Tim Riggins was drunk. Very, very drunk.
For Tim, this was not an uncommon occurrence. Granted, most of the time he only got drunk to escape his personal problems. Despite his reputation as an easygoing ladies' man, he often turned maudlin and sentimental when he drank. It was a fairly new experience for him to be angry and drunk at the same time.
Worst thing about it, he wasn't even sure who the hell he was actually angry at. He obviously couldn't be mad at Jason. Jason was his best friend, and the best teammate he'd ever had, and... and he'd watched it happen, damn it all, watched him go down, and now he was stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, and how the hell was that any of his fault? And Coach... well, it was just foolish for anyone to have expected Coach Taylor to have taught every single possible protective maneuver to every position on the field. Especially not the quarterback; he was the guy who the rest of the team was supposed to watch out for, and he wasn't supposed to be hitting anybody else anyway. If anyone should have done something it should've been Tim himself, or at least that was what it felt like to him. He should've been there, should've done something, anything.
He took another drink, not that he needed any more. He felt sick, wondered if his body could take much more of it. Way he saw it, he was putting himself through enough to satisfy anyone. But the rage he felt didn't care; it needed another target, someone else who deserved it. Someone who wasn't too drunk to fight back.
Riggins sighed deeply and sat up, pushing himself up in his favorite chair, and did his best to take stock of the situation as best he could with a half-sodden brain. Jason paralyzed for life, and some nobody second-string quarterback like Matt Saracen taking his place. Hell, he hated himself for even daring to think that a quarterback like Jason could ever be replaced, let alone by a backup QB. He was just going to have to have a word with Matt and inform him precisely what he could and could not do, if he wanted to earn HIS respect.
A few hours and a few beers later, Tim was considerably drunker and becoming considerably more belligerent, which made it the worst possible time for there to be a knock at his door. But there it was, and when he wobbled out of his chair and opened the door he came face to face with no other than #7 himself, hands in his pockets, goofy look on his face.
"Hey," he said, looking relieved. If he noticed Tim's sorry state, he made no sign. "I, uh, wanted to come talk to you about some plays and stuff. I need to prepare for Coach -"
"What makes you think I would be able to help with that?"
Matt blinked, taken aback. "Well you're one of the best players we've got, and, uh, I just figured..."
The rage took over, and Tim snapped. "You figured I'd be all happy to see you, Saracen? You figured you could just waltz in and take Jason's place on this team? Well, you can forget it!"
Now Matt was never really one for getting upset with anyone, really. But clearly Tim was pushing all the right buttons for him. "What the hell do you think this is, some kind of witch hunt? Did your drunk ass stop for even one moment to consider what this is like for me?"
He'd noticed after all. Yeah. As if anyone couldn't see it. "Yeah, because it's been such a difficult time for you being healthy and not paralyzed for life -"
"You don't get it do you? Big Tim Riggins, Mr. Football Star, who's never had to work at it a day in his life! Try being the new QB after a football god like Jason Street gets hurt, forcing you to replace him. Being the head QB in a town that eats, sleeps, and breathes football to the point where if you so much as lose one game - one game! - all they wanna do is start tearing you apart! "
Tim wanted to answer. He wanted to say something, wanted to tell Matt to man up, wanted to tell him that Jason wouldn't have whined about a damn thing and if he wanted to be respected by this town he needed to shut up about how hard things were. Didn't he have any idea how lucky he was?
He didn't end up saying any of that. Even drunk, his reflexes were pretty goddamned good - they had to be, for him to get as far as he had - and Matt was too busy thinking of his next complaint to stop him when he charged, pushing him down to the ground.
The fight didn't last long. Honestly, caling it a fight was dignifying it far too much; Once they hit the floor the drunkenness fully kicked in, and Tim couldn't seem to hit him, or do anything but slap at him ineffectually. Matt, eyes wide, at least had the presence of mind to push him away, although with Tim's full weight on top of him he could only push so far.
After a while, though, the exertion started taking its toll. Tim stumbled back and held up his hands in surrender, his stomach roiling horribly from too much alcohol. Matt, his breathing labored from the scuffle and the attempts to push him away, sat back, watching him warily for a moment, seemingly unsure for a moment whether to punch Tim or run and grab a bucket.
For a second, Tim thought he'd be pretty damn grateful for the bucket.
After a while, Matt finally spoke. "Hey," he said. "You okay?"
No. No, he wasn't okay. He was drunk as hell and about to throw up. Still. "Yeah," he finally managed. "I'm fine."
"You need anything?" He cleared his throat. "Water, or… or something?"
"Hell, I'll take some if you want to get it," he said, still on his ass, leaning back now against the leg of a chair. Good thing his brother wasn't home. He'd never live this down. "Kitchen's that way."
"Right." Matt got up, came back with a couple of glasses, one already half-empty. He was breathing easier, at least, although he still watched Tim warily as he took a sip.
"Look, Tim," he finally said when Tim had put the glass down, shaking his head. "I didn't ask for this, and I'm sure as hell not prepared for it, but I'm gonna do it whether you like it or not. Not just for Coach and the rest of the team, but for myself as well, because otherwise I'd always be wondering what I could have done; what could have been."
"Yeah. I get that. Just give me some time to get used to... to all of this." He sighed, feeling a wave of the usual mawkishness come back over him. He wasn't sure if he missed the anger or not. "Look, Seven, this ain't... this ain't about me hatin' you, you know? Jason was my best friend, and after what happened, well, y'know."
"I know." Matt looked down miserably. "I wouldn't 've asked for a chance like this. You gotta know that."
"I do." Tim did his best to smile; it didn't quite come out right, he thought, but it was something. "Well. Guess the least I can do to honor his legacy is help you out, you know? Make sure the team keeps going."
"Sounds good to me. I mean... I know the plays, you know? But I've gotta know how to get the team to follow my lead. I've got a lot to prove to everybody if I wanna come close." He held out his hand. "So. Um. Friends?"
Tim almost laughed at that, but choked it down. He was trying, at least. "Yeah, Seven," he said, taking his and shaking it. "Friends."
"Thanks," Matt said. "So where do we start?"
Tim stood up - wobbly, but not quite as much so as he'd expected - and grabbed another beer. "Well, first of all," he said, passing it to Matt, "I teach you the single most important lesson on keeping a team together."
"Great," Matt said uncertainly, taking the beer. "What's that?"
"Male bonding." His stomach was settled, and what the hell. There was always room for another beer, although he'd let Matt catch up with him first. "And you're overdue for some practice, Seven. Better get started."