Actions

Work Header

Lesser Angels

Work Text:

There were two kinds of people in this world, Tim Gutterson had always believed: those who talk, and those who just do. He’d never met anyone who could disavow him of that notion, not in school, not in the Army, not as a deputy in the U.S. Marshals Service. That is, until he met Raylan Givens.

Raylan was one of the most competent, take-action kind of guys Tim had met, someone who wasn’t inclined to wait around and assess everything, he just did. Yet he also had that loquacious, chummy, Southern story-spinner quality that as often as not meant spouting some circuitous parable or personal recollection to coerce a suspect or talk someone down rather than rely on his badge and gun. It continually perplexed Tim; he did not like it when people didn’t fit into his categories and bend in the directions he thought they should.

Having met Raylan’s father, of course, it wasn’t hard for Tim to see where the chatty part came from. The stone-cold shooter probably originated from the same place, judging by what he’d seen of Arlo Givens, and it hadn’t taken Tim long to see how each side was a way for Raylan to protect himself.

But the storyteller often withered under the heated blast of wrath from their boss, Art Mullen, whenever Raylan fucked up -- and no mistake about it, Raylan had fucked up something big this time. He might be the closest thing to a rock star the U.S. Marshals Service ever had, but even he couldn’t go around shooting this many people without some serious ass-whupping repercussions. There were times Tim wanted to ask Raylan flat out if he thought killing people was a right conferred on him from his time teaching shooting at Glynco, or if he just didn’t give a shit. Maybe it was just like his double-sided personality: a little bit of both.

He and Art, along with a small cadre of marshals, had made it to the scene of Raylan’s latest bloodbath quite a while ago, but Tim had long since stopped paying attention to Art’s alternating apoplectic rages and professional, careful queries. It seemed as if every sentence Art uttered began with, “Well, shit, Raylan...” or “Jesus jumped-up Christ on a sidecar, Raylan.” The Kentucky sun had made all the dead bodies stink; flies were everywhere. Now the sun was going down, casting shadows on the shadows, but the buzzards still anxiously circled around the holler, hoping for a taste.

Art’s voice cut through his disinterest with a curt, “I apologize for disturbing your reverie, but would you mind giving me your attention?” Tim heaved a beleaguered sigh, and went over to the two of them. Raylan’s gaze was still focused on the dirt, as it had been for the past twenty minutes or so under Art’s gale force temper. Judging by what bits Tim had heard while he measured off shooting distances, counted shell casings, and listlessly wandered around, Art was alternately angry about Raylan going off alone with a known felon, walking into a certain-death situation without backup, allowing said felon to go after the last suspect in the attempted murder of a federal marshal, shooting most of the victims himself, and shooting his own father. Probably allowing Boyd Crowder to chase after the girl was the worst of the sins, but Tim wasn’t certain he’d put money on that.

“While Raylan’s BFF is off chasing after our last remaining suspect,” Art said drily, “somebody’s going to have to keep eyes on Wyatt Earp here. If she’s this determined, it’s possible she’s coming back to finish the job, and while that might make our lives a bit easier, I’d prefer to avoid any more bloodshed today.”

Raylan drew his mouth in a tight line, moved his jaw back and forth, and raised his eyes to the sky. Tim could tell they had already been over this a few times when he wasn’t listening. “I can see where this concern stems from,” Raylan said peevishly, and waved a hand around. “But doesn’t this convince you that I can be left home alone, without the sitter?” The chief’s scowl, though, was an answer in itself, especially when he pointedly turned toward the body of Bo Crowder, lying like a dead walrus under the yellow body bag.

Art walked away to confab with some of the cops, and Raylan turned to Tim, a helpless quality in his air that Tim had never seen. Raylan’s most attractive quality was that confident cowboy swagger. “Dad always liked you best.”

Tim shrugged. “Sorry, dude. That’s what happens when you don’t kill people. Anyway, I don’t mind. Beats the hell out of staying down here and doing crime scene.” He imagined it wouldn’t be long before either Boyd Crowder got his hands on Gio’s girl, or the police or a fellow Marshal got their hands on both of them. He wouldn’t be spending too much time with Raylan, Tim suspected, and he truly enjoyed being around the guy. Something always seemed to be happening around Raylan Givens, and that had made life in their tiny Lexington office just that much more interesting.

Eventually Art turned around again to face them, narrowed his eyes, and made a shooing motion. “Well? Are you just gonna stand there with your peckers in your hands? Go.”

****

The motel manager had been only too happy for Raylan to take his stuff and check out. Once the CSU team and coroner’s office had finished working in Raylan’s room, they’d taped and locked it up, though that hadn’t stopped Raylan from taking out whatever he could fit in a duffel. Tim thought it telling that Raylan did not ask about his father--not on the long drive back to Lexington, not when talking to Art before that, and not with the manager, who’d surely been around when Arlo had been carted off to jail. He had, on the other hand, shown concern for Ava Crowder. Tim couldn’t entirely blame him for his priorities; not everyone’s dad tried to sell them down the river to be tortured and killed by a Miami drug cartel.

Once they’d found out that Ava was all right and safely back in Harlan with witsec, Raylan had mostly slept on the way back to Lexington, his seat leaned way back and the hat poised over his face. The silence wasn’t entirely unpleasant, and Tim was somewhat pleased to discover that Raylan snored. Not loudly, but just enough to make him seem slightly more human and less the outsized gunslinger in total control of every faculty.

After they left the motel, Tim remarked, “I can’t believe you’ve lived in this pit the whole time you’ve been here. You’re really that desperate to get out of here that you won’t even get a decent apartment? You think it’ll, what, tie you down?”

“I live in hope. Don’t try to tell me you enjoy it here.” Raylan gave him that tilted-head genial smile.

Tim shrugged. “I don’t know. It has its merits, like anyplace, and its drawbacks.”

Raylan made a puffing sound of disbelief.

“Seems like you’d be happier if you just accepted that you’re here.” For some reason, it rankled Tim that Raylan wore his displeasure at being in Kentucky like another badge. Maybe the bluegrass state wasn’t exactly at the top of anyone’s assignment list, but it was active, and there was plenty of opportunity to move up and out if you did good work.

As they drove to his place, Tim ate the last of the fries at the bottom of the bag. Their stop at McDonald’s had been hours ago, and he was starving again. But food took a back seat by now to the need to sleep for a few hours.

Inside his place, Tim threw his keys on the entryway table, and Raylan set down his bag, looking around. “Nice place,” he commented, and then appeared to bite back on the rest of whatever he was going to say. After their conversation about the motel room, Tim could pretty much guess at the unspoken reference to how lived-in his apartment was.

Tim was particularly good at not rising to bait. “I’d say make yourself at home, but...”

With a sheepish smile, Raylan shrugged off his jacket and set his hat down on the table next to Tim’s keys, crown down, just the way a good cowboy should do it.

Tim said, “I figure you should take the bedroom and I’ll do the couch.” They both took their guns and holsters off and set them down, along with their badges. In the kitchen he rooted around in a cupboard, coming up with a still reasonably full bottle of 21-year rye whiskey. If anyone would appreciate that, it would be Raylan. He held the bottle up and Raylan gave him the half-grimace, half-smile that Tim had become fonder of than he’d expected. When he did things like that, Tim understood the dilemma pretty much all of the people in Raylan’s life faced -- how do you stay righteously angry with someone that attractive and charming?

After a quick gulp-down of the first shot, they sat at the small table and sipped at another shot. “Jesus, I needed that. Thank you,” Raylan said, closing his eyes. “Guess I’ll need a shower, too. Hope I don’t smell as bad as I think I do.” He looked down at the blood splotches on his shirt, as if he’d just remembered they were there.

“I think I stopped being able to smell anything back at the holler,” Tim said pointedly. “That was pretty putrid.”

“Pretty putrid. Try saying that five times fast.” He drained the rest of his drink and poured himself some more.

“Not until I’m good and drunk. I’ll get you some towels and change the sheets on the bed. You won’t mind, I hope, if I just go to sleep. I don’t know how you do it, driving down there all the time like that. Puts me in a coma.” Yawning deliberately, he added, “Quite a full day, following your trail of the dead.”

“Now I feel bad -- you shouldn’t have to give up your bed ‘cause of me.” He glanced at the couch with raised eyebrows.

“I’ve slept in worse places,” Tim said. “Sort of like a dog in that respect.”

“I bet you have,” Raylan said quietly. There was a gently deferential quality Raylan showed whenever Tim’s service came up, no matter how oblique the reference. He knew Raylan was deeply curious about it, but Tim tended to dole that information out pretty selectively.

“Makes more sense for me to be in the living room. There’s no back way out of here, so if your friends find out where you are, they’ll have to come through me first. I think at this point, if there’s any shooting to be done, Art would prefer I be the one to do it.”

“This wasn’t how I wanted any of this to end up.”

“Trouble follows you around, doesn’t it?” Tim asked, going to the hall closet to dig out some fresh linens.

“Or else I go looking for it.” Raylan shrugged, and not for the first time, Tim felt a pang of sorrow for him and the toll all this killing had taken. “My mama once told me I had the habit of giving in to my lesser angels. All’s she wanted for me was to follow my better angels, but being too much like my daddy, I tended to the other direction. Pulled too many a pigtail or used all my lunch money for a dirty magazine, or some such. Older I got, the more serious it got. Thought I was finally taking the better path when I became a marshal, but those angels are stiiillll sittin’ on my shoulder.”

There he was, Tim thought. The philosophizing gunslinger they were all a little enthralled by.

He set Raylan up, then made up his own spot on the couch, where he promptly fell into a deep sleep despite the noises of Raylan moving around the place. It had been a long time since he’d had an overnight guest, and it provoked in him peculiar dreams of being lost in the Appalachian hills that somehow became the Afghan mountains, populated by angels.

****

After an uneventful sleep, Raylan shuffled out of the bedroom, scratching the back of his head and squinting. He had the look of a man desperately in need of coffee, so Tim pointed at the pot on the counter. Raylan put his hands together in prayerful thanks.

“Art says he doesn’t even want to see your face today,” Tim said. “He’s putting out fires. But you better be prepared to talk to, quote, a shitload of interested parties, unquote. I don’t think he’s any less pissed than he was yesterday.”

“Yeeaahh.” Raylan grimaced and sat down. Tim had to admit he looked pretty good in the threadbare t-shirt, sweats, and bedhead. He generally tried to keep from thinking about his co-workers in that way, but it was kind of hard not to look at Raylan with more than passing interest. The guy had a quality.

“Does it ever actually get to you? The constant trouble?”

“How should I answer that one? Can’t imagine there’s a right way.” Raylan stirred a little sugar in his coffee and looked at Tim over the edge of the cup. Tim assumed he had no idea how sexy that was, or Raylan wouldn’t be doing it around a guy who’d actually find that sexy.

“Suppose not.”

“Though, were I a man given to regrets, a do-over of the day I shot Tommy Bucks might be in order.” Raylan squinted. “In hindsight, that’s been more trouble than it was worth.” He drank his coffee, then asked, “I need to run some errands, take care of the little crap that’s been piling up under all this ... other stuff. I’m perfectly content to go it alone, but if you feel the need to play shadow, you mind taking me around?”

Tim got up and dumped the remains of his cold coffee in the sink. “Of course.”

Raylan’s life, when he wasn’t shooting people or playing Gary Cooper, was actually pretty boring, Tim discovered with something approaching shock. Their first stop had been at the dry cleaners to pick up a couple jackets. After that, the drugstore. Then the bank, after a stop for some more coffee. Tim could tell Raylan was itching to get into the office, but he talked him out of it with the offer of a stop for fried chicken. After that, they went back to the motel. Tim couldn’t see what Raylan was doing in the manager’s office from his vantage in the car, but he imagined the stop at the bank had had something to do with it.

It was all so peculiar. Here was this really hot, smart guy who could have whatever he wanted in the world. But he lived in a crummy, hick motel, had no social ties aside from a girlfriend who mostly lived down in Harlan -- a place Raylan despised -- and an ex-wife who was either fighting or flirting with him. Most of his days at work were desk-bound, and that seemed to be the primary place Raylan spent his time. He drank probably more than most people who were alone so much, Tim suspected, but otherwise, there wasn’t a lot of there there.

Raylan’s life in Lexington was a waystation, and instead of living in it, enjoying it, he was waiting for the first train out of it. The weird part for Tim was how much more that made him feel for the guy.

When they got back to the apartment, Raylan took to poking around a bit more, picking books and DVDs up to examine them, looking closely at photographs. It was a habit of the job, so Tim didn’t begrudge him the nosiness. But Tim enjoyed watching Raylan’s slinky hips move a little too much, not to mention the way his hair fell across his forehead. “You have wide-ranging tastes for an ex-Ranger,” Raylan said, flipping through a bunch of announcements from various clubs stuck together under a fridge magnet. “That your family in those photos? With their kids?”

“Yeah. All three of my sisters.”

“Three!” Raylan acknowledged with wonder and a shake of the head. “Always wished I could have had sisters. But that would have been a nightmare for them, havin’ a father like mine.”

“Didn’t seem like it was much good for you, either,” Tim said. He’d wondered, after the night he saw Arlo strike Raylan in the face, if his father had just been a random, temperamental hitter or more focused in his violence, but he had a feeling Raylan would push any questions about that away with a cryptic smile.

Raylan pulled one of the flyers down. “Crossings ... isn’t that a gay bar?" he asked.

Tim stood at the sink and kept his back to Raylan, so as not to let him see his smile. “One of the very few. That’s definitely an area where I share your feelings about Kentucky. It has a pretty narrow nightlife, comparatively.”

Raylan tacked it back up on the fridge. “That where the former snipers hang out these days?”

Tim tried to hide his smirk, and moved into the living room. Raylan stood in the doorway, scanning the room, looking intently at Tim. “Oh,” he said eventually. “Oh.” He paused. “Well, aren’t I the asshole?”

Tim didn’t look at him; instead, he picked up a file folder and riffled through it. “It’s all right. Just those angels talking.” At least Raylan had the good grace to look abashed.

***

“This is where you’re supposed to ask me about not asking and not telling,” Tim said conversationally as they worked their way through a bottle of bourbon. He was just drunk enough to talk about things now. They had been dancing their way back around to the topic for a while.

Raylan stared out the window, a wistful look on his face. “I always liked thinking of myself as a loner, I guess. Like, if I paid too much attention to what others were thinking or feeling, it’d lock me in place, keep me too attached. Or that if anyone got to know me, they could own me. Part of what always knocks me off my feet being back here, I suppose. Too many people who know me, too many people I know all about.” He pursed his lips, rapped his fingers on the table. “I understand wanting to keep some of yourself back.”

“Well, not to add to your burdensome knowledge, but it’s not exactly what you think. When I went into the service I was engaged to a girl I every bit expected to marry. I still think of myself as having, oh, what did you call it? Wide-ranging tastes.”

“Good to know.” Raylan gave him a sideways tilt of the head.

“You remember that night you and Art had me drive all the way to Harlan so’s you could get into the VFW?” Tim asked.

“Yeah ... you were working on a good drunk, right?”

“With someone I met at that bar. For the record, I was very, very pissed off. That was the first time I’d had a chance with someone new in a long time. And you didn’t exactly make the trip worthwhile.” He was beginning to understand what had bothered him about that night, and the many other times he’d dropped his social life to do something work -- and Raylan -- related: It wasn’t just Raylan’s cowboy reputation he was dazzled by. He had the hots for the hotshot. “Guess these are my lesser angels.”

“Is there ... um ... anyone in your life right now?” Raylan asked, with maybe a little more curiosity than Tim expected.

“Not really. Seems most of the time, I’m at work. I believe in keeping social and work lives strictly separate. Unless there’s a really good reason for me not to.”

Raylan raised his eyebrows.

“So, now that we’re being so honest with each other,” Tim commented, “there’s something very personal I’ve always wanted to ask you.”

“I’m not ... I don’t... I mean, I believe in never saying never.” Raylan grinned crookedly and his cheeks colored. Then the light dawned and his eyes opened wide. “Oh. You didn’t mean...” He gave an embarrassed laugh. “You’re enjoying this.”

“It’s not often you lose your cool. Not around someone who’s not your dad, anyway.”

“Well, what big secret may I release myself of for your entertainment?”

“Which came first -- the hat or the self-styled cowboy thing?”

That achieved something like a chuckle from Raylan. “Don’t really know which came first. It just sort of went hand in hand -- put on the hat and the attitude comes with it.”

Tim laughed, but he didn’t believe it. Still, that was part of what was so attractive about Raylan Givens -- the mystique he’d cultivated for himself. And the fact that he knew damn well he had it.

Tim wanted to say something more meaningful to Raylan about his life, to tell him that he understood it all, the attitude and the loneliness and the anger. Raylan was more lost here at home than he could have been anywhere else in the world, more alone being around the people who knew him than he would be in complete isolation. Instead, Tim merely said, “I’m not going to deny it wouldn’t be interesting to spend more time with you.”

Both of their phones rang simultaneously, and they looked at the text message from Art that Gio’s girl had been found dead. Nothing about Boyd Crowder, but Raylan got up and grabbed his badge and weapon. “Guess it’s time to start talking to that shitload of interested parties.”

Tim stood and pulled his stuff together. It was very convenient that Raylan wouldn’t have to respond to his comment, but maybe that was a good thing. It avoided a lot of awkwardness.

Raylan put his hat on, pulling it down with a quick yank on the brim. He smiled that boyish smile, looked very hard at Tim, and said, “I’ll take that under consideration.” He walked out, putting his gun in his holster. Tim watched his slinky hips as the two of them left his apartment, and grinned. That was the thing about Raylan -- with those two sides, you never knew which guy you were likely to come face to face with, or which angels he’d choose to follow.