Tara feels foolish asking Roosevelt to stay in the house, but some small instinct of self-preservation kicks in, and she puts a hand on his arm when he turns to leave.
She feels him tense under her touch, and she takes her hand back quickly, like a child having an unfortunate encounter with a hot stove. “I'm just...” she tries to explain, but the words evaporate and she doesn't know how to finish the sentence. Any number of words seem capable... crazy, scared, nervous, uncertain... but none of them are exactly right, so instead, she gives him an awkward smile and a half-shrug.
He nods, and she can almost see the switch that's been flipped to activate his Cop mode. He stands up straighter, and a hand goes to his gun, undoes the snap and then rests softly on the gun. His eyes are alert, scanning, andTara pities the fool who underestimates this guy.
Tara doesn't know what the protocol is for this situation, if she should ask him to have a seat or clear rooms or whether she should make him a cup of tea. She takes off her jacket, hangs it up and starts for the kitchen.
The back door swings open and Tara looks up with a smile, expecting Unser. Instead, Gemma looks at her, first in bewilderment, then with pure venom and hatred. Tara feels her stomach drop as she backpedals. Gemma's advance is stopped only by a harsh command.
“Stop right there, Gemma. No need to be het about things. Let's have a nice chat,” says Roosevelt. Tara glances over and sees that his gun is drawn but still pointing at the ground. She's relieved, because only a fool would underestimate Gemma.
“What's she doing here? In my son's house? The son that she betrayed.” Gemma's words are poison darts to Tara's heart, even though the situation is so much more complicated than that, and she never made the final betrayal.
“Relax, Gemma. It seems like you're operating under some incorrect information. Jax gave himself up.”
“To protect her?” Gemma's eyes are blazing, and Tara is relieved that looks can't kill, even if they can make you feel like you're about an inch tall.
“To protect the club and his family,” says Tara.
Gemma's laugh is bitter, and her mouth is twisted into an ugly curl. “Very convenient for you. I suppose you're going to run off with my grandkids now.”
Tara presses her mouth into a thin line and walks past Gemma, who grabs her arm and shakes a finger in her face. “He can't protect you forever, you know. And if you try to take my grandkids away, I will make you very, very sorry. You'll wish you were dead.”
Roosevelt's hand grips Gemma's shoulder and pulls her backwards. “That's enough, Gemma. Can you please leave the house now.”
Tara knows it's not a request, and so does Gemma. Tara has no doubt that Roosevelt just rocketed to number 2 on Gemma's Most Hated list.
The door slams, and Tara lets out a breath that she didn't even know she was holding. A glance at Roosevelt's long, relieved exhale lets her know he's in the same boat.
“So, would you say that's enough for a restraining order?” asks Tara.
“I'd say so, and I'd be happy to say it in court. That woman is not happy with you.”
“Yeah? I bet you'd also say that Everest is a bit of hill.”
Roosevelt's short laugh and shake of his head dispels the tension, and she invites him into the kitchen for some tea before Jax returns home.
In the quiet kitchen where she and Roosevelt sip cups of hot tea and don't bother with small talk, Tara hears the familiar rumble of Jax's bike a good two minutes before he arrives. It's like listening to thunder, but knowing that it's bringing the opposite of a storm. The clock on the wall shows that they'll have about 5 minutes before Patterson arrives. Jax spent every last minute he could with his sons, and Tara loves him for that.
She stands when the door opens, and Roosevelt stands as well, his hand going to his gun.
“It's okay. It's just Jax,” she says quietly, then she raises her voice to call her husband to the kitchen. “We're back here, Jax.”
He rounds the doorway with a look of uncertainty. Tara smiles at him, then asks Roosevelt to give them a few minutes alone.
“Someone needs to tell your mom what's going on. She has half a story and a lot of hate for me right now.”
“I've sent Tig and Unser. I'm sorry. I couldn't handle it myself.” He looks down like a little boy who's disappointed his mother.
Tara steps forward and wraps her arms around him. “I get that. And Jax, thank you for this chance for the boys.”
She feels his arms tighten around her, and she breaths in his scent, leather and sweat and citrus, wishing she'd be able to freeze this moment and take it out in the future when she knows she'll be lonely and uncertain.
He pulls back and looks down into her eyes. His look is intense, and he's suddenly a few people at once – the boy she fell in love with, the husband she tried to love, the man she feared, and the man who is setting her free. The weight of it all crashes over her, and she doesn't know if she's able to do what he's asking her to do.
“Raise our boys, please. Raise them right and strong so that they'll be the kind of men that any father would want his daughter to marry. Make sure they're happy and loved.”
Tara nods because words aren't enough and she's afraid that if she tried to speak, more than just her voice would break.
A sharp rap at the front door breaks the moment and their embrace.
“That's my ride,” says Jax with a crooked grin. He brushes her hair behind her ear, and presses a warm kiss into her cheek, his goatee tickling her jawline.
“Thank you,” she says again, her voice a whisper as she watches him leave his house.
Tara washes her face, collects herself as best she can, and then drives to the ice cream shop to pick up the boys. She parks out front and sits in the car for a minute, looking at the scene inside. Most of the bikers are drowning their sorrows in fifths of hard liquor. Chibs is at booth with Thomas in his lap and Abel next to him. Abel is eating the biggest ice cream sundae that Tara has ever seen.
She walks into the ice cream shop. Bobby comes over to her first to offer his condolences and support, followed by the rest of the guys. It takes her a solid fifteen minutes to get through all of them, each so earnest and heart-broken to see their President sacrifice himself for the good of the club and for her.
She finally slides into the booth across from Chibs. His eyes are red but there's no whisky bottle in front of him. He presses his face into Thomas' head, takes a deep breath, and then slides the child across the table to Tara. She gratefully takes her baby and breathes in his lovely scent, milky and powdery.
“How's the sundae?” she asks Abel, who smiles under sad eyes.
“We're all self-medicating, doc,” says Chibs.
“I can see that. Maybe I should get a spoon, help you out, Abel.”
Abel nods and runs off to fetch a spoon.
“Jax wants me to stay at your house. If that's okay with you?” says Chibs, looking out the window.
“I'm sure Jax wants you to stay close whether or not it's okay with me.”
Chibs looks back at her, and his smile tells her that she's right. But the very question means that for the first time ever, she has a say in whether she's watched over. “If it's okay with you, it's okay with me.”
He nods, and she suspects that he understands that he also has a say for the first time. A strange feeling, nameless and light, zips through her, light as a butterfly and just as uncatchable.
Abel returns with two more spoons and hands one to Chibs and one to Tara before scrambling back up into his spot and pushing the bowl into the middle of the table.
“Let the self-medication begin,” says Tara.
“Amen to that,” replies Chibs as they help Abel polish off the world's biggest sundae.