straight in a straight line running back to you- four future!fic oneshots exploring the course of Julia and Barbie's relationship. The first is set while they are still in the dome, but after they have worked through the circumstances surrounding Peter's death, the rest happen at chronological points in their relationship. For once, I am actually pleased with this turned out so I'd love to hear some thoughts on it. Enjoy :)
"When all this is over, Julia," Barbie says sleepily. They are curled up together under a blanket on her couch, Julia lying over him with his head propped up on the arm of the couch. Really she should suggest they go to bed because it's late and if they fall asleep like this which it seems like they might, both of them will wake up with sore muscles and cricks in their necks. But at present, she's just too comfortable with her head on his chest and legs entwined with his. His heart beats steady under her fingers.
It doesn't escape Julia's notice that he says 'when' rather than 'if', which she's mildly surprised about. When they first met he seemed a lot more fatalistic about the dome. She wouldn't be so arrogant as to believe she's what's influenced his outlook, but she still hopes she's part of it. "Yes?" she responds.
"Will you go on a date with me?"
His question makes Julia snort with laughter, not because the idea is laughable, but because that whole world seems so far away and alien now. She hasn't 'dated' anyone in years, since before she was married—she's not sure she remembers quite how. Plus, they've already been through more together in the short amount of time they've known one another than most married couples do in their whole lives. They've saved each others' lives more than once, they've had sex already, they've gotten through hurdles that threatened to destroy them and come out the other side stronger for it. Dating would be a formality for them at this point, but the abstract idea of him being her boyfriend is still something to look forward to.
His chest rumbles with soft laughter too, despite himself. "I don't what you're laughing at. I'm deadly serious. Pick you up at seven, dinner, maybe a movie, a kiss on the doorstep—the whole shebang."
"Never let it be said that you're not a gooey, hopeless romantic underneath your tough guy exterior," she says, yawning and curling into him a little more. "Sure. I'll go on a date with you. What restaurant are you taking me to?"
Barbie presses a kiss into her wild hair, and she feels him smile into it. "Now that would be telling."
The main problem they have to get through in their relationship are his feelings of inferiority and subconsciously ingrained opinion that she deserves someone better than an illegal debt enforcer who is the reason her husband is dead, suicide by proxy or not. He doesn't make it immediately obvious to people, but Julia is all too aware that he doesn't have a very high opinion of himself because of the things he's done in the past. It causes and/or exacerbates most of their serious arguments, sometimes helping them evolving into out and out screaming matches.
It'll always start with something little, like running into an old acquaintance of Julia's who asks about Peter; Julia has to give an extremely sanitised explanation that he died while they were under the dome. The acquaintance will look sad and grip Julia's hands tightly while giving their sympathies, saying how good a man Peter was and how much they'll miss him. Barbie will get very quiet suddenly and it will last until they get home, when Julia asks if he wants to talk about it. He will say no brusquely, but it's an obvious lie. Julia will make a muttered, slightly bitter comment about how hard it is to ever get him to open up to her and things will escalate from there. They rip old skeletons out of their closet to get at one another until she's got tears of fury in her eyes or his hands are shaking with the desire to punch a wall in their house.
Barbie will storm out, Julia will storm out, or they'll both storm out and drive in different directions until they can't feel the searing heat of anger at themselves and each other (mainly at themselves though) burning through their veins any more. It will be a few hours before one of them comes back to find the other at the dining room table, quiet and awkward with things unsaid. They will mutually apologise for what they said, assure each other that they didn't mean it, that the vitriol was heat of the moment and nothing more which is true but they won't talk about what's really going on. And so it will happen again, every couple of months or so; they will go through the same motions and start over.
Until Julia decides to break from the toxic routine. He sits down opposite her at the dining room table and starts to apologise like they always do. This time though, she interrupts him. "I don't care." This surprises and upsets him a little, she can see it in his eyes. He looks like he's preparing for her to break up with him for good this time, which is part of the problem. "So prevention is better than cure, right? So this is what needs to happen now."
Leaning forward, she grabs his hands and holds them on the table between them, looking into his eyes. "You have got to stop putting me on a pedestal. You have got to stop telling yourself you don't deserve me, because you do."
Barbie shakes his head insistently, sadly. "No, I don't, Julia. You deserve someone better-"
Julia lets go of his hands like she's been burnt. "Don't you dare say it!" she hisses and he looks up, shocked at the strength of feeling in her voice. "Just stop it, okay?! I don't want whatever your idea of 'better' is, Barbie, I want you! I'm in love with you, you stubborn, masochistic douchebag! You have to start believing me when I tell you that, otherwise this -you and me- it just isn't going to work!"
She shoves her chair back so forcefully that the legs screech against the floor and stalks off, this time up to their room. It isn't the way she was planning to tell him she's in love with him for the first time, but it illustrated her point at least. Julia strips to her underwear and bunches up in a tight, tense ball under the covers, letting the tears flow unbidden. It's a short while before she hears Barbie come upstairs and silently into their room, slipping under the covers and wrapping his arms around her middle. She relaxes just a little and wipes the tears from her eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispers in the darkness.
"'Sorry' doesn't mean much if you don't do something about it," she reminds him quietly.
Barbie thinks about that for a second. "I still think you deserve better," he says, and she's about to kick him forcibly out of the bed until he adds, "But I'm going to be better for you."
Julia relaxes and smiles a little, turning to face him. "Well, you're getting there, anyway."
They will lean in and kiss goodnight. They will fall asleep and wake up tomorrow morning and get on with their lives, always side by side. And maybe, just maybe they'll be okay. After all, maybe has always been their word.
Julia miscarries her first pregnancy. They hadn't been trying to conceive and in fact, she hadn't even known she was pregnant until the doctor confirms the aching nausea she'd been feeling and the blood she found was a miscarriage. It shouldn't be possible to miss something you only had for three weeks and didn't know you had, Julia thinks but Barbie still holds her all night while she cries it out. She feels like her body has failed somehow, and therefore by extension, she has as well. Julia sees a grief counsellor for a session or two and slowly absolves herself and her body.
The issue itself takes longer to go away. Although they are in a committed relationship, they hadn't discussed future-related things like kids at all. With Peter, it was always a matter of one day, once he and Julia were both at a decent level in their careers to have the time but then Julia's career in Chicago went down the pan and even after moving to Chester's Mill they didn't get around to it. Julia doesn't know how Barbie feels about having kids at all, and it's hard to bring up with him. But of course, it comes up again almost half a year later anyway when Julia misses a period.
After the miscarriage, pregnancy is more than a little frightening to her. After the dome, she wasn't sure she had the capacity to be scared any more but this? This is truly scary. He holds her hand while they wait in silence for the pregnancy tests to show the results, resting his head against her temple.
Two pink lines on all three of them. Positive.
They stare at them for a while, in shock. Julia turns to him, a little warily. "Are you- are you happy?"
"Happy? Of course I am!" Barbie tells her. "We're... Julia, we're having a baby."
And then they collapse into hysterical giggles because it's clearly the only reasonable and appropriate response.
Nine months later, Mollie Rose Barbara is born. Barbie and Julia fall in love again.
iv. marriage, or something like it
Joe and Norrie get married young, both of them aged twenty-one. It raises eyebrows among a lot of the congregation in the registry office that day, apart from all those who had been under the dome—all surviving town residents, wherever they ended up, were invited- who understand the value of living life to the fullest and doing whatever made you happy. It's simultaneously good and strange seeing people again, some of whom they haven't spoken to since the army lifted the quarantine over Chester's Mill.
Harriet's husband Greg who they'd never met comes over and shakes them both firmly by the hand, thanking them both sincerely for helping to deliver little Alice, who is now a small but lively five-year-old. He hugs Carolyn tightly and thanks her too, and tells her he's sorry for Alice's death. Carolyn has been emotional all day as mother of the bride but this brings out the tears worse than ever. Every former Chester's Mill resident there looks misty-eyed when little Alice hugs Carolyn, clearly knowing at least the basic story of her namesake.
Norrie is still the punk rock chick she was when they were in Chester's Mill so she wears a fifties-style white lace dress with a full skirt and white Doc Martens. Angie is the bridesmaid, while Norrie insists that Mollie is her flower girl which Mollie takes very seriously indeed—both Julia and Barbie know Norrie isn't so fond of flowers but they appreciate how she includes Mollie in the wedding, getting enthused when Mollie shows her the flower petals she picked out especially. Norrie and Mollie have only met a few times, but Norrie was an instant hit with her right from the beginning. Mollie is a cautious girl by nature -a trait that Barbie and Julia are unsure where she picked up given their own run-towards-the-fire tendencies- but Norrie's free-spiritedness always seems to bring her out of her shell.
Mollie walks down the short aisle in front of Norrie all on her own, dropping the petals from her little pink sheer bag. Julia is holding his arm tightly in the seats the whole time they watch their daughter, wiping proud tears from the corners of her eyes. He wants to tease her for it, before realising his eyes were prickling too. Mollie runs over to her parents as soon as she's performed her duty, having got her fill of the limelight while walking in front of the bride. "Was I good, Daddy?" she whispers hopefully.
Barbie pulls her onto his lap and presses a kiss into her wild red hair (he's insanely glad she inherited that from Julia). "Not just good, the best ever," he whispers back proudly and Mollie squirms happily.
The wedding reception takes place in the function room of an unusual little pub in New York. The walls are papered with newspaper cuttings, pop culture memorabilia is everywhere and the seats are high American diner style barstools with high tables. Joe and Norrie look utterly blissful as they have the first dance, camera flashes going off around them. Alice is chatting away to Mollie at Harriet's table; Mollie looks slightly taken aback by the older girl's sheer energy but comfortable all the same. Barbie and Julia sit at their own table, watching the celebrations contentedly. This feels like a full circle now, from the trauma of the events in the dome to the happiness of today. Ultimately, although it's hard to reconcile with the good people who died there, none of them would be here had it not been for Chester's Mill. In that way, Julia is glad for it.
"Do you think we'll ever get married?" Barbie muses, watching the happy couple.
Julia looks at him suspiciously, eyes narrowed. "Is this you asking, Barbara?"
Barbie shrugs, smiling. "If you want."
"Wow, I need a minute to let the sheer romance of that proposal waft over me." She rolls her eyes and he laughs. Julia thinks for a minute about his first question. "Honestly? No. I don't think we will."
"No?" He looks mock-wounded, hand over his heart.
"I mean, I'm not violently opposed to it. It is the right path for some people-" She gestures to Joe and Norrie, laughing at their own clumsiness on the dance floor "-but we've been together five years, we have a kid together, and we're still happy. I've never felt like we need it, you know?" Barbie nods thoughtfully, agreeing. "Plus, weddings are an expensive business and with another baby on the way, I just don't think we'll be able to afford it."
Julia watches him with a barely suppressed smile, waiting for that to sink in. She only found out yesterday herself and she had been waiting for the right time to tell him. He snaps his head around after a second and gives her a questioning look. She nods and laughs at his shocked, ecstatic face. Barbie leans across to kiss her, and they're both grinning into it.
I'm not your story, he told her once when they first met. She knows it now: this is definitely a full circle.