I do not own Justified...yet. :P

Raylan Suffers Through Appendicitis ('Cuz That's the Kind of Man He Is)

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When Art Mullen walked into the men's bathroom, at exactly six past nine in the morning, the first thing he saw was Raylan Givens, bending over the sink and generally looking like crap. "What the hell's the matter with you?" the older man asked, beginning to wish he'd chosen not to drink that full cup of coffee. Raylan's bloodshot eyes met Art's through the mirror.

He made an unintelligible moaning sound and shook his head. "I guess I'm just not myself today." That was an understatement. His face was pale, and tremors rocked his entire body. His hat was sitting forlorn at his side, and his sweat-drenched hair was painfully visible.

"Jesus, boy," sighed Art, rubbing his forehead concernedly. "You really look like shit. Are you sick?"

"Guess so," murmured Raylan. It was good to see that his devil-may-care attitude was still unharmed.

"I think you should go home 'fore you get the rest of us laid up as well." The last thing that Art wanted was to be stuck in bed for a week with the goddamned stomach flu. And he would sure be pissed if it was Raylan who gave it to him.

The man cocked his head and flashed a pained smile. "Oh, come on, boy. I'm not gonna get you sick. This isn't something I picked up."

"How can you tell?" said Art skeptically, crossing his arms and looking Raylan up and down.

He sighed. "I think it's food poisoning. I'm not fuckin' nauseous, it just fuckin' hurts."

Art couldn't help raising his gray eyebrows. Raylan rarely used that particular cuss word. The most Art had ever heard from the boy was the occasional 'shit'. He must've really been in pain; bless his poor soul. "Maybe it's appendicitis," Art offered lamely. His mother had gone through it when he'd been eighteen or so, and the symptoms didn't seem to be very different from what Raylan was going through.

"It isn't," the younger man said firmly. He straightened out, wincing and twitching. Art grabbed his arm before he had the chance to walk out.

"Hang on, Raylan," he said gently. He had decided to be a bit more sympathetic to him. After all, if it was really appendicitis, the pain Raylan was feeling would only get worse. Art pressed his palm against the nape of his friend's neck. He placed his other hand against his forehead.

"Well, shit," muttered Raylan, grinning slyly. "Not before the second date, now."

Art nearly slapped him upside the head, but didn't quite have the heart to. "Take it easy," he warned instead, half-dragging him out of the bathroom. "How long has this been going on?"

"You mean...how long have I felt like this?" wheezed Raylan, winking reassuringly at a few people as they passed. Everyone was staring at them, but Art waved them away.

"Yeah, that's what I mean."

"Since yesterday," he admitted.

"Shit, kid," groaned Art. "Are you kiddin'?"

"Afraid not." Raylan held on to Art's shoulders a little tighter, letting his chin drop to his chest. He was a bit wobbly on his feet, but he kept on walking. "Where're you takin' me?" he asked. The pair had just made it outside, and the dry morning air made Raylan sigh audibly in relief.

"The hospital," said Art, who was barely half-listening. He was focused on digging his keys out of his pocket and unlocking his car, which was waiting patiently by the curb. He leaned Raylan up against its side and pulled the door open. Without any semblance of a fight, Raylan allowed himself to be forced in.

The drive to the nearest hospital was exhausting. Raylan was in pain, but he continued to try very hard to disguise it. But he also knew that Art could see through his facade. For his friend's sake, Art just didn't say anything about it. Every few minutes, he would ask if Raylan was doing okay, but that was it. Eventually, the younger man decided to pass the long twenty minutes by counting horses. "Well, look at that black one." His weakened voice would occasionally float over to the front and make Art wince. "That's number twelve." When they finally reached the emergency room, Art was sweating and breathing shallowly in pure anxiety.

"I don't need any help," Raylan whimpered from the back seat. "I can walk on my own."

"Like hell you can."

Eventually, Raylan just accepted the hand that was proffered to him.

Half an hour later, Art was standing over the gurney in the hallway, looking worriedly down at his newest marshal. "How long will it take?"

Raylan shrugged. "The nurse said not too long. They don't have to do it the old-fashioned way anymore, so there won't actually be a scar. That's a damned shame. I wanted one."

Art chuckled and gently patted Raylan's shoulder. "Just relax."

"I am relaxed."

"Good. It's just an appendectomy; I'm sure you'll be right as rain in no time."

"Thanks for draggin' me down here, chief."

"Well, someone's gotta teach you to listen to your body. You sure as hell won't do it on your own."

Raylan smiled. "Yeah, well...see you around."

The petit blond nurse that had just arrived eyed him with a bit of suspicion, as if she expected him to make some sort of move on her. Raylan just sat there and grinned at her, reminding Art vaguely of the Cheshire Cat. He rubbed his eyes with dry fingers and walked back down the hallway.

A week later, when Raylan began to insist on showing up at the office, Art began to get a little annoyed with him. No matter how many times he told the man to stay home and get some rest, Raylan would sneak in anyway. Finally, Art caved in and allowed him to come back, as long as he sat at a desk and helped from there. When Raylan started sneaking out of the building to try and see some action, Art just gave up.

"Don't go clutching at your side every time we have to run, boy," he warned. "If you do, I'm sending you home. You shouldn't even be here. If your doctor knew I was letting you back, he'd have my hide..."

Raylan waved his hand dismissively. "He doesn't have to know, Art."

"You're a stubborn son of a gun, you know that?"

Raylan looked at him contemplatively. "I do know that, yeah. I guess it's just the kind of man I am."