i got echoes in my head
Boyd binds Raylan’s wrists behind his back, skillfully navigating the twists and turns of the knots. When he tries to run his fingers between the rope and Raylan’s skin, there’s not enough room. “These knots are too tight.”
Raylan’s on his knees, drowning in his own rapid breathing. His laugh is gasoline-soaked gravel, chipped glass, broken things. “When have they ever been anything else?” He twists, tries to keep Boyd from loosening the knots. He wants them to rub his skin raw, to make him bleed. “They’re fine.”
“They’re not. Hold still.” Boyd puts a firm hand on his shoulder, the other tugging at the rope.
Raylan makes a sound like some gutted thing, stark and desperate. “Don’t,” he says to the floor, like a prayer to whatever lies beneath. Dark things, shifting and gathering. “Don’t.”
There’s a pause and then there are teeth in Raylan’s neck, pain blossoming star-bright behind his eyes. It sends the shadows scurrying to sulk in faraway corners, but it won’t be enough to keep them from coming back.
It never is.
* * *
The only thing he can hear is the clock in the living room.
Tick, tick. Tick, tick.
She’d thrown herself on top of the child but it hadn’t mattered. No witnesses means no witnesses. They’d even shot the dog, a small thing whose fur is matted with blood. It probably ran up to the door to say hello. The spitefulness of it tears at Raylan’s composure, makes him look around for someone to hit.
There’s no one to hit because everyone is dead.
They were twenty minutes late. Raylan remembers checking his phone, glancing at the clock on the dash. The woman had been afraid to testify. Art had to talk to her in that soothing voice of his, tell her not to worry.
Somewhere in a Lexington courtroom, a man is looking at the clock and smiling. Waiting for the chains on his arms to be released, to walk outside and never look back.
Tick tick tick.
* * *
Boyd’s biting Raylan’s back and he makes each one last a long time, like he’s teasing. It’s bearable at first but then as the pressure builds, it’s a thousand needles piercing his skin until it finally breaks.
Raylan hears that mocking tick tick tick in every ragged breath, in every jackhammer beat of his heart. He’s shaking and covered in sweat but he won’t stop it, not until he can’t take it anymore. Until all the noises in his head are silent.
“You ain’t God, Raylan,” Boyd murmurs, breath ghosting over the bites and making him shiver. “When you take up His sword of vengeance, you don’t decide whose blood stains the blade.” His fingers run through Raylan’s hair, gentle, almost kind.
Raylan jerks his head away, growling. He can’t speak. Boyd talks about angels and God and all Raylan sees in his mind is hell.
* * *
tick tick tick
“Won’t be gone long,” Raylan tells him, pulling on his jacket, checking the clip of his Glock. “Think you can behave, not kill someone while I’m gone?”
Boyd’s eyes meet his in the mirror. He needs to shave. His hair is sticking straight up like he’s just been frightened, or thoroughly fucked. “Think you can?”
Raylan rolls his eyes. “Just collecting a witness and escorting her to the courthouse. Glorified taxi service. Your tax money at work. Well. Yours, if you paid them.” He meets Boyd’s eyes and smiles, cautiously unguarded. “You look ridiculous. As usual.”
“Yes, well, I know how much you like consistency in a world gone mad, Raylan.” Boyd smiles back, cautiously happy. There are moments when Raylan sees what they might have been, if years hadn’t gotten between them and put all that caution there in the first place.
Raylan kisses him goodbye on the porch. Boyd tastes like coffee and a million bad ideas, and Raylan kisses him longer than he should. There are things he doesn’t know how to say when he leaves, so this is how he says them.
Raylan drives too fast down roads he knows too well, the window open, singing along with the radio because there’s no one there to hear him. Maybe he drives a little slower when Dwight Yokam’s Thousand Miles From Nowhere comes on. He’s always liked that song.
It’s a beautiful day.
Later he would think about that kiss goodbye and the song, and wonder which one he should have ignored.
* * *
Raylan’s on his back now and Boyd bites him on his side, on skin that is too thin and not covering muscle. It hurts so badly nausea rolls through Raylan’s stomach, like he’s going to be sick.
Tick tick tick. Still not enough.
"Enough?” Boyd asks him, grabbing Raylan’s hair again. He smacks Raylan hard across his face. “Answer me. Is it enough?”
Raylan thinks about that day in the mine, everything falling down around him in a shower of rock and poisonous dust. How he would have died there if it weren’t for Boyd Crowder, stubbornly refusing to leave Raylan behind, to let him go.
Would the woman and her child be alive, if he had?
“No.” Raylan’s boots kick against the floor and his back arches, his arms twisted painfully beneath him. “Goddamn it. No.”
Raylan thinks he comes here for things he needs, not things he wants. He never wants to admit they’re the same thing.
* * *
Raylan’s standing with one of the new marshals when Tim shows up, telling some story that’s half-true, half-patented Raylan Givens’ bullshit. Raylan gives him shit about being two minutes late.
Tim sheepishly holds up a Skyline Chili bag. Long line at the drive-thru, he says, sliding into the car next to Raylan.
Raylan gives him a hard time, makes a few suggestive comments about three-ways. They talk about baseball until they pull up to the house and then they both fall silent. Tim used to spend hours in the desert where nothing moved. Raylan spent years in a town where nothing changed. They both know when something’s wrong.
After the coroner leaves and they get back to the office, Raylan catches Tim staring at the empty Skyline bag like it’s a bomb. Without a word he reaches over and snatches it up so Tim doesn’t have to touch it.
Raylan’s been a marshal long enough to know these things don’t really make a difference -- goodbye kisses and radio sing-a-longs, long lines at the Skyline Chili and traffic on Nicholasville Road -- but he can’t say anything to Tim to make him feel less guilty. Because he’s been a marshal long enough to know there’s nothing to say.
* * *
It’s over when Boyd bites him on his inner thigh, vicious, like he’s trying to tear something else away from Raylan other than skin.
Raylan doesn’t know how to tell him it’s enough. A few years ago he dated a girl who was into that stuff, being tied up and hit, and she’d told him she had a word that meant stop. A safeword. Raylan remembers it, too. It was artichoke.
But words aren’t ever safe around Boyd and Raylan’s never once asked him to stop, so they don’t have one of those.
Raylan makes a sound like a scream and a sob, body jerking to the side, trying to kick out and scramble away at the same time. There’s nothing but a red haze and a burn in his eyes, in his throat, like the pain is trying to fight its way free.
He doesn’t feel Boyd take the ropes off his wrists, but he does feel it when Boyd starts sucking him, hot and wet. Raylan wants to fight it but he can’t, Boyd’s always been too goddamn good with his mouth.
He’s nineteen again and the dust is so thick he can’t see, he’s lost and there’s only one person who can drag him out of the darkness and into the light.
Raylan comes with his hands tangled in Boyd’s hair, staring up at the ceiling while the world falls apart into silence.
When he opens his eyes, he can breathe.