Author's Notes: I do not own Justified, it's characters, or anything else by EL or F/X. This is a story for my mom who likes Rachel. It covers the nine month period from when Tim first joins the Lexington office, I'm assuming straight out of Glynco, the USMS training center, until Raylan shows up. If you are strictly a Raylan fan, I'm sorry, but you're in for disappointment. For the rest of you, enjoy. If you care to review, thank you; if you want to PM, I'm happy to answer. Don't feel bad if you don't do either, I won't complain. I'm selfishly and unabashedly doing this writing for me because it's fun and everybody needs a hobby.

Any names that remotely resemble or closely resemble any real person's name are completely accidental coincidences, except, of course, the F/X characters - those are completely on purpose coincidences.

act of mercy (Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms) — In personnel recovery, assistance rendered to evaders by an individual or elements of the local population who sympathize or empathize with the evaders' cause or plight.

Act of Mercy – Prologue

He drove out of Glynco and back into the world, the shopping malls, the restaurant strips, the endless choices and decisions about nothing that really mattered, all the trivial shit that wore him down to his angry center. Apartment, furniture, clothes. He'd rather one swift bullet than this slow death by a thousand cuts.

He started to time himself from when he entered the shops until he knew, he just knew he'd better find an exit, an escape route, or things might not go well. Twenty minutes in the department store before he shut down, striding out the door to stare blankly at a tree. He had no reference anymore. A mothering sales clerk steered him to a few quick purchases. He wondered if she recognized it, recognized someone she knew in him. Thanks to her he at least had some clothes for his new job.

He planned time for a stop at Fort Benning on the way through to Kentucky, planned to call up some Ranger buddies, have a beer. But he kept driving north, skittish at the turnoff, skittish about drinking, heading straight up past Macon and Atlanta instead. The driving was soothing and even when it got dark he kept going until he was well into Tennessee, eventually giving in to the fatigue and stopping for a few hours sleep at a roadside motel.

He was anxious to get to Lexington now, anxious to get things started. Then, in Kentucky, he took an exit off the interstate, some exit, and drove the back roads, anxious now not to get to Lexington, anxious about his twenty minute blast fuse, anxious about the bars on the cage of his new freedom, anxious, just anxious.

He wandered around his new apartment without turning on the lights, safe in the dark with no furniture yet, just his sleeping bag, a few boxes, computer, coffee maker. He meant to buy a couch and a bed on Saturday but he couldn't make up his mind and left, slept on the floor again.

Then he was staring at tomorrow. He couldn't make up his mind even to sleep, so he threw on his runners and headed out, treading a familiar route and coming back sweaty and wound up and showering. He finally drifted for a couple hours then the alarm in his head woke him at dawn.

He missed his army uniform, missed the uniform from Glynco, dressed in his new matching clothes, matching each other but not him. He clipped on the holster for his sidearm and backup. He hefted the familiar handgun and felt momentarily grounded, a clear choice this one, bought the week following his discharge. He had felt lost, he remembered, not being allowed to keep his M9 after his release from the military, even after he'd offered to pay for it, vulnerable, turning it in to the clerk, and his rifle. Nobody warned him.

Then he was at the courthouse, early, sitting in the parking lot, desperately pulling at loose strands of confidence, covering the angry center.

Willing himself to talk, he shook hands and moved blindly through the day. He didn't fit in. He was sure they could sense it like a dog senses fear. He tried to be easy, tried to focus. Then a shotgun in his face and finally thinking clearly for the first time in three days…