Chapter 8.

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It's hard not to hate.

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I run down the hallway to see Ima standing behind Al with a fist full of her hair. "Ima, let go of her!" I scream at the lanky blonde. Al is holding Ima's fist tightly to her head, knowing well enough not to pull it. "Ima!" I scream at her once more, but she continues to ignore me.

Al pushes Ima back into the wall heavily, hoping to get her off her. I watch as Al struggles and Nero rushes over to her, ripping Ima off my wife and throwing her to the ground. "What the hell do you think you're doing!" he yells at her as she sits on the ground, laughing manically.

Al stares at the woman in the corner with shock on her face, not knowing what to say or how to handle the situation. I pull my gun out and before anyone can say anything, the bullet goes straight through Ima's head. Al lets out a blood curdling scream as she watches the woman getting killed in front of her, the blood splattering up onto her clothes. Nero looks over at me with shock, not expecting me to kill someone in his business.

I grab Al's arm and take her, leading her out of the room and leaving Ima's dead body with Nero. We walk out of the building and Al is trembling in my grip, her face pale and it looks like she could be sick at any given moment. I unlock her car and open the passenger door, letting her in while I go around to the driver's side and start the car. I pack out of the parking lot and head towards the clubhouse, silence growing between us.

I park the car and hop out, waiting for Al to get out of the vehicle before heading inside. She clicks her way into the clubhouse, covered in Ima's blood and not saying a word or showing any emotion. I sigh and look over at her, "I'm sorry."

She ignores me, not saying anything and just walking to the bathroom, splashing her face with water to clean off the blood and wiping her glasses off. She slides them back on and comes back out, noticing her dad is now in the room. "Baby?" Al stands still as Tig rushes over to her, pulling her into his arms and holding her tightly. "What happened? Are you okay? Who's blood is this?"

"It's Ima's. She tried attacking Al, so I shot her. She's taken care of, and I know she's not alive. I shot her in the head." I tell Tig as Al remains silent, not knowing what to say to her father. Tig looks over at me and shakes his head, holding his daughter in his arms and kissing the top of her head.

"I'm sorry baby, I'm sorry." He comforts her as she begins crying, feeling overwhelmed with emotion and not knowing how to express any of it. "It's okay, let it out." I watch as he rubs her back, comforting her and I feel the disappointment in his tone, the disappointment he feels towards me, feeling like I can't protect her anymore.

I sigh, walking away and heading to my apartment, tossing my cut on the bed and taking a hot shower before changing into a new set of clothes. I toss on a new shirt and slide into a pair of sweatpants, rubbing my eyes and reaching for the pack of smokes on the dresser. I take the smokes and lighter and walk outside, taking a seat and lighting the cigarette after placing the smoke between my lips.

I look out to the smalltown background, shops scattered down the main road as random vehicles are parked in the darkness. I hear steps behind me and take a drag of the cigarette as the table shifts due to someone sitting next to me. "I don't think you can't protect her, Jax." I hear Tig tell me. I let out a sigh and run a hand through my wet hair. "But that's my baby girl, and you need to realize that I can't keep playing this game with her safety. It's not fair to me, you, her or your kids. They need her as much as any of us, if not more."

Tig lets out a sigh, "I've already lost one daughter to this club, and my other one doesn't even talk to me. I can't lose Al to SAMCRO to, I can't, Jax."

I nod, taking in everything he's saying. "I'm sorry, Tig."

Tig shakes his head, "I don't know what else to say anymore. Maybe I'm the one who should be protecting her, I don't know, Jax. This is just going too far, and she's hardly involved in the club yet she's gone through hell because of it. How is this fair to her? What if one day we can't figure it out or we can't find her before it's too late? What are we supposed to do then? I can't bury another one of my babies." Tig looks over to me, his eyes filled with pain, "I can't have this club change Al the same way it changed Tara, Jax. That's not okay with me."

"I don't want it to change her either, Tig, I never have. I shouldn't have pursued things when she came back, this is my fault and you're right, I can't protect her. I'm weak, I'm selfish and I'm a thug. There's always going to be the potential of her getting hurt when I'm around."

Tig just nods, "I get that. We'll get through it and we'll figure it out." And with that he stands up, patting my shoulder and walking back to the clubhouse. I finish my smoke and toss it in the large coffee can used for cigarette butts. I head inside and notice that Al isn't there anymore, I walk up to my room and find her laying down, silently crying. I let out a sigh and walk over to her, turning off the light and closing the door.

I pull down the duvet and get into bed with her after stripping down. I pull her into my arms and sigh, kissing the top of her head and holding her closely. "I'm sorry you had to see that." I begin to rub her back as she cries into me, obviously traumatized from today's earlier events. "I'm so sorry." Al continues to cry into me, not responding to anything I'm saying. I clear my throat and the let out a long breath, feeling like a broken record. I kiss the top of her head and then lean down, kissing her softly and continuing her back rub. "I love you more than I'll ever be able to describe, Al, and I'll do anything and everything I can to make sure that you know that. I'm sorry I can't always protect you."

"I love you too." I hear her squeak from my chest. I sigh and hold her tightly until I realize that she's fallen fast asleep. I toss and turn all night, not being able to sleep, so instead I decide to get a glass of water. I get out of bed, making sure not to wake Al up and fill the glass sitting in the bathroom. I bring the glass with me into my room, sitting it on the side table as I relax into a chair and reach for my notebook, taking the pen and scribbling down my thoughts.

I find myself in awe, watching you do your daily tasks whether that's marking, making food or taking care of our children. I can't help but also feel guilt in these moments of awe. Guilt for being the man that I am, and more so, the man that I'm not. I wish I could say that we belong together and that I know this is meant to be, but I can't. I often think that we should be apart, that we should've stayed on our different walks of life rather than intertwining them. I don't deserve you. I'm an unhappy man, I'm an outlaw, and I live a life full of hate. The only time I do not feel my soul falling apart is when I'm with you and our three children.

You'll never see this, and that's okay. I've watched you fall apart, I've watched your soul get destroyed because of me. I watched as I shattered the trust you had for me as if it was a mirror. I should've let you go. I shouldn't have brought you into all of this. You don't deserve to be with a man who is filled with hatred and anger. I sometimes wish we never got as close as we did so that I could hurt you, so that I could hurt you so badly that you'd leave all of this behind, me behind, but I also know that I'm nothing without you, and without you I'd be a shell of a man.

I love you more than words or actions will ever be able to express, and I want nothing more than for you to live a happy, comfortable and safe life. I pray one day you get that, with or without me.

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