Remixed Story:Universal Reboot
Title: Tiger, Tiger
Characters Tim Gutterson, Dickie Bennett
Word count: 2600
Spoilers: Takes place somewhere in season two. Spoilers for Tim background stuff and some Dickie Bennett stuff (nothing past season two, though).
Disclaimer: Justified belongs to Elmore Leonard and Graham Yost.
A/N: So, perdiccas I loved your lines! I picked my favorite—but I didn’t read the whole story, because I haven’t finished FlashFoward yet. I hope you like it anyway! K, you’re the bomb, and you read stuff that you know nothing about to make my life easier. And, of course, a million awesome hat tips to norgbelulah who makes sure there is always something new and Justified-y to read by organizing these things.
Summary: The prisoner transport wasn’t exactly by-the-books to begin with, but Tim thinks it goes off the rails a little faster than necessary.
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
It's the cold more than the heat that makes Tim think of deserts and the nights of his childhood. It’s one of those things he just knows. The sort of fact he collects about himself and files away, for the future, when he has a therapist, or less access to deadly weapons, or maybe just time to care about it. It’s cold out, right now, here in this half cleared strip of grass on the side of the road. There’s a Kentucky forest stretched out just beyond the last clear patch, and before the sun had set, the leaves had looked sunburned, and made Tim think of heat. But it’s cold now, and the leaves quiver on their branches, and the trees just remind him he’s in the middle of fucking nowhere. It had been the silence, maybe, that made him say it out loud to Dickie Bennett--the thing about the cold and the heat, and the deserts, and being a kid. Or maybe it had been the need to remind Dickie where Tim is coming from. A need to remind him that Tim sure as shit ain’t Raylan Givens, that he comes from something a little rougher around the edges, although Tim privately thinks Raylan’s a hell of a lot scarier than even the freaky fuckin’ sniper from Afghanistan could be.
He shouldn’t be telling Dickie Bennett anything. He shouldn’t have him out of the car. They should be waiting on the side of the road, in the vehicle, and Dickie’s hands should be cuffed. Tim knows the rules, and he knows he’s being stupid. He just—he can’t seem to care. He doesn’t want to be out here, with Dickie Bennett, didn’t want to do this transport, but had offered to, when he’d seen the look on Raylan’s face that said anyone but me, and now Tim and Raylan are both paying for that something like kindness. Tim, because he’s stuck out in the middle of goddamn nowhere with Dickie Bennett. Raylan because he’s bringing a fresh tire. Prisoner transport without a fuckin’ fresh tire. Not exactly by the books, but then again, nothing about Dickie Bennett’s arrest and subsequent transport is by the books.
Tim’s got grass in his palms and between his fingers. He has dirt under his nails. At the edges of his fingertips, he can feel the reassuring hum of his gun. If he needs to, he could shoot Dickie Bennett dead. Wouldn’t take him more than two seconds. That's not his job tonight, but the point is that he could. He could. So he says the words out loud. He says the thing about deserts and childhoods, because there are stars, and there’s his gun, and there is Dickie Bennett, a captive audience.
"Now the thing is," Dickie Bennett answers in that languid, blue grass running through his veins, slow as molasses in a snowstorm way he has of talking, "The thing is."
Tim likes the way Dickie Bennett speaks, all performance, way deep down to his bone marrow, like he knows exactly what people should be thinking of him.
"The thing is," Dickie continues, and he's apparently satisfied with the delivery of the line, because now the thought continues: "I'm just not sure I understand the connection," out of the corner of his eye, Tim sees Dickie lift both hands, two closed fists with three feet between them, "Between the desert," Dickie spreads the fingers of his left hand out, and the moon makes his fingertips glow, "and your see-h-eye childhood." Dickie spells the beginning of the word, and his right hand stops just before his left hand, all ten fingers straining to touch each other with moonlight thrumming between them.
Tim turns his head to the side and looks at Dickie Bennett. They're lying in the grass, and Dickie's still wearing a baseball cap. It makes his silhouette seem oddly shaped, and casts all of his face into shadow. Tim can barely make out Dickie's lips as he speaks, his hands still suspended above his chest. It takes a second, but Tim realizes Dickie's waiting for an answer.
"That'd spoil the mystery.” It’s a stupid thing to say, and Tim’s aware of the stupidity, mostly because he knows that Dickie knows it was a stupid thing to say. There’s the rare occasion where he tells someone like Dickie Bennett anything about his life, and then there’s this: sprawled out words that don’t sound right outside of Tim’s skull. He’s not normally so . . . casual with his language. He’s the pithy one. The quick one.
Dickie's hands curl back into fists. He makes the sound of an explosion with his teeth and tongue and flings his hands back open. Moonlight flashes between his fingertips, and Tim, his head still turned, can see the grin—feral and bone white—In the light on Dickie's teeth. "Fuck the mystery, man," Dickie says, and he’s laughing at Tim, just without the actual action of a laugh.
There’s a wildness to Dickie Bennett that stretches beyond the basic boundaries of Harlan County and the edges of the Bennett clan. His skin hums like Tim’s gun, and even in the dark of the Kentucky field they’re trying to stay awake in, trying not to kill each other in, even there, Tim can feel the motion of him, the brightness. It’s not a good kind of brightness. It’s dark, and mean, but it’s nearly blinding in the metaphoric way that Tim never really got a hang of in high school. Back then, though, metaphor didn’t matter much. He supposes it still doesn’t, except in the abstract, which is maybe where a metaphor is supposed to matter. The cold air makes him feel small, like a child or a sniper, but Dickie Bennett—who he’s always believed to be somehow lesser—seems a giant in these weeds.
“The cold reminds me of Ellen Mae,” Dickie says, finally letting his hands land thump thump on the ground. It reminds Tim of deserts, but they’ve already been over that, and Dickie has no deserts to dream about at night, never would have, it all ended for him on a diamond. And maybe it’s the way that Dickie’s always been trapped that makes him seem so big out here in his cage.
He let’s the words sit there, doesn’t elaborate anymore than Tim did.
“We’re leaving in an hour,” Tim says, “You should get some sleep.”
“Is that when my friend Raylan gets here with a fresh tire?”
Tim doesn’t dignify that with an answer. He just splays his fingers out and looks up at the stars.
Next to him, Dickie shifts. Tim reaches for his gun.
It isn’t there. He’d thought—but no. There’s no gun at his fingertips; the magnetism he’d been feeling, the hum of his gun just in reach, must have just been the grass, or the light of the moon, or a sign that it really has been too long.
Dickie Bennett moves with the grace of someone who has never known grace.
Dickie lifts his hand, and Tim sees the gun. His gun. Dickie Bennett has his gun. There’s something in his sneer that stills Tim down to his instincts and leaves him half on his heels, balanced precariously on the palms of his hands, with his back raised up off the grass, his hips stuck out. His shirt’s ridden up, and the inch of skin, of bare, accessible flesh, looks white and obvious. That inch could be the pound of flesh that Dickie Bennett’s spent most of his life looking for.
They’re staring at each other, and Tim tries to keep the strange, primal flash of flight off his face. He’d fight—but. But. Dickie takes a swinging step forward; everything about him is motion, right up to the tips of his hair.
Dickie moves in jagged dances: lacking all symmetry. Dickie moves in jagged dances: nothing but symmetry.
“Now, now, marshal,” Dickie grins, “that position don’t look so comfortable. Why don’t you drop your ass back down in the grass?” He shakes his head and looks at Tim, who remains in his still, half crouch. Dickie’s smirking, and for a second, Tim thinks Dickie’ll kick him in the ribs or the stomach. He braces for it. He knows exactly how that would go. There’d be a kick in the ribs, intended to knock Tim to the ground, but that would be the moment ranger training kicked in. Tim would step a million miles outside himself and break the ankle that connected to the boot in his ribcage with nothing but his hands. That’s exactly how it would go, if Dickie were any other man.
Dickie Bennett won’t kick him, and Tim won’t have an ankle to grab and break. It is, of course, because Dickie Bennett is smarter than Tim thought to give him credit for. That was Tim’s mistake, and he stares at Dickie’s twisted foot and thinks that if he were Dickie Bennett, he’d be just as stupid sometimes, but just as smart in others. He’d use that ankle when he could, because it’d taken a hell of a lot from Dickie without even having to think. Dickie doesn’t move a muscle except the one he needs to smirk, and in that inactivity, he steals away the advantage Tim had been banking on.
“Why don’t you just sit that ass back down,” Dickie says. “G’on, now.”
Tim hesitates. Dickie waves the gun in a circle, and Tim sits back down in the grass. He holds up his hands. “All right,” he says.
“Now we have ourselves a problem, marshal. See, I got shit to do, I don’t have time to finish our nice little trip to your friends in the jail for--” he pauses, tips his head to the side again, “What were the charges?”
“Stealin’ ice cream from the gas station,” Tim answers, his voice straight and as empty of sarcasm as he can manage.
“Stealin’ ice cream from the gas station!” Dickie half shouts it, and his grin splinters into a laugh. “Man,” he says, “Shit, man, you fuckin’ marshals. Ice cream.” Dickie bends forward a little, holding his stomach theatrically as he laughs. When he straightens back up, the fingers of his gun-free hand dance in the air next to his head, something like a wave. “Didn’t know ice cream was in the marshal purview.”
Tim answers even though it wasn’t a question: “S’not. Just the prisoner transport.”
“Good work with that,” Dickie says through half a laugh. He’s waving Tim’s gun around again, radiating glee. “Heard you tell one of your war stories, once,” he says, the words jerky, off-topic, and strangely reminiscent of the way that everything about Dickie moves, apparently even conversations.
Tim slides closer to Dickie, creeping carefully through the grass. “Which one?”
Dickie takes a step back, maintaining the distance. “The one about the chopped off head and the third degree burns.”
Tim winces, not from the memory of the story itself, but from the memory of telling the story. “I was at Raylan’s,” he says slowly, “We were drunk, how’d you—”
“Reconissance, man,” Dickie grins.
Tim goes still and silent. He knows that night, and the thought of Dickie out there, while he and Raylan were drunk and useless, makes his skin crawl, makes him feel vulnerable. Tim doesn’t like feeling vulnerable. Tim, who has a finger on the trigger in the shower, in bed after sex, when he’s making boxed mac and cheese at eleven in the morning, he doesn’t like the idea of being so unaware. Something sandy uncurls in Tim’s chest, an old inability to assimilate that keeps itself alive in his stillness, in the deliberate twitches of his fingers.
The stars must think the pair of them different species. Dickie alight with motion, perfectly symmetrical in his asymmetry, and Tim dark with stillness, shattered porcelain glued back the wrong way, all jagged edges where skin should be smooth.
The gun hangs between them, and Tim wants to say you gonna shoot me? even though he knows that’s stupid, and not the kind of thing he should be asking the guy with the gun in his face, who is too far away to knock off his feet. Tim knows his own strengths well. He’s beginning to realize he may have underestimated Dickie Bennett’s.
“Did you flatten the tire?” he asks suddenly, looking up at Dickie. It’s not the question he wants to ask. It’s not even the right question, but it’s the only one he offers to the barrel of Dickie’s gun.
“And dumped the spare,” Dickie adds. “I ain’t one for makin’ confessions,” he says suddenly, “and you ain’t either. This was jus’ a transport, and you fucked it up.” His voice is strange and stagnant, his body suddenly—and completely—still. Tim rises to a crouch, thrown off by the change. The sandy thing in his stomach uncurls more, rising like smoke to sit in his throat. “Aw don’t you worry, marshal. I ain’t gonna shoot you.”
“You sure about that?” Tim asks, “We don’t even like each other.”
Dickie’s laugh is like pinpricks, and his body ripples with it, the way his shoulders move up, and his free hand shoves the hat down over his face. “Damn straight, marshal,” he says, still grinning. He starts moving away, but his eyes are still fixed on Tim, who can’t seem to move. Dickie tips his hat, “We’ll be seein’ each other,” and it sounds like a promise. “I hear men like you don’t make the same mistake twice. I’ll take that bet.”
He disappears then, seems to melt into the evening, just gone. And Tim thinks that he’s been stupid tonight, that he’s made a mistake tonight, and he rises slowly from his crouch.
There’s nothing to do now but wait to be rescued.
It takes Raylan three more hours. Tim thinks he must have taken his sweet ass time.
Back in Lexington, he tells Winona about his night. She’s at the courthouse late enough, or long enough, in the evening to listen. He’s going to be there all night doing paperwork for losing Dickie Bennett, for losing his gun, for just losing. Winona will be there all night waiting for her cowboy marshal, who’s gone back out, who won’t be back in any time tonight. Tim will drive her home to Gary, because it’s cold in Kentucky, and she’s always been a little bit rough around her edges, too.
“So you just let him lie out in the grass with you,” Winona says, sounding dubious as he helps her into her coat. She lets her hair fall back down when he steps back, and he watches the way the curls wing out, soft and rippling over her shoulders. She adjusts her lapels and turns around, smiling. A better man might try to find something more than friendship in that smile, but Tim sometimes still breathes in sand, so when she hooks her hand through the crook of his arm he sees only what she means, a sort of friendship.
“That was stupid,” he says, letting her step out in front of him. He jabs the button for the elevator. “A mistake.” But it wasn’t, really. There’s still a part of Tim that is ancient and sandy and not at all assimilated.
And it is deliberate; it still likes hunting tigers.
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?