Disclaimer: I don't own anything here and am just doing this for fun and to pass the long months until Season 4.
Julie kept her head down and her eyes on the pages of her magazine, although she wasn't able to absorb the pictures or words. She was leaning against Matt and he had one arm around her, hand resting on her waist while the other played idly with her hair. Her long legs were stretched across the couch and crossed at the ankle. If Matt weren't distraction enough, Landry was sitting in Grandma Saracen's chair, pleading with Julie.
“Julie, please, it's just one small assignment and me and him have already talked about it. He knows what he needs to do – it's more like babysitting than tutoring,” said Landry.
Julie knew if she looked up, she would see earnest pleading etched into his every feature. She shrugged a shoulder and turned a page.
“Julie, I'm begging you, literally begging you. Please help Tim with this one tiny assignment so I can help Tyra with her algebra.”
“Begging is so undignified and unbecoming,” sniffed Julie.
“Yeah, Landry. Very unbecoming,” mocked Matt. Julie turned to look at him and he beamed down at her, then kissed her forehead.
“Oh, ok, Miss Taylor, if you want to play it like that. I don't have to beg. I have other weapons in my arsenal,” said Landry, his tone swinging from wheedling to steely.
“Landry, no one wants to see your arsenal,” said Matt dismissively, causing a small smile to settle onto Julie's lips.
“It's okay, Matt. Let's see what he's got,” said Julie, putting her magazine down and warming to the challenge. “Bring it, Landry.”
Landry rubbed his forehead and then dragged his hand across the top of his head as he searched for the words. When he found them, his face lit up and he pointed at Julie and Matt. “You, Julie, can't drive and you, Matt, won't drive, so that means that unless you want Coach or Mrs. Coach supervising all your dates, you depend on me for transportation.”
“Uh, Julie, he's kinda got a point there,” said Matt uneasily.
Julie shrugged. “You forget that Tyra can drive.”
“Yes, but there's a couple problems with that. Number 1 – Tyra works, so she can't be at your beck and call the way I can. Number 2 – Tyra's social calendar is going to be very busy soon, if I have anything to say about it. And, Number 3 – Julie, you probably don't know this, but your boyfriend, the big, brave QB1 of the Dillon Panthers, is terrified of Tyra.”
“Landry! Why'd you hafta go and say that,” sighed Matt. Julie looked back at him and saw that his cheeks were as red as a stop sign.
“Really?” she asked playfully, eyebrows up and smile wide.
Matt looked down. “Well, no not, really terrified exactly, but you have to admit, she can be a little scary sometimes.”
Julie nodded in agreement and then looked at Landry, who wasn't quite celebrating triumphantly but was edging in that direction. Julie sighed, pointed a finger at him and put on her stern voice. “OK, just this one, tiny assignment and that's it. You never ask me to help you again.”
“Right, I never ask you to help me with Tim Riggins again.”
“No, Landry, with anything ever again,” replied Julie, her steely tone far exceeding Landry's.
“I don't know about that, Julie. The favor imbalance here is pretty large, all I'm asking for is one tiny thing,” said Landry, speaking like a man operating from a position of great strength.
“Landry, I'm going to have my learner's permit soon and Matt, if given proper motivation, might reconsider his position on driving. So, you know, you might want to quit while you're ahead,” replied Julie.
Landry threw up his hands in surrender. “OK, you meet Tim Riggins in the library tomorrow morning before classes start and I'll never ask you for anything again.”
“Deal,” said Julie, stretching across the distance between them to firmly shake his hand.
The next morning, Julie arrived at the library a few minutes early. She selected a table by the window and sat in a chair that gave her a clear view of the door. She had a history test later in the day, so she took out her notes and reviewed them while she waited.
Tim arrived ten minutes late, walking into the library with the same fatalistic trudge as a vampire entering a church. He paused in the doorway and looked around, then sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. Julie had a sinking feeling that Landry hadn't informed Tim of the change in personnel. She debated calling out to him, but then decided it was far more interesting to just watch and see what Tim did. Just how committed was he to getting help with his assignment?
Tim dropped his books on the nearest table and sank into a chair. He folded his arms and then leaned forward to rest his head on them. Julie gave him points for staying in the library, but not as many points as she'd have given him if he'd made an effort to use the time productively. She gathered up her books and walked over to his table, slipping down into the seat in front of him.
“Hi, Tim. I don't know if Landry told you, but he's asked me to help you with your English assignment,” said Julie, wondering why her stomach suddenly felt full of butterflies.
“Uh, no, but that's cool,” mumbled Tim, picking his head up off the table and brushing the hair off his face.
Julie gasped softly when she saw the bruises and cuts on his face. Without thinking, she reached out and lightly ran a finger over his bruised cheekbone. “My dad mentioned you were looking 'worse for wear' I think is how he put it, but I didn't know was this bad. Does it hurt?”
Tim leaned back and shook his head, causing Julie to withdraw her hand quickly. “Nah, I'm fine. Really.”
“Right,” said Julie, sitting up straight. “I guess we should get started then. You want to tell me what the assignment is?”
“Didn't Landry tell you?”
“Yes, but I want to hear it from you,” she said, struggling to keep the irritation out of her voice.
“OK, so we have to find a poem and then write our own poem based on it,” said Tim, making the whole
enterprise sound as appealing as eating live snails, shell and all.
“Have you picked out the poem? Landry said you and he talked about doing 'Casey at the Bat'.”
“Yeah, but honestly, that's too hard. It's way too long and it rhymes. I'm not really good at rhymes. I leave that bullshit to guys like Smash.”
“So have you picked out another poem?”
Tim nodded and slid a sheet of paper across to her. His printing was small and cramped, with uneven letter sizes and ragged margins. She scanned the page quickly, recognizing Martin Wright's “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio”. She'd always loved the last lines, about high school football players galloping “terribly against each other's bodies.”
“I figure, I'd just change the place names and put in the oil fields instead of the steel mill and then I'm done,” said Tim with a self-satisfied smirk.
Julie looked up at him with narrowed eyes.
“Or not,” he said.
She opened an elegant leather-bound book and slid it across the table. “I was thinking this one would be perfect for you.”
Tim glanced at the page and rolled his eyes. “It's English class, Taylor. And besides, I don't speak French. Or read it, for that matter.”
“The translation is next to it, on the left-hand page, Tim,” she said with more patience than she actually felt.
An abashed smile skittered across his face so quickly that Julie thought she may have imagined it. Then he looked down at the book. His lips moving as he read the Baudelaire poem.
You have to be always drunk. That's all there is to it—it's the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.
But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.
And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: "It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish."
He looked up and smiled, a full-wattage grin that Julie didn't think she'd ever seen from him before. “Yeah, Taylor, I can work with this. I can definitely work with this.”
Tim flipped open his notebook and took out a pencil. He put his arm around his notebook, like he was trying to prevent Julie from copying his work. Head bent over the page, his hair hid his face. Julie watched him, fascinated, wondering if she was one of the few people ever to see Tim Riggins actually doing his own homework.
Julie looked up to see Lyla coming out of the stacks, staring at Tim with open disbelief. She walked past the table quickly, with her head down, and sat as far away as possible. Julie noticed Tim glance up as Lyla passed and watched him follow the girl with his eyes, a distant, smoldering look on his face.
The first morning bell rang and Julie began to gather up her books.
“Landry told me your poem is due in three days, so you can keep my book and I'll meet you in two days so we can go over your work.”
“You don't have to, Taylor.”
“Oh, no, Landry asked me to do this and I intend to do it right. I'm not giving him a chance to back out of his end of the deal.”
Tim's eyebrows shot up. “You mean you're getting something out of this?”
Julie blushed and dropped her chin, her long blonde hair falling over her face. “Well, not exactly. More like a preservation of the status quo.”
“English, Taylor. What's that in simple English?”
“Landry sort of threatened that he wouldn't drive me and Matt around, if I didn't help him. He was joking. Mostly joking, I'm sure...” said Julie, letting her words trail off as she realized she was standing in front of Tim Riggins, babbling incoherently. She allowed herself to peek up at him through her hair and was relieved to see amusement in his eyes.
“Calm down, Taylor. It's all good. I'll see you in two days,” said Tim as he turned and walked away, leaving Julie staring after him.
Two days later, Julie waited outside the library, leaning against a wall of lockers. Tim arrived only five minutes late and Julie walked toward and then past him, leaving him scrambling to catch up with her.
“Hey, where are you going?” he asked.
“Library's too crowded,” she said simply.
She pushed open the school door and they stepped out into the bright morning sunlight. She could feel him relax and open up in the fresh air, like he'd been strangling in the confines of the school building.
Julie walked around the corner to the football field and went up into the bleachers. She climbed halfway up and then sat down, stretching her legs out on the row in front of her and leaning back so her elbows rested on the row behind her. Tim sat down next to her and handed her a piece of paper.
She was surprised to see that he'd bothered to type up his poem and print it from the computer. She skimmed the paper for spelling or obvious typos but didn't bother to check the punctuation and grammar, since part of the beauty of poetry was the ability to bend those strict rules.
Julie handed it back to him. “OK, so read it to me.”
“But you just read it,” he protested, hunching forward with his his elbows on his knees.
“I skimmed it for spelling errors. I didn't read it though. Poetry is meant to be read out loud, so read it,” she demanded.
He rolled his eyes and began to mumble his way through the poem. She caught him in the ribs with a sharp elbow. “Do it right or don't do it at all,” she said.
Tim straightened up and shifted slightly so he was facing her. He read quietly, but his deep, rumbling voice still rang out clearly enough to satisfy Julie.
“You have to be always drunk. It's the best way....the only way not to feel. You have to be continually drunk.
But on what? Beer, football or women, as you wish. But be drunk.
And if sometimes, on the steps of the bleachers or sandy edge of a cliff, in the sad silence of your room, you wake up, drunkenness already slipping away....Ask the grass, the wide-open sky, the hawk, everything that is running, everything that is being. . .ask what time it is and they will answer you: 'It is time to be drunk! So as not to be crushed by the weight of bad decisions and worse luck, be drunk, be continually drunk! On beer, on football or on women as you wish.'”
When he finished reading the poem, his arms dropped to his sides and he looked down, fidgeting as the seconds of silence ticked by. Julie sat next to him, mouth open, surprised by the faithful, heart-felt rendering he'd managed to create. She felt like she'd been trespassing in his yard and had caught a glimpse of him through his bedroom window, naked and vulnerable. She blushed as her brain translated this metaphor into a literal image.
“Is it that bad?” he finally asked softly without looking up.
She shook her head, then forced herself to speak since he still wasn't looking at her. “No....Tim, that was....good. It was really, really good.”
“Well, I hope Mrs. Carter thinks so. I bombed the last test so I need at least a B to keep my grade at a passing level.”
Julie nodded. “Don't worry about it. I'm sure you'll do well enough to pass. It was really good.”
Tim handed her book back to her, a look of genuine puzzlement on his face. “I'm not going to worry about it, Taylor. It's done now. I just ain't real fond of the waiting part.”
She nodded furiously and gathered up her things, anxious to get out of there before she made an even bigger fool of herself. She could feel her cheeks burning. She mumbled a good-bye and tried to brush past Tim, but he grabbed her arm.
“Thank you, Taylor. I really appreciate it. I mean it,” he said, his voice effecting her in ways she couldn't name or understand. She looked up and immediately wished she hadn't, as his green eyes seemed to look right through her, soaking up every secret and feeling she'd ever had.
“It's no problem. Good luck,” she said, using every bit of her concentration to pull herself away and exit what felt like an inexplicable, unexpected magnetic field.
When the final bell rang on Monday afternoon, Julie was relieved. She'd had an especially crappy day and all she wanted to do was go home. When she got to her locker, she struggled with the combination and finally managed to open it, wrenching the door and slapping it open for good measure. She dropped her books in the bottom and was rooting around on the top shelf, looking for her health homework, when she felt unfamiliar hands grab her shoulders and turn her around.
“Taylor! I got an A,” said Tim, enthusiasm bubbling over as he clamped his hands on her hips, lifted her up and spun her around. One, two, three, four, five....she lost count as she laughed, resting her head on his shoulder, her arms wrapped around his neck. He gently put her back on the floor, his hand burning on the edge of her waist where her shirt had ridden up.
“I've never gotten an A before. I mean, never for work I did myself,” said Tim with a proud smile.
“Well, good, you deserve it. It was a really good poem,” replied Julie, trying to calm her racing heart. She wished he would take his hands off of her, but then also wished that he'd never let her go. Her mind was having a difficult time reconciling the warring desires.
“Julie?” asked Matt uncertainly. She looked up to see that he and Landry had just turned the corner and nearly walked into them. Tim's hands flew from her waist to whack Matt and Landry each on the back, hard.
“Seven! Your girlfriend is magic. And Landry, no offense, but she's even better than you. She helped me get an A,” said Tim.
“I don't believe this. I read an entire book to him and you just babysit him for a single, tiny assignment, and you get all the credit for his academic success. This just isn't right,” groused Landry, although his smile betrayed his true feelings.
Tim smiled and thanked Julie again. “And Taylor, I'll drive you and Seven anywhere, any time.”
Julie looked down, blushed and stammered out an incoherent reply, feeling Matt's heavy stare on the top of her head.
“Seven, I'll see you at practice,” said Tim as he walked away, oblivious to any discomfort his exuberance might have caused. Julie looked up at Matt and smiled, relaxing as she saw the doubt evaporate from his face. Tim Riggins could go and make himself drunk on beer, football and women. She was going to stay right where she was, sober and rooted in reality with Matt Saracen.