Deputy US Marshal Tim Gutterson paces the length of the side room, trying to put things in order in his head. He knows it’s a forlorn hope, he has as much chance of putting things together as he has of winning the Miss America contest, but somehow he has to try.
Explaining what happened, when he’s not entirely sure himself, is going to be difficult. There are definitely some things he is going to have to leave out, although why he should have to irks him a lot. It isn’t as though Raylan hasn’t paid, brutally, for the assistance he has given Tim. The FBI and the Marshals’ service owe their win entirely to Raylan.
It’s knowing this, while knowing what this cost Raylan in terms of everything he knows in life, that has Tim pacing in circles, and turning over the little piece of paper in his pocket.
Small, insignificant looking, if you overlook the blood stains.
Tim can’t overlook the blood. He’s a decorated Army Ranger, a sniper, a veteran of the Middle Eastern conflict, now the go-to sniper in the East Kentucky office. It is not his first time to the dance, and he’s no child to believe in fairy stories.
This is fucked up. Totally. Fucked. Up.
Now his boss, Art Mullen, is all sympathy and concern, for Tim and for the man lying half-dead in the hospital bed.
He strokes the paper again. The dark stains. Raylan’s blood. They broke his wrists, stamped his hands, but Raylan refused to let go of the paper, the message was for Tim. They beat him, trying to break him, trying to make him tell them what he knew and what he had told. He kept silent, so they dislocated his shoulders, wrenched his knees, broke an ankle. He screamed in agony, but he kept that paper in his hand, kept his own counsel even while Crowder’s thugs were breaking his bones.
His face one massive bruise, eyes swollen shut, jaw broken, so beaten and broken and bloody that for a moment Tim didn’t recognize him when the combined force of the Marshals and FBI hit the place. He still tried to tell Tim everything. He did it all for Tim. And right now, Tim is trying to forgive himself for what he thought Raylan was doing when they last met, when Tim thought that Boyd had won, and whatever the hell it was that made Raylan Givens obey Boyd Crowder had come between them.
When this is all over, Tim is going to take him away from this, even if it means transferring out of Kentucky. Some place where Raylan will never have to live the way he has again.
He’s never going to be the same again, but Tim doesn’t care. Raylan needs him, and this time, and every other time after that, Tim Gutterson is going to be there for Raylan Givens.
It will be hours before Raylan wakes. The doctors assure him of that. He’s glad, because the kind of pain that Raylan will be in when he wakes isn’t something that Tim Gutterson would wish upon Boyd Crowder.
Crowder, the enemy that Tim thought he had a handle on. A man he can hate, as much for what this fucked up, evil, hateful little empire with all its tentacles and poison and half-truths, lies and evasions as for the suffering of the man that he thought he knew.
The man he had fallen in love with. Raylan Givens. Boyd Crowder’s best hooker, the thoroughbred in the stable of carthorses.
Art wants Tim to see someone. Tim won’t leave Raylan. Even unconscious. At this point in time, they do not have confirmation that this hillbilly tragedy in three acts is finally over. Until every last one of them is mopped up, Tim won’t leave Raylan again. Three deputies he trusts will spell him guarding Raylan, but even then Tim won’t be going home. He’ll be right where he should be, by Raylan’s side, and he doesn’t care who knows what, or what they think they know.
Raylan Givens broke a lifetime’s habit and the curse of his family name to give Tim Gutterson the collar of his career, to bring down a criminal empire that was at the heart of everything wrong with his birthplace; and he did it all for love. Not the promise of freedom or money, or by coercion, but for the love he thought he could have with Tim.
By now, Tim knows he should be reeling, punch drunk by the force of the revelations that came thick and fast, horrifying and direct. The misery that was Raylan’s life, the revelation that was Boyd Crowder and the pain that both men had been through, before they were little more than boys.
So no. Tim isn’t leaving. He isn’t taking five minutes out to speak to some psychiatrist in another room. He isn’t moving outside of the confines of this space until Raylan is awake, and even then, only if Raylan asks him to go.
Under the circumstances Tim figures that this is the very least that he can do.
His eyes turn to Raylan. Or what little he can see of Raylan beneath the gauze and dressings and bandages. The nurses have put a gown around him, and he’s covered up to the chest with blankets. His shoulders have been put back, and braces hold them in place. His forearms, wrists and hands are splinted, carefully wrapped supported on pillows either side of his battered body.
He walks up to the bed. “I’m so sorry, Ray.” He gently drops a kiss on the little patch of skin that is Raylan’s forehead he can see between all the bandages.
Raylan makes a sound in his throat, so tiny, yet Tim’s eyes widen. Raylan isn’t meant to be awake. He leans over, as lashes flutter a little, then tiny slits of hazel as Raylan’s eyelids lift as far as they are able.
Tim wants to weep then, because he can see love and trust in Raylan’s eyes, along with suffering. “I’m staying, Ray. Looking after you. Like I shouldha in the first place.”
Raylan can’t articulate his need with his jaw wired, but Tim knows his lover needs his touch. There’s so little of Raylan that isn’t bruised, broken and battered, touching him in any way is going to cause him pain. But look of need in Raylan’s eyes won’t be denied, and Tim owes him.
Very gently he rests his fingertips on Raylan’s left forearm above the heavily splinted hand and wrist, Raylan’s right arm is even more badly damaged. Raylan loves it when Tim runs his fingers through Raylan’s hair, so Tim does that too, very softly. A single tear leaks from Raylan’s right eye, so Tim leans forward again and kisses Raylan’s forehead.
Every single instinct in him wants to gather Raylan into his arms and never let him go again. But they’re adults, and Raylan, under more normal circumstances, would think this ridiculous.
There’s a sister, and an ex-wife and a baby girl, though she probably isn’t much of a baby anymore, and Tim still doesn’t know the actual score on that one. He’s still trying to reconcile the woman standing in his boss’ office, introducing herself as Carly Longman of the NSA, and how her name is part of the front that she and her superiors have kept together for nearly twenty years, and her real name is Raejeanne Givens, and she’s Raylan’s older sister.
She has a story to tell.
Tim reaches back with a foot, hooks a chair with it and pulls it in. Sinks down into it, keeping his hands on Raylan.
They all have a damn tale to tell, and Tim’s sick with how long this has taken, and how the innocent have been corrupted, and how so much misery could have been stopped years ago.
An ancient story with a Medea at the heart of it.
There’s a knock at the door, Tim doesn’t want to let go of Raylan, but he needs to check it out.
He pulls the door, his Glock steady and level in his hand, and feels the tiniest curl of satisfaction as the man on the other side of it recoils nervously.
“Deputy Gutterson, may I come in?”
Tim can see the thought processes going through the guy’s head. He’s well aware that both his retiring boss, Art Mullen, and his new in-training boss, Rachel Brooks, think he’s barely a step away from the booby hatch, but Tim is coldly determined. If this man can somehow admit him, he’s not going to give in until he’s got protection for Raylan in place. To his standards, not the alarmingly lax standards of the FBI, or even his colleagues in the Marshals’ service.
“I guess you better had,” He straightens up, forces himself to relax as he checks the man’s id, and allows him to slip into the room. Tim moves straight back to the bed and makes contact with Raylan again.
“Have a seat, doc.” He nods at the other chair, making no attempt to hide his intimacy with Raylan Givens, not caring what the man thinks. “Sorry about the theatrics, but they are necessary.” Laying no more stress on any individual word, he reads the man sitting next to him. Tim knows shrinks, and so far this one is no better or worse than any other he has seen in the past. So far, so good. “Now what did you want to ask me?