Jason Street orders nothing but pie the first time he comes in. Herc orders a steak, medium rare, and makes a decent attempt at grabbing her ass on the way out.
The next time, Jason comes in alone, and Tyra gives him pie on the house.
Tyra laughs at that a little, because nice is one thing the apartment probably isn't - it's small, and it's cramped, and she can already hear her neighbours yelling, but it's hers, and that more than makes up for the rest of it. So she just smiles, and puts the box she's carrying down against the far wall. "It needs a coat of paint."
"I can help you with that," he volunteers, and she smiles a little wider.
"Yeah. Told you I'd be good for something." It's his usual self-deprecating humour, but she doesn't call him on it; there's no bite to it, and the self-pity is long gone from his expression.
But first, she has to move the rest of the boxes up from her car. He isn't much help with that, he admits with a laugh, and she shrugs it off; it isn't like there's much to carry, and when she's finished with the last of them, he's already started laying out her clothes on the bed.
"Are you going to dress me now?"
"Is that an offer?" She doesn't answer, but he looks away first; she'll put the clothes away later. "So. Hardware store?"
She takes a moment to cringe at the mental arithmetic, paint and rollers and paintbrushes, and Jason nudges her with his chair; "I think Herc's got some stuff left over from when he moved in," and she smiles.
(There are times when she wishes she'd moved further away from home, but this isn't one of them.)
"Most people eat real food for dinner, you know."
He just smiles at her, like he knows she's going to serve him anyway; she tucks the order pad back into her pocket.
"Give me a break," he says. "I like pie."
"I can see that." And she rolls her eyes as she walks away - he's going to give himself a heart attack before he's thirty if this is the way he eats - but she asks for extra whipped cream, and he tips big when he leaves.
"Toasted pine nut." An hour later, and she's starting to think it might have been worth the strain on her budget to buy her own.
Jason laughs and picks up another can. "Peacock plume."
"Kind of green, I think. Wait - carriage door."
She shakes her head. "This is going to be an interesting paint job."
"At least it's better than blue and white."
Marginally. She wonders if she'll miss Friday night football. "Oh, reddish. Well, it's descriptive, I guess."
Jason's still laughing, and she gathers up the supplies.
"All right. Let's grab what we can and head back."
"You want some?"
He's holding out his fork when she looks up, biology experiments and English papers warring in her head, and this goofy grin on his face like everything can be made better with pie. Tyra's not sure she believes it - her final grade is resting on this essay, and she never thought she'd care, really - but she takes it anyway, closing her eyes as her tongue hits the sharp metal.
An hour after her shift is over, her homework is spread out over the table, and he's still here, sitting across from her as if he doesn't have any place better to be. She frowns, bent over a tattered copy of whatever she's supposed to be reading (it's maybe a novel; she's been at this a long time), runs her pen unconsciously over her bottom lip. When she glances up, he's staring at her, and she tucks a lock of hair behind her ear.
"What?" She smiles nervously; he shrugs, leans back.
"You want to do this?"
He laughs, the luxury of someone who doesn't have to worry about graduation; once upon a time, she thinks their positions would have been reversed.
"Hell, no. What's it about?"
She shakes her head, closes the book with a sigh. "I honestly have no idea. I think my brain is fried."
He nods, taking it under serious consideration. "You know what's good for that?"
"If you say pie, I'm going to kill you."
"You need to take a break."
That's really the last thing she needs; what she needs is to have paid more attention in class, fewer absences on her record and maybe enough cash to get into a proper school. "What did you have in mind?"
"Get some rest. I'll see you tomorrow."
"We probably should have used primer."
"You think?" She tears her gaze away from the wall, trying not to care that the old paint's already bleeding through. "Some help you turned out to be."
"I got us the paint, didn't i?"
She really should have shelled out for something new.
"We'll just use an extra coat. It'll be fine." He sounds more confident than he looks, and she can't help but smile at the flecks of paint in his hair.
"Yeah." If nothing else, it'll be individual. "So. Do you want a drink? There's water."
"You really need to go shopping," Jason says, but he takes the glass when she hands it to him. There's a lot she really needs to do. She doesn't even have textbooks, yet.
"What are you -" She jumps a little when his hand brushes her arm, pretends her heart isn't racing.
"Paint," he explains, grins at her. The flush on her cheeks probably isn't subtle, and she rest a hand on her hip. "On your cheek, too."
She'd let him brush it off, but she'd need to sit down, first; she leans against the counter. "I'll take a shower later."
"Can I stay?"
She doesn't answer that, either, but it's not discomfort that hangs in the air.
"Well, well. What do we have here? Couldn't stay away from me, huh?"
Tyra ignores Herc as she brushes past him into the apartment, shoots a smile at Jason.
"You ready for the big game?" He's grinning, looking happier than she's seen him in a long time; once a football star, she thinks.
"It depends. Are you going to win?"
She steps aside, follows him out to the sidewalk. She slides into the backseat behind him, and it isn't until they've pulled away that he turns to answer her.
"We're going to kick some ass."
Jason's at the door almost before the doorbell stops ringing; he's smiling, and now she knows why she came here.
"Is that it?"
Deep breath. "Yeah."
"Are you going to open it?"
She's still standing on his threshold, envelope in one hand. She can do this.
(In her worst moments, she thinks it's not like it's going to change anything, anyway. In her best, she thinks it's going to change everything.)
"Do you maybe have something to drink?"
She follows him inside, takes the can he offers. Jason looks up. "Well?"
She doesn't rip it open; later, maybe, she'll rip it to shreds. "Dear Ms Collette," she reads, and her breath catches.
She realises she hasn't spoken in a while. Smiles, slowly. "Yeah."
"You got in." It's not a question; he speaks as though it never was. "That means we have to celebrate."
The game is quicker than she expected, brutal; after years of Dillon football, she shouldn't be surprised. The first time Jason scores, she jumps up from her seat, cheers; he glances up from the court, waves a little before setting off again, and she smiles.
In the end, his team wipes the floor with their opponents, and he looks every inch the Jason Street she knows.
The bar isn't exactly full; it's early, and Jason orders them a pitcher of beer while she goes to find a table.
She's going to college.
More importantly, she's leaving Dillon.
"Here's to you," shocks her out of her reverie; Jason pours them both a glass, and she raises hers.
"To me," she echoes. The words ring in her ears.
"So, any big plans for the summer? When are you leaving?"
As soon as possible, she doesn't say. With her way out of town sitting in Jason's apartment, Dillon doesn't seem so suffocating.
"Soon," she says, shrugs. "I guess."
"Do you have a place to live?"
There's a lot to think about.
By the time the bottle's half empty, Jason's smiling again, half-sitting up in the hospital bed as Tyra rolls back and forth in his wheelchair.
"Remember when you and Tim thought it would be a great idea to sneak into the school the night before your first game?"
His face darkens at that, but only for a moment; she doesn't bother to ask what it's about. "Yeah, I remember. We'd just made JV, thought we were big football stars."
He was, even back then; no-one ever doubted he'd make it big. Her hands falter on the wheels of the chair, but this isn't about feeling sorry. "Billy's going on about how this is his ticket to the big leagues, and he just snaps -"
"He calls me up, and he's all like, Six, we gotta do something big."
"Commemorate the occasion. Nearly got the two of you kicked off the team."
"Coach put his ass on the line for us. He's in there yelling, and he comes out, and Tim's got this stupid grin on his face -"
"I know the one." He thought he was untouchable, sometimes; sometimes, he was right.
"And then Coach starts yelling at us, saying how we don't deserve it, he ought to bench us for the rest of the year."
They'd crushed their opponents the next night; Tim barely remembered the game the next morning. (Sometimes, she thought he'd grow out of it.)
They don't talk about what he's going to do now; Tyra takes the bottle, and Jason's fingers wrap around hers.
The pitcher sits empty between them, and Tyra leans forward. "Dance with me."
Jason shakes his head, and she can barely hear his words over the pulse of music and other peoples' conversations. She's not sure how long they've been here; her head is spinning, a little.
"I can't dance."
She shakes her head like that's not what she meant; she wonders if she forgot. "Roll with me, then."
He laughs, close to her ear, and when she gets up, he follows her. The edge of what could generously be termed the dance floor, and he sits while she sways in time, smiling as she looks back at him.
He's smiling, too, and she thinks, I'm leaving.
Jason's already at the café when she gets there; she'd tell him he doesn't have to come see her every day, but he'd smiled once, said what else am I going to do? and it's not like she's great at making new friends.
He orders pie, and she gives him a look - When are you going to start eating real food? - but he just shrugs.
After a minute, she orders the same.
"You guys have a lot of movies."
Herc spares her a glance as he comes out of the kitchen, hands her a beer; it's a little early in the day, but she takes it, anyway.
Jason shrugs. "I'm home a lot."
She'd been counting down the days until she could stop studying, making lists in her mind of all the things she'd rather be doing. Graduation, it turned out, like a lot of other things, was anticlimactic; she's got a lot of time on her hands.
She takes a drink, picks a movie at random, settles down on the floor beside Jason.
Halfway through, he takes her hand.
The last of her ice cream is already melting, Texas summer beating down on her shoulders, and she licks the rest off her spoon.
"So," Jason says, and he's watching her in a way that makes her want to look away. "What are we doing now?"
She doesn't have class this afternoon, and he knows it; she shrugs, and pushes her plate away. "I guess I could show you around."
It's not like she really knows her way around, either - it's not a small town, not Dillon, and that's most of the appeal. He smiles. "Sounds good."
(If they were both walking, she thinks he'd take her arm; she rests her hand on his shoulder, instead.)
"It's hot," she complains, and Herc leers at her; she's ready for the suggestion, when it comes, that she's welcome to take all her clothes off.
She shoots him a dirty look, and plucks at the fabric of her shirt.
It takes her the better part of an hour to show him what she does know of the area; she points out a few local landmarks, probably fudging half the details, and he plays along.
Eventually, it becomes a game.
"And this is the home of Texas' famed symphony orchestra," she says; she's long since given up pretending she knows what she's talking about. Jason nods, and when she explains about the upcoming classical music Olympics, he adds some details of his own.
"I hear the classical decathlon's the hardest event," and they're both laughing. "Ten instruments, no break."
"Very hard to get into that," she agrees, and now they're back on familiar ground.
"And this is your place." She tells herself she hadn't even thought of it when she'd moved into the first floor.
She doesn't pause too long to think. "Do you want to come in?"
She's suggest going down to the pool; Herc would agree, she's sure, but she doesn't think she wants to be responsible for him trying to pick up fifteen-year-old girls.
Jason smiles like he's got an idea, and she waits for the payoff. He disappears into the kitchen instead, and when he returns, he's carrying a hose.
She doesn't have time to ask before he turns it on her, and she shrieks a little as the cold water hits her. She has the advantage, though, and ducks the next spray half-successfully; wrestles the hose from his hands, and her eyes lock with his a moment before he's drenched.
"Not fair," he protests, but he's the one who started this; as he grabs her, wrestles her onto the chair, she lets go, and hopes they're prepared for the next water bill.
"Cripple porn?" and she's laughing; Jason's trying hard to look offended, not succeeding very well.
"It was a long time ago," is all he'll say, and they're very close together.
Does it help? she's going to ask, and then he kisses her, one arm resting along hers; she shuffles closer, almost laying on the couch.
(His arms are stronger than she expects, and when he pulls her down on top of him, her hands fall along his shoulders.)
The walls are thin, but she still cries out.
She's half-draped over Jason as she pushes the hair back from her eyes, struggles to stand up. Her shirt is sticking to her skin, and she squeezes the water out of it; he does the same, grinning up at her.
(Her cheeks are still flushed, but not from the heat, any more.)
She doesn't miss the pointed look Herc shoots Jason as he touches her arm, and she glances away.
"I really have to get to class," but it's a half-hearted protest; his hands grip her waist, and she leans closer.
When she finally gets dressed, she's running late, but Jason's smiling.
"I'll meet you on campus," he says, and she knows he will; after a minute, she has to come back to get her books.
"I'll see you there."