They're not mine, I'm just borrowing them. I promise to return them in good condition.

Kidding aside, all publicly recognisable characters belong to their original owners. I'm just paying tribute to one of the best shows of TV.

Author's note- Made some changes to this. For some reason, I changed from past to present tense for the last few paragraphs. I really shouldn't write when I don't have a cup of coffee. ;) Sorry about the mistake folks.

Anyway, I added a few more details to this. Hope you like the changes.

A Drink Called Loneliness

Chapter One

Sunset painted the sky in shades of amber and pale rose as Raylan turned his car away from the prison gates. He glanced ruefully at the bundle of paperwork sitting on the seat next to him. In any other office, it would have been a punishment labelled with another name. Here, it was just another part of the job.

The sunset faded. Dusk settled in deeper, turning the sky a rainbow of blues and purples. Trees flicked by outside of the window. He ignored them, keeping his eyes on the road. Just the week before, he'd almost been killed when a deer ran out onto the road. He flicked on the car's lights, catching the reflection of beady eyes on the side of the road.

"Stay where you are, deer," he murmured to himself, speeding past. He caught a flick of a white tail as the deer heeded his advice and leaped away from the road.

His cell phone rang, sounding loud in the growing darkness. One-handed, he fished it out and answered it without looking at the screen. Got a good idea of who it'll be, he thought.

"Hello?" He asked, easing off the gas just a touch, in case any more suicidal deer were lurking in the trees.

"Where are you, Raylan?" Art asked. The connection made his voice sound thin and tinny.

"I'm on my way back now. Be a couple of hours. Where do you need me?"

"We're still waiting for that warrant to come through. Go on home, and I'll call you if anything changes."

"Tim still sitting on their house?"

"Yup." Art sighed. "We know the son of a bitch is in there. We just can't prove it."

A quick smile touched Raylan's lips. "Want me to do their yard? I've heard that works."

Art laughed. "I'll keep that in mind."

The phone connection dropped for a few seconds. "Raylan? You still there?"

He murmured an assent, checking the road before making a right turn. "I'm here."

Flashing lights on the side of the road caught his attention. He slowed, stopping behind the patrol car. A blue Tahoe with the hood up sat at an angle to the curb. There was no-one in sight. "Art? Got something weird here. Can you run some plates for me?"

He described the scene briefly, giving Art both plate numbers.

"I'll get Rachel on it for you." Art said. "And, Raylan? For the love of God, try not to shoot anyone else, okay?"

Raylan un-fastened his seatbelt, pausing with one hand on the door. "Do my best," he muttered.

"Yeah, maybe that's what I'm afraid of, huh?" Art asked. "Keep the connection open. Do you know how much paperwork I'd have to fill out if you got shot on the side of some road?"

"Quite a bit, I'd imagine," Raylan said, then slipped his phone back into his pocket. He pulled his flashlight out of the glove compartment and checked its brightness against his hand.

He slid out of the car, holding his gun by his side as he inched towards the patrol car. Ten steps away, he saw the blood splattered on the side of the patrol car. Training had his gun up as he stopped to scan the area before walking again. Two more steps let him see the body on the ground by the front wheels. He crept towards the body, pausing long enough to check for a pulse.

"Got a dead patrolman here, Art." He hoped like hell that his boss could hear him.

He reached the Tahoe. Something moved inside, rocking the big vehicle. He couldn't tell what because the windows were made from smoked glass. It bounced his torch light straight back at him. All of the doors were unlatched. He kicked one open with the toe of his boot.

A dark, growling shape leapt at him. He fired a shot that blew out the side window, then had to drop his gun when the dog lunged for him. The big black animal sank its teeth into Raylan's arm, knocking him over backwards. He hit the ground with a grunt, working to keep the dog's teeth away from his neck. His back-up gun dug painfully into his spine.

The dog let go of his wrist and lunged at his neck, dragging warm, wet teeth across the skin of Raylan's shoulder. Pain followed, fiery brands radiating from the gouges. It dragged a grunt from him. He got his hands up just in time, deflecting the dog's mouth from his neck to the meat of his shoulder.

It gave him just enough leverage to twist onto his side, sliding one hand behind himself to yank the gun from the small of his back. He jammed the gun against the dog's chest and pulled the trigger. The animal yelped, then fell still, collapsing on the ground next to Raylan.

For a long moment, he didn't move, chest heaving as he struggled to catch his breath. Tinny noise from his pocked jerked him back to the real world. Carefully, he pulled his phone out of his pocket, wincing when his raw knuckles scraped against the denim of his jeans.

He lifted the phone to his ear with a shaking hand. "I'm gonna need an ambulance," he muttered, and closed his eyes as he pictured his boss' reaction to that.

A beat of dead silence answered his request. "Who'd you shoot this time?" Art asked, voice weary.

Raylan glanced to the right, were the dog's body lay. "A dog." He let out a long breath, tasting his own blood. "Ambulance is for me. Damn thing got me pretty good."

"How bad are you hurt?" Art asked.

Blood had pooled under his wrist. He tucked the phone between his good shoulder and his ear and stretched a few inches to pick up the flashlight. His gun had landed next to it, and he picked that up, fumbling it into his pocket with his injured hand. He gritted his teeth and pushed his sleeve up to look at the damage. The bright white light showed an ugly wound, still bleeding freely. Bone glinted dully in a few sport.

"Pretty bad," he admitted, and rolled on his side to get to his feet. For a long second, his knees didn't want to hold his weight. He braced his good shoulder against a tree until the shakiness in his legs passed. Blood dripped on the floor as he walked back towards his car.

The phone beeped quietly, telling him his call had been disconnected. Well, shit, he thought and stuffed it back into his pocket. The car was only a few steps away. He focused on getting there, knowing he really had to stop the bleeding before he passed out. The wounds were starting to hurt, dull throbs of pain shooting through him.

A sound caught his attention. He stopped, cocking his head to listen. "Hope that's not your big brother," he muttered and glanced at the dead dog.

He pulled his gun, holding it by his leg. "Hello?" he called softly. "Do you need help?"

The lights from the parked patrol car stretched far enough into the woods to let him see something pale moving towards him. Pain sang through him, but he forced it to the back of him mind, gripping the gun a little tighter. The footsteps kept coming. He sucked in a sharp breath between his teeth and lifted the gun, aiming it at the approaching figure.

It took him a beat to realise that the person walking towards him was no threat. Her nightgown was torn, filthy with dirt and other things. Her feet were bloody, hands bound in front of her. Blood covered her face from a wound on her forehead. Her wildly tangled honey-blonde hair framed a face that was far too thin.

She stopped just inside of the tree line, head tilted in question. He tucked the gun away, flinching when his sleeve pulled free of the wound on his shoulder with a gush of fresh blood. It trickled down his back in a thick, warm stream, soaking into the waistband of his jeans.

"I'm a deputy US marshal, ma'am. I'm here to help." He kept his voice low and easy.

She smiled sadly, walking backwards. "You can't help me."

"Ma'am. Please wait... Just give me a second, okay?" Desperation sang through his words. "Ma'am, can you tell me who did this to you? If you wait here with me, we can get you to the hospital."

She shook her head again and kept walking. Headlights round the bend on the road. He turned to look. An ambulance swept around the curve. When he looked back at the woods, she had vanished, as if she'd never been there in the first place.