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Tennessee Whiskey

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Cady stared up at the gentle light filtering in through the window of her bedroom, warming the room with a soft glow, her body still heavy with sleep. It had been two weeks since the shooting at her clinic, and it was a struggle to rise from her bed every day and continue to face her father, Henry, the people relying on her at the reservation...but mostly herself.

The thought of her father made the headache that had been her near constant companion come sneaking back, aching duly behind her eyes. She rubbed the palm of her hand into her eyes, trying to scrub away the ache that lingered there and sighed heavily, trying to summon the energy to rise from her bed.

Closing her eyes for a long moment she breathed in the soft scent of lavender that clung to her sheets, letting it soothe her. With a sigh she tossed the covers back and swung her feet out, her painted toes curling against the cool hardwood as she stood and stretched, her back popping and her eyes sliding shut in delight.

As she walked to the kitchen her piles of files on her coffee table momentarily distracted her, calling to her to be read again, studied and analyzed. She breathed out harshly through her nose, shaking her head, they could wait for now.

Soft spots of light filtered through the front windows, warming the hardwood floor as she walked into the kitchen. Turning on the Keurig as she moved she picked out a K-cup and a bowl to fill with oatmeal.

She added dried cranberries and cherries, sliced almonds and cinnamon to her oatmeal and then filled the bowl with almond milk before popping it into the microwave to heat, humming tunelessly as she reached over and lifted her mug from the Keurig, inhaling the delicious scent of hazelnut coffee.

Taking a small sip she sighed in satisfaction and leaned against the counter, looking through her kitchen to the bay windows of her dining room where the morning light was spilling through and turning the room a warm golden color.

She smiled faintly, enjoying the sight; she loved her home and had worked hard to be able to own it. Everything about it had been chosen carefully, from the paint on the walls to the pictures that hung throughout the house, and the furniture that had been carefully selected from thrift shops and antique stores.

The ding of the microwave startled her from her thoughts, tearing her gaze from the front windows. She turned and set her mug down, quickly removing her breakfast from the microwave and stirring it before snatching her mug from the counter and walking to the table, tucking her feet under her as she sat.

She ate slowly, having little motivation within her to start her day and deal with the stress of seeing so many people. She scraped the bowl clean and licked the spoon, twirling it in her fingers idly, staring at the chipped nail polish on her fingers.

Maybe she should change it?

Her toes were chipped too, if she was going to do her fingernails she should do her toes as well...With a sigh she shook her head and stood, she was stalling and she knew it. No amount of fresh nail polish was going to make going to work any easier.

She just needed to get herself together and walk out the door, like she had been doing every day. The only problem with that was, every day it took more from her to put on a mask of civility and smiles, to interact with the people around her in a way that convinced them that she was "alright" and not terrified out of her mind that something like the shooting was going to happen again.

The worst part was she couldn't even rely on her father to make her feel better anymore. She felt hopeless, alone...bereft.

She set her empty mug and bowl in the sink and filled them with water before turning and walking to her room, sighing resolutely. She was going to shower and dress, and then she was going to get her ass out the door.

Shedding her tank top and shorts, she stepped under the hot waterfall in the shower, tilting her head back to soak her hair, running her fingers over her scalp and sighed in pleasure at the sensation.

She showered quickly, the lush scent of rose body wash refreshing and energizing her. When she shut off the water and wrapped a towel around herself she felt calmer, more centered, and prepared for the day.

It was going to be a warm fall day, so she pulled on a light brown suede skirt, a teal scooped neck cotton shirt that came to her elbows, a denim jacket and her favorite knee high boots. She pinned her damp hair up before sliding a pair of simple gold drops in her ears and a gold chain around her neck with a gold C dangling from it.

Striding out to her living room she gathered up the files she had been studying the previous evening and shoved them into her bag, grabbing up her keys and juggling them in her hand as she walked to the front door.

Her stomach tightened as she approached the white door, sunlight streaming through the glass. Her hand shook as she reached for the doorknob, the metal cool under her sweaty palm.

She couldn't turn the handle.

Her eyes slid shut in frustration.

"Shit!" she whispered, her fingers tightening on the knob, her other hand clenching into a fist, her nails biting into her skin painfully, leaving half moons in the soft skin of her palms.

Four days out of seven she ended up exactly like this, stuck. Panic overwhelmed her and her stomach churned, a cold sweat breaking out on her skin, her head pounding until it felt like it was going to explode or she would go insane.

Some clinical part of her brain knew it was PTSD or something like it, but refused to acknowledge that thought, to give it credence, because if she did, then that would mean that she had been broken by what had happened, and she didn't have that luxury, not when the people on the reservation still needed her.

Exhaling sharply, she shook her head and cursed herself silently, tears burning behind her lids.

She hated this. She hated J.P. Wright for what he had made her do.

Her stomach churned as the image of his bloody body flashed behind her eyes and she thought she might vomit.

Taking deep, slow breaths she tried to calm down, feeling her heart racing. Long minutes passed until she felt her pulse ratchet down, the sweat that had broken out on her brow cooling as she breathed deeply.

She  could  do this.

Nodding in affirmation of the thought, she straightened her shoulders and inhaled slowly, gathering her courage.

Her slack fingers tightened and twisted the knob, flinging the door open and flooding the entryway with warm sunlight. Her eyes flipped open and she stepped outside, pulling the door closed behind her, turning to lock it, testing the lock a moment later. 

This too had become a part of her routine; checking, double checking and triple checking that her home was safe. Every space of her life felt like it had been invaded, her sense of security robbed by the shooting.

When she was satisfied her home was secure she stepped off the porch and went to her car, sliding behind the wheel and bringing the engine to life. With a quick longing glance back at her home, she pulled away from the house and drove steadily to the reservation.

The drive wasn't a long one, but it gave her enough time to breathe slowly, listen to whatever music was playing on the radio (country) and try to relax that by the time she pulled up in front of her shabby little office on the reservation, she had calmed down measurably.

It was still early enough that her assistant Mandy hadn't shown up for work yet, and wouldn't be here for another hour and a half. Cady hadn't meant to get here so early, but now that she was, she found herself carefully avoiding the kitchenette and sequestering herself in her office with her files.

Settling into her chair, she took a long sip from her tall thermos of coffee and began reviewing her cases for the day, making notes. She had five meetings today, her first real day back at the office. The past two weeks she had worked from home while the office had been a crime scene and had been cleaned, and frankly, she was grateful.

The last thing she wanted to see when she came in was bloodstains on the walls and floors, even if it made the people on the reservation trust her more, for whatever ghoulish reason. She wasn't about to wear a man's blood on her legal aid clinic like some twisted badge of honor when all she had done was survive.

A knock at the door startled her; her hand jerking as she wrote, making the wording illegible. Sighing, she reached for the white out and set it on her notepad before standing and peering out the window, trying to see who it was before she answered.

Jacob?

She wondered what the casino owner and her benefactor was doing here so early. Walking quickly to the door she unlocked it and waved him in with a weak smile, "Come in Jacob," she invited.

He smiled back at her, though his was warmer than hers, and she could feel his eyes running over her, assessing her. His brows furrowed and his jaw tightened as though he didn't like what he saw.

"I'm surprised to see you back so soon Cady," he murmured slowly, a brow lifting with his words

"I'm surprised to see you back so soon Cady," he murmured slowly, a brow lifting with his words.

She shrugged, "Would you prefer if I leave?" she offered dryly.

Jacob frowned deeply at her, rocking forward on his toes, shaking his head, "That's not what I meant at all, Cady. I just..." he shook his head again and looked at her with concern, "I'm just worried about you. You experienced something very frightening and life altering. It would be understandable if you did not want to be here."

Cady felt anger rise up in her like a snake; ready to lunge. "What else should I do, Jacob? Hide out at my house? People here need me. They know they can count on me now, and I can't walk away from that responsibility."

Jacob's brows lifted in surprise, "Very well," he murmured softly. "If you need anything, please don't hesitate to let me know," he encouraged her.

Cady glanced away as tears burned her eyes. Her fingers curled into fists, her nails biting into her palms and she winced as they cut into the marks she had left earlier. Nodding, she crossed her arms over her chest, "Thank you Jacob," she whispered, unable to speak louder for fear of breaking down.

He sighed and nodded softly, regarding her for a moment before laying a hand on her arm, squeezing it gently before turning to go. He paused in the doorway, his head cocked to the side so that she could see his face in profile, lit by the sun streaming in through the frame.

"Your mother would be proud of you, you know," he murmured softly before turning and pulling the door shut behind him.

At the sound of the door closing Cady collapsed with a raw gasp, ragged sobs tearing from her chest, her lungs aching with each breath. Her arms wrapped around her body, trying desperately to hold herself together.

Tears and snot ran down her face as she struggled to control her breathing, her chest shuddering. She stumbled to her feet and walked unsteadily to the kitchen, turning on the ancient tap and splashed cold water on her face, gasping at the contact.

Running a damp hand over her neck she fought the urge to throw up and breathed steadily until her nerves were better in control and shut off the water, reaching for the towel to dry her face. Thank god I don't bother with makeup, she thought wryly.

Her hands shook slightly as she set the towel down and she looked out the small window, watching as leaves and other detritus blew across the dirt of the backyard. She felt barren inside, like she had been hollowed out and been replaced with puppet strings, controlled by some unseen hand.

She hated it.

Taking a deep steadying breath she turned and walked back to her office, sitting back down and opened the white out. Carefully she blotted out her mistake and then breathed gently to dry the spot, capping the bottle as she waited for it to seal.

She picked up her pen and continued making notes, writing slower, taking her time to ensure there weren't mistakes this time. Slowly she got lost in the work, time slipping away from her.

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"So the oil company told you they would seize your property, regardless of the law or your wishes?" Cady asked, taking notes intently.

Logan Red Hawk nodded, frustration plain on his face, "I thought the treaty with you white people and your government stopped them from doing this?" he demanded.

Cady frowned, "It does. I'm going to write a cease and desist letter to the company and then try to get a federal court order to stop them if that doesn't work. I'll have both in motion so we can keep them on their toes."

She looked up from her notes and smiled faintly, "I'll do everything I can to stop them Mr. Red Hawk," she promised.

He nodded, but still looked skeptical. He watched as she wrote a few more lines on her notepad and then set her pen aside, smiling faintly at him as she stood. "I'll walk you out," she offered.

Logan nodded and stood, "Thank you Cady," he murmured as he walked out the door, nodding to the people waiting outside.

"Of course," she replied, watching him go for a moment before turning to the next person, Rose Blackwolf. It was a nasty child custody case between a white man and Rose, the legal implications daunting. Cady sighed and smiled, waving her into her office.

Two meetings down and three to go.

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"My aunt sent us some enchiladas for lunch, you hungry?" Mandy asked, her head popping around the door frame, her long black hair hanging around one thin shoulder.

Cady looked up from her files and frowned, "It can't be lunchtime already," she murmured, reaching for her phone to look at the time. To her stunned surprise, it was half past one, and a moment later her stomach rumbled.

Mandy grinned, "I'd say that's a yes. I'll heat you a plate," she said with a soft laugh as she ducked back around the corner, heading to the kitchen.

Cady stood abruptly, "Wait, what about our clients?" she called, stepping out her office door. She glanced around and was surprised to see the reception area empty. Where had everyone gone?

Mandy's head popped out of the kitchen, "I told you, your next meeting isn't until 3. I made sure you have time to eat and work on the paperwork. Plus I can help and learn what you're doing," she said softly, looking faintly nervous.

Cady stared at her in surprise and then smiled softly, a rush of pleasure filling her. Mandy wanted to learn from her?

How...cool.

She straightened her shoulders and nodded, "Okay, well, why don't we work on some basic court orders after we eat? I'll show you how to fill out the paper work and you can help me file them," she offered.

Mandy's eyes lit up and she nodded, perhaps not overeagerly, but happily. The microwave beeped and she disappeared around the corner, humming softly as she got their lunch together. A few moments later she came out with two plates full of delicious smelling enchiladas and shoved one of the plates into Cady's hands.

"Eat up boss," she ordered, grinning at Cady.

The two women sat in Cady's office, eating quickly, hardly a word exchanged between bites. A knock at the door set Mandy's eyes to rolling and a sigh heaving from her chest. "I'll get rid of whoever it is," she muttered.

Cady shook her head, small strands of her copper hair falling forward. "Be polite and let them in, we can't afford to turn people away," she murmured around a mouthful of food.

Mandy shook her head and rolled her kohl lined eyes again but dutifully went to the door and opened it, a frown creasing her brow at the sight of the reservation police chief, Mathias.

The older man nodded at her and leaned in slightly, trying to glance past her, "Is Cady here?" he asked softly.

Mandy nodded and blocked him when he tried to step into the building, swallowing hard when he narrowed his eyes at her. "Sorry Mathias, it's just, she's eating lunch right now, and she could use a break from other people."

She glanced over her shoulder quickly and then back to him, her expression serious as her voice lowered, "It's her first day back," she confided.

Mathias sighed low and slow, resisting the urge to glare at the young woman and nodded, "I know Mandy, that's why I'm here. I wanted to see how she was doing."

Mandy looked at him in surprise; she had never known Mathias to be an overly affectionate man, especially to white people, or in particular to the Longmires. Most people on the reservation weren't, in fact. But after the shooting, the people had found confidence in Cady, that she would keep her word, and defend them.

Mathias shuffled his feet and gripped his utility belt tighter, the expression on Mandy's face making him uneasy. He just wanted to make sure Cady was handling her first day back okay...it hadn't occurred to him that it might seem odd.

He sighed and lifted a brow at the young woman, "You gonna let me in?" he murmured stubbornly, shifting his weight forward so that he crowded her, making it more likely that she would step back and let him in.

"Mandy? Who's there?" Cady called.

Mandy swore softly and a moment later they both heard Cady's footsteps and then she was behind the young woman, frowning at Mathias over Mandy's head.

"Mathias, what are you doing here? Is something wrong? Has something happened on the reservation?" she asked hurriedly, her voice tight with concern, lines appearing around her eyes as she frowned.

Mandy retreated and Cady stepped back, allowing Mathias to step forward into the house. "Is it..." Cady cleared her throat and tried again, "Is it my dad?" she asked softly, her voice nearly breaking on the emotion choking her.

Mathias stared at her for a moment and saw the pain and sorrow etching deep lines on her face, her throat working hard as she tried not to cry. Her hands clutched her arms, the nails biting into the skin.

She was clearly a woman in pain.

He shook his head apologetically, "No, I'm sorry Cady, I didn't mean to upset you," he murmured, regret flooding him. He felt like an idiot. "I just wanted to stop by and see if you were doing okay on your first day back here," he offered lamely.

He looked around the waiting room and nodded thoughtfully, "They cleaned up well," he murmured. At Cady's harsh laugh he looked back to her and silently cursed at the sight of the bright, unshed tears in her eyes.

She nodded weakly, "Yea, they uh, did a great job. It's cleaner than I could have gotten it. They even got the mold out of the floor. Guess I should shoot someone in the storage room so it gets a proper cleaning," she joked darkly, her harsh laugh breaking as she shook her head and lifted a shaking hand to her mouth, her eyes sliding shut in regret.

Mathias glanced around and saw that Mandy had gone into Cady's office and shut the doors, giving them some privacy by putting in her headphones while messing around on her phone. He turned back to Cady and stepped closer, reaching out tentatively, unsure if it was the right thing to do, and cupped her elbow, relieved when she didn't jerk away or rebuke him for touching her.

"I'm sorry. Come on," he encouraged, gently putting pressure on her arm. She opened her eyes and stared at him questioningly for a heartbeat before allowing him to lead her outside to the small front porch and into one of the rocking chairs.

He settled into one beside her and made a point of not looking at her for a moment, instead studying the dirt in front of the building as he spoke.

"I still remember what it felt like the first time I killed someone. I got called out to a domestic disturbance; the husband had a knife to the wife's throat, and he had already stabbed her twice—once in the gut and again in the back."

He shook his head sorrowfully, "I tried to calm him down, convince him to let her go, but he wouldn't, he was convinced she was going to take their kids away. So he cut her throat."

The words were so plain and flat that Cady looked over at him sharply, shock widening her jade eyes. Mathias's hands hung limply between his knees as he gazed down at the dirt. "I fired and somehow hit him right between the eyes and I ran over to her, and tried to stop the bleeding, but it was too late."

His voice was filled with regret as he recounted the story, and she could tell it cost him something to tell her this. He shook his head and then finally, looked up at Cady, his dark eyes heavy. "Her kids were in the hallway screaming and crying the whole time. They watched both their parents die because of me."

Cady felt her stomach drop out from under her and a chill run over her skin at his words, so plainly put that she knew he was trying to damp his emotions. She smiled weakly, "I guess you win the shitty first time shooting contest then," she tried to joke.

Mathias's smile was ghostly as he shook his head, "Nah, I'm not trying to one up you or make you feel like your experience doesn't count. I'm trying to tell you that..." he sighed harshly and shook his head again, looking frustrated, "It won't get better, and you shouldn't get used to it, but you do learn how to deal with it. Eventually."

He shrugged a shoulder and leaned back, giving her an evaluative look, "What I'm really saying here is that if you need someone to talk to, I'm around."

Cady stared at him for a long moment, surprised, and then nodded, a slow smile on her face. Having someone in her corner again would be nice. Especially since her father had essentially abandoned her after the shooting.

Mathias's mouth quirked up in one corner in reply and he nodded back before heaving himself to his feet and adjusting his utility belt. "I should get going," he told her, his mouth curling in a grimace of regret, "it won't stay quiet out there."

Cady stood quickly and made a jerky hand motion towards the house, "We, uh, have some enchiladas for lunch, are you hungry?" she offered. She felt somehow, like she needed to offer something in return for his kindness.

Mathias shook his head, "I'm okay, you have some," he encouraged. His stomach rumbled softly, reminding him of the fact that he hadn't eaten lunch yet today, and would in fact, be very appreciative of a warm meal.

She smiled faintly, the sound of his stomach not as quiet as he might have thought. "I already did, they were delicious, Mandy's aunt made them."

"You should have a second helping then, her aunt's cooking shouldn't go to waste."

Cady smiled brightly and held up a finger in a "wait here" gesture. Mathias sighed and put his hands on his hips as she darted inside, reappearing just a few minutes later with a plate full of hot enchiladas and a fork.

A laugh rippled from his chest as he took the plate from her, startling an older couple walking by. He smothered it and waved, knowing that word would be spreading soon that the white lawyer on the res was feeding him.

He looked at the genuine, pleased smile on Cady's face and decided whatever gossip started because of this, was worth it. "Thank you," he murmured and nodded to her before turning and walking back to his SUV, resisting the urge to look back and see if she was still smiling.

When he slid into the car he glanced up at the house and his lips quivered, she was still standing on the porch, watching him with a thoughtful look on her face. Strands of her copper hair fluttered around her face in the chill breeze and the thought that she looked beautiful struck him.

It was unexpected, this realization. He had never thought of Cady like that, especially when she was being as big of a pain in the ass as her father could be. A wry smile crept across his mouth and as he pulled away from the legal aid clinic he threw up a hand in a quick wave and smiled to himself when she smiled briefly and waved back.

Cady Longmire was unlike her father in very significant ways, but in one way she was every inch his daughter.

She was a tough as nails woman.

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Cady sighed in relief as she pushed the door of her home closed and locked it behind her. Her day was over.

Her first day back.

Shaking her head slowly, she walked slowly back to her bedroom and stripped off her work clothes, exchanging them for yoga pants and a stretchy sweater that looked frumpy as hell, but was so soft it felt like silk.

Padding barefoot to her kitchen she reached into the cabinet and grabbed a glass whiskey tumbler. With a howling wolf's head etched onto the sides they were classic Wyoming without being over the top, and they looked especially appealing filled with her Tennessee Whiskey.

Pouring herself a decent splash she inhaled the warm scent as she settled onto the couch, every one of her limbs aching. The TV blared to life and she flipped aimlessly until she settled on a mindless rom-com, laughing woodenly at the heroine's antics and mishaps until suddenly she found herself crying.

She cried until exhaustion swept over her and her tears slowed, her eyes feeling swollen and sandy. She swallowed the last of her whiskey and stretched out onto the couch, unable to summon the will to move.

Cady closed her eyes and ignored the swirling bright lights behind her lids, instead pulling her blanket further up her body to snuggle against her nose, a deep exhalation escaping her. It was kind of Mathias to stop by...I should thank him...

The tv played softly, casting colorful shadows over the darkened room and her pale, wearied face as she slipped into an exhausted, emotionless stupor, her mind finally shutting down.

Tomorrow will be better...

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AN: Hey everyone, I LOVE Longmire and especially love Cady and Mathias. I think both of them deserve A LOT more screentime, and I think they have a chemistry that is totally unique. I've wanted a Cady/Mathias fic for a long time and eventually decided I should just write one! So I hope you enjoy this story and share your thoughts!