you can zing your arrow into my buttocks any time. (bluesunsets) wrote in depthsoffire,
you can zing your arrow into my buttocks any time.
bluesunsets
depthsoffire

66. (fnl) we burn our hands. (1/6)

title. we burn our hands. (1/6)
fandom. friday night lights.
pairings/characters. julie taylor. tim riggins. (tim/julie; tim/lyla, matt/julie.)
warnings. au; future. post-fnl.
disclaimer. not mine.
words. 11 081.
rating. r.
for. whenitsquiet for fnl_santa. requested: A long(ish) Tim/Julie fanfiction (relationship fic, can be smutty).
summary. new york pisses rain. julie moves on — baggage follows.
notes. special thanks to ladymacbeth922 ♥ for the beta and fantastic help and iluisaaa ♥ who threatened me with physical plain and shunning. (there'll be a soundtrack after; lj's being a bitch with word count limits.) feedback is ♥.



New York pisses rain.

Julie arrives in a taxi.

The New York New York settling in her throat rams itself sharply away, sort of like it’s playing a game of hide-and-seek and the seeker’s very close to spotting it. She hands over notes to the driver and maybe she should’ve listened to her mother when she said umbrellas would be safer in the backseat rather than the trunk.

She kind of thought New York wouldn’t be as harsh as Dillon, the way the sun scathed down in sheets on the top of her head and the back of her shoulders. She expected sunshine rather than rain, a sort of we’re glad you’re here, Julie like a fresh start is supposed to.

First impressions always lie. (She’s learnt this the easy way with Tyra Collette.)

There’s a passing feeling of doubt and Julie’s pessimism surfaces quickly, an alter-ego in some genetically wronged superhero. New York is a radioactive spider biting her with each slap of rain on her bare arms; suddenly her striped jumper (the sleeves pulled up to her elbows) feels as though it wants to go back home. To Kansas, back where it’s black and white, far away from the Technicolor and dancing munchkins. Julie tries to remind herself that, just because Texas is Kansas and New York is Oz, home is where the money is.

It’s not her fault her clothing starts taking on human mannerisms as she struggles to gain her footing on solid ground.

The gutters are overflowing with water and there’s so many people — too many, she thinks, and she remembers how she’d throw a fit about how four people in the Taylor family was four too many — bustling around, umbrellas almost taking out her eyes a couple of times as her bags are too heavy and soaking in her hands. The taxi driver’s gone, manners attached with him, and she pulls her bag with wheels (Tyra’s choice; this time, on their little shopping expenditure, they didn’t shoplift her lipstick) over the uneven slabs of concrete and to the daunting apartment building she’s been abandoned in front of.

Rain hits like sheets, hard knives falling from the sky, and Julie wants to shout why do you hate me so much? to the grey heavens. She’s had too much practice at being a teenager that she doubts this is a thing she’ll grow out of. Gaining some control over her stilled legs, she moves towards the building, pushes open the door and she’s in.

Inside, it’s nice, a bit cool as the air-con hidden somewhere is freezing the tiles and the water on her skin makes her hair bristle. Skipping over the details, she’s in the elevator, sans bags, and she’s almost at floor seven.

At least the apartment is pretty.

*

First night in her apartment isn’t what she’d first expected. There’s no party, no boys, no alcohol or people sucking face. It’s nothing like the high school parties she’s been (fortunate) enough to go to.

She sits on the couch — her couch, she smiles to herself — with a small bucket of ice-cream and a couple of bad teenage horror films that remind her of Texas and Mom and Tyra.

Somehow, this is better than a big bang.

*

She calls Tyra on the second day.

“So, how is it?” Tyra’s smiling on the other end, something clangs in the background and Julie tries to savour the sound. It’s so Dillon and Tyra and too far away for her to touch.

“It’s …” she readjusts herself on her stomach, the couch is a bit stiff, never having been sat, and the television is too loud, the remote playing a childish game of hide-and-seek among the mismatched pillows. “It’s lonely,” she opts for the truth, twirls her hair around her finger as this is familiar.

Tyra seems to sigh an oh baby, pout evident in her voice, “I’m sure it’ll get better. These things always do.” Tyra pauses, Julie’s grip on the phone tightens as the fear of Tyra letting her go flounders into her mind. Voices are vague in the background as she presumes Tyra’s hand is smothering the speaker part of the phone, “Momma says it just takes some settlin’ before you’ll be the belle of the ball.”

Julie grins, “Tell your Mom I said thanks.”

“So, what number are you?” Tyra smiles, and Julie bristles at the football reference; it’s hidden underneath shadows and it still manages to sting as though it’s as bright as the Texan sun.

“Something 33.”

Tyra laughs. “Make sure you know I miss you, Julie Taylor.”

*

Applebees doesn’t seem to exist in this part of the country.

Julie sighs, finding solace in a small diner, Starbucks, and her dad will grin later, with a good window view of the street and passing bodies. She pulls out a paperback from her bag and tries to succumb into a world she never really wanted in the first place and ended up leaving behind.

*

“Do you have any friends there?”

Julie shrugs, looks out the large window that passes as a wall, “Not really.”

Tyra seems to shrug, “Well, I’m sure there’ll be some people with the dance company.”

Not much has changed.

*

As a Welcome to New York gift (capitals and all; she’d buy herself a banner but damn those things are expensive), she buys herself too-big ‘Tickle-Me-Elmo’ pyjamas for half the price.

Julie tells herself they’ll fit (they’ll fit they’ll fit) like it doesn’t require any effort at all. It’ll slot into place like a puzzle piece on its almost complete board. Her pants aren’t a new state, new home, a new high school. (Julie’s good at fooling herself.)

*

Mom calls a lot. She talks and talks and sometimes Gracie says a few bubbling words Julie’s started committing to memory.

Honestly, she’s never felt closer to her mother until now.

*

Tyra calls every second day.

“Landry’s still convinced that his ‘football career’,” Tyra laughs, the phone shifts in her palm, “isn’t over yet. He’s all ‘Matt, hey, let’s be a Panther.’ It’s pathetic.” She sighs, Julie hears her falling against her couch, it whining under the sudden pressure. “He’s all ‘W.W.R.D.’ What is that?”

“Oh,” Julie slumps on the couch; hit’s the palm of her hand on the arm rest as an alternative for her forehead, “my dad wanted to know if you knew where Tim Riggins was.”

“I don’t know,” Tyra sighs over the phone, swapping ears, “but Tim’s gone and done somethin’ stupid again.”

*

She has a neighbour who compulsively lies. According to said neighbour. Julie’s not Landry and she doesn’t desire to conduct science experiments to see if she’s being truthful. Call her naïve; Julie likes taking things as people say they are and waiting for those deep conversations that result in tears. Her lack of insistence on the factuality of Santa took her until ten for her mother to break and spill the truth.

Martha’s a twenty-something wannabe artist who paints everyday with her windows closed. She also seems to get Julie’s mail in her slot.

On her side of her front door is a square painted on the wood; she says it’s for her dog, one of those dog window things that flap when pressed hard upon Julie’s unfamiliar with. No one in Dillon owned a dog. Martha’s dog is a secret, she says, and Julie finds herself over there every day, paint fumes enveloping her in a slow hug and Martha’s dog – the reason the corridor smells so bad every Tuesday – takes a liking to her leg.

She sighs; the males don’t change with the states.

*

Dad calls. Well, her mother calls, pushes him onto the phone like she’s some master at planning and he didn’t protest at all, didn’t see this coming. He’s a little distant, uncertain that she’s ready for this, this big move and the dance company and ‘shaking her lady bits’ in front of millions of people. She has to remind him constantly that she’s not Britney Spears.

He talks about football, because things never change, even with the states and Gracie’s getting taller, bolder, apparently more like her big sister every day. Julie says she’s impressionable in her defence – she doesn’t want her baby sister to follow the yellow brick road. Sometimes venturing into the woods and stopping to talk to a wolf can be good for you.

She knows its hard letting go. Julie’s never been known for cutting along a straight line; it’s always choppy and curved along the way. Circles turn into hexagons which progress into triangles until it’s a tiny circle again. She likes using the same piece of paper every day.

*

Her landlord is a nut. If they had a lawn on their apartment complex, he’d be measuring the height and making them paint the building sunshine yellow or girly pink. She’s imagined an apartment meeting, squashed in the basement or perhaps Taylor’s apartment, and having a political-type vote for the colour the building is to be painted. She’d vote for puke green.

It’s a Wednesday when he knocks on her door. She’s been keeping track of these events on her calendar with stickers she pinched from Martha.

“Julie,” he says, wearing a boringly grey cardigan from two weeks ago. He’s bulging at the stomach and his hair is evaporating as quickly as the Australian water (according to the internet) and his face is mildly red as if he’s run a marathon.

She slaps her hand over her mouth to stifle that image from her mind.

“You’d tell me if someone was violating the apartment rules, correct?” his fingers tap along the clipboard he carries. It’s the equivalent of Julie’s handbag.

She nods, “Yeah, I guess.”

“Well, it seems that someone is violating the apartment agreement. The landlord and tenant agreement is very important.”

She knows, she was there when he took two hours to discuss that she is to not paint the walls of her apartment without discussing the colour, manufacturer and store she intends to purchase from.

There’s silence and he’s looking at her expectantly, eyes bulging out of his head and arms crossed, fingers tapping at his elbow. She squeaks, “Yep.”

“Do you possess any information on a tenant violating the apartment agreement?”

She pauses, eyes darting to Martha’s door. “Nope.”

He stares at her, lightly growls at the back of his throat, and dismisses her with a “Fine” and a finger waving in her face as he says, “If you do, make sure to report it.”

“I will, sir.”

She feels a bit bad for laughing once the door closes.

*

Knocking rattles her door and as she trudges towards it, feet heavy as her flannel pyjamas catch wind. It feels as though she’s walking through water, someone’s pool or the ocean and the sand is burying her feet and the water soaks heavily into the material of her pants. She concludes that they’re too large as the sides slap against her legs; she yells out “Who is it?” a little sharper than necessary, praying quickly to whoever is listening that it not be Taylor quizzing her about distrustful tenants and Martha’s ferret, her hand reaches for the knob. (She’s not used to the peepers, that little circle in the door she’s meant to use. She never used the one in the garage back home.)

It’s “somethin’ stupid” in the flesh.

His mouth is slanted and his unruly hair spills into the fronts of his eyes, sort of like a shield, Julie presumes, but she’s not her father and there’s no need for protection from her — maybe the stench of the hallway (Martha’s secret dog has peed on the carpets aligning the corridor — again), but not her and her soapy girly smells. “Hey,” he smirks, nice little tug at his lips and her throat is suffering from a very severe drought. Her brows furrow together at this as he looks up at her through hair, sort of shy, sort of amused, sort of boyish (and she knows he’ll never grow out of it; goddamn rally girls ruined him good) and then his eyes are trailing down her form to settle on her legs. “Tickle Me Elmo?”

Julie’s eyebrows pull together tightly, arms crossing sharply against her thin shirt and she tries to look him up and down in that Eric Taylor way she’s witnessed many times growing up. She can only hope and pray she’s absorbed something from her father over the years of rebellion and mimicking, because being short isn’t as intimidating as television shows make it out to be. Fiery little packages hold very little power over tall towering ones. “What are you doing here?” she throws each word out at him as an alternative for a finger punching into his chest.

Tim’s face is locked stupidly on amusement and his arm pulls at a strap over his shoulder. She finally takes him in; plaid shirt, stained jeans, duffel bag hidden behind his back — nothing out of the ordinary for Riggins. Time changes and this boy is still the same; it sort of reminds her of a song about the world moving and some poor bastard standing still. “Thought I’d come see my favourite girl.”

She rolls her eyes, feels her fists clench at her sides and her arms seem to twitch at this so she pulls on them, wrapping them tighter around herself. One of her recently plucked eyebrows curves towards her hairline and she moves her feet, taking on a stance known as Girl with one foot thrown out while the other’s knee is bent. “Uh huh.”

He grins at this, spare hand pulls his hair back, some of it sticking behind his ear. “I just needed a place to crash.”

“So you came all the way to New York.”

He shrugs, the stupid Tim Riggins smile that’s gotten him into a lot of beds and a lot of hearts pulls and forms tiny dimples on his cheeks. (She’s a sucker for dimples.) “I needed more Flyer Points.”

She’s not even going to touch that.

“I didn’t hear an explanation, Tim.” She thinks if she bites down on his name, sort of like how Dad used to, he’ll budge, fidget, show a tell and confess. It worked with her father, with her mother, even, maybe Grace if she had the time to grow up and have a whip for a tongue. It’s a Taylor blessin’, she’ll tell herself, her mother’s voice smiling it out in her head. (So maybe this is why she tunes into Dr Phil most afternoons.)

He sort of bites his lip at this, ducks his head again and then he’s breathing out “Maybe I just wanted to see you?” which earns him a forced laugh.

“I’m not some ex-girlfriend, Tim. I’m not buying that crap.” She looks down, power hungry as she shuffles her feet and narrows her eyes, challenging him with a “Try again.” If Tim Riggins is keeping her from her sleep, she’ll keep him on his toes; the boy isn’t the most creative guy she knows. Julie also knows he’s never really worked for something in his life — maybe Lyla, but let’s not go there.

His eyes seem to squint as he looks off to the side, the dully lit hallway catches on tiny patterns carved on particular patches of his cheek. “Okay,” he looks back at her, breathes in deeply, “I’m not going to play with you.”

She cocks an eyebrow at this, a go on in Taylor Talk.

Hand through hair again, he shuffles the duffel bag on his shoulder and she wonders, briefly, if maybe there’s a body in there. (He always used to say he’d make The Texas Chainsaw Massacre real. He just needed a push, some motivation — every serial killer in Hollywood had some pity poor excuse to shed some blood and Tim Riggins wanted to prove that false. That, and he wanted Jessica Biel in a thin top, too.) “I kind of just needed to get out of Dillon, and I thought that my good, brilliant, pretty frightening friend Julie Taylor —” he sort of laughs at this “— would be nice enough to let me crash on her couch for a few days.”

She moves her shoulders, finding sleep knocking down her wall of resistance she’s trying to build. “Define ‘few’.”

“A couple of days,” he emits with a shrug. Still vague; Julie’s too tired to dance in circle for tonight. (A bit too dizzy, too.)

Julie breathes in through her nose, a long intake of stuffy air and she already doesn’t like the odour. Someone’s gotta open a window in this building. “Okay, fine,” she rolls her eyes, opens her door with her hands and pushes it back, stepping with it. She holds it open for him, gestures with a wide swing of her arm for him to move forward, into her nicely lit (and smelling) apartment. “Hurry up, I spent all morning trying to get rid of the hallway pee.” He pulls a grin at this.

She pushes the door closed and leans her back against it, watching as he takes in the apartment, the large space of a living room and the kitchen tucked neatly underneath a staircase leading to her room. With timid steps she moves forward, a mouse moving into a lion’s den and she’s got to remember that she’s the lion and he’s the mouse and not the other way around.

“Okay,” she claps her hands together, needing to gather some air in her chest and movement in her apartment. She moves past him, pushes him a little as he’s sort of taking up most of the space in a pretty large area (so maybe she’s a claustrophobic tonight) and she’s tiny compared to his large build. “I’ll show you to the spare bedroom?” she doesn’t mean to frame it as a question, finding the intimidated sixteen year old surfacing quickly. She throws off the furrowed eyebrow and her shrinking stance with a straightened back and blank face. “Follow me,” she sounds too formal, like one of those concierges in a movie or on the main floor, and she’s moving down the side of the living room, past a small table with picture frames, using the wall as a guide. Tim’s steps are heavy — slow, but heavy — behind her on the wooden panels.

There’s a bedroom door tucked neatly in a little alcove where the wall jutting out, holding her television, ends. Door ajar, she cringes at the tiny mess she’s left in there, like the wake of a hurricane that once tumbled ungracefully through a small town. Backing herself up into the corner, back hitting the smooth surface of pale brown plaster, she gestures with her hands for him to step into the room, “I promise it won’t bite.”

He gives her a look, moves slowly into the room as if he’s never seen one before. There’s shoe boxes everywhere and coat hangers on the dresser. It’s a bit messy, with her dance things hanging in the closet and her shoes (dance, leisure, too-expensive-to-wear-but-they-are-so-pretty) scattered around the floor, spilling out of boxes. Maybe she should’ve taken her mother’s advice and cleaned up. “Thanks, Little Taylor.”

She rolls her eyes, “Whatever, Riggins.”

Julie pushes herself off the wall, dances a little with her steps as she hums a couple of sounds from the alphabet (b, d, e). She’s going to carry on as usual, she’s telling herself, she’s going to go up the stairs to her room, pick up a book and lounge on her bed or couch and read — and maybe indulge in a good cup of cocoa while she’s at it.

“Little Taylor” ruins it all.

She stops, spins, and he’s standing there, hands curled around the doorframe and head popped out, almost as if he’s going to run after he says something stupid (which is a large possibility with Tim Riggins) and there’s that idiotic smirk on his face she wants to scratch off. “By the way,” it pulls up, amusement thickly etched onto his face, “I need more than 48 hours.”

She narrows her eyes. Julie Taylor doesn’t do inside jokes.

*

Julie wakes up from a nightmare.

Kicking the sheets off, she slips out of bed, stretches her arms above her head and runs her hand over her face. The sun is as bright as Dillon through her windows and for that she’s grateful.

Padding down the stairs, something stirs within her kitchen.

She pauses, backing up a few steps and squats close to the edge, her fingers gripping it tightly. There’s whistling, too, of a tune she can’t recall and she leans over further, risking her fear of heights and death by falling off the stairs.

Swallowing, her fingers curl tighter as she does the most stupidest thing she can possibly think of. “Hello?” her brows clench together, and here she thought Scream taught her the basics to horror movies. Jamie Kennedy would be so disappointed in her.

Her nightmare, however, is apparently true.

Tim Riggins steps out from his hiding place, possibly from standing over the stove, and he grins, eyes travelling over her pyjamas, stilling on her legs. “I guess Elmo’s unfortunate to be cast aside like that planet.”

“Pluto,” she says instantly, cursing her mother for drilling into her head that she’s a tutor 24/7 and expressing corrections shows intelligence. Julie decides to blink hard, willing Tim’s wide shit-eating grin to disappear. It also wouldn’t hurt if he disappeared along with it.

He shrugs, “Poor bastard never stood a chance.” He disappears back to where he was hiding, and this forces her down the stairs. She almost runs, as if being pushed, down them, that irrelevant fear of tumbling to her death abandoning her. “You like eggs on toast, right?”

She blinks. He glances over his shoulder, stupid Tim Riggins Grin in place still, and Julie now knows how Tyra felt those few years back.

“Guess I’ll take that as a yes.”

She doesn’t state otherwise. Instead, she presses her back into the side of the staircase and watches him grab her flowery oven mitts from a drawer. She feels like she’s on her couch watching the cooking channel. The toaster pops up bread and he places the mitts on the counter, grabbing the bread and placing it on a plate.

There are two set out.

He slides the mitts on, flexing his fingers in them and grinning, amused, and he’s lost in his own little world for now. She watches him turn off the stove, pick up the pan and glide over to the counter, placing the eggs (egg? they’ve melted into one big puddle of something) onto the spare plate. He tosses the mitts near the sink and heads towards her silver fridge.

Julie’s legs feel twitchy; a surge of adrenaline rushes through her as if she’s back in high school preparing herself for humiliation during PE. “What are you doing?”

He closes the fridge, a tub of butter in hand, “Making breakfast.”

“You make breakfast?” he grabs a knife from the drawer and digs into the tub, pasting a golden piece of bread thickly. “Right,” she seems to answer for herself, “stupid question.”

He’s still grinning. Prick.

“You like butter?” he glances up, knife ready to swipe.

She nods. “So, wait,” she holds up her hand, his eyebrow cocks as he’s already slathered on some butter. She twirls her hand in the air in a gesture for him to continue what he’s doing.

He doesn’t pick up on it.

Julie has to remember that Tim Riggins isn’t familiar with her outward characteristic traits like Matt, once upon a time. They don’t have the sign language thing down like Seth and Summer on The O.C. (She’s not sure if she wants to reach that stage with him.) “You know how to work a kitchen?”

Stupid grin doesn’t fade, though the eyebrow settles down and he’s slapping on the butter like layering on the blankets at Christmas. “Yeah,” he chuckles, it sounds like rough air. “Sort of became friends with it after high school. Because of Billy and Mindy –”

“And the kids,” she grins, fingers twirling in her hair. “How’s that going?”

He looks up, “You don’t talk to Collette?”

She blinks, hand dropping to slap against the side of her barely covered thigh, “Oh, yeah. I do. Just ...”

“Making conversation,” he almost singsongs. He’s different, she concludes, and she leaves it at that.

Licking her lips, her palms rest against the staircase. She tries to melt into it, watching him move back towards the fridge and dropping the tub onto one of the shelves. He’s back to the round table with a fork in one hand and a knife in the other, attempting to evenly divide the egg and placing it on two pieces of bread.

She pushes herself off, walks timidly towards him as though this isn’t her apartment and her cutlery. Pulling a chair out with a cringe as it scraps soundly against the wooden floor, Julie sits, rests her arms on the table and watches him pick up two pieces – one with egg and one without – and lay it on the plate she saw the scramble of eggs occupy. “You don’t need to make me breakfast, Tim.”

“Wasn’t,” he grins, placing a piece of burnt toast on top of one covered in egg. He glances up at her, grabs a knife he discarded to the side and cuts the sandwich into two large triangles before bisecting those. “I was just up and hungry,” he slides the plate with the four triangles in front of her. “Plus, you sleep like the dead.”

She opens her mouth to protest, watching him move towards the fridge, stop, and reach up without having to stand on the tips of his toes and open a cupboard door, grabbing two long glasses. Slamming the door shut, he goes to the fridge and grabs her carton of milk and kicks it closed with his foot, starting to slack in his gracefulness of moving around her kitchen in possible impatience to eat. “I don’t sleep like the dead!”

Tim pours her a glass of milk, sliding it towards her, and then his own. He cuts his square of bread into two and grabs the spare stool and slides it near her before taking his place on it. His eyebrows rise, “You do.”

She narrows her eyes, “I don’t. I was just –”

“Comfortable?” he smirks, and takes a large bite of his triangle.

Her eyes resemble slits. Whatever she says will lead to some sexual innuendo she’s not prepared for this early in the morning or their little … truce. She’s not sure if it’s a truce; they’re not enemies on a battlefield. They’re not friends either. “Fine,” she grits out, trying to submerge her thoughts into the deeper parts of her mind, locking them away for another day, “I sleep like the dead.”

He smiles, taking another bite then downing it with milk.

She looks down, picks up one of the small triangles that reminds her of Mom and being a kid and life before Dillon, before Tim Riggins and his shit-eating grin. She takes a bite, “This is good,” she says with her mouth full, hiding her words behind her palm as her manners slip in minutes too late. “Thank you.”

He shrugs, “S’not a big deal.”

She cocks her eyebrow at this.

“So,” Tim claps his hands, dusting the crumbs off his fingers over his plate and the other triangle. “Did you always sleep in that?” Tim’s eyes scan over what she calls pyjamas – a pair of shorts she found in the pyjama section with Tyra before she left Dillon and a tank top with thick red stripes she found in New York – and grins broadly, dimples in his cheeks she’s only seen a couple of times in Dillon making their grand entrance. He then diverts, grabs his glass of milk and almost drinks it all while looking at her from the corner of his eye.

She glares, “No.” Resting her elbows on the stainless steel, she takes another bite of her toast. “It was hot.”

He grins, possibly biting back words she knows her father could possibly hear from Dillon. “Stripes?” his eyebrows rise, his fingers pull at his toast, egg spilling out of it like liquid breaking free of it’s container. He sighs, pushes his elbows onto the table, “Very you.”

She looks down at her plain shorts and top, shrugging, “Tyra said something similar to that before.”

He shrugs, taking a large bite of the broken piece of toast, “Wouldn’t have you any other way, Stripes.”

She rolls her eyes, “Whatever, Pig.”

*

She learns things she overlooked before.

Tim Riggins doesn’t like orange juice with pulp. He likes it fresh, always has a glass ready for her when she wakes up. He’s an early riser, despite the stereotype that follows him. “I’m not drunk anymore,” he says on the third day with a shrug, answering her questioning gaze.

She nods, sits on the stool, “That’s good.”

“Been sober for a while,” he turns his back on her to face the stove, a pan sitting on the metal forks. “Also learned to make omelettes.”

Julie rests her arms on the table, crossing them, and uses that as a support system as she pushes herself up as though she can see over his broad shoulders. “Pancakes?”

Looking over his shoulder, his eyebrows draw together, “Aren’t they the same thing?”

She laughs.

He eats cereal, like half of a box in a day, if she’s lucky, and he doesn’t mind Hallmark movies, just as long as there’s a hot babe in one of them that gets down and dirty with the pool boy (bonus if he’s a football player).

It becomes something of a daily ritual. Even Dr Phil and an Oprah episode get tossed in there so she has some material to talk to Tyra about on their Tuesday night phone calls. (Tuesday’s the day of advice, as Tyra says. Apparently New York is smarter than Texas.)

He starts Googling things on her laptop. Her web browser history lacks in porn. (She learns a couple days later that pancakes and omelettes are different – one’s neater while the other’s messy.)

A week passes and it feels like normal, except there’s another body to count for and she’s buying some things from her shopping list she’d never buy before. Like orange juice and oranges and lots and lots of fruit. She’s also hiding her ‘womanly things’. They haven’t discussed it but Julie sort of suffers from having a split personality – there’s Julie the Adult and Julie the Whiny Teenager. Julie the Whiny Teenager she’s sure he’s all too familiar with blushes deep red at the thought of Tim Sex-on-Legs Riggins seeing her feminine products in the bathroom while Julie the Adult says he’s a big boy who has probably seen a lot worse.

Julie the Teenager wins that battle.

She goes on like normal, sweeping the floor and washing her own clothes, (sometimes his, but he seems to do it himself, which is shocking on it’s own) and it’s like he doesn’t want to be there. It’s not in the bad sense, but she sometimes gets this feeling as though he wants to sink into the walls and not disturb her. Sort of like baking a cake; he doesn’t want to make a loud noise as it heats in the oven. Something like a ghost or a shadow or a memory of some sort; sometimes she thinks Tim Riggins wants to be invisible. (Which is hard; he’s Tim Riggins — and he’s tall, so he takes up a lot of the earth’s space.)

He stays out of her way; he’s allergic to the stairs that lead to her bedroom and he sticks to his own bathroom, the tiny one that sort of smells like Girl and has all her bits and pieces in there, like a spare hairdryer and the make-up she bought too much of. (She moves the girly things out from there – the extras, just in case she runs out. She likes having back-ups.) He doesn’t mind her walking into his room and getting things from the closet, making more of a mess when she leaves. (She sees him trying to be neater; she’s heard of the state of his house from Tyra.)

Tim Riggins is also good at changing dead light bulbs. She’s stopped hurting her back from standing on the stainless steel table, bending at awkward angles while getting dust from the bulb socket wedged into her eye. All he does is climbs onto it and settles on his knees while he twists the bulb out.

She also suffers from a jealousy problem.

Sometimes, she thinks, it’s nice to have another set of hands and a familiar face in a new town. (She doesn’t really mind that it’s him anymore.)

*

Tyra’s talking a lot, rattling off about college and Landry and how Mrs Collette won’t stop calling her. It’s routine, Julie wants to say, but she remains tight-lipped, a slow smile pressing against her lips. “She refuses,” Tyra exclaims, and Julie can see her arms flailing, hysteria tinting her voice.

“Mom’s sort of calmed down,” Julie shrugs, “calls me every Sunday, though.” It’s meant to act as a string of hope for Tyra to grab onto. All it does is sink into the pit of her stomach and sprout, digging its roots into her nerves.

She feels desperate to gain back Tyra, the one who’s too opinionated for her own good and cracks jokes at other people’s expenses. She’s stopped talking smack about Lyla for three phone calls now.

“Tim’s here,” she says in a hushed tone.

Tyra laughs, “Looks like New York just got dumber.”

*

“You still with Seven?” Tim asks while they’re watching a Maury episode. It’s just getting good, with this woman claiming the seventh man is the father of her child. She turns to see him looking at her, all sluggish on the couch and taking up space on the coffee table before them, legs crossed at the ankles.

She tries to push herself into the pillows and her corner of the couch, tucking her legs more underneath her. Julie keeps her eyes on the television when she gives him a pissy little excuse of a shrug.

Tim nods, sucking in his lips momentarily as he looks back at Maury, the devastated woman running off the stage. “I get that.”

*

She’s locked in the kitchen, making herself a sandwich as Tim refuses to budge from the couch. He claims he makes the best sandwiches in Texas, yet every time she hints at him getting off his rear and making her one, he simply smirks and replies with “I know what you’re up to, Jules” and flicks the channel while snuggling into the couch like it’s his football jersey. He looks so damn comfortable it makes Julie’s skin prickle.

It’s when she hears shuffling for the fifth time she turns around, eyebrows furrowed as Tim’s moving towards the door, metal keys wrapped in his palm. “Where are you going?”

He gives her a shrug, tossing over his shoulder in that bored manner of his “Gonna fetch the mail” before he slinks out the door, slamming it hard in that Riggins way of his. It’s embedded into his bones, and sometimes she thinks he confuses her with Billy.

She pauses, knife in hand, and stares at the door.

Julie makes a claim for the couch.

*

Martha grins like she’s the landlord catching the betraying tenant. “He your boyfriend?” she asks, smudging wet paint on her cheek as she darts into her kitchen, making a racket of moving things around. She finds a bottle of water and kicks the door closed.

Shit, Julie pinches the hem of her shirt at her back; Martha must’ve seen Tim fetch the mail this morning. With Martha’s back turned, Julie allows the fear to melt onto her face; she tries to get rid of it, the gnawing sensation that she’s been caught. The mask of nonchalance she’s sort of practiced in the mirror since Tim’s time spent with her parents back in high school pulls over her face. It requires a lot of effort to keep still. She furrows her eyebrows, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Martha rolls her bright blue eyes. They make Julie feel as though they’re a lie detector of their own technology. “Julie,” she tuts, approaches her slowly as if she’s a wild animal that’ll get spooked if advanced on too quickly. “You’re hiding someone in your apartment.”

Martha grins like she’s solved the world’s biggest crime and Julie shakes her head, “No.”

“You’re breaking Taylor’s rules.”

“No, you are,” she glares, her eyes settling on the small dog trying to settle between Martha’s legs, “with that – that ferret thing.”

She laughs, “Julie Taylor, I hope you’ll follow in my footsteps, girl. Be discreet and always a step ahead, and Mr Taylor will never know.”

Julie looks around, shuffles her feet and that’s a mistake. The ferret starts dancing on her leg — and that’s putting it lightly.

*

He reminds her of her father, sometimes; especially when it comes to her couch. His couch, he likes to correct with that stupid smirk wrapped around his lips and with that brush of his hair that hits the skin of his forehead. She scowls, Tami Taylor present in her smaller form, and tries to kick him off, pull him, push him. He’s like the Tim who lived at her house, flirted with her aunt, and connected porn to their cable. It’s a big brother role that unsettles her stomach.

She’s sitting at the corner of the couch, Tim’s feet pressing against her leg as he’s sort of strewn over it. He throws himself over it like it’s a bed or something, and she looks at him from the corner of her eye, searching for the remote. It’s on the arm of the couch he’s leaning on, elbow tucked nicely into a dip he’s created that she bets is more comfortable than her cramped space.

Some Keanu Reeves movie is playing, and there’s an Aretha Franklin song they keep singing out of tune. She’s seen this movie one too many times and she’s itching for that Katherine Heigl film she recently bought while out buying the groceries. Whenever she hints at watching something different, a film of the romance kind, Tim will fuss, have one of his ‘manly’ whines, and tuck the remote underneath his body where he knows she won’t even attempt to pry.

Tonight, however, she thinks it’ll be different.

Eyeing the remote, Tim shuffles, pressing his feet more firmly into the side of her thigh. She tries to curl up even more. The way he’s pressing into her, she thinks he’s trying to kick her off the couch. She wouldn’t be surprised; he’s done it before.

She doesn’t know how she’s going to do this. A play runs through her mind, jumbled up with another, and she thinks that maybe Dad will be proud she even remembers them. She goes for something else, though, a Tyra Collette plan mixed in with Lois and she’s going to hate herself if she recollects any of Lois’ sexual daydreams she felt the absolute need to share over food.

Julie’s never looked at certain chips the same since.

Yawning, she raises her arms slightly over her head, eyes on the screen because Tim’s sort of a sharp tack and he’ll catch on way before she realises and ruin her plan of justice if she flickers her eyes to him to assess his reaction to her over-the-top gesture. It’s not fair he gets Keanu three times in three days while she has to wait for Katherine since last week. Wrapping her fingers around his ankle, she tries to push him away; his feet retaliate by lifting and resting in her lap, shifting a little until he seems satisfied with his new perch.

She’s rock still.

Her fingers still gripped around his ankle, Tim smirks, a slight exhale of air encases all of his amusement, and she presses her lips into a thin line. “I’m sort of ticklish there,” he says around his stupid smirk, “so if you’re going to give me a foot rub ...”

Narrowing her eyes, she pulls her hand away as if burned. Picking up his feet between the tips of her fingers, making sure her nails dig into the skin, she tries to move them off of her and to the floor. It takes a bit, his insistence of staying in her lap is heavy against her thighs and she shifts to a point where the heel of his feet is approaching dangerous territory. With a breath, she stands up, his feet moving to the floor as his lower body sort of slides with it before his feet claim her spot as if she was never there.

Looking at the arm of the couch, the remote has disappeared.

Glaring down at him, she moves, blocking his way of Keanu. Her hand dives into the side of the couch, hand searching for the remote he’s tucked away somewhere. It’s not behind the corner of the cushion like she discovered three nights ago, nor is it anywhere near the side.

When she looks at him, he’s grinning. That shit-eating grin which causes her to wonder if he ever dared pull it with Lyla; with Tyra, it was a definite. “Always pegged you for a groper.”

Hands on her hips, her back is ramrod straight while her bangs fall into her eyes, itching at her skin the one time she wants to seem threatening and not at all soft like she knows she truly is. She wants to be an illusion of her self she wishes existed. “Where’s the remote? I’m not watching this anymore.”

“But I am,” he shifts, rests his cheek in the palm of his hand as he sees the television with the side of her blocking a small portion of the screen. He doesn’t seem phased like she usually would, with huffs and puffs and exclamations to please move.

Frustrated, she exhales, using her second minuscule plan. She’s never tried guilt-tripping Tim Riggins before, but she figures that perhaps she could try. “So? You’ve watched it three times.”

He shrugs, “I like to make sure I pick up on things I missed before.”

Rolling her eyes, her hands slip to the front of her jeans, palms settling flat there as her fingers clench. The desire to clench them into visible fists is weighing heavily on her fingertips. “Check the internet.”

“You don’t let me on your computer.”

She huffs, “Fine, whatever. Watch your stupid movie.” Tyra once told her, back when he lived with her, that if he ever stepped a toe over the line that Eric Taylor was bound to set, that this glare, with the hands on the hips and the line of her mouth, would set Tim straight. She pulls it, with a little bit of her mother in there because she knows that, regardless if he finds her hot, she scares the shit out of him and he’ll step back into line without a quip baring his jerk-like opinion on the matter.

He just smirks, quietly laughing to himself, and she stomps away, up the stairs to her room and finds that paperback she’s almost finished reading. Tomorrow she’ll go to the bookstore, buy that ridiculous vampire novel Lois rattles on about in her emails, and smack him over the head with it.

Ten o’clock passes by, paperback finished and she’s digging around for another one, she finds him watching Katherine Heigl.

*

Tim likes bringing up Matt a lot.

Usually, he’s on the couch, back to her, and she’s in the kitchen – or her room, the front door, coming from his room – and he asks. At first, she thought it was a matter of being shy, or unsure, and maybe he didn’t want to read her face or see the flicker of doubt and hurt flash in her eyes and coat her voice. Now, though, when it turns into something, like their ‘banter’ (if that’s what it is), she thinks it’s not out of friendly curiosity. The smirk is present in his voice and he says it with that bored drawl, Texan accent sort of thick whenever he makes a passing mention of Matt Saracen or drawing him in when the number seven is involved somehow. She thinks he sees it as a game that he’s the only player of. He tosses his name around like a lazy reference in Gilmore Girls.

She’s started counting how many times a day he mentions him. She’s considering bringing in the liquor.

“So, Seven,” he grins to himself, hand wrapped around the remote, clicking it to some channel with the number, “he’s back working at that Frosty place.”

“You frequent there, yet you don’t know the name?” Julie slams the fridge shut, cringing at how obvious her irritation is showing. Mumbling to herself, “Why am I not surprised?”

“You cut me deep,” he says, bored. He settles for a football movie. “He asks about you.”

“Oh, really?” she wants to roll her eyes, throw her water bottle at his head. “How would you know he still does it? You’re in New York, he’s in Texas.” Moving towards the kitchen table so she can sit with her back to him; maybe that’ll block out how loud his amusement is. She can feel his smirk thick on the back of her neck. Sarcastically, Julie the Whiny Teenager makes her grand entrance, gasping, “Are you telepathic?”

He grins, “Jules, if only. Wouldn’t mind seeing what’s floatin’ in that pretty little head of yours.”

She rolls her eyes, slides her novel on the table and picks it up, flicking to the bookmarked page; she sighs, bored, “Does that work on all the rally girls?”

“You’re just special.”

Sometimes she’s fortunate enough that he drops it without coercion.

*

It’s the third day he’s blocked her, and she’s thinking that when that fourth day comes, this’ll be a stir repeat until she learns that Tim Riggins likes fetching her mail.

She thinks, maybe, that it’s because he runs into the girl with legs that go for miles on the third floor. Or perhaps it’s the M.I.L.F on the eleventh. It drives Julie insane; her palms have started to itch every time she makes the tiniest shift towards the door, he bolts for it.

She’s never seen him move so fast.

Sometimes envelopes are ripped open; at first she minded, would scowl like her father in response to Buddy Garrity’s antics, but it starts growing on her, like Gracie Belle and her mother’s constant cooing.

Now, on the third day, she finds that it’s one thing less she has to bother with. (Bonus: She’s willing to transfer her fear of paper cuts onto Tim.)

*

“We’re going out,” she says, walking into the kitchen and opening the fridge, digging out the bottle of water she filled up last night in preparation for this. There is no notebook filled with pros and cons. She’s going on impulse for once; god forbid, she’s doing a Tim. Slipping it into her handbag, she slows down her pace, seeing Tim looking at her from over the couch.

“Like, outside?”

“Yes, Tim,” she nods, starts moving again as she picks up her striped jacket sitting on the window sill. “Outside, where there is fresh air and birds. You like birds, don’t you?”

“Dunno,” he shrugs, “they’re kind of annoyin’.”

She rolls her eyes, “I’m going outside today, whether you’re tagging along like a good little shadow or not.”

Tim’s shit-eating Dillon grin that she thinks should stay in Texas laughs at her — laughs at her in this mocking way that makes her skin burn, and it’s not the regular Tim-Riggins-skin-burning kind of burn she’s heard Lois moan over. Nor is it how she figures a rally girl feels when Tim Riggins does The Eyes with the stupid Eyebrow Manoeuvre. “I think I’m a bit too big to be your shadow, Taylor. Thought you were good at math.”

Julie moves around, pushing her jacket into her bag as she tries to find her shoes. She thinks he’s moved them, or she has, because things aren’t where they were before he turned up and she started hiding things that were too embarrassing to sit openly on her bathroom vanity. Fact is, things have moved, and so have the days. “I’m going to have a hotdog today,” she speaks loudly, continues on as if he never really made a dig at her, “and buy a CD and maybe even a book. You know normal things that I used to do before you decided to hog my couch.”

He grins, shuffles so his arms are resting on the top of the couch, his chin moves to them as his eyes follow her erratic movements as her brain shoots off a list of things at different intervals. At some point, between the second glance into the kitchen for cheese slices, and checking under her stairs for her sunglasses, she thinks about getting a dog. Or a muzzle for the one that’s taken up home on her couch during the day, for right now she wishes she had one on hand, “I’ll share the couch –”

She breathes in deeply, raises her voice to act like a muzzle so he’ll just shut up for once in his stupid life, “I may even go to the park, you know, the park. It has grass and people toss Frisbees and maybe you could even play football with some stranger who owns a pet Chihuahua.”

Tim’s still grinning, however his eyebrows draw together and he runs a hand through his hair, “Chihuahua’s aren’t pets.”

“I need a new handbag, too.” She can’t hear him. She’s going insane in her own mind, and under five minutes. Something’s cracked in Julie’s resolve and she needs to go out. All she can hear is la la la echo in her head and drown out the amusement and silent laughter of his eyes and grin and the hint of it tainting his voice thicker each time he speaks in that bored Texan drawl of his.

“Are you always this psychotic when you stay indoors for weeks?”

“Do you like becoming a limb of a couch, Tim?”

He sighs, makes a big deal of getting off the couch and runs a hand through his hair. “Alright, alright,” he grins, “but I’m not taking the subway.”

She rolls her eyes, “Cloverfield isn’t going to happen.” He’s at the fridge when he peeks out from behind the door, eyebrows raised as if there’s a possibility that a fictional monster can come true. He’s ridiculous. “A big spider thing with power lines for arms isn’t going to shoot out some spiders for the sole purpose of biting you so you’ll explode.”

Tim slams the fridge, a bottle of water in his hands as he heads for the door. She follows him, almost treading on the heels of his feet as she becomes the shadow. “And Jay told me polar bears can’t be on tropical islands,” he opens the door for her, “JJ Abrams is like Jesus.”

*

Julie’s timing is Olympic gold.

Few people move to the edges of the sidewalk as she and Tim walk in the centre. She’s never really had this kind of luck before, always sleeping in regardless of how annoying and shrilly her alarm is, and always stepping out too late when the night is a dark blanket of chaos and she can’t see the stars anymore. She’s forgetting what they look like.

The crowds of New York take time to get used to. She’s unsure how much, since she’s been here for a while and she still fears them, dodges them like the bees in her parents’ new backyard.

“So,” Tim’s brows bunch, he swings his arms and he looks straight forward, not taking in anything around him. He’s so different from her, doing the opposite to what she’d expect, what she did herself. She still finds herself drinking in the buildings and the different greys, as if they’ll change, because something has shifted since the last time she’s stepped out of her apartment and she thinks maybe it’s due to Tim’s bright red t-shirt. “Where is the destination, Taylor?”

Pushing her slipping handbag strap onto her shoulder, Julie grins, pausing as the pavement comes to a pause and a pedestrian crossing is painted before them like a red carpet. “When I first came here, I was so lost. You know, sort of like Dorothy, I guess. Well, I found my own yellow brick road, and it lead me to this really cool place.”

“Yellow brick road?” he grins.

She rolls her eyes. “I’m sharing this with you, because, like I said, you’re a shadow and shadows follow their bodies.”

“So I’m on your body?” the little pedestrian man shifts into green with spread legs and she avoids glancing at him, feeling his smirk burn down in heated rays upon her neck.

When they’re on the other side of the road, continuing straight, she makes the effort to look up at him and roll her eyes. “No, Tim.” She raises her finger, considers poking out one of his eyes – they’re either brown or hazel, she’s not really sure, never been close enough to decipher the shade she sometimes presumes is demonic black. Narrowing her eyes, she takes her finger away, thinking that he’ll need his eye for whatever he does to consume his life now that high school and college, at least for him, is over. “Never. Don’t think it. Stop thinking it. When pigs fly, it still won’t happen.”

A whistle emits sharply from between his teeth, shaking his head as he looks straight ahead, “Delusional is a good look on you, Taylor.”

She huffs, “Remind me to poison dinner.”

Tim hums, grin plastered on his face and her fingers tingle to pull it straight off like a bandaid. Another crossing, Tim palms the streetlight, she wrinkles her nose just thinking about the germs his skin’s contracting. With a loud sigh, his hand almost brushes hers as he swings them wildly by his side, “Are we there yet?”

“Just around the corner,” she pushes against him and he turns left, slowing slightly as his eyebrows draw together and she moves away. The sight of it still brings her childish excitement, déjà vu of when her parents surprised her with a car before everyone’s lives shifted and college seeped it’s gritty fingers into her friends a little too early for her liking.

She skips forward, leaving Tim to walk slowly behind her, disbelief in each step. “A hotdog stand?” She greets the boy she doesn’t know the name of, referencing him as ‘Dave’ in her head and to Martha. She hears Tim’s feet shuffle on the pavement, stopping behind her, “You weren’t kidding.”

She shakes her head, “I never kid about hotdogs. Or this stand.”

His eyebrows don’t know whether to furrow, burying lines across his forehead, or rise into his hairline. His voice is lacquered thickly with disbelief as if this is some sort of joke orchestrated by Ashton Kutcher, “This stand is Oz?”

Julie just grins, ordering a hotdog with everything on it.

“Make that two,” Tim drawls, small smile gracing his lips. He’s slowly coming around, getting comfortable with the idea. Of what, she doesn’t know. She’s glad, for once, that the person standing in the cramped silver box with a crumpling umbrella is a boy. She reaches into her handbag, fiddling with the thick wallet her father sent her in the mail. “I got it.”

“No,” she shakes her head, slaps his wrinkled note away, “it’s on me.”

“It’s the least I could do.”

“You can make it up to me later,” she hands her notes over, smiling as she’s handed her hotdog. Tim reaches for his. Moving away, she guides him around the stand, venturing to the pavement that lays behind it. “Like by giving me the television tonight. There’s a movie I wanna see that’s on.”

He shrugs, “Just as long as it’s not that Matthew McConaughey movie.”

“It has Kate Hudson,” she says before biting into her hotdog. Flavours shoot in all directions inside the cavern of her mouth and she closes her eyes for a moment, savouring the taste. Pressing a finger to the corner of her lip, she swallows, looking at him as he’s already devoured half of the thing.

His shoulders move again as he comes to walk beside her, biting into his hotdog, “Don’t care. Can’t stand the guy.”

She shrugs, “Or I could always put your toothbrush in the toilet. Better yet,” she jumps in her step, “give it to Ferret to chew on and sneak it back into your bathroom.”

“Ferret?”

Realising her slip, she takes a bite of the hotdog, saying around it, “Never mind.”

“Your plan sucks.”

“I could always kill you in your sleep, you know,” she runs her tongue across her teeth, coming to a slow stop at another set of lights. She spins, facing another way and Tim follows suit. “Bury you in the park.”

“We’re going to the park?” he says, mouth full, and he wipes his lips with the back of his hand. “Did you bring a Frisbee, too?” Twisting the cap off his water, she watches as a quarter of it disappears. Her bag swings, she feels her bottle hit her side hard.

Rolling her eyes, she starts across the street, hotdog still heavy in her hands as Tim seems to finish, clapping his hands together and curling the napkin into a ball. “Central Park is nice, Tim.” She keeps walking as he keeps following, jogging slightly so he’s not behind her. “Maybe you’ll enjoy it.”

“While you’re burying me alive?” he says with a smile, and he eyes her hotdog, half of it finally gone as they turn down another street, “You gonna finish that?” She clutches it to her chest, eliciting a laugh from him. “Alright, alright,” Tim sighs, grinning. Running a hand through his hair, she watches him finally drink in the city, eyes darting everywhere. It’s like he’s growing restless and to cure it he watches a few people dressed smartly walk across the pedestrian crossings scattered all over the roads, their phones pressed tight to their ears. He turns back to her, stopping at another crossing with the little red man glaring at them, a business man, sans phone, by his side. “Know a diner or something around here, Taylor?”

Nodding, she takes another bite of her hotdog, “Yeah. We’re going there.”

“Sweet,” he eyes the hotdog for a moment before glancing up, starting across the street.

Tim’s face falls when he’s in front of the café. “Starbucks?” he looks to her, eyebrows drawn down in confusion as he looks at the building again. “Your little spot is Starbucks?”

Julie shrugged, “It says ‘star’. So I thought you’d be spurting about how this is your home planet.”

“Do I look like Williams to you?”

She laughs, “When you start referring yourself as ‘Tim’, then, no. Sorry,” she shrugs, exhales loudly as she watches him, his face still stuck on disbelief. “You know, if you keep your face like that it’ll freeze.”

“You like Starbucks. I thought you were unique.”

Cocking her eyebrow, she presses her hands to her hips, turning so she’s looking at his profile, “Are you calling me a unique snowflake, Tim Riggins?”

His eyes lazily run up and down her, assessing how serious she is in the angles of her elbows, her knee jutted out and her handbag slipping to her elbow. His hand pulls at the strap, plopping it down onto her shoulder. “I’m paying this time.”

“Did I bruise your ego back at the hotdog stand?” she grins, following him as he walks inside, grumbling.

He pauses, looking back at her as she moves around him. “Window?” he suggests, she thinks, with a slight rise of his hand.

She shrugs, follows the line of direction his hand pointed to and sits at a booth by the window. He sits opposite her, hands folded in front of him on the table. Julie fiddles with her handbag, placing it beside her.

He fiddles with his water, rolling it across the able as she watches him, seeing the child emerge from within. She grins, sighing, “This up to your standards?”

Tim shrugs, speaks to the bottle, “Company makes it better.”

Rolling her eyes, she places her palms on the edge of the table, feeling nerves tingle up her spine as she searches her head for something to talk about.

“So,” he draws out, “you and Saracen.”

She sighs.

He stops pushing the bottle, stands it upright, crosses his arms and leans forward. It feels like a business deal, something illegal and hush-hush; she resists the urge to copycat him. She pushes her back against the booth, pushing herself away from him. “You still talk to him?”

She shrugs, “Once in a blue moon.”

“Huh.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she bites before she can think, eyebrows drawn hard as she feels the lines burn into her forehead.

He shrugs, stares at his water, “Nothin’.”

“Nothing means nothing, Tim.”

Cocking his eyebrow, he just shrugs again, a lazy ascend of his shoulders. His shirt wrinkles. “Just thought you two would be livin’ the fairytale life,” he mumbles, professing something she’s not sure she’s entirely comfortable with. She’s tired of assumptions and living up to expectations of people she’s left far behind.

She nods, resigned, feeling suddenly tired, “Yeah, me too.”

“People change,” he says, and it’s an excuse. It has it written all over it, like he once believed it too, and this is how he’s grieving, trying to move forward from it. She wonders if she disappointed him.

Julie watches him, his fingers tapping things into the tabletop. She imagines him drawing plays, formations for the golden years when everything was just a little bit more simpler than they are now. “So you and Lyla?” he stiffens at this, shoulders a bit straighter, finger pausing his drawings. She clears her throat, pushes herself forward with confidence that didn’t exist years ago, “Last I heard, you were living together again.”

Sucking in his lips, his eyebrows rise, giving her an answer she doesn’t wish to decipher. “Yep,” he exhales, “that was it.”

“So, what happened?”

His mouth pulls at a slow grin, “You sure are nosy about my love life.” There’s an implication settling there, something he doesn’t seem to have the guts to say with actual words.

“Same can be said to you.”

He flicks his hand, a gesture of touché, and Julie thinks, for a second, that maybe they’ve mastered some sort of personal communication. This thought causes a swirl of lead to shift in the pit of her stomach. “Didn’t work out,” he shrugs it off as if it’s nothing, as if Lyla Garrity and Tim Riggins isn’t something people talk about. He runs a hand over his forehead, burrowing in his hair, “History repeats itself, Taylor. You know that?”

She stays still. Of course she knows. Matt and her were mirroring her parents, even when she voiced it, went to the Swede, made childish mistakes she was allowed to make. Toss in the same ingredients a few years later, stir, repeat, and it happens again, different obstacles but same ending.

“She got bored,” he shrugs, eyes on the table as he resumes drawing. “I think she hangs onto what Six promised her. Back before …” he sighs, darts a glance at her, and looks towards outside the window, a calm sea of people shuffle on by, some voices sinking through the glass to her ears. “You can’t give everyone what they want, let me tell you that.”

“You’ll work it out,” it sounds automatic, even to her, and Tim glances up at her, eyes on hers and she glances out the window before shifting her elbow to the table, resting her chin on her palm. Fingers curled, she taps them against her chin, “You two are destined.” She watches his fingers, his palms on the table, still.

He exhales loudly, “Don’t believe in that bullshit.” Her eyes dart up to him, watch him lean back against the booth, cross his arms over his chest, “You make your own ‘destiny’. The decisions you make, Jules, they sometimes change the desired outcome. You think something’s going to happen but one slip up stops it from actually being.” He shrugs, hands curling around the table as he hunches forward, “I slipped up. I stopped things from happening.”

“You can still work it out.”

He shakes his head, “You don’t know Lyla Garrity,” he grins at this, pride drifting into his voice, that mask of not caring at all about Miss Garrity slips away so suddenly Julie finds herself blinking repeatedly, “she’s as stubborn as a mule.” He sighs, glances up at her, mouth tilted in this amused way that leaves her feeling hollow. “I’m doing what she says. First time in my life, I’m gonna move on,” he finishes it with a shrug, settling back into the booth.

Julie licks her lips, nodding, “I guess you and I agree on something, Tim,” his mouth curves as she moves her elbow, leans back into the booth and her fingers press against the table. She fishes for her water, twisting the cap; she needs to get this taste out of her mouth, a foul wetness clinging to every inch of her that surfaces every time she thinks about letting go of hope and Matt.

Tim’s smile is a line, corners faintly curved up. He grabs his water and as she twists her cap on, taps it against hers, “Cheers.”

She presses her mouth into a line as he takes a long swig from his.

“So, Taylor,” he licks his lips, a wide smile spreads across his face, “what about that Frisbee?”


two.

Tags: challenge response, challenge: fnl_santa, character: julie taylor, character: tim riggins, fandom: friday night lights, fic: we burn our hands, rating: r, ship: tim/julie
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