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Little Daisy

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"Whoa. Who's the new girl?" Tim asks Smash, turning his head to watch as she strides past him.

"What new girl?" Smash asks, looking around in confusion.

"That one." Tim says, pulling Smash aside and pointing the girl out. She's at her locker, pulling out books. She's normal height, wearing flip-flops, a tee shirt, and work out shorts. She stands out from all the perfectly polished girls in their dresses, skirts, and heels. She's tan, but the kind one gets from being outside, not from a machine. Her long blonde hair is pulled up in a ponytail and is wavy, almost fizzy. She looks annoyed.

"I ain't ever seen her before." Smash appraises.

"That's cause she's new, dumbass." Tim informs him, rolling his eyes. Smash grins, rolls his shoulders, and fairly struts over to her locker. She moves it, then notices him leaning against the wall, smirking. She gives him a once over with an indifferent face then stares at him.

"Can I help you?" She asks blandly. Tim snickers and she leans past Smash, face still unimpressed to see Tim. "What about you, Pocahontas? Can you see me from behind those bad 80's bangs?" She asks coldly. He instantly stops snickering and straightens up. Satisfied, she turns her attention back to Smash. "Now what do you want?" She demands.

"Well, we just figured since you're new and all, you'd need some guidance." Smash stutters slightly, thrown off his game by her cold reaction. She smiles, but the humor doesn't reach her eyes.

"Aw, y'all are so concerned for the damsel in distress." She says, Texan accent exaggerated, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Please." She scoffs, reverting back to her own accent and slamming her locker. "My elementary school was bigger than this shit hole. I think I can find my way around hokey pokey Texas." With that she spins on her heel and stomps off, ponytail swishing. Smash gives Tim a shocked look. Tim tries to stifle his laughter.

 

"Fuck." He mutters, slamming the hood of his truck down. It's hot and the truck must've overheated again. He knows he has to replace the radiator but that hadn't ranked higher than beer on his priorities last week, leaving him in his currant situation.

"Yeah, fuck is a good word, cause you're fucked." A voice says, behind him. He glances over his shoulder, pissed. The new girl from this morning is standing a ways behind him, arms folded.

"Well thanks for the vote of faith." He says sarcastically.

"Hard to give that when you don't have faith in much of anything." She says quietly and he eyes her, unsure of her meaning. "C'mon, I'll give you a ride home." She offers, waving him over.

"How do you know where I live?" He questions, surprised.

"Please, like I could miss it, with all your damn signs letting me know exactly who you are and what you do. Tim Riggins, fullback, number 33, on the Panthers, the pride of Dillon." She quotes, sounding sarcastic.

"You live by me?" He asks, confused. She sighs and uncrosses her arms, checking her watch peevishly.

"Listen, say yes to my offer now and I'll take you home even though you smell like disgusting boy sweat and booze." She offers him, ignoring the question. "Turn me down and you can walk home in 100 degree weather." He deliberates for a second then grabs his bag and keys. She doesn't smile, just turns and leads him to a small but clean car.

"How'd you know who I am?" He asks, climbing in. She gives a humorless laugh, starting the car.

"Oh my god, there's Tim. When do y'all think he's gonna break up with Tyra? I don't know, cause I heard from Allie that Emma told her that he hooked up with Cali last week, but I don't even care! Gawd, look at dem arms." She mocks, her over the top Texan accent back. "This town acts like there's nothing better to talk about than where a football player puts his penis." She mutters.

"Football is everything in this town." He informs her, intrigued by her lack of interest towards football players.

"What? Really? And here I thought my dad had dragged me down here for the education I was gonna get." She says, feigning surprise.

"What's your name?" He asks, after a pause of silence.

"You might as well just call me Rae." She says shortly.

"I'm Tim." He says, after an awkward pause.

"I know your name, you dumbass." She says, giving him a look. "Were you even listening this entire time?"

"Yes." He says defensively. She rolls her eyes. "What year are you?" He asks, just trying to make any sort of conversation at this point.

"Junior." She mutters darkly.

"If we're the same age, how come you aren't in any of my classes?" He realizes that he's only ever seen her in the hallways.

"Because I'm in the senior classes. At my old school, I was gonna be in college classes this year. And you guys don't even have a community college that I can get my generals done at." She grumbles.

"You're in senior classes?" He asks, awed, unable to move past that. She shoots him a look.

"Yeah. Advanced Calc, Advanced English Lit, Biology, Modern History of America, those classes." She lists off. He vaguely remembers seeing those on a form for classes.

"So you're smart." He guesses.

"And you're dumb." She deadpans. "No offense." He stares at her. She glances at him, then sighs and rolls her eyes, throwing her hands up. "What, like you're insulted? You're a football player living on the wrong side of the tracks who has a broken truck, a track record of sleeping with girls, and an empty flask in your backpack. Don't try and tell me that I'm not right." She spits. They sit in silence for nearly the rest of the car ride.

"Doesn't mean I'm dumb." He finally mutters. She pulls to a stop in front of his house. He climbs out and bends down in front of her window, meaning to thank her for the ride.

"Of course you're dumb. You're from Texas." She says, patting his cheek then speeding off before he can even respond. He watches her car disappear into a driveway, furious.

Chapter Text

He doesn’t see her again for a while, not really, except for in the hallways. With that first game, Jason’s terrible injury, and his problems with Lyla; Rae, her shitty attitude and issues with Texas fade to the back of his mind. It isn’t until Rivalry Week that she pops back up.

He’s sitting at the party, more than a couple beers in, watching as half naked rally girls dance with third string kids. He looks up and sees Coach’s daughter Julie looking around in mild disgust. Rae is behind her, disinterested. When a kids heaves, she sidesteps the puke easily. Julie isn’t as lucky and disappears.

“Toss me a beer.” He orders of a freshman near the cooler. Rae reaches into the cooler before the kid can and produces a beer, lobbing it to him. Then she grabs one of her own and takes a long drink. He watches her contemplatively and when she finishes it, she reaches down and grabs another beer.

“Because I know you’ll need it soon enough.” She says, setting it next to him and walking away. He looks at the beer for a long moment then cracks it open and downs it.

 

He sees her at the pep rally, standing next to Julie and looking supremely annoyed at everything. His eyes quickly bounce to Lyla and her short little skirt but the sense of guilt overwhelms him. He looks back to Rae and almost starts laughing when he sees that she’s flicking pieces of dirt off the bleachers and towards the cheerleaders. She looks up and catches his eye. Her mouth twitches into a knowing smile and she leans back.

 

It’s the Sunday after the game. He’s sitting in the back of his truck when crunching gravel alerts him to the fact that another car is pulling up. He turns, only to spit in disgust when he realizes it’s Rae’s car parking next to him.

“Is that how you boys greet a lady in Texas?’ She demands, climbing out and folding her arms.

“You think Texas is dumb, so why do I gotta treat you like a lady?” He sasses, pointedly unfriendly.

“Ooh, good point Riggins. Maybe you’re not so dumb after all.” She says, undeterred, climbing into the truck bed.

“What are you doing out here?” He asks, not bothering to kick his beer cans to the side to make room for her.

“Same idea as you. Wanted to shoot at anything and everything.” She reveals, pulling a .22 out of its carrying case.

“You shoot?” He asks, surprised.

“Of course I can and I bet it’s better than you.” She mutters, lining up her shot then firing. One of the tin cans he had placed in the field falls from the ledge. She smirks and lowers the gun.

“Where’d you learn to shoot?” He demands, staring at the gun.

“Same place I learned to crawl, walk, run, fish, hunt, and survive. Northern Minnesota.” She states, a faraway look in her eye.

“No wonder you sound funny.” He mutters. She gives him an affronted look and kicks an empty beer can at him.

“I’m damn proud of my accent. I don’t sound like you backwards hicks and I never want to.” She vows fiercely.

“If all you’re gonna do is insult Texas, why are you in the bed of my truck?” He points out, getting angrier by the second.

“I wanted to tell you good game. I also wanna ask you questions about this place and I’m not gonna go to the cheer brigade or the Barbie dolls or any of the jocks who wanna know if my ‘pretty little ass has ever felt the touch of a strong Texan man’.” She reveals, stealing a beer and drinking some. He snickers at the last part and takes a swig of beer.

“So you came down to me.” He says slowly, surprised that she turned to him. He is still fairly certain that she hates him.

“And so I came down to you.” She repeats, toasting the field and chugging the rest of the beer.

“Well whatca wanna know?” He asks, reclining against the cab.

“Are you guys really ranked as the number one team by EPSN?” She asks, with narrowed eyes.

“You bet your ass we are.” He says proudly.

“Do football players get a free ride around here just because they’re football players?” She fires off. He hesitates and she rolls her eyes. “That’s a yes. Is it true that the Jason kid is never gonna walk again?” He clenches his fist, crushing the can in hand. She notices.

“I sure hope not.” He says, through gritted teeth. She watches him.

“He was your best friend, wasn’t he?” She asks softly.

“He is my best friend.” He corrects her.

“Then why are you sleeping with his girlfriend?” She wonders aloud. His head snaps up and he stares at her. “I’m observant.” She says, by way of explanation. Then she hops out of the truck. “It really was a good game. And I don’t even like football.” She compliments then climbs in her car and leaves.

 

A couple days later, Tim nudges Matt in the hall.

“What do you know about her?” He asks quietly, nodding towards Rae. Matt’s forehead wrinkles in confusion.

“Uh, well she’s new.” He states, scratching his head. “Uh, she’s from Minnesota, maybe? Oh, her name’s Maisie Brooks. She dances. I remember seeing her at Julie’s recital.” He says. Tim gives him a sharp look.

“I thought her name was Rae.” He says. Matt shrugs.

“On the paper it said Maisie. She had a solo.” He insists, before hurrying off to class. Tim debates it for a second then chases after Rae, catching her arm and spinning her around.

“What?” She demands, wrenching her arm from his grasp in annoyance that he’s keeping her from class.

“You’re a liar. You said your name was Rae. It’s Maisie.” He accuses her, without preamble. She stares up at him defiantly.

“You haven’t earned the right to call me that. You can call me Rae or don’t call me anything.” She hisses furiously, smacking his chest then storming off to class. He’s left in a trail of her dust, confused.

 

He doesn’t put much thought into her outburst, not with his adventure with Lyla and Jason out to the lake weighing so heavily on his mind. When Lyla insists they end things, he agrees. He sees Rae at school and he feels the anger boil up and he’s not sure if it’s at her, Lyla, or himself.

And then it’s homecoming week and he’s out running one morning, trying to keep himself busy so his hands don’t reach for a bottle of something or another. He’s got his headphones in, so it’s sheer instinct when he feels someone running alongside him. He glances over and is surprised to see Rae keeping pace with him, her own headphones in. He reaches over and yanks one out.

“What are you doing?” He demands, still jogging.

“Running?” She suggests sarcastically. Her breathing is calm and steady, not ragged like his.

“Why are you running with me?” He spells out for her, annoyed at her calm attitude and effortless form.

“Hmmm, lets see. Rae running alone, probably gonna get raped.” She contemplates. “Rae running with Tim, whoa, and look at how that probability drops!” She says, with fake surprise.

“You wouldn’t get attacked in Dillon.” He claims.

“Tell that to the Castor kid in the hospital. And didn’t your teammate do that?” She points out and he skids to a stop. She jogs a couple feet then stops and spins, realizing he’s stopped.

“You know, you talk a lot of shit for a girl who doesn’t use her real name and acts like this is the worst place to live.” He accuses, pissed. She’s watching him, aware that he’s actually upset.

“I’m not gonna say sorry.” She says quietly. He opens his mouth but she cuts him off. “But I know I come off like a bitch, because I am one. I did not want to come here. My dad dragged my ass here, screaming and kicking, from Minnesota. I’ve got some pent up anger issues, ok? Maybe you can relate to that.” She says, not breaking eye contact. Sighing, he walks to catch up with her and they walk together, catching their breath in the heat.

“I don’t have a dad. Mine walked out.” He divulges, before he can help himself. She looks up at him, a funny expression on her face.

“I’d rather have a dad that walked out than a dad who drags his kids across the country to escape his grief.” She says quietly. Tim looks down at her, wondering what kind of grief she’s escaping. Her mouth is a tight line and her eyes are struggling not to tear up. Sensing that she’d only lash out if he keeps pushing, he changes the subject.

“So, are you going to go to the homecoming game?” He asks. She laughs her little humorless laugh.

“Why, you want me to wear your jersey? Paint a little ‘33’ on my cheek? Have a good time with you after like all those rally girls?” She says sarcastically and he flushes red.

“That’s not what I meant.” He says hotly. She looks up at him, amused that she got such a reaction from him.

“I know. I was teasing, Riggins. Julie invited me. I think she feels like since she’s the coach’s daughter, it’s her job to take in the social outcasts like me.” She says softly, biting her lip.

“You, uh, know her from dance, right?” He stutters, rubbing the back of his head. She grins up at him, an actual smile.

“You’re not as dumb as you look. How’d you know I danced?” She asks curiously. He chuckles; glad she’s not angry.

“Matt, actually. I guess he went to the recital cause he has a thing for coach’s daughter.” He reveals. She laughs and he’s surprised at how pretty it is. How pretty she is when she’s relaxed.

“That’s a recipe for disaster, trust me.” She says, eyes twinkling.

“Yeah, the kid might be a hell of a QB when he wants to be, but he’s got nothing with the ladies.” He says, grinning himself.

“And what about you, Tim Riggins? Do you got it all with the ladies?” She asks and he opens his mouth, unsure of what’s going to come out. She reaches up and closes it. “Don’t tell me. I like you better that way.” She says, grinning mischievously. Her hand moves to his cheek. “Thanks for the walk, Tim Riggins.” With a jolt, he realizes they’re in front of her house. “Good luck on your game. See if you can find me in the stands.” She says softly, then jogs up the sidewalk and her porch. He stares after her, mouth open, mind a jumble.

 

He doesn’t remember her request until the fourth quarter. Smash is on the sidelines and he has a mountain of work ahead of him. In the brief moments before the offense has to go back on the field, he looks up, scanning the crowd. By some miracle, he spots her, surrounded on all sides by the many men of the town. Julie is next to her, eyeing the scoreboard anxiously. Rae sees his face turned towards the crowd. She grins and raises her hand with the fingers crossed. He grins then sprints out onto the field after his team.

 

She finds him at Tyra’s party, oddly enough. He’s sitting on the hood of his truck, watching the party broodingly.

“Shouldn’t the new kid be the one on the outskirts of the party, not the star of the game?” She asks, and he can’t help the way his eyes travel up her long, tan legs, tiny jean shorts, a crop top just barely teasing her bellybutton, and a necklace with an elephant on it, of all things. However, his gaze lingers longest on the full solo cup in her hand.

“Not feeling the whole party scene.” He mutters, looking at the dust. She crawls onto the hood, pulling her knees to her chest.

“You gave up drinking.” She comments. He gives her a look. “Observant, remember? I notice the shit I’m not suppose to.” She says gloomily.

“Well, yeah. I’m sober.” He says, not looking at her.

“So was it for little Ms. perfect head cheerleader? Or for the baby stripper hosting this thing?” She asks and he gives her a sharp look.

“For football.” He says flatly.

“Well, it certainly paid off tonight. You owned that field.” She compliments, but he just nods. “You know what your problem is Tim Riggins?” She asks thoughtfully. His shoulders go rigid. “You don’t have the right kind of girl.” He relaxes, looking at her sideways.

“How so?” He asks, actually curious as to where this is going to go.

“Prissy princess Lyla is too good for you.” She says, lying back on the hood, looking at the stars. “She wants you to fit into her perfect little plan and when you don’t, she can use you and discard you in the blink of an eye. She’s ruthless.” He shakes his head.

“Don’t call her names.” He says lowly. Rae continues, either unaware of his anger or she’s simply fearless.

“And that Tyra is a slut. You’ll just get in a cycle with her. It’s the white trash cycle and oh boy is it vicious.” She laughs, tossing her cup aside as she finishes it in one large gulp.

“You calling me white trash?” He demands, angry. She sits up and scoots closer to him, to his surprise. Most people back off at his anger.

“No, I’m saying she is. And she’ll drag you right into it. What you need is a girl who wants to get the hell out of this place and take you with. One who doesn’t demand that you be sober and cut your hair for her. One who doesn’t sleep with other guys behind your back. One who can drink just as much as you, but only wants to go home with you at the end of the night. You need loyalty and love.” She whispers, an inch from his face. Then she hops down. “But you have the rally girl bimbos, so hey, what do I know?” She asks cheerfully, walking off.

“Hey, where are you going?” He yells after her.

“Julie is talking to Matt. I’m gonna take a shot for every time he looks like a deer in headlights.” She yells over her shoulder. He watches her go then reclines on the hood, thinking about what she said.

 

He sees her again at the grocery store, but to his surprise, she’s not alone. A teenaged boy, most likely only 13 or 14 tags alongside her, pulling candy and other things into their cart, while she scolds him to put them back.

“Rae.” He says loudly, letting Billy disappear down the next aisle, still fighting on the phone. She turns and spots him.

“Hey Tim.” She says softly.

“Who’s he?” The boy demands, leaning on the cart and nearly tipping it over. Rae glares at him.

“Tim Riggins, who the hell are you?” Tim responds in kind. Rae gives him a furious look.

“Tim, this is my little brother Carden. Car, go get some soup.” She orders. When he doesn’t move, just keeps glaring at Tim, Rae kicks his shin. “Now!” He stomps off and she gives him a pissed look.

“He seems like a nice kid.” He says, laughing. She grabs his collar, pulling him down to her level.

“Don’t you ever fucking talk like that to my little brother or I swear to god I will end you. Next time don’t even look at him. Understood?” She hisses. He looks down at her, unflinching. She lets him go and shakes her head in disgust.

She disappears and Tim follows Billy to the register. When he sees Tyra, he can hear Rae saying ‘white trash’ in his head, but that’s mostly why he goes with Tyra, just trying to drown Rae’s words out.

 

“Tim.” She calls, in the halls. “Tim!” She yells, when he keeps walking. She chases after him and catches his arm. “Tim!” She insists, trying to pull him aside and failing miserably.

“What do you want, Maisie?” He spits, rounding on her. She recoils like she’s been hit.

“I came to say sorry for what I said at the store the other day but- what happened to your eye?” Her tone switches instantly from accusing him to concern for him in the blink of an eye.

“Nothing,” He mutters, trying to push past her, but she firmly stands in his way, unyielding.

“No, Tim, who hit you?” She demands, grabbing his chin and twisting it so she can see it better. He bats her arm away.

“Nobody so let it go.” He orders her, not looking at her. She drops her hand but doesn’t let him scoot by her.

“Well, I wanted to say sorry for what I said in the store. Carden has been having a shitty time fitting in here and I’m a bit protective of him.” She explains quietly, still inspecting his eye.

“He’s lucky to have a big sister like you.” He says automatically, thinking of his own fight with him brother not that long ago.

“Yeah, tell him that. Let me go to the nurse so we can get ice on that.” She coaxes, putting a hand on his arm.

“Why?” He asks, staring down at her. “It’s not your problem so just forget about it, ok?” She removes her hand and stares up at him, eyes narrowed.

“Sorry for trying to make it mine by actually caring. Silly me.” She says coolly, then folds her arms and walks away. He sighs and gingerly touches his eye, winching as he walks to class.

 

Tim sits in his truck for a long while, thinking long and hard about what has just happened- his own teammates attacking his truck as revenge for what he did to Jason. And he deserves it. Gingerly, he climbs out, sweeping aside broken glass. He’s surveying the damage when another car parks on the side of the street. He stares into the darkness, expecting another teammate with a bat. Instead, Rae walks across the street and whistles.

“They must be pretty pissed at you.” She says, walking around, admiring their handiwork. He stays silent, watching her. “I guess breaking up this towns golden couple is a pretty extreme offense.”

“What do you want Rae?” He asks tiredly.

“I see five guys walking down the street with baseball bats and crowbars, you have a black eye from Jason, and rumors are flying about Lyla. I came to make sure you are still breathing.” She says honestly, standing in front of him. “And now I’m offering you a ride to school tomorrow.” She says softly. He just nods, kicking glass around in the driveway. “I’ll be here 45 minutes before school starts.” She informs him. His head snaps up.

“Why that early?” He demands, trying to remember the last time he made it to school on time, let alone early.

“I have to take Carden to the middle school. See you then!” She waves and is gone. Tim rubs his face, then goes to get a broom.

 

He stumbles outside when he hears her honking. He squints at the bright sunlight then slouches into the car and slides low in the seat.

“Seatbelt.” She orders, not even putting the car in drive.

“Who are you, my mother?” He grumbles, pulling it on.

“She sure likes to act like one.” Carden pipes up from the backseat.

“Then give me back that lunch I made you, smartass.” She threatens. Carden wisely keeps his mouth shut. After a long silence, Tim decides to try to make amends with him.

“So you play football?” He asks, unsure of any other topic. Carden makes a noise of amusement.

“Yeah, I used to. But I don’t really like it.” He reveals. Tim twists around to give him a shocked face.

“What else is there to like?” He demands.

“Carden made the A pee-wee team when he was 11.” Rae says proudly. Carden ducks his head, blushing at her praise. “Littlest kid playing on that team by at least three inches and thirty pounds. Youngest one in the whole district, playing against 13 year olds.”

“Pee-wee what?” Tim asks, confused.

“Hockey.” Carden says shortly. “But this place doesn’t have hockey, so I’m never gonna be an A bantam. And even if I did, this place would probably call me the Cancer Kid and say I only got my spot out of pity.” He spits. Rae shakes her head, looking at him sternly in the rear view mirror.

“Carden, I’m allowed to be bitter and hate this place. You can start over here and make friends. At least try today, please.” She requests.

“Fat chance.” He mutters, looking out the window. “I’m gonna move back up north with you when you go to college.”

“And what are we gonna do about dad then, huh? Shoot him?” She points out. “He’ll notice if you’re gone.” He snorts.

“Yeah, like he notices when you steal the .22 and sneak out of the house?” Carden asks sarcastically. Tim glances at Rae. Her mouth is tight and her hands are clenched on the steering wheel. There is silence in the car until she pulls up to the middle school.

“Have a good day. Don’t swear at the teachers today. Make at least one friend. Don’t forget your math homework is in the green folder.” She reminds him, as he climbs out.

“Have a good day. Don’t swear at the cheerleaders. Make one friend who isn’t some beat up jock. Don’t forget your English is in the pink folder.” He sasses back, slamming the door.

“Watch your mouth! Be good!” She yells out the window as he walks into the school. She sighs and runs a hand through her hair.

“He must be a handful.” Tim comments, watching as she leans forward, resting her forehead on the steering wheel.

“He’s my little brother. I have to love him.” She says tightly.

“Brothers don’t have to love each other.” He tells her, thoughts still on his own brother.

“Yeah, well, if I don’t love him no one will.” She says and he knows better than to keep trying to force it out of her. They ride the rest of the way to the high school in silence. They pull into the parking lot and he grabs her shoulder, halting her from getting out.

“Thanks for the ride.” He says honestly. She smiles slightly and for the first time he gets the sense that there’s someone under her hard shell that actually cares about people other than her brother.

“Anytime.” She says softly then they both climb out and go their separate ways to classes.

Chapter Text

Julie sits down next to her at lunch.

“You’re coming with me to Gatling.” She states. Rae eyes her, amused, taking another bite of her soggy salad.

“Why would I travel that far for a game I don’t care about?” She asks, making a face and forcing it down.

“Because I’m not going alone to be interrogated by my parents about my date with Matt and having you there takes some of the pressure off of me.” Julie explains dramatically, as if it should be obvious. She avoids the salad completely and starts munching on an apple.

“I can’t leave Car home alone, you know my dad’s not around to feed him or something.” Rae protests.

“Even better. With the two of you, my parents will hardly remember I’m there.” Julie says, delighted. “Besides, I need to talk to someone about that date who doesn’t view the football team as either gods or the scum of the earth.” She says in a hushed whisper. Rae chokes back a snort, nodding in agreement. “So you’ll come?” She asks, pleadingly.

“I mean, I’ll ask Car if he’s ok with-“ She starts, but Julie’s squeal of happiness cuts her off. She hugs Rae tightly.

“My house, at 2. You can ride with me and my mom.” She orders then begins eating. Other girls fill in the table, chattering. Rae shakes her head, wondering what she got herself into.

 

The ride to Gatling is filled with Julie and her mom cheerfully fighting about school, dance, boys, and chores around the house. A couple of times Mrs. Taylor or Julie will throw questions to Rae or Carden, but for the most part the siblings sit in the backseat, watching rural Texas roll by.

In the hotel, as everyone lugs their bags around, Rae briefly spots Tim through the crowd. His eyebrows shoot up in surprise at the sight of her, then the crowd shifts and he’s gone. They get to the stadium and stand, watching as the boys start fighting. The refs instantly start breaking them up.

“Too bad in hockey they just let us fight.” Carden mutters lowly and Rae elbows him sharply in the ribs, scouting out Tim’s jersey.

The entire game, both she and Julie flinch as hits are handed out left and right. But it isn’t till Tim’s hit for the safety that Rae’s insides twist with worry. She reaches down, taking Julie’s hand and squeezing it. They listen to the other girls mock Lyla and as her father rushes to her side.

“I hate this town.” Rae mutters, shaking her head in pity. She may not agree with what Lyla did, but no one deserves that.

“What’s going on?” Julie asks her.

“I’ll explain tonight.” Rae promises, watching in disbelief as Tim gets up and jogs back onto the field. “I thought he was hurt. Why’s your dad putting him back out there if he’s hurt?” She demands of Julie, who’s watching open-mouthed, seemingly just as confused.

“I don’t know.” She says honestly. Rae watches, still hand-in-hand with Julie, nervous. Even Carden is glued to the field. When she sees Tim hit the biggest kid on the field, she’s not watching Smash or his miracle run. She’s watching and breathing a sigh of relief that Tim gets up.

But in the end, the cheering and excitement win out and she smiles, cheering and clapping. She follows Julie to the field, watching in surprise and amusement as Matt makes a beeline for Julie then kisses her full on the lips. Julie practically sprints back to her, a shocked look on her face.

“We’ve got a lot to talk about.” Rae says, amused. Julie nods, speechless. Rae looks up and sees Tim watching her. She turns around, half expecting Lyla to be behind her. But Tim strides straight to her.

“Why are you here?” He demands gruffly, apparently unaware of the blood and bruises.

“Oh, one of these days you’ll sweet talk me into wearing that jersey of yours, Tim Riggins.” She says cheekily. He just stares at her, until she squirms. “Alright, Julie wanted me to come with so she could talk to me about Matt. Are you ok? Those hits look like they hurt.” She says softly. He shakes his head and walks away, for once leaving her confused.

 

“-And then he just started singing to her. Singing, to get her to come out! I’ve never seen any guy do that, let alone a football player.” Julie rants. They’re sitting outside in the hall, Julie venting about Matt and her parents. Carden is a ways down the hall, shooting a mini puck at the wall.

“It’s pretty sweet of a guy to do that. And you said his dad’s in Iraq?” Rae asks and Julie nods.

“Yeah, I heard dad telling mom that he’s the man of the house. And he was so sweet, Rae. I mean, he had been all tough earlier, doing the whole ‘I’m QB 1’ trying to get us tickets, but once he got around his grandma, he was totally different. So sweet.” She gushes.

“And what about him kissing you tonight?” Rae says, giving Julie a sly look. She instantly goes red.

“He tasted like sweat.” She reveals, giggling.

“They usually do, after a football game.” Rae says, amused. Julie puts her head in her hands.

“I want him to do it again.” She reveals, her voice slightly muffled. Rae grins and shakes her head, laughing.

“You like him, you like him.” She sings, pushing Julie over playfully. She doesn’t bother to sit back up, just laughs.

“I know!” She says, shaking her head. “My dad is probably gonna kill Matt. He’s probably going to kill me. What am I gonna do?” They’re laughing when suddenly Carden stands up.

“What do you want?” He asks loudly. Julie and Rae both look at him then swivel their heads. Tim is standing at the end of the hallway, watching them silently. Julie, as if pulled, stands up.

“C’mon Car, let’s give your sister a second. Come show me how to work the TV.” She coaxes. Warily, Carden follows her back into the room.

“What are you doing here?” Rae asks softly, standing. Tim towers over her. He smells like aftershave and beer. She knows that more than likely the team has been celebrating their win, but she has no idea how Tim has found her.

“I want you to tell me about you. No lies.” He orders, not breaking eye contact. Rae can’t help but shrink back into the wall.

“Why?” She asks.

“Because I need to stop fucking thinking about Lyla and Tyra and Jason and everything.” He says shortly. She notices the tension in his shoulders and gestures for him to sit. He does and she slides behind him, hands massaging his shoulders gently. He doesn’t flinch away, so she starts talking.

“I’m 17. Old for my grade. I’ve danced and ran my entire life. Carden is 12. I grew up in Northern Minnesota.” She starts, carefully working out the knots in his back, mindful of bruises.

“Why’d you come here?” He asks. She sighs and briefly rests her head on the back of his, smelling his shampoo unintentionally.

“When I was 14, my mom got breast cancer. And it went away. And it came back. And went away. And the last time it came, she went with it. The doctors did everything they could but she died last spring. The whole summer my dad was crazy. Kept saying that he had to outrun her ghost. I think he found Dillon because it’s somewhere that has no memories of her. So he packed us up and tore me away from everything. My friends. My home. My school and teachers. My teams. He tore me away from my mother’s grave. And that’s how I came to Dillon.” She finishes quietly.

“And what about your dad?” He asks, surprised at how nice her touch is. She laughs bitterly, hands briefly tightening on his shoulders.

“Oh, he’s a drunk construction worker. Says he’ll work in the oil fields. Forgets he’s got two kids that need food and running water. The day he rises up and remembers us will be when Hell freezes over.” She says angrily.

“My dad was a drunk too.” He tells her, feeling like he owes her a part of him now. “He’s in Corpus Christi. I haven’t seen him in two years.” She just rubs his back. They sit in silence for a long time.

“You played a hell of a game.” She says quietly. He just nods, standing. She stays seated, looking up at him.

“I’m glad you were there to watch.” He says quietly, surprised at his admission. She smiles slightly.

“Maybe one day you’ll play so good it’ll give me no choice but to like football.” She says, teasingly.

“Maybe one day.” He says quietly then walks away. She goes back into the room, steps carefully over a sleeping Carden on the floor, and crawls into bed with Julie, who is still wide awake.

“What did Tim Riggins want with you?” Julie whispers, pressing her cold feet on Rae’s legs.

“Sure as hell not to kiss me like Matt kissed you.” Rae whispers back, effectively turning the conversation back to Julie and her problems. When she finally drifts off to a fitful sleep, her dreams contain Tim Riggins, looking at her, but not saying a word.

 

“You’re out of your league, Williams.” Tim says in the locker room, as Smash goes on about the new girl he met.

“Yeah, and what about that white girl you been riding to school with Riggins? Ain’t she new?” Smash points out. Tim shakes his head, listening to Smash boast. When coach catches them commenting about Julie, his stomach fills with dread. Practice won’t be fun today.

He sprints up and down the field, every ounce of his body protesting the work. No one is a friend to Matt at the moment. At the end, he walks through the parking lot, pouring sweat. Rae is waiting for him, arms folded.

“Do I get rides home now too?” He asks mockingly, lugging his stuff towards her little car.

“If you ask nicely.” She says, fake sweetly, rolling her eyes and opening the back door for him.

“What’s up?” He asks, tossing his stuff in the backseat and walking around to the passenger side.

“It’s Carden.” She reveals, climbing in. Tim is silent, waiting for her to explain. “He’s never gone this long without being in a sport and being physical and active before. He’s getting cagey and it’s driving me crazy. He doesn’t like you, but he tolerates you, which is more than anyone else in this town can say. I was wondering if you could, uh…” She hesitates and he’s still silent, waiting for her. “Come over. Throw the football with him for a little bit. Just get him outside for five minutes.” She begs, it all spilling out in a rush.

“I’m not good with kids.” He says uncertainly, thinking of all the times he had been dragged to kid football games, usually way past drunk. That had always been Jason’s sector of experience.

“And he’s not good with guys. You’ll be good for each other. Please.” She pleads. After a pause, he nods. Smiling, Rae pulls out of the parking lot. They mostly drive in silence. She pulls into her driveway, just a couple houses away from his own. She pushes the door open without announcing herself.

“What now Mais?” Carden groans, on the couch, watching TV.

“I brought you a surprise.” She says, moving aside to reveal Tim. Carden doesn’t react, just looks unimpressed. Unsure of what to do, Tim gives him an awkward wave. “Go outside. Throw the ball with him for fifteen minutes and I won’t bug you about homework until after supper.” She offers. Carden debates it and sighs heavily, getting up.

“And you let me have your scoop of ice cream.” He negotiates, narrowing his eyes and watching Tim warily.

“Fine, get fat.” She says, indifferently. Carden hesitates for a second then grabs a football and leads Tim outside. Rae curls up in a lawn chair with her nose in a book, only peeking up to watch. For a couple minutes, they just throw in silence. Then Tim clears his throat.

“Uh, your wrist is a little bent when you throw. If you straighten that out, your spiral will be cleaner.” He says, demonstrating. Rae peers over the arm of the chair. She isn’t even pretending to look at her book anymore.

“Like this?” Carden asks, trying it.

“Yeah. See, cleaner.” Tim says, impressed.

“How did you block that big kid from Gatling?” Carden asks curiously. “Back home, coach always said I was too little to be good at any type of blocking.” He reveals, making a face. Tim tosses the ball aside to demonstrate, and a little smug smile crosses Rae’s face.

For supper, they don’t have much; just some chips, sandwiches, and fruit, but Rae makes Tim stay and eat with them. He doesn’t comment on the mismatched chairs or the heavily dented table. He just watches Rae and Carden pick on each other, wondering if he and Billy had ever been the same way.

 

Rae is in bed, reading, when she hears the smashing of glass. She perks up, listening through her open window. When another glass shatters, she crawls out bed and out the window, following the noise to Tim’s backyard. She easily hops the low fence. Tim is downing bottles of beer and then throwing them at the side of the pool house, breaking them into thousand of pieces.

“Rough night, huh?” She asks. Tim spins, bottle upraised in a throwing position above his head.

“You’re better at catching footballs than you are at throwing bottles.” She observes and he sighs.

“Why the fuck are you always around?” He demands.

“Aww, if you keep talking like that Tim Riggins, I might get the idea that you don’t like me.” She says sarcastically, picking up an empty bottle herself and giving it a little heft.

“I don’t like you.” He states flatly.

“Oh, I know you don’t.” Rae agrees, undeterred. “But watch this.” She whips the bottle and it bursts against the wall. “Don’t throw it like football. Whip it like a baseball.” She explains. Reluctantly, he tries it. To his annoyance, they shatter far easier that way. “So why are you throwing bottles? I’m the one that’s stuck hundreds of miles away from anyone I even remotely like.” She says curiously, sitting and opening a bottle without bothering to ask.

“At least your best friend will talk to you.” He mutters in defeat, sitting next to her and reaching for his own bottle.

“I haven’t seen my best friend in over three months and likely won’t see her for another two years. Next.” She says cheerfully.

“I ruined Lyla’s life.” He says flatly. She grunts in amusement and takes a long swig while he glares at her.

“And what are you going to do about it?” She asks him, staring at him. “You people down here are horrible and cruel. You gossip and snip at each other. It’s toxic and terrible and no one deserves what Lyla is getting. But it takes two to have sex and she was the one with the boyfriend.”

“Hey, don’t talk-” When he begins to protest, she holds up a hand.

“I’m not saying what they’re doing is right, because if we weren’t in this dreadful town, she wouldn’t be treated like this, but I’m saying you need to get over trying to help her or Jason. What you did was wrong, but they’ll put it behind them soon enough. Until then, throwing beer bottles at the wall and keeping me up, however fun it may be is actually unproductive. Get some sleep and don’t be hung over in front of Carden tomorrow morning.” With that she pats his head and leaves, taking his beer with her.

“Well, my truck’s fixed, so I don’t need a ride!” He yells back. He receives no answer from the darkness.

 

“I went to Lyla’s cheer thing.” Tim says, bursting into their house on Sunday, mid-morning.

“Hey Tim.” Rae says slowly, sitting at the table with Carden, who looks delighted that the interruption might mean a break from his math homework. “Why are you uh, you know, in my house?”

“I went, I went with the team but I had to see her and I had to make sure she’s ok and I can’t stop thinking about it cause she didn’t even look at me, but she only went cause I told her too because she loves to cheer and none of those stupid girls should stop her from it.” He vents, ignoring her question. Rae stares at him open mouthed. She’s never heard him say so much in one go before. “FUCK!” He yells, hands on his head.

“You get to handle this, I’m gonna go shoot.” Carden says, grabbing his stick and disappearing out the back door.

“What the hell?” Rae demands, forcing him to sit down. Tim just puts his head on the table. “Why are you in my kitchen?” She repeats.

“Because you made it better last time!” He roars, standing up and pacing. Rae takes a step back. “Do it again!” He orders.

“What last time?” Rae asks, folding her arms and nodding towards the chair. With a pained expression, he sits again.

“At… At the hotel. You made me forget it for a bit. And… The other night. With the… the bottles.” He stutters, agitated. Rae sits down across from him.

“What happened?” She asks quietly. He explains his feelings for Lyla, his visit to her, and how during the cheer competition she had looked to Jason, not him. Rae listens carefully then sighs and shakes her head.

“So when are you going to forget her?” She asks pointedly, when he finishes and stops to take a breath.

“What?” He asks dumbly, staring at her.

“Lyla. She doesn’t love you. She probably never will, even if her and Jason end it for good. She was stupid and came to you in a hard moment. But don’t you deserve better?” She asks and he blinks, not understanding. She gives a long-suffering sigh. “Remember when I was drunk and I told you that you deserved a girl who loves you? You’re not ever going to find that in her, not in this shit hole of a town.” Tim stands, furious. “Sit down! I’m not done!” Rae yells, annoyed. He doesn’t sit but he doesn’t walk away. “Find a girl who isn’t looking for a pretty little boy to give her a pretty little life. You’re rough and tumble. She’s never going to tumble with you. That sucks. Move on!” She yells.

“You’re a bitch.” He spits. Rae grins, her scary smile that is no humor and all malicious intent.

“Yeah, but you came to me to yell at you, so don’t think that I don’t know that you actually like me, Tim Riggins.” She says, not scared of him in the slightest. Tim is silent, mulling it over. Carden crashes back in, glaring at Tim.

“You yelling at my sister?” He demands, wielding the stick. Tim looks at him with a raised eyebrow then shakes his head.

“Na, she was yelling at me.” He says quietly. Carden looks at Rae for confirmation and her amused look gives it to him.

“Yeah, she does that.” Carden reassures him, relaxing.

“Yeah, I do, and if you don’t sit and start doing your math, I’ll start yelling at you.” She informs him. With a groan, Carden sits, whining. Quietly, Tim makes for the door. Rae looks up and catches his eye. She smiles slightly and waves. He waves back and sneaks out.

 

Rae opens her locker, noticing Tim and Mrs. Taylor at his locker, talking. Frowning, she pauses from putting her books in so she can hear.

“It’s bad for the world.” Mrs. Taylor says, and Tim ducks his head, chuckling. “That’s not funny Tim! That is not funny.” She says sternly. “So you know what? I’m making it my personal responsibility to make sure that you don’t get any more free passes from your teachers. From here on in, you go sink or you swim, based on you. Based on your work. You get me?” She demands. Tim looks shocked.

“We are two wins away from playoffs Mrs. Taylor.” He says lowly, his face suddenly serious.

“I appreciate that.” She says, clearly refusing to budge.

“But the timing of this couldn’t be worse.” He protests, as she repeats herself.

“Well, I’m sorry.” She says softly.

“I don’t pass, I don’t play.” Tim says flatly.

“Well then I think we better get you to pass.” Mrs. Taylor says, unyielding. Tim looks at her then looks away. She pats his shoulder and walks away. Tim shakes his head, hands clenched into fists. Carefully Rae closes her locker and hoists her backup onto her shoulder. With a plan in her head, she squirms between him and the lockers. He looks down at her, unblinking.

“My house. After practice. If you show up drunk I’ll kick your ass from here to Minnesota and back. Bring your school books.” She orders, patting his cheek. She walks off to class and he sighs, resigning himself to that fact that he’ll be joining Carden at the homework table.