Rating: PG13 (for some violent imagery)
Warnings: Spoilers through the end of S2.
Word Count: ~1150
Prompt: 126) As long as I live, I will have control over my being. -- Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1651/1653), 17th-century Italian Baroque painter.
Summary: Ava was thirteen the first time she held a gun.
Author's Notes: I had a tremendous amount of trouble settling on a particular character and fandom for this. I wanted to write them ALL. But I'm very happy to have ended up with Ava. Thanks so much to norgbelulah for the beta!
When Ava Crowder shot her husband Bowman at the dinner table in the middle of his favorite meal, it wasn't the first time she'd held a gun with the intent to shoot. It was just that she'd never been comfortable pointing a gun at a living thing before. But somehow, with Bowman sitting there so smug, a shiny smudge of grease from his fried chicken across his chin, thinking he'd beaten her into good behavior, put her right back into her place, she felt perfectly at ease. She'd wanted to break him the way he thought he'd broken her. She'd wanted him to hurt. And he did.
After that, it wasn't so hard.
Pointing Helen Givens' sawed-off shotgun at Bo Crowder, for instance, had only been scary because it was Bo, and she didn't really know how he was going to take her little announcement that night. As it turned out, her instincts on that one had been right. But the bad aftermath of Bo's anger notwithstanding, holding the bastard at gunpoint had been one of the most liberating experiences of her life. She'd started to wonder that night if perhaps one day she'd look back and measure the depth of her personal liberty by the number of Crowders she'd shot in her lifetime.
Things with Boyd turned out to be more complex than that, though she'd be lying if she said she never once considered simplifying their relationship the way she'd simplified her marriage to his brother. Early on, anyway. Things changed, they always do, and eventually Ava found herself more willing to shoot for Boyd than at him.
Ava was thirteen the first time she held a gun. It was a hunting rifle that had belonged to her uncle, or maybe his best friend, she couldn't quite remember, but it had been handed to her at some family gathering near the end of summer. She'd been told to shoot a rabbit. It turned out the rabbit had no intention of coming out in the clear, and when she finally did try to take the shot, with her cousin Toby making cat calls in the background, the blast knocked her flat on her ass. That was the first time she realized that she'd been the only female in the midst of a group of liquored up and/or stoned men. The laughter was near deafening.
She kept a firm grip on the rifle as she stomped back up to the house, nursing her wounded pride and a wicked brush burn on the back of her right thigh. She stayed away from guns for a good long time after that, but not away from the men. Ava often thought that she'd gotten that the wrong way round.
Sometimes she looked at a woman like Helen Givens and wondered if she was looking into her own future, wondered if she'd ever be that brave, or that resigned. Wondered if an Ava Crowder came to her someday, looking for a sawed-off shotgun she could possibly use to murder her dead husband's father, if she'd be able to take the girl under her wing, give her so much wisdom in so few words. In so little time.
Helen's death was like a splash of ice water and the worst part about it was that Ava felt as though she wasn't allowed to own her grief. This was all about Raylan, as it seemed everything in Harlan was, and when she walked out onto that front porch with Boyd, gun in hand, she wanted to point it at him, wanted to order him out of her yard, out of her grieving, out of her life. She'd thought about all the other men she'd ever held at gunpoint and for a split second she imagined pulling the trigger, remembered what it felt like when that hunting rifle kicked back against her shoulder and Bowman's chair flipped up on its back, Bowman still in it, gasping for air like a fish.
Instead she listened to Boyd threaten Raylan and kept her mouth shut and thought about what Helen would be thinking about right now.
The next morning, Ava lined up a row of tin cans on the ridgepole of an old doghouse out back. She imagined Helen, getting off one good shot at Jed Berwind, and she raised Helen's old shotgun with steady hands. She didn't miss a single one.
She'd put herself right at the eye of this new storm that was brewing over Harlan, ready to tear everything apart. She'd known what she was getting into all along. If she was meant to fall victim to this battle marching straight on towards her house--and she'd made her peace with God over Bowman's death, just in case--then she was going to go down like Helen. She kind of liked the idea of her own blaze of glory. She wasn't somebody else's woman now, not the girl who'd crushed on Raylan Givens and never quite let go, or the one who'd married Bowman Crowder straight out of high school to bear the brunt of his frustrations.
Helen's gun handled like her own now.
Ava wasn't ruthless. She was no Mags Bennett, who could keep the whole holler in line with nothing more than a sweetly worded threat and the promise that one of her sons would be by to check up on things. God willing, Ava would never turn out like that. And she may have wanted to be more like Helen, but she didn't want to be her, killed because of Arlo's mess and not her own. It was true, Ava was standing in the middle of one hell of a mess, but she was going to make it her own as much as it was Boyd's. She could do that. She could own this.
And so the irony wasn't lost on her, when she stood there in her own kitchen, and took a bullet that tore through muscle and sinew, that painted the air with the coppery scent of her blood. When she fell her fingers were twitching for the trigger of Helen's shotgun. She watched Dickie Bennett flee from her house, wondered if he had any idea what he'd just done. It hurt, oh God, it hurt like hell as the breath was squeezed from her lungs, and she closed her eyes, as she supposed people did when they were walking that line so close to death. At least it was what they always did in the movies. She wondered if maybe all that time making peace with the gun would have been better spent making peace with the bullets instead.