DISCLAIMER: I don't own them. I mean no infringement or harm.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is set, initially, in season 1 of FNL, which is the only one I've seen so far, so don't tell me spoilers. If you haven't seen S1 of FNL, then go watch it immediately. (Seriously. This show is awesome.) Consider this a, "What if Lyla hooked up with Tyra instead of Tim" kind of fic.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A Thousand Enemies
"We all get that you're cynical and jaded," Lyla says, and for once her voice is stripped bare of its vapid whine of baby girl guile. It is, instead, stark, and the threat of tears makes it sound rough around the edges in a way that picks and tears at Tyra's heart. Her arms are flung out to the side expansively, as if to highlight the invisible chorus of Dillon natives all nodding their heads in zombie-like unison in agreement at Lyla's words, and Tyra lets a wave of numbness wash over her. Her face is as blank and motionless as stone, eyes dry even as a single tear streaks a path down Lyla's cheek. She takes a page from Tim Riggins' book and lets her chin drop forward, sending her hair cascading down to hide her eyes from view; she doesn't realize that she's got her hands shoved into the pockets of her tight jeans until the fabric starts to dig painfully into her wrists and her shoulders grow stiff with the strain. She's sure Lyla will see past it, will ignore the way Tyra's lips are set in a hard, unforgiving scowl and the dark, angry glint in her eyes.
But Lyla's lip trembles and her already big, dark eyes grow even bigger and strangely, liquidly darker. She looks like a doe standing about ten feet away from the business end of a shotgun.
"Do not lie to me, Tyra Collette." The way she says the words curt and chopped and begging to be refuted pulls Tyra's insides in opposite directions. As much as she hates the spoiled, pampered snob that Lyla can't help but be, she aches with the knowledge she's hurt her. When Lyla says them again, the words now ragged and broken, Tyra has to take in a deep breath to keep from spilling something, either the truth or a sob. "Do not lie to me."
Even as she sorts through the rationalizations and motivations, Tyra realizes with a hint of sickness that she doesn't want to lie, so she doesn't say anything.
"Don't tell me this didn't mean anything."
Lyla's voice is whisper soft now, as if she's exhausted.
"Go back to Jason," Tyra says, her own voice hard and bitter. "Go back where you belong."
That Lyla had left her and ran straight into Tim Riggins' arms cut like a knife. It helped some that Lyla got her public comeuppance, got thrown hard into the role of the scarlet woman and was left there to wallow in her own misery, but only some. A few days of that, and Tyra wanted to kiss away the pained frown and the furrows of stress on Lyla's forehead that wrinkled adorably, but her pride and her anger had already built a thick wall she didn't have the will to break down. The only thing she did do was tell Tim that his half-assed knight in shining armor routine wasn't doing anything to help.
She figured that was more than enough.
Lyla could cry pretty tears and make speeches that made Tyra want to cradle her away and hide her from the world. She could look at Tyra like she'd just been ripped in two and make Tyra want to beg her to come back.
She could apparently go off and fuck Tim Riggins, too.
"And just what was that supposed to be?"
Tyra had assumed she was alone. She'd figured that she'd waited long enough for the locker room to clear out after the powderpuff game and had taken her shower by herself, but now Lyla Garrity is standing there in nothing but a white towel that's barely long enough for decency and she's only just pulled her own panties up over her hipbones.
"What was what supposed to be?" she asks, tone as flat and bored as she can make it. She forces her eyes to the scarred wood of the locker room bench, ignoring the bright splash of white in the corner of her peripheral vision that draws her like a moth to flame. Instead of thinking about how Lyla is standing five feet away, naked except for a flimsy piece of loosely knotted cotton, she focuses on getting her jeans on without tripping herself.
Lyla gives an irritated huff, and Tyra can imagine the way she looks, eyes narrowed and arms crossed over her chest. "Like you don't know," Lyla accuses, and Tyra feels her jaw set as she fights back the urge to defend herself. "It was flag football, not NFL training camp."
"What can I say?" Tyra mutters dismissively, eyes focused down on her own belly where she's struggling to button her skin tight jeans. The material sticks to still wet skin, thwarting her, and the longer it takes, the more frantic she becomes. She can feel Lyla's eyes on her, hard and heavy, the sensation making her cheeks start to burn. "I guess I just let my school spirit get out of hand."
"Look at me when you lie to me."
"What?" Tyra scoffs, her voice a deliberate, sarcastic drawl, eyes still looking down. "You think I laid you flat on purpose?"
The blur of white moves closer. Now, no matter how hard she tries not to look, Tyra can still see the long, tanned length of one of Lyla's legs and the outline of her hip through worn-thin cotton.
"How come you never look at me when you lie to me, Tyra Collette?"
"Fine. If you need me to tell you that I'm mad at you, then I can," Tyra says, meeting Lyla's eyes defiantly. Her chin is tilted up just high enough to give her the haughty look that is usually the other girl's trademark. She abandons the stubborn button on her jeans, instead putting her hands on her hips.
"Then tell me."
"And anyway," Tyra continues, deaf to Lyla's challenge, "I'm not the liar here."
"Because I'm not the one who cried and talked about how much everything between us had meant and then went off and slept with Tim Riggins. 'Cause it must have meant a lot, right, Lyla? It must have just broke your heart. It must have tore you up so bad that you cried about it for a whole day before you decided to fuck him."
Lyla's eyes have always been expressive. Now they're full of a mix of emotions: regret, anger, defiance, and apology.
After a long moment, she says softly, "You have every right to be angry."
"Yeah, I don't need your permission for that, but thanks anyway."
"You left me," Lyla accuses, swinging back around from apologetic to insolent. No one has ever been able to infuriate her the way Tyra can, and it makes her even madder that Tyra does it on purpose. She closes up and pretends like she's hard and careless, and Lyla knows better.
She knows it.
It's case in point, when Tyra gives Lyla a wry smile and a clipped, "Which makes it none of my business."
"You're worse than all of them," Lyla murmurs, shaking her head in disbelief. "Worse than Tim. Worse than Jason. It's like you're just stupid for the sake of being stupid."
"Because I don't want to be with you?" Tyra says incredulously. "That makes me stupid?"
"Yeah, it does."
It takes a minute for Tyra to give a huff of disbelief, the usual mocking sneer falling firmly into place. "It seems more like it's the smartest thing I've done in a while."
Lyla figures that trying to talk to Tyra is like trying to lead a donkey. The harder she tries, the more Tyra digs in her heels, determined to go the other way.
She decides to do something different. Instead of fighting or making any sort of attempt at logic, she figures she'll make a play for what she wants instead. "Isn't this the part in the movies where all the arguing turns into sexual tension? Isn't this the part where the two star-crossed lovers kiss?"
There's a moment of silence where Tyra looks at her in disbelief before she snorts. Lyla keeps looking at her, half earnest and half pissed off, and it doesn't take long before it's too much and Tyra is throwing her head back and laughing deep from her belly, like a wolf howling at the moon.
The punch to her gut comes as a surprise. Lyla's stronger than she looks, probably and yet improbably because of the cheerleading, so Tyra's air leaves her lungs with a pained whoosh. She's already rubbing her belly when her eyes, full of confusion and furious indignation, find Lyla's.
"What the hell was that for?"
"You're laughing at me?" Lyla accuses, eyes blazing. "Laughing?"
Equally as indignant, Tyra shoots back, "What was I supposed to do?"
Lyla gives Tyra a flat, irritated look. "Kiss me," she says dryly.
"And you think I'm the stupid one?" Tyra laughs, shaking her head in bemusement. "You do remember what we've just been talking about, don't you? That whole thing with you and Riggins. That thing where you slept with him right after telling me how much I meant to you?"
Lyla's been trying to be strong. She's been letting it build, has been keeping it inside while she tries to be a rock for everyone else, but she's starting to crack at the seams. "I remember it, Tyra. I remember all of it. I remember Jason waking up in the hospital and finding out he couldn't walk. I remember trying to make the best of it. I remember going to see him every day and promising him that everything was going to be alright, and I remember him telling me to go. I remember him telling me not to come back. I remember him telling me he didn't want to have anything to do with me ever again."
"Lyla, you don't have to "
Lyla's voice is sharp as she interrupts. "No," she says, eyes flashing angrily. "You will let me finish."
When Tyra remains silent, uncharacteristically cowed, she continues. "I remember finding you, and maybe it was wrong, Tyra, but it felt right to me. It felt right."
She says the words a second time, voice tight with tears just like it had been when Tyra had told her that it was over, but this time, the tear streaks down Tyra's cheek.
"So I made a mistake," Lyla finishes tiredly, shoulders slumped dejectedly. "Haven't you ever made a mistake?" Her next words are a naked plea. They dig in to Tyra like hooks. "Can't you understand?"
There's a tiny little crack, a moment of vulnerability when Lyla can see all of the fear that Tyra keeps inside. "I can't," the blonde says, eyes dropping to the floor. Her arms wrap around her waist and her shoulders hunch over and Lyla hurts for both of them. "I just can't."
Lyla's voice trembles. She feels suddenly very raw. "Why can't you forgive me?"
"That's not it," Tyra says roughly, as if she's trying to find her customary veneer of detachment but failing. She's trying not to cry, trying not to let this affect her at all. "You don't need my forgiveness, but even if you did, you can have it. It's not about that. It's just I just can't, Lyla. Can't you understand that?"
The realization that she's talking about something bigger hits Lyla as hard in the stomach as she'd hit Tyra. "Oh," she says, voice soft and small.
"I'm sorry," Tyra says quickly, swiping up her shirt and pulling it over her head in one jerky movement. It's on inside out, but Lyla doesn't say anything. Tyra's giving her quick, apologetic looks, but Lyla's too numb for them to register. She's numb all over, as if she's going into shock. Part of her wants to sink into the floor. The other part wants to laugh until she aches.
"I'm sorry," Tyra says again, and then she's gone.
Lyla Garrity could fuck up her life all she wanted. She could get engaged while she was still in high school, marry Jason Street and have all the photogenic little babies she wanted, and never leave this stupid, fucking town.
And Jason Street could have her. He could have the privilege of being Buddy Garrity's son-in-law, could go to family bar-be-ques and take a job at the dealership one day and ride his high school glory days as far as they'd take him until they were both middle-aged and paunchy and prone to staying in on Saturday nights to watch crap ass television and argue about how maybe they should go to couple's counseling and about how the fire had gone out of their marriage and about who was really supposed to be in charge of taking out the trash.
Tyra didn't fucking care.
"I don't know why you're in here in the dark all by yourself drinking like you're the one who got left."
Tyra jumps, startled, almost losing her grip on the bottle of whiskey she's been cradling in her lap for god knows how long. Her mom's off somewhere Tyra's pretty sure she doesn't want to know where and Mindy's supposed to be working late at the strip club, but here she is, staring down at Tyra with something that looks like scorn. The bag carrying her work clothes is dangling from her fingertips, and Tyra focuses on that for a moment. Her head is spinning. She's not drunk but is well on her way there, so when Mindy flips on the lamp, she cringes in pain and her stomach starts to revolt.
"What do you want?" she bites out, flinching when Mindy lets her bag drop to the floor.
Mindy's voice, as always, is just a few decibels too loud. "I want you to quit feeling sorry for yourself."
"I don't know why you think "
"I live here, don't I?" Mindy's got her arms crossed over her chest, her face set in a no-nonsense scowl. "I got eyes."
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
"It means there's no doubt you're a Collette. We wouldn't know how to hold on to a good thing if our lives depended on it."
"Tim Riggins "
Mindy breaks in before Tyra can even flesh out the half-formulated lie she was about to give.
"You know good and well I'm not talking about Tim Riggins."
Tyra's glare turns mulish. Her lips purse and her jaw clenches and she doesn't say another word.
The harshness in Mindy's shoulders eases slightly. Her eyes take on a hint of wistfulness and bemused, grudging affection. "I've seen the way that girl looks at you." She pauses for a moment, shakes her head as if she can't believe the sheer idiocy of it all, then finishes softly, "I've seen the way you look at her."
"Then you must be hallucinating."
"Don't try to lie to me," Mindy says dispassionately. "I know you."
Tyra scoffs. "Hallucinating and delusional."
Gaze level and even, Mindy says slowly, meaningfully, "I know, Tyra. You two are good for one another. I don't know why you thought it was a good idea to screw that up."
Immediately, Tyra looks away, unable to meet her sister's eyes. Part of her can't help but agree with Mindy, and she doesn't want her sister to see it. "You know it's not right," she mumbles, the words barely audible.
If she'd been looking, Tyra would have seen the way Mindy rolled her eyes with an over-exaggerated sense of drama. Instead, all she hears is the annoyed sigh. "You're the last person I thought would get hung up on some sort of stupid notion of sinning," she snipes, giving Tyra's shin a hard kick to regain the other girl's attention.
It works. Tyra's glare re-emerges, as sharp as ever. "That's not what I mean."
"Then what do you mean?"
"I mean Jesus, Mindy. Jason Street. What the hell do you think I mean?"
"Oh, I see," Mindy says, her voice cloying and patronizing and designed to deliberately irritate the hell out of Tyra. "So now you're so smart you can make other people's decisions for them. You can tell them the right way to go about living their life. You're the only one in this whole situation who knows what's best, is that it?"
"It could be that I am," she shoots back, holding her defiant posture as long as she can, but Mindy just keeps looking at her, eyes dark and knowledgeable, the expression tinged with a hint of caring that breaks clean through Tyra's defenses. Defeated, she slumps back in her chair, eyes fluttering closed. "Just leave it alone," she says tiredly, bringing her hand up to massage her temples.
Mindy shrugs, then kicks out of her heels. "All I'm saying is, you're pretty stupid."
"You're not the only person who thinks so."
"If you want that girl, you can have her."
Tyra shrugs listlessly, eyes still closed.
"Or you could be a chicken-shit and sit here and drink and be depressed and pretend like it's not all your fault."
She's going for sarcastic, but Tyra's words come out as resigned. "I think I'll do that, Mindy. Thanks for the suggestion."
The light flicks off, as if Mindy has decided that further efforts aren't worthy of her attention. "Fine, then, chicken-shit. You do whatever you want."
"Now that I've got your permission " Tyra taunts half-heartedly, but doesn't follow through. Instead she brings the bottle to her lips again, but the burn of the whiskey is dulled and the whole endeavor doesn't seem worth it any more. All she feels is Mindy's judgmental glare, the phantom weight of Lyla's disappointment, and the cold of her own sadness.
"He only likes you because he thinks you're hot."
Lyla's voice is petulant. Her lips are custom built for pouting, and she's using that natural design to its fullest.
"That's, in general, why guys like girls," Tyra shoots back, stopping just short of rolling her eyes. "You think they fall at your feet because they enjoy conversing with you, Garrity?"
"I'm just saying that you deserve more than a horny adolescent boy who only wants to get you in the backseat of his station wagon."
"Then that's where you're wrong," Tyra says with a triumphant, smug grin. "I've got it on good authority that he likes me because of what's on the inside, not what's on the outside."
For a minute, it's like Lyla's so spitting mad that she can't even think. She just purses her lips and stares at Tyra in a way that makes the blonde want to shift from foot to foot.
"I don't understand you," Lyla finally mutters, shaking her head. Her eyes are focused off to the side, as if she can't even stand to look at Tyra anymore.
It sends a pang of hurt through a place deep inside Tyra, so that when she speaks, her voice is soft and disturbingly gentle, "I don't understand why you keep trying, Lyla. This way is best for everyone. Why won't you just " She pauses, at a loss. "Why won't you go along with it?"
"Go along with it?" Lyla repeats, voice thick with disbelief and scorn. "I'm not going along with it because I don't make a habit of supporting stupidity."
"Then that should be reason enough for you to leave me alone," Tyra notes dryly.
Something in Lyla's expression softens. "You're not all stupid. You're stubborn too."
Despite herself, Tyra laughs, but the act brings a smile to Lyla's face that makes Tyra's belly clench, so she stops abruptly, her voice turning snide and mean. "And that's a good combination, Garrity? Something about that makes you want to win me?"
Lyla's reply is quick. "Does that mean you're up for the taking?"
"Up for what?"
"The taking," Lyla repeats slowly, raising a brow in challenge. "I mean, if you're saying you can be won, I know I'd lay odds on me over Landry."
"I thought you were engaged."
The words, said in a laconic drawl that manages to completely avoid any of the feelings notably rage Tyra might have had about that particular subject, brings the conversation to a stop.
Lyla looks away again, but this time it's because she can't bring herself to meet Tyra's eyes.
"I guess I am," she says slowly, eyes flitting down to focus on the ring on her finger. It glints dully in the light, and she pictures Jason's face his sweet smile and the gentle hope in his eyes. "You're right. It's best for everyone this way."
"Yeah, it is." The words get stuck in Tyra's throat, lodged there like a stone. She forces them out, but they're weak and strained; they betray her in a way she wishes she could keep buried. "It's what I've been trying to tell you."
"I love him," Lyla says, but her voice wavers. She looks up at Tyra quickly, as if trying to gauge whether or not the blonde believes her. "I do love him." This time, the words are a little stronger. And she does love Jason, has loved him for a long time. It hadn't been so long ago that she'd not even been able to contemplate a life without him. Even thinking about it would have brought her up short, like reaching the edge of a cliff that plummeted down into nothingness.
And then she'd learned that, no matter how hard she tried to hold on to the past, things changed. People changed. She changed and Jason changed. They grew in ways that stopped running parallel. His path had shifted, was blazing off in a direction she didn't understand. Her path had become gnarled and tangled, full of weeds and underbrush, and she was running out of the strength needed to clear it out of the way.
"I didn't say you didn't," Tyra says softly. Lyla's gone to another place. She can see that, can see the haziness in her dark eyes and the stricken set of her shoulders. She wants to pull her back, but her hand stops a hair shy of Lyla's, the comforting gesture cut short.
"Nothing's the way it's supposed to be anymore," Lyla says, and she sounds so lost that Tyra's hand finds hers after all. She squeezes the other girl's fingers lightly, and Lyla looks up at her with a wobbly smile. "I've got to find me," she says, and Tyra nods along with her even though she doesn't understand what it means. She returns Lyla's smile with a wobbly one of her own and tries to ignore the way the band of Lyla's ring burns into her skin.
"Yeah," she agrees, because it doesn't matter if she understands. "Yeah."
It's on the drive back from the state championship game in Dallas that Tyra recognizes that she's about to make a mistake. Lyla's hands are wrapped tight around the steering wheel and there's nothing but flat land on either side of them. The crops have long since been harvested and the dirt plowed under into never ending rows that stretch out toward the horizon. The sky is as brilliant of a blue as Tyra has seen it, broken only by towering white clouds. It drifts through her mind that, when she was a kid, she'd thought that clouds would be as soft as cotton, that if she could only manage to climb up high enough, she could fall back into one and be cradled, safe and protected, deep within. The thought follows that it was better then, when she could believe in such things, before she knew that once the fall started, there was nothing there to break it.
Something about seeing Lyla Garrity, finger missing her ring, shoving her Dillon Panthers cheerleader's uniform into the trash bag hanging from the side of a hotel cleaning cart made her wish that she could believe again.
"You want to ride back with me?" Lyla had asked, the hint of a smile curving at her lips and a nascent sense of hopefulness lighting her eyes.
Tyra hadn't had time to say no before she was already nodding yes.
Now they're riding in silence, and Tyra's thinking about clouds and getting lost in the never ending rows of rich brown dirt.
"You want to talk about it?" she asks finally.
Lyla's answer is curt, as if she's been expecting the question and is primed to cut it off. "I've already talked about it."
"I mean talk about it for real."
This time, each word is enunciated, said in that snot-nose tone of voice that has always made Tyra want to plant her fist square against Lyla's nose. "I've already talked about it."
"And I said bullshit."
"What more do you want from me?" Lyla says, the edge of whining exasperation in her tone giving evidence to her desire to avoid the topic. "I told you. It's time for a change."
Tyra frowns, fighting back the urge to reach over and shake some sense into the other girl. Instead she says hesitantly, "I don't mean this the way it's gonna sound, but you don't change that much, Lyla."
Lyla is silent for a long time. The plowed under rows of dirt pass by with a hypnotic regularity. The sound of the road drifts up like white noise, and when the other girl finally answers, Tyra realizes she's lost all sense of time. "It's just a game. Just a stupid game."
Tyra holds back for a minute before speaking, not sure if she wants to say what she feels compelled to say. "If you ever tell anyone I said this, I will hurt you," she threatens. Lyla looks over with an amused half-smile, the slow and lazy one that always melts something deep inside Tyra. It's the smile that says that Tyra is doing something that Lyla finds adorable; the notion that anyone would ever find anything she does to be adorable grates on Tyra's last nerve, but Lyla does it and some part of her wants to hold hands and share ice cream sundaes and have picnics in the sunshine.
So she scowls. She takes a minute to recompose herself and remember what it was she was going to say. "You obviously like being a cheerleader, Garrity, and you're good at it. It may be just a game, but it's your game. Don't let anyone, your dad or me or anyone else, make you feel like you're not good enough. You are. You're more than good enough."
Lyla's half smile slides into a full smile. It's so bright that Tyra starts to feel a little queasy. There's a softness to Lyla's eyes, as if she's just been given the key to a secret. It's yearning and affection and maybe even love, and Tyra wants to look away, to let that endless march of furrows framed by blue sky whisk her away to the place in her mind where time and thought doesn't exist and clouds catch you before you fall, but she can't.
Lyla pulls over onto the shoulder of the road. She cuts the engine and clicks out of her seat belt and Tyra sits there, frozen, like a statue. Lyla's fingers are soft on her cheek and her eyelids flutter closed. She's breathing fast, hard and shallow, and her heart is beating a mile a minute. She can feel the heat of Lyla before the first brush of lips against the corner of her mouth.
"You're not going to tell me no again," she declares softly, one hand sliding into the hair at the nape of Tyra's neck. "I'm tired of hearing it."
Maddeningly unable to speak, Tyra just nods.
"I mean it," she continues, voice low and serious. Her lips brush against Tyra's again; their noses bump slightly, and Tyra's tilting her head to the side and opening her mouth and melting into Lyla and giving a helpless little whimper. She still can't open her eyes, can't let Lyla see all the things she's feeling.
The kiss deepens. Lyla's tongue brushes against hers, soft as velvet, and Tyra's hands clench into fists. She's drawn tight as a bow. Lyla can feel the tension in the hard muscles at the back of Tyra's neck, and she eases back, waiting.
When she realizes that Lyla's not coming back, Tyra opens her eyes. She does so slowly, focusing first on the cloudless expanse of blue to the left of Lyla's shoulder before finally working up the nerve to meet the other girl's eyes.
"I don't know if I can do this," she admits, but because she's proud and because she's scared, the words come out as a defiant assertion.
There's a moment when Lyla falters. Hurt flickers in her eyes and her chin drops slightly and Tyra wants to cry in frustration.
She can't say that she's scared, even though she is. She's terrified of getting hurt. She doesn't want to be lost when or if Lyla leaves her, or needy and borderline psychotic because she's worried that just that very thing might happen.
"Why don't you even try?" Lyla asks plaintively, her eyes searching Tyra's face. She's learning to read the other girl, to see all of the things Tyra hides behind the blank, expressionless mask.
Tyra's eyes cut to the side. Her jaw clenches and her lips clamp down in a scowl even as her chin tilts up a notch. Lyla's made the mistake before of thinking that these things signify anger, but the realization that they don't spreads through her slowly.
"Come on," she cajoles softly, her fingers once again brushing Tyra's cheek. "You can trust me."
Tyra swallows hard. For a split second, it looks like she's about to cry, but she blinks twice in rapid succession. Even though her eyes are suspiciously bright when she meets Lyla's gaze again, they're dry. She nods her head jerkily. By way of an answer, it's not much, but the smile that breaks across Lyla's face in response is as bright and searing as the sun.
This time the kiss starts deep. Lyla initiates it, but it's Tyra who digs her fingers into the other girl's shoulders as if desperate.
"Fancy meeting you here."
Tyra's already ready to meet a smug smile with a withering glare, but when she looks up it's to see Lyla on the opposite side of the bar. The other girl has her hands tucked into her back pockets; she looks shy and nervous and young. At some point, she'd pushed her hair back behind her ears but now it's drifting free. Tyra's fingers itch to touch it, to smooth the unruly strands back into place, to let her palms graze Lyla's cheeks. She's biting on her lower lip and giving Tyra a hopeful look and Tyra's stomach drops down somewhere in the vicinity of her knees.
"I thought you were in LA," Lyla continues, growing even more visibly nervous the longer Tyra stares without saying anything. "I didn't think you'd come back for this."
It's homecoming, three years past graduation and counting.
"I needed some cash," Tyra says, voice hoarse. It's not the first thing she thought she'd say if she ever saw Lyla again, but now that she's started talking, she can't stop. Her mind is blank, so she babbles without thinking, not even paying attention to the words she's saying. "I'm staying with Mindy for a while, you know, trying to build up a little cushion. It's hard to get ahead out there. It's expensive as hell, that's for sure. And anyway, it's easier here. The tips come big when half the town wants to get in your pants."
She blushes after she says the last part, when what she's saying catches up with her. Lyla blushes in reflex, and for a moment there's a deep, awkward silence.
Lyla breaks it. Her words are rushed, as if she wants to get them all out before Tyra can stop her. "You want to come watch the fireworks with me tonight?"
Tyra wants to say no just as much as she wants to say yes. The two sides battle it out as she just looks at Lyla, trying to spot all the changes a couple of years can bring.
As the seconds tick by and Tyra doesn't answer, Lyla seems to shrink. The hope dies out of her eyes slowly and her smile fades into an expression of resigned acceptance. She looks like she's on the verge of backing away in defeat when Tyra's head begins to nod with a suddenness that's almost violent.
"Yeah, sure. Okay," she says, then forces herself to stop speaking.
"Yeah?" Lyla questions, confirming. A second later she changes her mind, sure that Tyra will back out if given the time to think about it. "I'll come back around 9:45. You'll be off, right?"
She won't, but that doesn't matter. When Lyla comes back for her, she's leaving her shift, and Tyra's already made up her mind that she'll quit this job if they try to say no.
She nods again. "I'll be off."
It turns out that she does have to quit her job because the manager isn't so happy about one of his bartenders taking off in the middle of the rush crowd on one of the most high volume days they can expect that year. It's one more bridge burned, though Tyra expects she could charm him into giving her job back if she tried, but what's more important is that she can meet Lyla at the door. She meets her outside of it, even, leaning back against the rough brick of the building in a bored, indolent way that makes it seem like she's not waiting on Lyla at all.
Lyla pulls up and waves happily, and Tyra takes her time pushing off of the building. She's careful of appearing too eager. She doesn't want Lyla to get the wrong idea, like that Tyra has missed her or that they maybe made a mistake when they parted ways midway through Lyla's first semester at the University of Texas.
"You're still driving that old truck?"
Lyla had seen Tyra's old rust colored Silverado when she'd passed by the bar earlier that day. Her heart had skipped a beat at the sight, sure that it had to be on its third or fourth owner by now no way that Tyra was still driving the thing, much less back in Dillon. So she'd driven by, then circled around and driven by again. She was on her third trip through the circuit when she'd decided to just go and see.
And there Tyra had been, the first thing she'd seen when she walked through the doors.
"Let's take it," she says, already walking away from her car and in its direction, expecting Tyra to follow along after her, "but let me drive, okay. I know the perfect spot."
Tyra had always liked watching Lyla drive her truck. She looked like a wood sprite piloting a tank.
She hands over the keys without argument. The tips of her fingers brush against Lyla's palm, and she knows it's corny as hell, but she feels the spark of electricity regardless.
"Where's this perfect spot?"
Tyra knows she has to say something. She can't just keep sitting there, silent and stone-faced. Doing that is as much of an admission that she's freaked out as is rambling on like an idiot, but she's having difficulty finding any words. She doesn't want small talk. They've got too much history and too much left unsaid to act like polite, bumbling acquaintances, but she doesn't want anything serious either. There are answers she doesn't want to give and ones she doesn't want to hear, and now she's thinking that it would have been better to have brushed Lyla off until it was time for the other girl to head back to her life in Austin. A day, maybe two, maybe a weekend she could have held out that long. She could have worked herself to death or ducked into the storeroom out back of the bar at the first sight of Lyla or just left town.
Or she could have agreed to whatever Lyla wanted, with nothing less than hell or high water on the agenda to stop her.
Lyla gives her a mysterious smile. They're out past the streetlights lining the city's streets now. It would be pitch black if it weren't for the lights from the houses set off of the road. The old truck rattles; the radio is set on something barely intelligible. The volume is down low and half of the words are obscured by the crackle of static. As a result, Tyra can hear the way her heart is steadily starting to beat faster and faster. She can hear the slight edge of impending panic in her breathing. She thinks about what it means to be there with Lyla all alone, side by side on the bench seat of her truck, driving off into the darkness. She thinks about all the time that's passed and all the words that've been said and all of the feeling behind them.
Lyla turns left onto a dirt road that Tyra hadn't even known was there. The headlights are murky against the rutted and overgrown path that emerges about ten feet in, when gravel gives way to something that's little more than a trail. The truck bumps and jostles, and Tyra digs her nails into the armrest on the door. A second later and they're in front of a dilapidated wooden gate, and Tyra shoots Lyla a look of disbelief.
"What the hell?" she asks, both incredulous and aggrieved. "Are we trespassing?"
"Are you worried?" Lyla teases, already kicking open the truck's door and halfway out of the cab as the words drift back over her shoulder. Tyra's about to tell her that yeah, she is worried, when Lyla shuts the door. It creaks loudly, rattling the whole truck as it settles into place.
In the middle of the rutted road, the part the truck tires haven't worn down, the grass is up around mid-shin on Lyla. Tyra watches as the other girl's dark form lifts a circle of rope over the top of a fence post. It's the only thing acting as a lock, and once it's free, Lyla pulls up hard on the gate. There's a post anchored in a well worn hole a few inches deep. Tyra guesses it's made its way there over time more than by design as the gate looks about ready to fall to pieces. It's sagging in the middle, bowed wooden slats alternating with strands of barbed wire gone slack, and Lyla has to tug hard to get it open far enough for the truck to pass through.
She gives Tyra a wave then wiggles her fist from side to side, and Tyra sighs, thinks again about how much she shouldn't be out here in the middle of nowhere with Lyla, then slides across the truck's seat. She drives through the gate, the wheels catching on a rut that nearly pulls the steering wheel from her grip, and stops about ten feet in, waiting for Lyla to close the gate and get back in the truck. She watches the other girl in the rear view mirror, painted red by her tail lights, as she repeats the same process in reverse.
Lyla's already talking when she climbs in the passenger's side door, pointing to a place an indeterminate distance away. "Over there," she says, and Tyra starts driving. She can see a group of cows huddling off in the distance under the protection of the tree line. The moon glints off the surface of a small pond in the distance, barely visible in the darkness of the night, and there's nothing but uneven ground and high grass between where they are and where Lyla wants them to be.
"Here," she says suddenly. "Stop."
They're in the middle of the pasture. The spot doesn't seem any different to Tyra than any of the other spots Lyla could have picked, but for once, she doesn't see the need to argue. It doesn't matter to her anyway. She's too worried about other things.
"We'll sit on the tailgate," Lyla declares, and she's out of the truck once again. Tyra can hear the protesting groan of her tailgate being lowered even before she shuts the door. "Hurry up. They're going to start in a few minutes."
They both hiss when they hitch themselves up onto the tailgate. The metal is cold. It's just on the edge of fall, in that time of year when the days are warm but the nights are chilly, tainted by the touch of the impending winter.
"There's a blanket in the truck," Tyra says. They're both giggling, happy to have something to have broken the tension.
The blanket is folded up behind the seat in the cab of the truck. Tyra doesn't look at it too closely. She can't even begin to remember how long it's been in there, and she picks off a couple of dried and brittle leaves from the side that has been resting against the floor. Before she spreads it out in the bed of the truck, she unfurls it, giving it a good, hard shake.
"There's the first one," Lyla says, and a second later, Tyra hears a muffled, muted pop. She turns just in time to see the edges of the starburst fizzle off into darkness.
They're well outside of the town proper. It's not the best view of the fireworks. From that distance, they're tiny little pinpricks of explosion against the vast, dark expanse of the nighttime sky, but it's pretty anyhow, and anyway, it's been a long time since Tyra remembered to look at the stars. She's always amazed when she sees them again really sees them stretching on forever. It makes her feel small, reminds her that she's one drop of water in the ocean.
"Hurry up with that. I'm cold."
Lyla's got her hands wrapped around her upper arms, chafing the skin there with her palms. She's wearing a long sleeved shirt, but the material is a thin cotton, and Tyra springs into action. She flings the blanket out over the bed of the truck and climbs back up onto the tailgate. It's a natural inclination when she slides in behind Lyla, spreading her legs out so that they bracket the other girl's hips, and curls into her from behind. She wraps her arms around Lyla's waist and drops her chin down onto the other girl's shoulder like there had never come a time when touches between them were awkward instead of fluid.
The fireworks are dying off, the grand crescendo lighting up the sky in a blaze of blue and yellow, when Lyla's hands come up to cover hers. They sit that way for a minute, body heat building between them, before Lyla turns her head. Her face is close enough to Tyra's that she can feel the warmth of Lyla's breath.
Dark eyes study her for a moment, flitting up to Tyra's eyes then down to her lips, and then Lyla is sliding around. Tyra leans back just as their lips meet, and they sink down to the bed of the truck in a jumble of entwined limbs. There's no talking. Tyra gasps when Lyla's cool fingers drift under her shirt. She moans shamelessly when those same fingers slip into her panties and slide against her flesh, but she doesn't say a word.
There's a point when she realizes that this isn't all about her. She fumbles with the button on Lyla's jeans. They're facing one another and it's a little awkward, the positioning not quite right. It's not as easy as it had been before, when Tyra knew Lyla better than she knew herself, but it's enough so that soon she has Lyla gasping into her mouth and making soft, kittenish noises that make her grind down on the other girl's hand. She needs to be kissing Lyla, needs to have those soft lips against her own, and it doesn't work out quite right either. It means she has to bend her wrist at an almost painful angle, but she doesn't care.
They get there around the same time. Lyla sobs out her climax against Tyra's ear and Tyra wraps her arms around Lyla's back, hugging her in close and trying to not get lost. She closes her eyes, breathes in the clean scent of Lyla's hair, and thinks again about the ocean.
She's getting cold, on the verge of starting to shiver, when Lyla pulls her head up from Tyra's shoulder to look in her eyes.
"Why'd we break up?"
The question leaves Tyra speechless. She's had enough time to look at the reasons, or at least her reasons, and none of it's pretty. It's all tied up in fear and insecurity, things she still can't help but feel, but she doesn't want to tell Lyla that they parted ways because she wanted to get out before she could be gotten rid of.
Instead of all that, she boils it down to an insufficient, muttered, "We wanted different things, Garrity. We lived in different worlds."
"To quote you, I say bullshit."
Lyla wants to say more. She wants to say that she'd known exactly what Tyra was doing in those weeks before graduation, when she started fighting with Lyla about every little thing and doing stupid things like trying to flirt with Tim Riggins. She knows that Tyra was scared about the future back then, what with Lyla going off to Austin to start school at UT and Tyra staying back in Dillon and going to community college. She knows that two years seemed like a long time even one year seemed like a long time and that Tyra was already chafing under the expectation that she'd move to Austin when she got accepted to UT, too, and that she was supposed to be fine with Lyla moving off to the big city while she stayed stuck in the same place. She knows that Tyra expected her to be seduced by Austin and by the university, that Tyra was convinced that once Lyla moved away, she'd decide she was going to leave all of Dillon behind. That once she'd moved away, she'd decide she deserved someone better.
No matter how clearly Lyla had understood all of that then, she hadn't known how to stop it. She'd been a little guilty, too, wrapped up in the excitement of breaking free of Dillon's hold and getting the chance to test her wings and explore her limits. She had a history with Dillon that hung around her neck like a stone.
Because Tyra doesn't seem willing to break the silence that follows her challenge, Lyla answers her own question. "We were young and we were stupid."
It's almost too dark to see Tyra's eyes, but Lyla feels her shrink back.
"What I mean," she clarifies, aware that she has crashed hard into Tyra's insecurities, "is that we gave up too easily. We didn't believe in each other, at least not enough."
Lyla can already hear the dismissal in Tyra's voice. She pictures them going back to the bar, giving each other awkward smiles and an even more awkward hug when Tyra drops her off at her car. She sees Tyra watching her in the rear view mirror as she drives away, Lyla's reflection shrinking down until she's gone, and so she says quickly, almost begging, "You don't have to go back to LA. Move to Austin. I think you'd like it there."
Tyra arches a brow in surprise and Lyla holds her breath, realizing what she's done when the nervousness and nausea hit. "Austin?"
Lyla's breathless when she confirms, "Yeah, Austin."
Silence stretches out between them again. Lyla forces herself to stay quiet. She wants to take it back, or to give Tyra a list of reasons why it's a good idea, but she knows, instinctively, that this is something Tyra has to work through on her own and at her own pace. And finally, just when Lyla starts to feel like she's going to explode from the pressure, Tyra stirs, a small frown on her face as she says hesitantly, "And just what am I supposed to do in Austin?"
That Tyra is even considering it enough to ask sends a wave of euphoria washing over her, and Lyla smiles the slow half-smile that has always cut Tyra off at the knees. "Finish school. Be my girlfriend," she says, half playful and half serious.
Tyra's heart skips a beat. She almost says okay before she stops herself, her gut and her heart moving more quickly than her brain. "Now I know you've lost your mind," she mutters back, ignoring the way disappointment flickers in Lyla's eyes. She watches the half-smile turn from earnest to fake, watches as Lyla covers up any trace of hurt and instead smoothes right over the moment as if she hadn't meant it in the first place. The playful glint in her eyes turns hollow, now an almost grotesque bastardization of what it had been before Tyra did what she did best and hurt her again.
"I understand," Lyla says brightly, her voice so sugary sweet it makes Tyra ache. "I mean, it was just a silly thought anyway. I know you've got a life out there in LA."
Tyra feels just as hollow as Lyla looks, but she doesn't bother to correct her. She does have a life there, and it's safe and comfortable. It doesn't have Lyla Garrity in it, looking at her like she's just had her heart broken.
"Lyla, I'm "
"Don't you dare say you're sorry," Lyla says sharply, rolling away from Tyra. She pushes into a crouch and wiggles her way down until she can hop off of the back of the truck and down onto the ground. She's tugging at the blanket, pulling hard so that Tyra slides with it. "It was a silly idea."
As soon as Lyla gets the blanket out from under her, she starts folding it, concentrating on matching up the corners. The cloth ends up in a perfect, small rectangle that she shoves hard into Tyra's chest.
"There's nothing for you to hide behind now," Lyla tells her. Her eyes have gone cold, and Tyra feels the burn of the other girl's disappointment deep in her heart. "There's no reason to say no unless you just don't want to say yes."
"I do want to say yes, Lyla. I do." Tyra says the words earnestly, eyes wide and imploring. "But just because I want to doesn't mean that I can or that I should."
Lyla watches her for a minute, then shakes her head in disgust. "I'm through with this. I'm not doing it anymore."
The ride back into town is tense and silent. Lyla doesn't stick around to watch Tyra drive away from her. On the way out of town, she stops long enough to get her suitcase but not long enough to assuage her father's muted concern, and then she's on the road back to Austin.
She's tired of chasing after people who don't care enough to chase back.
Lyla Garrity is standing under a slowly spinning disco ball wearing scuffed cowboy boots, her cowboy hat pushed up high on her forehead. Reflections dance around the room like inebriated stars, and Tyra can't help but smile. There's something slow and sad playing in the background, some country singer with an old school twang singing about open roads and dark nights and it feels like one of those moments crafted by fate.
It turns out Tyra couldn't talk her way back into a job at the bar, but that didn't mean she couldn't drink there. It's nearly empty. All of the town is at the homecoming game, and she figures the bar would be closed too if the manager didn't want to make sure that the doors were open just as soon as the first Panther faithful decided to walk through them.
"What are you doing here, Garrity?" Tyra asks, suddenly so close that she doesn't have to strain to be heard over the muted hum of the music. "What are you doing wearing that?"
Lyla made it halfway to Austin before she pulled into a parking space in the far corner of a gas station, dropped her head down into her hands, and cried until she couldn't cry any more. That done, she wiped her face dry of tears, put the car in reverse, and headed back to Dillon.
"It's time for you to come home and stay home," Lyla says simply. There's a hint of a smile crinkling the skin at the corners of her eyes. She's got that look about her, like she knows some sort of secret, universal truth. Like she's made a decision that's going to stick.
Tyra's always hated that look. As far as she can tell, Lyla Garrity doesn't know shit. If she did, she wouldn't have stumbled her way through life one screw-up after another.
Still, though, knowing that Lyla's got her mind set takes all of the pressure off of Tyra's shoulders. She thinks that maybe it's a foregone conclusion maybe the moment is one of those crafted by fate and she's tired of arguing.
"I'm not staying in Dillon," she says stubbornly. She wants to cross her arms over her chest to punctuate just how much she means this particular sentiment, but Lyla's fingers are entwined with hers. Lyla's got her thumb tucked into the pocket of Tyra's jeans like an anchor, like she's afraid that Tyra is going to disappear.
"I live in Austin," Lyla reminds her with a slight smile, as if it's that easy.
Tyra arches a brow in challenge and leans back, making Lyla follow after her. "Maybe I don't want to come back to Texas. Have you considered that?"
"I've considered it," Lyla drawls, shrugging as if Tyra's protestations are ultimately of little consequence. "Anyway, home is anywhere I am. Haven't you figured that out by now?"
If it weren't for the shadows of uncertainty in the other girl's eyes, Tyra might have believed that Lyla actually believed what she was saying. Not, Tyra admits, that Lyla could ever believe in anything when it came to her.
She watches the uncertainty in Lyla's eyes grow the longer she stays silent. She thinks briefly about turning the other girl away one last time, sure that if she does, this will finally be the time that Lyla leaves and never comes back, but she can't. She has absolutely no desire to do anything of the sort, so instead she gives in to the part of her that has wanted to kiss Lyla ever since she saw her standing out in the middle of the dance floor looking like she'd crawled fully grown from Texas' forehead. "You're an arrogant little shit, Lyla Garrity," she says with a rough, affectionate chuckle, taking a step forward so that they're pressed flush together. Her hands shift, sliding along the edge of the other girl's jeans until her fingers are linked together at the small of Lyla's back, and she holds the other girl tight.
Lyla's sly grin does nothing to dispute the fact. Where it's cocky, though, her voice is soft and questioning. "Yeah, but you love me."
"Yeah," Tyra admits with a sigh. The agreement comes immediately; she doesn't have the strength to fight it any more. She misses a lot of things, foremost of which is this girl, and something about the way Lyla had seemed the night before determined, this time, that it was the last time she was going to be turned away had scared Tyra in a way that had chilled her to the bone. It had seemed like an end, final this time, and Tyra had realized that no matter how scared she was of being together, she was even more afraid of being apart. "I guess I do."
She kisses Lyla again, long and slow and deep. There is a single, faint cat-call followed by a long, low whistle, but for once, Tyra doesn't care. She holds on to Lyla like she's never planning to let go.
Tyra doesn't tell her, but Lyla tastes like home.
When they pull apart, Tyra gives Lyla a soft, shy smile. "Maybe I did finally figure it out."
"Good," Lyla says. Her eyes twinkle, and Tyra can see the faintest hint of mischief in her smile. "It's about time you stopped being so damned stupid."
She knows it's true, so Tyra doesn't even bother to try and deny it. "Yeah," she agrees, leaning forward to kiss Lyla again. "It's about time."
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