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01. first

 

Julia is only sixteen when she buys her first pair of gloves.

 

She buys them three days after her cousin’s funeral.

 

45. love

 

It’s not that she doesn’t believe in soulmates- she’s seen the Spark happen at first touch enough in her life to know that it’s real, that there is something in the universe that draws certain people together for a reason that most of society assumes is love.

 

It’s just that Julia’s also seen soulmates ruin lives, ruin each other, and she’s in no rush to meet whomever it is that the universe has decided to inextricably link her to. 

 

She’s also never been one to let other people make decisions for her, and deciding who she will love is something she barely trusts herself with, let alone whatever it is in the universe- fate, destiny, kismet- that feels like it has a right to dictate who her heart should belong to.

 

08. rules

 

There are rules in high society.

 

Rules for which fork to use, what things to say, and how to look the other way at the bruises that an otherwise respectable gentleman might leave on his wife after a few drinks too many that even conservative clothes and expensive makeup does far too little to conceal.

 

These are the rules her parents attempt to drill into her from childhood.

 

These are the rules that get her cousin killed.

 

14. bitter

 

The sight of the dark, finger-shaped bruises wrapped around her cousin’s slim, pale wrist leaves a bitter taste in Julia’s mouth that lingers long after the family Christmas party ends.

 

That same bitter taste returns with a vengeance two weeks later, when she learns of Eliza’s death over breakfast.

 

She barely makes it to the bathroom down the hall in time to heave the contents of her stomach into the toilet at the news.

 

No matter how many times she brushes her teeth or how much mouthwash she uses, the bitterness lingers for the rest of the day.

 

06. wings

 

All throughout the funeral service, Julia finds herself falling back into her old, childhood habit of wishing desperately for wings.

 

05. broken 

 

“Now, Julia,” begins the grossly overpaid therapist that her parents had insisted she begin to see if she was ‘going to continue wearing those awful gloves.’ “If I were to ask you to describe yourself in a single word, what would it be?”

 

Broken, she thinks privately, but she knows she can’t admit to that. 

 

A failure.

 

But she can’t say that either.

 

“Ambitious,” she replies instead, with her head held high and her gloved hands firmly clasped in her lap.

 

41. acceptance 

 

When Julia receives an acceptance letter from UCL, she doesn’t show it to anyone until after she takes it to the cemetery to show Eliza that she’s one step closer to achieving her dreams.

 

One step closer to making sure she can spend the rest of her life fighting to help other people the way she should’ve been able to help her cousin all those years ago.

 

42. change 

 

Attending university provides Julia with a much-needed change of pace from the life she’s always known.

 

She’s also far from being the only person on-campus who prefers to wear gloves, and for the first time since she started wearing them, it seems as though no one could care less about the fact that she doesn’t want to be touched and it’s heaven.

 

20. wishing

 

Julia spends the last half of her own wedding wishing she were somewhere else entirely.

 

Like every other sign she’d felt telling her what a ridiculously terrible idea it was to get involved with Roger in the first place, she ignores it.

 

After all, he was the quickest way of finally satisfying her parents’ hope that she finally settle down with a man of similar station, if she was still adamant about not wanting to search for her soulmate.

 

17. audience

 

When Roger first asks her on a date, it’s in front of an audience of their college peers.

 

When Roger proposes, it’s in front of an audience of their closest friends and family.

 

When Roger finally- finally!- capitulates and signs the divorce papers, he returns them to her in front of an audience of their colleagues.

 

There’s always an audience with them. 

 

In all fairness, it makes a certain kind of sense.

 

Julia’s not so blind that she can’t admit to herself that their relationship had always been more for show than it had ever been for each other.

 

02. kiss 

 

Rob tries to kiss her, once.

 

After the divorce, of course.

 

Julia lets him, only because she is absolutely certain there won’t be a Spark between them, and she’s hoping that the lack of it will finally put an end to his insufferably obvious crush on her.

 

(It doesn’t.)

 

37. unexpected 

 

Julia’s not wearing gloves when she’s introduced to her new P.P.O.- they’re in her purse, because she likes to do her work in the car without the hindrance of having her hands covered in cloth. 

 

He doesn’t offer her his hand when he introduces himself. Whether he’s been warned against it by another member of her security staff or merely happens to simply be as reluctant to initiate physical contact with strangers as she is, she’s grateful for it.

 

He falls into step with her with admirable grace, and that’s that, introduction over.

 

It’s a little unexpected, how quickly and smoothly he manages to integrate himself into her life, especially given the fact that Julia spends most of their first day together pushing his boundaries and getting a sense of the man she’ll have to spend a considerable amount of time with for the foreseeable future.

 

Unexpected, but not entirely unwelcome, she finds herself thinking as she finishes fastening the buttons of her newly borrowed shirt.

 

18. help

 

The night that her evening plans go horribly wrong and end with her eating fish and chips with her new P.P.O., Julia tells him that she went into politics to help people.

 

She’s not lying, not exactly, but she’s not being entirely honest either.

 

She did go into politics to help people. She hopes that she has managed to do a bit of that, at least, whatever else her failings may be.

 

But Julia went into law in order to help herself sleep better at night first, and to try and make sure that nobody else could get away with murder, not for any amount of money or power or social standing.

 

23. glass 

 

Contrary to popular belief, Julia doesn’t wear her gloves all the time.

 

It’s easier to do some things without them, like using the touch-screen of her tablet or running her fingers through her hair when she’s particularly frustrated at whatever brief she’s got sitting in her lap during one of her many daily car rides. So she takes them off in the car more often than she doesn’t. 

 

And not that it’s anyone’s business aside from her, but Julia rather likes the feel of a rolling a pen through her bare fingers, or smoothing her ungloved palm across a page.

 

That’s why she has them off when the first bullet strikes the glass.

 

04. numb 

 

Julia goes numb the moment she feels the spray of Terry’s blood across her skin.

 

19. fireworks

 

She’s not sure who reaches for whose hand first in the car, as bullets slam into metal and drag terrified screams from her throat.

 

Only that, from the minute their hands meet, the second his skin brushes against hers, it feels like fireworks go off in the very marrow of her bones, and from the way his fingers tighten around hers, she’s sure he feels it too.

 

All of panic and fear of the past few minutes fades to a quiet hum in her blood and everything inside her goes still and calm, soothed simply by the touch of the one person she’s spent most of her life trying to avoid meeting.

 

Then another bullet strikes the car and her anxiety returns with a vengeance as she pulls her hand from his and screams.

 

29. call 

 

Julia calls him, afterwards.

 

She half-expects him to reject her call, ignore it entirely. After what he’s been through tonight, there’s no one who could fault him for not answering his phone when he’s technically not even on-duty anymore.

 

But for some reason, he answers.

 

She wonders if he can tell just how badly she needed him to.

 

26. protection 

 

She hasn’t got the slightest clue how to start this conversation with her apparent soulmate, so she pulls her usual air of professionalism around her like a shroud and eyes the man standing at attention in front of her with wary eyes.

 

“I notice you haven’t requested a transfer from my service yet, P.S. Budd,” she states, more Home Secretary in the moment than she is just Julia.

 

“With all due respect, ma’am, I notice you haven’t asked for my reassignment either.” 

 

There’s something challenging in his gaze that makes her throw all caution to the wind and ask the question that’s been stewing in the back of her mind since the moment their hands met and it became brilliantly, absurdly clear that they shared a Spark.

 

“Do you want me to?” Julia asks, and something in her chest gives a tiny, painful lurch at the thought of him saying ‘yes.’

 

“No.” He drops all pretense of formality then, and steps forward until he’s unmistakably invading her space. 

 

She finds herself torn between equal, warring desires to move away from him and- even more dangerously- to move closer. She does neither in the end, and silently thanks every saint and spirit she knows that she somehow manages to stand her ground and ask her next question.

 

“And this- us... It won’t complicate your job?”

 

The corner of his mouth twitches upwards in the barest hint of a smirk at her all-too obvious reluctance to say what they really are to each other, now.

 

“My job is ensuring your protection, ma’am. The way I see it, this just simplifies everything.”

 

07. melody

 

There’s something about the cadence of his voice that makes her heart skip a beat when he calls her ‘Julia’ over the phone.

 

She falls a little in love with the melody of her name in his mouth then, not that she’ll ever admit it to anyone but herself.

 

03. final 

 

In the final moments before the explosion, Julia looks up just in time to meet David’s eyes- the rich blue of a summer sky right after a storm.

 

When the bomb goes off and the darkness threatens swallows her whole, the fleeting memory of his gaze is the sole image she clings to as the black rises to claim her.

 

12. stranger 

 

Waking up for the first time after the explosion and subsequent surgeries she’d had to have as a result of the blast is by no means a pleasant experience, even with all of the painkillers they’ve got her on, but Julia is no stranger to pain.

 

24. agony 

 

When she is seven years old, Julia falls out of a tree and breaks her arm in two places. 

 

She actually hears the thud of her body slamming into the ground before her nerves catch up and the pain hits her. But when the pain does hit, it burns- bright, white-hot, and blinding.

 

She wears a cast for weeks afterward and takes painkillers with names that, even at the top of her primary school class, she struggles to pronounce.

 

The pain of that accident is nothing compared to the agony she feels when Tom gets away with his soulmate’s death. 

 

With Eliza’s murder.

 

He gets charged, of course, but not with murder, no. 

 

He gets charged with voluntary manslaughter, and through an exchange of what Julia can only assume is an ungodly amount of money or political favors, gets away with a suspended sentence and community service for Eliza’s death.

 

Murder and manslaughter are very different creatures under English law, Julia learns, and the sentencing for manslaughter is entirely dependent upon the ruling judge’s discretion.

 

And discretion, it seems, is yet another thing that people with her family’s money can buy.

 

48. lucky 

 

The doctor in charge of her case is, at first glance, a quiet, unassuming figure. 

 

Dr. Wells is a sweet woman whose razor-sharp intellect and perpetual smile makes staff and patients alike warm up to her very quickly.

 

“You were very lucky, Miss Montague. There’s no other word for it.” She taps the edge of her pen against the chart in her hands. “I’d go on, but you probably know the contents of this binder as well as I do by now, so I’m guessing you’ve already come to that same conclusion.”

 

She’s right, of course- all things considered, Julia would have been a fool not to review the details of her own case. 

 

The fact that Dr. Wells doesn’t sound the least bit condescending either is something else that Julia can appreciate about her.

 

“I have, yes,” Julia concedes. “And I’m very grateful to you and your team for all your efforts in the operating theatre.”

 

“Just doing my job, ma’am. But I’m afraid I have to warn you that surviving surgery was the easy part.” The slight, pleasant smile that she hasn’t dropped since walking into Julia’s room fades. “You’re looking at a very long and very painful period of recovery from here on out.”

 

Julia only nods. 

 

Every shallow, painful breath she takes is evidence enough of that.

 

38. alone

 

A week into her recovery, Julia receives a visit from a woman who identifies herself as an S.I.S. agent.

 

Agent Gray is a slender, petite woman with wide eyes and a pleasing expression that sets the nurses who allow her into the room immediately at ease. 

 

Julia, on the other hand, is instantly wary of her newest visitor from the moment she enters the room and doesn’t allow herself relax until she’s inspected her credentials.

 

“I appreciate the vigilance, ma’am, but I’m only here to deliver good news.” A hint of a smile spreads across Agent Gray’s face. “You can return to London as soon as your doctor signs off on your recovery, Ms. Montague. It’s over.”

 

“Already?” Julia’s never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but given the circumstances, a speedy conclusion to the investigation surrounding her own attempted murder doesn’t feel quite right. “The last time I was given an update on the situation, it didn’t appear promising.”

 

“Sergeant Budd, your former P.P.O., went to extraordinary lengths to take down every single person involved in the conspiracy designed to end your life.” The glint in her eyes grows unsettlingly bright. “He was very dedicated in his investigation, ma’am, if I may say so myself.”

 

Julia has more than a sneaking suspicion that the woman standing in front of her has figured out what neither she nor David had ever filed the paperwork to admit to. But she’s not about to confirm that to a virtual stranger, so she takes a second to compose herself before replying.

 

“Sergeant Budd was a remarkable addition to my protection team.” Julia can’t say she’s surprised by the sudden turn of events now. Had things been reversed, she wouldn’t have let herself rest until her soulmate’s killers were caught. Especially if she had been under the impression that the killers had succeeded. “Thank you for the update, Agent Gray.”

 

It’s a clear dismissal, and she’s glad that the other woman recognizes it and complies, giving a curt nod before starting to step back towards the door.

 

“You’re welcome, ma’am.” She stops just short of crossing the threshold and turns to flash a startlingly sincere smile towards Julia. “I wish you both the best of luck.”

 

Then she’s gone, leaving Julia alone in her room once more.

 

10. nostalgia

 

Julia’s never been one to dwell on the past without good reason.

 

Being stuck in a private clinic somewhere in Switzerland with a broken leg, a punctured lung, and myriad bruises, burns, and lacerations is certainly good enough reason as any to indulge in a little nostalgia.

 

09. chocolate 

 

She leaves a box of chocolates on Eliza’s grave twice a year- the expensive kind, from a Parisian chocolatier that Julia makes bi-annual trips to visit in the days before the anniversary of her birthday as well as her death just for this purpose.

 

Eliza had always loved sweet things, and she’d made sure to indulge Julia’s own sweet tooth too whenever she watched her after school while her parents were still at work. She’d even taken Julia on a tour of chocolate shops in Paris as a present for her fourteenth birthday.

 

Julia doesn’t have much of a taste for sweet things herself anymore, and hasn’t since she was sixteen.

 

21. birthday

 

She’s nowhere near recovered enough to even walk without the aid of crutches, let alone return to London for the anniversary of Eliza’s birthday, so she spends the day at Lake Geneva instead, accompanied by the nurse she hadn’t managed convince Dr. Wells to let her leave without.

 

A law degree from UCL and a career in politics apparently has absolutely nothing on the argumentative prowess of a doctor intent on ensuring her patient’s health.

 

16. sunrise 

 

Julia takes up painting while she’s at the clinic.

 

She starts with the simple things. The orange on her food tray. A glass of water on the nightstand. The colors of the sunrise that she watches through the floor-to-ceiling windows of her room.

 

Then she moves onto harder things, things she can’t just look at for reference, things she can only see in memory now.

 

The clasped hands of a little girl and her older cousin.

 

The first pair of gloves she ever bought, pale peach and too-easily stained.

 

The wedding ring she threw into the Thames as soon as the papers were signed, arcing high into the air mere seconds before the splash.

 

The quirk of a man’s all-is-forgiven smile.

 

The backseat of a car painted red by a spray of blood and brain matter.

 

The storm-sky blue of the last pair of eyes she saw before a bomb tore her world asunder and left her life in tatters.

 

The heart of an explosion, reaching out for her.

 

22. tomorrow

 

There are days when the urge to stay in bed gets the better of her.

 

Days when Julia doesn’t feel like moving or eating or talking or doing anything at all.

 

Days when even breathing feels like a struggle, and not just because of the fact that she’s quite literally recovering from a traumatic pneumothorax that had literally required her to undergo a thoracostomy in order to reinflate her collapsed lung.

 

Emily- the cheery, no-nonsense P.T. she’s somehow managed to grow fond of in spite of her every effort not to like anyone involved in the hell that is her physical therapy sessions- makes sure she at least does the bare minimum to keep her recovery on track before letting her return to her room.

 

“There’s always tomorrow, Julia,” she says, every time it becomes clear that Julia’s having one of her bad days. 

 

It always makes her feel a bit better, somehow, even when it shouldn’t.

  

25. return

 

Julia’s return to London happens with very little fuss and fanfare, all things considered.

 

Of course, it’s probably because the whole world still thinks she’s dead and she’s in no real rush to correct them, not while she’s still recovering from the last assassination attempt.

 

Everyone involved with that particular conspiracy is safely behind bars now, but Julia’s keenly aware of the fact that she has quite the laundry list of enemies who would love to see her would-be assassins’ failure corrected.

 

There’s also the timing to consider too, and Julia’s spent enough time in both physical and psychiatric therapy to not only accept but understand that she is nowhere near ready to resume her position as Home Secretary just yet.

 

Part of her even wonders if that’s what she still wants, after everything. 

 

The rest of her wonders what it is she really wants, now.

 

13. confusion 

 

There’s a whole slew of reactions that Julia’s been steeling herself to face when she sees him again.

 

Ever since she’d been informed that the public thought her dead, her own soulmate included, she’d been gearing up to face it all. Shock, anger, confusion, betrayal- any and every single negative emotion she’d been sure he would feel at the sight of her, alive and breathing when he’d been told all along that she wasn’t.

 

The look of pure, unadulterated relief and elation that spreads across David’s face at the sight of her is not one of them.

 

31. lies

 

Julia doesn’t expect forgiveness.

 

Not after everything.

 

Not after all the lies he’s been told, lies that she let him believe for months on end while she struggled through her own recovery.

 

But he gives it to her anyways, even though she never asks.

 

35. uproar

 

The public uproar when Julia officially comes back from the dead is understandably loud.

 

She barely gets any privacy when she returns to public life and office, and finds herself buried in requests for print and t.v. interviews alike. 

 

Julia denies every single interview asking to talk about her recovery until it becomes abundantly clear that the only thing she’s willing to go on camera about is what she came back to work to handle in the first place- politics.

 

36. edges

 

Being around him softens her sharp edges, makes her think a little harder about long-held opinions that she finds she doesn’t quite agree with anymore after some careful self-analyzation. 

 

Seeing him struggle with his own recovery, seeing him at his most vulnerable, facing the ghosts of a past that she’s partially responsible for, pushes her to reassess her view of the world, the policies she’s supported, and the actions she’s sanctioned in the past.

 

Julia starts to consider different ways to achieve an unchanged goal of helping people, better ways.

 

Ways that don’t involve sending countless men to fight pointless wars or stripping privacy away from the citizens of the nation she’s worked so hard to protect.

 

49. dream 

 

It feels like a dream, sometimes, the way everything turns out in the end.

 

Life after resigning from her position as Home Secretary is by no means perfect, but it’s a start.

 

The private law firm she’d worked at before pursuing office welcomes her eagerly back into its ranks, and while dealing with her colleagues and the judges- all of whom wish to see exactly who and what she’s become in the aftermath of everything- tests her patience, she doesn’t bend or break beneath the weight of the challenges they set before her.

 

The media hounds even lose interest in her after a while, and though Julia still finds the odd photographer waiting outside her home, it’s as quiet as her life has ever been since before she set foot in the messy world of politics.

 

Things with David start to improve, both of them finding their way past differences in belief and opinion to some sort of stable middle ground over the fact that neither of them is willing to let the other go.

 

40. plumerias 

 

Julia takes him to visit Eliza’s grave one day, with a box of chocolates and a bouquet of plumerias in her hands.

 

They stand in front of the headstone in silence, David waiting so patiently by her side that Julia knows she could turn around and lead him right back out of the cemetery without him pressing her to say anything at all about the sudden trip.

 

“This is my cousin. She died when I was sixteen.” Julia lowers her gaze to the grass. “Her soulmate killed her.”

 

She doesn’t need to look up to know that David’s suddenly gone carefully still at her side, firmly resisting the urge to reach out and touch her, waiting for her to make the next move. 

 

It never ceases to make her heart warm, the way he so effortlessly, instinctively recognizes her wants and needs and puts them above his own.

 

Julia reaches out to offer him her hand and he takes hold of it immediately, the brush of his skin against hers sending the same familiar sparks through her veins as it did the very first time they touched.

 

“I started wearing gloves after that. Part of it was due to fear, I suppose, but... A larger of part of it was from the guilt.” Julia closes her eyes and sighs. “I knew he was hurting her. We all did, really. But it... It wasn’t our place to interfere in another man’s household. That’s what my father always said. I shouldn’t have listened. I didn’t, not completely. I asked her- begged her- to leave him. But she refused, and... I let it go. Two weeks later, I found out she was dead. I shouldn’t have let it go. I knew it then and I know it now. I should’ve called the police or something. Anything but stand aside and let it happen. But I did, and she died.”

 

“Oh, love, I’m sorry.” His hand tightens around hers. “Is there- can I... Can I hold you, love?”

 

She nods mutely, eyes still closed to hold back tears threatening to escape, and he lets go of her hand to wrap his arms around her so tightly that it almost hurts.

 

“It wasn’t your fault, Julia. It was his, pure and simple. You were just a child. He was a grown man who made the conscious choice to hurt her and keep hurting her. You did what you could.” 

 

Julia finally breaks then, shoulders shaking with heavy sobs as she buries her face in the front of his coat and cries.

 

“You did what you could,” he echoes, quieter this time but just as insistent. “It’s alright, love. I’m right here.”

 

32. reverence

 

They take things slowly, at first. 

 

It’s a mutual decision, one they make because they want to get things right this time, to learn about the depths of each other beyond the language of bodies and passion.

 

They go on dates at out-of-the-way establishments and weekend getaways by the shore, sharing nothing more than chaste kisses and simple touches that still somehow manage to take Julia’s breath away.

 

There’s a certain reverence in the press of his lips against hers, in the glide of his fingers across her skin.

 

He doesn’t touch her like she’s delicate, doesn’t hold her like he thinks she might break because they both know she’s not the breakable type. 

 

But he holds her like something to treasure, like she’s more than simple flesh and bone and blood beneath his fingers, and it makes her heart ache in the best of ways. 

 

34. simple

 

They have a quiet ceremony in Scotland just a few days after filing the papers in court.

 

There are no witnesses, no priests, and no elaborate speeches to be given or heard by raucous guests.

 

There is just a woman in a simple white dress and a man in a suit that didn’t need to be altered to fit over a ballistic vest, standing together in a field of flowers. 

 

They whisper their vows to each other with sweet smiles as the wind gently tugs at the edges of the bride’s skirt, and exchange kisses in the light of a softly setting sun.

 

30. photograph 

 

A single photograph is taken of the couple in their wedding clothes by the woman who runs the local inn.

 

Two copies of this photo are printed out when they return to London.

 

One copy is framed and placed into one of the moving boxes in Julia’s apartment.

 

The other is left at a young woman’s grave.

 

39. threshold

 

They officially move into the house two weeks after returning home from Scotland.

 

He insists on carrying her over the threshold, and both of them are laughing so hard that it’s practically a miracle that he doesn’t drop her on the spot.

 

27. boxes 

 

Julia’s unpacking boxes in the kitchen of their new home when the news breaks that ‘the former Home Secretary has married her ex-bodyguard and suspected soulmate.’

 

Within hours, there are calls on her personal line being left unanswered from reputable magazines and dodgy tabloids alike.

 

Within days, the amount of press corps members following her every move and shouting questions at her on the street makes it feel like she’d never left office at all.

 

43. words 

 

“They’re just words, David,” Julia sighs, placing her palm against his cheek. “And I’m used to it.”

 

He leans into her touch, and some of the tension slips out of his shoulders as she strokes her thumb against his skin. She’s right, of course, but it still bothers him.

 

“You shouldn’t have to be, love.“

 

“I’m a public figure-“

 

Were,” he grouses, “And you gave all that up, anyways. You’re my soulmate, Julia. They’ve got no right to poke their noses into our relationship.”

 

A bittersweet smile tugs at the corners of Julia’s mouth, and he knows without asking that she’s thinking back to all the media fallout she’d faced after the news of her divorce broke.

 

“Since when has that ever stopped them?”

 

33. hide

 

It’s frustrating for him, having to deal with the swarm of reporters and photographers that suddenly have a renewed interest in Julia’s life. 

 

Julia, however, annoyed as she is by this turn of events, manages to take it all in stride. 

 

“They can take all the pictures they like of us, David. I’m not going to hide.” The look she levels in his direction is nothing short of blazing, and the sight of her steely-eyed determination makes him fall in love with her all over again. “Not this. Not us. Not ever.”

 

46. garden 

 

David takes up gardening in his spare time.

 

It’s something that one of the other vets from his support group recommends to him, Julia learns, and she watches with pride as he takes to it like a duck to water.

 

“It’s nice,” he admits, the first time he brings her a flower from his garden, a winter jasmine blossom. “Making things live. Watching them grow.”

 

“I’m sure.” She smiles and presses a quick kiss to his lips before turning away to place the flower into a glass of water. “Thank you, love.”

 

Julia keeps the flower on her bedside table for the night and uses an old law textbook to press it in the morning.

 

15. coffee 

 

If there’s one thing Julia misses even more than alcohol right now, it’s coffee.

 

David’s given it up too for the time being, to make it easier on her, but he takes to the switch to drinking only tea far better than she does.

 

Even without the caffeine, it’s a struggle to find sleep these days. 

 

The worry that something terrible will happen gnaws on her nerves until she can barely breathe beneath the weight of it all.

 

As a private security consultant now, David works longer hours than she does these days, so she’s alone in the house when the anxiety starts to creep back into her veins. She makes her way to the kitchen slowly, shuffling out of the nursery on slightly unsteady legs with an arm wrapped protectively around her middle. It irks her a little, how she still hasn’t gotten quite used to the shift in her center of balance even after the past few months. 

 

She doesn’t hate tea, exactly, no self-respecting Brit ever could. She just hates the fact that it’s the only hot drink in the cupboards now, with her stock of coffee gone. Still, the routine of making herself a cup of tea is a familiar one, and works well to soothe her in the absence of her soulmate.

 

44. study

 

He finds her in the study, curled up in the window seat with her cheek pressed up against the glass, sound asleep. An untouched mug of tea that’s long-since gone cold rests on the sill a couple inches away from one of her hands. The other hand loosely clutches a blanket to her rounded belly.

 

She barely stirs as he lifts her into his arms, a testament to just how little sleep she’s gotten in the past few days. 

 

He’s got them both halfway down the hall when her eyes finally start to blink blearily awake. 

 

“It’s alright, love.” David says, not even breaking his stride when she shifts a little in his grip. “Just taking you to bed.”

 

11. heartbeat

 

Julia wakes up slowly the next morning, wonderfully rested and tucked firmly against the warmth of David’s body. A surge of affection fills her veins like syrup, sticky and sweet, as his arm unconsciously tightens around her.

 

Lying here, now, with her head against her soulmate’s chest and the steady staccato of his heartbeat filling her ears, Julia doesn’t think she’s ever felt quite so at peace.

 

47. stars

 

Julia makes plans to have the nursery painted with the colors of the sky.

 

She picks out a pale, robin’s egg blue color for the walls, and a soft, snowy white to make stars. 

 

David, having read some article online about the dangers that paint fumes pose towards pregnant women, draws the line at letting her do the actual painting, but she spends a quiet afternoon stenciling her designs all over the newly-blue walls before letting him usher her out of the room.

 

28. hope 

 

Hope Elizabeth Montague Budd is born on a snowy evening in December to two loving parents who are also each other’s soulmates.

 

She inherits her father’s eyes and her mother’s smile and there isn’t a person who holds her who doesn’t immediately fall in love.

 

50. home

 

There are still days when Julia has to stop and force herself to remember how to breathe, days when the cold sinks so deep that she feels it biting into every single long-healed fracture of her bones. Days when she sees that even winning the cases she takes does far too little to help a broken family heal.

 

But all of it matters a little less at the sight of her soulmate standing in the heart of the home that they’ve built for themselves, holding their daughter in his arms and waiting for Julia to join them.

 

Whatever else she may have to face, Julia takes comfort in the fact that she’ll no longer have to face it alone.

 

~ fin ~