Ben and Julie are the greatest couple ever and I totally ship them!
Warning: Major Angst up ahead. Although I could be persuaded to write an alternate, somewhat happier version. Possibly.
For my followers in the Twilight Fandom, I still remember you. Mostly. However, I managed to lose the saved stories I had...and now I'm trying to find the will to rewrite them. My humble apologies. :(
"Great game," Ben said, walking easily beside the red-haired D.A.
She laughed. "Oh, hush. I haven't played a good game of baseball in ten years."
"Better than me," he pointed out, and she winked at him.
"I won't argue with that," she said prettily.
He smiled. "It's Friday night," he reminded her.
"No, really?" she teased him.
He pretended to pout. "And just for that, I'm not going to take you to Maddie's," he said, naming a restaurant she loved.
"Oh, Ben!" she cried with delight, flinging her arms around him in an impulsive hug. "I apologize."
He grinned. "Pick you up at six?"
"Deal," she said, and hurried towards her car, at the far end of the parking lot.
He hummed a tune as he headed back the opposite direction, intended to talk to Bob Brooks for a few minutes before heading home himself, to get ready for a very special date.
Julie wasn't one to scare easily.
She held her car keys between her fingers, pointing out and ready to stab someone, if needed. It was a habit from her big city days that refused to die. But all in all, she was really very easy going, not given to paranoia.
But now, standing at the front door of her apartment, key in lock, an unexplainable chill tugging at her spine.
Maybe I should call Ben, she thought, then shook her head in exasperation. This was silly.
Pushing open the door, she walked in, laying her purse and coat on the side table. Gazing around, she reassured herself when nothing seemed out of place.
Walking into the kitchen, she tossed her keys on the counter and went to the refrigerator, needing a glass of iced tea after the strenuous baseball game.
She grabbed a cup and hummed quietly, unable to keep the silly grin off her face. Friday nights with Ben always did that to her. He was the best friend she'd ever had.
The front door slammed.
She gasped, setting the cup down on the counter and reaching for a carving knife. "Ben?" she called out shakily, but it was way too early. And Ben would never frighten her that way.
Breath coming in short pants, she peeked around the corner. The front door was flopping back and forth in a gust of wind. Of course, Julie, you silly! You know the thing never latches just right – you just didn't pull it shut good enough.
Laughing at herself for being so paranoid, she shut it firmly and started upstairs to get ready for Ben.
A series of thumps coming from her room set her panic button off good this time. By now terrified out of her wits, Julie turned to run, only to be grabbed from behind. She screamed.
"Too late to run, little lady," a gruff voice muttered triumphantly in her ear. "Now I've got a gun in your back, so shut your mouth and walk downstairs to the living room, nice and slow.
She took deep breaths. Think, Julie. Your cell's in your pocket, if you can get to it…it's only five o' clock, so you can't count on Ben coming by anytime soon.
As if reading her mind, he growled, "Toss your cellphone into that corner over there."
Reluctantly she did. "What do you want?" she demanded.
With a shove, he sent her sprawling onto the living room floor. Her cheekbone glanced off the tile, and she yelped.
"It's nothing personal," he smiled. His ugly features sent a chill through Julie. She didn't recognize him, but the only reason he would leave his face uncovered was if he didn't plan to let her go.
"Your boyfriend, Matlock – blame it on him. He sent my best friend to prison, and Vic died there. It was his fault. And you know what the Good Book says – an eye for an eye. A tooth for a tooth."
He cocked the gun.
"A friend for a friend."
Ben shuffled up Julie's steps in a poor imitation of a jig, sniffing the air to make sure his cologne hadn't worn off yet. Switching the bouquet of roses to the other hand, he straightened his tie one more time and patted the little box in his pants pocket. Yes sir, tonight was going to change his life.
He started to knock, but the door was standing ajar. Odd. But that door never did latch well. "Julie?" he called, comfortable enough to go on in.
The bouquet of roses smashed to the floor.
The entryway was in shambles – the small table turned over, her purse emptied everywhere, and her coat was slashed to ribbons. "Julie!" he yelled. Something horrible had happened. If she had come home to this, she would have called him…unless she surprised him, he knew. Dashing through to the kitchen, he found it in a similar state, broken dishes scattered on the floor and countertops.
He found her in the living room.
She was lying next to the overturned couch, in the middle of the splintered coffee table. Ben hit his knees, gathering her up in his arms. Something red and sticky rushed over his hands. "No," he moaned. "No, Julie."
Her battered face was still; too still. His fingers shook as he checked for a pulse.
Fumbling for a phone, he dialed 911.
Ben couldn't eat. He couldn't think. He couldn't sleep.
He'd cried all the tears he had left, and now he just felt empty. The newspaper stared up at him, boasted a large black-and-white of her beautiful smile.
Julie just couldn't be dead, she couldn't be! Who would want to kill her? Julie, with her beautiful smile and her tender heart.
Oh, God, how was he going to live without Julie? After Marsha's death he'd sworn not to ever get involved with a woman again. He hadn't mean to fall in love with Julie. First they had been rivals, then friends, then best friends...and somewhere along the way he'd crossed the line and loved her.
Michelle had been crying, too. He noticed this in some distant part of his lawyer's mind. "Michelle?"
"You didn't answer the phone or the door – I've been worried sick!"
Her eyes fell on the newspaper in front of him. "Oh, Ben, I'm so sorry about Julie – sorry you had to be the one to find her."
"Me too," he answered simply. "But I'm going to get him. I swear to you, Michelle, I'm going to get him."
"I know," she said quietly, and sat beside him and rubbed the tension out of his shoulders.
"I was going to ask her to marry me," he said miserably.
"Oh, Ben," Michelle said again, his pain reflected in her voice.
Two Years Later
The sky was threatening rain, but none had fallen yet. Up on a hill, surrounded by stones, he stood in front of a name.
His shoulders hunched, he traced the letters with his fingers.
Julie Ann March.
Born 1948, Died 1999.
We Miss You.
It wasn't even fair. But death never was, he knew that. He'd just never had it hit so close to home.
"We got him, Julie," he said at last. "Nailed him. It took a long, long time, but he's behind bars for the rest of his life and then some now. Turns out he was just a sad, deranged person who wanted to get back at me, so he killed you. It was completely random, Jules, he could have just as easily gone after Conrad, or Michelle, or Bob…"
His voice trailed off, and he wondered if he would have put one of those people in her place, if he could, and he was glad the choice had not been laid on his shoulders.
"Anyway," he went on, "I miss you. I guess I'm going to miss you every day for the rest of my life. Ball games and hot dogs, fried chicken on Friday nights, that beautiful laugh…" He sighed. "If you could talk to me, I know you'd tell me to move on. But I can't, Julie…I just can't."
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a tiny square box. Pushing the lid open, he admired the ring, allowing himself to envision it on her pretty, slim finger. Finally he reached out and set it gently in front of her name.
"I sure would like to know what you would have said," he whispered.