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No Apologies

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It wasn’t really a question of gathering courage.

Winona had never ridden so high or so long on a wave of righteous anger before. Perhaps it was because it had been a slow kind of build, as she sat thinking about what Raylan had said, what had been done to him that day, and what that man had told her, the one and only time they’d ever spoken.

She felt like she was taking on Raylan’s anger, his frustration, all that should have been there, instead of just bone-deep exhaustion and a sadness he wouldn’t acknowledge to her or himself. She felt it well up inside her, threaten to spill over before she had a chance to do anything with it.

It was a heady feeling, one that pushed her to action the next morning.

She drove out early, heading east along the state roads. She’d gone out the same way months before, when Raylan was shot, and was surprised that she remembered the way. She hardly needed her map or GPS at all, not that the phone got great reception out there anyway.

It was a little more difficult finding the bar Raylan had spoken of, but from all his descriptions over the years of where things were in Harlan, she made some educated guesses and found her way eventually.

She was sure she must have been a sight, marching into that seedy bar in a raincoat and a red maternity dress, with clean lines and heeled shoes, hair curled and up, like she was on her way to work.

If the expression on the face of guy in the wheelchair--Johnny, she figured--said anything, it was unadulterated shock as she demanded, “Where is he?”

He stared at her, looked her up and down, and said, “Where’s who?”

The bar was deserted, unsurprisingly, as it was 10 o’clock in the morning. She raised her eyebrows and put her hands on her hips. “Who do you think, asshole? I want to talk to him.”

“He ain’t--

“It’s okay, Johnny,” she heard his voice, soft and low, but authoritative still, before she saw him. Coming out of the shadows of the back room like he did, he looked almost frightening, sinister in a way that he hadn’t under the flourescent lights of a twenty-four-hour Wal-mart.

He was dressed in almost the exact same way as she’d last seen him. Stiff-collared flannel shirt, buttoned up high and cut real trim, tucked into a dark pair of jeans. His sleeves were rolled up and his hands looked damp, like he’d just been washing dishes or something. Yet a thing that normal, seemed so out of the realm of possibility for Boyd Crowder.

Winona put steel into her spine as he smiled at her, full of strangely sharp-looking teeth, and he said, “Winona Hawkins. This is quite a surprise.”

She started walking towards him, and he to her. He must not have seen it coming, or he probably wouldn’t have made it easier for her to raise her hand high in the air and bring it down hard across his face.

*

The sound of the slap resounded through the room with a satisfying crack. Her hand stung, but she barely felt it. She raised her hand again.

This time, he stopped her easily, catching her wrist in an unyielding grip, looking at her like she was some kind of exotic animal on an unexplainable rampage. “You son of a bitch,” she spat, unable to tear her wrist away.

“Forgive me for relying on the traditional cliche by way of explanation for this behavior, Miss Hawkins,” he said quietly. She could sense anger in his eyes, but it didn’t show yet in his expression. “But I’m at a loss, save for a imbalance of hormones, as to what you are doing here or why you would strike me like that.”

Winona glared, feeling all the anger she’d taken to bed with her, that she’d let roil in her through the night, through fitful sleep and half-remembered dreams, rise up in her again. She heard someone cocking a weapon behind her. Funnily enough, she didn’t care at all in that moment.

“Oh, fuck you, Boyd,” she spat and found the strength to wrench her arm away. She backed up a step and glared at him. “You gonna let him point a weapon at a pregnant woman?”

“Put it away, Johnny,” Boyd looked over her shoulder like he’d just noticed. “She’s not armed. This woman,” he said meeting Winona’s eyes again, smirking like he knew her, “is the kind of woman, only carries a gun when someone puts it in her hands.”

Winona ground her teeth and made herself say what she came to. “You’re a fucking liar, Boyd Crowder.”

“That’s not the first accusation of that kind that’s been laid against me, Miss Hawkins. It won’t be the last.” He smiled as he said it and she wanted to kick his teeth in.

“You know what I’m talking about.”

Now he let his brows furrow for half a second, but he cleared them quickly and said, “Now, I’m sure this must be about Raylan, seeing as he’s your only tie to Harlan or any establishment such as mine, but--”

She’d had enough of his shit. “You said you were his friend, Boyd. You bastard. You-you worry about him--or you pretended to--about the goddamn gunshot wound and then you do something like that to him.” Winona spat at his feet and she saw his eyes go wide in tempered fury. “Might as well have stabbed him in the back.”

Boyd’s voice was soft as death when he spoke. “What did Raylan tell you?”

“What happened,” she returned. “He don’t know I ever met you, Boyd. Why would he try and make you out to be worse than you are? He told me what you did. Kept his father in your crew, made it look like his hands were dirty as yours, set that man after--”

Boyd moved forward then, grabbing at her arm and giving her a shake, like he didn’t know what else to do with her. His eyes were blazing, almost hypnotizing in their intensity. “I didn’t put that gun in Arlo’s hand,” Boyd hissed. “I didn’t want him anywhere near there.”

“Arlo didn’t know it wasn’t Raylan,” Winona said softly, not trying to pull away from him now. “Raylan said as much to me. He said Arlo told everyone he was protecting you. You put him in that position. You ingratiated yourself with a man who never did anything good for Raylan. Your friend--”

“I put him in prison, too,” Boyd cried, pushing her away. She fell into a table a step away, not hard, but enough they were both staring at each other with wide eyes, breathing hard. “That was a thing Raylan never managed to do.”

“But you call him family in the process? You tell Raylan the only father he’ll ever have, who never loved him, loves you enough to kill his own son? What kind of a monster are you?” Winona clutched at the table top, finding she needed its support. She had come here to upbraid Boyd, to shame him for what he’d done. But seeing it didn’t make her feel better, now all she had in her was Raylan’s sadness, that he wouldn’t ever let anyone share.

Boyd pulled out a chair, sat down on it in front of her like he’d been on his feet for a whole day. “I’m the kind of monster only comes out of Harlan County, Winona,” he said quietly.

She didn’t know what to say to that, so she sat down too.

He looked up at her and she wished his eyes didn’t look so honest. He leaned forward on his knees and clasped his hands together like some kind of philosopher, or priest. Winona didn’t trust herself not to believe whatever he was going to say.

“I said those things, regardless of whether I meant them, because they wouldn’t believe I hadn’t threatened Arlo, otherwise. They could still try me for murder. There’s more evidence against me than there is against him.” He paused and looked at her seriously, tilting his head and saying, “I seem to remember telling you that night, I’m Raylan’s friend when he will let me be and when circumstances allow. Yesterday and today, perhaps tomorrow as well, they do not.”

She sniffed indelicately and hated herself. She hated him too, though less now than she had this morning. She didn’t want to carry his sadness with her, as well as Raylan’s.

He smiled again, soft now, and rather lovely. “What are you doin’ away from him?” Boyd asked, not bothering to tell her how he’d even known. “You love him so much.”

Tears sprang to Winona’s eyes and she sucked up a breath of air. He looked at her, clearly astounded and about to say something like an apology, but she laughed brokenly and said, “Here’s your fuckin’ hormones, asshole.”

He was kind enough not to comfort her as she wept.