The park became Raylan and Tim's unofficial weekly meeting - Sunday mornings, from 9:45 to 11:00, they sat, drank coffee, and watched their kids play. Then, about half the time, Tim had them over for lunch - or Raylan might - and the kids napped right after - and they'd sit and drink a beer and watch a game, and after that, back out somewhere - at Tim's his backyard, at Raylan's, the other playground - to play.
Rarely, they'd stay for dinner, and one of them would wind up walking a very cranky kid home, but that didn't happen much - generally if Raylan had had a shit week, or if Tim just looked strained around the eyes.
Raylan was half-asleep on the park bench, arms across his chest and hat tilted to shade his face - a hell of a week, and if he didn't have Willa this weekend, he'd still be working - when his phone buzzed. Text from his partner, Good lead on Chester. Meet you in thirty.
If he called Winona and gave over Willa early, she was gonna say obviously he didn't want her even as much as he had her, and he did, he loved his girl, and shit-
"If you're okay with it," Tim offered, "I'll take care of Willa. I know that was work, and your face says Winona's on one of her..."
"Tears," Raylan nodded, "Yeah, she's having a hard time with Richard, and... would you? Shouldn't be but two or three hours, I don't suppose?"
"Changed the key code on your garage lately?"
"Then seeya," Tim waved, smiling.
And that was how Tim came to watch Willa on weekends when Raylan was working. Willa played with Artie, even though he was two and a half years younger, and Artie adored Willa. Tim didn't mind another little person running around - especially since they kept each other occupied - and Winona, at first, was none the wiser. It was only after Raylan got a phonecall from her to ask if Willa had remembered to do her homework - she was three, no she had not, but Raylan had gotten the family tree drawn out as tidily as possible, given Kentucky - and then said she'd like to say goodnight to Willa, and...
"Well," Raylan said uncomfortably, "She ain't here right now."
"Where is she?"
"Tim's watching the kids," Raylan said, "I had to step out for a-"
"Tim... Artie's Tim?"
"Yeah, Gutterson," Raylan nodded, and Winona was quiet on the other end.
"I figure it's no different than you asking Richard to watch her, or a sitter-"
"You should have told me."
Yeah, he should have. "I should've," he admitted, "But I didn't think it was a big deal. It's never more'n an hour or two, and she likes to play with Artie, and you know Tim, too."
"I do," she said, "And he's changed a lot since Kentucky, I s'pose. I don't have a problem with it. Well, thanks for doing the family tree, Raylan."
"Yeah, well, tell her 'teacher' she's a lunatic," Raylan said, "What happened to letting kids just eat play-doh and play cops and robbers?"
"Explains so much, Raylan," Winona said, amused, and Raylan smiled and said his goodbyes.
He got back to his place - a note indicated that Tim was at Tim's home, and he headed over.
The kids were in the front yard with a box, a colander on Willa's head and a pot on Artie's, shouting things about...
"I let 'em watch something with pirates," Tim said from his seat on the porch, "I regret everything. I just hope Willa doesn't try to put out Artie's eye again so he can have an eye patch."
Raylan snorted, sitting on the top step and stretching out his legs - they'd figured out if they swung back and forth at the same time, they could scootch the box forward. "They'll sleep tonight."
"Better than I will," Tim said drily, "For sure."
Was he still struggling with that? Well, he knew that Arlo had, his whole life. That thought just turned his belly a little, and he reached to take Tim's second beer and take a sip. Tim sighed and didn't say anything, and Willa came running to ask if he could be the kraken and pull their ship.
He certainly could do that, and putting the box on a wagon made it all possible.Tim laughed, snapping a picture, and Raylan pulled the wagon up and down the street until he swore his legs were going to fall off, and he wasn't a kraken anymore, it was a starship. Artie just nodded in wonder, not needing to understand and ready as ever to go along with whatever wonderful thing Willa wanted to play.
"Remind you of anybody?" Tim asked when he got back from the twelfth trip and Willa hopped out, Artie yelping and crawling after her (still faster on all fours than his feet, and dang, he was cute), stopping to pick up the dropped pirate princess tiara and bad-guy 'space scum' teddybear.
Raylan frowned, tilting his head.
"A Gutterson following a Givens, along for the ride?" Tim prompted, "And getting into god-awful trouble-"
"But you had fun," Raylan said.
"Sometimes," Tim agreed, and it was more than he'd ever let on to Raylan before, "Sometimes I really did."
Raylan smiled at him, and Tim shook his head, smiling too.