Disclaimer: I don't own anything hereand am just doing this for fun and to pass the long months until Season 4.
Author's Note: Thank you so much for the reviews on the last story.
I really struggled with this one and I'm still not sure it's exactly what I want, but I think it's as close as I can get it. The first one just came out so much more easily. I'm thinking because that one was from Julie's POV and this one is from Tim's and it's just hard to get inside that boy's head. At least that's what I'm telling myself. :)
For those of you who are sticklers for canon, I played a little loose with it here. This story takes place on the night Julie went to visit The Swede at his house. Tim was in Mexico then, but that was inconvenient for my story, so please consider this a mildly alternative universe.
Anyway, hope you enjoy it.
Tim stood in the middle of the deserted park with a bottle of Jack Daniels and a pocket full of rocks. He took out a rock, turned it over in his hand and threw it as hard as he could. He didn't bother watching it soar; it was too dark to see much further than twenty or thirty feet. He took a long drink of whiskey and pulled another rock from his pocket.
A few steps and then a quick turn, the rock flying out of his hand and travelling straight into the darkness between the trees. He heard the crunch as it hit a tree trunk. It was much more satisfying when the rock actually hit something.
He threw a few more rocks, aiming for different objects that might make interesting sounds. He was standing in target-rich environment, right on the edge of where the playground and baseball diamond met the woods. He decided that hitting the trees was the best, because it sounded almost like breaking bones.
It felt good – drinking and throwing rocks in the dark, quiet night. The silence and solitude suited him.
The last few days, it seemed like everyone wanted to point out how useless he was. Coach McGregor thought he couldn't play football and had no heart. Billy thought he couldn't have a serious relationship. Lyla thought he couldn't have an honest feeling that wasn't about getting into her pants. Honestly, he was sick of hearing what everyone thought of him.
He pulled out another rock, wound up, and then let go, following through with the grace of a big league pitcher. No satisfying crunch this time, only a shrill shriek.
"Are you trying to kill someone," snapped Julie, stalking out of the woods. Her shoulders were hunched and her arms were wrapped tightly around her upper body. Tim bet she had looked good when she'd left the house, in that sleeveless green shirt with a few loose curls framing her face. Now, though, she just looked like she was freezing and pissed off. Looking at her puffy red eyes and tear-stained face, Tim thought she was angry about more than nearly getting hit by a rock.
"Sorry, I didn't think-"
"No, I suppose you didn't," she interrupted, rolling her eyes.
"Are you okay?" he asked, already knowing the answer.
"I'm just fine," she said, biting off each word. "Try not to kill anyone."
She turned to leave, but he put a hand on her arm to stop her. "You want to tell me what's wrong?"
She shook her head but didn't move. Tim took his jacket off and put it around her shoulders. She looked at him with an expression he couldn't quite read. After a few beats, she slipped her arms into the sleeves and flipped up the collar so the warm sheepskin covered her neck. The jacket made her look smaller, younger and lost.
"It's complicated," started Julie. "You probably don't really want to hear it."
"If I didn't want to hear it, I wouldn't've asked. C'mon. Sit on the swings and talk to me."
Tim walked over and sat down on a swing, waiting for Julie to join him. She stood in front of him for a minute, looking at him skeptically. Then she surprised him by reaching out, grabbing the whiskey bottle and taking an aggressive pull that by rights should have had her red-faced and choking.
Her eyes widened and he could see a blush rising in her cheeks, but she got the liquor down without any of the sputtering he had expected. She handed the bottle back to him and collapsed on the swing next to him with a sigh. She hunched forward, her knees together but her lower legs sticking out in different directions, reminding Tim of Bambi on the ice.
Then she unleashed a torrent of words that Tim had a hard time keeping up with. Something about The Swede, who he guessed was that slimy lifeguard, and Seven and not wanting to end up like her mother and wanting more excitement and passion and a man who would know that the Bicycle Thief wasn't just some jerk who ran around stealing ten-speeds.
Maybe he didn't get all the words and the details, but he got the tone. Man, did he get the tone. He'd been there before. Hurt, confused, guilty, frustrated.
He drank as he listened. He wasn't sure he should be encouraging her to drink any more whiskey. With anyone else, he would have passed the bottle over without thinking. But she was still the Coach's daughter, even if the Coach wasn't his coach anymore. She solved the problem by reaching over and taking the bottle from him a few times. She seemed to have learned her lesson from the first pull and was limiting herself to dainty little sips.
"Can I ask you a question," she said suddenly, turning to face him.
"Last year, after.....well....after Jason found out about you and Lyla....did you think or expect or hope that she'd be with you then?"
"Well, she'd already ended things with me a couple of weeks before. So we were already over."
"That's not what I asked. What did you want? Did you want to be with her?"
It seemed like her eyes were looking clear through him and he nearly thought she could see the answer without him saying anything. He turned the bottle around in his hands, watching the amber liquid sway.
"Nevermind. You don't have to answer. It was probably rude of me to ask," said Julie quickly.
He shook his head. "No, it's fine. I'm just thinkin'....I don't know what I wanted. Let's put it this way – I wouldn't've said no if she'd come back to me."
"Well, you seem to have gotten over her anyway," said Julie.
"What makes you say that?" He turned his head and met her eyes with a concentrated stare.
"I was at the pool all summer, remember? You seemed like you were doing just fine."
Tim smiled at his summer memories: a hot, drunken haze filled with all kinds of girls. A nearly perfect summer, except for the tiny gnat of loneliness that had buzzed in the back of his mind the whole time.
"I don't know, Taylor. What do they say about books? Can't judge 'em by the cover."
Julie leaned back in the swing, her long hair nearly brushing the ground. She stretched her back and giggled as the blood, and probably the liquor, all rushed to her head. She sat back up and looked at Tim, suddenly emboldened.
"Well, now you know all my problems. Why don't you tell me yours?"
Tim shrugged and looked away.
"Don't have any," he said, taking another long sip of whiskey.
"Yeah, right. That's why you're sitting out here alone, in the middle of the night, drinking and throwing rocks at things." Julie's eyes were as skeptical as her voice and Tim felt pinned in place.
"All right," he conceded with a small smile. "Maybe I have a problem or two."
"So why are you out here?"
"No where else to go, really, I guess."
"You have a home, Tim. I've driven past it, seen the big #33 sign out front and everything."
"Yeah, well, in that home is my brother, who I can't look at without wanting to punch, because I just found out he's been screwing my ex-girlfriend."
"Wait a minute," Julie interrupted. "Billy's with Tyra? I mean I know she's been all mysterious and evasive lately but Billy? For real?"
"No, not Tyra. Jackie, our next-door neighbor."
"Oh, the old lady."
Tim took another drink and wondered what else Tyra had told Julie.
"Have you...um...talked to Billy about this?"
"Yeah, Taylor. That's why I'm mad. If he was just banging her, that would be one thing. But he said a bunch of stuff about how could I expect to have a real relationship with her."
"So it wasn't just a fling?"
"Not to me, it wasn't. Maybe it was to her, I don't know. But it was nice...like being part of a family, having dinner with her and Bo, picking him up from school, falling asleep in front of the TV, having someone who cared what time I came home."
"But she ended it with you?"
"Yeah. Something about not wanting to confuse Bo or hurt him or whatever. Now Billy tells me that I'm only a 17 year-old kid and she's a 32 year-old woman and I can't even take care of myself so how could I take care of her."
"No one's serious at 17," said Julie, her voice taking on a dreamy quality.
"Oh, it's just from a poem, called Novel," Julie shook her head, like someone trying to snap out of a trance.
"How's the rest of it go?"
Julie waved a hand dismissively and spoke quickly. "Oh, you don't want to hear the whole thing. It's really long. Interesting and beautiful, but long."
"Like pages and pages long?"
"No, like a page."
"Go ahead," he said with a small, encouraging nod.
"No, really, you're going to be bored."
"Taylor," said Tim, his voice dropping to its rumbling bedroom tone that always worked on girls. "Please?"
Julie blushed and looked down. "Okay."
She took a deep breath and then began reciting the poem, slowly and clearly, her voice becoming more animated as she spoke.
No one's serious at seventeen.
--On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade
And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need
--You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade.
Lindens smell fine on fine June nights!
Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes;
The wind brings sounds--the town is near--
And carries scents of vineyards and beer. . .
--Over there, framed by a branch
You can see a little patch of dark blue
Stung by a sinister star that fades
With faint quiverings, so small and white. . .
June nights! Seventeen!--Drink it in. The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels
Sap is champagne, it goes to your head. . .
The mind wanders, you feel a kiss
On your lips, quivering like a living thing. . .
--And when a young girl walks alluringly
Through a streetlamp's pale light, beneath the ominous shadow
Of her father's starched collar. . .
The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels
Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping, You're in love. Off the market till August. That night. . .you return to the blinding cafés;
She turns on a dime, eyes wide,
Finding you too sweet to resist. . .
--And cavatinas die on your lips.
You're in love.--Your sonnets make Her laugh.
Your friends are gone, you're bad news.
--Then, one night, your beloved, writes. . .!
You order beer or lemonade. . .
--No one's serious at seventeen
When lindens line the promenade.
You're in love. Off the market till August.
That night. . .you return to the blinding cafés;
Julie looked over at Tim, who was leaning back in the swing and staring up at the sky. He turned toward her.
"Nice," he said softly.
"It's very wistful. And Rimbaud, he wrote that back in 1870."
"What? You didn't think they had teenagers in 1870?"
Tim closed his mouth tight and shook his head. "No, I knew they had teenagers but I thought they were all off wearing those frilly collars and working in coal mines. I didn't think they were all drinking beer and making out."
She laughed, but it wasn't the sort of laugh Tim was used to hearing. She'd found his words funny, not his stupidity.
Julie walked backwards a few steps and then let herself go, pumping her legs in long, even strokes to send the swing higher and higher. Tim twisted slightly to watch her, but kept his feet firmly on the ground.
Without warning, she launched herself from the swing and flew through the air. Tim was up and out of his swing in a second, although it wasn't like he could do anything to stop or save her. She landed on her feet hard, stumbled and then recovered.
"I've always loved the swings, especially jumping from them," she said with a small smile, as though that explained everything.
"Maybe it's about time we get you home," said Tim. "I'm sure you have a curfew."
Julie shrugged. "I haven't been paying too much attention to that kind of stuff lately."
"You know you're lucky to have your family, right?" said Tim, feeling like he was inching out onto a greased pole suspended over a whole lot of not-his-business, but he somehow couldn't stop himself.
"What was that you said about books? Appearances can be deceiving," replied Julie with a bitter laugh.
"What do you mean?"
"Let's just say the Taylor family isn't going to win any happy family awards this year," said Julie, trying to blink away a few tears. She took a deep breath. "But you're right. I should go home."
"C'mon, I'll walk with you."
"I'm fine. It's only like four blocks. I am completely capable of walking myself home."
"I know you are," he said. "But let me walk you home anyway."
She shrugged noncommittally. "Let's go then."
They walked in silence for the few minutes that it took to cross the park and exit onto the street. Tim matched Julie's pace, which was a good bit slower than he'd normally walk. It also seemed to him like she was slowing down by degrees, prolonging the walk for as long as possible.
Julie was subdued and a little wobbly on her feet. When she tripped over a crack in the sidewalk, Tim reached out and steadied her without thinking about it. He found he wanted to keep an arm around her, but resisted. They were just friends, barely friends, and she was still, as he kept reminding himself, the Coach's daughter.
"You're better off without him, that Anton guy, you know that, right?" asked Tim when they were about two blocks from her house.
"Is that what you think?" Julie's tone was unreadable. Might be amused, might be mocking, might be plain curiosity.
"It is. He's kinda....gross. Don't you think? He always looks like he needs a shower."
Julie laughed. "Hello, Pot. I'd like you to meet my good friend Kettle. I'm sure you'll both have a lot to talk about.... Seriously, have you even washed your hair in the last week?"
"Yes," said Tim, after a long pause.
"But you had to think about it," squealed Julie triumphantly.
Tim sighed. "You're missing the point. He's not right for you."
"And who is then? Matt Saracen?" No mistaking her tone on there: pure pissed and annoyed, all the way.
"I didn't say that. It's just my opinion, but hear me out. He's what, like 23? What's he want with a 16 year-old girl?"
"Excuse me? You're going to lecture me about age differences? I don't think so."
"That's different. It's different for girls," said Tim, feeling like he was watching his pleasant evening go up in flames.
"Why? Because we might become all emotionally attached and start treating it like a real relationship, with deep feelings and a future, when really it's just a fling?"
"I don't think that just happens to girls." She looked at him, but didn't say anything else. She didn't need to because her eyes said it all: It happened to you, with that old lady.
When they reached her street, he stopped at the corner. Her house was in sight, the porch light shining like a beacon. The living room lights were blazing and Tim watched as someone, Coach probably, walked up to the window and looked out. Reflexively, Tim took a step back into the shadow of a tree.
"OK, Taylor, this is as far as I go," he said.
Julie shrugged off his jacket and handed it back to him. "Well, uh....thanks for....a nice night."
"No worries," he said, slipping his arms back into his jacket.
Julie took a step toward her house then turned back to him. She closed the space between them, then stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek, her hand resting on his chest for balance. He managed to resist the urge to put his arms around her and keep her there, but only just.
He leaned against the tree as he watched her cut diagonally across the street and then walk up the driveway to her house. She had a hand on the door knob when she looked back, blinking in the brightness of the porch light. Tim didn't think she could see him, but he nodded anyway.
He watched her until she was in the house and had closed the door behind her. He buttoned his jacket against the wind, savoring the smell of her, a flowery, faintly citrus smell.
Tim felt something shift inside of him, something nameless but forceful. It was because she looked back. It probably meant nothing (No one is serious at seventeen), but it was still something to him.