new york pisses rain. julie moves on -- baggage follows. friday night lights. tim/julie. r. 7008 words.
for: whenitsquiet for fnl_santa. requested: A long(ish) Tim/Julie fanfiction (relationship fic, can be smutty).
note: feedback's appreciated. :) ♥
Tim’s hair is shocking in the morning; sometimes she thinks he wakes up in the middle of the night to rub his scalp against a balloon.
She wakes up with him there, face pressed into the crook of her neck, nose denting her skin. His arms are vices around her, hands having found hers, and his feet are no longer cold against her ankles. He’s wrapped around her like a second skin and she finds herself running her fingers over his knuckles. They don’t wake up like this; something in her tells her to savour it, so she stills, keeps her shifting minor, and he follows her when she drags her legs away from the heat of the sheets to someplace cooler.
Tim wakes up shortly after, shifting into her neck, lips pressing lazily and sleepily into her as his eyes are adjusting to the light. “You should buy curtains or somethin’, Taylor.”
She tries to glance at him at her neck, finding her chin bump slightly into the side of his temple. Her fingers stop their skimming, his locking with hers tightly. He sighs against her neck, hot air that matches the warmth of her palms as his fingers are like metal chains when she tries to free them to flex. She blinks against the light, “Good morning to you, too.”
He grins, pressing “Mornin’” as a sloppy kiss to the underside of her jaw. Tim shifts, curves even more around her, and hooks his feet around her ankles, his toes dancing on the arch underneath her foot. She tries to shift away, that ticklish sensation that causes her to wriggle into him causes him to grin, pulling her tighter against him. “What a nice morning it is,” he lips trail over her neck, stretching out a little as he tries to get over to the other side.
Settling back into the pillow, covered with her hair, Tim unlaces their fingers to whisper his own over her arm, sometimes lifting off and skating air as the hairs rise up to his touch. She feels a little ticklish, not as bad as when she was a kid, and she furrows her brow, smiling, as she tries to work him out. Tim hums, a lazy smile gracing his lips as he watches his finger skim over her skin, coming at a pause at her wrist. “You’re not ticklish anymore.”
Her eyebrows gather, “I never really was.”
“Huh,” he grins around the word, as if liking the taste, his finger connecting with her wrist and drawing odd squiggles. “I always figured you were ticklish.”
She grins, shifting on the bed so she can lie on her back to face him, “Well, you were wrong.”
Tim hums in response. “So,” he lifts himself up a little, curling his other hand into a fist and resting it against his cheek. “Can people see us from there?” he nods towards her bare window and she grins, smothering her face in the pillow, catching the side of her head with his shoulder, as his finger pauses on her wrist, pressing in slightly. “Oh, Julie Taylor,” he whistles, “never thought you were like that.”
“Shut up, Tim,” she laughs into the pillow, wiping her bangs off her forehead and pulling her hair away as she settles to look at him. “I’d trust that you’d be an expert at that now.”
“At what?” he pulls his eyebrows together, hands pushing her hair away from curtaining her face. She rolls slightly to lie on her stomach, the side of her body resting along the edge of his; he shifts back so she can try to push herself into the sheets. He’s a hoverer; Tim likes to be a shadow early in the morning.
She rolls her eyes, shifts her head and tries to mumble it into the pillow and have it soak up her embarrassment, “Public sex.”
He laughs, “You’ve got me all wrong, Julie Taylor.”
She shrugs, fingers pulling away strands sticking to the corners of her lips, “Seems we’ve got some bonding to do.”
He grins, rolls onto his back and settles on the sheets. Running his hands over his face, he groans, “You’re killin’ me here.” She laughs, unpinning her arm from her side to run her fingers through his hair.
Tim wraps his fingers around her wrist, pulling her leisurely moving hands away from his hair, and places it on his warm chest. His thumb moves up and down, trying for circles, as her hand curls into a loose fist, the tinier finger of the set lightly drawing lines on his skin. His finger trails towards her palm, picking it up off his heated skin and encasing it with his own.
She watches him watch the movement of his fingers as he tugs at hers, wrapping his around hers and balling them into a united fist before flattening his palms against hers. “You’ve got tiny hands,” he says, pressing his palm hard against hers as her fingers barely cover his.
“It comes with the territory of being a girl,” she grins as he wraps his fingers between hers to touch the back of her hand. “We’ve got to make sacrifices, sometimes.”
Tim hums, “You could fit them in a mouse hole.”
“Is this a hint that my nails are ratty?” Julie tries to pull her hand back, but Tim’s fingers wrap tightly around her palm, holding it between the valley amid the pillows.
Tim laughs, “You should paint them zebra. You can get contacts like that.”
She grins, “Are you admitting something here?”
He shrugs, shifting on the bed as he lies more on his back, pulling her hand with him before he drops the back of his wrist into the valley. “Lando told me. We were Googling things for Billy one day, and he was just blabbing on about something.”
“Landry’s pretty unique.”
“He’s a good guy.”
Julie nods, “He is.”
Tim hums as he lets go of her hand to drop his around her. He pulls himself onto his side and drops an arm around her back, sliding her nearer to him. “You’re too far away,” he says to her raised eyebrow, and his hand curves around her side as she fidgets to regain that comfortable position he destroyed by his simple pull.
“It’s almost midday,” she says quietly, the messy linens absorbing half the words. Tim’s eyebrow raises, a slanted smile on hand, and he’s tapping his fingers down her spine before sliding to her hip to squeeze her there.
“We’ve got all the time in the world, Taylor,” he pulls himself forward, placing a kiss between her shoulder blades, “why not waste it?”
Eyebrows pulling together, she watches him kiss the back of her shoulder, hand sliding from it’s place at her hip to flatten against the small of her back. “I don’t think that’s how it goes.”
Tim shrugs, shifting back to his side of the bed, a lot closer than before with his arm latched onto her and his restless hand spinning circles into her skin. “You make your own wisdom,” he winks at her, and he doesn’t speak after that, the smile slowly sliding from his face like the day morphing into night.
He doesn’t want to get out of bed. She lies on her stomach, eyes fluttering shut on occasion as Tim’s hands are sometimes in her hair before trailing down her bare back to slide across her waist and settle. He’s like an anchor, keeping her there and the slightest shift from her causes him to tighten up and resemble metal.
She groans, pressing her cheek into the pillow, “We’ve got to move sometime.”
He grins, shoulder pressing against her as he shuffles towards her. Tim doesn’t believe in personal space; he likes melting into her, like there’s no time left and he’s trying to make up for the years that he’ll miss the simple act of brushing rough fingers over skin. “Sometime is not now.”
She rolls her eyes, “Smart ass.”
“Wouldn’t want me any other way,” he mumbles, lips pull a lazy smile as his finger whispers over her face, following a track from her chin to the corner of her eye to her hairline.
Julie pulls a shrug, “There’d be some alterations I’d make.”
Tim shuffles, leaning his cheek against his palm, “Yeah? What’d they be?”
She runs her eyes over him, chest painted brightly from the sun that’s been able to surpass the buildings of New York. Tapping her chin, she moves her finger to tap his nose, tracing his cheek and skipping over to his chest. “For one, you wouldn’t wear any clothes,” he grins at this, and she shrugs, shoulders pulling up tight against her neck, “because, really, you kind of don’t wear them anyway.”
“Because I know you like it like that,” he grins, her finger pulls away from his stomach and her palm falls flat against the bed. “Now, I wouldn’t object to you following that little suggestion.”
Julie rolls her eyes, shuffles onto her arms and turns to face the wall, “I’m not that easy, Tim.” Shifting so she’s on her side, bare back to him, she hears him move, the sheets rustling and pulling from and against her as they wrap tightly around him with his inelegant shuffles.
His hand falls onto her shoulder, squeezes it lightly, and trails down her arm to fall across her stomach. He pulls right behind her, legs curving with hers and she tries to hook their ankles as he evades her. She hears him breathing behind her ear and he kisses the side of her neck, “I know.”
“You wanna go out?” Julie pulls her handbag up to her shoulder and leaves a finger underneath the strap, pausing in her movements to look at the couch for some enthusiastic movement.
“Nah,” he shuffles, and that seems to be the only enthusiasm she’ll be getting out of him for the moment, “figured I’d just sit in here.” Tim yawns, stretching his arms above his head, hands clenched into fists, and the channel on the television shifts.
Her finger slips from underneath the strap to fall into her dress pocket. She furrows her eyebrows as Tim’s never been one to say no to a ‘day in the real world’. “You’ve been sitting for a while.” She approaches the couch to stand at the side, scrutinising his profile. Tim shrugs, she shuffles, “You like going outside.”
Another shrug, he flicks the channel, “Not today.”
“It’s sunny.” Her fingers clench around the material inside her pocket, and she moves her shoulder, the bag strap moving slightly. “You like the sun. We can even buy that stupid football you want so we can reminisce about the brilliance of Powderpuff.”
Tim doesn’t even cast her a glance when he says, “Not today.”
She goes out with Martha instead.
“What’s the trouble now?” Martha grins and sucks air through her straw. They’re walking along the paths outside buildings, wasting time, having done what Martha wanted and went to McDonald’s for some lunch. Tim won’t be happy when he finds out. She’s unsure whether it’ll be about her breaking her ‘healthy-healthy-healthy diet’ (he’s dubbed it as that; apparently saying the word three times adds excitement) or that she had McDonald’s without him (he’s been craving a burger). “You know,” she says around her straw, elbow making contact with her arm, “with Boy.”
Julie rolls her eyes, pulling the strap of her handbag up her shoulder and takes a chip out of her cardboard pocket. She ate slowly just to get under Martha’s skin. It works. “Nothing is wrong,” she says, taking a bite of the chip, “and nothing would be wrong. I wanted to hang out with you.”
Martha cocks an eyebrow, angling her body to face her as they keep walking down the path. “You sure? You look like you haven’t seen sunlight in a decade.”
Angling herself straight, Martha shrugs, one of the many straps on her shoulder shifting down her arm, “Maybe. But exaggeration doesn’t mean it’s not true.”
Julie sighs, finishing the chip as Martha’s hand pulls three from her little box. “He didn’t want to come out today. It’s no big deal.”
The arched eyebrow doesn’t disappear. “A guy like that doesn’t like staying indoors for long. Hell, I doubt he likes staying in one spot. Boy looks like the type to always keep moving. You know, the jittery type.”
“You can stop referring to him as Boy,” Julie eats another chip, stopping at traffic lights as Martha steals three more. “Since when do you refer to him as ‘Boy’?”
Martha shrugs, “It was either Boy or McArms.”
“Have you seen them?” Martha’s eyes gouge like Lois’ and Julie can’t help but laugh. “What are you laughing at, J?”
Crossing the road, Julie shakes her head, “You remind me of someone.” Sighing, she offers her pocket of chips to Martha and brushes her hands together. Looking around, she finally takes in the sights, feeling a bit like Tim, drinking it in once conversation dulls. “Where are we going, anyway?”
Martha shrugs, walking slightly in front of her. Turning to look at her over her shoulder, she smiles, lifts her shoulders with an exaggerated sigh, “Just a store.”
The ‘Just-A-Store’ turns out to be a junk shop.
Martha purchases polar bear figurines. Julie buys herself a worn football.
Tim keeps his old Panther things.
“You know,” he grins, leaning against his elbows as he lies wrapped up in the sheets of her bed, “this would totally be hot if you had a cheerleader uniform.” She slips his white 33 shirt on, pulling at the hem as it drifts to settle above her knees; she feels a flood of her old self crash into her, swim through her veins and invade her senses as she suddenly feels self-conscious and her fingers miss that familiar press of a pen between them.
She looks at him, pulling her ponytail from beneath the shirt. It smells like him; reeks of the smell that still clings to his skin like air, and she’s so glad he hasn’t changed one bit. He’s just grown up from all the awkward angles that he used to be made up of and the bad mistakes she still reckons he makes but he thinks about it beforehand. She’s looking at him too long, that stupid grin threatening to spill into a shit-eating one, and she clears her throat lightly, hands pushing against the sides of the shirt as she tries to will it to melt to her knees. “It’s a little cliché, Tim.”
He shrugs bare shoulders and he shifts on the bed, sheets inching a little in tiptoes down his waist like he won’t notice. He never does; she, however, wishes she didn’t. “Don’t mean it’s not hot.”
“Besides,” she moves to his side of the bed, fingers clinging to the material of his shirt as she keeps pulling it down. She drops herself onto him as his arms wrap around her back, her forehead meeting his chin in a light bump, “didn’t you already quench that fantasy?”
Tim rests his head on a pillow, a light grin pulling at his lips as he shifts, trying to get comfortable with her half on him and half off the bed. “Okay, you got me there.” She taps his nose, resting her chin on his chest as she looks up at him. “But,” he laughs, pulling her tighter to him, “you do look good in my shirt.”
Breathing through her nose, her fingers leave his shirt, the hem riding up her legs like she knew it would, and Tim’s hands pull at the fabric as he pretends he’s just shifting his hands, the shirt just happening to get in the way. “You like saying that,” she presses her cheek to his skin, her arms wrapping loosely around him as he doesn’t arch to let them slide between his shoulder blades. Her palms hopelessly grip at his shoulders.
He shrugs, “Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
She presses her mouth to his skin, grinning against it as she mumbles “You ever thought of getting it on with the Coach’s Daughter?” with a heavy blush that paints the sky when day shifts to night pushes against the natural tone of her skin. She feels hot all over and she wonders if he’s burning beneath her.
She feels him chuckle, his hands grip tight at her sides, “Hell yeah. One lucky bastard I am.”
“You’re lucky you didn’t say Rally Girl.”
Tim hums, “Thank god for that filter I have.”
Julie smiles, returning her cheek to his chest, her eyes fluttering closed as Tim’s arms are wrapped tight around her waist, her legs moving from hanging off the bed to wrap with his. “You don’t have a filter.”
He runs his foot up and down her leg the best he can, “Like you don’t have cold feet.”
She brushes her teeth, staring at herself in the mirror. Tim’s downstairs, doing god-knows-what, and she hears his heavy footsteps on her staircase and him stumble into her bathroom, heading for the sink. He grabs her toothpaste as she watches him in the mirror.
Holding her toothbrush, she speaks against foam, “What are you doing?”
“Brushing my teeth,” he wets the toothbrush before scrubbing, and she cocks her brow, stilling her movement to continue on like this isn’t weird at all.
“In my bathroom?”
He nods, “S’what it looks like.”
She narrows her eyes, slowly pulling her brush against her teeth, “You don’t keep your toothbrush here?”
He shakes his head with a shrug, turning the tap on and spitting into the sink. “No,” he cups water in his hand and tries to splash it in his mouth. She wants to laugh at the mess of water on his face, but her movements are stilled as she waits. He wipes his dry hand over his face, toothbrush still gripped in his wet one, “Just,” he shrugs, “don’t.”
“That’s not an answer,” she brushes slowly, watching him move to the two towels hanging on the rack.
He wipes his face on her towel and runs his hands over it, as if that’ll dry them, and he turns to look at her, running a hand through his hair, “Want some toast?”
No, she wants to say, she wants some answers, but she finishes up, spitting in the sink and pushing her toothbrush under the water he has a habit of not turning off. “Okay,” she says, head bowed and she hears him walk out.
Tim only goes out to fetch the mail. “Wanna join me?”
“Is it too far away for you?” she grins, leaping off the kitchen stool and grabbing the keys from the table. He opens the door for her, proud grin on his face, and locks it as she makes her way to the elevator.
She waits for him; arms crossed over her chest as he comes up behind her and punches the button with one finger. “You’ve got to stop doing that,” she rolls her eyes, “or you’ll break it and I’ll have to pay for it since you don’t exist in this building.”
Tim shrugs, following her into the elevator as the doors bing open. He punches another button, “Oops” with another shrug, and he stares at the numbers as the light flashes behind each one slowly.
She watches him bounce on the spot, hand gripping hers as his fingers work at her tight hold of her keys. When the door opens, he bolts, her hand gripping onto air, and she waits in the elevator, hand pushing the door back when it tries to separate them.
He comes back, grin on his face with envelopes and a couple of magazines in his hands, and spins, pushing the button, and places the keys into her hand, wrapping his fingers around hers just in case she drops them, she presumes. He doesn’t let go of it. She doesn’t think it’s a continuation of the safety precautions he is taking for her keys.
When they get back to her floor, he spins her like they’re on some dance floor and he’s laughing as she rolls her eyes. “Are you trying to distract me from asking for my mail?”
He shakes his head, “Of course not,” though his grip on it tightens and he moves his hand quickly behind his back when she makes a grab for it. Tim tucks her mail into the back of his jeans as she fiddles with her keys to find the one that’ll unlock the treasure chest of her apartment.
There’s a package at the door in the shape of a dented cardboard box with holes punched in the side. Scrawled on the top, when they approach it with slow footsteps, is Tim scrawled in capitals followed by a smiley face.
Martha’s intercepted it from the postman with the tight butt.
Tim swings the apartment keys into his palm and picks up the box. “Reckon it’s a bomb?” he grins as she tries to peel the keys from his tight fist.
Sighing, she slaps his shoulder and moves to stand behind him as he fiddles, pushing the box tight against his chest as he flicks his fingers through the dozen of keys Julie really doesn’t need in New York. He pushes the door open, moves to the side, and with a small gesture of the hand supporting the bottom of the box, waves her in. She rolls her eyes, dodges his hand seeking out to slap her on the rear in jest, and tries to kick the door shut in his face, “If it detonates, I’ll be in the bookstore.”
Tim pushes the cardboard box next to the couch.
“Where are you off to?” Tim leans on the kitchen counter, biting into an apple as she tries to place her phone in her bag without having to open it.
Julie hums before she realises Tim’s actually expecting an answer. It’s not like he asks questions that are rhetorical or anything. “I’m going to Vanessa’s.”
His eyebrow quirks up, “Is that a codename for another Dillon Panther you’ve got stashed in the Big City?” His grin causes her to blush as she tries to not react to the comment. “You’ve been going off at random times. We hardly get any time together.”
“We’re always together, Tim. That’s sort of the problem,” she smiles, unclips her bag and places her phone inside it. “Anyway, I’ve been helping out Vanessa long before you even came here, so she takes priority over you. Sorry,” she shrugs, and he shakes his head.
“Seriously,” he takes another bite and speaks while he chews, “where are you off to?”
She could tell him, she thinks, because what she does at Vanessa’s is important to her, and since Tim is making is way up her list of Important Things in Julie Taylor’s Life, he might as well know. But something holds her back, and maybe it’s the looseness within his shoulders as he waits for her answer, or the way he smirks in a way that is familiar and brings warmth throughout her body. She knows what it is as she debates this, taking him in as he bites into the apple, and it is none of them. It has nothing to do with Tim Riggins. “Vanessa’s,” she grabs her keys, just in case he decides to have some Tim Riggins time and try to search for Jason Street, who, by the way, has vacated the Big Apple since two years ago. She never had the chance to track him down. “She’s a couple of blocks from here. I’ll be back by six,” she walks up to him, places a kiss on his cheek, “hopefully.”
He watches her go, “I’ll be here.”
He opens the package from four days ago two hours after he loses his patience with her inept skills with the newly installed Xbox. “It’s not an Xbox,” he runs a hand through his hair, and she’ll laugh an “A PlayBox?” as he grabs a pillow and pushes it into his chest.
Five minutes later, she’s getting better at this game with some animal creature that looks like a fox. He just doesn’t like admitting she’s improved without his assistance. (Having access to the Internet when Tim’s too busy using up her soap in the shower proves to be advantageous after declining to join him in saving Australia for the fifth night in a row; she calls Landry the third night and he tells her about the World Wide Web’s database of cheats.) Tim sighs, pushing himself off the couch and she moves to rest her legs across it, thumbs busily pushing the buttons of the controller in their holes. “Shit, how do I turn left?”
He laughs, padding over to the kitchen table and lifts himself onto it. “Press the arrow or move the stick thing.”
Julie frowns, holding the controller away from her as she flips it over in her sloppy examination, “What stick thing?”
Tim’s laughter is accompanied by the tearing of box flaps being pulled from being folded over each other. “We’ve been over this, Taylor. Relax.”
She rolls her eyes, “Stop thinking like that, Tim.” She presses a button and the car with her animated self diverts over a cliff. “I’m worse than Coyote.”
Clicking buttons, she’s back at the menu to smother Tim’s laughter as he tears at the corners of envelopes and purposely rips the corners of the spam catalogues; the phone rings and she can tell he doesn’t move a muscle, he drawls “Phone.”
She rolls her eyes, leaving the game at it’s menu as she twists on the couch to reach for the cordless. Pressing a button, she laughs “Hello?” and is met with Matt Saracen. Straightening up, she pulls at her shirt and stands, clearing her throat and darting her eyes to Tim who’s pretending to feign disinterest. “Hey.”
Placing a hand over her ear, she hears “Hey” mirror back and she’s climbing up the stairs with Tim’s eyes tracking her steps.
Sitting on the bed, she tucks a leg underneath her and pulls at the hem of her shirt, “What’s up?”
“Nothin’,” Matt seems to smile, shuffles the phone and he’s sighing, “just sort of wanted to hear your voice, I guess.”
She hums. “Sorry about the emails.”
“I was wonderin’ if somethin’ happened to you. Dance keepin’ you busy or somethin’?”
Julie clears her throat, running her fingers across her collarbone, “No. That’s not up for a little while yet.”
Matt clears his throat and nods, “Yeah,” he speaks slower, drawing out the words like he’s trying to weigh the hidden meanings, “so, I was just wondering about that.”
Julie hums, pushing her hair behind her ear.
“This is kind of hard to say.”
“Just say it.”
“I hear Tim Riggins is with you,” Matt sort of coughs out, his confidence fading into bashfulness, and Julie wishes she really couldn’t read his tone. “Like, stayin’ … with you. Permanently. Again.”
Julie sighs, pulling herself a little further up the bed, “Well, yeah. He’s a friend.”
“That’s not what I’m hearin’.”
“You hear what people want you to hear,” Julie’s grip on the phone tightens, pressing her cheek more firmly against it to push it onto the thick recesses of Matt’s mind. “Like I said, he’s a friend.”
There’s a pause on his end. She hears his feet shuffling on the floor, the sound of movement as a door closes behind him. Matt seems to pace, breathing the only thing evident in the prison he’s put himself into. Or the prison she’s locked him into. “You said you’d wait for me.”
She closes her eyes, bites her lip and tries to force out a strong “Matt –”
“You said you’d wait for me,” he pushes out, voice layering onto hers, louder, more dominant; very unlike the Matt Saracen she keeps locked up in her head. Matt’s always been quiet, patient, the sort of jittery type of guy who won’t say what he wants in fear of losing her or causing another rift between them. He’s not as hostile as he was in high school; he’s started a habit of turning a blind eye instead of confronting something, like the Swede issue, head-on. “Then, when you needed it, I waited for you.” His voice falters, much like she expected, and she closes her eyes at his tone, the implications of his words, the way her heart sort of sinks and sort of flutters at the same time. It’s like burning and drowning. “I’m – I’m waiting for you, Julie.”
She releases a breath she knows he’ll take as frustration. Everything between them has become misread to the point of no return. They’ve reached a dead end, she realises, and she tries to keep her voice hushed as she can hear the movement of Tim downstairs cease in volume. Not on purpose, she thinks, as Tim’s one for granting her privacy when she needs it. “Matt, I should never have asked that. We’ve both changed.”
“But we can still make it work,” Matt changes ears, and she can hear his fingers tapping against something; a window still, a table, the phone itself. Desperation fills his voice and he sounds out of breath, like he’s done suicides for her father, run up and down the bleaches because Landry Clarke threw a punch at some guy named Chip. “We can make it work because we love each other.”
Julie pulls at the bed cover, sliding the heel of her foot up and down her ankle.
“Julie” is abrupt, like a question framed as a statement, and this is Matt trying to hold on. She feels herself peeling his hands off the door they’re floating on in an ocean filled with death and end.
“It’s been a long time, Matt,” she sighs, eyes closed, hand gripped tightly against the phone. Her ear hums lightly at the pressure she’s placing on the phone. “People change; we move on.”
“You moved on, you mean.”
She shrugs, breathing out “I wouldn’t say that.” But then again, she would. Tim’s not one for definitions and Julie’s starting to adapt to that. It makes things less dense, less heavy; nothing’s really coating them down besides time.
“But you did,” Matt breathes out, that tapping fades into the background as it’s only him and her, the shuffles of Tim downstairs become non-existent. “With Tim Riggins.”
She shuffles on the bed, pulling herself towards the headboard, resting her back against the pillows propped up sloppily thanks to Tim. “We are friends, Matt.”
“Is that why he’s been in New York for months?” Matt’s spitting out words now, voice getting higher, underlying messages nastier. He’s always been able to cut her the deepest with words unsaid. She bites her lip as she tries to ride it out, put up a mental shield to stop him from getting in; she’s been so good blocking everything hurtful out so far. “Lyla Garrity’s been crying over him ever since he left.”
“That isn’t my fault.”
Matt sighs, “I’m just sayin’.”
“And I’m correcting,” she runs her fingers through her bangs, “there’s nothing there, okay? Tim’s here because he needed a friend and it’s nice to have friends, sometimes. Places can get lonely.”
“I said I’d visit.”
She blinks, rests her head against the headboard. “I know.”
“You don’t want me to.”
“And you’ve stopped waiting.”
“I don’t think I could stop.” Matt stays on the line, breathing soft and even, minor shuffling in the background; she hears the click and with the phone still pressed to her ear, as if he’s still there, that pain so evident in his voice that it leaks through the states and phone lines, she tells herself she won’t cry.
Tim summons himself up, taking the stairs lazily, with heavy steps, as if unsure whether to approach. She pulls the phone away from her ear, slapping it heavily against the bed. She feels weighted, like lead, and Tim sits on the edge of the bed, hand crawling and stopping near her leg. “Everything okay?”
Julie gives him a sloppy shrug, eyes downcast, hands curling in her lap as she pulls her legs up, knees bent sharply. She feels too pointed, suddenly, and she tries to pull away from Tim before he can get hurt just like Matt.
“Jules …” he shifts, sliding on the bed as he pulls himself to sit by her knees. He places a hand over one, curling as if he’s trying to melt their skin together like he always does, and she feels his thumb caress her skin. “It’ll be okay.”
She shakes her head, feeling the tears burn in her throat as she blinks a little too hard, one falling straight through the air in a cliff dive to her crossed arms. “No, it’s not.” Julie pulls her knees closer to her, Tim’s hand sliding down her leg to curl around her ankle as she leans her head against her knees, bangs pressing tightly between her forehead and the bone like a flower in Aunt Shelly’s book. “Matt’s hurting and it’s all my fault.”
The sheets rustle as Tim moves to sit beside her, hand on her shoulder, running back and forth lightly. He tries to duck his head to see her, and she’s thankful for her bangs, keeping her eyes out of sight.
Tim’s always been one to defy her logic.
Brushing fingers through her hair, he circles her ear before filtering through the loose hair of her bangs. “Jules,” he’s leaning close to her, voice soft, fingers working through her hair as his other hand palms her leg, thumb moving in an effort of comfort. “You can’t blame yourself for Matt Saracen,” the name sounds weird against Tim’s voice, having him never put the two words together, and she pauses, fingers flexing near her knees as Tim moves his fingers to her scalp. “Matt’s gonna be hurtin’ for a while. He’s a guy who hurts,” she feels him shrug through his fingers, “and you can’t blame yourself for him.”
Julie presses her cheek to her knee, keeping her eyes on Tim’s chest as she faces him, “I told him I’d wait for him.”
“People say a lot of things they mean that don’t work out in the end,” he tries to duck his head into her eyesight; she focuses on a lower point on the bed. “Matt’s just gotta realise that the past is the past and no matter how much you love someone that sometimes the best thing to do is to let them go.”
“It’s hard,” she says, pressing her eyes closed as more tears cling to her lashes and drag down her cheeks.
Tim’s fingers in her hair skim to her cheek, running his blunt fingernails up and down slowly, catching stray tears, “That’s why you’ve got me.” She rolls her eyes, and she hears him smile, an airy chuckle accompanied with it, as his hand moves back into her hair, sifting through it all the way to her back before starting at the beginning again.
She stays quiet for a moment, relishing in the feel of his fingers in her hair and the warm palm on her ankle. Tim’s smile fades away, mouth in a line as she feels him study her. She lifts her eyes to him, watching him as his eyes take in her face, tracing over her skin as though it were his hands. Julie sniffs, trying “You say all the right things” to break the tension, that peaceful swelling in her stomach that replaces the usual lead. Uncurling her arms and pressing the back of her hand against her nose, her eyes flutter down to his neck, “How do you know all this stuff?”
Tim shrugs, a smile spreads over his mouth as his fingers wrap her hair loosely, “Hallmark channel.”
Tim’s blankets are a lump at the side of the couch.
Walking towards it, she picks up the blankets, separating them the best she can and tosses one onto the couch while she attempts to fold the other. Pressing the material to her chest, her gaze flitters down to what they were thrown over, causing them to appear in an unnatural hump for such thin things.
The cardboard box with Martha’s intercepted smiley face penned on the side is still there.
Julie kicks the cardboard box, another dent pushing against its side, and she lets her fingers run over the bent edges. Layers of tape keep the flaps together, and all the corners that are torn and look eaten by rodents are wrapped with grey tape and the transparent kind.
He still hasn’t opened it.
She sits on the kitchen table and watches him move things around. Apparently the living room has shifted since last night.
Swinging her legs, Julie closes her eyes and summons that Tyra Collette invincibility. “You’re distant,” she states, as questions get her nowhere besides a town frizzling with frustration with him. She’s tired of skirting the state line from this town to the next.
He shrugs, huffing as the chair she was told was identical to the leather one in Friends refuses to shift into it’s correct spot. She thinks he’s seeing things. Tim rubs his palms against his knees before straightening and coming to stand between her legs, hands sliding from her knees to her thighs, “Doesn’t seem like it.”
She rolls her eyes, “I don’t mean literally.” Placing her hands on his arms, she curls her fingers lightly around them, closing her eyes, summoning that that courage stays with her throughout this. She finds that squeezing his arms may imprint what she’s trying to say into his brain, “You’re holding back.”
He cocks his eyebrow, “What are you on, Julie Taylor?” She sighs, licking her lips, as Tim’s never on the same wavelength as her when she needs him to be. Less words shared between them on heavy topics, the better. He cracks a grin a few seconds later, trying to make light of the situation.
Sliding her hands down his arms, she pulls at his fingers before letting them go completely. She’s used to abandoning these matters and having freedom to walk whichever way she wants. With Tim, he boxes her in. The jury’s still out on whether that’s a good thing. Licking her lips, she sighs, hands pressing against his shoulders, “You’re distant and I don’t like it. You can tell me, Tim.”
He looks down, hands tapping against her thighs. She waits it out, counting the presses of his fingers before they slow into an erratic rhythm. He’s thinking, a crease between his brows and his lips are sort of puckered out, eyes on the wooden panels beneath them. “When I was talkin’ to Billy that night,” he pauses, speaking to the floor, fingers stilled as they morph into a light pressure against her thighs, “he wants me to come home. He thinks it’s time I go back to Dillon.”
Julie furrows her brows, hands clenching around his shoulders absently as she tries to grasp this, “You’re going?”
He shrugs, looking up at her. It’s a slow ascend that has her hands sliding down his arms to press against his elbow. “I’ve interrupted your life so much, Jules.” Tim shakes his head, looks off to the staircase, and she presses her palms forcefully against his shoulders, “Having me as a part of it, livin’ here, I can’t see it.”
She pulls her brows together, watching him look around the apartment, darting glances at her arms or legs or stomach. He never looks up at her. “You can’t,” she hears her voice break, “or you won’t?”
He shrugs, hands sliding to her knees, the heel of his palm waits on air as if he’s not ready to totally let go. She wraps her legs loosely around his waist. Tim swallows, “It doesn’t matter.”
“It does matter, Tim,” she shakes her head; her fingers press against his shoulders, legs nudging him a little closer to her as she hooks her ankles together and lets them fall against the back of his own legs. “I want you here. New York is great, you know. I’ll be dancing soon and you don’t need to worry about the rent or whatever it is you’re pissing yourself over.”
His eyebrows draw together, stepping forward without thought and he’s pressed right up against her, fingers flexing on her thighs, “This isn’t my life, Jules.”
“And Dillon is?” she cocks her eyebrow, finding that Taylor anger simmering beneath the surface, and she tries to push it back, drown it some ocean, by pressing her fingers into his shoulders. “Working on cars while you get drunk? You gonna spend your whole life listening to the radio and Buddy Garrity reminiscing about the days where you were a Dillon Panther and it meant something?”
He shrugs, “This isn’t in my destiny.”
Groaning, she rolls her eyes, and places her hands over his, prying them from her legs. “Cut the bullshit, Riggins. You don’t believe in that crap.” She grips his hands, fingers pulling at his, and she holds them in the air, feeling the pads punctuate like a heartbeat against them. Tilting her head, her voice softens, cracking slightly, “What do I have to do to convince you to stay?”
He shrugs, biting his lip and looking away from her, hands limp in hers. Tim settles his eyes on something over her shoulder, and she presses her feet, which she hopes are cold, against his skin to jerk his eyes to hers. It doesn’t work. His fingers press lightly into her hands.
She nods to herself, hands feeling slack in their vice-like grip of his. “You’re leaving,” she states, and he doesn’t have the heart to look at her.