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(you spend your life just thinking of) how to get away

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It goes the way everyone expects it to go, and yet not:

Raylan pulls a millisecond before Boyd does, and they both take a shot. Behind them, Ava's shout echoes from the hills.

A man goes down, two holes in his chest, dead before he hits the ground.

As endings go, it's a little clichéd and tired. (It's not your average beginning, though.)

*

"We can't leave him here to die," Ava says, rubbing her sore, bruised wrists where Boyd had just cut her lose.

Raylan's conscious, but barely, Markham's bullets still lodged in his side. The bleeding needs to be stilled, the wound disinfected. Not in the next five minutes, maybe, but it can't wait until someone accidentally stumbles upon the cars left out at the side of the road, or Markham's dead body in the gravel where Raylan's and Boyd's twin bullets put him down.

"Well, we ain't gonna call it in, not unless we want the entire Marshal Service hot on our trail." Boyd looks conflicted, though. Leaving one more corpse behind shouldn't matter, but this one is different. There's too much history between him and Raylan to ignore, and Raylan got himself shot saving Ava's life, which counts for more than either of them care to admit.

Raylan's voice is faint, but it takes more than a bullet or five to shut that smart-ass mouth. "You could always discuss it at length while I bleed out. Wait till the matter solves itself."

Rubbing the bridge of his nose to dispel the headache he feels coming on, Boyd frowns down at him. "Raylan Givens, always being one hell of a nuisance." He turns to Ava. "Alright then, help me get him in the car, we're taking him along and you get to play Nurse Nightingale on the road."

Unsurprisingly, Raylan is vocal in making his displeasure known, but there's not a lot he can do about it in his state. His blood leaves dark stains on the leather backseat of Boyd's stolen SUV. They're going to have to torch the car when they leave it behind, Boyd thinks as he puts his foot down on the gas.

*

On the off-white bedsheets in the dingy motel they spend the night, the stains Raylan's blood leaves are bright crimson rather than dark brown. Plenty of them too, as Ava digs out the bullet and takes a needle to the wound. It hurts like blazes, and the cheap booze Boyd keeps handing him doesn't help much in dulling the pain. It burns down Raylan's throat, too sharp to be pleasant, leaving a bitter taste.

He passes out at some point, and when he comes to, it's dark outside and Boyd and Ava are arguing in hushed tones by the window.

Raylan can only make out parts of what they're saying, but he doesn't need to hear them to know they're talking about him: whether it's safe to knock him out, lock him in the room and take off, or if they should rather take him along as a sort of hostage-slash-life-insurance.

He must have made some kind of noise; both their heads turn towards him at once. The mattress dips as Ava sits down beside him, offering a glass of water. "How are you feeling?"

Her hand smoothes his hair from his fever-sweaty forehead with a gentleness Raylan finds entirely unsettling, and it takes him a moment to remember how he got shot and why her usual harshness towards him is uncharacteristically absent from her demeanor.

With his gun out of reach, sarcasm is his best weapon. "I'd feel better if I wasn't handcuffed to the bed."

Boyd steps closer. "Well, Raylan, I reckon I'd feel a lot worse with a bullet through my heart, so forgive me if I don't unlock those."

"Fair enough," Raylan concedes. Truth be told, most of his plan to put Boyd down was stacked on the certainty that Boyd was out to hurt Ava. He's not sure what to do with a Boyd who helped save her instead. He never figured Boyd the kind of person who'd be forgiving in the face of betrayal, or who'd be swayed by his feelings.

The knowledge that Raylan was so unexpectedly wrong in his assessment of Boyd's intentions prickles his skin worse than Ava's needle when she stitched him up.

*

The motels all look the same. Small, colorless rooms with stained, old-fashioned wallpaper peeling at the ceiling and under the windows, and bathrooms that haven't been cleaned in weeks, if not longer. Beds that sag in the middle and leave his back aching all day after yet another night of restless sleep.

"You gonna stop cuffing me anytime soon?" Raylan wants to know. He can hardly take three steps without being in pain, but he's going stir-crazy, confined to the backseat of the car when they're on the road and uncomfortable beds in tiny rooms. He wants to stretch his legs as much as he wants to feel the comforting weight of a gun in his hand.

Ava shrugs. "Depends."

She doesn't say what it depends on. Raylan doesn't ask, just like he doesn't ask when they'll let him go.

At this point, he knows the only way he can keep out of jail and – if he's really lucky – maybe keep his job is if he brings them in. If he walks back into the office empty-handed, he might as well not bother taking off the cuffs to begin with.

*

"You know, Raylan, we got ten million dollars."

Boyd looks at him speculatively, turning a simple statement of fact into a suggestion that would make Raylan bristle if it wasn't so entirely ridiculous.

He huffs. "Seriously? Do you really expect me to even consider this?"

He considers his chances of overpowering Boyd, taking his gun and making a run for it, but dismisses the idea right away. His wound is healing, but it's still a bitch, and he's neither as quick nor as strong as he needs to be. Besides, Ava's just gone to get take-away for dinner; she'll be back soon and she's already proven her willingness to shoot whoever stands between her and her freedom.

"Come on, Raylan, your lawmen buddies already think you took a cut. They put out a BOLO on you, for Christ's sake, and I bet that wasn't because they were afraid you'd go all John Wayne and shoot me on sight in righteous anger. You'd only be doing what they already expect you to have done." He almost makes it sound reasonable. Jesus Christ, the painkillers they practically force-fed him must be addling Raylan's mind if he starts thinking Boyd is making sense.

"They also think I'm fucking Ava."

He puts that out there mostly to piss Boyd off, but also because he knows it's true. It's why Vasquez and Rachel – hell, probably Art too – think he's messed up the whole investigation so spectacularly. Tim most likely knows better, or at least doesn't give a fuck either way.

Unexpectedly, Boyd shrugs the suggestion off as if it didn't ruffle him. "I'd venture that in your current condition, you're in no state to fuck anyone, son. And Ava's her own person. She can do whatever and whoever she likes."

"Sounded a lot different a few weeks ago, when you came home and found me in her house." He remembers Boyd seething with jealousy, ready to throw down with him right there. His easy brush-off now feels like a let-down, after all that built-up.

Boyd's lip curls, but the only humor in it is self-deprecating. "You see, back then, I may have thought I had a claim on her. Got a bullet two inches right from my heart that taught me better. I've made my peace with the knowledge that whatever Ava wants, she'll get, and I won't have much of a say in it. And for what it's worth, if I got to share her, I'd rather it was with you."

"Jesus fucking Christ, Boyd, I don't want Ava. Or the money. And I certainly don't want to spend my life as a fugitive, always looking over my shoulder." He grabs the bourbon that Ava bought two days and two motels ago, taking a hefty swig from it. It's the good stuff, smooth and smokey and comforting like a warm blanket on a winter day. By the rate they're going, they'll need a new bottle soon.

"I'm sorry, are we playing 'two lies and a truth'? Because if we do, I gotta say, you should at least try and make it less obvious."

Raylan flips him off, wincing when raising his left arm strains the wound in his side.

*

"I got us a plane."

Raylan looks up from the scrabble board, which shows him losing in a pitiful manner. Hard to beat Boyd in a game made of big, pompous words no regular person ever uses in real life. He's grateful for the disruption, and intrigued by Ava's announcement. "A plane where?"

She looks at Boyd, the two of them exchanging a silent communication Raylan isn't privy to but the meaning of which he can guess easily enough.

"Whether or not you get to hear the answer to that question depends on if you'll be on the plane with us or staying here, waiting for the FBI to arrest you."

Yeah, that's what he thought. He snorts. "So, basically, you're saying my options are stick around and let myself be arrested for aiding and abetting, or run and wait till they catch us and shoot us?"

Boyd's smile has too many teeth. "I always figured you more for the kind of guy who'd go out in a blaze of glory."

"Besides, who says they're going to catch us?" Ava adds.

It's what every criminal thinks, always. But she sounds confident, enough for Raylan to assume that their ultimate destination is somewhere the long arm of the US law doesn't reach. Ten million dollars can get you a long way.

He closes his eyes and leans back in the chair, the old wood frame creaking under the pressure. His stitches are itching.

"What's it gonna be, Raylan? You gotta make a choice sometime."

*

Raylan gets a burner phone at a gas station and calls Winona. It's a calculated risk. They could be tracing all calls she receives, triangulate the signal. But by the time they're closing in, he'll probably be already up in the air.

Funny how the law is suddenly they, rather than we.

"You're alive," Winona says. It's hard to tell if she's relieved or disappointed. "Art thinks you're lying dead in a ditch somewhere up in Harlan."

Raylan rubs his temples and winces. Art's disappointment is one of the reasons why he's half a mind to switch gears and bring the Marshals down on them after all. "Any chance you'll let him keep believing that?"

He expects an argument, or at least Winona telling him how crazy he is, but she only sounds resigned. "I guess if I can tell Willa later that her daddy died a hero, it's better than if she has to visit him in jail." She sighs. "Dammit Raylan, I hate you for making me do this alone."

Oddly enough, unlike Art's disapproval, Winona's anger is something he can live with, nothing but a brief stab of guilt easily brushed aside. "I know. But we both know that I'd never have made father of the year. The kid's probably better off without me in her life."

There's silence at the other end of the line. "What about me?"

"Winona, I —"

"No, forget it. It was stupid. We've made a mess of it the first two times, why would it have been different now? I guess what I keep wondering is, if I'd kept that money from the evidence locker back then and asked you to run with me, would you have?" She doesn't give him time to respond. "Don't answer that. I know you wouldn't have. And much as I'd like to think that it's because it wasn't anywhere close to ten million, I know that's not it."

"I was a different person back then."

Was he, though? Or was he just trying to be a different person, be everything Arlo never thought he could be, play-act someone who could walk the line? A line he crossed a hell of a long time before he put down his badge and went off to kill Boyd Crowder. He tries to tell himself that it was his involvement in Nicky Augustine's death that first pushed him over it, but if he's honest, he knows that he'd been itching closer to that line ever since he pulled on Tommy Bucks in Miami.

"Tell Willa I —" He stops before he finishes the thought, realizing he doesn't know what he wants his daughter to hear about him.

"Yeah." There's resignation in Winona's voice, and a sort of finality. "Take care of yourself."

She hangs up before he can reply.

*

The neon 'vacancies' sign of the motel flickers on and off, on and off, the reflection briefly lighting up the room before it goes dark again.

The last time Raylan checked the clock, it was 2:37. That was ten, maybe fifteen minutes ago. They're supposed to be at the private airfield at eight-thirty, which means he can still catch four hours of shut-eye if he manages to fall asleep. But curling in the uncomfortable cushion chair, he's as wide awake as Ava on the bed and Boyd down on the dirty floor.

Ava keeps tossing and turning, punching her pillow every half hour or so. Boyd, meanwhile, lies on his back with his hands folded over his chest, completely still like a body in an open coffin on funeral day. No one sleeps that peacefully, least of all Boyd Crowder.

It's Ava who gives up the pretense first. An engine howls outside, cutting through the silence, and she sits up and swings her legs off the bed.

"I'm too fucking nervous to sleep," she announces, walking through the darkness to the bathroom, soft footfalls on the worn carpet. There's the sound of water running from the en-suite, and Raylan imagines her standing over the sink, splashing cold water on her face and watching her bloodshot eyes in the mirror.

Boyd smoothly rolls to his feet. Raylan stretches, tries to sit a little more comfortably now that they've all stopped acting like they'll find any rest tonight.

"You alright?" Boyd asks as Ava steps back into the room. His voice is low, intimate, and when Ava nods and closes the distance between them, her forehead coming to rest against Boyd's, Raylan decides that it's time to go and take a walk. He gets up and grabs his hat, brushing past the two of them locked in a loose, comforting embrace.

The hand that closes around his wrist and stops him is Boyd's. Later, when he thinks about it, he can't say it surprises him. Right in that moment, though, it makes the adrenaline spike through his body. From the rush of emotions, the one that's easiest identifiable is anger.

"You wanna let me go, Boyd?" He puts enough cool threat in his voice to make it plain that he's itching to throw a punch and Boyd would do him a favor if he refused to budge.

Boyd's eyes gleam in the darkness. His grip tightens a fraction – not enough to hurt or bruise, but enough for Raylan to feel it.

"I don't think so," he says, stepping closer, and kisses Raylan. It's twenty-five years of lingering anger and resentment and frustration rolled into one clash of lips and teeth, bruising and bloody and violent like a gunshot, a kiss worthy of the men they've become and the history they share. Someone makes a noise like a bitten-off moan, and Raylan thinks it was Ava's and hopes it was Boyd's, half-fears that it was his own.

When Boyd breaks away, lips stained red and wet with blood and spit, Raylan curses under his breath. "Goddamn sonofabitch, why would you—" It's not a question that would lead them anywhere, so he doesn't bother. He fists Boyd's shirt and pulls him in instead, kissing the shit-eating grin away.

From behind Boyd, Ava's quiet laughter fills the room.

*

The sand is warm under their feet and the ocean is so blue it almost looks fake. Ava stands in the shallow water in a white bikini top and a red pareo wrapped around her hips. It could be a picture taken right out of a travel agent's brochure.

Raylan leans back and squints against the sun as he licks his ice cream. It's a race whether he can finish it before it all melts and drips all over his hand and chest. As of now, he's winning. He spots Boyd's shadow on the sand before he sees Boyd. There's that self-satisfied smirk again, and it still makes Raylan want to wipe it off with his fists, but not badly enough to let the ice cream go to waste.

"So, Raylan Givens. You can't tell me that this isn't better than changing diapers in a condo in Florida while your mother-in-law is bitching you out for not spending enough time with your family."

He makes a noncommittal noise, licking a trail of melted ice cream off his thumb. "It has its upsides. Then again, I didn't get to shoot you. That alone would have made all the diaper changes worthwhile."

It's an old argument, lacking any heat.

From what he knows about kids, Raylan gathers Willa should be old enough now that she probably doesn't need diapers anymore. He sometimes wonders if it's long enough that he can risk skyping them before he remembers that it would be a bad idea even if no one was after him. He thinks about what his life would have been like if Arlo hadn't been around – if he'd been dead or just... gone, taken off with someone else's money and left his family behind. Would Harlan still have sunk its teeth in Raylan and refused to let go? It's idle speculation, and it doesn't get him anywhere, but it's enough to ensure that he never makes that call.

"You're going to get bored soon," he tells Boyd, who's sat down in the sand beside him, watching Ava from behind a pair of aviator shades.

Boyd's grin is back full-force. "I can always rob a bank. Or maybe open an ice cream parlor. Good thing we don't need to make any profit, considering the rate with which you'd go through our stash."

"I don't think they call it 'stash' when it's ice cream, Boyd," Raylan drawls. "That's drugs."

"Right, I apologize. My bad. You know how it is with old habits and all that."

Raylan tips his head back, hides his face under his hat, and laughs.

End