Boyd had seen it in Raylan’s face, as plain as anything he’d ever seen. Everything Boyd wanted, Raylan wanted the same. And Raylan, he’d never be able to face it. Boyd knew this, knew it would cut Raylan deep and then that boy would be gone. He didn’t want to make Raylan run from him, even though it ached to have him close but not quite close enough. So he held it for a long time, all the while believing it was up to him.
The long hours they spent together in the dark of the mine made them feel like brothers, of a sort, like twins. As if they were gestating in the same cold, dead womb together, day after day. Boyd was enough of a realist to know that romanticizing a coal mine was a fool’s game for a man in his position, but too much of a romantic to be able to resist. If it hadn’t been for the presence of Raylan Givens by his side in that hole, perhaps he would have managed.
As it turned out, it took something other than Boyd to make Raylan run. He hadn’t needed much of a push anyway, had been talking about leaving on and off as long as Boyd could remember, but the mine collapse was the end of any inertia, or fear, or whatever else might have been holding him in Harlan. They had come into direct contact with the terror that lived in the gut of every man who’d ever rolled into the blackness. Boyd had found, to his honest surprise, that he was willing to accept that fate, though he did fear it.
It was no surprise to Boyd at all that Raylan felt differently. There had been fear while they’d still been down there - fathomless fear, fear of a man who didn’t believe there was anything waiting for him on the other side. But after, as soon as they knew they were getting out, the fear disappeared behind a veil of anger as black as the coal dust on his face.
That anger was still there two days later, when Boyd opened the door to his daddy’s house and found Raylan standing there. He was staring into Boyd’s face as if everything was somehow his fault. The anger was in his voice as well as his eyes, and he spoke roughly to Boyd.
He said, “Let’s go. Come on, Boyd. I’m leaving, so it has to be now.”
Boyd didn’t waste any time pretending not to understand, and he certainly wasn’t going to be protesting, not now. Not that he thought this was a good idea - he didn’t. He knew he’d regret it, like a drunk man might think about the hangover before downing another drink, but the pull was too strong, and he was too far gone for logic.
Boyd sat down in the passenger side of Raylan’s truck and watched the boy as he started driving them up into the hills. Once he glanced over sharply, obviously disliking the scrutiny, but Boyd didn’t move. He wanted to keep looking at Raylan now, because Raylan had said he was leaving. If he was doing this, Boyd knew, this time it must be real. Neither of them spoke a word during the drive.
Raylan parked the truck on the side of some little-used road. Boyd got out slowly, feeling suddenly cautious, almost thinking he might be able to stop this. Thinking maybe he should. But Raylan was out of his door and around to the passenger side in a flash, and pushing Boyd up against the side of the truck. That was the end of any good sense that might have wanted to assert itself, and Boyd was grabbing at his hips and pulling him in tight.
Raylan hadn’t kissed him yet, but he was staring at Boyd’s face with that blame still in his eyes. Boyd couldn’t understand it at all. None of the shit in Raylan’s life was Boyd’s fault. His daddy, the mines, Harlan County itself - whatever was making Raylan so angry, it had nothing to do with Boyd.
“No. Shut up. This ain’t about talkin’.” Raylan reached down and rubbed the heel of his hand over the ridge of Boyd’s erection through his jeans, and Boyd thought he had a point. If there had ever been a time for talking about this, it had passed while they were down in the dark, waiting for life or death. So Boyd took Raylan’s face in his hands and kissed him, something he’d been wanting to do for what felt like his whole life, even though it was really just six months or so.
Raylan’s reaction to the kiss was surprising. His whole body went still when their lips met, as if this was something unexpected. Maybe he found it frightening, but Boyd knew it wasn’t unwelcome, because Raylan’s mouth opened softly to him and his tongue pushed forward to meet Boyd’s. He could feel Raylan’s heart pounding, even though the layers of their clothing.
Boyd didn’t want to look at Raylan’s face when the kiss broke off, didn’t think he could take it if that same expression was still there, so he busied himself with the fly of Raylan’s jeans. Raylan was kissing his jaw now, and his neck, and Boyd figured there was a good chance he was going to come before Raylan even touched his dick. He had spent too much time trying, and failing, not to picture this. Trying, and failing, not to jerk off to the images that wouldn’t leave his head, of Raylan with his hands on him, with his mouth on him, underneath him, and even on top of him, his cock buried deep inside of Boyd. He didn’t know what that would feel like, but he’d thought he could want it anyway.
Boyd yanked Raylan’s jeans down and slid his fingers around his achingly hard erection. Raylan gasped harshly, breathed hard for a few seconds, then grabbed Boyd’s hair in the back and pulled his face up so their eyes met again. He looked different now. The accusatory look was gone, replaced by lust, and something else, something softer. It was unfamiliar on Raylan’s face, but it made him beautiful, took away the wolfish quality that the anger had given him.
This time it was Raylan who kissed him, with none of the desperation that Boyd would have expected. He kissed him like a lover, as if this was something that they did all the time. As if this wasn’t a pointless exercise, with a wholly predictable and unhappy ending looming in the near future. Boyd couldn’t help responding to it, because he knew that Raylan was under no more of an illusion than he was. He kissed back, trying to convey the same feeling, to exist in this moment and not any other.
Boyd was stroking Raylan, thinking he should do more, wanting to do more.
“Raylan... should I... do you want me to - “
“Boyd, if there’s somethin’ you want to do, do it now.” He spoke softly, and it sounded sad. Boyd heard perfectly clearly what Raylan was not saying, that this was the only time for them. He dropped to his knees and took Raylan into his mouth all at once. Raylan’s moan of pleasure and relief at that moment was one of the best things Boyd had ever heard, and he wanted never to forget it.
Boyd sucked Raylan for only a very short time before he felt him nearing the end of his control. He pulled off, sitting back and taking a few breaths. He looked up at Raylan, who was leaning forward, one arm braced on the side of the truck, and the other resting on Boyd's shoulder. His eyes were screwed shut, apparently trying to reign himself in.
After a few more seconds had gone by, Raylan opened his eyes and looked down at Boyd. A look passed between them that seemed to be one of mutual understanding, but Boyd wasn't sure just what they were agreeing upon. Maybe just the pure need between them at this moment, and Raylan's next words seemed to confirm this.
"Please. More." That made Boyd smile a little, thinking of Oliver Twist. He took hold of the base Raylan's cock, slid him in as deeply as he could handle, and felt it hit the back of his throat.
Raylan had been keeping pretty still, which Boyd greatly appreciated, considering his unfamiliarity with this end of the act, but now he pushed forward. Not aggressively, but as if he couldn't help it. He squeezed Boyd's shoulder tightly and stilled himself again, but Boyd kept moving. He wanted to hear the noises Raylan might make now, he wanted to know exactly what Raylan sounded like when he came.
What he heard was better than he had hoped for, better than his imagination had allowed for. What he heard was his own name, first spoken breathlessly, perhaps as a warning. Then it was spoken a second time in release, groaned through clenched teeth as Boyd felt hot come hit the back of his throat. Then a third time, whispered, and somewhat delayed as Raylan dropped down to his own knees and kissed Boyd again. Boyd didn't know how to categorize that last, but he thought it was the best one.
Raylan was reaching out to unzip Boyd's jeans, and Boyd pulled him down to the ground so that Raylan was half on top of him and off to the side. Raylan got his hand inside of Boyd's shorts and held his cock, squeezing it gently and stroking it slowly.
Boyd was about to come, thought it was a damn miracle he'd held off this long. He felt a pang of regret, because he would have liked to experience Raylan's mouth on his cock, but at the same second that thought passed close to his conscious mind, Raylan's thumb passed over the head and slid down the side of it, trailing pre-come. He came hard, pushing his face into Raylan's hair and returning what he'd been given. He spoke his good friend's name to him with lust, and then with a tenderness that had never been between them before this.
Raylan rolled off of him and lay staring up at the sky for awhile. Then he got up, straightened himself out and held a hand down to Boyd. Boyd allowed himself to be pulled up, knowing that this was one of the last contacts they'd ever have, and they drove back to Boyd's house without speaking. There was nothing to speak about. They'd both known what this was, and what was going to happen.
Before Boyd got out of the truck, he turned to look at Raylan once more. Raylan gazed back at him with eyes that had already begun to close themselves off again.
"Boyd... I'm s-"
"Raylan, no. Don't. I'm not sorry. You shouldn't be either. Nobody's fault."
"I have to go, you know." Raylan sounded guilty, and now Boyd started to understand that look in his eyes from before. That blame wasn't for Boyd after all. It was for himself.
"I know, I already knew that. I always knew it."
"I ain't leaving because of you."
Boyd heard his own fears spoken back to him, and he realized that he hadn't given his friend nearly enough credit.
"I believe you, Raylan."
Raylan hesitated then, and Boyd watched him decide to be brave, to say what was in his heart. Boyd felt even worse about his assumptions then, and couldn't understand how he could have taken Raylan for such a coward.
"I wish I could stay for you. But everything else, it's just... there's too much on the other side."
Raylan sat silently, staring out the windshield at the Crowder home. Boyd realized there was nothing left to say, no excuse left for prolonging this moment of shared pain and regret. All that was left was for them to start moving on from it.
Boyd reached over to touch Raylan on the arm, and Raylan let out a breath as if he’d been holding it for awhile. That served as their goodbye, and no more words were spoken between them. Boyd got out of the truck and walked toward his house, not bothering to look back. Raylan was out of the drive before Boyd even reached the front door.