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There are fingertip bruises low on Tim’s left hip, the most prominent of them, the trigger finger, difficult to see unless he twists around to look in the crappy mirror on the back of the cheap, particleboard door in his apartment’s tiny bathroom.

Tim doesn’t care about the quality of the mirror or the door or the bathroom or the apartment.

He doesn’t care that he’s got bruises shaped like Raylan Givens’ gun hand.

He doesn’t even care that he’s going to have to wear a long-sleeved shirt—uncharacteristic in Lexington in July—because of the rub-marks on his wrists, evidence not of passion but of him being a pawn in a game he’s never known the rules to and never wanted, before now, to ask about.

What Tim cares about is the deep ache in his lower back, wrapping around his hips like those fingers and settling low in his abdomen.  He cares that when he walks, he feels it, that heavy, low throb, and that throws off his gait just enough to make someone observant—say an office full of US Marshals—ask inconvenient questions.

It wasn’t his captor that wrapped fingers around his hips and drove him up onto his toes with a grunt.

No, that was Raylan, fucking him up against a wall outside the derelict roadhouse where Tim had been found, bound, beaten up, a little the worse for wear but still game for whatever Raylan had wanted to give him.

If he hadn’t expected Raylan’s gift to come with reminders that he’d been given it, well, he hadn’t been paying a goddamned bit of attention, which is a perilous situation for an ex-Ranger US Deputy Marshal who spends as much time as Tim does in Raylan’s orbit. 

Raylan attracts violence like a planet gathers space trash.

He could call in sick, Tim reflects.  Then, at least, only one person would know he’d been fucked up against a wall until he was walking funny.

But imagining the smug expression on Raylan’s face when Tim finally did saunter—gingerly—in to work? 

It’s not worth thinking about.

Of course, there’s another inconvenient question Tim’s been avoiding, and even now he’s ignoring it.

Because if he’s not ready to walk through an office full of US Marshals wearing the evidence of his owning in every stride, Tim Gutterson is sure as shit not prepared to recognize that he’s getting more than a little hot tracing the outlines of Raylan’s fingers on his hips.

Sure, he’d like to do it again, maybe even inside, in a room with a bed and a bottle of lube.

It’s not his healthy human response to Raylan’s considerable sexual magnetism that gives Tim pause and makes him want to hide in his apartment until Raylan comes looking or Art fires him, whichever comes first.

It’s that looking at the evidence of possession, touching the hot tenderness of the trigger finger bruise there, makes Tim want to be owned in other ways, ways that not even the US government ever managed to have him, and god knows they’d fucked him up the ass often enough.

He pulls up his briefs and his khakis, feeling a frisson of desire as the material presses against those fingermarks.  Tells himself a lie to keep himself from thinking about it anymore.

Goes to work and tries to walk like a man who still belongs only to himself.

*****

When the familiar illiterate whine reaches Raylan’s ears, he is, at first, merely impatient.  This shitkicker hillbilly bullshit is getting old.  He doesn’t give a good goddamn about Harlan County’s internecine war.  He doesn’t plan on sticking around long enough to participate in it.

Then the voice says a name that has his brain, already moving on to something else, stuttering and catching on it.

“What did you say?” he asks.

If the caller could have seen Raylan’s expression just then and he’d had two brain cells left to communicate the notion to his atavistic survival urge, he’d have abandoned his purpose immediately, given Raylan Tim’s location, and cut his losses.

Unfortunately for the caller, he was deeply stupid and so far gone in sampling his own product that he didn’t recognize death’s cold hand until it put a bullet through his throat, and at that point, he was past caring.

Back up is miles behind him—Raylan called them well after he’d hit the road, tossing Art an excuse about Ava on his way out the door and keeping the real story to himself until he was sure he’d be the only one walking in on the situation. 

He’d known two things when he’d heard that someone had taken Tim and was holding him as ransom for Raylan’s own life.

The first was that he was going to kill the man whining in his ear.

The second was that he might have a problem where Tim Gutterson was concerned.

Since Raylan made it a point to lie to himself often and thoroughly about the things that really mattered in life, he is okay with ignoring—most of the time—the reaction Tim brought out in him.  Something about the deputy’s slim build, tight ass, and smirking lips drags out of him a finger-curling urge to grab him and put that mouth to better use than the dry words Tim doles out like tiny mines, words that left shrapnel behind to remind the unwary to watch where they stepped next time.

But there is no ignoring the knee-cutting wave of relief that washes through him as he takes in the sight of Tim tied to a filthy chair in the piss-and-needle-choked remains of Purdy’s Roadhouse. 

Tim is beat-up—bruising around the face, split lip, rope-burns on his wrists, where he’d obviously been struggling mightily to free himself.  But he is mostly whole and hale, if not hearty, as he drawls, “Did you stop for an ice cream on the way?”

Raylan makes quick work of the ropes and then steps back to let Tim get his legs under him.  In his experience, a man needs to know he can walk off a thing like this.

As they exit the dim interior and step out into the blue twilight of the sun setting behind ubiquitous mountains, Tim says, “You want to tell me what that was all about?”

Apparently, the dead guy hadn’t been big on monologuing, a refreshing change from the usual, Raylan thinks.

“Aw, he was just some wannabe makin’ a bid to get into Boyd Crowder’s crew, thought picking me off’d be the way to do it.  You were the bait,” he explains.

“Man, I wish you and Boyd would stop flirting already and fuck,” Tim answers, probably a reflex.

But for all Raylan is used to the way Tim pokes at him, trying to get a rise, something about those words from Tim’s bruised mouth sets him off.

If he’d embraced honesty, he might recognize the too-close-to-home nature of Tim’s observation.  Nobody knows what Boyd and Raylan had been for each other once, and no one was going to know, if Raylan had to kill Boyd himself to keep the truth behind those lying lips of his.

Besides—still with an honesty unnatural to Raylan—it isn’t Boyd he’s interested in fucking.

That second truth is the one that drives him to shove Tim against the shingled back wall of the roadhouse and crowd in against him and break that split lip open by thrusting his tongue between Tim’s teeth, open on a pant or maybe an aborted wisecrack about buying a guy dinner first.

If Tim objects, he doesn’t say so, just the opposite, his words damp and hot against Raylan’s ear, “That all you got?”

Raylan always has more to give, but he doesn’t waste time saying so, just wraps his hands around Tim’s hips and pushes him hard against the wall, hearing him hiss, “Yeah, alright,” as he sucks a love-mark into that pale throat and then gets busy with Tim’s button and zipper.

Tim isn’t behindhand in helping, though his attempts to get Raylan’s jeans open are clumsier on account of the fact that his hands are probably still numb from being tied up.

That thought penetrates the lust-haze long enough for Raylan to wrap his own fingers—gently now—around Tim’s raw wrists and lift his hands over his head, his eyes giving him the order he doesn’t want to say out loud.

That way, they can both deny later that Raylan telling Tim what to do turns them both on.

Tim nods, the merest dip of his chin, and keeps his hands there, wrists crossed, as Raylan works a hand into Tim’s open khakis and jacks him, rough and fast, until Tim is swallowing a groan and his hips are doing a little dance that makes Raylan ten times harder in his own half-open jeans.

The angle hurts his wrist, and he’s not happy with the lack of contact, wants more skin touching.  Tim makes a noise as Raylan palms the head of his cock, and he glances up to see Tim’s eyes half-lidded, glazed, lips wet and red.

“Fuck,” he barks, yanking his hand away, using both now to shove Tim’s pants and briefs down, Tim making a choked sound at the roughness.

His hands are off of Tim only long enough to get his own jeans and briefs down, and then Raylan is spinning Tim around, hands tight on those narrow hips to position him with his feet a little away from the wall, spread only as far as his hobbling pants can get them.

Raylan puts a hand in front of Tim’s panting mouth, says, “Spit.”  Everything in his body is drawn tight as a fiddle string, an impossible pressure building, making it hard for him to do more than hiss breath through his clenched teeth as he swears at the resistance he’s meeting, one knuckle, two, Tim swearing a blue streak, head hanging, hands still over his head, fingers scrabbling at the dirty shingles.

Raylan’s at two fingers when Tim growls, “Goddamn you, now,” and Raylan, ever the gentleman, obeys, spitting into his own hand to give him what slickness he can manage, and then nudging up to Tim’s pucker and pressing in.

Tim’s nails claw slivers from the wall, showering onto Raylan’s bent head as he works himself inside, Tim’s back against Raylan’s chest heaving like a bellows.

“Okay?” he asks when he’s gotten as far as he’s going to, feeling Tim’s body spasm around him, milking a curse out of him.  Still, he waits until Tim nods, says, “Yeah,” in a high, strangled voice.

It’s too much, the friction, and he can only imagine it’s hurting Tim, but that thought, too, cranks the tension in him, until it snaps with an almost audible twang, his hips going like pistons, driving Tim up onto his toes with an aborted shout.

He wraps one hand around Tim to jack his cock, and spreads the other across his collarbone and throat to hold him up.

Tim is spitted, split open, breath punched out of him with every driving thrust, which pushes his cock through the tight ring of Raylan’s hand.

“Fuck, Tim,” Raylan groans, feeling the tension build again impossibly taut, until he’s sure the fire behind his closed eyes will kill him, brain blowing as orgasm plows through him, teeth biting hard around a shout that would wake the dead guy inside.

Tim stills on Raylan’s spilling cock, cries out, wordless, and wets his hand with hot spend, sagging suddenly, like the life’s gone out of him, until Raylan has to stagger back, cock sliding from Tim’s ass, and spread his heels a little to keep them both upright.

Tim’s head is resting against the wall, and he’s got a drift of shingle dandruff on his shoulders.  Two of his fingertips are bleeding from splinters.  Still holding him upright, Raylan brings the wounded fingers to his mouth, sucking.

In his arms, Tim shudders, a breathless sound escaping as he struggles upright and out of Raylan’s embrace.

He shakes out the hand Raylan had just been sucking on and sets about pulling up his pants and making himself as presentable as twenty-four hours in captivity and a hard fuck up against a filthy wall can look.

The rude blurt of incoming sirens alerts them to the fact that they’re about to have company.

Raylan’s already tucked away too, grimacing at the sticky dampness in his briefs, feeling like ten kinds of fool for giving in to his more primitive desires and already, perversely, wanting to do it again.

“You alright?” Raylan asks Tim, catching the deputy’s eye.

Tim nods, laconic as usual, distant expression in his eyes that says he’s more used to watching people from 1000 feet away than close up and post-coital like this.  Raylan feels crosshairs shiver over his skin, and he resists the urge to touch Tim’s face, where it’s bruised, or say anything at all that might be mistaken for tenderness.

They appear from around the side of the defunct roadhouse just as Rachel is approaching the front door on an oblique line, Staties in Kevlar on either side of her about to break around the building for the side and rear.

Raylan has his hands up, Tim beside him mimicking the action, when guns and eyes land on them.  He pretends he doesn’t see the speculation on Rachel’s face, the way her eyes, like prison tower searchlights, take in Tim’s condition.

“There’s a dead guy inside,” Raylan says, drawing her gaze.  “Mine,” he adds, just to see those eyes widen.   She’s good, he’ll give her that.  The disapproval that appears seconds later is also gone in a matter of moments.

An EMT is crossing the lot from the ambulance idling, lights strobing, nearby.  Raylan feels more than sees Tim startle, a hitch in his step as he realizes he’s going to be scrutinized by medical professionals.

“He’s okay,” Raylan says, putting an open hand in front of the EMT to stop her progress.  “No permanent damage.”

Coolly, she says, “Let me look at him anyway?” in the voice of a woman who’s spent too many years around macho men bleeding from various parts of their anatomy and claiming to be fine.

Tim gives Raylan a look to back him down and moves toward the ambulance.  Raylan hears him say, “I don’t need the hospital, but if you could clean up this cut?” gesturing to a split over his left eyebrow.

He’s walking a little gingerly, but a casual observer would mark that down to having been immobile for the past however many hours. 

Certain Tim’s going to be okay, Raylan lets his attention be drawn by one of the Staties, who’s gesturing toward the far side of the roadhouse, where a beat-up old Pontiac is leaving a ring of rust on the gravel lot.

Before he’s finished looking over the dead guy’s car, Tim’s back, still moving carefully but patched up and clutching a script.

“Want to get out of here?” he asks, knowing the answer already.  There’s a glazed look in Tim’s eyes that has nothing to do with memories of what they did together around back.

Art calls on their way back to the city and tells Raylan to take Tim home, let him get some rest.  “He can come in to do the paperwork and after-incident interview tomorrow.”

Tim’s got his head back against the seat, eyes closed, as Raylan relays the news, keeping one eye on him to make sure he’s not going to pass out altogether.  Much as Tim is slender enough to make Raylan want to get his hands on him, he’s still heavy as hell, and Raylan doesn’t relish the idea of carrying him anywhere.

“See something you like?” Tim asks without even cracking an eye.

Raylan says, “Always,” low and suggestive, and Tim cranks out a laugh that sounds like it hurts.

“You want me to swing by the drugstore?” he asks before he loses Tim altogether.

Tim rocks his head against the backrest.  Negatory.

“Let’s get you inside,” Raylan says a few minutes later, pulling up to the curb in front of Tim’s apartment building.  Tim is suddenly a lot more alert in that way he has, what he’d call his Ranger training, no doubt.

“Nah, I’m good.”

“Afraid I’ll see your ‘Big Boys of Berlin’ porn collection?” Raylan asks.

Tim snorts, “Afraid you’ll want to watch it with me.”

“You sure you’re alright?”

Tim gives him an impatient look that tells Raylan all he needs to know about canning his mothering bullshit.

“Alright.  Well, if you need anything, you know how to reach me.”

Tim gives him a mock-salute and heads in, Raylan admiring his walk and the way it’s just that little bit off.

He shouldn’t probably feel proud that he’s fucked the guy so hard he’s walking funny, but he lets the warm feeling linger in his belly regardless.

Then he heads back to the office to do his own after-incident report, knowing he’s got yet another session with a shrink to look forward to tomorrow.

*****

There are a lot of things that hurt when Tim slides out of his truck at work the next day.

His face hurts, a steady ache in his lower jaw and a sharper burn over his eye, where the EMTs had put in two swift sutures after he’d categorically refused to go in for an X-Ray.

His ribs are tender where the guy had worked him over a little to feel like a big man.

His wrists sting where his shirt cuffs rub against them.

And his ass is not happy with him, either.  Every time he takes too long a stride, he feels a twinge that reminds him of Raylan stretched out along his back and driving him up onto his toes.

It does jack-all for Tim’s concentration, which he’s going to need for the next little while to tell his side of the story that Raylan had put an ending on the day before.

Thankfully, only Raylan, Rachel, and Art seem to be in the office, a blessing Tim hadn’t counted on being so grateful for.

Feeling the weight of Raylan’s eyes on him, Tim says good morning to Rachel and nods to Raylan before knocking on the frame of Art’s open office door.

“How you feelin’, Tim?” Art asks, looking up from his computer.  He’s got his jacket off, sleeves rolled up, and desk covered in open file folders. 

Tim thanks a god he doesn’t really believe in that his boss is too busy to pay him much mind.

“I’m alright,” Tim says, fulfilling the formula expected of men of a certain breed after suffering some injury:  If it doesn’t put you in the hospital, you’d better just suck it up, an unspoken rule Tim had learned long before the Rangers, in a home where voicing your suffering was a betrayal likely to earn you more suffering.

“I’ve got your preliminary report here from the scene.” Art excavates a slender manilla folder from the mess on his desk, skims it over the top of his glasses, looks up.  “You know the drill?”

Tim says, “Sure,” and slaps the doorframe.  “I’ll get on it.”

The long-form incident report is a pain in the ass, but it’s not as painful as actually sitting at his desk for the hour and a half it takes him to complete it.  About a half-hour into the process, Tim has to get up and walk around to ease the ache.

Raylan gives him an eyebrow and Tim answers with a minute shake of his head.  He strolls to the vending machine, staring at it half-heartedly for the time it takes the ache to settle some, and nearly runs into Raylan when he’s walking back to the office.

“Okay?” Raylan asks.  There’s real concern in his voice, but they’re in front of the elevators now, people getting on and off, the usual bustle of a public building on a weekday morning.

“Fine,” Tim answers shortly.  And he is.  The pain is less to handle than the way it brings back how he’d earned it, up on his toes, nails tearing splinters off the filthy shingles, spread like some back-alley whore and loving it.

“I’m sorry,” Raylan offers, so quiet and low Tim has to fish the words out from the sound of a woman’s heels clicking across the tile floor.

Tim catches his eye.  “Not your fault.” 

It is, of course, in the most obvious way—it was Raylan’s dick doing the damage.

But Tim had been an enthusiastic, even eager participant, and it’s suddenly important to him that Raylan understands that.

“Takes two,” he adds, making sure Raylan hears and understands before brushing by him to go back to the torture of sitting at his desk and finishing his report.

He thinks he preferred being tied to a shitty roadhouse chair.

Another half-hour passes, Tim sweating over the verbs now, trying to decide how many ways he can get away with saying, “Nothing really bad happened,” when a cup from a place up the street appears just at the edge of his sight, and he looks up in time to catch Raylan walking away.

That’s always an enjoyable excuse for a break, so Tim takes it, masking his interest in Raylan’s fine ass by blowing over the top of his steaming regular, black, no sugar.

When at last he gets that satisfying sound effect indicating his report has been submitted, Tim sits back in his chair to stretch, regrets the pressure on his ass immediately, and stands as quickly as he can, given the circumstances, to loosen up his back that way instead.

“Heading out?” Raylan asks.

It’s not even noon, so it’s a dumb question, a response Tim manages to shoehorn into a single expression.

Raylan puts his hand up in surrender.  “Okay.  What’s next, then?”

“I gotta see the shrink at 12:30.”  It’s SOP for an abduction.  Raylan nods to indicate he gets it.

“Lunch?” Raylan asks, indicating that they could go get something with a jerk of his chin toward the elevators.

Tim shrugs.  “Sure.”

They’ve got the elevator to themselves, which may be why Raylan thinks it’s alright to spread his big hand at the small of Tim’s back between his body and the wall, out of sight of the camera.  He presses just firmly enough to let Tim know he’s got him, and Tim feels the weight and heat of that touch all the way to his toes.

Then the doors are opening and they’re working their way through the midday crowd, heading for a ptomaine truck at the corner that sells decent plate lunches.

If Tim chooses to lean against a tree to eat his while Raylan takes a park bench, the latter has the courtesy not to say anything and somehow also manages to keep a smirk off his face, too.

Small mercies.

*****

When Tim walks into the office that morning to fill out his incident report and have his psych eval, Raylan watches him from under the brim of his hat, admiring the slim-hipped saunter and admiring more the way it hitches just a little—invisible to anyone who didn’t know to look for it—at the full extension of his stride.

It stirs something low in Raylan’s belly, makes him want to put his hands where they don’t belong, not at work, anyway.

Where maybe they aren’t wanted, either.

But as he’s built his life on shooting first and complaining about the paperwork later, Raylan gets Tim a coffee by way of apologizing for laming him and then invites him to lunch to see if he’s willing to let Raylan do it again.

They don’t get far—the truck’s only a block away—and don’t talk much, Tim standing behind Raylan, leaning against a tree.

But as he’s walking by to gun his balled-up trash into the nearest can, Tim lets his hip brush Raylan’s arm where it’s draped over the back of the park bench he’s sitting on.

Just that.

They aren’t the hearts and flowers and declarations type, Raylan guesses.  It’s going to be a silent courtship—smart-ass remarks and fleeting glances, intentional touches that can be passed off as accidents.

Perfect cover for whatever this is they’re doing.

So, on their way back up in the elevator, Raylan puts his hand right where he’d had it on their way down, and Tim says, “Raylan,” in that low, drawn-out way, and meets his eyes in their distorted reflection of the opening elevator door.

There and then gone.

Seems relevant.

*****

Art probably thought he’d be doing Tim a favor, giving him a milk run like tracking down Joel Bob Carter, a two-strikes paper dealer who’d violated his parole a week after he’d left his halfway house.

Of course, maybe Art hadn’t really been thinking of Tim’s comfort so much as Raylan’s discomfort.  The boss had tied Raylan to his desk for the past week and then punished him with a stake-out that will “almost assuredly involve no shooting whatsoever,” to quote the boss himself.

At least this job had the promise of getting done early:  Good ol’ JB had a girlfriend he hadn’t seen since before he’d gone down for two years for forging doctors’ signatures on RFC forms.

At least Tim had gotten to drive, Raylan claiming he was tired.

He looked tired, too, the smudged hollows under his eyes a testament to something keeping him awake at night.

Tim stifled the urge to ask; it isn’t any of his business what—or who—Raylan got up to on his off time.

So here they are, stuck in a car with the sun like a razor slicing through the windshield and Raylan Fucking Givens stretched out next to him like a Chippendale’s wet dream come to life, slouched down in the seat with one knee against the dashboard and the other long leg going for miles under the dash.  He has his hat tilted at a rakish angle over his eyes, presumably to keep the sun from blinding him, but Tim can tell Raylan is looking at him.

It starts to get to him, like an itch between his shoulder-blades:  Can’t scratch it himself.

“You keep staring at me, you’re gonna miss Carter,” Tim says.

“I can do both,” Raylan answers, tipping his hat up so he can look at Tim directly.

“Some reason you have to?”

Raylan shrugs, “You’re easy to look at.”

That simple declaration makes Tim a little breathless. So much for casual flirting.

The itch ratchets up a notch, and he has to stop himself from squirming against the seat back.  He’ll shoot himself before he’ll act like he’s some young, dumb, full of come greenhorn at Ranger school unable to control his baser instincts for the time it takes to get a job done. 

Besides, there’s only one way to scratch it, and for as spacious as Raylan’s car is, it’s not big enough for what Tim has in mind.

They talk for a while about less incendiary things—movies they’ve seen, shows they’ve watched, the one food they’d eat if they could only have one for the rest of their lives. There’s nothing illuminative, nothing intimate about the information exchange, but it feels like a first date, minus the tension engendered by wondering if he’s going to get any later.

The way Raylan is looking at him leaves no doubt about the other man’s intentions where sex is concerned.

Tim catches himself wetting his lips just to watch Raylan’s eyes track the movement, a counter-productive experiment as he feels a telltale pressure behind his fly.

Thankfully, before he does something stupid, Tim sees movement from the girlfriend’s house.

“We’re up,” Tim says, starting Raylan’s car and pulling it across the girlfriend’s gravel driveway, effectively blocking in the guy who was going for the elderly Ford Tempo parked there.

As Tim is exiting the driver’s side, he hears, “Shit,” from Raylan’s side, and then, “Gun!”

Tim is behind the door, piece drawn, before the echo of the first shot dies away.

He dares a peek above the door and gets showered in broken window glass for his trouble as the “milk run” suspect plugs a wild shot through it. His heart kicks against his ribs, and he feels the cold clutch of adrenaline ramping up and clamps down ruthlessly on a shiver.

Small favors he’s not packing armor-piercing rounds, Tim has time to think as several more shots shove the door into his bracing shoulder but nothing gets through it to him.

Raylan shouts, “Alright, JB, you’ve had your fun, but if you don’t put that gun down right now, things are going to go hard for you and Heather.  She doesn’t deserve to suffer for your stupidity.”

As “talking down the shooter” goes, Tim’s heard better speeches, but whether JB is tweaked out of his mind or just too damned stupid to listen, his answer is to spray them with bullets and then run for the scraggly woods behind the trailer.

Raylan gets a shot off, apparently missing, and then says, “Cover me!” as he duck-runs to the front of the trailer and gets it at his back, crouched beneath the big, awninged picture window there and right beside the propane tank the girlfriend must use to heat her showers and cook her food.

Tim keeps his eyes on where JB disappeared, the man a clumsy runner, arms flailing, feet uncoordinated.  Calmly, he holsters his gun, watching Raylan move around to the far end of the trailer, where he can keep a closer eye on JB.

Tim goes to the trunk, retrieves his sniper rifle, examines it with a critical eye, making sure the action is clear of dirt.  He keeps it clean, oiled, and in its case at all times except at the range, so he’s confident of its soundness, but it pays to take a few moments to make sure.

He strolls to the hood of the girlfriend’s Tempo, deploys the bipods, finds a good posture, checks the scope.  He’s got a clear shot of the guy as he makes an erratic path, like a drunken bumble bee, up the side of the hill.

“You have a shot?” Raylan asks.

Tim snorts.  “I could shoot this guy blindfolded from a mile away.”

“Can you wing him?”

Tim pulls the trigger by way of answer.  Way up the hill there’s a shout and then a cloud of dust.

Raylan waits for Tim to walk up to him, still holding the rifle, before he says in that low, husky voice Tim has only heard once before, “Nice.”

“Really?  Now?” he answers and keeps walking, knowing that Raylan will duck into the trailer long enough to make sure the girlfriend is okay—and not planning to plug them in the backs— before joining him on the hill, where Joel Bob Carter is rolling around in the dirt clutching his shoulder and crying about how he didn’t mean it and no one had to shoot him.

Tim secures the shooter’s weapon and stands there holding both guns until Raylan arrives.

JB Carter wails, “I just wanted to fuck my girlfriend!” as his blood makes marble-sized clots of mud he’s systematically rubbing into the back of the wound.

“Don’t we all,” Raylan mutters, bending over to get JB on his feet. 

Once up, they cuff the guy, who blubbers the whole time, snot and saliva running from his chin in stringy globs.  Tim keeps well back of that biohazard as Raylan leads him down to the waiting sheriff’s deputies, who take him into custody with a smirk and a two-fingered wave, respectively.

Raylan pats the roof of the cruiser to signal that they can leave with their weeping, bleeding burden, and then turns to Tim, reaching his hand out to touch his cheek just below the eye where the yellowing bruise of last week’s weak attempt on his life hadn’t yet fully faded.

He pulls his fingers back, and as Tim sees that they’re bloody, he feels the first sting of the wound. 

“There goes my modeling career,” he drawls, walking over to stow his rifle, checking it again for specks of dust, though he’d clean it at home that night, of course.

Only when it is safely away and JB’s gun secure in a lockbox in the trunk does Tim bother to check the sideview mirror to see how bad the cut is.

As he’d expected, the blood makes it seem worse than it is.

“Just a scratch,” he shrugs, uncomfortable with the intensity with which Raylan is looking at him.  He wipes his cheek on his sleeve, sees that the bleeding is already slowing, and gives Raylan an eyebrow.

“We goin’ or what?”

“What’s say we take a little detour before we head in to make our reports?” Raylan suggests as he uses his hand to gingerly clear the driver’s seat of window glass and gets in.  Tim is happy to let him drive, given the suddenly windy conditions and the fact that he’s all at once dog tired, the adrenaline let-down hitting him hard.

He doesn’t raise his head away from the seat when he turns to look at Raylan, who is pretending to watch the road as if it might get up to some sort of mischief.

“What’d you have in mind?” 

Raylan snorts.  “I don’t think you’re up for anything I have in mind.”

“Try me,” Tim answers automatically, though his heart—and other, more strategically important parts—isn’t really in it.

“How ‘bout we get that cut cleaned out and take it from there?”

“Yeah, alright.”

Tim’s never gotten used to owning things, so his apartment is what some might charitably call “Spartan” but even the kindest person would not label “comfortable.”

Still, there’s a first aid kit in the bathroom, though the space is too small to work on him there.  Raylan seats him at one of the two stools at the built-in breakfast bar, four feet of Formica countertop tacked awkwardly to the opposite side of the half-wall where the stove is.

Tim is grateful he has a reasonable excuse to close his eyes as Raylan works on the cut because they’re almost eye level this way, and Raylan is standing close enough that Tim can smell his aftershave or deodorant, whatever it is he wears that reminds him of piney woods and cut grass.

The work doesn’t take long—Tim really didn’t need the babying—and then he’s sliding off the stool to put some distance between them while Raylan stows the kit and throws away the bloody swabs.

“You hungry?”

Tim shakes his head.  “Nah.”  He’s exhausted, but he can also feel the first suggestion of tremors that signal the next phase, after he crashes for a couple of hours.

After the drop, there’ll be the dreams, and after those, hyper-vigilance and the slow creep of paranoia overtaking even the most innocuous of decisions:  Left lane or right when you go under the railroad bridge; right lane or left when you come out the other side?

Been there, done that. 

“Sleep?” Raylan suggests next, and Tim says, half-heartedly: “I should get to the office, do the paperwork.”

But Raylan his shaking his head before Tim finishes his suggestion. 

“Art said to take the rest of the day.  There’s plenty of time tomorrow.  Not like the guy’s going to die of a through-and-through.”

Ordinarily, it would annoy the shit out of Tim that Raylan has gone behind his back to Art. He hates feeling like he’s being handled.  He’s not fucking fragile: He can do the goddamned paperwork today.

“Bullshit,” Tim answers, succinctly, turning toward the bedroom for a clean polo, one that doesn’t have blood stains on the sleeve.

“Tim,” Raylan says softly, and Tim pretends he doesn’t hear, closing the door pointedly to keep Raylan on the other side of it—out of the room with the bed—and strips off the bloody shirt.

He takes his time choosing another, as if picking out one of the three clean polos in his closet is a heroic task that requires serious contemplation.

Raylan doesn’t knock, which Tim also finds irritating, but only in that same swaddled-in-cotton way he’d had about Art’s decision to bench him:  He’s too tired, too wired, too ready for the sweats and tremors, to really feel anything that’s happening to him just then.

Trust Raylan to challenge that distance by getting right up in his space, cupping Tim’s face in his big hands and leaning down to kiss him long and slow and wet, ghosting his tongue over Tim’s lower lip to get him to open up and then sliding languidly in, as if he has all the time and breath in the world for this.

Tim clutches Raylan’s shoulders to push him away or pull him closer—he doesn’t know.  His head is suddenly light, the floor under him swaying to the rhythm of his heart.  He tears his mouth away, warning, “Raylan.”

Raylan backs him toward the bed, and Tim could get away—of course he could, he could break Raylan’s hand or his kneecap or his fucking neck—but he retreats until he feels the mattress at the back of his knees and sits down.

Then Raylan is kneeling to take off Tim’s boots, and Tim is threading a hand that shakes with exhaustion through his hair, the sick wash of spent adrenaline curdling his belly, and Raylan presses an almost chaste kiss to the inseam of his khakis before he stands up to undo Tim’s belt and shimmy him out of his pants.

When Tim goes for the waistband of his briefs, Raylan says, “Uh-uh,” and shoos him up the bed.

Tim goes, feeling strange-headed and disconnected.  He lays back, watching Raylan take his hat off and hang it over the lamp on the nightstand, watching him toe out of his boots and shrug out of his holster.

It should be hot, the way Raylan disrobes with such nonchalance, as if they’ve done this before.

It isn’t hot, though, because nothing’s touching Tim just then, no feelings getting through the electrical mess of his brain.

When Raylan climbs onto the bed beside him, Tim begins to turn toward him, but Raylan stops him with a hand on his hip and another “Uh-uh.”

Tim glares, the only expression he’s still got in his arsenal besides stupid tired. 

“Sleep,” Raylan orders, lying down beside him so that their hands are just brushing.

“Raylan,” Tim mutters, not amused by being ordered around his own bedroom in a decidedly unsexy way.

“Sleep,” Raylan says again, and since Tim is done in, he doesn’t try a second protest, just closes his eyes for a minute to gather his scattered wits.

When he wakes up from a dream of RPG fire and shouting, he doesn’t know where or when he is.

From next to him, he hears, “Tim?” and the voice is almost familiar. He lets his eyes rove the plain white ceiling, takes in the cheap fixture with the dead bugs that inevitably accrete in the milky glass near the bulb.  He feels softish sheets and smells his own sweat on the pillow. 

“Tim?” the voice says again, and sense comes back to him in a rush:  He’s in his own bed in Lexington.  He’s a deputy US Marshal.  Raylan Givens is stretched out beside him. 

“’m here,” he affirms, feeling sweat under his armpits and along the nape of his neck; he hates waking up in damp sheets.  The shakes have started:  He hates those more.

Raylan touches his hand and then leans up on an elbow to look down into Tim’s face.

“You alright?”

He is and he’s not.  This post-traumatic shit sucks, but it’s nothing he hasn’t survived before.

“Not my first rodeo,” he offers by way of answer.

Raylan’s eyes crinkle up in concern.  “Not what I asked.”

Shit.

He waves Raylan’s words away as though they’re a pesky mosquito and thinks about getting up. 

Then he hears himself say, “Nothing a blow-job won’t fix.”

Him and his traitorous goddamned mouth.

Before he can take it back, make a wise-ass remark about it, Raylan has pivoted on the bed and Tim can feel his warm breath through the cotton of his briefs.

He shifts restlessly, not sure if he should stop this or let it happen, head still unsettled, the worst of the after-effects of getting shot at yet to come.

Then Raylan is easing him out of his briefs, taking Tim’s soft cock into his mouth, sucking it gently, swallowing to increase the suction until Tim is hard and dizzy with it.

Raylan pulls back, wraps a long-fingered hand around the base of Tim’s cock and concentrates on giving the head his attention, his free hand moving between Tim’s legs to fondle his balls, rolling them gently in his cupped fingers.

Tim moans, spreads his legs, heaviness pinning him to the bed, thighs starting to tremble, and threads his fingers through Raylan’s hair just to have something to hold on to.

Raylan doesn’t increase the action of his mouth and hands; he works Tim up slowly, tenderly, pulling off his cock now and then to press wet, open-mouthed kisses to Tim’s inner thighs and the dip in his belly below his navel and the line of his cut above his hipbones.

It’s too much.

“What is this?” Tim asks before he can be rendered inarticulate or panic overtakes him, and he punches Raylan blind so he can escape the bed.

“You need me to explain it to you?” Raylan asks, breath damp and hot on the head of Tim’s cock, which he’s stopped sucking to answer Tim’s question in his usual maddening, uninformative way.

Tim decides he’s going to have to take his balls in his hands—not literally, since his balls are still being weighed by the hand Raylan isn’t using to feed himself Tim’s cock—and say it, he guesses.

“Why are you…”  he waves his hand in a languid arc to indicate Raylan; his wed, ret lips; the hand cradling his balls; the care Raylan’s been taking.  “…being like this?”

A slow, secret smile spreads across Raylan’s damp mouth.  He drops a kiss on the head of Tim’s cock and lets it go, slides his hand carefully from between Tim’s thighs, too, and crawls up Tim’s body, so he can look him in the eye.

Tim’s not in the right place to be trapped in the lean cage of Raylan’s arms, and he feels his heart ratchet up as a chill spreads from his breastbone outward.

“Like what?” Raylan asks, dropping a kiss on the still healing cut over Tim’s eye.  “This?” he asks, lips brushing over the new cut on his cheek.

“This?” A touch of his tongue to the line of Tim’s jaw, where a bruise is fading through the puke-colored end of the rainbow.

“This?”  Tongue on his throat, where his pulse throbs blue and fast beneath the thin, pale skin.

On it goes, the same question answered a dozen times by Raylan’s breath and lips, teeth and tongue.

When he has at last mapped every scar, old and new, between Tim’s brow and his inner knee—skateboard mishap when he was eleven—Tim is shaking, eyes closed and teeth clenched around the sounds that want to come out of him.

Every nerve in his body is a live wire about to set off the charge, and he’s terrified that if he opens his eyes, he’ll catch the spark from Raylan’s expression.

“Look at me,” Raylan says, in that gentle, inexorable way of his.

It requires a force of will to open his eyes and look down the length of his body at Raylan, who is looking back at him, steady and sure, as if being naked between Tim’s legs, flushed and sweaty and red-lipped, like Sodom’s poster boy, is as natural as breathing.

Then he takes Tim down to the root, mouth an inferno, throat tight around the head of his cock, and Tim bucks up into his mouth and comes in a wrenching, white-out fury, shouting so loud it makes his throat hurt.

Raylan’s throat can’t be any better after the beating it took, but he doesn’t seem disturbed when he finally releases Tim’s cock and wipes the back of his hand across his mouth.

Then he’s breathing the scent of Tim’s spend against Tim’s lips, hovering there, asking without asking.

Tim is panting, loose-limbed, belly shaking with aftershocks, but he wants to taste himself on Raylan’s tongue, so he makes the effort, closing the scant inches between them to invite Raylan in.

It’s Raylan’s turn to moan, a sound that vibrates down Tim’s throat, and then he’s pulling away just far enough to say, “Please?”

It takes Tim an embarrassing moment to figure out what Raylan’s asking, until the evidence of Raylan’s need presses into his damp thigh.

Noodly as his muscles feel, Tim is a goddamned specialist and manages the coordination required to shove Raylan’s briefs down—carefully—and take Raylan in his hand, hard and hot, silk and steel, jacking him slowly, Raylan saying, “Fuck,” hips bucking.

It doesn’t take long until he’s spilling over Tim’s hand, searing drops splattering his quivering belly.

The air is full of the smell of them, a miasma of sweat and spend.  Tim wants to spread his legs and go again, wants to invite Raylan all the way inside.

Wants him any way he can have him.

Jesus, he’s so screwed.

“Hey,” Raylan says, his voice gratifyingly rough.  Tim feels a dart of pride race through him like an electrical charge.  “This doesn’t have to mean anything.”

It sounds like the kind of lie Tim tells himself when he’s already in over his head.

A snort is the only answer he manages.  Then, “Too late.”

It’s the bravest he’s been in a long time.

Raylan laces his fingers through Tim’s.  His skin is hot, damp with sweat and other things, probably, and it should be gross, or at the very least girly, but it just feels right.

“We’ll figure it out,” Raylan promises.

Tim turns his head on the pillow.  “Yeah?”

“Pretty sure.”

A declaration of love it ain’t, but it’s better than Tim might’ve expected, if he’d let himself hope, and anyway, how bad could it be?  He’s already been tied up for the guy.

“Shit,” Raylan says, then, low and a little sorry.  Tim cranes his head up to follow the trajectory of Raylan’s worried eyes.  “Did I do that?”

Tim sees the faint impression of Raylan’s fingers still ringing his hip, thinks, incongruously, of biometric locks, imagines that only Raylan’s touch can open him wide.

Raylan traces the darkest bruise, the one from his trigger finger.

“I like it,” Tim says, the next bravest thing.

It’s Raylan’s turn to say, “Yeah?” sounding hopeful and uncertain both.

“Yeah.”  Tim assures him.  Raylan’s answering smile is something to behold.

It is, as they say, enough to be going on with.