good.

Sophie was making silly faces at Abel trying to get him to smile. Abel seemed content to make noise at her attempts. Sophie looked at Abel’s little SAMCRO beanie. “His hat says da same fing as da Sam bear shirt.” Looking proud she had made the connection.

His mother certainly was. Gemma was fucking beaming. And even though he was supposed to be a bad-ass biker, seeing his mom this happy meant more than he’d ever admit to anyone other than himself.

So of course that would be the moment he looked down to see Sophie holding Abel’s hand just as Jules was coming in. “I thought it was clear she was NOT to be touching the baby.” The exasperation outweighing any amusement.

Jules closed the door behind her and levelled his mother with a look. “I know for a fact that Jax would pay the fuck attention to what Tara said.” Jules voice was calm but stern. He looked down to see Sophie let go of Abel’s hand. But the girl did stay firmly planted in his lap. Jules was still focused on his mother. “You, not so much.” Jules took a deep breath.

“You meant well, I know.” His mom went to talk and Jules cut her off with a look. “But Tara said that for a reason.” Jules shook her head. “Like Lu always says. ‘You wanna get sick, go to a hospital.’ Tara said that to protect both kids.” She rolled her eyes. “You know, doing her job?!” Jules took another deep breath. “I’m really too tired for this.” But looked at both him and his mother. “Even Den and Eric know when I put my foot down, it’s down.” Her tone softened, as did her look. “For the moment, I’m her only parent.” She looked at him. “Until that changes, I’m the final authority.” Then to his mother. “Got it?”

They both nodded. His mother looked at Jules. “She had just taken his hand. Jax hadn’t noticed yet.”

Jules chuckled. “That was so not my point, but okay.” She was still laughing. “C’mon honey.” Lifting Sophie out of his lap and standing her by the chair. “This is as close as you are to get to Abel until he comes home.” She knelt down by Sophie. “You hear me?”

Sophie looked at Abel and then back at her mother. “Yes Mommy.”

Giving her daughter a kiss on the head, Jules stood up. “Thank you.” Then looked to Gemma. “I have to go to the pharmacy here before we go, Lu had one of the doctors at her hospital call in an antibiotic cream for her and prescription ibuprofen for me.”

His mother nodded. It probably wasn’t the worst idea to get Sophie out of here before she got in trouble again.

Jules looked at Sophie. “Tell Abel bye honey. If you can remember the rules on your own tomorrow, you can come see him again.” He went to open his mouth when Jules looked at him before looking back to Sophie. “We’ll go over them again in the before we leave to come here and you’ll have to tell me them again when we get here. Just like at home.”

Sophie nodded. “’Cause we gonna wive here now.” She looked at her mother to tell her she was right.

Jules gave her daughter the most neutral look he thought he’d ever seen. He looked over to his mother who was looking rather surprised. His mom shook her head, telling him to not say a word. This was between the two girls and no one else.

“We live in Chicago honey. Where Grandpa and Grandma are, where your uncles are.” Jules tone was as neutral as her look. If someone asked him to lay a bet on which way Jules was leaning, he would decline. Because he had no fucking idea.

Sophie shook her head. “No more.” A stubborn set to her jaw. “Don’ wike it dere no more.” Her lower lip started to tremble and he could see the tears starting. “It a b-b-bad pwace.” Sophie started to cry. “Don’ wanna go, wanna stay here.”

Jules had already picked Sophie up and was hugging her tightly but letting her cry while moving her to a corner of the room that was not as easily seen from the outside. He understood. She didn’t want to have her brothers rush in. He went and set Abel in the hospital crib and gave him a small kiss.

His mom leaned over the both of them, gently rubbing Abel’s cheek with a finger. “I’ll go get their prescriptions honey. And tell the others to give you guys a few, okay?” Her voice low and reassuring. Like she just knew that he knew how to fucking handle this. Glad one of them did.

“Yeah.” His mother turned and left. He took a deep breath and looked down at his son who was already falling asleep.

When he turned to look at them, Sophie was still sobbing into her mother’s hair. As he got closer, he could hear what she was saying between the sobs. “Wanna stay. Wanna stay wif Jax and Other Papa.”

He had no real idea what to do. He could see every sob shatter Jules’s heart a little more. It almost made him wish that no one had made any fucking promises to anyone about that Nazi fuck so he could go end him right the fuck now.

Instead he went and put an arm around Jules and rubbed Sophie’s back with his other hand. Jules leaned into him just a little as she spoke into Sophie’s hair. “We’re not going anywhere for a while honey. Your grandpa and your uncles brought enough stuff so we could stay with Jax and Other Papa for a while.”

As Jules kept repeating it, the sobbing slowly stopped. When it seemed like she was done, a tear-stained face looked at them both. “Weawy? I don’ haf to go?”

He kissed her head as he looked at her Mommy. “No sweetheart, you don’t have to go.” Jules nodded that he was doing fine. “You have to stay so you can hold Abel don’t you?”

Sophie nodded. “Yes.” She looked to her mother for confirmation again, this time getting it.

“Yeah honey, we’re gonna stay so you can hold Abel.” Jules let out a sigh of relief that the situation seemed easily handled. If that was easy; he’d hate to see hard. Because that wasn’t easy at all.

Jules hugged her daughter a little tighter. “Abel needs his nap, and I think you need some lunch.” Jules chuckled a little. “And a nap wouldn’t hurt either of us.”

“Hurt me.” Sophie grumbled a little. He could tell she wasn’t one who liked to be put to bed, but once there went down easy.

Jules must have read his mind because she grinned over to him. “Says the girl who’s asleep five minutes after her head hits a pillow.”

Not really thinking about where they were, he leaned over and kissed her. “I’ll meet you guys at the clubhouse. I need to find Tara and talk to her for a couple of minutes.”

When they parted, he looked through the glass of the NICU to see Tara looking in at them.

Jules looked at him. “Yeah. That sounds like a really good idea.” She didn’t look really happy. “Do you feel as kind of crappy about this as I do?”

“Yeah.” He sighed. “I do. She deserves better than having it shoved in her face.”

“I agree.” She looked at Sophie with a wry smile. “You ready to do the walk of shame?” Chuckling just a little. “Family style?” Sophie nodded, not knowing what she was agreeing with. Just agreeing. It was kinda cute.

She looked over to him. “Oh, after you.” With a grin. “While you distract her with truth, me and Soph are gonna make a break for it.”

He rolled his eyes, but smiled anyway. She was funny, sue him. “Whatever.” He shook his head. Then opened the door.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

After she got done laughing until she cried herself out, Tara looked at her phone. There was a text saying that her consult had been moved to later in the day. Wiping her face and getting herself back together, she decided to check on Abel again. Jax and the rest should have already left.

As she rounded the corner to the NICU, she saw Tig and Jule’s brothers heading out. Looked like she was right, they had all gone.

Then she got the the NICU and through the window saw Jax with Jules and Sophie, arms around the two of them giving Jules a kiss. She stood rooted to the spot. While she knew that nothing was going to come of her and Jax and that there was obviously something between Jax and the newcomer, it was still like a slap in the face.

When the two of them spotted her, neither looked thrilled. Oh, they didn’t look like they were upset at being caught, it was more they were upset that they’d been inconsiderate.

She could see a short conversation take place between the two of them, the little girl nodding along. After a moment, the three of them left the NICU. Jules rushed past her with an apologetic look, throwing a ‘see you in a bit’ to Jax.

She wanted to make this difficult for him but found she just didn’t have it in her. She gave her first love a wan smile. “My guess is that you would like to talk?”

Jax nodded his head. “Yeah, I think we should.”

She led him back to the exam room she had just been in. Closing the door, she looked at Jax. “You wanted to talk, talk.” She crossed her arms and leaned back against the exam table.

He stood there for a minute, then sighed. “I think we both know that the two of us trying again would be an epic failure.”

As much as she didn’t really want to admit he was right, he was. “Yes, it probably would be.” But there was the Josh situation she had to worry about. “But do you think jumping right in with someone else is the answer?”

He shook his head. “That kiss was like maybe the third kiss. I’m not jumpin’ into anything and neither is she.” Then gave her a little bit of a hard look. “And in the end, not really your business.” He sighed again. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. You have a right to your opinion.”

Shaking her head, she gave him a sad smile. “No you’re right, it’s not my business.” She stopped leaning against the exam table and stood straight. “And you’re right that we wouldn’t work a second time around, we’ve moved too far apart.” Now she was a little sad, a chapter of her life was ending. “But I just want to say that I’ll always care about you, and if you need anything…”

He shook his head as he wrapped her in a hug. “You were the first girl I was ever in love with.” Then with a wondrous look on his face. “And I was pretty sure that you were gonna be the only woman I was ever going to really be in love with.” He looked a little sad too. “But I was wrong.”

He let go of her and gave her a smile. “And as much as I know you’d like it; don’t think you’re rid of SAMCRO yet.” His smile was gone, replaced by a hard look. “Kohn is still here and until he’s dealt with, you call if you need to. Hear me?”

She nodded, a lump in her throat. Even if he wasn’t in love with her, she was important enough to still matter to him. That would do. “I hear you.” She cleared her throat and gave him a smile. It was shaky, but it was still a smile. “I hope maybe someday we can be friends.”

He smiled back and for the first time she had seen him after Abel’s traumatic birth, it wasn’t awkward or laced with some sort of expectation on either of their parts. “Me too.”

Heading to the door, she nodded towards the NICU. “I’ll leave orders that as long as Sophie is with Jules, she can see Abel.” She shot him a mild grin. “I don’t think you and Gemma can adhere to the rules.”

He gave her a thankful look as he chuckled. “What can I say?” He hugged her a last time. “I’m a rebel.”

Letting go, she gave him a slight shove with a chuckle of her own. “Yes, I know. Now, get out of here.” They walked out of the exam room and they parted ways, as Jax made his way down the hallway, she realized she really was okay with all of this and in the end, it would be better for them both.

Chapter Text

After getting done at the hospital, Dennis had gone with Tig and the girls to the market so Jules could buy things for Soph to eat. Even Gemma admitted that the clubhouse pantry wasn’t stocked with a three-year-old in mind.

When they got back to the SAMCRO clubhouse, Gemma had decided to order lunch in for everyone. Sitting with Eric, he dug into the club sandwich he’d grabbed, while keeping an eye on the table next to them where Jules was sitting with Jax and Soph. He looked over to where Pop was sitting with Clay and Gem, happy to see Pop was losing the stick up his ass look he’d sported most of the morning.

Eric leaned over and muttered softly. “Has she mentioned anything about going running?” Nodding to Trager as the other man sat down with them.

“Not really. Told her I had her running shoes, that’s about it.” He knew it was only because she was about ready to drop was the only reason Jules hadn’t mentioned it again. “Why?”

Eric rolled his eyes at him. “Seriously?” His older brother took a drink of the soda Eric had grabbed with his sandwich. “You know what’s gonna happen when she decides she wants to go running.”

He did. One small Miss Thing would lose her little mind when she couldn’t go too. “Yeah. I suppose we could find earplugs for everyone.”

He ducked, anticipating the smack to the head from Eric. He heard Trager snicker, and looked back at Eric who just shook his head. “That wasn’t what I was thinking.” Looking over to Jules and Sophie who were both way too busy paying attention to Jax Teller.

He gestured for Eric to continue. But his older brother looked over to Trager. “Who do we…” Eric looked over to him. “Talk to about borrowing one of those vans?”

Tig looked confused but answered anyway. “Gemma. They’re garage vans. Why?”

He grinned at Eric and then back to Tig. “Big brother here wants to go get a running stroller for Miss Thing, so she can go running with Jules and Eric, while he’s still here.”

Eric arched an eyebrow at him. “Aren’t you the one who just suggested earplugs so no one would have to hear the meltdown she’ll have when she’s told she can’t go?”

“Yeah, so?” He grinned at Eric. “You’re really gonna go spend four-hundred bucks on a running stroller just so you don’t have to tell Miss Thing no?”

Eric shot him a look. “No, we’re gonna spend four-hundred dollars on a running stroller so that Sophie has her routine you fucking moron.”

His brother had a point. Both Soph and Jules were creatures of habit and neither one of them did well without their routines. He nodded. “Yeah, okay.” He looked over to Trager. “Is there a ToysRUs in Lodi?” Then rolled his eyes. “Why the fuck am I even asking you?” Grabbing his phone out of his pocket.

Tig chuckled. “No clue.” Then looked over to Jules and Soph who were still not really paying attention to a damn thing other than Jax. “If there isn’t one in Lodi, Stockton should have one.”

Eric looked up from his phone. “There’s a Dick’s Sporting Goods in Stockton. We can get it there.”

He shrugged and put his phone away. Jules and Eric were the runners in the family, he’d let the big guy decide where they were going.

Looking over to Trager, he could see the man staring at the monitors that showed the parking lot of the garage/clubhouse. Looked like a cop car with someone in a sedan behind them.

Trager called over to Clay. “Clay, Unser is here and looks like he has company.”

Both Clay and Pop came over and looked at the monitors. He smiled a little as he saw Mike Murphy step out of the sedan. Pop looked at Clay. “Mike Murphy and Russ Schulte.”

Clay nodded, then looked over to the girls. “Let’s go meet them out there, figure out how they want to do this.” Leaning into Pop. “They’re gonna want to talk to Jules at least.”

He nearly snorted. Mike Murphy was gonna want to talk to both of the girls, whether or not he actually took statements from them.

Pop raised an eyebrow at Clay. “Mike Murphy is gonna want to see both girls. And I’d rather he talked to them here than at the station.” He looked over to Eric who was nodding his head.

Pop looked over to Jules who was now paying attention. “Mike Murphy is here.”

Jules nodded, but looked like she wanted to go crawl in a hole somewhere and sleep for about three days. That, or have a total meltdown. From what he had managed to gather from the SAMCRO crew, she’d had a mini-meltdown last night when she was smacking that piece of shit around. Well, Juice had called it a ‘total breakdown’, but from what he’d been told; SAMCRO had NOT seen his sister in full meltdown mode. Not enough ranting, and not nearly as much hitting. He had to be honest; he was glad he hadn’t missed it. As long as it wasn’t directed at him, or because of him, he found them to be highly entertaining. Directed at him; bad and potentially bruising. Because of him; still potentially bruising, but coupled with the possible need to grovel.

Soph on the other hand, perked up at the mention of Mike Murphy. “Unca Mike here?” She sounded happy but confused.

“Yeah baby, Uncle Mike is here.” Jules gave Soph a quick kiss on the head, and looked at him, Eric, and Pop with tired eyes; then looked back to her daughter. “Uncle Mike is here to…” She looked up at them again, and suddenly the prospect of his sister melting down was really unappealing. She looked absolutely lost and it made his stomach twist.

Before he or Pop or Eric could step into the breach and help, Jax Teller lifted Soph onto his lap. “He’s here to talk to your Mommy about some things.” He could see Teller take a deep breath. Like the man already knew that vague explanation wasn’t gonna fly.

But before Soph could ask the obvious ‘what things?’, the Charming cop had entered the clubhouse with Mike Murphy and his partner on his heels. If anyone had asked him, which they hadn’t, he’d always thought Mike Murphy looked like a thinner John Goodman. His partner was shorter and stockier with dark eyes and dark hair, and forgettable face.

Pop and Clay crossed the room to intercept the three cops. He couldn’t hear what was being said, but he could see Mike nodding, so it was staying friendly.

After a couple of minutes, Pop nodded and moved aside. Mike walked over to the table where Jules was sitting. His sister got up and gave the man a quick hug. Of course, Miss Thing couldn’t be left out and was nearly getting ready to crawl over the table to get her hug too.

While Mike had been saying hello to the girls, Clay and Tig had been clearing the room of anyone who wasn’t a Lyons, Morrow, Trager or Teller. Or cop.

Jules sat back down with Soph in her lap, Jax beside her; Pop and Eric hovering behind. Mike pulled up a chair, while his partner stayed in the background, pulling out a small notebook.

Mike looked at Pop and Jules. “I think we can do this without getting a formal statement from…” Mike indicated Soph. “There’s more than enough physical evidence to nail that idiot on that.” Then Mike looked at Jules, as sorry as could be. “But I do need to talk to you.”

Soph looked up at Mike, her eyes wide and fearful. “Is Mommy in twoubwe?” Her speech getting worse with fatigue. His sister wasn't the only one about to drop.

Gemma who had stayed behind, because as far as he could tell, she was in the middle of everything that her son might be remotely connected to, reached over and picked Soph up. “No baby, Mommy’s not in trouble.” Gemma grabbed one of the Target bags. “Why don’t we go to my office and you can color a picture for your Uncle Mike.” Soph went happily.

When the two had left the clubhouse, Mike leaned back in his chair and looked at Pop. “Who do I have to bribe to get a beer?” His partner chuckled. Mike shook his head. “Fucking coach.” He grinned a little, because Mike was a big dude and he was sure coach hadn’t been the most comfortable experience.

Tig jumped behind the bar and grabbed a beer and handed it to Mike. Mike nodded. “Thanks.” Taking a long drink.

Tig looked at Mike’s partner. “Want one too?” Russ shook his head.

“Nah, but I’d take a soda.” Tig grabbed the man a soda and then sat down not far from Jules.

His sister looked at Mike, who reached over and patted her knee. “Tell me what happened honey.”

Sighing, Jules nodded. “I needed to go to campus to get paperwork in for getting back after taking this semester off.” Mike nodded, already knowing that she had taken the semester off because Soph had managed to get meningitis right before the fall semester started.

“When I got home, and walked in the door, the house was too quiet, you know?” Mike nodded because he did know. If Soph was up and about there was no such thing as quiet.

He could see his sister was starting to get antsy, fidgeting in her chair. He caught Eric’s eye, and glanced back to Jules. Eric gave a barely noticeable nod letting him know that the eldest of their merry band of siblings knew she was close to losing her shit.

Jules got up out of her chair and started walking around the room. “When I walked into the living room, I saw Max.” He could see her bite her lip as she turned away from all of them, looking at the framed newspapers on the wall. After a minute she turned back around, looking at Eric. “I forgot to ask, nobody just…” Her eyes were wet.

Eric shook his head. “Max is taken care of. Pop and Lu’s back garden.” Eric’s tone suggesting that she should have known better. None of them would have let Animal Control take Max Cat away; Ma had gotten Max for Jules’s seventh birthday.

Jules nodded, then went back to lapping the clubhouse. “So, just as I saw Max, Dougie came out of the kitchen holding Sophie.” He noticed her shaking her hands out, like they had fallen asleep. “She looked so scared. Then I saw the gun he had against her ribcage.”

Even though Eric had told him what Jax had spilled earlier, and the fact that he knew it would have taken nothing less to get his sister in that fucking car; those words were still like a frying pan upside his head.

Jules was still rubbing her hands as she went on, a slight shake in her voice. “I couldn’t see Ray, but I could see the blood on the kitchen floor.” She shook her head. “I knew he was already dead.” He could see she was looking around for something.

It seemed like Jax had been paying attention too, because the man lit a smoke and then got up and gave it to Jules. As she nodded her thanks, Jax led her back to the tables. Sitting down and taking a drag of the smoke, she looked at Mike again. “That’s when Dougie told me that he wanted what was in the safety deposit box out here and made me leave my shit and made both me and Soph get into the car.” Her hands had clenched into fists. He could see one of them trembling. Jules was still looking at Mike, nearly defiant. “I didn’t know what I could do that wouldn’t get me or Sophie dead, so we went.”

Mike shook his head at her. “You did what you could.” Then plowed ahead. “Did Dougie give any indications he was working with someone else?” The fact that Mike even asked the question meant that Pop was holding that nugget within the biker fraternity. Hopefully Jules picked up on it.

“Not that I was aware of.” He should have known better. Mike Murphy was pretty damn close to being family, but he was still a cop, and cops were to be told the minimum. Jules shrugged at Mike, still looking upset. “And I was worried about other things. Other than making sure he didn’t go off and kill us, I wasn’t thinking about his motivations.” Sounding more than a little pissy about it. “I’d think the cash I’m sure Rip left in that safety deposit box would be more than enough motivation for that fucking junkie.” Yeah, she wasn’t happy and wasn’t gonna hide it at fucking all.

The other detective spoke up, and what a mistake that was. “He had to ask, now why don’t you calm down and tell us what happened when you got here.”

Even Mike winced when his partner uttered the words ‘calm down’. He wondered; in all of history had any good ever come of a dude telling ANY woman to calm down? As far as he knew, no. And this time was no different.

With her mouth in a hard line and her eyes blazing with anger, his sister stood up. All six-feet of her. Most of the time he really didn’t notice his sister’s size; maybe because Eric and Butch were still bigger than she was, it didn’t seem so…there. But now, in an unfamiliar place, he was reminded that his baby sister could take over a room when she wanted. And right now, she wanted to.

“Calm down?” She shook her head as she stood there for a second. She looked at Mike. “Did he really tell me to calm down?” Mike shrugged like he wasn’t responsible for his partner’s stupidity.

Stalking towards Mike’s partner still shaking her head, his sister nearly snarled. “My daughter had a gun held on her after seeing her father murdered, then we were dragged halfway across the country by a meth-addled Nazi. I’ve had approximately five hours of sleep in the last three days, my right knee and hamstring are fucking killing me right now, and you tell me to calm down?! Fuck you.” Then turned and walked the fuck out of the clubhouse.

Mike looked at his partner. “Great job Russ.” Mike shook his head. “That whole four ex-wives makes total sense now.” Mike looked over at the Charming Police Chief. “Would you mind taking Russ back to the station and get the transfer paperwork started?”

Unser, he was pretty sure that’s what the Chief’s name was, nodded. “Sure.” Then looked to Mike’s partner. “Let’s go.”

Russ didn’t look thrilled to be sent away, but at the look Mike gave him, just nodded. “Yeah.”

When the two had gone, Mike leaned back and sighed. “Well fuck, I was really hoping to get through that without her yelling at someone.” Mike shrugged with a slight smile. “Guess I should just be happy it wasn’t me.”

Him, Pop, and Eric just nodded. Jax, Tig, and Clay looked mildly surprised that the detective was taking the fact that his ‘witness’ had told his partner to fuck off in stride. Mike finished his beer. “Guess I should go find her and finish up.”

“No need.” Jules’s voice was at the clubhouse door. “I don’t like your new partner Mike.” She walked back in and stood next to Eric, just behind where Jax was sitting. “There’s not much else to tell you. The drive was uneventful other than making sure I stayed awake to make sure that little fuck didn’t do something that was gonna get me and Sophie killed. I finally got him convinced to stop for food just outside of Charming. When we were leaving, Jax and a couple of other Sons pulled into the lot. I made the mistake of mouthing off to Dougie to keep him from noticing them and Sophie ended up with four stitches in her face.” She sighed. “There’s really not anything else I can think to tell you Mike.”

Mike nodded while scribbling in his notebook. “Okay.” Mike looked at Jules, sympathetic. “When you get home you’ll have to come down to the station and sign the statement.”

Oh, this was gonna be interesting. He stretched his legs out in front of him and lit a smoke, getting comfortable for the show.

Jules shook her head. “Not planning on going back anytime soon.” She looked at Mike, jaw set, then nodded at Trager. “I just found my biological father. We’re staying for a bit.”

He could also see that Mike hadn’t missed the fact that Jules was also resting her hand along the back of Jax’s neck. At least Mike was smart enough not to bring it up. Mike shook his head. “I’ll go type it up down at the station here.” Then as he stood. “You will have to come there to sign it.” The detective sighed, but it was laced with a bit of humor. “I have a feeling Dougie will be taking a deal anyway, so it’s not like you’re gonna have to testify.” The tone of the man’s voice letting all of them know he would be explaining to Dougie in great detail why taking a deal would be in his best interests.

Pop answered for Jules. “She’ll be there in a little bit.” Pop looked at Jules, who nodded. As Pop went to go escort Mike out of the SAMCRO clubhouse, he glanced back at Jules. “Want me to see if Gemma can keep Soph while you go do this?”

Jules sighed. “No, I’ll go ask her here in a minute. I need another cup of coffee before I deal with anything.” His sister did look like she could use a day or so of sleep.

Pop just nodded as he, Clay, and Mike left the clubhouse. When they’d left, Jules looked at him with a wan smile. “Where’s that handy tin at Den? There’s no way I’m not smoking part of a joint before going down there.” She shook her head. “I can’t believe that I just told Mike’s partner to fuck off.”

Jax started to laugh as he was shaking his head. “I’ve known you less than twenty-four hours and I’m not shocked at all.” Both Eric and Tig laughed their agreement. He just lit a joint and handed it to his sister.

After taking a hit, she shrugged and smiled at Jax. “Okay, so maybe not a total shock, but still…” She shook her head.

Eric went and sat next to her. “Hey. Mike didn’t seem too worried about it and it’s not like you punched him or anything like that.” Eric gave her shoulder a slight shove, then grinned at her. “You know he’s had worse things said to him in the line of duty.”

Tig just grinned as he stood. “I’m sure he has.” Tig looked at Jules. “I know Jake said something about Gemma watching the baby doll, but as far as I know, I’m here for the afternoon, I can watch her.”

Jules nodded. “Yeah, that’s fine.” Then put out her hand. “Here, give me your cel.” Tig handed it over without question, watching as she programmed in what looked to be a couple of numbers, then handed it back. “I put me, Eric and Den’s numbers in there. If you gotta go and I’m not back and she throws a fit with being left with Gemma, call me or Den.” Then grinned at Eric. “Eric is a last resort.”

Eric flipped her off as he chuckled a little. “Me and Den have an errand to run, we won’t be around.” Eric glanced over to Jax with a smirk. “He can practice his new dad skills on her if Tig has to leave.”

Jax shook his head regretfully. “Actually, Clay and I have to leave for a bit.” He looked over to Tig. “Gotta go to Oakland for a minute.” Tig nodded, obviously the man knew exactly what Jax was talking about.

Jules shrugged. “Whatever. She should be fine for what little time I plan to be gone.” Then looked at him and Eric. “What errand do you two have to run?”

He looked at Eric, it was his idea, so he’d let the big guy take the credit. Eric gave their sister a small smile. “Running stroller.”

For once their sister didn’t have a snappy comeback. She sat there staring at the two of them for a minute. He could see she was trying not to cry. She was weird that way. Finally, she just took a deep breath and smiled at the two of them. “Of course. Silly of me to even ask.” She took another hit off of the joint and handed it back to him. “I should go let Gemma know that her and Tig are on Sophie patrol.”

He put it out and left it in the ashtray. “Yeah, I’m sure Pop is ready to get going.” Looking over to Eric, he grinned. “I’ll ask Gemma about the van. We have a rapport.”

Tig barked out a laugh. “I hope it’s not the kind of ‘rapport’ that’ll have Clay kicking your ass.” He looked over to see Jax and his sister with similar grins.

“Dude, she’s old enough to be my mom.” He rolled his eyes. “I do not have a ‘Mrs. Robinson’ fetish. At all.”

“And this is where I step off.” Jax was shaking his head, still smiling. The man looked over to Jules. “C’mon. I’ll walk with you to the office.” The two of them started heading out of the clubhouse.

He, Eric, and Tig followed. When they reached the clubhouse door, Jules turned. “You know, we really don’t need a chaperone to the office. It’s like ten steps.”

He grinned at the two of them. “I’m going to ask Gemma about the van.”

“I’m with him.” Eric raised an amused eyebrow.

Tig on the other hand was laughing his ass off. He waved at Jules and Jax. “I just want to see the baby doll.”

Jules rolled her eyes at all three of them. “Whatever.” She looked over to where Pop and Clay were talking by Clay’s bike. “I should get going.” She opened the office door and they could all see Soph asleep in Gemma’s lap.

“This makes it so much easier.” He heard Eric murmur behind him. It really did.

Jules nodded and smiled at Gemma. “You and Tig have Soph until I get back from the police station. Eric and Dennis want keys to a van so they can go get a couple of things me and Soph will need if we’re staying for a bit.” Then glanced back at Tig with a slight grin. “I don’t know what he wants except maybe to stare at Sophie while she naps.” Tig just shrugged with a smile.

Gemma reached over to a board with keys on it and grabbed a set and threw it at him. “There ya go.” Her voice quiet as to not wake Miss Thing. “Just make sure you bring it back with gas in it.” Then looked at Jules. “You go do what you need to do baby, we’ll be fine here.” Gemma gave his sister a soft smile. “She’ll probably sleep the whole time you’re gone.”

“Hopefully.” Jules nodded. “Thank you.” Then his sister elbowed him in the ribs.

“Yeah, thanks for letting us use the van.” He elbowed Jules back.

“You’re welcome.” Gemma’s voice still soft. “Now get out of here before you wake her up.” There was no mistaking the order in her voice.

They all left the office. Pop and Clay came over, Pop looking at Jules. “You ready?”

She nodded. “I suppose.”

“You two going with us?” Pop looked over to him and Eric. He’d let the big guy handle it.

“No, we’re gonna go to Stockton to get a couple of things the girls will need.” Eric answered. Pop just nodded.

He wanted to roll his eyes. If he’d have given Pop that answer, there would have at least been a couple of follow-up questions. Then again, Eric was not only the responsible one, he was Pop’s VP. There was a level of trust that went beyond parent/child.

Clay looked over to Jax who’d been quietly conversing with Jules. “We need to get goin’. We’ve got people waitin’ on us.”

This time with more than just him, Tig and Miss Thing hanging around, Jules just patted Jax’s arm as they said good-bye.

When Clay and Jax pulled out of the lot, Jules turned to Pop. “Let’s go get this over with.” She sighed. “I really need a nap.”

Pop just nodded with a bit of a wry smile. “Just don’t fall asleep on the back of the bike.”

“Yeah.” His sister snorted a little, then looked over to him and Eric. “Thanks.”

“Wasn’t my idea. I was all for handing out earplugs.” He grinned at her.

“You’re an idiot.” She shook her head as her and Pop walked away towards Pop’s bike. At least it was said with affection.

After Jules and Pop had ridden off, he and Eric left to go to Stockton. About five miles outside of Charming, he turned to his brother who was driving. “So, we’re just letting them stay in Charming?” He was fine with it, but he was a little shocked that Pop and Eric seemed to be dealing rather well.

Eric barely took his eyes off of the road. “Yeah.” Eric smiled just a little. “Pop seems to have made his peace with it, so…”

“So you’re just fine with it because Pop is?” If Eric really wanted the girls back in Chicago, then that’s where they would end up, period. Jules would defy Pop before she would Eric.

“No. Jax is a good guy from what I can tell.” Eric looked at the GPS on his phone for a second. “He’s good with Sophie.” Eric put his phone down, and glanced over to him, annoyance all over his face. “What do you want me to say Den? Ultimately it’s Jules’s decision and it sure as shit looks to me like she’s made it.”

He knew he was just playing devil’s advocate, but he couldn’t help himself. “She’s known him less than twenty-four hours.”

Eric shook his head, but it was something different. There was something almost mournful in it. “Pop once said he knew ten minutes after meeting Ma that she was the one.” Eric took a deep breath, like he wanted to say something else, but just stared at the road ahead.

He sat back in his seat. He’d been almost five when Pop had met Ma. He can vaguely remember that it was like one day their life had been him, Eric, Butch and Pop; the next Ma and Jules were there like they always had been. Well. Doesn’t that just put it into perspective?

“Yeah.” Eric’s voice was soft. He must have said something without realizing it.

There wasn’t much else to be said about it for the time being. So, he grabbed Eric’s phone and looked at it. “We’re the next exit.”

Eric just nodded as he flipped the blinker on the van, signaling their exit from the freeway.

When they arrived at their destination, he looked at his brother. “Since we’re here, I gotta see if they’ve got trikes. If not, there’s a ToysRUs in Stockton.” Rolling his eyes at Eric’s grin. “Might as well get started on Miss Thing’s birthday present.”

“Do I even want to know?” Eric groaned good-naturedly.

He grinned. “Probably not.” His grin got wider. “Because once again I will totally slay you in the presents department.”

But as usual, his elder brother was unflappable. Eric just flipped him off as the giant strode off towards the store. “Hurry up, you fuckwit.” Eric barely glanced over his shoulder. “I don’t want this to take all afternoon.”

Shrugging, he hustled to catch up. He really didn’t want this to take all afternoon either. If Jules and Sophie were stayin’ in Charming, he wanted to spend as much time with them as he could. Because life at home without them will take some getting used to.

Following Eric into the store, he laughed at himself a little. Who was he kidding with the ‘if’ the girls stayed in Charming? They were staying; and he had the feeling not just for the foreseeable future, but for good. And if Pop and Eric could make their peace with it, so could he.

Right after he has a little talk with Jax Teller.

With that thought he caught up to his brother and let Eric yank him in the direction they needed to be going.

Chapter Text

By the time Jax pulled into the T-M lot with Clay they had been gone nearly three hours. As he parked his bike, he noticed that not only was the van not back yet, but both his Mom’s car and Tig’s bike were gone.

Getting off his bike, he walked over to where Chibs and Bobby were sitting at the picnic tables taking a break. “Where’s everybody?”

“Gem took the little lassie with her to the house to get started on dinner. Tig went with ‘em.” Chibs grinned. “Jake and Jules got back about an hour ago. They’re inside.” Nodding towards the clubhouse.

Clay came up behind him. “Unser said that the Chicago cops and their trash are gone.”

“Good.” Hopefully they’d toss the fuck out somewhere over Donner Pass. Let him take a long bounce down the mountain.

“I gotta go talk to him.” Clay shrugged. Holding Unser’s hand had been a necessity of late, between Hale trying to take over and the ATF agents that have taken up shop in his station. “I’ll see you at the house later.”

“Yeah.” He smirked a little at his step-father. “Have fun with that.” Bobby and Chibs snickered.

Clay just flipped them all off as he walked back to his bike. When he heard the engine of the bike engage, he looked at the other two. “I’ll be in the clubhouse if anyone needs me.”

“Aye.” Chibs gave him a smirk. “We’ll see ye aren’t disturbed.”

Shaking his head, he didn’t even bother with the energy to flip them off. As the door to the clubhouse closed behind him, he could hear Bobby. “Have fun with the father-in-law.” The laughter from the two of them following him inside.

Where Jake was sitting at a table drinking a beer. He felt a bead of sweat between his shoulder blades start to trickle down. “I don’t suppose I got lucky enough that you didn’t hear him.”

Jake gave him a side-eye as the man took a drink of his beer. That bead of sweat was now somewhere towards the reaper’s hands on his back. “Nope.” Setting the beer back on the table. Jake edged a chair out with his boot. “Have a seat.” It wasn’t a suggestion.

Part of him wanted to tell Jake to remember whose clubhouse they were currently sitting in, but instead, he sat. It had been made abundantly clear that even though Jules was head-strong and stubborn, in the end, what Jake said was rule of law. If the man wanted this ended, it would end. He wanted to be with Jules, quite possibly for the rest of his life; and the Lyons were part of that deal.

Jake just looked at him for a couple of minutes, not saying anything. Usually he was fine with silence, rarely being the first to break one, but this one was putting him on edge.

“Bobby was just flippin’ me shit.” He was floundering internally for something to say that didn’t make him sound like an ass. “He…”

Jake shook his head. “Meant every damn word of it.” Jake’s tone just as neutral as Jules’s had been at the hospital.

He had no idea what the hell to say to that. But his mouth had decided to try. “I…”

Again, Jake cut him off. This time with a non-sequitur. Kind of. “I asked Marina to marry me after knowing her two hours.” A regretful laugh came from the man. “And approximately every two days after until the day she died.”

He wasn’t sure what to say to that, and he’d never hurt himself by shutting the fuck up and just listening. Seemed like that was the right move here, because Jake wasn’t done talking.

“So, I get what’s goin’ on here between you and my daughter.” He noticed the slight emphasis on the ‘my’ part of that sentence. Jake looked at him, the man’s blue eyes staring straight through. After a second, Jake shook his head. “Can’t say I’m thrilled about it.”

As he went to open his mouth to defend himself, Jake raised a hand. “Nothin’ to do with you.” Then the man gave a wry grin. “Well, next to nothin’ to do with you.”

“Tig.” He felt the need to make sure.

Jake nodded. “Yeah. Him.” Jake looked around the clubhouse for a second, looking as if he was organizing his thoughts. His probable future father-in-law looked back to him. “Jules’s mother had her reasons for not wanting him around Jules. And like I told her, I’ll respect those until the day I die.” This is it. This is where the man tells him to back the fuck away from his daughter and granddaughter.

“But if her Ma knew I tried to keep Jules from a chance at what her and I had?” Jake shook his head with a sad smile. “She’d figure out a way to haunt me.” The smile turned wry as Jake looked back at him. “So, you hurt her, you’re a dead man.” The smile turned slightly vicious. “After Eric and Butch have spent time with you.”

He knew he should be assuring the man that he’d try his damnedest to make the girls happy for the rest of his life, but his inner stand-up took over. “No Dennis?”

Jake grinned. “Den will ruin your life in other ways.” Then laughed. “That’s all you have to say?” Jake downed the rest of his beer and pulled out a cigarette.

He felt a little, no, he felt a lot silly. This was a position he’d never found himself in, having to deal with some girl’s Dad. Mr. Knowles was already a drunk by the time he started dating Tara, the man had barely paid attention. Wendy hadn’t really had any family to speak of when he’d been with her. Plus, she’d been a Croweater, so there was that.

But Jules? Jules had these men; smart, tough men that had loved and cherished her, and Sophie for all of their lives, and they would hold him to any vows he made to them.

He lit a joint and took a hit. “I’d like to say I’ll never fuck up and it’s always gonna be sunshine and flowers…” He offered the joint to Jake, who shook his head. He shrugged and took another hit. “But I probably will and it isn’t always gonna be sunshine and flowers.” He gave the man the most serious look he’s probably ever given anyone other than his mother in his life. “But it won’t be on purpose and I’ll do my best to keep them safe and happy.”

And since Jake had already addressed it, he continued. “And as much as you don’t like the idea of them being around Tig…” He could feel the wry smile on his face. “And trust me, I can understand that to an extent.” The smile went away. “I do know that Tig would die before he’d let anything happen to either one of them.” He didn’t bother to add kill for them too. With Tig that was a given. He smiled again. “And as you’ve seen, they both already have him so wrapped, he’s already in the air before either of them even think jump.”

Jake chuckled. “He ain’t the only one.” Giving him a smirk.

He shrugged, because he was nearly as bad as Tig. “Yeah.” Sighing good-naturedly. “Although I should probably curb that with Sophie before I end up with a bald spot.”

“Or be like Den and just tell her to hit you somewhere else.” Jake laughed for a minute.

He figured since this seemed to be going so well, he’d follow Red’s advice and talk to Jake about the whole Opie situation. “Can I ask you a favor?” Jake raised an eyebrow. Remembering what the two of them had just talked about, he winced internally. “Another favor?”

“Now that you put it that way, what do you need?” Jake gave him a wry smile.

He really wasn’t sure how to begin, so he started with Red. “Red told me you guys did some digging and you know about Stahl.” Jake nodded. He took a deep breath. “So, you know she’s trying to make it look like Opie turned rat?” Jake nodded again.

“Yeah, I know.” Jake got up and grabbed a couple of beers, handing one to him. “You also got Kohn hanging around too.” Jake rolled his eyes. “Man needs to learn ‘no means no’.” Jake popped the cap off the beer, taking a drink. “I’m guessing Clay isn’t convinced that this is just Stahl?”

He shook hjs head. “No, and every time I try to talk to him about it…”

Jake smiled just a twitch. “He pulls the ‘best friend’ card?”

“Yeah.” He finally popped the top off of his beer and took a drink. “Red also thinks it may have something to do with Clay being my step-dad too.” He gave Jake a wry smile.

“Yeah, I get a lecture every few months about treating him like my VP instead of my kid.” Then Jake laughed. “And I gave my father the same lecture when I was his VP.” Jake shrugged. “Sometimes it’s hard to separate the two.”

“Ope would never sell the club out. Ever.” That he would take to his grave. It wouldn’t matter what Stahl dangled in front of his face, Opie just wouldn’t do it. “Me and Ope were SAMCRO before we even put Prospect kuttes on.” He didn’t know how else to explain it.

Jake shook his head. “You don’t have to sell me Jax.” Jake was fiddling with his beer bottle. “My boys were the same way.” Jake snorted. “Hell, I was the same way.” Jake looked at the bottle between his fingers for a couple of minutes, then looked back at him and nodded. “I’ll talk to Clay. I’m not guaranteeing it’ll change his mind, but I’ll at least talk to him. Let him know what Den found.”

He breathed a sigh of relief. Jake knew where he was coming from. Hopefully Red was right about this and Clay will actually listen to Jake because if Clay doesn’t, he doesn’t even want to think of what could happen.

“Thank you.” He was almost shaking with relief. “For everything.” Hoping Jake would know what he meant.

Jake tipped his beer bottle at him. “Yeah.” Then tilted his head towards the dorms. “She’s in the room. I’d like to say she’s takin’ a nap, but the way her phone was blowing up now that Lu’s told everyone she’s been reunited with the damn thing?” Jake shook his head with a sarcastic smile. “My guess is she’s still got the thing glued to her ear.” The man’s tone implying he’d seen this show a number of times.

Jake’s cel phone went off before either of them could say something. Pulling it out of his pocket, Jake looked at it and he could swear he saw the man wince a little. Putting it to his ear, Jake waved him on and walked off. “Dad.” The tone of the voice on the other end was, well, yelling.

He made a beeline for the dorms, giving the visiting President his privacy. To get his ass chewed apparently.

Getting to the door of the room the girls were using, he heard Jules’s voice; tired but laced with amusement. “I bet Pop’s phone just rang Den. I literally hung up with Gramps like two minutes ago.”

She had the phone on speaker because he could faintly hear Dennis. “Oh shit, really?” He could still hear Dennis but his voice had become a faint mumble. Probably telling Red. After a minute Dennis’s voice was clearer. “Had Pop already called him?”

“No.” Jules wasn’t hiding her amusement at all. He decided to knock on the door. He felt like an idiot just standing there. “Hold on Den. Yeah?”

“Okay if I come in?”

“Get in here.” He came through the door to Jules sitting up on the bed, phone in her lap. The room smelled like she’d taken a couple of hits off of the joint that was in the ashtray next to her on the bed. She smiled as she patted the bed next to her. “Was Pop still in the clubhouse before you came back here?”

“Yeah, and to answer your next question, yeah your grandfather had called.” He leaned over and gave her a peck on the lips. Wanting more, but mindful of the fact that Dennis was in room via speaker phone. “I left immediately. Couldn’t make out what was being said, but I can report it was being said loudly.”

“I think Pop was hoping to have a little more time before Mike showed up and that shit-canned his plan.” He could now hear Eric also. Sounded like they were driving. “How pissed was he?”

She grinned at him. “At me? Not at all.” She leaned into him and he soaked it up like it was oxygen. “The rest of you? Varying degrees. Mostly Pop, but you two aren’t out of the woods. He’s even a little pissed at Butch.” She did sound a little surprised by that.

“So basically the list from best to worst is Soph, you, Bitch…Ow! Fine. Butch, Fucking Gigantor over here, me, and last but never least; Pop.” He could hear the smirk Dennis had on his face.

Jules looked at him as she shook her head at the phone, with a look on her face that was asking him if he was ready to sign up for this kind of shit, because that’s just how it’s gonna be. “Wow. Every once in a while your idiot ass actually gets it right.”

He picked up the ashtray and moved it to the nightstand as he kicked off his shoes. At this point Jules looked ready to face plant into the bed. Taking the phone off of her lap, he handed it to her. “Relay any pertinent information and then turn this thing off before you fall asleep mid-sentence.”

She gave him a pretty weak glare as both of her brothers were laughing in the background. “Remind me to tell you to go fuck yourself later.” Then looked at the phone. “Soph is at Gemma and Clay’s for the night. As is Pop,” She rolled her eyes. “I mean, after he actually goes there.” She looked over at the alarm clock. “And we don’t have to be there for another three and a half hours.” She stuck her tongue out at him. “There, pertinent information passed.” She arched an eyebrow. “Sir.”

“Bye!” Eric’s voice was loud over Dennis’s howling laughter. Then there was silence.

He arched an eyebrow right back, trying to not only hide a smile, but the definite fact that she had pressed a button he hadn’t even known he had. There’d be time for that later. Getting her some more sleep was the priority. “It’s not turned off yet.”

She held a button on the side until the screen went dark. “Satisfied?”

“Nowhere near.” He took his kutte off and hung it across the back of the chair at the cheap desk that was in the room. Laying down on the bed, he pulled her with him. Pulling his cel phone out, he set it to vibrate and also set the alarm. “This is set for three hours from now. You can get up and turn your phone back on then. Unless another emergency comes up, I’ve got nowhere to be until Mom’s.”

“When I’m actually awake again, so telling you to fuck off.” As she was settling into his side, resting her head on his chest. “And maybe smack you.” Throwing a leg over his and curling an arm around his waist. “Not the boss of me.” Feeling her warm mumble through his t-shirt.

He just rubbed her back and planted a kiss on her head, enjoying the vibrations of her barely conscious mumbles in his chest. As those mumbles faded and he could feel her fall into sleep, he laid there quietly as a thought occurred to him.

Lying with Jules in bed like this, even fully-clothed, no sex of any sort had; was probably the most truly intimate moment he’d really had with a woman since Tara left him a decade earlier.

Putting another kiss into her hair, he smiled. “But I’m getting there.”

He wasn’t above getting a little nap of his own in before they were due at the chaos that family dinner at his Mom’s house was known as, so he closed his eyes and followed Jules’s lead.

Chapter Text

As Tig looked around the dining room as everyone was eating, light conversation going on around him, he was surprised that the rest of the afternoon had gone as well as it had. Sophie hadn’t minded leaving with just him and Gem; she gave her mommy and Jake hugs good-bye and went with him and Gem like she’d done it a thousand times, Spook and Sam-bear in tow. Hell, he’d expected some sort of anxiousness, or somethin’; a little bump, but nah, his grand-daughter had just walked around Gemma and Clay’s like she owned the place. He’d laughed his ass off when Sophie had informed Gem that the little girl would be spending the night in, as Sophie put it; “Jax’s wittle boy room.” Gem had just smiled knowingly as she agreed with the bossy Baby Doll.

Looking across the table, he had to smother his grin with his napkin. Jax was becoming surprisingly adept at eating with a three-year-old in his lap. Sophie was a bit subdued, but he wasn’t shocked. Her nap that afternoon hadn’t lasted long, and he noticed the larger the group got, the quieter his grand-daughter became, absorbing everything around her.

He must have been watching the two of them long enough that Sophie looked up and caught his eye. Her chocolate-brown eyes happy as she wiggled in closer to Jax. He tamped down another grin as Jax adjusted to the squirrelly toddler like he’d been dealing with her all her life. If someone put a gun to his head, he’d admit he was a little floored at how easily Jax slipped into the role of ‘dad-like’ figure for Soph.

As Sophie’s brown eyes found his again, he wondered what she thought of all this. Just days ago she had watched her father be killed by a psycho who then took her and her Mommy away from the only home she had known; she seemed happy to be here and seemed to like them all, but it had to be weird as fuck for her.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sophie noticed Other Papa was looking at her again. He does that a lot. But he is always smiling when he does, so she thinks that it’s okay. She likes it when Other Papa smiles at her, his eyes get all sparkly like Mommy’s do when she smiles.

She cuddled into Jax again, she liked the way he smelled. It was kinda like Grampa and Unca Red and Unca Manny, but different, and it made her feel safe. She wanted her and Mommy to stay with Jax forever. No one would ever try to hurt them if they were with Jax and Other Papa. And Jax makes Mommy smile, like how Gramma smiles at Grampa. Mommy has never smiled at anyone like that before, she looks even prettier than she always looks. She thinks it would be nice to see Mommy smile like that all the time.

She can feel Jax kiss her head. “You okay sweetheart?” She likes how she can feel his chest rumble when he talks if she is on his lap.

She nodded and looked up to see Jax smiling at her. “Can I have a piece of steak?” She had eaten all the steak bites Mommy had given her. And the corn. She wasn’t still hungry, she just liked the steak Gemma cooked and wanted one more bite. Because she had to save room for pie.

She could feel Jax laugh as he cut off a small piece of his steak for her. He picked the piece up with his fork and brought it to her mouth. “Here you go.”

She took the piece of meat with her fingers and popped it in her mouth and chewed. It was so good. After swallowing, she looked back up at Jax. “Thank you.”

He kissed her head again. “You’re welcome.” She heard Mommy and Gemma laughing on her other side.

She looked over to see Mommy and Gemma smiling at her and Jax. She smiled back. She likes Gemma. Gemma got her a princess dress, and all sorts of colors and coloring books, and had made her a chocolate pie, and gave her lots of hugs and kisses, and Gemma said that if her and Mommy stay forever, Gemma will make Jax’s little boy room into a room for her and Abel. Gemma said if her and Mommy stay forever, then Gemma would be her Gramma too, and Grammas have to have a room for granbabies.

Other Papa had gotten a little mad at Gemma when Gemma said that. She wasn’t sure why, because Gemma is a good Gramma. Other Papa said something about ‘putting ideas in little heads’, but she didn’t know what that meant. Gemma didn’t pay any attention to Other Papa when he said that, just shook her head like Mommy does at Unca Manny when he says something Mommy thinks is dumb.

There was a loud laugh and Sophie turned her head. Unca F’lip was laughing at something Unca Manny said. She likes Unca F’lip. He’s nice to her and she likes the way he smiles at her. And he had been nice to her when he took care of her owie, trying really hard not to make it hurt. And she liked the funny way he talked, always calling her a little lassie.

Unca F’lip was sitting between Unca Manny and Unca Bobby. She likes Unca Bobby lots. He sings to her and dances with her and makes her pancakes and bacon. And he kind of looks like Santa. He laughed when she told him that.

Unca Bobby leaned over and said something to Grampa and Clay. They both laughed at whatever Unca Bobby said. She thinks Clay doesn’t look so scary when he laughs. And Grampa and Gemma like Clay so he can’t be too scary.

While she was thinking about that, everyone must have finished eating, because Mommy leaned over and asked if she was going to help the big girls clean up or if she was going to go outside and run around until it was time for pie.

She looked at her Mommy. “I’ma go outside until it’s time for PIE!!” Then she hugged Jax as she got down and headed for Unca Manny. “C’mon Unca Manny, let’s go play tag!” Stopping when she hit his legs. But he caught her before she fell, like he always has.

Unca Manny was being silly and rolling his eyes and sighing loudly. “Oh, I suppose.” Then he kissed her head and smiled. “Your it!” Jumping out of his chair and running outside while all the other people at the table laughed.

Giggling, she ran off to catch him. Hoping it wouldn’t be long until it was time for pie.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Jules shook her head as Soph chased Dennis out the patio doors to the expansive back yard. Grabbing Jax’s plate, she looked over to Gemma. “You sure you want her all night?”

Pop walked past, handing off his plate to her. “Yeah, I am.” Pop kissed her temple. “You know about five minutes after she lays down, she’ll be out.” Then walked off towards the backyard.

Gemma smiled. “She’s a good girl.” The smile grew a bit wry. “A little wired, but a good girl.” With both hands full, Gemma turned and walked towards the kitchen.

She followed, curious to know what dessert there was other than pie. She wasn’t a pie girl. “So other than this amazing chocolate pie that my daughter keeps talking about, anything else going for dessert?” It wasn’t something she liked to cop to, but she had a sweet tooth from hell and it had been ignored in favor of real food.

“Strawberry cheesecake.” Gemma smiled at her until she noticed that she wasn’t smiling back. “Not a fan of cheesecake? Sophie said you like it.”

“Allergic to strawberries, which I don’t think she knows.” She sighed. “Well, crap.” Then chuckled. “I’ll just grab a candy bar on the way back to the clubhouse.”

“Sorry, darlin’.” Gemma sat the dirty dishes in the sink. “I’m sure I can find something around here.”

She waved the woman off. “Don’t worry about it. A Twix will do me fine later.” Setting her own load of dishes on the counter next to the sink.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Overhearing the exchange between Jules and his mother, Jax was hit with an inspired idea. Turning away from the kitchen, he went and found Bobby, who was outside watching the melee that had originally been a small game of tag between Dennis and Sophie. As far as he could tell, Kenny, Ellie, Eric, Juice and Tig had been pulled in also.

Bobby grinned at him as he took a drag off a smoke. “You should get in on that. Earn some kid points.”
He flipped Bobby off. “I think I’d rather earn Mommy points. Where’s that coffee shop in Stockton that you nearly cream yourself over their desserts?”

Giving him the bird right back, Bobby laughed, but gave him the information he wanted.

Clapping Bobby on the back, he grinned. “Thanks, brotha.” Then turned back to the melee so he could figure out how to get Jules out of here sooner rather than later.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Turning to go grab more dishes, Jules nearly ran into Opie’s wife Donna. The smaller woman stopped quickly to avoid broken dishes. “Oh, hey. I’m sorry.” She went to grab the dishes in the other woman’s hands. “Let me grab those.”

Donna looked surprised. She understood. While Donna and some croweaters had come early to help get things ready, she had shown up with Jax and her brothers. Donna probably thought she’s a spoiled brat. And well, she is; but she’s a helpful spoiled brat.

“That’s okay. I’ve got them.” Donna skirted past her.

She nodded at Gemma and the older woman stepped out of the kitchen with a small smile. Gemma and Tig had both told her that Donna had club issues that were getting worked out. Slowly. She figured Gemma was hoping she would help with getting Donna to truly resolve them.

Now that the kitchen just held the two of them, she pulled the gift card out of the back pocket of the jeans she had changed into with the lower temps that evening brought. “Hey, Donna.” The other woman turned and she held the card out. “Thanks for helping out last night. It means a lot to me that you’d take the time to find that stuff for Sophie.” Then she grinned a little. “And I hate to tell you this, but she’s gonna want the jammies.”

Donna finally smiled. A real honest-to-goodness smile and she could see why Opie fell for the girl, it was a pretty great smile. “She can have them.” Then the smile faded as she looked down at the gift card. “This is too much.” Putting the card back into her hands. “We don’t need your charity.” Then Donna tried to push past her.

Grabbing the woman’s arm, she shook her head. “I don’t know shit about your situation other than the fact that Opie just got out of prison. And that you’re not a huge fan of the club.” She pressed the card back into Donna’s hand. “I did that because I wanted to. Because those pajamas were the first thing to put a smile on my baby’s face in DAYS.” She felt the tears prick the corner of her eyes. “And that smile was worth every penny I will ever have. And you guys did it because you were told we’re club. That was all you needed to know.” She tapped the card in Donna’s hand. “That’s not charity. That’s fucking gratitude from one mother to another.”

Donna just blinked for a second, and then hugged her. Hard. And then she realized Donna was crying. “I can’t even imagine.” Donna backed away from the hug, wiping her eyes. “You know, I’ve spent so much time worrying about what could happen to Opie and resenting the club…”

“...that you forgot that when you get past all the machismo bullshit that comes with an MC, there’s a ridiculous amount of loyalty and love there too.” She wiped her own eyes. Because trust her; her phone had a text from nearly every patched member of the club back in Chicago, not to mention a few other chapters, just making sure her and Soph were okay and that the two of them knew they had a lot of people at their backs.

Donna looked at her thoughtfully. “I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I guess so.”

“Something to think about then.” She took a deep breath and let it out. “Okay, I am so done with the maudlin portion of the evening.” Nodding towards the dining area. “Let’s get this finished before Sophie starts a pie riot.” She gave Donna a sideways glance when the other woman guffawed. “It’s happened before.” She pointed outside. “See those two ridiculously over-large children running around with my daughter?” Pointing at Dennis and Eric. “She has co-conspirators.”

Donna continued to laugh, but helped finish clean-up just a little faster.

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

Jax sat back in his chair in the outdoor seating area, and took a sip of his coffee as he watched Jules inhale a piece of chocolate cake. He wondered what she would be doing right now if she were in Chicago, and while this place was pretty nice, how could the places here, in Stockton, in Charming, compare to places a metropolis like Chicago?

Jules looked over at him, brow furrowed just a bit. “What? Do I have cake on my face?”

He shook his head. “No, although with the way you’re inhaling it, I’m surprised.” She smiled as he chuckled a little. “Nah, I was just thinking about what you would be doing if you were back in Chicago right now.”

Jules sat the fork on the plate and took a drink of her latte, then shrugged. “First of all, it’s almost eleven-thirty in Chicago, so there is a good chance I would already be asleep, as lame as that sounds.” She grinned a little. “Between Sophie and Eric, if I’m in bed past seven am, someone is sick.”

Lighting a cigarette, she sat back and looked at him for a moment. He could see she was gathering her thoughts and took another drink of his own coffee and waited her out.

Before she could start talking, a couple of people, professionals around their age had come out to the outdoor area. As Jules tried to turn to not be seen, the woman had spotted them.

“Jules? Jules Baroja? Is that you?” The woman’s voice still had traces of the East Coast and she looked like a stereotypical sorority girl grown up. All blonde hair and tits covered by an expensive power suit.

“Fuck.” Jules breathed under her breath as she turned back to the woman. “Cecily. How are you?” Leaning into him as she went to stand. “Stanford dorm roommate. God, she was so annoying.”

He sat back with a slight smirk on his face, masking the intense interest in the meeting. He had wondered how someone like Jules navigated the stuffy Stanford world, even if only for a year.

Jules gave the woman one of those hugs that he’s seen women who can barely tolerate each other give. The other woman seemed oblivious to Jules reluctance to engage, but the man did.

“Cecily, these people are obviously in the middle of dessert, maybe we should move along.” The guy was shorter than both he and Jules, impeccably dressed and highly uncomfortable. The guy eyeing his kutte like it might jump out and bite him.

“Nonsense, Mitchell. If they wanted to be left alone, they would have stayed home.” The woman flipped her blonde hair and looked back to Jules. “So, it’s been forever.” The woman smiled, and it made his flesh shudder. “You know, since you dropped out of Stanford, breaking poor Sam’s heart.” He had to give the woman credit, she was good, Gemma good. She apparently had issues with Jules and she was going to try and make Jules squirm. “And there I was, so sure that you two would eventually be making giant babies.” Cecily turned to him. “Sam was one of the few guys in the dorm more than an inch taller than Jules.” Then turned back to Jules. “But, Jessica healed his broken heart for him.”

“Until she died.” Jules voice was flat. “You’ve tried to do your damage Cecily, I think it’s time to end this little reunion.” Cecily’s boyfriend looked like he was totally onboard for that idea.

Before Cecily could speak, Jules stood back up and hovered over the smaller woman. “Yeah, we’re done. I’ve never quite understood what your problem with me is, but back then, I had to deal with it because Stanford Housing in all its lack of wisdom, decided we should be roommates. But, out here in the real world, as real adults, I don’t have to listen to one second of your passive-aggressive bullshit.” He could see the Tig-like gleam in Jules’s eyes.

Before Jules could go on, Cecily’s face turned ugly and the woman was nearly hissing words at Jules. “You always thought you were better than me, and all you are is biker trash.”

He could see Jules ball up her hands into fists, and then take a deep breath. “Cecily, I am not responsible for your neurosis, or insecurities. And you need to walk away right now, before I show you exactly how biker trash I am.”

He stood quickly and took Jules by the arm, as Mitchell reached for Cecily to pull her away. Luckily, the outdoor area population was sparse, and since no voices had been raised, no one was paying attention.

“Babe.” He started to pull Jules down into her seat, while looking up at Cecily’s boyfriend. “Think maybe you two need to go back inside.” His tone making obvious that was the only option available.

Mitchell nodded, pulling Cecily with him. “Yeah.” The man nodded toward Cecily. “Sorry about this. Had no idea.” Speeding the two of them back inside.

As they were going, he could hear Cecily hiss at her boyfriend, he wasn’t sure what, but he could hear the boyfriend’s response.

“Cecily, if we’re going to take over my Dad’s practice here, first rule of this area; don’t fuck with SAMCRO.”

He and Jules looked at each other for a moment, then both grinned. Jules’s eyes sparkling as she took another drink of her latte. “Not a bad rule to have.” Her smile faded. “Well, wasn’t that just loads of fun?”

He shrugged. “You don’t have to explain shit to me if you don’t want to, babe.” He gestured at the two of them. “We’re adults. We’ve got baggage. Good and bad.” He shrugged again while lighting a smoke.

Jules smiled and finished off the last couple bites of her cake. Wiping her lips, she turned back to him. “Sam Winchester was never going to be the father of my kids.” Jules shook her head fondly. “The two of us were so out of place at Stanford, it was almost a survival mechanism that spurred our dating.” She smiled. “While we certainly love each other, neither one of us was ever in love with the other.”

“Love? Present tense and not past?” He could feel himself frowning. Mostly due to the jealousy he was feeling. He’d never felt that way over some girl before, not even Tara.

Jules shrugged. “We still e-mail here and there. Mostly hi, how are ya.” Then laughed. “Of course, the last few years have been more Sophie-centric. At least on my end.” Her face took on a hollow look. “I haven’t seen him since after he left Stanford when Jess died, at her funeral.” And as if she could hear the question. “Died in an apartment fire. Sam was getting ready to propose.” Her lip quivered. “He said they would wait until after he graduated from law school so that Sophie could be their flower girl.” She wiped at the corner of her eyes. “That’s what really pissed me off with Cecily. Jess was my friend, I was happy that her and Sam had each other.” Her lips twisted as she tried to finish her thought. “Isn’t that what you’re supposed to want for the people you love, for them to be happy?”

He had the feeling the question was rhetorical, but he answered anyway. Kissing the hand that he had taken a hold of, he looked at her, all flirting and kidding aside. “It is, darlin’.”

“Yeah.” She said, squeezing his hand. She looked at the empty plate and coffee cups in front of them. “Let’s get out of here.” Stepping into him as he wrapped her into a hug. “Get on that sweet bike of yours and just go for a while.”

Smiling into her crown of curls, he squeezed her tight. “We can do that.”

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

 

Gemma sat back on her couch, picking up the glass of wine she had poured herself after clearing the house of all that were not sleeping under her roof tonight. Most everyone had cleared out not long after Jax and Jules, with just Jake’s boys and Tig sticking around.

She had to admit, the whole bath, story, bed thing probably would have been a lot rougher without Dennis Lyons in the house. He knew Sophie’s routine and was far better at cajoling the tired toddler to do what she didn’t want to than the rest of them. Jake and Tig would have just given in, as would Eric Lyons. While she wouldn’t have given in to Sophie; she had already endured one dressing down from Jules, she really didn’t want another in less than twenty-four hours; she probably would have just prompted a tantrum out of the girl.

Jake came back into the house from seeing his boys off for the night. He eyed her glass of red wine. She smirked. “Bottle and glass in the kitchen.” The lanky man nodded as he detoured to the kitchen.

Jake came back from the kitchen holding a beer. He shrugged. “I like Chaintis and Malbacs.” Then rolled his eyes. “Lu likes wine.”

Taking a sip of her Merlot, she smirked again. “Your secret is safe with me.”

Jake snorted. “I have four smart-ass kids. That information has been disseminated in the most embarrassing ways they could think of.” He shook his head with a smile. “Dennis obviously being the worst of the bunch.”

She laughed. “That boy is somethin’ special, all right.” Then looked back towards the room that held Sophie. “Gotta say, for all that ‘special-ness’, he sure has the touch with Sophie.”

“Yeah, he pretty much lives with the two of them.” Jake took a drink of his beer. “I don’t know what he’s gonna do if they end up staying out here permanently.”

“We got room for a Prospect.” Clay’s voice came from behind them. He had been outside talking with Tig.

Jake shook his head. “Nah, if Den moved out here for the girls, he’d go civvy.” Jake sighed, and for the first time she could see how worn out he was, regardless of how awake the man seemed to be. “Other than it’s what the men in our family have done, I still have no idea why Den even patched into our club.”

She reached over and patted Jake’s knee. “Because he respects the men in your family. That’s why. It’s how he shows it, no matter how jack-assy he can act.”

Clay leaned down to give her a kiss. “Well, nothing is being decided tonight, so I’m heading to bed.” He looked at her. “You coming?”

She nodded towards her glass of wine. “I’ll come to bed in a bit.” Also giving Jake a covert look. While Clay had business still to discuss with the man, so did she. Just a little more on the personal side. And couldn’t be taken care of in a room of bikers.

Clay nodded, then looked to Jake. “Goodnight.”

Jake nodded back. “Yeah. You too.”

She waited until she could hear their bedroom door click, signaling it’s close, she turned back to Jake. “You think the girls won’t choose to stay?”

Jake shrugged. “No idea.” Then the man gave her a wolfish smile as he sat his beer on the coaster she had laid out for him. “And even if I had one, I wouldn’t be selling my kid out.” The smile softened. “Even to someone who has only the best intentions.” This time it was Jake reaching out and patting her knee. “If you want to know, talk to my daughter.” Giving her a look daring her to contradict that last part of his statement.

“Wouldn’t dream of it, sweetheart.” And that was the truth. She had seen enough of the dynamic between Jake and Jules to call them anything other than father-daughter would be an insult to both. “But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for Tig in there too.” Addressing what hadn’t been said. At least in words.

Jake’s body bristled, but his face remained neutral. She could see where Jules picked that look up from. “That would be another thing up to Jules.” Then came a rueful shake of the head. “Whether I like it or not.”

“What the fuck did Tig do to have Jules’s mother shut him out like that?” She shook her head. “Granted, Tiggy is fucking nuts, but he’s never even come close to hurting a kid.” As much as she respected Jake’s relationship with Jules, she wasn’t going to not defend one of her guys.

Jake looked everywhere but at her face as he began to speak. “You know anything about Tig’s family?” Not bothering to check if she nodded or shook her head, Jake already knew the answer was no.

Jake shook his head. “When old man Trager was still alive, things were okay enough in that house. His mother was someone that Mama always referred to as ‘delicate’. Deeply religious, but, as they’d say now, also bi-polar as hell. And her lows tended to be violent.” Jake sighed. “After the old man died, she functioned well enough to run a household, but I don’t think it was the sanest house to live in.”

Jake finally looked at her. “Marina was afraid if Tig found out that Jules was his, so would his mother.” Jake’s eyes took on an anger. “And considering that old bat called Marina a ‘brown devil woman’, Marina didn’t want that woman anywhere close to her baby girl, was afraid that Tig wouldn’t be able to keep Jules safe from her. Who knows what that woman would have done.” Jake picked up his beer and took a drink. “And I think Marina did the right thing.”

“So, it had nothing to do with Tig directly? Why the fuck didn’t she just talk to him? Tell him to keep his crazy-ass mother away.” If this was the only reason that Marina Baroja had for cutting Tiggy out, it was a shitty one. Not that she would say that out loud, not if she wanted to continue to count Jake Lyons as an ally.

“Wasn’t just that.” Jake’s voice was clipped. “Something in Trager went a little haywire while he was on duty overseas. Marina saw something that made her not totally trust him anymore.” Jake’s blue eyes bored into hers. “That’s all she would say, and I respected that.” Then there was a hint of a smirk on the weathered, handsome face. “And no one needs to know about this little conversation. I make not like Trager all that much, but it wouldn’t be okay if all of his laundry came to light.”

She blinked. She hated to admit it, she had figured that Jake really wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about Tig or Tig’s feelings. But the man was aware that Tig did not talk about his past, and Jake was asking her to respect that.

She smiled as she drank the last of her wine and stood. “What conversation? Go get some sleep, the way things have been going around here, who knows what’ll happen tomorrow.”

Jake saluted her with his beer. “You’re a keeper, Gemma. I’ve gotta say, if the girls stay, I feel better knowing you’ll have an eye on them.” He stood and kissed her cheek. “Goodnight.” Then he walked off to the guest room, with his beer in hand.

Walking to the kitchen, she sat her wine glass by the sink. Before going into her room, she stopped at Jax’s old room and peeked in. Sophie was fast asleep in her handed-down motorcycle pajamas, holding fast to Spook Dog and Sam Bear, sleeping hard. She left the bedroom door partially open, and quietly made her way to her own bedroom where Clay was sitting up in bed, reading a book.

“Get the info you wanted?” As he watched her get ready for bed.

She thought about the conversation she and Jake just had. She wasn’t sure if she had gotten the information she wanted, but she had certainly been given food for thought.

“Not really.” She smirked at her husband as she climbed into their bed, she wouldn’t tell Clay what Jake had told her until Papa Lyons was well on his way back to Chicago. “But he did say that he feels better about the girls being here if I’m keeping an eye on them.”

Clay grinned before kissing her. “He obviously doesn’t know you well.” Clay laughed as she pinched his arm. “See, this is the kind of bad influence I’m talkin’ about.” Kissing her again.

“Yeah, yeah. Yuk it up.” She smiled a little as she took her spot in their bed, pulling the covers up over her legs. Turning, she faced her husband. “Well, the girls can’t stay at the clubhouse for long…” Which was true, the clubhouse was no place for a toddler.

“You want them to stay here? That would be fine.” Clay set his book aside, starting to settle in for the night. “Or are you thinking Jax’s? You finished up over there?”

Sighing as she laid down. “Almost. Gotta re-do Abel’s room from that fuck Kohn breaking in, but all of Wendy’s shit is packed up and in storage.”

Clay reached over and turned out the bedside light. “Well, I say that they stay at the clubhouse until Jake leaves, then ask Jules what she wants to do.” He gave her a final kiss. “There’s my two cents, do what you want.”

She smiled in the dark. “Don’t I always?”

Clay’s responding chuckle resonated in her ears until sleep came.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Jules felt better after they had ridden for a bit, the anger and anxiety produced by her old roommate had dissipated in the wind. Jax pulled off onto a side road that she could barely see, must have been some sort of service road.

They wound up the dirt road to a small bluff. Jax pulled over and turned back to her. “You okay with stopping for a while?” He gestured towards his saddlebag. “Got a throw in there we can sit on.”

Some mellow time sitting under the stars sounded good to her. “Sounds like a plan.” Getting off the bike and putting the helmet that Eric had brought her on the bitch seat of Jax’s bike, she waited for Jax to pull out the promised ground cover.

After they had gotten it spread out, and the two of them settled down on it, Jax wrapping an arm around her, she smiled. “I hope you weren’t planning sexy time under the stars, I hate to be a buzzkill.”

Jax laughed for a couple of minutes. By the time she was ready to be offended, he stopped laughing and was trying to catch his breath. “Oh, Jesus.” He chuckled again. “Sexy times under the stars?!” She had to give him credit, he was trying to stop his laughter, he was just failing spectacularly. “You have something against outdoor sex?” Still trying to stop his laughter.

She did the only thing she could, hit him on the bicep. Not hard, just enough to convey the fact that he was far more amused than he should be. “No.” Then laughed herself. “I’d just probably relax enough that I’d fall asleep.” She gave him a smirk. “I’d hate to bruise your ego like that.”

He laughed again, but this time it wasn’t the uncontrollable laughter from before. Just a good full-throated laugh with a wide smile that made his face light up. Damn, he was a good-looking man.

Still chuckling while he lit a joint, as he exhaled he handed it to her. “Then I vote we don’t do that.” Then kissed her temple as she was taking a deep hit. Another plus in the Cali column, better weed here than in Chicago. Or at least at better prices. “I thought we might, you know, talk.” He gave her a smirk of his own. “You know, that thing you do to get to know someone?”

That made her cough out her hit. Looked like Jax had thought of everything as a bottle of water was handed to her. After taking a drink, she looked at Jax. “Okay, smart-ass. Talk sounds good.” She leaned back into him. “What do you want to know?” She pitched her voice in a parody of a dumb sorority girl. “My favorite color is red, my favorite…” She couldn’t finish because of the hand Jax was holding over her mouth.

He shook his head with a slight smile. “I suppose we could play twenty questions, but how about we continue the conversation that we started at the coffee shop.”

Oh, he really wanted to talk. She got that this was a hell of a lot more serious than some fun-filled night; they both knew that this would either be everything or nothing at all, so she should be grateful that he wasn’t just all about getting into her panties. But, she was a little disappointed he hadn’t tried harder.

“We could do that.” She conceded. She snagged the joint from his hand and took another hit. Once she had exhaled the smoke from her lungs and felt the familiar buzz up her spine, she handed it back to Jax. “As far as I remember I was telling you that I was lame and would already be asleep by now if I were home.”

Jax chuckled. “Well, it is nearly midnight there now, I’d probably be asleep too.” Then laughed a little harder. “Or wishing I was.”

“You thought being an outlaw would cut down on those early morning hours, didn’t you?” She couldn’t help but quip.

Jax smiled a little wider. “Yeah, that’s it, exactly.” He shook his head. “Nah, you know, like your brothers, I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into.”

She nodded. That was true, Eric and Den had an advantage other Prospects did not. They knew the drill better than some patched members, having seen Prospects come and go over the years.

“Well, then.” She peered at him in the moonlight and the faint light coming up from the City of Stockton. “What does Jax Teller like to do when he’s not being Mr. SAMCRO VP?”

He looked off, over the city, and shrugged. “That takes up a lot of my time, babe.” Then shrugged again. “I don’t know, normal stuff.”

“What the fuck is normal stuff?” She laughed a little.

“You know, work out. Maybe watch a game on TV.” He looked to be a little put out. “Read a book. Nothing exciting.”

She put a hand on his arm. “Doesn’t sound entirely different than what I have going on in Chicago. Just add more concerts, and Dennis.” She grinned. “Dennis is an adventure unto himself.” Then she shrugged. “I have a kid, and other than family, she doesn’t have a sitter. And I don’t like to take advantage of Lu. She has a hard job and shouldn’t spend all her days off taking care of my kid. So, it’s not like I’m on the go twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.” Then thinking of Soph, she smiled. “I mean me and Soph have things we do during the day, but she’s usually in bed by seven.” She shrugged again. “Yeah, friends will come over and hang out, but if you think that I have this fast-paced big city lifestyle, I really don’t.” She couldn’t resist, she grinned. “Don’t tell the others, I like them thinking I’m all fabulous.”

The put-out look upon Jax’s face had faded as she had rambled on about how boring her life was, and as she ended, he had grinned back. “Never, darlin’. You have my word.” Then his grinned dimmed into a gentler smile. “Slow-paced sounds just about my speed.” His tone turned more serious. “The last year, hell, years, other than SAMCRO all I really did was get fucked up and fuck, well, any girl I could. But, I’m so tired of that, and now, with Abel, I really am ready to settle.”

Again, she just couldn’t stop herself from the smart-ass moment. “Settle? That’s what me and Soph are?” Her tone trying to let him know that she was only joking.

He shot her a dirty look. “You know what I mean. I want someone who feels the same way about family that I do, and understands the MC life, and is okay with it.”

She did know what he meant. But, she also knew that SAMCRO was a whole different animal than the MC she had grown up in. And she had to address that, and now seemed like as good of time as any.

“SAMCRO isn’t the Satan Son’s.” She took a deep breath. “I know they are a one-percent club at heart, but the only people who really know that outside the club are a pretty select bunch.”

She stopped when Jax held a hand up. “I know. And I’m trying to get my club away from guns.” He kept his hand up when she went to speak. “I really can’t say more than that right now. Not until I’m sure it’s gonna pan out. Just trust me.”

She studied his face. He was serious as all hell. This was her moment of truth. She either accepted what he said and trusted his word, or she didn’t. The moment seemed to stretch, and even though it felt like a huge leap, she jumped any way. “Okay.”

He looked surprised. “That’s it? That’s all you have to say? Okay?”

She nodded. “I guess I could give a half-hearted effort to weasel the information out of you, but, you said trust you.” She gave him a soft smile. “So, I am.” Then she let the smile get a little vicious. “And if you’ve lied to me, well, then that will be a whole different conversation.”

He smiled. “Fair enough.” He sat back and lit a cigarette. “So.” He looked around. “Feel like heading back?” He smiled. “I don’t know about you, but I could use a beer.”

She nodded. A beer did sound good. So did razzing Den. “Yeah, I could use a beer, and some sleep, to be perfectly honest.”

He stood up and extended a hand to her. “I’m sure you could.” Pulling her up. As they stood close together, he leaned over and kissed her thoroughly. By the time he was done, someone could have asked her name and she would have had to think about it, he was just that good. Damn, it sucked that she was near falling asleep on her feet. The two of them could have had an even nicer evening. Oh well. There was always tomorrow.

Next thing she knew, Jax was handing her helmet to her. “You ready?” Getting the helmet on and tucking herself in behind him, she patted his abdomen as she wrapped her arms around his waist. He turned and gave her a smile over his shoulder. “Let’s get out of here.”

Chapter Text

Tig felt a huge sense of relief as he steered his bike back towards T-M and the clubhouse, Clay had pulled him out to the backyard as he was getting ready to leave and informed him of what Jake Lyons had passed on about Ope.

Fuck, on some levels he was almost glad that Dougie Jones had lost his fuckin’ mind and snatched the girls. First off, he finally got to meet his kid. And grandkid. And they both fuckin’ liked him! And even though Jake Lyons wasn’t his favorite person by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, he was glad that the man did his due diligence before heading out here. He hadn’t been enjoying being suspicious of Ope, at all. It hadn’t felt right to him at his core; Opie just wouldn’t sell SAMCRO out. If Ope had wanted to sell the club out he would have already done it to avoid the time he already served.

When he pulled into the lot, he was a little surprised to see Ope, along with the other guys, unloading the van that Red and Dennis Lyons had used. Getting his bike parked, he ambled over next to Ope.

“Donna take you off the leash tonight?” He snarked as he lit a smoke.

Ope chuckled. “Somethin’ like that.” Then nodded towards the van. “What the hell is all of this?”

He shrugged. “Last I knew, they were goin’ to get a running stroller for Baby Doll. I have no idea what the rest of it is.” He called over to Dennis. “You guys decide to knock over a toy store?” He could see the ‘Toys R Us’ stickers on a couple of boxes.

Dennis grinned. “Nah.” Then nodded toward one of the boxes. “Trike for Miss Thing’s birthday. You guys got somewhere in the garage I can store this stuff, so she doesn’t run across it?”

He nodded, thinking they could lock them up where they kept the paints and painting equipment. “Yeah. Follow me.” Then nodded at Ope. “Grab a box, man.” Then grinned. “Sooner this gets done, sooner I’m drinkin’.”

Ope laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “In that case, grab a box yourself.” Ope had stopped laughing but the relaxed grin remained. It was good to see. It had been awhile.

“Yeah, yeah.” Going to grab a box, only to be stopped by Red. “That’ll go inside.” He looked at the box label. Oh, it was the stroller. “I’m going to go ahead and get this put together tonight. Just in case Jules wants to go running in the morning.” Red shrugged. “Although as tired as she looks, she’ll probably sleep.” A wry grin emerged. “And I would be just fine with that.”

“Big brother wants to get his drink on, and Jules will make his hungover ass get up and go with her.” Dennis grinned as he walked past them carrying a couple of sacks from an electronics shop. “Eric’s hoping to have his hangover in peace.”

And like so many conversations with Dennis tended to go, the younger man did a complete change of subject.

“Hey, do you guys do your own fabrications, or do you send those out?” Dennis directing the question to him and Ope.

“Send ‘em out. We don’t have the room here.” It was an expansion that both Gemma and Clay had been talking about with the custom bike work starting to pick up.

Ope jumped in. “Why do you need a fabrication shop?” Then looking around at all the stuff they had brought into the paint room. “What the hell is all of this, anyway?”

Dennis smiled, and it was a smile that said the young man was immensely pleased with himself. “Stuff to make Miss Thing her very own trike like your Pop has. Gonna need a mini gas tank fabricated to hide the battery that’ll make the trike run.”

Ope looked at Dennis like he’d never seen him before. “You’re going to trick out a tricycle that she’ll probably grow out of in six months?!” Ope shook his head. “Seems like a lot of work for something she’ll barely get a chance to use.”

Dennis shrugged as Eric looked over to Ope, the older brother looking a little defensive. “She’ll ride the fuck out of it while she can.” Then rolled his eyes, as he shoved Dennis. “And he’ll probably be the king of the presents again.” Red smacked his brother lightly on the back of the head. “Which seems to be this fucknut’s priority.”

Dennis ginned. “Awww, you always say the sweetest things about me.” Flipping his older brother off and turning back to Ope. “She’s been on my ass about one since Whitey got one a couple of months ago. So, I figured while I was here…” Dennis grinned at him. “…and had extra, willing hands, why the fuck not?” Dennis shrugged again. “And it’ll be there for when the little dude is old enough. Just have to do a repaint.”

Even though it was said in such a matter of fact tone, his heart still pounded heavily in his chest at the thought that the girls could be here in Charming years from now, that he would be seeing them on the daily or damn close to it. Taking the last of the bags from Dennis, he set them on a shelf and ushered everyone back out of the supply room, he tried to get his equilibrium back. “Maybe Abel will be into pink.” As everyone chuckled, he locked the door. “I need a beer, let’s get into the clubhouse.”

Striding towards the clubhouse, he could hear the murmuring between Ope, Eric, and Dennis as they followed.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

About halfway back to Charming, Jax grimaced a little as the rain started to fall. He had been hoping they would beat the weather back to the clubhouse, but unfortunately Mother Nature had decided otherwise.

He didn’t mind riding in the rain, never had. But, in his experience, chicks were usually not as okay with it as he was. “You okay, babe?” He called back.

He received a hard pat on his abdomen and could feel her breath in his ear. “I’m not made of sugar, I won’t melt.” The breathiness of her laughter in his ear made his spine tingle. “Besides, this is better than freaking snow.”

He wouldn’t argue that fact. Not that he had a lot of experience with the stuff.

“But, I wouldn’t argue with getting back sooner rather than later, though.” Her voice humorous, but with a trace of urgency. “You know, before I feel like a drowned kitten.”

He laughed. “Yes, ma’am!” Speeding up just a hair. While the rain wasn’t heavy enough to really make the roads slick, he didn’t want to take the risk with Jules on the back of his bike.

By the time they reached Charming, and the clubhouse, the rain had changed from a constant drizzle to a steady pour. Jules jumped off the bike before he could even get it parked, hustling over to Red who was at the picnic tables that were shielded from the rain, holding a couple of towels.

By the time he made it to the tables, Jules already had her helmet off and was drying her hair.

He accepted the towel Red offered him. “Thanks, man.”

Red shrugged. “Figured neither one of you wanted to drip your way through the clubhouse.” The man looked at Jules with big brother face. “Go get out of those wet clothes and get a warm shower.” Red’s lips twitched to fight a smile, but the eye-roll was heavy. “Bobby said he’d make you a brandy hot chocolate when you’re done.”

He chuckled as Jules beamed. “Awesome!” Then turned to him. “Dude, you better be phenomenal in bed, otherwise I’m leaving your ass for Bobby.” Laughing as she made her way inside.

He looked over to Red who was shaking his head with a half mortified, half dying of laughter look on his face. As he went to open his mouth, Red put his hands up, the laughter starting to win out. “That sounds like a personal conversation that I should not be any part of…” Red started to laugh. “No matter how amusing it would be.”

Then Red turned and followed his sister inside. He stood there for a minute, shaking his head in amusement of his own. Then, feeling the cold, wet denim starting to stick to him, he sighed and followed the other two into the clubhouse. Dry clothes were a necessity.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Jules had planned on booking through the clubhouse and straight back to her room, to a hot shower and dry clothing. But as always, Dennis put a wrench into that plan the second she walked in the door.

Dennis, along with Tig, Chibs, Ope and Juice were gathered around one table with papers all over it. None of them even looked up as she closed the door to Eric’s trying to be embarrassed face and Jax’s speechlessness.

She glanced over to Bobby, who was sitting with Happy at the bar. Bobby gave her an indulgent smile. “Plans for your daughter’s birthday, which is apparently in a few weeks.” Bobby’s smile grew wider. “What kind of cake does she want?”

She rolled her eyes. “Jesus, fuck.” She shook her wet hair at him, as she called out to Dennis. “What the fuck are you planning?”

Dennis looked up, and the shifty fucker grabbed the papers up, as he gave the other guys a ‘shut the fuck up’ look, hammering it home to Juice with a punch on the arm when Juice went to talk. “Nothin’, nothin’ at all.” Butter wouldn’t have melted in his mouth, the lying little prick.

Eric’s voice came from behind her. “You’re so full of shit, Den.” She felt Eric poke her in the back as Jax came in the door looking as soaked as she was. “Go get into dry clothes, at the very least, before you interrogate the fuckwit.”

She could see by the looks on the other’s faces that they had figured out that this was nearly a term of endearment between Eric and Den.

Dennis scoffed. “Like she can break me, you gigantic mother-hen.” She felt Jax’s hand around her wrist and he started to pull her towards the dorm.

She ignored Dennis and smiled at the others around the table, then looked back to Den. “Who says I have to break you, idiot?” She wanted to giggle at the looks the others were exchanging, but Jax was already closing the door, separating the two of them from the others.

Even looking like a drowned puppy, Jax looked relaxed in a way she hadn’t seen yet, and it made something go a little wobbly in her chest. A good wobbly. It wasn’t something she had ever really felt before, but it felt good and right.

Well, who knew that epiphanies really did somehow feel like being struck by a lightning bolt of impermeable knowledge? But, as she was finding out, it sure as hell did.

She could spend the rest of her life with this man, in this place. Take Sophie and Abel and any other kiddos that may come along and make a fucking life here. Yeah, certainly felt like a lightning bolt to her.

Jax must have seen some of the realizations she had come to over her face, because, even though he hadn’t lost any of the relaxed stance, there was now a certain vibrancy to it. A slow smile crossed his face as he leaned over and gave her a small, soft kiss.

“I think we take Red’s advice and get into dry clothes, go back out and show Dennis that here, you have back-up that makes any threat he’d like to make, a moot point.” Sly grin on his face and mischief in his eyes.

She laughed. Goddamn, she really could spend the rest of her life with him as her partner-in-crime, so to speak. “Hell, yeah.” Kissing him back. “You’ll be dressed before I am, just give a knock before you come in.”

Getting into her and Sophie’s temporary quarters, she turned the light on and was astonished to see not only a running stroller, but a toddler bed, complete with mattress and bedding. There was a note from Eric on the box with the bed. ‘I’ll put this together once I know where you and Soph are staying. If I put it together here, she’ll want to stay here, and that can’t happen. -E’

Eric, once again, wasn’t wrong. The clubhouse was fine for a night or two, and fine in the daytime hours, but it wasn’t a place for a toddler to reside. For any length of time, barring emergencies. And big brother was putting his foot down about it. She got the hint.

Sighing, she set that thought aside as she dug in her bags for dry clothing. Grabbing her old Stanford Tennis sweatshirt and a pair of panties, she snagged the leggings she had been wearing earlier in the day as she went into the bathroom to get out of wet clothes, dry off, get into dry clothes and get wet clothes hanging to dry in the shower.

She heard Jax knock and slip into the room as she was getting into dry clothing. Opening the door, she saw that he had slipped into SAMCRO sweats and another blinding white t-shirt.

Jax read the note on the bed and then looked back over to her. Wrapping a towel around her hair to get it a little drier, she put her hands out in a ‘what do you want me to say’ gesture.

Sitting down on the edge of the bed, Jax gestured for her to take a seat. She had a feeling messing with Den and the others was going to have to wait a few minutes. She sat next to him, their thighs plastered together.

She waited him out. The vibe in the room wasn’t tense, but it was serious. Jax took her hand and was tracing what she thought she remembered to be her lifeline on her palm; looking at her with an air of ‘this is where it all begins’.

Jax spoke just as she was starting to lose patience. “Your brother is right; you and Sophie can’t stay here much longer.” He gave her a grim smile. “The clubhouse really is no place for a little girl.”

As much as she wanted to be a smart-ass, she knew this probably wasn’t the time. “No, it’s not.” She shrugged. “I suppose I could check out the house that Rip…”

Jax interrupted. “No.” There was no arguing with the tone in his voice. This was the VP of SAMCRO talking. “Neither of you are stepping foot in that place until we figure out who that fuck was working for and why the hell they want it.” His tone softened some. “It’s on the outskirts of town, isolated.” He shook his head. “I have no idea why Rip Jones even bought it, if it was meant as a hidey-hole for you and Sophie anyway.”

She shrugged. She had the feeling Rip never had intended it to be a hideaway. When he had told her about the box, she had felt it had more to do with giving her an out from Ray if she felt she needed one. But, since they were both gone, she guessed it really didn’t matter anyway.

“Well, I suppose Sophie and I could stay at Gemma’s.” She hadn’t noticed a lot of hotels in town.

Jax sat still for a moment, then shifted slightly, like he was almost nervous. “You could stay at my place.” Then rushed on, maybe he was more nervous than she had originally thought. “Mom already packed all of Wendy’s stuff and it’s all out of there.” A slight smile crossed his face. “Pretty sure she went through the whole place with bleach.” Then the smile disappeared. “She’s gotta redo Abel’s room.” She could see he was trying to reign in anger. “Kohn broke in.”

“And destroyed an infant’s room?!” She rolled her eyes. “Wow. That’s…” She shook her head. “Deranged.”

Jax nodded in agreement, not looking away from her. She knew that he had taken a risk, just putting the idea of her and Sophie staying at his place out in the universe was a huge step. “You didn’t give me an answer.”

She shrugged, with a smirk. “I don’t remember a question. Just an idea.”

Now he rolled his eyes, as he gave her a sideways smirk. “You always like this? Gotta make everything a pain in my ass?” His voice was teasing.

“Maybe.” She teased right back. “I guess you’re just going to have to find out in time, huh?”

He laughed. “Think I already have that figured out.” The laughter faded, but the smile remained. “So? Would you and Sophie like to stay at my place?”

She sighed. She wasn’t sure. No, that wasn’t right, she was sure she wanted to and that scared the fuck out of her. Because if shit didn’t work out, it wasn’t just her getting hurt, it was Soph, and she’d avoided relationships because she didn’t want Sophie to get her little baby heart broken.

Jax must have felt her trepidation. Taking her hand, he squeezed it. “I know it’s fast as all hell, but…” He shrugged almost sheepishly. “I think I’m okay with that.” The pressure on her hand increased. “Think about it.” Leaning in, he kissed her quick and hard. “I don’t expect an answer right this second.”

She let out a breath of relief, kissing him back. “Thank you.” Then smiled at him. “I’m too fucking tired to make life decisions right this moment.” She looked to the door. “But, I could go for a beer and making Den squirm for a bit.” Then turned back to him with a grin. “You down?”

He smiled as he stood, pulling her with him. “Sounds good, babe.” Taking her hand and leading her out to the clubhouse.

Chapter Text

When the door closed behind Jax and his kid, Tig rolled his eyes as Juice looked at Dennis Lyon’s with a slight air of nervousness. “Is she really going to interrogate you?”

Dennis turned to Juice with an indignant snort as Eric Lyons smiled into his glass of whiskey. “Weren’t you listening?” Dennis looked over to him, Chibs, Ope, and Juice. “She already knows she can’t get shit outta me here. She’s got no leverage. She can’t threaten to change locks, she can’t threaten my computers…” Jesus Christ, Dennis was nearly doing a happy dance in his chair, while lighting a joint. “So…” Dennis took a hit and passed it on to Juice. “The Amazon Princess will be gunning for you guys.” Laughing happily at the slight looks of consternation on Chibs and Ope’s faces.

Juice, idiot that his is, looked confused as he passed the joint to Ope. “She doesn’t have any leverage over any of us, so why would she try?”

He wanted to smack Juice in the head, so he did. Then looked over to Dennis, who was looking at Juice like the boy was a level of retarded that he had never seen before. “Would you like to explain to our resident moron, exactly the kind of leverage she has?” He was pretty sure he knew what his kid’s leverage was, but it never hurt to have confirmation.

Dennis grinned at him and looked over to Juice. “Her leverage on you guys…” Looking at Juice, Chibs, and Ope. “Stands about six-two, blonde hair, has a VP patch on his kutte…” Sly smirk tugging at his bearded mouth. Dennis shot a wink at one of the Croweaters that giggled a little as she sat a beer down in front of the young man. He was pretty, funny, and kind; the girls were eating him up with a spoon and Dennis had been enjoying it thoroughly.

Chibs and Ope barely blinked. In fact, Ope laughed. But Juice swallowed a little nervously. He was chuckling into his beer when Dennis turned to him. “And as for you? Fuck, you might as well just go back there and tell her right now.” Dennis grinned as Bobby started laughing loudly as the man slid off his barstool and headed toward the kitchen with a bottle of brandy.

He shrugged. He figured Jules would go after Juice before she went after him. Of course, if she did, he’d break, and do it with a fuckin’ smile on his face. But, before he could open his mouth to respond, the door to the dorms opened back up and Jax and his kid came through it, looking much drier than when they had arrived.

He grinned into his shoulder when he saw Juice eyeing the two of them warily. Fuck, even if he ended up being the one to break, it was going to be a hell of a lot of fun watching Jax and his kid mess with Juice. Yeah, it will be totally worth it.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Bobby was still chuckling as he walked into the clubhouse kitchen. Turning off the burner that the hot chocolate had been keeping warm on, he quickly put together a mug of it with some brandy and some of the whipped cream that Jules had brought from the store, along with the hot chocolate. He’d laughed earlier in the day when she’d been putting things away, but she’d just waved him off, scoffing at his laughter.

Hustling back out to the clubhouse proper, he was just in time to see Jax pull two chairs and set them side by side in front of the table that Dennis and the others were sitting. He stopped at the bar long enough to have Sack give him a bottle of beer.

Making his way over to Jax and Jules, he sat both drinks down at the table just next to Jules. Jules smiled up at him. “Thank you.” Then grinned over at Jax. “Remember, phenomenal, dude. Or there will be consequences.”

Jax shook his head at her with a confident grin of his own, as Eric Lyon’s was nearly choking on his beer. “Don’t worry.” Jax looked over to where Eric was still choking on his laughter. “I got skills.”

Jules and Eric burst out laughing, and after a moment, so did Jax. He had no idea what the fuck the three of them were laughing so hard about, but it was good to see his VP let loose a little in a way that wasn’t just getting wasted and fucking some chick.

He loved Jax like his own damn son. Hell, he’d been around since before Jax’s balls had even dropped. And since Tara left when the two of them were still teenagers, he’d seen Jax go through women with all the emotional attachment of a fruitcake; Wendy included. Tara coming back, and Abel being born had shown Jax how shallow that life was, but neither had shaken Jax out of that rut. And while he certainly was never opposed to getting a piece of ass; there was more to life than that, and he could see Jax having that with Jules, along with Sophie and Abel.

Once the three of them got their laughter under control, ignoring the questioning looks around them, Jules took a small sip of her hot chocolate, and then smiled brightly at the group of bikers in front of her.

He settled in at a table just off to Jules’s right. He wanted the best view of all parties involved. Eric Lyons joined him, leaning over. “Who breaks first? Tig or your intel guy?”

He shrugged and answered in the same quiet voice. “Depends.” He nodded towards Jules. “How good is she?”

Eric just grinned and sat back in his chair.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Chibs didn’t like the smile on Jules’s face. At all. Nor was he a fan of the mischief in his VP’s eyes. Dennis Lyons wasn’t talkin’ out of his arse when he said that his sissy would have a different sort of leverage here.

He wasn’t worried that they’d go after him, or even Ope. He could see the way they were eyein’ Tiggy and Juicy-boy, that they already knew who the weak links were.

Tiggy though, for the moment, was playing their game. He’d smile right back at his daughter and Jax like he could take whatever the two of them decided to dish out.

She had passed a glance over to him and Ope a couple of times, both of hem giving her their best jail stares in return. After a minute, he was proven right when after Jax murmured in her ear, the two of them ignored him and Ope in favor of the other two.

Jules took another drink of the brandied hot chocolate that Bobby had made her, then lit a cigarette. After taking a drag, she put the smoke aside in an ashtray. “So.” Looking at Juice and Tiggy. “What has the idiot child roped you into?” Waving a hand toward Dennis, who just flipped her the bird with a smile. She hadn’t taken her eyes from Tiggy and Juice.

Tiggy shrugged. “Who says we were roped into anything? We could be roping him into something.”

Nicely played, Tiggy. Chbs took a drink of his whiskey, trying to hide the smile. Otherwise the two inquisitors would notice, and he’d be in their sights.

Jules rolled her eyes at Dennis’s outraged squawk, putting a hand up. “Shut it, Manny.” Then narrowed her eyes at Tigger. “Please, I have enough trouble getting Dennis to do anything he doesn’t want to. And I fucking house and feed him.” Jules shook her head with fond annoyance. “So, the likelihood of you guys roping him into anything is a fucking joke.” She smiled at Tiggy and Juice. “So, do we want to try again?”

Tiggy shrugged again. “You know Doll, I just can’t fucking remember what the hell was on those papers, made no goddamned sense to me.” Tiggy grinned at Juice, delighted mischief in his eyes. “Looked like maybe it was some computer shit.” Tiggy looked over to him and Ope. “Didn’t it look like computer shit to you two?”

He and Ope were quick to agree, because let’s face it; watching Juicy-boy on the hot-seat with Jax and Jules was going to be entertaining as fuck. He gestured for Sack to bring him a bottle.

Might as well get comfortable for the show.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Jax grinned as Juice took a nervous swallow as the intel officer looked at him and Jules.

He had given Tig a small salute with his bottle at the masterful way the SAA had passed the interrogation bomb to Juice. But Jules looked like she wasn’t done with Tig entirely, but willing to let it go for the moment.

“You’ll like it.” Juice looked as surprised as the others that he had opened his mouth.

Taking a long pull from his beer, he decided it was time for him to jump in and play for a minute. “Who will like it, Juice? Me or her? You’re looking at both of us.” He heard Bobby and Eric chuckle off to Jules’s right.

Juice squirmed a little, not receiving any help from his fellow Redwood Originals, looked over to Dennis, who, he had to admit, he was liking more the more time spent with him; Dennis just ran a finger across his throat to indicate what happens to snitches.

He tapped a finger on the table, making Juice jump slightly. “Well, Juice. Not gettin’ any younger here.”

“Um, both of you?” Juice was biting the inside of his lip, either trying to figure out what to say next, or to not talk at all.

“Why both of us?” Jules leaned forward, resting a hand on his thigh. He was really starting to enjoy this. “What makes you think that it would be something that both of us would like? You don’t know me well enough to know what I like and what I don’t, or what likes that I have in common with Jax to say in any sort of definitive way that we would both like it.” Patting his thigh where her hand had been resting, she sat back, looking at Juice patiently.

The two of them let Juice squirm for a couple of minutes, when Jules leaned over and whispered in his ear. “This was more fun when it was Tig. Juice scares too easy.”

He acknowledged the truth in that statement with a shrug, then whispered back. “Juice maybe gets the short end of the stick, still. He’s only been a full-patch for about a year and a half.”

“Which makes this less fun. Plus, I already know what Dennis is doing, this has all been just to fuck with the others.” Her chuckle tickling his ear.

He nearly had to bite his own damn lip at that. He was pretty sure Jules and Soph were staying in Charming for the next few dozen years, he still wasn’t one-hundred percent sure, so he threw that wish out into the universe, just in case. Tara might have made him happy on some levels, but he had the feeling that a life with Tara wouldn’t be as much fun.

Jules sat back, looked over to Dennis and then back at Juice. “Just answer one question, Juice, and then we’ll be done.” Jules gave both computer nerds a smirk. “Sound fair?”

Juice studied her for a moment before nodding like a man being given reprieve from an execution. “Yeah, totally fair.” Ignoring Dennis’s glare.

“Is my brother trying to be ‘King of the Presents’, again?” Putting air quotes around king of the presents. Which he had to admit, sounded like a phrase Dennis would use, and use often enough for the others to air quote it.

Not looking at Dennis, Juice just nodded.

Dennis scoffed. “I can’t believe you just gave all of us up like that! Dude!” There was humor in the Chicago biker’s tone, so no one was feeling a need to step in. Moron, or not, Juice was their moron, and it was like the old adage, you can say or do whatever to family, but God fucking forbid someone from the outside does it. And for as much shit as Chibs and Ope give Juice, they’re also the first two to stick up for him.

Dennis pulled a twenty out of his jeans pocket, crumpled it up and threw it at Eric. “There you go, you fuckin’ behemoth.” Then looked at Jules. “You couldn’t have stuck with Trager? He’d have broken in five fuckin’ seconds if you’d kept at him.” Then narrowed his eyes at both of his siblings. “Are you getting a cut? What did he promise you?”

He laughed as Jules flipped her brother off. “Okay, Meryl, you can drop the drama.” Then looked over the others that had been under the interrogation lights, and then back to Dennis. “So, you get her trike figured out?” That’s what Dennis was up to; Soph had shown a lot of interest in Piney’s trike when he’d been outside with her before lunch, telling him all about a club member in Chicago that just got one.

"Of course." Dennis sounded offended that she had even asked.

He laughed as Chibs threw an empty cigarette pack at Jules. “Ye already knew?!” Chibs’s laugh boomed through the clubhouse. “Ye did all this just to fuck with us?”

Jules shrugged with a grin as she easily dodged the cigarette pack that had been flung at her. “Sure, why not?” She took a sip of her drink, then looked over to Juice. “Once again, sorry, dude.” Jules gave Juice a warm smile. “You’re just too easy.”

Juice shrugged her off with an easy smile. “I’m used to it.” Juice glanced around the room. “At least when you mess with me, I don’t wake up outside the police station in a diaper with a sign stapled to my chest.”

While Eric and Dennis started laughing along with the rest of the guys, Jules didn’t. He could see she was slightly amused by what had happened to Juice, but it was very slight. Then he realized; even though she had messed with Juice a few times, each time she had been quick to smooth over any hurt feelings.

Jules looked around the room. “That’s not funny.” The laughter died down. “What if someone had messed with him before he had woken up?” She shook her head. “I’m all down for pranks and messing with someone, but that’s a little too far.”

Juice was quick to defend his brothers, and he seemed to understand where Jules was coming from. “Hey, this isn’t Chicago. No one here in Charming would fuck with me, no matter what condition I was in.” Jules shoulders started to lose the tension that had started to creep into them.

Jules sighed. “Yeah, okay.” Then looked over to the others. “So, did you take any pictures?”

The guys started to laugh and the tension that had started to build in the room evaporated.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Ope was surprised at Jules’s reaction to what had been done to Juice. She seemed to have no problems fucking with him, so her being upset on Juice’s behalf was a little weird. But as soon as Juice stepped in, he understood.

Where she’s from, doing something like that was asking for trouble. He wondered if she was going to feel trapped by Charming like Tara had all those years ago. For Jax’s sake, he hoped not. He liked the way Jax was when he was around Jules, and Sophie. There was a lightness to his oldest friend that had been gone for years. He didn’t want to see his friend shattered again.

He started to laugh with the others when Jules got what Juice was saying and then asking for a picture.

After that, things broke apart and the music got a little louder. As a few of the guys started heading for the pool tables, he moved over to sit with Jax and Jules. The two of them with their heads over Jax’s cell, laughing at the pictures of Juice in all his man-baby glory.

Jules looked up at him with a wide grin. “Man, can you guys do this to Den? I know chicks in Chicago that would pay a pretty penny for a pic like this.” He heard Eric Lyons laugh at that all the way over at the pool tables.

Being in the club was the closest thing he’s ever had to siblings. And throw in a girl as the baby of four? Just having Ellie and Kenny, he couldn’t imagine two more. His respect for Jake Lyons just increased dramatically.

Dennis pulled on Jules’s hair as he sat down next to her. “Fuck that, we’ve got far bigger problems.” There was no mockery in Dennis’s tone. The dude was serious as fuck.

Jules just rolled her eyes. “What is it?” Said in a tone that implied she felt Dennis was having another drama queen moment.

Dennis pulled her hair. “They put me and Eric in the same room. It was the only one left.”

Jules suddenly became as serious as Dennis. He looked at Jax, who just shrugged, looking as confused as he was.

“Fuck.” Then glanced over to Jax, before looking back over to Dennis. “Eric know yet?” Keeping her voice low.

Dennis shook his head. “Nah, he was with Pop and the others when Gemma had one of the girls show me where to store our gear.” Dennis’s voice just as quiet.

Jax’s patience had come to an end. “Any reason you two are acting like a bomb is about to be dropped?” Low enough to keep the other two from jumping his ass.

“Yeah, because the last time they shared a room, a couple of years ago, Eric nearly got his head shot off trying to break into the motel room me and Butch were sharing trying to escape Den and his insomnia. Eric has sworn if made to share a room with Dennis again, he’ll tie Den to a chair and gag him.” Jules sounded faintly amused by it all.

“Don’t forget the stick me in a closet part.” Dennis griped. “Just because…”

Jules stopped him with a raised hand. “Shut it, Den. No one wants to hear you whine.” She glanced over to Eric and then back to Den, then looked at Jax. “I guess I’m bunking with you, and we’ll flip a coin…”

Dennis interrupted his sister. “Eric can sleep in your room.” Dennis looked over to his older brother with fond exasperation. “His giant ass couldn’t fit in those twin beds with a fucking crowbar.”

He laughed. He knew what room Dennis was talking about and no, Eric Lyons would not fit in those beds, at all. He knew that from experience. The other three looked at him. “He isn’t wrong. I hang off by about five inches.” He nodded towards the elder Lyons, who was currently kicking Happy’s ass at the pool table. “And he’s a little taller than me.”

Dennis nodded and smiled saccharine sweet at his sister. “And you get to tell him.”

She raised a middle finger at Dennis as she called over her shoulder. “Hey Eric!” Her oldest brother looked up from the pool table.

“What?” As he finished Happy off, he strolled over, looking down at Jules.

“You’re going to sleep in the room me and Soph are currently laying claim to.” As Eric went to protest, Jules rushed on. “Otherwise you’re sharing a room with Manny.”

Eric shook his head darkly. “Never.” Glaring at the younger Lyons who was grinning his ass off. “He doesn’t sleep and makes sure I can’t either.” The glare melted when he turned to his sister. “So, once again you’ve saved his ass.” Smacking Dennis on the back of the head. “You should thank her for that.”

Dennis scoffed. “Me? You should be thanking her for not having to sleep on a twin fucking bed that you’re about six inches too long for.” Then smiled at Jules. “But, thanks. Now, I have two beds!” Dennis laughed as he got up and wandered over to where Juice had all of his computer shit set up and was dinkin’ around.

He and Jax looked at each other for a second. He raised an eyebrow, asking his friend if he thought he was ready for the ride that this family seemed to be. But Jax’s eyes just sparkled with laughter.

“Is he always…” He looked over to Eric, hoping the man had an answer that made sense. While he liked Dennis, he couldn’t make sense of him at all.

“A howler monkey, an instigator, all-around pain in the ass, genius?” Eric shrugged. “Pretty much. You get used to it.” Draining his glass of whiskey before accepting the joint that Tig handed him as he walked past.

Lighting it, Eric looked over at his sister. “Thanks for sparing me that torture.” Passing the joint to her. “And not to sound like an ungrateful brother, but could you come get whatever you need out of there? I’m pretty close to ready to hit the sack.”

Jules patted her brother’s arm. “No worries. I’m about ready to drop myself.” She stood up. “Let me say good-night to Den and the others, and you can grab your stuff while I’m getting mine.” She looked down at Jax. “If that’s okay with you?” She grinned a little.

“Sounds fine to me, babe.” Jax finished off his beer.

Jules nodded and walked off towards Dennis and Juice. After talking with them for a few moments, she moved over to the table where Chibs and Bobby had some sort of card game going on.

He looked over when he heard Jax chuckle. Jax nodded towards Jules. “Sophie did the same damn thing last night.”

“Where do you think she learned it from?” Eric grinned at them both as he still managed to keep an eye on his sister. When she made her way over to Tig, Eric was rivetted.

Jules and Tig talked for a couple of minutes. Tig looking happier than he personally had ever seen the man look outside of creating mayhem. Eric Lyons made a frustrated noise in the back of his throat, watching his adopted sister with her biological father.

“You have an issue with that?” Jax’s voice was conversational, but he knew his brother, there was more than a little steel in it. Jax and Tig may clash, but in the end, they were brothers.

Eric shook his head. “Not in the way you think.” Eric looked at the table for a moment, seemingly gathering his thoughts. When he looked back up, his blue eyes were a bit troubled. “I’ve never seen someone so fucking grateful for the smallest interaction.” He nodded his head towards Tig. “He soaks up whatever they give him like it’s oxygen.” Eric shrugged. “Just makes me wonder if the right decision was made back then.” His voice became nearly a whisper and he and Jax both had to lean in. “I mean, Ma was pretty out of it when she made Rip and Pop make that promise to her. She was really close to the end.” Then Eric shook his head. “Doesn’t matter now.” Then looked at Jax. “You planning on camping on that joint all night?”

Jax chuckled and shook his head as he passed Eric the joint.

He looked over to where Jules and Tig were hugging it out. Tig certainly looked less manic than usual. Maybe Jules and Sophie would mellow the crazy in Tig out some. That would be interesting, a fairly sane Tig Trager. Because, if he were being totally honest, Tig would never be completely sane, the man had some screws loose, no doubt about it. But it might be interesting to see what happened with some of Tig’s rough edges softened by his daughter and granddaughter.

As Jules made her way back to the table, Jax stood up. “’Night, brother.” Clasping him on the shoulder. “See you tomorrow.” Then looked over to Jules. “Just let me get a joint off Juice and then we can head back.”

Jules shook her head. “Already covered.” Opening a hand to show two fat joints sitting in it. She handed one to Eric. “Bedtime snack.”

He slid his chair back and stood up. “I should head towards home.” He smiled looking down at his watch. “Donna should still be awake.”

Jax grinned at him as he gave him a bro-hug. “Good luck with that, brother.”

He laughed as he clapped Jax on the back. “I could say the same for you.’

Jax just shrugged with an easy smile as he let go. “Whatever, man. See you tomorrow.”

Jules leaned down and gave her brother a kiss on the cheek. “Night, Eric. It should only take me about ten minutes to get what I need tonight. We’re not going running in the morning. One of the girls told me there’s a yoga studio in town that does a mid-morning Mommy and Me class, and they take drop-ins. I think me and Miss Thing need some alone time together.”

“Probably not your worst idea ever.” Eric responded easily. “Get some sleep. You need it.” The words sounding like an order. “You look about ready to fall over.” A brother’s worry taking over.

Jax started to steer Jules away from the table. “I’ll make sure she gets some sleep.” He nodded to both him and Eric. “See you tomorrow.” Leading Jules towards the dorms.

He looked at Eric and grinned. “Any bets on when the two of them make one hell of a pretty baby?”

Eric flipped him off. “Not funny, dude.” Although there was a dry humor in the man's voice.

He laughed again. “Yeah, it really kind of is.”

After yelling out a goodnight to the others, he made his way home.

Donna was awake, but barely. He got down to his boxers and climbed into bed and spooned up against her back.

She turned and gave him a lazy kiss. “I didn’t expect you home this early.” She raised her head and squinted at the alarm clock. “It’s not even midnight.”

He placed a soft kiss on the back of her neck. “Spent some time with the guys before Jax and Jules got back. Left when they went to bed.” He chuckled. “Jax is walkin’ around like someone dosed him with a love potion.” He pulled Donna closer to him. “Then again, I know how that feels.”

Donna laughed as she patted his arm. “Then you should have come home about forty-five minutes ago.” She turned in his arms and kissed him lightly. “How about in the morning after we get the kids off to school?”

“I’ll call Pop first thing in the morning and ask if he can come take them to school for us.” Kissing her back. “So neither one of us has to get dressed.”

“I like the way you think.” Donna kissed him again before turning back around so that he was spooning her again. She laced their fingers together. “Goodnight. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” He kissed the top of her head. “Goodnight.”

As he felt Donna fall asleep, he started to nod off himself. Today had been a good day. Hopefully, it would be the first in many. After the last five years, he could use a string of good days.

His last thought before sleep overtook him was the hope that Jax was feeling as good as he was right now. His best friend could use his own string of good days, too.

Chapter Text

While waiting for Jules to get the things she wanted from her room, Jax was trying to pick up his as best he could in the few minutes he had. Damn, he knew he wasn’t the neatest guy, but fuck, he was nearly turning into a slob. Finally finding an old duffel bag, he started to stuff all his dirty laundry into it. When the last dirty sock had made it into the bag, he shoved the bag into the corner with a mental reminder to have a croweater come grab it.

As he was straightening his already made bed, there was a soft knock at his door. “Yeah, come on in.” Trying to sound as casual as he could, considering he could hear his heartbeat roaring in his ears.

Jules slipped in, closing the door behind her. The two of them just kind of stood there staring at each other awkwardly, like kids on a first date. To his eye, Jules look exhausted; the way her shoulders slumped just the slightest, the dark circles under her eyes that make-up was no longer hiding. She looked ready to collapse.

Taking the initiative, he reached over and grabbed her bag and her elbow and directed her towards the bathroom. “Get ready for bed, babe. You look like you’re going to fall down.” Trying to keep his tone light.

He must have succeeded, because Jules chuckled softly. “You really know how to romance a girl, don’t you?” She even sounded tired.

Gently shoving her into the bathroom and setting the bag in with her, he smiled. “I’ll try for romance once you’re not about ready to fall asleep standing up. Sound like a deal?”

“I’m going to hold you to that, Teller.” Jules replied with a smile of her own as she closed the door behind her.

Once he heard the water running, he scrambled out of his jeans and into a pair of basketball shorts. If he didn’t want Jules to be asleep by the time he was done in the bathroom, he felt like he should get a head start.

He walked around the room as he waited, trying to figure out why he felt like his heart was going to hammer right out of his chest.

‘That’s what happens when you fall in love, moron. I know it’s been a minute, but surely you remember.’ Snarky making his opinion heard. But, once again, his inner voice wasn’t wrong. It had been nearly decades since he’s felt this way.

As he was trying to wrap his head around that, the bathroom door opened, and Jules stepped out. Her face clean of makeup and looking so tired it was making him want to yawn. She was wearing an old Bulls t-shirt that had to have been her oldest brother’s at one point considering it went past the middle of her thighs. Moving to set her bag by the desk, she smiled at him. “It’s all yours, if you need it.” Nodding back towards the bathroom.

He nodded. “Yeah, gotta brush my teeth.” As he slid past her.

“You think you’re gonna get lucky?” Jules laughed at him.

Shaking his head, he chuckled just a little. “Remember, we’re trying not to bruise my ego with you passing out from exhaustion while I’m trying to ‘romance’ you.” Then laughed as she flipped him off with a tired grin. “Nah, I just do everything I can to avoid the dentist. Once a year for that sadist to tell me everything is all right is more than enough for me.”

Jules outright laughed at him. “You’re scared of the dentist?!” Falling back onto the bed.

He stood in the doorway of the bathroom as he watched he laugh herself silly, nearly curling in on herself while lying on his bed. Normally, his ego would be rearing its head about now and he would not just be standing here with an amused smile.

She finally stopped laughing, and sat up, wiping her face. “Sorry, but the idea of the big, bad biker being scared of the dentist is too funny. Just like Tig being scared of dolls.”

That made him laugh like it did every time it came up. Because Tig’s thing about dolls was, in fact, hilarious. “Not scared of them babe, just don’t like ‘em.” He grinned. “They’re a necessary evil.”

She nodded. “Like gynecologists.”

The two of them looked at each other for a brief moment and then both of them started to cackle. When the laughter died down, he wiped a hand over his face where tears had started to fall because he’d been laughing so hard.

Looking over at the clock on the nightstand, he could see it was after midnight. He knew that his Mom would be at the clubhouse with Sophie by seven-thirty. He looked at the bed where Jules had stayed curled up and knew that she was only minutes away from hard sleep. Time to get his ass in gear and finish getting ready for bed.

“Go brush your teeth and save yourself from the evil dentist.” Jules voice demanded from the bed. “I’m about ready to pass out and I want a minty fresh goodnight kiss.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Giving her a one-finger salute as he closed the bathroom door.

“Fuck off, dude. You know you love my bossy, demanding side.” Jules’ tired voice muffled even further by the door between them.

He wasted no time in washing his face and brushing his teeth. By the time he made it into the bed and turned off the lamp, Jules was already half-asleep.

Jules rolled over, and he wrapped his arms around her as she placed a sleepy kiss on his lips. “Mmm… mint and flouride.”

“Mm-hmm.” He kissed her again, like he had all the time in the world and this was the only possible way he could even dream of spending it. It had been so long since he had just kissed someone for the sake of kissing them. It was, at this point in his life, just foreplay. Kiss someone long enough to get their panties off. Not that his dick wasn’t interested in all this, but his soul was just fine with only this for now. Pulling her closer, for the first time in his life he could feel someone else’s heart beating against his chest. He noticed being nearly the same height, the two of them slotted together nearly seamlessly, as if by design.

He had been raised in SAMCRO, by a father who had taught him the philosophies of anarchism, and that God is a social construct, created to control the masses; that HE simply does not exist. But right now, in this moment, kissing Jules like there was no tomorrow, he wasn’t sure that there wasn’t some weird divine force that set all of this in motion.

Breaking the kiss, he pulled her in tighter and kissed her temple. “Go to sleep, babe. We’ll have all the time we want later for the rest. You need sleep now.”

For once, instead of some smart-assed comment or vague threat, she only nodded. The silence stretched, and at first he thought she had fallen asleep, but then a very soft, very tired voice started to speak.

“Dougie is an asshole who deserves to die slowly and painfully. I really wish Ray hadn’t been killed, especially the way he was, and I would give everything I would ever have for Sophie to have never gone through any of this; but I really can’t think of anywhere I would rather be than here right now.” She burrowed into him until she found the spot she wanted, tangling her legs with his until it was hard to tell where one of them stopped and the other began. “The universe is funny that way.” Mumbled out of a nearly slack mouth.

Kissing her temple again, he smiled into her hair. “Yeah, it is, babe.”

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

 

Gemma woke suddenly, like she was subconsciously aware that something wasn’t quite right in her house. Looking over, she could see Clay was still sleeping peacefully so it apparently was just her.

Then she heard it; a small whimper coming from down the hall. Sophie. She flung the covers off and reached over for her robe, not knowing if Jake was already in with Sophie or not.

Clay woke as she was putting her robe on. “What’s goin’ on at...” He looked over to the alarm clock. “Three-forty in the morning.”

“Sophie.” She explained as she was heading out of the room. Not bothering for a response.

Getting closer to Jax’s old room, she could hear Jake. “Shhh...sweetheart, you’re okay, Grandpa’s gotcha.”

She stopped at the doorway, catching Jake’s eye. The man looked sleep rumpled but alert. Sophie, who was still crying some, hadn’t noticed her at all.

The little girl sniffled. “Bad man hurted my Daddy.” And the tears started in earnest again. “And Daddy wouldn’t get up, and then he fell sleep and wouldn’t get up. I tried to help Daddy, but the bad man...” Sophie was back to sobbing into Jake’s chest.

“Shhh...I know, Baby Princess.” Jake rubbing her little back through the pajamas that Donna had sent the night before. “The bad man can’t hurt you again. That’s why Uncle Mike is here, to take the bad man home to jail, where he will stay for a very long time for hurting your Daddy.”

Sophie’s tears slowed again as the little girl looked up at her Grandpa. She felt Clay come behind her and wrap an arm around her waist. “She okay?” His voice low enough not to startle the little girl.

She shrugged because she had no goddamned idea if Sophie was fine or not. Jake didn’t seem overly concerned, but she wouldn’t say the man was calm.

Sophie had barely even noticed her and Clay, still focused on her Grandpa and the comfort she was familiar with. Her tears were finally stopping, as the little girl looked up at her Grandpa. “I don’ have a Daddy no more.” Her little voice forlorn.

She could feel Clay tense behind her, as Jake’s eyes started to take on a watery sheen. She could feel the tears in her own eyes. The three of them cut off at the knees by a simple statement from a child.

Sophie went on, not noticing that she had shredded the hearts of the three adults with her. Sophie looked back to Jake. “Do you fink Jax would be my new Daddy?”

Clay started to choke on laughter behind her and wandered back to their room, as Jake gave her a wry smile. She noticed a very Dennis-like gleam in Jake’s eyes as the man answered his granddaughter.

“Oh, I think that’s a question for Jax and Mommy in the morning, at the clubhouse.”

Sophie looked up at her Grandpa and then over to her. “Like at breakfast?”

With her own wry smile in place, she looked down at Sophie. “I think breakfast would be a great time to ask Jax and Mommy if Jax can be your new Daddy.” Then looked at Jake over Sophie’s head. “And you wonder where your kid gets his ‘special-ness’ from?” Jake just grinned back.

Reaching down, she plucked Sophie off Jake’s lap. “C’mon sweetheart, let’s go wipe your face before you go back to sleep.” She looked over to Jake. “You sleepin’ in here with her, or do you want me to bring her to the guest room?”

Jake stood up from the twin bed. “Guest room.” Jake walked past the two of them. “Gemma is gonna get you cleaned up and then you’re gonna come sleep with Grandpa in his room.” Giving Sophie a kiss on the head as he went back to the guest room.

Taking Sophie into the hall bathroom, she wet a washcloth and got the remnants of tears cleaned off. She waited for Sophie to go potty and then took her to the guest room, where Jake was fiddling with his cell phone.

“Lotta calls at four in the morning?” She laid Sophie down on the bed.

Jake grinned. “It’s six at home and my old lady has already been up for an hour.”

“Gramma?” Sophie’s tired voice piped up, sounding very interested.

“Would you like to tell Grandma Lu good morning for her and good night for you?” Jake already dialing as Sophie nodded emphatically.

“I’ll leave you two to it. Get some rest, sweetheart.” She kissed Sophie on the head. “I’ll see you in the morning so I can take you to Mommy and Jax.” She waved a hand at Jake as she left the room.

Getting back into her own bed, Clay turned over and gave her a kiss. “Everyone settled again?”

“Yeah. They were gonna call Grandma. Jake seemed to think that would help.” She stifled a yawn. “And this Grandma needs her beauty sleep.” She shook her head. “Just a couple of hours before the alarms go off.”

“Yeah.” Clay was already half-asleep.

It took her a little longer to drop off, she was thinking about the look on her son’s face when Sophie asked him and Jules if Jax could be her new Daddy.

She fell asleep with a smile on hers.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Tig woke up, covered in sweat and breathing hard. Taking a breath, he looked around his newly cleaned dorm room. Damn, Annie did a really good job. He’d have to upgrade to the Respado tequila for the job that girl did in here.

Lighting a joint, he took a deep hit to rid himself the rest of the not pleasant dream. He wouldn’t call it a nightmare, but it certainly hadn’t been good.

He dreamt of the day of Marina’s funeral. It had been bad enough that Marina was dead, but walking into the church and seeing Jules and knowing that Marina had lied to him, well, that had shattered his heart to the point where he wasn’t sure if he could ever fully love a woman again. Granted, his marriage to the twins Mom was already rocky by the time Marina died, but his reaction to her death and the revelation of Jules’ paternity, pretty much guaranteed his completely checking out of his marriage.

Snuffing the joint out, he looked at his alarm. It was nearly six. Fuck it, might as well be up. Throwing back the blanket, he hopped out of bed and into the shower. Hopefully, by the time he was done and dressed, Bobby would be here and have coffee going. He wasn’t sure what the fuck Bobby did to the coffee to make it taste the way it did, but none of them could replicate it.

Going down to the clubhouse, he was a little surprised to see Dennis Lyons at a table, coffee cup by him, completely engrossed by something on his computer. Dennis looked up. “Mornin’. There’s coffee in there.”

“Bobby here already?” He lit a cigarette.

Dennis shook his head. “I am capable of making coffee, you know.”

“Barely.” Eric’s voice behind him. “Have you even slept?”

Dennis shrugged. “Some.” Then went back to his computer.

Eric looked like he wanted to say something else, but just shook his head and wandered off towards the kitchen. He decided to follow. Even bad coffee had the caffeine he was looking for.

Eric raised the coffee pot as he walked into the kitchen. Grabbing a mug, he nodded. After Eric poured cups for them both, he accepted his with a thanks. “You guys are up early.”

“It’s almost eight in Chicago. And some of us will be heading back soon. Better to stay on that schedule.” Then looked out to where Dennis was sitting, chuckling at something on the computer. “Of course, some of us don’t have schedules.” Rolling his eyes at his younger brother.

“What exactly does he even do on that thing?” He grinned. “Other than porn.”

Eric shrugged. “Who the fuck even knows? He could be hacking NASA for all I know.”

“Why the fuck would someone hack NASA? Make sure the moon landing was real?!” He chuckled.

“Just because he can.” Eric shrugged. “I love my brother, but not once have I ever claimed to understand him.” A grin lit his face. “But I have to admit, I do love getting movies before they’re released into the theaters.” The grin died, replaced by a more serious look. “And if it wasn’t for Dennis, you’d be tasked with killing a brother.” Eric turned and looked at him, all humor gone. “He may be flaky as all fuck, but he is a fucking genius and knows how to get the information he wants and the rest of us need.” The humor was back. “It also helps that he helped design half the computer security used now.”

Tig blew out a deep breath. Yeah, Dennis had certainly come through for Ope. “I guess it would at that.” He sighed. “I’m glad he got that info on Ope.” He shook his head. “I was having a hard time getting on board with believing Ope would sell us out.” He took a drink of his coffee. “I tried to tell Clay, if Ope was gonna sell us out, he’d have done it before he served five fuckin’ years in Stockton.”

Eric shrugged. “You guys got a lot of heat on you right now.” Taking a drink of his own coffee, making a face. “God, how can he drink this crap?!” Eric dumped the mug and opened the fridge, pulling out a Gatorade that Jules bought the day before. “As I was saying; you guys have a lot of heat on you and when that happens, fingers start pointing and Opie is an easy target; for them and you.”

He thought about that. Eric wasn’t wrong. If he were the Feds, he’d go after Ope, too. “Fucking Feds.”

Eric chuckled and clapped him on the back. “Yeah. But now that you know what they’re up to, you can always have Ope feed them whatever intel you want. Have them chasin’ their own tails for as long as you need.”

He shrugged. It wasn’t his call to make. “Above my paygrade, man.” He grabbed more coffee; while it wasn’t as good as Bobby’s, it wasn’t as bad as when Piney made it, so he was good. “Bobby should be here soon, he’ll make another pot of coffee that will be, well, better than this.”

Eric laughed and followed him out of the kitchen.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Loud music pulled Jax out of a deep sleep. As he was waking, he could feel Jules get out of the bed. “Where the fuck did I put that?”

He opened an eye to see her digging through the bag she had brought from her room. Sitting up, he realized the music was coming from her bag. “What the hell?” Seemed like the appropriate question.

“Alarm on my phone. Set for six.” Jules was digging through the bag, setting things on the floor. “Ah, here it is.” A moment later the phone stopped making noise. She looked up at him, a little sheepish. “Sorry.”

He chuckled as he waved her back to the bed. When she crawled in he grabbed her and rolled them to where he was on top. “It’s okay, babe. My alarm is going to go off in about half an hour.”

She grinned. “You seem pretty awake to me.” Doing a little shimmy under him; his morning wood pressing into her pelvic bone. Her grin grew more lewd. “Pretty sure I won’t bruise your ego now.” She pulled him down into a deep kiss, neither one of them caring about the morning fuzz in their mouths.

By the time the two of them came up for air, they’d managed to shed themselves of clothing, not that there was a ton of that to begin with. Jules was a fuckin’ furnace and both of them had shed their shirts at different points in the night.

Straddling her hips, he let his eyes track down her body. It was lean and toned. He reverently touched the tattoo she had under her left breast. Sophie’s birthdate. Leaning down, he placed a kiss on it.

Jules pulled him back up and gave him a fierce kiss and then looked into his eyes. “She loves you already, you know.” Her voice soft and maybe a little awed.

He smiled. He couldn’t help it. That information made him feel ten-feet tall. Someone once told him that kids are pretty great judges of character and they don’t hide it well if they don’t like you. Until Abel, he’d been okay with kids, they were kinda cute and he had always wanted them, but more as an abstract idea than a concrete one. Maybe having Abel had turned him into a sap, but knowing that a little girl who can’t do a damn thing for herself or anyone else other than love them, thinks enough of him to love him? Then call him a sap, because he thought it was pretty fuckin’ cool. “I’m becoming pretty attached to her, too.” Then leaned back down and kissed her again. “And her Mama.”

Jules smiled, her eyes bright like sapphires. “Good.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down into another kiss, that turned filthy quick. “Now prove it.” Then whispered in his ear. “You made a boast about having skills? Now would be the time to show me.”

Giving her as lewd of a grin as he could manage, he leaned back down and breathed in her ear. “Get ready for the ride of your life then, darlin’.”

By the time the two of them were done, his alarm had been going off long enough for Chibs to come pound on the door. “Wake yer ass up Jax!! None of us want to hear that fuckin’ alarm!”

The two of them started to laugh. “Yeah, Chibs, I got it.” Reaching over to hit the alarm button on the clock, sitting up and leaning against his pillows.

“Thank ye. Bobby said breakfast is in about an hour. Said he was waitin’ for Clay and the others to get here.” They could hear Chibs walk away from the door.

Jules rolled over and snuggled up to him, as he lit a cigarette. After taking a drag, he offered it to Jules, who took her own drag and after exhaling, gave him a quick kiss. “You want to shower together or separate?”

He looked over to her, enjoying seeing the sex-mussed hair and the few hickeys he had managed to leave in spots only he would know they existed. He could feel his dick take an interest in the shower scenario, but feared if they took a shower together, they’d have someone come looking for the two of them.

“As much as I would love to do that, babe, we’re probably better off taking separate showers.” He took another drag of his smoke. “You go ahead, babe. I’ll rinse off real quick after you’re out.”

“Probably for the best.” Jules grinned at him. “We’d probably end up with someone coming to look for us...” She mock-shuddered. “With my luck, it would be my Dad.”

He snorted. “Trust me. Tig...” Then he stopped and gave her a sheepish smile. “Sorry, lost the plot for a second.” He chuckled. “Yeah, I think I’d rather not have Jake the one coming to look for us.”

“You and me both, honey. Just be grateful Lu isn’t here. She would have walked in and shut the alarm off herself.” And with that, she grabbed her bag and went into the bathroom.

Once the shower started, he pulled his cell phone out and dialed.

His mother answered on the first ring. “Everything okay, Jax?”

“Yeah, Mom, everything is fine. Just need a favor.”

“Sure, darlin’ anything you need. You know that.”

“Jules and Sophie have something they want to go do mid-morning. Can you get a rental to the lot by like nine? That way Jules doesn’t have to borrow a car from anyone, and she won’t be reliant on having someone chauffer them around.” He thought Jules might like a little freedom of movement. Granted, someone would be tailing the two of them in light of the current situation, but it would be better than having someone have to drive the two of them wherever they wanted to go.

“Sure, sweetheart, but you know, she can always use my car. I’m in the office all morning; wasn’t planning on going to see Abel until after lunch.” He could hear his mother’s birds in the background, so the entire house must have been up.

“Yeah, but I hate to leave you without a car in case an emergency comes up. Just rent the car and let me know how much I owe you. It should only be for a few days. I know Tig already put out some calls for getting that Beemer traded in for something else.”

“Okay, Jax. I can do that.” His mom seemed distracted. “I gotta go, sweetheart. I have a small person who looks to be thinking about climbing up so she can see the birds. See you in a bit.”

He laughed. “Yeah, see you soon, Mom.” Closing his phone, he laid back on the pillows. He felt great this morning, and it wasn’t just the awesome morning sex. For hell, maybe the first time ever, he felt like an actual functioning adult; a man taking care of his family.

‘Feels pretty good, doesn’t it, sport?’ Snarky throwing his two cents in.

“Yeah.” He whispered into the room as the shower still ran.

Smiling, he got out of bed to get his shit together for the day.

Chapter Text

As Jules was getting out of the shower, still trying to come down from the sex high that she was currently on. Jax hadn’t been exaggerating when he said he had skills. But, if she doesn’t get this look off her face, Dennis will be giving her shit for days, and she really wasn’t in the mood to deal with that.

After getting dressed and putting on make-up, she stepped out of the bathroom to see Jax, still stark naked, lying in bed, smoking a joint.

She grinned at him. “It’s all yours.” Waving off the offer of the joint. “I try to hold off on weed 'til after noon, at least.” Then laughed. “And some days, I’m even successful.” As she snagged the joint and took a small hit. “And apparently, today is not one of those days.”

Jax laughed as he climbed out of the bed. “Maybe tomorrow, babe.” Giving her a kiss as he walked past. “You staying in here until I’m done, or are you heading to the clubhouse now?”

She looked over to the clock. It was a little after seven. “Clubhouse. I think I need at least a cup of coffee before Pop and Gemma get here with Miss Thing.” If not more than one.

Jax grinned. “I feel you there.” The grin faded to a soft smile. “I asked Gemma to get a rental for you and Sophie until Tig gets that Beemer dealt with.”

She was more than a little surprised. She had figured that her and Soph would be ferried around by whoever had time to do so. But this made things so much easier. “Thank you.” She leaned in and gave him a kiss. “You’ll let me know how much I owe Gemma?”

Jax shook his head. “Don’t worry about it, I’ve got it covered.” Noticing her shaking her head, he reached out and pulled her closer to him. “I want to do this for you and Sophie. Don’t worry about it. At all.”

She knew when to capitulate gracefully. “Thank you.” Giving him another kiss. “Now, I need coffee...” And giving him a grin with a little sniff. “And you need a shower.” Looking at her phone. “And considering that they’ll be here in less than thirty minutes, you should probably get moving.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Jax grumbled at her. “Go get your coffee.” Closing the bathroom door behind him.

As she headed to the main clubhouse, she weeded through the texts on her phone. She was going to have to see if someone could wrangle Sophie for an hour or so after breakfast so she could return some calls that just couldn’t be put off any longer.

Plus, she needed to sit with Dennis and Eric for a few minutes. Morgan had sent a text saying he had emailed Dennis with all the details of Ray’s estate.

In the short amount of time it had taken her to get to the main clubhouse, she was already dreading her day. There was so much she needed to take care of and she really wasn’t sure if she was emotionally equipped to deal with it yet.

Stepping into the main clubhouse, she wasn’t surprised to see everyone but her and Jax already up and about. Looking at her bio dad, she grinned. “Bobby here yet?”

Tig grinned at her. “You already figure out Bobby is the only one who makes decent coffee around here?” The others laughing along with Tig as Bobby came out from the kitchen.

She grinned at Bobby, then looked back to Tig. “Yes. And that’s because I know what his secret is.” Laughing at the dirty look Bobby shot her. “Relax, Bobby. I just said I knew what your secret was, not that I would tell them.”

“Thank you, darlin’.” Bobby grinned as the others all groaned.

“You bet.” She walked into the kitchen to grab a mug, Bobby following.

As she was pouring the coffee, without turning to look at him, she smiled a little. “Crisco.”

“Goddamn, you really have figured it out.” Bobby chuckled.

She laughed as she turned back to him. “Yeah, found it when I was hiding Sophie’s Oreos from Dennis. Went to move the can and it was way too light to actually be shortening. Looked in and found your stash.”

He shrugged. “Good coffee is like good weed. Expensive and you don’t waste it on people who don’t appreciate it or know what to do with it.”

“Amen to that, my friend.” She saluted him with her mug of gourmet coffee. “I should have Lu send you some from the place down the street from me in Chicago. They have some great roasts.”

Bobby nodded. “I wouldn’t say no.” Then the rotund man smiled. “We have a pretty good little shop here in town. They also do all their own baking, all organic.” He topped off his own coffee mug. “We may not be as big as Chicago, but Charming has some cool little places I think you and Sophie would like.” Trying to be as casual as he could be.

She laughed. “You don’t have to sell me, or Sophie on Charming at this point, Bobby.” She was interrupted by her phone. She looked down, just a text from Mercy about needing to figure out what she wanted to come out to California and what she wanted to be stored in Chicago. Good, something she could put off. She sent back a quick text saying she wasn’t sure yet and that she would let her aunt know.

Glancing up, she could see the curious look on Bobby’s face. She shrugged. “My Aunt Mercy.” Then decided to elaborate. “Jake’s younger sister.” She sighed. “Just trying to help figure out what gets moved and what gets stored.”

“So, you two are staying, then?” Bobby leaned on the counter at her nod. “If you need any help with anything, you be sure to let us know.” Patting her arm before he wandered away.

“Yep.” She followed him out of the kitchen and sat down by Den. Looking at his laptop screen, she could see he was already in the email that Morgan had said he’d sent Dennis.

Den glanced over to her. “You want me to explain it all, or just the basic details?”

“Let’s go with basic details for now, and then move up to a more involved explanation later, when I’m more caffeinated.” Grabbing a cigarette from the pack that Den had sitting by the computer. Seeing her and Den with their heads together brought big brother to the table.

“Morning.” Eric sat on the other side of Den, so that each of them had a view of the screen.

As Dennis hit a few keystrokes, Jax came out of the dorms and headed to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. Coming out, he sat by her as Dennis started.

“Okay, see these two lists?” Both her and Eric nodded. “Okay, the one on the left is liquid assets, that as soon as everything is all legal can go straight into the trust that Ma set up for you when we were kids. We’ll get one set up for Soph that’ll be just like the ones we had with Ma.”

Both her and Eric nodded again. She also noticed Tig drifting closer to their table.

Dennis took a drink of his coffee before he went on. “The list on the right is all of the non-liquid assets. Businesses and properties that have to be sold.” Ticking off a number of items on that list, Dennis continued. “These are already in the process of being bought out by existing partners.” He then highlighted five items, including the townhouse where her and Ray’s apartments were. “These he owned outright with no partners. Technically, you and Sophie own them. You can either sell, or keep them as rentals, which is what Ray was using them as with the exception of your place, obviously.”

She shrugged. “I say with the exception of the townhouse, keep ‘em. It’s monthly income.”

Eric nodded. “And we can just keep the contract with the property management firm that Ray used. Keep it as simple as possible, if you’re going to be out here.”
Jax was leaning over her shoulder looking at the email that Dennis was referring to. “Did he have an account set up that diverted funds to take care of all of the taxes and upkeep, so she won’t have to worry about making sure she’s got enough scratch to cover that every quarter?”

“Probably.” Dennis shrugged. “I just got this email like an hour ago, and this is only the first page of the attachment.” Dennis looked at Jax. “So, I haven’t quite pieced out everything.” Dennis shook his head. “Ray had a lot going on, and it’s gonna take a minute to get through it all.” Dennis shrugged again. “I’ll get into it after church this morning.”

Jax and Eric nodded. She really didn’t care. It would all get worked out one way or another.

The sounds of two Harley’s coming into the lot stopped Dennis from saying anything else. She looked at her brother. “Whenever, Den. Me and Soph are leaving for yoga at about ten. No idea when we’ll be back.”

She rolled her eyes as Eric looked over the top of Dennis’s head at Jax. “You have someone on them?”

Jax ignored the dirty look she shot at him. “Yeah. Prospect will be with them.” Then Jax looked at her, all humor gone. “And you two don’t leave Charming without coming back here and letting us know, so someone else can go with you guys and Sack.”

Before she could really get her back up and start being mad about being ordered around like a five-year-old, the door opened and Sophie ran through it, making a beeline for Jax.

As slyly as she could, she eased her phone out of her jeans pocket. Her daughter and Jax were too freaking cute together and she wanted all the pictures she could get. She knew she was as bad as Ma and Pop had been with her and the boys when they were young.

Sophie barely acknowledged her or hell, anyone else in the clubhouse. At the moment, her daughter only had eyes for Jax. This couldn’t be good.

“Morning, sweetheart.” Jax smiled as her daughter climbed up him. “Did you have a good night at Gemma’s?”

Sophie nodded as she settled on his lap. “Jax, can I ax you somethin’?” More demand than ask in her voice. She heard others in the room chuckle.

She set the camera on her phone to video. This had to be good if her kid was asking permission to ask.

Jax looked over to her and she just shrugged. After the ‘you don’t leave Charming’ crap, he was on his fucking own. Payback could be small, but still a bitch.

Jax looked back at Sophie with a game smile. “Sure, sweetheart. Ask away.”

Sophie looked back towards Pop and Gemma, who were standing by Bobby. Both gave her nods of encouragement. So, whatever she was wanting to ask had been vetted and approved by the two of them. She wasn’t sure how she felt about Pop and Gemma being in cahoots. She would know soon enough, though.

Sophie turned back to Jax. “Jax, will you be my new Daddy since I don’ have a Daddy no more?”

She dropped her phone, which Dennis was quick to pick up and was probably still recording everything.

Jax looked at her, eyes wide and full of ‘I have no fucking idea what to do’. Join the motherfucking club, babe. Neither did she.

Sophie, who was oblivious to the absolute shock she had sent both of them into, went on. “Me n’ Mommy could stay here wif you and da baby, and I could be his sister and help Mommy take care of him, and you could be my Daddy like Libby’s Daddy who lives with her and gives her goodnight kisses every night, and...”

She found her wits, and after nailing Pop and Gemma with a look that told both of them explicitly that she would be having words with them both later, reached over and covered Sophie’s mouth with a gentle hand.

“I think this is a conversation…”

“Yes.” Jax spoke over the top of her, and rendered her speechless. He just said yes. Like he was agreeing to a walk in the fucking park.

“Tell me you’re still recording.” She heard Eric whisper to Dennis, who nodded. She could also hear the murmurs of the others in the room.

Sophie looked at Jax with amazement. “Really?!” Her daughter was nearly vibrating with anticipation. “You will?!”

Jax smiled at Sophie and looked over to her, his eyes deadly serious. “Yes, sweetheart, really.” He laid a tender kiss on Sophie’s forehead. “If your Mommy wants me to be, too.”

She felt the entire clubhouse’s eyes on her. She felt more than a little shaken and had no idea how to even react, what to say.

Even though she’d had her epiphany last night and knew that her and Jax were hurdling that direction, she was still gobsmacked and a little addled in the moment.

She glanced up and happened to catch Pop’s eye. He touched his chest, where under the shirt he wore was a necklace with a locket. That locket held two things. A picture of her mother and a locket of her hair. He gave her a slight nod.

She looked back to Jax and her daughter, who were watching her intently. She smiled with all of the love she possessed for the little girl she birthed into the world. “What do I always tell you, honey?” She leaned over and kissed her daughter and then Jax. “You always have the best ideas.”

She barely heard all the cacophony that erupted in the clubhouse, too caught up in the hug that her, Soph, and Jax were in.

Glancing up, she caught Pop’s eye again. He looked up briefly and then back to her and smiled. She felt her throat go tight. She knew what he meant.

Ma would approve.

Chapter Text

In the chaos of all the back-slapping and congratulations that were going on in the clubhouse, Jax felt Clay grab his shoulder. “Can I talk to you in the chapel for a second, son?”

He nodded and gave both Jules and Sophie quick kisses before following Clay into the chapel. After Clay closed the door, he turned to his step-father. “What’d ya need?”

Clay just grinned. “Thought you might like a minute to breathe.” The grin stayed in place. “Daddy.”

He sat down in his chair at the table, and lit a cigarette. He shrugged. “I’m good.” And he was. He felt perfectly at ease with the spur-of-the-moment life decision he just made.

Clay raised an eyebrow. “You do realize this makes Tig your father-in-law on some levels, right?”

He paused for a second, that really hadn’t entered his head. Then shrugged again, this time with a grin. “I think Jules and Soph can keep him in line.”

Clay laughed as he lit a cigar. “True.” His step-father grew serious. “I’m happy for you, son.” Clay glanced towards the clubhouse beyond the closed doors of the chapel. “And if it means anything, I think you made the right choice.”

“Thanks.” His cell phone went off in his pocket. Pulling it out, he grinned at Clay. “Guess the biker grapevine is alive and well.” As he flipped his phone open. “Hey, Ope.” Seeing Clay’s grin out of the corner of his eye.

Clay stood up and clapped him on the shoulder agian and wandered back out to what was turning into a breakfast celebration.

“So, a few minutes ago, my phone rings with Chibs calling, and Pop is calling the house phone, and Donna and I find out that you basically gained a wife and daughter in a five minute span.” Ope’s laughter was coloring every fucking word out of his friend’s mouth. “Thought I should call and make sure those two weren’t already drunk this morning.”

“I don’t think they are.” He replied. “Granted, with Piney, you never know. But, Chibs seemed pretty sober this morning.”

“Seriously, that’s the answer you’re givin’ me.” Ope’s voice droll. “Never fucking mind. Me and Donna will be there in a few.” Then his best friend laughed. “Chibs and Pop have already been informed no toasts until we get there. See you soon.” Ope hung up on him.

He sat his phone on the table, as the weight of what he had just done hit him. He still felt good about his decision, and was still sure that he was doing the right thing; it’s just the enormity of it was coming into focus.

Jules and Sophie were going to uproot their entire lives to be here with him and Abel, and that was going to entail some shit. He wasn’t sure how they would manage to get all of this taken care of; getting their stuff out here, getting them settled into the house, finding out what Jules wanted to do since he knew she had been trying to go back to school for something, and probably other stuff that wasn’t even on his radar yet.

The chapel door opened and Eric Lyons slipped in, closing it behind him. He glanced up at his counterpart. “Yeah?”

Eric grinned. “Finally realized you bit off a whole lot more than you thought you did?”

“No, more like trying to figure out all of the logistics of all of this.” He grinned back. “I already know they’re a handful.”

Eric sat across from him. “They can be.” The smile went away and he could see the Marine peeking out. “Just sayin’ this once. You hurt them, you’re dead. And it will be slow, painful, and you will beg to die.” There was no joke in Eric’s voice or on his face. Eric was deadly serious.

“I know. Your Dad already warned me.”

“And you’ll probably get it from Dennis, and eventually Butch, too.” Eric smirked at him.

He shrugged. “I’d almost be disappointed if I didn’t.” He was still thinking of all the things that needed to be done to fully move the girls out here, and how it would actually happen. Things around SAMCRO were too screwy right now for him to be able to leave for any period of time; and with Abel comin’ home soon, his Mom wouldn’t be able to leave either.

He blinked when fingers snapped in front of his face. He looked back at Eric. “Sorry, man.”

Eric waved it off. “No worries.” Then, Eric pulled out his cell phone, and held it up to him. “I’m going to set this thing to vibrate.” Eric grinned brightly. “It’s been on silent since Soph asked if she could ask you a question.” Eric thumbed at the side of it, and a steady vibration came from the thing.

He simply raised an eyebrow at Eric Lyons.

Eric grinned. “Dennis texted the video of all this to Lu. Lu has already disseminated it to, well, nearly everyone who matters.” Eric shook the phone. “This is constantly going off right now because there are about ten people making arrangements to get most of the girls’ stuff out here.”

Eric stood up and started to pace a little while looking at his phone. After a minute, Eric shook his head with a laugh, thumbed the side, and the phone went silent again. Eric leaned against the closed door of the chapel. “Jules will have to come back to officially withdraw from school and some other legal stuff, but that can wait a little while and it would only be for a few days.” The taller man sighed with amusement. “Dude, the Lyons virtual coffee klatch has been making plans for the last twelve hours. Den has been emailing back and forth with Mercy and Lu since about four this morning.” Eric’s amusement went away. “You guys have serious shit to deal with. Let us handle moving the girls. You focus on getting things around SAMCRO settled back down.”

He shoved his chair back and stood up. He put a hand out. “Sounds like a plan, brother.”

Eric grinned as he returned the handshake. “Good.” Eric jerked his head back towards the rising noise of the clubhouse. Apparently Opie and Donna had arrived, if Chibs' bellow was an indicator. “Because I think people are gonna start lookin’ for you soon. Don’t want them to think you ran off already.”

He grinned back. “Not a chance. They’re stuck with me.”

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

When Clay took Jax to the chapel, Gemma took advantage, making her way over to Jules and Sophie. Getting close, she saw Dennis hand off a phone to Jules with a grin a mile wide on his face.

“Don’t worry sis, it’s all saved for posterity and already sent to Lu.” Dennis chuckled as Jules’ phone started to vibrate.

“Great.” Jules groaned, with a small laugh. “Thanks, Manny.”

Dennis laughed as he got up from his chair. “Oh, it was my pleasure.” He flicked his sister’s ear. “I’m gonna go warn Pop.”

“Yeah, okay.” Jules also handed off her mug to Dennis. “Can you get me some more coffee, please?” Then Jules looked up at her, her smile not fading, but her eyes far more serious. “And please, never do that again.” Jules sighed as Sophie jumped down to run over to Tig. “It worked out, but what if it hadn’t?” Jules shook her head. “If Jax...”

She sat down at the table with the young woman who was basically her daughter-in-law, now. “If I wasn’t 99.9 percent sure of what Jax’s answer was going to be, I wouldn’t have let that happen.” She looked over to where Jake was huddled with his middle son and their cell phones and chuckled just a little. “And it was actually Jake who told her to ask.” She smirked at the young woman. “I just agreed.”

Jules shook her head with a laugh. “Why do you think Dennis can drive him nuts in no time flat? Pop had the Marines tamp those instincts down. Dennis did not.” Jules laughed again, while pulling her own phone out, sighing at it before she started to type away. At least it was a good-natured sigh.

“Everything alright, sweetheart?” She looked over to Bobby, who had joined them bearing Jules’s coffee.

Jules sat her phone down. “Yeah.” Rolling her eyes just a little. “Dennis has managed to already text the video of this to Lu.” Jules laughed. “Lu has sent it to the rest of the clan; so everyone is already making plans and well, this is gonna go on for a bit. I was just texting that for the moment, Dennis was the one to bother with logistics.”

“You sure you want him in charge, sweetheart?” She laughed until she noticed Jules bristle a little. “I’m just joking, darlin’.” She nodded her head towards Dennis and Jake. “You two are their baby girls. They’d move heaven and earth for the both of you.”

Bobby nodded his agreement as Jules relaxed and smiled. “Yeah. I’d do the same for them.”

Jules turned to her. “So, me and Sophie are still going to go do something this morning. She might be a little too wired for yoga, so we might just go run around at the park or something. But later, we should probably go over to Jax’s and take a look at...”

She smiled, she knew exactly what Jules meant. “There is a room we can fix up for Sophie. It’s a small bedroom, so it wouldn’t take long to do something basic with it. And sweetheart, you do whatever you want.” She looked over her shoulder as Opie and Donna came into the clubhouse, then back to Jules. “Jax won’t give a rat’s ass about what’s in the house or not.” She gave the girl a little smirk. “And I’d wager you have better taste than either my son or his crank whore ex-wife.”

Bobby snorted as he got up. “Ever the diplomat, Gemma.” Bobby leaned over and gave Jules a quick peck to the top of her head. “Welcome to the SAMCRO family, sweetheart.”

“Thanks.” Jules patted Bobby’s arm as he passed by on his way over to where Clay and Tig were talking. Sophie was trundling across the clubhouse back to her Mama.

Jules looked back to her, as she scooped her daughter up and plopped her down on her lap. “Jax said something about a rental car?”

“I’ll get a car over here after breakfast.” She nodded to Donna as she joined her, Jules and Sophie. “Any plans other than trying to run off some energy out of Sophie? And heading over to Jax’s after lunch?”

Jules looked over to Donna. “Hey, do you have anything going on until your kids get out of school?”

Donna shook her head. “Just the boring daily stuff. Why?”

Jules grinned. “You know Charming.” Her dark curls shaking some as she chuckled. “And I obviously don’t.” Jules’ smile grew even wider as Jax and Opie were coming towards the table.

Sophie jumped off Jules’ lap with a squeal, “Daddy!” Running towards Jax and Opie, who was still looking a little bemused at the entirety of the situation.

Jules turned back to Donna. “Thought maybe you could show me and Miss Thing around, maybe do the mani-pedi thing, get her to sit still for more than a minute.” Jules laughed.

Jake, who was closer to the table than Jax and Opie, leaned over and pulled a few hundred-dollar bills out of his money clip and threw them on the table in front of Jules. “That should cover you girls...” Indicating Jules, Sophie, and Donna in his tone. “For the morning and lunch.” His tone also indicating that he wanted the girls gone from the clubhouse for that time.

She was surprised when Donna didn’t throw a fit about ‘charity’, like she did just a month or so ago like Donna had when she tried to help with groceries. Instead, Donna just smiled at Jake. “Thanks.”

She’d have to ask Jules what she said to Donna the night before, because, damn, it was like the five years Opie did hadn’t happened, and Donna was back to the way she had been before, part of the family.

“You’re welcome.” Jake patted Jules shoulder.

Jules grinned up at him. “Yeah, thanks Pop! It’s always more fun to spend your money than my own.” She looked down at the bills. “And this is a nice start to repay me after this morning’s stunt.” Giving Jake a bit of a look.

Jake just grinned. “That boy did everything but explicitly ask my permission yesterday afternoon.” Jake squeezed his daughter’s shoulder. “I’d say it worked out rather well for you, Princess. Baby Princess, too.”

Jules looked over to where Jax was holding Sophie while talking with Ope and Chibs. “It did.” Grinning back at her dad.

Jake looked over to her. “Can I talk to you for a second?”

“Sure.” She nodded to both girls as she got up from the table and led Jake outside. There were a few people out at the picnic tables, so she took him into her office.

Turning around to face him, she gave him a small smile. “What do you need?”

“You’re going to take the girls over to Jax’s later?” Jake’s eyes were serious.

“Jules wants to figure out what she wants to have brought out and what would be put in storage.” She replied. “And I have shit to do around here that will keep me busy until after lunch. Why?”

“I would really like them out of the clubhouse in the next day or two.” Jake grinned. “Let the guys get back to normal. Kind of hard to keep a clubhouse PG for any extended period of time.” Jake chuckled.

She laughed along with him. “You aren’t wrong there, darlin’.” She sighed. “I was plannin’ on doing something with the room that’ll be Sophie’s. It’s pretty plain right now.”

Jake nodded. “After this morning, I think me and the boys will be able to help. Get some paint up.” Jake shrugged. “The rest will be taken care of when everyone from home gets here.”

“Everyone?” How many people did it take to move some stuff for two people? “How many people should I be expecting?”

Jake shrugged, with a slightly embarrassed smile. “No idea, yet.” The man rolled his eyes, just the slightest. “My father, sister, and brother-in-law are on their way to Chicago as we speak. I know they’ll be coming with Lu, my other sister Mercy, and Mercy’s partner, Jamie.” Jake sighed again. “And probably a few of my guys.” This time the eye roll was heavy. “Last I knew, they were resorting to drawing straws.”

She laughed. “Losers have to come help?”

“No, the winners.” Jake smirked back. Then the smirk died, and was replaced by a hardness she hadn’t seen from Jake Lyons. She suddenly understood how the Satan Son’s could get away with not having a one-percent patch and still be feared. “My girls are beloved by my club, and our family. They all want to make sure that they’re in the right hands.” His blue eyes bored into hers. “You understand?”

She smiled placidly. “I do.” If she were in Lyons’ family shoes, she would absolutely be doing the same goddamned thing.

Jake relaxed. “Good. Like I said, unless Clay needs our help, which I don’t think he will after Den tells us what he’s found out, me and the boys can help with any work that has to be done at Jax’s to get it ready.”

“That should certainly speed things up.” She was doing some calculating in her head. “The walls are plain white already, so we can just paint over. If we got the first coat up by the end of the day...” She did some quick math in her head. “We could have the girls in Jax’s within two, three days at the outside.”

“Let’s shoot for two.” Jake nodded towards the clubhouse. “We should get back. I don’t know about you, but I could use some more coffee and something to eat.”

“Neither could hurt, darlin’.” She chuckled as she followed Jake back to the clubhouse.

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

After breakfast, Tig huddled with Gemma for a minute about the rental Gemma was getting for Jules and Soph. He’d made the offer to pay for it, but Gem informed him that Jax was footing the bill.

As much as he’d like to go tell Jax that he’d take care of it, he understood where Jax was comin’ from. He was pretty sure that Sophie had just beaten Jax to the punch when it came to the Daddy question. Jax was absolutely wrapped already.

He filed away Jules’ delight at the silver, sporty Caddy, not dissimilar to the one Gem drove. There probably wouldn’t be too much of a price difference after he traded the Beemer in. He made a note to have Gem ask the dealership about it.

Going into the chapel, he lit a smoke, nodding at the others as he took his seat. Once everyone was seated and settled down, Clay nodded towards Jake. “Jake, you said Dennis had some intel on the guys who were following the girls in Lodi?”

Jake nodded at Dennis. “This is his show. Den, what did you find out?”

Dennis rolled his eyes. “More fucking Nazi’s is what I found.” Dennis turned to Jake. “Seriously, how did Rip not know Cheryl was...”

He laughed inwardly as Eric reached around his father to cuff his brother on the back of the head. “Focus, fuckwit.” SAMCRO laughed, Jake Lyons rolled his eyes.

Dennis flipped his brother off, but continued. “These dudes aren’t affiliated with a ‘gang’, so to speak.” Another eye-roll. “They’re linked to an organization called LOAN, or League of American Nationalists.” A look of distaste crossed the young man’s face. “As long as you’re a white American Nationalist.”

The look of distaste didn’t surprise him. It was another way the Satan’s Sons had always been a little different than the rest of the MC world. Their club had never had any race limits, they had been inclusive from jump street.

Dennis passed a sheet of paper around. “This is their leader, Ethan Zobelle.” He looked at the paper and saw a middle-aged man in a suit.

“He’s also just purchased property here in Charming. Looks like he’s opening a cigar shop.” Dennis looked at Clay, who was puffing on one of his stogies. Clay just raised an amused eyebrow.

“I’ve looked into other cities where Zobelle has previously set up shop.” Dennis gave the SAMCRO guys a grim look. “And strange enough, every single city had an MC that was busted right before or right after Zobelle leaves town.”

“Who’s he informing to?” He nodded his head at Jax’s question. Jax might be a little soft, but he wasn’t stupid.

Dennis gave Jax a grim smile. “FBI.” The grim smile vanished. “Charming will be the fifth town he’s been in.”

“What have the other MC’s been busted for?” Clay had set his cigar down.

“Drugs.” Dennis replied, then put up a hand to forestall anything further. “And I know you guys aren’t into that, but how far would you go to keep that shit out of Charming?” Dennis Lyons was finally showing why he could get away with acting like he did ninety percent of the time and still be respected. “And this will put you even more at odds with the Mayan’s. And the Nords. You guys will go down first because you’ll be on the offensive trying to protect your town. Then the Mayan’s and Nords after.” Dennis shrugged. “At least that’s my guess.”

His guess was probably pretty accurate. Zobelle would rattle SAMCRO’s cage before anyone else’s because you always take out the strongest opponent first.

Dennis continued on, seemingly enjoying the new looks he was getting from SAMCRO. Eric Lyons caught his eye and gave him an ‘I told you so’ look. He ignored it.

“But here’s the thing; as far as I can tell, The local chapter of LOAN has no real idea of what Zobelle is up to. They just think he’s one of them, another Nazi looking to keep America white.” Dennis shook his head. “Ethan Zobelle is about Ethan Zobelle. The local LOAN guys won’t and don’t know shit about Zobelle looking to the Mayan’s for a heroin partnership. Only the guys he’s brought with him know any of that.”

Dennis leaned back in his chair. “If you ask me, you set a meeting with the Mayan’s. I’ll give you copies of everything to back you up.” Dennis cracked his neck. “If you and the Mayan’s get on the same page; Zobelle, LOAN and the NORDS will tear themselves apart trying to start a war between the two of you.” Dennis grinned this time. “From what I’ve read, Zobelle’s cooperation is keeping him out of prison. If he can’t deliver you guys or the Mayan’s, he’s in a cell.”

Clay nodded as he looked over to Jax. Jax was studying the printouts that Dennis had handed over. “What do you think, VP?”

Jax lit a cigarette and shook his head ruefully. “I think Dennis is right.” Flipping the bird to a preening Dennis Lyons. “I think if you show this to Marcus, we can probably figure out something that gets white hate out of everyone’s hair and keeps all of us out of jail.”

Clay thought for a moment. “We’ll set that meet after we meet tonight with the Irish.” Clay shook his head. “One problem at a time.” Then the President of SAMCRO smiled wide at both Jax and then Ope at the other end of the table.

“Dennis, do you want to tell everyone what you found out about Stahl?” He was glad Clay was having Dennis tell everyone what that bitch and the ATF were trying to do to them.

Dennis had another look of distaste on his face. “She has permission to make it look like Opie turned rat.” Looking as upset as the members of SAMCRO did. Dennis shook her head. “Oh, she was supposed to actually try and turn him, but...”

“I’m not a fucking rat.” Ope finished for him.

“Exactly.” Dennis grinned at Ope. “And at least Stahl is aware enough to know that, so she’s gaslighting you all.” The grin faded as he looked at Clay. “You kill Ope because he’s a rat and SAMCRO falls because that would start a war between you and Jax.” Dennis’ voice was as grave as what he was saying. “And then they get a real shot at the Irish Kings because they’ll be looking for a new middle man.” Dennis paused for a second. “Actually, they get a bonanza, because a lot of other groups will be looking for new avenues to get guns.” Dennis shook his head. “Oh, that’s kind of clever.”

It kind of was. He had to admit, bringing down SAMCRO could bring down a lot of others in it’s wake.

He looked over to Clay. Clay was just looking at Dennis like he’d just come in from another dimension.

Jake laughed at Clay. “You get used to it.” The rest of the guys joining in as Dennis just flipped them all off.

Clay shook his head with a smile. “Guess we’ll find out.” Clay nodded to Piney. “You wanted to say somethin’, old man.”

Piney slowly stood from his spot opposite Clay. Piney nodded towards Jax and then back to the seats that held Jake, Eric, and Dennis Lyons, then back to Jax.

“Again, son, I look at you and see your father.” Piney’s voice sincere and serious. Old age, emphysema, and tequila making Piney sentimental. “And I know he’d be the first to tell you you’re doing the right thing.”

Then Piney looked over to the Lyons. “And as one of the First Nine, and first VP of SAMCRO, you have my word that your girls will be safe and cared for here.” Extending a hand to Jake Lyons amid all the cheers in the room.

Jake nodded, with a slight smile, as he shook Piney’s hand. Jake avoided his eyes as the man looked around the room at the various SAMCRO members, then back to Piney with a smirk. “Better remember that speech, old man.” The smirk grew. “You’ll want to give it again when Dad gets here.”

He winced internally. Old Jake Lyons was a legend in his neighborhood in Chicago. The elder Jake Lyons been called Old Jake since he’d been a small boy. The man’s hair had gone completely white before Old Jake had even turned forty. He had been one of the first Air Force pilots, transferring in from the Navy. He was known to be tough, but fair. And to have very high standards where his kids were involved.

So, the fact that Old Jake was on his way, was a little worrying. He knew, through Rip, that Old Jake had implored Marina a number of times to get him to sign off on letting Jake adopt Jules. Thank God, Marina held firm, although there was never any chance in hell that he would have ever signed away his kid.

Jax’s laughter brought him back to the room. “We’ll write it down for him.” Laughing harder at the glare Piney was giving him. “I just know I personally have already seen you do half a dozen shots this morning.”

He laughed along with everyone else. When everyone was back under control, Clay took back over. “So, we’re agreed?” Looking at SAMCRO. “Set a meet with the Mayan’s after Jax and I meet with the Irish tonight, fill them in on Zobelle and that shit, see if we can broker some sort of agreement. Figure out a way that gets rid of Zobelle and the FBI, and keeps us intact.”

He and the others voiced their ‘yea’ votes and Clay dropped the gavel. Before Clay dismissed the meeting, he cleared his throat. “We’ll be having visitors in about...” Clay looked to Jake Lyons, who looked at Dennis.

Dennis pulled out his phone, and looked at it for a moment. Then typed for a minute, bopping his head to an internal melody as he waited for a reply. “Three- four days.” Dennis grinned. “That’s according to Gramps.”

Eric Lyons was snickering as Dennis went on. “According to Mercy and Lu? Five days at the earliest.” Dennis grinned at everyone. “So, anyone’s guess at this point. Depends on how stubborn Lu and Mercy are feeling and how obnoxious Gramps gets.” Dennis shrugged. “I would actually land closer to that five day mark.” His tone a touch more serious. “Jules has some things she needs to decide before they can even leave.” Then the humor was back as he looked at Jax and Clay. “But I think Gemma is gonna give her a kick in the ass in regards to that, here after lunch. I’m sure that will speed things up.” Dennis grinned.

Clay snorted out a laugh. “Oh, you have no idea.” Then looked at the rest of them. “Meeting over. I’m sure there are plenty of things that need to be done in the garage.” Clay looked at Ope. “We need to get you a new T-M shirt?”

Ope looked at Jax, who was grinning at his best friend. One day, sooner rather than later, with the way Clay’s hands were; Jax was going to be President. He really couldn’t see anyone other than Ope being Jax’s VP. The two knew each other as well as they knew themselves. Their brotherhood went beyond the kutte, it was as deep as any blood tie could be.

“Nah.” Ope shrugged, and smirked at Jax’s falling face. “Still got my old one.”

Jax’s grin belied the flipped middle finger he waved at Ope.

After the meeting broke up, he made his way to Gemma’s office. Gemma looked up when he came in the door. “What can I do for you, Tig?”

“Couple of things.” He grinned at her as he sat in the wooden chair opposite her desk. “Could you find out from the dealership what it would take besides the trade in for the Beemer for Jules to keep the Caddy she’s drivin’ today? She seemed to like it.”

Gem nodded. “Sure, sweetheart. And the other thing?”

He sighed. “When was the last time you heard from Carolyn or the girls?” Knowing that half the time they went to Gemma first to find out how things were around the club before they even thought of calling him. Well, at least the girls. Carolyn still just called to complain about him.

“Not for a few months.” Gemma rolled her eyes. “Carolyn stopped a couple of years ago.” Gemma smirked. “I think she was tired of being hung up on.” Gemma looked at him with concern. “You worried about how they’ll deal with all this?”

“Well, yeah.” He looked at her with surprise. “And you aren’t?”

Gemma shrugged. “Jules can hold her own against the imps of Satan, I’m sure.” Her face softened as she looked back to him. “And Jules won’t let them affect what you two are building.” Gemma gave a decisive nod. “That I would take to the bank.”

He felt his spine relax. He didn’t think the twins could mess with Jules and get far, but he felt better knowing Gem felt the same way. “Yeah.” He stood up from the chair and leaned over and kissed Gem on the cheek. “Thanks, Gem.”

“You’re welcome, Tig.” Gem nodded to the door, with a warm smile. “Now, go get to work.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He grinned over his shoulder as he was leaving the office. “Let me know what you find out about the car. Get that taken care of as soon as possible.”

“Will do.” He heard her say as he was closing the office door.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

It was mid-afternoon by the time Jules made it back to the clubhouse, and put Sophie down for a nap, and made a few phone calls. When she was finished talking to Lu and Mercy, grabbing the baby monitor to take with her, she made her way outside and joined her brothers at a picnic table.

“Pop and Gemma went back to get the paint. Should be ready to go get the first layer of paint up in about half an hour, or so.” She informed her brothers as she sat down. Then looked to where the two of them were staring. “Why is there an ambulance in the garage with the door closed?”

Eric raised an eyebrow as Dennis choked on a laugh. “Their Prospect stole it.”

“What?!” She blinked, trying to wrap her head around that level of stupidity. “Why?!”

Eric shrugged as Dennis continued to laugh. “I don’t think even the Prospect knows why he did it.” Eric stood up. “I’m going to go get the stuff we bought that can stay over at Jax’s until you two can be over there.” He looked at her. “What room is Sophie in?”

“Jax’s.” She smiled. “So, you’re good to go for getting the bed and that stuff. It should fit in the trunk of the rental.” She tossed the keys to him. “Thanks.”

Eric just waved as he walked off, heading into the clubhouse.

She glanced at Dennis briefly, with a bit of an eye-roll. “So, Pop and Eric have already given Jax their versions of the ‘shovel speech’.” She lit a smoke. “You got yours together yet?”

Dennis just laughed. “Mine’s simple.” He gave a mock-serious look. “Hurt them and I hurt you in ways you can’t even conceive.”

She nodded. “Not bad.” Then grinned. “Although, I’d make sure not to do it in front of Miss Thing, you may lose your ‘favorite dude’ title.”

“Yeah, that’s gone already.” Dennis replied with a laugh. “All I got now is favorite uncle.” Then looked over to the T-M garages at the various SAMCRO members. “Although there’s new competition, I’m confident in my ability to retain the title.” He grinned at her. "Even from afar."

“So, you’re good with this?” Eric and Butch were her brothers, and she loved them both deeply and could say she enjoyed hanging out with them at times; Dennis was her friend as much as he was her brother, especially after she came home from Stanford, and while he couldn’t really boss her around the way Eric could, his opinion mattered to her greatly.

“Hell, no!” He laughed. “I’m losing a free place to live, someone to cook for me, do my laundry...” She punched him in the arm. “Ouch! Well, I certainly won’t miss that.” He grumbled.

He straightened and looked at her. “Yeah, I’m okay with this.” He narrowed his eye while studying her. “You know that Pop moved you and Ma in less than twenty-four hours after they met?” He shrugged. “And they met at a party. Not as dramatic as the circumstance you met Jax, but same result.” He shrugged again. “I figure if the others haven’t thrown a fit yet, they’re seein’ the same thing I am.” Her brother rolled his eyes. “You two are already gag worthy.”

She flipped him off with a grin. “Thanks, Den.” Leaning into him, she elbowed him in the ribs. “It’ll be weird not having you mess my house up.” She would miss him fiercely, but knew he wouldn’t leave Chicago or the club. Pop might not have really understood, but this was Dennis’ way of keeping Pop and Eric safe, having their backs. There were few people who had the skill sets her middle brother held, and he needed to use them to help his family.

He elbowed her back. Hard. Great. Another bruise she’d have to explain to Jax. “Don’t worry, I’ll come visit and remind you how much you hate it.” He grinned.

“Awesome.” She rolled her eyes in jest. “We’ll put you up here.” She grinned at one of the sweetbutts walking by. “They can pick up after you.”

Her cell phone chimed at her. Pulling it from her bag, she looked at the text. “Pop says they’re on their way to Jax’s and the four of us are to meet them there.” They both stood up. “You wanna go help Eric get that stuff and I’ll get Miss Thing and let Jax know where we’re heading.”

“Sure.” Dennis booked off towards the clubhouse, while she walked over to where Jax was talking with Clay.

“Sorry to interrupt, but can I talk to Jax for a second?” She looked at Clay. Their faces had been serious, so she assumed she was interrupting club talk and it behooved her to ask Clay before taking his VP away for a few minutes.

“Sure, darlin’.” Clay leaned over and kissed her cheek. “We can finish up later.” He looked at Jax.

“Yeah.” Jax waited until Clay had walked away to turn to her. “What do you need, babe?”

“Just wanted to let you know that me, Soph, and the boys are heading to your place to paint that room for Sophie.” She grinned at him. “Get ready for eye-melting yellow.”

Jax raised an eyebrow. “Will I need sunglasses on to go in there?” A smile in his tone.

She shrugged. “Not after our stuff gets here. There will be enough covered to mute the effect.” She laughed. “Until then, proceed with caution. We should only be gone a couple of hours.”

“Okay.” He leaned in a kissed her, the two of them choosing to ignore the catcalls from the garage. “Sorry, they’re barely house trained.” He shook his head at the guys loitering around the garage.

“No worries. Have a pack of my own back home.” She looked over to the group. “Mine are about as well-behaved. I mean, look at Dennis.” She laughed as Dennis was trying to flip her off with his hands full.

“Yeah, yeah. Get it all in while you can, sis.” He chimed in while passing them.

Jax shook his head with amusement. “I should be around for dinner, but me, Clay, and Tig gotta go out for a while later, shouldn’t be too late. You should still be awake.” He looked over to where Eric was carrying a still sleeping Miss Thing. “Although, she’ll be asleep.” Jax sounded a little worried.

“If you guys leave after seven-thirty, you’ll still be able to say good-night to her. She’s gonna wake up the second the car starts, so it’ll be the second day in a row with little or no nap. She’ll crash early and hard tonight.” She wasn’t as concerned as Jax seemed to be. “And if you don’t, if she wakes up for five minutes so you can give her a good-night kiss, it’s not the end of the world.” Grinning at him. “Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to let you know when you’ve fucked up.”

“No doubts about that, at all, babe.” Jax grinned back at her. “You should go, I know Gemma doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”

“Neither does Pop.” Giving him a quick kiss. “Does it concern you as much as it does me that they seem to be in cahoots?”

Jax laughed at her. “No.” He looked off towards the garage. “It’s usually Tig, so I’m already used to one of your dads being dragged into her schemes.”

She blinked, hard. “Oh, Jesus. What did my kid get us into?!” Giving Jax a sassy grin.

Jax laughed. “Oh, babe.” He pulled her into his arms, still laughing his ass off. “You’ll find out, soon enough.”

She pinched him in the side. “Laugh all you want. You haven’t met all the crazy we entail.” Jerking her head towards Dennis and Eric. She gave him another quick kiss. “See you later!” Hustling away before he could retaliate.

She watched him shake his head with amusement, as she closed her car door. She was glad Dennis and Eric were already to their bikes so they couldn’t see the ridiculous smile on her face.

Although huge, life-altering things had happened over the course of the last five days, not all of them good; today was shaping up to be an excellent day.

Chapter Text

Jax looked around the bar, then back down to where Cameron Hayes was bleeding on the floor.

He jumped a little when Clay’s hand hit his shoulder. “Son, you okay?”

“Better than he is.” He turned to Clay, who was watching Tig put pressure on the Irish man’s wound.

Clay nodded. “Yeah. Called Chibs and told them to bring the ambulance that the Prospect stole.” Clay gave a grim smile. “Prospect must be psychic.”

“Good.” He took a deep breath. Today had been good, right up until a few minutes ago, when some Mayan decided to try a put a bullet in Clay and thankfully missed.

They had a tense wait, all of them keeping a wary eye on the door. Between keeping an eye out for another hit, an eye on Hayes, he did manage to worry just a little about how this was gonna fly with the future in-laws. And with Jules. He knew this was something that wouldn’t happen in Chicago.

What seemed like an eternity later, they heard a vehicle outside. Tig cautiously looked out the bar door. “It’s Chibs.”

The door opened, Chibs and Half-Sack coming through with a gurney, Dennis Lyons trailing them.

“You a doctor, too?” Clay greeted the man.

Dennis shrugged. “I have an interest.” Then grinned. “My mom is a surgeon. I know some stuff, figured I’d tag along, see if I can help.”

While Chibs and Dennis worked on Cam Hayes, he huddled with Tig and Clay.

“Fuckin’ Mayans need to be taught a fuckin’ lesson.” Tig advocating stiff retribution.

He shook his head. “I don’t think this is Marcus. I think this is someone taking initiative, trying to make a name for himself.” He looked at both Clay and Tig. “And considering all the heat we already have on us, we should play it cool.” When Tig looked to argue, he gave the SAA a cold look. “Or would you rather have Jules and Soph visiting all of us in prison?”

Tig sighed. “Of course not, but we can’t just let the Mayan’s do this shit to us and get away with it, Jax.”

“I’m not saying we sit back and do nothin’, Tig.” He shot back. “But, I do think we should figure out what the fuck this actually was before we do a damn thing. If it wasn’t club sanctioned, I say we let the Mayans do our dirty work for us.” He shook his head again. “This isn’t like the old days where we could do whatever the fuck we wanted. Too many cops, too many cameras everyfuckingwhere, too many civilians with fucking cell phones.” He looked at Clay and Tig. “It’s a different world and we gotta be smarter than the rest of them if we want to survive.”

He pulled a smoke out and lit it. “We set a meet with Marcus like we were going to anyway. Find out what the fuck this was. If it was the renegade I think it is, we tell him about Zobelle and let him clean his own house. If it was club sanctioned? We don’t tell him about Zobelle, and try to steer clear of the whole fuckin’ mess it’ll end up being.” Looking to Clay.

Clay thought for a long moment, then sighed. “Yeah.” Clay looked over to where Chibs and the Prospect were wheeling Cam Hayes out to the ambulance, Dennis Lyons walking along, fingers in the bullet hole. “We gotta deal with this before we can do a damn thing.” Clay looked tired. “He dies and the Irish will lose their minds.” Clay nodded to the door. “Let’s get back to the clubhouse and deal with this shit first.” Clay turned and headed for the door.

He and Tig followed.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

“Calm down, Princess. Trager said all of them other than the Irishman were fine.” Jake Lyons drawled from the table he was sitting at, playing cards with Bobby and Piney.

Gemma looked to where Jules was pacing by the pool table. The young woman did look agitated, but then again, she was feeling that way herself. She knew Clay was fine, but until she actually saw him, she wouldn’t breathe easy.

Jules shrugged at her adopted father. “I would like visual proof of that.” Stopping her pacing when her eldest brother blocked her way. “Really, Eric?” Bracing her hands on her hips in exasperation.

Jules’ brother gave her a no-nonsense look. “Yes, really.” Eric raised an eyebrow at his sister. “If it were really bad, we would have already heard from Den. The fact that he hasn’t made a peep is a good sign and you know it. So, sit the fuck down; you’re annoying me.”

She watched with a touch of awe as Jules, while shooting her brother a menacing look, took a seat next to her without a word. Eric went back to the pool game he’d had going with Juice. She looked over to the young woman and just raised an eyebrow. She wasn’t even sure what to say to that display.

Jules barely looked at her, still shooting dirty looks at her brother. Everything about Jules at the moment was tense, and it was a brittle kind of tense; like the slightest push would break her. The girl had already had a hell of a bad week and this was the straw that could break her back.

Reaching over, she took Jules’ arm. “C’mon darlin’, let’s go check on Sophie before they get back here.” Wanting some time alone with Jules.

“Yeah.” Jules got up. “Might as well.”

As they reached the door to Jax’s room, she took Jules by the arm again, and steered her to the room next door.

“You okay?” She turned to Jules after closing the door.

“No.” Jules sighed. “A dude was shot. He’s coming here. And everyone is acting like this happens every damn day.” Jules was back to pacing and waving her hands.

“Not every day.” She replied drolly, then stood to head Jules off at the pass. “It’s been years since any shit like this has happened.” She stared the young woman in the eyes. “And right now, the last thing Jax needs is for you to be fallin’ apart, you hear me?” Giving Jules a quick, hard hug. “Right now, you need to be the fierce young woman you are, and you can fall apart after the Irishman gets taken care of.” She took a step back. “Now, check on your daughter, get your head together and we’ll get through this.”

Jules hung her head, black curls nearly grazing her knees, and sighed. When she brought her head back up, she could see a resolve in the younger woman’s blue eyes. Jules gave her a tired half-smile. “Story of my life, lately.” Then sighed again. “Yeah. I can do this.”

There was a knock on the door, and then Bobby’s voice. “Gem, they’re back.”

“Thanks, Bobby.” She patted Jules’ arm. “Let’s go do what needs doing, baby.” Heading out the dorm room door.

“Yeah.” Jules sounding not at all enthused as she followed behind.

When the two of them reached the garage, making sure Jax, Clay and Tig were alright, they could hear Dennis and Chibs talking in the ambulance.

Jules leaned her head in. “What’s goin’ on, Den?”

Dennis Lyons looked up, frustrated. “I could totally fix this, but I need a fucking clamp, so I can use both my goddamn hands.” The frustration in his voice growing. “And somehow there isn’t one anywhere on this fucking ambulance.”

Jules nodded and stepped back to where the rest of them were gathered around the open doors of the ambulance.

Clay looked over to her son with an apologetic look. “I hate to say it, son, but we need to call Tara.”

“I can fix it! I just need a clamp from her, everything else is here.” Dennis sounding indignant from the ambulance.

Jake Lyons rapped on the ambulance door. “Put the ego away, Dennis. If we’re gonna bother her for a clamp, we may as well have her being the one usin’ it.” Jake’s tone making it abundantly clear there was to be no back talk.

Jax looked to her husband, and she could see the argument forming on her son’s lips; when Jules stepped up beside him. “Hey, you know, my knee is really giving me fits and Tara could tell me if I should go in tonight or not.” Jules gave her son a look. “You know what I mean?”

She stopped the smile from happening as her son nodded gratefully. “Yeah, that would give us some cover.”

“The sooner the better.” Dennis’s voice came from the ambulance. “I’m getting tired of having my fingers in this dude’s ass.”

“I’m no’ enjoyin’ it much, meself, ye cunt.” Came the pained voice of Cameron Hayes over Chibs’s laughter.

Clay looked over to Jax and Jules. “Go. Get whatever he needs and if you can convince Tara to come...” Clay lowered his voice. “And make sure everything is copacetic, all the better.”

Her son and Jules both nodded as they went into the clubhouse to get the keys to the rental car.

She leaned into Clay. “You sure this is the best idea?” She hated the fact that Jax was having to go to Tara for help, again.

Clay shrugged. “It’s the only one.” Then he walked off, giving orders to have Hayes moved to the chapel where he could be laid out so that when they were finally able to, they’d be able to patch him up in peace.

She sighed, knowing her husband was right. As she was heading into the clubhouse to see what she could help with, she ran into her son and Jules as they were leaving.

Jules stopped her. “Hey can you help keep an eye on Sophie while we’re gone? Pop and Eric will try, but they’re going to be a little distracted helping Dennis.”

“Of course, sweetheart.” Both kids nodding as they headed out.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

The drive to Tara’s was a little tense. About a block before they reached Tara’s, Jax pulled the car over, put it in park and turned to Jules. “You okay with this, babe?”

Jules sighed heavily. “Not especially, but if there’s anyone who’s totally okay with all of this, then they’re nuts.”

He bit down a chuckle. “You have a valid point there.” Taking her hand. “I’ll talk to Tara when we get there. You won’t have to do anything.”

Jules snorted at that. “Wrong, Teller.” She shook her head. “I’ll ask Tara, because I’ll manage to not ask her to come to the clubhouse.” Jules turned to him with an intense look on her face. “If my brother says he can fix it, he can.” Her tone was final, and matched the resolute look on her face. “Now let’s get there, get the clamp, so Dennis can do his thing.”

He decided that this wasn’t worth an argument over. He would trust Jules’s assessment of her brother’s abilities. He put the car into drive and pulled away from the curb.

When they reached Tara’s, he helped Jules out of the car, and helped her “limp” to Tara’s front door. He could see the neighbor to Tara’s east peeking out her window.

They knocked a few times, getting no answer. Tara’s car was in the drive and the lights were on. He frowned. “Maybe she doesn’t want to talk to us.” He raised an eyebrow at Jules.

“Try her cell.” Jules suggested. “Maybe she’s doing something and not hearing the door.”

He did, and got no answer. Slipping his phone back in his pocket, he turned Jules around and started to head to the car. “Maybe Dennis can MacGyver something.”

Jules was nodding when they heard a gunshot. “That came from inside!” Jules turned quickly. “Crap!” He could see her start to limp for real as they both rushed to the house and through the door.

“Tara!!” Jules was yelling as she made her way through the house ahead of him.

They could hear voices from the back of the house. As Jules ran into the bedroom, he nearly ran her over as she came to a sudden halt.

He could see why. Kohn was on the floor, sitting against the wall, with a gunshot wound to the gut. Tara was half-dressed on the bed, holding a shaking gun, as Kohn taunted her.

Jules started to move again, making her way to Tara, taking the gun by the barrel, and gently taking Tara’s hand off the grip. “You okay? What did he do to you?”

His anger was boiling, and he pulled his own gun out. Jules spotted him and glared. “Put that thing away.” She glanced at Kohn. “This asshole can run his mouth all he wants, because it’s the last thing he’s gonna be able to do to her because his ass is going to jail.” She glanced at Kohn again, like she was debating something; then threw the hand holding the gun up.

He smirked at Kohn, knowing exactly what was gonna happen next.

Jules swung her arm down and caught Kohn on the side of the head with the butt of the gun, effectively knocking him out. Then turned to Tara. “We have more pressing issues to deal with, but at some point, would you explain to me how in the world you ever fucking dated him in the first place?”

Tara blinked a couple of times and then started to laugh. It had more than a little hysteria to it. Jules grabbed Tara’s hands and squeezed. “Hey, hey. It’s gonna be just fine. Take a couple deep breaths.”

Tara followed the directions given. Breathing in and out with Jules. He felt awkward, almost intrusive. It was obvious that Kohn had either straight out raped Tara or at the very least coerced her into sex.

When Tara’s breath evened out, she looked at he and Jules. “Why are you even here?”

Jules gave an awkward smile. “Needed to see if we could borrow a clamp for Dennis.” Jules shrugged. “There was an incident, someone got hurt and Dennis needs a clamp to fix it.”

Tara waved towards the front rooms. “There’s one in my bag on the kitchen table. Bring it to me.”

He went and got the bag and brought it to her. As he reached the bedroom, he could hear sirens in the distance. Apparently, the neighbor called the cops.

Tara reached in the bag and pulled an instrument out and handed it to him. “Here.”

He took it and looked at Jules. “We’re stuck for a while, babe. I could hear cops on their way.”

Jules shook her head. “I’m stuck for as long as this takes.” Her face tight and tense. “You on the other hand, we’ll get out of here faster.” She gave him a look. “Trust me.”

He could only nod as Hale came through the door. “Tara!!”

He yelled back. “Hale! We’re back here!”

Hale came thundering in the room, taking in the scene. “Who shot him?”

Jules stepped forward. “Tara. In self-defense.” Jules gave a disgusted look at the crumpled ATF agent. “He raped her.” Looking much like she had in the garage just a couple of nights ago, ready to kill. “I’m the one that cold-cocked him to get him to shut his fucking mouth.”

Hale raised an eyebrow. “Why are you two even here?”

Jules limped forward. “My knee. I wanted Tara’s opinion if it should be seen tonight, and if not, could she recommend a doctor for me to make an appointment with.” Jules gave a grimace. “Since I’m staying with Tara through all this crap she’s gonna be put through, I’ll probably end up with it looked at tonight.”

He hid a smile when Tara went to object and Jules just gave her a withering look that shut Tara up immediately.

Jules looked back to Hale and went on. “But, Jax is leaving.” She put up a hand as Hale opened his mouth. “Someone has to go back and be with Sophie.” Her voice softened. “You know what brought us here. Right now, Sophie is most comfortable with me or Jax. And since I’m...”

Hale interrupted. “That’s fine, I understand.” David turned to him. “Glenda already told us you two were outside when the gunshot went off.” The cop’s smirk was wry. “So, I know you didn’t shoot him.” Hale waved him on. “Come by the station in the morning, give me a statement.”

“Yeah, I can do that.” He went over to Jules. “You gonna be okay, babe?” He murmured into her ear, pulling her away from Hale, who was starting to gently question Tara.

“Yeah.” She murmured back. “Although will you have Pop come to the hospital?” Jules looked at Tara, so many emotions playing across her face, he was nearly dizzy; anger, sadness, worry, empathy, and a couple of others he couldn’t really quantify. “I think we might need him.” The utter faith in her Pop’s ability to fix this clusterfuck evident in her voice.

He looked at Tara, who looked so small and broken while answering Hale’s questions, he could only nod his agreement. “Yeah, I’ll have him drive the car, so he can bring you two back to the clubhouse.” He looked around at all the activity starting to happen as two EMTs came through the front door. “I don’t think she’ll be able to come back here tonight.”

“I’ll make sure we pack her a bag before we go to the hospital.” Jules gave him quick kiss. “Go back and check on Sophie.” Eyeing his kutte, where he had stuck the clamp Tara had handed him. “And Dennis.”

Nodding, he told Hale he would see him at the station in the morning, and just gave Tara a wave, as Jules was talking low to her.

He wound his way through the cops and EMTs coming into the house and out to the car. Getting in, he sat for a second, trying to wrap his head around what had just happened. He knew Kohn was stalking Tara, and certainly had fucked with him, but he really hadn’t thought the guy would go this far.

While he was beating himself up for not seeing the threat that Kohn had really been, his cell rang. He looked at it. Gemma.

“Yeah, Mom. I’m on my way back.” Not giving her a chance to even say hello.

“Just you? What the fuck, Jackson?”

“Mom, I’ll tell you when I get there.” He sighed. “This fucked up night has just gotten a hell of a lot more fucked.”

“Great.” His mom sounded tired. “I’ll see you when you get here.” Then hung up.

Sighing again, he started the car, put it in gear, and got the hell out of there.

Chapter Text

Tara laid back and looked at the exam room ceiling, still shook from what had happened earlier tonight. She still couldn’t believe she had shot Josh, that he had raped her. She raised a shaking hand to brush back the hair that had fallen in her face. She wondered how long they would shake.

Margaret, one of the hospital administrators, had come in after the exam, and her changing into some clothes that Jules had made sure had gotten packed and brought to the hospital. Margaret had let her know that the hospital was clearing her schedule for the next few days, giving her some time to recover. The administrator had been kind, telling her to let the hospital know if they could do anything to help with her recovery. She had just nodded along to whatever the older woman had said, barely paying attention.

Now, she was just waiting on the discharge paperwork. She had been examined, and other than giving her the morning-after pill, there were no signs of any tearing or bruising. Then again, while logically she knows that Josh raped her, a part of her feels like she had just given in.

She had also answered all of David’s questions about what happened. He assured her that she wouldn’t be facing charges; she had shot Josh in self-defense and that’s how he was writing it up; she had the restraining orders, she had literally moved half a country to get away from Josh. No judge was going to send her to jail.

There was a soft knock on the exam room door and then Jules limped in with her dad behind her. “Hey, the nurse said you’re just waiting on the paperwork and then we can all get out of here.”

“Yeah.” She raised an eyebrow at the cane Jules was using to help her limp around. “Apparently, there was something wrong with your knee.”

Jules shrugged, while her dad looked a little aggravated. “Twisted it when we heard the gunshot. Nothing torn, just strained. Just gotta take it easy for a few days and use this bad boy.” Waving the cane around like a sword. Jules’ dad just rolled his eyes.

She couldn’t help it, she laughed. “Are you five?”

Jules shrugged again with a slight smirk. “No. But, it made you laugh.” Jules motioned for her to move her legs, and then sat on the edge of the bed. “Douchebag is still in surgery. He’ll more than likely survive, unfortunately.”

She just nodded, not sure how she felt about whether he lived or died. Jules took her nod as a gesture to continue. That was fine, she wasn’t sure how much talking she was really up to at the moment.

“They wouldn’t tell us anything about what was going on with you.” Jules patted her ankle. “You holdin’ up okay?”

She looked to Jules and her dad, Jake. He seemed like a good guy, even if he was a biker. He’d been waiting at the emergency entrance to the hospital when they arrived, as gentle with her as he was with his own daughter.

“Physically, I guess.” She took a shaky breath. “The rest of it, I really don’t know.”

“That’s all right, sweetheart.” Jake’s voice was low and kind. “It’ll probably be a minute before you get your head back on straight.” He was about to say something else when a nurse popped her head in the slight space the open door made.

“You ready to get out of here?” She nodded, and the woman came in to give her the discharge paperwork.

After going over it quickly with the nurse, she shoved the papers into the bag that Jules had packed for her, and got down from the exam table. Jules had already gotten up and was heading towards the door.

Jake walked with her, keeping a light arm around her shoulders, as if to try and protect her from the pitying looks she was getting from the staff in the halls.

While not dislodging the arm from her shoulders, she nodded towards Jules who was limping along ahead of them. “Shouldn’t you be helping her?”

“Nah.” Jake gave her shoulders a slight squeeze as they continued on. “She’d just hit me with that damned thing.” He chuckled drolly. “This isn’t her first rodeo with a cane. She’s already called Lu to have the one her granddaddy made for her shipped out overnight.” He rolled his eyes. “Said Dennis isn’t as scared of the aluminum ones.”

A giggle escaped before she could reign it in. She’d heard of the siblings dynamics from Lu, and back in Chicago she thought the woman had been exaggerating a little, trying to be funny to cheer her up; but apparently ‘best friends who try to kill each other’ was an accurate description.

Jake squeezed her shoulders again. “Exactly.” A wry smile on his face, eyes lit with humor.

When they reached the car, she tried to convince Jules and her dad that she would be fine at her house, but quickly backed down at the twin looks of disapproval.

“Are you fucking nuts?!” Jules shook her head. “I get that you don’t really want to go to Camp SAMCRO, but fuck...” Jules looked frustrated, and a little worn out. “You can’t go back and stay in that house tonight. There is no reason to torture yourself like that.” Then a contrite look came over her face. “And I know seeing me and Jax together...”

“Won’t hurt me at all.” She mustered up a smile for Jules, who seemed intent on taking care of her at the moment. “I came back here because my dad died and it was nearly two thousand miles from Josh. I knew that Jax would do whatever he could to keep me safe.” Her smile turned sad, because for all of Jax’s good intentions, the horrible had happened anyway. Unfortunately. “And I think you and Jax make more sense together than he and I do.” Again, she mustered up a smile. “Really.”

Jules just nodded, as Jake opened up the driver’s door. “Let’s get back to the clubhouse, girls.” Pushing the driver’s seat up so that she could slide into the backseat, sitting next to Sophie’s car seat. “It’s been a long night and both of you could use some sleep.” As Jules got in the passenger seat.

Her throat tightened at the parental, caring tone in his voice. Her own father had been distant, and then drunk since her mother had died when she was seven. She wondered if that lack of family is what had drawn her to Jax when they were younger. The deaths of Thomas and then John Teller had just pulled Jax and Gemma closer, with the club at their back; the complete opposite of her life.

“And food, Pop. Don’t forget food.” Jules yawned from the front seat. “Jax said Bobby would make me pancakes for letting them give me a cortisone shot.” Jules turned and looked at her. “I know they help, but they still suck.”

She nodded. Jules was right, as much as they would help, they did kind of suck. Jules would be getting ‘cortisone flares’ for about the next twenty-four hours. They would be painful and all you can really do for them is ice the area where the shot was given.

“I’ve been told that I’m off work for the next few days, so if you need help with anything, let me know.” She offered, thinking of how Jules had come limping into her bedroom as Josh was needling her about ruining her life, and Jules had just taken charge, doing what needed to be done without a second thought, and that all the angles were covered.

As Jules simultaneously thanked and warned her about her offer, she bit back a smile.

Jules was a far better old lady than she could ever had hoped to be.

With that knowledge, she leaned back against the seat with closed eyes, enjoying the silence before reaching the chaos she knew the clubhouse would be.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sitting at a table with Tig and Clay, Jax looked at his cell phone. The last he had heard from anyone, Jake had texted him stating that Tara was being examined and all the other shit she was gonna have to deal with, and Jules had been taken to x-ray for her knee.

Dennis was holed up with Chibs, Eric, and Juice working on Cam Hayes. At first he couldn’t even begin to understand why the fuck Juice was in with them, until he noticed Juice was working a video camera that was hooked up to Dennis’ laptop. He overheard Dennis explain to Juice that his mother was going to oversee this procedure, then closed the doors.

So the rest of them were all stuck playing the waiting game. After he had explained what they had walked into at Tara’s, his mother had gone upstairs and was getting clean sheets on the bed in the room the girls were semi-using. Eric was going to suck it up and crash with Dennis, grudgingly.

His cell rang, Jules’ number. “Hey, babe.” Getting up and walking outside to Tig’s displeasure. Since he had reported that Jules was now limping for real, Tig had been a little amped up, even more so than the SAA already was after the attempted hit on Clay.

“Nothing torn, just strained.” Jules sounded profoundly unhappy. “They want to give me a cortisone shot for the inflammation.” He could hear her pout. “I don’t want one. I hate them.” There was a little bit of a whine in her voice.

He had never had one, but knew that they helped Clay’s hands a lot. “If that’s what the doc thinks you need, you gotta get one, babe.”

“I can just take it easy and take ibuprofen. Cortisone flares suck and usually last about a day or so.” Trying to wheedle her way out of it.

He wanted to laugh at her, but tried to make his voice as commanding as he could with her. “I think you’ll take it easy as much as I think Tig will be a normal human tomorrow. So, not at all.” He sighed. “And as much as those flare things may suck, I think in the end, you’ll feel better sooner than later if you get the damn shot.”

“Tell you what; if you get the shot, I’ll get Bobby to make you some pancakes when you get back here.” Dennis had informed him earlier in the day that bribery would almost always work with Jules. “You didn’t eat much at dinner.” She hadn’t, citing that paint fumes had killed her appetite.

“I could eat pancakes.” He smiled. Looked like Dennis was right. He heard her release a dramatic sigh. “Fine. I’ll get the shot. If there aren’t pancakes when we get back. I’m hitting you with the cane that they’ll end up giving me.”

He laughed. He had noticed that while she constantly threatened violence against him, it had yet to happen. In fact, the only person other than Dougie and Kohn, he had seen her beat on at all was Dennis, and Dennis gave as good as he got. And the other two completely deserved it. “Yeah, yeah.” Then sighed again. “Any word on Tara?”

“No. Pop has been trying, but since none of us are family to her, no info.” Jules sounded pissed at that. “Did find out that the douchebag is still in surgery. I guess they’re going to make sure he lives.” She sounded like she thought that was a terrible idea. He couldn’t disagree.

“I had to tell everyone about what happened, since you didn’t come back and asked for Jake to meet you at the hospital.” He took a breath, not knowing how this would go over. “Mom is changing the sheets in the room you and Sophie had been using.” Smiling a little at the thought of Soph asleep up in his room. “She said Tara could stay in there.”

“That’s what I was thinking.” He could hear a little humor in Jules’ voice. “I’d let Gemma break the sleeping arrangement news to Eric. He’s less likely to tell her to fuck right off.”

“Yeah, already taken care of.” He chuckled a little. “He might still be complaining about it, though.”

“Not shocked.” Jules sounded fond. “They’re coming back in with the shot I have been bribed into getting. Either me or Pop will send a text when we’re on our way back.” Hanging up before he could reply.

Tucking his cell phone back in his pocket, he went back inside, only to be immediately accosted by Tig and Bobby.

“What’d she say?” Tig was nearly bouncing on his toes.

“Strained, not torn.” He replied with the same look of relief that Tig was wearing. “But, I had to bribe her with pancakes to get her to let them give her a cortisone shot.” He finished, chuckling at Bobby.

Bobby shook his head with amusement. “Yeah, I can do that.” Bobby’s amusement faded. “Anything on Tara?”

He shook his head. “No, since neither Jake or Jules is family, they aren’t tellin’ them shit.” He sighed as he spotted his mother coming back from the dorms, and was making her way over to them.

As he was filling her in on what Jules had told him, the door to the chapel opened and Dennis, Eric, and Juice came out. Juice looking a little green around the gills. Apparently, filming a surgery will do that to a guy.

Clay looked up at the trio. “He taken care of?” Looking to where Cam Hayes was still stretched out on the redwood table.

Dennis nodded with a grim smile. “Yeah.” Looking back to the chapel. “Mom is calling in prescriptions for antibiotics and pain killers. We can pick them up in the morning.” Dennis glanced around room. “Mom did say that we should watch him for the rest of the night, make sure he doesn’t start to run a temp.”

“We got enough people around, we can do that in shifts.” Clay announced.

As everyone else nodded, Eric looked over to him. “You hear from Jules?”

“Strained, not torn. They were going to give her a cortisone shot.” He told her brothers.

“Wonder what Pop had to bribe her with to do that? She hates shots.” Dennis remarked to the room.

He smirked at the multi-talented man. “I had to bribe her with Bobby’s pancakes when she gets back.”

The two Lyons chuckled along with everyone else in the clubhouse.

“That would do it.” Dennis nodded, then looked down to see his clothes were blood-stained. “I’m gonna go get changed.” The man looked at Bobby hopefully. “Think I could get in on some of those pancakes? Between field surgery and my mother’s disappointment, I need a snack.”

Bobby chuckled a little. “Sure. Gotta pay your fee somehow.” The clubhouse chuckling along.

“Cool. Thanks.” Dennis flashed a quick smile and then was off, back to the dorms and clean clothes.

His mother looked at Eric with a roll of her eyes. “I realize he’s a bit...special, but why in the hell would any mother be disappointed with that kid? He’s a fuckin’ genius.” Gemma was feelin’ the Dennis love because it had taken him all of thirty minutes to streamline her computer to where it was, in his mother’s words, “so user friendly it nearly runs itself, that’s a little frightening, Jackson.”

Eric shrugged. “Dianne is on staff at Mass General. She teaches people how to be surgeons.” Eric’s voice had a guarded tone, like he was trying very hard to sound as calm and neutral as possible. “Den was supposed to be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, not...”

“Dennis?” His mother finished.

Eric shrugged again. “I was going to say biker, but Dennis works too.” A sly smile crossing his face. “Dianne is a pretty serious lady.” Eric grinned. “And you’ve all met Den, well, he’s not.” Eric’s grin faded to a warm smile. “But for all of that, they’ll be fine in a couple of days. She may not understand him, but she loves him.”

“I get the feelin’ a lot of people say that about him.” Clay cracked from the table he was sitting at.

“You know it.” Eric replied, as he nodded to Claire, a brunette croweater that was covered in ink, who handed him a glass of whiskey. Taking a sip, Eric looked to him. “Jules happen to say how much longer she thought they’d be?”

He shook his head. “No, but said her or your dad would text someone when they were on their way back.”

Eric nodded and looked over to Tig. “Wanna play a game while we wait?” Nodding at the pool table. “Twenty a game?” Smart move by his Chicago counterpart. It was pretty obvious that Tig was more than a little wound.

“Sure.” Tig slid his chair back, standing up. “Sounds good.”

As Tig headed towards the pool table, he went back to the dorms to check on Sophie.

Reaching his room, he noticed that the door was cracked open. Curious, he carefully stepped to the door. Looking in, he saw Dennis sitting on the floor at the side of the bed Sophie was sleeping on, chin resting on the bed, just watching her sleep and breathe.

He stole back, hoping Dennis didn’t see or hear him. Dennis was still in the blood-stained clothing. Seemed like maybe Dennis had to wrap his head around some shit, and watching Sophie helped him do that.

Hearing rustling from his room, he took a few quick steps back, nearly to the dorm entrance, biting back a smile as Dennis emerged, giving him a bit of a startled look.

He held up his hands. “Just came back to check on her myself.”

Dennis gave him a chagrined look. “Just needed a minute, you know?”

He nodded. He did get it. “Yeah, no worries, brother.” He nodded towards the room. “She still sleepin’?”

“Yeah.” Dennis answered, and then nodded his head towards the room that he and Eric would be sharing later. “I should go change before they get back.” The snarkiness that usually surrounded Dennis Lyons like a shroud, was gone, leaving the real Dennis behind, and now he could see what Jules and the rest of the Lyons already knew; Dennis’ outward silliness masked a seriously smart, eclectic man who, if pressed, could do whatever the hell he wanted, but had chosen this life, because this life was family, and anything else would be lesser.

He felt a fierce wave of affection towards his future brother-in-law. He was now understanding the defensiveness that both Jules and Eric have shown at times regarding the middle Lyons son.

“Yeah, you probably should.” He grinned at the other man, trying to get Dennis back to himself. “Otherwise your sister will probably eat all the pancakes. She didn’t eat much earlier.”

Dennis let out a tired laugh. “Yeah.” He laughed again. “I’ll be out in a few.” The man took off, disappearing into the room at the end of the hall.

After checking on Sophie again, he made his way outside. It was quiet out, everyone still inside. He sat down on one of the picnic tables, his feet on the bench. Lighting a joint, he inhaled and held it for a minute before letting a stream of smoke from his lips.

He sat there for a couple of minutes, smoking and trying hard not to think, when his mother came out and sat next to him.

“You okay, baby?” His mom wrapped an arm around his waist and gave him a quick squeeze.

“Yeah, just waiting for Jules to text that they’re on their way back.” He nodded his head towards the clubhouse. “Hayes is gonna have to stay here for a little bit, you think we can have the girls in the house by tomorrow? I don’t want them to spend another night here.”

“Yeah, if we put up the second coat of paint first thing in the morning. Sophie may have to bunk in Abel’s room tomorrow night, but the rest of the house should be fine.” His mother smirked. “Jules wants to paint the kitchen and bathrooms, too. But said they could wait until we had more hands and it could be done in record time.” His mother shook her head. “Sounds like a fuckin’ caravan is headed here.”

He could hear the unsaid implications in his mother’s voice. There was a whole group of people he was going to have to convince that he was worthy of Jules and Sophie. He probably wasn’t, but he wasn’t going to let that stand in his way.

“Whatever she wants to do is fine by me, I don’t care.” He smirked. “It’s not like interior design is a strength of mine.”

His mom chuckled. “No son, it’s really not.” She took the joint from his fingers and took a hit as she stood. “I’m gonna go help Bobby.” She rolled her eyes a little, albeit with a fond smile on her face. “Seems like more than Dennis and Jules feel the need for late night comfort food.”

“Yeah.” He grinned at his mom. “I could probably eat some myself.” Taking the joint back. “I don’t know what strain this is, but it definitely gives you the munchies.”

“Yeah, yeah.” His mother waved a hand as she walked back into the clubhouse, leaving him alone again.

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Jake looked in the rearview mirror to where Tara was sitting in the back seat with her eyes closed, head leaned back. Then shot a side glance at his daughter, who was leaning with her forehead against the passenger window, watching the streets go by.

“It’s really quiet here.” His daughter remarked, keeping her voice low, so she wouldn’t disturb Tara.

“It’s almost one in the mornin’, sis.” He shook his head. “The only reason you think it’s quiet is because you lived in downtown Chicago.” Acknowledging that his daughter would no longer be residing there.

“Yeah, that makes sense.” He could see how tired she was, and how much she really was hurting.

“Where you at, sis?” The tone of his voice letting his kid know this wasn’t an idle question.

“About a seven.” His daughter’s forehead still pressed against the car window.

He sighed. “Maybe someone at the clubhouse will have some pain pills.” He shook his head. “No idea why they just didn’t fill the damn prescription while we were still at the hospital.”

“I didn’t want to wait. They said it would be another thirty minutes to an hour.” Jules was starting to sound a little whiny. He knew that she was on the last of her reserves. Maybe hurting her knee was a blessing in disguise. Make her rest and take it easy for a couple of days.

“You should have waited.” Tara’s voice was soft from the backseat, like she wasn’t quite sure if she should be chiming in. “It’s better for you to take the pain pills before the pain is that bad.”

“Tara’s right, you know.” He patted his daughter’s arm. “It’ll take an hour before the pain is to a tolerable level.”

“Yeah. I know.” Jules’ voice was tight. He knew the tone. She was getting a flare and he’d say that her pain levels were probably hovering around a nine right now. His daughter turned back to Tara. “But, you were done and I didn’t want you to have to wait around for some stupid pills.”

“Considering the pain you’re in, I wouldn’t say they’re stupid.” Tara shot back. “I wouldn’t have minded waiting.”

“Well, I would have.” His daughter was starting to sound a little surly. “I don’t like hospitals. I figured ice and ibuprofen would get me through the night.”

“Well, you figured wrong, sis.” Growing frustrated with his daughter, like he almost always did when she was hurt and not following doctor’s orders. “When we get there, you are going to eat somethin’, we’re gonna find you a pain pill or somethin’ close, and you are going to bed.” He pulled the car into the T-M lot, and parked in an open space next to Gemma’s Caddy. Putting the car in park and turning off the ignition, he turned and looked at Jules and Tara, putting all the dad he could into his voice. “You hear me?” Satisfied when his daughter nodded. He then turned to Tara.

“And you.” He nearly smiled at the surprised, but almost pleased look on Tara’s face. He understood now why Jules had really wanted him at the hospital. If it had been solely for her, she would have asked for Eric, he didn’t hover as much. His daughter knew that what Tara needed was family, a parent to look after her. He gave the young doctor a warm smile. “You are going to eat somethin’, too. And you’re also goin’ to bed.” He looked at both girls. “You need rest, too.”

He hid a smile behind his hand when Tara went to argue and Jules just put a hand on Tara’s arm. “Don’t even bother. You can’t win.” His kid rolled her eyes affectionately. “He’s used the official ‘I am your father’ voice.” Doing a terrible imitation of Darth Vader. “You don’t get to argue with that voice.”

“Do as I say, you will.” He laughed at the shocked look on Tara’s face. “Four kids. One grandkid. I know who the fuck Yoda is.”

Tara blinked for a minute and then started to laugh. By the time she was done, she had to wipe her eyes. “Oh, I think I needed that.” Taking a deep breath and letting it out. “I think food and sleep sounds like a good idea.”

“Good.” He looked up to see Jax coming out to the car, followed closely by Trager.

His daughter opened the passenger door as Jax reached it. Jax took her hand and helped her out. “You look like you’re in some pain, babe.” Then the young man looked over to Tara. “You okay?”

Tara just nodded and then looked to Jules. “Physically I’m in way better shape than she is.” Tara looked to Tig. “Do you have any pain killers?” Nodding to Jules. “She needs one after she eats.”

“Yeah, we found some for Hayes.” Tig nodded. Then headed back into the clubhouse, he supposed to make sure a pill was waiting for Jules as soon as she walked in.

Jax looked at his daughter with a frown. “They didn’t give you meds?”

He sighed, catching Jax’s attention. “She didn’t want to wait for them to be filled. They’ll be ready to pick up at seven at the hospital pharmacy.”

With the look Jax gave his daughter, he gently took Tara’s arm. “I think maybe we should give these two a minute.” His voice low.

Tara nodded her agreement and the two of them slunk away to the clubhouse.

He’d let Jax handle bitching Jules out for being too stubborn for her own good. After all, he supposed, Jax should get used to it. The young man would be doing it for years to come.

Chapter Text

Jules leaned back onto the car, trying to keep as much weight off her right knee as possible. While she had really wanted to follow Pop and Tara into the clubhouse, she knew by the look on Jax’s face she wasn’t going anywhere for a minute.

“Babe.” The tone of his voice indicating his unhappiness with her. “Why wouldn’t you wait for pain pills you obviously fucking need?”

“They said the pharmacy was backed up and it would be another hour, I didn’t want Tara to have to wait on me.” She shuddered a little. “Hospitals are not fun places to hang out.”

“And Tara’s a doctor, she would have understood the need to wait for your meds.” Jax shook his head. “Wanna try again?” Arms folded across his chest.

“Fine, I don’t like hospitals and I was fucking done with being there.” She gritted her teeth against another flare. Goddamn, she hated them. Felt like she was getting the fucking shot all over again. Using the cane for balance, she was trying to breathe through the pain.

“Babe.” This time the tone was softer, and she felt his arm go around her waist. “C’mon. Let’s get you inside. We can argue about this later, when you’re feeling up to it.”

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak without starting to cry. Her knee was killing her at the moment. All she really wanted was to not have to stand or walk for a while.

They were halfway to the clubhouse when Den came and met them. He took one look at her and just shook his head. “And you say I’m the idiot.” Still shaking his head, he came to the other side of her, helping Jax so she could keep all weight off the right knee. “Are they sure you haven’t torn it?”

“Ninety-nine percent sure.” She panted out. “There’s a lot of swelling.” Taking another breath, she continued. “Most of this is from those fucking flares.”

Den nodded. He’d been through this with her enough times to know the drill. “Yeah.” He sighed. “Pop is pretty pissed.” Her brother paused for a second. “And Eric is jumping on that bandwagon as fast as he can.”

She groaned and looked over to Jax. “Can we go to your place? You can come back and get Soph.”

Jax shook his head. “Oh, no.” His tone was still firmly in the ‘I am not happy with you but am keeping my shit together until you are better’ place. “You don’t get to run away. And I guarantee that Mom and Tig will have words for you too.”

“Fuck.” Her head starting to throb as much as her knee. “Can we just get inside? Whoever wants to yell at me, can yell at me. I just want to be sitting.” And what little control she’d had left, disappeared, and a fat tear fell. She brushed it away, more than a little frustrated.

Neither her brother nor Jax said a word, just steered her inside the clubhouse where she was met by Gemma and Tig. Pop and Eric standing behind them. She could see the lecture on the tip of Gemma’s tongue, but she must have had some look on her face that made Gemma swallow it for the time being.

“C’mon, darlin’. Let’s get you to the couch so you can sit with it up.” Gemma taking charge.

She shook her head. There were a couple of things she needed to do before she could even think of anything else. She needed to see her kid. And she needed to get out of the jeans she was in. Although they accommodated the wrap the hospital had used for her knee, it wasn’t the most comfortable fit.

“Gotta get out of these jeans and into shorts.” She gritted her teeth again. The burning pain of another flare. “And see Sophie.”

Tara appeared in front of her holding a glass of juice. “No, the first thing you’re going to do it take this.” Holding a pill in her other hand. “You’ll be eating soon enough that this won’t tear up your stomach.”

She knew that with everyone around, she couldn’t refuse. She hated pain meds. She’d rather smoke her body weight in weed before taking one. Giving Tara a mild glare, she held out her hand. “And here I thought we were becoming friends.”

“We are.” Tara replied. “And you still need to take that.”

She took the pill and washed it down with a couple of swallows of juice. “Okay, now can I go see my kid?”

Eric nodded to Den, who let go of his hold on her so that big brother could take over. At least Eric was going to save bitching her out until they were almost alone. Eric looked to Jax. “I got her.”

Jax just nodded and let go of her. Eric didn’t bother with trying to let her limp her way back to the dorms, he just picked her up and carried her back, not saying a damn thing until they were in the room where her and Soph’s clothes were staying.

Setting her on the bed, he pulled one of her bags up and sat it next to her so she could find a pair of shorts. As she was looking, he loomed over her. “So, at no point did they give you anything for pain?” His voice eerily calm. She was so screwed.

“They gave me some ibuprofen. I didn’t want the hydros.” She found a pair of running shorts and started to get out of her jeans, Eric helping by pulling from the legs. “I don’t want to be all loopy.” Hissing as they jostled her knee. “What if Soph needs something?”

“Jax is here. I’m here. Dennis is here. Even Trager is here.” Eric threading her right leg into the shorts, trying to keep her knee as stable as possible. “We are all capable of seeing to her needs.” Eric looked at her wrapped knee. “Want me to re-wrap that?”

“Please.” She knew he mostly offered so that he could see her knee with his own two eyes. But, even though the hospital had wrapped it pretty tight, what little walking she had done had loosened it up.
After getting the ace bandage off, her brother looked her knee for a minute. “When do they want to x-ray it again?” Starting to re-wrap the knee.

“Couple of days. Have an appointment card somewhere in my jeans. Pop has the other paperwork somewhere in his kutte.” Trying to breathe through another flare.

“We’re movin’ you and Soph over to Jax’s in the morning.” Eric informed her. “Less space for you to try and have to get around in.” He sighed as he finished and sat down next to her. “You need to be off of it until that appointment. Dennis, Pop, and me will be there, the only time you need to be getting up is for the bathroom or going to bed. Otherwise, your ass is cemented to the couch. You hear me?”

“Yeah.” She sighed. “Can you take me to Sophie?” She knew she was whining and didn’t care. This was her brother, he was more than used to it.

Eric sighed back. “Yeah.” Helping her up.

She stopped him for a minute, looking up at him. “I needed my head clear, you understand, right?” She really needed him to know she wasn’t just being her stubborn self this time around.

Eric sighed. “I do, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna be happy seein’ you in this much pain.” He kissed the top of her head. “Now, let’s go look at Soph sleeping, and get some food in you before those pain pills tear up your stomach.” He glanced at her knee. “You think you can put a little weight on it, or should I carry you again?”

She flipped him off. “I can probably hobble around.” Putting a little weight on the knee, which wasn’t happy about it. “Or not.”

“C’mon.” Eric wrapped an arm around her. “Lean on me and it’ll be slow, but we’ll make it.”

Slowly, the two of them hobbled out of the room to find Jax in the hallway, holding a pair of crutches. Jax raised an eyebrow. “Bobby dug these out from somewhere, thought that you might need them.” Holding out the old wooden crutches to her.

She took them gratefully. “Thank you.” She was surprised they were the right height. “Dennis adjust these?”

Jax nodded with a smirk. “Yeah, even though he said he was morally opposed to you having them.”

She just shrugged as she cracked the door to Jax’s room. Sophie was dead to the world, tucked between the Sambear and Spookdog. She turned back to Jax after closing the door. “She didn’t wake up at all?”

“Not even a little.” Jax gestured for them to move towards the clubhouse. “Checked on her when I got back from Tara’s, and then not long before you got back, she was pretty much in the same position she’s in now.”

Thank God for small miracles. Hopefully Sophie wouldn’t have any nightmares tonight and manage to sleep through the night.

Getting the crutches under her arms, she turned towards the main clubhouse. “Excellent. Maybe she’ll get a full night’s sleep.” She cracked a sardonic smile. “Someone should.”

“Less talking and more moving.” Eric admonished from behind her. “Your food bribe is getting cold.” She heard Jax’s chuckle from her brother’s side.

“It’s been a few years, Eric. I gotta get used to these things again.” She turned her head to roll her eyes at her brother. “And I’ll only need them while I’m having the flares.” Starting to propel herself forward, ignoring whatever her brother was saying to Jax.

When she reached the main room of the clubhouse and managed to make it to the couch without stumbling with the crutches, she sank down on it gratefully. It was surprisingly comfortable. Then again, her standards were kind of low right now.

Pop and Eric helped her get settled in. They both knew the drill, having been through this a few times with her. She could feel Gemma and Tig hovering, wanting to help but bowing to experience.

Once she was settled, Den handed her a plate with pancakes slathered in butter with just a little syrup. Just the way she liked them. “Thanks, Den.”

“I got you, sis.” As he shoveled a forkful into his own mouth.

She nodded towards the chapel. “So, he’s still breathing?”

Tara spoke up from where she was sitting with Pop and Dennis. “I went and looked.” Tara looked over at Dennis with a surprised respect. “He did an excellent job for someone with no real medical training.”

She smiled at the compliment that was paid to her brother. As far as she was concerned, Dennis could do anything he set his twisted, genius brain to. But it was nice to hear that from someone who barely knew him.

“How long will he have to stay here?” She wasn’t sure how she felt about Sophie being around the Irishman. How were they going to explain his presence to a three-year old?

“Not sure, I would say at least a week.” Clay said from the next table over. “It’ll be a few days before he can even sit right.” Clay’s tone as dry as the California desert. There were a few chuckles from the room.

She shrugged and went back to eating her pancakes and barely listening to the chatter around the clubhouse. When she was done, one of the girls took her plate, and came back with a couple of ice packs that she took happily and placed on and under her knee.

While the others finished with their food, she took a few hits off a joint Juice had given her and let herself drift, listening to Pop and Gemma make plans to move them to Jax’s and what they needed to do before everyone from Chicago arrived with her and Soph’s things.

She hadn’t realized she had fallen asleep until she felt Pop kiss her forehead. “Goodnight, Princess.” Pop squeezed her shoulder. “I’m headed back to Clay and Gemma’s to get a few hours of sleep. I’ll stop and pick up your pills on the way back in the morning.”

“Mmm… ‘kay.” She was barely awake thanks to the pain pills plus weed. “Lo’e you, Pop.”

Another kiss to the head. “Love you too, honey.” She was back to sleep before her father made it five steps away.

When she woke next, the clubhouse was darker, just the light from behind the bar lighting the entire room. Struggling to swallow with how dry her mouth was due to the pain meds, she scanned the room sleepily until she found what had woken her up; Tig sitting at a table with a coffee mug, watching her with an intensity that was a little overwhelming.

Swallowing a couple of more times to get her vocal chords to work, she gave Tig a weak smile, trying to hide the pain that was coming back. “Hi.”

It took him a moment to register that she was speaking to him. He blinked hard a couple of times and gave her a weak smile back. “Oh. Hi.”

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

After Jake left with Clay and Gem, Tig noticed that things were winding down in the clubhouse. Juice had left before Jake, and Chibs and Happy had headed to bed not long after Juice left. Chibs taking a bottle with him. He supposed it wasn’t everyday you did surgery on someone. He’d say Chibs had earned it.

After Jake left, both Dennis and Eric headed off to set some sleep. Dennis announced he’d be up in a few hours to take over from whoever was gonna watch over Cam Hayes.

He looked over to where Jax was sitting on a chair he’d pulled over to the couch. Jax was slumped, as if getting ready to catch a few winks. Getting up from the table he was sitting at, he went over and laid a hand on Jax’s shoulder. “Hey, man. You should go get some sleep, make sure someone’s with Sophie.” He nodded down at Jules, who was sleeping sitting up, with her cheek resting on the back of the couch. “I’ll keep an eye on her, too.”

Jax just nodded blearily. “Yeah, man. Thanks.” Getting up and stretching before going back to his dorm room. “Come get me if you need me.”

“Yeah.” He waved the VP off to bed. When he turned to sit back down, he nearly ran into Tara. “Damn, Doc!” He took a small step back to give Tara some space. After what she’d been through, he didn’t want to loom over her. “Gonna put a bell on you.” He gave her a slight smile. “Whatta need?”

Tara handed him the bottles of pain pills and muscle relaxers that he’d given the Doc to go through earlier, so Jules would have meds until hers could be picked up in the morning.

“When she wakes up, have her take one of each, along with the ibuprofen.” Tara looked over to the couch. “She’ll be in a lot of pain again when she wakes up, and the position she’s sleeping in is going to tighten up other muscles.” Tara sighed. “Sorry, I’m rambling and telling you things you already know.” Tara looked back over to Jules. “It’s just...” Tara looked like she wasn’t even sure of what she wanted to say. “She...”

He had an idea of where Tara was going. Jax had told all of them about how his kid had fucked her knee for real running to help Tara. Then had proceeded to take charge of the situation like a motherfucking boss.

“I’ll make sure she takes ‘em when she wakes up.” He said, offering Tara a way out.

Thankfully, the young doctor took it. “Good. Think I’ll try to go get some sleep, myself. Goodnight.” Taking the same path to the dorms that Jax had.

Hearing a sigh behind him, he turned to see that only Bobby was left in the clubhouse with him and a sleeping Jules. Cam Hayes was behind closed chapel doors, still unconscious from having impromptu surgery just a few hours ago.

Bobby handed him a glass of whiskey and the two of them sat down at a table close to the bar, away from Jules so they wouldn’t wake her.

“Been a clusterfuck of a night.” Bobby took a sip of whiskey and lit a smoke.

“’Yeah.” How could he not agree? He sighed and looked over at his kid and smiled just a little. For as awkward as she looked, she was passed the fuck out and looking as cute as her daughter did when dead to the world.

“She was pretty anxious before you guys got back.” Bobby informed him. “Enough that Red told her to sit the fuck down.” Bobby gave him a wry smile. “That was a direct quote.”

He sighed, knowing that his kid hadn’t ever been around any shit like this, at all. He wasn’t surprised to hear that she’d been on edge. “Satan’s Sons keeps all their shit away from Chicago, and from family.” He nodded towards Jules. “I guarantee you, she didn’t know shit about what they’re into until Dennis patched.”

“Just how well were you kept up on her?” Bobby prodded him again. The guy was like a dog with a bone with some things, just couldn’t leave it alone.

“Talked to Rip once a month from the time I found out about her.” He looked into the shocked eyes of his old friend. “That was the deal Rip made with me so she could stay with Jake and the boys.” He took a large swallow of the whiskey, letting the burn cast off the shiver of memory.

“The second I laid eyes on her Bobby, I knew she was mine.” Taking another sip of his whiskey. “I spent most of the funeral trying to figure out how the fuck to tell Carolyn, take my kid and get the fuck back to Cali.”

“But I knew from the way the Lyons surrounded her that there was no way I was getting within ten feet of her.” He lit his own smoke. “Her, Butch and Dennis were hustled out of the after funeral gathering at the clubhouse within an hour of getting there.” He gave Bobby a grim smile. “Man, I was pretty sure Jake’s mom was gonna knife me when I walked in.”

Bobby chuckled and he just raised an eyebrow. “Seriously, I’ve felt more love walking into a cop shop than I got that day.” He snorted. “After the younger three were taken home, Jake and I got into it.” He shrugged. “After he called me a sperm donor, I went to throw a punch and the next thing I know, my oldest friend is getting me fuck out of there.”

He glanced over to make sure Jules was still passed out. Satisfied she was, he looked back to Bobby. “After taking a while to calm down and fucking listen, I agreed to the deal Rip proposed. I get a monthly call and letter with pictures and whatever, and I stay the fuck away.” He finished the whiskey in his glass. “As much as I fuckin’ hate to say it, I think I did the right thing by her.”

Bobby saluted him with his glass before downing the last of his own whiskey. “You did, Tigger.” Bobby sat the glass on the table. “She might have been pretty anxious for a bit, but when it comes down to brass tacks, she handles shit pretty well under pressure.” Bobby nodded towards his kid. “You heard what Jax said about what happened at Tara’s.” Bobby snuffed out his cigarette. “It might take her a minute to get used to some things, but she’ll be fine.”

Sliding back his chair, Bobby stood. “Made you a fresh pot of coffee. You want me turn out the lights before I go home to get the few precious hours of sleep I’m gonna get?”

He shook his head. “Nah, I got it, Bobby. Go home, brotha.” Standing himself. A cup of coffee sounded good right now.

“Goodnight. See you in a few hours.” Bobby nodded to the clock that read almost four in the morning as he headed out the clubhouse door.

He waved at Bobby as he wandered around, turning off the lights, with the exception of the one behind the bar before getting his cup of coffee. When he came back out, he sat at the table closest to the couch and chapel doors.

He wasn’t sure how much time passed as he watched his daughter sleep. He was lost in his head, memories of Marina’s funeral and of Marina herself. God, he had loved her, and the worst day of his life was the day he left her, knowing he had broken them at their foundation.

He’d been home after his discharge for all of two weeks when a nightmare had taken such hold that when Marina went to wake him, he thought he was somewhere far worse. They were lucky that night the worst thing that happened was he left bruises on her arms where he had pinned her down. But he knows when he came out of whatever PTSD episode he was having, his hand was reaching for her throat.

A week after that, he was riding out of town heading west like the cowboys in the movies of his boyhood. Marina had lost her trust in him and he couldn’t fix it. She let him go, already pregnant with Jules.

He reached over and fixed the blanket Gemma had thrown over Jules before she left. Sitting back, he studied his daughter closely. He felt a little stalkerish, but he’d loved her for so long without ever being within five feet of her, he relished a little time to just look his fill at this human he and Marina managed to create.

He knew that Jules didn’t think she looked like Marina much at all, but she did. She also sounded so much like Marina, that at times he can close his eyes and almost imagine Marina standing in front of him when Jules was talking.

As he sat, still unashamedly looking his fill, his brain registered that his daughter’s eyes were open and her mouth had moved. But he was still so deep in his memories, that it took a minute for his brain to kick back to the present.

“Oh. Hi.” He gave her a weak smile, noticing the grimaces she was trying to hide.

His daughter swallowed a couple more times before trying to talk again. When she did her voice was still rough. “Could I get a glass of water, please?” Giving the crutches leaning against the couch a mild glare.

“Sure, doll.” He scrambled back behind the bar and grabbed a bottle of water.

Bringing it back to her, he stopped and grabbed the bottles of pills Tara had given him. Handing Jules the water, he got the pills she would need out. “Here, doll. Tara said to take these when you woke up.”

Jules looked at the pills in his hand and took all but the pain pill. He frowned down at her. “Doc said all of ‘em.”

His kid shook her head as she threw the other pills back and took a drink of water. “Not until I’m over at Jax’s.” Her voice still a little rough, so she took another drink of water. “I really don’t need an entire clubhouse watch me sleep.” A tiny touch of a smile on her face. “It was weird enough having you do it.”

He couldn’t help himself. “Actually, before everyone left, we all sat around enjoying the site of you drooling into the couch.” Laughing a little as his kid tried to slyly check where her head had been lying on the couch. He reached over and patted her hand. “I’m just fuckin’ with you, doll.” He shook his head. “Everyone pretty much headed out or to bed right after Clay and Gem left with Jake.”

He watched as his kid racked her brain. “I vaguely remember Pop leaving.” She looked at the clock by the bar. “How long ago was that?”

He looked at his watch, it was almost five. “About three hours ago.” He stifled a yawn. It’d been a while since he’d pulled an all-nighter. At least when he was sober.

“You should get some sleep.” He heard Jax’s voice behind him. He turned, seeing Jax standing there, holding Sophie.

Sophie held her arms out to him while looking worriedly at her Mommy. He took her happily and gave her a kiss on the head. “Mommy will be okay, Baby Doll.”

Jules looked to Jax, obviously not thrilled that her daughter was up at five am. Jax shrugged. “She had to go potty and then wanted to see you.” Making his way to the sofa. “She wasn’t gonna go back down until she saw you.”

Jules nodded and held out her arms. He took Sophie over and sat her by Jules. Both he and Jax had to hold her back from climbing on Jules’ lap. “Whoa, sweetheart.” Jax’s voice stern, but kind. “What’d I say back in the room?”

“No on Mommy, only by Mommy.” Sophie looked at Jules’ wrapped knee cushioned by the pillows. “She hurted her knee.” Sophie looked to Jules. “How’d you hurted it?”

He and Jax glanced at each other, both wondering how Jules was gonna spin last night to a three-year old. He gave Jax a slight shrug to indicate he had no fuckin’ clue on what his kid was gonna say.

Jules wrapped an arm around Sophie and gave her a squeeze. “Well, Miss Thing, how I hurt my knee is quite the story.” Jules looked to Jax and him, trying to gather a story together. They both gave her a look that said she was on her own. She gave them both the finger. He didn’t bother hiding a smile.

Sophie was looking at her mother anxiously. Jules sighed and hugged her daughter again. “Well, you know how Daddy and Other Papa had to leave with Clay to go see their friend?” Sophie nodded and Jules went on. “Well, when they were with their friend, he fell down and hurt himself.”

Sophie’s eyes got big. “He did? How?”

Jules gave her daughter a small smile. “Well, he fell and something sharp went right here.” Poking Sophie in the spot where Cam Hayes took a bullet.”

“He hurted his bottom?!” Sophie giggled a little. “Like when Auntie Jamie fell?”

Jules shook her head. “No, Auntie Jamie broke her tailbone. Clay’s friend actually had something sharp go in, kind of like a sliver, but a lot bigger.” He liked the fact that she was trying to be as honest as she could be with her kid. “Well, we brought him back here, because you know that Uncle Den can fix some hurts, and this was an Uncle Den hurt and not a go to the doctor hurt.”

“Like when Uncle Red cut his hand?” Sophie not looking surprised at all at Dennis playing doctor.

“Exactly.” Jules’ kissed Sophie’s head. “But, Uncle Den needed something, so Mommy and Daddy...” He had to bite back a chuckle, the look on Jax’s face every time Jules or Sophie referred to him as Daddy was priceless. At some point, someone would have to get a picture of the dopey grin that showed up on Jax’s face when the girls did that.

“Daddy was with you when you got hurted?” Sophie interrupted.

“He was.” Jules answered. “Because we had to go see Dr. Tara, to see if she had what Uncle Den needed. But when I was walking up to her house, I didn’t see the crack in the driveway, and I tripped over it and twisted my knee. Dr Tara went to the hospital with me and then came back here with us so she could keep an eye on Mommy and Clay’s friend.”

Jules looked to both him and Jax, her eyes asking if what she said was okay. All either one of them could do was nod. Jules had explained why things were the way they were as well as anyone could to a three-year old without traumatizing them, no matter how smart said three-year old was. And there was no way to spin what happened at Tara’s that wouldn’t give Sophie more nightmares. Better to just leave it out.

Sophie looked around. “Where’s Dr. Tara?” Then squealed a little as Dennis came into the room. “Unca Manny!” Squirming down from the couch and running over to her uncle. “Mommy said you fixed Cway’s fwiend’s bottom! Like you did with Unca Red’s hand!”

Dennis picked her up and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. “I did, because I’m awesome like that.” Dennis looked at him. “You check on him?”

“Bout an hour ago, temp was fine, he was still passed out.” Dennis nodded at the information and then looked at Jules.

“Where are you at?” Looking hard at his sister, who grimaced at him.

“Between flares, about a five/six. Flares? Then it spikes up to an eight/nine.” Jules laid her head on the back of the sofa. “It’s better than it was last night, for sure. And hopefully the flares will be done by tomorrow morning.”

“You take anymore pain pills?” Dennis sounded like he knew the answer was no already.

Jules shook her head, looking at both Jax and Dennis, defiance in her eyes. “I took the ibuprofen and the muscle relaxant, I’ll wait on the pain pill until we get over to the house.”

“We’re all up, you guys could go over now.” Dennis shot back. “Red’s in the shower, he should be out any time. We can drag all of your stuff over later, just grab what you’d need for now.” Dennis cut his sister off before a word could even come out of her mouth. “And I can text Pop and tell him to bring your meds to the house instead of here.” Dennis grinned at his sister. “He’d be thrilled you two are out of here.”

Jules still shook her head, and Dennis looked perplexed. He had to come down on Dennis’ side. Seemed to him like Dennis had covered all the arguments.

“Gotta wait until after hospital visiting hours start.” Jules looked to Jax. “They aren’t gonna let me leave the house until the next x-ray once I’m there. I want to see Abel before I’m housebound.”

“I put you on the same list as Jax and Gemma, you can get in any time to see him.” Tara’s voice came from behind him. Damn, was anyone in this fucking clubhouse asleep? Other than Cam Hayes, who was actually unconscious.

Both Dennis and Jax turned to Jules, who had slumped down on the sofa, giving Tara a bit of a look. “You keep saying that we’re becoming friends, but yet, once again...”

“I’m completely acting like a friend and making you do things that are in your best interest.” Tara smiled back at his kid. “And if we went soon, then no one would have to make a trip to pick your meds up.”

Jules sat back and crossed her arms over her chest and looked at all of them. Glancing at the others, he looked back to her with the same look. They would be leaving as soon as possible.

Jules threw up her hands and sighed. “Someone needs to go find me a pair of sweats to go over these shorts.” He had the feeling this was as close to her admitting capitulation as they were gonna get.

Jax stood, grabbing Sophie from the couch. “Let’s go get dressed, sweetheart.” Leaning down and giving Jules a quick kiss. “I’ll bring you a pair of my sweats, they’ll go over the wrap.”

Jules waved them away. “Okay.” Putting her head down. He could see her jaw clenching and could tell she was doing everything in her power not to grab at her knee. Seeing the concerned look on Jax’s face, he waved them on.

“Go get dressed, Jax.” He took the chair next to the sofa, trying to block Jules from Sophie’s eyes. “Sooner you guys are ready, the sooner the girls are at the house.”

Jax just nodded and headed back to his room, Sophie in his arms. Dennis followed, he presumed to let Red know what was happening. Tara had already left.

Jules eyes were squeezed shut, and her hands were trembling. He knew that cortisone flares could be extremely painful. He hated like hell that his kid was having to deal with this.

He took her hands in his. “Breathe, doll.” His breath catching when she put her head in his chest.

“I hate this.” She gritted out. “So much hate for this.”

He let go of her hands and wrapped his arms around her. “I know, baby, I know.” He kissed her curls. “It sucks out loud right now, but you know in the end, it’ll get you back on your feet faster.”

“I know.” She mumbled into his kutte. “Still hate it, though.”

He chuckled at her petulant brat tone. “Yeah, I think we’ve all gotten that.” He gave her a final hug and let go. “Go see the little man, then get settled at the house. You’ll be able to take your pain pill in peace.”

He outright laughed when his daughter twirled a finger in the air. “Yay, me.” She looked up at him. “Thanks for staying with me.”

He leaned down and kissed the top of her head. “It was my pleasure, doll.” He stood back up. “If it’s okay, I’ll come by later today and check on you.”

“That’s fine.” Jules gave him a pained smile. “But, you need to get some sleep first.” Looking at him with concerned eyes. He could feel his throat tighten just a little. The twins had never even shown the slightest concern about him, and this kid, that he had no hand at all in raising, was telling him to take care of himself. If he weren’t so badass, he’d bawl.

“Yeah. As soon as Piney or Bobby get here.” He nodded towards the chapel. “So someone can keep an eye on him. Then I’ll grab a few hours of sleep.”

“Good.” Jules nodded. Then she looked past him to see her brothers following Jax and Sophie out from the dorms.

Tara came out as Jax and Red were helping Jules get into the sweats and get shoes on. He smiled as Sophie marched over to the doctor. Tara knelt down to be eye to eye with the toddler.

“You helped Mommy when she got hurted, she told me.” Sophie threw her arms around Tara’s neck and gave her a messy kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for helping my Mommy.”

Tara returned the hug, looking at Jax and Jules with confusion. “You’re welcome, Sophie.”

“I told her how we came to your place for something that Den needed, twisted my knee in your driveway and you stayed with me at the hospital.” Jules giving Tara a rundown of the story spun for someone too young to understand the reality of what all had gone down last night.

Tara nodded in understanding. “I called ahead to the hospital, your prescriptions should be ready not long after we get there.”

Jax picked Sophie up as Jules was getting the crutches under her arms. His VP looked over to him. “You’ll let Bobby know what’s goin’ on?”

“Yeah.” He drank the last of his coffee. “I was gonna wait for him or Piney to get here before catching a couple of hours of sleep.” Giving Sophie a kiss goodbye.

“Sounds good. Tell them I’ll be back as soon as I get them settled in.” Jax starting to follow Jules to the clubhouse door.

“Yeah.” Grinning at the kisses Sophie was throwing him.

“Bye, Other Papa!” Sophie waved. “I see you later!”

“Absolutely, Baby Doll.” He waved back as they disappeared through the door.

Slumping down on the closest chair, he laid his head on the table. He was motherfucking beat. Between Clay almost being shot, Cam Hayes taking the bullet meant for Clay, the whole thing with Tara and his kid, he was spent.

While he was contemplating a last cup of coffee, Bobby walked in the door, looking like he’d barely slept. “Saw a parade leaving here. What the fuck is goin’ on, Tig?”

Following Bobby to the kitchen, he started to give him the run down of the last hour. As he was talking, Bobby started to gather things and put them in bags. When he finished, he looked at Bobby. “What the hell are you doing?”

“This is the stuff Jules bought the other day.” Bobby replied while reaching into a cabinet. “Doubt they’ve stocked up over at Jax’s yet.” Putting more things into a bag. “I’ll call Gem, see if her or Jake want to come get these and take them over.” Setting the two bags aside on the counter. Bobby looked at him. “You look like shit, Tig. Go get some sleep.”

That sounded like a fanfuckingtastic idea. “Yeah. Have one of the girls wake me up in a few hours.” He rolled his eyes. “Unless somethin’ else comes up.” He grinned a little. “Then have one of them wake me up sooner.”

“Yeah.” Bobby waved him away.

By the time he reached his room, his feet felt like they weighed a hundred pounds each. He fell onto his bed, fully clothed, and was probably asleep before his head even hit the pillow.

Chapter Text

Lu looked around the empty apartment, making one last check that they had gotten everything out of there. Satisfied that they had gotten it all, she turned to leave the room that had been Sophie’s and ran right into Old Jake.

“Jesus, Jake! Don’t sneak up on me like that. I don’t think I need anymore surprises for a while.”

Old Jake shrugged. “Didn’t mean to surprise you. You talk to Jacob this morning?”

She nodded slowly. The old man wasn’t gonna like what she had to say. She cocked an ear to make sure it was just the two of them. When she was satisfied they were alone, she turned back to her old man’s father.

“There was an incident last night. Apparently someone decided to take a shot at Clay Morrow and missed, hitting one of the Irishmen they do business with.” She could see the scowl on Old Jake’s face already. “Dennis took care of it, but Jules and Jax had to go get something from Dr. Knowles.” She stopped and took a deep breath. When Jake had told her what happened last night, she nearly booked a flight to California on the spot. “When Jax and Jules were getting ready to leave because Tara wasn’t answering the door, they heard a gunshot and Jules twisted her knee badly getting back to the house.”

“What happened?” Old Jake looking very unhappy. She wasn’t surprised; Jules was his favorite grandchild, being the only granddaughter Old Jake had.

She took a moment to collect herself. She was still mad as hell at what had happened at Tara’s house. She knew she should have told Jake months ago about Josh Kohn stalking the young doctor.

“Tara shot her ex, who had been stalking her, after he had raped her.” Feeling a little better seeing the look of pure disgust on Old Jake’s face. “Apparently Jules cold-cocked Kohn and stayed with Tara at the house until the cops could get there. Then Jake met both girls at the hospital.” She put up a hand. “Jules’s knee is strained, nothing is torn.” She shrugged. “They’ll x-ray it again in a few days to make sure. The last I knew, Jake was heading over to Jax’s house to check on the girls.” Then gave the old man a wry grin. “Jake said he and the boys had figured out a few projects to keep them busy.”

Old Jake nodded sharply. “Good.” Looking down at his watch. “Grace and Slim went to go get some lunch and were going to bring it back to your place. Mercy’s gonna meet us there so we can plan this trip.” Glancing around at the empty apartment. “Everything packed?”

“Yeah.” Sighing. “Truck is loaded and at the clubhouse.” She stepped out into the empty living room. “But there are still some things we weren’t comfortable putting in the truck. We’ll have to split that between the other vehicles.”

“We’ll get it figured out when we get back to your place.” Old Jake wrapped an arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. “Remember, the club will have a support van along, some stuff can go in there.” He gave her another squeeze. “Let’s get some lunch.” Chuckling much like her old man. “I think better with a full stomach.” Letting go of her and heading to the front door.

Taking another quick glance around at the empty space, she turned and followed Old Jake out the door.

Lunch was already in progress when the two of them entered her house. She could hear a choir of voices back in her kitchen. Following Old Jake and the din, her stomach growled a little when the smell of the hot beef sandwiches hit her nose.

Pushing the door to the kitchen open, Old Jake stepped through and then held it for her. There was a small buffet set up on her kitchen island and not only was the table full, there were a couple of people leaning against counters, shoveling sandwiches and pasta salad down.

Jake’s older sister, Grace and her husband, Slim, who was President of the Nashville chapter of the Satan’s Sons were sitting at the table with Mercy, Jake’s younger sister and her wife, Jamie.

Grace, who was the spitting image of Jake’s mother Dorothy, with one glaring exception. Like her father, her hair was already a brilliant white. While a lot of women would have colored it, Grace had embraced it.

Grace was taller than her father and brother, another thing she got from Jake’s mother, along with a Grace Kelly kind of classic beauty.

Her husband Slim, whose nickname wasn’t ironic in the least, was a couple of inches taller than his wife, with salt and pepper hair close cropped and a beard to match. Like his wife, he had warm brown eyes that saw everything. The two of them ran a very successful bar and grill in Nashville, along with their only child, Zach. Zach had stayed behind, knowing he’d probably be helping more by making sure that his parents weren’t spending all their time worried about the bar.

Plus the fact that he and Dennis couldn’t be together for more than five minutes without getting into some sort of mischief that would make both of their fathers crazy.

“Hey Dad, hey Lu.” Mercy gestured to the island. “Help yourselves. Raf, grab your granddad a beer.” Looking over her shoulder at the lanky eighteen-year-old. “There should be some Blue Moon in there.” Eyeing the Killian’s Red the rest of them were drinking.

Mercy and Jake looked like their father, dark blonde, blue-eyed. Neither one of them were taller than five-ten, but both gave the illusion of more height thanks to long limbs. Mercy was an obstetrics nurse and a licensed midwife.

“If I grab one for Granddad, can I have one?” Raf’s voice trying for cool, but age showed the eagerness of his request.

Mercy’s “No.” overlapped Old Jake and Jamie’s “Yes.”

Mercy shot a look at her wife and father. Old Jake just waved her off, and Jamie just rolled her eyes. Jamie was a petite brunette with a pin-up figure. She was a stylist/barber with a large private client base. And even though she was in her mid forties, she still rocked a multi-colored long mohawk that was currently braided back. This month she was sporting blues and purples. As she said, “Hey, it’s free advertising.”

“For fuck’s sake Mer. He’s eighteen and it’s not like we’re throwing Jello shots down his throat. It’s just one beer, with lunch.” Then Jamie leaned over and gave Mercy a peck on the cheek. “And it’s not like he has to drive to get home. We live four houses away.”

Mercy shook her head and laughed. “Okay, good point.” She leaned out of her chair and patted Raf on the arm. “Just one. You still have to work later.”

“I know Mom.” Raf’s voice muffled by the fridge. Closing the fridge door, the kid handed his granddad a beer as he popped the top off his with the bottle opener sitting out on the counter. After taking a drink, Raf looked at his moms. “Since I’m not going, can I go out to the garage and work on my bike?”

Mercy nodded as she was taking a bite of her sandwich. After swallowing, she looked up at the son she had taken in as a foster ten years earlier. Raf had been Mer and Jamie’s first and only foster kid. They’d fallen in love with the eight-year old Raf, and he’d been through so much that they didn’t feel like they wanted to split their focus with another child.

“C’mon kiddo, I’ll go help you out.” Wild Bill, one of the Chicago patches who would be riding along to California, pushed himself away from the counter and threw his paper plate in the garbage. “They won’t need me in here for any of this shit.” Pushing Raf towards the back door of the house.

Old Jake looked over to Mercy. “Raf ain’t comin’ with us?”

“Couldn’t get his work shifts covered.” Then smiled over at her wife. “Plus, he said he didn’t want to leave Jamie alone here.”

Jamie laughed. “I think it has less to do with me than with a cute little skater girl that hangs out at the shop.”

They all laughed. She turned to Grace and Slim. “Everything is out of the apartment, and the truck is back at the clubhouse all loaded and ready. We’ve just got to figure out the few things that I didn’t trust to go in the truck and when we want to leave.”

Grace got up from the table and poured herself a cup of coffee. “What stuff didn’t you want to go in the truck?”

“Some of her larger glass pieces, like the vase with the glass bouquet. The sunflowers and daisies that were on Soph’s walls. And I thought that her jewelry boxes should maybe be where we can keep an eye on them.”

Old Jake nodded. “Good thinkin’ Lu.” Taking a drink of his beer. “We should be able to handle that between your Tahoe and Grace and Slim’s Expedition, right?”

She nodded. “I think so.” She shrugged. “If not the rest can go in the trail van, right?” Looking over to Walt, who was still leaning against the counter.

Walt, who was the Satan Son’s club secretary, nodded. “Yeah. Since it’s just Bill and Jase riding with you, there should be enough room for some extra stuff.”

“Who’s driving the van?” Old Jake asked. She had a feeling if he didn’t like the answer, they would be replaced. There were enough guys who had been around when Old Jake sat at the head of the table, that his orders would still be followed.

“One of the prospects.” Walt grinned at the old man. “Figured I’d let you choose, you picky bastard.”

Old Jake just grinned. “Just give me one that can follow orders and not run his mouth the way you do.”

Walt grinned and flipped Old Jake off. “I’ll give you Vince, he barely talks. That should make you happy.” Walt took a drink of his coffee. “He’s a former SEAL. Butch sent him our way.”

That would be good enough for Old Jake and they all knew it. Tell the man one of his grandkids suggested it, and he was in. Anyone who thought bikers were badass hooligans twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, needed to see Old Jake with any of his grandkids. The man became a besotted teen in seconds.

“When do we want to get under way?” Slim asked while taking the plates that he and Grace had used to the trash. “Unless we’re waitin’ on somethin’ else, I don’t see why we can’t leave in a couple of hours.”

As Old Jake went to answer his son-in-law, her cell phone rang. She excused herself and went into the dining room.

“Hey honey, how’s it goin’ out there?”

Her old man sounded tired. “Jules is sleepin’. Tara is coloring with Sophie. Eric and Den ran to get some stuff.” The way he said ‘stuff’ indicated that maybe Jake had gone a little overboard.

“What kind of stuff Jake?” She smiled at Old Jake who came into the room. “Your dad is here, okay to put you on speaker?”

“Yeah.” Jake didn’t sound thrilled, but not too put upon. “Hey, Dad.” Then Jake sighed. “Boys went to go get a swingset and some patio furniture. Jax may have owned this house, but it’s pretty damn clear that he hasn’t been livin’ here.” Then there was a bit of a weary chuckle. “Plus, it’ll give us somethin’ to do while we’re waitin’ for all of you to get out here.”

Old Jake took over. “We’re leavin’ in a couple of hours. We’ll stop in Omaha for the night and get started again early tomorrow. I figure, we can stop in Salt Lake tomorrow night and that should put us in California day after tomorrow, sometime in the evening.”

“Sounds good, Dad.” Jake replied. “I need to talk to Lu. I’ll call you later.”

“Make sure that you do.” Old Jake nodded to her and went back to the kitchen.

Taking the phone off speaker, she put it to her ear. “What’s going on, honey?”

“Tara.” Jake sat silent for a minute. She knew he was trying to find the right words. Well, either that or trying to calm down.

“What about Tara, Jake?” She prodded him.

“I think you need to talk to her about coming back to Chicago.” Jake spit out. “Get her away from…” Jake trailed off.

She understood. Her old man was a little upset that she hadn’t come to him while Tara was still in Chicago. In his mind, this would have been avoided if she had. Kohn would have already been dealt with. And somehow Jake had, without anyone telling him, sussed out that Tara hadn’t had much in the way of family in her life to turn to when the going got tough. She supposed the fact that Tara went back to Charming where SAMCRO ruled was a pretty big clue.

But, that didn’t mean she disagreed. Other than the misstep with Kohn, she knew Tara had a full life here; friends, hobbies, a job that was tough and rewarding.

“I will, honey.” She assured her old man.

“Good.” He still sounded tired.

“Did you sleep at all last night, Jake?” She worried at him.

“A little.” Jake sighed. “I’ll crash early and hard tonight.” He chuckled. “I gotta go, hon. Dennis is callin’ Jules phone, because he can’t reach me. Call me before you leave the clubhouse.”
“Will do, honey. Love you.”

“Love you too, Lu. Talk to you soon, hon.” Jake hung up.

Sighing, she put her phone back in her pocket and went back to the kitchen to finalize plans for their trip to Charming.