"You think there's really any point to this?" Neither of them had spoken for at least ten minutes, so Tim's voice sounded extra loud in the still air of the car.
"Depends on what you mean by 'a point,'" Raylan replies.
"I mean," Tim says slowly, carefully enunciating each word, "do you think we're going to catch this guy this way?"
"Oh," Raylan says. "Then, no."
Tim sighs and rummages in the bag by his feet. "Sandwich?"
"Sure. Roast beef."
Tim hands him the sandwich and pulls out a pastrami on rye for himself. They've been on the stakeout for almost two hours, and it seems like they've run through all possible topics of conversation already.
It being early March, there's college basketball to talk about, and that ate up a good forty-five minutes. Tim mentioned hockey, but Raylan had just given him a look and shaken his head. Baseball is a go, but they run out of stuff to talk about quickly since the season hasn't even started up yet.
After the sports talk is depleted, they move on to work, and their coworkers, but there's disappointingly little gossip. The Marshals are a tight-lipped, close to the vest group. They both know Rachel left her husband, but neither has a clue why, or about their marriage at all.
"So, what was Art like when you taught with him at Glynco?" Tim asks, after the conversation has trailed off.
"Oh, 'bout the same, except he had more patience for me when he didn't have to be my boss."
Tim laughs. "You do test him."
"Yeah," Raylan says. "Don't mean to, but shit is weird for me here. Too much history."
"Speaking of that, what do you think Boyd Crowder's gonna do now his woman's locked up?"
"Plot and scheme, like he always does," Raylan says, and maybe he's trying to make it sound like he doesn't give a shit, but he's as unsuccessful as he always is when it comes to that guy.
Tim takes a few bites of his sandwich, thinking about that whole, bizarre thing.
"What's that like for you, anyway?" he finally asks. "Him dating a woman you used to be with?"
"They're engaged," Raylan says. "I don't know how I feel about it. It ain't a new story. He loves her, sincerely I believe. He wants to change for her. But he can't. Even he knows that now, I think."
"You sound almost sad about it."
Raylan sighs. "It is sad. I always thought... he's smart. He can get out. I never expected to come back here and find him doing what he was doing. Thought he'd be long gone."
"Raylan, just how well did you know him? I know what you told Art, and I know that's bullshit."
Raylan is quiet for awhile, staring through the windshield, then he says, "We dug coal together, Tim. I knew him."
"You sound like me, talking about the war."
"Maybe it's a little like that, I wouldn't know. When you mine coal, you go down into the absolute darkness, and the only things you can really count on to keep you safe are the men down there with you. If you don't, or you can't, then you're screwed. So I trusted Boyd Crowder to have my back, trusted him with my life, and he proved himself worthy of that trust. Whatever's happened since, it don't sever that kind of bond, not entirely, much as I might wish at times that it had."
"I get it," Tim replies.
"That why you had the urge to recruit Boyd's gun thug to the Marshal service?" Raylan isn't looking at him, he's leaning his head back on the seat, but he can see the small, amused smile on his face just the same.
"How the hell was I supposed to know, man?" Tim is still embarrassed about that.
"I think you fooled yourself, because you could tell where he'd been. You disregarded the obvious."
Tim knows that's true. He should have easily seen that Colt was a junkie, and a loser, and a criminal. Thing is, so are a fair number of the guys he'd been to hell and back with. Just because they're lost, doesn't make them evil. Mark had been lost, and apparently beyond any help Tim could offer.
When Tim doesn't answer for awhile, Raylan says, "Hey, I'm sorry if I hit a nerve. I shouldn't have brought him up. I'm real sorry about your friend."
Raylan's head is still lolling against the headrest, but he's turned to look at Tim. He must actually feel bad about it, if he's making an attempt at sincerity.
"It's okay," Tim says. "Colt shot him, yeah, but if it hadn't been him it would've been someone else. He put himself there. He was lost. Both of them were." Tim shakes his head. "Maybe they both found what they were looking for."
Raylan doesn't reply for a few seconds, then nods. They don't talk much for the rest of the night.
The next night, Tim drives. He comes by to pick Raylan up, and they stop off for subs and chips on the way.
"I'm gonna get fat if we have to do too many more of these," Raylan says. "Metabolism ain't what it used to be."
Tim snorts. Raylan's body looks as ridiculously good as always. It's almost off-putting, how perfect it is, and there's no way he's not aware of it. Still, Tim plays along. He says, "That gut you're working on goes perfect with the hair. You're gonna look like Lebowski in no time."
"Shut up, Donny."
Tim grins and starts driving toward their location. They park in a new spot, sitting on the guy's house from a different angle tonight.
Conversation is slow and awkward at first. Raylan doesn't keep up with pop culture too much, and Tim's fairly sure that Lebowski reference is about as current as it gets, so that's sort of a dead end. At least they both saw Lincoln, so they talk about that for a bit.
"Great movie, can't dispute that," Raylan says. "Though I did find it impossible not to play Hollywood bingo the whole time, and that was a little distracting."
"Agreed," Tim says, "but James Spader was kinda awesome." Tim smirks, and adds, "Now there's a perfect illustration of a guy really turning the corner fast. Pretty boy one day, bloated buffoon the next. You want me to eat your chips for you, Raylan? I'd be willing to make that sacrifice."
"Fuck you," Raylan says, without any edge to it. "I always thought he was weird looking anyway. Dead fish eyes."
"More of an Andrew McCarthy guy?"
Raylan puts a finger to his mouth like he's giving it serious consideration, then says, "Nah, not him. He looks like he could burst into tears any second. Tell you the truth, I only ever watched those brat pack movies on dates, and I was never really focused on the screen. The Outsiders, now that was a movie."
"Ah," Tim says, nodding sagely. "Matt Dillon."
"Sure, why not?" Raylan answers mildly.
After they've eaten, there's a long stretch of silence. It's not uncomfortable; they've both been in law enforcement long enough to respect the tacit rule of stakeouts, which is not to be a pain in the ass, and respect the quiet.
Raylan is the one to break it, saying, "I was thinking about what you said about your buddy, and that asshole Colt, being lost. Ain't that pretty much 90% of the people we're tasked with apprehending? I mean, most people aren't born bad, they get that way. Shitty parents, poverty, addiction, mental illness, trauma. Sad, maybe, but irrelevant. Maybe they weren't always assholes, but by the time we get to 'em, they are, and that's all that matters."
"And that's why you didn't mind shooting your old mining buddy who you have a bond with, still."
Raylan grimaces. "Did I truly give the impression I didn't mind that?"
"Uh, no, Raylan. I was being sarcastic. It looked like you were pretty much crushed by it, least 'til you found out he was going to live. Then you just seemed pissed at him."
"Oh," Raylan says, the side of his mouth crooking up in half a smile. "Yeah. That I was."
"I think I know a little bit about that," Tim says, after a bit. "I was pretty fucking angry with Mark when I found out what he'd gotten himself into. You think you know about who someone is. Well, you do. You do know about part of them. But then they all have these weaknesses, they disappoint, they make things hard for themselves and others and you just want to shake them and tell them to stop fucking up."
"Kinda like that, yeah," Raylan replies. "Only, Boyd never came to me looking for help. It wasn't ever my place to judge him just because he didn't live up to what I thought, at the age of 19, he could become. It was just my job to take him down, because he's a criminal. I'm the one who fucked up and let it get personal. No wonder Art was so pissed."
Tim opens up a bottle of Coke and takes a big gulp of it. "You're the exception, Raylan. You know that, right? Most people in your situation don't get out."
"Yeah, I know," Raylan replies. "It's just, I always thought it would be him, and not me."
Tim frowns in surprise, but Raylan goes on. "Our daddies were both criminals, both assholes, but his was smarter. He was smarter - smarter than Arlo, than his own daddy, and smarter than me, but only in ways that don't make no difference. But you don't know that when you're a kid, you don't know what the world values, you only think, damn, that sumbitch talks like a dictionary made into poetry. No way he'll tolerate this place, he'll go do something that matters. And that's a load of shit, and he's full of it, and he's exactly what he was always supposed to be."
Tim has no response. Raylan's vehemence about this has taken him by surprise, and he knows that anything he says that even vaguely smacks of comfort or reassurance will only rile him up more. They spend the rest of the evening without speaking of anything deeper than old movies and how much they both hate Duke.
On the third night of the stakeout, which is feeling increasingly futile, Raylan is in a shit mood. He's even more sarcastic than usual, answering Tim's comments with jokes that border on mean-spirited.
Finally, Tim snaps. He says, "Listen, Raylan, I don't know what you're so wound up about, but it sure as shit doesn't have to do with me, so stop fucking taking it out on me."
Raylan scowls silently at the steering wheel for about a minute, then says, "Winona told me she doesn't want me near her until after the baby's born. And maybe not for awhile after. She's freaked out. My shit got too close to her."
"Shit," Tim says, and doesn't add the obvious, that he can't really blame her. Raylan probably knows that already. He starts to say something else, an attempt at commiseration, when he sees headlights coming up the road and turning into the driveway of the house they're sitting on.
They get out of the car, walk quickly and quietly through the trees bordering the property. They see their man get out of his car and head for the front door. They both know it's better to get him outside the house, and Tim takes point, yelling, "Freeze! U.S. Marshals, get down!"
The man does freeze for a moment, then starts to reach. Raylan shouts, "Don't do that!" and is ignored as the guy pulls. Raylan reacts as instinctively as he always does, and the man is on the ground before he can get his weapon level.
The gun is lying a few inches from him, and Tim kicks it away before checking on the shooter. He's not dead, but his shoulder is a bloody mess. Raylan calls it in while Tim puts pressure on the wound.
It's hours before they've finished with their statements and are released to go home. It's nearly midnight by then, but Tim is wired, and dreading the night ahead. No way will he be able to sleep. Not a fucking chance.
"Raylan," he says, doing his very best to keep the desperation out of his voice, "you want to get a drink?"
"I was planning to head straight home and do just that," he replies. "You're welcome to join."
"Uh," Tim says stupidly. He'd meant a drink at a bar, and his mind is not working too sharply at the moment, but he recovers and says, "Yeah, why not."
Tim drives them to Raylan's apartment. Raylan pulls out a half-full bottle of Makers and sets it on the kitchen table with two glasses.
Raylan pauses by the fridge and asks, "You want ice?"
"Nope," Tim replies, pouring for both of them. He drains half his glass in one go, and Raylan gives him a funny look.
"Why are you so worked up about this? He's gonna be fine, and you weren't even the one who shot him. I've seen you kill a man and not react this way."
"Yeah, I don't know," Tim says. "Maybe because I wasn't the one who shot him. Thanks for having my back, man."
Raylan's look turns into a frown, and he says, "I'm your partner, Tim. Of course I had your back. What's wrong with you? Did you think I wouldn't?"
Tim breathes in deep, and lets it out slow. "No," he replies, "you have before and I knew you would this time. It's just, I have this thing about being the guy, I guess. I'd rather protect than be protected, it seems less... unpredictable that way."
Raylan huffs a laugh at him. "I believe that's called 'control issues.'"
"Well, I got those, in fucking spades." He hesitates, then says, "You mind if I tell you something personal? I won't, if you don't want me to."
Raylan's eyes widen very slightly, and he looks like maybe he wants to start over and not invite Tim into his home at all, but he says, "Go ahead."
Tim finishes his drink and pours another before he starts talking. Why he's choosing to tell this person, at this moment, he's not sure, but it feels like something he needs to do, so he braces himself and goes for it.
"When I was in Afghanistan, I had a close friend," Tim starts, speaking softly. "We'd been on two tours together, been in many close calls together. All of us looked out for each other, but with him and me, it was personal."
Raylan looks at him, his face neutral, waiting for the rest of this, for what he must suspect is coming. Tim feels nervous, even though he knows Raylan. He knows it should be fine, but you can never know completely.
"No one knew," he says, trusting Raylan to put two and two together, because he just doesn't want to say the thing to him, "no one could know. We were so careful. Sometimes, he'd want to talk about after, when we got home, but I never let him. I wanted it too, but it felt like bad luck to say it out loud, where we were."
Raylan stares at him for a few seconds after he stops talking, then pours more whiskey into his glass. "What happened?" he asks, though he's probably already worked it out.
"He died in a raid," Tim replies. His voice is flat and emotionless, too loud, and he makes himself flinch. "I suppose it would be more poignant to say it was a week before we were to get out or something, but the reality was even worse. I had another nine months on my tour, and I had to behave as if I'd lost only as much as the other men in our unit, just another soldier, another friend. Bad enough, but not the same." Tim stops speaking for a few seconds, his breath coming a little faster than it should be. "No one knew," he says again.
"That's terrible, Tim," Raylan says, "I'm sorry." It's obvious he feels helpless, and uncomfortable. He looks like he's going to speak a few different times, but ultimately says nothing.
"I don't know why I told you that," Tim says, laughing a little, trying to play it off like it's not a big deal.
"Jesus, Tim," Raylan murmurs.
"I'm sorry," Tim says, "I shouldn't have-"
"Fuck that. Shut up. Why would you apologize? That's an awful thing that happened to you. You don't have to keep all that shit inside of you all the time. It's a bad idea. Take it from me."
"Yeah," he says, "Okay. So now you know. You gonna be weird around me now?"
Raylan snorts and shakes his head. "Don't be stupid. Why would I?"
Tim shrugs. "I didn't really say the whole thing. I- I mean, it's not like it was a one time thing. It's- I'm gay, alright?"
"Why are you asking me if it's alright? Seems like you want to ask yourself that, uncomfortable as you obviously are. I don't give a shit. This ain't the Army. And anyway, they changed those rules, didn't they?"
Tim sighs heavily and says, "Yeah. I don't know, Raylan. I just thought you might think of it differently if it's what I am, not... just something I did one time."
Raylan narrows his eyes at Tim and pours himself a drink before answering. "Why would you think that?"
"Well..." Tim is way out on a limb here and he knows it. "I thought, maybe you'd understand the one thing...because- "
"Because of Boyd, is that what you're saying?" Raylan looks on the verge of pissed now.
"Apparently I don't know what the hell I'm talking about," Tim says quickly, "so I'll just sh-"
"No," Raylan says in a hard voice, and glowers down at the table. "Shit, Tim. How the hell did you figure that out?"
"Because you're still so angry with him, Raylan. 'We dug coal' might cover a lot, but... And also, you know. Just the way he talks to you. Like he knows something about you.
"It ain't exactly... It is what I am, in a sense, not just something I did. It's not like Boyd... okay, listen. When I was a kid, I'd get crushes on people on tv. Mostly the women, but also, sometimes, the men. I knew well enough to keep that shit to myself, but I couldn't keep it from myself."
"Huh," Tim says, staring a little.
"Close your mouth, you're lettin' in flies," Raylan says, sounding annoyed.
"Sorry," Tim says. "Who?"
"Excuse me?" Raylan raises his eyebrows at him haughtily.
"Who'd you have a crush on?"
"Never you mind."
Tim starts laughing and says, "Oh no. No way. Let me guess. Let's see... this woulda been late 70s, early 80s... Magnum P.I.!"
Raylan rolls his eyes. "What am I, an old lady?"
"Alright, alright, don't get defensive. Um... one of Starsky and Hutch?"
Raylan is cracking up now, but also possibly blushing, and Tim figures the real answer must be deeply embarrassing. "Is it Mannix?"
"Why do you assume it's a cop of some kind?" Raylan asks. "Clearly that ain't necessarily my type."
Tim thinks hard for a minute, then says, "Oh my god. Raylan, tell me it wasn't the Dukes of Hazzard. Tell me you're not that obvious."
Now Raylan's face is definitely red, and he says, "Anyways. That's how it was with me. I never liked any boys I actually knew, though. Maybe I just wouldn't let myself because it was too close, or maybe... I don't really know."
"Until Boyd Crowder," Tim says.
"Right. Until Boyd." He pauses and looks at Tim sort of quizzically, almost uncertain. "I ain't sure if his appeal is immediately apparent, these days. Or back then either, really. But once I noticed it, I couldn't get him outta my head. He was all I thought about."
"Did you tell him?"
Raylan wipes a hand across his face and laughs, sounding tired. He says, "So I hear." Tim frowns questioningly, and Raylan explains, "Me and Boyd drank together a lot. It was what we did. And it was dangerous, because even though I really didn't want him to know, it was like I kept daring myself to tell him. It was crazy."
"Yeah," Tim says, "Been there."
"So one night, I just didn't stop drinking. Blacked out, lost a whole night. I woke up the next day and just had no idea. And I was scared shitless, because I naturally wondered if I'd finally taken my own dare."
"And?" Tim can feel the anxiety himself, how young Raylan must have felt. He knew that feeling, or close enough anyway.
"I didn't see Boyd for two days after that, and I didn't go lookin' for him. During the next shift we worked together, he acted normal, and I started thinking I must not have said anything. Then after shift he asked me to go for a drive with him, and I said sure, so I got in his truck and we drove up into the hills a bit. Finally, he goes, 'Listen Raylan, I thought a lot about what you told me, and I wanted to tell you it's alright. I was freaked out at first, but we're friends, and it's fine.' Needless to say, I felt like curling up and dying right there."
"Well yeah, but... that's pretty good, really. Better than I got from a lot of people."
"I thought so too. I was... so grateful to him. I mean, I didn't even remember telling him, and I wasn't sure exactly what I had said. I didn't know if I just told him about the... uh... bisexual thing, or if I'd confessed how I'd been feeling about him. And I was terrified to ask."
"He never told you?"
"Not for a long time. Things went back to pretty much normal after awhile. He was... he acted like it really was fine, didn't treat me different. It made me fall in love with him."
Raylan pushes his hands through his hair backwards, then forwards. "He knew. I didn't know that then, but I do now. He could get me to do anything. Any scheme he wanted to pull, I was in. I didn't even question, I was just so glad I still had my friend, and that he hadn't kicked my ass or outed me all over Harlan.
"The night the mine caved in on us, and he pulled my ass outta there, we went straight out to the lake. It was cold as fuck, but it felt like life itself. We stripped down and jumped in, and then he... he was all over me. Kissing me, putting his hands on me. I pushed him away at first, 'cause I didn't know what the hell he was about."
"Just the near miss, maybe. Made him reckless, or... he just needed something?"
Raylan shakes his head. "I didn't know. Still don't. He begged me, though. Said, 'you told me, Raylan, I know you want me,' and I couldn't exactly deny it." He shrugs. "I couldn't say no to him. Didn't want to anyway."
"What happened after that?"
"He wouldn't look at me," Raylan sighs. "Told me he was sorry. I got what he was saying. Leave him alone, let him forget about it. He didn't say he blamed me, but I think he did. I left a week later with Helen's money, never looked back."
"Til you had to come back."
"That's right. And then it was all smiles and hate speech and 'you been gone too long.' He still tries to use it, you know. Still tries to play on those feelings, doesn't even consider the possibility they might be gone by now."
"Gee, I wonder why," Tim says.
"That's just echoes. Loud ones at times, but not the real thing. Problem is, sometimes I forget. I still get this little urge to- to trust him. And if we were in the mine, I still would. Down there, the choices are simple. Up here, it's too easy to justify bad behavior."
"You talking about him or you?" Tim has a small smile on his face, even though the question is a serious one.
"The only difference between me and Boyd is that his that his sociopath daddy showed him just enough love to keep him from running away for good. Mine didn't. I guess I just lucked out."
Raylan reaches for the bottle to refill his glass, but it's almost empty. He lets the last few drops fall into his glass, drinks it down and sits back in his chair.
Tim says, "If we're competing to see who feels the sorriest for himself - I mean, that is what we're doing, right? Then I should tell you that I haven't had a close relationship since Sean was killed. And I'm not talking about falling in love - I mean, I haven't gotten close to one single person since that time. I haven't made a friend. The friends I did have - the ones who didn't drop me when I came out to them, or the ones I never came out to - I drifted away from. I stopped caring.
"When Mark reached out, I tried to help him because I felt like I should want to. But I couldn't feel it. When he got killed, I wanted to feel it. I wanted to grieve for him, he was a brother. But I was just numb. I'm still numb. And I'm a little bit afraid that when that breaks, and I know it will some day, and this shit all comes flooding in, raw, unmanaged, it's going to kill me."
Raylan is smirking at him, and he can't figure out why. He's just poured his heart out to this motherfucker, and he's being laughed at. "What, goddamn it?"
He glares at Raylan, who shakes his head and snorts. "That'll be seventy-five dollars."
"For the hour of therapy, asshole. If we ain't friends, then you need to pay up."
Tim's face is still frozen in a glare, and then it breaks. He wants it to be a smile, but he knows it's not working, because Raylan frowns in what looks like concern, and then he does something amazing. He reaches out a hand, and Tim takes it.
"Oh. Okay," he says lamely.
They sit like that for awhile, until it becomes uncomfortable, and Tim says, "I should go, I guess."
Raylan nods slowly. "I guess so," he replies, but doesn't do anything.
Tim pulls his hand back, and it's a relief, but somehow painful at the same time. He stands, straightens himself out, and attempts a smile again, this time more successfully. Raylan returns it, but makes no move to rise.
"See you Monday, then," Tim says, and turns to go. He starts to walk toward the door, and suddenly Raylan is up, pulling him around by the shoulder. He kisses him swiftly, but softly, and Tim can't think at all for a few long seconds.
"I don't know if you wanted that," Raylan says, "but I did." He steps back then, his hands still at Tim's shoulders. He lets them slide off lightly, his fingers lingering just a little over his arms.
"I don't know if I did either," Tim says. "But it was nice."
"Alright. Night, then."