Word Count: 4,024
Summary: AU after 3x13 "Tomorrow Blues", this story takes place in the summer of 2010 when Tim returns home from his first year away at college, Julie graduates from her last year of high school, and they find themselves meeting somewhere in the middle.
Notes: I started writing this back in June, and I thought I'd better start posting it before S4 premieres and it gets Jossed six ways to Sunday. Also, I've put in too much work not to finish it, at this point. How's that for a glowing recommendation? :\ Anyway, I haven't actually finished writing it yet, so it may be a bit of a wait between chapters because I tend to write back and forth and up and down and all around instead of in a straight line. Apologies in advance.
Also, the title comes from the song of the same title, "Upward Over The Mountain" by Iron & Wine.
Thanks to ishie for the beta and the_wanlorn for always yelling at me to keep writing. ♥
The road sign marking the boundary of Carr County was the first thing that had made Tim Riggins smile in quite some time. Pressing down a little more firmly on the gas pedal of his Chevy, his smile widened at the next road sign: DILLON – 10 MILES.
Tim was on his way home from his first year at San Antonio State. Classes and practices had wrapped up, and he wasn’t expected back on campus until August. He had been looking forward to the summer break for weeks, as he had planned to spend his days working alongside his brother at Riggins’ Rigs, fixing cars and drinking beer, and his evenings with Lyla, home on break from Vanderbilt.
Then the email came.
Lyla had landed a summer internship in New York City through a well-connected professor, and would have been crazy to pass up the opportunity in favour of returning to Dillon and working as the receptionist at her father’s car dealership for the summer.
Tim’s reply had been understanding and supportive, but it hurt, and he knew then that it was probably over between them.
He tried not to let it bother him that while in New York, Lyla would probably be meeting Jason for business lunches in trendy little Manhattan restaurants to catch up and rehash the old days. He knew perfectly well that things had long since ended between Jason and Lyla, and that Jason had moved on to his own new life, but the thought of them reminiscing over sushi and sparkling water made him feel, as usual, like he didn't quite make the grade.
He'd felt that way almost every day since starting college. Everyone in Dillon had rolled their eyes and implied that San Antonio State was not a school to be taken very seriously (a good fit for Tim Riggins, they nodded) but Tim had found that it was still full of people who were smarter than he was, and had gotten in based on their grades. No one in San Antonio knew who Tim Riggins was, and as a lowly freshman and only second string fullback, no packs of rally girls had been following him around begging to do his homework. Thankfully he'd befriended his roommate, who took pity on him and helped him limp through his classes. But everyone had been saying that, compared to freshman year, sophomore year was a killer. Tim had no idea how he was going to manage.
Tim rolled his window down to let some air into the stifling truck, and gunned the engine. The faster he was on the couch with Billy, beer in hand, the better.
Julie Taylor had a special calendar she had created for herself several months ago which counted down the number of days until high school was over. It hung on the wall above her desk, and every morning she would rip the top sheet of paper off and place it in the recycling bin with a great deal of satisfaction.
Today, the number was a big, red 15. Three weeks of high school to go, and then Julie was free. Free to wait tables at Applebee’s, at least, until it was time to go away to college.
The last year had been even lonelier than Julie had feared. Her friends and boyfriend had all gone off to college to start their lives, and in October Lois’s dad had been transferred to a job in Kansas City, and had taken the family with him. After that, Julie was totally alone.
One advantage to having an entirely empty social calendar for the majority of her senior year was that Julie was able to keep her GPA very high, making getting into college relatively easy. Julie had been offered a partial scholarship to Rice University in Houston, and had accepted. Secretly she longed to attend a college outside of Texas, preferably in New England or the Pacific Northwest, but in the end the scholarship was impossible to refuse, and Julie found she was relieved that she would only be half a day’s drive away from her parents in Dillon, instead of half a country away. Baby steps.
Now it was just a matter of waiting.
After tossing the discarded number into the recycling bin, Julie got herself a bowl of cereal. Dodging around her parents, who were heatedly discussing something in which she had no interest, she retreated to her bedroom. Julie flipped open the laptop that had been a gift from her parents for her 18th birthday, in preparation for college.
Noisily crunching her cereal, Julie checked her email and was pleased to see a new message from Tyra.
Sent: Monday, May 31, 2010 7:15 AM
To: Julie Taylor
Subject: good news!
Hey girl! How's good old Dillon? Just think – not much longer now and then you're out of there. You're going to love it. Almost there!!
I have some good news and some bad news. I managed to land a super last minute temp job here in Austin, so I won't be coming home for the summer. I'm going to try to come up on some weekends and maybe see if I can snag a couple days’ vacation, but mostly I'm gonna be stuck in Austin photocopying people's crap and answering phones. But a job's a job and experience is experience, so that's life, I guess. I'm really disappointed that we won't be able to have the fun-filled summer visit we had planned. Maybe your parents would let you drive to Austin to visit me for a few days? Not sure if they trust me (or you, ha ha) that much, but give it a shot and let me know.
Anyway, that's my news. Hope you're not too disappointed. Sorry babe. :( Wish me luck??
Frowning, Julie shut her laptop with a click. She poked listlessly at her cereal. She was happy for Tyra and certainly couldn't begrudge her a good opportunity when it presented itself. But she was definitely disappointed. The last year had been crappy, socially speaking, and Julie had been looking forward to seeing some of her friends back in Dillon for the summer before she went off on her own college adventure. Only a couple weeks earlier she had gotten an enthusiastic email from Lyla saying she wouldn't be home for the summer (the two girls having developed a regular email correspondence since the night Lyla stayed at the Taylors') and she hadn't heard so much as a peep out of Matt for almost four weeks.
Four weeks. Julie's frown deepened and she shoved aside her cereal bowl, the optimism she had felt first thing in the morning slipping away.
If you didn't hear from your boyfriend in four weeks, finals or no, it probably meant you weren't even long-distance dating anymore.
With a sigh, Julie stood up and opened her closet to get dressed for school.
Only fifteen more days.
A lot had changed in the Riggins household since the baby was born. Mindy had moved in with Billy right after the wedding, but Tim had spent most of his time during those last weeks in Dillon with Lyla, so he hadn't taken much notice of the changes. The birth of little Jordyn Jade Riggins five months earlier had brought a tornado of diapers, cans of formula, and basket after basket after basket of laundry.
One such basket, unfortunately abandoned directly in front of Tim’s bedroom door, made for an effective speed bump when Tim finally dragged himself out of bed early Monday afternoon, only to fall flat on his face, feet tangled in a pile of dirty sleepers and receiving blankets.
Moaning pitifully, Tim allowed the hard tile floor to support him while he gathered his wits about him.
"What the hell?"
Mindy's voice split Tim's head right between the eyes, and he winced.
"Sssh," he whispered, cradling his pounding head.
"Oh, for Christ's sake," Mindy muttered, stepping over Tim's prostrate, half-clothed form to get into the kitchen, where she began preparing a bottle of formula, baby Jordyn cradled awkwardly in her arms. The baby was still too little to do much more than blithely acquiesce to having everyone carry her around.
Tim was eventually able to roll over and sit up, rubbing his eyes.
"Where's Billy?" he asked, his voice scratchy.
"Billy's at the garage," Mindy replied, shifting Jordyn to her other arm with a sigh. "He got up late, but at least he got up. Good thing he's his own boss. Dumbass."
Tim glanced up at his sister-in-law. Her words were disparaging, but Tim could tell they were said with love all the same.
"I'm heading to The Landing Strip later," she said. "Gotta see if they’ll let me come back for some shifts. Think you can handle the baby for a few hours until Billy gets home?"
"Sure," Tim replied, turning and beginning to sloppily refold the clean laundry he had upset.
"I'll feed her now, and then she can go down for her nap for a couple of hours, then she'll be up again. She shouldn't be too much trouble."
"Don't worry about it."
"Thanks," Mindy said, genuinely grateful. "It's hard even though there's two of us, without you or Tyra or anybody around to babysit. My mom's not real reliable, and we don't always have money for a babysitter, so..."
"It's okay," Tim replied. “Really.”
"Hey, would you mind feeding her, too? I should really wax before I go."
"It’s fine," Tim said, standing up stiffly.
"You sure you're sober?" she asked, holding Jordyn out to him.
"Yeah, just hungover. We'll hang out on the couch, watch some Sports Center. No worries."
"Great," Mindy replied, handing Jordyn over. "My baby loves Sports Center."
"She's a Riggins," Tim said, as though that explained everything.
Mindy dashed off to the bathroom, leaving Tim cradling Jordyn in his arms. Uncle and niece regarded one another.
"Pretty hot today, huh?" Tim asked.
Jordyn stared up at him, little frown bumps forming on her forehead as she examined this stranger.
"I'm your Uncle Timmy," he said. "We met once before. You probably don't remember, it was kind of a big day for you."
Jordyn's frown deepened, her light brown eyebrows coming together. Her face reddened.
"Hey," Tim said, "Don't cry. No crying when you're with Uncle Timmy; he doesn't do crying. Save it for your dad."
Still watching him carefully, the colour drained away from Jordyn's face, and she blinked at him.
"You just took a big dump, huh?" he asked.
Jordyn blinked rapidly, and then began to wail.
"Okay," Tim said, holding the baby a little farther away from his bare chest. "Where do we keep the diapers, kid?"
“I don’t know about y’all, but I cannot wait for this year to be over,” Tami announced, coming to sit down on the couch next to Julie, who was reading with Gracie. At a few months shy of three years old, the littlest Taylor had become a precocious toddler possessed of an expressive mop of chestnut hair rather unfortunately inherited from her father, and an enormous crush on her big sister.
“Tired?” Julie asked her mother, turning a page in the copy of Where the Wild Things Are that was propped up on her lap. Ignoring their parents, Gracie leaned into Julie’s side to see the illustrations better.
“Yeah,” Tami replied. “Nothing personal, honey, but all this graduation stuff is wearing me out.”
“Oh, I’d skip it if I could,” Julie said, smiling ruefully. “Believe me.”
“Now, don’t get all cynical about your graduation,” her father piped up from the floor, where he was sprawled watching game tape. “It’s a milestone, and it’s going to be a very special day.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Julie grumbled. Gracie looked up at her sister, inquisitive. Julie rolled her eyes and smiled, prompting Gracie to smile back, like they had shared a secret joke.
“Hey,” Eric said, his eyes twinkling, “Snow White and Rose Red. Quit conspiring, over there. I saw that look. Ain’t fair to team up on your old dad.”
Gracie giggled, looking up at Julie. “Rose Red,” she repeated, pointing at her sister. She fudged the R sound, so that it came out much more like ‘Wose Wed’. Julie grinned.
“Lord, it’s a good thing y’all’re this far apart in age,” Tami mused, looking fondly at her daughters and taking a sip of her wine. “Any closer together and your father and I would have been in real trouble.”
“Drove by Saracen’s place the other day,” her father piped up. “House doesn’t look great, thought I’d stop by this weekend and mow the lawn, at least. You know what’s going on with that?”
Julie shrugged, turning her attention back to the book. “I dunno. Shelby had to go back to Oklahoma, and I haven’t really talked to Matt about it.”
Lorraine Saracen had died suddenly before Christmas that year, right after the Dillon Panthers won the 2009 state championships. Her death had taken everyone by surprise, and with Matt all the way up in Chicago at school, her house had stood empty ever since Matt’s mother had to return home to Oklahoma.
Julie glanced up and saw her parents exchanging a significant look, but chose to ignore it. They weren’t wondering anything she wasn’t wondering herself, but they didn’t need to know that.
“Honey, you think you could tear yourself away from the game tape long enough to order us a pizza or something?” Tami asked, looking plaintively at her husband. “I don’t think I could lift a spatula or a frying pan to save my life right now.”
“Pizza!” Gracie interjected, her eyes alight at the prospect.
“We have one in favour of pizza,” Tami said, smiling at her younger daughter. “Jules?”
“Pizza’s fine by me.”
“Pizza it is. Hon?”
Grumbling, Eric turned off the TV and stood up. “Game tape is important, you know. Football is a year-round job. Especially if we want to stand so much as a chance of getting into the playoffs next year.”
“You will, daddy,” Julie reassured him, “and pizza will not stand in your way.”
“Exactly. Neither will extra cheese,” Tami said.
Eric went off in search of a menu, muttering under his breath about being run by womenfolk.
“It’s just really good to have you back home for a while, Timmy,” Billy slurred, pouring out another round of shots.
The two Riggins brothers were seated on their couch, a bottle of Wild Turkey and two shot glasses on the table. Mindy had taken Jordyn and gone to her mother's for the evening, leaving the brothers to themselves. After three quarters of a bottle, Billy had begun to pour his heart out.
"It's good to be here," Tim replied, knocking back the shot.
"No, no," Billy said, shaking his head. "It's not good to be here, you don't have to say that just for me."
"It is," Tim insisted quietly. "Beats being stuck in some dorm with a curfew, where you can't have booze or girls or anything, or you'll get kicked off the team."
"Yeah," Billy frowned. "That doesn't sound all that awesome."
"But it's an opportunity, Tim. It's an opportunity to have things our parents didn't... That I'll never... You're going to be okay, Tim. You won't have to worry about things like, you know, deciding whether it's more important to have running water or food this month."
Tim stared at his brother, frowning. "Is it really that bad, Billy?"
"Yeah, Tim. It's that bad,” Billy said, running a frustrated hand through his hair. “Babies are expensive, and I'm not doing enough business at the garage. I only have two hands, you know?"
Billy poured another round while Tim mulled this over.
"Well, I'm going to work for you, right?" Tim said. "We can drum up some more business that way, at least for a while."
"Yeah, but unfortunately I have to pay you," Billy replied, though his voice held no bitterness.
"No you don't. I'll just work to help you get on your feet this summer," Tim said. "I've got a scholarship; I'm all taken care of. Don't worry about me."
"No, Tim. I can't ask you to do that," Billy said. "I can't ask you."
"You're not asking, I'm telling," Tim said. "Don't worry about it. We'll make it work, you'll see."
"Sure, Billy. It’s you and me. Just like always."
Billy smiled blearily at him, and Tim smiled back, but his heart wasn't in it. Knowing Billy, things were probably even worse than he was letting on.
“Good evening,” Julie said, approaching a table of new arrivals in her section as she dug around in her pocket, searching for her pen. “My name’s Julie and I’ll be your server. Can I get you something to drink?”
Julie looked up at the sound of the familiar voice. Tim Riggins was slouched there in jeans and a tattered old Panthers hoodie, looking as disheveled as ever, and he was accompanied by Billy, Mindy, and baby Jordyn.
“Hey guys,” Julie smiled. “What brings you to this fine establishment?”
“We’re having a little celebration,” Billy replied.
“Yeah? What are you celebrating?”
“We’re celebrating my little brother finishing his first year at college,” said Billy, puffing up with pride, “and the fact that I’ve got a beautiful wife and a beautiful daughter.”
Julie cast a glance at Tim, who was staring pensively down at the table.
“Damn straight,” Mindy piped up. “How you doin’, Julie?”
“Can’t complain,” Julie replied with a shrug.
“Almost done school?”
“Yeah, not much longer now,” she said, before turning back to Tim. “So are you back in Dillon for the summer?”
“Yeah, I’m gonna be working with Billy at the garage.”
“Oh, cool. How was your first year? San Antonio State, right?”
“It was all right,” Tim replied with a noncommittal shrug.
“He didn’t get to play much football,” Billy explained. “Freshman second-string fullback and all that. Left him with way too much time to study, right Tim?”
Tim shot Billy a disgruntled look.
“Well,” Julie said, clearing her throat. “Can I get you guys something to drink?”
“I’ll have a diet Coke,” Mindy said distractedly, shifting the baby in her lap.
“We’ll split a pitcher of whatever’s cheap,” Billy said, gesturing at his brother.
“Coming right up,” Julie said, leaving the expanding Riggins clan to bicker amongst themselves.
Four pitchers, three steaks, and one plate of hot wings later, it was closing time and the Riggins brothers were still happily ensconced in her section, taking turns chasing one another to the bottom of the next glass of beer. Mindy had taken the baby and gone home hours earlier, as had everyone else in the restaurant.
“Hey guys,” Julie said, hoping she was loud enough to be heard over their laughter, “we’re closing.”
“Does that mean you can have a drink with us?” Billy grinned.
“Unfortunately, no,” Julie replied. “It means that soon the lights will be turned off and we’ll have to leave. Also, I’m underage. Technically I shouldn’t have been serving him,” she gestured at Tim. “But I figured that no one else in Dillon cares, so why should I?”
“Come on, Billy,” Tim – for once the more sober of the two – said as he stood up. “Can’t keep her here all night.”
When Julie emerged from the dark restaurant sometime later, she found the parking lot empty save for her car and Tim’s black Chevy. Billy and Tim were standing in front of it, apparently debating which of them was too drunk to drive. Julie wandered over.
“As an unbiased third party, I have to say that you’re both too drunk to drive,” she said.
Tim turned as though to tell her not to worry about it, and Billy’s legs chose that moment to fail him. He collapsed in a heap on the pavement.
“Wow,” Tim said, shaking his head.
“Come on,” Julie said with a roll of her eyes. “I’ll give you a ride.”
Tim managed to hoist his brother into the back seat of Julie’s small car before climbing into the passenger side himself. Julie suppressed a smile at the sight of him crammed into the small space, his knees against the glove compartment.
“Sorry,” Julie said, pulling out of the lot. “Probably not quite as much leg room as your truck.”
“Not quite,” Tim smiled. “But thanks, I appreciate it. He does, too.”
There was an affirming groan from the back seat.
“Is he going to be okay back there?” Julie asked, glancing in the rear view mirror.
“Billy!” Tim barked, turning to look into the back seat. “No puking!”
“He’ll be fine,” Tim assured her in his smoothest “shucks, ma’am” tone.
They drove in silence for several minutes, Billy's snoring the only sound in the car.
"So," Julie said finally, the silence making her feel awkward. "What's college like?"
"Dunno," Tim shrugged. "Okay, I guess."
"I can't wait for high school to be over. I got accepted into Rice, and I just want to hurry up and be there, you know?"
"Congrats," he said. "I hear that's a good school."
"Yeah, it just sucks that no one's coming home for the summer."
"Oh yeah?" he asked.
"Tyra's staying in Austin, and I guess you know Lyla's going to be in New York. New York! I'm so jealous," she sighed. "I don't know if Matt’s even coming home."
"You and Seven still together?" Tim asked. Julie could feel him looking at her, but she didn't take her eyes off the road.
"Yeah," she replied hesitantly. "Well, I guess we are. I don't know. I haven't seen him since September and I haven't heard from him in a few weeks, so... It's complicated, you know?"
"Yeah, I know."
"Are you and Lyla still...? She hasn't really mentioned you."
"Um, no," Julie frowned, turning onto Tim's street. "Sorry – I probably shouldn't have said that."
"No, it's okay. It's... Yeah. Complicated, like you said. She's got her own life. Doesn't need me to hold her back."
"Yeah," Julie replied hesitantly, not knowing what else to say. She pulled up in front of the Riggins house. Its front yard looked strangely bereft without its Dillon Panthers sign, but she could see that Mindy had tried to make it more homey – a few pots of geraniums had been placed by the front step.
"Looks like the girls have gone to bed," Julie remarked, nodding towards the dark house.
“Looks like,” Tim replied.
A guttural snort from the back seat reminded them both that Billy was still passed out.
"Better get him inside," Tim said.
They got out of Julie's car and, with Tim doing most of the heavy lifting, dragged Billy up to the house.
"Do you do this often?" Julie asked, unlocking the front door.
"Do what?" Tim groaned, heaving his unconscious brother through the front door.
"Help semi-conscious drunks get home safely," she smiled, turning on a light so Tim could find his way. He disappeared into the master bedroom and, after a minute, emerged with his brother no longer in tow.
"Yeah," he guffawed, pushing his hair out of his eyes. "Maybe I should start a business."
"You'd do all right in Dillon," Julie replied. "Serving the clientele of The Landing Strip alone..."
They both laughed, standing across the foyer smiling at each other for several beats, until Julie started to feel awkward.
"Okay," she said, turning to leave. "I should go."
"Thanks for the ride," Tim said, walking her to the door. "Best waitress I've ever had. Above and beyond the call of duty."
"No problem," she smiled. “Goodnight!”
Julie walked down the sloping lawn to her car and got in. Pulling away, she saw Tim was still standing in the doorway. She waved tentatively, smiling when he waved back before disappearing into the house.
On the way home, Julie mused that it was nice that Tim Riggins was back in Dillon, if only so she had someone resembling a friend in town.