Based on Sons of Anarchy. A shameless fix for series7 with a bit of poetic licence on my part with the timeline. It’s not that I didn’t love Sutter’s storytelling, but always hoped that Chibs would save Juicy.
Spoilers for series 7, including the biggie, the secret of all secrets!
Explicit sexual content.
Dislcaimer: All characters and main story line belongs to Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter.
Chapter 1: An Equal Exchange
It’s not the first time Chibs has been in a less than jovial mood. He’s not known so much for his sunny disposition, more for his sarcasm, mockery and a healthy contempt for the majority of the human race. He might even be offended to be described as somewhat less than a people person, surprised that his brand of charm isn’t more widely appreciated. He’s been through some serious shit though, and Juice knows the impact of that sits hard in his core, usually safely gagged, filed away under ‘pending’.
Juice senses this is deeper, somehow more significant as he looks into Chibs’ face, sees an expression he hardly recognises and searches for a clue as to what he’s done, what he’s said. He knows Chibs is angry, enraged even. He has a harsh look of steely determination in his eyes, an intense glare that would solidify the ocean or lock tight a prison door. With strong hands he pushes Juice roughly backwards till he’s forced into the wall behind him, slamming his shoulders violently back against the rigid plaster. Juice could swear that the thin walls of their bedroom in the house the two of them now share are going to crumble around them, leaving them both in a powdered mess of crushed destruction.
Juice opts for a sociable, “What’s up Chibbie?” but is interrupted by an abrupt growl.
“Don’t speak. Don’t move. Hear me?” Chibs’ voice is threateningly low, barely audible.
As he nods faintly, Juice catches a breath that’s refusing to surface, wedged sharply in his throat. He’s seen the Scot in the middle of manic gunfights, in the chaos of club brawls, almost paralysed by fear and doubt when his wife and child have been threatened, but he doesn’t think he’s ever seen Chibs this calculated, filled with such controlled venom as he sees him now. He wants to ask what he’s done, what damned fool thing he’s said to get him this worked up. He wracks his brain to think, recounts the last conversations they’ve had, the details of what led them to this point and he comes up blank. All Juice knows is that, with the man in this mood, he’s not going to speak, and he’s sure as hell not going to move. Not if Chibs doesn’t want him to.
It’s easier said than done though, sweet Jesus he wants to move. As Chibs crashes his lips directly onto Juices, demanding entry into his mouth with his strong, resolute tongue, all Juice wants is to roll his straining hips forward and find some friction to rub against, something to relieve his growing need. He elects to open his mouth to Chibs, allowing their tongues to clash and chase, giving Chibs the lead in a fervent, insistent kiss.
Gnawing away at the back of his brain, Juice wonders what’s prompted the rage and worries about where things are headed, but there’s no denying it’s also hot as hell, and fuck the apprehension he feels, he wants nothing more than to rock into Chibs and crush his raging hard on against his lover’s leg, thigh, hips – anything will do. He finds some roughness to ease his mounting craving for contact as they both still wear their trademark jeans, and Chibs presses harder into him, at the same time crudely stripping Juice’s t-shirt over his head, throwing it to the floor. Without thinking, Juice reaches to do the same with Chibs’ wife beater, getting a snarled response for his trouble.
“I said don’t move, dammit”.
Shit, if he wasn’t sure before, Juice is pretty convinced now that this is no game, no attempt at some erotic foreplay designed to push his buttons and test his boundaries. This is Chibs incensed to the point of distraction and agitated beyond reason. That Juice is bewildered is an understatement, but through his confusion, he rationalises enough to clarify in his own mind that he has choices here.
Juice knows what it’s like not to have a choice. As a young teenager, he lived out the fantasies of deranged bullies in the guise of a Step Dad or two who manipulated, coerced or downright forced themselves on him, both physically and sexually. It was his reason for leaving Queens, his home and his fuck-up of a family, to walk away from sustained abuse, to leave behind the violence and escape the constant ache of looking over his shoulder. He chooses to believe that it’s worked, at least in the material sense, and even counting those times in Stockton that he rarely acknowledges, he’s avoided allowing himself to be used as that impassive, manipulated puppet in quite the same way since.
But he’s learned that running doesn’t leave behind the scars of who he is. They’ve been carried with him, moulded him and shaped him, and he knows that, to some, he’s still the fuck-up boy. He just has different strings now, different chains to be pulled. Dammit, he tried to wrap those chains round his own neck once upon a time, and thank Christ he fucked that up too, because now he’s here, where ever here is, he can’t imagine not being. He can still be twitchy at times, fidgety and fretful when he’s cornered or taken by surprise. More than one of his SAMCRO brothers have caught the tail end of a swipe when they’ve startled him, but that’s just Juice, wound up like a coil ready to spring. Victim or survivor, he’s not quite sure, but Juice knows that Chibs has gone a long way to helping him heal.
This ‘thing’ with Chibs, whatever they’re calling it, might have started as some drunken fucking in the dark corners of an empty clubhouse, but it’s grown from that, developed into something that fills them both. Without knowing or consciously understanding how it happened, they now share their lives, share their club, share a home and a bed. As it is, it’s also a secret they have to share. They’re not ready yet for people finding out. They’re still learning about themselves and each other, but they’ve become each other’s go to, the yang for the other’s ying. When Chibs found Juice on the ground with those chains shackled round his bruised neck, they spiralled into becoming ‘something’. They each knew there was no going back, and neither of them wanted to. One’s anger and the other’s fear came together, fused and sculpted into passion and tenderness. There is still anger and fear. In this life they lead they can never be free of those, but they quiet each other’s demons and bring a satisfying quenching to each other.
Chibs has discovered that Juice is grounded by a strong hand. A firm touch, a solid grip and a steady pressure to the small of his back, centre him in ways that he needs, craves even. And Juice knows that, where outwardly it would look like the older man is the driving force, guiding and directing, it’s really Juice who sets the pace, who gives willingly, abundantly. It’s never been about Chibs having to take or to force. He’s never tried to break Juice to prove his power or dominance, to control or manipulate him into submission, into giving. He’d never want to. The challenge, the pleasure for Chibs, has always been to persuade and coax him to give it freely. There’s far more worth in that. This, Juice knows, is his choice. It’s his to give or not, his negotiation, his decision. And there’s little he wouldn’t give to this man.
He’s still quiet and motionless as Chibs presses harder into his hips, his hands trailing purposefully over Juice’s tight torso. It’s so far removed from everything Juice is normally about, usually writhing beneath every touch, reaching for every stroke, always searching for more with incoherent words tumbling from his mouth. This is awkward and uncomfortable, but it’s fiery and heated, testing his resolve, challenging his need to please, but more than that, his absolute, basic need not to displease. And it’s still so fucking hot! He tests the water with a mottled groan as Chibs suddenly turns him into the unyielding wall, his chest, hands and cheek now shoved solidly against it. With no repercussions, he figures that sounds are safe, if not words, and sighs in relief at that, knowing that he can never be silent when Chibs is driving in to him.
Chibs’ mind is still not running on all cylinders. He’s distracted by the waves of anger washing over him, fighting his own torments. He’s not so far gone though that he doesn’t still appreciate that mouth (Jesus Juicy, your mouth)! He curves his hand round Juice’s face and pushes 2 fingers past his lips. Juice greets them hungrily, greedily licking them moist, rolling his tongue around them, circling and flicking, and scraping with his teeth. Chibs’ other hand undoes Juice’s buckle, slides his jeans and boxers down over his hips and slips firmly around Juice’s hard cock, his thumb teasing the slit, rubbing into the pre-cum already dripping down his shaft. He bites on the lad’s neck, sucking ravenously, bruising the soft skin, inducing more soft whimpers.
Knowing that Juice is going nowhere, Chibs releases his hold with both hands. He pays attention to his own clothes, ripping open his belt and button, palming his cock, mingling Juice’s pre-cum with his own. He presses one hand against Juice’s throat lowering the other to his tight arse as he slides his slickened fingers inside his opening with little warning. As Chibs grinds them in deep, Juice’s breath hitches. He lets out another delicious moan, forcing Chibs to come to for a moment, and he shudders at the sounds escaping from Juice’s mouth.
“No words, Juicy, but I could listen to those slutty little moans all day, boy.”
His growling voice (Jeez, that voice) and penetrating fingers have Juice floundering in groundswells of want and he has to concentrate hard to be still, not to back on to Chibs’ fingers as they probe and press, hitting the nerve centre that has his senses flashing. Chibs pulls out, leaving Juice’s hole slick and open, ready for his thick cock primed only with their joint pre-cum. He slows slightly as he enters, allowing Juice time to take him with a sensation of extended stretch but not pain. Even in this state of mind, he’s not a complete bastard. Not quite.
He knows that Juice’s brain will be shifting at the speed of light, cogs turning to make sense of this, to work out how this is his fault, what he’s done to cause this. Juice will go straight to his default mechanism, calculating how he can make this right. And ain’t that the crux of it? When Chibs overheard the scathing derision as the fallout from Juice’s most recent, assumed fuck-up was being debated, when he added it to everything he knows about the lad, everything his boy had told him about what went before, he baulked at the injustice of it, how wrong they always are about him. He knows he’s over reacting, building this into much more than it ever needs to be, and has gone to his own default setting – making this all about himself and how he feels, selfish prick that he is. Juice has made mistakes, and Chibs is pretty sure there’s more he doesn’t know, but he’ll get to that. He’ll find out and he’ll fix. That’s what Chibs does. The irony of the whole situation isn’t lost on him, that he’s now punishing his lover, his heart and soul, by disregarding what his needs are and focusing only on his own. Screwing him the way he’s always been screwed over.
Ignoring such inconvenient thoughts, Chibs is drawn in by the depth and intensity of what stands in front of him, still straining to suppress his raw emotions. Once he’s sure that Juice is ready, he starts to fuck hard, thrusting inside, losing himself in his onslaught. Both hands claw and bruise at Juice’s hips, crashing him back sharply to his own body at each propulsion. If he stops to think, he’s impressed by the way Juice has been able to still his normally rampant hips, exploring mouth and roaming hands. But he’s not thinking much about anything other than the unbridled desire to just fuck…. fierce, relentless and almost brutal. It’s not long till he feels Juice start to tense around him, squeezing and gripping more tightly. He releases one hand to wrap around Juices rock hard cock, stroking roughly as he feels Juice climb.
“Cum for me, Juicy” he whispers hoarsely.
The rush suddenly descends and the words are all Juice needs to comply, spurting thick cum over his own stomach and Chibs’ hand. Chibs groans into the spasms that intensify around his cock as his own orgasm takes hold, driving him senseless while he buries his cum deep inside Juice.
As he slowly unravels, Chibs’ earlier rage all but evaporates, replaced gradually by the stark reality of his actions. He gasps and falls into Juice as a subdued cry escapes from his throat. His breathing is raspy and irregular, and there are tears slipping down his cheeks. His fury now spent, he feels like he did as a young boy in the playground, so angered by the jibes and cruelty of those around him that he’s given in to tears of sheer frustration.
“Jesus Juicy” he sobs. “I’m sorry lad, I …… I don’t know what I was thinking. I should never have taken this out on ye.”
While he’s still struggling to figure this all out, it filters through to Juice that this might not be about his failings, that maybe he’s not to blame. It’s an eye opening revelation.
“Chibbie no, don’t say that” he utters, sober and sombre. “Did I say no? Did I ask you to stop? Did I make you think I wanted you to at any time? It was what you needed, babe. I might not understand it, but I know that.”
Chibs knows that Juice has been screwed by every person he’s ever been close to, both literally and figuratively. He also knows that he’s just done the exact same thing. He answers meekly,
“Nah sweetheart, this was all wrong, all about me an’ how shite I was feeling, about rubbish that doesn’t even matter.”
Juice draws in a deep breath. He still has no real idea where this has all come from, but he knows Chibs has no need to berate himself. Christ, he got off on this as much, if not more than his friend, his partner, his lover. He knows he has to make Chibs understand this, make it right for him. Fuck all the things they don’t say, this time it needs to be voiced. He hesitates for a start, not sure if he has the words.
“What if…. What if, right now, I asked you to take me over to our bed, fuck me hard and slow, and whisper all the things that we only say when the lights are safely out, the stuff that we gloss over afterwards and pretend never happened? Would you do that for me Chibs? Would you babe, if I said I needed you, needed to feel you inside me and to hear those things?”
Chibs doesn’t hesitate to consider before he looks Juice in the eye, steadying his thoughts and reaching for his answer.
“Aye, I would. Ye know I would. Is that what yer need, love?”
“No Chibbie. It’s not. It’s not what I need because I know without a moment’s hesitation that if I asked you to, you would.”
Chibs feels his breath wrench from his lungs as he looks at Juice, sees him almost for the first time. He smiles a quiet, understated smile at him and thanks his God, the one he no longer believes in, for this ‘thing’ that engulfs him. He recognises now how misplaced his anger has been all along. They’re so wrong about his boy, so unbelievably off the mark, that it’s laughable.
He draws him in close and wants to hold on tight, just for a minute or two, or the rest of his life. He knows that there’s more he needs to learn about just what’s going on with Juice, and he’ll get there because the alternative is not an option. For now, he’s happy to play the long game, offering words of encouragement and touches of reassurance when he can, biding his time till his boy is ready. Juice shifts in towards him and flashes him that buoyant grin, the one reserved just for him.
“Jesus Christ Juicy, your fuckin’ mouth……”
Chapter 2: Secrets and Lies
A couple of days later and things are moving headlong into the shite. The descent edges at its own pace, but Chibs soon decides to give it a muddy size 10 to the arse and help it along. His eyes are wandering around the new club house, taking in those within it. It’s early, but it’s been a hell of a day and the place feels subdued. It always feels subdued these days, to be expected now they’re at war with seemingly the whole fuckin’ world. Just staying alive is taking every ounce of energy and resolve from each and every member, and Chibs tries to recall a time when it was fun, when they’d come back on a buzzing high from a ride out checking on an enterprise that wasn’t going get them all buried in shallow, dirty graves.
Hap and Rat are racking up the pool table, watched by Quinn and Montez while Jax is nowhere to be seen, probably skulking in Chapel. Chibs thinks back to the way Clay used to do exactly the same and wonders when that little quirk crept up on them, assumes it must be something to do with possession of that damned gavel, and he speculates as to what’s really in control, the man or a small president’s patch worn on their chest with a pride bordering on arrogance?
Juice and Bobby are sitting at the bar. He watches their interaction, intrigued and curious. They’re relaxed from years of knowing each other, but strained all the same and Chibs is gutted to realise that Bobby doesn’t trust Juice anymore. He’s not sure many of his brothers do and again, he tries to remember when that changed, when they went from having each other’s backs unconditionally and without question, to being a club full of secrets and skeletons. His stomach clenches at what he knows that awareness does to Juice. They might all think his boy is an eejit of epic proportions, but Chibs gets that he’s far more attuned than they give him credit for. Juice knows. And for all his confident declarations that everything will work out for the lad, Chibs suddenly realises that unless he actually does something for his boy, unless he lays the foundations for some serious fuckin’ insight, Juice will be the one to bear the brunt of the chaos that they’ve all caused.
Wiping away the grimy stains of another traumatic day, Chibs sits opposite Tig, both of them nursing a cold beer, probably both wishing they’d picked up a bottle of the harder stuff. He’s not sure where the question formulates, but Chibs is pretty convinced that what comes out of his mouth means he’s done with tip toeing round the issues and he’s settling for pushing those pesky boundaries. It’s time. He leans towards Tig conspiratorially, his voice softening so as not to be heard beyond their own exchange. Nothing unusual there, they could be deliberating great art, sexual proclivities or the weather for all their brothers will bother.
“Ask ye something, Tig? What do ye make of the direction we’re headed with our esteemed Prez?”
“Honestly?” replies Tig. “Torn.”
It makes sense that Tig is the one he’s come to with this. They’ve grown up together in this club, Chibs following just behind the trail that Tig set blazing all those years ago, and has continued to combust, both externally, and occasionally, quite dramatically, internally. The Scot doesn’t have the same array of perverted predilections, but he’s shared many a warped episode with the man, both within the club they love and beyond. Chibs raises a quizzical brow, in anticipation of the more thorough explanation he knows will follow.
“I love Jax. We’ve known him since he was a boy, watched him grow and he’s always been part of us. But I don’t trust him. There are too many secrets, too much personal agenda since Tara died. I don’t blame him, of course it’s personal. In the same situation I’d be blowing away every possible suspect and anyone who stands within a hundred miles of the line of fire. But that’s why I’m not President of the MC, man. There’s something so far gone about him, so cold and unyielding.”
“Aye, I get that. He’s certainly selective with the information he shares around,” continues Chibs as he considers his next question. In for a penny, in for a million quid!
“And what about Juice?”
Tig doesn’t trust Juice either, his fuck ups are fast becoming legendary, and he says as much.
“Really?” starts Chibs. “Yer gonna start by judging people on the size of the fuck up? I love you Tig, but that fuck up with Donna? Cost two kids their Ma. The fuck up with Pope’s girlie? Got Ope killed, brought on so much shite. Lost ye yer daughter, man.”
It’s a low blow, one that Chibs loathes to use, but it’s necessary. Tig closes his eyes, in memory of the biggest fuck up his existence will ever see, while fighting back his tears. As Chibs places an apologetic hand on his shoulder, Tig nods in reluctant acceptance that Juice’s mistakes may have hurt friends and brothers, but don’t come close to the chaos and destruction that his own have caused.
“Do ye know Jax is screwing Juicy over? Not taking anything to the table, just got him doing his bidding and all sorts to make up for some stupid, fuck up mistakes that he’s convinced are pre-meditated club betrayals? Why is what Juice has done so much worse than what any of the rest of us have done? ”
Tig inhales much needed oxygen, his surprise at that revelation obvious. While Tig has had his share of struggles to come back to the club, it was never on the table that he be ex-communicated. He never faced the threat of losing the one thing that keeps them all going as Juice has and, it seems, continues to.
“I thought I was the only one Jax was fuckin’ with, man, after all that shit with Pope… That’s not a good place to be.”
Tig knows how lonely and isolating it is there. Chibs glimpses a thaw, a chink in Tig’s armour. If he’s going to try and put this right for his boy, salvage something for him from this mess of a club, this is where he needs to start. Hap will follow Jax through fire, Rat too, but Tig and Bobby will reason cause and motive, balance justification and rationale. At least, they will if given the facts to consider. He goes about giving some of those to Tig now.
“Juice has messed things up sure he has, but never through malice or spite. Just a series of stupid decisions and struggling to live with some of the fallout of what we do. That’s called conscience, Tiggy.”
He talks about Roosevelt and that black father crap, Miles and the block, Juice attempting to swing from the tree, and Darvany. But he knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that everything Juice has done, more than any of the rest of them, has been done for sake of the club. He reminds Tig about how they’ve all ratted at different times, how they’ve all messed up, made bad calls. But that more than anyone, Juice is a product of the club, is what they’ve made him, everything he is he’s learned from them. The lad is so fucked up that he truly believed offing himself would be the best option for everyone. The club and the individuals within it have got to take some sort of responsibility for that, for convincing a loyal, committed member that coming to them wasn’t a choice, that he was all out of alternatives. They should be accountable for that. What does it make them if not culpable?
Allowing Tig to consider the contentions he’s put forward, Chibs quiets, his eyes scouring across the darkened room as the evening draws in, settling on his boy. He spends a while appreciating the taut body he knows lies beneath the white t-shirt and heavy cut, watching his throat tighten and contract as his lips caress the neck of the bottle and he swallows his beer. It causes ructions within his body as Chibs recalls those same constrictions when Juice swallows him down, pauses to remember how he looks at him when he does that, and he feels his jeans tighten around his hardening cock. It takes next to nothing these days for him to be turned on by the lad, a glanced half look, a comment, a thought or memory, and he wonders why? He isn’t some horny kid anymore, in the first flush of a charged sexual encounter. He supposes that it’s to do with all these heightened feelings, his sense of flailing within the overwhelming flood that is their current life. And that Juice is his lifeline, to at least the same degree as he is Juice’s. There’s a yearning and longing in that sort of realisation.
Tig has held back as long as he can. As if reading Chibs’ thoughts he starts,
“Careful man, your halo’s slipping. You’re starting to look at him as if he’s your life’s breath. It won’t be long before the whole club sees that you’re fuckin’ his pretty Puerto Rican arse.”
Chibs inhales deeply. He figures there are two options here. He can deny or he can acquiesce. For once, he decides to take the more difficult route. Except it’s the easiest thing in the world for him to admit.
“I love him Tig. Club or no club, he comes first. I nearly lost him once, I won’t lose him again.”
“Then don’t,” replies Tig. As simple and as psychotically complex as that.
“Chibs, I don’t know about all this shit with Jax, how much I trust where he’s taking us. But it makes me uneasy. All this with Juice, that makes me uneasy too, whether he’s cut out for this life, whether he can bring it back. But I trust you, I trust you to know what you’re doing. And if you’ve got Juice’s back, then I’ve got yours. You can count on me to step up too.”
Chibs grasps the magnitude of the role that Venus has played here, that empathic, compassionate man who knows she’s a woman, who has showered Tig with equal doses of devotion and Southern sense. He also sees that Tig shares his own new found awareness that, while he still loves the club and most of what it stands for, there are times when the individuals must come before it, that the good of the club depends on the well-being of all its members, not just the privileged few who get to determine the terms of their affiliation. Chibs throws Tig a look of grateful appreciation.
Jax stalks back to the bar and as he passes, Chibs asks for some time at the table the following day. Jax nods an agreement as Chibs comes to some far reaching decisions, preparing not just to release the metaphorical pin, but to throw a live grenade right in their midst. God, he hopes that Juice trusts him because he’s about to fling their lives into complete disarray. Three, two, one, shite, is he really doing this?
He bellows across the room, “Juicy-boy. C’mon lad, let’s get home. I need to fuck ye and talk to ye. I’ll let ye decide which order.”
From the direction of the pool table, four pairs of eyes on stalks flit between an antagonistic, unfazed Scot, a deeply outraged President and a mortified Puerto Rican, ready to curl into a little ball and shrink into the bar he’s leaning on.
Tig chuckles and offers his best advice to Juice.
“Fuck first, Juicy. You never know what damage that conversation lark is going to create, better to get your rocks off first!”
Despite the mockery spilling from Tig’s voice, Juice is grateful that the sentiment is one of support and backing. His world has just been catapulted into some alien stratosphere where he’s struggling to find breath and balance. Despite his inner turmoil though, Juice knows that a lot depends on how he handles this, whether he can brazen it out and maintain some shreds of dignity and respect. He casts a look across at his newly revealed lover and aims for a confident, bright smile as he walks to meet Chibs on their way out of the shop front. Aims for, though maybe doesn’t quite achieve.
As they climb on their bikes to ride the short route home, Juice turns to Chibs, still obviously stunned by the revelation and shoots a bewildered, mystified look, not yet trusting himself to speak.
“Let’s get home and talk, eh?” says Chibs, quietly.
Juice nods, much more calmly than he feels inside. Soothing as it is riding next to his boy with the throb of his engine between his legs, Chibs’ thoughts return to his glib announcement to his brothers and he doesn’t quite believe what he’s done. It was an attempt to deflect what would otherwise have been an extraordinarily difficult confession but, all the same, he’s not sure he can explain why he chose to do it quite like that. No planning, no preparation, no strategy, not much thinking full stop, and unforgivably, no discussion with the other person that this affects as much as himself. Just a typical Chibs’ ‘buy now, pay later’ kind of approach.
Arriving home, the two make their way inside with a displaced calm, neither quite knowing where to start. Beer, Chibs thinks, seems a good place and he wanders to the kitchen, seizing two cold bottles from the fridge. He opens both and passes one to Juice, downing half of his in one long mouthful, meeting his boy’s eyes warily.
“Shit Chibs. What the fuck was that? Why?”
“I’m sorry Juicy-boy. Really I am. And I’m not anywhere near as ok with doing this as I know I looked back there. But I was talking with Tiggy and it just seemed the right time to start trying to..”
“Wait…. Please…..” interrupts Juice, and he cradles his hands round Chibs’ face softly, brushing his lips gently across the Scot’s. “Bedroom….. Now?”
Juice strokes his fingers softly down Chibs’ arm, takes his wrist and turns, leading him up the stairs, guiding him towards their room. It’s another reminder to Chibs that he should never underestimate this boy who holds him in the palm of his hand.
“Ye sure about this Juicy? I’ve just outed ye to yer club without even discussing it with ye. Much as I’m always willing to fuck yer brains out lad, I think we probably need to have a conversation about this.”
Juice sits on the end of their bed, undoing his boots and sighing deeply.
“In the interests of open and honest disclosure, I’m thinking that I’ve got quite some admissions of my own to make. Confessions that might become deal breakers for you Chibbie, might make you look at me differently. I’m not planning on making a habit of taking Tig’s relationship advice, but let me have this first babe, please?”
“Juicy darlin’. Please, ye have to start believing that yer as important to me as anyone has ever been. Nothing ye can say will make me think less of ye. I love ye.”
“I love you too Chibbie, but once I’ve told you this there’ll be no taking it back, no un-telling it. I don’t know if either of us are ready for that.”
Pushing those disturbing thoughts aside for now and determined to give him everything he needs, Chibs kneels before the lad, cupping his face, placing small, butterfly kisses over his mouth, along his jaw, around his lobe, down the side of his neck, gently rubbing his thumbs along Juice’s cheek bones, then stroking them across his shoulders. He needs Juice to hear this, to start believing that he matters. He pulls away slowly, Juice leaning towards him, following as he withdraws, keeping the space between them close and intimate as they shed clothes in hushed anticipation.
“Tell me what ye need, love. Anything ye want, darlin’.”
Juice murmurs his response, still unsure that he deserves this, fretful that what he has to confess later will destroy what he’s just starting to allow himself to imagine he could have and keep.
“I want to be inside you. Let me fuck you, babe? Please?”
Chibs stills, wondering if this is Juice, intent that this will be their end, trying to make their last time count. He marvels that the lad even got the words out, the scars of his past ingrained so deeply in his psyche. What he’s asked for is not what they ever do, he doesn’t know why. Maybe because, until now, Juice has never felt confident enough to ask, certainly never felt he has a right to expect. Soft lad. That thought doesn’t sit well with Chibs, it’s one more way that he thinks he’s let Juice down, allowing him to think himself undeserving, and Chibs should have made this right before now. About the request itself, there’s no hesitation on his part.
“Aye, lad. I want ye to fuck me, sweetheart. I want to have that gorgeous cock of yours inside me, filling me up.”
Juice groans his agreement, fervently aroused both by the words, and the gravelly voice delivering them. Chibs lowers onto his heels, still kneeling at the end of the bed, sending a shiver down Juice’s chest as he licks his tongue down and lets his mouth take Juice’s hard cock inside. Resting his hands on Juice’s thighs, stroking small, persistent circles with his thumbs, he sweeps his tongue around the head and licks down the shaft. Sucking down hard on Juice’s full length, he hollows his cheeks and takes him deep inside his throat. Prompting a series of delicious moans from Juice, he returns his tongue to the slit and makes swirling licks, lapping up his pre-cum.
Lifting his head, Chibs returns to Juice’s mouth, pushing him down into the bed and moving in for a deep, penetrating kiss. As their tongues clash, Chibs murmurs huskily,
“Taste yourself on me Juicy. Taste yer gorgeous cum.”
Juice mewls as he takes in his own sweet taste, gorging on Chibs’ mouth, revelling in the hot sensations. He manoeuvres them both, turning Chibs on to his back, exchanging places so he’s now lying above the Scot, lips still engaged, hands pressing hands into the mattress, legs between legs. Reaching to the nightstand for the lube, Juice quickly smooths the lotion generously over his fingers and palms. He goes to turn Chibs again, about to roll him onto his stomach, but Chibs pauses him, tilts his head as he whispers,
“Want to look at ye as we fuck, lad. If that’s ok?”
Well, if that doesn’t just go straight to Juice’s very soul. That’s more than ok with him, and he gestures his acceptance with a nervous nod followed by a brief, hazy smile, hardly believing his good fortune, expecting this to be taken away from him at any moment. Gently, he pushes two fingers in to Chibs’ tight arse, quickly followed by a third, relishing the groans being released as he presses more insistently to open his slickened hole. Once Chibs has relaxed, breathing into the stretch, his hips begin to rock onto Juice’s fingers. Juice works him for a while, widening him out in preparation, then slowly releases his fingers readying himself, holding his rigid, well-lubed cock at Chibs’ entrance.
“You ready, babe?” he asks shyly.
Chibs has no idea why the lad’s so restrained, and hopes he can cajole him into losing his reserve. He reaches to Juice’s arse, cups his hands around and pulls him in firmly as he rolls his hips upwards, sinking Juice’s cock inside himself, wrapping and tightening his bent legs around Juice’s waist. As he exhales, he murmurs thick, Scottish brogue, hissing deeply, showing Juice his vulnerability.
“Need ye, lad.”
It’s a long time since Chibs has been filled in this way. It’s deep, and it’s profound and it’s overpowering, and it feels fuckin’ amazing as Juice starts to move spontaneously. Chibs meets his every touch, drawing him deeper with each eager thrust.
“You’re so fucking tight, Chibbie. So hot, babe.”
Juice is almost overwhelmed by the feelings engulfing and seizing through him. His gasps sweep over Chibs’ mouth as their faces almost touch, ragged breaths escaping in tandem as their rhythms match. Their slick torsos massage and caress each other, Chibs’ hard cock pressed between them, and their tongues flick and graze together. They are immersed together, consumed and absorbed in each other. Juice’s eyes close as he savours every sensation, now bucking freely and driving in to his lover with no inhibition or restraint. Not for the first time, Chibs wishes they’d got to this sooner, that he’d realised how liberating this would be for Juice. It’s a form of therapy that the lad thrives on. He positively glows with his unshackling. He loses his trail of thought as Juice’s pounding hits the spot, sending vivid, dazzling pulses through his body. They’re both close now, their orgasms beginning to swell inside, climbing, as Juice wraps his hand around Chibs’ length, stroking him intently.
“Open yer eyes, sweetheart,” coaxes Chibs in a cracked voice. “I …want ye to look at me as ye cum, darlin’.”
Juice looks and they scale together, shooting hot, sticky cum inside and all over each other, earthy, dirty moans escaping them both. They lie submerged in a breathless daze before Chibs raises his head and covers Juice’s lips with his own, swallowing Juice’s strangled choke of amused awe and wonder, their mouths locking in a tender, unhurried kiss.
Eventually, they prise their bodies apart, reluctantly separating their warmth from each other. Juice pads to the bathroom to clean himself and brings back a warm wash cloth to wipe over Chibs’ chest and stomach. Both remain a little unnerved by the intensity of their union, but they slowly return to the real world, Chibs lighting a cigarette and Juice sparking up a joint, the pair each inhaling long and hard. If they’re going down this confessional route they’re going to need all the help they can get.
Juice sits himself in the middle of the bed, cross legged, concentrating, as Chibs leans back and lets himself rest against the headboard, his legs outstretched. If there was light at the end of the tunnel for them, Juice is pretty sure now that it’s just about to turn into a damned freight train coming the other way. Chibs reaches for Juice’s hand, tangles their fingers together and gives him a small nod of encouragement.
“Tell me Juicy. Tell me it all, love.”
Chapter 3: Confession Is Good For The Soul
“You know it all,” starts Juice, “Every betrayal, every mistake, every stupid fuck up and every damned insecurity I have. They all know it, everything there is. Except for this one thing, the biggest secret of all. This is the one that changes things Chibbie. This is the one there’s no coming back from. Because even if by some miracle it isn’t me, then it’s going to be some other poor fucker who reaps the fallout from this lie that’s been sown.”
Juice starts with the part that Chibs already knows, Darvany, how he accidentally admitted to Nero what Jax had him do. Jax had been letting him earn it back, letting him prove he was still worthy of wearing the cut, but Nero must have told him because Jax knew. He tells Chibs how Jax hugged him close but then whispered coldly to him that he knew about his betrayal. He never meant to do that, never wanted to betray him like that. He explains how Jax told him to go to his place and wait for him there, that he did and he saw Eli outside. Juice tells him how they talked for a few minutes until they heard a commotion inside and that Eli then ran into the house with him following.
“It wasn’t the Chinese that killed Tara, Chibs. When I got to the kitchen Tara was lying bloody on the floor, dead. Dead Chibbie. Eli was just about to call it in and I shot him.”
Chibs can’t disguise his incredulity as he stutters, “Shite, Juicy. Wha’…. Who?”
“Sat in the middle of it while it all played out…….” His voice turns to a low hiss. “It was Gemma, Chibs. Gemma killed Tara.”
Chibs is stunned to silence, he grips Juice’s hand tighter trying to process what his boy is telling him. After an eternity, he wakes himself to speak.
“Why didn’t ye come to us laddie? Why didn’t ye tell us then?”
“It was brutal Chibs, what she did, the way she did it. And I didn’t think, just pulled the trigger on Eli. I couldn’t let him call it in, arrest Gemma, I didn’t know what to do. I just acted. I knew I had to get her out of there, get rid of the murder weapon and stuff. But what was I supposed to do Chibbie? What choices did I have, what should I have done?”
Juice’s panicked, manic eyes seek out Chibs, looking for any sign of reassurance or hope. Chibs hopes he manages to convey some.
“I don’t know, lad. Seriously I don’t. Jesus Christ, what a mess. What else, sweetheart, what else happened?”
“I got her out of there, cleaned her up a bit, got rid of her blood stained clothes. She asked me about what I’d seen, what I thought. I told her it had looked gang related, like the Chinese maybe, but I never realised she’d use that – ID someone, put the blame on them. It’s why she’s gone AWOL now, lying low, probably up at her Dad’s place. This isn’t on you Chibs, this is all on me, and I want to take responsibility for it, but what do I do? Babe, Jax’s wife was killed by his own Mom. How am I supposed to tell him that? How does he ever get past that?”
Juice doesn’t remember when the tears started to fall and he begins to sob uncontrollably.
“I’m sorry Chibbie. Please…… I’m so sorry.”
Chibs moves forwards, circling his arms round Juice, pulling him in close. There’s nothing he can do except clasp himself around him while Juice falls into his chest. He strokes soothing caresses round his shoulders and lower back, tries to pacify with calming sounds. More than anything he knows he just needs to hold him tight, breathe with him, rub him gently to bring him back to the here and now and ease his dread. Eventually, he searches for some words.
“Juicy, love. I can’t tell ye we can make this right. We can never make this right.” He feels Juice tense in his arms. “But this is not yer fault, darlin’. I don’t know what I would have done in your place, sweetheart, but you couldn’t have done anything to stop this and it’s NOT on ye, never could be. Do ye hear me, love?”
Juice draws back slightly, calms his breathing and looks into Chibs’ eyes, seeking comfort. Chibs gives him the only words he can find.
“I love ye, Juicy. Please know that. I got ye.”
There’s little sleeping done by either of them, just occasional drifts into unsettled, restless dozing. They lie together, few words spoken. Juice worries his fingers at the blankets, scratches at small marks of fluff. All Chibs can do is take his hand and ghost his lips over Juice’s fingertips, hold him, speak words of comfort, offer a foothold in the raging hurricane. When Juice rises and wanders round the house in the dead of the night he allows him the solitude he’s searching for. Chibs is in turmoil himself. His bond with Tara had been strong, born of shared experiences as they often worked together to heal wounded brothers. He had huge respect for her and had learned so much at her patient hands. He knows that in the chaos since her murder he hasn’t yet started his own grieving for her.
Gemma. Shit, Gem, what did you do? Earlier, he’d asked Jax for time at the table so that he’d be able to explain his relationship with Juice, but he knows that’s been overtaken. They have no choice but to take this to him and the others. And he knows that, while it’s already torn apart, this knowledge will rip Jax’s world to shreds. He seriously wonders if he’ll come back from this, how he possibly can. He understands Juice’s confusion. He was being honest when he told him he doesn’t know what he would have done if it had been him that had found Tara’s battered, bloody body. Christ, Gemma.
After a while he rouses himself, pulls on his jeans, and goes to search for Juice. He finds him in their small, dimly lit kitchen, emptying cupboards, re-stacking in various sequences of neatness and uniformity, the orderly therapy providing a calm in the storm. Chibs is always mildly disappointed that each healing episode doesn’t cure long term, only offers temporary respite until the next chapter of doubt and insecurity, but he hopes that it builds resilience enough that one day Juice will move from victim/survivor to thriving. He drifts behind him, shifts close to his back, wrapping an arm tightly around Juice’s stomach, trailing a warming breath over the back of his neck. Juice pauses, grasps that this is safe, this is Chibs, and absently strokes his hand over the protective arm, goose bumps appearing from the touch and the cold.
“Jax is going to kill me,” he offers, quietly resigned.
“No love, I won’t let that happen. Your brothers won’t let that happen. Not. Your. Fault. Ye understand?”
Juice nods dutifully and turns in to Chibs, breathing in the comfortable, soothing scents of nicotine and earthiness. As he detects the distinctive aromas, his thoughts are transported to earlier, when their sweat covered bodies fought in unity together. Lowering his eyes, focusing on Chibs’ naked chest, Juice sighs and stumbles his words, self-conscious and shy.
“Thank you for earlier, babe, for letting me….. you know.”
“For letting ye fuck me? For letting ye give me the most amazing shag? For blowing my mind, giving me an earth shattering orgasm and cumming with me? Aye lad, ye should be thankful for that. Don’t let it ever be said that I don’t know how to make sacrifices for ye.”
Chibs smirks. Rambling declarations of love and feelings are not what they do, certainly not what they do well, so he wraps it in a veil of self-deprecating irony. He wants Juice to know and needs to acknowledge the profundity of what passed between them earlier. Opening himself up like this is the least he can do for his boy. And he gets it. Juice smiles. He lights up from his perfect mouth, the one that always tugs and knots right inside Chibs’ core, all the way up to those big, brown, frightened but trusting eyes. Mission accomplished.
“C’mon, sweetheart, let’s go back to bed, eh?”
Juice nods, winding himself back into Chibs’ arms, burying his face in his neck, breathing him in. The familiarity of touch, voice and surroundings brings comfort to Juice. Alleviating his fears, lessening his doubts and easing his uncertainties, his thoughts become more composed and he begins to ascend into something resembling peace. It’s fragile, but he feels it. He can’t think about tomorrow, just about the present, but begins to feel safety in what he’s accustomed too.
When morning comes, they smoke and shower. Neither of them can face food. They ride over to the club and walk in side by side.
“Get me a tea, lad,” Chibs asks, more to keep Juice occupied than because he wants one. Juice is grateful for something to keep his hands busy and crosses to the kitchen area as Chibs sends him a reassuring wink. Chibs strides over to Jax, stomach churning, hoping to keep some semblance of control.
“Mornin’ Jackie-boy. Juice and I, erm… we need to talk to ye, if that’s ok, Prez?”
Jax’s baby blues glare evenly at Chibs. Not forgiven then, he thinks.
“You asked for time at the table Chibs. Whatever you’ve got to say can be brought to your brothers there.”
“But Jackie-boy. This is..”
“No, Chibs. We’ll hear it at the table.”
Chibs reflects on how well that short interaction went with a touch of sarcasm, hoping anxiously that what’s still to come can be delivered a tad more succinctly and successfully. Then he chides himself for thinking that there’s any way in hell this can end anything but badly, especially for his President, though he dares to hope for a better outcome for Juice.
Jax is obviously still piqued from Chibs’ revelations the day before. Their relationship has always been solid, more than good, Chibs mentoring him, championing him, defending and encouraging him, and more recently following and protecting him. Since Tara’s death, and if they look closely, from before then too, Jax has become less approachable, more closed and driven. Chibs thinks that Tara felt it, that she began to see compulsion and obsession grow like a tumour around his compassion and understanding. Chibs doesn’t know if it’s as simple as power corrupting. It felt like it with Clay. It sometimes feels like it with Jax. But Jax is also the product of a visionary idealist father and a fiercely protective and over indulgent mother. A mother who………. Shit.
Chibs wonders again why Jax’s attitude has changed so dramatically towards Juice over recent months. Is it just because it’s easy to blame Juice for his own shortcomings? Or that Jax has lost all sense of care and empathy? Or maybe Juice, like Tig before him, became a threat, a small risk to the status quo and therefore to Jax’s visions. Not because of any conscious challenge to authority, just through minor transgressions, mistakes that diverted focus and distracted from the road Jax was trying to steer the club along. Jax should have been this club’s saving grace. That’s what Chibs had predicted from him, and it almost breaks him to think of what he’s about to do. They turn and walk to Chapel, brothers following in dribs and drabs offering fleeting glances and muffled welcomes, filing through the door into their seats.
Juice is the last to arrive at the table, passing a mug of scalding tea to Chibs, their fingers brushing together for an instant, the gesture going unnoticed by all but the two of them. Juice takes his seat next to Tig, along from Happy at Jax’s right and Chibs takes his place to Jax’s left. Chibs wishes he could be within touching distance of his boy, close enough to offer a trace of reassurance. He’s able to extend eye contact though, and hopes that’ll be enough to help Juice through. Jax brings them to order and grudgingly offers Chibs the floor.
He clears his throat, and wonders how, after spending the whole night gathering thoughts and words, he’s still no closer to having the slightest idea of where to start. Somewhere, he thinks. Anywhere will do.
“Jackie-boy, I love ye. I’ve always had yer back and always been in yer corner. I asked for some time at the table to talk to ye all about me and Juicy, and to ask ye all to consider a different take on some of the concerns that ye have about Juice. But last night, he came to me with some shocking news that goes beyond that, is far more important. I’d have liked to come to you alone Jackson, but ye asked me to bring it straight to the table. This isn’t going to be easy for any of ye to hear.”
He places a hand over Jax’s, giving it a brief squeeze. Jax shoots him a puzzled look, not sure what could be about to unfold. Chibs looks to Juice, signalling for him to speak. It feels to Juice like he’s taking the witness stand in front of his brothers, placing himself at their mercy, awaiting judgement. Or throwing himself to the lions.
Juice’s stomach is tightening wildly, bile rising and sweat gathering along his forehead and down his spine. He studies his hands, laid on the table before him. Bringing them together in front of him, almost in prayer, he raises his eye line to meet first Chibs, then turns towards Jax. He tells his story, at times quiet and direct, occasionally animated, faltering, precise, with emotion and regret. He tells what he saw and heard, what he felt, and tries to explain why he did what he did. He describes his confusion, and defends his actions the only way he knows how, with the truth as he knows it.
“Gemma thought that Tara had given you up to the Feds, that’s why she did it. She told me that if I said anything to you it would kill you, that she’s the only person in the world that can help you through this. She asked me what purpose it would serve for you to know the truth and told me that her truth could save you and the boys. I just didn’t know what to do, who to tell, who to protect. I’ve been called a rat by you all, but when is it ratting Jax? Why is it that what I did was ratting but what others have done isn’t? Am I ratting on Gemma by telling you now, Jax? Should I even be telling you?”
Tig places a reassuring hand on Juice’s shoulder as he listens silently to the story, offering a gentle squeeze at times when Juice stalls or hesitates. He’s not Chibs, but Juice is grateful for the grounding, and thankful for Tig’s unexpected kindness. Jax hears the whole story in a chilling silence, his frosty eyes piercing Juice’s heart.
“And why should I believe you?” he shouts, finally. “Tell me why I shouldn’t just shoot you now.”
Chibs stands, hands resting on the table taking his weight, and looks compassionately but firmly at Jax.
“Because, Jackie, the boy is telling the truth. And if ye want to shoot him, go ahead. But ye’ll have to shoot me first.”
Juice isn’t the only one to take in a slow, surprised breath at that. All eyes fall between Chibs and Jax, who counters,
“Ok, then we’ll take a mayhem vote. All those in favour of Juan Carlos Ortiz meeting Mr Mayhem?”
Chibs sits, raises a hand to the back of Jax’s neck and massages slowly, pulling him closer toward him. Softly, he whispers,
“No, Jackie-boy. It’s Gemma’s truth that’s the betrayal. Whatever Juice has done, misguided or not, has been with the club, and you, at heart. Mayhem needs to be unanimous. I’ll never vote for that, and I doubt the others will either.”
He turns to the rest of the table as he continues,
“Ye all know what the lad has come to mean to me, and what we’ve come to mean to each other. But this isn’t about that. This is about what’s right, and what is true. There’s a lot that hasn’t been brought to the table that should have been before now. We can talk through that another time, but if any of ye have any questions we’ll try to give ye the answers ye need.”
Everyone remains quiet. Bobby raises his hands as if surrendering his no, and Tig slowly shakes his head. Happy surprisingly mumbles a no, as do Quinn and Montez. Only Rat remains transfixed, unable to decide one way or the other. Jax looks defeated, crushed, resigned and his tears start to fall as the enormity of Juice’s revelation starts to register with him. Beneath his watery eyes, he struggles to regain his composure as he remembers the vengeance already dished out against this, the biggest lie of all.
“The Chinese? I smashed a blade through the skull of some poor sod because my mother said he was one of them.”
“I swear I didn’t know she was going to do that Jax. I wasn’t here when she came to you with that. I’d said it looked gang lead, like the Chinese, and she must have just decided to use that as part of her ‘truth’ to save you.”
Although he has never suspected for a moment that this was a secret that Juice held inside him, Jax knows as the story unravels that it’s the truth and that his arguments are merely postponing the inevitable outcome. His mother killed his wife, the mother of his children. As if in slow motion, he watches his club slip away from him, knowing he’s been set adrift and has nowhere left to go. It strikes him as absurdly ironic that he’s losing his sense of self, his own well-being, at precisely the time Juice is finding his.
Juice looks again at Jax.
“I’m sorry Jax, truly I am. If I should have come to you sooner I’m sorry about that too. Telling you what I have today is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do but I’m glad you know the truth, in time to resolve things with Lin and the Chinese, and to try and make things right for your boys, for Abel and Thomas.”
“It seems I was wrong to judge you so harshly,” says Jax in quiet surrender.
He rises from his seat, takes off his cut and places it slowly over the reaper in the middle of the table. He offers each of his brothers a look, a nod, a small touch to Chibs’ hand, a pat on Happy’s neck. He looks back to Juice through his tears.
“I can’t begin to fathom what you’ve told me about my mother and I have no idea what I do with this information. This club has always advocated vengeance, reprisal, retribution. Those principles and values have been constants all my life. I don’t know how else to settle this. I’m sorry Juice. Thank you for giving me the truth.”
He turns and leaves the room.
Nobody stops him. Nobody follows him. They allow him to leave because they don’t know how else to own this. The brothers sit in silence for a considerable time, not knowing what to say or do. Eventually, Tig and Juice both stand. Juice is surprised when Tig turns to him, enveloping him in a tight hug, telling him in a hushed voice that the worst is over, and that he did the right thing. Juice wonders if Tig has any concept of how important those words are to him, coming from a brother. He sends a silent thanks to Venus for her obvious influence, nodding his appreciation to Tig, hoping he’s right about the worst being over.
Tig clears his throat,
“Erm…. In the spirit of full disclosure, does anyone need to know that I’m fucking Venus?”
Snorts, choked laughter and raised eyebrows ensue, however briefly. Inappropriate, mis-timed and insensitive as it is, it relieves some nervous anxiety. It’s Tig being Tig, closeting his own insecurities in a cloak of dark humour, hiding his tears behind a wall of tasteless wit. It’s his only way of masking the overwhelming sense of bereavement he feels, for his lost brother and for a woman he loved.
Juice tells them he’s going to get some air, needs a few minutes, and leaves the remaining tension floating in the room as he heads outside.
Everyone has questions, for which there are no answers. After a while, Chibs decides to go and check on Juice. He’s had his time to calm and compose himself, and he’s guessing that Juice might need some of the same. He walks to the back of the garage and finds Juice sitting on one of the tables his fingernails scratching at the surface. Juice looks over as Chibs ambles towards him.
“I was waiting for you, babe,” he says. “I knew you’d come and find me.”
“Of course, love. How are ye feeling?”
Juice doesn’t have to tell him how difficult he found it. For years Jax had been their friend and brother, and for most of that time things had been good. Juice feels gutted that he’d held this secret, and that he’d been the one to reveal such devastating news. Jax doesn’t deserve that. And Juice feels that he did it, he destroyed his life by dispelling that biggest lie of all.
“Are we good?” he asks. “Have I ruined this, us?”
Chibs often struggles to follow Juice’s reasoning, and wonders how his thought processes so often manage to avoid simple logic. He assumes it’s the systematic wearing away of self-worth and self-belief, and coming from a place of being constantly de-stabilised and undermined. He answers Juice’s doubts as openly as he can.
“This doesn’t change the way I see ye, or the way I feel about ye. What ye did today was brave and it was right. How ye did it was brave and right. Yer not responsible for destroying Jax’s life, Juicy. Gemma did that. Gemma and his own decisions based on the secrets and lies that they kept from each other.”
He lays his hands on Juice’s shoulders, fingers penetrating the flesh below the cotton of his shirt, encouraging the words into his consciousness, using sheer willpower to force him to believe them.
“I want ye to really listen to what I’m going to say to ye now, hear what I’m telling ye Juicy. Yer my life. When we get home, I’m going to hold ye in my arms and tell ye that my world depends on ye. I’m going to kiss and lick and fuck ye however and wherever ye want. Yer going to tell me what ye need and I’m going to give it to ye. And I’ll carry on giving it to ye for as long as ye need. Ok, my love?”
Juice uses his wicked smile this time,
“Can we go home now, and get started on some of that?”