A/N: SPOILERS-Okay . . . so there were documents . . . and Juice did find them. Of course, then he lost them and now our Juicey is in trouble again! Oh, Kurt Sutter. WHY do you do this to me?! If only I could be in your twisted, beautiful mind so I know what's going to happen! But, alas . . . I'm not. I'm stuck solely in mine. So, I'm going to continue down this path of butterflies and rainbows and make everything better . . . at least in my mind, because I can't handle the drama anymore! And I need Juice to be okay. Thanks for all who read/reviewed/followed/ favored, etc. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it! So, without further ado . . . .
Man of Mayhem
Soft, rhythmic beeping drew Juice out of the deep, dark nothingness that imprisoned him.
Inhaling sharply, he winced as pain washed over him—radiating from his chest and spreading over his entire body, until it covered him like a blanket. He groaned in discomfort, wishing that he could sink back into unconsciousness—just so the pain would go away.
But he just couldn't get his ears to pull focus from the goddamned beeping . . . .
Blinking—his eyelids feeling like a million pounds—his eyes fluttered open and he slowly took in his surroundings.
Lying on his back, his head elevated slightly, he was in a dimly lit room—open in layout and very white . . . sterile. He could feel tubing draped lightly over his face, pulsing fresh, clean oxygen through his nose. He could also feel sharp I.V. lines inserted into his hands and arms—tape holding them firmly in place.
He was in the hospital . . . but how?
Slowly, as his mind became more clear, he began to piece together the recent events that had brought him to this point: Standing off with Clay at Jax and Tara's—Jax unconscious and bleeding as Juice tried to talk Clay down . . . .
Tried to talk Clay down.
His body reacting as the bullet from Clay's gun entered his body—the blood and pain that quickly accompanied it. How he watched, helpless, as Clay bent over Tara, his gun trained at her head . . . and then there was the gun . . . the odd gun from Clay's that was suddenly in his hand—recoiling in his hand—as the bullet fired loudly. And Clay, slumping over . . . blood and brain matter spraying violently—painting the wall behind him with gore.
He was fighting to breathe . . . even as Tara comforted him. An ambulance was on the way, but he couldn't hold on . . . no matter how hard he fought. Blood was filling his mouth, spilling from his lips and running down his face. And then, nothing but blackness—swallowing him whole and taking away the pain.
The beeping began to go faster—the sound amplifying in Juice's ears—and he realized with sudden clarity that it was the sound of his heartbeat that was being broadcast around the empty space. And, as it sped up, he could feel a deep, dull pain slowly building—intensifying . . . pressing down on his chest. And suddenly, he found that he could hardly breathe.
Eyes wild, he gasped for air, but he couldn't quite seem to catch his breath.
His vision began to blur just as one of the machine's alarms went off.
"Juice! Juice! Breathe . . . . You gotta breathe, man."
So wrapped up in his own head, Juice hadn't seen the person who had been sitting next to his bed—who was now standing over him, deep concern filling blue eyes.
"It's okay, Juice. I'm here . . . . Just breathe."
Pulling solitude from his visitor's soft words, Juice focused on calming his breathing—feeling relief when he felt the pressure dissipate from his chest. And soon, his heart monitor steadied, returning once more to an even, measured cadence.
"That's right . . . just keep breathing. I'm right here."
Blinking, Juice swallowed thickly, his mouth suddenly very dry. "Jax?"
"Yeah, man. It's me." A crooked grin split his face. "Welcome back."
Juice turned his head so that he was looking up at his President. "Wha—?"
"You were shot. You're in the hospital." Jax reached out a hand toward Juice's forearm.
Juice recoiled involuntarily. "I know."
"Right." Frowning, Jax pulled back his hand before clearing his throat uncomfortably. "Well, surgery went well. It'll take some healing, but you're going to be fine."
"And what about you? How's the head?"
"Oh, this?" Smirking, Jax gestured at the white bandage that was currently wrapped around his head—blonde hair poking messily from beneath the edges. "Nah, I'll be just fine."
"She's fine too. A little shaken up, but nothing that she won't get through."
Juice nodded woodenly. "That's good, man."
The smile melted from Jax's face. "Yeah."
"How long have I—?"
"A couple of days."
"And the Club? What do they know?"
"They know about the break-in . . . and about Clay."
"And what about—?"
Jax shook his head, cutting him off. "I kept my word: All of that stays off of the table."
"You're okay with that?" Juice couldn't look Jax in the eye.
Sighing, Jax grabbed a chair and pulled it up to the side of the bed. Sitting slowly, he rested his elbows on his knees. "Tara told me exactly what went down—what you did . . . what you said. You saved my life, Juice. You saved Tara's life . . . probably even my boys' lives . . . Gemma's life . . . . Who knows how far Clay would have gone to reclaim the gavel."
Juice shook his head, his chest tightening painfully as tears welled in his eyes. "I didn't do anything that the rest of the Sons wouldn't have done."
"But it wasn't any other Son that was there . . . it was you. And what you did . . . ." Jax broke off with a sigh. "I know that it wasn't easy—I know what Clay meant to you."
Juice exhaled shakily, a tear escaping the corner of his eye and trailing down his cheek. "Yeah."
"I'm indebted to you, Juice."
Juice shook his head sadly. "I'm a Rat, Jax."
Jax leaned forward and placed a hand gently on Juice's arm. This time, Juice didn't shy away. "I asked you to prove yourself . . . prove yourself to the Club . . . to me . . . so I could trust you again. And you did that." Jax laughed incredulously. "You couldn't have proven yourself more. You've got your pardon."
Juice turned wet eyes toward Jax. "And Chibs and Bobby? They're okay with this, too?"
Juice lifted an eyebrow. "Even after they found out?"
Jax shook his head. "They know only as much as they need to know. The rest stays with me."
Licking his lips, Juice nodded. "So what happens now?"
"We took a vote."
Juice could feel the blood drain from his face. "And?"
"And we believe that this belongs to you."
Reaching down, Jax produced Juice's kutte and laid it on the bed. The kutte was caked in blood and dirt—the white patches that adorned the front stained a grisly crimson. Carefully, Juice fingered the familiar leather, pausing when he felt the single hole that appeared on the right side, just below the words "Men of Mayhem."
He cleared his throat uncomfortably before speaking. "So that's it? Just like that?"
Jax shrugged nonchalantly. "Club decision."
Sighing, Juice stared at the ceiling, relaxing as his anxiety left him.
"Of course, there will be a new one waiting for you at the Clubhouse—one that doesn't hold so many painful memories . . . you know, a fresh start. We just wanted you to have this while you were in here, recovering. So you can remember how strong you are."
"You might want to take this off." Juice gestured at his newest patch—the one that he had sewed on just before his stunt with a chain and a tree.
Jax shook his head. "No. You deserve that."
Juice scoffed lightly. "I don't deserve it . . . I got it for killing Miles."
Jax sighed. "You may have received it for the wrong reason . . . but you deserve it now. That patch shows that you shed blood for the good of the Club. And no one can deny you that honor now."
Juice's throat constricted as a lump suddenly formed. He tried to swallow around it. "Okay."
Jax nodded. "Okay." Then, patting Juice's arm lightly, he stood. "Well, I'm going to go . . . and let you get some rest."
Juice nodded and watched as Jax gathered his things and made his way to the door. "Hey, Jax?"
The blonde paused—his hand frozen on the doorknob—and turned his attention back to the fallen Son. "Yeah, Juicey?"
"Thanks." Juice's voice came out a cracked whisper.
Jax shook his head slowly. "No, man . . . it's I who should be thanking you. Now get some rest."
The corners of Juice's mouth tipped upward into a weak smile. "Okay."
And then, Jax was gone, leaving Juice alone.
As the door shut quietly behind him, Juice inhaled deeply—wincing only slightly—and exhaled. He was suddenly extremely tired—a sense of peace replacing his recent trepidation. Readjusting his head on his pillow, he pulled his kutte up onto his chest. Then, breathing in the familiar scent, he closed his eyes, a small smile still present on his face.
After his conversation with Jax, he knew that it was going to be okay. His wounds—both emotional and physical—would heal . . . all he needed was time.