Julie slumped against the side of her car, legs shaking as she clenched her sweaty palms into tight fists. It’d been two days since she realized she wouldn’t have to worry about her double life anymore. One careless placement of her bag after getting back up to Deluxe. Forgetting to zip it shut, allowing Tooley (that idiot) a chance to snoop through Miss Julie’s things, a chance to find the burner logo on her hacking equipment, a chance to report back to her father.
But two days after the incident, she stood next to her beloved Burner car, in Motorcity wear, knowing she’d never wear Deluxe clothing again, never see Claire, or her dad, or anyone from that half of her life. At that moment, she felt tears begin to slide down her face, lip shaking just as badly as her knees did. They won’t want me here either, she realized, thinking back to all the vitriol in the every word Mike, Chuck, Dutch, and Texas spoke about her father. They won’t think I’m any better than him. I’m just another corrupt Deluxian.
Julie felt a warm, strong hand on her shoulder, and recognized the touch instantly.
“You left this back in Deluxe,” Mike said, cracking a small smile as he placed her favorite yellow boomerang back in her hands, “Figured you might miss it. Haven’t gotten a chance to see you, Jules. Feeling better?” Julie nodded reflexively, clutching the weapon to her chest, looking down at their feet. She felt horrible. She’d lied to him about her real identity. She’d lied to all of them. There was no way she could face them.
“Mike—” she started, her voice cracking, and he didn’t let her get another word out. Mike wrapped his arms around Julie, encasing her in the warmest, most reassuring hug she could ever remember receiving from him. She pressed her face into his chest and cried, feeling him press soft kisses against the top of her head.
“You know we all love you, right? And we’re not mad, Jules. You weren’t thinking that we were going to kick you out of the Burners because you’re Kane’s daughter, were you?” He asked, keeping his voice soft as he threaded his fingers in her long, thick red hair, tilting her face up to look at him. She nodded, hiccupping and wiping at her dark eyes. Mike sighed and leaned down to kiss her gently, wiping away a tear with his thumb. “You’re a Burner. It doesn’t matter who your parents are. It doesn’t matter that you can’t get us into Deluxe anymore. Hey, Jules, come on, the rest of the guys are worried about you.”
She allowed him to lead her away from her car, firmly holding his hand as they walked towards HQ. When they opened the door, she found Texas wrapping her into a bone-crushing embrace, lifting her off the ground with muscular arms. Julie expected a barrage of onomatopoeia about their most recent battle from him, but he surprised her by just squeezing her waist softly.
“I’ve missed you, Jules,” he said, a goofy grin spreading across his face, “You’re still awesome, okay? You’re awesome and really strong and I don’t want you to leave the Burners, ever. Ever, dude. Okay?” he asked, and the look of worry in his dark eyes made Julie feel all kinds of guilt for avoiding them.
“Gotcha,” she laughed, which caused a blinding smile to break out on Tex’s face once more. Julie curled her fingers against his broad chest, returning the smile as she leaned down to kiss his cheek. Texas laughed nervously, and Julie grinned to herself as she saw the familiar nervous blush spread across his cheeks. For all his talk, Tex was easily flustered.
“Thanks, Tex,” she said, letting him carry her over to Dutch and Chuck, the latter looking like more of a nervous wreck than she’d ever seen him. For a brief moment, she worried that Chuck would be the one totally not at all okay with her being a part of the Burners as Kane’s daughter. Chuck had always been secretive and jumpy about his past in Deluxe, but, from what Julie inferred, it hadn’t been good. At all. But, to her relief, when Texas finally put her down, Chuck rushed towards where she stood and clung to her like some kind of panicky koala. She recognized the hug as the same kind he gave to Mike after the latter returned from particularly dangerous missions, but she doubted this sight was half as cute as them hugging was.
“J-Julie,” Chuck stammered, as he began to realize that he pressed very closely to her, and Julie thought that he might sprint away. However, he just pressed a soft, if shaky, kiss to her forehead, brushing aside her long bangs. Adorable. A smile, much wider than she’d anticipated, broke out on her face, and she enthusiastically returned Chuck’s hug, pressing a giggly kiss to his forehead, which caused him to go scarlet. “I’m glad you made it back okay,” he whispered, almost too soft to hear. When they broke apart, she found Dutch standing there, hands behind his back and a relieved smile on his face.
“It’s gorgeous, Dutch,” she said, still in awe of the detailed texture on the petals and stem; Dutch had even sculpted tiny little veins on the leaves. “I love it, I really do…thank you.” Dutch grinned in relief, leaning down to kiss Julie on the tip of her nose, which made her giggle. Texas snuck up behind the two of them, grabbing them both by the waist and blowing a raspberry against Dutch’s cheek before lifting Julie up onto a broad shoulder, where she could sit comfortably. Mike, with Chuck’s hand in his, sauntered over to the three of them, a “See, I told you so,” kind of smirk on his face. Julie stuck her tongue out at him before grinning back. Texas placed her back on the ground, where she found herself being hugged from all sides by her favorite people in the world.
She lived with a bunch of dorks, yeah, but they were her dorks.
And, now, she’d never have to leave them again.