A/N This story was written with Laurie M. as the result of a conversation that went something like this:
Me: Can't you just see these four in a stalled elevator? Talk about awkward.
LaurieM. : The only thing that would make it more awkward is if... (hey, I'm not giving the whole surprise away! Read!)
Stuck in the Middle
"We're gonna be late." Raylan says, pushing the elevator button again as if hitting it a second (or is it third?) time will make it arrive faster.
"You've been to the doctor with me before." Winona reminds him. "You know we aren't going to be late. We're going to sit and wait for another hour or more in that crowded waiting room with those damn parenting infomercials on the television and nothing to read but two-year old magazines and pamphlets on breastfeeding."
"And they aren't even illustrated," Raylan jokes.
She rolls her eyes at him. "Funny. You're real funny."
"At least I'm out of the office. Art's in a mood. Maybe we'll get lucky and the doc will be on time."
Winona just shakes her head and laughs. "Dream on, Cowboy."
The elevator finally arrives, but to Raylan's frustration this one is going up, rather than down to the ground floor. But frustration is the least of what he feels when the doors open and they see who's inside.
He hesitates, thinking they could just take the next elevator, but that seems silly, and this one will have to go back down eventually. There are only a couple of floors above this, after all.
"Are you gonna get in or just stand there and stare, Raylan?" Boyd says by way of greeting.
Raylan puts a hand at Winona's elbow and guides her into the elevator ahead of him. "Ava." He nods, acknowledging the other woman in the small space.
"Hello, Raylan, Winona." She glances sideways at Boyd, who squeezes her hand.
Winona's smile is stiff. "Ava." There's a rigidity to the line of her back under Raylan's hand that makes him think that maybe him and Winona and Ava (not to mention him and Boyd) being in a confined space at the same time is not such a great idea. But the elevator doors roll closed.
Feet shuffle, throats are cleared.
Winona pushes the button for the ground floor with a perfectly manicured finger.
"I like that polish." Ava babbles. "OPI, Life of the Party, right? It's real popular at the salon."
Thank you." Winona says. To Raylan's surprise, she reaches for his hand. He links his fingers through hers and rubs his thumb in comforting circles.
Silence, save for the whirr of the motor. Raylan glances sideways at the other couple. They stand close together, Ava in the corner but still turned slightly towards Boyd. The lines of Boyd's jaw seem set harder than usual. They fit, he thinks, and he isn't certain exactly what it is about that that he finds so annoying.
The elevator slows, stops, the door sliding open onto an empty corridor. No-one moves.
"I hate it when that happens," Ava says, soft. The fingers of one hand fiddle with the chain at her throat.
Winona prods the 'Doors Closed' button a little too hard and winces as her nail tears.
"You okay?" Ava asks. Maybe it's working at the hairdressers, Raylan thinks, and making small-talk just becomes second-nature. But then he remembers her after Bowman died and thinks that maybe it's a need to fill the silence.
"I'm fine," Winona flashes Ava a smile. "Thanks."
The doors roll closed again.
"You two haven't been introduced, have you? Boyd, this is Winona..." She frowns.
"Hawkins! Right. I'd forgotten that. Winona, this is Boyd Crowder."
There's a pause before Boyd leans forward.
"Ms Hawkins," he says, and holds out his hand.
It's a strong hand, work-roughened, but it holds hers with a surprising delicacy. "Mr Crowder."
Introductions done, they both step back, stand beside the respective person to whom they belong.
She glances at him under lowered lashes. At the funeral she had been too bound up with Raylan - thinking, worrying about him - to notice anyone else. Somewhere in the back of her mind had been the thought that there had been a face that she recognised but that was as far as it had gone: maybe there had been someone, one of the many people who pass through the courts, to whom she never really pays any attention.
But now there is no distraction, and this isn't a vague memory. She knows him. And she remembers everything.
She likes the old bookstores, not just because they're cheaper but because every volume comes with a history that you can smell and feel and hold in your hands. The air inside is cool, laden with the smell of dust and paper and leather. Tall shelves packed too close together, cutting off the light from the window. It's like following a secret path, getting lost until finding something you need or something you didn't even know you want until you discover it.
She trawls through the shelves, pulling down volumes, putting them back, clearing her throat against the dust that joins all the other motes rotating in the air. It's another world, all of her own, cut-off from everything else; or it is until she trips over someone's feet and sprawls on the floor.
"You okay?" There's a note of amusement in the voice and she glares up in response.
Dark hair cut short, eyes a colour that she can't quite make out but their gaze is penetrating. Very tanned, she notices, and very thin; the bones of his face look sharp under the skin.
He watches her for a moment and then stands. "Come on." And she is raised effortlessly.
"Thanks," she murmurs, and looks at him from under a curtain of hair. And after all, it hadn't really been his fault. "Guess I should look more where I'm going."
He picks up the book she had dropped, looks at the spine and his eyebrows rise slightly, disapproving, before he hands it to her.
"You got something against Jane Austen?"
"No, she's a fine writer but I wouldn't say this is her best work."
A breath of laughter forces itself past her lips. "Oh?"
"Well, even her own mother thought Fanny Price is pretty insipid, and she would be correct. Persuasion is better."
"Is that a fact?"
His head tilts and he blinks slowly. "Probably better you decide for yourself."
"Thanks a lot."
It's a strange way he has of looking, as though it takes half a beat longer than everyone else before his eyes focus. They are opaque but there's a fever banked down deep behind them.
It's an Army T-shirt he wears, she realises, and she recognises the glint of silver around his neck as the chain for dog-tags. A young man in the Army with a desert burn on his face. There are too many of them around these days.
"Are- Are you back from the Gulf?" she asks, hesitant.
"I went," he says, his face sombre, "but the Mexicans sent me back."
"I-" She frowns, then rolls her eyes. "Funny."
She doesn't particularly want her lips to twitch into a smile but she can't quite help it. His head tilts to one side again and he examines her and then he smiles. And it changes his face. "My name's Boyd."
"Winona." He sounds it out, feeling the syllables in his mouth and she braces herself but he doesn't say what everyone else always says when they first hear her name. He looks her over again, and then, "It suits you."
Raylan's fingers are strong around hers, warm and steady. She glances at him and his eyes dart to her. He smiles slightly, reassuring and she makes herself answer in kind.
If you could read my mind, love...
And she's so glad that he can't.
Boyd clears his throat as the elevator continues its rise. "Saw your Daddy yesterday."
Raylan's jaw clenches involuntarily and he opens his mouth to retort, but before he can form the words there's a resounding crack. The lights flicker and die and the elevator jerks to a halt with a horrible grinding sound.
"Shit." He and Boyd speak the word in unison.
There's a faint cry, more like a yelp, from Ava and a breath is sucked in.
"I'm okay." She sounds embarrassed. "Just jarred my shoulder."
There are faint movements, bodies moving together.
Raylan moistens his lips. "Winona?"
"What do you think happened?" Ava, voice muffled like her face is half-buried in someone's shoulder.
"Probably that storm that was blowing in," Boyd tells her. "They knock the power out all the time."
"Ice-storm?" Raylan asks. It had been cold that morning when they'd left for work - but not that cold, surely?
"Shit," he says, emphatic. Not just the few minutes, then, that he had told himself it would be. This could be hours. Not much scares him. He's faced down plenty of men with their guns aimed straight at him and most of the time his own mortality hasn't entered his mind, lying on the ground with Doyle Bennett over him being one recent exception. But now, this total darkness, this tight space filled with the exhaled breath of other people and the stale odour of previous occupants makes his heart race.
He knows this isn't the mine. He knows where he is. He's in the courthouse, in the elevator, which is stalled between floors, probably because the storm has knocked out the power. Winona is here, and Ava, and Boyd and the last thing he wants to feel is the panic rising and his palms beginning to sweat. He takes a deep breath.
It isn't like before. They aren't hundreds of feet below the surface and the world isn't crashing down around them. But, just like before, there comes the same voice and he wonders how the man can sound so damn calm.
"Ava, do you have your lighter?"
"I've quit." The response is automatic. He can hear the smile in Boyd's voice when he says,
"I know, baby, but do you have it?"
She rummages through her purse, soft sounds as her fingers find unknown things down in the depths. Winona still clings to his hand with a ferocious tenacity and he holds onto her.
There is a click and a sudden surge of light. Such a tiny thing but it illuminates every corner of their few square feet of space.
"Fire in the hole."
It's said softer than he's ever heard it before. Just hearing it should scare the shit out of him, but it doesn't. It's something else he holds onto.
"Lucky there ain't no snakes or heights," Boyd says, unconcerned.
"Not to mention red-headed women," he answers after a beat.
"Well now, Raylan, they will be the death of any man."
The two women exchange a look. Ava shrugs as if to say she's as clueless as Winona as to the meaning of the cryptic conversation between their men.
The lighter flickers and shadows dance on the walls of the elevator.
I don't know how long I've had that," Ava warns. "It might not last ."
"We'll save it then." His eyes find Raylan's. "We've got it if we need it." Boyd lifts his thumb and the light goes out.
There's more rustling and another light, far smaller and not nearly as comforting as the warm flame: a square of bright white. "Damn. No signal." Boyd's face is weirdly illumined by the electronic glare, cheekbones looking too prominent and his eye-sockets dark hollows.
They all move and three points of light bounce around the walls.
"Anyone?" Raylan looks at the women hopefully. Both faces are sombre. One by one the screens go black and the darkness is absolute.
"How long do you think it'll be before they check the elevators?" Winona asks.
I read about this lady..." Ava says. "...She had an elevator in her house. Can you imagine that? But when it got stuck no one knew she was in there and she..."
Boyd interrupts: "I would imagine they'll find us before long."
Winona releases Raylan's hand abruptly; he hears her nails scrape against the metal panel around the buttons. "What are you doing?"
"I'm looking for the emergency call button."
There's a pause.
"Well, it's a lucky thing that one of us has some smarts in their heads." Boyd flicks the lighter again and they all blink against the flare.
"Thanks." Winona glances at him, looks away and presses the red button. Nothing. Again, and still nothing. Her lips thin into a hard line and her hands ball at her sides.
"We'll try again in a bit," Raylan says. And the light goes out.
Winona leans against the wall and slides to the floor. Raylan crouches beside her. "You okay?" he asks, soft. In the darkness, she smiles.
"Can't we- I dunno, can't we try opening the service hatch or something?"
"Sounds like just your kind of work, Boyd." Raylan answers Ava's query before anyone else gets the chance.
"People can get crushed to death that way, Raylan."
"I'm not seeing that as a problem."
He'd swear that even in this unbroken dark, he can see Boyd's teeth.
"We'd need tools that we don't have." There's a softer note to Boyd's voice even in those few words. He's talking to Ava. It changes again with: "Unless Raylan over here is planning on shooting it open."
"Trust me, the only thing around here I'd be shooting at is you."
"It's all right, Ms Hawkins. Raylan and I have our ways of understanding one another."
Beside him, he can feel Winona fidgeting, shifting uncomfortably on the hard floor.
There had been real incredulity in her voice when she had said his name, almost a note of reproach. There are reasons, he wants to say to her, so many reasons but he can't, not with the other couple locked in here with them.
But even if they weren't, he probably still wouldn't tell her. He can barely explain Boyd Crowder to himself - how could he possibly explain him to Winona?
She goes back to the bookshop because there is a book that she needs that she had forgotten about the first time around. Not that she really needs it. Not really. It's secondary reading - if you can call something footnoted in something that was footnoted in secondary reading-
She needs it.
And that's why she goes back.
And she checks her hair and her make-up in the rear-view mirror because-
It's still cool and dark and out-of-time in there. A world on hold while everything else streams past with terrifying rapidity. Dust motes dance in the shard of sunlight when she pushes the door open; she stands for a moment, blinking against the semi-gloom while the note from the cracked bell over the door fades.
She performs a slow circuit of the shop, apparently browsing the titles but all the time closing in on her goal. She hadn't realised just how dark that part of the shop was until her eyes tried to pierce its recesses and she understands how she didn't notice him the first time around.
But even when she's looking (while trying to look as though she isn't) she still can't see him. But, just like before, when she's almost on top of him she sees a pair of heavy work boots and long legs in jeans stretched out. It's like he hasn't moved at all since the last time and she has a sudden image of him curling up to sleep in the middle of the stacks and waking just in time to claim his seat and start another book.
That would seem funny, except for the fact that it doesn't seem all that far-fetched. And that doesn't seem funny at all.
But she wanders past him, eyes fixed on the book spines and doesn't read any of them, and then turns and widens her eyes.
It's like he's been waiting for her. Like she stepped out for a moment and they've picked up the conversation and nothing has happened in between. And nothing has, she realises, except that she had left and it's two days later and now she's back and he's still there. And so here they are.
'You still here?'
'So you see.'
She smiles and turns and she can feel his eyes on her, a burn in the middle of her back. She's aware that her shirt is soft and moulds itself to her body, emphasising the hollows of her waist and the swell of her breasts, that her jeans are tight and that when she stretches up the curving lines of her body are exposed to scrutiny and she can feel it.
She decides that the book that she needs is on the top shelf; she looks over her shoulder and smiles and says, 'I'm sorry - would you mind..?'
He watches her for a moment and then unfolds himself from the chair, take the few steps to where she is.
She should have worn heels, she thinks, dumbly, because the top of her head tucks under his chin. He reaches up, an easy careless motion, and the length of his body presses against hers and its hardness is a shock. In her - admittedly limited - experience, nothing has ever felt quite like this. Nothing about him is soft. He is harsh angles and flat planes and corded muscle and she can feel all of it in the lines that surround her. He pulls the book of the shelf, lowers it slowly, holds it in front of her, his arm across her and she'll swear to God that he's breathing in the scent of her hair. Danger and excitement lick across her skin. He smells of laundry detergent and something else that she doesn't recognise, something rising from his hands.
'Anything else I can do for you?' His voice is low, directly in her ear, a hoarseness to it and she feels his breath against her neck.
'No,' she says, whispers.
He does smell her hair. He buries his face in it and she shivers, her hands balling at her sides, nails biting into her palms. She should stop this. She should never have started this. She's only used to boys but this is a man, even if he is only a couple of years older than her. And he is dangerous, she knows that, feels it with every nerve-ending that flares under the heat of his body against her back.
And she knows, just as certain, that he won't lay a finger on her unless she asks him to. She can stop this, and she should.
She turns around and raises her face to his.
The words rise on a wave of memory. His hands had smelt of gun oil, just like Raylan's had all those years later when he'd come back from a training session in Glynco or on the endless occasions when she'd get up in the middle of the night and find him stripping down his gun.
Gun oil. Nausea rises- Morning sickness, in the middle of the afternoon. It's either very early or very late and she presses her fist hard against her mouth and tries not to look at anyone else in the elevator car.
Raylan leans in. "You okay?" He whispers. She appreciates how in tune he is to her lately, really she does. He seems to know instinctively when she isn't feeling well, but what he hasn't grasped is that talking about it only makes it worse. Another wave of nausea hits and she shakes her head, reaching into her purse.
She claws inside, thankful for the darkness since she knows the look on her face would give away exactly how close she is to making this small space even more unbearable. You will not be sick, she tells herself. Finally her fingers close around what she's searching for. Cheezits. Of all the things. She never eats junk food, but these bright orange bits of grease and flour, which likely contain no actual cheese or nutritional value whatsoever, are the only food that will ease her nausea. There have been days when all she's consumed is Cheezits and sweet tea. She keeps snack size packages with her at all times. She tears this one open and crams a handful into her mouth.
The dim emergency lights have come on, along with the steady beeping of the alarm bell. They're all sitting on the floor now, on a nest of coats that are too hot to wear in the close confines. Boyd and Ava sprawl against the side wall, her head against his shoulder. Winona and Raylan have their backs against the wall facing the door, Raylan strokes her leg, his jacket bundled at the small of her back, alleviating some of the dull ache there. "Crackers help?" He whispers.
"Yes. But now I'm thirsty." She shrugs, and laughs slightly at the ridiculousness of the whole thing. They've been sitting largely in silence and she isn't certain whether or not that it's a relief. Overdosing on the exes all round far too much for her liking. All they need is Gary in the mix-
She feels the bite of hysterical laughter and pushes it back down.
Boyd's fingers are laced through Ava's and she studies him for a while - the unruly dark hair and the quiet fire in his eyes. Not nearly so thin but still lean. Stretched out next to each other, his legs look almost as long as Raylan's.
She takes a moment, leans forward a little and her tone is pleasant.
"So, what is it you do, Boyd?"
Next to her is a muttered exhalation, Raylan's head against the wall and his eyes raised to the ceiling.
In the semi-gloom she can see Boyd's eyes slide from Raylan to her and she can't tell if it's amusement or irritation flaring in their depths. "At present I am between what you might call permanent and gainful employment, but I am acting as the representative for a small number of local entrepreneurs."
Raylan's head lowers and he wears a grin that snaps at but doesn't warm his eyes. "I'm impressed. That almost sounds legitimate. Tell us more about these entrepreneurs."
He is ignored.
"I thought maybe you were a miner, being in Harlan County..."
"I was a miner, for a time. I held that position once again not all that long ago but no more. Back in the day I worked the mine with Raylan. In fact, I was there on his very last day down there in the hole."
Raylan's head turns then and she can't see his face.
"Yes. You were."
"Maybe we should talk about something else." Ava's voice, quiet and tense.
She understands a little better, Winona thinks, but not entirely. There's a whole history here that she can't even guess at; and the helplessness in Ava's face, what she can see of it, unsettles her.
"It looks like congratulations are in order." Ava, again, and she smiles and nods her head in Winona's direction pointedly.
"Oh, yes." Her hands fold across her stomach in a protective instinctive gesture.
"Four months, coming up on five." A pause. "Do you have any kids?"
Another pause, longer. "No. No, I..." Ava tosses the hair away from her shoulders, tilts her head back and pulls the thin air into her lungs. "I don't have any kids."
They are a pair, these two, unequivocally, she thinks. A communication without words: something about the way that Boyd shifts now and the way that she looks up at him; the way they lean into each other so slightly that it's almost imperceptible but makes the world of difference to them. A question one side and reassurance on the other; or maybe a little of each on both.
It isn't jealousy that she feels but there is a certain vanity. There hasn't been even the slightest hint that he remembers her and there should at least be that. Except for what he spares for Raylan, Boyd Crowder seems too wrapped up in Ava to notice anyone or anything else.
And that is, after all, the way that it should be.
But it still rankles.
And she thinks that she is ten kinds of idiot - and then some - for feeling that way.
There's a pounding noise from below and Art's voice echoes faint and wobbly in the shaft. "Anyone up there? Raylan?"
Raylan scrambles across, his face against the crack in the elevator doors. "Four in the elevator," he hollers back.
"Four? You, Winona, and who else?"
Boyd's teeth flash white in a brief grin, and Raylan can't help smirking in return as he answers his boss. "Boyd Crowder and Ava."
If Art has any reaction, he keeps it to himself. His voice floats up again tinnily. "We're working on getting you out. Shouldn't take too long."
"How long is not too long?"
"About an hour."
Raylan rolls his eyes.
"Just keep your spirits up."
"And how do you suggest we do that, Art?"
"You could always try singing."
He rolls his eyes again and when he looks at the others there are definite signs of laughter. Winona shakes her head. Boyd and Ava look at each other, both smiling, but it seems like a private joke. He takes his place between Winona and Boyd again.
"An hour," he says.
"I know, we heard." Winona's eyes dance with amusement. He wants to brush his fingers against her cheek but he restrains himself.
"We do have enough people for a band," Ava comments, her head back on Boyd's shoulder.
Raylan looks at them both warily. "If either of you starts singing I really am going to shoot you."
Another flash of teeth in response.
Winona's fingers drum lightly against her knee her gaze fixed ahead, unfocused, and after a little while she starts humming under her breath.
They sit on the low wall outside of the bar and the rough brick catches her fingers as she keeps time with the music.
"So, what's it like down in Harlan?"
He takes a pull on his beer, considers the question. "You know Lexington?"
"It ain't nothing like that."
She rolls her eyes and he grins at her.
It isn't a student bar, not the sort of place she would usually go to. She tries to imagine Boyd in the middle of her college crowd and can't. She can, easily, imagine that they would patronise him and try to be so clever because of the country twang in his accent and the Army haircut. And he would let them. And he would be far smarter than all of them put together and they would end up regretting it.
The air smells of heat and diesel and stale alcohol. She can't say that she likes it all that much but if she were somewhere else it would be somewhere that he isn't and for now that what she wants.
She drinks her beer and listens to the music trickling out from the bar.
"Life must be pretty tough down there."
His eyes are shadowed for a moment and when he smiles at her it is stiff. "It's pretty tough anywhere."
"Yeah, but ... Harlan."
"It ain't all bad. There's the creeks and the hollers. The hills..." His eyes gleam. "I miss the hills. You can get lost up there - and find something while you're at it."
She doesn't pretend to understand what he means; even if she tried she still wouldn't and she knows it. Instead she leans forward, tucking one foot under herself and smiles at him. "And Lexington doesn't match up?"
His head tilts, his eyes crinkling. "Oh, I like Lexington plenty, Winona. And plenty of the people in it."
She raises her eyebrows. "Oh, plenty of them, huh?"
"I didn't specify their gender."
She holds his gaze and then her lips quirk and he pulls her towards him.
She decides that she likes their seat on this hard, rough patch of wall, and the way his arm envelopes her. She keeps her head on his shoulder. "I don't want to spend my life in Kentucky. There's a whole world beyond that."
Silence for a while.
"I had a friend had the same idea. He did it, too - got out of Harlan, got right out of Kentucky."
"How's he doing?"
"I don't know. Nobody's heard anything of him since."
She frowns and looks up at him. "He doesn't sound like much of a friend."
He thinks, again, and shrugs. "Well now, he always was ... what's that word ... mercurial."
She laughs and his eyebrows go up.
"I'm sorry. I just haven't ever heard anyone say that in real life before."
He shrugs. "It's a word to fit its purpose."
She is serious then, sober. "I'm sorry about your friend."
His shoulders rise and fall. "It happens." The blank opacity of his eyes flares into life again. "Why don't you and me go back inside and dance?"
She smiles. "Let's. I love this song."
"You have a real nice voice, Winona."
She starts and finds Ava smiling across at her.
"Sorry, I- I didn't realise I was doing that."
The air feels thicker, sticky. Her skin is clammy, her clothes clinging to her. She feels a bead of sweat roll down her back and squirms against it, readjusts the rolled-up bundle of jacket that is starting to dig uncomfortably into her spine. She pulls the hair away from her neck and feels momentary relief.
"So," she says looking at the two men levelly, "what is it with you two, anyhow?"
"That's a conversation that could take days," Ava warns her.
"That bad, huh?"
The blonde shakes her head. "Worse."
"We could be here for days, you know; we might need the conversation."
Ava laughs. "God, don't say that." She is silent for a moment, then looks at Winona with interest. "You spent much time Harlan, Winona?"
"Not really. Never had much cause to go down there."
"Hm." Ava nods wisely. "I guess it's pretty tough to take if you're an outsider. No offence," she adds.
"None taken. You like it down there?" She can't imagine anyone really liking Harlan; but then she had also once promised herself that she wouldn't move back to Kentucky but here she is.
"I tried living in Lexington a while back. That was something I always thought I wanted since I was nineteen. In the end..." She sighs and shrugs. "Just didn't work out. Harlan's home, for better or worse."
Winona watches her for a moment. "Sounds familiar." They smile at each other.
Raylan glances at Boyd and the other man looks just as perturbed - if not downright unsettled - as Raylan feels at this sudden display of friendliness.
"I still have some Cheezits, if you'd like any."
Ava waves a hand. "I'm good, thanks. They're for the morning sickness, huh?"
She nods. "Morning sickness... They should change the name."
Ava smiles again, sympathetic. "You picked out names yet?"
"We thought-" She glances at Raylan and he stares straight ahead. "We thought Helen, if it's a girl."
He clears his throat, faint, his head tossing like he's trying to get rid of a troublesome fly. Boyd's head lowers, his eyes fixed on the ground. Ava is unwavering, solemn. She nods.
"So, you don't know if it's a boy or a girl yet?"
"No, we decided to wait."
"I think I'd want to know, if..." Her voice trails off. Boyd's head comes up again and he puts his hand over hers. She blinks, eyes coming back from wherever she went to and she flashes a small smile at him. "I'd want to know," she says firmly.
"So you said you saw Arlo," Raylan says. He's not sure why he's opening this can of worms, but the conversation between the two women is unnerving and anything, even talking about his father, is better than listening to them prattle on about personal things. "He one of your entrepreneurs?"
"Arlo is hardly an entrepreneur these days, Raylan. He's a man adrift without an anchor, I'm afraid."
"Yeah, well, maybe he shoulda thought about that before he went along with your dumbass plan to steal from the Bennetts."
"I could not have predicted his-" the name hangs in the air, unspoken "-reaction or I would have taken care of the problem before it was a problem." Boyd gazes pointedly at the other man. "Might have saved all of us a lot of heartache."
Raylan nods. There's truth in Boyd's words, and for a moment he imagines a different outcome; one that didn't end in a mound of dirt on the Harlan hillside with Helen's name on it. He clears his throat. "Yeah, well..."
"He know he's gonna be a grandfather?"
Raylan scoffs. "Whadda you think?" He points a finger at both him and Ava. "Don't you go tellin' him either."
Ava shakes her head. "Wouldn't. Not our place, is it, Boyd?"
"No," Boyd agrees. "It surely is not."
Winona has been silent this entire time. Raylan looks at her now and reads her thoughts. "No." He shakes his head.
"Honey, he's bound to find out. Don't you think it would be better if it came from you ... from us, rather than from the grapevine?"
He finds himself looking back at Boyd, some notion of support, but all he gets is a slight shrug that brushes the edges of sympathetic and a resigned look that says you started it.
A can of worms, indeed, and he'll end up eating all of it.
He looks back at Winona and her eyebrows are still up. "Can we talk about this later?"
"Later? You mean, let's not talk about it at all."
"I didn't say that." He tries to talk without moving his lips, as though that will somehow stop all of this. Or, at the very least, turn Boyd and Ava deaf for the duration.
"Fine," she says, and folds her arms across the swell of her belly.
He blows out a breath, lips tightening. "I don't care if he ever finds out."
"That's not the point, Raylan." Winona sighs. "The point is that he will find out and..."
"Not here," Raylan hisses in her ear. "We'll talk about this later."
Another wave of momentary awkwardness washes over the small space.
Once again it's Ava breaking the silence. "Helen sure would've loved a grandbaby," she notes. "She would've liked you, too, Winona."
Winona stares down at her hands folded over her belly. "Thank you."
Raylan puts one hand over hers and relaxes a bit in relief when he's not rebuffed. "She would've." He nods. She smiles in response. Raylan rests his head back against the wall.
Every time he leaves Harlan he swears it's the last time. And every time, every damn time, he ends up back there again.
It's the insistence of the sunlight through the gap in the cheap curtains that wakes her. A bright finger poking at her eyelids until she groans and rolls away from it, arm flung across her face. The bed feels very large (which it isn't, really) and very empty (which it is, except for her).
She sits up and sees the cupboard door rolled back, the contents gone.
"What's going on?"
He stands slowly, the bag at his feet. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"What did you mean to do? Sneak out on me while I was still asleep?"
His eyes drop from hers and she feels sick. That's exactly what he had meant. Leaving her in this cheap motel room with the pine-effect plastic panelling and the rest of the décor that was probably old in the Seventies. She drags at the sheet, pulling it free, wrapping it around her body; she crosses the room to him, stopping just a few paces short, and the off-white nylon flutters under the blast from the air-con unit.
"You're actually leaving?"
He sighs. "I am."
She holds the sheet around herself, defiant. "And what about all that stuff you were talking about? Staying in Lexington and going to school and-"
"That was a dream," he says, quiet. "It was just a dream, but I do appreciate your allowing me to indulge in it for a little while."
She stares at him, shakes her head. "I don't understand you."
He smiles then, slightly. "I know."
The air-conditioning pumps icy jets against her back and she shivers. The sheet is thin and cheap and scratches her skin. "So what was last night?"
"That was goodbye."
"Where the hell are you going, anyhow?" The words burst out of her.
A sigh. "Back home."
He stoops and picks up the bag. "I have no other."
She presses her lips together for a moment. "It's three hours away. Jesus, Boyd, it's not like it's the other side of the world."
It almost looks like pity across his face, then. Sadness and a kind of tolerance. "Yes, it is." His free hand cups her cheek, thumb caressing her. "You take real good care of yourself, Winona." His lips brush against her forehead and then he's gone.
He was right about Harlan, Winona thinks. She knows from being with Raylan. It might as well be on the other side of the world. A trajectory from soldier to thief is probably unremarkable down there; more remarkable when it isn't, possibly. She looks at Raylan with different eyes. Maybe it's just a matter of circumstance, timing, and Helen that he isn't in exactly the same position, or worse.
The emergency lights flicker, go out, they all flinch against the darkness that pours in, then the main lights come back on. Four faces turn up to the neon strips, like it's the sun and they are its worshippers. The elevator car lurches in a screech of gears and it drops. Winona grabs Raylan's hand, hard, and someone - more than one - curses forcibly. A jerking halt, a series of dull thuds and the car starts moving, gliding downward smoothly.
When the doors roll open it's Art's face that peers in, a twitch around his lips. He's flanked by Tim and Rachel and both of them have the alert, tensed look of people ready to go for their guns.
Art takes one look at the four occupants of the elevator and his grin widens. "Congratulations," he says to Raylan.
"For what?" He clambers to his feet, feels the pull of stiffness in his lower back.
"Well, Raylan, as far as I can tell, this is the longest you've gone without shooting someone."
It's definite laughter behind him, the three of them trying to suppress it and exchanging glances. Even Winona and he looks at her reproachfully.
"Everyone okay? Let me re-phrase that: does anyone need any medical attention?"
"No, we're good," Raylan says wearily. He reaches out a hand and helps Winona to her feet. She sways unsteadily and grabs at him. Art steps forward on her other side. "We gotcha," he says, then, over his shoulder to Tim and Rachel: "One of you get some water?"
"I'm fine. Really." Winona insists. Still she wobbles a bit, and the men continue to support her.
Boyd unfolds from the floor in one fluid motion and pulls Ava up, sliding one arm around her waist.
Rachel returns with four bottles of water, Tim behind her pushing an office chair. "Sit," he directs Winona.
She rolls her eyes. "I'm not an invalid." But she sits, gladly accepting the water.
When the mist that had formed, suddenly and sickeningly, at the edges of her vision clears, she blinks and looks around and is aware of Raylan, protective and strong beside her; and Ava, her face all lines of concern, standing beside Boyd with his arm around her waist. Liberation seems to have brought a return of the earlier awkwardness. Ava's fingers play restlessly with the strap of her bag and she bites the inside of her lip. Boyd's face is placid, his calmness almost unnerving in its intensity. His arm tightens around Ava.
"We should get going." He lets go of her, shakes out her thick plaid jacket and she turns slowly, letting him slide it up her arms.
"I guess..." Her face twists. "I really wanted to get those papers signed."
He pauses. "We can head on up to his office."
"We already missed the appointment." Her bag is pulled back onto her shoulder and her fingers settle around the strap, gripping it.
"Extenuating circumstances," Boyd replies, smiling briefly. "Maybe he'll be good enough to see us now."
She is sceptical. "He's a lawyer."
"Then we'll be persuasive."
"Persuasive?" Raylan, voice sharp with suspicion.
Boyd smiles again. "Why yes, Raylan, you might be surprised how far a polite request will get you."
A snort from Art. "He probably would." He ignores the look Raylan shoots him.
The couple start to move and Winona raises her eyebrows. "You're getting back on the elevator?"
"We'll take the stairs," Ava says, firm. Then she smiles, stoops slightly towards to Winona. "It was nice seeing you. And congratulations again."
"Thank you. You be careful driving back to Harlan in this weather."
The men look at each other.
A pause and Boyd turns, bends to where Winona is still sitting until his eyes are on level with hers and he takes her hand between both of his.
"You take real good care of yourself, Winona." His voice comes soft and it's there, all of it, written in his face, a flash that's over in a second. She smiles back, wide.
He squeezes her hand gently and releases her.
She watches them, Boyd's arm around Ava again and her pressed close to him. They fit, she thinks, and it's nice and she's glad.
"What was that?" Art remarks as the door to the stairwell closes behind the other couple. "Boyd's new 'Southern Gentleman' routine?"
"No idea." Raylan shrugs.
"No one is all bad," Winona says, soft. "Not even Boyd Crowder." She turns her gaze to Raylan. "Or your father."
"And on that note..." Art pulls his keys from his pocket. "Raylan, I'll see you tomorrow. Winona, you take care. Careful going home now."
"Night, Art," Raylan says, for both of them.
Winona takes another drink of her water, eyes straying to the closed stairwell door for a moment; when she looks up at Raylan he is looking at her curiously.
A beat. "Nothing." He says it slow and then shakes it off. He crouches down beside her again, taking hold of her hand that isn't still clutching the water bottle. "You sure you're okay?"
She rolls her eyes. "I'm fine, Cowboy." And she lays her head on his shoulder. And they fit. And it is all fine.