jensen climbed the last step, taking the opportunity of finally being out of lorna’s line of sight to wince at the state of his body. it was only tuesday afternoon and already he felt like his shoulder might be in an awkward state of dislocation, that his ribs were trying to find newer, safer homes, and that he had rug burn over his whole body. but even though lorna was most likely aware of the way he was feeling (she did sit in the stands during practice after all and watch every hit he took), she at least had let him try and act tough as they walked -slowly- back to her house.
he straightened his face, though, as he pushed himself off the handrail and lorna glanced worriedly over her shoulder at him. she swung the door to her room open and stepped inside, and jensen paused slightly to slump forward. he wasn’t sure how long he’d be able to pull off his whole tough guy routine, and he wasn’t sure how long lorna would let him. slowly, he walked into her room, letting his backpack slide off his shoulder and fall to the floor by her door. he shut the door lightly behind him, turning just in time to see lorna cross her arms lightly over her chest. he blinked tiredly at her, offering her a cheesy smile that showed all his teeth, a smile that he probably hadn’t used since their second grade class picture.
“are you done?”
“i don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, fumbling across her room to the yellow settee that sat at the foot of her bed. he collapsed onto it, but finding out that it wasn’t comfortable at that point in time, he stood back up, walked around the ‘couch’ that wasn’t a couch and lowered himself onto her bed.
“okay, yes, you’re done. don’t move. i’ll be back.”
jensen watched as she spun around and walked out of her room, all business. “wasn’t planning on it!” he called after her, falling backwards onto her bed and sighing at the feeling of being flat on his back on something that wasn’t a sun-baked practice field. it seemed as though he’d just let his eyes shut when lorna returned, supplies in hand.
he shot her another lazy smile, completely abandoning the tough guy act that he’d been fronting. why he had, he wasn’t sure, since letting lorna take care of him seemed a lot better than ‘toughing’ it out at this point in time. he watched as she laid out the supplies on the bed next to him, following some sort of organization, no doubt.
“alright. come on. here, let’s sit you up and go ahead and put this on your face.”
she reached out and helped him sit back up, handing him an icepack when he was slumped forward.
“okay. now, what else hurts?”
jensen pressed the icepack against turf-burn on his cheek and shot her a look that spoke for itself.
“specifics are always nice, jens.”
the corner of his mouth twitched into the icepack, and with his free hand, jensen reached behind his head, grabbing at his shirt and pulling it over him. he switched his hands to hold his icepack and pulled his shirt the rest of the way off, letting it sit in a crumpled pile next to him. “specifics are hard,” he said, showing her the different bruises on his shoulders, chest and side. and that was just his upper half, never mind the knees and cleats he’d gotten to the thigh.
he looked at her, waiting for some sort of reaction out of her. so far the only thing she’d done was wince at the sight of it. he watched as she looked over his chest, feeling self-conscious all of a sudden. was he not supposed to do that, to take off his shirt, when they weren’t at the beach? he swallowed roughly, color coming to his cheeks as he looked away from her and started to reach for his shirt.
“i think you might want to put that icepack on your shoulder instead of your face.”
jensen sighed and laughed lightly, doing as he was told and moving the icepack from his face to his shoulder. he looked at her, watching her as she seemed to have some sort of struggle with herself. “it’s not as bad as it looks,” he said weakly, understanding now why he’d instinctively wanted to put up the tough guy front. seeing him like this obviously wasn’t easy for her.
“how do you even get bruises there? or cuts there? what’s the point of wearing all those pads if you still come out like this?”
her voice wavered slightly from her mostly business tone while she reached for the some sort of cream for the cuts on his side. “not everyone comes out looking like this,” he said, instantly realizing that it was something he probably shouldn’t have. “you should see the guys that get thrown around worse than me.” he laughed lightly and a small smile tugged at the corner of her mouth as she dabbed some of the cream on one of the bigger cuts.
“that’s not funny, jensen.”
“i thought it kind of was,” he said, wincing and pulling away instinctively from the sting of the cream. “not one of my best, but still.” he reached over, grabbing a box of band-aids and handing them to her. “a little funny?” she looked up at him, then down to his bruises and scrapes, and then back up to his turf-burned face.
“i wish you didn’t have to do this, jens.”
he laughed quietly, watching her as she peeled open a band-aid. “well, that makes two of us.” he sniffed slightly, reaching up to finagle the icepack so he could lean back on his palms and have it still rest on his shoulder. “well, i take that back. the guys probably think that too. they don’t like sarcasm very much on the field, i’ve found that out.” he caught her frowning at him.
“everyone out there is bigger than you.. you… you could get seriously hurt, running around out there.”
“thanks, lor,” he said flatly, rolling his eyes. he was fully aware that he was the most uncoordinated person to probably ever step onto holly point high school’s football field, but despite the fact that the evidence spoke against it, he liked to believe he wouldn’t get completely and utterly destroyed. maybe just slightly destroyed.
“it’s idiotic. one of your dad’s worst ideas yet.”
“can we not talk about him, please?” he asked, watching her as she finished up and started getting all of the supplies together. jensen caught her eye as she looked at him, and he offered her a smile. pushing himself over toward her, he pecked her on the lips. “thanks for cleaning me up, lorna doone,” he gave her a repeat of the cheesy smile he’d used earlier. “you’re the best girlfriend a guy could have.”
she smiled back at him, her face brightening at the compliment.
“don’t worry about it, hun.”
she kissed him on the cheek and grabbed back up all the supplies she’d brought in earlier and went to go put them back. jensen looked around her room, biting the inside of his cheek. he wiggled the rest of the way onto her bed, crawling backward (and wincing) until he sat against the pillows at the head of her bed. he set his hands behind his head, waiting for her to return when his eyes landed on his backpack. he sighed.
moments later, lorna walked back into her room, and jensen was suddenly self-conscious again. he brought his hands to cross over his chest, wondering if he should have put his shirt back on. sure, she’d seen him without his shirt, but that had been at the beach. before football. and as much as he hated the damn sport, he was a bit proud of the fact that there were definite muscles on his chest and arms. he cleared his throat, “c-can you hand me my backpack? i’ve got math and i need to pick your brain.”
she grabbed his backpack off the ground and handed it to him before climbing up next to him. jensen unzipped his bag and pulled out his books, feeling her eyes on him, but every time he looked at her, she would be looking at something else. clearing his throat again, he opened his notes and flipped to a page in his book. “this,” he said, gesturing to the mess of letters and numbers that were scattered across the pages on his lap.
“anything more specific?”
jensen looked at her, enjoying the fact that he was still a bit taller than her when they sat, and being able to catch her as she looked out of the corner of her eye at him. “well, the parts of it that involve letters,” he said, shifting slightly closer to her.
“jens, you’re taking algebra. that’s basically what it is.”
“that’s my point.” jensen heard her sigh softly, and couldn’t help but notice the fact that her hand stayed on his stomach longer than it needed to when she grabbed a page of his notes.
“this is a fraction of x. so-“
“i thought that was a function,” he said, furrowing his eyebrows at the page she held out in front of him.
“that’s what i said.”
“no it isn’t. you said fraction.” he looked at her and saw a bit of color rise in her cheeks.
“i meant function, then. and what you do, is you replace the x in the system with the number that’s in the parentheses.”
“what’s a system? i thought that was an equation.” he grabbed another page of his badly taken notes. “yeah, yeah. that’s definitely an equation.” the color in lorna’s cheeks rose further. he took a breath and then bit his lip. slowly, he pulled the notes from lorna’s hand and stuffed them inside his book. “let’s not do math right now,” he said cautiously, setting the book aside.
“what other homework do you have?”
jensen paused before he spoke. “i wasn’t really thinking of doing other homework,” he said, looking back at her, catching her hazel eyes with his brown eyes. his heart felt like it was hammering in his throat. the corner of his mouth twitching up, he set his hand on her cheek, leaning forward to press his lips against hers. after a moment, he pulled away from her, smiling. he leaned toward her again, his lips just hovering over hers before he lifted them and placed a kiss on the tip of her nose, and then her forehead. smiling still, he leaned back, pulling her with him, tucking her under his arm and against his side. he let his head fall back against her pillow, looking up at the ceiling, thinking. finally, he spoke.
“maybe sticking with football isn’t so bad if we get more afternoons like this. hm, doone?”