AN: The first segment is entirely written by Allthinky, who also beta'ed and generally went above and beyond for this one.
The spring in Kelly's step, despite the lingering unevenness of the step, is a sure sign that Kelly feels back on top of things. It's been a healing night for both of them, but mainly for Kelly, of course. And, it's comforting for Scotty to learn that Kelly does actually have some living relatives who care about him - however aged they may be.
Between Harry and Alta, he and Kelly were fed, bandaged, and tucked into bed almost minutes after the fight was over. By the time the two of them awoke in the morning, the mess in the house had been cleaned up and everything put to rights. Before breakfast, Scotty and Harry dragged the corpses into the barn and cleared some of the detritus from the yard. By the time they were finished, the place looked almost shipshape again.
Scotty was worried that he'd have a hard time getting the older folks used to the idea that he and Kelly would need to leave that morning, so that Harry and Alta could call law enforcement and, sooner or later, word would reach Washington that the targets had been neutralized. But he needn't have worried. When he and Harry came back into the kitchen, he found Kelly in an old but clean shirt, playing with the bandages on his wrists, while Alta was minding at least four different sputtering pans on the stove. "Get washed up, you two; Harry, make sure Kelly's gun is good and clean before you come to the table. The boys have a long way to go this morning."
Harry, in what seemed to be a matter of long habit, kept quiet, only casting a bittersweet glance at Kelly, then Alta, before nodding and making his way into the back of the house. Scotty headed back out to the spigot to wash up, in order to give Kelly a few more minutes in a house warm with family.
Now, as they stride quickly but without terrible hurry up the highway, Scotty can see just how much good the night's rest and affection have done Kelly. But he isn't quite optimistic enough to believe that the spring in the step and the near-grin on Kelly's face will last. Like the fresh shirt he's wearing, Kelly's morning of contentment will, before long, begin fraying at the edges. Scotty isn't sure how the relapse will present itself, but he needs a plan for dealing with it, and he needs it soon.
The shaking of the train is restful, gliding soundlessly through wide open fields of wheat. The shadows lengthen in the golden afternoon sun outside the window.
"Died of a broken heart, she did! That man! Gallivanting about in Europe, leaving her holding the bag, taking care of the child…"
"Y'know, Hoby, we could just… not go back."
(The women are in the next room. Aunt Hannah, Mrs McDonald. Whispering.) "If you want my opinion, it started when she gave birth. All those hours she spent in labor. Her health was delicate ever since she had Kelly. It's a miracle having that child didn't kill her outright."
Kelly shakes out of himself, turns to Scotty. "Hm?"
(He overhears it and runs, runs away from the room where his Mom is laid out—sleeping, sleeping, she's going to wake up and hold him any minute now – only she won't…)
"They told us, you fail, don't bother coming back. We could just… not bother coming back. If, you know, you wanted."
He's not sure if Scotty's calling his bluff or getting back at him for all the crazy talk of the past few days. Short on patience, he barks, "And do what?"
"Oh, I dunno," Scotty mumbles. "Open up a fruit stand. Mexican restaurant. Chili, tamales… some frijoles…"
"That man's child was poison to her! Ate away at her innards until there was nothing left. She should have married my Clem—he'd have treated her right…"
(He knows he's been bad because of the way his Dad looks at him. They sent him a telegram, and he arrived on the midnight flight. Kelly will never forget the way dad looked at him. Disappointed. Like he entrusted his Mom to Kelly, the man of the house in his absence, and he just… let her die.)
"Nope," Kelly mutters, eyes fixed on the rolling fields of gold. Settle down? (He didn't get it, not until he heard the women talk. Kelly never meant to poison her, but their words prove he did. He'd have done anything to save her. He prayed lots of times for God to take him in her place, but he can't have been good enough. And now they're sending him away. He guesses it's best. He misses Mom, and home, but deep down he knows he doesn't deserve them.) "We gotta pay our dues before we settle down."
He dares to glance at Scotty, and the sadness in his partner's eyes turns his limbs to water. Kelly can't understand it, can't handle it. He's never seen Scotty so sad. Is this his doing?
"Here," Scotty fumbles in his pocket, handing something to Kelly. He takes it out of reflex.
"Twenty-seven cents, man. Our dues." The brown eyes are filled with sadness, but Scotty smiles. "I calculated them with uncanny precision."
"So where do I pay these?"
"Give 'em to the conductor when he comes for the tickets."
Too weary to smile, but smiling anyway to get that look out of Scotty's eyes, Kelly rests his head on the glass and watches the fields roll by. He feels a movement at his elbow. Scotty's kneeling by him on the floor, to the side. Kelly sits there, unmoving, as Scotty pulls out the jar of salve Aunty Alta gave them. The gentle fingers trace delicate circles of coolness over the bitter burn in his raw wrists and ankles; as his pain eases, his head leans back against the seat, and his eyes drift shut.
Scooping the coins out of Kelly's limp hand before they tumble to the floor, pocketing them along with the rest of their borrowed cash, Scotty looks up at Kelly, the unhappiness plain on his pale face, even in his exhausted doze. He doesn't know what to do for Kelly, doesn't know how to get that garbage out of his head. Doesn't know how to get him to see that he's the best man, the wonderfullest guy, the loyallest friend, the most—His Aunt and Uncle think he's the bee's knees, it's plain to see. Everyone thinks that about Kelly, except Kelly. Kids flock around him, now would kids flock around someone who poisoned everything he touched? Kelly's such a beautiful cat, and he thinks he's some kinda leper…
He finishes salving Kelly's left ankle, wincing in sympathy, letting the thick paste obscure the shiny, red-raw bands of flesh. Man, that's gotta hurt like blazes. Kel's never complained of pain on this mission, not once, but he doesn't need to; his pain resonates in Scotty's own body. At least they got that awful leg-iron off, Scotty's relief when the shackle was gone like a lead weight lifted that he'd been carrying for days. He pats Kelly's shin. He's still in such lousy shape, and he's so wonderful, and Scotty cares for him so much, and he feels so bad for him... I never make promises lightly, but I swear I'll make it better for you, Kel. You deserve better.
Overcome by the impotence of his vow, he rests his forehead on Kelly's knee. What can he really do, when it comes right down to it? But he forces himself not to think that way. No use brooding, his Mom always says—
—That's a thought. Yeah. Yeah.
The more he thinks of it, the more he likes it. That's where they'll head. The brass expect this mission to take as long as it takes, and with no money and no ID, it could well take them a month or more to get to the rendezvous point. Perfect. Next stop, Philly. Mom'll save Scotty the nagging and get Kel to take some proper rest, feed him up, take care of him better than Scotty can.
A smile plays around his lips as he thinks of it. Mom… The minute she sees the shape Kelly's in, she'll fuss over him and spoil him rotten, and Kelly can just relax and heal and get his head on straight. And maybe, when this is all over, in a year's time perhaps, Scotty can convince the nut to come back up here, make a social call. A man needs family.
Yeah, he thinks, drifting off, head still resting on Kelly's knee, a man definitely needs family.