Gravel crunches under the wheels and Raylan cuts the engine, climbing up out of the car. The night is still and cool, a breeze blowing down from the treetops and across his back.
"Boyd!" he shouts before fully clear. "Boyd!" he shouts again, taking swift, angry steps towards the house. Boyd appears on the porch, all in black, his jacket tucked tight around him. His compact silhouette so familiar, appearing so sudden, for a second it's like he materialised out of the shadows. Formed in an instant, from nothing, to nothing. Helen's body, covered in black.
Raylan grits his teeth. "What was that you said about your outlaw days being behind you?" This is a familiar anger and an easy path to take.
"I think you need to calm down, Raylan." Boyd's voice so measured, so ever-smooth. Raylan's hand clenches by his side and his vision tunnels. Calm down? When there's blood on the floor? Red, pooling on the floor and shattered glass across the tiles.
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't come up there and kick the living shit outta you."
Boyd swings his arm up, gun in hand. "I'll give you fifteen reasons in the mag and one in the chamber."
Raylan blinks and halts, stones shifting under his feet. Caught out on the draw. Raylan Givens, off his game.
He takes a sharp breath in. No matter how often it happens, people pointing guns his way always sends a jolt through his heart.
"You sure you can hit me from there?" His voice cools, accepting the challenge. This is a game he knows, a trade he's done with this man, in this place. Is that deja-vu or just bad memories playing out over and over again?
"Well I guess we'll find out." Boyd feels it too, his gun hand steady.
Raylan's heart beats heavy in his chest, and he's already full up of sad feelings, so why is the thought of this (this again) dragging him down even further?
There's a movement behind Boyd and Raylan's eyes flicker over. Cataloguing the threat that draws closer and reveals itself to be Ava with, of course, a shotgun.
She kicks open the screen door. "Is there a problem?" she asks, frown shadowing her face.
"Ava get inside the house." Raylan focuses back on Boyd.
She takes two steps, standing level with Boyd. "No I don't think I will. This is my home."
And Raylan looks at her, looks at Boyd, looks at both of them, shoulder to shoulder, guns in hand.
There's shock painted across his face and he can't quite gather himself enough to control it, to hide it like he ought to. All he feels is slipping away, like the black covered body, rolling away from him. He takes a step back, stones shifting under his feet and he stumbles, hand splaying out for balance. His eyes drop, embarrassment and anger swirling in his gut.
"Raylan." Boyd's voice is back to smooth and it's so damn familiar, always holding onto that calm, even through madness and prison and death. Something in Raylan snaps.
"She's dead Boyd!" He takes a half step forward, anger glinting his eyes. Boyd's grip on the gun tightens.
"She's dead." Raylan's voice cracks. And for a second all he can hear is the ragged inhale, exhale of his own breath.
Now Ava's frown is tinged with concern and Raylan can't take pity. Not pity, not from these two.
He shakes the thoughts out of his head and raises his hand to shield his face, resettle his hat. He begins to turn away and Boyd speaks from behind, the creak of porch step as he walks forward.
"I'm sorry Raylan."
Raylan laughs, a bitter, short shrug of ugly amusement. "Sorry?" He turns, Boyd's hand is lowered, the gun pointing at the ground by his feet.
"She was a good person," he says, still coming forward.
"Don't." Raylan raises his hand, warding off the words. He doesn't want to speak about her, doesn't want anyone to speak about her. Rolling away, the wheels squeaking under her weight.
Boyd is closer suddenly and Raylan can see the light reflecting off his eyes, the crush of lines at the corners.
"I don't want your pity." Raylan injects a growl into his voice.
"This ain't pity Raylan," he says, voice soft as the breeze.
Raylan, wrong-footed, drops his chin and squints up at him from under the brim of his hat. Whatever Boyd reads in his eyes makes him slide his hand around to holster his gun, and close the final distance between them to rest his hand on Raylan's shoulder.
Raylan stiffens, his entire body going wooden. "Boyd." He tilts his head, a warning in his tone.
Boyd can feel the tension of his muscles beneath his shirt. Not motionless, is Raylan, but wound tight, all that grief held back by a thread.
"Let it out Raylan, ain't good to keep it bottled up."
Raylan laughs again, that abrupt, broken noise.
Boyd can hear Ava behind them, the creak of the porch step as she follows him down. Raylan isn't looking, dropped his head so that his hat shields his face, and it takes Boyd a second to realise the tremor going through his fingers is coming from him, shakes going through his entire frame.
Boyd raises his other hand, slow, so slow, like moving up to a skittish horse, and lifts the brim of the hat, lifts it up to show Raylan's face, up and off his head, threads of hair raised by static before falling back against Raylan's brow.
Raylan turns his face away. "Don't." His voice is small and tired, easy to ignore.
Boyd leans forward, placing the hat on the car roof and lets the motion bring his arms up around Raylan.
"Let it out," he tells him, stiff in his embrace.
A count of two beats, two breaths in the still night air, and then Raylan lets go. Suddenly warm and alive in Boyd's hands, and shaking, shaking with tears.
His arms close around Boyd’s back, moving in tight and for a moment they're both caught in a memory, another woman dead, another body in the ground. Boyd spares a thought that life just isn't fair. No man should have to mourn their mother twice.
It doesn't last long. A couple of minutes and Raylan is stiffening up again. Sliding back under his own skin.
Boyd releases him, but doesn't step back. Gives Raylan a minute to gather himself; scrubbing at his face with the back of his hand.
It'll be awkward now and Boyd steels himself against what Raylan will say next. But before he has the chance to threaten or insult, Ava's there, moving up beside Boyd.
"Come inside Raylan."
That gets a surprised look, and the red lining Raylan's eyes sends a sharp flash of feeling across Boyd’s chest. He sees Ava's shoulders slump, her voice going gentler.
"Come inside-" She's reaching forwards, and that wasn't the right road to take with a man as proud as Raylan.
"No," he says, voice thick. He coughs to clear his throat and shakes his head. "No I should-"
"I made fried chicken." Ava says a lilt in her voice and a half hitch smile at the corners of her lips.
Raylan turns to look at her, his eyes then sliding to Boyd, and despite the sombre weight of the night, they all three laugh at that.
"Fried chicken and a shotgun," Raylan says wryly, tilting his head, a small smile playing around his mouth.
"Try it here you won't eat anywhere else," Boyd adds, and maybe laughing about death is too soon, is morbid. But sometimes morbid is what you need.
"Come in for a drink." Boyd invites, making his position clear as well. Raylan catches his eyes, the echo of laughter still caught in his skin, holds them a second before Boyd turns to the house, glancing at Ava, flicking his eyes towards Raylan. Just one more push.
"No, I should go." Raylan's turning away from them and Boyd trades off, steps back as Ava steps forward.
"Just come inside Raylan." She orders, tinge of exasperation and Boyd has to hide a smile at the tone, swallowing it down to nothing before he turns back. Raylan wouldn't want to be laughed at.
Raylan is looking at Ava, eyes clear, holding his hat like a shield between his hands. Oh Raylan.
"It's fine." Boyd says, Raylan looking up to catch his eyes. "It's fine," he repeats, nodding reassurance.
Raylan's gaze flickers between them both, unsure on who to settle. "Why?" His voice is rough. "Why are you asking me-" Why do you even want me here at all? And really he hasn't changed.
"Oh Raylan." Ava raises her hand to his face, thin fingers resting on his cheek. Raylan is caught by the spun gold of her hair, the warmth of her skin. "Do you really have to ask?"
He blinks, then catches his thoughts. "I really think I do." He tilts his head, and its wry but it's not entirely a question. It's reassurance he's after because with Helen dead, all he has left is Arlo. And he doesn't want all he has left to be Arlo.
"Raylan." Boyd draws his attention from Ava. "We want you here." And there's no way he can make that more clear.
"Just one drink." Ava repeats Boyd's words back, dulls the edge of that statement, and Boyd tips his metaphorical hat to her.
Raylan looks at them both, both so sure. Just one drink. One night. Eat and drink and forget. Tomorrow is a new day, tomorrow we'll point guns and threaten each other, because that's what we do.
And it's stupid, it's a bad idea, but he's had plenty of them, many in this very house, with these very people.
Maybe it's meant to be.
He takes the first step forward. Ava linking her arm in his. The second step is easer, drawing level with Boyd. The third step easier still, and for the first time since watching them wheel Helen's body out of the house, he finds he can breathe deep again.