Title: Light on a Burial Shroud

Author: Ice Cube

Rating: T for language, some violence

Spoilers: Yes. Just, yes. Everything from the first season is fair game.

Disclaimer: Right, if I owned them anywhere outside of my dreams, the characters that are forthwith mentioned in this story would be making me a lot of money and very happy…so no, they aren't mine, and I'm still trying to get out from under student loans, so if you're going to sue, feel free, you won't get anything.

Characters: Barbie, Julia, others make brief appearances

Archives: Feel free; just let me know where so I can find it again.

Summary: They say your life flashes before your eyes before you die. Barbie was about to find out just how true that was…Probably AU after Monday's finale airs.

Warnings: To those who think that I am capable of writing a fic that is torture free…I can't, and thus, if you don't want to see h/c, various possible emotional and/or physical tortures, and other forms of angst, find another story.

I don't always have my stories beta'd, I'm too impatient to wait for someone to proof it after I've written it, so I apologize for any mistakes, and if you email me to tell me that they're there, I'll fix them later.

Reviews are always a plus; it's great to know that people are reading my stories and that they evoke some strong reactions. Constructive criticism will be taken under advisement. Flames, however, will be treated with the utmost respect they deserve…they will be used as fodder for jokes for years to come.

That said, on with the tale…


Chapter 1 – Cut Ties with All the Lies

He'd known this day was coming. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he'd always seen himself going out like this. Maybe not at the end of a noose in front of a riled up mob, that was true. Probably not at the hands of a corrupt councilman with an eye for a throne. Assuredly not while trapped under some godforsaken dome intent on imprisoning all of them indeterminately. And definitely not for things that he hadn't actually done – he wholeheartedly believed he had enough skeletons in his closet that the false accusations were unnecessary to bring him to this moment. But standing accused of murder and sentenced to death as opposed to going out a hero? That he'd expected. Hell, some days he longed for it just to get it over with. Since the day his unit had made the biggest mistake of their lives, Barbie had been waiting for it all to catch up with him. He was tired of trying to outrun the guilt and the shame.

Running from himself was exhausting.

Call it karma, call it irony, call it some god's master plan, he didn't really pause too much to think about putting a name to it. He'd been living on borrowed time since he first started with the lies.

{We came across the bodies like that, sir.}
{We heard the pop pop pop of the small arms fire and by the time we got there it was too late, ma'am.}

{I was just passing through.}
{I was
just a grunt.}

{I'm not your story.}
{I can't wait to meet Peter.}
{Peter must have taken off. You know, that happens sometimes. Some guys, they get in so deep, and you know, they skip town.}

The more Barbie struggled with the truth of who he was now, the truth of what he'd done in the name of King and Country so to speak, the truth of who he became under Max's watchful eye, the more he realized that he didn't know how to live with himself. Getting caught in the dome was just another way for him to begin to atone for what he'd done.

Barbie hadn't wanted to realize how lucky he was that the cows had forced him off the road that day. A few more minutes and he'd have been home free to keep wandering down whatever path Max had started him on – with or without her continued help. But if it'd been only a few more seconds? He'd have been deader than that cow that got sliced when the dome came down. Neither option was a choice he'd prefer.

He wasn't suicidal, and he didn't really feel some need to spend the rest of his life sitting in a jail cell rotting away – despite how tired he was of it all. Too many years of SERE training had given him a healthy dose of the need to stay free. No, Barbie had no desire to air his dirty laundry out for anyone to see – least of all a small town sheriff in the same town he'd killed "Smith" in. It was why he'd made sure his pistol was accessible and eyed the cruiser until it was out of sight right before he'd crashed into the McAlister's field.

Barbie wasn't looking for a way to fall on his sword. He'd just come to terms with the fact that he wasn't worth the ground he walked on anymore. That the fresh-faced kid who'd been able to look at himself in the mirror with pride, a sharply pressed uniform and shiny medals was a distant memory. When it all finally did catch up with him? Well, then he'd just let the cards fall as they may.

And then, he'd met Julia.

She was different. It was never easy. Being close to her and knowing every second that he was stumbling over the ghost of the last man that he'd killed tore at him in ways he didn't expect. He wanted to run as far as the dome would let him and continue to simply survive. But she made him want to be a better man again. She made him want to see the light at the end of this tunnel. Julia Shumway breathed a life back into him that he hadn't even known was missing. And that was just within the first few hours after meeting her.

Before she'd taken him into her home.
Before she'd forgiven him for thinking he'd run Peter off as a bookie's enforcer.
Before she'd allowed him into her bed, and then – for reasons that were still beyond his grasp – wanted him to stay there.

All that was a lifetime before she'd figured out the truth about everything and still gave him "maybe" on a future.

He didn't understand any of it. How could he? Barbie hated himself for everything he'd done. Why didn't she hate him, too? He'd told her secrets that he should have taken to his grave, secrets that should have sent her running in disgust and hate.

But she'd stayed.

She'd anchored him in such a way that he started to follow her beacon of hope. He'd started to tread water again in the hope that he could keep her afloat in this new Hell under the dome. Julia had given him a purpose.

Julia had saved him. From himself, anyway.

Saving him from Big Jim and the lynch mob in front of him might just be beyond her reach.

...Under the Dome...

It was all too much. So much had happened in the last 72 hours and she hadn't had a moment to process it all. So much had happened in the last two weeks, but she prided herself on rolling with the punches.

The dome came down. No one seemed to know a damned thing about it.
The military tried to wipe her whole town off the map.
There was a power source – or something – that produced ghosts with cryptic messages.

But those things she could handle. It was her own life that was throwing her for a loop at the moment.

Caution had never been Julia's strong suit, and God knew that that wasn't likely to change anytime soon. She went after the story and risked getting burned to find out the truth. Even when it hurt. Especially when it hurt.

Peter might be having an affair or he might have skipped town from a gambling debt that left her penniless. Neither of those options had seemed right. Julia knew her husband. She was sure of it. Somewhere in this mess, a story began to unfold. And if there was one thing that centered the journalist, it was her need to eke out the hidden facts and sculpt them into a story – an exposé. So she'd dug. And investigated. Her own husband.

And there was Barbie. If he didn't scream story, then she wasn't a journalist. The mysterious stranger with the military in his past who just happened to be in a little Podunk town like theirs on the day that the world as they knew it ended? A first-year student could tell that he was hiding the mother of all secrets. He was the center of her story. She knew that from the beginning, despite – or maybe because of – his assertion otherwise.

The way he avoided certain people in town and dodged all her questions on his past.
The haunted look in Barbie's eyes every time he caught sight of her ring or the pictures of Peter scattered throughout her house.
The way he'd tortured himself about falling for her.

She'd recognized the guilt rolling off of him in waves – had even appreciated the fact that he understood that while her relationship with Peter was clearly over, she was still married.

But she never expected what he was at the center of.

Then Peter had reached out from the grave and dropped a bombshell on her.

{Hey there, Red. I'll tell you soon.}

The life insurance policy.
The missing gun.
All the bullets.

All of the lies.

It had surprised her to realize that figuring out the story didn't change her opinion of Barbie, even as her opinion of Peter was hurtling down the drain. It hurt that he'd lied to her; that was true. It made her backtrack when she realized that the two men in her life had spent the majority of their time lying to her. But she was pragmatic enough to understand that they'd both been trying to protect her in their own broken ways.

And really, how did you go about telling someone that you'd killed their husband, anyway?

But he'd been ready to do it. Barbie couldn't have known that she'd found the truth, but had come to her, hat in hand with a busted up face, ready to break the news to her. He'd been so damned surprised that she knew, and so damned shattered about what he'd done that Julia had felt her heart breaking – for him.

She and Barbie had been through too much in the past few days for her to see him as the bad guy here.

She had learned enough about people to recognize that snap judgments only got you both screwed. She had learned the hard way to sit back and let the whole story develop before putting your name on the byline.

Barbie's story wasn't nearly complete.

And their story together? It was just barely starting.

Julia wasn't quite ready to forgive him for everything – she still had to take the time to process, to grieve. So she'd spent the night tossing and turning in a bed that had never felt so large until she'd realized that she wasn't the only one hurting here. She wasn't the only one trapped by Peter's ghost.

It hadn't been until she'd seen the look on Barbie's face when he'd offered to leave that morning that she'd understood how self-sacrificing he really could be. Despite telling her that he wasn't a hero, she could see past his mistakes to the character he'd hidden beneath his guilt. He was military to the core – it was ingrained so deeply to save others that Julia was sure he didn't even realize he was making decisions to put himself in the line of fire. But it was one thing to dive at a guy with a gun and hope you didn't get shot in the process of disarming him. It was the same thing to put yourself in the middle of a riot trying to keep the peace or go running off after two missing kids when the whole town might – quite literally – get blown to pieces. Risking his life was one thing.

It was another thing entirely to risk his heart the way he constantly did with her.

He could have let her think he was a hero. He told her about his unit's mistake.
He could have run with "in the future". He asked if she was sure.
He could have tried to wheedle his way back into her good graces. He asked if he should leave.

Barbie would sacrifice everything for her. Peter already had.

What made her worth all that?

It had startled her that morning when she realized that she already knew what they needed to do. Together. Because that was the only way it could work.

That was the only way Julia wanted it to work.

Visiting Peter's grave would allow her to finish her husband's story. Barbie's was just beginning, and they would finish it together. Hopefully, that would only happen sometime far into the future and in a world where an afternoon drive to Westlake or even a weekend journey to Acadia was a possibility. First, though, they had to get past the hurdle of her husband's poor choices. Julia wanted to take away just a little of Barbie's pain along with her own and allow him to close the book on Peter for both of them.

But some woman with a cryptic quip had thrown a wrench in Julia's plans.

Waking up in a storage closet when the last thing she remembered was falling to the floor of her home was just a little disorienting.

And damn if getting shot didn't hurt.

...Under the Dome...

"Today, Chester's Mill sentences Dale Barbara to death."

Barbie was sure Jim had been going on and on about how evil he was before that declaration. He would be lying if he said he'd been listening to yet another one of 'Big Jim's campaign speeches'. Because he knew that's all they were. The man was so wrapped up in his own little power trip that he'd forgotten his humanity somewhere down the line, and Barbie had never fallen for it. But hearing his own death sentence being proclaimed while the townsfolk glared and grinned cut through his racing thoughts on how to get out of this.

Barbie hadn't realized that despite the calm demeanor he was trying to portray, he was trembling.

When he'd shipped out on his first tour in Iraq, he hadn't really expected to come home. He didn't really have much to come home for, anyway. IED's and hails of bullets haunted his dreams and he half expected at any moment that he'd be cut down and that would be that. But as the days turned into weeks turned into months, he'd settled in and made a name for himself. He'd stopped waking up in a cold sweat worried about what could happen to him and started focusing on how to get himself and his unit back in one piece.

He'd been very good at his job.

The bullet that had nearly taken his life behind enemy lines had surprised him, but hadn't frightened him out of the action. He kept the deformed dog tag close to the heart it had protected, put the medal in a box to collect dust, and fought with a renewed vigor to keep himself in a position to make things happen.

He'd been good at that, too.

Promotions had come and special missions had paved the way for him and the 13th. Thoughts of dying horrible, painful deaths had gone by the wayside as he'd found a family with the Jackrabbits. Then all hell had broken loose, he'd been given another medal – this time for his "honorable" deeds saving her, and they'd called him a hero.

That had been enough to break him.

He'd turned his back on the danger of life in Iraq. Gone home and tried to stitch his humanity back together.

Line cooks and construction workers didn't worry about how they were going to meet their end.

Gambling enforcers were more likely to shatter their own souls or someone else's kneecap than to have their life flash before their eyes.

Barbie hadn't thought about what it would feel like to die in a long time.

It was hard not to react when Big Jim had sentenced him.
It was hard not to stare out into the crowd and hope to see just one sympathetic face.
It was hard not to fight and end up putting himself in a more compromised position.

He couldn't do any of that. Not if he wanted to make it out of here alive.

It surprised him to realize just how much he wanted to make it out of this.

The trick to surviving an impossible situation was to understand that you were already dead. Some CO or other had told him that once. Being afraid of dying did no one any good. If you let the fear take hold of you, then you were useless to yourself and everyone else.

Barbie couldn't be useless for Julia right now. Not now, not ever.

She still wasn't safe.

But it was hard not to stare at the noose out of the corner of his left eye and wonder what it would feel like wrapped around his neck. Would it be quick – break his neck and end it before he'd even registered he'd swung? Or would the rope tighten ever so slowly, inch by inch, cutting off his air supply and the blood to his brain? Would he feel the burning of the twine on his skin as the rope twisted and cinched across sensitive flesh? Or would the snap of falling to a quick stop supersede everything else?

Barbie had seen a man hanged before. In some no-name town on a classified mission where his unit was waiting to take out a warlord with delusions of grandeur, the bastard had been exacting his own brand of justice on prisoners he'd taken from a neighboring village. The 13th were still waiting for a green light and could do nothing.

So they'd watched helplessly as some poor sod had been led to the gallows like a lamb to slaughter. He'd been beaten and defeated already, and didn't even protest the rope being tightened.

The man hadn't made a sound before he dropped off a rickety chair and twitched and spasmed for what seemed like an eternity before finally, finally, he stilled.

It wasn't a sight Barbie wanted to remember. Especially now.

With his hands already numb from the handcuffs that had been left on for far too long, Barbie felt more exposed and vulnerable than he'd ever been in his life. He'd learned to fight and fight back at an early age, and helplessness didn't sit well with him. It was enough to send a shudder through him that he quickly quashed under a glare and a huff. He wouldn't give the Rennies the satisfaction of seeing him squirm.

The rope was still wafting in the breeze in front of him, but Barbie could already feel the coarse strings laying at the base of his throat. He could already imagine the terror that would accompany being helpless to even pull at the noose. It seemed that his legs were already trying to twitch as the oxygen supply dwindled in his very cells.

He had to remind himself to just breathe.

Barbie couldn't begin to explain how much he didn't want to experience being hanged.

But when was the last time that what he wanted mattered, anyway?

The rope slipped over his ears and landed on his shoulders.

...Under the Dome...

Julia was almost certain that if Barbie didn't survive this, she was going to kill both of the Rennies. Then again, if he did survive this, she might just kill Barbie.

She understood that he had some pressing need to atone for what he'd done.
She understood that he'd give up everything not to cause her any more pain than he thought he already had.
She understood that he'd seen so much death that he wouldn't be able to handle hers.

But damnit, she also understood that she wouldn't be able to handle him dying.

Not for her. Not for anything.

Julia had never thought of herself as something fragile that needed to be protected. But apparently both the men that had fallen for her put her up on some kind of pedestal and stopped at nothing to keep her safe, throwing themselves on the mercy of fate and hoping she'd come out on top. It was endearing, it was admirable and it was heroic.

It was maddening and frustrating and…and terrifying.

The fear that was clutching at her chest with everything that had happened since she'd found that insurance policy was almost paralyzing.

Julia was pretty sure the fear was justified.

She'd found out her husband had committed suicide via the man who she felt such a strong connection to, it was beyond reason.
She'd been shot and had woken up in hiding so that Big Jim wouldn't try and kill her.
She'd learned that Barbie had purposely allowed himself to be caught and held on murder charges so she and Angie could escape.
She'd seen Junior choose where his loyalties lie – for the moment, anyway – and force Barbie to put himself right back in Big Jim's cross-hairs.

She was...well, she was connected to the egg – that was all she'd let her subconscious run with right now.

{The only thing we have to fear…is fear itself.} FDR's famous quote wormed its way through her subconscious and almost made her laugh out loud. Clearly, the former president had never been to Chester's Mill. Here, under the dome, there was plenty to fear and most of it stemmed from the whims of one Big Jim Rennie.

And Big Jim had Barbie.

That was the first of Julia's priorities. Everything supernatural that had tried to put her off her game would just have to wait. Protecting the egg, finding a way out of all this, figuring out where she and Barbie were headed – those were all secondary.

None of those things mattered if Julia couldn't figure out how to get to the Town Hall in time to save the…

To save the man she loved.

...TBC