Author's Note: This story is a 'missing scene' from the episode Fire in the Hole.

What If

Raylan finishes up with the officers, escorting the final straggler to the door with a few words of thanks and a friendly tip of his hat. He finds Ava in the dining room, just standing there in that slip of a dress, like maybe she doesn't know what she should do next.

"Hey."

"I'm going to need more Pine-Sol," she tells him, indicating the blood still staining the carpet.

"How are you doing?" Raylan asks kindly, dark gaze attentive as he pulls out a chair for her.

"I'm fine," Ava says, taking the proffered seat with a questioning glance. She looks a little weary about the eyes, but other than that, Raylan believes her.

"Look, I know it's been a long day, and I don't want to take up any more of your time, but I would like for us to have a little conversation," he confides. "Would that be okay with you?"

She smoothes some hair from her face with practiced fingers. "I think I can manage."

"Thank you." Raylan pulls out a chair and takes a seat, brow furrowing. He wants to be careful here; say this just right.

Ava tilts her head, offers a confused smile. "Well?"

"I'm thinking," Raylan assures her.

"If something's on your mind - "

"You ever play that game, 'what if?'"

He's caught her by surprise. "Yes."

"Well," Raylan says, as if just now considering the notion, "what if a U.S. Marshal was apprehending a fugitive in a woman's dining room? What if this fugitive was armed?"

Ava frowns. "He was armed, Raylan - "

"Purely hypothetical," he reminds her. "Now, what if the woman - whatever her motive might be," he's quick to qualify, " - pulls a weapon of her own on that fugitive, causing the fugitive to draw himself, and forcing the U.S. Marshal to shoot him?"

"I don't think - "

Raylan holds up a hand, hushing her protests. "What if this woman was already working a plea deal for shooting the fugitive's brother in the very same dining room, and what if this time the D.A. decided to bring her up on charges of attempted murder, or at the very least, perversion of justice?"

"Perversion?" Ava huffs a nervous laugh. "Raylan - "

"What if, Ava?"

"Well, I suppose that would be a shame," she concedes.

"Wouldn't it, though?" Raylan agrees. "Fortunately, that's not what happened here tonight."

She eyes him skeptically. "No?"

"No. Boyd drew first; I shot him," Raylan tells her. "You were in the kitchen watching television."

"You don't think Boyd will tell a different story?"

"I'd guess any other story might seem embarrassing to him."

Ava considers that for a moment, teeth biting gently at her lower lip. "Well, I suppose that is fortunate."

"Yes. Well. You might also say it's fortunate that I was able to put him down before he fired."

She stiffens at the subtle reprimand, eyes shifting to where her hands rest on the table. "You're a faster draw."

"You didn't know that," Raylan says, mindful of how stubborn she can be. "Ava? Look at me. I'm serious," he tells her, as her gaze meets his. "It was a bad idea."

"He was in my house, pointing a gun at my guest," she tells him, as if Raylan might have missed it. "Shooting him would have been justified."

Raylan shakes his head. "Justified don't bring you back from the dead."

Something in her face changes then, softens, her mouth curving the slightest bit, and damn if these women don't turn on a dime. "You worried about me, Raylan?"

He raises a finger. "I have an obligation - "

"You usually get this angry over an obligation?" Ava asks, raising pale brows.

"Now, I never said – I'm not angry," Raylan contends, a flush creeping into his neck.

"Frustrated?"

"No." He tries adjusting his hat with an agitated hand, but it won't sit right, and he sweeps it to his knee. "Well, yes, Ava; maybe I am," Raylan confesses. "All these years, and nothing's changed. I try to keep you from trouble, and you just keep finding it."

"Must be aggravating," she sympathizes.

"Enough to make me miss your daddy," he says, with a more than a tinge of long-suffering. "At least you listened to him."

A spark of mischief lights her eyes. "You want to spank me, Raylan?"

Raylan smiles in spite of himself; looks down at his hat, rubbing his thumb over the brim. "Now, there's an interesting idea… You going to shoot me if I do?"

"Shoot you? Why, no. I got other plans for you," she tells him.

"I'll bet you do," he says, still smiling. "Be that as it may, I need to get back to Lexington, put things in order. You going to be okay here?"

"I do just fine on my own." And he's sorry for her, the way she says it; almost like she believes it. Raylan knows better.

"I'll be back," he promises, pushing back his chair and standing, hat resting against his thigh. "And make no bones about it; you do something so careless under my protection, you and I will have words."

"Well, I guess it's a good thing I haven't agreed to your protection," she says tartly.

"Yet," Raylan amends, and this time it's him that leans down, brushing a kiss against her cheek before making his way to the door. Once outside, he settles his hat back on his head, and this time it sits comfortably. It's the right thing to do, make himself scarce. Before something starts that'll be impossible to finish. Still, he can't help but wonder.

What if he gave into his attraction and stayed? What if he let Ava lead him upstairs and let her show him all the amazing things she could do? What if Raylan showed her a few amazing things himself? He shakes his head as he climbs into his car, switches on the ignition as he glances back at the well-lit house. It's going to be a long night.

He plays 'what if' the whole damn drive back to Lexington.

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