Discovering that your father had "adopted" the town's biggest man whore was not the best news of the day. Julie was ropeable. Tim Riggins was going to be crashing at her house, sitting on her couch, using her clicker and eating her cereal. She'd always wanted a big brother and this just confirmed that old saying to' be careful what you wish for'. A surly, greasy, ripped footballer living with her family was her idea of hell; it even beat having a constantly wailing baby sister. Her disgust was so thick that she nearly had to swallow it.
The first few days were a hard adjustment to make. Sharing a bathroom with a male that hadn't been house trained created living conditions that were beyond the pale. Okay it wasn't that bad but the shower queue got longer and standing in a Riggins scented bathroom was quite unnerving. Not bad smelling, just a really earthy scent that overwhelmed you when you entered. Nothing like her Dad, but intriguing. After a few days she had found herself deliberately making sure she was in immediately after Riggins. That nice smell was a contributing factor but brushing past a partially clothed, steamy Riggins wasn't a bad experience either. Of course he couldn't know that she, well kinda liked the experience so she always made some snarky comment like 'so long Tim? Did you get confused with lather, rinse, and repeat?' He'd just say 'mornin' Julie' and continue on his merry way. She would then be left looking at sodden piles of wet Riggins-smelling towels, oh joy.
By the end of that first week, she had gotten used to snatching the milk before him to make sure she got some, talked him into the merits of watching The Hills and decided that catching a ride to school with Riggins was preferable to the Coach. Of course she insulted him at every opportunity. He would reply calmly in his deep voice, making her feel flustered and completely irrational. Yet it was him who had a made home feel less normal. Tim's presence in the Taylor residence was similar to housing an untrained monkey. He was completely oblivious to normal chores and actually enjoyed taking out the trash, washing the dishes and even rocking Gracie to sleep. He was beginning to make her look bad. Admittedly she hadn't really helped herself much in that area lately but guests were traditionally like Buddy Garrity - loud, annoying and just plain ewww in a towel. Tim would sneak food off her plate and would take an unearthly enjoyment out of mowing the lawn. He was unfailing polite to the parental and would offer to do chores for them. Almost like the normalcy of the Taylor household was well, for lack of a better word, fun.
It wasn't all puppy dogs and roses for Julie though. He was sneaky. He would hijack her laundry with his. She would only realise when hanging them out that a pair of boxers of boy socks had managed to find their way into her belongings. The most annoying task was the fielding of calls from girls looking for Riggins, she had began doing this just to ensure Gracie would nap. Making excuses for why he couldn't come to the phone, suggesting fictional places to where he could be found were not on her list of current home responsibilities. When she brought this up with him he would just smile and she would insult his choice of female company.
Getting lifts with Riggins did have its downfalls. Conversation for one, the guy wasn't a big talker. That and he had Metallica playing in his truck 24/7. There was only so much one girl could deal with. Kids at school were convinced something was going on between them. They were convinced that there was absolutely no way Riggins could live in the same house as a teen girl and not be scoring some ass. Then people would think for a moment and remember the Coach, even Riggins wouldn't be that ballsy, would he?
By the end of the second week, Julie was a little insulted that he hadn't tried to hit on her. What was she? Fugly or something? The biggest man whore this side of the equator had not even touched her, even in a friendly way. Sure the Coach could be scary but Riggins was polite and disinterested. In fact he was treating her as though she was part of the Taylor ready-made family package deal - the new little sister. It was unconscious, well she told herself that, but she started brushing him accidentally when putting the dishes away, grabbing the clicker or getting into the cab of his truck. He continued to treat her the same way. Talking to her politely when necessary, dropping her at school and washing the dishes in companionable silence. She told herself it was just a moment of temporary insanity when she picked up one of the hated towels of the bathroom floor and inhaled his scent. She couldn't like Riggins, could she?
The thought made her ill. Was this a bad reaction to the Matt split? The truth was Riggins was simply hot, mysterious and disinterested … of course she liked him.
Her self realisation made life in the Taylor house a lot more awkward. She found herself thinking of him all of the time. She thought about him partially clothed and sprawled across his make shift bed/couch. She thought about him half-naked and sweet smelling from the shower. She thought about him with toothpaste encrusted in the corners of his mouth. Stick a fork in her Riggins style, she was done.
She needed a plan. Julie had realised that the "accidental" touching was so accidental he didn't notice or didn't care. Either way, Riggins was being dense or ambivalent, both sounded like him so she couldn't commit to one theory. She stepped up her approach with a three-prong attack; 1) frequent physical contact 2) initiation of conversation and 3) less clothing (or lose enough so that her parents wouldn't kill her or ground her for life). Riggins might be used to getting charged on a football field but he didn't know what was going to hit him!
The three-prong attack had begun promptly. The clothing she had chosen to wear wasn't what she would call slutty, she wouldn't want to look like that and to be honest her mother would never let her get away with it. She started borrowing some pieces from her mother's warbrode. If anyone had the cool-sexy niche down it was her mom. Luckily they were the same size and the chest emphasising singlets proved to be quite successful. Guys from all around school were beginning to see Julie Taylor, the Coach's daughter and QB1's ex, in a different way. She had suddenly blossomed. The best thing about purloining items from her mother's wardrobe was that her mom couldn't question her choices, practise what you preach and all. Not that the clothing was tarty. They were fresh and alluring.
Fresh and alluring. Fresh, alluring and Riggins-immune apparently. If anything he was looking in her direction less. The addition of a push up bra received even more attention from the guy population of Dillon but nada on the Riggins front. She stopped wearing it shortly after. Her chin really shouldn't be able to rest on her chest!
So really her plan hadn't gone that well so far. If anything Tim had caught onto her touchy plan and was actively avoiding any physical contact. Brushing past him in the doorway of the bathroom was now impossible, he got up increasingly early to avoid seeing her. He gave her a lift to school every morning but sat so close to the driver's door that shifting gears was quite challenging for him. Washing the dishes become a time trial and many dishes suffered the consequences. She was making Tim Riggins nervous. Perhaps it was her father, rather than her but it was better than no reaction at all.
Maybe she had an odour. She better find a great perfume.
After another week of Tim running around like a meek lamb, skidding past her and saying even less than normal (if that was possible) Julie had had enough. The conversation wasn't something that proved to be successful either. She was relegated to speaking to him in his truck and at the dinner table.
"Tim, could you pass the ketchup?" she would ask. Weird looks from her parents resulted, they were eating rice. This didn't even elicit a response from him, the ketchup bottle was thumped down next to her, rattling the table. She would sigh and wonder what the hell she could do. She couldn't ask Tyra for advice, it was Riggins, Tyra would be more likely to king hit her out of anger or to knock some sense into her. She couldn't talk to Lois, nuns had more experience with guys. Matt was out of the picture, she missed speaking with him. Landry would be useless and her mother would pitch a fit.
Despite all her efforts she noticed other things about Tim. He spent an inordinate amount of time with Gracie. He seemed enamoured with this tiny human being. Thinking more about it, Julie realised that Tim probably had very little to do with babies. He rocked her to sleep, volunteered to feed her and took her out to the kiddie pool in the back yard and dipped her feet in the water. He handled her like she was the most fragile thing in the world. In his huge hands she guessed that Gracie probably was. Her parents trusted him with Gracie and that trust had paid off.
It seemed weird to think that seeing someone unrelated to her sister, being so kind to her. It instilled in her so much love and possessiveness of Gracie that it shocked her. Until now she had done everything and anything to avoid forming any bond with her sister. Gracie was the thing that had split her family and monopolised her mother's attention. Gracie was the thing that her father would spend more time asking about on the phone when he'd been in Austin. Gracie's presence has grown all her fears about her family and her own existance. That she was replaceable, unremarkable, unworthy. Standing in the back yard, looking at Tim gingerly holding Gracie, swirling her feet in the cool water, looking at her with some fascination and amusement - she felt a fierce love of the tot and a new realisation about the footballer that held her. Tim was more than a hot bod. He looked up realised he was being watched, made a sheepishly face and quickly handed off Gracie to Julie. While Tim disappeared inside the house, Julie's realisation deepened - Tim was more than a hot bod and he really didn't want anyone to know that. With a sigh, Julie cradled her sister and laughed when the tiny pudgy hand grabbed a stand of her blonde hair and looked at it with utter fascination. Utter fascination and then hunger, shoving it into her mouth and sucking with intensity.
"Gracie, I know shampoo smells nice but sweetie, it really isn't mouth friendly" Julie quickly untangled Gracie's hand from her hair and grimaced at it's baby-slobbered ends. Stepping inside the house, closing the door behind her she gave Gracie a kiss on the top of her head and breathed in that baby smell that was so comforting. Gracie made an unhappy face at Julie, making a grab at more of her hair. Then suddenly her absorbtion with her locks disappeared as her gaze traveled past Julie's shoulder. Gracie held out her hands and burbled. Julie turned around. She was shocked to see Tim standing behind her at a distance.
"I think she wants you back", she remarked to the silent, smouldering presence. This was her first attempt to speak to him privately in a week. He didn't say anything. He just stayed standing where he was.
"You seem to have a way with the ladies" she tried again nodding toward the tiny 'lady' in her arms. He looked a little trapped, his hands at his sides flexing as if he was trying to resist the temptation to give Gracie what she wanted, Tim. He coughed, clearing his throat. He probably hadn't spoken all day.
"You can have her back, she clearly wants you" Julie tried again and then decided to take the decision out of his hands. She strode towards him and gingerly passed Gracie into Tim's chest. He had to quickly bring his arms up to received the gurgling package. It was amazing that a person who could show so much coordination and grace on the football field could look so awkward receiving a baby. Her arms brushed against his huge chest and as his hands came up to encompass Gracie, his hands brushed her own chest. It sent a zing through her. The only sign Tim noticed was a slight nostril flare. Gracie immediately gurgled approval, grabbed a lock of Tim's dark hair and started twirling it around her slobbery hand. He was stunned for a moment and then broke into a huge smile. The awkwardness of the 'change-over' seemingly forgotten.
"Hey Gracie-girl" his deep voice transfixed the baby, she broke into a smile, seemingly recognising the voice and the fun that was to come. Julie realised that her sister was her 'in'. If he could be so infatuated with her sister, why not her? She had learned something valuable today, Tim wasn't a impenetrable, un-feeling jock and he now knew that she knew it too.
Julie decided that defining herself in the eyes of Riggins wouldn't be all that hard. She just had to differentiate herself from the clamouring hoards, which now included her best friend Lois. Who knew that one testosterone filled teenage boy with long, lank hair and soul filled eyes would garner so much of a female response? Well Julie was sure that those huge arms of him were a contributing factor, that was for sure.
Differentiation was the key. She needed to show that she knew Riggins was more than his reputation. He was more than a football. More than a guy from the wrong side of the tracks. More than a six-pack and an inside squelching voice. He was, well, more.
The trick was to get him to see her as more too. More than a sophomore. More than a blonde, more than the scary guidance counsellor's daughter. More than the coach's daughter. Just simply more. She knew she was sounding more and more like the cliché – the one about the good girl falling for the bad boy and trying to change him. The thing was Tim wasn't a bad boy, sure he was irresponsible with girls but he hadn't ever done anything that the other person wasn't fully okay with. Sure the copious amount of girls he had been with was extremely intimidating but they didn't know him. You just needed to see him with Gracie to know that the reputation was more than a little bunk. He hadn't really had much of a mother or father for that matter so a certain level of irresponsibility should be expected. The point was she would be different.
Julie knew that her former plan had been pretty rusty. None of it had really worked as far as she could tell. She had a new plan. One that involved using her sister for nefarious means and establishing a regular meet and bump at the bathroom every morning. The goal was to establish a friendship with Tim. He'd never really had much to do with girls outside the obvious. He was obviously comfortable in their presence and enjoyed speaking to them but he didn't have any chicks who were friends. Maybe she could make an exception for Tyra but they were arguing just as often as speaking so it didn't really count.
The next day she set her plan in motion. In the morning she made sure that Tim got in the shower before her. That involved creeping around the house in the pyjamas and garnering a perplexed look from her father.
"I am trying not to wake Gracie," she whispered as he shrugged his shoulders and ruffled his hair as he shuffled off. Sometimes he could be so clueless that it was actually beneficial. Glancing back at her dad with affection she peeked around the corner to see Tim entering the bathroom. He always tried to be first. Initially she believed it was just to annoy the bejesus out of her but now she realised that he intended to be less imposing on their family's morning schedule. Getting up before everyone, having a shower and perhaps helping out with Gracie were earning his mucho brownie points with the parentals.
Julie rushed back to her bedroom, checked her hair and face to make sure there was no dried drool on her face or crusties in the corners of her eyes. It was very necessary to brush her hair; you can't fight genetics she thought. She went next door into her parent's room and offered to change Gracie. The astonished looks on her parent's faces were priceless. She hurriedly changed the diaper and surmised that Gracie's effort could probably clear out a mall in two seconds flat. Julie picked Gracie up and looked at her. Her pudgy cheeks were spit stained and red. She was gorgeous. Julie blew a raspberry on Gracie's cheek and melted at the astonished expression that crossed her sister's face at the sound and sensation, and then a riot of giggles erupted from the little girl.
"It's so good to see you taking an interest in your sister Julie," her mom said down the hall to Julie as she hurried out of the room in anticipation of the Riggins Strike. Gracie looks particularly cute and Julie couldn't help but beam with pride at her baby sister. She waited around the corner as she heard the shower turn off and an assortment of other sounds. She made her move, baby in her arms. Her timing was perfect as she passed the bathroom door as it swung open. Steam from the room quickly filtered into the hallway and she could smell him. It was all she could do not to breath in multiple gulps of Tim-infused goodness. It was glorious. However not nearly as glorious as an unclothed, towel swathed Riggins with pools of water still sitting on his skin. It was enough for her toes to curl.
She faked surprise.
"Mornin' Tim," she continued on her way. Gracie was perfect. She gurgled at Tim over Julie's shoulder as they passed. She reminded herself to spend some more time with Gracie as the gurgle worked better than what she had originally planned. She swung around
"Looks like a certain lady wants to say good morning to you Tim" she tipped her head in Gracie's direction as Tim stared at her in his patent way. Julie could see him considering it and then melting when Gracie turned all her gurgles, charm and dimples onto the footballer. He had no chance, no chance at all. He bent down and moved his forefinger back and forth under Gracie's chin. She erupted into squeals as she seemed just as prone to Tim as her older sister was.
"Do you think...I could have a hold?" Tim asked looking at her like she was going to shoot him down. It didn't matter that Gracie was rocking in Julie's arms actively trying to mooch her way into Tim's arms.
"Well sure Tim. She seems to really like you," it wasn't a pick up line but she was hoping it would merit a response. He leaned forward and jimmed his hands under hers to get a good hold. Tim's hands on her chest, oh my.
"You think?" he seemed unsure. Glancing from Gracie to Julie, he seemed shocked at the thought. The little girl had grabbed his big hand and started gnawed on the finger that had tickled her chin.
"You're kidding me right? She's your number one fan," Julie added and she wasn't lying, her sister was more smitten than she was. He looked really pleased and something like a blush. Something about her face must have given away her shock as she looked at him.
"It's kind of new for me. Babies I mean. This is the first one I've known," he told her in his tummy tingling voice. It was at that precise moment that Julie realised that Tim really loved being a part of her family. He had obviously tried really hard to be invaluable to her parents and taking time with Gracie despite his lack of experience. In fact the only person he hadn't tried hard with was herself. That was a hard fact to swallow.
"I guess you are the youngest in your family right? Makes sense that your baby experience would be pretty limited," she offered.
"My family experience is pretty limited," Tim looked uncomfortable.
"Well that's not your fault. You've been here what? Four weeks? You've picked it up pretty quick if you ask me, in fact you are making me look bad,' she wanted him to feel better but it was the truth. She playfully punched him in the shoulder, bare, glistening shoulder to lighten the moment. Then he said something that killed the moment.
"Yeah I guess – the whole mom, dad and two baby sisters' deal". Ouch.