Let me first say that Dark Shadows is a LOT better than the vampire dramas on nowadays- can't stomach any of them. I just felt a need to pay tribute to that fact.
Disclaimer: I don't own Dark Shadows
The air was crisp and cold, as dry as she remembered it. The woman stopped in her tracks, wondering what she would say to him. Them. Had it always been so cold there? Had the leaves always seemed so sharp, so dull and sapped of life. The brown curls bobbed at her shoulders, half dried and lacking form. She had been meaning to cut them soon.
The hardened face instinctively scoffed. Cut them? For a moment, the permanent mask of apathy gave way to a frown. Now was hardly the time to think about her hair. Dying orange leaves crunched beneath her feet.
She had forgotten how cold Maine was. The doctor shivered as the northern weather cast its spell, the essence of a cruel autumn all around her. She walked on, past gnarling trees and dulling bark. It all seemed so old.
The water on her clothes made matters worse- she was freezing. She wanted to break down and start a fire; it went against all her medical knowledge to continue trudging in soaked muddy clothes- their bedraggled state would slow her down and keep her in goosebumps. But
But there was something else she had to do first.
But there was another priority. The same priority that had silently crept into her heart those three years ago. Only three? It had felt like so long ago.
She examined her arm, teeth chattering. Only a few dark bruises from where he had grabbed her. She rounded the path and narrowly avoided tripping over a twig. More dirt was the last thing she needed.
She shuddered- she had always told herself not to fear death, but in the past years, she realized that it was inevitable for a human being to fear its end. She was no different. In the water, losing air, sinking, sinking- and that man beneath her, holding her wrists, drowning-
The Old House stared back at her, a relic of the past, antique and tired, shrouded with shadows. They must have been looking for them, for him. She remembered them congregating at the house, she had been there, and then he had come. But surely they must have triumphed; she was alive, after all. She hugged her shoulders and marched up.
He was on the porch, so blended with the house that she had almost mistaken him for a shadow. He blinked, tired eyes taking on a sudden shine. He stumbled forward.
"Julia..." he half cried, half whispered. She could only stare at him, mouth open and unable to form a thought; he looked so graceless, so clumsy, so unlike the man she knew. And as if to attest the thought, he fell and crumpled into her wet arms.
"Barnabas!" she yelped. He wasn't listening, pressing his head against her breast, running his hands along her shoulders before they cupped her face. She stared down at him, at the dark circles beneath those frantic eyes, the cheeks sallower than ever, the messy brown hair, and a strip of rusty mud along his temple running down the neck.
Her heart seemed to squeeze. "It's you, isn't it? Julia? It's you."
"It's me. I'm here," she said slowly, taking him by the arm and steering him back to the porch.
"You're not a ghost, an apparition, a trick-" he babbled. She shook her head, gesturing for him to sit on the first stone step; whispering beside her, he obeyed. She sat beside him, taking his head in her hands.
"My- what happened?" she asked.
He looked stricken. "What happened! Julia, I- I thought he took you- he was going to kill you, he was going to kill Elizabeth, he was going to-"
"Is she alright?"
He nodded. "We found her before she could- but Julia, he wanted a trade- you went, and I- I thought you were..."
She shuddered again; if one thing had gone wrong in her plan, she would be at the bottom of that water, frozen and drowned. "Were what?"
"I thought you... were... not... coming back," he finished, still with that wild, lost look.
Her heart clenched again. "But I did," she reassured him softly, touching the strip of mud on his face. She froze.
"You're hurt," she gasped, holding up her fingers- it was not a strip of mud.
"We should never have answered that letter," he mumbled, "oh, Julia, we should-"
"Shh," she shushed, "shh, shh." Ripping a piece from her soaked sleeve, she dabbed at his temple. "Don't speak like that. If you didn't answer that letter, you would regret it now. It was a plea for help, and the you I know would never refuse a plea."
"What you were," she looked him in the eyes. "Who you were, none of that matters now. Who you are now would never refuse that plea. I wouldn't let you."
"Now tell me, how long has this wound been here?"
"You should go in. I... I'll make a fire and get you new clothes and-"
"I lost count. It's not important-"
"It's infected. It's painful."
He grabbed her hand and shook his head. "No, no, it's not. He came back here. He said you were dead."
She connected everything, observing the bits of blood on his clothing, dried and brown. There had been a rough scuffle. "You killed him?"
Almost ashamed, he nodded. "I thought those days were over, but-" She remembered the incident with Tom Jennings from forever ago. "It's alright. Are you sure he's gone?"
"No. I don't know- I'm not thinking right. Oh, Julia, I went to Widow's Hill; I looked and-"
"I wasn't there," she said softly. "He lied to you- there was a cross with me. It's lost by the rocks now, but it was enough for me to escape."
Abruptly, he pulled her into a hug, head resting on her shoulder, sniffing her hair. "I couldn't live without you," he said tightly, "not anymore." She returned the embrace. How long had she yearned to hear those words? So why did it hurt so much to hear them now?
"I'm sorry," she whispered, a bit choked. She didn't want to hear him go into a tirade about how it was all his fault, all his blame. "And don't you dare tell me it was your fault."
He was shaking against her. Her eyes widened in astonishment. "Are you- are you crying?"
"Come home with me," he muttered, "I want to see you warm and dry. Alive."
"With me. Real. Julia, you don't have to be with me, but please- please stay alive."
She was crumbling, falling apart. The woman shifted, pushing him ever so slightly, and placed her hands on his shoulders. They were face to face again.
"Don't say that, don't ever say that. I will always stay with you, understand? It's my choice... always has been."
I love you.
"After this... settles, we'll go home- we'll go back to Singapore."
Under the sun and warmth. Long walks under the horizon, tropical leaves, their house in the orient.
She sneezed. He snapped out of the stupor. "You must go in, Julia."
Her husband stood up first on wobbly legs, pulling her up with him, both equally unbalanced. They stumbled, nearly tripping over one another, and laughed at the movement, unrestrained and uncharacteristic.
For the moment, she allowed herself to hang on his arms. As if eternity would pass them by.
End Notes: According to Sam Hall's post-canon ideas, Julia and Barnabas do get together and move to Singapore. It sounds awfully adorable so I played off of it.
As for the "villain" of this fic and his motive, it's up to you. I made whatever happened open-ended on purpose.
All that being said, I hope this was entertaining enough and reviews would be greatly appreciated!