Someone There?

Title: Someone There?
Fandoms: Leverage & Justified
Pairings: Eliot Spencer/Parker/Alec Hardison; Past Eliot Spencer/Raylan Givens
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: 10,279
Summary: How do they always find themselves coming back to this place? Set during Season 1 Justified.

Someone There PDF

 

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He had heard someone say that certain souls traveled together through many lives until they reached the point where there were no more lessons to learn. At the time he’d thought it was just so many horse apples, but now he wasn’t quite so quick to dismiss such notions.

~}}}~~~>

He sat on the edge of the bed in an isolated cabin wondering why he’d suddenly become fate’s bitch. The pressure bandage he was currently sporting around his middle attested to the fact that you should never challenge worse.

For Raylan Givens, Deputy US Marshall, was on the lam. He had somehow stumbled into the chaos of mobbed up cops trying to kill a federal witness by buying one of the Marshall escorting him to Witness Protection.

When he’d petitioned the gods in a moment of desperation, Eliot Spencer had appeared like an apparition through the haze of cordite, bodies falling like dominos until he had reached the wounded Marshall and his petrified witness.

~}}}~~~>

Listening intently, he heard nothing out of the ordinary so lifted his feet onto the bed and leaned against the head board his pistol lying beside his leg in case he was wrong.

The small groan of pain that escaped when he pulled his abdominal muscles reminded him that Eliot would be pissy as a nun in a whorehouse if he undid the retrieval specialist’s work. He sewed as neat a stitch as his Gram’s embroidered handkerchiefs and bitched incessantly when someone ruined his work.

He laid his head back with a sigh. *Damn it to hell. This was supposed to be a milk run!* He thought as his eyes drifted closed, the suits way of keeping him out of sight while they dealt with the fallout of his shooting Tommy Bucks.

Raylan didn’t know Randy Ames, the other Marshall, or James Riley, their witness, other than what he’d read in him file. Riley had testified against some mobbed up cops in Boston. All he and Ames had to do was drop him off to his new handlers.

Neither Ames nor Riley had seemed surprised by the ambush and as Raylan leaned against the wall with Ames’ bullet in his side, he watched Riley practically throw himself into Eliot Spencer’s arms. Eliot neatly sidestepped the man, passing the babbling Riley off to the older man behind him while Eliot knelt beside Raylan.

“Thought I told you to stay outta trouble, ‘Ol Son?” Eliot smirked down at the wounded man.

“I tried, but fate keeps droppin’ this shit in my lap.” Raylan grinned. “Should I be tryin’ to arrest you?”

“Naw. I’m one of the good guys, now.”

Raylan answered that statement with a disbelieving snort that ended in a pained moan.

Eliot bent down and helped Raylan to his feet, checking the severity of the wound. He held his hand out behind him and didn’t seem surprised when a willowy blonde slapped a field dressing into the waiting hand.

“How do you …?”

“Parker!”

“Right, going to look for more bad guys.” Parker disappeared.

“Where …?” Raylan blinked then looked up to see her disappear over the edge of the roof.

His attention was brought back to earth when Eliot tightened the dressing.

“Son of a bitch!”

“Don’t whine, man. Ain’t conduct becomin’ an officer of the law.” Eliot taunted.

“The fuck ya know ‘bout conduct becomin’?” Raylan growled.

Eliot helped him into a silver pickup sitting nearby, giving him an impish grin.

“I’m so good at playin’ a cop the real ones don’t know the difference.” He check the dressing one more time. “That should hold ya ‘til we git where we’re goin’.”

“Where would that be?” Raylan gave him half glare.

Eliot gave him a smile that had always led to trouble in the years past.

“Eliot …”

“Chill, man. Just runnin’ a little game.”

They rode in a comfortable silence, memories rolling along with the miles until Eliot noticed Raylan had fallen into a doze.

Eliot used to hate these little walks down memory lane when his and Raylan’s paths crossed, but time had worn the sharp edges off the bad parts and accentuated the good.

~ Past ~ Harlan, Kentucky ~

Arlo avoided work like a moonshiner avoided revenuers and Raylan learned early to scrounge odd jobs to add to what his Aunt Helen brought home from her job. The only time he resorted to the skills learned at his daddy’s knee was to get into to MSHA and test for his underground miner’s card.

He’d go to school, come home, grab a quick bite to eat, and hurry out to second shift at the mine. By the time he graduated he was a black hat miner, working deep in the mine with the older men. With no money for college, Raylan moved to day shift after graduation.

Having trouble with one of the mining machines, Raylan went in search of Henry McCoy. He barreled through the door where he literally tripped over a kid in the tool shed. The mine was always hiring high school kids as gofers in the summer, so Raylan paid him no mind.

“Where’s Henry?” Raylan snapped, in a hurry to catch the next car into the mine.

“Right here, Givens. Leave the boy be.” Henry came from behind a shelf of parts.

“Got no time to be trippin’ over yer runners.”

“Relax, boy. That coal’s been there fer millions of years and you git paid by the hour same as me. Now what’s got your knickers in a knot?” The master mechanic crossed his arms over his chest.

Face reddened by the quiet dressing down, Raylan slanted a glance at the kid, but the teen had turned back to his work when Henry had stepped between them.

“One of the machine miners we’re usin’ while they move the long wall keeps havin’ fits and starts. Jake wants you come down and take a look.”

“Fits and starts don’t tell me a lot, Raylan.” Henry relaxed against his work bench.

Henry listened while Raylan described the trouble with the machine. The mechanic turned to issue orders to his helper, only to see what he needed sitting ready. Giving a chuckle, Henry turned back to the impatient miner.

“Raylan Givens … Randall Elliott, my mind readin’ apprentice for the summer.

“Elliott? You daddy the one that …” Raylan paused at the sharp look from Henry and the growl he heard.

“Yeah.” The teen turned away.

“Rand, grab your gear. I’m gonna need another set of hands if I’m right about that cantankerous rip of a minin’ machine.” Henry sighed as he picked up a box of parts and shoved them at Raylan. “Make yerself useful, son.” He turned to holler for Randall only to find himself standing just outside arms’ reach. “Boy, ya gotta quit doin’ that.” He muttered.

“Yessir.” He grinned shyly at the older man before gathering their supplies and heading to the truck.

Raylan’s breath caught in his chest as Randall’s face came into the light. Henry’s chuckle behind him caused Raylan to close his jaw with a snap.

“Got his mama’s looks and quick mind, but his daddy’s temper and hard head.”

“He can’t be old enough to be here.” Raylan snarked.

Henry gave him an exasperated look.

“Ya got no room to talk, Givens.”

“I had good reasons.” He sounded sulky.

“Yeah, well, dyin’ a hero don’t make yer widow rich.”

He grinned at the older man.

“Ya makin’ time with Widow Elliott, Henry?”

“She’s a good woman, Raylan Givens and that boy over there done the work of three men to help his mama keep body and soul together.” Henry snapped. “You and Rand might have a lot more in common than ya know.” He stalked off to the truck.

By the time Henry and Randall got the temperamental piece of equipment running properly, Raylan decided to ask Arlo what he remembered about Randall’s father. Around the time of the accident was one of the few times Arlo held an honest job. Raylan’s mama had taken one of her ‘spells’ as she called them and Arlo had actually worked at the mine long enough to have health insurance. Raylan wanted to see what his old man remembered about the accident.

When he came through the door his Aunt Helen had just put supper on the table.

“Arlo?”

She jerked her head toward the back porch.

“He’s pretty well into his cups. Was out talkin’ to yer mama.”

They ate without the older man, Helen going on about the gossip that came through the hardware store. When she started to stand to clear the table, Raylan stopped her with a hand on her arm.

“Aunt Helen, you remember the accident what killed Tom Elliott?”

“Need ta ask yer daddy. He was one of the men Tom saved that day.” Dread filled Raylan. “Mood he’s in tonight, he’ll probably even tell it. It’s like everyone involved took a vow of silence ‘bout the whole thing.” She started to clear dishes from the table. Raylan helped before going in search of his father.

Arlo sat in ‘his’ chair, jar of moonshine at his feet, cigarette dangling from his lips, as he watched the ghosts only he could see. He came back to the present when Raylan grabbed the jug and splashed some in his coffee cup.

“You seekin’ me out, boy, ya must want more than a slug a shine.” Arlo snapped.

“Matter of fact, I do. Since yer visitin’ with yer ghosts tonight I want ya ta tell me about the accident that killed Tom Elliott. Aunt Helen says he saved yer life.” Raylan prompted.

“Why ya wanna know ‘bout that?” Arlo’s eyes glittered with suspicion.

“Ran into his boy today at the mine.”

Arlo’s eyes got wide. “The mine? Boy was always wild as a deer. Surprised they git ‘im inside, let alone underground.”

“Henry says he gives it all to his mama.”

“Ya don’t say?” He filled his glass with corn liquor. “Boy’s like you. Got his mama’s heart.” Arlo mumbled, “was always caterin’ to her when she was pregnant with his sister.”

“All of four, but he was good at it.” Arlo’s voice took on a dreamlike quality as he moved through the past. “Randall was six and Delilah was two when Tom died. Saved mine and ten other’s men’s lives that day.” Arlo stopped to light a cigarette.

“What happened?” Raylan kept his voice low and stayed very still.

“Night before the explosion I’d stopped at the bar for a cold one to clear the dust outta my throat. Jim, Frank and a bunch of the boys had a poker game goin’ in the back. They invited me to sit in a few hands. Helen was sittin’ with you and your mama so I decided to indulge a little. Pretty soon it was closin’ time. I couldn’t let nothin’ happen to that insurance so I drove back to the mine so’s to not be late and slept in the truck ‘til time fer my shift.” He emptied his glass and poured another.

Raylan braced himself.

“We’d moved the long wall machine out the week before and was usin’ the miners to take out the pillars. Tom had gone back to take readings, and check out the section of bad top to make sure the cribs and shorin’ were holdin’. I don’t know what happened … I got distracted … Dozed off …” Arlo drew a deep breath, “Next thing I know Tom’s yellin’ … Alarms are blarin’ … The men’s runnin’ … Draggin’ me along while Tom’s some how usin’ the miner to hold the fallin’ ceilin’ away from us. The only thing they could figure was the miner had bumped some of the cribbin’ causin’ that part of the ceiling to fall too soon. They never could git back in that part of the mine. The water came in when the bad top came down.”

Arlo filled his glass, stepped off the porch and wandered into his dead wife’s rose garden murmuring low.

Raylan refilled his own cup and settled on the porch swing letting his mind absorb what he’d heard watching dusk settle over Harlan. He’d spent the rest of the summer trying to befriend Randall.

Raylan soon came to understand what his daddy meant when he said Randall was wild as a deer.

~}}}~~~>

He never seemed to be able to catch Randall at the mine, so he took to driving by the house after work. The Elliott’s living on the edge of town made it seem more like stalking.

Sharon Elliott worked as a critical care and surgical nurse at the hospital so that mostly left Randall to look after his sister.

Finally, one Friday Delilah was sitting on the front porch, so he pulled in the driveway.

“Help you?” Her toned was polite enough, but Raylan caught a flash of suspicion cross her face.

“Raylan Givens, Miss … I’m lookin’ for Randall. We both work up at the mine …”

She didn’t relax.

Rand’s ’round back cleanin’ supper.” The girl waved vaguely before darting back inside.

*Guess Rand wasn’t the only one barely domesticated.* He thought as he walked around the house … To see the brown haired girl hovering around her brother.

“Raylan.” Randall watched him carefully. “Somethin’ happen at the mine?”

“No. Just thought I’d stop by, have a cold one, chew the fat a little.”

Both teens relaxed. Randall nodded to Delilah who came back with a couple beers. He handed her a plate and said a few quiet words to her. She paused then nodded, smiling shyly.

He was surprised when Randall turned, handed him a beer and with a half smile invited him to supper.

“Hope you like rabbit?” Randall commented as he moved into the kitchen.

“I think there’s some kinda law that says if ya live in Harlan ya gotta like rabbit, or they escort you to the county line.” Raylan chuckled as he settled at the kitchen table.

He watched Randall move through the kitchen like a dance as he continued to make small talk.

“Where’d you learn to do all this?” Raylan finally asked.

“Rand took Home Economics.” Raylan jumped as Delilah moved behind him to set the table while teasing her brother.

“Home Ec?” Raylan’s eyebrows rose toward his hairline.

“There was this girl …” Randall blushed as he continued chopping vegetables.

“Becky Harper.” Delilah moved with the same grace as her brother.

“Men have done worse things for dumber reasons.” Raylan defended.

“I don’t see you turnin’ yer nose up at my cookin’.” Randall swatted playfully at his sister.

“Are you kidding? I’m the envy of all my friends. My brother is the epitome of a modern man.”

Everything stopped when the siblings looked toward the front of the house waiting like spaniels on point. Randall relaxed first turning back to the food he was placing in a hot pack. Delilah’s head swiveled between her brother and the front door.

“Henry’s comin’ for Mama’s supper.” Randall assured her.

Randall turned to see the question in Raylan’s eyes as Delilah bounced over to the door.

“Henry’s pickup needs an overhaul. The valves make a very distinct sound.” Answering the next question before Raylan could ask Randall continued. “We had some trouble with Crowder’s bunch a while back.” He continued with his supper preparations, but offered no further explanation.

The spread was impressive and Raylan was anxious to sample Randall’s cooking. He was savoring his first bite of rabbit …

“Come on Sleeping Beauty, wakey, wakey.” Randall’s voice growled.

Raylan startled, banging his head against the truck window. It couldn’t be Rand …Rand was dead and left in his place …

~}}}~~~>

“Raylan Givens don’t make me haul yer lanky ass in the house.” Eliot growled.

Raylan started to move before remembering his side. The reawakened pain left him gasping. Contrary to his growling, Eliot appeared at the truck door to help the injured marshal inside. He led Raylan to the kitchen where he had set up to remove the bullet from his side.

“Didn’t know you took to doctorin’?” Raylan grinned drunkenly. “What was in them pills?”

“The good stuff.” Eliot started stripping the wiry body of its clothing. Raylan tried to move away.

“Movin’ a little fast there, Cowboy. We haven’t seen each other since I signed my divorce papers and yer tryin’ to git me naked before we’re in the door.”

Eliot rolled his eyes and began gently squeezing a pressure point that soon had Raylan unconscious and naked on the kitchen table.

“You’ll be glad you missed this part.” Eliot cleaned the wound and began probing for the bullet.

~}}}~~~>

He was warm, dry and fairly comfortable but for a nagging ache that felt like a stitch in his side. His watch and gun were lying on the bedside stand, the illuminated hands showing 9:17. It was dark outside the small window so he’d only lost six hours. He needed to get up and find out how big a pile of shit he’d fallen into this time, and the next time someone said the words ‘milk run’ to him he was going to punch them square in the mouth.

He started to sit up, but the minute his movement engaged his oblique muscles, he decided the big, comfortable bed he was lying on was a perfect place for him.

Eliot moved silently through the darkened room, the back of a calloused hand resting lightly on the sleeping man’s face, making sure a fever hadn’t started. Satisfied he left the house to give the perimeter one last check before his scheduled check in with Hardison.

~ Past ~ Harlan, Kentucky ~

Raylan fidgeted with his tie. He heard a raspy chuckle from behind.

“You’d think you were the one gittin’ married.” Randall teased.

He adjusted the tie one more time before turning to face the younger man.

“You put in yer notice, yet?” Raylan asked.

Randall scowled. “Yeah. Startin’ Monday I’m only workin’ at the stables.” He ran his hand through the short curls lying riot over the top of this head.

“Yeah well, I’m jist glad this is the only summer I’m trippin over ya. Little runt like you didn’t need to be there anyway. You’re better off working for Willie. Ya always were ‘bout half wild as them yearlings of his.”

Eliot actually blushed. “It put food on the table, Man.”

Raylan threw his arm around the strong shoulders that had broadened over the summer of hard work between the mine and the stables.

“Yer mama and I will both rest easier.” He squeezed before releasing Randall to move toward the door.

The two had become close over the summer, but Randall was still waters running deep. Every time Raylan thought he had him figured out, Randall would say or do something to send that certainty up in flames.

He’d pulled up to the house to ask Randall if he wanted to go fishing. He’d waved at Delilah weeding the flower beds as he headed around the back. Raylan started to call out to Randall when the younger man bent to pick up the next piece of wood to split.

Sunlight hit full on the tan back highlighting thin silver stripes across the broad expanse. He was so shocked that when Delilah yanked the back of his belt, pulling him around the corner of the house, he didn’t resist.

Always aware of his surroundings, Randall stopped in mid-swing to see what had caught his attention. Not seeing anything out of place he figured it was Del and went back to splitting wood.

“Del …? What in tarnation was that?” Raylan started back toward Randal to demand answers about the scars.

“Raylan! Wait!” The pleading tone made him stop.

“Del …”

“I’ll tell ya, butcha can’t say nothin’ to Randall … Or anyone.”

“But his back …”

Delilah pulled him further from the corner of the house.

“It happened his sophomore year.” Delilah sat on the porch step pulling Raylan with her. “Randall tried out for the football team. Coach picked him and Beaumont Crowder for the varsity team. Randall was gonna be quarterback and Beau wide receiver.” Delilah wrapped her arms around her middle as she huddled against the memories.

“Remember Boyd sayin’ somethin’ ‘bout that, but all of a sudden Beau was quarterback and Boyd got quiet ‘bout it.” Raylan prompted.

“That’s ‘cos Rand quit the team.”

“Why?”

“It’s hard to throw a football when yer back’s cut open.” She chewed her bottom lip. “I turned thirteen that year and it was like Mother Nature worked overtime and when school started all the boys that never give me the time of day were suddenly everywhere.” She paused.

“Includin’ Beaumont Crowder.” Raylan guessed.

“Yeah. We tried to steer clear the Crowders, but they seemed everywhere that year, and when Rand beat Beau out of the quarterback spot … He’s got such a terrible temper.” She whispered.

“Delilah,” Raylan reached for her hand, “did Beau hurt you?”

“No … They didn’t get the chance. They forgot how close Rand watches over me. They took me to an old tobacco barn over the hill from the diner. They had just pulled me out of the truck when Rand got there. He was so angry it was scary. He tore into them like one of those action guys in the movies, but there were too many of them. I don’t know everything ‘cos once they were after Rand, I ran. I know that’s what he wanted me to do … So I ran as fast as I could for the diner. The waitress wouldn’t let me us the phone ‘til I told her why I wanted to call the police. Boyd and Johnny were in the diner eatin’ lunch. Johnny thought it was funny, but Boyd knew what would happen to Beau’s chances for a scholarship if word got out he kidnapped an underage girl and beat up her brother. Johnny wasn’t gonna help ‘til Boyd threatened to tell the old man.” She looked up to see if Randall had appeared then dropped her voice to a whisper.

“By the time we got back to the barn they had Randall hangin’ from the barn beam naked and bloody.” She choked.

“That’s ‘bout the time Beau thought he was Indiana Jones and had all them whips.” Raylan half remembered. “What happened?”

“Beau’s friends ran. They were ‘fraid of Boyd with all his crazy church talk. When they let go the ropes, Randall fell to the floor. Johnny helped me find what was left of Rand’s clothes and wrap him in a blanket while Boyd argued with Beau. Boyd took us home while Johnny took Beau. He helped me get Randall cleaned up ‘til the Doc came and stitched up the worst of the gashes and gave us salve for the rest. Boyd made him swear not to tell Mama, then said he’d be back in a few days. Few days later him and Beau Senior were back with enough money to keep us quiet.”

“How much? How much do you pay someone to take that kind of punishment?” Raylan asked hoarsely.

“Enough.” A gravel voice made them both jump guiltily. “You’ve said enough Del.” He frowned heavily at his sister.

“Rand …” Raylan started, but Randall was already moving back around the house.

Raylan gave chase. “Dammit, Rand! If she hadn’t told me I would have hounded ya ‘til ya did!”

Randall studied Raylan. Raylan never moved or looked away. Randall must have seen what he was looking for because his posture relaxed.

“Old Man Crowder paid me enough to put Delilah through college.”

Raylan gasped. “Did Beau …”

Randall interrupted before he could finish the thought. “NO!” He took a breath. “That was probably next on the agenda, but Boyd and Johnny got there first.”

That afternoon seemed to cement their friendship. What started as a favor to an old friend was becoming stronger and more confusing to Raylan every day. He wasn’t sure what to do with all the things he was feeling, but there was a wedding to get through before anything could be settled.

~}}}~~~>

Henry McCoy was retiring. He wasn’t that old, but he had his thirty years. He and Sharon talked about selling their houses in Harlan and moving to Lexington for Delilah’s last years of high school. Delilah was thrilled … Randall was silent.

A few days after his 19th birthday, Raylan Givens served as Henry McCoy’s best man when he married Sharon Elliott, who was given away by her children, Randall and Delilah. The couple was honeymooning in Nashville leaving said children to fend for themselves.

Delilah went to a sleepover with friends for the weekend, and Randall and Raylan were relaxing on the back porch with a cooler of beer talking about everything and nothing. Every so often Raylan would inject bits of his thoughts and feelings, watching Randall’s reactions carefully.

It was nearing midnight when Randall’s patience ran out. He moved over to where Raylan was stretched out on the chaise lounge, threw a leg over and lowered himself into Raylan’s lap.

“This whatcha been hintin’ at all night, boy?” Randall bent down and captured the full bottom lip between his teeth before moving on to capture Raylan’s mouth in a gentle but th0rough kiss.

They rested their foreheads together, panting softly after Randall released his mouth.

“Rand?”

Randall pulled back enough to see the whiskey colored eyes full of lust tinged with confusion. He smiled softly.

“Been wantin’ to do that for a while.”

“A while. I just realized…”

“Sit up and let me git yer shirt off.” Randall demanded.

“What!?”

“Sit up and let me take yer shirt off.” Randall repeated.

Raylan started to panic. Things were moving way too fast.

~}}}~~~>

“Raylan settle down. Yer gonna pull yer stitches, ya damn fool.” Eliot growled.

Raylan blinked several times. “Rand?”

“No. It’s Eliot. You were shot and I need to take a look at yer stitches.”

“Eliot?” He rubbed his hands over his face.

The memories came back in a rush. Riley, Ames, bad cops, dirty Marshall, Eliot coming through the smoke like an avenging angel, Riley disappearing with a bunch of people he didn’t know, a cabin somewhere in the middle bumfuck somewhere. He pulled off his shirt.

“Why are we wherever it is we are?” He asked as Eliot pulled the bandage off his side.

“We’re a couple hours west of Boston.” He examined the wound for signs of infection. Satisfied he cleaned the sight and put a fresh bandage on then waterproofed it so Raylan could shower. “I’ll fill ya in after yer awake and fed.”

With that pronouncement he was left alone. Between his dream memories of Randall and Eliot’s behavior he was confused, his emotions churning. Giving up trying to settle everything, he stripped off and headed to the bathroom. When he came out fresh clothes lay on the bed and the smells filling the cabin reminded him it’d been a long time since he last meal.

The large room was empty, but the pot sitting on the wood cook stove enticed him. Filling a bowl he settled at the table where chunks of sourdough bread just begged to be soaked with Eliot’s beef stew. The rhythmic sounds of someone splitting wood let him know Eliot was close allowing him to begin to relax and reorder his thoughts.

He settled on the sofa with a tumbler of Jack he found in the cabinet waiting for Eliot to quit hiding and bring him up to speed on what happened. He had fallen into a light doze when the latch on the door startled him awake. Reaching for his gun, he cursed when he realized he’d left it in the bedroom.

Eliot threw his armload in the wood box then brushed the remaining chips and sawdust off his jacket. Shedding his coat and gloves, he headed for the stove and his own supper. Moving gingerly, Raylan joined him at the table.

“’Spose you want me ta talk now?” Eliot snagged another piece of bread.

“It’d be a mite helpful.” Raylan drawled.

Eliot arched his eyebrow at the Marshall’s sarcasm, but continued his meal. He made Raylan wait until the kitchen was clean before grabbing a beer and settling in the overstuffed chair where he could watch Raylan and the fireplace.

“It’s pretty simple. We’re bait. Since you’re upright and fairly functional I’ll call and release the hounds. When they find us I round ‘em up then clear out before the Feds get here to haul ‘em off.”

“Simple … Bait … What the hell ya got goin’ here Spencer!?” Raylan jumped up to pace, but the pull on his side put him back on the couch.

“Just a little fox and hounds.” He walked over to pull up Raylan’s t-shirt and check his bandage. “Besides there’s nothin’ on yer calendar ‘til they ship yer ass back to Kentucky.”

“WHAT!?” He fell back again as his temper pulled his stitches again.

“Dammit, Raylan, quit pulling on them stitches. Yer messin’ up some of my best work. You don’t have to do much in this game … Sit there and try not to git shot … Again.”

“How do you know I’m goin’ back to Kentucky?” He ground out between clenched teeth.

“I have ways of findin’ stuff.” Eliot hedged. “It is what I do.”

He wasn’t about to tell a US Marshall that Hardison hacked his file when they found out who would be escorting their client, Riley into witness protection.

He really shouldn’t have told Raylan, but he didn’t want his old friend getting blindsided. Raylan hadn’t been back to Kentucky since he to had run when he was nineteen. The irony that Raylan’s ex-wife had been a Kentucky girl, and was now living in Lexington where Raylan would be based had made Eliot chuckle when Hardison had rattled off the information.

Before his thoughts could go any further, Eliot pulled the t-shirt down and moved away, satisfied that Raylan’s agitation hadn’t torn any of his stitches.

He picked up his coat and headed for the door.

“Eliot?” Raylan questioned.

“Perimeter check.” His growl was short.

Before the door closed Raylan heard … “Get some rest. The game starts in the morning.”

Confused by Eliot’s behavior, Raylan leaned over elbows on his knees as he digested the information about his new assignment being Kentucky. He knew the ol’ boy that ran the Lexington office. Chief Deputy Art Mullen was the no bullshit kinda guy that Raylan didn’t mind working under. Rubbing his hands over his face as the adrenaline finally drained away, he found he was exhausted.

He wanted to wait and see if he could coax any more information from Eliot, but knew the retrieval specialist would stubbornly stay outside until exhaustion won out and Raylan went to bed. He chuckled quietly as he headed for the bedroom, amazed at how well they seemed to know each other though they only ran into each other every couple years.

He’d toed his boots off and was getting ready to shuck his jeans when he was struck by a thought. Eliot always seemed to appear at the low points in Raylan’s life. The first time he killed a person in the line of duty, first time he was shot, when he and Winona separated, the day he signed his divorce papers, and now Eliot was covering his back again.

Sometimes there were no words between them. There was only rough hands, strong arms, bruises, bites, pleasure that sometimes tipped over into pain that covered the wounds life inflicted. Sometimes there were only words and smooth Kentucky bourbon and commiseration followed by tenderness that made Raylan wonder who, was Eliot Spencer, really?

As Raylan drifted to sleep he hoped he wouldn’t be having another Ebenezer Scrooge night.

~ Past ~ Harlan, Kentucky ~

When Raylan woke, it was morning. The hammock was more comfortable than his bed at Arlo’s. His cheek rested against soft brown curls as warm breath wafted over his bare chest. He really didn’t want to move. If not for his bladder insisting that he get up, he’d lay right here all day and savor the feel of Randall’s body against his … Brown eyes snapped open. Sleepy, all too knowing eyes watched him.

“Waiting for the morning after redneck freak out?” Raylan asked.

“That little bitta makin’ out we did last night wasn’t near enough to warrant a freak out.”

Raylan blushed deeply. Though he was the older, it was Randall who seemed more comfortable. As though he could read his mind, Rand answered his question before he thought it.

“I figured it all out not too long after I started noticin’ girls and boys.” Randall’s voice was quiet and sure.

“What about later? Don’tcha want a family … A wife and kids?”

Randall chuckled, but it sent a chill down Raylan’s spine.

“I ain’t gonna live long enough to worry ‘bout havin’ a family.”

“Randall!?” Raylan sat up so fast he set the hammock to rocking.

Randall rolled gracefully out of the swinging hammock.

“I’ll git us some breakfast.” Randall left Raylan sitting in the hammock.

Since Randall quit the mine, Raylan didn’t see as much of him. The younger man’s absence seemed to keep him in the front of Raylan’s thoughts.

When Randall graduated, Henry and Sharon sold their houses and began the move to Lexington. The couple begged him to move with them, but Randall moved into a small apartment in the top of Willie’s barn.

Once everything settled, Raylan quietly and shyly began pursuing Randall, his feelings and curiosity pushing him closer to the younger man.

On Randall’s 18th birthday, he and Raylan drove to Williamsburg, leaving behind the wagging tongues of Harlan. An excellent dinner, a few hours at a bar with a pretty good country band and they were soon in a cab heading for the motel where they’d booked a room for the night.

Raylan barely had time to throw the deadbolt when he found himself pinned to the door, a whiskey flavored tongue exploring the nooks and crannies of his mouth. The snaps on his shirt parted as clever fingers walked up his chest then stopped. The sensual haze that had settled over his brain lifted when the stimulus stopped.

“Rand?”

Raylan opened his eyes to see the bright blue eyes watching him with the most serious expression he’d ever seen on Randall’s face.

“I need to know you’re absolutely sure about this. We do this and we can never go back.”

Raylan’s answer was to capture the full lips in a breath stealing kiss while pushing Randall toward the bed.

Any doubts or second thoughts were soon forgotten as lips and teeth followed hands and hands followed lips and teeth. Possessed—possessor—around they went until both bodies came to rest in the center of the wrecked bed.

Raylan felt the bed shift as Randall rolled off the bed and headed to the bathroom. Wiping both of them down the men moved to the undisturbed bed. Randall pulled Raylan against his chest and pressed his nose against the nape of the taller man’s neck. He felt Raylan draw a breath.

“Later, Raylan. We’ll talk later.” Strong arms tightened around the chest muscled from years of digging coal.

With an indignant huff, Rayland complied.

~}}}~~~>

Eliot watched the body on the bed. He should wake Raylan before he went into a full blown nightmare, but he was short on sleep and didn’t have the patience to deal with the Marshall until it couldn’t be avoided. He’d called Hardison after Raylan went to sleep anxious to get this done so Raylan could go back to being Deputy US Marshall, Quick Draw, Givens. It was dangerous for him to be around the too observant Raylan for more than a day or two.

Unable to stop the action, though he mentally chastised himself, Eliot ran his hand through Raylan’s hair, nonsense words whispered soothingly. After a few minutes the body on the bed returned to its rest. If Eliot was lucky, the bad guys would get here and be tied up with a bow for the cops before Raylan woke.

~ Past ~ Harlan, Kentucky ~

Always anxious to avoid Arlo and his cons, Raylan spent more time in Randall’s bed than his own. Things probably would have continued that way if he hadn’t been cornered by Boyd in the parking lot one day after shift.

“Was there something you wanted, Boyd?” Raylan snapped.

“Just a moment of yer time, Raylan.” Boyd answered calmly.

“Say yer piece, Boyd, but if it’s about some stunt of Arlo’s—I got nothin’ in that.”

“No Raylan, I’m well aware, you’ve been markin’ time at Willie’s.” Boyd’s tone turned sly.

Raylan frowned. “Yeah—so—Rand offered me his second room.” He shrugged reaching for the door handle.

Boyd’s hand on his arm halted the motion. A glare from Raylan caused him to drop his hand just as quickly.

“Quit dancin’ and spit out whatever’s stuck in yer craw.” Raylan snarled.

“People seemed to think y’all been awful cozy lately … In an unbrotherly kind of way” Innuendo dripped from his words.

“Most people need ta mind their bizness and worry about what’s not happenin’ in their bedrooms instead of what’s happenin’ in mine.” He jerked the door open knocking Boyd off balance.

“I’ll pass that along, brother.” Boyd’s grin was unrepentant.

Raylan slammed the door leaving Boyd in the dust of the mine’s parking lot.

Randall was at the broodmare barn with a mare having a difficult labor, which left Raylan to stew in his own thoughts while he dished up the stew Randall had put in the crockpot before he’d left for the barn that morning.

It was the wee hours of the morning before Rand slid into bed and pulled Raylan against his chest. When he felt Rand slide into a deep sleep, Raylan turned and watched the moonlight caress the boyishly pretty face. Lashes that were the envy of every girl in Harlan fanned across prominent cheekbones. His throat closed with his emotions as he thought about what the Crowders and probably half of Harlan would do to that beautiful face and body if their relationship became more than just speculation.

More importantly, how would he handle it if the gossipmongers decided to take matters in their own hands? Could he take the pressure … Would he stand by Rand or let that pressure drive them apart? These thoughts ran like mice through his brain causing him to pull the younger hard against his chest and bury his face in his neck.

~}}}~~~>

Nate called from the nearby resort. They weren’t close enough for the ear buds to work, but the resort offered Hardison the Internet connection he needed to track all the players. Neither the Marshalls’ service nor the state police were aware that their dirty cops had jumped bail and were staying at a Motel 6 about an hour from Eliot and Raylan’s position.

The hacker was getting the good guys up to speed so they would arrive a half hour to forty-five minutes after the bad guys. If all went well, Raylan would present them with a red ribbon, and Eliot would be in the wind.

Not trusting that Fate wouldn’t try and make him her bitch, Eliot had fashioned several surprises around the cabin to help even the odds.

Eliot fell into a light doze a few minutes after sitting in the easy chair, a mug of tea sitting beside him.

~ Past ~ Harlan, Kentucky ~

Randall never let on he was awake when Raylan pulled him close. He had a pretty good idea of what was going on inside Raylan’s pretty head. He’d heard the whispers … The rumors. He loved Raylan with his whole being, had since the day they met. Raylan had lived his whole life as a typical son of Harlan, and a few short months of having sex with him didn’t stand a chance against a lifetime of small town conditioning. All he could do was wait for Raylan’s nerve to break, and savor every moment he could before heartache became his new best friend.

~}}}~~~>

Raylan came awake with a jerk when he heard a scream of pain outside the cabin. He slipped into his pants and boots as quick as his stitches allowed then went in search of Eliot.

The pre-dawn sky turned everything grey. He was the only one in the cabin, but looking out the window he saw the area to the edge of the woods was lit up bright enough that there were no shadows in which to hide. A loud thump and a shout brought Raylan to the front of the cabin. Taking a position to look out the window without exposing himself, he saw a man, his shirt tinged with red lying hogtied on the porch.

Hearing more shouts, Raylan moved carefully from window to window making sure to keep to the cover of the thick log walls. The urge to go outside was strong, but without knowing where Eliot was and how many people were in the woods, he forced himself to stay inside.

Soon Eliot came from the woods dragging a man behind him, which he added to the four others on the porch. He was bruised, bleeding his hair had been pulled from it’s ponytail and lay in ringlets over his shoulders. He gave Raylan an unrepentant grin.

“All yours, Marshall.” He moved toward the bathroom.

Raylan checked that the men were secure and not too badly injured before following Eliot.

The retrieval specialist stepped from the bathroom wiping the blood from his face. His curls had been restrained back into a ponytail, but he hadn’t removed his jacket.

“You hurt?” Raylan watched Eliot’s reaction carefully.

“Not so you’d notice.” But he didn’t make any unnecessary movements.

Raylan followed as Eliot moved to the kitchen, trying to decipher what the dark clothing was hiding.

“Why don’tcha strip out of the jacket and shirt and let me take a look?” Raylan cajoled.

“No time. My ride’ll be here in a minute.”

He was about to insist when he heard a vehicle pull up to the cabin.

“Friends.” Eliot grabbed his duffel off the floor and started for the door.

“Eliot?”

“Yer friends’ll be here in about half an hour. Keep an eye on the bad guys.” He shut the door before Raylan could ask questions.

Watching out the window he saw a slim blonde and a tall black man fussing over the hitter. Raylan’s breath caught when the blonde yanked Eliot’s jacket off allowing him to see the bloodstained shirt. The two shoved him in the SUV and slammed the door. Rocks and dirt were flying before Raylan garnered enough brain cells to get to the porch.

True to his word, the FBI and Marshalls’ Service arrived within twenty minutes of Eliot’s departure. They gave Raylan a ride back to Boston, the Chief Deputy of the Boston office taking the time to get Raylan’s statement on the way back to the city. He told a heavily censored story, careful to edit out any mention of his gunshot wound or Eliot and his friends.”

“What happened to Riley?” Raylan asked about the witness that Eliot’s friends had whisked away.

The Chief frowned. “The state police have him. A … Captain Bonanno … Not sure how he got there … Anyway … We’ll take you back to your hotel. We had them hold your room. Oh, there’s a folder from the DC office waiting on you there.”

Raylan sighed heavily. After what Eliot told him the contents of the folder would be no surprise, but the stress of the situation, his wound, and the ongoing memories of Randall, had exhausted him physically and mentally.

Two hours from the time they left the cabin he was back at his hotel. A shower, room service, and resisting the call of the mini bar—he prayed Randall Elliott was back behind the locked door where he usually lived. Now that it was official that he was going back to Kentucky he had no doubt the movie of his memories would play out to the bitter end. He took one of the pain pills Eliot had left in his duffel, but he fought to stay awake, until the narcotic and his exhaustion pulled him down.

~ Past ~ Harlan, Kentucky ~

He got ready for work when a hand on his arm stopped him before he picked up his lunch bucket.

“Raylan?” Rand’s serious expression made Raylan pause. “Be extra careful today.”

Raylan cocked his head. “I always am.”

Rand still held his arm.

“It’ll be okay. We’re not doing anything out of the ordinary today.”

Randall nodded then pulled Raylan in for a kiss so intense it had Raylan wanting to drag him back to bed rather go to work. The younger man reluctantly let go, sadness turning the changeable eyes a bleak grey.

The day was routine as he and Boyd worked close to the long wall machine. With a curse the operator shut down the machine as the foreman began shouting orders. As they ran for the mine cars they could hear the rumble. Knowing they would never make the cars, the miners headed for the rescue shelters.

Hearing a cry, Raylan turned back and saw Boyd trip over a chunk of the fallen ceiling. Without thought he reached out and snatched Boyd to his feet dragged them to the protection of the alcove.

When the rocks stopped falling and the dust began settling, the men started taking stock of injuries and their situation. Most of the buggies had been crushed under the rocks, but several were still operational. They had no radio … No way to communicate with the surface until they found an intercom that wasn’t damaged. There were a few broken bones, a lot cuts, bruises and concussions, but nothing too serious. They loaded those with broken bones on the buggies that survived. Those that were mobile walked out ahead clearing enough of the tunnel for the buggies to pass through.

With no information from the surface, and only the most basic of equipment to check gas readings that were often high enough, that the men shut down everything and stayed as still as possible to lessen the chance of a spark igniting the gas. They used their breathing apparatus sparingly since they didn’t know how far they would have to go before meeting an obstacle they couldn’t move. There hadn’t been a fire, but it was still a possibility, and tremors still moved the mountain around them. They quietly speculated that maybe the long wall machine hit a large gas pocket. Luckily it had taken the brunt of the explosion, but the concussive force had brought down the roof, causing rocks and an occasional timber to litter the tunnel to the surface.

Raylan checked his watch. It was two hours past end of shift. He could picture the scene topside as families waited anxiously for word about the condition of their loved ones. The mine rescue crew was probably already in the mine working to get to them.

*Mine Rescue Crew … Shit, Randall would be with them.*

During his stint at the mine Rand took all the training he could. He always joked about having to save Raylan’s ass someday since he was mostly above ground while Raylan and the others went deep into the mountain every day.

Those thoughts made Raylan want to rush ahead—hurry the others so Randall wouldn’t be in the ‘hole’ any longer than was necessary. He forced himself to calm down. They were traveling as fast as the injured allowed and with the danger of an explosion still possible, he couldn’t get reckless.

Things had been quiet for a while. There’d been very little debris and the gas levels had fallen to nearly nothing. Checking the markings along the tunnel, the men’s spirits raised as they realized they were only a mile from the surface.

They had paused to rest when the intercom behind them sparked to life. There had been a cave-in just ahead of their current position that had been cleared enough to pass through. The crew was putting up temporary roof supports to give the tunnel some stability until they got the men out.

Going past the crew working on a support, Raylan noticed Randall. Bright blue eyes looked up enough to give him a wink before turning back to his work.

The ambulances had taken away the injured and the rest were heading toward the locker room when smoke and gas belched from the entrance. People were yelling and running for the entrance.

Before he realized it, Raylan was running thinking only of finding Rand. Just as they got to the entrance, Rand appeared out of the smoke, one man draped across his shoulders … Dragging another by his collar.

Hands reached to relief him of his burdens, words assuring him that he could rest. They were safe. Raylan slid to a stop next to Randall as he started to crumple. Wrapping around him to keep the younger man from injuring himself, Raylan yelled for the medic.

They released Randall from the hospital the next day. The doctors told him to take it easy for a day or two to let his lungs recover from the smoke.

Raylan drove him home, got him settled then told him that he had to go to the mine to give his statement about the accident. He made a stop at Arlo’s, talked to his Aunt Helen for a few minutes before going back to Martin’s.

Randall was already in bed when Raylan got home so he stretched out on the bed and pulled the shorter man to his chest. With a sigh Randall settled deeper into sleep.

Raylan had done a lot of thinking as he watched Randall in the hospital bed hooked to machines, beautiful face hidden by an oxygen mask. He hadn’t realized the depth of his feelings for Randall until he’d seen him fall.

He slid gently from behind Randall, lowering him to the bed. He dressed quietly and turning to look back when he got to the bottom of the stairs. Straightening his shoulders he climbed into his truck, drove out of Harlan … Never looking back.

~}}}~~~>

Henry and Sharon were happy to give him a place to stay until he could figure out what he was going to do next. Delilah pestered him with questions about Rand. He answered as best he could, guilt eating at him for not telling them that he’d run-—left Randall because he was afraid.

A week later he was on his way to Glynco, Georgia, the newest member of the US Marshalls Service. He never went back to Lexington, though he did keep in touch with Delilah.

Raylan had called Delilah to congratulate her on making it through her second year of college. Before he could say anything beyond hello, she interrupted him.

“Rand’s dead.”

~}}}~~~>

With a great gulp of air, he sat up in the bed jerking out of his dream. He used the sheet to wipe the sweat from his face. *Fucking pain pills always dredged up all this old shit.* He was drawn out of his thoughts when the shadows flickered. He reached for his gun only to find it just out reach.

“Someone there?”

He turned on the light and recognized the blonde with the killer body that was part of Eliot’s crew.

“How’s Eliot? Raylan asked.

“Fine. Knife wound.” She sat cross-legged on the dresser.

“If he’s fine, why are you here?”

“Wanted to meet you … See who you are.”

“What did Eliot say?” Raylan reached for his pants.

“You don’t have to do that on my account.” Parker leered.

Raylan blushed.

‘Nothin’, but then he never does.” She jumped back to his question. Cocking her head Parker watched him closely. “He’s known you a long time.”

“A few years.” He busied himself with the coffee maker.

“Got any cereal?” She rooted through the mini-bar, pulling out one of those little bowls of corn flakes.

“Don’t know.” He wished the coffee would hurry. He didn’t think he could deal with this woman without caffeine.

“You don’t have to lie.” She said bluntly.

“What?!”

“If you don’t want to answer my questions about Eliot just say so, you don’t have to lie.”

“I didn’t lie. What questions?” Raylan was getting confused, which was leading to irritation.

Irritation always led to him losing his temper, and when he lost his temper, his tongue starting running out ahead of his brain. He took a deep breath and let it out.

“Can we start over in plain English this country boy can understand?” Raylan gave her a flirty grin.

Parker studied him like a security system she’d never seen. She grinned. The Marshall thought he was being clever … Smooth.

“Eliot and Sophie taught me about people like you.” She licked her finger to get the last of the corn flake crumbs.

“People like what?” He looked at the coffee pot…just enough for a cup.

He took a gulp that was just short of scalding.

“All pretty face and pretty smiles that just want to steal your secrets.” Parker jumped down to rummage through the mini-bar again.

Raylan nearly choked on his coffee.

“Hardison! Be quiet! I know Eliot will be awake soon. Deputy Dog won’t cooperate!” She hissed.

*Who were these people and why didn’t they just ask Eliot these questions.*

“’Cause he won’t tell.” The blonde’s voice made him jump. “We only have a couple rules, but for some reason Eliot made you an exception. Hardison and I want to know why.”

I honestly don’t know. We met in a bar when I was havin’ a really bad day. He seems to show up when I’m at the real low points in my life.” Raylan answered honestly.

“Do you have sex?” She narrowed her eyes at the Marshall.

Coffee sprayed across the room.

“WHAT!?”

“Eliot uses sex to make people feel better.” She frowned. “Sometimes he uses food.”

“That’s none of yer business, Darlin’.” Raylan wiped coffee off his chin.

“It is our business ‘cause we have sex with Eliot all the time.” She bobbed her head. “Darlin’s one of Eliot’s words, you have to pick something else.”

“I have to … What?” Raylan was starting to get a headache.

Raylan sat down at the small table, giving himself time to regroup. He tried to remember what Eliot called the blonde. *Parker.*

“I haven’t seen Eliot in almost two years.” Raylan defended.

Parker squinted her eyes. “When Eliot talks about you his face goes way far away.” She tilted her head in a listening posture. “Gotta go.” She paused at the door. “When Hardison said you were from Kentucky I thought he was kidding. What are the odds we keep running into people from Kentucky?” She said more to herself than to Raylan.

“Parker?” Raylan asked quietly.

“Yeah.” She stopped, but didn’t turn back.

“Where?”

“Lexington and the farm where Eliot’s friend, Willie lives.”

Raylan’s breath caught, thoughts raced through his mind, all churning chaotically. He looked up to ask Parker another question, but the blonde was gone.

~}}}~~~>

A week later, Raylan was standing outside John McRory’s Place, Bar and Grill.

Never in his career had he had so much trouble trying to find one man. Randall Elliott didn’t exist anywhere except on a grave marker in Arlington National Cemetery. Information about Delilah dried up after her divorce was finalized. Henry and Sharon McCoy’s paper trail ended when they sold their house in Lexington. As a last resort he called Willie Martin, praying the man didn’t hang up on him.

“In case you forgot, Randall’s dead.” Willie sneered. “I lay the blame for that at your door, Raylan Givens.”

“But he’s not dead, Willie.” Raylan voice held a pleading note. “I think he’s livin’ under the alias Eliot Spencer.”

“A word to the wise, Raylan … Never make the mistake of thinkin’ Eliot is Randall. Randall loved you, heart and soul. I’m sure Eliot has those things, but not in any form recognizable to you and me.”

“But …”

“You called me, Raylan. Least ya can do is have the courtesy to listen to what I’m tellin’ ya.” Willie paused as though debating whether to continue. “I hear ya got a certain reputation, Marshall Givens … But I’m telling ya this is one place ya don’t wanna be stickin’ yer nose.”

Raylan heard a click.

~}}}~~~>

Now he stood with his hand on the door getting ready to do what Willie Martin warned him against. Stiffening his spine, Raylan pulled open the door and settled on the stool at the end of the bar, where he could watch the room while leaning against the wall. Ordering a draft beer, he let his eyes scan the room.

It was a typical neighborhood bar, and nothing about it suggested Boston’s version of the A-Team used it as their headquarters. Raylan was loath to ask the bartender about a man fitting Eliot’s description.

He pulled his Stetson low to hide the fact he was checking out the patrons. Small talk with the bartender let it be known he was from out of town exploring the city in search of cold beer and a decent steak. With a grin the bartender slapped a menu on the bar.

Topping off an excellent meal with a glass of top shelf Kentucky bourbon, Raylan felt a presence behind him. Sliding onto the stool next to him, Eliot nodded to the bartender. A draft of dark beer appeared before the retrieval specialist. A look was exchanged. Eliot gave a small shake of his head and the bartender found things to do at the other end of the bar.

“Something you wanted, Marshall?” Eliot’s voice was low and dark.

Raylan’s prepared speech died in his throat. The blue/grey eyes reminded him of a bored predator. He might stay stretched out in the shade or chase you down just because. He threw back the contents of his glass and signaled the bartender for another. When he left, Raylan turned to face Eliot.

“I wanna know about Randall Elliott.”

Eliot gave no indication the name meant anything.

“Don’t know ‘im.” He sipped his beer.

Raylan tried again.

“He worked for a horse trainer in Harlan, Kentucky, Willie Martin.”

“Spit out what yer fishin’ for, Raylan.” Eliot growled.

Raylan shivered. Eliot’s voice always distracted him. He’d get lost in the tones and vibrations and forget the world outside that voice. He shook off the effects and turned his attention back to the enforcer.

“I think yer Randall.” Raylan leaned against the wall waiting for a reaction.

He frowned when Eliot continued to calmly drink his beer. The dark head turned toward him.

“Was that great revelation supposed to shake me up so much it caused a spontaneous confession?” Eliot asked sarcastically. He swiveled his stool to face Raylan full on. “I’m sayin’ this once so listen like I’m yer mama.” Pale eyes locked on brown. “Randall Elliott is dead.” He ran his hands through his hair showing his frustration. “If yer lookin’ for some kinda absolution yer lookin’ in the wrong place. Ain’t no priests here.”

“I can go get Nate.” Parker popped up behind Raylan. “He was almost a priest.”

Eliot steadied Raylan as he startled badly at Parker’s voice.

“This ain’t Nate’s business.” Eliot glared at the blonde as she jumped up to sit cross-legged on the bar between the men. “Parker, go pester Hardison. He’s got some new stuff on the Steranko.”

Indigo eyes lit up then narrowed. “Are you trying to get rid of me?”

“Yes.” Eliot ground out. He looked at the thundercloud crossing the thief’s face. His tone softened. “Just ‘til I git rid of Marshall Givens.”

“Oh. Okay then.” She jumped down and headed for the back room.

“Rand … Eliot …” Raylan started. “Why did you come to me all those times?”

“To see if I could still feel …  Anything.” Eliot slid off the stool. “You can go home, Raylan. Don’t throw that away.”

Eliot growled at the people between him and the door causing them to scatter like pigeons. By the time Raylan collected his wits enough to follow he came face to face with Parker and a young black man he assumed was Hardison.

It was Raylan’s turn to growl. “Move.”

The couple exchanged grins.

“Isn’t he cute?” Parker’s grin became a baring of teeth.

“The cutest.” Hardison agreed.

Before Raylan could maneuver around them, they had pressed in close.

“I think you should heading to airport to catch your flight to Lexington, Marshall.” Hardison tucked a ticket and boarding pass in Raylan’s coat pocket. “If you leave now, you’ll have just enough time to make your flight.”

“My stuff?”

Parker dropped his duffel and briefcase at his feet.

He looked longingly toward the door then back at the two people who seemed to be protecting someone that didn’t need anyone’s protection.

~}}}~~~>

Raylan lowered himself tiredly to sit on the edge of the motel bed. He had several days before he had to report in at the Lexington office. He figured to be rested and have collected his scattered wits by that time.

Before they had shoved him in a cab, Raylan blurted out one last question to Parker and Hardison.

“Has he told you about the scars?”

They both frowned at him.

“Eliot has lots of scars, man.” Hardison quipped.

“The oldest ones … The first ones.”

They looked at him with a mixture of pity and indulgence.

“Naw, man, those are Randall’s …” Hardison started.

“And Randall’s dead.” Parker’s tone was final as she shoved him in the cab.

~ Fini ~

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