"Hey," Tim said to Raylan as he pushed Artie's swing, the baby burbling in delight, watching Willa as she climbed the outside of the play structure and called lookit, Daddy, lookitme!
"I'm looking," Raylan assured her, half-guiltily aware that Winona would never let her climb on the outside, but where was the fun in that? And she'd got herself up there, after all. She could get down, "Looking, honey. Impressive. Can you get down?"
"Any plans for Thanksgiving?" Tim asked as he returned from an underdog run.
"Winona's got Willa, goin' back up to Kentucky."
"Heck no. Everyone would be unhappy, and I don't want my little girl to see that her grandmother hates me. Won't do anyone any good."
"Wanna come over? I'm... I'm gonna try'n make Thanksgiving. Seemed kinda crappy to make I just for me and Mr. Mostly-gums-I-want-goldfish, but I figure, I better start now while he don't care that the food's crap, you know?"
"And you wanna poison me, too?"
"Come on, Raylan, pukin' turkey will be a bonding experience- or don't come. Just, I figured, if you weren't busy..."
"I'm coming," Raylan said, "What should I bring?"
"Anything you want to drink that isn't apple juice, milk, or water. Pumpkin pie? I dunno."
"I can do that," Raylan said thoughtfully, smiling a little at how much Tim had changed in just three years- hell, so had he!- "I'm more partial to apple, myself. What time?"
"Whenever- turkey should be ready by two'r so, and I'll have the parade and game on. He'll like the balloons, you think?"
Raylan eyed Arthur consideringly, "Or they'll reduce him to a screamin' fussy mess."
"Good times," Tim nodded, and went to give his kid an underdog, just as Raylan made a break for Willa, who had decided that yes, she *could* walk on top of the monkey bars, started to slip.
Tim didn't do nervous, he told himself as he checked the goddamn turkey again. He didn't. But that bird was fucking with him, and he did not approve. On the plus side, the sides were all done, sweet potato casserole with pecans and brown sugar, mashed potatoes and gravy in his crockpot, prepackaged rolls ready to toss into the oven, green beans in bacon fat on the stove just waiting to be reheated, bag of tossed salad, and goldfish for Artie.
Raylan arrived with a six pack, and Tim hugged him briefly, "The kids are watching tv."
"Uh," Tim said, "Well. About that. I kinda kept an eye on Loretta, after you left, and... I figured you'd like to see your girl and she doesn't have anyone, either-"
As soon as he'd said Loretta, he'd been talking to himself as Raylan charged into the sitting room to see if his first girl was really there.
Tim followed him in, his nerves settling down as the young woman got up and hugged Raylan as hard as he hugged her. He smiled, chastised himself for bein' a goddamn girl, and went into the kitchen to glare at the goddamn turkey. Artie followed him, and Tim swept him up, blowing kisses onto his belly and chest to make his son laugh.
He recalled the somewhat awkward conversation last week... after shaking her info out of Nelson, he'd given her a call.
"Um. Loretta McCready?"
"Speaking." Her voice was flat and hard, and Tim grinned at the recollection of what her face would be.
"This is Tim Gutterson, you may not remember me, but I was a deputy Marshal with Raylan Givens?"
"I remember. Is Raylan okay?" She sounded worried, and that was another thing he could imagine.
"He's fine, Miss. I'm sorry if this is presumptuous, but I'm having Thanksgiving with Raylan, and I know he'd like to see you. And... I figured you might not have plans?"
"Why would you care, Marshal?"
"Not a Marshal anymore, but I care... well, I don't actually care, but I am trying my damndest to," he admitted. She snorted into the phone.
"Some effort you're putting in."
"I've got a kid," Tim growled, "And I want him to have the shit I never got. I'm pretty sure you can understand that, Loretta. And, in caring for my son, I'm finding that I would like to maybe make a few other people happy too. If seeing Raylan and eating possibly shitty food on thanksgiving would make you happy, I'm gonna give you my address. If not, I won't bother you again."
"Did it hurt, stringin' so many words together an' havin' feelings?" She mocked, but he could hear her smile. "Gimme the address, Tim. What can I bring?"
"No weed. And anything legal in Florida. I have a spare room, too, if you wanna spend the night."
"I don't swing your way."
"...didn't need to know that."
"Think you did," Tim muttered.
"Why not have Raylan call me himself?"
"He never would, and you know why," Tim said, and didn't say Raylan thought he was bad luck, gonna drag you down into shit you wouldn't be able to dig out of, and so cut himself off.
"See you, Tim. And thanks. Oh, hey. What's your little boy's name?"
When she came to the house, he'd let her in, and she'd smiled, barely, shook his hand, and held out a stuffed wildcat to Artie. "Hey, Arthur. I'm Miz Loretta. It's real nice to meet you." For him, she had a smile- a real one, reaching her eyes and making her almost pretty.
Tim was about to apologize for the sure-to-start-shy-boy-routine when Artie beamed, showing all eight teeth and took the toy, kissing it loudly, grabbing her pant leg and dragging her to see his playroom.
Well. Apparently he understood family better than Tim did.
The turkey sped up in the last three hours, and Loretta and Raylan appeared, taking over unwrapping the rolls and setting the table, respectively. "Go wrangle Artie," Raylan said, "I'll hack up the bird."
"You will not hack that," Loretta warned, "Gimme that knife."
Tim laughed and went to get his son into a bib and his high chair with a handful of goldfishes to keep him quiet.
The food was ready, table was set and Tim... had no goddamn clue what was supposed to happen next. He looked at Raylan, hoping he had more experience in this shit, because honestly the only time Tim had had a meal like this one was in the military and he doubted sincerely this was supposed to be like That, loud men pretending they didn't want to be somewhere else. And in movies there was Grace said or something?
Loretta took the seat across from Arthur's high chair and Tim slid into his spot, Raylan at the head of the table, smile all around his eyes. Loretta reached out and took Raylan's hand, and Tim blinked as she held out her hand for his, too, as Raylan stretched to take Artie's goldfish-clenching paw. Artie blinked too, and Tim took his other hand. Loretta bowed her head, and spoke quick and low, "Bless us, oh lord, with these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, our lord, amen."
"Amen?" Tim echoed, and then it was time to eat- Arthur was unimpressed by the turkey, but ate more of the sweet potatoes than Tim had thought possible to fit into him. After that first awkwardness, it was easy and he found himself grinning at Loretta's wry observations of her professors at U.K.. After dinner, Tim was bodily removed from the kitchen- apparently the cook couldn't clean? And sat to watch Artie bounce on his rocking horse, the wildcat firmly tucked under his right arm, Goodnight Moon board-book under his left.
Dishes done, Raylan flopped next to him on the couch, Loretta comfortably folded on the floor to watch the game. Tim slid her a beer, and Raylan sighed, keeping his eyes piously aloft. There were three beers left- Tim took one and twisted off the top, taking a swig. It was a holiday, and even if he wound up drinking all three, he'd be fine, and there wasn't any more... Raylan's arm rested across his shoulders and Tim relaxed.
Raylan wouldn't let him slide down into the shit.
Loretta and Raylan both wound up staying- Raylan on the couch, Loretta in the spare room, and Loretta convinced them to go Black Friday shopping. Tim, always game to watch people make fools of themselves, agreed it could be fun. Raylan, intolerant of crowds at the best of times, thought it sounded like a shitty time, but was in when Loretta craftily suggested there might be ice cream involved.
They wound up going late, after breakfast Loretta and Tim put together of French toast, eggs, and orange juice Raylan ran out to get. The stores weren't too bad- so Tim was mildly disappointed to not see a near-trampling incident, and Raylan was relieved. Tim scored some movies and most of his Christmas shopping, grateful Raylan was more than happy to sit at Starbucks with Artie while he and Loretta actually shopped.
"Hey," Loretta said on their way back to his house, "Thanks. For inviting me."
"Yeah, me too," Raylan said around his ice cream. (Thank god Artie had yet to make the connection between that and when Tim gave him ice cream in a bowl...) "It's been one of the better Thanksgivings I've had in... quite some while."
"You're welcome," Tim said, fingers flexing on the steering wheel, "And thanks for coming. I want him to..."
"Yeah. He will." Loretta said as he pulled into the drive, "I better get goin', fellas."
"Drive careful," Raylan admonished, and she rolled her eyes as she grabbed her bags and kissed the top of Artie's head.
"Yeah sure," She said, "Whatever. See you."
"Christmas?" Tim was shocked to hear his voice come out strangled. "I mean. If you want. Artie and me will be here."
"I will be, too," Raylan said firmly, wedging himself into Tim's life even more firmly, the warmth of that assurance going all the way to Tim's core.
"I'll come," Loretta said, ducking into her car, "You rest assured of that."