Before either Jax or Tara could reply or move, the airport security swarmed around Wendy, with their guns raised and trained on her.
“Miss, put down your gun,” one of the guards told her.
“No, I will finish this,” she vowed. She turned back to Jax and Tara, glaring at them angrily.
Jax moved in front of Tara, effectively shielding her from Wendy’s sight. He would much sooner die, trying to protect her, than any other alternative.
“How in the fuck – did you get past security?” he wondered. Since he had gone through a thorough cavity search by those same people (where they had confiscated and refused to give back his weapons, before allowing him through), he found it hard to believe Wendy had gone through and now held a gun aimed at his head.
“I butted in line and proceeded to walk through,” Wendy shrugged, as if it was no big deal.
“What she failed to mention – was she ignored our shouts and warnings,” one of the security guards added. “She didn’t wait in line. She walked through, as if she owned the place.”
It made a lot of sense, but he was surprised Wendy had the balls to do something like that. He turned his attention back on Wendy.
“Think of all the witnesses…you wouldn’t want Abel to be without his father, would you?” He tried to reason with her.
“No, but I don’t want Tara to be his mother, either,” Wendy explained and pointed to her chest. “When I am,” she added.
“Of course you are, Wendy. I’m not trying to change any of that. I just want to be married to Tara. I want to share my life with her. Is that too much to ask?”
“Yes, it’s supposed to be me, for fuck’s sakes! Not her. Never her,” Wendy cried. She wiped at the tears in her eyes, while she held the gun in a shaky, quivering manner. “You and me and Abel are the ones who are meant to be a family. Tara is supposed to leave town and leave us alone.”
“Wendy,” Jax sighed.
“No!” Wendy interrupted. “I don’t want to hear any of your lame-ass excuses. I don’t want to hear anything come out of your fucking mouth! You got that?” she yelled.
He felt like he was to blame for some of this. Had he led Wendy on somehow? He couldn’t remember, but he had never felt anything other than friendship for her. There had been a few times in the past when they’d had sex, but it had mostly been before Tara had returned to town. And only one time after and it had not only been a mistake, but it hadn’t meant anything, at least to him.
The words coming out of Wendy’s mouth shocked and scared him. How were they going to calm her down? How were they going to get themselves out of this?
“Wendy, listen,” Tara pleaded. “You don’t want to kill the father of Abel, do you? Who’s going to raise him? After this, you’ll probably be going away to jail for a long time. You don’t want Abel to end up in foster care, do you?”
“I don’t want to hear a peep out of your fuckin’ mouth, bitch,” Wendy replied, then pointed the gun right at Jax. “No, I think this is the only solution. If I can’t have him – no one will.” She vowed.
She must have realized what she was saying because she suddenly changed tactics and continued, “is this what you wanted? Did you want me to shoot you instead?” she cried, trying to sound like it was her only option.
Anyone could hear the pitiful heartbreak in her voice.
Something puzzled him. Something didn’t seem quite right. Jax wanted to find out what it was.
“Wendy…just what did you think would happen with this insane plan of yours? Did you think that I would leave Tara, while you held me at gunpoint?” He shook his head, proving the answer. “What then?” he continued. “I would resent you for it. Always.”
Tara watched, in stunned horror, at the scene playing out before her. It was like one of her worst fears and a climatic ending to some movie she was watching onscreen.
She needed to save Jax somehow. She could tell Wendy wouldn’t listen to anything anybody said at this point.
The people around them were more interested in watching what was happening, than boarding the plane. In fact, the ticket agent was standing there watching, just as interested as the rest of the crowd. One of the pilots came out, wondering why nobody was boarding the plane. He too, was now watching just as intently. Nothing like this had ever happened in Charming before.
They had a captive audience, no matter how much they wished it were otherwise.
The police arrived. Hale and a couple of deputies appeared at the top of the stairs. He pulled his gun out and trained it on Wendy.
He briefly turned towards Jax. “I thought you promised me that you weren’t going to get into trouble?” He asked, out of the side of his mouth.
“Hey, I’m the victim here,” Jax replied, offended and just as stunned as everyone else.
Tara looked at both of them with confusion. She looked up at Jax, who looked down at her.
He could read the questions in her eyes.
“Later. I’ll explain about it later…if we get out of this, that is,” he told her. He shifted his attention back to Wendy and the matter at hand. “Wendy, we promise that you can have visitation rights,” he tried to placate her.
“Nope, I want custody,” Wendy replied. She waved the gun from Jax to Tara and back again. “I’m not going to let the two of you raise my son to hate me.”
“We won’t,” Tara vowed. “If you lower your gun now, I’m sure the police will go easy on you. You may get out sooner. Isn’t that right, Hale?” She asked, hoping that Hale would go along with it.
“I will..?” He replied, then read the communicative expressions on Jax and Tara’s faces. “Oh yes, we’ll make sure that things will be easier on you, if you cooperate. Lower your weapon. Please Wendy, before someone gets hurt.”
“No!” Wendy shouted at him, her frustrations bursting forth. “No, I will not. If I can’t have him…nobody will!” She turned her gun back on Jax and pulled the trigger.
As if it were happening in slow motion, Tara saw what was about to happen. In a panic, she did the only thing she could do. She jumped in front of Jax, taking the bullet that was meant for him.
She felt a sharp, searing pain in her chest, as she fell to the ground. The sounds all around her became muffled. Everything moved in slow motion. She watched, as the security and police officers tackled Wendy to the ground and handcuffed her.
Jax knelt down next to her and held her hand in one of his. The other hand, was trying to stop (what she assumed) was her blood from flowing. He shouted to people around him to give him something to stop the bleeding. He said reassuring words to her, but she couldn’t hear him.
She felt dizzy and light-headed. The pain was excruciating. There was a roaring sound in her ears. Was she going into shock? She felt cold all of a sudden.
Jax tried to stop the bleeding as best as he could. He was more scared than he had ever been before. Tara didn’t seem to be responding to any of his questions and encouraging words, even though she seemed to be awake. She wasn’t unconscious…yet.
Hale came over to where Jax was kneeling next to Tara, after requesting an ambulance to come to the airport.
He had instructed his deputies to arrest Wendy and take her into police headquarters. He would let her sit and wait until he was sure that Tara’s needs were looked after first.
“How is she doing?” He asked Jax.
“How do you think she’s doing?” he glared, angrily at him. “She took a bullet meant for me!” Jax shouted.
Hale was used to dealing with people in situations like these. He knew that Jax was only acting out in the only way he knew how at the moment. He was in shock and horrified by the results.
“I called the ambulance. They’ll be here shortly. Would you like me to call Clay and Gemma?” He offered, knowing how much family meant to Jax.
Jax nodded his head, his attention focused back on Tara and her condition.
Hale called them at the clubhouse. He knew the whole club would be at the hospital before the ambulance arrived. It was one of the things he envied about the club. Even though they weren’t blood related, they were family. If any of their members or their loved ones were hurt, they all came rushing in to help in times of need.
Jax began talking to Tara again. “Hale told me that the ambulance is on its way. Gemma and Clay are going to be there when we arrive. Everything’s going to be okay. I know it is,” he rocked back and forth on his heels, holding Tara’s hand.
Tara felt reassured, after hearing what she could hear of Jax’s words. All she heard was something about an ambulance coming and something about Gemma and Clay. The rest was; blah, blah, blah, to her.
She tried focusing on Jax’s face to keep her mind off her pain. She was incredibly relieved that Jax was alive and he wasn’t hurt at all. She must have saved him by jumping in front of him at the last minute. She wanted to tell him, ‘yes, she would marry him’, but the pain was too much for her. She wanted to tell him how much she loved him too, if only she could speak.
Jax moved away from her, as people she knew came and knelt down next to her. She vaguely recalled that they were local EMT’s, who she often saw at the hospital. She wanted to greet them, and ask how they were, but they were too busy working for idle chit-chat. Besides, she was in too much pain to carry on a conversation.
One of them put an oxygen mask over her. The other was taking her blood pressure. She wanted to ask them what her condition was, but couldn’t get the words out of her mouth because of the mask.
They slid her on to a stretcher, they had brought inside with them. She made a mental note to tell them when she was better, that it should be softer. The mattress was hard on her back. They strapped her in, then carried her down the stairs and out of the airport.
She guessed Jax had his wish after all. She wasn’t leaving Charming tonight. She was going back to the hospital, but she was kind of relieved that she wouldn’t be on call.
They pushed the stretcher in, with one of the EMT’s following behind, closing the doors behind him. He began going to work, attaching tubes and equipment to her.
If she were feeling better, she could have rattled off what each piece of equipment was supposed to do and which body part it was for, but the pain was still too much to be able to think about anything else.
Dave, as she finally remembered his name, the EMT in the back with her, asked if she were allergic to anything. She shook her head. He asked her a bunch of other questions too. She knew it was the information they provided to the doctors and nurses at the hospital to be used to help make her better. It was very necessary in some cases.
Jax had slipped into the back of the ambulance too. He held her hand. She was surprised to see him there, hovering around her, not letting her go. Where was Abel?
As if reading her mind, he leaned over. “I told Gemma to look after Abel until you returned home with me. I’m not leaving your side until you’re well again,” he winked at her.
She wanted to tell him how much she loved him, but her mouth still had the mask over top of it. She was glad he was coming with her to the hospital. She was scared. While she had always tried to reassure her patients of the procedures she would be doing on them, it was different, if you were the actual patient. Now, she completely understood what scared them. She felt it too.
The ambulance took off towards the hospital, with its lights and sirens blaring. They arrived at the hospital in no time flat. Tara was rushed into exam room one as soon as she arrived. She saw the passing hallway lights, while she lay on the stretcher. They were hard on the eyes. She could see Jax staring down anxiously at her, while they moved down the hall.
When they entered the exam room, Jax was forced to stay behind. Tara tried to maintain eye-contact with him, as long as she could, before they closed the doors.
People she knew so well, who knew what they were doing, worked on her. They checked her vitals and administered first aid, and prepared her for surgery. The bullet (as one of her colleagues explained) was lodged in her chest, narrowly missing a major artery, but it hadn’t hit one of her major organs. But it would need surgery to come out.
She was all for that – anything to get rid of this kind of pain. She couldn’t sit up or move. It hurt to breathe.
They moved her upstairs, where the operating rooms were. She knew what they were going to do next, apply anaesthesia to her.
She wasn’t sure where Jax was. She hoped he was around the hospital somewhere and hadn’t deserted her. Had he really proposed to her? It seemed like a distant memory now.
They pushed her into a room and she kind of smiled at the anaesthetist technician. She knew him well. He always had great jokes. He placed a mask on her face and before she knew it, she was out.
Jax anxiously paced in the waiting room, across the room. Gemma and Clay, along with the rest of the members of the club arrived. They all had hopeful, comforting words to share, which he appreciated, but they were just words. The only thing which would relieve his mind, would be Tara walking into the room.
He was sick with worry over her. Gemma carried Abel in her arms and handed him over. Jax breathed in his scent, grateful that he had Abel, safe and sound. He just needed Tara to pull through surgery and his life would be complete.
“Your mother is going to be okay,” he spoke softly to his son. “She will pull out of this, she has to.”
He said those words, as much to reassure himself, as to reassure his son. He knew Abel understood that something was seriously wrong. He started to cry and Jax had to rock him.
“You’re right, honey,” Gemma reached out to comfort both of her boys. “She will. Tara’s tough. She won’t let a little thing like a bullet take her down.” She paused, wondering if this was the right time to ask some more questions. “Is it true that Wendy was the one who shot her?”
“Yes,” he replied. “But she wasn’t aiming for Tara – she was aiming for me. Tara saved my life, Mom,” he explained, more grateful, than he could ever put into words.
When Tara made it out of surgery, he vowed, he would try to make it up to her as long as he lived. How could you ever repay someone for sacrificing herself like that?
“I can’t believe Wendy,” Gemma complained, shaking her head. “To hold you at gunpoint in an airport…” She continued to shake her head. “I guess you never know what some people will do.”
“No, you can’t,” he agreed. “Look, you guys don’t have to stay here. I’m okay, now that Abel is here. We’ll be fine.” He tried getting Gemma, Clay and the club to leave. “I’ll let you know everything once Tara’s out of surgery.”
“I will not leave you alone at a time like this,” Gemma refused. “I care about Tara too,” she explained, stubbornly. She proceeded to sit down in one of the chairs in the waiting room and crossed her arms across her chest.
Jax and Clay exchanged a look. They both knew how stubborn Gemma could be. It was better for all of them if they let her be.
“Okay, if you insist,” Jax agreed, reluctantly.
He sat down next to her and shifted Abel in his arms. Abel was starting to fall asleep.
Time moved by slowly, until the administrator herself came into the waiting area. Jax stood up with Abel in his arms.
“Well?” He asked, hopefully. “How is she?”
The administrator looked up at him, with a serious expression on her face. The look in her eyes didn’t look very encouraging.
Jax could hear his heart pound in his chest. He grew scared. Tara was still alive, wasn’t she?
Suddenly, the administrator smiled. “Dr. Knowles is fine. She needs some rest, but we got the bullet out without any complications,” she explained. “She’s in ICU. Would you like to see her now?”
Jax nodded his head, as grateful tears sprang to his eyes. Gemma had stood next to him, while the administrator had given them the good news. He handed Abel to her, so he could visit Tara. He followed the administrator into the ICU.
“You need to put this on.”
The administrator handed him a set of scrubs and a face mask, which he put on. He had been through all of it before with Abel. Once he was ready, he followed the administrator into the glassed-enclosed section where Tara was.
Oh God, she looked so small and dainty laying there in bed. She looked very weak and pale. He was afraid to approach her.
“Go on,” the administrator urged. “I’m sure she’d love to hear your voice,” she encouraged.
“Do you think she will hear me?” He asked hopefully.
“Of course, she will,” she replied, knowingly. She left the room, giving them some privacy.
Jax didn’t know how she could be so sure about it, but he was game. He pulled up a chair next to the bed, where Tara lay, sleeping. She had so much equipment and tubes attached to her body…she looked like she was as wired up as a sound system. It broke his heart seeing her in this state.
This was the reason why he had always been fearful of giving his heart away. His position and status in the club was a dangerous one. He hated it that he was the reason why she had taken a bullet meant for him, if only he hadn’t hooked up with Wendy in the first place…
“Hey,” he spoke softly to her. He took one of her hands in his. “You’re going to be okay, you hear me, Tara? They got the bullet out and tell me it’s a good prognosis. I want you to know I’m here. I’m never leaving. I’m sorry Wendy did this to you. It’s all my fault…” he got choked up at the pain and guilt he felt.
“I didn’t know she had it in her to try to shoot one of us. But I promise you I will do everything I can to protect you in the future.”
He paused, as he listened to the bleeps and sounds of the equipment running.
“Abel is here. He misses you. Gemma, Clay, the rest of the guys are here too. We’re all pulling for you to make it out of this alive.”
Tara was in a place with a brilliant bright light. She was in a field, with wildflowers and a breeze blowing through her hair. She felt drawn to the light, but Jax’s voice drew her away. She could hear him from a distance, but it was steadily getting louder.
She somehow knew that he was at her side. She needed to get back to him to tell him how much she loved him. She walked towards the sound, his voice getting clearer and clearer.
Finally, the light dimmed, but didn’t disappear. She slowly opened her eyes. She was laying in a hospital bed in the ICU. She knew the room well. She had often looked in on her patients in this room. Her vision was blurry, but started to focus, until she could make out the handsome features of Jax’s face.
His face was the only face she could see. He had tears in his eyes and was holding her hand. She wanted to talk to him, but her lips and throat were dry.
“Tara?” He asked, incredulously. “Can you hear me?”
Jax suddenly realized Tara was awake. Her eyes were open and she was gazing at him with love in her eyes. He hadn’t lost her. He was happy and relieved.
“Would you like me to get you anything?” He offered. He would give her everything she could ever wish for, if she let him.
The doctors had told him to call them as soon as she woke up. He pushed the call button on the bed, notifying the doctors to come check her out. The doctors arrived, taking Jax’s place, next to the bed.
Jax didn’t want to get in the way, so he leaned over and kissed Tara on her forehead.
“I’m going to leave, to let the docs do what they’re paid to do,” he explained, tenderly. “I’ll be back later.”
Tara nodded her head, in understanding, and watched Jax leave the room.