Wherever they go

by Kass

Set after the series finale. Thanks to heresluck for audiencing this!

"Putting in the stairs," Tim says. "That was definitely the biggest pain in the ass."

"Worse than the fireplace?" Julie asks. She's still marveling at the giant stone hearth and the windows on either side which look out on rolling Texas scrub. November means most of the leaves are brown and the grass is turning sere, but it feels balmy compared with Chicago, where icy wind is already whipping off the lake.

"Anyway, this is my room," she hears Tim say, and she tears herself away from the view and heads up the stairs after Matt and Tim. The stairwell takes a turn, and then another, and then they're in a loft above the living room. There's a low bed, two bedside tables with lamps, a rug.

Over the railing she's looking down on the hearth and the windows, though the view is different from up here; more horizon. The ceiling slopes over the bed, which is probably a pain for somebody tall. Matt would hit his head all the time if they had a ceiling like that.

"It's really nice." Matt sounds admiring. "But the downstairs bedroom's a lot bigger -- why didn't you make that your room, and put the guest room up here?"

Tim shrugs one shoulder. "Wanted Six to be able to visit."

Julie looks down over the living room and realizes the whole ground floor is on one level. No steps up or down from bedroom to living room, living room to kitchen. And there's room in between the furniture. A wheelchair could navigate the whole ground floor of this house.

"That's...really sweet of you," she says, swallowing around the lump in her throat.

"C'mon, let me get y'all something to drink," Tim says, and they follow him back down to the kitchen.

A minivan pulls into the driveway, sending up a cloud of dust.

"I hope you're still cool with seeing some people," Tim says, "because I kinda invited everybody over tonight."

"Yeah," Matt says, looking to Julie for confirmation.

"Sure," Julie says, wondering who Tim means by 'everybody.'

The minivan, predictably, is full of Rigginses. Stevie comes bounding in the door and tackles Tim, grinning ear to ear. "Hey, buddy," Tim says, and ruffles his hair, which is chin-length like Tim's used to be.

Mindy comes in carrying one of the twins and a giant striped diaper bag, and Billy comes in carrying the other twin in one arm and a case of beer in the other. He's thickened a little around the middle but otherwise looks basically the same. Mindy's hair is pulled back in a twist; she looks beautiful, if exhausted.

"Take her coat off," Mindy directs Billy, kneeling to remove the matching puffy coat from the three-year-old who was in her arms. And then she herds both kids in front of Julie and Matt. "Angie, Eric," she says, "This is Miz Julie, and this is Mister Matt. Say hello."

The twins -- both pale blond with a spray of freckles across their faces; one boy and one girl -- shake hands with the two grown-ups they've never met and then bolt after their big brother up to the loft. "Careful," Mindy yells, and then flops down on the couch. "You'd better give me one of those," she says to Billy, who opens a Lone Star for her with a flourish.

"How's motherhood?" Julie asks.

Mindy rolls her eyes. "Just you wait."

"We're not in any rush," Julie says, though she can't help the butterflies in the pit of her stomach when she says it. They're not ready -- they know they're not ready -- but they're starting to be able to imagine what it's going to be like when they are.

"So," Billy says, propping his feet on the coffee table. "Big city artist, huh?"

Matt ducks his head a little, but he nods.

"Matt has an opening in December," Julie says, because he's obviously not going to say it.

"It's just a little gallery," Matt says. "In Uptown."

"Way to go," Tim calls from the kitchen. He comes out with a box of crackers and a cutting board with cheese on it.

The front door opens and Becky walks in. Julie and Matt don't really know her, but she gets hugs from all of the Rigginses. "Hang on, let me say hi to the kids and I'll be right there," she says, but before she can hang up her coat and go upstairs Stevie's tripping over his own feet to get downstairs and throw himself into her arms. "Hey, cutie!"

"Miz Becky, come upstairs," Stevie says firmly, and pulls on her arm.

"Sorry," she says to Julie with an apologetic look. "I'll be right down, I just --"

"Take your time," Julie says, and Becky follows Stevie upstairs. Julie hears squeals of excitement and then little voices giving instructions. It's a long ten minutes before Becky manages to extricate herself from the kids; she settles on the couch with a tall glass of Diet Coke just as everyone hears one more car pull up to the house.

Tim gets up from the couch quickly and bounds out the door. Becky smiles fondly after him. "I figured," she says, and Julie's about to ask what that means when the front door opens and Tyra comes in.

"Hey, y'all," Tyra says. "Sorry I'm late -- I hate leaving Dallas on Thanksgiving Tuesday, the traffic is awful."

"I'll start the grill," Tim says, and ducks outside, but before he goes, Julie catches sight of the way he's smiling. His whole face is lit up.

And that, Julie thinks, answers that.

Tim grills salmon steaks. Tyra makes salad. The kids eat fish sticks from the freezer and then sneak ice cream sandwiches when they think the adults aren't looking.

"We're thinking June," Matt says, leaning back and propping his feet on the ottoman. "Julie graduates at the end of May."

"But finding a venue has been a total pain," Julie adds. "Everything up there costs a fortune. And it's not like I'm in Philly often, so every time I visit my folks, Mom and I spend all day driving around looking at these quaint old bed-and-breakfasts, and they're beautiful, but they're small--"

"I kinda wish we could just get married someplace like here," Matt says, and drains the end of his beer.

"You can," Tim says.

Julie stares at him.

"Seriously, you can. There's a meadow over there," gesturing with his beer botte, "so you could put up a tent."

"A tent, I don't know," Matt begins.

"Not, like, a camping tent," Becky says, "a party tent. Big white canvas thing. They'll even put down a dance floor if you want..." Her voice sounds wistful. Is she thinking about Luke? She was just telling them that he's putting his farming expertise to good use in Afghanistan -- apparently there are mules over there, which Julie would not have imagined.

"I know every band in this town." Mindy's sitting up straight now, getting excited. "What do y'all want -- jazz, rock, country?"

"Just tell me you're not going to hire Crucifictorious," Julie says to Matt.

"Hell no," Matt says, and Tyra chokes on her beer trying not to laugh. "Look, I love him, he's my best friend, but no way."

Julie can already picture it. All the women in sundresses. The men in seersucker, because June's already hot as hell down here. A live band playing. Rented white folding chairs. White flowers and satin ribbon marking off the aisle. Dancing with her dad, Matt dancing with her mom...

"Are you sure?" she asks Tim.

"Long as I'm invited," he says, and raises his beer to her in a toast.

"Of course you're -- y'know what, I'm not even going to dignify that with a response." As the words come out of her mouth, Julie hears her mother's voice and intonation. That happens increasingly often these days. It doesn't even weird her out that much anymore.

"It'd be great for Grandma," Matt says to her quietly. "I mean, we don't know how she'll be doing by summer, but--"

"The airplane trip was going to really discombobulate her, I know," Julie agrees. "And I'll bet we'd have an easier time getting high school friends to come, if it were here."

"We'd just have to talk your parents into coming down," Matt says. "I might let that be your job."

"Oh, but why?" Julie teases. "You had so much fun asking my dad for my hand."

"Shut up," Matt says, and they're both laughing now. Julie lets herself lean against him on the couch a little. She's had a few beers. It feels good. Being with him here. Being back in Dillon for the first time since her parents moved away.

Julie feels the couch shift as Tyra sits down on her other side. "Tell me about the university of Chicago," Tyra says.

"Okay, and I want to hear all about Dallas politics."

Tyra wrinkles her nose. "You really don't."

"Humor me," Julie says.

"You first," Tyra prompts, and leans back and waits.

Becky leaves at 10; it's ten hours later where Luke is, and they have a Skype date in the morning. His mid-morning; her late night.

All three of the Riggins kids fall asleep on Uncle Tim's bed and have to be carried one by one down the stairs out to the car. It's midnight by the time they're gone. Tyra promises that Tim will make pancakes in the morning; Tim makes noises about how he might decide to stay in bed, but it sounds like a conversation they've had a million times before. Julie guesses there will be pancakes, and maybe venison sausage if they're lucky.

And now Julie and Matt are sliding beneath the covers. The guest room is quiet and dark, no ambient light coming in through the windows, though there's a moon tonight which is shining slanted squares onto the wooden floor.

"I didn't expect Tim to offer us his land to get married on," she says to Matt, who's already flopped face-down on the bed.

"Long as he doesn't expect me to hunt with him, I'm good," Matt says into the pillow, but then he rolls over enough to pull Julie into his arms.

"I'm glad we got out of Dillon," Julie says, closing her eyes, "but I wouldn't mind having a wedding here."

"Back to our roots," Matt agrees.

"I'd love to see what Camille and Iris had to say about Dillon, Texas," she says, and Matt snorts into her hair. Camille is by far the hippest artist they know, and Iris turns up her nose at Chicago because it's not New York, which means it's not a "real" city. Bringing them to Dillon would be hilarious. Julie loses a few minutes imagining that.

"Tomorrow you want to go see Grandma first thing?" she asks, but Matt doesn't reply.

"Matt," she says, squirming a little in his arms, and his arms loosen.

Julie presses a kiss to his forearm and extricates herself. Matt rolls over onto his back, already breathing slow and deep.

Tomorrow they'll go see Grandma. Thursday they'll eat turkey and watch footbal. Landry will be here by then with Michelle. And then they have two whole days to do whatever they want -- read books, walk around Tim's land. See a movie, maybe. Julie doesn't even know what's playing, but she doesn't care. She has two papers due on Tuesday, but she can work on those on the plane home.

Beside her, Matt's steady breathing feels like home. Home that goes with her, wherever they go.


The End