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The Names of Our Shadows

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*Song for this chapter-- "Warrior" by MRKTS.*


“Good evening, if you’re just tuning in here with CNN, we’ve got a live report on a developing hostage situation in Absaroka County, Wyoming. At this moment Federal and local authorities are in a standoff against a group of human traffickers who, we believe, have a group of as many as 10 women and young girls held hostage. We’re going to go live now to the scene and speak with the FBI agent in charge of the scene.”

The blonde anchor turned to better face the camera, brow gently furrowing as the call connected.

“Hello, Agent Fallwell?” she greeted, a trained, concentrated look of concern on her face.

“I’m here ma’am.”

The man’s voice was smooth and evenly pitched, warm like honey, and the woman smiled in return.

“Excellent, what can you tell us about the situation?”

“We’ve got a group of men here holding a number of young women hostage in a semi-trailer. We’ve been attempting to negotiate, with little success. These are dangerous men, members of a gang known for their brutality towards women, but we are doing everything we can to get the women all out safely.”

The news anchor nodded and stared solemnly at the camera as the live video showed the scene; a dusty white semi-trailer was parked in the middle of the highway, a roadblock ahead of it and a cluster of large black SUV’s circled loosely around it.

On the ridges surrounding the road were men in black, pointing sniper rifles at the semi, the men in the SUV’s pointing weapons back at them from behind tinted glass, the air so still you could feel the tension through the television.

“So, you don’t expect this to be resolved soon?” the blonde anchorwoman asked, frowning deeply.

“No ma’am, these men, they have no regard for life. It makes it difficult to negotiate.”

At that moment one of the doors at the back of the semi slipped open and a figure was pushed out from inside, falling limply to the pavement. The door was quickly shut again and the camera panned in on a bloody figure lying too still on the ground to still be alive.

Shit,” the FBI agent swore, and the anchorwoman looked nervous, eyes darting around the studio.

A moment later all hell broke loose.

One of the men in the SUV’s started firing at the snipers and soon gunfire was being returned, bodies were falling out of vehicles, and the back of the semi opened again, another body of a woman pushed out to fall against the pavement.

“Oh god,” the anchor breathed, eyes wide as saucers.

Over the still connected call they could hear the tinny sounds of women screaming from within the truck, their pleas for help reverberating over the line as bullet holes were punched into the metal.

Gunfire thundered louder as the return fire from law enforcement focused on the SUV’s and the cab of the semi, and a lone figure in a POLICE vest darted forwards through the no man’s land toward the truck.

The anchorwoman inhaled sharply, fingers closing around the edge of the desk, “Oh my god, it looks like, oh god,” she murmured, unable to complete her thought.

Bright red hair fluttered behind the person, lean legs churning as she ran forward, her motion cut short as gunfire rang out and her body stumbled back under the force of the impacts.

The anchorwoman gasped loudly as the female officer on the screen fell to the ground, “Oh my god. It appears that a female law enforcement officer has just been shot. Agent Fallwell, are you still there?” she demanded.

Silence.

On the screen another figure darted forward and grabbed the shoulders of her bulletproof vest, dragging her out of the line of fire.

A rusty streak painted the ground.


ONE YEAR EARLIER

Longmire for Sheriff—Honest and Integrity”

He saw the signs everyday for two months before the special election, listened as people gossiped and debated, wondering if having another Longmire as Sheriff was really the best decision.

Without a real challenger though, Cady Longmire had won in a landslide. She seemed just as surprised as anyone else by the results, if her doe eyed look on election day was any indication.

Mathias couldn’t, or rather, wouldn’t, say if he was looking forward to working with the new sheriff when asked by local journalists—many of whom had known very well about the long-standing mistrust that ran between the old man and the tribal police.

He wasn’t going to poison the well before they ever got a chance to work together, and Cady already knew how he felt about her dad. There wasn’t any need to make things harder than they had to be.

A lot of the good will Cady had gained with her legal clinic had been spent when she had foolishly gotten herself involved with Catori Long and her kidnapping of Tate Dawson.

Part of Mathias understood why she had done what she did, but another part, a larger part, was despairingly angry that Cady was still so oblivious to the pain and anguish Native people had suffered since the first white colonists appeared on the distant eastern shores of this country and had perpetuated into lasting damage on their psyche and way of life.

She was a smart woman, but she was white. Ultimately, she didn’t understand, couldn’t.

The word and the law of the white man had been gospel for generations before his people had finally realized it meant nothing, and he wasn’t about to repeat the mistakes of the past when his people needed him now more than ever.

His people were slipping into the shadows, receding into history, resigned to text books and memories faded with age. Soon, there would be little left of their culture but what had been stolen and perverted, made popular by movies and television.

Like wolves circling a weakened animal, the world circled their weakened reservations, watching and waiting for the day they could finally bury the bones of the First Peoples in the red dirt they had been consigned to generations ago so the earth could be split open and plundered for its natural resources and wealth.

Mathias was tired of fighting, of battling for every scrap of land, every inch of dirt and ounce of oxygen that was soaked with the tears and sorrow of generations before him.

But if he didn’t fight, who would?

 

Chapter Text

 


Cady stared around the office that had once been her father's, and Lucian Connally's before that, and so many other men before them through history back to the first rifle wielding lawman that had tamed the wilds and formed Absaroka County.

She was the first woman to hold the office, ever.

And yet somehow, that hadn't come into question when she had been running for the position. If anything, it had helped.

Having equal genders within the sheriff's office meant the local women had a friendly and sympathetic ear to turn to about domestic issues. Where before they might have been hesitant to come forward and speak with Vic—an outsider despite her many years on the force—they now had someone who they knew, a face and a name they recognized.

No; what had presented a problem for Cady was the reservation. They rarely voted in local elections, but this election they had thrown almost their whole weight behind her opposition, a man with a few years' experience from the next county over.

She knew one of her first duties was going to have to be reaching out to Mathias; the business with Malachi and Jacob had been resolved for the moment, but she had a feeling there were still likely to be issues in the near future with drugs and violence.

Heroin and fentanyl were a growing epidemic all across the nation, especially on the reservations. People were dying by the thousands every week, and she knew it was only going to get worse.

With a sharp sigh she grabbed a pad of paper and a pen and leaned against the desk, brow furrowing as she made a list of things she wanted to do in the first week.

TO DO:

1. Apply for more Narcan

2. Apply for body cameras

3. Meet with Mathias—Discuss problems on reservation, what resources are needed, how my office can assist

4. Shooting range with Zach

5. Organize office/redecorate

6. Check on Dad/Vic

The last item on the list made her more than a little uncomfortable, but she knew Vic and her father genuinely loved each other. Vic was still recovering from her shooting and miscarriage, the doctors had said she would need at least three weeks of rehab and therapy before she was medically ready to come back, but the last time Cady had seen her, she had privately thought the other woman looked far too exhausted to come back anytime that soon.

For now, it was just her, Zach, Ferg and Ruby.

Cady snorted and shook her head, a real crack team she thought wryly.

The outer office door opened and a moment later there was a knock at her door. "Cady?"

"Come in," she called back, smiling softly when Zach poked his head around the corner and smiled affectionately at her.

He quickly stepped around the door and held out a to go cup of coffee as he approached, "Morning," he murmured softly, leaning in to kiss her, a move which she neatly evaded by bringing the coffee to her lips and leaning back.

Zach pulled back and frowned softly at her, "Somethin wrong?" he asked softly, sounding confused.

Cady shook her head, "No, we just can't see each other that way anymore. I'm your boss now, it's not okay."

Zach appeared to think about it for a few moments and then nodded slowly, "Well, okay. What have you got for me today then?" he asked, standing a little straighter, his tone all business.

Cady sighed softly in relief and smiled faintly, "I want us to apply for Narcan and body cameras. I know we're a small office, but I want us to be personally responsible to the people. Especially with the uptick in violence in the county due to drug crime. Can you help me with the paperwork?" she asked.

"Course boss, you got it," he replied, smiling brightly at her.

She nodded sharply and glanced at the clock on the wall, "Good, Ferg should be here soon, Ruby too. I want to have a quick meeting and then I'm going to call the reservation and see if I can get a meeting with Mathias. We have a lot to discuss," she murmured thoughtfully.

Zach frowned faintly, "You want me to go with you?" he offered.

Her eyes flickered back to him, noting the concern there in his gaze, and shook her head, "No, thank you though Zach. Mathias and I have a history, it would be better if it was just me that went," she told him with a faint smile.

He nodded and turned to go, pausing at the door to glance back over his shoulder, "A history?" he murmured, the real question obvious in the silence surrounding the words.

Cady lifted a brow and stood, hands on her hips, "Not that kind. Let me know when you've found the paperwork for the Narcan and cameras. I want to see what the requirements are," she told him, dismissal obvious in her voice.

Zach nodded nervously and shut the door behind him, leaving her to stare blankly after him, wondering if the rest of the day was going to be as awkward.


"I'm sorry Ms. Longmire, the Chief is very busy, we've had some serious issues on the reservation recently. How about I give you a call when he's available?"

Cady bit back a sigh and rolled her eyes, resisting the urge to remind the deputy of her new title. It wouldn't help anything, and she needed to get in to see Mathias sooner rather than later. "Sure, in the meantime could you please let him know I called and that I would like to set up a meeting for us to discuss tribal justice and how the county can better be a part of that?" she asked politely.

"Yes ma'am," the man drawled drolly before hanging up.

Running a hand over her face, she sighed heavily.

"Hey Cady, got that paperwork for you."

Glancing up, she found Zach in the doorway, watching her expectantly. With a nod she rose and followed him, leaning over his shoulder to listen as he explained the grant paperwork they would have to fill out to get body cameras and Narcan.

It was a multi-step process that involved writing up a proposal with financial needs, a statement of intent, a statement of the problem, and a formal application that was 4 pages long. With a sigh Cady had Zach forward her the link as a call about a domestic disturbance came in.

He and Ferg would handle the call while she tackled the paperwork, and Cady silently wondered if all of her days would be like this.


"Hey Chief, you got a call from that white woman."

Mathias paused as he walked back to his office, sighing softly. "Which white woman?" he asked, turning back to lift a brow at his deputy.

Deputy Golden Hawk smirked, "The Longmire one," he replied.

Mathias sighed heavier.

"What did she need?" he asked, already tired thinking about returning that call.

"Dunno really, something about wanting to set up a meeting to discuss tribal justice and how the county can help us," his deputy said with a skeptical look. Mathias returned it for a moment before shrugging and running a hand through his hair, shaking his head.

"Get me her number," he ordered as he turned for his office.

Whatever it was she wanted, he had better find out sooner than later.


Cady was on a roll, her application for the body cameras was almost completed when her phone rang, startling her back from the computer screen. It had been one of the first changes she made to the office, bringing in her laptop and upgrading the wifi in the office.

She was also going to upgrade the walkies and radios, most were decades too old to still be in use, but her father had continued to use them simply because he was too stubborn to spend money on better ones when the old still functioned(barely).

"This is Cady, uh, Sheriff Longmire," she stumbled, wincing at her tongue-tied greeting.

There was a soft laugh of amusement on the other end before a warm male voice responded. "I heard you were looking for me Sheriff," the man murmured.

Cady sat a little straighter, "Mathias, yes, I was," she replied enthusiastically. "I was hoping we could meet sometime this week to discuss what issues the reservation is facing with crime and legal issues and how my office can assist you. I want us to have a better relationship than you've had with the previous tenants of this office," she told him, wry smile on her face.

Mathias laughed outright at that, "You mean with your old man?" he replied dryly.

She laughed softly and nodded, "Yea, I think we both know he was hard to get along with. But I want to do what's best for everyone in the county, and that means the reservation too."

There was a long moment of silence before Mathias spoke. "Well, I guess we should talk then. I'm a little busy at the moment, but if you want to grab a bite of dinner later at the Red Pony, we can talk."

Cady nodded enthusiastically, "That would be great Mathias! Thank you," she murmured eagerly. "Why don't you call me or text me when you're free and I'll meet you," she suggested.

Mathias assented and murmured a quick goodbye, leaving her with a feeling of success and him with a weary sense of duty hanging over his head.


By the end of the day Cady had finished the grant paperwork, gone out for a land dispute that had come to blows, booted a car after the owner had failed to pay six months' worth of tickets, and arrested a man for drunk driving at noon.

She was feeling pretty good about her first day, it hadn't been too wild, just busy enough that she wasn't bored, and enough different things had kept her on her toes. When she stepped into the Red Pony, still in her uniform, the buzz of the bar quieted as the eyes of the locals and the natives turned towards her.

Fuck

With a warm but wary smile she went to the table Mathias was already occupying, leaving her the seat with her back to the room. She could shift her chair, but it would place her almost right next to him and she didn't need to look like she was trying to cozy up, she just needed to get them on the same page and be friendly.

Friendlier than he and her dad had ever been at least.

With a soft sigh she smiled as she sat, "Evening Mathias, how are you?" she asked politely.

"Tired Sheriff, how bout you?" he asked, picking at the fries on his plate as he sipped a beer.

"Same," she agreed with a light laugh. "Busy first day," she told him, tucking a copper strand of hair behind her ear as he studied her for a moment and nodded before his eyes continued over her shoulder to flit around the room.

When he didn't say anything, she shifted nervously and cleared her throat, waiting for a few moments before she spoke again. "So, Mathias—"

"Chief, it's Chief actually," he replied casually, gaze flickering back to hers. Her brow furrowed with confusion and he resisted the urge to roll his eyes, "It's Chief Mathias, Sheriff Longmire," he told her, emphasizing their titles.

"Your dad never treated me with respect, I was sorta hoping you might," he told her, and though his voice was quiet it still held a strong note of reproval that made her flush. She held his gaze for a long moment and swallowed hard, nodding.

"I'm sorry Chief, I didn't mean any disrespect. We've worked together in the past, I just figured we would be a little less formal, that's all," she murmured.

Mathias bobbed his chin in a stiff nod and his lips curled up in one corner, "We'll be less formal when I know you better," he told her. "We've got some history, and it isn't all good," he reminded her.

Cady flushed harder at the gentle reminder of her recent involvement of the kidnapping of a young native boy. She had thought she was doing the right thing, but the longer she thought about it, the more she wasn't sure.

They lapsed into an awkward silence until Mathias sighed and pointed at her with a fry, "Alright Longmire, what did you want to talk about?" he asked tiredly.

Cady nodded, a little more confident with this. "I'm trying to make my office more accountable to the people of the county, to get body cameras so any interaction that ends with violence can be assessed for wrongdoing. I also am working on getting Narcan for our office to help with the overdoses we've been seeing. But I want to get the reservation police Narcan as well, I know you don't have a large supply," she murmured.

Mathias laughed bitterly and sipped his beer, "We don't have any on the res," he told her, "and the ambulances from the county take too long to get there. People are dying too fast for the tribe to bury them," he told her darkly.

Cady winced, god she breathed, shaking her head. "I'll request as much as I can and I can help you fill out the paperwork," she assured him, "I've already started on it for the county, it won't be hard to send you what I've done so you have a point of reference."

Mathias studied her for a moment and then nodded; he was proud, but he wasn't stupid.

They were silent for a moment, then, "What other problems are you facing?" she asked softly, looking intent as she leaned forward.

"Poverty, abuse, rape, kidnappings, missing persons, murder. Whatever happens to white folks happens to us, only ten times as frequently and often without recourse. Our women are raped and murdered, go missing, and no one gives a damn," he told her, fire in his eyes as he spoke.

"What about the feds?" Cady asked softly and lifted a brow at his scoff, frowning as he sat back in his chair, shaking his head in frustration.

"Sure, if you want to wait two weeks, minimum, before you hear anything back from them. And then, if you're lucky they send out a desk jockey who doesn't know their ass from a hole in the ground and can't do shit for you. Yea, lemme just give them a call," Mathias drawled bitterly, mouth pursed around the words.

Cady nodded slowly, a picture of the situation beginning to form.

"Well, you can call me. My office is going to be dedicated to helping yours. The reservation may have its own police force, but I'll do everything in my power to help you bring people to justice."

Mathias studied her and frowned, some of the tension slid from his shoulders at her earnest avowal. It was too soon to tell if she would even keep her word, but he did know Cady from her work on the res at the legal clinic, and she had always worked hard for his people.

Even if she had taken a wrong turn with Tate.

Sighing, he nodded slowly, his eyes softening as his lips quirked, "Well Sheriff, we'll have to see about that."

He tossed a twenty on the table and stood, waving a hand when she jumped up to join him, "See you around Sheriff," he murmured, waving a hand from the hip in a brief goodbye.

She barely got out a goodbye in reply before he was gone, leaving her standing and thinking of everything they had discussed.

It seemed she had some work to do before Mathias trusted her, and likely even longer before the people of the res trusted her again.

With a sigh she waved goodbye to Henry and quickly decided she didn't have the energy to go check on her father and Vic. After her first day on the job she wanted a long hot bath, a glass of wine, and a good night's sleep.

It was with a sigh of relief and a heavy heart that she slipped beneath the covers that night. She wouldn't have admitted it to anyone, but she had thought that this job would have been a little easier.

It wasn't that she was disillusioned, not after the first day, it was more that she was worried. Worried she was vastly unequal to the job and the task that lay ahead. Keeping a county of 30 thousand people safe with just four people was a monumental job.

Cady said a little prayer that night that she wouldn't fail.


The woman hurried from the hotel, exhaustion making her limbs heavy and her eyes gritty. Her shift had ended an hour ago, but the other maid had been late because of problems with her sitter.

Maybe it was because she was exhausted, or because she had made the walk a thousand times before, but she didn't take note of anything out of the ordinary as she made her way to her car.

When the van parked beside her car threw its door open and a large body slammed her into her vehicle her forehead slammed down, stunning her. As flashes of light danced behind her lids, a sharp prick at her neck and a burning sensation spreading under her skin made her whimper.

She went limp and the men in the vehicle grabbed her, dragging her inside with practiced ease. The van door slid shut and a moment later it pulled out of the parking lot and into the night, leaving no trace that they had ever been there.


Song(s) for this chapter are: "Hold On" The Brevet, "1000 Graves" Ruston Kelly and "Stars" Jessica Rotter. I hope you enjoyed the new chapter, the spotify playlist is HERE ! Can't wait to hear what you think! xoxo

Chapter Text

Cady stared down the barrel of her gun and fired, over and over again.

When her gun clicked empty she lowered it and set it aside, waiting as Zach hit the button to bring the paper target close.

As it approached she could see that her bullets had spread over the target, only a few clustering in the middle. Disappointment swelled within her; this wasn't any better than the last three times she and Zach had done this.

Zach saw the expression on her face and gave her a warm look, reaching out to squeeze the flesh of her upper arm, "It's okay, you're gonna get better," he assured her. "No one is good their first time."

Cady huffed and shook her head, "Yea well I didn't do this bad when I shot J.P. Wright," she snapped, instantly regretting it when she saw the look on Zach's face.

"Well…" he drawled the word out, a cautious look on his face, "People are capable of a lot under pressure. You said your dad had showed you how to shoot before, but you didn't practice. When it comes down to life and death, you use what you can to survive," he told her seriously.

Cady steadfastly refused to meet his eye, the knot in her stomach making her feel like she was going to throw up.

"You survived Cady, there's no shame in that," he told her softly, his hand on her arm sliding down to take her hand.

She sniffled and steeled herself, giving his hand a quick, firm squeeze as she looked up and smiled faintly at him. He gave her a reassuring smile and stepped back, his hand slipping from hers.

He shuffled his feet for a moment as she collected herself and gave her a bashful smile, "Wanna go again?" he asked cautiously.

Cady straightened her shoulders and nodded, "Let's do it," she affirmed.


Mathias stared at the vehicle as the motel owner nervously explained that he hadn't seen or heard from one of his maids in three days. She had missed two shifts and he had eventually noticed her car, still sitting in the motel parking lot.

"What's her name again?" he asked, pulling out his notebook to write it down for later.

"Gemma White Wolf," the other man replied, anxiously chewing on one of his fingernails, wincing as the skin pulled and reddened. He quickly rubbed it against his shirt and scowled, "Yer gonna find her and get her back to work, right?" he demanded.

Mathias lifted a brow, "We'll do our best to find her and make sure she's safe," he replied, emphasizing the last word, flipping his notepad shut and stalking away before he said something that would only make the situation worse.

Leaning against his vehicle he grabbed the radio out and sighed for a moment before he clicked it on and spoke. "Brian," he sighed.

"Chief?"

"We've got a missing person on county land. It's a tribal woman."

There was a long moment of silence.

"You want me to call county?" Brian offered hesitantly.

Mathias pinched the bridge of his nose, already feeling a headache coming on. "No…I'll do it. I want you and Jacob to go to Gemma White Wolf's house and see if she's there. If not, find out who she might be with. Got it?" he asked.

"Yes Chief," Brian replied before the radio went silent.

Mathias tossed aside the radio and grabbed his phone from the cupholder, grunting as the edge of the window bit at his ribs. With a tired sigh he dialed the Sheriff's office, listening as the line rang.

After a moment, a breathless voice answered.

"Sheriff's office, Sheriff Longmire."

"Sheriff, it's Chief Mathias," he murmured, rubbing a hand over his face.

"Chief, it's good to hear from you. Is there something I can do for you?" she asked politely.

"I've got a missing woman from the tribe. Her car was found at the motel she works at on county land. So technically…" he trailed off.

"It's my case," she finished for him.

"Mmmhmmm," he agreed.

There was a long moment of silence and then she sighed, sounding tired. "Do you want me to take the case?" she asked.

His brow furrowed, "What do you mean? Who's gonna take it if you don't?" he demanded, annoyed.

"You could. I could cede jurisdiction to you," she offered.

Mathias's brows shot up at that. "As kind as that is of you Sheriff, you know we don't have the resources to run a case like this. It would just go cold like all the rest," he spat, anger simmering in his veins.

Cady hesitated for a moment and then hummed softly in agreement, "Alright. Ferg is out with Zach and Vic isn't back from medical leave yet, so it'll just be me coming out," she told him, a note of caution in her voice.

Mathias smirked softly, "Don't worry, I'll take all the help I can get," he assured her. She laughed softly and his smirk grew into a full blown grin. "You know the motel out on state route 3 by the abandoned gas station?" he asked.

"Yea," she muttered, and he could hear her keys jingling in the background, other sounds rustling across the line. "I'll be there soon," she assured him before murmuring a quick goodbye and hanging up.

Mathias leaned against the car and waited, the late August sun beating down overhead, heating his skin and raising a light sheen of sweat. The breeze blew gently as he stared down the road, wondering what had happened to Gemma White Wolf.

Twenty minutes later the familiar sight of the county vehicle pulling up interrupted his dark thoughts. He watched as Cady stepped out of the vehicle, russet hair blowing in the breeze. She pushed her sunglasses up her nose and adjusted the belt around her waist, absently touching her gun.

It was a nervous tick, one that he had seen many a young and novice law enforcement officer engage in before they became used to the weight of the weapon on their hip. It seemed Cady was no different.

She huffed out a nervous breath before she started crossing the sea of hot asphalt, a smile growing faintly on her lips as she approached. Pushing her sunglasses up into her hair, she squinted against the sun and extended a hand to him, waiting for him to shake it before she pointed to the car across the parking lot.

"Is that the car?" she asked, peering over her shoulder to the patchy looking Honda.

"Yup. Name of the missing woman is Gemma White Wolf. Hasn't been seen in three days and the manager just noticed her vehicle today," he told her.

"Which means he noticed the first day she was gone, he just didn't want to say anything because he realized if she wasn't around, he didn't have to pay her," Cady murmured.

Mathias's brow lifted at that; he had come to the same conclusion. "I thought so too," he murmured, meeting her look of surprise with a nod.

"Do you know her?"

"Gemma?" he murmured, shaking his head. "Not well. She's younger than me, unmarried I think. No kids. Family is dead. She's—"

"A target," Cady finished.

When he stared at her she began ticking off items on her fingers, "No kids, no spouse, no family, not known well on the res or in the county. She's someone who wouldn't be missed," she told him.

He glared at her, "She is missed," he snapped.

Cady's head snapped back, her mouth falling open slightly for a moment before she swallowed and shook her head, "That's not what I meant. I meant—"

Mathias nodded and ran a hand over his face, "You meant that whoever took her thought no one would miss her. But if they did, why leave the car?" he asked her. It was a question that had been bothering him since he had shown up on the scene.

He led her away from the police cruiser and towards the abandoned Honda. "Why leave evidence that would let people know the person you've taken is missing?" he murmured as they circled the vehicle.

Cady leaned in to peer through the window, "Because they figured the parking lot would fill up with enough cars that no one would notice?" she suggested.

Mathias snorted, "This ain't exactly the Hotel California," he told her wryly.

She shot him a grin and pointed at the car, "Is it locked?"

"Yea, but her keys were found on the ground." He pulled them out of his pocket in a plastic evidence bag and slipped on gloves before pulling them out and unlocking the car.

Cady snapped on her gloves and leaned into the vehicle, popping open the glove compartment. She rifled through the car manual and insurance paperwork, registration and the inspection report.

The only other things in the glove box were a few napkins, a pack of plastic silverware and a salt and pepper pack, and a pen. She shut the glovebox and slipped out of the seat to kneel down beside the car, peering under the seat.

"Even my car isn't this clean," Cady muttered as she leaned up to rest her elbow on the floor. Mathias glanced over at her, smirking faintly.

"She's a maid, makes sense," he replied. "You find anything?" he asked as he slid a hand under the seat.

Cady shook her head, "Just gravel and dirt," she murmured.

Mathias sighed heavily and stood, shutting the car door before he leaned against the bumper, frowning heavily. Cady joined him, tugging her gloves off and pocketing them.

"So…" she sighed, staring out at the scrubland surrounding the motel.

"So…" he agreed, rubbing a hand over his jaw thoughtfully.

They sat in silence for a long time, each pondering the oddities of the case.

Cady stood up suddenly and peered at the motel, frowning. "Do you see any security cameras?" she asked.

Mathias too stood and shook his head, scoffing. "This isn't the kind of place that wants its habits caught on camera," he told her wryly. Cady grinned briefly and gave a short laugh, nodding in agreement.

"So, no security cameras, no physical evidence in or around the vehicle, no leads…" she trailed off unhappily, frowning deeply.

Mathias gave her a look that was more grimace than smile, "Welcome to my world," he muttered.

Cady nodded slowly and then strode across the parking lot, leaving him staring after her in annoyed confusion. After a brief moment of indecision, he followed her across the sweltering blacktop and into the barely air-conditioned motel lobby.

He watched as Cady leaned on the counter, a wide, welcoming smile on her face. The motel owner's eyes darted between her cleavage, mouth and eyes, his gaze greasy and covetous. To his great amusement Cady was grinning flirtatiously at the disgusting man as she spoke.

"So, you must see all kinds of things running a place like this," she teased, grinning lasciviously.

The man grinned nervously, "Heh, you wouldn't believe the nasty things people get up to," he told her.

"Oh yea?" Cady murmured, lifting her brows in interest.

The man nodded effusively, "People like to come here for the anonymity," he told her conspiratorially.

"Cheating?" she suggested.

"And other things," he agreed.

Cady leaned forward a little more, pressing her chest up and out. The motel owner's eyes rested there for a long moment, wide and hungry.

"Do you…ya know…have any videos?" she asked softly.

The man was breathing unsteadily, staring at her breasts and Mathias could see her roll her eyes. Ducking his head to hide his smirk, he buried the laughter that threatened to bubble up and interrupt the moment.

"Uhhh…video?" the man repeated, finally looking up at Cady's face, caution narrowing his gaze.

She nodded eagerly, "I'd like to…" she paused and glanced away, flushing a little. "I'd like to watch," she told him, looking back up bashfully.

The other man inhaled sharply and Mathias watched as he nodded effusively before waving her around the counter. "C'mere," he encouraged.

Cady glanced back at him just once before she went behind the counter and leaned over the man's shoulder, murmuring too quietly for him to hear. Long minutes passed until finally, she stepped back and waved him over.

The motel owner was looking ashamed and refused to meet his eyes as he stepped around the counter, giving Cady a questioning look. She pointed to the laptop on the counter and he could see that the screen was broken into twelve boxes.

Some of the boxes were black, a few showed what appeared to be hotel rooms and their occupants. One showed the hotel parking lot.

Mathias stared at her in surprise and then laughed shortly, shaking his head. "Does he have back-ups?" he asked.

She nodded and leaned down, clicking through the files until she came to three days prior, the video of the parking lot almost too dark to see. One of the lights in the lot was burned out and the angle of the camera didn't give them much, but he could see Gemma's car under the light that wasn't burnt out.

They watched as she appeared in frame, shoulders slumped in exhaustion. When she reached to unlock her door, two figures emerged from a van parked next to her car. The figures were male, but with masks over their faces, there was no way to identify them.

One of the men slammed her head into the car and the other guided her limp form into the van. A moment later they were disappearing into the night. The camera went on to show a quiet evening, only one car arriving before the light of dawn began edging at the frames.

Mathias frowned, even with this video, they still didn't have the identities of Gemma's captors, a license plate, a motive. They had nothing.

He turned away, bitter anger surging through his veins, the copper taste of disappointment heavy on his tongue. This would be yet another dead-end case. Distantly he could hear Cady talking and when her hand landed on his shoulder he flinched, jerking away from her and walking around the desk.

She followed him and caught his elbow, pulling him to a halt, whispering his name concernedly. His posture was rigid as she stepped in front of him, her hand still on his elbow. "Mathias, wait," she urged.

He glared at her, "Why? We've got nothing and we're never going to find Gemma," he spat angrily.

She frowned at him, "Mathias, that's not true. That video proves that more than one person was involved. We know they used a van and exactly when they took her. We've got more than we had fifteen minutes ago and if we keep looking we'll find more," she assured him.

Scoffing, he shook his head and swallowed around the knot in his throat, biting back angry words. He could feel her eyes on him as he struggled against the tide of emotions pulling at him, and when he finally felt more in control, he met her eyes and nodded.

"Fine. Can you get him to hand over the video?" he asked quietly.

She nodded and gave him one last searching look before squeezing his arm gently and walking back to where the motel proprietor sat. They spoke softly and a few minutes later she came back, flash drive in hand.

He followed her out to the parking lot and rubbed a hand over his face as she leaned against his cruiser, sliding her sunglasses down onto her nose again.

"I've got a…" she hesitated for a moment before continuing, a funny smile on her face, "friend in the FBI. I'll call him and see if he can help with the video. See if we can clean it up and get a plate maybe," she told him, voice soft but urgent, trying to reassure him.

He nodded, not wanting to look at her, knowing he would see hope in her eyes, knowing how painful it would be to see it die, just like it had died for him years and years ago.

They stood in silence for a few moments until her phone rang and she stepped away, her voice muted as she walked away from him. He stared out at the shimmering heatwaves on the scrubland, stomach churning.

Footsteps approached and he could feel her behind him.

"I've got to go. Carjacking. I'll get this to the FBI and let you know what they send back, okay?" she murmured.

He nodded, remaining silent. He heard her sigh and then the sound of her boots crunching on the pavement as she retreated. At the last moment he turned and squinted into the sun, shouting after her.

"Hey Sheriff!"

She turned and shaded her eyes above her sunglasses, giving him a questioning look.

"Thanks," he called, a little softer.

She stared at him a moment and then nodded, smiling brightly before turning, coppery hair dancing in the wind as she slid behind the wheel of her cruiser. As she pulled out of the parking lot she threw a hand out the window and waved and he caught another glimpse of her brilliant smile before she disappeared.

He watched her cruiser disappear into the shimmering heat and fought against the hope battling within him. 

It was far too dangerous to hope.


"So what do you think happened?" Caleb asked, peering at the slim file that Mathias had started on Gemma, eyes darting between the file and his boss.

Mathias glanced up at him from where he was rewatching the video for the fifth time, squinting in the likely futile hope that he would be able to see something from the shitty resolution of the cameras and figure out who had taken Gemma.

"I think some assholes took Gemma. I think she's probably long gone, but we're gonna try and find her," he murmured, turning his gaze back to the computer screen once more.

Caleb huffed softly and then stood, making his way around the desk to stand behind Mathias as he replayed the video once more. His arms crossed over his broad chest as he leaned against the wall behind Mathias's head, brow furrowing as he leaned in a little to study the video.

Mathias glanced up at him and sighed softly, a warm, familial affection filling him for the younger man.

Caleb was a good kid, a good police officer.

His mom had been unfortunate enough to be related to Mathias's father, but at least she had been kind enough to take him in when things got truly bad. Caleb had been a kid when he was in 20's, but that hadn't stopped him from enjoying spending time with his cousin—in fact it had been an escape, a time when he could slip away from the horrors of his life and make a kid laugh, take him horseback riding and fishing, be a big brother of sorts.

When Caleb had gotten older Mathias had encouraged him to do well in school, helping him with homework and guiding him to ROTC and college before he served four years in Afghanistan and retired with an honorable discharge.

Mathias could still remember how he had looked when he first walked into the station, just a week home from his final deployment; hair buzzed short, tanned so dark his skin looked like burnt terra-cotta, and a haunted look in his eyes.

Over a dozen beers or so that evening, Caleb had haltingly told him about the horrors he had been asked to commit in the name of freedom, and how he wasn't sure he could come back from it.

Mathias had been quiet for a long time, listening, until finally he had looked solemnly at the young man who wasn't so young anymore and told him, "We can't change what we've done in the past. We have to figure out a way to live with it, to make room for the demons in our heads, or it'll kill us."

Caleb's eyes had shone with unshed tears, his nod quick and jerky, lower lip trembling slightly when he raised his beer to take a sip.

About a week later Caleb had submitted an application for the open position on the force and in the essay section asking why he wanted to be an officer, he had simply written, "Because my tribe needs someone who cares about their past, present and future. Someone who understands their demons and the room they've made for them. Someone who can help."

It wasn't eloquent, but it was heartfelt and Mathias had smiled faintly, knowing already that Caleb was going to do well.

Three years later, he was still pleased with the decision he had made.

Now, he sighed softly and gestured to the screen, "What do you think?" he asked softly.

Caleb frowned and scrubbed a hand over his chin, his eyes cautious as he thought. Mathias didn't push him; he recognized the look on the younger mans' face as one that indicated he had an idea but was trying to figure out how to phrase it.

After a long few moments Caleb nodded slowly, meeting his cousin's gaze.

"I think it's too slick to be their first time. They know the light is out and there isn't any surveillance, so they aren't worried about being caught—but they still take precautions to cover their faces in case things go wrong."

He leaned in and pointed to the screen where the video was paused on Gemma walking across the parking lot, "They knew her schedule. So they knew her. Whether it was just in passing, or someone she was dating maybe, but they knew enough about her to hunt her down and take her without anyone noticing."

Mathias nodded and his lips tilted up at the sides, pride swelling in his chest.

"Good. Good observations," he commended, lips curling into a smile when Caleb flushed. "Now, can you start digging into Gemma and see what you can find about her personal life?" he asked, lifting a brow.

Caleb flashed him a quick nod and hurried out to his desk, pulling the door shut behind him.

Mathias stared at it for a second, a faint smile curling his lips.

Shaking his head, he went back to work.

Chapter Text

Mathias looked up at the knock on his door, brows lifting in surprise at the sight of Cady Longmire in his doorway. She lifted a hand in greeting and smiled faintly, "Chief."

He nodded in return, "Sheriff, wasn't expecting to see you so soon," he confided honestly. They had left the motel that morning and he honestly hadn't expected to hear or see from her for a few days at least.

"I had a thought and I wanted to ask you about it," she told him, moving away from where she was leaning on the doorframe. He nodded and waved a hand towards the chair opposite his desk, watching as she moved with an easy grace and a look of thanks into the seat.

"What did you want to know?" he asked softly.

"How many missing women cases are there?" she asked with a soft frown.

He scoffed, "Starting when?"

Her brows lifted at that, "Let's just start with the past year," she told him.

He stared at her for a long moment, indecision swirling within him. Her sea blue eyes stared back at him steadily, no sign of impatience or annoyance as she waited for him to make a decision.

With a nod he stood and went to one of the large filing cabinets behind her, piling files in his arms until they sat ten inches deep. Turning, he set them down on the desk in front of her with a slam, hiding his smirk at her startled jump.

As he made his way back to his chair he watched her reach out to run her fingers over the files, shock pinching her features. She looked up at him in horror, "All of these are missing people?" she whispered.

He nodded and she huffed, shaking her head in disgust. "Right…well, I had a thought," she told him, sounding a little unsteady.

"You said that," he murmured.

She lifted her gaze to his to glare at him for a moment before rolling her eyes and smirking, "Right. Well, I had the thought after seeing the surveillance video that maybe these guys have done this before. Maybe they take women and run them as prostitutes or something. It's an idea anyway," she murmured at his frown.

She sat back in her chair as he frowned at the files, pondering her idea. He had often wondered the same thing; if women were being taken and murdered or turned into prostitutes. With some of the disappeared as young as 15, he had desperately hoped it wasn't true.

His lip curled faintly at that; hope. How foolish he had been to hope for anything good.

He knew better than that now.

Looking up at Cady he wondered if having a fresh set of eyes on these cases would yield anything new. There was little she could do that would hurt, so why not get her help? If it was the difference between solving these cases and them remaining cold…there was no choice really.

With a nod he sat up in his chair. "It's a good idea, my deputy mentioned something similar after watching the tape. They were too smooth for first timers. Let's get to work," he murmured, reaching for a file.

She stared at him, wide eyed in surprise for a moment, before nodding and reaching for another.


 


Cady rubbed at her eyes tiredly, groaning softly as her head throbbed.

"Here"

Blinking blearily, she looked over to find Mathias handing her a Styrofoam cup, the scent of coffee wafting out along with the steam. She took it and gulped greedily, coughing as the bitter, charred taste flooded her tongue.

Looking over at Mathias as her eyes watered she found him smirking wryly.

"At least it's strong," he told her, taking a sip from his own cup.

She shook her head in dry amusement and took another sip, fighting a grimace at the awful taste. "And hot," she replied.

He chuckled softly at the look on her face and she rolled her eyes before sighing out a soft laugh too. It was past midnight; they had been working for hours, going through the case files and mapping the similarities and differences on a whiteboard in Mathias's office.

She gestured to the board with the hand holding the coffee, "So, 10 women missing in the past year—"

"Gemma makes 11," Mathias cut in and she nodded.

"11 women, ranging from ages 15 to 35. All are native, and none have been found," she concluded.

Mathias nodded in agreement, "We know more than before," he sighed, echoing her words from the motel.

"I think we can learn more. I haven't heard anything from my friend at the FBI, but he agreed to help. I can send him these names and ask him to run them for any hits within the federal database."

"You think he'll actually turn anything up?" Mathias questioned warily.

Cady shrugged a shoulder, "I think so. He has more resources than we do, and he owes me," she murmured with an inscrutable look.

He wondered what an FBI agent could owe her for, but decided that now wasn't the time to ask.

Nodding faintly, he sighed and rubbed a hand over his face, trying to stave off exhaustion. Cady glanced over at him and studied the lines around his eyes and the dark circles beneath them, thinking idly how exhausted he looked.

She wondered if she looked as ragged as he did.

Draining her cup, she grimaced and crumpled it, tossing it into the trash.

"We should quit for tonight," she murmured. "You look like shit," she joked, "and I'm sure I'm not much better."

Mathias snorted at her wry humor, his gaze running over her face rapidly. Whatever makeup she had been wearing was long gone, her skin was pale and dark circles were under her eyes, but he didn't think she looked like shit.

Luminous came to mind, and he frowned faintly at the flowery term.

Shaking his head to clear the thought away, he nodded in agreement, "Yea, right. I'll walk you out," he offered. She nodded and grabbed her jacket from the back of the chair, tossing it over her arm as she followed him down the hallway.

Two deputies looked up from their desks and she blinked at them in surprise. She and Mathias had been so involved in the files in his office that she had forgotten anyone else was here.

The odd looks they sent her made her shoulders tense as they exited the building, feeling as though eyes were still on her. Mathias followed her to her cruiser and planted his hands on his hips, watching her.

Scrubbing a hand over her face she gave him a tired smile, "I'll let you know if my guy at the FBI has anything for me, but I doubt he will soon." She paused for a moment and then grinned good naturedly at him, "Get some rest Chief, can't have you falling asleep on the job," she teased.

Mathias barked out a laugh and nodded, "Yea, you too Sheriff," he murmured as she slid into the vehicle. He watched as she pulled away, once again tossing him a wave before her car disappeared into the night.

He watched her taillights until they were gone and headed back into the station, eyes heavy with exhaustion. Despite the many hours he had already been at work, he still had shit to do. He would catch a few hours of sleep on his couch and then go on patrol.

Hopefully he could get some sleep before the new day started and he had to start all over again.


 


Cady burrowed into her blankets, headache throbbing behind her eyes. She had been up until nearly 1am working with Mathias and had spent the past two days working her own cases and practicing at the firing range with Zach.

It was her first day off in a week and she didn't know what to do with herself. She was torn between sleeping a little longer and getting up and going for a run. With a light grumble, she threw the covers back and rose to dress for a run.

As she laced her sneakers she contemplated what she would do with the rest of her day. Lacing her headphones around her neck, she slipped them into her ears and shut her front door behind her, taking off at a steady pace.

Her mind swirled with the details of the missing women cases, their names and faces flashing in her mind as her feet slapped against the pavement. She was more and more convinced that they had been taken by human traffickers and that they were unlikely to ever be found.

The hopelessness she felt from that knowledge paled in comparison to what she knew Mathias and the women's families must feel.

Her music cut off and the familiar ring tone of her phone interrupted, alerting her to a call. Slowing her pace to a walk, she clicked her headphones to answer.

"Cady Longmire."

"Cat," a warm, playful voice murmured.

Rolling her eyes with a grin, she shook her head, "Isaac," she replied, "You know it's Cady," she reminded him.

"Mmmm, not to me you're not. You're my Cat," he reminded her, voice soft with affection and remembrance. "You sound out of breath, what have you been up to?" he teased.

Rolling her eyes, she began jogging again, "I'm out for a run Isaac, get your head out of the gutter," she replied tartly.

"Aww, and here I was hopin it was something dirty," he teased, "like old times."

"Isaac, I didn't ask you to help so we could reminisce about old times. I asked you to help because I need help," she snapped, her irritation no longer tempered by any affection she had for the man.

He sighed in a put upon manner and then chuckled, "Well, since you asked so nicely," he drawled.

"Isaac" she warned.

"Okay, okay Cat. I've got some information for you. Can you take this down?" he asked.

"I'm out for a run Isaac, so no," she huffed, though she was already turning and heading back towards her house. "I'll be back home in ten minutes. Can you call me back then?" she offered.

"Why don't I just stay on and listen to you? It'll be like that time your mom called in the middle of me getting you off and—"

Cady growled and hung up, taking off at a full run, shaking her head. She had forgotten how annoying Isaac could be when he put his mind to it. She had also forgotten how much fun they had been together.

She almost missed that time, the time when she was still in law school and was testing boundaries by dating all the wrong guys and drinking just a little too much on the weekends. When she graduated she had moderated her behavior and had moved back to Absaroka when her bother had gotten sick.

It had been a long time since she and Isaac.

Breathing heavily, she kicked off her sneakers once in the house and went to the kitchen for a glass of water, chugging it down rapidly. Her phone rang as she swiped at the water on her chin and she put it on speaker as she answered.

"Are you going to behave this time?" she asked Isaac tartly.

"Well Cat, you know I've never been very good at it. But for you, I can try," he assured her.

"Good."

"You ready to take down this information?"

She scrambled for one of her legal notepads and leaned against the counter, "Go ahead."

"Okay. Three of your missing women are dead. Two were dead 8 months ago, the last two days ago. Your latest girl is in Elk Springs, Colorado. I've already reached out to the staties and they're okay relinquishing custody of the body if you get there and identify her in person before tomorrow night. Otherwise they're gonna give her a county burial."

Cady nodded and scribbled down the info. She had no idea where Elk Springs was, but she would Google to find out how far it was. "What else?" she murmured, pen poised to write.

"Not much, the DB's are listed as Jane Doe's so you'll have to identify them and work with the state police to get their remains back to the families. The other girls, we don't have info on." He paused for a moment, and then continued, the frown evident in his voice.

"Cat, why aren't any of these women reported missing?"

She sighed and rubbed her brow, "Cuz Isaac, these are all native American women. Almost none of them have family, and those that do don't have the resources to pursue the cases. The tribal police also don't have the resources and the Feds don't listen," she told him a hard edge coming into her voice.

"Hey, Cat, I'm listening," he replied gently.

She sighed and nodded, "Yea, I know Isaac. Thank you for this. It means more than you know."

"You sound tired Cat, you ok?"

She smiled faintly, "Yea, I just didn't realize how much hard work this job would be. I thought I knew, but…this case, these cases, they're breaking my heart," she confided, her voice cracking slightly.

"Cat, maybe…I could try and get you some federal help," he offered. "There are actually people who are specializing in native American disappearances. This sounds like human trafficking to me, and they'd be interested, I know it," he assured her.

"If you think they'd actually help, then sure Isaac, see if anyone can help us," she agreed. "But I've got to go. I need to call the tribal police Chief, he needs to know this information and we'll need to get to Elk Springs together before tomorrow night."

"Mmkay Cat, but call me if you run into any trouble, please?" he asked, his voice quieter, worry and affection softening his playful tone from earlier.

"I will, I promise," she murmured with a smile. "Talk to you later Isaac."

"Later kitty Cat."

"Goddamn it Isaac."

Rolling her eyes at the phone as it beeped to indicate he had hung up on her she shook her head and stood straight, wincing at the stiffness in her quads. She flicked through her contacts until Mathias's name came up and hit the dial symbol, stretching her legs to keep from stiffening further as the phone rang.

"Sheriff?"

"Chief. I've got…news," she demurred, unwilling to call what she had good news.

"What is it?" he demanded gruffly, impatience coloring his voice.

"I…do you want to do this in person?" she offered.

"Just tell me," he snapped.

She nodded, even though he couldn't see her, and swallowed hard. "Three of the women are dead. My FBI contact gave me their names and the places they were found. Two were killed eight months ago and the third two days ago. Her body is in Elk Springs, Colorado. The state police have agreed to allow us to come and identify her and bring her remains back, so long as we get there before tomorrow night," she told him.

When he didn't say anything, she took a shallow breath and continued, "I thought we could head there today. It would give us time to speak with the state police and anyone else involved with the investigation. Maybe see if we can find out some more information."

Mathias grunted and she took that as a 'yes'. "Uh, well, I just got in from a run. I need to shower, but, I can pick you up in, let's say an hour?" she offered.

There was a long moment of silence and then, "I'll be at the station."

The line went dead once again and she frowned at the phone, annoyed with the man at the other end. With a shake of her head, she went to shower and pack, keeping an eye on the clock. She worried if she was late, Mathias would be in an even worse mood.

A grumpy Mathias was not something she wanted to spend 5 hours in a car with.


 


Mathias looked up at the knock on his door and was once again greeted by the sight of Cady Longmire in his doorway. Her hair was darker, wet and pinned up off her neck, and she looked fresh faced—as though she had nothing on her skin but the light kiss of freckles from the sun.

With a nod he shut down his computer and grabbed his overnight bag, following her out to the bullpen. He had already informed his deputies where they were going, and that they would be back no later than the following evening. If they needed anything he had his phone and they had Cady's number just in case.

Hopefully, it wouldn't be needed.

When he slid into the passenger seat and clicked on his seatbelt, Cady gestured at a to-go coffee mug, "That's yours," she murmured before focusing on backing out and heading down the road. With a grunt of thanks, he picked it up and sipped, brows shooting up in surprise.

He looked over at her and caught the smug look on her face before it resolved into something more neutral. Chuckling, he lifted the mug and caught her eye, "It's good, you should bring the coffee from now on," he teased.

She laughed and rolled down her window, the wind tugging at her hair until strands whipped around her face. "If I do that, will you promise not to be so grumpy?" she teased, eyes sparkling with humor as she glanced over at him.

A smirk teased at his lips and he struggled with the urge to let it turn into a full blown grin, turning towards the window instead of facing her when he replied, "I dunno, can you not be a pain the ass?"

She barked out a laugh and tapped her fingers on the steering wheel and he could see her shake her head out of the corner of his eye, copper strands of hair dancing around her face as she grinned.

She didn't reply and they settled into a comfortable silence, arriving a few minutes later at the Wild Berry Bakery on the rez, and when he looked over at her in surprise he found her smiling softly at him.

"I love this place, you want anything?" she offered.

Shaking his head, he followed her inside and watched in amusement as she ordered two cranberry orange scones and a bear claw. Glancing over at him, she lifted a brow, "You sure you don't want anything? It's a long drive," she reminded him.

After a moment he nodded and ordered two muffins—a blueberry and a pumpkin spice. He stepped in front of her and handed over cash for the order, ignoring her squawk of objection. Handing her bag of pastries over he headed outside and waited at the car until she unlocked it for him.

"Why did you—"

"You brought the coffee."

"Oh."

She stared at him for a moment and then nodded, grinning. "Ok. Let's go."

"You're the one driving," he teased lightly, sliding on his sunglasses as she shot him an exasperated look, her nose wrinkled up at him. She laughed though, and he peered out the window as they got on the road, thinking distantly that she had a nice laugh.


 


They stopped at noon to gas up and grab another snack from the 7/11, though Cady refused to let him drive. You can drive the ride home she had assured him, and he hadn't objected. He was surprised how much he was enjoying being in a confined space with the younger woman.

He had expected her to talk incessantly to try and fill the quiet (he wasn't a talkative man after all), but she didn't, she just turned on the radio and hummed or sang along. She had a nice voice, he discovered, one he didn't mind listening to, and when she shook him awake a few hours later, he realized he had fallen asleep listening to her sing.

Scrubbing a hand over his face to hide his embarrassment he looked over at her and grimaced, "Didn't mean to fall asleep, sorry," he muttered.

She grinned and shook her head, "You obviously needed it. Besides, I've spent time in the car with my dad, this wasn't much different."

Mathias recoiled slightly at the idea that he and Walt Longmire might be anything alike, and if Cady noticed his response, she didn't say anything. He glanced around and saw that they were parked outside the State Police barracks, the sun lower in the sky than when they had started and mountains loomed around them.

"You ready?" Cady asked, lifting a brow when he looked in her direction.

He nodded and followed her out of the car, gathering the file for the missing-now-dead woman. He ran over the details in his mind once more.

Heather Tall Trees, age 21, height five foot two, weight 130 pounds, black curly hair and green eyes. Disappeared on May 12th, 2017, last seen outside her job at the burger joint just off reservation lands. Missing for three months until her body was found three days ago, September 5th 2017. No siblings, mother deceased in 2008, father in jail since 1996.

Once again, no one to miss her once she was gone.

The cool air of the building washed over him and he watched as Cady spoke with the desk Sergeant, smiling as she introduced them and asked to speak with someone whose name he didn't quite catch.

A few minutes later an older man was walking out, his gaze cold and assessing as it ran over them. Cady extended her hand and greeted the man, stepping aside as she spoke, "And this is my colleague from the tribal police, Chief Mathias Stillwater."

Mathias stepped forward and shook the man's hand, "Colonel, we appreciate your help," he murmured to the older man.

Colonel Davidson nodded, his frown not disappearing from his face and Mathias began to wonder if the man knew how to smile.

"Well, when the FBI reaches out and asks you to do something, you sit up and take notice," he replied, voice sharp and cold.

Cady stepped in and smiled, "We've been working on missing women cases from the tribe, and I can assure you, your help is invaluable to us. Getting this young woman home to her tribe, it will mean everything," she told him.

Davidson studied her a moment before his face softened slightly, "Native American women go missing and there's nothing done about it. I'm glad you're trying to bring them home," he murmured, glancing over to give Mathias a look that was almost a smile.

"Your girl is in the morgue, it's over on third street, I can take you over if you'd like," Davidson offered.

Cady glanced at Mathias who gave a nearly imperceptible shrug; it didn't matter to him, as long as they got her back. She nodded to the older man and smiled, "Thank you, we'd appreciate it."

They followed the Colonel in Cady's car to the morgue, both of them silent for the short drive. Now that the moment was closing in, neither of them had much to say. What could be said, really?

The air in the morgue smelled like death and formaldehyde, the taste of it lingering in the back of his throat. He had been in more than one morgue before, but from the look on Cady's face and the way her throat was working, she hadn't.

"You gonna be sick?" he asked quietly.

She swallowed hard and shook her head, "I don't think so."

Before they went through the double doors and into the cold storage, he stopped her and held out a pack of gum. At her confused look he nodded encouragingly, "The smell will be worse in there. You'll want it, trust me," he assured her.

She took a stick and popped it in her mouth, inhaling sharply before nodding her thanks and following him and the Colonel into the room. The older man hung back and looked over at him, "May I get a piece too?" he asked quietly, "always hated the stink," he murmured in explanation to Mathias's surprised look.

Mathias nodded and held the pack out for him, taking his own piece as the coroner emerged, his apron coated with blood and god knows what else. Glancing over at Cady he saw her visibly pale and her fingers dig into her arms, a tremble running over her body before she inhaled and visibly stiffened her posture.

A flush of something, pride maybe, went through him.

His own deputies had retched the first time they went into a morgue and here she was, holding her head high and staying strong.

They listened as the coroner opened the drawer and pulled out Heather's body. At this, Cady did gasp, but when he looked over at her, she wasn't crying or sick, she looked furious. He couldn't blame her.

Heather had been beaten to death.

The coroner explained it had been done with both fists and what was likely a tire iron. As he listed the extent of her injuries, Mathias watched the fury on Cady's face turn her expression hard and cold, until she resembled a statue.

"Shattered eye socket, fractured jaw, three fingers broken on the right hand and two on the left—defensive wounds—left shoulder dislocated with a torn ligament from the force used to yank her around, seven broken ribs, both lungs punctured, multiple skin lacerations from where the instrument caught and tore her skin, a broken hyoid bone from manual strangulation and blunt force trauma to the back of the skull."

Mathias shook his head and rubbed a hand over his jaw, sighing defeatedly. "Was she…" he took a deep breath and tried again, "Was she raped?" he asked, already knowing the answer.

The coroner nodded, "It appears she was either a participant in very vigorous, rough sex, or, she was raped multiple times over a prolonged period of time."

"Was she pregnant?"

Mathias looked at Cady in surprise and she looked at him as she spoke, "If she was trafficked and forced into prostitution it's likely. It could be the reason they killed her."

The coroner shook his head, "She wasn't. She had birth control hormones in her system, so whomever had her was at least taking that precaution. She also had heroin and methamphetamine in her system, and her body shows signs of prior abuse. This girl was subjected to many horrors in her short life I'm afraid," the man murmured sadly, resting his hand gently on Heather's head for a moment.

Mathias stared down at her broken and bruised body before sucking in a lungful of foul air, lifting his gaze to the Colonel and coroner. "We've got our missing person's file. This is Heather Tall Trees. We'd like to claim her body and take her home with us."

The coroner nodded, "I'll get the paperwork for you."

He shuffled out of the room and left them standing around Heather's corpse in silence. Mathias glanced over at Cady and worry gnawed at him; she hadn't spoken except that once since they had come in here.

When the coroner reappeared, he filled out the paperwork and found out they could have Heather's body transported back by the state. She would be back with the reservation in just a few days.

He and Colonel Davidson talked quietly as they headed for the doors, it was only when he glanced back that he realized Cady was still standing by Heather's body. Hesitating, he and Davidson watched as she crouched down to Heather's side, her expression unreadable.

As she leaned in her mouth moved, but she spoke too quietly for him to hear.

When she rose, he and Davidson stepped aside and watched her stride from the morgue, her shoulders tight and high. Mathias exchanged a look with the older man and shook his hand before following after her, wondering what was going through her head.

She was leaning on the car when he came out of the building, her sunglasses on and her gaze seemingly fixed on the mountains.

"We should get a hotel room and dinner. Get on the road early tomorrow," she told him.

Normally he would have argued, but he thought maybe she needed the time out of the car and away from him to process what they had just seen.

So, instead of objecting, he just nodded. He went to her side and pulled the keys from her hand, giving her a steady look when her bemused gaze turned on him. "I'll drive," he told her firmly.

She just stared at him for a minute and then nodded, standing straight before she walked around the car and slid into the passenger seat.

He drove them to a hotel, deciding that a place to stay was first on the list before dinner. They both needed to wash the scent of death off before they would be able to eat.

Cady stood silently at his side as the concierge went over the rooms available.

"We've got a few options for you; did you want one room or two?"

"One room," she cut in, glancing over at him. "The county will reimburse me, but we should still save some money," she told him. When he nodded she turned back to the man behind the counter, "Two queen beds please. Non smoking."

The younger man nodded and with a few taps of the keyboard booked them in a room. Cady slid her credit card across the counter and in exchange they received room keys. Shouldering her bag, she followed Mathias to the elevator and they rode in silence to the fourth floor.

Walking halfway down the hall they stopped in front of 412 and slid into the darkness, the familiar scent of a well laundered hotel room filling her nostrils. Setting her bag on one of the beds, she looked around, nodding.

"You want to shower?" Mathias offered.

She looked at him in surprise, as if she had forgotten he was there. After a moment she shook her head, "You can go first. I'm going to go for a walk, clear my head."

Frowning, he nodded faintly, "Be careful," he murmured.

She pocketed the room key and gestured to her service weapon, "I'll be fine," she assured him.

He watched as she disappeared out the door, the lock latching a moment later as it swung shut once more.

By the time he had showered and redressed she was back, laying on her bed, staring up at the ceiling. He settled on his bed, braiding his wet hair into a thick plait, occasionally glancing over at her.

A moment later she stood and gathered a bundle of clothes, heading into the bathroom without a word. He listened as the shower came on, hushing whatever other noises might have escaped. It wasn't quite enough to hide the sound of her retching though.

It grew quiet a few moments later and then he heard the scrape of the shower curtain and the familiar sounds of bathing. She stayed in longer than he had, and when she emerged the skin of her chest and cheeks was flushed pink.

She had changed into a pair of denim shorts and a tshirt, a cardigan hanging loose and long around her thighs. Her wet hair was twisted in her towel and she looked more alert than she had since they had arrived.

"You hungry?" he questioned delicately, knowing from past experience that the taste of the morgue could throw off even the strongest appetite.

She pulled at the towel and rubbed her hair, a thoughtful look on her face. "Sure. You want to go somewhere?"

He didn't really. He didn't want to be around a bunch of people who were too loud and too happy when they were both in the wrong headspace for that.

"I'd be good with delivery," he replied and sighed a little breath of relief when she nodded.

They ordered pizza and sodas, sitting on their beds as they ate, the tv playing some sitcom they had settled on, the laugh track seeming excessively loud and fake to Cady. When she slid beneath the covers and rolled over to turn off the light, she found Mathias frowning at Heather's file.

He looked up at her, his frustration evident.

"She was taken three months ago, but her apartment is still listed under her name," he told her. "We could go, tomorrow, and see if there's anything I missed the first time."

Cady nodded and flipped off the light, slumping down onto the flat and misshapen pillow. She listened as Mathias shuffled papers and set them on the nightstand before his light flipped off too.

The silence was as deep as the dark in the room when she broke it.

"We're going to find them Mathias. We're going to find who's doing this."

He stared up at the ceiling, a shiver running over his spine at the force of her certainty. He hadn't felt that in a long time. It scared him, because it made him hope, and hope was a dangerous thing.

It was like a butterfly; beautiful and delicate, awe inspiring…and easily crushed.

Chapter Text

They left at 6am the next day, neither of them wanting to waste any time when they could be investigating. While Mathias drove Cady reviewed Heather's file, going back over the details until her eyes started to blur.

Setting it aside she rubbed the heel of her hand into her eyes, groaning at the headache throbbing in her temples. Glancing over, she realized Mathias had the radio on and was humming along, thumb tapping on the steering wheel as he drove.

He glanced away from the road and smirked at her. "Finally decide to take a break?"

She grimaced and then smiled apologetically, "Sorry, I didn't mean to ignore you," she murmured, "I just got caught up in the details."

He nodded and glanced back to the road. "I understand. These aren't easy cases. What we just did, that wasn't easy." His gaze flited over to her, "You did well," he told her.

She frowned and looked out the window, "I've never seen anything like that. I mean, I saw my mom, but…" she trailed off, shaking her head weakly.

"It's not the same," he finished for her. "Your mom, it…" he hesitated and glanced over at her for a moment before continuing, "it would have been worse if you had known what really happened when you were looking at her."

Cady inhaled brokenly, her lips quavering. She swiped at her eyes and nodded, unable to say anything for the moment. He didn't say anything else and she took unsteady breaths for a few minutes until her heart calmed and she could speak again.

"You've seen things like that before?" she asked softly, voice unsteady.

He stared down the road, gripping the steering wheel tighter.

She took his silence as a 'yes' and didn't press the issue further.


Mathias dropped her off outside the apartment complex, dust swirling up behind his tires as he drove away to park. Cady glanced back at him before stepping into the dusky interior, sliding her sunglasses up into her hair as she peered around.

The lobby of the complex was shabby, and there wasn't anyone at the old desk. Hesitating for a moment, she went up and lightly ran a finger over the depressor on the bell, wincing as it rang loudly, a shrill cry for service.

A moment later an old man appeared, and she could see where his dark hair was liberally shot through with grey in his braids. He had a worn uniform shirt on and a faded name patch that read Lewis so she worked up a smile and cleared her throat.

"Afternoon Lewis, do you work here?" she asked politely.

He stared at her, mouth working as though he was chewing over his thoughts before he spat out an answer. Finally, he nodded, reluctantly it seemed to her.

"Whaddya want?" he demanded sharply.

Cady had no idea why this man was so angry with her, but caution seemed to be the wisest course moving forward. Giving him a soft smile she pulled a photo of Heather Tall Trees out from her pocket and slid it across the counter.

His weathered fingers snatched it away, his bitter mouth pursing as he stared down at the young woman's face.

"We're trying to find Ms. Tall Trees. I know her apartment had been paid for, and our records indicate it wasn't cleaned out. Could we get a key to check it out?" she asked politely.

Lewis's eyes snapped up to her, anger flashing brightly within their depths. "You gotta warrant?" he demanded in return.

Cady recoiled slightly in surprise; she hadn't been expecting that response. "I…no. We were hoping you would help us without us needing to get one," she told him honestly.

"And who is we?" he snarled, leaning forward to glare at her. "Who of our people is helping you?" he demanded.

Before she could stammer out an answer a large, warm presence was at her side and she recognized it instantly as Mathias.

"She's helping me, Lewis. And if you don't want me and my men back here making your life difficult over the illegal subletting and drug trade happening, I suggest you help us."

Lewis glared at Mathias and then shook his head, "You're a goddamn traitor, helping this white woman after what she did." He leaned down and dug through a drawer, cursing and mumbling as keys rattled.

Cady inhaled sharply, guilt turning her stomach. Blood pounded in her head as she stepped away and pressed a hand to her mouth. She had thought after time had passed that sentiment would have changed on the res.

It appeared that she had been mistaken.

Swallowing down a mouthful of resentment and bile, she turned back in time to find Lewis looking back and forth between them for a long time, narrowing his eyes in frustration. Finally, his gaze settled on Cady, an impotent resentment turning down his mouth.

"Don't think this means you're forgiven hóestó'emáeve," he snarled.

Cady stared at him blankly, knowing she had just been insulted, but unsure of what had been said. Mathias grumbled and put a hand on her shoulder, pushing her none too gently as he snatched the keys from the man.


A thick layer of dust and pollen coated everything in Heather Tall Trees' apartment, and the stench of rotten food was nearly overwhelming. Cady threw open the windows to air it out and turned to Mathias, frowning.

"What that man called me, what did it mean?" she asked softly, watching his shoulders stiffen as he stared at a bookshelf.

He didn't answer for a moment and she began to think he wouldn't when finally, he sighed and shook his head. "It was…rude. He called you an outsider."

Cady frowned, "I mean, that's not…inaccurate, right?" she ventured.

Mathias half turned to her and shook his head, "It's meant as an insult. It's someone who is unwelcome to the tribe and would be run off, killed, if we lived the old ways," he told her, eyes flashing angrily.

Cady thought about it for a moment and then nodded, "Glad you don't live the old ways then," she replied lightly, though it troubled her deeply that there was such deep animosity still within the tribe towards her.

Mathias just nodded and she quickly left him to search the living room while she worked the bedroom.

Flipping through her clothes, checking pockets, purses and under the mattress, she looked for any clue that could help. So far, she had found receipts from Target, the dollar store, and a cash withdrawal from the night before she disappeared for $50. She bagged the withdrawal slip as evidence and kept searching.

Despite the heavy layer of dust, it was obvious that Heather had been a tidy young woman. Her clothes were organized by color and season, her shoes were laid out in straight rows, her bed was even made—more than Cady could say for her own bed at the moment.

She lifted the mattress and sighed when she found nothing more than a wad of cash in an envelope. When she rifled through it, her brow lifted. There was almost three grand in the envelope.

What was Heather doing with that kind of cash laying around?

Had she been working multiple jobs and keeping cash around as a safety net in case things got bad? Shaking her head, she bagged the cash too.

Crawling to her knees, she lifted the dust ruffle and turned on the flashlight on her phone, frowning when she saw what looked like a book in the far corner. Extending her arm, she grabbed the edge and tugged it to her.

When she pulled it free and into the light, she realized it wasn't a book, but a daily planner. Excitement rippled through her; this could give them all the details of her life leading up to her abduction.

She flipped the planner open and let out a soft "Yes" in excitement; the planner was filled with notes and names, phone numbers and scraps of paper. Hurriedly she slipped it into an evidence bag and carried it out to Mathias, "Look!" she urged.

He frowned faintly as he pulled it from the bag, his gloves squeaking against the plastic of the cover as he flipped it open. His brows rose with each flip of a page. When his eyes lifted to hers, she grinned.

"We've got her whole life. We can run down names and phone numbers, talk to her friends, anyone in here might know something. They might be involved!" she declared energetically.

Mathias tempered his own reaction and nodded slowly, "This is good."

Cady's enthusiasm faded a little at his subdued reaction, her expression crestfallen. "What's wrong, why aren't you more…enthusiastic?" she pressed. "This is the first real evidence we've got that could be helpful!" she told him, voice growing harsh with annoyance. "This is something to be hopeful about!"

He scoffed at that and shoved the planner back in the evidence bag.

"What?" she demanded, "What's that about?" she asked, mimicking the noise he made.

Glaring at her, he shook the planner, "This isn't hope! It's just another dead end! I don't…I don't know how you're so goddamn excited about something that's not going to get us anywhere!" he shouted in frustration.

"What the fuck Mathias! You don't know that!" she yelled back, brows pinching in anger.

"I do! I do because that's how these cases always go. You think you find something and it turns out to be nothing and you've gotten your hopes up only to have them crushed, again. If you're too stupid to know that's how this is going to end, you should just leave," he snarled, shaking the planner at her.

Cady stared at him, stunned into silence.

As his words reverberated through both of them a sense of shame began to well up within him and he deflated, slowly lowering the planner till his hands hung at his side. Her eyes were distant as she stared down at the ground, shoulders tense.

"Cady, I'm—"

"Don't."

She bit off the word and lifted her gaze to his, eyes blazing. "I get that you don't have hope. I get that you've seen this end terribly for decades. I get that I'm new to this and maybe a little naïve, but Mathias, you don't ever get to speak to me like that again if you want me to keep helping you," she threatened. "I want to help you, and I want to help the tribe find out what has happened to these women, but not if you're going to treat me like that. So decide, here and now whether you want my help."

He swallowed hard as her steely gaze held his, her jaw firm.

Slowly, he nodded.

When he opened his mouth to apologize she cut him off again.

"No, don't. Don't apologize if you don't mean it. I…I'm not ready to hear it." She waved a hand in dismissal and turned back towards the bedroom, "I'll keep searching, let me know if you find anything else."

He nodded numbly but she didn't see it, her back already to him as she walked back to the bedroom.

Sunlight streamed in through the open windows and a warm breeze blew away the stench and dust. If he didn't know any better, it almost would have been a normal day in a normal apartment.

Almost.


Cady sat on the bed in Heather's bedroom, staring blankly out the window. From here she could see the maple trees outside, the leaves a faded green, dying slowly with the last gasps of summer. Soon they would be dropping and covering the browning grass, piling up for kids to jump into and smelling like fall when the breeze blew.

From here it looked like the trees blocked the view of the building entrance, making Cady wonder if people could get in without notice. It didn't seem a particularly secure building to begin with, perhaps that was how Heather's kidnappers had scouted her out in the first place?

A knock at the door made her heart leap in her chest, her adrenaline spiking for a moment as she whirled to find Mathias staring at her, his dark eyes unfathomable. They stared at each other for a long time while she breathed unsteadily, lips pursed tightly.

Finally, he took a step forward and cleared his throat.

"I was wrong to speak to you like that. But you don't get to dictate the terms of our relationship unilaterally. You know you've got 90% of the privilege and power, and you'll have to work to relinquish some of that so we're on equal footing."

His fingers tapped nervously against his hips where his thumbs were tucked into his tactical belt and he nodded slowly, "You might be new to this, but you've got good instincts. And you've thought of things I didn't, noticed things I missed. So, thank you, for that."

She stared at him, shame creeping through her when she realized how right he was. She had lashed out in her anger, however justified, and demanded she be the one to make the rules, taking all the power in their tenuous relationship and undermining the little respect she had gained with Mathias.

Her gaze dropped as her cheeks flushed and she took a deep breath before looking back up, only to find him gone. Exhaling sharply, frustration sidled in next to the embarrassment and she was left to steep in her emotions and the silence of the apartment, duly chastened.


"And then I told him that it wasn't the starter because I just had it replaced last year and he didn't believe me! He said I must have been mistaken about the date."

Mathias nodded and continued flipping through the planner, scribbling notes as he discovered names and dates that might have been important to Heather's disappearance.

"Mathias."

He hummed and nodded, frowning at a scrap of paper. Nate 307-514-2238, Call me.

"Mathias!"

"Yea," he muttered, making a note of the name and number. This could be someone she knew, someone who had seen her before she disappeared. He flipped to another page and paused at the sight of a brightly colored pamphlet resting in the pages of the planner.

Love in Time

Are you tired of the online dating hassle? Looking for love in less time? Join us at Love in Time and meet your true love!

Locations:

Casper, WY

Buffalo, WY

Kaycee, WY

Rock Springs, WY

Billings, MT

Chinook, MT

Shelby, MT

Wolf Point, MT

Faith, SD

Mobridge, SD

New Town, ND

Durango, CO

Cortez, CO

Flagstaff, AZ

Farmington, NM

*New Locations Coming Weekly!*

"Mathias! Why are you ignoring me? What's so interesting about this case?"

With an annoyed growl he looked up at Angela and scowled at her. "I'm trying to find out who kidnapped and killed this young woman Angela. One of us. Do you have a problem with that?" he demanded.

She rolled her eyes, "And you can't put the case away for a few hours to spend some time with me? I hardly get to see you as it is," she simpered, leaning into his shoulder so her breasts were pressing into him.

Instead of arousal, annoyance flooded him and he stood, ignoring her squawk as she fell into the space he had occupied. "Mathias!" she objected.

He gathered the planner and his notes and pointed gestured with them, "Angela, you know what this is with us, what it's always been. I'm working on this case and I need to focus. If you can't let me work, you need to go. I've got work to do and I can't have you distracting me right now."

At this she huffed and stood, straightening her clothing and headed for the door with a scowl on her face. At the last moment she turned back and glared at him, "You're going to wind up alone Mathias, and all you'll have is dead women to keep you company," she told him coldly before she flung the door open and left him staring after her.

He was sure she was right, but he didn't have the time to think about that right now. Instead he pulled his old laptop out and began mapping out the speed dating locations. His stomach plummeted when he realized that each location was either on or within miles of a tribal reservation.

Perhaps it was coincidence, but then, after all these years, he didn't believe in coincidence.

He didn't even glance at the clock as he dialed Cady, didn't think about the fact that it might be too late or about the awkward way they had left things; he just dialed.

"Do you have any idea what time it is?" a grumpy voice answered.

Mathias looked at the clock and frowned when he realized it was past 1 am. "I didn't realize. But I've got something from the planner. It could be important," he told her.

She sighed heavily and he heard her sheets rustle for a moment before she breathed softly into the phone, "Ok, what do you have?" she murmured, voice rough with exhaustion.

"I found a pamphlet for a speed dating service in her planner. All of the locations where they have held dating services are either on reservations or within a few miles of one."

He heard her inhale sharply, "They're targeting native Americans," she whispered.

"That's what it seems like," he agreed, nodding.

There was a long moment of silence before she spoke again, "We need to look into who runs the company and find out as much as we can. I'll get into it in the morning," she assured him.

He nodded, running a hand over his face as his own exhaustion seemed to come out of nowhere, surging like the tide within him. With it came regret; regret for how he had spoken to her and how things had been left.

"Cady, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled at you like I did at the apartment. I was frustrated and I took that out on you and it wasn't fair." He sighed heavily and shook his head, "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have called so late," he muttered, rubbing a hand over his face as his head throbbed.

Cady sighed softly and then laughed tiredly, "I suspect there's going to be a lot more late night calls with these cases Mathias, we're going to be driving each other crazy I think."

She laughed again and he smiled faintly at the sound, "As for your apology, thank you, but, I think I owe you one too. You were right about how I acted, and I'm sorry. I want us to be partners on these cases, and more than that, I want us to be friends. I want you to trust me."

There was a long moment of silence as he processed her words and she waited, hope fluttering in her chest, for him to say something.

"I think we both have some trust to earn," he murmured, rubbing a hand over his eyes, biting back a groan at how they ached.

She sighed softly in relief, it wasn't what she had expected him to say, but it was a step forward. "We'll work on it," she assured him. "For now, let's just get some sleep and we'll talk more tomorrow about the case," she told him.

Relief spread through him at her acceptance and he nodded slowly, "Thank you Cady."

He could hear the smile in her voice when she murmured, "You're welcome Mathias."

"Night," she whispered, voice scratchy and slightly garbled by a yawn.

He answered with his own yawn and a faint, "Night," before they both hung up.

As he climbed into his bed and groaned softly with exhaustion, he began to drift on the tides of sleep, Cady's soft words of forgiveness making his mind rest easy.

Chapter Text

Cady rubbed the bridge of her nose, trying to get her tired eyes to focus on the information on the screen. Mathias had sent her the digital files of their missing women cases and all their financials two days ago when they had figured out the connection to the speed dating service.

Now she was scouring their financials and files for any evidence that they had participated in the dating services, but so far hadn't had any luck. She had only completed three women's files, and had yet to find any evidence that they had used the services offered by Love in Time.

She had been at this for hours in between the paperwork for a grant for more body cameras, a farmer shooting at treasure hunters, and a prisoner transfer to court. Vic had stopped into the office to let her know she'd be coming back next week, and despite some initial awkwardness, Cady was happy to have her coming back.

The other woman was an intelligent and capable police officer, and with this investigation taking up so much of her time, she needed a capable deputy to lead the office.

With a sigh, she clicked over to the screen displaying the hot pink and lurid purples of the Love in Time webpage. There was going to be a speed dating event Friday evening in Sheridan, right outside both the Crow and Cheyenne reservations.

Picking up her phone she texted Mathias and told him her plan; she would go to the speed dating event and see if anyone there reacted to the name Heather Tall Trees, posing as her friend hoping to find love.

A few minutes later her phone rang, Mathias's name on the screen. With a sigh, she answered.

"Mathias."

"You're out of your goddamned mind," he growled.

"Well hello to you too," she drawled dryly, running her fingers through her hair as she sat back in her chair.

"This isn't funny Cady. Heather disappeared after one of these events. There's no way it's not related and there's no way you'd be safe there!" Mathias ranted.

Cady rolled her eyes and sighed, "I do have a plan, if you'd care to shut up and listen," she snapped tiredly.

He grumbled something she couldn't hear and then mumbled a quiet, "Okay."

"You'd come with me to the event and be my backup. I'd call your phone before the dates started and you'd have a Bluetooth in, you'd be able to hear if I was in trouble. You can watch from a distance and see if anyone seems suspicious."

Mathias sighed heavily, he had to admit, it wasn't the worst plan. "Well, guess I should find a clean shirt then," he joked tiredly.

Cady barked out a laugh and leaned back in her chair, "Probably. I guess we should go separately to avoid suspicion?" she murmured.

He nodded and murmured softly in agreement. "I'll see you at 8 tomorrow night," he told her.

"See you then," she agreed.


Cady adjusted her dress nervously, checking her lipstick in the bathroom mirror one last time before she mentally prepared herself to head out to the bar. Knowing Mathias was out there, watching over her, it made her feel safe.

She dialed him and waited for the line to connect, her stomach in her throat.

"I'm here," he murmured, and she could hear the background noise of the bar over the line.

Breathing out shakily, she tried to keep her heart from fluttering out of her chest. "Hi," she whispered.

"I'm at the bar, far left corner. You'll be able to see me if you sit far right. If you need anything, you remember the safe word?" he prompted.

She swallowed hard and nodded, "Ganymede."

"Good. Now take a deep breath and get out here," he murmured encouragingly.

She inhaled slowly and tucked the phone against her palm, her clutch in her other hand as she stepped out of the bathroom and into the bar. Glancing quickly towards the bar, she spotted Mathias in the far left corner, right where he said he would be.

He smiled faintly at her and lifted a finger from the rim of his glass in a sort of hello and she could feel his eyes on her as she went to the section of the bar reserved for the speed dating. She signed in and took her seat, keeping Mathias in her periphery.

She smiled at the waiter who brought her a glass of red wine and sipped it slowly, waiting and watching. The women were all seated, waiting for the men to join them. The men were crowded around the bar, drinking and carousing.

When a bell rang three times the men began making their way to the seats opposite the women. Cady swallowed a large gulp of wine and mentally prepared herself.

This was going to suck.


"So tell me, does the rug match the drapes?"

Cady gritted her teeth and took another swig of wine as Mathias laughed in her ear over the Bluetooth. "Classy," he murmured.

Her mouth twisted at the man seated across from her, "I'm sure you'd love to find out," she replied shortly. He seemed to take that as encouragement and leaned across the table to take her hand, his grip strong.

"I would. Why don't you come home with me tonight and I guarantee I'll have you screaming my name by the end of the night," he told her, the look on his face lewd as his gaze ran over her cleavage.

"You'd be the one screaming when she broke your fuckin arm, buddy," Mathias quipped in her ear and she bit her lip to contain a laugh.

Cady lifted a brow and gave the man an apologetic shake of her head, "I'm sorry, I think I'll have to pass," she told him kindly.

His flirtatious look melted off his face as anger replaced it. "Your loss, bitch." He stood before the bells rang and headed for the bar, still grumbling under his breath as he went.

"What a jackass," Cady murmured before taking a sip of wine.

"Yea well, he's a man," Mathias replied, dry humor warming his voice.

She grinned against her wine glass and took another sip before replying quietly. "You're a man, you don't act like that."

Mathias laughed softly in her ear, "How do you know that? I could be even worse."

"Mmm I've heard of your reputation on the rez, but you don't seem like the type to ask a woman about the color of her rug," she murmured as the bells rang and the men began to rotate. As a new man slid into the chair across from her, Mathias replied.

"You're right there. But I have made a few women scream my name before."

Cady choked on her mouthful of wine and smiled apologetically at the man as she struggled to breathe normally. When she had her voice back she took her hand away from her mouth, "I'm sorry, wrong pipe!" she explained.

The man grinned good naturedly, "I was worried I would have to do the Heimlich and that's about the least sexy way to start a date," he replied.

They laughed together and Cady studied him for a moment before smiling genuinely, he seemed like a halfway decent man. "So," she paused and read his nametag, "Kyle, what brings you here?" she asked politely.

He shrugged, "I've had problems meeting women online, and I'm usually busy with work, so it's easy for me to get to one of these occasionally and maybe meet someone. What about you?" he asked politely.

Cady mimicked him and shrugged, grinning. "My friend Heather Tall Trees told me about this. Said she had met a nice guy. I could hardly believe it," she told him incredulously.

Kyle shifted and looked uncomfortable, "Heather…Tall Trees?" he murmured.

Cady latched onto his reaction immediately. "Do you know her? Oh my god, please don't tell me you two dated!" she said with a faked gasp of horror, her hand going to her throat dramatically.

In her ear she could hear Mathias laugh. "Nice acting," he drawled and she could hear ice clinking in his drink.

Kyle swallowed nervously and laughed, shaking his head, "I hate to admit it but yes, we went on a date a few months ago. We decided we didn't work well and I haven't seen her since," he assured her.

Cady nodded and smiled politely, "Well, I guess that's not too weird," she told him with a friendly grin.

At this he looked relaxed and they began chatting about his work (surgeon), favorite movie (Jaws), favorite vacation spot (Hawaii). When the bell rang, Cady caught his hand and smiled warmly, "I'd like to see you for real," she told him quietly.

He stared at her for a second and then nodded eagerly, "I'd love that."

She watched as he walked away and then smiled at the next man who sat across from her. Brian. Idly she thought what a long night this was turning into and waved to a waitress, sighing in relief when her glass was refilled.


When the speed dating had finally ended Cady was exhausted, buzzed and ravenous. She waited until the bar was nearly empty and all the potential dates had left before she stood from her seat, only a little unsteady on her heels.

Sliding into the seat next to Mathias she winced as her heels bit into the tender skin of her feet. With a grimace she kicked them off and sighed in relief. He glanced over at her and studied her for a moment before smirking and shaking his head.

"What?" she drawled, "You try wearing four inch heels all night while getting your thigh grabbed and being called sweetie or hun."

Mathias shook his head and lifted a hand in surrender, "I didn't say anything. You did good," he complimented her.

She smiled briefly at him and waved down the bartender, "You still making food?" she asked hopefully.

The woman sighed and glanced at the clock, "The kitchen closed at 1, but I can make you something. Grilled cheese sound good?" she offered.

Cady moaned appreciatively and nodded eagerly, "Please, and thank you so much."

The woman nodded and grinned at her, "You survived the hoard, the least you deserve is a grilled cheese or two," she told Cady. She set a large glass of water in front of her and a glass of wine, winking at her, "On the house."

Cady eagerly sipped the wine and then turned to Mathias, smiling at him tiredly. "So, only one guy knew Heather. My date Kyle. I got his number and I'm going to see him tomorrow—tonight—whatever…" she trailed off, waving a hand as she sipped the wine.

Mathias watched her, a faint smile on his lips. She was tipsy, he realized. "You should be careful, it's possible he's the one who took her," he told her quietly.

Cady nodded, "It'll be in public at a restaurant. You can come along if you want, and keep me safe."

"Maybe I have other things to do on a Saturday night," he told her teasingly.

Lifting a brow at him she smirked, "Like making some poor woman scream your name?" she replied in turn.

At this he grinned and laughed, "I wouldn't call her some poor woman if she's screaming my name," he said with a laugh.

Cady rolled her eyes and took another sip of wine. Mathias studied her for a moment and reached out to pluck the glass from her fingers, ignoring her protestations in favor of pushing the glass of water towards her.

"You'll thank me tomorrow," he murmured.

Glaring at him, she drank from it and pouted, "No I won't," she muttered before ignoring him.

"Stubborn pain in my ass," he muttered, sipping from her wineglass.

"Right back at you," she snapped, drinking her water unhappily.

The bartender came back and slid a plate filled with grilled cheese and pickles in front of her, giving her a grin. "Enjoy!" Her gaze darted to the wine Mathias was drinking and the unhappy look on Cady's face before she stepped away and came back with another glass, setting it in front of her with a grin.

Cady cackled happily and took a large sip, giving Mathias a satisfied look when he sighed heavily and shook his head at her. She ate happily, sipping her wine as she took alternate bites of grilled cheese and pickles.

"I found three other women who came to these dating events," Cady told him after a sip of wine.

Mathias leaned towards her, eyes shining with interest. "Really?"

She nodded, "I didn't get to finish all their files, so there could be more," she told him around a bite of pickle. She stared at him for a moment and then slid the plate between them, gesturing to the food with her pickle.

He smirked for a moment and then picked up one of the halves of the sandwich, taking a bite. They ate in companionable silence for a time, until the food was gone and their wine glasses were empty.

He tossed down a couple of $20 bills on the bar for the bartender and watched as Cady slid her heels back on with a wince. She wobbled a little as she began walking and he heard her curse softly.

Stepping forward he laid a hand on her elbow and guided her gently out to the parking lot, ignoring her protestations that she was fine. When she tried to head for her car he shook his head, "Come on, I'll drive you home," he murmured.

She sighed heavily and nodded, relaxing in his grip. He guided her to his cruiser and opened her door for her, waiting until she was seated and all her limbs were safely inside before he shut it. Loping around to his side of the vehicle, he slid behind the wheel and glanced over at her, "Buckle up," he ordered.

She wrinkled her nose at him but complied, giving him a wide eyed, dramatically expectant look when it clicked into place. Rolling his eyes at her, he turned the engine over and pulled away from the bar, keeping one eye on her and the other on the road.

Cady leaned her head against the window, eyes growing heavy as the lights flashed by. She watched the road signs go by in a daze and sighed deeply, her heart heavy.

"D'you think we'll find any of em alive?" she asked tiredly, looking over to Mathias through hooded eyes.

He stared at the road, his hands tightening on the wheel. His throat worked for a few moments before he shook his head, unable to say anything in response.

She nodded weakly, "Yea, s'kinda what I thought too," she whispered.

The rest of the drive was silent.


Mathias sank down gratefully on his bed, exhaustion filling him after too many late nights, head throbbing from the loud music at the bar. He had made sure Cady got home safely, and a smile crept across his face at the memory of her singing along with the radio—slightly off key and a little too loud, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Angela rolled over in bed and he turned slightly to find her smiling sleepily at him. "You look tired," she murmured, voice raspy from sleep as she slid a hand across the sheets to brush her knuckles against his wrist.

He sighed and nodded, thumbing the buttons of his shirt open and shrugging it off. "Sorry, I know I said I'd be back sooner," he murmured, shaking his head. "The investigation took longer than I thought it would."

Angela shrugged a shoulder and sat up to face him, sliding forward until she was pressed against his back and her hands were on his shoulders, massaging gently. Mathias let out a groan, head dropping forward and eyes falling shut in pleasure as Ang's hands worked on the knots in his shoulders.

When he was half asleep she pressed a kiss to his neck and murmured, "Come to bed, you need sleep." With a nod, he stripped and slid beneath the covers with her, rolling to his side to wrap an arm around Ang's waist.

Ang stroked his cheek gently and his eyes closed, body sore and weary.

"You should take a break. You work too hard," she whispered.

Mathias grunted and gave a bare shake of his head, "If I don't do it, no one else will," he answered, voice hoarse from exhaustion.

Ang frowned at him and opened her mouth to say something, closing it a moment later when she realized he had fallen asleep. Her fingers were soft and delicate on his face as she stared at him, worry filling her.

"Maybe someone else should try," she whispered to Mathias's sleeping form.


Cady smiled tiredly over her mug of coffee at her father, watching the way he and Vic moved easily around his small kitchen, teasing and joking as they made breakfast. She still wasn't used to seeing them together, but she had to admit that they were good together.

Vic set a mug of coffee in front of her and slid into the chair opposite her with a tired smile, "I heard you had a busy weekend," she murmured as she sipped her coffee.

"I didn't…how did you know?" Cady stuttered, wide eyed.

Vic smirked and shrugged, "Word gets around when the sheriff is seen at a speed dating event and she leaves with the tribal chief while intoxicated," she told her with a wry grin.

Cady paled and took a hurried sip of her coffee, wincing as it burned her throat. "It wasn't like that. We were there investigating a break we found in one of our cases."

"What case is that?" her father asked as he leaned over to set plates full of food in front of both of them.

"Missing native women. There's been 11 in the past year and three of them are dead," she told her dad and Vic, glancing between them.

Walt sat down after grabbing his own plate, frowning as he took a bite of eggs. He chewed thoughtfully and then pointed his fork at her, "Are you working this with Mathias?" he asked.

Cady nodded and he tucked his chin, brow furrowing. "11 in the last year?" he reconfirmed. Cady nodded once again and he heaved a sigh, the expression washing from his face with the slump of his shoulders.

"I heard that women were going missing, but Malachi refused to work with me. I should have pressed him, I should have worked with Mathias, I should have—"

"Stop," Vic cut in, laying her hand over his, her eyes intense. "You did so much good for this county. You're not responsible for Malachi's decisions and failures. You've always done everything you could for the people of the county and the rez."

Walt's gaze softened and he turned his hand over to lace their fingers together. Cady's cheeks flushed at the intensity of the look between them, ducking her head to give them a modicum of privacy.

After a moment Walt looked back to his daughter and sighed heavily, "How can I help?" he offered.

Cady immediately looked back up at him and shook her head effusively, "No dad, you retired for a reason. Mathias and I are covering this. If I need help I'll get Vic or one of the other deputies to help," she assured him and Vic nodded resolutely in agreement.

He huffed in annoyance but nodded, "Mmkay Punk," he grumbled and to Cady's amusement, Vic leaned in and pressed a kiss to his cheek, murmuring something too softly for her to hear properly, but it sounded a lot like "good boy".

Cady finished her breakfast hurriedly after that and shot Vic a quick smile, "See you tomorrow?" she asked hopefully. Vic had already told her she would be back in the office, but if the other woman needed more time, Cady could understand.

Vic nodded, grinning at her, "See you tomorrow, boss."

At this, Cady rolled her eyes playfully and waved goodbye to the odd couple before heading out to her car. She had more research to do before the end of the weekend.

Chapter Text

Spotify playlist


As Cady worked through the remaining case files and financials of the missing women, her phone buzzed. Distractedly, she reached for it and knocked her coffee mug off the table. As it shattered and spilled, the call connected and she swore loudly.

"Now kitty Cat, is that anyway to greet me when I have been working so hard for you?"

Cady tucked the phone against her shoulder as she ran to get a towel, rolling her eyes at Isaac. "I knocked my coffee mug off the table and broke it, I wasn't swearing at you," she told him. "Though, this conversation has just started, so, there's still time," she assured him.

He snorted and she could feel his smile over the line. "Fair point. Well, I had a friend in our cyber-crimes and technical division work on that video you sent me."

At this, she paused in wiping up the spilled coffee, "Yea?" she asked hopefully.

"Don't get too happy," he told her with a sigh. "We were only able to adjust the lighting on the video and clear some of the distortion. All we found out is that they didn't have a license plate on the van. It was a black panel van from the looks of it and the two figures are definitely men wearing masks and gloves."

Cady swallowed her bitter disappointment, "So, you've got nothing for me," she murmured, rising to her feet with the now dripping towel.

"Well…"

She sighed, "Don't play around Isaac, this is too important," she snapped.

"Right, well, the one man's shirt sleeve lifted during the abduction and we were able to clean up the image enough to make out the tattoo on his forearm. I've sent you the still so you and your tribal friend can add to your files."

Cady inhaled sharply, excitement rising in her blood, "Holy shit Isaac…this…this is amazing," she exclaimed as she hurried back to her laptop to open her email. She found his from a few moments ago and opened the picture, narrowing her eyes at the still slightly blurry image.

"What is that? A snake?" she murmured, leaning towards the screen.

"We ran image recognition and we suspect its an ouroboros. It's a tat used by the Infinitarios, an offshoot of Sinaloa," he told her solemnly. "Their only source of income it seems is in human trafficking. Whether it's for forced prostitution or otherwise, they steal people from the US and sell them," he told her.

"So, they're the ones taking these women," she murmured thoughtfully, staring at the tattoo once more.

"Most likely. Some of your missing women could be dead and we just don't know about it, or they ran away," he reminded her, "you might never find out."

Cady frowned at that and shook her head; she and Mathias would do everything they could to find the women. "Thanks for this Isaac, I owe you," she murmured distractedly.

"Oh yea? How about—"

Before he could ask something dirty, she murmured a quick "Bye Isaac" and hung up. Dialing Mathias, she leaned back on her couch and stared down at the shattered remains of her mug, wondering if she could glue it back together.

"Sheriff," he greeted her, and she frowned at the formality.

"Chief," she replied in kind, somewhat hesitantly, "You busy?" she asked.

"Matty, come back to bed," she heard a woman call and then the distinct sound of a door shutting, cutting off her voice.

"Sorry, I-uh, have company," he murmured, sounding uneasy.

Something in Cady's gut twisted but she painted over it with a wry laugh, "Matty, huh?" she teased, "Well Matty," she emphasized the name deliberately, "I've heard back from my friend at the FBI," she told him.

He let out a noise of surprise and she continued, "They cleaned up that video we got from the hotel. The van didn't have a license plate, but one of the men, his sleeve rode up and they were able to capture an image of a tattoo."

"What was it?" he demanded, sounding alert.

"An ouroboros. It's a tat worn by an offshoot of the Sinaloa Cartel—the Infinitarios," she told him. "Their major source of income is in human trafficking. They take people from the US and sell them all over the world. Whether it's for prostitution or kidnapping babies by request for families, or politically motivated, they make their money by taking people."

Mathias went silent for so long she grew worried, leaning forward and resting her elbows on her knees, she frowned and pushed a hand through her hair. "Mathias?" she prodded gently, hesitant to ask if he was okay, because really, there was no way he was okay after this information.

She heard him suck in a breath and then let it out in a rush. "Yea, sure," he answered her unasked question, "So, we know who's taking em," he murmured, "Now we just have to find em," he said with a heavy voice.

"We have my friend at the FBI helping," she reminded him, "We aren't alone in this," she assured him.

She heard a door open in the background, "Maaaatty," a woman whined in a way that was probably supposed to be seductive but really just sounded annoying and childish.

Cady snorted and rolled her eyes, "You better get going, Matty, wouldn't want her telling people you don't live up to that reputation," she murmured a hint of bite in her voice. "I'll talk to you later," she muttered, and hung up before he had a chance to respond.

Tossing her phone aside, she went to grab the broom and dustpan; she needed to sweep up the shattered remains of her mug. The last thing she needed was to leave any pieces behind and step on them.


Mathias stared down at his phone, something wriggling in his stomach at the way Cady had called him Matty, just like Ang did, except coming from Cady it didn't make his mouth twitch with wry amusement, it made his stomach twist.

"Matty?"

At the call of his nickname, he looked up to find Angela leaning on the doorframe, a sheet from his bed wrapped around her body. Lifting a brow at him she smirked, "You comin back to bed?" she murmured, reaching a hand out to him and wiggling his fingers.

He glanced back down at his phone once more, the screen blank, and felt another crawling sense of unease when Angela called "Matty" again, her voice pitched low and sultry. There was something about the way Cady had reacted that left him unsettled, and he didn't want to look too deeply at the reason why.

Palming his phone, he looked back up at Ang and nodded, "Yea, I'm coming," he murmured.


That evening Cady went to her office and went to work hanging white boards where she had removed the art from the walls. The sound of the hammer and the music was loud, not nearly loud enough to drown out her own thoughts though.

She kept coming back to that moment when the woman on the phone had called Mathias Matty and wondering why in the hell it bothered her so much. Just from the whine in the woman's voice she didn't like her, which she knew wasn't fair, but there it was.

With a sigh she swiped at her hair and leaned down to pick up her beer, taking a long swig from it as she studied her work, assuring herself it was straight. She had used a level to make sure her nails were properly placed, but she trusted her eyes to know if she had hung the whiteboards wrong.

Trust.

Huh, maybe that was it.

Maybe it was that Mathias didn't seem to trust her to use his first name, to…have enough confidence in her to want her to use it. And that bothered her. Greatly.

Because here she was at, she glanced at her watch, 9:27pm hanging whiteboards in her office so she could work on their cases whenever she could, and he couldn't even let her call him by his first name?

Frustration swelled within her and she had drained her beer before she knew it.

A knock at the doorway made her spin, heart thundering in her chest until she realized it was just Zach. He smiled warmly, both hands lifted in a sign of peace, "Just me," he assured her, "Here for the evening shift."

She nodded, she had forgotten honestly.

He glanced around the room and frowned faintly before lifting a brow, "Need a hand?" he offered.

Sighing, she shrugged and he stepped forward, pointing to the bare wall she had been going to tackle next. "You want the other one here?" he asked.

She nodded and went to the mini fridge she had put in her office and grabbed two beers out, offering him one. Lifting his brow with a wry tilt of his mouth, he pointed to his uniform top, "On duty," he reminded her.

Rolling her eyes, she put it back and popped the top on hers, taking a long swallow. Zach studied her from the corner of his eye as he measured and rechecked his work. She seemed upset, but as he worked, she didn't say anything, just handed him nails and hammered beside him.

They lifted the whiteboard into place and she stepped back to study it, draining the beer. "Looks good," she murmured with a nod.

He wiped his hands on his jeans and nodded, "What did you want these for?" he asked curiously.

"Case work. We can hang pictures and evidence and map out our work," she told him idly, still staring at the whiteboards.

"I didn't realize we had so many cases," he murmured wryly.

At this she looked over at him and then pointed to her desk where a large stack of files sat, "That's 11 women missing in the last year from the res. I'm working with…" she paused a moment, her mouth pursing, "the Chief," she finished.

She stared at him for a long moment and he shifted his feet uncomfortably, wondering what was going on behind those stormy eyes. "Sheriff?" he asked hesitantly and furrowed his brows at the look of annoyance on her face.

"Don't call me that," she snapped.

"W-what?" he stuttered nervously, eyes wide.

"Just, call me by my name," she ordered, turning away to drop her empty beer bottle into her trash can before going to the fridge for another.

He watched in concern as she popped it open and took a swig before setting it on her desk and grabbing a stack of the files. Striding over, she shoved half at him and pointed to the board, "Let's get to work," she ordered.

He nodded uncertainly, but complied. For the next hour they worked on hanging the photos of the missing women, some of whom he noted were no more than teenagers. Cady told him to write salient details by their photos; Names, ages, last seen dates, last seen locations.

When they finished she pointed to the last whiteboard and then behind her desk, sighing tiredly, "Let's get this hung so I can put up the map of Absaroka and we can start seeing if there's a pattern to where they were taken," she ordered.

They went to work quickly and as Cady hammered in the first nail he stripped off his uniform shirt, not wanting to sweat through it. As Zach hammered in the second, third and fourth nails Cady swallowed a swig of beer and looked over his body hungrily.

She remembered all too easily what it was like to have those strong arms lift her, to have those firm thighs holding her up as he pressed into her. She bit back a whine and made a half-choked noise, hastily lifting her beer when Zach looked over at her in concern.

"Wrong pipe," she lied, a smile dying on her face.

He nodded and smiled warmly at her before stepping back to check his work, his shoulders flexing as he lifted the level and something inside her snapped. Setting aside her beer she rose from where she had been leaning on the couch arm and went to stand behind him, their bodies inches apart.

Zach felt her behind him and stiffened, tension running through him as her fingers began playing over his bare shoulder and then slowly down the muscles of his arm. She edged closer and pressed her body against his and he shuddered, desire swelling within him even as his brain screamed that this was a bad, bad idea.

"You look hot," she whispered in his ear, her mouth brushing against the sensitive shell, sending another shiver over his body.

He swallowed hard and just barely shook his head, "M'fine," he whispered hoarsely.

"Oh? You sound hoarse," she murmured and her lips brushed against the skin of his neck so softly it felt like a breeze. "Sure you don't need a drink?" she suggested softly.

He struggled to clear his throat and then spoke again, "Cady…you said we couldn't," he reminded her, though his voice was weak.

She breathed out softly against his neck and her fingers trailed along the inside of his forearm, raising goosebumps as they went. Her fingers splayed his, the tips of her nails scraping over his skin as she let her hand fall away and rest on his hip as her mouth opened against his neck and her tongue flicked out against his skin.

Zach shuddered and let out a choked noise.

Cady's mouth affixed more firmly to his neck, sucking as her fingers delved beneath his white tank top and her nails scraped over his belly. His body rolled and arched into the touch, a low noise of desire coming from his throat as she did it again.

Her hand slid from beneath his shirt to pass over the buckle of his belt and then paused, cupping his growing erection through the rough fabric of his jeans. With a squeeze, she nipped at the skin of his neck and sucked it between her teeth, taking a dark pleasure in his moan.

A moment later his hand closed around her wrist and he was yanking her around his body to stare down at her with dark eyes, full of hunger. "You said—"

"Forget what I said," she whispered back harshly before reaching up with her free hand to dig her nails into his scalp as her mouth found his, her tongue hot and dominating. Zach moaned against her and released her wrist in favor of reaching down to cup her ass, lifting her easily.

Yes, YES, her brain rejoiced as her legs wrapped around his waist and he slammed her back against the wall. She gasped out at the impact and then reconnected their lips, grinding her hips into his until he was moaning her name against her lips and his free hand was fumbling at her zipper.

They slid apart slightly and he undid her zipper, tugging on the fabric of her jeans until she was forced to slip her legs from around his waist and he carefully set her down, kneeling in front of her to pull them from her legs.

When he mouthed his way up her legs and towards the apex of her thighs, she closed her eyes, fingers curling in his hair. In her mind for a moment, his hair was long and black, silky between her fingers and torturous against her skin.

Her eyes popped open as his mouth found her center and she looked down to meet his eyes, warm hazel, not dark brown like she had imagined for a moment. Fighting back the distraction she dug her fingers into his hair as his mouth worked at her, trying to use the action to ground her, to keep her mind from wandering.

Her chest heaved as she built rapidly towards that edge and she bit her lip, unwilling to cry out.

She shuddered as she came, a quiet fuck dropping from her lips as Zach stood and undid his jeans, making to push them all the way off. She stopped him and grabbed his hips, pulling him against her as she tugged, leading them to the ground.

He followed her easily, willingly, and she wrapped her long legs around his hips as he centered himself with her and then paused, glancing back up to her.

"Are you—"

She nodded and hushed him, rolling her hips with a needy noise dying in her throat. When he slid in she whined low and wrapped her arms around his neck, holding him close as he thrust slowly.

"Fuck, faster," she commanded, nails digging into his skin as she breathed unsteadily, her body aching with the need for more.

He groaned and complied, adjusting his grip so he could rock into her harder. She winced as her back pinched against the hardwood for a moment and then pushed it away, focusing instead on this, the pleasure that she needed.

"Fuck" she gasped again, her voice a little higher, and it rang something inside her, a remembrance.

Maaaatty

She grimaced and arched into Zach, not Matty, she reminded herself, "Harder," she demanded, voice tight with need.

Zach huffed out a gruff laugh and slid a hand under her ass to lift her higher, his hips slamming into hers so that she cried out, pleasure suffusing her like sweet honeyed fire.

"Zach" she gasped.

Matty

She groaned and shook her head, "Zach," she rasped, getting closer to release.

Matty

Zach groaned at how his name sounded coming from her like this and began stroking her clit, pushing her further towards release. As her heat clenched and pulsed around him he swore and cursed her name, driving harder towards that edge with her.

"Zach, oh, fuck, Zach," she gasped.

Matty, Matty, Matty

She growled in frustration at the voice in her head and the growing release within her edged away. Zach began to lose his rhythm as his approached, and as he came, his head collapsed into her shoulder.

His hot breath rasped against her neck as his fingers still moved against her clit and a few moments later she shattered, a strangled cry coming from her throat that sounded to him like, "M-myyy…Zach," and then she was biting his shoulder, and they were groaning together as the moment pulsed and grew between them.

When he finally softened and withdrew from her, she threw an arm over her face and lay still, breathing heavily. The voices in her head hadn't quieted at all, if anything her head was even messier now and her stomach was a writhing mess.

Studying her for a moment, Zach shook his head and then hitched his jeans and briefs up, avoiding looking at her as he did. He wasn't so naïve as to think that this hadn't been about something—or rather, someone—else. He was hopeful enough to think that she had wanted him for him, though.

Trying to shove down the disappointment, he paused, hearing a noise behind him. He glanced back to find her rolling over and grabbing a tissue from her desk before cleaning between her legs and tossing it in the trash. Her face was expressionless as she stood and dressed and he knew; this had been a mistake.

Rising to his feet, he grabbed his uniform top and buttoned it back on. At the office door, he looked back to find her already dressed and staring at the whiteboards filled with the faces of the missing women.

With a sigh, he shut the door behind him.


That night before she left the office she gathered up the trash and carried it out with her, stopping in the main office for a moment. Zach looked up at her and she smiled faintly, "Night Zach," she murmured.

He nodded slowly and didn't return her smile, "Night Sheriff."

Her stomach fell and she nodded back, turning away to leave him alone in the shadows of the office.

Chapter Text

Two months passed in which Cady and Mathias continued to investigate their missing women cases, discovering that in total 5 of the women from the last year who were older than 18 had used the speed dating service.

Of those, only Heather Tall Trees had been confirmed dead through nefarious circumstances.

The two other women confirmed deceased, Penny Longclaw and Julia Gilchrest had been killed in such different ways and places there was no way their deaths were related. Penny had died as a result of an abusive relationship, ending with a bullet in the skull, and Julia had died because of a hit and run while she had been walking home from her night job at a fast food restaurant.

The remaining three women were underage and hadn't used the speed dating services, nor had any of them had boyfriends that anyone on the res had been able to confirm.

Cady had gone out on her "date" with the man Heather had dated shortly before her disappearance, Kyle, and had told him the truth—that she was a police officer looking into Heather's disappearance.

He had been willing to come in for a formal interview and had told her and Mathias everything he knew about Heather, which was, admittedly, not much.

Cady had gone to a few more speed dating events in the area, accompanied by Mathias, but their investigation had turned up little more than the fact that the men in attendance were disgusting and that she should probably never again hope to find a decent human being among them.

So here they were, a week from Thanksgiving, with no more leads and growing frustration.

"I'm telling you, we should go to more of the speed dating services. We know that five of the women used them before they disappeared! It's our best shot at finding a lead!" Cady insisted.

Mathias groaned and ran a hand over his face, shaking his head. He was growing tired of this argument.

"We've been through this. If the Infinitarios are running the dating ring, we don't want them to know your face," he replied. "We've been to too many of them as it is," he grumbled.

"I'll wear a wig then," she retorted, smirking without any humor in it.

At this Mathias dropped his face into his hands and groaned, "Goddamit Cady, no. I'm not going with you, and you can't go alone," he told her, voice slightly muffled.

She stood and he lifted his head to stare warily at her as she gave him a conciliatory smile, "Sure. No problem," she lied smoothly.

Narrowing his eyes at her, he studied her suspiciously, "Really? Just like that?" he demanded.

Cady lifted a shoulder nonchalantly and grinned, "Really. If you think it's such a danger, I won't go," she acceded.

Now he was even more suspicious. In the three months that they had been working together, she had rarely consented a point this easily if she thought she could do something or that she was right. His near constant headache was a tribute to her stubborn will, even if she was right on more than one occasion.

With a sigh he shook his head, unwilling to fight more. "Fine. Now, about this other case," he murmured, picking up the case file of Noreena and Marcus Williamson. Noreena was a waitress at the casino and Marcus worked security.

Her uncle had gone through the staff after Jacob had gone to jail and Malachi had been killed, trying to ensure that those who were dirty were purged from the casino, but it seemed that Marcus had hidden his loyalty to Malachi well.

After just a few months, Henry had noticed that Noreena was often away from her area of the floor, and when he had checked the tapes, had found her emerging from the hotel rooms of the patrons, cash in hand.

Her husband was never far behind, taking the cash and pushing her back to her regular job. Henry had been unwilling to fire Noreena seeing as she was caught in a situation forced on her by her husband, but with two other waitresses soon forced into the same situation and three other security members joining the husband in enforcement, Henry's hand had been forced.

He had brought the information to Cady who had immediately been intrigued by the possibility of bringing the men in on RICO charges, as long as Mathias was amenable.

She had filed for warrants on the three men in security, hoping to get a look at their financials so they could prove definitively RICO, but the judge hadn't agreed yet. They were supposed to hear something by the end of the week according to the clerk.

"I'm still waiting on the warrant decision from the judge. I don't know why it's taking so long, maybe he's not fond of seeing Longmire on the warrant," she told him tiredly, scrubbing a hand over her face.

Mathias smirked faintly, "If it's that asshole from your dad's trial, I expect not," he agreed, to her shock and amusement.

She laughed softly and waved a hand towards the file, "Henry is trying to run interference as best he can, but he knows we don't want Marcus to find out we're on to him. Noreena, I think we should talk to her again," she told him.

"You think she'll listen this time?" he scoffed, lifting a brow.

Cady sighed, "I don't know Mathias, but she was right on the edge last time. Maybe if you use some of that charm you're so known for," she joked, stormy eyes bright as he rolled his and sat back in his chair.

His lips half curled as he shook his head, his long black hair dancing with the action, "That's not what I've heard," he murmured.

Cady lifted a brow, interest peaked even as she tried to stuff away the emotions, "Oh? Has The Screamer finally given up on trying to domesticate you?" she drawled teasingly, "Has she learned that no woman can tie down the roaming heart of Mathias Stillwater?"

He barked out a laugh and shook his head, "The Screamer?" he asked incredulously.

She nodded, grinning at him, "I've heard her a couple of times on the phone, she sounds like a screamer," she mused.

Mathias shook his head and leaned back in his chair, avoiding her gaze. "Her name is Angela, and she's more of a whiner," he told her honestly.

"Hmmm…what's her problem?" she asked him.

He shrugged, unwilling to divulge his personal business with her, despite the fact that they were what he would now consider "friendly".

Cady frowned at his reluctance to say anything and then cleared her throat, "Well, I should get going. Dinner with dad and Vic," she announced, rising from her chair.

Mathias looked over at her, lifting a brow, "That sounds…" he trailed off, searching for the right word.

She grinned at him.

"Why don't you come find out?" she offered.

He was going to refuse, really, he was, but in that moment and the ones after it, he couldn't think why he should. So, he surprised them both and agreed.


Mathias lingered uncomfortably in the doorway as Cady and Walt talked and Vic interjected, the three of them preparing dinner in a smooth cohesion that he just didn't think he could slip into without disrupting it.

When Cady's phone rang she looked over at him excitedly, "It's the courthouse," she murmured, stepping past him to take it. He moved to follow her—

"Mathias, help me with this?"

He turned back to find Vic pointing her knife at a tomato on the counter, her brow lifted. With a hesitant nod, he crossed the kitchen and began dicing it for the salad.

He felt more than saw Walt's gaze on him and tried not to shift uncomfortably, waiting for the older man to speak. When he didn't, he shifted his gaze to Vic, giving her a faint smile, "How you doin Philly?" he asked softly, knowing that the last few months had been hell for the younger woman, though she seemed happier now than he had ever seen her.

She offered him a soft smile in return. "I'm good Mathias, thanks. Cady has picked up the job quickly and this case you two have is keeping her busy. She asked me to basically run the day to day of the office when she's busy with that, and it's been a good step towards me taking over someday," she revealed.

He lifted a brow, not realizing that the younger woman had such ambitions. "Good for you," he murmured quietly.

She eyed him for a moment and then asked, "How is the case going, by the way. Cady doesn't involve us that much," she revealed.

At this Mathias frowned; he had thought her deputies were working the cases like his were. Why wouldn't she involve them?

"Well, I should say, she doesn't involve Zach that much. Ferg and I, but not him," Vic amended thoughtfully, her brow pinched as she considered the situation again. "I thought it was because she and Zach slept together before she became Sheriff, but, I dunno, it seems like it's something else," she murmured.

Cady slept with Zach? Wait, which one was Zach?

His mind searched for the faces of the county deputies and he dismissed Branch Connally—dead, then the chubby one—Ferg he thought the kids' name was, and landed on a handsome smiling man he recalled from their joint takedown of Malachi.

He shrugged, "Don't know. We talk about the cases, that's it," he told her, and it was mostly true. They talked about the cases for the most part, but as he thought about it, he realized they would wander onto other paths, talking about Cheyenne culture and history, her law school experiences and her mom, their favorite foods and drinks…

With a start, he realized they weren't just "friendly", they were…friends. Was that why there was a knot in his stomach when he thought of her sleeping with that Zach kid? Because she was his friend and his colleague and he was protective of his friends (the few he had).

Yea…yea, that made sense.

"Mathias!"

At the sharp cry of his name from the woman in question, he turned and took a step towards her, pausing to set aside his knife as she rushed towards him, excitedly gesturing with her phone. "We got it! We got the warrant for the financials!" she told him, eyes sparkling at him before she hugged him in her flurry of excitement.

He was so stunned he didn't move until she was already backing away, his hands grazing her hips as she pulled away, her bottom lip pinched between her teeth as she tried to hide her grin. "We're gonna get them," she told him fiercely before looking to her dad, "We've got a warrant to build a RICO case," she told him proudly.

Walt grinned (He did that? Mathias didn't know it was possible for his face to make that expression) and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pressing a kiss into her hair. "Good job Punk," he murmured, his eyes sliding over to Mathias and he hesitated for a moment before nodding, "Good job Chief," he offered.

Mathias swallowed his surprise and trained his expression into something resembling gratitude as he nodded his thanks.

The rest of dinner passed in a flurry of chatter from Cady and Vic, though Walt cut in often enough, making both his daughter and his lover laugh. Mathias was initially hesitant to speak, but eventually did, surprised when Walt only eyed him for a moment before accepting his foray into polite conversation.

When Cady dropped him back at the res station he paused before getting out of the car, fingers wrapped around the handle of the door. She looked over at him expectantly and he stared out the window instead of at her.

"Thank you for inviting me," he murmured, "That was," he hesitated and then smiled faintly, "nice."

Cady studied him, noting the distant, almost sad look in his eyes and reached out to lay a hand on his shoulder, "Mathias?" she murmured quietly.

He ducked his head and then glanced up at her, smiling a fake, reassuring smile that did nothing of the sort. "Night Cady," he sighed before pushing the door open and leaving her staring after him, her hand having fallen from his shoulder to the seat he had vacated.


He had forgotten what it felt like to be around a normal family. To be with people who didn't get drunk at dinner and scream when the food wasn't right, slap and kick and punch and swear to make a point or for no reason at all.

To be with Cady and Vic and Walt was like a rush of fresh air coming into the room; he hadn't realized how stale it had been until the sweetness of it filled his lungs. He had seen plenty over the years to know just how bad his childhood had been, how not normal it was, but to be with Cady and her father, to see the love shining in his eyes when he looked at her, it made something in his chest hurt.

More than once he had wondered what that would be like, to know unconditional love.

It wasn't like his mother hadn't loved him, no, it was more that she hadn't had the energy to love him like he knew she wanted to. When he was little she would read him The Little Prince and whisper dreams of escape to him, her eyes shining with a dreary kind of hope.

As he got older though, and he had to step more and more frequently between her and his father, he saw the life in her dying. Her strength and hope faded away to shadows.

She was just another missing person, lost to time and abuse.

Mouth curling in distaste at the bitter tang of memory filling his mouth, Mathias poured another cup of coffee and shoved aside the melancholy of his past.

There was enough shit day to day without his past creeping back in to fuck him up.


Two nights later her sleep at the station was brutally interrupted by the shrill ringing of her phone. Fumbling in the dark, her hand scrabbled against the cold concrete until it found the offending item.

Wincing at the brightness of the screen, she quickly answered when she saw Mathias's name.

"'Lo?" she rasped, eyes furrowed determinedly shut against the wakefulness that was trying to invade her system.

"Cady, I need you to get over here," he demanded.

"Why? It's," she pulled the phone away and groaned loudly, "2:08am Mathias. Someone better be fucking dead," she warned.

There was a long moment of silence and her stomach dropped precipitously.

"Noreena Williamson is dead," he told her flatly.

She sat up abruptly, dropping her face into one hand, exhaling sharply, "Fuck, Mathias, I'm sorry. I just woke up," she explained, her voice slightly muffled.

"It's fine. Can you get over here?" he asked, sounding slightly impatient.

She nodded, "Yea, of course. I'll be there in fifteen minutes," she assured him.

He muttered a quick thank you and the call dropped, leaving her in the silent blackness once more. She sat there for a long minute, breathing steadily as she gathered her thoughts, letting the swirl of exhaustion push at her for a moment longer before she rose.

Flipping on the light at Ferg's desk, she went to the Keurig and put a pod in and her to go mug under it, pushing a few buttons to start the process that would help bring her to life. Grabbing her uniform top off the cell door where she had been sleeping, she buttoned it on after reapplying her deodorant and tied her hair back into a ponytail.

When her coffee was done she put another mug beneath it and put a fresh pod it, brewing a mug for Mathias. She tipped a little creamer into her mug and slung her tactical belt around her waist, holstering her gun as the coffee finished brewing.

Tucking her phone into her pocket she grabbed the cruiser keys and coffee, glancing back once to the light still shining on the desk and decided to leave it.

She had somewhere to be.


"Who found her?" Cady asked, staring down at the bloody body of Noreena Williamson.

Mathias sighed, "Henry did."

Her eyes flashed up to his face, widening in horror. She spun and searched the small crowd of police officers and bystanders until she found her uncle, standing with one of Mathias's deputies, his face pale and drawn as he spoke.

Without another word she strode across the room and murmured a firm, "Excuse me," to the deputy who wisely stepped away and allowed her space.

Cady didn't hesitate to throw her arms around Henry, one of her hands holding tightly to his hair as he grabbed at her back. She could feel a shudder run through him and felt his breath stutter on her shoulder unsteadily before he took a long, steadying one and then stepped back.

Giving her a grateful smile, he wiped under his eyes with the back of his hand, his eyes dark with sorrow.

"How are you?" she asked quietly, her hand on his arm firm, her voice revealing her worry.

"Tired," he sighed, shaking his head. "Heartbroken. Angry, confused," he murmured, his voice rough. His warm liquid gaze ran over the room once more, a dazed look in his eyes at the carnage and chaos surrounding him.

Glancing back at the deputy she jerked her head and he hurried over. "Are you done with him?" she asked quietly, eyeing him with a firm set to her jaw that told the young man any answer other than 'yes' would not be welcome.

Swallowing hard he hesitated and glanced back to Henry.

"He can go."

Cady glanced over her shoulder to find Mathias had joined them. He nodded to her and then the deputy. "He can go Caleb," he assured the younger man. "If we need to ask him more questions we know where to find him," he murmured.

Henry let out a breath of relief and Cady shot Mathias a thankful look.

"I'll be right back," she whispered to him before taking her uncle's arm and guiding him from the room. Henry allowed her to guide him through the hotel and casino until they made it to what had once been Jacob's office—now his.

"Can you get yourself home?" she asked once the doors were closed behind them.

He nodded numbly and Cady sighed softly, squeezing his arm so he looked up at her. She smiled kindly, "Henry, do you want me to drive you to the Red Pony?" she offered.

Shaking his head, his gaze grew a little clearer, "No, thank you Cady. I appreciate that offer, but I will lay down here for a time before I attempt to drive home I think," he told her, voice hoarse.

"Good, if you need me, call, okay?" she told him firmly, lifting her brows until he nodded his compliance. With a soft sigh, she leaned up and pressed a soft kiss to his cheek. Henry surprised her by hugging her again and she set her head on his shoulder, closing her tired eyes.

After a moment she sighed and stepped back smiling at him softly, "Call me," she reminded him. He nodded and smiled faintly, waving a hand tiredly as she disappeared back through the double doors.

He thought for a moment how like her mother she was and tears burned in his eyes.


By the time Cady made it back up to the crime scene the small crowd had dissipated and the crime scene techs were working in peace. Mathias was standing by, sipping his coffee as he observed.

Hers was long gone and the smell of his as she took her place beside him made her bite back a whimper. Mathias glanced over at her and lifted a brow, "Everything good?" he asked softly.

She nodded and cleared her throat, trying to keep her eyes off his coffee. "Yea, he's resting in his office," she murmured. "So, what do we know?" she asked, gesturing towards the scene with a hand that was sadly, devoid of a coffee cup.

"She was definitely killed here. The killer used this room since it's under construction and the security cameras in the hall don't work yet. She was strangled with wiring, raped, and then beaten with piping pulled from that pile," he told her, pointing to a pile of loose construction debris.

"Have we found her anywhere on the cameras coming up here?" Cady asked, watching as the techs fingerprinted the pipe and took pictures. Her empty stomach growled loudly and she flushed a little as Mathias glanced over at her wryly.

"Not yet. There's a ton of data to go through. For now, it's my guys going through it since we don't trust the security here," he told her, grimacing as the techs shifted Noreena's body and the caved in back of her skull was exposed.

Beside him, Cady swallowed hard and her stomach growled again, demanding something other than coffee—her brain disagreed—and she grimaced good naturedly when Mathias looked over at her with a smirk.

"Hungry?" he asked, giving the body a pointed look.

Rolling her eyes, she shook her head, "Ew. I just need to grab a muffin or something from downstairs," she muttered. "And some coffee," she murmured, sounding wistful.

Chuckling at the expression on her face he jerked his chin, "Come on, they've got work to do," he told her.

At her blank look he grinned, "It's a casino. Kitchen is open 24/7," he explained, "Coffee and food."

Her stomach growled loudly and he laughed as he led her out of the room, bemusement wrinkling her brow.


They sat in a corner of the casino restaurant, tucked away from the few diners there at this hour, a carafe of coffee between them and a plate of pancakes and bacon in front of Cady. Mathias watched her eat with interest and smirked, "Dunno how you eat like that," he murmured, sipping his coffee.

Shooting him a grin she shoveled another bite in and then told him, "Pilates four times a week, kickboxing twice a week, and a three mile run once a week."

His brows shot up and she shrugged, "Gotta be able to run down the bad guys, right?"

He nodded and eyed her pancakes with interest, his own stomach rumbling now. When she took a sip of coffee he stole a forkful of pancake, ignoring her indignant scowl. "'S good," he told her around his bite, lips curling into a faint smirk, "Thanks."

Rolling her eyes at him she took another bite and then shifted the plate between them on the table so he could have more. With a grateful little tilt of his lips, he took a few more bites and then reclined with a piece of bacon, enjoying his coffee for a moment.

"You want any more?" she offered, waving her fork towards the last bites and he shook his head, grinning at her.

"Gotta maintain my girlish figure," he joked, patting his perpetually flat stomach.

Her gaze darted down to where his hand rested and something flashed in her eyes for a moment before she smirked and glanced back up, "I dunno, I think you're gonna have to do a couple laps," she told him blithely.

Snorting at her, he poured another cup of coffee for them both.

"Did Henry have anything else to say when you took him out?" he asked softly.

Her expression shifted from an open, pleasant one to something wary and closed off. "No. He was," she hesitated and dropped her gaze to the table, her jaw clenching for a moment. "He was deeply upset," she murmured.

She exhaled slowly, shaking her head, "I don't think he was expecting this to happen. He thought, I thought we would be able to help her before it ever got this far," she confessed, looking up at him with pain in her eyes.

"Sometimes you can't," he told her and watched as his words hit her, her shoulders hunching a little more as she nodded in agreement. "Sometimes, you think you're gonna be able to help someone, but, it's too late and you don't even know it."

He swallowed hard and looked out the window onto the casino floor as he continued, "Sometimes you don't even know they're gone because you stopped looking. You told yourself you didn't care anymore."

A soft warmth enveloped his hand and he looked up in surprise to find her hand covering his, her stormy eyes gentle, warm. She didn't ask anything, she didn't say anything, she just offered her silent support and, in that moment, it was what he needed.

When the waitress came to take Cady's plate her hand was already gone, but he felt the warmth of it lingering long hours later.

Chapter Text

Cady adjusted the blonde wig and swiped on a little more lipstick before correcting her dress and heading out for the speed dating event. Ferg was at the bar, having (somewhat reluctantly) agreed to be her backup.

Taking her seat, she cast what appeared to be a casual glance around the room, noting some familiar faces, but mostly different ones. She had used a different name for her registration, though the woman doing the name tags and intake appeared to be the same as the last two she had gone to with Mathias.

A flash of guilt went through her at the thought of him. He hadn't wanted her to come and here she was, putting herself in danger if he was right.

She straightened her spine and shook the idea off. She had a wig on and had used a fake name. No one would know it was her.


Slumping onto her bed she kicked her heels off and flopped back, tugging her wig off and scratching at her scalp. For all her time invested, she hadn't found anything new out. Ferg had told her he didn't feel comfortable going anymore, so she would have to put off going until she could convince Mathias to go.

With a heavy sigh she rolled over and onto her feet, heading into her bathroom to wash the scent of cigarettes and regret off her skin.


"So I was thinking, what if we went to Casper and tried to talk to some of the women on the streets?" Mathias suggested, watching Cady as she absentmindedly ate a french fry and studied a file.

They were in her office this time, and he had to admit that her couch was infinitely more comfortable than his was. She even had a mini fridge stocked with snacks, water and beer. Plus there was the coffee maker that brewed what he considered to be a cup of nearly perfect coffee.

Yea, Mathias liked Cady's office.

When she didn't respond, he frowned and glanced over at her again. Since Noreena's death, she had been different. More intense, more focused. She joked a little less, and her bright smiles were a little less brilliant.

"Cady."

"Mmmm?"

She didn't look up and he huffed in annoyance, nudging her knee with his, startling her into looking up. There were creases between her brows and dark circles under her eyes, but when she smiled sheepishly at him, it all disappeared and he thought how pretty she looked.

"Sorry, did you say something? I was trying to make sense of these financials," she admitted.

He grinned a little at her intensity and nodded, "Yea I said that we should go to Casper and try to talk to some of the women on the streets working, see if any of them have seen our missing women, maybe they've heard something," he told her.

She gave him a thoughtful look and then nodded slowly, "That's a great idea actually," she murmured. Glancing at the watch on her wrist, she frowned, "It's what, an hour from here to Casper?" she asked, looking back up at him as she set aside the file.

"Yea, we could be there by 10. They'll just be getting going for the evening. If we take some cash and some food, we'll get more from them," Mathias told her, already gathering up the files in preparation for their departure.

Cady nodded and rose from the couch, cracking open her office door to call out to Zach. "Hey, Zach, Mathias and I are going to Casper to follow up on a lead for our missing women case. I need you to hold it down here," she ordered and Mathias could hear the quiet buzz of the man's voice as he responded, the words indistinct through the door.

After a moment, Cady turned back, grabbing her thick coat off the coat rack and gave him a faint smile.

"Ready?"


They had been out in the cold for nearly an hour with no luck. Most of the women either didn't want to speak to them, or those that would, didn't know anything. Mathias turned down a new street he knew was heavy in prostitution and pulled up to the curb, eyeing the four women huddled together under a dilapidated awning trying to avoid the snow flurries.

Cady rolled down the window and leaned out a little, giving the women a warm, friendly smile. "Hey ladies. If you want to get warm and have a sandwich, you're welcome to join us in here," she called.

The women were younger, early twenties maybe, and Mathias thought that was probably why they only hesitated a few moments before seemingly deciding together that it was a good idea. The doors to his SUV were opened and the women piled into the back, shivering and wet.

Cady handed out sandwiches and bottles of water, making small talk with the girls until they relaxed a little. When their mouths were full and she was relatively sure they wouldn't bolt at her first question, she began.

"Girls, my name is Cady, and I'm trying to find out some information on some women that have gone missing in my county. Would you look at some pictures and tell me if you've seen any of them?"

Cady and Mathias waited, breath bated, for a decision.

The girls exchanged glances before one, seemingly the leader, nodded and leaned forward. "Sure." Cady eagerly pulled out the photobook she had made, flipping it open to reveal the faces of the women they had identified as having attended the dating service, and those who had been underage.

The young woman flipped through the pages, frowning. When she reached the end, she went back and studied one of the photos, "I think I know her. Her hair was shorter, and there were bright streaks of pink in it when I saw her, but yea, I think that's her."

Cady and Mathias exchanged an excited look and Mathias asked as gently as possible, "Do you know where she is now?"

The young woman shook her head, "No. I don't even know her real name. They…" she paused and the other girls got an uncomfortable look on their faces. She swallowed and continued, "The people running her called her Candy, but she told me once that wasn't her name. She had a lot of spirit, talked back to the customers one too many times, and I think after that, she got moved."

One of the other girls scoffed and shook her head, "Hopefully. You know who she was being run by," she murmured.

A knock on the passenger side window startled the occupants of the car, the girls in the back flinching and huddling together, the police in the front reaching for concealed weapons. The man at the window was tall, likely six and a half feet and well over two hundred pounds of muscle.

He scowled and rapped his knuckles against the glass again, "Open up!" he demanded.

Cady and Mathias exchanged a glance before she nodded and rolled down the window a crack, peering out at the man.

"Can I help you?" she asked politely, and Mathias had to bite back a laugh at how only she could sound both polite, and like she was telling you to fuck off all at the same time.

The huge man glowered at her, "Yea, I need the girls to get outta the car if you aren't gonna pay em or fuck em," he growled.

Cady's brows lifted, and she glanced first at Mathias and then back at the girls, shooting them a grin. "Oh, well, we were going to take them to a hotel, have a party. But if you don't want to make money…" she trailed off suggestively and the man stared at her, suspicion narrowing his beady eyes.

"Where do you want to take em? I'll need to come to make sure everyone stays safe," he muttered, glancing towards the backseat.

"Just up the street, that's all," Cady replied evenly, giving him a polite smile.

The man studied her and then frowned, shaking his head, "Nah. Not tonight lady." He rapped on the rear window and called out loudly, "Get out! Get your asses out here!"

The girls huddled together for a moment, shoving the remains of their sandwiches into coat pockets and hurriedly guzzling water before they followed his commands and stumbled out into the cold.

Cady's eyes narrowed as the man began berating the young women, pushing and shoving them, his face an ugly snarl. Her hand tightened around the door handle, waiting for him to step over the line before she exited the vehicle and arrested him.

When one of his meaty fists backhanded the leader of the group for talking back, Cady was out of the vehicle, her fist connecting with his jaw, propelling him back a few steps. Mathias cursed and jumped out of the SUV, hurrying around it as the large man recovered and bellowed at Cady, lowering his shoulder as he slammed into her, knocking her into the ground with a heavy thud. Mathias's heart was in his stomach as she went down, her head hitting with a sickening crunch.

One of the man's hands closed around her throat as his hips pinned her down, his free hand connecting with her face in a series of vicious blows that left her disoriented and with a dull ringing in her ears.

"Get off her," Mathias shouted, the barrel of his gun pressing into the man's skull. Below him, the man growled, stilling in his assault on Cady before he shifted and she crawled out from under him, blood covering half her face.

As she rose to her feet, she drew a foot back and snapped it forward, kicking the man in the balls so hard Mathias's own flinched in sympathy. As the man collapsed onto the ground, wheezing and heaving, Cady kicked him again, this time in the ribs.

Glaring down at him, she swiped the blood from he eyes and then looked up at the women, gaze intense. "If you want out, come with us. We'll get you to a shelter."

Again, the group seemed to take a few moments before they nodded and hurried back into the safety of the vehicle.

"You want to arrest him?" Mathias asked softly, drawing her gaze back to him. Cady's cerulean eyes blazed in the night and she nodded slowly, anger raging in her gaze.

Mathias cuffed the man and shoved him into the large trunk of the SUV, slamming the hatch shut before taking off. The ride was quiet; the girls in the back were stiff with fear and Cady was pressing a wad of tissues to her brow, her jaw firm.

By the time they dropped the girls off at a shelter and the pimp had been processed by the local police, it was near dawn. Mathias found Cady sitting in the hallway outside the interrogation room, legs stretched out in front of her and her head back against the concrete wall, eyes closed.

Blood was dried to her face in dark splotches and he could see that already bruises were forming on her left eye, cheekbone and jaw. The bruising and cuts on her face mad him sick to his stomach.

Anger, guilt and worry ate at him; Cady was his partner, his friend and he hadn't been able to keep her from getting hurt. He had never once in his career used excessive force, never shot someone unless he had to, never taken a life unless it was the only option. But tonight, he had been breaths from smashing his fist into the pimp's face until it resembled nothing less than bloody pulp. The anger and fear had made his blood rush through his veins so hard and fast it had taken his breath away. Had he not needed to take care of Cady, he would have made a mistake. He would have done something unforgiveable.

He approached her slowly, the adrenaline long gone from his system, now replaced with exhaustion. The desk officer had given him a first aid kit, and as he sat beside her on one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs, she jolted, hand going to her weapon as he eyes flashed open.

He could see the panic and fear in those azure depths as her brain processed that it was him and not an attacker, and it made his gut writhe. When she slumped, chest rising and falling a little too fast for normal, he tapped his fingers against the first aid kit.

"Why don't we get you cleaned up," he suggested quietly.

She stared at him for a long minute and then nodded slowly, a wince crossing her face. Mathias moved with care, hands gentle as he used a disinfecting wipe to clean the blood from her face. She had a split lip, a large cut above her brow that probably needed a stich or two, but with the limited resources in the kit, he just put on two butterfly bandages and hoped it was enough.

When she was clean and bandaged, he dug out a packet of painkillers and ripped them open, taking her hand so he could drop them into her palm. She stared down at them for a moment and then popped them into her mouth, accepting the water bottle he offered, and drained half of it in a few swallows.

She was stiff as they made their way back to the SUV, and as he pulled away from the police station and onto the highway, she stared out the window with a bleak expression. It wasn't until the lights of the city faded that she finally spoke.

"You think they're all dead?"

His hands tightened on the wheel and he glanced over at her to see her staring out the window, her bruised jaw the only thing he could see of her face.

"I dunno. Not all," he replied quietly.

She hummed softly and then sighed, turned her head to look at him. The depth of sorrow in her gaze felt like a knife to his chest. He didn't like seeing her brightness so dimmed.

"I can't believe you've dealt with this for so many years," she murmured, sounding stunned. "I don't know how you have the strength to get up everyday and face it," she said, shaking her head faintly.

Mathias sighed and shook his head, "Because my people need me to. If I didn't, who would?"

Cady nodded thoughtfully at that, eyes starting to grow heavy as the painkillers numbed her. "Dunno, but, I'm glad you were there tonight," she sighed, eyes falling shut.

Mathias glanced over at her as she drifted off, his chest aching. She was like a storm, waning as it lost energy, but when she was angry and fighting for his people, her rage lit up the sky like the brightest lightning.

It took his breath away.

"Me too little storm, me too."

Chapter Text

"I told you it was a left!"

Cady rolled her eyes in annoyance and shot Mathias a sharp look of warning. "The GPS said right," she snapped.

"I've been here before, it's faster to go left," he retorted.

"Oh yea? You've been to bumfuck, Montana?" she asked mockingly, brows raised in faux surprise. Sometimes when he insisted he was right, she wanted to just slap the smug little smile off his face. But it was better when she could prove he was wrong and watch it slip away like a hounded dog.

"Take a right," he ordered and swore as she took the turn sharply, glaring at him from the corner of her eye.

Her fingers tapped on the steering wheel, itching to reach out and…she sighed and rolled her shoulders. She didn't know what she wanted to do, but, she was pretty sure it involved minor violence of some kind.

Damn man was frustrating as hell.

They drove in silence for some time, her gaze steadily out the windshield and his out the side window. As the transport van came to a halt outside a grey industrial building Mathias sighed and glanced over at her.

"I'm sorry. Shouldn't have snapped at you," he murmured.

She stilled as she pulled the keys from the ignition, glancing over at him to asses him, nodding quickly. When they stepped out of the vehicle and into the biting winter wind she grinned over at him and cupped an ear.

"Hey you hear that?" she called.

He shook his head, frowning as he stepped around the van towards her.

"Sounds like hell freezing over from you admitting you were wrong," she joked, slapping his chest with a laugh before striding towards the building. With a derisive snort, he braced himself against the wind and followed after her.

They were in as Cady called it, bumfuck Montana, because Carbon County had finally agreed to exhume the remains of Julia Gilchrist and return them to the remainder of her family on the res in Wyoming.

Julia's grandmother was 90 and blind, but she had been adamant that her granddaughter be brought home to have a proper Cheyenne funeral. After dental record confirmations and a positive ID by both Mathias and Cady, they had finished the requisite paperwork and waited on approval.

90 days later they finally had it.

He joined her inside and stripped his gloves off, waiting as the receptionist finished speaking with someone on the phone. When the young man hung up he looked up at them with a regretful smile that Mathias really didn't like the look of.

"Sheriff, Chief, I'm so sorry, but the county isn't prepared to release the remains to you this evening. You might have noticed the weather outside?" he murmured, pointing towards the window where there was now snow sticking to the glass.

Cady sighed heavily, "And?"

The young man once more looked apologetic, "If you take the remains tonight and stop somewhere to sleep, you'll be breaking the chain of custody. I understand that this isn't evidence, but there is a chain of protocol to follow from the county, to your possession, to the possession of the family," he told them.

Mathias bit back a groan and sighed heavily, shaking his head as he pulled on his gloves. Cady thanked the young man and assured him they would be back in the morning.

"Drive carefully!" the kid called after them.

The van doors shut behind them with a slam and he looked over at her, frowning, "Your white man's bureaucracy is bullshit," he informed her.

The look she gave him was both incredulous and annoyed, "You think I make the damn rules Mathias? Or that I agree with them all?" she snapped, turning over the engine with a shake of her head.

Staring out the window, he huffed softly, watching the glass fog up. No, he didn't think that. With a sigh, he shook his head and murmured another apology.

They rode in silence until they came upon a Comfort Inn and pulled into the slushy parking lot. As the engine ticked, Cady stared out into the gloom of the snowstorm.

"In case you haven't noticed, I'm not the enemy. I might be white, but I'm trying my damndest to make what my people have done to you and still do to you right. I'm trying to help you. I can't change what I look like, but I can use it to our advantage," she told him without ever looking at him.

The click of her seatbelt was loud in the silence that followed and he watched her slide from the van and cross the parking lot, head bowed against the wind and snow. She stumbled into the lobby and he watched her push her hood back, smiling tiredly at the concierge.

As they talked her smile fell and she shook her head, looking distinctly unhappy. After a few minutes she was running back over to the van and throwing herself inside.

"They've got either a single king or two smoking rooms, side by side," she told him. Glancing over she shrugged, "He said we could get a cot for the king room if we wanted. The county won't want to pay for two rooms, but its so cheap I can swing it out of pocket no problem," she told him.

After her quiet tongue lashing he felt distinctly uncomfortable spending the night in the same room as her, but was loath to accept the idea of her paying for his room. "I'll get mine," he told her quietly.

She studied him for a moment and then shrugged, "Okay. Cash or credit?"

With a huff he dug out his wallet and handed over his card, watching as she slipped out of the van again. When she came back it was with two room keys and a takeout menu from a local pizza place.

They hurried to their rooms and shut their doors, escaping into the relative solitude within. Cady wrinkled her nose at the scent of stale cigarettes and was half tempted to leave the window open to air out the room.

Instead she stripped and pulled on her sweatpants and a tank top, piling her hair into a bun as she sank down onto the lumpy and saggy queen bed. She didn't have much of an appetite, so she chose instead to read a study she had found a week ago on human trafficking and gang involvement.

It was focused in San Diego but the information within fascinated her and she was gaining a greater understanding of how gangs played a major role in human trafficking than she had previously understood.

Holding the cap of the highlighter between her teeth, she continued to read, highlighting areas of interest or importance as she went.


Mathias reclined on the bed, sipping from a beer he had ordered with his pizza. He wasn't really hungry, but it had been something to take his mind off what they were here for. An attempt to keep away the dark memories that had been plaguing him lately, without success it seemed now.

He finished two more beers before he grew sleepy, rolling over to shut off the lights, his gun on the side table.


A girl ran through a field of flowers, her grin bright and her laughter vibrating through him like he was a bell that had been struck.

S he paused to lean down and inhale the sweet scent, looking up at him with a wide, playful grin. " Come on Matty!" she called, waving to him as she took off again. He tried to follow, but the distance grew too fast, and the flowers began wilting, fading as the sun disappeared and the sky went black.

The girl kept running, waving over her shoulder at him, this time there was fear in her eyes.

" Come on Matty!" she urged and he tried to scream a warning as a wall of blackness erupted in front of her, swallowing her completely before it too came for him.

Mathias gasped, chest heaving as his still thrashing limbs trembled, sweat beading on his bare chest. Sitting up slowly, he rested his elbows on his knees, dropping his head onto his forearms.

There was something dark inside him, something that he needed to be set free from, but he didn't know if he could ever find the peace his soul craved. Tossing aside his covers, he slid his feet into his boots and tugged a sweater on before he grabbed his room key and threw his door open, crossing the short distance between his and Cady's door.

His knuckles hesitated over the plywood and he cursed himself for his weakness. She wouldn't appreciate being awoken in the middle of the night over a nightmare. Shaking his head and scolding himself, he turned away, heading back to his room.

Tossing his room key onto the small table, he kicked off his boots and stripped off his sweater before going to the bathroom and splashing water on his face, trying to banish the darkness. He swirled some in his mouth to try and get rid of the bitter taste, but it didn't seem to be real.

His head came up at the sound of a knock at his door.

Hurrying out to the door he grabbed his gun on the way and then peered carefully through the peephole. His brow furrowed deeply at the sight of Cady.

Indecision gripped him; should he let her in? He shouldn't. He didn't need her.

"Mathias?" she called softly. "Are you awake?"

She sounded upset.

The door was open before he realized it and he was staring at her, gun still in hand. Her tired blue eyes flickered down to it for a moment and then she shivered as a strong blast of wind hit her.

Stepping aside, he waved her in and shut the door hurriedly against the wind. Her sweater hung off her shoulder and her hair was up in a messy knot on her head, her feet encased in ugly ass brown boots.

She bit her lip when his gaze met hers and he frowned, "What's wrong?" he demanded.

"I…nothing. I just thought I heard something outside my room. Freaked me out," she admitted, brushing at her hair nervously.

Oh.

Swallowing around the knot that had suddenly formed in his throat he nodded and then cleared his throat, "Uh, that was me. I…" he trailed off, unable to come up with an excuse or tell her the truth.

Cady studied him for a moment and realization dawned on her. "Nightmare?" she offered softly. "I get them a lot, about the shooting, at the clinic," she told him.

Relief swelled within him.

She understood.

There was something dark in her too.

"You don't have to tell me what it was about, if that's what you're worried about," she murmured.

Sighing heavily, he sank down onto the bed and shook his head, "It's…just…been a long time."

Her brow furrowed in confusion, "That you've had this nightmare?" she asked.

Shaking his head, he shoved a pillow behind his back and leaned against the headboard. She moved towards the bed and then hesitated, glancing around for somewhere else to sit.

"You can sit," he offered softly, tossing his other pillow against the headboard beside him.

She nodded and kicked off her boots, sitting carefully beside him and turning to face him, giving him a soft, expectant look. He took his time, closing his eyes to breath for a minute, before he was ready.

"I had…have, a sister," he revealed, opening his eyes to find hers on his face. Her brow furrowed in confusion but she remained silent. "She was a sweet kid, always laughing, teasing. She would play tag with me even when we were in our early twenties, taking off and running into the fields, leaving me to chase her laughter," he murmured, a sad smile on his face.

"But she developed a drug problem. This boyfriend of hers got her hooked on heroin and six months later, she was gone."

Cady inhaled sharply, "She died?" she asked softly.

Mathias shook his head, "I wish it was as simple as that. She disappeared. She was only 22. Fifteen years ago, my sister was taken and never seen again," he murmured.

Cady stared at him wide eyed; finally, she understood his anger over these cases. She understood his need to solve them, to try and find answers. He had never gotten any for his sister, and he was still waiting.

"What was her name?" she asked softly, curious.

He smiled faintly.

"Emily."

Her hand covered his forearm gently, lifting his distant gaze to hers. "I'll help you try to find out what happened," she promised.

To her surprise he smiled faintly at her and nodded. His arm twisted under her hand and a moment later his fingers twined around hers. Glancing down at where their hands were joined, she looked back up at him in surprise.

Mathias's eyes were shadowed with grief and sorrow even as he smiled faintly at her. "I know you're not the enemy, and I don't hold you being white against you. I'm sorry I treated you like that," he told her solemnly.

She contemplated that for a moment and then nodded, "Just know that I'm your friend and I'll do whatever I can to help you, and we won't have a problem," she replied softly. He nodded and they both slumped further down the pillows, staring up at the ceiling as sleeplessness made their minds dizzy.

They remained that way till sometime around dawn when Mathias had fallen back asleep and his grip loosened, allowing her to slip away, glancing back once at the door, a tender, hopeful look on her face.


When Cady had dropped Mathias and the remains of Julia off, she went back to the station, smiling at people on the streets as she hurried along in the biting wind. Stomping the snow off, she made her way upstairs and into her office, leaning her head around the corner to wave hello to Vic.

"Where are Ferg and Zach?" she asked as she hung her coat.

"Ferg's with Meg, he's got time off," Vic reminded her.

"And Zach?"

"Night shift."

Cady hummed thoughtfully and waited for the coffee to brew. "Guess it's a girl's day," she murmured, seating herself across from Vic with a smile.

The other woman grinned, "Guess so. How did the trip to Montana go with Mathias?" she asked curiously.

Cady was instantly lost in the memory of Mathias's story of his missing sister, recalling easily the devastated look on his face as her spoke of her.

"Cady?"

Startling gently, she looked up at Vic in surprise, "Yea?"

"How did the trip go?" Vic asked again.

"Fine. We got what we went for," she replied with a distant smile.


"Got any plans for Valentine's Day? Still seeing the whiner?"

Mathias shot her an unamused look from across his desk before turning his attention back to the files they were working on. They had decided to go back another year and open the files, adding them to their investigation.

Both of them knew that it was only going to make their lives more difficult and they were less likely to find the missing women the further back in time they went, but by mutual agreement they had realized that they couldn't just ignore them.

Not after Emily.

"Just dinner at my place," he murmured after a few minutes of silence and she glanced up to stare at him for a moment, her heart clenching painfully.

He looked up in that same moment, his gaze meeting hers, a wry grin on his lips. "How bout you? You seeing anyone?" he asked casually. Still, his heart squeezed a little as he waited for the answer, and he tried not to asses the why behind that reaction.

Cady shrugged, she was thinking of stopping by Zach's and making yet another poor decision, but he didn't need to know that. "Probably just Netflix and wine for one," she joked, flashing him a smile before she turned back to her file.

Mathias studied Cady between glances at his file, trying not to feel relief at her lack of plans. It's just because she shouldn't sleep with a colleague, that's all he assured himself. Just looking out for his friend.

"Boss!"

Brian's head poked around the doorway, a frantic look in his eyes.

Mathias sat up straighter, instantly alert.

"We just got an OD call, EMS couldn't take it they're taking old man Graves to the hospital," Brian informed them.

Mathias stood and grabbed his cruiser keys, making for the door, barely noticing that Cady was following.

"Did they say what kind of OD?" she demanded as the trio hurried down the hall.

Brian shook his head, "Kid sounded scared outta his mind. Something about heroin, but stronger."

Cady and Mathias exchanged a worried look and her lips pursed into a fine line, "My cruiser. I've got naloxone," she told him, grabbing her keys from her pocket and taking off at a run. Mathias followed after her, heart pounding.

Brian was close behind, shoving a slip of paper in Mathias's hand with the address. Snow plumed as Cady threw the truck into reverse and tore out of the parking lot. Mathias held onto the grab bar as she sped through the snow, a determined set to her jaw as he directed her.

They pulled up in front of a ramshackle house a few minutes later, lights flashing off the snow and casting eerie shadows as they hurried towards the house, first aid kit and naloxone in hand. Mathias slammed a hand on the door, "Police! We're here with the OD treatment!" he called.

There was a long moment of silence and then a scared voice asked, "I-I'm not gonna get arrested?"

"NO!" Cady and Mathias shouted in unison.

The door opened a moment later and they ran in, following the kid who couldn't have been more than 17 back to a bedroom where a girl was laying on a filthy mattress, corn silk hair splayed out across it.

Cady knelt and put a hand to her throat, feeling for a pulse, growling when she didn't feel it. Glancing back at Mathias she gestured to the girl, "Help me get her to the floor, on her back," she ordered.

They moved quickly and when the girl was on the floor Cady uncapped the Narcan pen and jammed it into her stomach before tossing it aside and tilting her head back to begin CPR. "30 compressions and two breaths," she told Mathias, nodding as he began compressions, counting aloud for both their benefits.

When he reached 30 she crouched down and carefully administered two breaths, sitting back for a moment to allow Mathias to continue. Three more times they repeated it before the girl's body spasmed and she curled onto her side, retching.

Cady exhaled sharply in relief, wiping the back of her hand on her brow. When the girl's eyes were open and more focused, they told both kids they would have to go to the hospital for treatment.

Neither protested, and both remained quiet on the drive to the hospital. Intake took just under two hours and when they stepped back outside, it was snowing once more.

Turning her face up to the sky, Cady closed her eyes and let the freezing flakes fall on her tired eyes. Mathias shoved his hands in his coat and studied her, watching the way the snow melted against her skin and beaded away, the way it caught in her fiery hair and glimmered in the fluorescent lights of the hospital.

"Why are you staring at me?" she murmured without opening her eyes and a flush rose on his coppery cheeks.

Ducking his chin, he shook his head, "Just thinking that the kid wouldn't have survived without you," he told her softly, honestly, even if it wasn't what he had been thinking.

Her nose scrunched and a flush of something warm went through his chest, some emotion he couldn't, or wouldn't identify.

Her eyes finally opened and she looked over at him, gaze serious. "We're a team. She survived because of us both," she said in a determined tone, and that was that. She sighed heavily and shook her head, looking back up at the snow once more.

"Wanna get a drink?" she offered, closing her eyes against the snow once more.

He thought about it for half a second and then nodded, "Yea," he murmured, "a drink sounds good."

They drove to a nearby dive, the only other patrons on a snowy Wednesday night a man singing drunkenly to the jukebox and the bartender.

"Whiskey, neat," Cady told the man, "Best stuff you have."

Mathias grimaced and shook his head when she looked over at him, "Scotch," he told the man.

They sat in silence until their drinks arrived, tapping their glasses together before sipping. Cady closed her eyes against the burn, grateful for it, needing something to chase away the coldness she felt.

Something low and sultry started playing and Cady shifted in her chair, taking a longer sip of her whiskey. She held the amber liquid up to the light, watching the crimson fingers of light from the heart shaped string lights behind the bar play in the whiskey.

"I hate Valentine's Day."

Looking over at Mathias in surprise, she lifted a brow, a faint smirk playing on her lips. "Don't most men?" she quipped.

He shrugged, "Maybe."

"Why do you in particular hate it then?" she asked.

He ran a finger around the rim of his glass and she got distracted by the action, mind wandering to how it would feel to have that finger trail over her skin…to feel the callouses she knew he had against the soft flesh of her thighs.

"It's a contrived holiday forcing people to either declare their affections for someone when maybe they don't really feel it, or shames them for being single. It's bullshit," he spat.

Cady snapped out of her dirty little reverie and was grateful for the red tint to the lights for hiding her flush. "Uh, yea. Well, you know, it was probably men that created the holiday in the first place, and white men in particular, so, fuck em I guess," she muttered, lifting her glass in mock toast.

He laughed dryly and raised his too, their glasses an inch apart as he toasted, "Fuck em. Fuck this holiday. Fuck it all."

Tapping her glass against his, she swallowed down the last of her drink and winced at the burn before gesturing to the bartender to refill both their glasses.

"Who's gonna drive if we get drunk?" he asked half seriously.

She shrugged and sipped from her refilled glass, "Don't really care," she murmured, turning to eye him, "I don't have anywhere to be," she reminded him.

His eyes were dark as he nodded, taking a sip of his drink. He didn't really want to be where he was supposed to go. He'd rather be here, watching the way the blue and red lights played on the copper of Cady's hair and skin, making her look like some kind of ephemeral creature.

Shoving that thought aside, he took another long swallow of scotch, trying to let it burn away whatever was going on in his head.

They finished their second and third drinks quickly and the fourth were poured when Cady decided to use the restroom, rising only slightly unsteadily from her chair and making her way through the now empty bar.

Mathias watched her go over his shoulder, his gaze resting on her ass for far too long before he realized what he was doing and shook his head, trying to clear it. Swallowing a large sip of scotch, he followed her lead and leveraged himself out of the chair, slightly more unsteady than she had been.

Cady splashed a little water on her face to clear her head and decided she would finish the evening with water instead of whiskey. With a tired sigh she studied her face, frowning at the lines around her eyes and the dark circles beneath them.

No wonder she was perpetually single, she looked burnt out.

Grimacing, she turned away and flung the bathroom door open, stepping out and into Mathias's chest with a huff of surprise. They stumbled and his hands went to her waist to steady her. Heat flared under her skin where he touched her and she instinctively angled herself closer, lifting her chin towards his face.

Mathias felt it when Cady shifted towards him, her breath brushed against his cheek and her hips were inches from his, her breasts delicately leaning into his chest where her hands rested. Tilting his chin down, his eyes met hers in the gloom of the darkened hallway, the faded distant crimson of the bar casting them in a sordid light.

Her lips parted and he leaned in, squeezing her hips, watching as her eyes fluttered shut as his mouth descended towards hers.

The insistent screeching of his phone sent them stumbling apart, his shoulders banging into the wall behind him. Cady turned away, her hand going to cover her mouth as she trembled, eyes falling shut in disbelief.

Mathias scrambled for his phone, grimacing at the name on the screen. The Whiner he heard Cady's voice in his head say. He answered after a moment's hesitation and when he looked up, she was gone.


She should have felt bad leaving him at the bar, but at the moment all she could feel was his hands on her hips and his mouth, just breaths from hers. Streetlights flashed overhead until she came to a stop and strode up the walkway, pausing outside the door for a moment before knocking.

She waited another minute and knocked again.

A few moments later the door swung open and Zach stared out at her in sleepy confusion. "Boss?" he rasped, scrubbing at his eyes with the heel of his hand.

She stepped inside and shut the door behind her, placing a freezing hand on his bare chest and shoved him against the wall before her lips found his in a desperate, needy kiss. Zach let out a muffled noise of surprise and after a moment, pushed her back, brow furrowing.

"I thought we weren't doing this anymore," he asked, one hand on her hip.

She swallowed and looked away, "I need you right now," she whispered hoarsely.

Zach studied her for a moment before nodding sharply and pulling her back.

She needed this, she needed to forget what, who, she really wanted.

Who she couldn't have.

Chapter Text

They didn't talk about it.

Whatever it was that had almost happened (a kiss, her brain liked to remind her, over and over and over again), they resolutely didn't talk about it.

They went back to investigating the cases, trying to find the missing women. Cady sent more files to Isaac in the hopes they would be able to get more details, but this time he came up empty. None of the missing girls and women were reported dead to the FBI, and his superiors were starting to make noise about his time being spent researching for a case in which federal support hadn't been requested.

A few weeks later she got an email from him, an app link enclosed.

Cat,

I think this will help in your search. Unless you reach out to the local field office and specifically ask for FBI assistance, you're going to be going at this alone. If you want my two cents, keep at it before you come to us.

Let me know if you need anything.

Yours,

Isaac

She forwarded the app to Mathias in an email and explained its use, keeping it short and polite. He responded with an "ok", and something in her stomach twisted, a swell of emotion rising like a tide within her until she shoved it down.

She didn't have time to deal with that. She had a date to get ready for.


"So, Alice, what is it you do?"

She smiled politely at the man seated across from her and played with the long black locks of the wig she had donned for the evening. "Teacher. 6th grade," she lied easily.

He grinned, "You like kids then?"

She gave a simpering little nod, "I can't wait to start a family," she sighed dreamily.

The bell chimed and he was moving on, another man filling his seat.

By the time the night ended, she still didn't have any more information, and her head itched from the damned wig.

Slamming her car door, she ripped off the wig with a growl of frustration and tossed it aside, wiping her dark lipstick off on a napkin, scrubbing until her lips were almost raw. The napkin dropped to her lap and her face fell into her hands, unexpected and unwelcome tears welling up suddenly.

A sob ripped from her chest and she curled forwards, body hunching against the steering column as she cried.

Sometimes she wished she had never taken this damn job.

She wished she had left Absaroka like she had planned.

She wished, she wished, she wished.

She cried until her eyes were dry, sore and puffy. Wiping at her cheeks with the back of a hand, she pulled away from the bar, leaving it behind her.


Mathias nodded as Angela chattered, barely comprehending anything she was saying. His mind kept replaying that moment at the bar, when he had almost kissed Cady. Even now he couldn't say for sure if it had been real or something his mind had conjured to torture him.

Except, now they were as distant as two stars in the sky when they were in the same room, and she smiled politely at him, didn't argue or tease, she was…cold.

He was no better. He had refrained from texting, emailing or calling her until he absolutely had to, and the worst part was the knot in his chest when he saw her only got worse.

"What do you think Matty?"

Looking up, he lifted a brow and then shook his head, "Sorry, got caught thinking about a case. What did you ask?" he replied.

Angela frowned at him but repeated herself, "I said, we should do something together. Maybe go to Seattle for a long weekend since we didn't get to do anything for Valentine's day."

That sounded like a hilariously bad idea.

He nodded, "Sure. Yea, lemme look at when I can take off," he murmured, a ghost of a smile on his lips as she cried out gleefully and hugged him. Regret and shame swept through him as he distantly wished it was someone else hugging him, and he knew in that moment, he was as bad as his reputation on the res said he was.


Cady sighed as she hung up three more photos under the column of women that had gone to speed dating events and had subsequently gone missing. Despite the insistence from Mathias and Ferg, she was certain now that she needed to go to more of the events.

Vic's head popped around the corner, golden brows lifted, "Hey, we've got shots fired up at old man Johnson's ranch."

Cady rolled her eyes, this was the third time in a month they had been called out to the Johnson ranch. The old man was losing his eyesight and was a paranoid old fucker, meaning anytime a rabbit so much as rustled a mesquite bush, he was firing off his rifle.

So far, they had been lucky in that no one had been hurt, but it was coming to the point that they were going to have to find a way to confiscate his guns.

"Man's a menace," she sighed, shaking her head as she grabbed her keys and followed Vic out to her truck.

As she drove Vic leaned down and frowned, fingers closing around something fuzzy and black. She had noticed it when she got in the vehicle but as she pulled it out, her brows rose in surprise. A wig?

Cady glanced over, eye bugging out, face draining of color as her cheeks simultaneously blushed. Lifting a brow, Vic dangled the wig from one finger, "Sooo, what's this about?" she asked hesitantly.

To her complete and total horror, her brain didn't have a lie handy and she was left silent, mouth opening and closing like a fish for a moment before it snapped shut and she stared resolutely out the windshield.

A smirk grew on Vic's face, "Is it something dirty?" she teased, "Do you have a secret lovah," she drawled jokingly and Cady choked, coughing as she shook her head in disbelief.

"Wha—no! No, it's not like that," Cady gasped, wide eyed.

"Then what is it like?" Vic encouraged, giving her a curious look.

Cady chewed her lip nervously as she contemplated what to tell Vic. Glancing over at the other woman she frowned, "I…it has to do with the missing women," she finally responded.

Vic's brow furrowed, "How?"

Cady turned onto the road leading to Johnson's ranch and slowed, pulling to the side of the road. Staring out at the patchy snow she sighed heavily, "At least 8 of the women who went missing were using this speed dating service prior to their disappearances. I'm convinced that someone there knows something, but Mathias and Ferg don't want to go with me. They think it's not safe or that we'll tip our hand and if someone working the events knows we're onto them, they'll lash out," she explained.

"So…the wig," Vic murmured, drawing the correct conclusion.

Nodding, Cady turned to face her, brows furrowed in worry, "I'm going to more of them. There's something there, I know it. But you can't tell anyone," she murmured urgently, studying the other woman's face, trying to determine if she would agree to remain silent.

The two women stared at each other for a minute before Vic sighed and shook her head, smiling wryly, "You're just like your dad. Doing something he knows he shouldn't, because he's certain it's right," she told her.

Cady laughed sharply and grinned, putting the truck back into gear and pulled back onto the road, "Who do you think I learned it from?" she joked.

Vic smirked and shook her head, sparing a glance over at the other woman, a node of worry lodging in her stomach. What Cady was going to do was potentially dangerous—Mathias and Ferg were right about that—and if she could keep her safe, she would.

With a sigh, she followed Cady out of the truck once they had parked, keeping alert for gunfire. The last thing either of them needed was to get shot by a trigger-happy half blind old man.

Gunfire erupted, pinging off the large pine near Cady's head and she flinched, dropping low to the ground and taking cover behind it. Vic followed suit with a nearby tree and cursed when she saw blood on Cady's face.

A moment later Cady darted back to the truck, throwing a door open to reach in for the radio, turning on the speakers with a twist of the keys.

"Mr. Johnson, this is Sheriff Longmire and Deputy Moretti, put the gun down!" she called, her voice reverberating off the forest around them.

A long minute of silence passed before they heard the distinctive sound of a shotgun pumping and both women took cover.

"Sheriff aint no woman! Who are you?!" a raspy angry voice called back.

Rolling her eyes, she leaned up to peer through the windshield towards the house, searching for where the old man might be. Movement in the corner window gave his position away, the barrel of the rifle pointing out the window towards them.

"I'm Cady Longmire sir, Walt Longmire is my dad and he retired from the Sheriff's position. I took it about five months ago," she replied loudly, listening as her voice was projected through the speaker.

There was another long minute of silence and she watched as the barrel of the shotgun disappeared from the window. A few moments passed and the front door opened to reveal old Mr. Johnson in his long johns and boots, rifle in hand.

"Well, come out and lemme see you," he urged, stepping out further and squinting towards them.

Cady and Vic shared a wary glance before Cady wriggled out of the truck and to her feet, followed closely by a cautious Vic. Both women had their hands near their weapons, ready in case the old man started firing again.

When they were still 30 feet from the front porch the old man leaned forward, squinting. With a harrumph he nodded, "Yeh, yer momma had that same fiery hair. Can't imagine she ever woulda wanted you to be a police though," he growled.

Cady gave him a friendly smile and took a few steps closer, "Well, sometimes I don't think I want to either. It's a lot of work," she confided.

His laugh was growling and rough, years of smoking distorting it. "Yeh, I suspect as much. But what you need with me Sheriff?" he demanded, leaning on the barrel of his gun almost absentmindedly.

"Well, Mr. Johnson, you've been firing your weapon a lot recently. This time there were hikers that had gotten a little lost and come onto your property hoping to get directions. You almost hit one," she told him solemnly.

He nodded slowly, mouth pursed, "Well, they shouldnta come onto my land then, should they?" he countered.

Cady sighed and restrained herself from rolling her eyes. "Maybe not, but they had a kid with them. You could have hurt them," she told him, hoping this information would lead to some contrition.

"Parents aughta know better," was all he had to say to that and Cady rapidly began losing her patience.

"Mr. Johnson, this is the third time in a month we've been out here. If I or my deputies have to come back we'll confiscate your weapons and arrest you," she warned.

He contemplated that for a moment, his bushy white brows furrowing together before pursing his lips and spitting a stream of brown tobacco juice onto the ground in front of her. "Do what ya gotta Sheriff," he growled, "I aint giving up my guns."

With that he turned and retreated inside, slamming the door behind him.

Cady stared at the front door for a moment and shook her head, heading for the truck. Vic followed and they pulled away, knowing they'd be back.

"That went well," Vic muttered.

"At least no one got hurt," Cady replied quietly.

"You did," Vic replied and pointed to her cheek when Cady glanced over in confusion.

Checking her appearance in the rearview mirror, she frowned when she saw the scrapes across her cheek and forehead from where the bullet in the tree had fragmented the bark and lacerated her skin.

Her cheek and forehead were bloody and the pain finally caught up with her as the adrenaline faded. Shrugging, she focused back on the road.

"It's just a scratch," she muttered. "Doesn't even hurt."


While Cady went to a speed dating event, Vic was on the night shift, left to sit in the silence of the office and work on filing paperwork. When her phone rang she nearly jumped out of her skin.

"Deputy Moretti."

"Hey Philly, Sheriff isn't answering, you free?" Mathias asked hopefully.

"Yea, what's going on?"

"I've got a drug house bust and this kid looks like he's gonna overdose but I don't have Narcan. I know the Sheriff has some in her truck, you got any?"

"Yea, I'll be there in ten," Vic muttered, "Text me the address."

He agreed and as she ran down the stairs to her car, the address came through. Lights and sirens blaring, she made her way to the res as fast as she could.

Mathias met her outside the house and she tossed him the Narcan stick, following close behind with another. The kid on the couch was no longer conscious, but still breathing as Mathias repeated what he had seen Cady do—injecting it into the stomach.

After a few minutes the kid came around, coughing and retching.

Vic heard sirens outside and went back to the door, frowning when she saw the lights of the EMS. "Ambulance is here," she called, turning to find Mathias holding back the young boy's long hair as he gasped and dry heaved.

When the boy had been taken away, Vic and Mathias lingered near her car. She shuffled her feet for a moment and frowned, "Does it always take them that long to get here?" she asked, jerking her head down the road the EMS had left on.

He nodded and grimaced, "Sometimes they can't come at all. I'm trying to get a grant for more Narcan, but I haven't heard anything yet. Cady," he paused, "the sheriff helped the last time we had a bad one," he told her.

Vic didn't miss the way he hesitated over Cady's name, nor the look on his face that he probably thought he was hiding. Something was going on between Cady and Mathias, and neither was doing a good job of hiding that fact.

"Yea, well, she's busy tonight," Vic muttered, barely repressing an eye roll at the knowledge of where Cady was, in defiance of everyone else's better judgement.

Mathias's gaze darted to hers, his brow furrowing even as he tried not to look too interested. God, he's a terrible actor she thought idly. "Hot date?" he tried joking, lips tilted up in a ghost of a smile.

"Something like that," Vic conceded.

At this, Mathias studied her carefully, his mouth pursing as a thought occurred to him. "Something like…speed dating?" he suggested calmly.

Vic willed her face to remain impassive and then smiled, "You never know, she's a busy woman. You've gotta work hard these days to find the right person," she replied.

He nodded slowly and watched as she made for her car. She paused with her door open, not getting in just yet. Every instinct within her told her to protect Cady, to keep her from getting hurt like she had, but she knew the other woman would be furious if she told Mathias the truth.

Lifting her gaze to his, she gave him a searching look, "You…she needs you. She doesn't ask us for help, but she trusts you," she told him quietly. "She knows you've got her back."

Mathias didn't say anything, too many thoughts and emotions swirled in his head for him to form any kind of coherent response. Instead he just nodded and watched as she drove away, her taillights disappearing around the corner.


Cady frowned as she searched for more information on who owned the speed dating service. Everything she had found out was surface level, and sounded fake. Started by a couple who met after attending a similar event and realized that most people can know within just a few minutes if the other person is interested or interesting. Love in Time was founded in 2008 in Gila, New Mexico.

She was starting to think she would need to call Isaac and ask for another favor when her office door slammed open, banging against the wall and startling a yelp out of her.

Mathias glared at her from the doorway and strode in after a moment, slamming the door shut with equal force.

"So, I hear you had a busy evening last night," he murmured, voice dangerously calm.

How? How did he know? Her brain raced as he stalked forward, still glaring at her. Vic. Oh, she was going to kill her.

Mathias braced his hands on her desk and leaned forward, his silky hair falling forward to shadow his already dark eyes. "I told you it was too dangerous to go alone," he murmured, anger simmering in his voice.

His gaze flickered up to the scrape on her forehead, gaze darkening with worry. A knot formed in his stomach and his throat worked, but he bit back the question he really wanted to ask, his frustration with her and his fear for her safety too present for him to focus on the injury for the moment.

Cady cleared her throat, "I'm not sure what you're talking about. I went bowling with a friend," she lied, "and the cut is from work."

At this he grimaced and she could hear a growl in the back of his throat, "Goddammit Cady, don't lie to me. I know you went to another one of those dating events!" he snarled.

Her hands were thankfully steady as she lowered the lid on her laptop and reached for her coffee, "I didn't realize bowling was considered a dating event," she murmured wryly.

Mathias's tenuous grasp on control seemed to snap and he snatched the coffee mug from her hand, slamming it down on her desk. "Cut the shit. You went there when I told you it was dangerous. Why?" he demanded.

Rising to her feet, she mimicked his posture and crowded him back, "Because we have 8 women who used the service in the past two years. They've been up and running officially since 2008. That's ten years. We could be looking at almost a hundred women if you extrapolate the numbers," she snapped back.

"And what if they figure out you're onto them?" he demanded, slapping a hand against her desk, his voice rising in frustration. "What if they come after you?"

"They won't! I've worn a wig and used fake names, paid in cash; there's no way they know it's me," she tried to assure him.

He leaned in and she fought the urge to back away, "You're willing to bet your life on that?" he asked seriously, eyes dark with worry.

The door behind him opened and Zach strode in, frowning deeply.

"Sheriff, everything ok?" he asked cautiously, hands on his belt.

Cady glanced up at him and Mathias shot him a glare over his shoulder.

"You want me to escort the Chief out?" Zach offered.

Mathias rolled his eyes and leaned back, standing straight, "Call off your boyfriend, wouldya," he murmured wryly.

Cady flinched and looked away, her throat working for a moment. Mathias frowned at her reaction and glanced over to Zach, noting the flush that had risen in his cheeks.

Oh. Oh goddammit.

"We're fine deputy, I was just leaving," Mathias growled, shaking his head once as he turned away. Pausing with his hand on the cool copper of the door handle, he glanced back and took a last look at Cady.

"Don't do anythin stupid," he murmured before flinging the door open and striding out, the unspoken words choking him. It would kill me if something happened to you.

The door banged against her wall and she flinched, fighting the shame and anger and sorrow burning in her eyes.

"Cady," Zach started softly.

"Get out."

He stared at her for a moment and then nodded meekly, shutting the door behind him.

She didn't know how long she stood there, staring out the window blankly. The only thing she was sure of was that she couldn't stand the sight of Mathias leaving like that.

Chapter Text

Cady fidgeted with the label on her beer, waiting nervously in a corner at the Red Pony. When she looked up she sighed in relief at the sight of her one time friend crossing the room towards her.

Mandy hesitated at the edge of the table, her full mouth pursed thoughtfully before she huffed a sigh and sat down. "Well, I'm here," announced grumpily.

"Thank you for agreeing to come. I…I didn't like how things ended with us and I wanted to try and make things better," Cady told her. She had said as much in a few texts over the past few months, but this was the first time Mandy had responded.

The younger woman shifted, looking uncomfortable for a moment before she rolled her eyes and sighed. "Yea, well, I figured I could hear what you had to say before I told you to leave me alone for good."

Cady had been expecting resistance and anger, so this didn't worry her. The fact that Mandy was here meant that she was probably more willing to reconnect than she was letting on. So Cady leaned forward and smiled softly at her, "I heard you got your GED, are you thinking of going to college?" she asked.

Mandy shrugged and played with the straw in her water. "Dunno. College costs a lot. My aunt doesn't have that kind of cash. Probably just going to get a job," she muttered.

They talked uneasily for a few minutes until Mandy got an odd look on her face and rolled a shoulder. "You know, you saved one of my friends recently. She OD'd and you saved her," she told her quietly.

Cady looked at her, surprised. She remembered the girl she and Mathias had brought back, but she hadn't known Mandy was a friend. "Uh, well, I had help from Chief Stillwater," she replied, ducking her head.

Mandy frowned, "You mean Mathias? Nobody calls him Chief Stillwater," she said with a wry laugh.

Cady shrugged, "Yea, well, whatever," she mumbled, cursing herself silently for the lame response.

After a searching look, Mandy frowned, "I've heard you guys are working on some big case. Missing people?" she asked.

Cady sighed and swallowed the last of her beer before nodding. "Yea. We've uh, had a disagreement recently on methodology when hunting down leads," she admitted somewhat bitterly.

"Have you talked about it?" Mandy asked curiously.

"Talked, argued, shouted; it doesn't get us anywhere. He's so goddamned stubborn," Cady told her with a grimace, shaking her head.

Mandy laughed, "Sounds like someone else at this table," she replied, lifting her brow when Cady shot her an unamused look.

"That's what he says too," she admitted softly. "It just drives me crazy he won't listen. I know what I'm trying to do will get us results, but he's so worried I'm going to end up letting our targets know we're onto them that he won't listen!" she declared angrily.

"What if he's worried you'll get hurt?" Mandy asked thoughtfully. When Cady looked up at her in surprise she shrugged, "I mean, his sister went missing when I was a kid, I still remember it. I'm sure he just doesn't want that to happen to someone he knows, again."

Biting her lip, she considered the younger woman's point.

Lifting her gaze back to Mandy's she studied her intently, "Mandy, would you help me with something?" she asked.


"Woah," Mandy breathed, staring at the whiteboards covered in the faces of missing women. Cady nodded in agreement with the sentiment, sorrow filling her as it usually did when she looked on their faces.

Pointing to the group of 6 underage women, "Do you know any of them? Any of their habits, friends, family, anything really," she murmured.

Mandy shifted and studied the names and faces of the women who could have been her sisters. After a few moments she nodded, "I know two of them from when I was still in school. Another I worked at some burger place with, and her," she pointed to a girl, "we partied together."

Cady grabbed a notepad and pen, glancing up at her, "Tell me everything."


Cady waited outside the tribal police station, two mugs of coffee in the cupholders of the transport van. Penny Longclaw's remains were being released by the courts in Colorado, and she and Mathias were once again on the road together.

Glancing up at the sky, she frowned at the dark clouds; it looked like snow and she didn't want to get stuck in it any more than she wanted to be stuck in a vehicle with Mathias for five hours while he was still angry with her.

When he finally emerged he didn't even glance at her, just yanked the door open and slid inside, clicking his seatbelt on and staring out the window. With a sigh and a shake of her head, she put the van into reverse and pulled away, silently praying the whole trip wouldn't be this uncomfortable.


Snow fell so hard she could barely see, the headlights reflected off the flakes and made it into a curtain of white around them.

"We should find someplace to wait this out," Mathias mused beside her, the first words he had spoken in hours.

She nodded and jerked her chin towards her phone, "Can you check the GPS for a hotel nearby? We'll pull off," she murmured, squinting down the highway.

Out of the corner of her eye she watched him fidget with the phone, his frown growing. "Closest one is 17 miles," he murmured.

With a resigned sigh she gripped the steering wheel tighter and focused on keeping the van between the barely visible road lines. A few minutes later there was a bump, a loud thudding pop and the van skidded.

Gritting her teeth, she corrected and slowed until they were sitting on the side of the road. Unclenching her hands from the wheel she glanced over at him, heart still pounding. "Sounds like a flat," she told him.

"You have a repair kit?" he asked, glancing back towards the cargo area of the van.

She had no idea.

With a sigh he unhooked his seatbelt and pulled his beanie on before exiting and going to the back, rooting around for a few minutes before he was back, shivering and shaking his head, "No kit."

"I've got AAA, we'll get a tow or a repair," she told him, reaching for her phone.

He nodded and his countenance grew pinched as he listened to the call. They would have to wait almost 90 minutes before someone was able to come. The snow had caused multiple wrecks and since they weren't hurt, they were a lower priority.

Cady wheedled and pleaded, but had no luck in getting anyone to come, even when she tried local tow numbers. Everyone was either stuck or busy.

Tossing her phone onto the middle console, she laid her head back and closed her eyes in frustration.

This felt like some kind of huge cosmic joke, designed to make her and Mathias talk. Scoffing, she shook her head faintly and turned her head to peer out the window at the wall of white outside.

"Thinking about just making a break for it?" Mathias suggested wryly.

A faint smile crossed her lips.

"It crossed my mind," she admitted.

"You'd freeze to death before you made it to safety," he told her solemnly.

"No shit."

He made a noise and she looked over to find him staring at her incredulously, "You really don't care, do you?" he demanded. When her brow furrowed in confusion he expounded, "If something bad happens to you."

Cady rolled her eyes, "Of course I do. I'm smart enough to know when not to take risks that have almost no chance of paying off," she told him, looking away again.

"Which I guess going to those speed dating events aren't," he stated angrily.

"Nope," she answered, popping the 'p' deliberately, knowing her nonchalance was pissing him off.

"You're a fool if you think someone isn't going to get hurt because of you going," he snapped.

She whirled back to glare at him, "Someone, or me?" she demanded, mouth flattening in anger.

He stared back at her, gaze thunderous until he shook his head and turned away.

"Goddamned pain in the ass," he muttered.

Glaring at him for a moment, she turned to stare out her window.

"Right back at ya," she grumbled.


It took almost three hours before the AAA truck arrived, changed the flat and got them back on the road. By then the storm had died down, but the roads were nearly impassable when they turned off the highway to find a hotel.

After being turned away from three hotels with no vacancies, they finally found refuge in a Motel 8. Though they were forced to share a room with a single king, Cady was just grateful for the hot shower.

Steam filled the small bathroom as she stood under the showerhead, the shivers that had been running over her skin ceasing as the heat penetrated and sunk into her bones. She thought back over the argument that she and Mathias had been having for what felt like weeks now and realized that maybe Mandy was right, maybe he was worried about something happening to her.

She at least owed it to their friendship, however tentative and fragile it was at the moment, to hear him out. When she shut off the water and toweled off, she swiped a hand across the mirror and stared at her reflection, grimacing at the cuts still healing on her head from her encounter with Mr. Johnson.

Countered with her dark circles and the bruise on her cheek from hitting the ground, she looked like a mess.

With a sigh she turned away, pulling on her yoga pants and sweater before she opened the door and let the steam out. Mathias looked up from his post on the bed, his gaze a flash before it went back to the tv.

Right, charm offensive then.

"I promise I left you some hot water," she joked gently, smiling at him when he glanced up.

He nodded and she watched as he gathered a small bundle of clothes before stepping past her and into the warm bathroom. When the door closed behind her she sighed and sat down on the bed, reaching for her brush.

She had just finished plaiting her hair when the shower shut off and a few minutes later Mathias emerged with a pair of briefs on and a tshirt.

"Aren't you going to be cold?" she asked, surprised. She had chilled considerably after coming out, even having turned the heater on high.

He shrugged, "I run warm," he murmured before tossing his towel over a chair to dry. She watched from the corner of her eye as he sat next to her and stared resolutely at the tv.

With a sigh she realized they were never going to speak to each other like this. In a flash she reached for the remote and shut the tv off, turning to face him before he even had the chance to protest the action.

"I'm sorry," she started. "I…shouldn't have disregarded what you thought about me going to the speed dating events alone. It was rude, and it was disrespectful of both our professional relationship and our friendship."

His brows lifted at this, but he didn't say anything in response so she plowed ahead.

"Mandy pointed out to me that you may have been upset with me because you were worried something would happen to me, like Emily." She gave him a searching look, "Is that it?"

Mathias avoided her gaze, resolutely refraining from answering until he could speak without sounding angry. He couldn't believe it had taken her so long to understand that he didn't want something to happen to her, that he worried.

"Mathias," she entreated softly, pleading with him to talk to her. Hesitantly, she moved to cover his hand with hers. There was sorrow and hope in her voice, a poignant blend that made him wonder if those beautiful eyes of hers were shining with unshed tears.

Some part of him didn't want to look up, to see her looking at him like that. After the bar, after everything, they couldn't cross those lines. She'd only get hurt.

Clearing his throat, he pulled his hand out from under hers and used it to rub at his jaw before he looked up and saw the hurt in her eyes.

"Yea. It's that," he agreed.

She nodded slowly and sighed, her eyes still sad as she smiled at him. "I should have listened to you to begin with, it shouldn't have taken Mandy reminding me of Emily to realize why you might be upset. We're friends too and I just, I should have known better," she admitted unhappily.

He didn't know what to say to that so he just nodded, avoiding her gaze once again. They slipped into silence and she sighed, turning away from him. He glanced up when she stood from the bed and went to the door, double checking the lock before she came back and slid under the covers.

With a faint smile she handed him the remote, "If you wanna watch something, go ahead. I'm going to close my eyes," she murmured before rolling over and shutting off the light.

He sat in the blackness until his eyes adjusted and he could easily make out her form beside him. He listened to her breathing for a moment before turning over and setting the remote aside, pulling the covers up around his shoulders.

He woke sometime in the night, a dream of Emily dancing in fields of flowers leaving his chest aching with sorrow and his cheeks damp. As he stared up at the ceiling Cady rolled over in her sleep and nuzzled into his side, her head tucking into the crook of his shoulder as her leg slid across his thighs.

Motionless except for his shallow breathing, he waited to see if she would move again, or if she would wake. When she did nothing but give a little contented sigh, he lowered his arm from behind his head slowly, tentatively, to wrap around her shoulders.

He knew it was wrong, to let himself enjoy this when he couldn't give her anything in the light of day, but he was weak. He could pretend that what had happened at the bar didn't mean anything to him, he could lie to both of them and say they were just friends, but it would have to be tomorrow.

So instead of rolling over and putting his back to her, he turned his head and buried his nose in her hair, inhaling the floral scent of her shampoo and the warmth of her skin. There was a feeling of rightness in his stomach that came from holding her in his arms, a rightness that scared the shit out of him.

He didn't know how it was possible to simultaneously feel…this for someone and still want to throttle them for being a gigantic pain in the ass who put too much at risk. Something told him that the answer was far too frightening and real for him to address tonight.

It would be over in the morning, but for tonight, he could pretend this was real.

"Sleep well little storm," he whispered, holding her a little closer.


When Cady woke the next morning, Mathias was gone from the room.

She panicked for a minute, stumbling out of bed and towards her shoes until she saw the note on the table.

Cady,

Went to get breakfast. Back soon.

M

With a sigh, she relaxed back onto the bed and flopped backwards. Closing her eyes, she tried to recall a dream she had last night. There had been strong arms holding her, a warm breath on her cheek, a quiet voice whispering something.

Smirking, she realized it was probably just a dream as a result of spending the night in a bed with the man of her desire. Even if last night she hadn't felt the ball of tension in her belly she usually did around him.

Last night she had felt…saddened.

Mathias didn't seem like he was ready to believe her, or forgive her. Maybe they weren't really friends at all. Maybe they were just two people who worked together and had almost made a drunken mistake.

He probably only thought of her as a coworker.

Rubbing at her face with her hands she let out a soft growl, trying to sort through her conflicting thoughts and emotions. With a heavy sigh she rose and went to her bag, pulling out a change of clothes.

As she was hooking her bra the room door opened, letting in a blast of cold air and Mathias with food. Hurriedly she grabbed her sweater and turned to pull it on, cheeks flushed.

Mathias stilled, eyes tracing over the acres of tan skin exposed to him, swallowing hard as her muscles rippled under skin when she pulled her sweater on. As that tantalizing view disappeared he cleared his throat and turned to set the food on the table, cheeks burning.

"Sorry, shoulda knocked," he muttered.

She turned to face him, visage deceptively calm and smiling. "No worries. What did you get?" she asked, sounding interested.

"Burritos from the 7/11. Heated em up in the lobby microwave," he told her. They sorted through the food and ate quietly, gathering up their things when they had finished and headed out to the van.

They had a job to do.


When she dropped him at the tribal police station and the remains had been transferred into their small morgue, Mathias laid a hand on her arm, letting it slip away when she gave him a curious look.

"You coming to the spring equinox celebration tomorrow?" he asked softly, and if she didn't know better, she almost would have said he sounded hopeful.

"I…do you need help?" she asked warily, studying him through narrowed eyes, head tilted off to the side as though she was contemplating a puzzle.

He shook his head, "Just thought you might like to see how we celebrate," he told her, surprising her even further.

"Isn't…isn't it for tribal members only?" she asked carefully.

"The opening ceremony is traditionally only for members but we're allowed to bring friends," he revealed. "The rest of the celebration is open to everyone. Besides, might do some good to get you interacting with the community again. Build up trust."

Her brows went up. "Right, good idea. Is that what we are?" she asked, elaborating "Friends" at his confused look, but not daring to hope that maybe after everything, they would be ok.

His lips curled at the corners in her favorite version of his almost-smile, his eyes feathering around the edges with the smile that didn't grace his lips yet, "Yea, we are. Even if you are a gigantic pain in the ass," he joked.

At this, she laughed brightly, eliciting a twitch of his lips, a small smile from him. "Well, you're no picnic either," she joked back. "And yea, I'd love to come."

He nodded in satisfaction, "Great, see you tomorrow at 5am."

She stared at him, incredulous for a moment before laughing, "You're lucky I like you," she murmured.

Mathias ducked his chin and smiled faintly, "I am. Don't forget the coffee," he reminded her as she headed for the van, receiving a grin and an eyeroll in return.


"Cuál es su nombre?"

Security video played and a woman with blonde hair was in a seat, smiling and talking.

"Alice Montgomery"

The next video showed the woman with long black hair and a similar face.

"Jordan Jones."

The last video played, showing a red headed woman with the same face smiling at her date, chatting with him until something ushered him away and a new man took his seat.

"Y Cady Longmire."

There was a long thoughtful silence.

"Policia?"

A nod of surety.

"Si, seguro."

A grim smile.

"Pues, enséñale una lección."


 

Chapter Text

Cady yawned widely as she rolled upright, shedding the heavy weight of her blankets and Zach's body. Glancing over her shoulder she frowned, once again regretting her decision to keep sleeping with him.

It was an arrangement based on lies, need and comfort, but she knew deep down that when it ended, hurt would abound.

Sighing heavily, she rose and went to dress, preparing as quietly as possible for her departure to the res. Jeans were joined by thick woolen socks, a tank top, sweater, scarf and heavy jacket. When both travel mugs of coffee were full she hurried out to her truck, examining herself in the mirror for a moment.

The scratches and bruise on her face were finally fading, and with some artful makeup, she actually looked wide awake and, dare she say it, pretty. Some part of her knew she had done the extra work in the hopes that Mathias would notice, and she hated that part for making her hope.

Mathias had been right when he told her that hope was dangerous.


Mathias rose from bed slowly, the sheets clinging to him as he left a sleeping Angela behind. He hadn't meant to keep coming back to her, he knew they weren't good together, would never last, but being with her was what he was good at.

He wasn't made for a relationship, expectations…love; and it was something they both knew, even if it remained unspoken. It seemed no matter how many times he let Angela down or was too busy to be with her, she would return, unwilling or unable to be alone.

Not that he could say much for himself. He had known years ago that he was destined to be a bachelor for life, and when he had put on the police officer's uniform, that thought had only solidified.

Slipping his gun into his holster and his jacket on over his thick sweater, he shut the door quietly behind him. Glancing at the clock in his cruiser he realized he had just enough time to make a quick stop before Cady met him at the station.


The deputy on duty had been happy to let Cady in, even going so far as to make small talk for a few minutes until she went to Mathias's office to wait. Her eyes slipped closed as she leaned her head back on his lumpy couch, her body craving sleep.

"Up and at em!"

Cursing, she bolted upright, heart thundering in her chest as she glared at Mathias who stood smirking at her in the doorway.

"Jeez, you're like a fuckin cat," she snapped, rising to her feet to hand him his mug of coffee, "gonna have to get you a bell," she muttered, taking a sip of her own.

Mathias laughed and held out a white paper bag, the scent of warm pastries rising to her nose a moment later. With wide eyes she took it, moaning in delight when she found three chocolate scones inside, still warm.

Looking up at him eagerly she grinned widely, "I think I love you," she enthused. When he laughed and shook his head she shook her head and grinned, grabbing his arm, "No really, will you marry me?" she joked.

"Only if you make me that coffee everyday until I die," he joked back.

"Done."

They shared a warm look and she ducked her head to hide the flush on her cheeks before shoving the bag at him, "Here, you should have one while they're hot."

Nodding, he took one out and they ate in companionable silence, casting each other soft looks and smiles.

Mathias's gaze landed on the cut on her forehead, skillfully hidden by makeup, but still obvious to someone who knew to look for it. Without thinking, he reached up and brushed his fingers over it, frowning.

Cady stared at him wide eyed, breath hitching in her chest as his fingers brushed over her skin gently.

His dark eyes met hers, warm with concern, lips turned down at the corners creating half moon creases around his mouth. "What happened here?" he asked quietly and ran his thumb over it, sending a little shiver over her body.

She couldn't think of what to say because all she knew was the sensation of his fingers on her skin, gentle and sweet, and god, she wanted more. He couldn't know what it was doing to her though, because he just peered at her curiously when she didn't respond and she swallowed hard, tearing her gaze away from his.

"Uh Vic and I got called out to this old rancher's place. He's half blind and likes his guns. Doesn't like people on his property and doesn't mind taking potshots at anything that moves."

A low rumble from his chest brought her gaze back up to meet his, her cerulean one widening at the anger she saw there.

"He shot at you?" Mathias demanded, stepping closer to tilt her chin and run a hand down her arm, seemingly checking for injury.

"I'm fine," she assured him, turning her chin so it rested in his palm and she could meet his gaze reassuringly. "He hit the tree and the debris hit me. I bruised my cheek on a rock or something, but I'm fine," she told him, acutely aware of the fact that his hand still held her chin, the other cupping her elbow.

Mathias studied her carefully, gaze flickering over her face and down her body, trying to reassure himself she was in fact ok. She had seemed fine on their trip to Colorado and he had seen the healing scrape and bruise on her cheek, but it wasn't until now that he had really taken it in.

With a low sigh he nodded and brushed his thumb along her cheek. "As long as you're okay," he murmured.

She nodded and smiled softly, "I'm okay."

They stood staring at each other for a moment until it struck Mathias that he was still holding her chin and gently stroking her cheek, his other hand firm around her elbow. Shit shit shit he cursed silently, stepping back abruptly.

Giving her a faint, awkward smile, Mathias jerked his head towards the door, "Let's go."

She followed him out to his cruiser and remained quiet as they drove to the foothills where the ceremony was being held. The sky was grey, just starting to lighten when they arrived and Mathias urged her to hurry, guiding her through the dark up the hill.

When they reached the crest she was panting softly, her layers keeping her warm in the biting morning air. She watched as the tribal elders gathered together, chanting quietly. Looking away she focused her gaze on the stars, searching out her favorites.

"Which one are you looking for?" Mathias asked softly, joining her in looking up.

She pointed, "Andromeda. I always like her story."

His brows rose at that, "The Chained Woman? Why?"

Cady shrugged, "Because, she was betrayed by the sins of her family. She was at their mercy, chained to a rock because her mother had offended the nymphs and Poseidon. Her father was convinced she should be sacrificed and did nothing to try and avert it. Perseus saved her and they founded an entire country together. She was liberated from her chains and birthed a nation."

Mathias studied her as she spoke, enjoying the way she delivered her point with firm belief and a patient sort of passion. Smiling softly, he looked heavenward and pointed, "The Bear," he murmured.

"Ursa major," she supplied, earning a wry grin.

"To white folk," he agreed. "Do you want to hear the story?" he asked patiently and continued when she nodded, turning her face back to the stars.

"An Arapahoe lodge was camped at Bear's Tipi. The father of this lodge was a head lodge and had seven children, five boys and two girls. The two girls had made an arrangement between themselves that the one who found the end rib-bone of a bison should receive the most favors from the brothers. The boys often made trips to other tribes. After a long search one of the girls found an end bone of a bison, but on picking it up she turned into a bear and made some big scratches on her sister's back. The 'bear-girl' told her sister, "If you tell, the dogs will howl and this will be a signal so I will know that you have told." The sister did tell her brothers and when they heard the dogs howl and give the signal they were scared and started to run.

The bear-girl heard the signal and ran after them. The girl who had told was carrying a ball in her hand which she dropped and accidentally kicked. The ball bounded up on the big, high rock. The bear-girl reached over her sister's shoulder to grab the ball, slipped and made very big scratches on the big rock and fell on her sister and broke the sister's chest. The bear-girl climbed to the top of the big, high rock and told her family that there would be seven stars in the shape of a diamond appear in the east; she said the first star out would be off to one side and would be brighter than the other stars. The first star would be called "Broken Chest Star."

She looked over at him and smiled softly, "Thank you, it was wonderful."

He nodded and they stood together, staring up at the stars. He pointed to a small trio of stars, "Dried Willow, it's used to celebrate the equinox," he told her softly as the tribal elders began to chant and sing, dancing in the morning twilight.

Cady watched, awed at the passion and beauty they celebrated with. It brought tears to her eyes, and though she wasn't sad, she felt a sorrow swell within her for all that Mathias and his people had lost because they had lost their nation.

As the sun began to crest the peak, someone tossed a flame onto the fire pit and the dry branches erupted, throwing sparks into the sky. Other members of the tribe joined in with the celebration, chanting and singing.

Mathias remained by Cady's side, quietly explaining what was happening and introducing her to members of the tribe she had never met before. The elders passed around a pipe, and with that, the official ceremony was completed.

"The festival's down in town, you should come check it out," Mathias encouraged softly. Cady gave him a wide smile, eager to see more. As they drove back she peppered him with questions, talking and smiling the whole time.

When they stepped out in front of the community center he realized he hadn't been smiling like this in…he couldn't recall when. Following behind her, he wondered what the hell was happening to him and what the hell he was supposed to do about it.


Cady sat with Mandy enjoying a plate of food from one of the many stands, listening to the young woman chatter about a guy she had been seeing recently.

"So, what about you?" Mandy asked curiously, tilting her head to stare at her.

"What about me?" Cady responded lightly, knowing perfectly well what the young woman was asking and not wanting to discuss it in the slightest.

Mandy rolled her eyes; Cady couldn't get away with it that easily. Not with her anyway. "Are you seeing anyone?" she prompted, taking a bite of chicken and cornbread.

Cady shook her head, "No, too busy with work."

"What about Mathias?"

Cady choked on a mouthful of food and looked up at the younger woman in shock and a little suspicion. "What do you mean?" she rasped, swallowing a little water to try and clear her throat.

"I mean, he's never brought anyone to the tribal events. He's on and off with Angela and dated a bunch of other women, but I've never seen him with one at something like this," Mandy told her, brow furrowing in confusion and curiosity.

"We're friends. And coworkers. That's it," Cady answered shortly, hoping that would be the end of it.

It wasn't.

"Maggie at the Wild Berry Bakery told me he stopped in this morning for chocolate scones. She said he doesn't usually eat sweets. Told her they were for someone else." Mandy lifted a brow, an inviting look on her face, daring Cady to say something.

"I bring the coffee and he brings baked goods. Nothing remotely sexual about that," she answered dryly, hoping to push the younger woman off the topic.

"You're right. That's something that friends do. Or people who like each other," she amended, smirking when Cady shot her a warning look.

"Friends. That's all we are," she told her, the warning in her voice to drop it clear.

Mandy shrugged and wisely took the hint. When they had finished eating she stood and brushed off her jeans, waiting for Cady to join her before she spoke.

"I'm just saying, he's seemed happier since you started working together. And the way he's been looking at you today when he thought no one was looking isn't the way a friend looks at you," she told Cady softly, jerking her chin faintly to point out where Mathias was standing talking to an older man at a booth.

His gaze caught hers and she flushed, glancing away.

Meeting Mandy's knowing eyes she shook her head, "It'll never happen. We work together and there's too much relying on us solving these cases. He couldn't be with me anyway," she murmured, unaware of the sorrowful look that had crept onto her face, "I'm not the one to make him happy."

Mandy sighed softly and shook her head, "You never know unless you try. And I think you make him pretty happy already, just look at that," she murmured, once again subtly indicating Mathias. Cady swallowed hard and turned to find him approaching, a soft smile on his lips.

His eyes were warm as he joined the two women and he flashed a fast grin at Mandy, "Hey kid," he murmured, holding a fist out for her to bump with her own. She wrinkled her nose at him and rolled her eyes, but complied.

"You're so old," she complained teasingly. "You two are perfect for each other," she joked, "Cady thinks a fun night is staying in and watching a movie in her underwear and college sweater. I swear, I'm never getting old," she drawled before giving Cady a wink and traipsing off.

She was going to kill her, she really was.

Cady flushed with embarrassment and smiled weakly at Mathias, "That really your idea of a fun night?" he asked teasingly.

Her blush deepened, because, really, it was pretty damned close. "I mean, I'm not always in my underwear," she replied without thinking and then inhaled sharply in horror as the impact of her words hit her.

Mathias burst out laughing at the look on her face and shook his head, "Come on, let's get you outta that hole you dug yourself," he encouraged, grinning as he guided her towards another booth.

They walked away with a flower crown for Cady's hair and a single daisy tucked behind Mathias's ear—his only concession to the kids running the booth. Privately he thought Cady looked like some kind of pagan priestess as she stepped outside, the sun turning her hair into a shining splendor as it danced lightly in the breeze.

On their way to the shops they ran into Mandy, stopping to take a quick picture together, their flower crowns tilting precariously in the wind. Mathias smiled softly at the women as Mandy hugged Cady and loped off, her bright smile and youthful spirit reminding him a little of Emily.

They went into the shops and Cady listened as Mathias talked easily with his people, enjoying this less formal man who seemed more comfortable in his skin than anytime he was around her. Whenever the breeze blew his hair back and the flower shined at her, she had to bit her lip to fight her smile.

The young girl that had given it to him had clearly had a case of hero worship going on, thanking Mathias sweetly for rescuing her puppy. She had been amazed to see him looking almost bashful at her eager praise, and had nearly laughed out loud when he had stooped down to give her a hug and had instead received a kiss to the cheek.

As they walked down the street she smiled over at him, "You know, I think that flower girl had a crush," she told him playfully. "Angela might have some competition."

Mathias laughed softly and shoved his hands into his coat, "It's nice, doing little things like that and knowing they still matter to someone. You forget sometimes, doing this," he admitted.

A particularly strong breeze blew, knocking his daisy askance and she laid a hand on his elbow, pulling him into the relative protection offered by the alleyway. Smiling softly at him, she reached up and pushed his hair back behind his ear, her fingers grazing the shell delicately.

Mathias inhaled sharply as the sensation shot fire through his veins. Their eyes met and she stared at him wondrously, lips gently parted. "Do you love her?" she asked, the question unexpected to both of them.

His brow furrowed, "The kid?"

"No, Angela," she whispered, too scared to speak any louder and break this moment, delicate as an eggshell.

"I…" he exhaled and then shook his head, "No. No, I…" he paused and shook his head again, unable to find the words.

Cady stared at him for a moment before the fingers that rested in his hair curled and she leaned in, her body moving before her brain could catch up and stop her. Her lips found his and after a moment of hesitation, they kissed back with an eagerness that made her blood sing.

A soft noise of pleasure hummed in her throat and she furrowed her fingers into his hair, hungrily kissing him, terrified he would end whatever this was. The daisy dropped from her fingers to the ground as she slotted her lips more firmly over his.

Mathias's hands went to her waist, tugging her closer, groaning softly at the feel of her body slotting against his. One of his hands lifted and dragged through her hair, knocking askew the crown of flowers until it fluttered to the ground, forgotten.

She smelled like sunshine and flowers, her hair was like silk, her mouth like fire.

One of her hands fisted in his jacket, holding him as close as possible while the other clung to his hair, their chests heaving, begging for air, but they couldn't part, wouldn't.

"Chief! Where's the Chief?"

"Get the Sheriff!"

The frantic voices just outside the alleyway entrance sent them falling apart, panting for breath, lips swollen and tender.

"Where's the Chief?"

Mathias took an unsteady breath and glanced over at her, "Cady—" he started, sounding uncertain.

"It's fine. We have to go," she murmured, avoiding his gaze as she stepped away.

He hesitated a moment and then followed after her, his boot crushing the flowers into the dirty snow.

A small crowd pulled and pushed them along until they were in front of an abandoned home, the front door hanging open.

"Someone is dead inside," a man told him, voice wavering with emotion.

He and Cady shared a look before unholstering their guns and approaching slowly. He peered into the windows and saw a figure in a chair, unmoving. Not seeing anything else, he stepped inside, feeling Cady close behind him.

He circled the chair slowly, gun still drawn and felt the world tilt beneath his feet.

All he knew in that moment was he couldn't let her see.

God how he wished he hadn't.

Abruptly he stepped towards Cady, using his weight to try and keep her back. "Don't" he ordered roughly, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Please," he urged, dark eyes on hers, pleading as he tried to force her back.

She frowned and stepped around him, pausing when his fingers wrapped around her wrist, trying to stop her. She glanced at him and then took a small step forward, finally able to see the body clearly.

Mathias's stomach dropped as she let out a wounded cry, lurching towards the body. He pulled her back against him, arms banding around her waist in a cruel mockery of how they had been just minutes before.

"Noooo…no!" she wailed, struggling against him until she suddenly went limp in his arms. He held her as they collapsed to the floor, tears of his own welling in his eyes as she sobbed.

"No, no, no, Mandyyyyy," she sobbed brokenly, the pitch of her cries reminding him awfully of his own mother's when Emily had been taken. Something in him snapped and his head dropped to her shoulder, tears rolling down his cheeks.

On the young dead woman's chest was pinned a white sheet of paper, and on that paper was an ouroboros painted in Mandy's blood.

A warning had been delivered.

Chapter Text

Mathias wasn't sure how long they sat there on the cold dirty floor until Cady struggled up and swiped at her face, avoiding his gaze as she fought for composure. Her shoulders were tense and she flinched away from his touch when he reached out to try and reassure himself and her that she was ok.

"We need to get crime scene techs here," she whispered, clearing her throat before she looked over at him quickly and he could see how red her eyes were. He knew his own must look much the same, but something inside him twisted and shattered at the look in her eyes. He wanted to pull her back into his arms and hold her close, feel her heart beat against his chest, but he knew he couldn't do that right now.

Instead, he nodded weakly and grabbed the radio on his shoulder, stepping to the side to call the station. The conversation was curt and over in moments. When he looked up Cady was outside, taping off the building, ignoring questions from the crowd that was gathering.

He could hear their voices growing louder, angrier, demanding answers. Glancing at Cady as he stepped out, he saw her shoulders growing more tense with each moment. He approached the crowd and raised a hand, waiting till they had silenced.

"I need you all to let us work. We have someone inside that deserves the respect of our best work, and we can only give that if you all help us. When Caleb and the other deputies arrive, they're going to ask you all questions, so please, wait quietly," he directed.

A few people grumbled, but most nodded and went to the side, clustering together in small groups to talk. Glancing over his shoulder, he watched as Cady tied off the bright yellow police tape, the end fluttering in the breeze.

Striding over, he cupped her elbow and glanced through the strands of dark hair blowing in his face at her. "You don't have to stay," he whispered, barely getting the words out before she was shaking her head and her mouth was pursing.

"No."

Her voice was harsh, adamant and her eyes avoided his. When she heaved out a sigh she glanced over at him and softened, barely. "No, I have to do this," she whispered, voice hoarse.

He nodded and squeezed her elbow, "Right here beside you," he reminded her.

To his surprise her lower lip trembled and her eyes filled before she looked away, inhaling sharply as she nodded. They stood together, staring out at the patchy, dirty snow in the clear March sun, waiting.

Waiting for the pain to really settle in.

Waiting for the sorrow to steal away their breath once more.

Waiting for death to take once more from people who felt they had nothing left to give.

Waiting


Steam swelled within the confines of the walls of the lodge, sweat dripped down Cady's skin as she listened to the woman chant. Mandy leaned forward and painted marks on her skin, grinning at her eagerly, calling her 'sister' and welcoming her to the tribe.

Steam billowed and she was suddenly in a house she didn't recognize.

The floor was dirty and the windows were broken, snow had drifted in and there were nests of small animals in the corners.

She stepped in through the doorway and Mandy entered from the other room, smiling happily at her through a face of blood.

'Sister' she called her as she reached out for an embrace.

'Murderer' she called her as she screamed for help.

'Mercy' she begged as she lay on the ground, dying at her feet.

Cady sobbed into her pillow, throat hoarse from screaming. Her chest ached so badly it felt like it would crack open and spill out her fractured heart. Some part of her hoped it would, so that this agony would end.

Her fingers dug at the fabric of her sheets as she buried her face and screamed, body curling inwards with the force of the agony tearing her apart.

Panting for breath, she cried, sobs ripping from her chest, her breath coming too fast and harsh. Her head spun and her stomach turned, the world spinning around her as she grieved. Struggling out of bed, she fell to her hands and knees, the floor reassuringly solid beneath her.

Cady crawled to the bathroom and clung to the cool porcelain of the toilet as she retched, slumping down when her body lost its strength. Her breath panted out too fast and panicky against the tiles and the world spun around her dizzily.

Lids fluttering closed, she succumbed to the darkness.


"I don't think she's sleeping. She looks like she hasn't rested in days."

Mathias ran a hand over his face and glanced up at Vic, frowning tiredly at her, "We've been working Mandy's case for the past week, can't really blame her for burning it at both ends," he replied cautiously, trying to reserve judgement when he wasn't in much of a position to talk about getting enough sleep.

Frowning at him exasperatedly, she shook her head, "Mathias, Walt is gonna crawl up your ass and start buggin you for details about this case if you don't start clueing me in," she told him severely.

At this he cracked a tired smile, "Honeymoon wearin off?" he teased.

Narrowing her eyes at him she rested her hand on her hip, right next to her gun. "I will shoot you if you make another joke Mathias," she warned.

Rolling his eyes, Mathias leaned forward in his chair and winced as his back protested, "Listen Philly, I've tried telling her to slow down. But she brings the coffee and I make sure she eats and gets home safe. It's how it works with us," he told her firmly, tone indicating the conversation was done.

Vic's brow furrowed, "Is that the only way it works?" she asked knowingly, lifting a brow when he looked up at her.

Mathias stared at her and then shook his head, turning his gaze down to his worn and aching hands. "Isn't like that," he hedged.

"For you or for her?" Vic pushed and he looked up at her sharply to find her lifting a brow at him, a no nonsense look on her face.

He thought about it for a moment and then shook his head, smiling tiredly. "You always did see too much Philly," he sighed, rubbing a hand over his face.

"It's why I'm a cop," she retorted with a wry smile and he barked out a laugh, nodding in agreement. Vic sighed and ran a hand over her ponytail, "Listen, if it's like that for you, then take care of her. Even if it's hard. Even if she doesn't want to let you. Because you'll regret it if you don't," she told him softly.

Studying her for a moment he smirked tiredly, no humor to the expression, "Sound like you know," he murmured.

She lifted her brows and rolled her eyes, "Like father like daughter, 's all I'm saying," she replied, lifting her hands defensively. She paused at his door and glanced back at him, "She's not gonna make it easy, but, if you care about her, don't let her push you away."

He didn't speak, didn't move, just watched his door close once more before he exhaled, heart thundering in his chest.

Glancing over at the clock, he frowned when he saw it was half past ten. Grabbing his cell, he sent a quick text and grabbed his jacket and keys, heading out to his cruiser. The deputies could keep an eye on things for the night.

He had somewhere to be.


Cady opened her door and stared at him for a long moment, eyes exhausted and wary. The fine lines around her eyes and the dark circles beneath them somehow only made it more apparent how beautiful she was, and he didn't get how that could be.

Her hair was piled into a bun on her head but so many pieces had slipped out that it looked like someone had grabbed it and pulled it half undone. Her sweater hung from one shoulder and when he glanced down he bit his lip to hide his smile at the gold lamé Millennium Falcons on her boxers hanging from her hips.

"I brought more cases," he murmured, holding up a box with five more files from three years ago.

She eyed him for a moment and then nodded, stepping back to let him in. Glancing around her house, he lifted a brow at the mess. She turned and seemed to realize it herself, flushing as she hurried to gather up dirty dishes.

"Sorry, I've been busy with work and I'm normally better about cleaning, but I've been staying up late trying to find new connections between the women and the Infinitarios and the speed dating and…"

She continued talking as she cleaned and Mathias said nothing, simply gathering up some empty pizza boxes and beer cans, taking out her recycling when he saw it was overflowing. When he came back inside Cady had cleaned all the detritus from the living room and three candles were burning.

She met him with a sheepish look and a mug of coffee, shoving it towards him with a glance sideways at him. "Thanks," she whispered before sitting cross-legged on the couch and reaching for one of the files.

He took the coffee amiably and joined her, reclining in silence as they each opened files, reading quietly for nearly half an hour. Cady finished two cups of coffee in that time, her knee bouncing beside his as she read, her fingers furrowing repeatedly through her hair till he started to wonder if she was going to pull it out.

When he finished his own coffee, she grabbed the cup and rose, heading for the kitchen. His hand closed around her wrist, stopping her. Wide eyed, she stared down at him.

"If I have any more I won't sleep," he joked lightly, lips quirking in a hint of smile.

She exhaled sharply and nodded, a shaky smile on her lips in response. "R-right, of course. You mind if I have more?" she asked and he frowned, "If you're tryin to have a heart attack, by all means," he replied, lifting a brow.

Her mouth pinched and she tugged her wrist out of his grip, "Just trying to stay awake so we can work," she snapped, heading for the kitchen.

He let her go for a moment and then stood, sighing tiredly. He sometimes forgot how new she was to the job, how little of the darkness and ugliness she had experienced. He wasn't used to it, not really, but after nearly 20 years, he had grown accustomed to a certain level of hell.

He held that in his mind as he followed her into the kitchen. He stood in the doorway for a moment and observed her, the way her spine curved as she hunched over the counter, her face hidden by the strands of her fallen hair.

He could see the tension in her body and felt an answering tension in his shoulders tighten a notch at her obvious grief, a deep and aching sorrow filling him. Walking over slowly, he watched her body tense further before his hand landed on her back gently.

"C'mere," he murmured and sighed in frustration when she shook her head, remaining resolutely turned away from him. His fingers pressed a little harder into the thin fabric of her sweater, "Cady," he murmured, more insistently this time.

She turned, standing straight, glaring at him, tears in her eyes. "What? What do you want? Do you want to tell me how it's not my fault? How me going to the speed dating events and getting on their radar didn't get her killed? Or maybe you want to tell me that everything happens for a fucking reason!" she snarled, voice harsh as she shouted at him.

He wondered if she was even aware she was crying.

Without hesitating he stepped forward and grabbed her arms, holding onto her as she fought him, crying and shaking, spitting ugly words and self-recriminations until he couldn't understand her through her tears.

When she began to sob in earnest he released his grip on her arms and instead wrapped his own around her, pulling her against him firmly. Her thin hands clung to the back of his shirt, her face burying in his shoulder as she cried.

"I-I-I k-killed h-h-her!" she wailed, body heaving as she sobbed, breaths coming fast and harsh against his neck.

"No, Cady, no you didn't," he refuted firmly, stroking his hand slowly over her hair. She mumbled incoherently and he shook his head, "The Infinitarios killed her Cady. They're the bastards responsible for her death. They could have just as easily killed Vic or your dad to make the same point. They used Mandy because they hate women. They destroy and they kill and they hate and that's not your fault," he told her, his heart aching with each word.

He held her, stroking a hand over her hair, the other firm around her waist as she cried, breathing unsteadily. He wasn't sure how much time passed, but eventually her fingers in his shirt loosened and her tears slowed, her breaths against his neck softer and more regular.

When she pulled away he kept an arm around her waist and slid his hand from her hair to her cheek, wiping gently at the tear tracks on her skin with his thumb. Cady stared at him through wet lashes, heart thumping unsteadily at the warmth and concern in his eyes.

Stepping back, she smiled faintly, uneasily.

"We should get back to it," she whispered, avoiding his gaze as she reached for the coffee.

His hand closed around hers and her gaze went to his, wide eyed. Mathias smirked at her softly, warmly, "How about no more coffee tonight?" he suggested gently, and after a moment she nodded, releasing the mug.

Scurrying out of the kitchen, she tugged her hair out of the half assed bun and ran her fingers through it, grimacing at how dirty it felt. Come to think of it, she hadn't showered since…the day before yesterday?

Glancing up as Mathias strode easily back into her living room, she stood uneasily by the couch, playing with the hems of her sleeves.

"Would you…mind if I took a shower?" she asked softly, glancing between him and her toes.

"Nah, go relax," he encouraged, smiling softly at her when she glanced up in surprise.

Sighing in relief, she nodded, heading for her room when she paused and looked back, "Uh, hang out here? We can go over the files some more," she suggested.

His gaze was steady and once more the warmth and affection there made her heart thump and clench.

"I'm not going anywhere," he told her firmly, the corner of his mouth turned up.

She stared back and then bobbed her head, scurrying away, still able to feel the weight of his gaze on her as she retreated.


"Do you think the underage girls could have known each other from school? Some went to the same res school, so they should. Maybe we could talk to the teachers," Mathias mused, frowning when he didn't get a response after a few moments.

He looked up and realized that Cady had fallen asleep, her head tilting dangerously towards his shoulder, the angle looking painful. With a soft smile Mathias set the file he had been reading onto the coffee table and turned towards her, slipping an arm behind her neck and another under her knees.

With only a moment of strain, he lifted her and tugged so the blanket that hung from her legs fell away. He carried her to her bedroom and set her down gently on the covers, fingers gentle as he tugged the tie out of her hair and slid her socks off before pulling the covers up around her.

He watched her for a moment and couldn't help himself when he reached out to stroke her cheek. When her eyes fluttered open he yanked his hand back like he had been burnt and smiled faintly at her, "Hey, get some rest. I'll see you later," he told her quietly.

Her brow furrowed and she half sat up, hair falling into her eyes as she reached for him, her fingers brushing his before they closed more firmly around his hand. "Stay," she whispered, voice raspy from sleep and her previously fallen tears.

He hesitated for a moment and then nodded, jerking his thumb over his shoulder, "I'll be on the couch," he told her.

Her eyes closed as she fell back onto her pillow, a soft noise of affirmation coming from her throat. He propped the door open on his way out and turned out the lights in her kitchen and checked the door before heading for the couch.

His gun and tactical belt came off and went on the coffee table, his uniform shirt joining them as he laid out fully on the couch, the fabric still warm from their bodies. When he pulled the blanket over him, the scent of her soap filled his nose.

Since there was no one here to see him, he lifted the blanket up under his nose and inhaled for a moment before slipping an arm behind his head and closing his eyes, a tired smile on his lips.


At first, he wasn't sure why he had woken, he only knew he was on his feet, reaching for his gun. When the muffled scream came again, he was running for Cady's room, throwing a quick glance towards the front door to make sure no one had made it in that way.

No, it was still solidly closed.

Her bedroom door banged against the wall and he looked around wildly, searching for an intruder as she screamed. When he saw no one, he slid his gun into his waistband and hurried to the bed, calling Cady's name.

She thrashed and writhed as she pressed her face into her pillows, throat taut as she screamed. He hesitated for a moment, the old adage that you shouldn't wake someone having a nightmare ringing in his head (or was it sleepwalkers?) before he went into action and went into her bed.

Mathias wrapped his arms around her shaking form, hoarse cries still coming from her throat as he wrestled her into his arms, his back against the headboard. She struggled for a few moments and then began to calm, weeping once more.

His fingers moved slowly through her hair, his other hand tracing soft patterns on the skin of her upper arm as she trembled like a leaf in his arms. His throat was tight with emotion; he hated seeing her so broken and hurt—he wanted to rain hell down on the people who had done this to her, to Mandy, to his people.

When her tears seemed to still he slid a hand under her chin and tilted it up, forcing her to meet his dark eyes. Hers were heavy with tears and he brushed a thumb across her shaking bottom lip.

"We aren't giving up this fight. I'm in this with you. Got it?" he whispered, throat raspy as he fought his own emotions.

She nodded, her lips parting around a shaky sigh and, taking him by surprise, she turned and pressed her lips to his cheek, whispering a faint "Thank you," before she slid down and rested her head on his chest.

He was sure she could hear his heart threatening to pound out of his chest, but she said nothing, even when he slid down and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer. Her head tucked against him, he closed his eyes and listened to her breathing slow and steady.

Something unfamiliar swelled within him, something strong and heady that he wasn't sure he was ready to examine quite yet. Instead he ran his fingers under the edge of her tank top and buried his nose in her hair, her scent filling his nose as he fell asleep.


He watched her from the shadows, the shrubs and trees lining the streets providing him with the perfect cover. If anyone looked out their windows or drove by they would see nothing but the darkness surrounding him; they would never know he had been there.

His blood ached for a cigarette but if he gave into that craving the smoke would reveal his position, and he might end up having to kill whoever came looking. That wasn't the plan, and he hated deviating from the plan.

So, for now, he remained in place, watching her.

Her auburn hair was piled on top of her head in a messy bun and small pieces of it dangled in her face, accenting her fine cheekbones. She had paced the floors of her home, a manila folder in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other until the man had shown up, the Indian one.

She had hesitated before letting him in and he wondered for a moment if they were fucking.

He watched them for hours, talking, reading, taking notes and drinking mug after mug of coffee. He watched as she cried in the Indian's arms, her thin shoulders shaking. He watched as she disappeared and came back, freshly showered.

He watched as the Indian carried her sleeping form into her bedroom, shutting off the lights illuminating them, leaving him with nothing to see.

He listened as muffled screams came from her bedroom and then silenced. A humorless grin covered his lips and he wondered if she was having nightmares about her warning.

He stared at the front door of her house and considered going in, taking care of her.

It would certainly simplify things.

But that's not what he had been told to do.

So instead he turned and walked down the street, the shadows hiding him.

He would be back for her.

Chapter Text

When Cady woke the next morning, she was faced with an empty bed but the smell of bacon wafting from the kitchen. Her head felt clearer than it had in a week and when she sat up and looked at her clock, she was stunned to see it was almost 10am.

She hadn't slept in that late in years, nor had she slept that well in weeks. Looking over her shoulder at the slight indent still on her other pillow, she had to wonder, was it because Mathias had stayed?

The thought was both enticing and frightening.

She could recall with pinpoint clarity the way his arms had felt around her when she had rolled over in her sleep and opened her eyes for a moment. His normally firm mouth had been soft, the lines around his eyes gone, an almost…happy look to his face as he slept.

His arm had tightened around her waist and she had nuzzled into his throat before her eyes slid closed again, a sleepy contentment filling her as she drifted back into the tides of slumber.

Now she was wondering if it had been wise to succumb to that need for comfort, to allow Mathias into her bed and into her heart. She was rapidly becoming worried that they were too close, that they would only be let down by their expectations, and things would inevitably end terribly.

With that weighing on her mind she rose from her bed and grabbed her sweater, pulling it around her as she shuffled out to the kitchen. Pausing in the doorway, she watched as Mathias calmly flipped a piece of bacon and then used a spatula to move scrambled eggs around a second pan.

He glanced over his shoulder at her and smiled faintly, "Hey, hungry?" he asked, pointing with his spatula at her.

Cady flushed and nodded, "Can I help?" she offered, "Toast?"

Mathias jerked his head towards the toaster and she could see two pieces already in the toaster, presumably waiting till the rest of the food was ready. "Coffee?" he offered, pointing to her coffee machine with a grin, "Though, after the past few days, I'd suggest tea," he teased lightly.

Cady wrinkled her nose at him and then nodded, a grin creeping over her face, "You might be right about that," she murmured, moving around him to grab two mugs from the cupboard. Opening another near his head she pointed in, "What kind of tea do you like?" she offered.

He glanced up as the bacon popped and spattered and nodded, "The mint is fine," he told her before turning his attention back to the food.

Cady quickly set the kettle on to boil and pressed the button on the toaster as Mathias took the last of the bacon off the stove. Sliding past him she reached up and grabbed two plates down, holding them out for him to divide the eggs and bacon onto.

He leaned past her for the toast and she flushed as his firm arm brushed against her chest, avoiding his gaze as he dropped them onto the plates too. As she carried the plates into the dining room Mathias filled the mugs with steaming water and followed after her, his gaze momentarily dropping to her ass.

When she sat and looked up at him, he smiled faintly at her and sat too, sliding her mug towards her. They ate in silence for a time, looking at each other through soft eyes, everything that needed to be said remaining unspoken for the moment.

Eventually Mathias cleared his throat and leaned back in his chair, "So, we've got some work to do to find these fuckers. What do you need for us to do this? Tell me how to help you," he murmured softly.

Cady stared at him, stunned. She didn't know this Mathias, this kind, sweet, gentle man who took care of her. But she liked him, a lot. She liked it, even though it scared the shit out of her.

"I-I…" she stuttered for a moment, trying to collect her thoughts before she answered. "I need to know we've got each other's backs. I need to know that you trust me, and that when it comes down to it, we're going to get justice for these women."

Mathias studied her and then nodded, "I've got your back and I trust you. We're gonna do everything I know how to so they get justice."

He leaned forward and slid his hand across the table, turning it up and offering it to her. She hesitated for a moment, the action so achingly intimate it made her heart thump painfully, and then placed hers in his, a shiver running over her skin at the feel of his rough palm against hers.

She stared down at their joined hands for a moment and took a shaky breath before glancing up and exhaling nervously. "Thank you, for staying last night," she whispered, voice breaking with emotion.

His thumb stroked against the side of her hand gently as he nodded, "I know what that's like, I wouldn't ever just leave you," he told her just as softly.

Glancing away he spoke quietly, "There's something dark inside me, something that's been broken since Emily, something I've never been sure could be fixed," he told her, glancing back up to meet her eyes, "until I started working with you."

Cady's heart throbbed, racing in her chest as his dark eyes met hers. She wasn't sure if it was terror or hope swelling within her, but as her fingers clenched around his, she suspected it might be a little of both.


After they had cleaned up the dishes from their breakfast, Mathias pointed to the case files and lifted his brow at her with a small smile, "No work today. Go do something that has nothing to do with this shit," he ordered.

She laughed faintly and nodded, watching him as he pulled his uniform shirt back on, buttoning it slowly. "I wouldn't even know where to begin," she told him.

His fingers paused in their slow amble upwards and he grinned at her, "Go get a pedicure, go shopping, get a massage, read a book; do anything but work," he told her. His fingers worked their way up again and closed the last few buttons before he began rolling his sleeves up and she was momentarily distracted by the sight.

"That sounds like more relaxation than I know how to handle," she joked, fiddling with the sleeves of her sweater as she smiled nervously.

When he had finished, his gaze lifted to hers and he looked at her curiously, noting the flush on her cheeks and the widening in her pupils. Even as he stepped forward he wondered if he was doing the right thing, if he was taking this too far, too fast.

Her eyes widened as he lay a hand on her cheek and another on her waist, feeling her inhale sharply beneath his palm. "Listen to me little storm, you're no good to anyone if you run yourself into the ground," he told her solemnly, "so go get a massage, have a glass of wine, read a good book," he leaned in and heard her inhale as his mouth neared her ear, "and relax."

Cady trembled under his hand, her mind racing as his lips whispered against her cheek, hovering near her lips.

"Don't," she breathed, turning her head to avoid the kiss she knew was coming.

"Why not?" he murmured, his breath brushing against her skin, sending a shiver through her.

"Because, you're seeing someone. I'm not an excuse to cheat," she whispered hoarsely.

Mathias pulled back slightly to stare at her, frowning. "You kissed me first," he retorted sharply. What the hell was this? After last night he hadn't thought he would be faced with this reaction from her.

Cady wouldn't meet his eyes. "It was a mistake. We both know that," she told him quietly, her stomach flipping.

"Fine," he snapped, stepping back so a rush of cool air swamped them. He grabbed his tactical belt and buckled it on, trying to keep a lid on his annoyance. When he looked back up at Cady his anger and annoyance cooled at the scared, hurt look on her face.

If it's like that for you, then take care of her. Even if it's hard. Even if she doesn't want to let you. Because you'll regret it if you don't. Vic's words ran through his mind once more and his annoyance fled entirely.

With a sigh he reached out and laid a hand on her cheek, using his thumb to lift her chin so she would meet his eyes. "Get some rest. I'll be back if you need me," he told her quietly before leaning in and pressing a kiss to her forehead.

He heard her inhale and turned away, heading to the door, glancing back only once before he left. When the door shut with a snap Cady collapsed onto the arm of the couch, stunned.

Nothing that had just happened made sense.

Mathias had stayed the night.

He had told her he had her back, that he trusted her.

He had tried to kiss her.

To be fair, she had kissed him first.

"Ugh, what a mess," she muttered, dropping her face into her hands.


Cady closed her eyes as the technician scrubbed her feet with an exfoliant, trying to relax. She had taken Mathias's advice and was getting a pedicure and a massage, sipping the complimentary wine in an effort to forget what had happened that morning.

She didn't want to dwell on how close his lips had come to hers or the memory of what they actually felt like against hers, or what his body felt like in her bed.

Fuck…she exhaled slowly, taking a gulp of wine and shook her head at her own traitorous brain. She had to find a way to get this man off her mind.

Pulling her phone from her purse, she slipped her earbuds in and turned on a comedy podcast, leaned back and closed her eyes, trying to let it take her away.


As the masseuse worked her rigid muscles expertly she finally unwound, drifting into a hazy, warm daze. Eyes drifting shut, she felt each inch of her body turn to silken softness as her mind floated on balmy seas of relaxation.

Half asleep, she began to dream (if you could call it that) that the hands on her body were someone else's, that they had calluses and blunt nails that would scrape over her skin just shy of too roughly and her body shivered.

"Are you cold?" a soft voice asked and she shook her head sleepily, smiling when the hands continued to work on her back.

She imagined that his hair would tickle along her spine as his hands caressed her, thumbs pressing into her spine for a moment, fingers splayed out over her back so they just barely brushed along her sides, hinting at a caress of her breasts before they were moving once more.

His thumbs slid along the gentle curve of her lower back, fingers gripping her hips for a moment and she swallowed a moan, fighting the urge to lift her hips into his hands. Tantalizingly, his hands skipped over her towel draped bottom, and when they landed again on her ankles she jumped at the contact.

"Is this okay?" the soft voice asked, pausing in their touch. She nodded and the hands began stroking up over her calves slowly, massaging the muscles until she thought she would simply melt off the table.

Tiny flames licked beneath her skin at his touch, the feel of his thumbs swiping up over the backs of her knees before he began firmly massaging her thighs, one at a time, made another shiver run over her skin.

The soft sound of rain filling the room slowed as the hands rubbed and massaged her shoulders and down her arms slowly. She didn't remember it starting to rain, but she thought it was a good way to spend the day; in bed, with their hands all over each other.

The rain slowly drizzled softer and softer and the hand on her shoulder came to a halt.

"That's the end of our session. If you need a few minutes before you get up, please don't worry."

Confusion swelled through her haze and she struggled to lift her face from the pillow, blinking sleepily up at the woman standing next to her, smiling warmly. It had been…it had been a dream.

Clearing her throat she nodded, "Thank you," she whispered and watched as the woman nodded and disappeared through the door, leaving her to get dressed in solitude.

Sitting up slowly, she pulled the towel up around her and blinked rapidly, trying to clear her head of the scent of lavender and the sensation of arousal clouding her mind. It hadn't been Mathias, it had been a dream.

The realization that she both wanted it to be Mathias and was disappointed it wasn't real…she let out a long sigh and flopped backwards onto the massage table, throwing her arm over her face.

"Fuck," she sighed.


Cady stopped at her favorite Italian place on the way home from the spa, picking up the order she had placed while she shopped for some new lingerie. She had spent equal time trying to convince herself she was only buying it because she wanted to and that if she wanted to buy it for someone else (names firmly avoided in her head) that was just fine.

She waited for her order to be ready and scrolled through her email, frowning when she saw that Vic had emailed to let her know that Ferg and Zach were working on the RICO case financials and had found a few things that would go a long way towards an arrest.

Maybe after dinner she would stop over, she decided.

She should probably let Mathias know about the information too. Shifting uncomfortably, she decided it would probably be best to do so only after she'd had a chance to review it and see what was of value.

She didn't want to waste his time.

A part of her brain taunted slyly that she was being a coward, but she firmly ignored that part. It wasn't cowardice, it was self-preservation. She might have kissed Mathias first, but that didn't mean it had been a wise decision, or that taking things any further would end up well for either of them.

He had a reputation for a reason and she didn't feel like getting her heart broken.

The thought made her pause.

When had her heart become part of the equation?

Hadn't it just been lust?

When had it become something more?

A part of her brain wanted to say Mandy, but she rejected that immediately. The more she thought about it the more she came to realize that it had happened slowly, like a sunburn on a cloudy day.

She had been so distracted by the initial lust and the swell of emotion from the missing women cases that she hadn't noticed that she was falling for him. If it had taken her this long to realize it, then he probably thought it was nothing more than physical chemistry.

A twisted sense of disappointment and relief shot through her but before she had a chance to contemplate it more a waiter came up and handed her a brown take out bag with a smile. Smiling weakly back she tipped the man and stumbled outside, inhaling the damp air.

It smelled like snow.

Taking a long steadying breath, she headed for her truck.

As she approached, she frowned.

There was a plain manila envelope stuck under her windshield.

Head whipping around, she searched the parking lot, looking for anyone staring her way, frowning when she realized there was no one around or paying her undue attention.

Warily, she opened her door and stuck the food inside before reaching for the envelope. She paused for a moment then pulled her hand back, leaning into the truck to grab a pair of evidence collecting gloves and snapping them on before she reached for it again.

Sliding a finger under the seal, she frowned when she realized that it had been sealed with tape, not saliva on the adhesive. Smart she decided as she flipped the lid and reached inside, fingers brushing along a stack of paper.

Pulling the stack out, she was greeted with a photo of her, naked, fucking an equally naked Zach. Her stomach rolled as she flipped through the photos; her and Zach fucking, her and Mathias kissing, her and Zach kissing, her and Mathias asleep in her bed, her naked in Zach's shower, her smiling at Mathias.

Hastily she flipped the photos over, heart thundering.

WHORE

SLUT

BITCH

The words were painted in bright red sharpie across the backs of the photos and below them was the Infinitarios symbol, a signature to let her know exactly who was watching her.

Her stomach clenched and she fought the urge to throw up, taking deep breaths until she was calmer. Her hand only shook slightly when she carefully put the photos back into the envelope.

Glancing once more around the parking lot, she slid into the truck and set the photos onto the passenger seat before pulling out, glancing back in the rearview to see if anyone was following.

The whole way home she felt a set of eyes on her.


She stared at the envelope for a long time, mind swirling with her options.

If she told Vic she'd tell her father he would work to see her safely sidelined from the cases.

If she told Mathias he'd insist she stop working the cases.

If she told Zach he'd tell her father or quit.

If she told Isaac the focus of their missing women would become her and that's not what they needed.

Punching in the code for her wall safe, she swung it open and set the file on the second shelf, just above the boxes of ammo and a couple stacks of cash she kept for emergencies. When the safe closed with a clang she nodded in self reassurance; she had made the only choice she could.

She was doing the right thing.

Chapter Text

Angela smiled softly as she pulled up in front of the reservation police station. Mathias had been so busy lately they hadn't had much time together. The vacation they had talked about had never manifested, and every time she mentioned them spending more time together, he evaded her questions with talk of work.

She knew that the missing women and his work with the white sheriff woman was taking up most of his time, and she tried not to feel a pang of jealousy about that, but she was hoping that this surprise of dinner from their favorite taco place would remind him of why she was a good girlfriend.

It was just past dusk, the sky a bruised shade of purple as she made her way up the stairs and into the station, waving hello to the younger men at their desks. Turning down the hall towards Mathias's office, she paused when she heard a female voice in his office.

"The lab in Casper won't be able to get us results anytime soon, they're so backlogged they're asking the FBI to take the most urgent cases to try and clear them out."

"Do we need to put in some kind of request for that to happen? I mean, jesus Cady, what is it going to take for people to give a fuck about these women?" she heard Mathias snap in reply.

Stepping closer, she peered into his office cautiously, heart beating rapidly as she watched the tall red-headed woman turn from looking at a whiteboard to face Mathias, her face furrowed in concern.

"Hey, I know," she murmured, reaching out to lay a hand on his arm, and Ang inhaled sharply at the familiarity of the touch. "But we'll call my friend at the FBI and try to have it expedited, okay?" she murmured soothingly.

Mathias inhaled deeply, his head dropping as he nodded slowly, "Yea, yea, sure," he agreed. He lifted his head and Ang could see his face in profile from where she was, could see the concern and care as he looked at the younger woman.

"Did you get any sleep last night?" he asked quietly, voice soft with worry. Cady smiled tiredly, shrugging a shoulder, and Mathias shook his head, brow furrowing in frustration, "Cady, you've gotta sleep. You can't go on like this," he murmured forcefully.

Cady glanced away and Ang could see the flurry of emotions running over her face, making her own stomach knot. This wasn't two work colleagues talking, this was…more.

"I just…I keep seeing her face," Cady whispered, voice hitching, and when she looked back up, there were tears in her eyes. Mathias let out an exhale like he had been punched and then stepped forward, wrapping his arms around her.

Ang's eyes widened in shock as Cady clung to him, her face tucked against his neck. She watched as Mathias rubbed a hand over her back slowly, the gesture soothing and familiar.

"We're gonna get them. We're gonna get justice for Mandy and all the rest," he murmured, sounding sure. "And then, maybe it won't be so hard," he said, sounding less sure.

Ang could see his face a little as he stroked her back, and the affection—no love—there broke her heart. He had never looked at her like that, never talked to her about anything that happened at work, had never connected with her like he was with this woman.

Turning away, she swallowed down her tears and hurried out of the station, passing off the food to one of the deputies as she went.

As she drove away, tears fell down her cheeks and her heart felt like it would shatter under the weight of the anger and sorrow swelling within her.


When Mathias came home that night, he was surprised to find Ang still awake, sitting on his couch with a mug of coffee, a distant look on her face. As he peeled his jacket off and tossed his keys into the bowl on the counter, she looked up and something flickered on her face.

"Long day?"

He nodded, giving her a tired smile as he went to the kitchen for a beer.

"How is Cady doing since Mandy's murder?"

The question brought him up short. Ang had never asked about Cady. Not once in the five months they had been working together and they had been in this on/off relationship had she questioned him about Cady.

His instincts screamed.

"She's…hurting," he replied carefully, walking back into the living room to find Ang staring down at her mug.

She nodded and glanced up at him, "Sleeping ok?"

His stomach plummeted. She knew.

She knew that he had spent the night at Cady's and that something was happening between them.

Clearing his throat, he shook his head, "Ang, there's—"

In a flash she was on her feet, glaring at him. "You're a liar Mathias Stillwater. I don't know how long you've been lying to me, but you're screwing that woman and you're a piece of shit!"

Mathias recoiled at her anger and then shook his head anxiously, "No, I'm not sleeping with her. Nothing has happened with Cady and me. We're just…" he floundered for the right word and Ang cut him off with a scoff.

"Don't bother. I came to the station tonight with dinner for us, trying to be a good girlfriend or whatever, and I saw the way you looked at her. The way you held her. That's not how a friend looks at someone," she spat.

Tears sprang to her eyes suddenly and she shook her head, trying to get rid of them. "Dammit Mathias, I thought…" she swallowed hard, "I didn't think you loved me, not yet. But, I thought you at least had some integrity," she rasped through a thick throat.

Mathias winced as her words struck home, his stomach clenching at the pain on her face. "I'm sorry Ang," he murmured and she shook her head, stepping away, turning her face so he couldn't see her cry.

"Don't," she whispered, voice broken.

Mathias stared at her as she breathed unsteadily for a few moments, her quiet sniffles the only sound in the room. When she looked back to him, regret made his chest ache at the pain on her face.

"You're a liar Mathias. You've lied to me, to Cady, to yourself. I knew what they said about you, but shame on me for thinking you might have grown up a little," she murmured dispassionately.

He watched as she whirled away to shove the few items of her clothing she had left at his place into her bag. Shame ate at him as she silently went to gather her things, leaving him behind.

"You know, it's kinda sad that you're the best this res has to offer," she snapped, marching back into the room with her makeup bag. Shoving it into her bag she glanced around and then hauled her bag onto her shoulder, stomping past him.

He followed her to the door, trying to find the right words to fix the pain he had caused. "I'm sorry Ang," he managed to get out before she turned and looked back at him, a deeply sorrowful look on her face.

"You're not a good man Mathias. You're a good police officer, and you protect the people of this reservation, but that's all you are. You don't know how to trust other people, and you're just going to end up hurting Cady like you hurt me."

Ang shuddered softly and fresh tears welled in her eyes. "You can't keep using Emily to push people away. Eventually you're not going to have anyone left," she murmured before striding out his door and his life.

The door crashed behind her and Mathias stared out at the growing twilight, wondering if her words were true and if he was doomed to ruin every relationship he had.


The next day Cady peered at the financials that Ferg and Zach had been working on, nodding as they explained what they had found. Marcus Williamson and the three other security guards all had regular bank accounts with typical amounts given how much they made at the casino.

What wasn't typical were the vacations that each man had taken to Jamaica, just a short flight from the Caymans. They had all gone in the past year and Cady would bet anything that they had opened accounts with one of the notoriously tight-lipped banks on the island.

"Well, we'll never get those financials," she murmured, shaking her head.

Ferg cleared his throat and Cady looked up at him, lifting a brow when he shifted uncomfortably and gave her a nervous look. "Ferrrrrrg," she drawled, narrowing her eyes at him, "What did you do?" she demanded.

He shook his head, "I didn't do anything. But I was thinking that if we emailed as the wife and gave them Marcus's identifying information, we just might get his bank information," he suggested.

Cady frowned, "If she's on the account, then that might work. They wouldn't grant access if she wasn't. And if she's not, they might alert Marcus to the attempt as a fraud alert and he'll know someone is on to him."

She shook her head, "We can't risk it."

Ferg drooped, looking disappointed and she patted him on the shoulder, "Don't worry Ferg, we'll get them. Show me what else you found," she encouraged, smiling softly as she leaned forward in her chair towards the laptop.

Ferg nodded and continued talking and she could feel Zach's eyes on her. Glancing up she caught him staring, holding his gaze before he bit his lower lip and looked away, turning his gaze back to his computer.


Ferg and Vic had left on a domestic dispute call and Cady was filling her mug with hot water for tea—Mathias's words still lingering in her mind about laying off the coffee—when Zach sidled up beside her.

"Were you gonna come over tonight?" he asked softly, and she wasn't sure if she heard hope or nerves in his voice.

Turning slowly, she blew on the hot surface of the tea and shook her head, "We can't do that anymore. It was wrong of me to take advantage of you as your superior and to continue doing it when I told you it was going to stop." She shifted uncomfortably, genuinely ashamed, "I'm sorry Zach," she murmured, peering up at him through lowered lashes.

He stared at her for a long minute and then nodded, arms crossed over his chest.

"Yea, okay. But if you need anything, as a friend, I'm still here for you," he offered with a faint smile, eyes hopeful.

Cady sighed softly and smiled gratefully at him, "Thanks Zach, that means a lot." He nodded and reached out to squeeze her elbow before returning to his desk. She watched him for a moment before heading into her office and closing the door, turning to stare at the whiteboards filled with the faces of the missing.

They hung in the shadows of the growing evening, their names and faces haunting her.

Grabbing the forensic file from her desk for Mandy's murder, she sank down onto her couch and re-read it for the third time. This was only the initial forensics, once the lab in Casper had a chance to process what had been found they would have a thicker file.

By all guesses, that could take anywhere from two weeks to two months.

With a frustrated sigh she tossed the file aside and sank back against the couch, sipping on her tea.

The funeral for Mandy would be in a week. She was under no illusions about her welcome to the event, but she wanted desperately to go and say goodbye to her friend.

Her throat grew thick at the idea that Mandy was actually gone and tears began to burn in her eyes. With a shaking hand she set aside her mug and dropped her face into her hands, tears streaming down her face.

One hand pressed to her mouth as she muffled her sobs, stomach contracting with each broken and choked sound. Hot rivulets of sorrow coursed down her face, dripping off her chin as she succumbed to the grief that had been welling within her.

Her sorrow consumed her for a time, left her helpless and weak until her tears dried up and the shattered pieces of her heart were swept into a pile resembling its whole self inside her. Wiping her face, she stood and faced the missing women once more.

She owed it to them to be strong, to find their bodies, their stories, their justice.

She owed it to Mandy.


When Zach poked his head into Cady's office to let her know he was leaving for the night he found her asleep on her couch, a legal pad and a thick file on her stomach. He stared at her for a moment and then stepped in quietly, taking them from her to be set aside and replaced with the blanket from the back of the couch.

Exiting just as quietly, he shut the door behind him and nodded to Ferg on his way out.


Mathias's heart pounded in his chest as he sprinted through the dirty snow, chasing after the man who had beaten his wife nearly to death. When he had first arrived on the scene the woman had been alone, her husband at the bar, her sister tending to her wounds.

He had been trying to convince her to go to the hospital and file a report when the husband had come home, taken one look at him and started drunkenly firing off his .380. When one of the bullets had ricocheted near Mathias's head, he had fired back, yelling for the women to hide in the bathroom.

The husband had taken off and here he was, in pursuit.

Mathias barreled around the corner and growled as he realized he had lost sight of the man in the maze of the abandoned factory he had been led into. Something crunched on the ground behind him and he spun towards the sound, shouting in surprise and then pain as a length of pipe connected with his ribs.

Doubling over as he gasped for breath he raised his arm to ward off another blow and cried out as the man brought the pipe down on his forearm, a sick snapping sound filling the air. The man bared his teeth in a feral grin and twisted in a full body swing, preparing to hit him one last time.

Mathias collapsed to his knees, his free hand fumbling for his fallen gun. His fingers closed around it as the man swung at him and in the space of a heartbeat he lifted it and fired, shouting as the pipe clipped his temple.

Gasping, he looked up through the flood of hot blood and found the man staring at the bullet wound in the middle of his chest. Slumping to his knees, he let out a gurgling noise of surprise and collapsed backwards.

Mathias groaned in relief and sank back too, chest heaving from adrenaline. His good arm reached for his radio, scrambling for the buttons for a moment before he found them.

"Station, this is the Chief. I need EMS at my last call and at the abandoned bottling factory. Suspect down, GSW to the chest, likely dead."

The radio crackled after a moment, "EMS is on the way Chief, you want me to call county and have them send theirs?" Caleb offered, sounding worried.

Mathias thought about it for a moment, knowing that if he did, Cady might get involved. His head throbbed suddenly and a moment later his arm pulsed in agony along with it, as if to remind him that it too was injured and would thank him not to forget it.

With a heavy sigh he clicked on the radio again, "Yea Caleb, give em a call," he sighed.

"You okay Chief? You don't sound too good," Caleb asked worriedly.

"Bumps and bruises," he lied.

"Right, well res EMS will be at the call location in five, the county EMS should be about fifteen, can you hang in till then?" he asked.

"No worries kid, this guy aint goin anywhere," he murmured tiredly.

When the radio finally went silent his hand fell to his stomach and his eyes slid closed against the marching band clanging away in his head. He listened to the sound of sirens approach in the distance, grateful that the wife and the sister would get help and be safe.

He drifted then, half awake, half unconscious.

His dreams were filled with silk and fire, blazing kisses and cool skin. He felt delicate fingers run over his face, pushing his hair out of his eyes and they fluttered open to find a head of copper above him, suffused by a warm white light behind it.

A sleepy smile warmed his lips.

"Hey lil storm," he rasped, lifting his good hand to reach for her face, frowning when she pulled back and turned away, speaking indistinctly to someone else. When she turned back to him she looked worried and he reached for her again, hoping to reassure her.

"Lie still Mathias," she ordered gently, trying to push his hand away.

He frowned softly at her, confused. "Why w'cha gonna do'ta me?" he murmured, words slurred sleepily, smirking at her playfully.

"Get you to the hospital, hopefully," she replied, sighing frustratedly when he reached for her face again. Gently, she leaned in and let his hand connect with her face, "What happened Mathias?" she asked quietly.

He wrinkled his nose, shaking his head minutely, "Dunno…'s a dream, right?" he asked, brow furrowed in confusion.

She stared at him for a moment and turned away, ignoring his soft protestation as she yelled for someone to hurry. When she turned back two men appeared behind her suddenly in the light, carrying something long and flat.

This was an odd dream he decided as the men strapped him to the board and lifted him into the air. He floated along, watching as she walked beside him. The light grew brighter as they went and a pain grew in his head as it got closer.

His eyes screwed shut against the pain and light, but it was no use, the pain spread through his body until it was in his chest and everything hurt with every breath. He heard the rumble of an engine and a moment later felt something beneath him move and his brain slowly began to put things together.

Cady. EMS. Hospital.

The EMS techs began to check him out, asking questions as they worked until they determined he had a concussion, a broken forearm and at the very least a few bruised ribs. They turned out the lights for him and in the darkness, he felt Cady take his hand.

Her grip was tight until they arrived at the ER and she had to relinquish him to the doctors, stepping aside to wait.

It was hours later when they finally saw each other again, or more accurately, she saw him. It was nearing dawn and all the tests had finally been run. He had a minor concussion, three bruised ribs, and a hairline fracture in his left ulna.

At the moment he was sleeping, the painkillers allowing him to get some much-needed rest. She watched him sleep for a time, sipping on a cup of weak ass decaf coffee that made her more tired than it did anything else.

When he woke around 5am, she was dozing in the chair beside his bed, his discharge papers in her lap. As soon as he was awake and ready, he could go home according to the doctors. At the sound of his sheets rustling, she sat up, rubbing her eyes tiredly.

When she looked at him properly he was staring at her confusedly, brows drawn together. "What're you doing here?" he asked, brain sluggishly trying to put together the pieces of the prior evening.

Handing over his discharge papers, she adjusted her sweater, "I'm taking you home. You're in the hospital after you got attacked during a domestic abuse call," she reminded him gently, frowning faintly as she studied his face.

His left temple and eye were bruised a nasty purple and the cut above his eye had been stitched. His fractured arm was in a brace and would be in a sling when he was upright. Worry knotted her stomach; he looked fragile, and it wasn't something she was used to seeing.

Mathias nodded, he remembered all that, even if it was a little hazy. "Yea, but why're you here?" he emphasized, "Why were you there last night?" he asked, frowning.

Cady hesitated a moment and then leaned forward, hands dropping between her knees as she lowered her gaze, "The call for the EMS came in and I overheard it; heard that you were injured. I didn't…I couldn't leave my partner alone and hurt," she told him softly, glancing up at him, throat constricting painfully as they stared at each other.

He didn't know what to say, didn't have the right words and knew he needed to find them. Instead, he nodded, hoping his eyes conveyed what he was feeling at that moment.

"Thank you," he whispered and saw a flash of disappointment in her eyes before she smiled softly and like a flash of lightning, it was gone.

They sat in silence for a time, avoiding each other's' gaze until she cleared her throat and stood, smiling just a little too brightly at him, "You ready to go home?"

When he nodded she bobbed her head, "Great, I'll get the doctor," she announced before darting out of the room, leaving him alone for the first time all night.


"I don't want to go to bed, I just got out of bed," he gripped.

"Well, the doctor said you can't work so it's either bed or the couch. Take your pick," she retorted, lifting a brow at him as they stood in his living room arguing.

Growling softly, he rolled his eye and shifted his broken arm, wincing as his ribs throbbed. Cady noted the wince and reached into her purse for his painkillers, quickly uncapping the bottle and shaking out two for him.

He shook his head, "I don't want more painkillers," he snapped, turning away.

"Why? They aren't narcotic, you won't be addicted," she murmured, "Do they upset your stomach? I can make you something to eat," she offered.

Turning towards her he pushed her hand away, ignoring her affronted look when the pills scattered out of her hand and onto the floor. "I don't want them. I don't want to sit on the fucking couch watching tv all goddamned day or in bed sleeping like some fucking invalid! I want to go to work!" he shouted.

Cady stared at him for a long moment and then nodded slowly before turning and walking over to the breakfast bar, setting his pill bottles down without saying a word. Dropping her purse onto the counter she turned to face him and pulled her gun from her holster and pointed it at his feet.

His eyes widened and he took a step back, "What the fuck Cady."

Rolling her eyes at him she lifted a brow, "You want to work, work. Disarm me," she ordered.

They stared at each other for nearly a minute before Mathias grumbled something incoherent (but sounded suspiciously like pain in my ass) and lifted his good hand to run over his face. When he looked back up at her, he looked more tired than before, "Alright, so, I can't," he conceded, "will you get that outta my face?" he asked.

She nodded and holstered it, along with her frustration. Turning away, she went to the kitchen and got a glass of water before shaking out two more pills. Without saying a word, she offered both to him and waited until he had taken both and swallowed half the glass to speak.

"Do you want something to eat?" she offered again.

He stared at her for a moment and lifted a playful brow, "You gonna shoot me if I don't like it?" he teased.

She grinned, "You'll eat it or you'll starve," she replied back sweetly.

Mathias barked out a laugh and then nodded, "Sounds good." When she turned away and went to his kitchen he sat gingerly on the couch and flipped on the tv, scrolling through the channels as the house filled with the scent of something delicious.

By the time he had settled on a rerun of a boxing match she emerged with two plates filled with scrambled eggs, pancakes and sausage. Lifting a brow, he took the plate she offered.

"Didn't realize I had all this," he murmured around a bite.

She shrugged, "Pancake mix, eggs and the sausage was in the back of the fridge. If its bad, I'll just tell them your concussion killed you," she joked, grinning over at him when he gave her a scandalized look.

When his plate was clean she took it and he heard the water running in the kitchen as she cleaned. His eyes grew heavier as he watched the boxing match, the painkillers dulling the throb in his head and body.

Cady stood in the kitchen doorway for a moment, watching Mathias doze on the couch. He looked exhausted and weaker than she was used to seeing him. When she had heard that he was injured and needed EMS last night, her heart had leapt into her throat and she had been halfway across the county to the res before she knew what she was doing.

She knew Ferg had probably wondered why she had reacted so strongly to Mathias being injured, but hopefully she could play it off as worry for a colleague.

No one could know it was anything more.

After a few moments of contemplation, she walked over and drew the blanket off the back of the couch and draped it over him, smiling softly when he slumped down onto the pillow and pulled the blanket around himself.

Her fingers only shook a little when she brushed the hair back from his bruised eye, her heart clenching when his eyelids fluttered for a moment before stilling. Heart in her throat, she leaned down and pressed a kiss to his forehead, lips lingering for a moment before she was gone.

As she drove away from his home, heart aching and tears burning in her eyes, she wondered how in the hell she had gotten to this place.

Chapter Text

"I heard Mathias was injured Thursday night in some domestic abuse call."

Cady looked up at her dad, mouth pursing. "Yea," she murmured, nodding sharply, not saying anything else.

"Heard the county took him to the hospital."

She glanced over at where her father was repairing the saddle for his horse, his face perfectly bland. "Yup. Their EMS was taking the abuse victim and her sister to the hospital. He was hurt and the husband needed to be declared dead," she replied.

They lapsed back into silence for a moment, her hands busy as she washed dishes and cleaned the kitchen. Vic was at the station, leaving them alone at her father's house.

"Heard you rode with the EMS and stayed with him at the hospital."

At this she tossed aside the dish towel she had been using to dry dishes with and turned to glare at him, "What do you want to know dad? Huh? Mathias was hurt. I went to make sure he was okay. He is, mostly. But I stayed to make sure and to help him get home because he's my friend and my partner. His well being means something to me," she snapped, slapping a hand against her thigh in frustration.

Walt studied her for a moment and she wondered if she had given away too much, if he could see her every emotion written on her face the way it was written on her heart. After a moment he nodded, "That was good of you Punk. I'm sure he appreciated it," he told her quietly.

At this she scoffed and rolled her eyes, smirking, "Hardly, man's a willful pain in the ass." Shaking her head, she laughed, "Reminds me of you, actually," she told him before turning back to the dishes.

Walt looked truly perturbed to think that he and Mathias were anything alike.


Cady was long past tired when she pulled up in front of Mathias's house, Italian take out and RICO case files in hand. She stared up at the house for a long minute before heaving a sigh and getting out of the truck, walking around to grab the box she had shoved everything into before she made her way up the brick walkway to the front porch.

Shifting the box to her hip she knocked and then rang the bell, shivering as a blast of freezing air shuddered over her. A few minutes passed and she knocked again, frowning softly. When the door opened, Mathias was scowling, looking half asleep.

She winced, "Did I wake you? I'm sorry," she murmured, shifting uncomfortably.

He stared at her for a moment and then peered at the box, noting the take out and the files. A smirk crept across his lips slowly, "I was napping, it's fine," he told her, "Is that Santino's?" he asked, his stomach growling in interest.

Cady grinned, "As if I would bring anything else," she scoffed.

He stepped back and shut the door behind her, watching as she went to the breakfast bar to set the box down before she bent and unlaced her boots. His gaze landed on her jean clad ass, travelling down to her lean legs, the muscles flexing as she bent and stretched.

Heat flooded his cheeks as she straightened and turned to him, "Do you want to sit at your table or the couch?" she asked, sounding uncertain.

He cast a glance towards where he had been nesting on the couch and wrinkled his nose, "Table. I need to be a little less slob and a little more human," he replied dryly.

She laughed and went into the kitchen, taking the brown bags with her. "You have a fractured arm and a concussion, you're allowed to be a little slobbish while you recover," she told him, glancing over her shoulder to smile warmly at him.

He leaned on the breakfast counter and nodded, watching as she plated the stuffed shells, roasted vegetables and garlic bread. To his surprise she had a box of wine and unstoppered it, pouring out two glasses.

He watched with amusement as she balanced the plates on her forearms and the wine glasses in her hands, carrying them easily to his dining table and setting them down as thought it was the simplest thing in the world.

As he took his seat across from her he grinned, "You're pretty good at that, you got a lot of hidden talents?" he teased.

She laughed and took a sip of her wine, "Nope, just waitressed all through college and law school. And after. It's a skill you never really lose," she told him with a wry smile.

They ate eagerly, occasionally chatting, mostly enjoying the food and wine instead of talking. When Mathias sat back in his chair he hid his wince and shifted, trying to ease the ache in his ribs.

Cady didn't miss the wince or the uncomfortable shift as she cleared the table of their plates, taking their wine glasses with her. She poured out water for them instead of refilling the glasses and grabbed his painkillers, inspecting the label for a few moments before deciding he should wait an hour to take them.

When she re-emerged from the kitchen she found that Mathias had already gotten out the RICO case files and was looking over them, brow furrowed. As she set down the water in front of him he looked up, the corners of his mouth turned down, "You guys have made a lot of progress on this," he told her softly, no hint of recrimination in his voice.

She nodded and sat beside him, pulling her chair closer so she could see the file too. "Zach and Ferg really worked hard on this, getting into the details. Ferg noticed that all three of the men had made trips to Jamaica. They've likely set up Cayman accounts that we won't be able to access, but I'm hoping that we can use what else is here to bring them down."

He frowned and nodded, "It's unusual for them to be able to afford a trip to Jamaica on a security guard's pay," he told her.

"Yea, we thought so too. Especially given how much is in their bank accounts. They have to have other accounts to justify that expense. Or they used cash."

Mathias shifted again in his chair and Cady eyed him for a moment before stretching and rising from her chair, "Can we sit on the couch? Your chairs are hard and my back hurts," she told him with a grimace.

He stared at her for a moment, suspecting what was really happening, but instead of saying anything, he nodded and followed her to the couch with the files in hand. He settled back into the spot he had been occupying earlier and watched as she sat beside him, propping her feet up on the coffee table, throwing him a quick glance to make sure he didn't mind.

Smirking at her, he propped his up too and grabbed a file from the stack and a notepad, turning his attention to the contents. He felt her shift and watched her in his peripheral vision, squirming for a moment before she sank a little lower and moved towards him just a bit before she sighed and seemed to settle.

They read through the files and the financial disclosure forms, reading and taking notes, discussing ideas and taking notes for hours. At one point, Cady made them coffee and brought in cheesecake she had bought with dinner, sitting cross legged beside him as she talked, waving her fork for emphasis.

He bit his lip, watching her with amusement and no small amount of affection as she expounded on an idea enthusiastically. When she paused to take a sip of coffee he ducked his head to take a bite of cheesecake, hiding yet another warm smile.

"Are you…" she hesitated and he looked up, finding her frowning deeply, eyes hooded with grief as she stared down at her plate of cheesecake.

"Am I?" he encouraged, lifting a brow as he waited for her to continue.

"Are you going to Mandy's funeral?" she asked, looking up at him through the veil of her thick lashes. There was curiosity and sorrow in her eyes, a touch of hope too and his heart ached within his chest.

"Yea, of course. Aren't you?" he asked, curious.

She shook her head and avoided his gaze, "I'm not going to be welcome. Not after the Catori thing. Mandy and her aunt might have adopted me but I didn't take it seriously, not like I should have. It would be rude to intrude," she told him, her throat working as she continued to avoid his gaze.

Frowning, he set aside his plate and turned towards her, reaching out to set a hand around her ankle, drawing her startled gaze up to his. Her eyes were wide as they met his and he rubbed his thumb along the bones of her ankle, idly thinking how delicate they were.

"You should go. You might have fought and done some stupid things, but she was your friend and your family. She cared for you, and you for her. You should get to say goodbye," he told her softly.

Cady inhaled raggedly and turned her chin, hiding her face as tears welled in her eyes.

"It was my fault she died. I'm not…I don't deserve to say anything to her," she whispered brokenly, struggling against the tears threatening to fall and the lump in her throat.

Mathias made a low noise of disagreement and leaned forward, releasing her ankle in favor of grabbing her chin. Gently lifting it, he forced her to meet his eyes. Hers were sorrowful and tearful, his angry and firm.

"You didn't kill her. It was not your fault. Those Infinitarios fuckers killed her, just like they've killed other native women, and they're gonna keep doing it unless we stop them. This tribe needs you, these women need you."

He paused and stroked his thumb over her cheek gently, his eyes softening, "I need you," he told her warmly.

Her eyes widened as he continued to stroke her cheek gently, his dark eyes meeting her oceanic ones, his body leaning towards hers. Her breath sped up, heart thundering in her chest with anticipation and anxiety.

"You gonna keep running from me?" he whispered, smiling faintly as his fingers released her chin to brush his knuckles over her cheeks, his fingertips playing in her hair.

She swallowed hard, "I'm not running, I'm sitting on your couch," she replied lightly, mentally berating herself for how breathy and excited she sounded.

Mathias smirked and released the strand of hair he hand been playing with to brush his knuckles over her jaw, his thumb skimming along the line of her bottom lip. She exhaled sharply and her lips parted, her warm breath bathing his skin.

"See, you're runnin from my question right now," he told her, his thumb brushing along her lip again as he smirked faintly, his dry amusement and frustration evident.

She licked her lip absently, her tongue barely missing his thumb and he suppressed a noise of arousal. "I…I already told you, we can't, shouldn't," she whispered.

"I'm not with Angela," he told her promptly, nodding when she looked at him, startled. "So, if that's all you got…" he trailed off leadingly.

She swallowed again and scrambled for her wits, seeking reasons why they shouldn't cross this line, once and for all. It was incredibly difficult with his fingers playing in her hair, skimming along the column of her neck before coming back up to dance over her chin and lips.

"We work together. It's not professional," she reasoned, willing herself to meet his eyes. His were warm and curious, as if he was interested to see if she could come up with an actual response that would make sense and stop them.

"Says who? We're adults, we can judge for ourselves if things aren't working," he replied simply.

"Your people will hate it. They'll hate you for sleeping with a white woman and they'll hate me for being with you, someone they love and respect."

At this his brow furrowed, "My people marry white people all the time. It shouldn't matter who I sleep with or get involved with," he replied tartly.

She lifted a brow, "Maybe, but it will. I'm a Longmire, remember? They'll hate it even more because of that," she reminded him.

Mathias frowned and sighed sharply, "I don't care. Do you care what everyone else thinks? Is that the really gonna stop you?" he taunted.

"It bothers me if people think less of you because of me. You're a good man and you don't deserve to have the people of your tribe angry with you over me. I've angered them and hurt them, and I don't want to keep doing that. Am I really worth disenfranchising yourself from your people?" she countered.

Mathias stared at her, stunned. Her words settled in and realization spread through him. She didn't think she was good enough for him. She thought that if they were together, he would eventually leave her because it was better for his people for them to be apart.

Leaning forward, he closed the distance between them, his hand cupping her cheek as his eyes met hers intensely. "You're worth it," he assured her quietly, solemnly before he leaned in further and pressed his lips to her opposite cheek.

She stiffened for a moment and then turned her head infinitesimally towards his, her nose brushing his cheek. He felt her hand brush his chest before it curled around his neck, holding him close to her.

They didn't move for what could have been eons, but was likely mere moments. Her breath brushed his skin, her lashes fluttering against him for a moment before she slid closer and put her face against his neck.

His hand slid from her cheek to cup the back of her head, feeling her shudder against him for a moment before she pulled back and smiled with trembling lips, her eyes bright with unshed tears. He shifted back against the couch and winced, his ribs throbbing with the action.

Eyes narrowing at him, she rose "Time for painkillers," she muttered, hurrying away, every line of her body tense. When she came back a few minutes later, she had a mug of tea for him and a couple of painkillers.

Handing them over with a no-nonsense look, she waited till he had taken them and then began gathering her files, avoiding his gaze. Frowning, he leaned forward, ignoring his protesting ribs, and grabbed her wrist lightly, "Going somewhere?" he asked softly.

She paused and glanced over her shoulder at him, eyes wary but a soft smile graced her mouth. "You need your rest. It's getting late," she reminded him, looking pointedly towards the clock that was inching closer towards midnight.

He squeezed her wrist softly, eyes warm, "You're tired too. Weather isn't so great." He watched as she glanced out the window to where the wind was howling and snow was blowing with it. She bit her lip, frowning.

"Stay," he encouraged softly, shifting his hand to brush his thumb over her palm. She shuddered at the contact and her gaze came back to him, wary.

"I should go," she murmured, sounding unsure.

He stroked her palm again, "Whatever you think is best," he replied quietly, eyes soft.

She gazed down at him, unsure.

If she stayed, what did it mean? What did any of this mean? Mathias wasn't acting like he was only interested in her for a purely physical relationship, but, it wasn't like she could be sure unless she took that plunge.

As terrifying as it was, she had to trust him.

"Okay," she whispered, nodding, "I'll stay."

His warm smile made her heart thump unevenly, made her feel like she had given him some prize and when he stood, she inhaled nervously.

"You okay with the couch?" he murmured, eyes soft, and she realized when she nodded that he had kept ahold of her hand. He gave it a gentle squeeze and turned away, "I'll get you a real pillow," he offered.

"No!" she exclaimed softly, blushing when he looked back at her in surprise and confusion. "I…it's fine, the couch pillows will be fine," she assured him, "You don't have to worry, I'll be fine."

After a moment he nodded slowly, gaze cautious, "Okay, well if you need anything there's more blankets and a spare pillow in the bathroom closet. If you need me, I'm at the end of the hallway," he told her, pointing down the dark hallway.

She nodded and he gave her a soft smile, "Night Cady," he murmured, aching to kiss her but unwilling to push her much farther that night. She whispered a 'good night' and watched him disappear down the hall before she collapsed onto the couch, head flopping back to stare up at the ceiling.

Equal parts excitement and anxiety flowed through her.

Whatever this was with Mathias…it scared the shit out of her, especially when she allowed herself to think about just how much she wanted it to be real, to be more than just a stolen kiss and an unspoken promise of more.

As she stared up at the ceiling that night, trying to sleep, she lifted a hand to her cheek, closing her eyes as he recalled his gentle touch. A smile crept onto her lips and she drifted into a hazy slumber.


When Mathias woke the next morning, she was already gone, but had left a note on the counter next to a glass of water and his bottle of painkillers.

Mathias,

Take these with breakfast and take a look at the files I left. There's more to find on these guys, and I'm hoping you'll notice something I missed. Call me if you need anything.

Yours,

Cady

His thumb stroked over the word yours for a moment before he realized he had an infatuated grin on his face and hastily set the letter aside, glancing aside at the files she had left for him to take a look at.

Smirking faintly, he grabbed one and flipped it open, reading as he went to the kitchen to pour a bowl of cereal to go with his painkillers.


Cady paused in the doorway of her office, the nagging sense that something was wrong making her neck tingle. Taking a slow step inside, she peered around, brow furrowing as she looked at each of her whiteboards, checking to make sure each photo was in its proper place.

As she turned to the corkboard behind her desk her frown deepened. The map she had of Wyoming was hung over a larger one of the entire US, pushpins used to mark where they had found the bodies of some of the women in black, the yellow marking where they had last been seen, and red marked the women she had found using the app Isaac had told her about.

Spotlight was an app designed for law enforcement, using facial recognition to find missing women in online ads soliciting sex. Many were underage, but there were many who weren't. Cady had been able to find three women through the app, their locations marked on the US map; Miami, Austin, and Birmingham.

She had tried soliciting the women using a fake name, but had gotten no response. So, she reached out to the local police, letting them know these women were trafficked and a part of her larger investigation.

The local police had agreed to bring them in as soon as they could and alert her when they had the women in custody so she could fly out and speak with them. So far, she hadn't heard anything.

Admittedly, it had only been a few days since she had spoken to them, and things with Mandy's death and the RICO investigation had consumed her attention, but she had been hoping for something sooner.

Stepping towards her maps, she frowned. Something was off…

Leaning in, she realized that the pins had been pulled out, and then replaced, the pictures they were holding up no longer straight, but hanging crookedly.

Terror swooped through her stomach as she lurched back, glancing around wildly.

Someone had been in her office.

Stepping back, she hurried out to the bull pen and hovered near Ferg's desk, waiting for him to get off the phone. He frowned up at her and when he hung up gave her a concerned filled look, "What's up boss?"

"Did you go into my office and mess with the stuff on the whiteboards?" she demanded, glancing over her shoulder, mouth twisting nervously as she looked at the evidence of a break in once more.

Ferg frowned, "No…why?"

She inhaled shakily and shook her head, turning back to give him a reassuring smile, "Nothing, I just thought things looked like they had been moved, but you know, I'm tired and I'm pretty sure I did it the other day," she confessed with a fake laugh.

He studied her for a moment, eyes narrowing before he nodded, "Okay," he drawled, drawing out the word, as though he wasn't sure if he should believe her.

"Thanks Ferg," she muttered, touching his shoulder gently before retreating to her office and closing the door behind her.

She stared at the whiteboard and felt fear closing around her throat like fingers, trying to choke her.

The Infinitarios were coming for her.

Chapter Text

Adjusting her clothing for what had to be the tenth time, she once again wondered if this was the right decision. She had been surprised when a week ago, Mathias had called to inform her that he had spoken with Mandy's aunt.

He had told her that if she wanted to, she could go to the funeral without fear of recrimination from Mandy's family (what little there was of it), and that he would drive them so if they had to, they could make a hasty escape.

She had been dually surprised; that he had been able to get allowance for her attendance, and that he was allowed to drive. He had laughed and told her that the doctor had agreed to it only if he wore the sling every moment he wasn't driving or in bed.

Somewhat hesitantly, she had agreed to go.

Now that the day was here, she was seriously questioning that decision.

Her fingers ran over the front of her black slacks, smoothing out an imaginary crease before they skimmed up to her black bow tie top, the long ties dangling from her throat down between her breasts.

The fabric was sheer and beneath it she wore a black lace camisole, the whole ensemble completed with a black blazer and pearl earrings. Adjusting her hair one last time, she slipped on her black pumps and grabbed her clutch, staring at herself in her full-length mirror.

She looked…older.

Like her mother a bit.

The dark circles beneath her eyes were well hidden with concealer and her lips were a mauve color that she wasn't sure about.

A knock at her front door jolted her out of her reverie and she hurried towards it, heels clacking against the wood. Pulling the door open she smiled faintly at Mathias and stepped aside so he could enter while she pulled on her jacket.

It was her favorite, a black leather one with a ruffle down the front that somehow didn't make it too feminine, instead, the way it sat gave her a sense of power and strength. If there was anything she needed today, it was strength.

Mathias watched her slip her jacket on, fingers trembling as she struggled with the zipper. He stepped closer and his hands closed around hers, stilling their movements. Her eyes met his, wide with grief and filled with unshed tears.

Slowly he pulled the edges of her jacket together and zipped it, his eyes on hers as the teeth closed, edging up over her stomach and breasts until his hand rested just below her collarbones. His injured hand was less mobile, but steady where it lay against her hip.

"I'm right here," he assured her, his good hand slipping around her throat to the back of her neck, his thumb stroking along the fine line of her jaw as he gazed at her fondly.

She swallowed hard and leaned into the touch, eyes falling shut as she took strength from it, her breath shuddering in and out unevenly. After a few moments she opened them again and smiled faintly at him, "Thank you," she whispered.

He nodded and took a step back, letting his hand fall from her. They stared at each other for a minute before he sighed and gave her a resigned ghost of a smile, "Time to go," he told her gently.

Her eyes were glazed with grief when she nodded and he kept a close eye on her as they left, walking close together to his truck. He had chosen to drive it instead of his cruiser, he wasn't here as a police officer, he was here as a member of the tribe.

Cady looked at him in surprise as he stepped past her to open her door for her, the action eliciting a faint smile as she slid inside. When they were on the road, the radio playing softly, she twisted her hands in her lap and stared over at him.

"Are you sure I should be going?" she asked worriedly.

Mathias glanced over and studied her face for a moment before looking back to the road. "I'm sure," he murmured. "Her aunt wants you there. She knew you were Mandy's friend, that you had reconciled and she wants you to get to say goodbye."

Cady's breath shuddered out, a tight sensation in her chest. Closing her eyes, she rested her head against the window, the glass cold from the air outside. Mathias glanced over at her occasionally, worried about her and her silence, but understanding of how she felt.

He knew that she was torn between her desire to go to the funeral and say goodbye and her feelings that she didn't deserve to, the idea that she had been responsible for Mandy's death poisoning her heart.

It seemed no matter how many times he assured her it wasn't true, she continued to cling to the idea that she could have prevented it in some way. Likely, it didn't help that he had as good as told her something like this would happen if she continued to go to the speed dating events, but more than anything, he wished he could take away the guilt and regret she struggled with.

As they pulled up to the funeral grounds, he frowned to see the crowd gathered. He hadn't thought so many of the tribe would turn out. He supposed that in the end, Mandy had touched more people than he knew, and given the loss of her at such a young age, the tribe felt the loss acutely.

Cady peered at the crowd and blanched.

"I should…"

"You should get out of the truck and go say goodbye," he murmured firmly, turning to fix her with a stern but kind look. She inhaled shakily, a shiver running over her before she nodded and reached for the door handle, steeling herself for a moment before she swung it open and stepped out.

He followed suit and stepped around the front of the truck, waiting for her to join him. When she stood next to him he could feel the nervous energy radiating off her in waves, the tension in her body making every limb tense.

Gently he laid a hand on her back, between her shoulder blades, and nudged her forward. They walked together towards the funeral grounds and as they approached those at the rear of the crowd took notice.

A soft buzz went up as they got closer and he could see angry lines on the faces of those gathered. Worry pitted in his stomach and he felt Cady stiffen under his hand even further.

When they tried to step forward three members of the tribal council blocked their way, arms firmly crossed over their chests. Mathias frowned and glanced around at the crowd gathering in a half circle around them.

"We've come to grieve," he told them, "To say our final goodbye to Mandy."

One of the tribal leaders scowled and shook his head, jerking his chin towards Cady, "The white outsider isn't welcome," he rasped.

Fury rose in Mathias's blood, pounding in his ears and against his ribs, begging to be set free. "Outsider?" he questioned, his voice dangerously calm.

The man nodded, "She brought the wrath of this gang down onto one of our people. Were it not for her, Mandy would be alive."

Mathias felt Cady stiffen next to him and wondered how she hadn't shattered into a million pieces yet, given how tight she was wound.

He looked slowly around at the men and women gathered and saw the blame in their faces, and his fury tamped into a hard, unyielding thing to be wielded like a weapon.

Turning his gaze back to the man he smiled slowly, the expression shark-like. "Something evil has been preying on our people for decades. Our women and young girls have been taken and enslaved, and nothing has been done. You all have resigned yourselves to being prey, cowering like rabbits in front of a wolf," he snarled, and he saw a few people flinch.

"No more. This, outsider, as you call her, and I have been searching for our missing. We've brought some of them back. We've let the wolf know that we are not rabbits. We are not prey. We are something to be feared, coming for them, hunting them in the night. They will come to fear the fury they have roused and learn why the white men of history feared our warriors."

He looked over at Cady and his eyes flashed, pride rippling through him as she stood straighter, her limbs losing their wary stance.

"She is a nótaxe, and should be treated as such." Glancing back at the crowd he frowned, glaring at them, "Shame. Shame on you all. When your lost ones are reunited with you, be glad they will not know of your shame from this day."

Turning, he looked expectantly at Cady and waited. She glanced at him and then searched the crowd till she found Mandy's aunt, the woman's face uncertain and grief stricken. Cady took a step forward and cleared her throat, eyes shining as she spoke.

"I'm sorry for causing your grief. I will bring justice to you, so Mandy can rest peacefully," she murmured quietly.

The older woman nodded, "Thank you nótaxe," she whispered.

Cady glanced over her shoulder to where Mandy's shroud was and a small shudder of grief rippled through her. She turned and allowed Mathias to guide her back to the truck, his hand on the small of her back.

When they were in the truck and had pulled away she let out a breath she hadn't realized she had been holding. The scenery outside flashed by as she stared out the window numbly, barely noticing where they were going.

She only glanced up when the truck stopped, brow furrowing at the sight of the dive bar they had gone to after the OD—when things had shifted irreparably between them. Glancing over at Mathias curiously, she waited for an explanation.

"I dunno about you, but I could use a drink," he muttered, pulling the keys from the ignition.

Her brows shot up in surprise, "It's," she glanced at her watch, "noon."

He shrugged, "I could still use a drink. How about you?" he asked, lifting a brow as he reached for the handle of the door. She hesitated for a moment and then decided, yes, she needed a drink.

Nodding, she followed him out into the surprisingly mild April air and then into the dingy bar. The lights from Valentine's Day were still up, casting a lurid glow in the dank interior. Instead of heading to the bar Mathias made for a corner U shaped booth, sliding in before motioning to her to join him.

She hesitated for just a moment before slipping her jacket off, tossing it on the empty side of the booth. Sliding in next to him, she leaned back against the worn leather of the booth and watched as he grabbed the stained beer menu, perusing it for a moment before tossing it aside.

"I'll be back," he murmured, sliding out the other side, leaving her alone.

She watched as he went to the bar, his long dark hair hiding his face as he leaned his leather clad elbows on the bar to speak with the bartender. After a few moments and a wad of cash slid between the two men, he returned with two glasses and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Double Black.

The bottle thunked softly against the wood grain of the table as he retook his seat, passing her a glass before he opened the bottle and poured them both out a few fingers of Scotch. Turning towards her, he lifted his glass, waiting till she had lifted hers to speak.

"To Mandy. To finding her killers. To justice," he murmured, dark eyes shimmering with the promise of bloody retribution for any man who tried to keep these things from him.

Cady nodded in agreement and tapped her glass against his before she took a sip. They sat in silence as they sipped, shoulders touching occasionally and knees bumping under the table.

When she had finished her first drink she reached for the bottle and poured another.

"What did you call me back at the funeral?" she asked, turning her chin to peer at him. "Nótaxe?" she murmured, stumbling slightly over the unfamiliar word.

Mathias drained his glass and poured himself another, staring down at the amber liquid for a long moment before responding.

"Warrior. Nótaxe means warrior. It's not a title given to women, not unless they've done something incredibly brave and valuable for the tribe. There have been a handful of female nótaxe in all of Cheyenne history. None of them were white," he told her, taking a long sip as he avoided her gaze.

Cady stared at him, stunned. "I…so what does that mean? What does it mean to the tribe?" she demanded worriedly.

This time he looked up at her, "It means you're a warrior for the tribe. It means that you are an honored member of the tribe, at least by those who choose to accept my word."

"And if they don't accept it?" she demanded, astounded.

He shrugged, "They'll shun you. But Mandy's aunt accepted it, which means most of them will fall in line. She accepted your vow to bring her justice."

Cady exhaled brokenly, completely floored. "And…and what happens if I fail?" she whispered.

"They'll turn their backs on you. You'll be shunned from the tribe." He looked at her solemnly, "That's not going to happen. We're going to find those women and get them justice," he told her.

She gazed back at him, dazed, wondering when the man who had scoffed at the idea of hope had become the man who was certain they would get justice for all the missing and dead. Was it her fault? Had she made him believe they could do the impossible?

"What happens to you if I fail?" she whispered, heart clenching.

Mathias stared back at her before tossing back the remnants of his drink, swallowing hard. "Nothing. I become an outcast," he murmured, "more than I am already," he scoffed, pouring another drink.

Her hand landed on his, stopping his pour. His eyes flashed up to hers, finding them full of warmth and concern. "You shouldn't have done that for me," she murmured, eyes wrinkling around the edges with concern.

"I wasn't worth it. I'm not worth losing your tribe," she told him quietly.

Turning his hand to grip hers, he held her gaze firmly, "Yes you are. Goddammit Cady, yes you are," he murmured intensely.

Distantly she heard a ringing noise, but she couldn't look away from the depths of his eyes, the fierce affection there holding her captive. When the ringing grew insistent, he looked away, sighing when he realized it was his phone.

He released her hand and slid out of the booth, taking the call in the narrow hallway where the bathrooms were. When he was gone, Cady slumped backwards and breathed out nervously, a flush rising in her cheeks when she realized how close they had been sitting.

She was too warm, she thought, and slipped off her blazer, sighing in relief as the cooler air of the bar filtered through the sheer material of her top. She toyed with the rim of her glass, eyes unfocused as the pondered their conversation.

Was she really a warrior? Would she be able to live up to the promise she had made Mandy's aunt? She didn't want to promise something there was no way she could deliver on, let alone something that would end up causing Mathias to be an outcast if she failed.

She could live with the consequences for herself, but to cause him pain, to lose his tribe, she wasn't sure she could be responsible for that.

"What are you thinking about?"

Her hand flinched at the sound of his voice, nearly spilling her drink. Flushing, she glanced up to find him sliding back into the booth, smirking at her reaction.

"Just…thinking about what happens if I don't deliver on my promise," she admitted.

He frowned and shook his head, "Our promise Cady. You aren't in it alone. We're going to do this together. No matter what," he assured her firmly, jaw set.

That's what she was afraid of.

Instead of saying anything else on the matter though, she nodded and gave him a faint smile, "Was that about work?" she asked, jerking her chin towards where his cell phone lay on the dark wood of the table.

"Yea, Caleb had a question. Nothin serious. I still plan on drinking with you, don't worry," he assured her with a wry smirk.

She laughed faintly and nodded, "Good."


The day slipped by without either of them really taking notice. Their phones were left aside in favor of scotch, and when they grew too hazy to stand without swaying, they ordered from the questionable menu.

"These are the worst fries I've ever had," Cady snickered as she ate another limp, soggy fry.

Mathias chuckled and took another from the plate, nodding in agreement. "I dunno how this place doesn't get shut down," he murmured.

"Well somebody has to fulfil the need for cheap alcohol and shitty fries," she replied, waving a greasy fry in his direction with a grin. Bowing his head, he laughed heartily and shook his head.

Sighing in disgust she tossed aside the fry and wiped her fingers on a napkin, grimacing. "Ugh, gross," she muttered, reaching for her scotch.

Mathias was nursing his own in between glasses of water in an attempt to sober up, which seemed to be working mildly well. Cady had drunk less water than he but had eaten well over half the plate of admittedly shitty fries, so he couldn't attest to her soberness.

Through the day they had migrated closer in the booth until they were sitting side by side, leaning into each other, limbs almost twined together. Her left foot was currently tucked behind his right calf, the toe of her heel rubbing up and down his leg slowly, almost absently.

"You think they have anything actually edible here?" she asked, squinting at the menu critically.

He laughed again and shook his head, leaning back to sling his arms along the back edge of the booth. She half turned and smirked at him, eyes hooded from intoxication. "You have a nice laugh," she told him, fingers playing along the edge of her glass.

Feeling bold, he quirked a brow and lifted his good hand down so he could caress her bottom lip with his thumb. "You've got a nice smile," he responded softly, eyes warm as hers widened and then fluttered as he repeated the action, thumb pausing to press against her lip for a moment before his hand dropped away.

He nudged her glass of water towards her and at her look of confusion smirked, "You'll thank me tomorrow," he murmured.

As if in defiance, she tossed back the last of her scotch before reaching for the water, shooting him a mocking smirk before she began drinking, her throat working as she consumed the water. Exhaling loudly as she set the empty glass aside, she tossed him a challenging look and he laughed, affection curling through him.

The bartender had given them a pitcher of water, so he refilled her glass and his, drinking his slower than her impressive chugging. She took it slower this time too and when she set aside her glass he couldn't help but notice how her lips shone with residual liquid.

She looked sinful.

Without even thinking about it, he leaned forward and wrapped his good hand around the nape of her neck, pulling her towards him. In a breath, he saw her eyes widen before his mouth met hers, the taste of scotch heavy on both their lips.

She hesitated for a brief moment before she melted into him, one of her hands sliding beneath his leather jacket to rest on his trim waist as the other fisted in the hair at the nape of his neck, urging him closer.

She tasted like scotch and honey and vanilla and he didn't know when he had ever tasted anything nearly as sumptuous, but he was certain he needed to taste more. His tongue flicked languidly against her lower lip before his teeth nipped at it and she let out a noise somewhere between a mewl and a purr, arching into him like a cat.

Abruptly she pulled back, eyes heavy with desire as she panted, lips just inches from his. Worry skipped through him; was she going to reject him? Again?

Her fingers in his hair loosened and slipped down to curl around the base of his neck, her thumb stroking the column of his neck for a moment as she stared at him thoughtfully. His own hand kept a firm but gentle grip on her, unwilling to let her go, but ready if she pulled away further to release her.

"We shouldn't do this here," she finally murmured, a faint smile creeping onto her face as she leaned back towards him to brush her lips over his. "Let's go," she whispered.

He didn't have to be asked twice.

He kissed her back firmly, his hand trailing from her neck as he released her, pulling away to watch the slow flutter of her eyes and the blissed out look on her face. As her eyes opened he smiled softly at her, at the way her normally clear ocean eyes looked stormy with desire.

She turned and chugged the rest of her water before pulling on her blazer, fingers fumbling with eagerness. Mathias swallowed down the last of his water too and was grateful when he stood that he was clear headed.

Grabbing her coat, he held it up for her to slide into, peering up into her eyes as she glanced at him over her shoulder. His hands smoothed along her shoulders before slipping away to grab the nearly empty bottle of scotch from the table.

The bar was still empty as they left and when they slid into his truck he shivered at the chill. The sun had long ago set and the wind was kicking up again. Cranking on the heat, he let them sit for a few moments as the interior heated.

Glancing over at her, he saw she was tucking her hands under her arms to try and warm them. Gently, he reached over and pulled them out, her eyes on his as he lifted them to his mouth, breathing out hotly against them before rubbing them between his.

Cady shifted in her seat, the need that he had stoked earlier with his kisses still smoldering, growing inflamed.

"Better?" he asked softly, lifting a brow.

Maybe it was the alcohol still in her system. Maybe he just made her a little crazy. She wasn't really sure what it was that possessed her to slide across the bench seat and put her hands on his chest with a sultry look.

"Dunno, I'm pretty cold," she murmured, her lips hovering over his as she angled herself over him. "Maybe you should warm me up."

With a groan, he wound his good hand through her hair and pulled her down to him, rising up slightly to meet her mouth. Her fingers were greedy, gripping the fabric of his shirt and stroking his chest, running down over his stomach before sliding up to wind around his neck as she kissed him fervently.

One of her legs slid between his as she slid half onto his lap, straddling his right thigh between her legs. As she arched into him, his lips trailed over her jaw and along her throat, a smirk coming to them as she let out a throaty moan.

Maybe it was the alcohol that was making her act like a horny teenager, or maybe it was the way Mathias had been looking at her like she was something amazing, the smile on his face so affectionate that it had made her heart beat unevenly.

Either way, she knew she couldn't let the moment slip away.

When his teeth nipped at her throat she shuddered and let out a soft moan, struggling for a normal breath as her heart throbbed.

"Thought…you didn't want to do…this here," he whispered, lips brushing against her skin with each word, and she sighed, the rational words washing over her and sinking in like water into sand.

Pulling back slightly she peered down into his dark eyes, her stomach tight with the need to kiss his mouth again. "I don't," she agreed. Wrinkling her nose in frustration she sighed and then smiled at him, "How do your ribs feel?" she asked, surprising him.

He thought about it for a moment and then shrugged a shoulder, "Not too bad. Scotch with painkillers will cure what ails you," he joked, smiling wryly.

She nodded and to his great disappointment, slid off his lap. She remained beside him though, staring out the slightly foggy windshield. His hand lifted to brush back a stray strand of her hair, tucking it behind her ear.

"What are you thinking about?" he asked softly, wondering what it was that was creasing her brow.

She turned to smile at him, shaking her head faintly, "Just thinking about you standing up for me at the funeral. Still not sure it was worth it," she told him before leaning in to kiss his cheek, "but thank you," she whispered, her face so close that he could see the flecks of gold in her storm green eyes.

He didn't know what to say to her that he hadn't already so he just nodded and kissed her, hoping she would understand.

Her nose bumped his as she pulled away, smiling playfully at him. "Can we stop at the Red Pony? I need a burger," she murmured.

Laughter burst out of him once more, his chest filling with a warm, fluttering sensation as he smiled at her.

"Of course little storm, wouldn't want a delicate thing like you collapsing on me," he teased.

Pulling back with a faux affronted look, she stuck her tongue out and wrinkled her nose at him. "You know, I'd punch you, but I don't believe in hitting the elderly or infirm," she retorted before sliding across the seat and buckling on her seatbelt.

"Elderly?!" he exclaimed, giving her an incredulous look.

"Or infirm," she confirmed, grinning evilly.

He scoffed and threw the truck into reverse, smirking at her, "I'll show you elderly," he promised.

"Promises, promises," she retorted in a sing song voice, lips curled in a Cheshire grin.


They called in an order to the Red Pony and by the time they arrived it was ready for pick up. "You stay here, stay warm," he ordered her softly, leaning over to kiss her briefly before sliding out and into the cold, windy night.

She watched him hurry into the familiar red building, a fond smile on her face. Fiddling with the radio, she hopped from country to rock to gospel and back to rock, settling on the station with a sigh.

There was a band playing she liked, so she settled back into her seat and closed her eyes, enjoying the warmth.

Icy air flooded her side of the truck and her eyes flew open.

A hooded, masked figure stood beside the truck, pointing a gun at her.

"Get out."

Heart in her throat, she nodded and reached slowly for her belt, unbuckling it before she slid from the truck.

"What do you want?" she asked, proud that her voice was steady.

"Toss your phone on the floor."

When she didn't move, the man stepped closer and pressed the gun against her forehead, his eyes glittering dangerously behind the mask.

"Now."

With a jerky nod she slipped it from her pocket and tossed it onto the truck floor. The man nodded in satisfaction and pulled the gun back, studying her for a moment. His arm curled and, in a flash, he backhanded her with the butt of the gun, slamming it into her temple.

She fell to her hands and knees, head ringing. Blood dripped from where he had hit her and she gasped for breath, wishing she had carried her weapon with her today.

The man crouched over her and she felt a needle bite the skin of her neck before something hot flooded her system. As she went limp the man grabbed her arms and drug her upright, forcing her into the black panel van two spots down.

Distantly she heard duct tape ripping and felt hands on her, forcing her legs together. Head lolling to the side, she peered through hazy eyes at the darkness swimming in her vision. The hands left her body after taping her hands behind her back, and she heard a door open and then slam shut.

The last thing she heard before the darkness around the edges consumed her was the rumble of the engine as the van pulled away.


Mathias took the bag of takeout from a curious Henry; the man knew his goddaughter's order almost by heart, so when it had come in along with a few other items, he had expected her to pick it up, not the man standing across the bar from him.

But he said nothing, knowing they were likely working on Mandy's murder case or one of the missing women, as they had been for months. He had wondered briefly if there was something going on between the Chief and his goddaughter but had abandoned the idea when he had heard from the ever-present gossip mill that Mathias was still seeing Angela.

As he watched the other man leave with Cady's order and a funny smile on his face, he began to question that assumption anew.


Mathias pushed the door to the Red Pony open, bowing his head against the buffeting wind, hurrying to the truck. It was only when he opened his door that he realized Cady's hung open and the interior was conspicuously empty.

At the sight of her cell phone on the floor of the truck, his stomach plummeted.

She was gone.

Chapter Text

"Tell me again what happened," Vic encouraged, "Hey, Mathias!" she murmured insistently, drawing his riveted attention away from where the county crime scene techs scoured his truck for evidence.

"What?" he snapped.

"Tell me again what happened," she ordered.

Growling faintly, he shook his head, rubbing a hand over his jaw, "I told you. I picked her up this morning to go to the funeral. When we got there some of the tribal council told us she wasn't welcome and we had words. We left and went to that shit bar over on route 3, bought a bottle of scotch and just sat and talked. Neither of us had anyplace we wanted to be, so we decided to drink," he told her.

He carefully skated around the truth, leaving out their kisses. "Food there was shitty so we drank some water and sobered up, called in an order to the Red Pony and came to pick it up. I went in to grab it and when I came out, she was gone," he ground out.

Vic nodded and glanced out at the parking lot, "Did you notice any suspicious vehicles?" she asked.

"No."

Of course he hadn't, he had been thinking of how beautiful she looked in the stupid florescent lights of the parking lot, her smile calling to him from across the parking lot.

"Did anyone follow you?"

"I didn't see anyone."

Because he had been more interested in seeing the way she looked in his lap, pupils blown with desire and mouth shining from his kisses.

Fuck

"Has anyone made any threats against either of you?"

Mandy's bloody face flashed in his mind and he winced, shifting as he tried to rid himself of it.

"Mathias, what happened?"

He looked out at the lurid flashing lights of the police vehicles and sighed deeply before answering.

"Mandy. She was a threat. From the gang that's been taking native women. It was a threat to us to stop investigating. Cady was sure it meant she was responsible for her death."

Vic wrote furiously and then looked up tiredly. "You know I've gotta inform Walt, right?" she murmured.

Mathias nodded slowly, "Do what you gotta Philly." He turned his gaze to her, "Can I go?"

She stared at him for a long moment and then nodded, "Yea I know where to find you if I need anything else." She hesitated a moment and then shook her head, "I'll try to keep Walt under control, but Mathias, he's gonna—"

"He's gonna blame me. He's right." He turned and walked over to where his deputy was waiting, nodding at Brian before he slid into the passenger seat, feeling oddly cold and detached.

He would do whatever it took to get her back.


The door to his office crashed open as Walt Longmire barreled in, Vic close behind. She cast both men a worried look as Mathias rose to face Walt.

The older man rounded the desk and grabbed the front of Mathias's shirt, his face inches from Mathias's own. He could see the fear and anger in Walt's eyes and knew that whatever came next was the result of a terrified father, nothing more.

"Why the fuck was she with you?" Walt growled, shaking him so hard his teeth clacked together, the side of his tongue clipped between them so the taste of copper filled his mouth.

"We were at Mandy's funeral together. Stopped and had drinks. We were on our way to my place when she asked if we could get food," he replied, wincing internally when he realized his slip.

"Your place? Why were you going to your place Mathias?" Walt demanded, shoving him against the wall. "What did you plan to do with my daughter?"

"I planned to eat dinner and work on case files. Like we've been doing." That was a flat out lie, but the older man didn't need to know that, not right now at least.

Walt glared down at him for a long minute before releasing him and stepping back, his chin dropping so his hat covered his eyes. "What the hell happened?" he asked, voice gravelly and forlorn.

Mathias shook his head, "This gang that traffics women, they killed Mandy as a warning to us to quit investigating. They must have taken her as retribution for our refusal," he told the older man.

Walt's eyes were bright with anger as he looked up, "And what do you think they're gonna do to her now that they've got her?" he demanded furiously.

"Nothin good," he replied softly, the weight of his words deflating the other man's anger. Glancing over Walt's shoulder he met Vic's gaze and nodded briefly, "You have her phone in evidence, right?"

She nodded, giving him a curious look.

"Her passcode is her mom's birthday. She's got a friend at the FBI. I never got a name, but maybe he's in there."

Walt turned to look at Vic too, shoulders lifting with hope, "Isaac. She dated him in law school." He glanced back at Mathias and frowned at him, "How'd you know her password?" he asked curiously.

"You get to know someone when they're your partner," he murmured, dropping his gaze to hide the truth.

Walt studied him for a moment and then nodded, "Maybe." Turning away, he jerked his chin at Vic, "C'mon, we've got a call to make," he ordered gruffly.

As he stormed out Vic cast a glance back to Mathias, mouth pressing into an uncertain line before she took a step towards him.

"Mathias. Whatever you two had going on, I'm not going to tell him. Is there anything else we need to know?" she asked urgently.

He lifted his eyes to hers, his gaze fierce. "No. But I'm not playing on the sidelines here Philly. What you know, I know. Got it?" he ordered softly, voice dangerous.

She nodded, "I'll call you when we figure something out," she promised before ducking out the door and leaving him alone once more.

He stared at the empty doorway for a long time, just standing there, mind tumbling over everything that had happened until he felt dizzy.


He wasn't sure when he fell asleep, but the sound of his phone ringing woke him from his doze, lurching forward in his office chair to scramble for it in the dark. He peered blearily at the screen for a moment before answering it.

"Philly," he rasped, rubbing a hand over his face.

"Mathias. We called Isaac. He alerted the local FBI field office and they're sending agents as we speak. They should be here in an hour or two. They want to meet with you, can you come to the Sheriff's office?" she asked, voice soft but urgent.

"Course," he murmured, already rising from his chair.

"Great. And listen Mathias, about earlier—"

"Don't worry about it Philly. It's not like he's that far off the mark," he murmured with a sigh.

There was a long moment of silence before she replied, "That's…not what I was going to say. I was going to apologize for letting him push you around, especially since you're injured and worried about her too."

He paused and then laughed bitterly, shaking his head. "She made a joke about me being elderly and infirm right before she…" he trailed off, throat tightening dangerously.

"Stop. We're gonna get her back. I promise," Vic swore vehemently.

He nodded, even though she couldn't see it, and hung up. It didn't matter what he said, it was all just empty words anyway.

The only thing that mattered was getting her back.


Water fell slowly, puddling on the ground, the relentless dripping noise the first sound that she became conscious of as she roused. Her head was fuzzy, her memory patchy as her skin crawled and her bones ached.

The light was dim, for which she was grateful. When her eyes slid open the faint light made her head throb at first until her eyes seemed to grow used to it. Her tongue felt heavy in her head, her mouth dry and foul as she struggled against the sudden swell of nausea within her.

Screwing her eyes shut she whimpered and curled into a tighter ball, arms wrapped around her stomach in an attempt to keep herself in one piece when it felt like she might shatter under the pressure in her bones.

The distant sound of footsteps reached her and her eyes slid open once more, this time taking in more of her surroundings.

Her stomach flipped, this time from the realization that she was in a cage.

The bars were several inches from her face and when she rolled her head to look up, she realized that there was only about a foot of extra space if she sat upright. Glancing over her shoulder and around, her stomach plummeted further when she saw cages on either side of her, their occupants staring at her with wide dark eyes.

The footsteps grew closer and the other women flinched back, cowering in the corners of their cells. Cady turned her gaze to the front of her cell in time to see a pair of legs come to a halt. Craning her neck, she winced as the bright light burned into her retinas.

Glancing away, she blinked back tears, spots dancing in her vision for a moment. When they cleared, a man was crouching in front of her cage, studying her with a predatory smirk.

"Hola querida," he murmured, "Welcome to the zoo," he taunted, laughing as he ran his fingers over her bars before standing.

He stared down at her, still smiling that predatory smirk, the look sending a chill over her skin. "I think you will fit in very nicely with our little collection," he told her softly, running his forefinger over one of the bars in a gesture that was disturbingly gentle.

He nodded, "Si, you will do nicely."


When the man had finally left Cady shuffled upright and leaned back against the bars, her head still swimming. Whatever they had dosed her with was still lingering in her system making her stomach churn and her skull throb.

Her eyes fluttered shut against the overhead lights, trying to shut out the pain. Distantly she could hear women in the other cages shifting, whimpering and crying quietly. Pulling the edges of her blazer closer around her, she shivered and tucked herself into the corner, hoping for sleep.

Sharp clanging on her cage roused her an unknown time later, her head jerking against the bars painfully, eyes fluttering in confusion as the noise repeated. Rubbing her eyes, she frowned when she saw a different man at the front of her cage, running a baseball bat over the bars repeatedly.

When he saw she was awake he grinned at her and tapped the bat against the bars harder, the noise growing louder. They stared at each other as he continued to rap against the bars, grinning at her mockingly.

After a few minutes the man laughed and slammed the bat against the bars, twirling it and resting it against his shoulder before he strolled away.

Cady slumped back against the bars, the tension in her shoulders draining away slowly. Her heart was thundering in her chest and she was struggling to breathe normally, the panicked sensation in her chest making it hard to remain still.

Glancing around nervously, she found the women near her cowering in their cages, avoiding her gaze. So, this was something that happened regularly, she realized. The men holding her and these other women were going to interrupt her sleep and mock her at best, torture and rape her at worst.

Swallowing hard, she tucked her feet closer to her body and laid her head on her knees, peering out to the side. Under the guise of resting, she looked around surreptitiously, taking in the details of wherever it was she was being held captive.

The lights overhead were bare bulbs hanging from a concrete ceiling, copper piping hanging low and dripping water along the walls to pool in spots along the floor so that the whole room smelled like mildew.

Cady could see that the room extended far to her right, a good fifty feet before the wall cut off her view. The cages to her right only extended about thirty feet, the remaining twenty was too poorly lit for her to see what else was there.

Slowly she rolled her head to the left, exhaling when she saw that the room only extended about ten feet before it ended in a wall with a door. She didn't see stairs or windows anywhere, no way to escape other than through the door.

Struggling against the despair that welled up within her, she closed her eyes and tucked her head down, pressing her forehead into her knees. Swallowing down the fear and hopelessness threatening to choke her, she resolved to pay attention to every detail possible and find a way out of this hell.


She must have fallen asleep again because this time she was violently jolted awake by a blast of icy water, the high pressure of it slamming her against the bars of the cage. Struggling and gasping, she turned her back on the spray, shuddering as her clothes were soaked through instantly.

Distantly she could hear men laughing and talking conversationally in Spanish.

When the blast of water ended she collapsed against the bars, gasping for breath and trembling violently.

The sound of her cage opening made her heart stutter and lurch.

"Get out," a voice ordered.

Turning to look over her shoulder, she glared at the men and restrained the urge to flip them off. The man leaning down narrowed his eyes at her and his hand went to something at his hip.

"Get out or you get fried," he threatened.

The object in his hand was a taser, she realized, and with that horrifying knowledge, she scuttled around and crawled on hands and knees to the door. When she was out of the cage the man grabbed her by the arm and yanked her upright, whipping her head around.

The other man grabbed her left arm and she was hauled bodily towards the door at the end of the room. Her heels skittered along the concrete and she realized dully that she had been in them for the better part of what was probably two days and her feet were alternating between throbbing and going numb.

When one of the men shoved her through the door she looked around wildly, taking in every detail she could while they pushed her along.

Cots lining the walls.

Women in various states of undress.

Needles and pipes, the smell of burnt tin foil and meth filling the air.

Haggard faces looking at her warily.

They hurried into a different room and she was shoved to her knees, hands splaying on the concrete to keep her face from smacking into the floor. When she looked up she found a new man peering down at her from where he sat at a desk.

He looked at her as one would a bug; with detached curiosity and the repressed urge to squash what was in front of them.

"Sheriff Longmire, it's so nice to finally meet you," the man murmured, smiling pleasantly at her as he leaned forward to offer her his hand.

Cady regarded it for a moment and then rocked back, leaning on her heels and sitting upright, her jaw set in defiance.

The man grinned in amusement, nodding slowly as he sat back. "You're certainly a stubborn one. I thought you were smart, but it seems to me that if you were, you would have heeded the warnings we sent," he told her, lifting a brow with a critical look.

Cady swallowed hard and fisted her hands on her knees, "I got your warnings. I don't take threats from human trafficking scumbags though, so you've wasted your time."

The man shrugged and crossed one ankle over his knee, "Perhaps. But I think you'll find that we're not so much human trafficking scumbags as we are businessmen. We provide a service to people who have a need, at a fair cost. I'm sure you, as a former lawyer, can understand that."

Cady stared at him, stunned. Did this asshole just…A hysterical laugh bubbled up and she choked on it, tears welling in her eyes for a moment as it flowed over and she laughed madly. The man stared at her, eyes hardening, mouth pursing as she struggled to contain herself.

Shaking her head, she pressed her knuckles against her mouth and took a shaky breath, "Goddamn, the balls on you," she marveled, "Comparing my work as a lawyer to what you do as a human trafficking murder. That's some wild shit," she told him, marveling at the way his mind worked.

The man's lips turned down and his eyes narrowed, "I'm so glad you're amused Sheriff; however, I would like you to know that should you prove yourself to be stubborn in telling me what I want to know, you won't like the consequences."

She had expected this. She had known from the moment she woke up in a cage that this wouldn't end well, no matter what this shithead told her.

"What do you want to know?" she asked, gazing at him steadily.

"How many of our people have you identified?" he asked immediately.

Cady frowned, they hadn't figured out who was running the trafficking, let alone identified anyone. What would it cost her to tell him that? Her mind raced as she tried to figure out what the best play would be.

After a long few moments she shook her head, "No one."

He frowned at her, skepticism creasing his face. "Really…and how did you know it was our organization that was running the speed dating?" he asked.

Surprise rippled through Cady. She hadn't known that. She had assumed, but she hadn't been able to prove it. Once again, she debated telling the truth.

"When we figured out that some of the women had attended the speed dating before they disappeared, we guessed that they were run by the traffickers. We didn't have it proven definitively, but we were sure," she told him.

His eyes glittered and he leaned forward, "We?" he drawled, something dark and lewd in his voice.

Horror crawled over her skin and she repressed a shudder. Shit, she hadn't meant to alert the man to her work with Mathias. She knew that they knew, but she had wanted to downplay it as much as possible.

Fucking shit she had fucked up.

"Is that the redskin who you seem so fond of—this we?" he taunted.

Cady lunged forward, fist connecting with his jaw before the men behind her grabbed her and threw her to the ground, their boots connecting with her ribs, stomach, groin, chest, spine; each blow leaving her breathless and shuddering.

The assault continued for what seemed like ages before the seated man ordered them to stop and she was hauled upright, her left eye swelling shut from where the edge of a boot had connected with her face.

The man smiled slowly at her, and a shiver went over her skin. There was nothing in his eyes as he smiled; it was shark-like and predatory and it made her want to whimper and cower away.

"Well Sheriff, it seems you're just as stubborn and stupid as I thought you were." Leaning in, he ran a finger over her bruised face and through the blood trailing from one of her wounds, his eyes glittering with hate.

Holding the tip of his finger up so he could peer at the blood, he cut his eyes to her and smiled.

"We're going to have some fun, you and I."

Chapter Text

Mathias looked around at the worn and exhausted faces around him, anxiety swelling within him. It had been 20 hours since Cady had been taken and they were going over the same details for the third time with the FBI, making sure they had the timeline correct and the details of the cases nailed down.

He paced the small floorspace of her office as Zach and Isaac spoke, their words fading away as he stared out the large window over her couch, his feet still moving as his mind raced. Every hour that she had been gone he had been searching for some detail, some clue on how to find her, on who had taken her (it was the Infinitarios, he wasn't stupid), on what the hell had happened.

Henry had willingly handed over the security tapes from outside the Red Pony and they all had crowded around Ferg's laptop to watch it. When the man had appeared beside his truck everyone had stiffened and Walt had let out a rumbling curse, the word cutting off in a growl as he yanked his hat off and crushed it beneath his hands.

Zach swore as her door was flung open and a gun was pointed at her, scrubbing his hands through his hair worriedly.

Ferg had a hand clapped over his mouth and a sick look on his face.

Vic clung to Walt's arm, her face pinched and pale, eyes darting between the screen and his face.

Ruby wouldn't watch, dissolving in tears and fleeing when they told her what was on the tape.

Isaac studied the video with an analytical gaze, murmuring something to the other agent beside him, nodding at whatever the man said before returning his attention to the video.

And Mathias?

He watched with a growing sense of horror and a sick sensation as the man whipped her across the face with his gun and bent over her, injecting her with something before he hauled her up and tugged her down to the waiting van.

When the van backed out and they confirmed what he already knew—no plates—he turned away and walked quietly out of the office, his lungs burning with the urge to scream. Flinging open one of the empty office doors down the hall, he strode inside and paced, shaking his head as he tried to focus on the details of the video and not on the image of the gun connecting with her face.

He tried not to think about what they could be doing to her, about the fact that they were likely torturing her and that they would probably kill her. His chest heaved as he gasped for air, stumbling and leaning heavily against one of the large windows.

His forehead pressed against the cool glass, eyes sliding shut as he fought the raging swell of anger and fear within him, the hopelessness eating away at him until he felt like collapsing in on himself like a black hole.

How was he supposed to find her?

Her phone had been left behind, her small purse too.

The van had no plates and if they were smart they avoided the highways and any traffic cameras in the area.

Thumping his head against the glass he willed his brain to work harder, despite the lack of sleep and too much caffeine.

The floor creaked behind him and a moment later he saw someone in his periphery. A gentle hand landed on his shoulder and he sighed, relief flooding him that it was Vic. At least with her he wouldn't face recrimination for Cady's disappearance.

"We need you," she murmured, voice gentle as she squeezed his shoulder.

As simple as that.

We need you.

He wasn't sure if she meant that they needed him right then, or if she meant they needed him to find Cady, to help them all stay strong when he felt like he might shatter, but he nodded anyway. Turning away from the window he met her sad eyes and gave her a weak, half hearted smile, "Let's go then," he murmured in reply.

She nodded and led him back to the Sheriff's office, ignoring the dark look Walt shot both of them. Isaac was leaning on Ferg's desk, questioning him.

"You're sure? She asked about the map behind her desk?" he asked, and Mathias got the impression he was asking not for the first time.

Ferg nodded, "Yea, I'm sorry I didn't remember it earlier. When you asked if anything seemed off with her, I remembered she was in her office and then came out, looking, I dunno, panicked, and asked if I had moved anything on the map. When I said no and asked if everything was okay, she laughed and said it had probably been her. That she was tired and it had probably been her the other day. But it seemed like she was worried."

Isaac shared a look with the other FBI agent and they nodded. "We're going to print those maps and everything on that whiteboard. We'll need all of your prints from your personnel files for exclusionary purposes," he told them firmly.

Everyone in the offices nodded and Vic hurried to root through the filing cabinets till she found their files and could hand them over. Isaac looked expectantly at Mathias.

"I'm tribal police. They wouldn't have my prints unless they had arrested me. I can bring em to you once I get back to the res," he told the younger man.

Isaac studied him for a minute and then nodded, "Anyone from your office spend time here?" he asked briskly.

"No. Cady spent time at my office, and I was here some, but neither of our deputies really crossed paths on this investigation," he replied.

Isaac nodded and wrote on his notepad before glancing up at him, "I understand you and the Sheriff have been working on a RICO case as well?" he asked, continuing when Mathias nodded in affirmation.

"Would it be possible that someone from that case took her as retribution?"

"No. The men under investigation aren't even aware they're under investigation. Not unless someone from one of our offices told them," he muttered, hitching his hands in his belt and biting back a tired sigh.

It didn't matter how annoyed he was, or how tired. Whatever it took to get her back, he'd do.

"Have you checked her house yet?" Zach asked.

Mathias frowned, "For what?"

"She took case files home to work, maybe there's notes or something there that can help us," he replied sharply.

Isaac nodded, "Good we'll get a team over there."

Mathias watched as the agents turned away to talk quietly before the other one made a call, nodding and talking quietly.

The 911 phone line rang, startling everyone in the office. For a moment they all stared at it until Vic hurried over and grabbed it.

"Sheriff's office, what's your emergency?"


After Walt handed over the spare key to Cady's house, Mathias and the two FBI agents went together to conduct a search. Mathias had thought the older man would actually punch him when he said it should be him to go, since he and Cady had been working the cases together and would therefore know what to look for more readily than anyone else.

Thank god for Philly, he mused as they spread out through Cady's house, paper booties covering their shoes to prevent any contamination of a potential crime scene. The spare FBI agent (whose name Mathias still hadn't bothered to learn) took Cady's bedroom while Isaac took the dining room and kitchen and he covered the living room.

With gloved hands he sorted through the files on the coffee table, reading over the notes sprawling over six pages, frowning faintly. This was stuff he already knew.

Tossing the notepad aside he glanced around the room and shook his head; whatever had precipitated Cady's kidnapping wasn't going to be found here.

"Isaac!"

The call from the bedroom had both Isaac and Mathias hurrying into the room, Mathias ignoring the annoyed look the younger man tossed his way. The other agent was standing in Cady's closet, pointing to a wall safe, brows lifted.

"You know the combo?" he asked Isaac.

Mathias watched as Isaac frowned and shook his head slowly, "Uh, try her dad's birthday," he told the other man, rattling off numbers. The agent entered the numbers on the keypad and shook his head when it flashed red at him.

"Try her mom's birthday," Isaac suggested, giving another set of numbers.

Again the agent typed in the numbers and the keypad flashed red, refusing entry.

"We might only get three tries. That's pretty standard with this model," he told Isaac.

Mathias stepped forward and peered at the safe for a moment before exhaling sharply.

"March 20, 2018," he murmured, drawing the attention of both men.

Isaac frowned at him, "What's that?" he demanded.

"It's the code," he replied, surety sweeping him.

"How do you know? We might not get another chance if it's wrong," Isaac reminded him.

Mathias stepped forward and pointed to the picture taped to the safe, the one he had taken at the spring equinox right before Mandy was killed. They had run into her after getting a flower crown and Mandy had one too, both women smiling at the camera, the delight in their eyes evident as they repressed laughter.

"Because I took that on March 20, 2018. The day Mandy was killed. She blames herself for her death. Just put it in," he told the men harshly.

The two agents shared a skeptical look before Isaac shrugged and nodded, giving the other man the go-ahead. Mathias watched as, unsurprisingly, the code worked. The keypad flashed green and the door unlatched.

Isaac shot him a surprised look, brows furrowing in confusion and suspicion a moment later. "So how well do you know Cady again?" he demanded, rounding on Mathias.

"Apparently pretty well," the other agent called, stepping forward with a stack of photos.

Mathias edged forward and felt his stomach plummet.

On top of the pile was a photo of them from the same day Mandy died, kissing.

Isaac flipped through them and all the air was sucked from the room.

Mathias felt his gut twist at the sight of her with Zach, back arched and face contorted in pleasure. He focused on her face in the pictures, determined not to steal what little privacy remained for her.

Slowly, Isaac handed the photos back to the other agent and looked up at Mathias, eyes glinting dangerously.

"So. Care to fucking explain?" he demanded quietly.


After nearly two hours of interrogation (24 hours that Cady had been missing, his internal clock reminded him) Isaac was satisfied that he had nothing to do with Cady's disappearance, but was deeply displeased that they had some kind of relationship that Mathias refused to divulge.

Reasons being; none of his business, he wasn't a gossip, and it wasn't relevant to her disappearance.

Isaac was not pleased.

Mathias didn't care.

He had gone back to the res and found his fingerprint card, sending it over to the sheriff's office with Caleb while he collapsed onto his couch for a few hours of sleep. The helplessness within him felt suffocating as he closed his eyes and once more, he swallowed down his fear and grief until the edges dampened and he could sleep.

His sleep was fitful and plagued with nightmares of Cady, just out of his reach, tortured and begging for help.


Cady's stomach growled and her head ached duly. She was hungry and hungover from the pain that clung to every inch of her body like a stubborn lover. Her captors hadn't seen fit to feed her since they had taken her, and she was worried that they weren't going to give her any water either.

She slept fitfully, the dejected moans and cries of the other women not allowing for much rest. She had tried speaking to them, but had quickly given up when the men had come in and blasted her with the hose.

Her clothes were cold and damp and she shivered where she lay on the ground, dozing fitfully.

The door at the far end of the room crashed open, jolting her out of her daze.

The men came to her cage and unlocked it, ordering her out. She crawled out slowly, each movement painful. Her hands were cuffed behind her back with zip ties and she was shoved down the hallway barefoot, her heels long ago kicked off in her cell in discomfort.

She was surprised the men hadn't taken them from her, but given how mercilessly they liked to play with the women, she thought it probably had more to do with their desire to force her into them when they could and less about letting her keep something of hers.

They dragged her into the other room where her interrogator was waiting, once more seated at his desk with a pleasant smile on his face. She was forced to kneel in front of him, a position she was quickly coming to loath.

When the scent of a hot meal hit her though, she swayed and stared at the plate of food longingly.

Hector (he had told her his name after she had been beaten, an introduction of the most horrific kind) smiled down at her, the expression once again not reaching his eyes. "Are you hungry Cady?"

He had taken to calling her by her first name, a familiarity that made her skin crawl. Swallowing around the saliva that had flooded her mouth at the scent of the food, she shook her head defiantly.

Lifting a brow, he plucked a green bean from the plate and waved it towards her, "Are you sure? It's quite delicious, I assure you." When her stomach let out a pained growl he smirked, "Perhaps just a bite?" he offered, holding the bean out closer to her.

Cady pursed her lips and turned her head away, fighting every instinct within her begging for her to take the food. With her luck it would be poisoned.

Hector sighed and shook his head, "Too bad," he murmured, tossing the bean onto the plate before glancing at one of the men behind her. "Give it to the bitches," he ordered.

She had to fight a whimper as the food was carried away, the scent of it still lingering.

Hector studied her and smirked, "So, querida Cady, are you ready to talk?" he asked politely.

Shifting her shoulders to try and ease her discomfort, she shook her head, "I've got nothing to say to you," she told him firmly.

He tilted his head and studied her for a moment before nodding slowly. His gaze lifted to the other man behind her, narrowing. "Hold her," he ordered.

Cady panicked, thrashing as she tried to get her feet under her to kick out. The man behind her kicked her in the back, sending her sprawling off balance. Her face bounced onto the concrete floor and a wave of pain blinded her as she was hauled back upright, the man pulling her cuffed hands back until her shoulders screamed for relief.

Hector grabbed something off the desk and stood, crouching down till his face was level with hers. He smiled darkly and brushed a hand over her cheek, pushing her dirty hair back from her face.

"Once we break you, we're going to sell you to some sand pounding Saudi. He'll pay quite a bit of money for a pale skinned princess like you," he whispered, the foul words brushing over her skin like dirty fingers.

"I'm gonna fuckin kill you," she snarled back with all her strength, lunging forward till her arms felt like they would pop from their sockets, her teeth just missing his face.

Hector tutted and wound his fingers through her hair, tightening his grip until it brought tears to her eyes.

"Now, now querida, don't make promises you can't keep," he taunted before jerking her head to the side and holding it there while he brought a needle up for her to see. "Once you get a taste of this, you won't want to kill me, you won't want food, you won't want anything but the sweet relief it can bring."

She whimpered as the needle slid sickly into her neck, tears blurring her vision as the plunger depressed. Hector released her as he withdrew the needle, nodding to the other man to release her.

Slumping to the floor she gasped and writhed as the heroin flooded her nervous system, her brain on fire. As the high took hold she went limp, a dazed look on her face.

Hector glanced at the other man and jerked his head, "Put her back."


The next time Cady was lucid there were three empty cages to her left and the men were using the hose to wash the floor underneath them. She watched as rivulets of red water ran along the floor towards the drain, a distant sense of horror filling her.

Shivering in the corner of her cage, she was surprised when the men brought her a paper wrapped sandwich, tossing it between the bars and laughing as she hurried to eat it, no longer caring if it was drugged.

When she asked for water they turned the hose on her, howling with laughter.

Once more her clothes were soaked and she was freezing.

Slowly she peeled her blazer off and took the wax paper the sandwich had been wrapped in, shaping it carefully into something that resembled a bowl before she set it on the ground and wrung out her blazer into it.

She repeated the process three times before she ran out of energy to continue, but felt satisfied; she had eaten and managed to get water.

She wouldn't die today.


It seemed that the men were taking some sadistic pleasure in keeping her awake. Anytime she fell asleep someone was walking down the aisle, rapping on the bars of the cages with the baseball bat.

She made the mistake of letting her anger get the best of her and taunted them, asking if that was the best they had.

So, they pulled her from her cage and strung her up at the far end of the room, her arms hanging from shackles and her feet dangling till they just barely touched the dirty floor.

One of the men injected her with heroin and she slipped into a haze, watching as they talked and laughed, turning the hose on the other women, pulling some out to assault in front of her, slapping her face when she blacked out for too long.

Her arms had long ago gone numb when Hector appeared in front of her, smiling.

She fuckin hated his smile.

Glaring at him through the waning haze of the drugs in her system, she turned her chin away and did her best to ignore him.

Hector chuckled and stepped forward, toying with the limp strings of her bowtie, his fingers brushing against her stomach in light touches that sent disgusted shivers over her skin. He leaned in and to her horror, licked a stripe up her neck.

She wriggled in her restraints, trying to get away.

Hector chuckled and pulled something out of his pocket, keeping it too low for her to see properly. It pressed against her leg and as Hector smiled his shark smile, fire ran up her spine.

Cady shrieked as the taser sent waves of electricity through her body, each muscle convulsing and twitching. She thrashed in her restraints, screaming until her voice went hoarse and her larynx muscles stiffened and she went silent, her shrieks limited to the containment of her skull.

When the taser shut off she slumped, gasping for breath, tears rolling down her cheeks. Her heart raced in her chest and she whimpered in pain, the high she had been riding earlier long gone.

Hector slapped her cheek gently until she opened her eyes to glare blearily at him. "Now, would you like to talk?" he asked, voice friendly.

She swallowed a few times before she had enough saliva in her mouth to respond. "Fuck…you," she spat, glaring at him until she didn't have the strength and her eyes slid closed.

A long few moments passed and she heard Hector moving around, talking softly in Spanish to someone else. She heard the creaking of a cage door opening and the scuffling of someone being dragged along the floor, threats being issued and blows against skin.

When she opened her eyes again, Hector had a woman at his feet, his shark smile on his face. Cady couldn't see the woman's face, her head was bowed in front of Hector's legs, but she could see that she was young and had been abused in her time here.

Hector stroked the woman's hair with one hand, a gun in the other. She could see the young woman trembling and rage rose within her. Glaring at the man, she lurched forward in her restraints, "You're such a tough guy you have to hurt someone to try and get me to talk?" she demanded.

Hector grinned and wrapped his fingers through the woman's hair, yanking her head around towards Cady and her stomach plummeted at the familiar face.

"G-Gemma?" she whispered, stunned.

The missing woman's brow furrowed as she stared back at Cady, her eyes unfocused and confused. Hector stroked her hair with his free hand, smiling benevolently.

"I see you recognize your fellow guest. Now, perhaps you need some incentive to tell me what I need to hear. If you don't wish to see her hurt, I suggest you tell me what I need to know," he told her solemnly.

Cady ignored him and focused her gaze on Gemma. The woman's eyes met hers dazedly but held steady.

"Gemma, I'm Cady Longmire. I'm the county Sheriff, and I've been working with Chief Stillwater to find you and the other women who have gone missing. We're going to go home," she assured her.

Gemma studied her for a moment and then shook her head, frowning, looking dazed and troubled.

"Gemma, I promise, we're going to get out of here," Cady promised, worried that her words weren't sinking in.

Hector laughed and jerked Gemma back around to face him, one of his hands going to his zipper. Cady watched in horror as he forced Gemma to suck his cock, his eyes meeting hers, glittering with a delighted malice as the other woman listlessly sucked him off.

Cady pinned her gaze to Hector's and refused to look away as he assaulted Gemma. Her eyes glimmered with hate as he grunted and forced Gemma's head further onto his dick. When he had come, he shoved Gemma back and tucked his limp dick back into his pants, his eyes still on hers.

Strolling closer, he grabbed her chin and studied her. "Anything to say?" he asked quietly.

Cady's throat worked and she spat a mouthful of phlegm into his face. Hector stared at her as the spit ran down his face, his eyes glittering with rage.

After a long few moments, he reached up and wiped it away, rubbing his hand off on his pants. Turning his head slightly, his eyes still on hers, he called over his shoulder, "Show the sheriff what will happen to her if she refuses to cooperate."

One of the men guarding them stepped forward as Hector moved back, stepping around Gemma as he went to lean on the far wall. The guard grabbed Gemma and forced her to her hands and knees, staring Cady in the eye as he did.

Horror sunk into her belly as the man ripped off Gemma's underwear, shoving the dirty dress she was wearing up around her hips.

"Gemma," she called, praying she would look up. "Gemma," she pleaded.

The other woman looked up and Cady's stomach dropped at the dead look in her eyes.

"Fight," she hissed, lurching forward in her chains to open her eyes wide in encouragement.

Something flickered in the other woman's eyes, something that was hidden when she ducked her chin and tensed her jaw.

As the man raped Gemma, she stared into his face, memorizing each line and crease, the sharp angles of his nose and the widow's peak of his receding hairline. When the man finished, he left Gemma on the floor, he and Hector retreating.

Cady stared down at Gemma and watched the other woman shiver for what seemed like hours before she reached down and pulled her underwear back up her legs to resettle around her hips. Cady looked around slowly, peering into the corners till she saw the cameras watching them.

Dropping her head, she let her eyes search, finding the cameras in the room, realizing that this was how the men had known she was asleep. She should have known it sooner, she berated herself.

Instead of lingering on that, she glanced back at Gemma and turned her face into her arm, hiding her mouth.

"Gemma," she whispered.

The woman looked up at her from where she was curled on the floor, her hand still shackled.

"Can you find something to break these locks?" she whispered.

Gemma whimpered and shook her head faintly, hunkering down further on the floor. Cady bit back a growl of annoyance, knowing that the woman had likely been abused beyond what she was capable of understanding.

She waited, anticipating the men returning before she could get Gemma to do anything for either of them. When the time continued to slip by, the ache within her arms grew and Gemma remained slumped on the ground.

Eventually the men came for Gemma and she watched as they shoved her into a cell beside Cady's. They left her hanging for what felt like hours before they came and let her out, shoving her back into her cell.

As exhaustion swelled within her, Gemma sidled up to the bars and slid something against the concrete floor, the light scraping sound so soft she nearly missed it.

Cady's hand covered Gemma's for a moment and curled around the object, pulling her hand back to curl against her thigh for a time before she slipped her hand into her lap and opened her hand.

In her palm rested a slip of metal, a bobby pin.

Ducking her head against her knees, she hid her smile, elation swelling within her.

She had hope.


When the women in the cells around her finally fell asleep, Cady went to work.

Grabbing one of her heels, she cracked it against the concrete, keeping her body between it and the cameras. When the heel popped off she began twisting the screw until it extended from the heel by at least an inch and a half.

Keeping her body between the camera and the heel in her hand, she began scraping it against the floor, wearing down the edge slowly.

By the time the afternoon of the third day of her captivity came, she had a weapon ready for use.

Chapter Text

~For your love, all you are, I'd start a riot~


 

Cady kept her blazer on and tucked the broken and sharpened heel into the pocket, waiting for one of the men to come back for her.

When he did she begged to use the bathroom; she had only been allowed to go to a few times during her captivity, forced to urinate onto the floor otherwise. The man agreed and took her to the end of the room where she had been held while Gemma was raped and was shoved into the small shed that doubled as a bathroom.

She hurried to turn on the water in the small sink, letting it run as she took deep breaths. With her hands freed, she would be able to attack the man standing guard, and hopefully fight her way free.

Cupping her hands to capture water, she drank a few times before she splashed water onto her face and scrubbed for a moment, wiping her face dry with the sleeve of her blazer. The man outside rapped on the flimsy particle board door, alerting her to her narrowing window of opportunity.

When the man pulled the door open she was leaning against the sink, smirking at him, her blouse unbuttoned to reveal her cleavage. The man grinned and stepped into the small bathroom, hands greedily going to her breasts and waist.

Cady waited till his face was pressed into her cleavage before she slipped her hand out from behind her back, the sharpened screw clenched between her fingers. She trembled inside, knowing what she was going to do, knowing that she had to do this if she wanted to be freed.

When the man groped her breast, twisting it painfully, she acted.

Her hand swung around and plunged the sharpened screw into the man's neck, jamming it into his throat so his cry of alarm was cut off. Gurgling, he slumped to the floor, eyes wide with shock.

Cady followed him to the ground and pulled the weapon out of his neck with a sick sucking noise, watching as he collapsed, twitching. When he stilled she crouched down and searched his pockets, exhaling in relief when she found a ring of keys.

Tucked into his waistband was a taser and a nightstick, but no gun.

Growling in frustration, she grabbed both weapons and attached them to her own waistband. She knew that there were cameras in the exterior room, but she would have to find a way to shut them down before she made her escape.

Glancing through the crack in the door, she peered until she saw a camera about ten feet away in the ceiling, partially hidden by the concrete pillar. If she ducked behind that pillar, she could find a way to take them out.

Taking a deep breath, she ducked down low and scurried along the floor to hide behind the pillar. Peering around, she paused when she noticed a breaker box on the far wall. If she hurried, she could get across the ten feet and flip it off, plunging the whole building into darkness before the cameras noticed.

Tightening her fingers around her makeshift weapon, she ran across the room and tossed the small door to the breaker box open, flipped the switch, and exhaled in relief when the room was plunged into darkness. Distantly she heard someone curse loudly and the sound of feet scrambling on concrete.

Her breath came in terrified pants as she listened to people rushing into the room, flashlights illuminating the room. Slipping around the corner, she gripped her makeshift shiv tightly, waiting for someone to appear before her.

When a large figure stepped in front of her, dulling the faint light from the flashlights, she lunged forward and stabbed, catching the man in the face and then the throat, blood splashing on her face as she hacked.

The man slumped to the ground with a gurgle, leaving her breathing heavily and jumping at every sound. Another man called out in Spanish, sounding concerned. When he stepped forward she pressed herself back into the wall, waiting until he was around the corner and in front of her before she attacked.

This time her makeshift weapon caught the man in the base of his throat, just at the clavicle, eliciting a high cry of pain. Hastily she slapped a hand over his mouth and pushed her body into his own, riding him to the floor as she stabbed the shiv into his throat again and again.

When the man stilled she breathed heavily, the scent of copper filling her nose. Her stomach lurched at the scent, her whole body roiling with the need to vomit. Swallowing hard, she slipped off his body and slumped against the wall, breathing heavily as she regained her composure.

She didn't hear anyone else approaching and sighed in relief, her hands trembling between her thighs. Taking a few long breaths, she leaned over the dead bodies and began searching them, exclaiming softly when she found more tasers and night sticks.

Gathering the weapons, she pressed one hand against her stomach, cupping them close as she went to the cages, the keys to release everyone in her hand. She worked quickly, flinging cage doors open and hushing women as they cried softly.

When she opened Gemma's door, she pressed a taser into her hands, their eyes meeting in the faint light from the crack under the far door. "Get the women together and keep them in here. I'm going to find Hector," she told her.

Gemma swallowed hard and shook her head, "You need us. We should come with you," she whispered. Cady glanced back at the women sitting on the floor, many of them half conscious and crying.

Turning to look back at Gemma, she shook her head, "They aren't strong enough."

"Then let me come," Gemma persisted.

Cady studied her for a moment and then nodded, "Okay, stay here with them when I go through that door. Wait three minutes and then come through, got it?" she ordered.

Gemma nodded fervently and watched as Cady headed for the door, keys and taser in hand.


This time when Cady stepped through the door, the opposite room was empty. The cots were stripped and the women were gone.

They must have been moved. I bet they get taken away after they're 'broken in', she mused, hurrying forward in the darkness. Her stomach turned at the thought and she hurried forward, keeping an eye out for more guards.

When she stepped into the room with the desk she had knelt in front of so many times, she paused, frowning to see it empty. Stepping forward, she used the keys to try and unlock the drawers, exclaiming softly when the bottom right finally unlatched.

Pulling it open, she exhaled sharply in relief.

A 9mm lay in the bottom of the drawer.

"Find something interesting, sheriff?"


"Okay, so this is the map of the county and the US. We've determined what the different colors mean and that these three missing women who Cady found in other cities were originally found with the Spotlight app in Gila, New Mexico."

Mathias stared at the map, trying to put the pieces together.

"We think that when the women were initially taken they were held in Gila, and then for lack of a better word, distributed, to other places." Isaac tapped the map with a hand and then pointed to the stack of files and notes on Cady's desk.

"Cady found that the speed dating company was founded in Gila, New Mexico, which leads me to believe that this is where their headquarters for the human trafficking is located. We've submitted a warrant for their financials and expect it within the hour. When we get it, we'll be able to find out what properties they own and where it is she might be held."

Mathias nodded numbly, exhaustion and fear making him numb.

He was worried that his deepest fear was going to come true—they weren't going to find Cady in time.


The warrant had finally come through and the FBI agents had worked for hours, sifting through the information until they had found the link to locating Cady.

The speed dating company was founded in Gila, New Mexico in 2008 and once the FBI had run the files of the missing women against facial recognition from Spotlight in Gila, they had found that nearly all of them had shown up at one point or another in the city before they were shipped out to someplace else in the US.

With that information in hand, they ran down the financials of the company, turning up fake names and shell companies used to hide the properties owned by the gang members posing as respectable owners.

The FBI had ordered a plane cleared for their purposes, carrying Walt, Vic, Zach and Mathias to Gila, New Mexico, which was how Mathias found himself riding in an SUV with a team of local FBI agents and SWAT following behind in a caravan, everyone as silent as death.

For the first time in decades, he prayed.

He had turned his back on religion and faith years ago.

But with his world on fire, dread in his heart and fear in his bones, he didn't know what else to do.

So, he prayed.


Cady's eyes shut for a flicker of a second, heart pounding out a prayer before they opened, her hand closed around the grip of the 9mm.

Hector stood across the room, smirking at her.

"I think you should know that we'll be joined by half a dozen men in just a few minutes. So whatever it is you have planned, you should hurry," he encouraged.

Her breath shuddered in her chest as her palm slipped against the rough grip of the gun, sweat making her hand slippery. Her fingers tightened and she took a steadying breath, keeping her movements small as she lifted the gun incrementally from the drawer, her eyes still meeting his.

"You should know that three of your men are dead and the women are free. You're not going to get away with this after tonight," she threatened.

Hector laughed sharply, amusement glittering in his eyes. "Oh? I think you underestimate our resources. This is not our only hub. We have them all across the country, and you'll never be able to find them all," he taunted.

The door behind her creaked open, drawing his attention for a split second.

It was long enough—just.

She moved faster than she ever had before, raising the 9mm and firing, watching in satisfaction as her bullets connected with his chest and arm, slamming him into the ground. After a long minute the door behind her creaked open further and Gemma peered in, wide eyed.

Cady was out of her chair and across the room, searching Hector's bleeding body for weapons. Stripping him of the gun she handed it over to Gemma, giving her a quick nod before she turned her attention back to the fallen man, searching for a moment before she was satisfied he had no more weapons.

"Do you know how to get out of here?" Cady asked over her shoulder, meeting Gemma's wide stunned gaze with her own steady one.

"I…no. I was high and unconscious when they brought me in," she murmured.

Cady nodded and stood, "Get the women. We're getting out of here," she ordered. She stood over Hector as Gemma went and gathered the remaining women, encouraging them into the room and past Hector who was groaning and struggling on the concrete floor.

When the women had filed out of the room she glanced back once at him and followed after them.


Mathias felt his anxiety grow as they sped through the desert night, the darkness oppressive around them. It felt claustrophobic, twining around him like a dark lover, compressing his chest till he felt like he would suffocate with the weight of it pressing against him.

A warehouse loomed on the edge of the town, small pinpricks of light glowing within. As they sped closer, he ducked his head and swallowed hard, sending yet another prayer up to a God he had never believed in that Cady would be kept safe.


The women clattered up a set of metal stairs, rust raining down on those winding up below them; terror making their steps fast and light. Cady brought up the rear, glancing over her shoulder as she shooed the women higher, wondering the whole time where the guards were that Hector had promised were coming.

A door clanged ahead and the women burst out into the main floor of the empty warehouse, the darkness surrounding the building threatening.

"Go, see if you can find a vehicle," Cady ordered them, nodding encouragingly when they looked back at her uncertainly. As they ran for the doors, gunfire erupted.

Women screamed and threw themselves to the floor, huddling as bullets tore into flesh.

Cady lunged behind a rusted and rotten desk, peering around carefully until she saw three men on an upper walkway, firing down on the women. Glancing back to the group of women, she found Gemma and shouted her name till the younger woman looked up.

Pointing to the upper walkway, Cady lifted the gun she had taken from the drawer and indicated for Gemma to use hers. She turned towards the gunfire and trained her focus on one of the men, taking careful aim before firing.

Three of her bullets slammed into his chest and the man dropped.

The man on the far end dropped as a bullet clipped his leg, shrieking in pain. His cries ended as another bullet his throat, cutting him off with a wet gurgle.

Cady glanced over at Gemma and gave her a congratulatory grin for that shot, nodding in encouragement as the women scurried to find cover. The last man fired wildly, trying to kill either of them.

Cady and Gemma both fired, their bullets taking him down, square in the middle of his chest. She waited for a few moments before crouching up and pointing to the door, "Go!" she ordered, worried about where the rest of the half dozen men were that Hector had promised were coming.

She followed closely behind the women, glancing back at the three fallen women who were no longer breathing, her stomach clenching at the sight. The women kept low as they circled the building, searching for a vehicle. As they rounded the corner, bullets bit into the sandy dirt, chasing them back. Cady ordered the women back and hurried forward to crouch beside Gemma.

Her gun held 12 bullets and she had used half. If there were three men around that corner, she would have to be very careful with her shots. Gemma was surprisingly good too, so they might actually make it out of here alive.

In the distance she saw headlights approaching and hope swelled within her.


Every person in the SUV went rigid as gunfire popped in the distance, the sound carried by the empty wasteland surrounding the warehouse.

Please, please let her be okay. God, please, he silently begged, hands twisting together between his legs, his head ducked to hide the emotion he knew was in his eyes.

Please let us get there in time. Please don't take her from me.

He continued to pray, terror choking him with each moment that brought him closer to her.

The SUV spun as they approached, the men caught in the headlights turning to fire on the approaching vehicles. The SWAT and FBI men threw the doors open and used the vehicles as a barrier, firing at the men until they had all fallen, the exchange lasting no longer than half a minute.

In the shadows of the building he saw movement and then the glitter of copper as light reflected off of it. His heart lurched and he stood straight, making for the front of the SUV. Isaac tried to grab him, to hold him back, and Mathias elbowed him in the throat, not even stopping to look back.

Copper peeked around the corner again and he was sure he saw eyes flashing from the headlights. A moment later women streamed around the corner, sobbing and hunched over. Some were supporting others too weak to make it on their own, others were bleeding from gunshot wounds.

The SWAT members and the law enforcement with them hurried forward to gather the women into the SUV and lifted the rear hatches of the SUV's, making room for the dozen women to find a place to sit.

Mathias's breath caught in his throat as Cady stepped around the corner, her eyes meeting his before she glanced back and said something to someone behind her. As she stepped further into the light another woman stepped forward and his heart thumped painfully.

Gemma.


Cady listened as gunfire thundered for nearly half a minute and then went silent. After a long moment, she peeked around the corner and choked on an exclamation, heart lurching when she saw Mathias's familiar figure hovering near the edge of the hulking SUV.

Ducking back, she smiled reassuringly at the women, "It's the police. They're here to take us home," she murmured.

Soft cries rose from the women and with little encouragement, they ran around the building, some helping along the injured as they went. Cady stood straighter and peered around the edge, reassuring herself she wasn't crazy, that Mathias was really here.

He was gazing intently towards the shadows where she remained, every line in his body rigid with anticipation.

Stepping around the corner, she glanced back at Gemma and grinned, "Let's go home," she encouraged. The other woman hesitated for a moment and then nodded, rising to follow her into the light.


As Cady and Gemma walked unevenly towards him, movement in the shadows caught his attention. Something lurched and stumbled forwards and he took a large step forward, brow furrowing in fear.

Cady glanced back over her shoulder, following his gaze.

He watched as a man stumbled around the corner, raised a gun at Cady and fired.

With a cry, she fell to the ground, clutching her hip with one hand, the other aiming her gun. As he ran forward, she fired, and kept firing. By the time he made it to her side she had emptied her magazine and the man had fallen to the ground, eyes wide and lifeless.

Gemma was sprawled on the ground next to her, breath bubbling in her chest as she struggled to breathe. The man had shot her, the bullet entering through the left side of her back, likely puncturing her lung.

Mathias pulled Cady's torso into his arms, hands and eyes running over her body, searching for injury. He saw the bullet wound, saw her blood spilling onto the sand and felt his stomach churn, terror filling him.

"Don't you dare fuckin die," he whispered harshly, cupping her cheek with a bloody hand, his other pressing on the wound, trying to apply as much pressure as he could.

She smiled weakly up at him, delicate eyelids fluttering, cheeks smeared with her own blood. Her fingers crawled feebly up his chest to tangle in his jacket, hanging on loosely. Her mouth worked as she tried to speak and he hushed her, pressing harder on the wound, praying fervently.

The lights in Cady's eyes faded and she began to struggle against the crushing weight bearing down on her, the icy numbness seeping into her veins.

Distantly, she heard Mathias calling her name and then shouting frantically as things faded to black.


THUD THUD THUD

Her eyes fluttered open at the deafening sound and blast of wind pressing on her, bright lights glaring down at her from overhead.

A moment later she was floating into the air and a group of unfamiliar faces were surrounding her, following as she floated towards the deafening noise and wind.

Helicopter her blood starved brain provided and she rolled her head to peer at it as it approached…she approached? She wasn't really sure.

Closing her eyes against the wind and biting sand, she sighed faintly in relief as the sound from the blades dulled.

She must be inside, she decided.

A hand grabbed hers and she heard someone say they couldn't, that they needed space to work.

"Then kick me off the damn helicopter," a voice dared, and she rolled her head, seeking out the familiar voice.

Her eyes struggled to remain open and when they met Mathias's onyx eyes, wide with fear, trying to be hopeful for her, she mustered up a faint smile in return and squeezed the hand she knew was his.

Her heart skipped irregularly and she thought distantly how silly it was to finally feel her heart skip over this man when she had been falling for him for months.

"She's arresting!"

Pain lit up every nerve ending in her body, spreading from her chest, tendrils of it wrapping around her lungs, choking the scream she ached to let loose in her throat. Her spine arched from the table as she writhed, broken cries falling from her lips.

Mathias fell back against the wall of the chopper as it rose into the air, flying as fast as it could towards the hospital. Horror filled him as he watched Cady bleed and scream, her cries weakening as her heart did.

When the line on the monitor went flat, the world dropped out from under him.

Chapter Text

"Pressure is 45 over 50, she's crashing!"

"She was asystole, heartbeat is irregular, between 90 bpm and 120 bpm."

Lights flashed by overhead, fluttering into darkness as the earth moved, faces swirling around her.

Cady's eyes fluttered, a weak groan sliding from her throat as ghostly hands moved over her body, excruciating pain following. The groan grew to a pained cry, tears leaking hotly down her icy cheeks.

"Ms. Longmire, can you tell me if you can feel this?"

Fingers grasped her knees and she groaned out a positive reply before they moved down her legs, checking to make sure she didn't have spinal nerve damage. The doctor murmured reassuring words before a pinch at her arm made her whine, the sharp discomfort fading away as the agony of her body overtook her.


"Chief Stillwater?"

Mathias looked up at his name, head swimming.

A tall black man stood before him, his scrubs stained red in places and Mathias's stomach dropped heavily.

The doctor must have seen the panic in his face and crouched down quickly, laying a stilling hand on his arm when he went to rise. When Walt and Vic stepped towards them the doctor gave them a hesitant look, unsure who they were.

"I'm her father, Walt Longmire," the older man growled, "Now where's my daughter?" he demanded, face pinched with fear.

The doctor's eyes flashed to Vic and behind her, Zach, before he spoke. "She's being taken to surgery. The bullet was a through and through, but there's internal bleeding where it hit her small intestine."

"Is she going to be okay?" Walt demanded.

The doctor hesitated for a moment and then nodded shortly, "She's got a long road ahead of her with surgery, and her other injuries. We also think she was given drugs. She's had a minor heart attack from withdrawal." The doctor looked to Mathias, "Do you know what it might have been?"

Mathias shook his head, bewildered and scared.

"Heroin," a voice piped up.

The group looked around to find a young woman in a hospital gown staring at them nervously. At their looks her toes turned under nervously, one foot tucking behind a leg as she crossed her arms over her body.

Mathias rose and reached out to her, his hand gentle on her shoulder, "It's okay, what did you say?" he murmured encouragingly.

The young woman flushed and peered intently down at the floor as she spoke, "Heroin. They dose all of us with it to keep us complacent," she told him, glancing up at the doctor nervously.

The man nodded thoughtfully, "Good, we'll get her on a detox routine and keep an eye on her heart. Thank you," he told the woman quietly, smiling at her softly.

When he had left Mathias turned back to the girl, brows furrowing. "How are you feeling?" he asked softly.

She paled a little and shook her head, "Not great," she murmured.

Walt stepped forward, brow furrowed angrily, "You need to tell us everything," he demanded.

She stepped back, throat working as she stared up at him, frightened. Mathias stepped between them and tossed a frown over his shoulder at Walt before looking back to her, face softening, "Go rest. I'll need to talk to you later though," he warned gently.

She nodded and scurried away, glancing over her shoulder at them before her room door slammed shut. When the door had shut Mathias whirled on Walt and glared at the older man, "We'll never get anything out of her if she's too scared to talk!" he growled.

Walt's bright blue eyes flashed dangerously as he stepped forward, crowding Mathias's space until they were practically nose to nose. "Don't think I've forgotten that she was with you when she was taken," he snarled.

Mathias's fingers curled around his tactical belt, anger swelling within him, "They woulda taken her even if she wasn't with me Longmire," he snapped back.

"Bullshit! They took her because she was with you, and I'm going to find out what you were doing with her," Walt threatened.

"I told you already we were getting food from the Red Pony after the funeral. We were going back to—"

"To your house," Walt snarled, "Yea, you told me that pack of lies about working on case files. What were you really doing?" he demanded, lunging forward to grab Mathias's shirt and yank him forward.

Vic hurried forward and grabbed Walt's arm, pulling on him until his eyes slid to her for a moment and the tension in his body slid away slowly. His fist unclenched gradually, the wrinkled fabric sliding from his grip as he stepped back.

Vic shot Mathias a warning look as she pulled Walt away, her eyes soft with understanding and worry. After a moment Zach stepped forward, frowning deeply.

"Were you guys really going to work on case files?" he asked, sounding as though he too didn't believe the lie.

Mathias sighed heavily and looked at the younger man, his gaze running over him for a moment as he wondered what had drawn Cady to him. Finally, he shook his head and walked away, retaking his seat in the corner of the room away from the rest of them.

Slumping down in one of the uncomfortable plastic and pressboard chairs, he rocked forward to rest his elbows on his knees, face in his hands as he breathed slowly, steadily. Across the room he could hear Vic murmuring softly to Walt, her voice too soft for him to make out her words, but the calming tone was obvious.

The hours passed in agonizing slowness, his head coming up and his heart pounding when a nurse or a doctor would hurry past. Out the window he could see the sky turning a burning pink, the sands of the desert scrubland spread out in the distance glowing like dull gold.

Rising unsteadily, his joints stiff from sitting for so long, he walked slowly to the elevator and rode it down in silence to the ground floor. When he was outside he zipped his coat against the still frozen early morning air and rummaged through his pockets till he found his pack of cigarettes and lighter.

It was a bad, filthy habit that Cady had nagged him about when he took it up during their cases' more stressful moments, but he hadn't been able to kick it just yet. Shaking the pack open he stared down at the three remaining and then looked out at the sun glinting over the horizon like a great burning eye.

He didn't know if there was a God or a Great Spirit or some higher power that gave a damn about him or anyone else on this godforsaken rock, but in that moment, he made a silent vow.

He'd smoke these last three cigarettes and never complain about quitting again if he could keep Cady in his life. Hell, he'd even get the patches and listen to her scolding the rest of his life, as long as he got to have her around.

He stared at the horizon for another few moments, not really looking for a sign, just looking. With a low sigh he pulled out the first cigarette and cupped a hand around it while he clenched it between his teeth, the flame flickering wildly in the breeze as he lit it.

Heady addictive smoke slid between his teeth and slithered into his lungs, the nicotine like a dark kiss in his blood. Some of the edginess in his limbs eased as he smoked, grimacing at the shitty taste of the cheap brand.

By the time he had smoked the third to ashes the sun was over the horizon and warming the sky into searing oranges and pinks.

He cast the sky one last look and turned away, jaw set.

The only thing he could do now was wait.


When he stepped off the elevator he rounded the corner back to the waiting room for the ICU and frowned; Walt and Vic were nowhere in sight. Stepping forward quickly he gave Zach a sharp nod and then motioned to the empty room, "Where's Walt and Philly?" he asked gruffly, voice hoarse from smoking.

Zach eyed him, a speculative look in his eye before he responded. "Chapel. The doctors brought her out of surgery but she's still not allowed to have visitors. They had some issues with her heart during surgery because she was withdrawing from the heroin. The doctor said they've given her something to help stabilize both her heart and the withdrawal. She should be awake by this evening or tomorrow morning."

Relief flooded through Mathias so heavily his knees wobbled. Slumping, he reached a hand back to find the chair behind him before sinking into it, his eyes falling shut heavily.

"You care about her, don't you?"

Surprised, slightly hysterical laughter bubbled up out of his chest, tears burning in his eyes as he lifted his head to look over at the younger man. Zach's eyes widened at the look on Mathias's face; the emotion there was all the answer he needed.

For some reason though, the older man answered him.

Mathias grinned wryly, no real humor in the expression, "You know, I tried not to. She's like a goddamned force of nature though," he murmured, shaking his head in affectionate awe. "She's a storm that will either wipe out what gets in her way, or cleanse what's strong enough to endure."

Zach eyed Mathias, brows furrowing in confusion. "You think I got wiped out?" he demanded.

Mathias looked up again and shook his head, "No kid, I think she gave you mercy."

They sat in silence for a moment before Zach nervously cleared his throat. "Is that what you want from her?"

Mathias's smile was bittersweet and wry, "I want whatever she'll give me," he muttered before rising to his feet once more and stalking away, leaving the younger man staring after him in confusion.


"Punk, I need you to fight, you hear me? I need you."

Dad? She wanted to turn her head and open her eyes but something burned in her veins, keeping her pinned down and in a place of darkness. She could hear his tears and feel his worn hand around hers, but she couldn't do anything.

"Please Cady, don't leave me too."

I won't daddy…I promise. She made the silent vow as a rising tide of exhaustion pulled her already heavy limbs into slumber.

"Kitty Cat, you can't leave, you hear me? You've got to get out of that bed and keep kicking ass. The world needs people like you."

She wished she could smile and scold Isaac for the silly pet name. She had woken to him talking, smelt his cologne when he leaned down to brush a kiss over her cheek. His breath brushed across her skin for a moment as he whispered.

"Get the fuck up Cady. I need you."

She wanted to tell him to leave her alone, she was too tired to get up. But that sweet burning was still in her veins, and she didn't move, didn't speak.

"You should know Cady, we rescued a dozen women because of you. Gemma is still in surgery, but the doctors said she's doing well."

She was surprised to hear Zach's voice; more surprised when he took her hand.

"I wish you had told me they were threatening you. I would have tried to keep you safe."

That's why I didn't tell you. I don't need you to keep me safe. She breathed out a little harder and felt a skip of excitement when her fingers twitched in his. The sweet burning in her veins was less than before…she must be waking up.

"Cady? Oh god, are you waking up?"

She heard the excitement in his voice and then the sound of a door opening, voices raising and falling as the door fell shut. When the door opened again a set of hands began a pointed perusal of her body.

She could feel them poking and prodding and when one of her eyelids was peeled back she whimpered at the stab of light into her cornea.

"She's waking up. It's going to take some more time, so for now I'd suggest you all go get some rest."

"I'm not going anywhere."

Her father's voice was firm, angry.

"I understand your reluctance to leave Mr. Longmire, but she's just barely edging into consciousness. We'll need to run a few tests on her cognition when she's awake, and it's going to take some time. Visiting hours are until 6pm, and I'd feel safe saying she won't be fully awake before then. Please, go get some sleep in a real bed, have a meal, and come back in the morning."

"Walt, they'll call us if anything changes. There's a motel down the street. You won't be any good to her if you collapse."

She wished she could sit up and hug Vic for being so sensible. She listened to her father argue for another minute before giving in tiredly. Slowly the room emptied, kisses pressed to her forehead and promises to return coming from her father and Vic.

When the door shut again the steady tides of slumber tugged at her body, the leaden feeling in her limbs growing. Hazily she wondered where Mathias was, and why he hadn't come to visit her.


Mathias watched as Vic, Walt and Zach departed for the motel. It was 5pm and there was only an hour left of visiting hours, but he wanted some time to truly be alone with her. He hadn't missed the dirty look Walt had given him on his way out, the message clear—stay away.

He didn't.

Slipping into the chair by her bed, he slid it forward until he could lean an arm on the bed, his fingers turning her hand over so he could see her palm. Slowly he ran his fingers over her palm, watching as her fingers twitched in response.

His gaze darted to her face for a moment, watching her before he turned his attention back to her hand. He could feel the callouses on her palm and fingertips from handling weapons and hard work.

Even when she had been a lawyer she hadn't been afraid to help; she had spent months working at the Red Pony as a waitress, had aided older folks on the rez get out to vote, had befriended Mandy and given her a job and a chance at a new future.

The story of her life could be told by these hands, and as he stroked his thumb across her palm he thought back to the last time he had felt her hands on his skin. She had been tipsy, aroused, and sitting half in his lap, kissing him senseless in his truck.

Angling his chair closer, he leaned forward, still holding her hand as he reached up to lay his other hand on her forehead. His thumb stroked the delicate skin of her temple as he began to hum, singing a soft lullaby.

"The night is ours, Spring in the wood of skies, We head to the heath with our tent, where the berries grow. Take me, dear friend to the mirth of yesterdays, Where our creek runs free and the birch will blow," he sang softly, voice hoarse.

"Light in the mountains, Scent from our dearest fountains, The wind is counting your hair in the light aglow."

His fingers stroked the russet strands of her hair.

"The dew comes forth. Our valley is swept with peace, Our dreams come true, who sleep in the wood of skies, On the berry hearth, the last touch of sunlight dies, And the calm is deep where the quiet waters flow."

He watched her eyes flutter, moving slowly beneath her pearlescent lids. He wasn't sure if he was imagining her breathing quicker or not.

"Light in the mountains, Scent from our dearest fountains, The wind is counting your hair in the light aglow."

He wasn't imagining it, she was breathing quicker and her eyes were fluttering. As he finished the song, his voice grew hoarse, choking on the bitter taste of hope and nicotine.

"Light in the mountains, Scent from our dearest fountains, The wind is counting your hair in the light aglow. The wind is counting your hair."

His voice trailed off as her eyes fluttered open, falling closed for a long moment before they struggled to open again; failing. Her chest rose and fell quickly and her fingers flickered against his, her breath catching in her throat for a moment.

"You've gotta nice voice," she rasped, words slightly slurred as her cottony mouth prevented her from speaking further.

He reached for the small cup of water on the table and held it to her lips, letting it barely wet them before he pulled it back and then trickled a little into her mouth. Her tongue worked for a moment, spreading the wet around before she swallowed and sighed.

Her eyes slid open, looking dazed and tired, but as they met his, a faint, warm smile crept onto her lips. An answering smile came to his face and he laid his hand back on her forehead as she weakly squeezed his hand.

Pressing his forehead against hers gently, he closed his eyes, listening to her breath. His heart was in his throat and he worried that if he tried to speak, he would cry. Swallowing hard, he took a shuddering breath and pressed his lips to her temple, tears burning his throat and eyes.

He didn't want to live without her. It had been terrifying to think he might have to, and while he wanted to tell her that, he didn't want to overwhelm her in the first moments she was awake.

He would tell her everything later.

For now, he was content to hold her like this, to reassure himself she was alive, this wasn't a dream, and that they were safe.

When his lips brushed against her skin again she hummed softly and turned her head slowly until their eyes met, mere inches apart. Hers were exhausted and pained, his tired and hopeful.

"Thank you…for finding me," she whispered brokenly; almost too tired to speak.

His fingers slipped deeper into her hair and his brow pressed into hers, his gaze intense. "Always."

Breath hitching in her chest, she gave a bare nod and sniffled, tears welling her eyes. Mathias stroked her cheek with his thumb, staring into her eyes with a warm smile. Hers eventually drifted shut, exhaustion and morphine too strong to fight against much longer.

"Sing…again?" she asked, voice whispery and sleepy.

With a faint smile, he hummed in agreement and lifted his forehead from hers to begin singing softly. He watched as her breathing slowed, his thumb still stroking her cheek as he sang.

When he was certain she was asleep he shifted again and rested his head beside hers on the pillow. He could smell the faint scent of citrus and spice in her hair, the muskier scent of gunpowder too, and unpleasantly, blood.

With a shaky breath he closed his eyes, wondering if that desperate prayer of his had been answered.

Chapter Text

~Your heart's a bird without the wings to fly~


A week after Cady first woke up, she was finally back home. After the first whole day of consciousness the doctors weaned her off morphine and onto a non-narcotic painkiller, fearing that her body would replace one addiction with another.

As the week progressed she was up and out of bed, receiving physical therapy until she could walk unaided. Her bullet wound and the other injuries she had received at the hands of her captors were healing well, if slowly.

By the time she was allowed to go home she was antsy and tired of her father throwing sarcastic comments at Mathias. Vic was barely able to rein him in and was sporting a pinched look from the stress, her voice taut when she yanked him out of the room to give Mathias time alone with her.

He had been coming back and forth between Absaroka and Gila, working with the FBI on the case as they took a larger hand in the investigation. He and Cady had both been interviewed three times already and Isaac had indicated that there would be more as soon as they got back to Absaroka for good.

Mathias hadn't fought when Walt had announced he would drive Cady home from the airport after their 6 hour flight together, and despite the look on her face, had told her he would see her later.

They hadn't had much of a chance to talk with her father keeping close and despite his desire to spend time alone with her outside the hospital and the watchful eye of her father, he knew he needed to get back to the res.

The deputies had done an admirable job of holding things down while he was gone, but he knew that things wouldn't stay peaceful for long. As it was, he had been back for only a day in his office since 5am tackling the mountain of paperwork on his desk before he had been called out to three different shots fired calls.

Two had been hunters sighting in guns and another he hadn't been able to locate the source on. A 13 year old kid had been reported missing from school and after speaking with his parents and school counselor he was headed out to where the tribal land met the county land in the woods.

Apparently, some of the res kids were involved in a marijuana grow, and the boy had been skipping school to go guard the grow and pick the crops. Shaking his head, he drove a little faster, hoping that he wouldn't have to arrest the kid when he found him.


Cady winced as she poured bath salts under the steaming running water, her side aching at the curve of her body as she leant down. As the tub filled she picked off her clothes, wincing as her ribs ached.

Turning to face her mirror she steeled herself, already knowing what she would see. She had seen her torso in the small hospital bathroom a few times, but now, seeing nearly her whole body in the soft light of her bathroom, she grimaced.

Her ribs were covered in bruises from being kicked repeatedly, the oldest ones faded to a lurid purple-green, while some of the others remained nearly black they were so deep. She had two very badly bruised and one cracked rib, which the doctors had assured her would heal with time.

Twisting slightly she frowned at the boot prints on her back and the spots of bruising down her legs and arms. With a heavy sigh she turned away from the mirror and lit a few candles around the room before flicking off the lights and shutting off the water.

The room slowly filled with steam, obscuring the glass and hiding her from her own worried gaze. Her hip throbbed as she swung a leg into the tub, a hiss of pain escaping her as she swung in the other.

Slowly she eased into the hot water, limbs trembling as her skin shivered. When the water covered her breasts and her head fell back on the edge of the tub she sighed softly, the tension easing out of her with each breath.

She had been home for barely a whole day, having slept from the moment her dad dropped her off until a few hours ago.

Despite having spent the better part of 18 hours asleep, aided by painkillers and muscle relaxers, she was growing tired again. Perhaps it hadn't been wise to spend her first day home doing laundry and picking up her house, even if it had been a disaster after the FBI had been through everything—including her underwear drawer.

Her eyes drifted shut and as her skin began to prune, she dozed.

"We're going to have fun, aren't we querida?" Fingertips grazed her arm as his lewd gaze ran over her, a smirk on his lips. "So much fun."

Cady gasped and lurched upright, heard thundering as she peered around the room wildly. Breathing rapidly, she grew lightheaded as terror shook her.

Just a dream, it was just a dream, she tried to assure herself.

The chilled water lapped at her skin and she shivered violently, the temperature recalling the icy blasts she had received in her cell from the hose.

Staggering upright, she hurried out of the tub, one slick foot catching on the rim of the tub and sending her sprawling to the cold tile floor. Her palms slapped against it wetly and she took short raspy breaths, tears burning in her eyes.

Pressing her forehead into the tile she panted as her head swam, limbs trembling. Her stomach lurched and clenched, threatening to evict the little food she had eaten and she struggled against it, sweat breaking out on the back of her neck.

"Cady?"

Startling at the soft voice, she flinched and cowered, hands moving to cover her nakedness. A figure moved towards her slowly in her periphery and she whimpered faintly, panic sluicing through her.

The feet stilled and there was silence for a moment before she saw them crouch.

"Cady, it's Vic. I'm not going to hurt you. Are you hurt?"

Her voice was pitched low and gentle, as though she was trying to coax a wild animal out of a dark corner, and some part of Cady's brain thought that maybe that's what she was now. A wild, injured animal.

Taking long shuddering breaths she shook her head faintly to the question, her body still curled around itself.

"Okay, that's good. Why don't I get you a towel, you're probably cold," she suggested.

Cady couldn't say anything to that but didn't flinch when the towel was laid gently around her curled body, one of Vic's hands touching her shoulder softly for a moment. After a moment's hesitation Vic lowered herself to sit beside Cady, her hand cupping her shoulder lightly.

They sat in silence for a long time as Cady's breathing fell back to normal and her heartbeat slowed. When she began to sit up the towel slipped a bit and Vic leaned over to pull it around her before Cady grabbed the edges and gave her a grateful nod.

They sat side by side against the edge of the tub, still not speaking. Cady cast her a sidelong glance, eyes bright from shedding tears.

"You won't tell my dad, will you?"

A wry smirk twisted the other woman's lips and she shook her head, staring down at her hands.

"You should talk to somebody though."

Cady nodded, she didn't really have anyone she wanted to talk to though. Mathias a traitorous part of her brain whispered and she sighed, trying to push that thought away. He had already risked his life to find her, he didn't need to be babysitting her and listening to her cry.

Not even if he wants to? Her brain wouldn't shut up and it was making her anxious.

Slowly she stood, wincing as her side throbbed heavily. Shuffling slowly to her room she shed her towel and pulled on a clean pair of boxers and a sweater before sliding back into her bed. Vic came in a few minutes later with a tall glass of water, a toasted English muffin with peanut butter, and a handful of her medications.

Cady wasn't sure she could eat but she knew if she took the meds without anything substantive in her stomach she'd throw up. So she ate, slowly and methodically, draining the glass of water. Vic got her another without speaking and then nodded at the pills on the bedside table, "You should take those and get some sleep. If you need anything, call," she urged gently.

Fingers plucking at her quilt, Cady avoided looking at her for a moment before sighing and nodding, smiling weakly up at her. "Thanks Vic," she murmured gratefully.

The other woman nodded and rose from her perch at the foot of the bed, pausing in the doorway to glance back at her.

"Call Mathias. He's probably out of his mind worrying about you."

Before Cady could form a coherent response, she was gone.

Slowly, she took her painkillers, muscle relaxers and heart medicine. Turning on her uninjured side, she watched the light filtering through the blinds shift down the wall as the sun set, her eyes growing heavier with each minute.

As she drifted off, she wished Mathias was there to sing to her.


It had been three days since he had come back to the res full time, and he hadn't seen Cady at all. She hadn't called or texted him, and it would have concerned him more if he didn't know that she was recovering not only physically, but likely mentally.

They hadn't discussed much of what had happened to her during her captivity, but from what he knew, it hadn't been good.

It wasn't like he didn't want to see her either; no, if he had his way he would have been at her place taking care of her right now, but as it was he had been busy with more calls and paperwork and arrests than he had been in weeks.

He had barely gotten ten hours of sleep in the last three days and he was starting to think he wasn't going to get home tonight either. Eventually though, he couldn't keep his eyes open for longer than five minutes at a time and he knew he couldn't spend another night on the lumpy couch in his office.

Biding his deputies goodnight, he drove carefully through the res with the windows down, the cold air bracing. By the time he stumbled up the stairs of his porch he was so tired his entire body felt like it had been steamrolled.

It was only through routine that his tactical belt and gun ended up in the right places before he stripped down to his briefs and face planted onto his mattress. Groaning weakly, he buried his face in the pillow and sighed in relief as the exhaustion slithered into his veins and drugged him.

Within minutes he was fast asleep.


Knocking at his front door woke him the next morning and when he sat up the sun filtering through the blinds made his head pound and eyes ache. Slowly he shuffled off the bed and stumbled down the hallway, rubbing at his eyes.

The knocking sounded again and he grumbled in annoyance, one hand still half covering his face as he tossed the door open. Freezing air bit at his bare skin, eliciting a sharp fuck and a shiver across his spine.

It was the sight of Cady's bruised face that really woke him up though. She stared at him wide eyed, her gaze flitting from his bare chest to his groin, down his legs and back up again. To his surprise there was a flush on her cheeks when she looked him in the eye, and she looked sheepish at being caught, ducking her head and tucking her hair behind her ear before she looked back up at him.

"Uh, hey. Did I, I uh, guess I woke you up, huh?" she muttered awkwardly, her brow crinkling. "Shit, I'll uh, I should go," she said quickly, face flushing further as she turned away.

"I'm awake now, why don't you come in?" he replied, voice gruff with sleep but still kind enough to keep her from fleeing. She turned back slowly and gave him an appraising look before nodding and stepping into the house when he moved back to let her in.

Shutting the door, he brushed past her on his way to the kitchen. Coffee…coffee would make his head clearer, he decided.

She followed him, shedding her coat and boots along the way, her eyes once again running over his body. The lean, ropy muscles under his skin fascinated her as he leaned and reached and moved.

When he turned to face her again she was more composed and smiled weakly, "I'm sorry for waking you up," she offered quietly.

Mathias sighed and shook his head, smiling tiredly at her, "It's fine. I got more sleep last night than I have in the past few days, so I'm doing better than I have been," he revealed.

Cady nodded, she could see how tired he was, even with a night's rest in him. She felt even worse for having come over. Vic had been encouraging her to come talk to him, but now she felt like an intruder.

When he handed her a mug of coffee she murmured a quiet thanks and sipped it slowly, pondering if she should just come out and ask him what she had been thinking about for the past three days.

Mathias could see the questions she was biting back, the way her lips were pursed against them made his own flicker in a faint smile. She was nothing if not easy to read. At least for him, anyways.

"What's on your mind?" he prompted, crossing his arms over his chest as he leaned back against the counter.

She ducked her chin for a moment and then sighed heavily, the tension in her shoulders making them rigid. "I had an idea."

"About?"

"How we could get more information on the missing women. On all the missing people from the res, really," she conceded.

Intrigued, Mathias set aside his coffee and leaned towards her, waving a hand, "Whatcha got?"

Her eyes met his hopefully. "The legal clinic's lease is paid for the next year. What do you think about us cleaning it up and turning it into a missing persons center? We could install cork boards and hang photos of the missing women and girls in one room and the men and boys in another. In my old office we can have forms asking for any information that people might have and we can digitize them too so they can be sent to other reservations across the country. We can have a physical location and a digital one where other reservations can share their missing persons case details and try to work together to solve them and bring people home. If we get the FBI to pull the data into their systems, we could help establish patterns of disappearance and keep people from slipping into the shadows."

She stared at him earnestly, hope so bright in her eyes it made it hard for him to look at her for a long minute.

He moved without thinking, his chest swelling with emotion as his hands cupped her neck and hip, his mouth on hers an instant later. She hummed in surprise, unable to respond before he was pulling back to smile softly at her.

"It's a brilliant goddamn idea little storm."

Her face lit up and he fought the urge to lean in and kiss her again. His hand at her neck loosened and he let it trail down her arm to where her fingers brushed against his chest, the warmth from her coffee mug flush against him.

Taking her wrist gently he swallowed hard and stroked her knuckles, "I'm so glad you're back home," he murmured, peering at her through his thick black lashes. She flushed and nodded, looking nearly as tired as he was.

"Have you slept okay?" he asked gently, knowing she probably hadn't been.

Cady sighed, wishing she could lie and say yes, but knowing Mathias, he'd spot the lie immediately. He was far too good at reading her.

"Not really. Nightmares," she supplied, glancing up at him from where she had been studying their entwined fingers. He nodded and the pad of his thumb rubbed her knuckles gently.

"You need sleep to heal," he mused softly, no reproach to the words. She sighed, she knew that, but even with the muscle relaxers at night, she was having a hard time staying asleep for more than a few hours at a time.

Her nightmares plagued her anytime her eyes shut, demons lurking in the shadows, ready to yank her back into hell.

Swallowing hard she struggled against the urge to cry for a long moment before she could say anything.

"I haven't slept well since you sang to me in the hospital," she told him hesitantly, her gaze flickering to his. His eyes widened slightly in shock before sliding into something warmer, slightly sad and more than a little affectionate.

He smiled at her softly and reached up to brush her hair back from her cheek, "I could use a nap, how bout you?" he asked warmly.

She hesitated as she contemplated what he was offering. There wasn't anything sexual in the suggestion they sleep together, despite the fact that they had been on that track before her abduction. Mathias seemed genuinely worried about her and eager to make sure she was getting the rest she needed.

She hadn't been lying when she said she hadn't slept since the hospital. She had barely gotten more than five hours of sleep each night, and with how drowsy her medications made her she was spending hours napping during the day, fear fueled nightmares interrupting those too.

After nearly two weeks of it, she was exhausted.

So she nodded and followed him to his room, her stomach flipping when she realized this was the first time she had been here. Slowly she unzipped her hoodie and reached beneath her tank top to unhook her bra, sliding it off from underneath with practiced ease.

She was grateful she had worn leggings instead of jeans so all she had to do was peel off her thick woolen socks before she sat on the edge of his bed and then slid under the covers. She watched as Mathias shut the blinds tightly and drew the curtains, his back muscles rippling as he moved.

The sheets and pillows smelled of him, and for some reason it was incredibly comforting, despite her initial unease with being in his bed, she was bemused to find herself relaxing quickly. When Mathias turned and slid under the covers, her eyes were soft with exhaustion when they met his.

He edged closer to her and rolled on his side to face her, one of his hands tucking under his pillow, the other resting between them, breaching the empty space. "You want the same song?" he asked softly.

She nodded and watched him as he swallowed and then began singing. His eyes met hers as he sang, going through the song twice before her eyelids started to grow heavy. On the third round he paused and then began singing the same song, but in his native tongue.

The soothing rasp of his voice lulled her onto gentle waves of tranquility, sleep warming her like the sun on a summer day. Her limbs loosened and a faint smile crept to her lips as she slept.

Mathias watched her slip from wakefulness into slumber as his voice got softer, raspier. There were bruises and abrasions across her face and chest, and a few he had caught a glimpse of on her back when she had been undressing.

The sight of them sickened and angered him. If he could go back he would have gotten there sooner to beat the life out of the men who had done this to her. He knew that she had killed them, but he couldn't fight the anger he felt that someone had done this to her and he couldn't stop it.

He wouldn't let anything happen to her again.

He had gotten her back and he wasn't going to lose her.

Whether she knew it or not she had stolen his heart and broken it apart so she could climb inside, irreparably fracturing him.

But then, some things needed to be fractured before they could heal.

Chapter Text

When Cady woke, there was a weight pinning her down, heavy and warm around her body. Fingers trailing down, she realized dazedly it was Mathias's arm, and that the solid form behind her was his body.

His breath skated across her shoulder, warm and damp, sending shivers over her skin when she realized how close they were. His palm was pressed into her breastbone, fingertips brushing over her throat.

The pillow beneath her cheek smelled of him; the warmth of leather, the tang of gunpowder, the musk of his body. Inhaling softly she wriggled in delight before stilling as his arm tightened around her and a faint noise of pleasure rumbled in his chest.

Fuck if she wasn't careful she'd wake him up, and she could feel the hard length of his erection pressed into her ass. Some part of her wanted to do something about it, but a larger, wiser part knew that she was still healing and therefore unable to do anything.

That didn't lessen the frustration swelling within her, especially with his body pressed so firmly against hers, reminding her of their past…interactions.

Swallowing hard she tilted her chin and peered at the alarm clock on the table, sighing softly when she saw it was 5pm. They had gone to bed at 11am and she hadn't been awake until now, her body demanding rest after days of nightmares and nearly two weeks of pain and healing.

Mathias seemed equally exhausted, he hadn't stirred at all, other than to roll over and toss his arm over her waist. Closing her eyes once more, she snuggled down into the blankets and covered his hand at her throat with hers, sighing contentedly.


When Mathias woke, it was with the scent of garlic and pasta teasing his nostrils, sending a rumbling through his stomach. Eye flickering open slowly, he frowned when he realized the bed was empty.

Rolling up onto his forearm he peered around his room for a moment before tossing back the covers and grabbing a flannel button down, fingers tiredly working the buttons closed as he made his way towards the scent of food.

Pausing in the archway to the kitchen, he stared in surprise as Cady put food on plates, the scent growing stronger. The brown bags on the counters indicated she had gone to Santino's, and he was even more impressed because they didn't deliver and from his house it was a half hour drive each way.

"You didn't have to go get food," he murmured, voice raspy from sleep. She jumped and whirled, a knife clutched tightly in one hand, a spatula in the other. His brows twitched up for a moment before he chose to ignore the knife and walked over, "Need help?" he offered, smiling at her softly.

She relaxed at his obvious overlooking of the knife and her sharp reaction to his approach, nodding slowly, "Yea, you want to get the garlic bread out?" she suggested.

He moved to do as she said and before long they were working smoothly side by side, handing off silverware and plates until she was following him out to his table, tucking one leg under her as she sat.

Halfway through the meal she set down her fork and looked at him, eyes tired, despite their recent rest. "You told me once that the people of the res would disown you if we failed at finding justice for Mandy and the other missing women. Do you think that's something they'll actually do?" she asked softly.

Mathias studied her as he chewed his manicotti, pondering the question. He suspected her question wasn't so much about whether they would disown him, but once again, whether he thought she was worth making that promise over.

After a few long moments he speared a green bean and stared at it before popping it into his mouth and chewing, answering her. "I think I wouldn't have made that promise to them if I didn't believe we could do it. If you had asked me to do it when we started working together eight months ago, I wouldn't have. I didn't trust that woman, I didn't know her, I didn't believe in her."

He saw the anxiety and disappointment clearly on her face and wondered not for the first time when he had gotten so good at reading her. Setting aside his fork he reached out and took her hand gently, giving her time to pull away if she wanted.

When she didn't he turned her hand over, rubbing her palm with his thumb as he continued. "I wasn't a hopeful man Cady. I've been doing this for twenty years and I've seen what happens when white people make promises they have no intention of keeping. I didn't have a great relationship with your dad—still don't—and everything I knew about you could be boiled down to a few, brief interactions."

He smiled wryly and pressed his thumb a little more firmly into the flesh of her palm. "But then you challenged the fuck out of me and looked at things with fresh eyes, with this, this, almost foolish amount of hope," he laughed at the look on her face and shook his head, "and it scared the shit outta me. I couldn't hope, because I'd stopped decades ago, because I knew hope only broke your heart."

His throat grew thick and he blinked at the burning in his eyes, struggling against the emotions she brought so close to the surface. "But then you made me realize that instead of finding justice for these women I had been giving up on them, just like everyone gave up on Emily. When you promised to fight for Mandy and for all the women, I knew I couldn't hide behind my fear anymore. If you could fight and bring these women home, stay alive and get retribution on these scum, I could at least stop being so goddamned scared and hopeless."

His eyes were fierce and warm as he held her hand tight in his, his voice no longer wavering as he spoke. "I don't want to be scared anymore. I want you to work with me and find these women, and all those missing tribal people that everyone just writes off. We're a team, a damned good one, and I don't plan on giving up on us." Cady shivered at the intensity in his eyes and knew that with this, things would change forever.

"I know you think that it matters what the tribe thinks about you, and I mean, yea, they should respect you, but if anyone has anything to say about how I feel about you they can fuck right off," he finished vehemently.

She stared at him, sea storm eyes wide and bright as she studied him. Her face was decorated by bruises and her hair hung in strands around her face but damn, she was still the most beautiful woman he had seen.

Slowly, her lips twitched into a smile, her eyes warming as her fingers turned to curl around his. To his surprise she leaned forward, her palm sliding up under the sleeve of his shirt to grasp his forearm as her other hand landed on his shoulder.

His eyes widened in surprise as her mouth found his, soft and supple, and after a moment they slid shut as he sank into the embrace. Cady curled her fingers around his shoulder, her still healing gunshot wound on her side aching painfully at this angle.

She pulled away with a hiss of pain and Mathias was instantly alert, putting a hand to her cheek as he looked her over worriedly. "Where's it hurt?" he demanded, voice rough and low.

Shaking her head she slid her chair closer to his, alleviating the angle she had to lean forward, a smile teasing her lips once more. "Bad angle for my hip, it's okay now," she assured him. As she leaned back in he pulled away and at her panicked look shook his head, smiling reassuringly at her.

"Why don't I clean up in here and you go take a shower," he suggested softly, his own skin heating at the idea of her naked, wet and in his home. Her brows lifted at his suggestions, a wry smirk curling her lips.

"In case you didn't notice, these are the only clothes I have," she murmured with a pointed glance.

Mathias smirked, "I've got sweats and a tshirt you can borrow," he replied, hesitating for a moment at the unease he saw in her eyes. "I'm not trying…I know you're still hurt Cady. I just, I thought you'd want to stay." He winced and ran a hand over his face, laughing nervously, "I'm fuckin this up, huh?" he muttered, eyeing her apprehensively.

Cady's unease passed at the genuine show of anxieties from the older man, morphing into amusement and fondness. Leaning forward slightly she pressed a kiss to his lips, getting lost momentarily in their soft pliable heat.

When she pulled back he looked dazed, his pupils large and hungry. Stroking his cheek gently she nodded, "I'll shower."

Relief flooded him and he watched as she stood slowly, smiling softly at him before she walked slowly back to his bedroom. He waited a moment and then followed, grabbing a pair of sweats and a tshirt from his dresser before handing them to her through a crack in the bathroom door.

He listened to the shower start and then went on nearly silent feet to the kitchen to clean up, his heart thumping. Despite his earlier confession that he wouldn't let fear control him anymore, he had been scared out of his mind that she would leave, refusing his feelings and his offer to stay the night.

Turns out, fear was a hard habit to break.


It was late but they were both still awake; alert from having slept most of the day away. Cady was propped up by pillows as she texted Vic, assuring the other woman that she was with Mathias—vehemently urging her not to tell her father where she was, only that she was resting and didn't want to be disturbed.

The man in question was laying beside her, reading. Occasionally she glanced over to watch his face as he read, fascinated by the way his brows furrowed and lips pursed. Setting aside her phone, she slid down the pillows with minimal discomfort and turned towards him slightly, trying to peer at the title of the book.

Dark Places

With a gentle roll of her eyes she smirked, of course he was reading a crime mystery. "Book any good?" she asked lightly, reaching out to trace a finger along the edge of the pages. His eyes traced the action before lifting to meet her gaze.

His expression was warm and open as he nodded, "Not terrible. I just started though," he admitted.

She leaned closer, her legs brushing against his as she peered at the pages, "What's it about?"

He hummed and then explained thoughtfully, "This little girl, Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered. She ends up surviving—and testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates her and tries to get as many details as they can from her. They want to discover proof that may free Ben."

Cady nodded thoughtfully and then smiled faintly at him, "Will you read it to me?" she asked, a little nervous to make the request.

His brows furrowed in surprise and he stared at her for a moment as she flushed, ducking her chin. "I just like your voice," she muttered, lifting her gaze up to his hesitantly. When she did she saw a level of affection and heat there that scared her, made hope and terror run equally through her veins.

Mathias nodded and cleared his throat, turning his gaze back to the pages. He felt her shift beside him as he explained a few essential plot points, his voice quiet and even. When she rested her head on his shoulder and wrapped an arm around his waist he took a deep, slow breath before starting.

Cady felt his body tense at her touch before relaxing as he got used to her, his attention turning to the book as he read. She listened half heartedly, more interested in listening to the gentle rasp of his voice, the lilt to his words from that odd accent that wasn't quite southern but more a speech pattern that most people on the res had.

She was surprised by how easy this affection and intimacy was between them. She knew he had feelings for her, and she certainly cared quite a bit for him…but to say that they were close, or intimate, like people in relationships were, well…it wasn't something she would have thought.

They were somewhere between lust and love and it felt like if either of them spoke about it too much, it would change whatever this was.

Eventually Mathias noticed that Cady's breathing had changed and when he turned his chin down to look at her, he smiled softly, amused to find her asleep on his shoulder. Gently he closed the book and set it aside, reaching up to turn off the lights before he slid his arm around her shoulders and pulled her a little closer.

Inhaling slowly he breathed in the scent of his soap on her skin, a possessive sort of clutching in his stomach happening when he realized how much he liked it. It had been the same when he saw her in his tshirt and sweats, her soft curves filling them out in a way that left his mouth dry and his palms itching to touch her.

He indulged in that desire, just a little, now that she was asleep. His hand at her shoulders slid down to brush at the hem of her shirt, pushing it up so his palm could press gently into her skin.

He could feel the uneven texture of the scar tissue where her gunshot wound was still healing, and a ripple of anger made his fingers clench on her skin tightly for a moment, releasing when she made a discomforted noise in her sleep.

Gently he brushed his fingers over the scar, tracing it until it was as familiar to him as the lines on his own face were. As he drifted towards sleep he felt the warm glow of contentment in his chest.


Sharp pain and a high cry of despair woke him abruptly. Blearily he peered through the darkness, searching for the cause, when an elbow connected sharply with his ribs and alerted him to the source of this abrupt wake up call.

Cady thrashed beside him, eyes flickering behind closed lids as she whimpered and flinched, incoherent words falling from her lips. Pain flickered over her face and she lashed an arm out as if to ward something—or someone—off.

"No…no, no, no, please," she begged hoarsely, her words clearer now.

His belly cramped with fear and he leaned towards her, his hands falling to her shoulders to try and still her. This proved to be a bad choice because it brought him within striking range and her hand lashed up, balled into a fist that caught him square in the eye.

Falling back, he cursed, already feeling the bruise swelling beneath the skin. Blinking rapidly he kept his head back but grabbed her forearms, calling her name as he shook her gently. She cried louder, begging for something to stop and his stomach roiled, threatening to choke him as her head thrashed side to side, the muscles of her neck taut with terror.

"Cady!"

He shouted her name, his fingers pressing down too hard on her skin, he feared, as he tried to bring her out of whatever hell she was in. She went silent, shuddering in his grasp, her breaths too fast to be healthy he thought, her eyes screwed shut, and he knew, she was finally awake.

Slowly he loosened his grip and winced when he saw the red marks on her pale skin from his fingers.

"Cady?"

He whispered her name, hovering over her uncertainly.

She abruptly rolled away, arms winding around her waist as she breathed hard, sounding like she had just run a mile. He watched her shoulders rise and fall before he sank back down beside her, uncertain of what he should do.

Not sure if touching her would be accepted, he sat nervously, hands twined together in his lap, listening to her sniffling and hitching breaths. After nearly five minutes she exhaled shakily and her voice was raspy when she whispered, "Will you…can you hold me?"

He nodded, forgetting she couldn't see him for a moment before his brain caught up and he mumbled a soft affirmation. Sliding down slowly he arched his body towards hers, approaching cautiously in case she changed her mind.

He started small, his bare feet tickling against hers for a moment before she moved hers to capture them with hers. His hand went next, sliding over her shoulders slowly and then down the curve of her spine, feeling it as she arched and shuddered under his touch, relaxing inch by inch.

When his arm went around her waist his body was still held away from hers, giving her time to adjust.

"Please."

Her one word was less a plea and more a command, urging him closer. With that, he slotted his hips against hers, his chest warm against her back. He could feel the cool tinge to her skin from terror, sweat dampening her shirt, so he pulled her a little closer to share his body heat.

She shuddered in his arms and he pressed his face into her neck, his breath soft against her, marveling silently at her resilience. They hadn't talked about what had happened during her captivity, except in broad strokes.

He had the feeling she hadn't wanted him to know, and probably still didn't. He wouldn't push her to share it with him unless she was comfortable; the last thing he wanted was to make her feel like she couldn't trust him.

She had become a confidant and rock for him in the many months they had been working together and he wasn't about to let her down in return.

He felt her heart thumping against his, still too fast as she struggled to breath normally. She sniffled for a moment and then exhaled, "I killed more men. I took their lives," she whispered, voice broken and raspy from crying.

He opened his mouth to tell her she hadn't had a choice and she cut him off, "I don't feel bad about it. They raped a woman in front of me. They beat me. Tortured me. Would have killed me."

Her voice got stronger, "They killed Mandy." She lifted a hand and wiped at her eyes before lowering it to wrap around his forearm. "I knew if I gave up I wouldn't make it. I knew you'd be coming for me, but I just kept seeing her face, scared to death it was how you were going to find me."

Her words made something in his chest tighten, to know that she had been waiting for him to come find her, had believed in him like that…he didn't even know what to say in return.

After a moment he cleared his throat and spoke softly into her ear, "I wasn't about to give up on you. No matter what, I kept my eye on the priority—you. I wasn't about to let go this time, not like last time. I woulda died before I did that again."

He felt her shiver at his words, at the unspoken promise in them and a similar thrill ran over him. They lay in silence for a long time, the darkness punctuated by the dim green lights from his alarm clock. He was close enough to her now to feel her heart thumping, more regularly as she breathed slowly.

"Thank you," she whispered.

"For what," his words grazed along the column of her neck and she shivered.

"Not giving up."

He nodded, his nose sliding along the delicate skin of her throat. "You're too important to let go," he murmured, somehow unafraid to admit something that enormous in the comfort of the dark where the words seemed softer, less potentially dangerous.

She didn't say anything, instead she slid her hand from his forearm and wound their fingers together before drawing their joined hands up to rest beneath her chin.

His smile pressed into her shoulder, not hiding it, but setting it there so she could feel it, feel how she affected him. With each of her slow and steady inhalations he felt reassured that she was real, here in his arms, and maybe…his.

Chapter Text

When Mathias rose the next day, Cady was already gone. Disappointment swooped through him until he saw the note on his nightstand. Snatching it up he leaned back against the headboard as he read.

Mathias,

I went to shower at home and change. I'm going to get my files on the missing women, will you meet me at the clinic at 9am with the files for the missing men/boys? I'll get some tack boards to hang things up and bring my laptop so we can create a form for people to fill out.

Don't forget the goodies from the Wild Berry!

DON'T BRING COFFEE.

Yours,

Cady

He laughed softly at her switch from business to playful, the reminder not to bring his shitty coffee making his grin stick on his face as he rose to get dressed. Glancing at the clock, he decided to shower first and then check in at the station.

After taking a whole day off unannounced, they were probably wondering where he was.


By the time he made it to the legal clinic Cady had swept the floors and boarded up some of the broken windows. Two large tack boards leaned against the wall, held in place by a large box that he knew contained their files and information on the missing women.

Her head came up from where she was sitting on the floor, organizing the files into piles in some order he didn't understand yet. Smiling widely as he held out a large white takeout bag from the bakery, she patted the ground beside her and held out a coffee mug in return.

Wincing as his knees protested the descent, he took the to-go mug from her and inhaled greedily, the rich scent of the dark roast filling his nose. He watched in amusement as she dove into the bag and let out a gleeful noise at the discovery that he had not only stopped at the bakery, but a local diner.

There were breakfast sandwiches for each of them in addition to a cinnamon roll for her and a bear claw for him. Leaning back against the wall as she dug through the bag he sipped his coffee and grinned when she rolled on one hip towards him, eyes bright with delight.

"I love their cinnamon rolls," she breathed, her lips just inches from his.

"Yea, suspected that after you got them three days in a row," he teased.

Her grin widened and she leaned in, dropping a kiss on his lips that was somehow both quick and lingering. He didn't know how she did that; made his chest ache with breathlessness and excitement, and then soft and warm too, like he was wrapped in a heavy blanket of her affection.

Giving him one last grin she sank back against the wall beside him, tossing him a breakfast sandwich and eagerly tearing into hers. They ate quickly, drinking coffee and not talking much, more focused on the work ahead.

When they were done he went to work hanging the tack boards, his flexible brace allowing him more range of movement than the previous one. Cady continued to sort the files of the missing women until they were sorted by year and age, going from youngest to oldest in each year.

She heard Mathias in the other room hanging the other board and went to work, hanging the photos of the women and girls, a small slip of paper beneath each picture listing their name, date of birth, last known location, and a plea for more information.

Halfway through she took a break, crouching down to pull out her cinnamon roll, happily snacking on it and sipping her coffee for a few moments. Grabbing the bear claw and coffee, she carried them into the other room carefully, her cinnamon roll clenched between her teeth.

At her approach Mathias looked up from where he was affixing the board to the wall with the final screw, a grin lighting up his dark eyes. Taking the offered gifts, he motioned to the cot that still remained and waited for her to sit before joining her.

She peered at the board and swallowed her mouthful of cinnamon roll before speaking. "I think it's a little crooked," she murmured evenly.

Mathias's brows rose as he turned to stare at her incredulously, "I used a level. There's no way."

A grin peeked through and she shook her head, "I dunno, I think you should check again," she mused thoughtfully.

Rolling his eyes at her, he smirked and shook his head, "Pain in my ass little storm," he joked non threateningly.

Snickering, she shook her head and took another sip of coffee before looking at him thoughtfully, brows pulling together. "Why do you call me that?" she asked, brushing her hair back from her face with a finger not covered in sticky sweetness.

When it immediately fell forward again Mathias smothered a smirk and set down his coffee, popping the last of his bear claw into his mouth before he reached out with a clean hand to tuck it back more securely.

He took a swallow of coffee as she stared at him, and he noticed a smear of cinnamon on her bottom lip. Leaning forward, he watched as her eyes widened slowly, watching his approach. His mouth closed over hers and he sucked her bottom lip between his, flicking his tongue over the sticky sweet spot.

Humming softly, he lifted a hand to tilt her chin, drawing her further in. Her mouth opened to his and the taste of bitter coffee and sweet sugar combined with the warmth of the cinnamon to make his lips tingle.

Cady let out a soft gasp as his teeth nibbled her lip again before his tongue met hers, tasting her sweetness. When he pulled away, neither of them were breathing steadily and one of her hands was clutching at the elbow of his arm holding her up.

"I call you that because even little storms can take my breath away and awe me."

The revelation was soft, quiet.

Cady's eyes opened to find him staring at her, that named emotion in his eyes. Awe. She didn't think any man had looked at her like that before.

Leaning in, she pressed her forehead against his gently, breathing him in for a few moments. His hand was still at her chin, thumb stroking her cheek gently. Hers cupped his elbow, fingers firm on his taut muscle.

Eventually they parted and she gave him a soft smile before rising and nudging his boxes with her shoe. "I organized by year and then did them youngest to oldest in each year," she told him. "You want a hand?" she offered.

He nodded, gladly accepting the offer if it kept her close.

They sat on the cot, laying out the photos and writing up the information for each one until they were done. The day slipped by as they hung photos and eventually she went back to the main board, leaving him to finish up while she did the same.

When she had finished she went to the kitchen to splash water on her face, head aching from too much coffee and not enough food. If they were going to stay longer they would need to get more food.

As she stepped back into the room she saw Mathias hanging something and walked over slowly, brows knitting together until she reached his side and saw the photo he had put up. It was a faded picture of a young woman in a bright yellow sundress, her long dark hair blowing in the breeze as she laughed at the camera.

Her feet were bare and the wildflowers reached her knees, her arms spread wide as though she was going to embrace the world.

Cady smiled sadly and lifted a hand to trace a finger over her face. "She was beautiful," she whispered.

Mathias nodded and she glanced over to see him struggling to maintain his composure, his throat working hard. Reaching out, she took his hand in hers and squeezed, "We'll find out what happened to her," she assured him.

He nodded again and squeezed her hand tightly, chest feeling as though it would collapse under the pressure of his restrained tears.

They stayed that way for a long time, staring at the names and faces of the people who had been lost to the shadows for decades.

But not anymore.

They would give names to these once shadowy figures, draw them into the light and set them free.


Cady sat on the cot in the spare room, typing away on her laptop, working on the forms that people from the res would use to fill out in person and digitally. Mathias had looked over the first draft and made a few suggestions before he went to the station to check in and stop on the way back for some food.

She wasn't expecting him for at least an hour, so when the front door creaked open, her heart turned to ice in her chest and her adrenaline spiked so hard her vision was spotted with black dots.

"Punk?"

The sound of her father's voice reached through her panic induced haze; her brain recognizing it as safe. She remained where she was on the cot though, her heart racing far too fast, a cold sweat on her forehead and her chest rising and falling rapidly as she tried to regain control.

The sound of his bootsteps approaching only made her more anxious; she didn't want him to see her like this. In a croaking voice she called out, "Coming Dad!"

You can do this. Get up.

She stood up, hand shaking at her sides.

There you go. Go talk to dad like you're fine.

Stepping out of the small room slowly, she looked up at her father and smiled weakly, "Hey Dad."

He stared at her for a moment and tilted his head to the side, narrow lips pursing in a frown as he contemplated something. "You okay Punk?" he asked cautiously; apparently her attempt appearing fine wasn't good enough.

"Yea, just a little tired. Been working on this stuff all day," she murmured, waving a hand around the offices.

Walt nodded solemnly, casting an appraising eye around the former clinic slowly, hesitating on the tack boards and pictures of missing persons before his gaze came back to rest on her. "Yea. Henry mentioned you wanted to keep using this place. He has control of this place too, now that Jacob is gone," he reminded her.

Cady nodded; she knew that, but she wasn't sure why her dad was here. "Yea, dad, I know. Did you stop by to make sure I'm okay?" she probed, giving him a curious look.

Walt's mouth pursed again and he shook his head firmly, reaching up to remove his hat, clutching it between his hands as he chewed over his thoughts for a moment. "No. Vic told me you were resting. That you needed some space. I just…I didn't…I don't understand what you're doing here," he murmured, waving the hand holding his hat around at the room.

Cady frowned heavily at him, "It's part of our investigation into the missing women. There aren't enough resources between the reservation police and the county to find everyone. So we're putting up every missing person with all the details and asking the public to contribute information. We're also going to create a website that links all the tribal police together so they can share their data and give the FBI access to create pattern recognition. It's about finding missing people," she told him.

Walt looked around the rooms again, staring a little harder at the photos, nodding slowly. "This your idea?" he asked softly.

Cady nodded, and then, since he was still looking at the photos, said, "Yea. Mathias agreed it would be a good idea. Too many of the reservations don't have the resources to investigate these cases or know that their women and young girls are being trafficked. With help from the FBI, we're going to change that."

He turned back to her and nodded slowly, a faint glow of pride in his eyes when he smiled softly at her. He fidgeted with his hat for a moment, staring down at the floor before he sighed out his question.

"You seein Mathias?"

Cady stared at him, stunned speechless. Swallowing hard, she struggled to come up with an answer and finally settled on, "Why does it matter?"

Walt looked up and his brow pinched as he grunted out a sigh, "Because, I want to know you're safe. You were with him when you were taken."

Incredulity left her gaping at him for a moment, anger burning in her veins slowly, pumping along with each heartbeat until it filled her.

"And? He wasn't the one who took me!" she was shouting by the end, fumingly mad.

"It was a gang, Dad. It was a group of men who planned on beating information out of me, raping me, and murdering me." At her father's flinch she nearly relented but instead took a step forward, the anger throbbing in her chest like a hornet's nest.

"They drugged me, beat me, raped and abused other women in front of me to try and get me to talk, half starved me, and I had to kill them to get free. That's all on them, and no one else."

Lifting her chin to meet the eyes that were twins of her own, she glared at her father, "Mathias is my partner in this investigation. He's my friend. I care about him. Kinda like you and Vic," she murmured, noting the way he flinched at the comparison between the couples.

"Anything else that goes on between Mathias and I is our business. We're adults and I expect you to respect our privacy. Kinda like how I do for you and Vic," she snapped before stepping back.

The words hung awkwardly between them as Walt clutched his hat, twisting and crushing it between his hands, clearly searching for something to say. Finally he heaved a sigh and shook his head, looking tired.

"I just want you to be safe. And happy. If he ever doesn't do that—"

"I'll handle it," she cut him off, frowning at him deeply. "I'm an adult. I don't need you to fight my battles dad. I might have needed you guys to come and rescue me from those men, but I can do this. If I need you, I'll tell you."

Silence fell between them once more and she watched as her father's shoulders hitched, his breathing unsteady. It took her a long moment to realize he was struggling not to cry. Shock rippled through her.

She hadn't seen him cry since her mother had died.

In a heartbeat she was across the room, wrapping her arms around his broad shoulders. "Oh daddy," she sighed as he clutched a hand to her head, fingers twining through her hair. His other arm banded around her waist tightly, as though he was afraid to let her go, and she could feel him shaking with silent sobs against her.

"I th-thought…it was…like your mom," he gasped by her ear and she felt her heart break at the admission.

Like her mom.

Gone, taken, murdered.

Tears welled in her eyes and she clung to him a little tighter. Sniffling, she shook her head against his shoulder, "I'm here dad, I'm okay," she tried to reassure him.

His fingers tightened on her hair and she felt his face turn to press wet kisses into it, his hot breath panting as he cried. "I thought I lost you Cady. I thought I was losing everything I had left."

Tears rolled down her cheeks unabated, her throat so tight she could barely breathe let alone speak. She could only shake her head in refutation of her father's fears and cling a little tighter to him.

He pressed kisses to her hair over and over again, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I wasn't fast enough. I shoulda found you sooner. I shoulda kept you safe. I'm sorry."

Cady shook her head and pulled back slightly, looking up at him through teary eyes. "It wasn't your fault dad. It was no one's fault but the people who took me. Mathias and I, we're going to find the people behind them and stop them. We're going to make sure women on the reservations are safe."

Walt took a few shaky breaths and knuckled at his eyes for a moment before he sighed heavily, shaking his head and giving her a proud, slightly incredulous smile. "I knew it was a good idea for you to be Sheriff," he murmured.

Sliding his hand from her hair to cup her cheek he smiled warmly at her. "Your mother would be so proud of you. I know I am," he told her softly. When a tear slipped from her eye he brushed it aside and continued, "I love you Punk. Do what makes you happy. Be with someone who makes you happy. Keep bein' you and you'll always make me proud," he told her softly.

Smiling softly he leaned down and pressed a kiss to her forehead before stepping back and sweeping his hat back on, glancing once more around the former clinic, giving it a nod of approval.

Stopping at the door, he turned to smile back at her.

"Damn fine work Sheriff."


By the time she could even think about focusing on the form again, Mathias was back with the food. Instead of staying there to work on everything more, she suggested they go to her place and eat.

When Mathias stared at her for a moment longer than normal she wrinkled her brow in confusion, "What's up? Do you, do you not want to go to my place?" she asked hesitantly. They had spent plenty of time at his house without comment, she wasn't sure why he wouldn't want to come to her place.

When he looked uncomfortable she straightened from where she had been packing her laptop into her bag and propped her hands on her hips, "Mathias, what is it? Are you worried people are going to gossip?" she asked hesitantly. Scrubbing a hand over her neck she frowned at him, "Do you not want to come with me?" she asked in a smaller voice, hating that her insecurities were slipping out.

At this, Mathias shook his head and sighed, "No, Cady, no. I just, I wasn't sure if you had meant for me to come eat dinner and work, or to…stay," he told her awkwardly, one of his hands furrowing through his hair.

Oh. She stared at him for a long moment and then flushed, glancing away. She hadn't thought about it like that. She had stayed at his place last night, admittedly, but nothing remotely sexual had happened.

She hadn't meant it like that when she had invited him over, it had just been instinct. She liked her home and wanted him to spend time there…with her. She liked how he had made her feel safe when he had stayed before, when she had asked, after Mandy.

Smiling softly, she looked up at him and stepped over, holding his gaze as she reached out to wrap her fingers around his bicep, squeezing softly. "I think you should come over and have dinner with me. We'll work on this form, watch a movie, and I'll probably fall asleep on the couch."

At this he grinned and she trailed her fingers down his arm, along the inside of his forearm and into his palm, splaying out his fingers gently. His eyes were warm when she met them, her fingertips dancing along his palm.

"Sound good?" she asked softly, eyes questioning.

He nodded and laced their fingers together, smiling softly and sending a spiral of warmth through her.

"Sounds good."


Cady was true to her word and fell asleep halfway through the movie—even though it was one she had picked.

Mathias didn't mind though, especially because they had ended up sprawled out with her laying between his legs with her head resting on his chest, just under his chin. His palm was pressed into her spine and he could feel the slow steady beat of her heart against it, reassuring and strong.

It reminded him, awfully, of the moment she had flatlined in the med-evac and he had thought she was gone. He hadn't known such fear as the hours she had spent in surgery and the ICU; every thought and prayer he had was about her recovery.

She had been given heart medication while she detoxed and her body readjusted to sobriety, and from what she had told him, it would only be a few more days that she had to take it. Her ribs and gunshot wound were healing well, but he knew she was still in pain, despite her best efforts to act otherwise.

His own fracture was still healing; neither of them were at 100%, but he knew they had reliable deputies to aid them. When it came down to it, he had to think that they were both lucky to have come away with relatively minor injuries from their jobs…so far.

It was the knowledge that the Infinitarios now knew Cady and he were coming after them and would likely be stepping up their retaliation that made his blood run cold. He didn't want to ever have to see her picture on a poster for a missing person again, or worse.

As the credits rolled on the movie he glanced down at her sleeping form and made another silent promise to whatever deity it was that had heard him the first time and given her back to him.

I'm a selfish bastard I know, but let me keep her safe and I'll hunt those bastards down. I'll find justice for Emily and every person they've ever taken. Just let me have her by my side.

Chapter Text

With no little amount of satisfaction, Cady laced up her running sneakers six weeks later and slid her headphones on before flinging open her front door and inhaling the fresh June air eagerly. It had been three days since the doctor had cleared her for a return to full activity, and she was ready.

She started slow and even, her pace steady, but slowly her eagerness won out and she was running at a faster pace than was normal for her, but given the circumstances felt amazing. Her lungs burned and her muscles ached and sweat poured down her brow and holy shit it felt so good.

Slowing steadily, she resumed a steadier pace and made the two mile loop in just under twenty-five minutes. As she walked up her front stairs she grinned, barely restraining herself from throwing her hands up in a Rocky-esque victory dance.

Her shower felt even more amazing.

By the time she was dressed in her uniform and driving to the office, a steady ache was settling into her quads and there was a slight discomfort from the scar where she had been shot, but it was all manageable.

Greeting Ferg and Vic, she made herself a cup of coffee and leaned against the doorframe, smiling at the deputies. "So, what have we got?" she asked, lifting a questioning brow.

Ferg shifted and Cady nodded at him, "Well, one of the waitresses from the casino that was forced into prostitution with Noreena came to Henry, asking for help. He called about twenty minutes ago and said she's ready to flip on them. Has customer names, bank account information, recorded conversations, everything we need."

Cady's brows shot up, "That's awfully convenient. What brought this on?" she asked.

"Apparently Noreena had been convincing the other women to come forward. When she was killed they got spooked. This woman decided she had to do something about it. Her little sister started at the casino last week. She's 18 and the men are already starting to corral her into this mess."

Cady stood straight and nodded, setting aside her mug. "Let's go Ferg. Vic, can you hold it down here?" she asked, waiting for the nod before she gathered her things and followed Ferg down to his vehicle.

She texted Mathias to let him know they were coming onto reservation land and smirked at his polite Thanks Sheriff, accompanied by a thumbs up emoji. He didn't seem the type to use emojis, but to her great surprise and amusement, sent them in nearly every text conversation they had.

She replied with an old man emoji and Don't sprain anything trying to be cool.

A moment later he replied. My cool is effortless. You, however are a giant pain in the ass. He had accompanied it with a peach emoji, eliciting sharp, surprised laughter from her.

That's not what that emoji means. Makin my point for me here, old man.

What's it mean then?

She flushed and glanced over at Ferg, who met her gaze quickly and gave her a curious look, lifting a brow. Shaking her head, she turned back to her conversation.

Google it. You know what google is, right?

HAHA. GIANT pain in my ass. Yes, I know what google is.

A few minutes passed and she waited for him to say something else. Her patience was rewarded.

Well shit. Guess I should stop sending that to the deputies then. They might be scarred forever.

At this she barked out a laugh and shook her head, ignoring Ferg's look of curiosity.

Probably. We'll be at the casino soon. Will one of your poor deputies be joining us?

Caleb will. Be nice, he's a good kid.

Will do. Are you free for dinner?

Not tonight, I'm havin dinner with a friend. Miracle of miracles though, I have Saturday off. You free?

She grinned. I can be. What did you have in mind?

Be ready at 9am, I'll pick you up.

Where are we going?

It's a surprise.

What should I wear?

Clothes. Jeans. Something comfortable.

Ok…see you then.

See you then little storm.


Cady and Ferg greeted Caleb politely, Cady a little more warmly considering how often she had seen him around the res police station and worked with him in the past months. He smiled softly at her and motioned to her face and torso, "Looks good. Healin well?" he asked curiously.

She nodded and sat across from him in Henry's office, the trio waiting as her uncle summoned the waitress from the floor.

"I just got the all clear from the doctors a few days ago to start regular exercise again. I went for a run this morning and I'm thinking of going for a hike this weekend since the weather is looking so clear," she told him conversationally.

"You should check out the trail on Blind Man's Peak. This time of year the flowers are blooming and you can see for miles from the peak. It's a good hike to get you started back," he suggested.

She smiled warmly at him and nodded eagerly, "That sounds awesome, thank you Caleb!"

The younger man flushed slightly and ducked his head at the praise, his response cut off by the arrival of the waitress being shepherded in by Henry. He gently guided her over to the couches and kept a reassuring hand on her shoulder as they sat.

Henry met Cady's gaze and she could see the warmth and concern there, the lines around his eyes making him look tired and old. "Maya, this is Sheriff Longmire, Deputy Ferguson, and Deputy Stillwater."

Cady's gaze flashed to Caleb in surprise.

Stillwater? But that's Mathias's name? Are they related?

Caleb noticed her confusion and flushed in apparent embarrassment, smiling nervously at her before leaning over and murmuring, "Cousins."

Nodding slowly she turned her attention back to the woman. She would place her no more than 30 years old, but a haunted look in her eyes lent grave age to her face. Cady gave her a friendly smile and extended her hand, "Maya, it's nice to meet you. I'm Cady," she murmured warmly.

Maya stared at her hand for a moment before accepting it, her grip surprisingly firm. With a sharp sigh she stared down at her hands for a moment before looking back up, seemingly resigned.

"If they hadn't come after my sister, I might not have come in you know. It's not so bad for me. The customers are always wealthy and they know they can't get rough because we have to be on the floor and be seen. But Casey," she hesitated and shook her head, "she's just a kid. I'm tryin to send her to college. Get her outta here. Give her a real shot."

Her mouth twisted bitterly, "She's not gonna get that if she's forced onto her back for every asshole that comes in here. Especially not when they're trying to make us take drugs," she spat angrily.

Cady and Ferg exchanged a look and Cady held up a hand, pausing Maya. "Maya, do you mind if I record this? I want to make sure we get everything on the record."

Maya thought about it for a long moment and then nodded slowly, "Will you promise me something nótaxe?" she asked softly, her gaze solemn.

Henry gazed sharply between the two women, the significance of the title perfectly clear to him. Cady glanced at him briefly and then nodded at Maya.

"Will you protect Casey? Will you make sure these men don't hurt her? If something happened to me, would you make sure she gets out?" Maya asked, peering at her searchingly.

Cady felt the weight of responsibility fall heavily on her shoulders. Was this what the title of nótaxe meant? That she was the warrior for every downtrodden member of the tribe? That anyone could call on her for help?

Then it struck her.

Wasn't that exactly what a sheriff was?

Being nótaxe meant that she answered to the tribe, that she aided those who needed it, who perhaps had no other recourse. A less brutal Hector, a warrior of hope.

Something in her seemed to click into place with this realization and she finally felt at ease with the title that Mathias had bestowed on her weeks ago.

Realizing that Maya was still waiting for an answer, she nodded and reached out to take the other woman's hand. "I swear I will do everything I can to help Casey get a good education. I will keep her safe and healthy and happy if something happens to you. I will also do everything I can to keep you safe. You have my word. As nótaxe."

Maya breathed out heavily, the lines on her brow smoothing out and over her shoulder Cady saw Henry staring at her incredulously, eyes shining with pride.

"Now, what can you tell us about these men?"


"And then she promised as nótaxe to do everything she could to help Casey get a good education, to keep her safe and healthy and happy if something happened to Maya, and to keep Maya safe!"

Caleb looked awed as he related what had happened at the casino to Mathias, shaking his head as he sipped a beer. Mathias studied the younger man with amusement, enjoying the obvious crush his cousin had on Cady.

Mathias shook his head lightly and took another bite of his burger, figuring if his mouth was full he couldn't say something sarcastic.

"She's really something. I mean I know she messed up helping Catori, but, she's put her life on the line for our missing women. People need to start cutting her some slack," Caleb mused, taking another sip of beer.

Mathias chewed and nodded, hiding his smirk.

"What are you doing with your day off tomorrow anyway?" Caleb asked, leaning forward, "I only have a few hours in the morning, but I was thinking we could go fishing."

Mathias's brow wrinkled with regret, "I'm sorry Caleb, I've already got plans. I'm…seeing someone," he murmured hesitantly.

Caleb's eyes went wide and he leaned forward, grinning. "I thought you and Angela were done?!" he murmured excitedly. "Who is it?"

Mathias hesitated even further, words dying in his mouth. What he and Cady had was undefined and brand new, like a foal still learning to stand. He didn't want gossip on the res to tear her apart, or what they had.

Swallowing hard he shook his head, "It's not someone from the res. We're taking it slow," he told the younger man, giving him a solemn look. "Keeping it private," he emphasized.

Caleb nodded enthusiastically and grinned, "Good for you man."

Mathias smiled faintly at him and took a long sip of beer, thinking that yea, it was good. Even better was the fact he was getting to see her tomorrow. Smiling a little wider, he listened as Caleb began chattering excitedly about the latest girl he was dating, his excitement enthusiastic and infectious.

It occurred to him later that he was happy, really and truly happy, for the first time in a very long time.


When he pulled up in front of her house at 8:57am the next day she flung the door open and emerged with a wide grin, watching as his gaze raked down her legs. She had decided to wear denim shorts that cut across mid thigh, leaving long expanses of leg bared to his gaze.

She grinned as she bounced down the steps, a light windbreaker half zipped so he could see her lightweight shirt underneath. "So where are we going?" she asked as she hopped into his truck, angling her body towards his as he revved the engine and then pulled away.

He smirked at her out of the corner of his mouth and pushed his aviators up a little higher, "You'll see," he murmured.

She gave a little huff and he reached out to lay a hand on her bare thigh, his calloused fingers spreading out so her breath hitched a little. Her gaze met his briefly and he shot her a warm grin before turning his attention back to the road.

As he drove he absently stroked the smooth skin of her thigh, enjoying the companionable silence. Eventually he pulled the truck over and waved her out, grabbing the backpack he had packed for them before heading for the trail that peeked out from between two trees.

Cady glanced around and saw a dilapidated house further up the road, but not much else. Frowning, she followed Mathias onto the path, casting a nervous glance at the house. "There's no one that's going to be upset with us for trespassing is there?" she asked.

Shaking his head, he held back a branch for her, gaze warm as she stepped close. "No, property is abandoned," he told her.

They walked on, his steps sure and true, following the path that was barely there.

"You seem like you know where you're going," she commented, earning her a nod. When he didn't say anything she huffed softly in frustration, "What happened to the owners of the property?" she asked, hurrying to walk beside him.

He glanced over at her and then adjusted the backpack, the gesture nervous. "They're gone. The husband went to jail 20 years ago and the wife died about 12 years ago."

Cady studied him, brushing a strand of her hair back. "No kids?"

He ducked his chin, "Boy and a girl," he murmured tensely.

She quieted, contemplating what little he had told her as they walked, barely noticing as their surroundings slowly changed. When Mathias came to a halt, she bumped into him, letting out a soft oof as he grabbed onto her arm to steady her.

Grimacing apologetically, he loosened his grip and slid his hand down to take hers, "Come on," he murmured, tugging gently till she followed him through a tree line and into a clearing.

Cady felt like she had been dropped into a dream.

Flowers of every kind bloomed around her, the air warm and fragrant as the breeze blew lightly.

Mathias stepped up beside her, his knuckles drifting over the back of her hand.

"This was the only good place in my life. Emily and I would come here and lay in the sun for hours, dreaming of all the places we wanted to go. Anywhere but here," he told her softly.

Cady turned to him, brow furrowed softly, "What happened?"

He sighed and looked out at the expanse of flowers, mouth turned down. "My father was a drunk. He beat my mother relentlessly. I tried to stop him when I was a teenager, but I was a skinny kid, so more often than not he'd knock me out. When he started going after Emily though," he shook his head, "mom just couldn't handle it anymore. She went to the police and they took him away. He got out after three years and was back in two and a half years later for killing a family on the res while he was driving drunk."

Despite the horror crawling through her chest, she knew that wasn't everything.

"After Emily disappeared, my mom just…she diminished. I dunno if it was because of how bad he beat her, but she started to forget things. Little things at first. Then people. Then she forgot to turn the stove off and killed herself in a house fire."

Mathias shook his head as he looked back in the direction of the house, mouth turned down in sorrow. "I should have ripped that house down years ago. But I guess I've just been waiting for Emily to come back. Hoping."

He scoffed and looked to her, and her heart broke. His eyes were bright with unshed tears and grief. "I told you I stopped hoping a long time ago, but I think I've been hopin and waitin this whole damn time. Too stupid to know she's dead. Too stupid to give up."

At this, Cady stepped forward, shaking her head as she laced her fingers around the nape of his neck, her thumbs caressing throat and jaw. "No, no Mathias. You weren't stupid. That hope has kept you going, has brought you here. You needed that hope. Wherever she is, Emily needed it."

She felt his hands curl around her waist and he pulled her a little closer, her forehead coming to rest against his. She felt it when he took a deep, shaky breath.

They stood like that for some time, silent and holding each other.

Eventually Mathias tilted his head to smile faintly at her, "Wanna have a picnic?" he offered, surprising her.

With a soft laugh she nodded and stepped back, watching as he pulled a blanket out of his backpack and spread it on the ground. She followed his lead and sat, watching as he pulled out sandwiches and bottles of water.

When they had finished eating she pulled her jacket off and pillowed it, reclining so the sun shone on her face. Mathias stared down at her for a minute, and then did the same, his shoulder brushing hers as he settled.

The sun warmed her skin, making her lazy and drowsy. Without thought she rolled over, snuggling into Mathias's side. He stiffened in surprise for a moment and then smiled, wrapping an arm around her waist.

Her copper head was tucked beneath his chin and he could smell the sunshine and flowers in her hair. Her fingers traced lazy patterns over his tshirt and he could feel half her mouth pressed against him curving into a smile.

Contentment filled him so deeply it felt like a piece of the sun had fallen and lodged in his chest.


Cady only realized she had dozed off when she woke up, her head still tucked under Mathias's chin. She felt the steady rise and fall of his chest beneath her cheek that told her he too had fallen asleep and she smiled softly, closing her eyes once more.

She sort of couldn't believe how perfect this day had been, despite the sorrow that clung to the edges. At the thought of Mathias's family, her eyes popped open, staring up at the sky as she pondered what he had told her.

Mathias had said that he and Emily's father had been put in jail a second time after she had disappeared, this time for vehicular manslaughter. A part of her wondered; if he was a big enough bastard to beat his wife and children and drive drunkenly and kill someone, was he a big enough bastard to kill his daughter?

It was a dark thought, one that sent an involuntary shiver over her skin.

"You cold?"

Mathias's low raspy voice startled her and she looked up at him in surprise to find him watching her with warm, sleepy eyes. His lips were curled into a faint smile, affection softening the lines around his mouth.

Shaking her head, she brushed the hair back from his face and he smiled a little brighter, reaching a hand across his chest to run his knuckles over her cheeks before he tucked her bright hair back, rubbing it between his fingers.

"What were you thinking about?" he asked quietly.

Without a doubt, she knew she didn't want to tell him. Not right now anyway.

So she smiled and distracted him, leaning in so her breasts were pressed against his side and her hand was braced on his shoulder. He watched her with wide, dark eyes as she smirked faintly and leaned in, her lips a breath from his.

"Kissing you. I didn't know if you would think it was disrespectful, here," she murmured, casting a quick, pointed gaze around the field of flowers.

Shaking his head he wetted his lips, the action drawing her gaze. "Nah. Not to me. And Emily woulda found it funny. Me bringing a woman here to romance her."

Cady's brows shot up and she grinned playfully, "Romance me, huh?" she teased, "Well, did you ever bring a girl here?" she asked, tilting her head to study him.

Mathias grinned and slid a hand around her hips, pulling her a little more securely against him. "Remember how I told you I was skinny?" she nodded, "Well, not too many girls liked that. They wanted a-uh, Dirty Dancing, Johnny Castle type, a handsome rebel, and I just wasn't like that. I liked reading and fishing and horseback riding at my grandmothers'."

Cady smiled softly, affection swelling within her until it felt like her chest might burst. Leaning down, she caught his lips with hers, startling a soft noise of surprise from him that quickly slid into one of pleasure.

Her mouth was soft and slow, moving over his like honey, each kiss leaving him wanting more. She shifted, her legs straddling his hips so she was pressed fully against him, but instead of a flare of heat between them it was a gentle tide of warmth that rocked and swelled slowly.

Mathias slid a hand beneath the hem of her shirt, fingers idly tracing patterns as their lips continued to meet. When he felt like he couldn't breathe she seemed to know, pulling back to place light soft kisses on his tender lips, soft drops of affection dotting his jaw before she came back for more.

He wasn't sure how long they stayed like that, desire like molasses in his veins, the sweet heat of her body under his palms. About the time cold drops of rain began spattering on their exposed skin he realized it was thundering and a few moments later it was raining in earnest.

Cady leapt up with a dismayed cry, laughing as she grabbed his hand and pulled him to his feet. Hurriedly they grabbed the blanket and shoved it into his backpack, taking off at a run for his truck.

Lightning and thunder chased them back, the long grass slapping wetly against Cady's bare skin as they ran, stinging for a moment before it faded into the background. When they stumbled onto the side of the road he unlocked the truck in a fumble of keys and swearing.

They dove inside, laughing and cursing as limbs slipped on leather, shivering in the rapidly cooling air. Mathias started the engine and turned on the heat, glancing over at Cady in concern as she shivered.

Their eyes met and her eyes were like tempests, rivaling that of the one out the window.

"I'm cold."

His tongue darted out to his lips nervously and her gaze went to it hungrily.

"You want the blanket?" he offered quietly.

Her brow wrinkled with dry amusement and she shook her head.

"I want you to warm me up," she murmured.

He stared at her for just a moment before nodding, glancing out the windshield at the storm. "My place is close. You want to—"

"Yes."

His mouth curled with amusement and he shifted the truck into gear, pulling away from the road. Cady watched him for a moment; watched his hands guide the truck, his movements sure and true and some part of her felt another little piece of rightness click into place.

It was strange and inexplicable, but there it was.

For so many years it had felt like her world was spinning like a weather vane, trying to find the source of the tempest battering at her, wearing her thin. With Mathias it felt like she had somehow taken that storm inside of her, controlled it, and now they were watching the pouring rain together.

He steadied and strengthened her, had faith in her, gave her courage, believed in her…was her friend. It occurred to her as she watched him that she hadn't had that before, not really.

She and Branch had started as a twisted little flirtation; a way to get back at her father that had ended up hurting her more than her father.

Isaac had been a college one-night stand that had morphed into a friends-with-benefits relationship and a deeper sort of friendship over the years.

The other men she had been with hadn't been as deeply connected as she and Mathias were, and she knew it was in part because of their work. Whatever the reasons, she was grateful. Hell, she was more than that.

She was…falling for him.

"Cady?"

She looked up and realized they were sitting outside his house, the rain pattering down on the roof of the truck noisily. Her eyes were wide with realization and he stared at her in concern.

"Are you ok?" he asked, reaching a hand out to take her hand, frowning when he felt how cold it still was. "Shit, you're freezing, come on," he urged, shutting off the truck and hurrying her out.

She didn't really feel anything until they were inside and the heat of the house was flush against her skin, sending ripples of chills over her body. Mathias cursed and kicked off his boots, urging her to do the same before he pulled her jacket off and tugged her down the hall to his bedroom.

"Take your wet clothes off, I'll get you a sweater," he told her, voice firm and urgent.

She nodded unevenly, mind still slightly numb from her realization. Her fingers were fumbling as she plucked at her clothes, stripping off her shirt and tossing it aside before they went to her denim shorts and slipped on the button twice.

Mathias turned from his dresser, sweater in hand, and saw her numb fingers struggling and stepped forward, his replacing hers swiftly. She shivered as he unbuttoned her shorts and tugged them down, crouching to help pull them off.

Her brain woke up as he touched her, the sensation sending shivers of another kind over her skin.

Mathias frowned and shook his head, "I'm sorry, we're going to get you warm, I promise," he murmured as he rose to his feet.

Cady grabbed the sweater from his hands and tossed it on the bed, ignoring his noise of protest in favor of stepping close to push his wet jacket off. Her eyes met his and he saw something there that kept him from objecting any further.

Her fingers worked quickly, if not smoothly, to unbutton his shirt, pushing it off his shoulders and down his arms, slowly revealing his bare chest to her. She had seen him like this once or twice before, but never at her own hands.

Slowly, her fingers trailed over the bones of his clavicle, pressed into the muscles of his shoulders, slid over his firm pectorals and abdomen and came to rest on his belt. He shivered under her touch, heat rising under his skin, anticipation making his pulse rise.

Her eyes looked like a sea storm when they met his, dark as night.

Now nimble fingers unbuckled his belt, leaving it hanging as she worked his jeans open slowly. She left them hanging on his hips, appreciating the fine line of his waist for a moment before she leaned in to kiss him.

He kissed her back eagerly, moaning when her tongue flicked against his before retreating to tease his lower lip. She played with his mouth then, kissing him softer as her hand curled around the nape of his neck, her cool body pressing against his so he could feel her rain dampened skin.

Nails scraped his waist, sending shivers over his spine. Slowly she trailed her fingers down, teasing him as her mouth did, her thumb dipping down to caress the soft skin of his pelvis for a moment before retreating.

He made a noise that could only be described as a whimper and Cady smirked against his mouth, nipping a little harder there. She retreated again, letting him catch his breath, just as her hand slid beneath his briefs and cupped him firmly.

Choking on a moan, his hips pushed into her touch instinctively. "Fuck," he hissed, gasping against her mouth, "Fuck, Cady," he whispered. Her mouth pressed firmly against his, tasting the desire in the way he kissed her back with reckless abandon.

She stepped back then, eyes flashing with desire as she backed away towards the bed, reaching back to unclip her bra. Mathias stared at her hungrily, watching as she slid the lace edged cups down and then tossed the garment aside, leaving her dusky nipples bare and peaked under his gaze.

Cady leaned back on the bed, resting her weight on her elbows as she stretched a foot out towards him, her toes arching to brush against his stomach. Mathias stepped forward and grabbed the appendage, yanking gently so her ankle was level with his mouth and he could press a kiss to the bone.

His eyes remained on hers as he mouthed up her calf, his fingers sliding slowly up the back of her leg able to feel the shivers running over her skin. Desire had turned his eyes into fathomless pits that she was sure she was going to drown in.

Crouching over her, his mouth skimmed over her thigh, nipping at the delicate skin along the inside before he sucked at it, fingers sinking into her flesh as she moaned and rolled her hips. When he pulled back a red spot was rising beneath the skin and a flush of primal lust swelled within him.

When he met her eyes he saw the same kind of desire in her gaze and a low growl rumbled in his chest, a wave of need rushing through him. Surging forward, he balanced on one hand, the other fisting in her hair as he kissed her firmly.

Cady moaned into the embrace, heart racing in her chest at the sensation of her erect, sensitive nipples brushing against Mathias's chest as he kissed her senseless. Her hips arched into his, desperate for some kind of relief from the pulsing need throbbing between her thighs, but it wasn't enough.

Mathias heard her noise of frustration and pulled back, shedding his jeans and briefs rapidly before he was back, his mouth falling on her neck as his hands spanned her waist, caressing the expanse of silky skin beneath him.

Cady writhed languidly as Mathias pressed kisses to her neck, alternating out soft delicate caresses with hot opened mouth ones that she was sure were leaving marks, all the while whispering in her ear.

"You're so goddamned beautiful Cady."

His hands felt like they were spanning her waist, tender and reverent in the way they held her, and when he slid them up to hesitate just under her breasts, he breathed out almost prayerfully as he caressed the soft skin there.

"Goddamnit Cady…I can't…you're so fuckin soft."

She laughed quietly at that and he leaned up to meet her eyes, his gaze earnest when she smiled at him. Her fingers tangled in his hair to pull him close for a kiss, until he pulled away with a soft sound, a questioning look on his face.

"Can I…" he trailed off and slid a hand down her waist, tucking his fingers around the band of her underwear as he lifted a brow.

Amusement shot through Cady. "Are you asking if you can eat me out?" she asked huskily, a barely restrained laugh obvious in her voice.

Mathias grinned, eyes warm, and nodded tugging at the band once more. "I know some women don't like it. But I," he paused and swallowed hard, looking near desperate as he whispered, "fuck I wanna taste you, Cady."

She stared at him, breathless for a minute and then nodded jerkily, arching her hips so he could pull them off. In a heartbeat he was kissing down her neck, one of his large hands holding onto her waist as she rolled her hips into him with a needy sound.

She could feel his erection against her thigh and fuck if it didn't feel amazing. She wanted him inside her so badly, but the thought of him getting her off with his mouth…her hips rolled again and she whined softly, wetness coating her slowly.

As his tongue circled around her nipple she gasped, aching need swelling within her. Her fingers buried in the sheets as he continued slowly, taking his time to tease around each nipple for a few moments before flicking at them, driving her crazy touch by touch.

"Oh fuck, Mathias…uhhh shit!" she gasped as he took one nipple between his teeth and tugged on it. Stars crowded her vision, and when he continued to tease both breasts thusly, she was reduced to gasping his name, cursing and moaning softly.

Rubbing her thighs together in a desperate need for release, she whined as Mathias kissed slowly away from her breasts and onto her stomach. He was taking his time and it was fucking killing her.

Grabbing his hair, she yanked his head up, "I need your mouth on me, now," she hissed, rolling her hips as if to demonstrate her need. Mathias, to her utter frustration, grinned and reached up, pulling her hand from his hair before he pressed a kiss to her palm and then resumed kissing his way down her stomach.

It seemed he was going to take his time, her aching, needy body be damned.

Whimpering softly, she collapsed back against the mattress and tried to just succumb to the sensations swimming through her veins. He mouthed around her thighs and hips slowly, and she could feel his smirk against her skin, her frustration reaching new levels knowing he was deliberately teasing her.

"Goddamnit Mathias," she gasped as he avoided her cunt for the third time, her thighs shaking by now, "If you don't fucking touch me soon I'm going to kill you," she growled. His laughter was muffled against her thigh and when she looked down, his onyx eyes were sparkling with amusement and affection.

"Okay little storm," he acceded, giving her a smile and a soft kiss to her hip. In a flash, he was back between her legs, only this time he was spreading her open and his tongue…oh fuck his tongue.

Her head snapped back and she gasped for air, her chest rattling with desire. Her knuckles were white where they clung to the bed, searching for something to ground her as his tongue made her fly.

When he thrust his tongue into her she cried out his name, one of her arms falling over her face as she sobbed a broken cry of pleasure, her hips rolling into the tempo of his tongue fucking her.

"Christ!"

"Oh fuck!"

"Mathias…ah! Ah!"

Each exclamation seemed to encourage him further; he pinned her hips down and with one hand began to stroke over her clit softly with his thumb.

Her breath stuttered in her chest. It was…too much. And not enough.

Fuck, didn't he know he was killing her?

She struggled, not sure if she was trying to get free or get more, but he pinned her down tighter, his thumb stroking faster and she shuddered; yes, that was what she had needed.

Mathias pulled back, replacing his tongue with two fingers, groaning at how easily they slid in, curling them slowly against the rough little patch under her pelvic bone. He glanced up to watch her, panting unevenly as she groaned and writhed, whining his name and begging for more.

He gladly obliged, drunk on her taste, on the way she moaned his name, on the way she looked as she breathed unsteadily, a flush pinking the skin of her chest and cheeks. His mouth closed over her clit and he began stroking it with firm determined licks, listening as her cries grew louder and increasingly needier.

Cady couldn't breathe, oh god, she was on fire and she was dying, but god, she needed more.

As though he had heard her thoughts, Mathias sucked on her clit and his fingers inside her fucked her over the precipice she had been dancing on and she came with a broken cry of his name. Shivering and convulsing around him, she gasped for air, throat like the desert from her ranged cries.

Even as her body shuddered with aftershocks Mathias continued to suck and lick at her clit, rapidly building the pressure up within her belly. Cady writhed, rolling her hips into him even as she trembled with tiny shocks of overstimulation.

His fingers crooked inside her and his tongue pressed firmly against her and she was, oh god, she was coming again. Mathias pulled back and let her go, watching as she gasped, relatively silent through this one.

When she began to breathe more normally he crawled back up and pulled her arm from across her eyes, nudging her cheek with his knuckles. Eventually her eyes opened and she smiled dazedly at him.

"Guess…you weren't lying about the whole screamin your name thing," she quipped, and it took him a moment, but then he was laughing, and laughing hard. His forehead dropped against hers and he could feel her body rolling against his with gentle laughter and her hands slid around his shoulders, holding him close.

Tilting his chin, he kissed her, still smirking.

When he pulled back she chased his mouth and nipped his lower lip for a moment before giving him a devious grin. "If I didn't want you inside me so badly, I'd say that I should repay the offer and make you come with my mouth."

His mind went goddamn blank at that, the only thing he could think was of her, and that smart ass mouth of hers wrapped around his cock and holy fuck…he wanted that.

Cady saw it in his face and leaned up to kiss him again, her tongue running over his for a moment before she pulled away. Pushing at his shoulder, she easily toppled him over onto his back and then crawled into his lap, watching as his gaze darkened once more as she sank down, his cock trapped between them.

Leaning down, she rolled her hips, grinding into him as her lips glided over his teasingly. She kept up a slow, steady roll of her hips, lips brushing against his as she stared into his eyes, watching as he slowly lost what little control he had left.

Fire danced in his blood and when he was sure he was going to go insane, Mathias groaned and leaned into the kiss, hand fisting in her hair to hold her closer. When they were both grinding into each other and desperate for air he pulled back, breath panting against her slick and swollen lips.

Dazedly he stared at her, swallowing hard.

It was now or never, he decided.

"I got tested after I broke up with Ang," he muttered hurriedly, watching as her brow furrowed for a moment before understanding dawned in her eyes. "I'm clean, but we can do whatever you want for protection," he told her, silently telling his dick to shut up and ignore the fact that her cunt was currently pressed into him in a very distracting way.

She stared at him for a moment, still breathing unsteadily before she nodded slowly. "I haven't been with anyone other than Zach recently," she admitted, looking away nervously. His hands squeezed her hips in encouragement; he didn't really like the idea of her and Zach, but he also didn't get a fucking opinion on her sexual history—he was smart enough to know that.

She smiled hesitantly, "I've got an IUD and I got tested after the abduction because of what they injected me with. I'm clean," she admitted, "thank god," she tacked on with a look of relief.

He lifted a brow and trailed his thumb over her hip, "So…" he drawled slowly.

She grinned and pressed both hands into his chest, arching her hips up and reaching between them to angle him towards her soaked entrance.

"So…uhh!" she whispered brokenly as the head of his cock slipped in, "unnnhh, I want…" she exhaled slowly as she sunk down, "you to…" she bit her lip as he stretched her walls deliciously, a low groan sliding from her throat, "ohhh fuck me."

Sweat beaded on his forehead and he nodded eagerly. He could do that.

Where his hands rested on her waist he gripped tighter, watching as she sank down the last few inches, the sight of him spreading her open making his throat so dry he could barely breathe. She rested above him for a moment and then began rolling her hips, a low broken moan coming from her throat as her spine arched into the movement.

Mathias stared at her in awe; he had never seen anything so beautiful as Cady Longmire fucking herself on his cock. Sweat lay in a sheen on her skin, making her breasts gleam, the long lines of her throat standing out as she tossed her head back, her long copper hair falling down her spine like a waterfall of fire.

There was a smaller thatch of fire between her legs where he had tasted and he watched as her strong thighs worked, muscles flexing as she rode him, her gasps of his name making his cock twitch inside her.

Sliding a hand up her waist, he cupped one of her breasts and caught her gaze, holding her eyes as he ran his thumb over her nipple repeatedly. The corresponding clench of her pussy made him curse and thrust harder into her, eliciting a moan from her, which only made him want her to do it again…so he did.

She shook her head slowly as he touched her, biting her lip, her hips rolling faster.

"Fuck…" she rasped, breath hitching around the words as his hips jolted up into her, "Mathias…what…" she gasped as he rolled her nipple between his fingers, her nails raking his chest, "what are you doing to me?" she demanded weakly, digging her nails in.

In response he thrust into her harder, growling when she cried out and dug into his chest, his name a soft exclamation on her lips. Leaning up on one arm, he abandoned her breast and wrapped a hand around her sweaty neck to draw her down for a fevered kiss.

As his hips slapped into hers, she moaned against his lips, shivering in delight. "What're you doin?" she repeated, nipping at his lip as she wound her arms around his shoulders.

Wrapping his hand around her chin he brought her gaze to his, watching for a moment as he ran his thumb over her lip before he lifted his gaze back to hers, gaze steady as he whispered the truth to her.

"'M givin you...me," he gasped, sitting up further, winding his arm around her waist and drawing her knees around his hips. She gasped as the change in angle allowed him to drive deeper into her.

"Everythin I am," he murmured against her throat as he left yet more marks.

She felt something inside her start to crack open and pressed her face into his sweaty hair as he assaulted her throat, her heat hammering so fast she thought it would burst from her chest.

"Everythin I was," he gasped as she whimpered and rolled her hips faster, chasing her release.

Oh…she needed more. Touch me she rasped to him and he willingly obliged, because hell, he would do anything for her, and even in the middle of this, that thought terrified him and made so much fuckin sense.

"Everything I'll be" he groaned, feeling the heat in his belly glowing like a grenade, pin pulled and ready to explode. Cady ground down on him, bucking as his fingers rubbed her clit in hard circles until suddenly, she was coming, her fingers fisting in his hair and digging into his shoulder as she cried out his name in a choked wail.

Her cunt clenched around him a like a vise and he gave two aborted thrusts before it was too much and he was following her, the heat ripping out of his stomach like fireworks. He panted out her name, his fingers pressing into the small of her back and sliding away from her clit, feeling as her body shuddered around him.

Slowly Cady could feel her heart and breathing returning to somewhere around normal, though her forehead still remained resting on Mathias's shoulder. One of his hands rested on her hip as the other traced soothing patterns over her spine, and though she could feel him softening inside her she didn't want to move.

Her bladder soon let her know that wasn't an option so with a soft whisper of regret she pulled off him and hurried as best she could on shaky legs to the bathroom. When she reemerged Mathias had pulled down the covers and was sitting upright against the pillows, head leaning back against the wall with his eyes closed.

Grinning wryly she tiptoed over and climbed back into his lap, pressing kisses to his temple and eyes, "Did I wear you out? Hmm? Old man?" she teased.

His dark eyes opened slowly, warm with amusement, his mouth curling wryly.

"Old man huh?" he murmured.

She nodded solemnly, "I suppose you're less infirm than you were before, now that your arm is healed," she mused semi-seriously, playful glee in her eyes.

Snorting softly he rolled his eyes and slid a hand around her waist, fingers trailing up her spine slowly. "Oh?" he mused, a thoughtful look in his eyes. His gaze cut to hers and before she could fully register the devious look there, he had flipped her onto her back, pinning her hands above her head.

"Let me know if anyone else makes you come like I just did," he whispered in her ear, nipping at her jaw and damn, if she didn't feel arousal burning in her belly again.

Turning her head to meet his gaze she slid her legs around his and rolled her hips into his, lifting a brow to give him a sardonic look. "Anyone else?" she murmured questioningly, "And here I thought we were gonna go steady," she told him wryly—but he could hear the serious implications behind her sarcasm.

Mathias stared down at her for a moment before releasing her hands and leaning in to kiss her, his heart leaping uncomfortably when her hands came around his shoulders and pulled him closer.

When he pulled away he lifted a brow and stared at her steadily.

"There's not gonna be anyone else, not for me," he told her quietly.

Her smile was like the sun after the storm and once more her fingers fisted in his hair, pulling him back down to kiss her. Her palm splayed against his back, pulling him closer still, the beating of his heart steady under her fingers.

"Goddamn right," she whispered against his lips and he rumbled out a laugh, shaking his head before he kissed her again.

And again.

And again.

Chapter Text

Something was squawking…shrill and loud and she was going to murder it.

Rolling over in bed, Cady's eyes slitted open, searching for the evil bird that she was going to have to strangle. The sound began to repeat and her brain suddenly realized it was her phone ringing.

Swearing, she leaned up on one arm, reaching over Mathias's still sleeping form for her phone. After they had slept together a week ago, they had continued working as normal on the RICO case from the casino and the missing persons cases.

The only differences were the small details; now when she gave him his mug of coffee her fingers would slide against his and he would give her a suggestive smirk. The deputies from both the tribe and the county had noticed her calling him old man on more than one occasion and had been shocked to see Mathias grin at the nickname.

In the privacy of their office they would share brief touches of hands; fingers lacing together for a moment before releasing or knuckles brushing against the back of a hand before disappearing. When it was late at night someone would make a call and there would be hushed discussions of where they were staying that night.

The secrecy was less about a fear of being discovered and more a desire to keep what was theirs, theirs for just a little longer.

Which was why when Cady saw Isaac's name on her caller ID that morning she sighed and glanced down at Mathias for a moment before rolling out of bed and answering it, grabbing her robe as she went.

"You realize it's 5 fucking AM, right Isaac?" she muttered, casting an eye towards the windows, which showed the still grey dawn sky.

"Aww kitty Cat, you sound grumpy. You not getting any sleep? Or you just not getting any?" he teased.

Inhaling slowly, she closed her eyes and shook her head, "Isaac, what do you want?"

"You're no fun, you know that?" he mused playfully.

"Yea, that happens when you're awoken at 5 fuckin AM. WHAT. DO. YOU. WANT?" she demanded, voice gravelly and harsh.

"Woah, okay. I just wanted to let you know that your database of missing persons for tribal nations has really taken off. We've had our analysts here take an initial look at the data and Cady, this has some real implications for being able to find people."

She yawned and nodded, "No shit. Maybe if the FBI had given a shit to begin with I wouldn't have had to do your jobs for you," she snapped.

"Cady, it's not my fault it wasn't a congressional priority!" Isaac retorted, sounding annoyed.

"Don't fucking give me that Isaac. The tribes have been coming to the FBI for about as long as you've both existed and they've been getting ignored for about that long. Your agency didn't do its job and now someone, somewhere is embarrassed that I'm doing it for you so they're going to take the credit for what I've put together with Mathias, am I right?" she demanded, staring out her window.

There was a long moment of silence and then a heavy sigh from Isaac. He laughed bitterly, "I forgot what a goddamn smart woman you are." She could imagine the chagrined look on his face as he spoke. "Yea, there's talk of us taking over the database and assigning agents and analysts to it."

Cady jolted when a set of hands landed on her hips, followed closely by a set of lips on her neck. She tilted her head to give Mathias better access and sighed faintly, "Well, federal assistance would be nice. But it's our database. If you want it, you'll have to acquire the intellectual rights and buy it from us. It's the property of the Cheyenne Tribe of Absaroka County. So, you'll need to work with them."

"You…it's…that's going to make this much harder," Isaac groaned.

Cady grinned and turned her head to smirk at Mathias, "Yea, well, I figured the tribe should have ownership over their own goddamned information for once. It's their database. I'm sure they look forward to working with the federal government," she mused dryly.

There was a long moment of silence and then a heavy sigh, "Great. Well, you should also know that we've gotten tips on some of the missing women. We've got three being sent back to Absaroka as soon as we're done interviewing them. I'll email you the details," he muttered, sounding displeased.

Cady smothered a laugh at his annoyance and nodded, "Thanks Isaac. I appreciate all your help with these cases," she added genuinely.

"Mmhmm. Well, can you clear something up for me?" he asked, voice a little harder. Cady hummed in agreement and he continued, "Did you tell the agent who interviewed you that you slept with your deputy or that you were romantically involved with the tribal chief of police?" he demanded.

Cady stiffened and Mathias made a faint noise of anger, pressed close enough that he could the majority of the conversation. Cady swallowed back a number of angry retorts before she took a deep breath and replied.

"Seeing as it had no bearing on the actual cases or my disappearance, no, Isaac. Why, did you want to talk about it?" she demanded.

"Nope, I just want to tell you to be careful. The deputy has an interesting history and the police chief is, well, he's a little old for you Cady."

At this Cady burst out laughing and shook her head, "Isaac, I appreciate the concern, however unwarranted it might be. I'm a grown woman and I can make my own decisions about who to date or fuck. If you need to let me know anything about the cases, please email me. Bye," she hurriedly ended the call and dropped her phone in the pocket of her robe, shaking her head in a mixture of wry amusement and frustration.

Mathias remained quiet for a long moment and then sighed softly, "Did I hear that some women have been found?"

She nodded and stared out the dining room window, watching as the sky began to lighten. Mathias had to go soon, she knew. "I'll forward you the details," she murmured, mind half on that and on the weekend ahead.

"You okay?" Mathias asked softly, hand squeezing her hip as he leaned against the window frame to study her, small frown lines creasing his face.

Cady turned her face towards him and smiled softly, nodding and reaching out to run her fingers over the lines between his eyes. "Don't worry. He's just a meddling old boyfriend who can't let go."

"Not good at goodbyes huh?" he murmured, smiling faintly as he caught her hand and ran his thumb over her knuckles.

She shook her head and smirked, "Couldn't see what was right in front of his face."

Mathias smirked slowly in return, stepping a little closer, till his hip bumped hers and his free hand could play with the ties of her robe. "Sounds like a fool," he mused, tugging on the tie till it slipped free and her robe hung open slightly, the gape at her neck barely alluding to the nudity beneath.

Cady's eyes in return trailed over the expanse of bare skin exposed by Mathias's comfort with walking around naked, and once again appreciated that fact. She could see clearly how aroused he was growing, and despite her earlier distraction, was now fully aware of it calling for her attention.

Licking her lips, she nodded and met his eyes, "Lack of experience more like," she murmured, and enjoyed the way his eyes darkened with a nearly possessive look. Her phone buzzed in her pocket and she cursed the interruption, but still pulled it out to make sure it wasn't an emergency from the station.

It was the email Isaac had promised.

Rolling her eyes she slipped it back in, but not before noting the time.

Glancing up at Mathias she bit her lip, sweeping her gaze down his body, regret filling her. "You have to be to the station by 6, right?" she asked.

Realization and frustration filled his face and he swayed towards her, plucking her phone out to peer at the time for a moment before cursing. It was 5:27am. If he showered now and got on the road, he could make it on time to the station.

Frowning at the phone, he dropped it back into her pocket and sighed, shaking his head as he smiled wryly, "Looks like we'll have to pick this up later," he murmured.

Cady smirked and shrugged, "Guess so."

Mathias sighed heavily and turned on his heel, heading for the shower. Cady watched him go, waiting a few moments before she followed, smothering her laughter when she heard the shower running.

Shedding her robe, she stepped through the steam and swung the door of the shower open, lifting a brow when Mathias turned to her in surprise. Pressing a hand to his chest, she pushed him gently against the wall of the shower, the hot water falling against her skin.

"I thought we could shower together," she suggested, trailing a hand down his chest slowly.

"Seems like solid logic," he mused, exhaling sharply when her fingers closed around his cock.

Cady huffed out a laugh and leaned in to press her lips to his throat, "I'm a pretty logical woman," she whispered, tightening her fingers around his cock.

Mathias cursed as she stroked him, her thumb caressing the sensitive tip in slow circles that had his thighs shaking. Her teeth nipped at his throat as she began pumping her hand along his shaft, "I want you to be careful while I'm out of town this weekend," she murmured.

Her fingers closed tighter around his cock, her free hand coming to squeeze his balls gently, eliciting a low groan from Mathias. His hips rolled into her hands, his eyes hooded as she sucked a dark mark onto his collarbone.

"I don't want to hear that you got hurt," she whispered, licking water from his throat before nipping at his shoulder.

"I'll be careful," he promised, panting as she stroked him. He hissed as she bit his shoulder harder and then pulled back to stare at him, eyes dark. There was something in her eyes as her hand tightened around him and he gasped at the raw sensation of her thumb dragging over the sensitive glans.

"I'm not kidding Mathias," she whispered, gaze steady on him. "You're my partner and if you get hurt because I wasn't here, I'll kick your ass from here to Sunday," she breathed.

When he met her eyes, he could see the apprehension there, the fear and worry haunting those lovely eyes and he felt something in his chest fall into place. She cared about him. He had thought maybe before, but now, he was near certain.

"I promise," he assured her, voice low and hoarse as he struggled under the weight of his growing emotions, "I'll be careful," he promised again.

At this her eyes lost some of their tension and she leaned in to kiss him, slow and soft and sweet. Heat thrummed in his veins and as her tongue stroked over his, her hand resumed stroking his slick skin.

He panted into her kisses as pleasure nearly consumed him, heart throbbing in his chest so hard he thought for sure it could be heard miles away, beating out a message; mine, mine, mine.

White hot heat crawled up his spine and exploded behind his eyes as he came, growling her name and gasping as she kissed him senseless. When he was limp and shivering from release, she grabbed a washcloth and quickly soaped it, smiling softly at him before she began running it over his body.

He watched through hooded eyes as her hands moved with gentle ease, caressing his shoulders, over his torso, down his legs—and the sight of her glancing up at him had his cock twitching valiantly, but alas, he wasn't 25 anymore.

When she had deemed him clean she pushed him toward the shower door gently, smirking when he resisted, turning back to kiss her swiftly, firmly. Pushing her wet hair back from her face he studied the lines around her eyes, the odd look on her face and frowned softly.

"What are you doing again this weekend?" he asked; she had told him, but was beginning to wonder if there was something more going on.

Cady smiled softly, "Meeting a woman in Texas who survived being trafficked. She's not native American, but it was the Infinitarios, and I think it would be beneficial to hear her story. She's helped almost 100 other women get out and get back to their homes or start new lives."

Mathias nodded slowly, "Okay. Well, be careful," he murmured, something still eating at him.

Cady kissed him again, pressing her body into his until he was distracted and she had to push him away again with a grin. "I will. Go, you're going to be late," she reminded him.

She shivered as the shower door opened and watched him disappear through the steam before she turned back and hurried through her showering routine. She had a flight to catch, and a meeting to make.


"You'll need to sign in your weapon and remove any loose jewelry, Sheriff."

Cady nodded and unholstered her service weapon, signing it over willingly. She quickly stripped off her necklace and rings, leaving the small studs in her ears at the nod from the man. When she was ready, the security guard waved her through the scanner and then waved another over her body as an extra precaution.

She couldn't blame him.

Harlan Stillwater was housed in the U.S. Penitentiary Beaumont, a maximum-security facility in Beaumont, Texas—where he had been for the past 10 years. For the ten years prior to that he had been in a facility in Oklahoma, and as far as she could tell, had been a model prisoner for the past 15 years.

As the correctional officer guided her through the maze of hallways to the interview room, she wondered, not for the first time, if this was the right decision.

Since Mathias had told her about his family and what his father had done, she had tried to bring him up only twice. The first time Mathias had uncomfortably told her his father's name and more details about the crime that had sent him to jail for 20 years before shutting down.

The second time he had quietly shaken his head and asked her to leave it alone. Let sleeping dogs lie Cady, he had told her.

And maybe she should have.

But there was something about the story that Mathias had told her, about Emily's disappearance that just didn't sit right with her. She knew it was possible that his sister had been abducted and trafficked. It was possible…but it was far more probable that their dirtbag father had beaten and abused Emily and when he had gotten out of jail had decided that he would get his revenge.

Only this time, his son wasn't so skinny; he was a cop, waiting for him to make a misstep. She wondered if the idea of his son testifying against him again, this time as a police officer, had pushed Harlan over the edge into doing something terrible to his daughter as some sort of twisted punishment of his son.

Her stomach clenched and burned with anxiety; any butterflies were probably long dead from the constant twisting and turning of her gut, she decided.

As the guard led her into the room and explained the rules one more time (no touching—him or you, don't give him anything, don't take anything, don't get him upset) she glanced around the room quickly.

There were two entrances, both guarded. Both walls had two way mirrors and the room was equipped so the guards outside could hear everything. If she were still a lawyer, she would have major concerns.

As it was, she really didn't care.

When the opposite door swung open, her gut clenched again.

She had seen a picture on Harlan's prisoner profile, but he looked…wearier in person. The lines in his face spoke of a man with a pack a day habit for a good twenty years and the scars on his hands and face spoke of a lifetime of violence behind bars.

His eyes though, they were what sent a chill over her spine.

Harlan Stillwater's gaze ran over her with interest, but it was the interest of a predator, assessing a potential prey—deciding if there was enough meat on the bones for it to be interested. After a moment he huffed and turned his attention back to the guard who was shackling him to the table, firmly explaining the rules and the fact that they were going to stay in the room.

"Yas boss," Harlan drawled, shooting Cady a grin as if to commiserate over how bothersome the man was being. In fact, Cady sort of wished she had another three guards in the room, but she figured Harlan wouldn't talk to her. He probably wouldn't with these two around, but she had to try.

Clearing her throat, she sat down and set her phone on the table under her hands. Meeting Harlan's gaze she pasted on a pleasant smile, "Mr. Stillwater, it's good to meet you," she murmured.

He stared at her for a minute and then barked out a laugh, shaking his head. "Nuh, I don't think that's true now, missy. I think you're pretty disgusted by me, which is interesting, considering I don't even know who you are," he told her, voice drawling in a peculiar southern accent as he lifted a brow tauntingly.

Cady studied him for a moment and then nodded slowly, "You're right Mr. Stillwater, I don't particularly like you. But that doesn't matter so much, because I think you can help me," she told him quietly.

His brows rose up in mock surprise, "Oh yea? What is it that a police officer like you could want with an old man like me?" he asked, lifting his shackled hands to rub at his greyed beard, grinning at her as if to say look, look at this, I'm an old man—harmless!

She knew better.

"Information," she told him, taking her time to get to her point. She had heard he was a smart man from the warden, but she hadn't thought her outfit of slacks and silk blouse would give her away as police. She also knew that this man would do nothing for free, and just as she thought, a conniving glow appeared in his eyes at her words.

"Hmm…well, what am I gonna get outta this?" he demanded, rubbing at his beard once more.

"Well, let me say, I'm not a lawyer or anyone who is able to make a deal. But I have spoken to the people who can and they've said that if you give me what I need, they'll look into parole. You could be out," she murmured, watching as his throat worked, the only indication he was reacting to her tease of freedom.

Were it anyone else in any other situation, she might have felt some sympathy for the man across from her. But she had seen Mathias's face and stood in the ruins of his childhood home and lain in the field of flowers that had been his and Emily's sanctuary…and she felt nothing but an icy loathing for Harlan Stillwater.

When he nodded slowly, she lifted her hand to show him her phone, "Do you mind if I record this?" she asked politely. He stared at it for a moment before nodding again, shifting in his chair slightly.

Cady unlocked the screen and turned on the recording app, pushing the phone off to the side so it would remain unobstructed. With a faint nod she turned her attention back to him, expression neutral.

She wouldn't be wasting any smiles or pleasantries on this man.

"What can you tell me about the women who went missing on the res?" she asked.

His brows furrowed and a petulant, angry look marred his face. "I had nothin to do with that," he snapped, shifting his hands so the restraints clanked.

"I understand. I'm not accusing you. I'm asking if you ever heard any rumors. Names, suggestions, whispers." She gave him a grim smile, "I know what the res is like. People gossip. You must have heard something," she wheedled.

Harlan stared at her for a long moment and then shook his head slowly, "Dunno, it was a long time ago," he mused, rubbing at his beard once more, casting a speculative eye at her. When she did nothing more than lift a brow, he frowned and rolled a shoulder.

"Mighta heard something about women being taken. A friend had his sister go missing. He said she was taken outside of the restaurant she worked at. It was late, she was closing up shop, ya know?" he murmured, lifting a brow at her.

She nodded and he continued, "They didn't have a whole lotta cameras then like they do now. There was only one in the back, where she was takin out the trash, and it was dark. They saw a van and two guys, but nothin else. People was always scared. Every year or two, women gettin' taken," he told her.

Cady nodded; that squared with what she and Mathias had learned. She leaned forward as though interested, "What about kids?" she asked, "I've had little kids get taken," she told him solemnly.

He studied her for a moment before nodding, "Yea, coupla kids went missing. But that was probably their whore momma's takin them and running away," he told her, nose wrinkling in disgust.

Cady paused a moment and then asked, "What happened to your daughter? Did someone take her, like those men took your friend's daughter?" she asked, meeting his gaze firmly when he glared at her.

She could see the hate burning in his gaze and it sent a shiver down her spine; she wondered if this was the face that Emily and Mathias had seen when he was screaming at them and beating their mother half to death.

They remained locked in a battle of wills, eyes refusing to look away, the room silent.

Finally his mouth twisted, like he had something foul tasting he was going to spit out. "She was a whore, just like her momma," he snarled. "Whatever she got, she deserved."

Anger slid through her belly like ice and where her palms pressed into the table, sweat turned cold. Harlan stared at her, his eyes challenging and mocking, mouth twisted with a mockery of a smile.

She had never met someone she so thoroughly loathed as she did this man. Even if he wasn't Mathias's and Emily's father, she would have been disgusted by him. The fact that he had ruined not just his wife's life by abusing her, but both his children's lives by allowing them to witness it and be victims of that same abuse—it made her furious.

Dropping her gaze, she shook her head and wiped a hand over her mouth before she looked back up at him, disgust churning in her stomach at the victorious look on his face. He was proud of the fact that he had rattled her.

"You think so?" she murmured, furrowing her brows. "You think your daughter deserved to be abducted, beaten, possibly raped, likely prostituted against her will and even killed?" she demanded softly.

Harlan scoffed, "That girl was already runnin around with half the men of the tribe. It wouldn't make no difference," he growled.

"Sounds like you didn't think too much of her," Cady commented dryly.

Harlan laughed bitterly, shaking his head, "Just like her momma. I tried keeping her on the straight and narrow, using a firm hand, but," his eyes narrowed, "that boy did nothin but encourage her," he spat.

"Her boyfriend?" Cady mused, curious.

Harlan scoffed and spat on the floor, shaking his head. Nice, Cady thought wryly, just barely restraining herself from wrinkling her nose in disgust.

"No, that pussy of a boy that called himself my son."

Her heart clenched in her chest at the mention of Mathias; sorrow for his lost childhood once again making her chest hurt.

"Sounds like you didn't think too much of him either," she murmured, fighting a wince when Harlan boomed out a laugh, slapping his hands onto the table.

"Hell no. That little shit was weak from the day he was born. His momma named him after me, but he was all hers. Spent hours reading and spoutin off about poetry and classic books and other pussy shit. He wouldn't go huntin—didn't like to kill animals, can you imagine that?" he exclaimed, "a goddamned Cheyenne who doesn't hunt!"

He shook his head, mouth pursing in disgust before he continued, "The day he told me he wanted to be a writer was the day I disowned that worthless little pussy. He wasn't no son of mine," he growled, eyes glittering with hate.

Anger ran in shivers over her body, the urge to reach across the table and slap this man barely restrained. She bit the inside of her cheek so hard the taste of copper flooded her mouth.

Turning her gaze down to the tabletop she took a slow breath before asking her last question. "Would you have hurt your kids?"

When Harlan remained silent she looked back up to find him staring at her with a curious gleam in his eyes. "I believe that's all I have to say to you," he murmured, leaning back in his chair with a satisfied grin.

Cady stared at him for a long time, letting the silence fill the recording before she reached over and tucked it back into her pocket. She stood and looked down at him, allowing her gaze to run over him, memorizing the details of this worthless man before she left.

"You know what's funny Harlan?" she murmured and he lifted a brow, grinning at her. "I used to feel sorry for Mathias; that he had a shitty father and a terrible childhood, but now that I've met you I'm not sorry."

She smirked a little and his grin started to slip.

"You weren't a father Harlan. You were a sperm donor who stuck around too long. A drunk who was filled with self loathing and cowardice, too weak to face your own failings."

With each word, Harlan's face fell further, his anger growing and his scowl deepening until the lines on his face were like canyons.

"I don't feel sorry for Mathias, but I do feel sorry that you ruined any chance he ever had at having a normal childhood, or that you had at being an actual father to your children."

Harlan lunged to his feet, chains clanking loudly and the guards stepped forward, but Cady held them off with a hand, knowing she wasn't in imminent danger.

"Shut your goddamned whore mouth," he snarled, droplets of spit landing on the table in his rage. "I never wanted those brats anyway. Told their mom to get rid of em and the stupid slut didn't listen. If she'd a listened, none a this woulda happened," he shouted, shaking his shackled hands.

"You mean you wouldn't have had to kill Emily?" she demanded, heart pounding.

Eyes crazed, he laughed bitterly, "Gonna have to do better than that lady cop. I aint telling you nuthin," he snarled, laughing wildly.

Cady snapped a little in that moment and reached across the table, grabbing his chains and yanking, slamming his torso into the table. The guards stepped a few inches forward and then stopped, watching her cautiously.

"I know you killed your daughter. You're a sick sonovabitch and I'm going to prove it," she hissed into his ear, "I'm going to make sure they keep you in here till you die," she whispered, "and then when you do, I'm going to make sure you don't get a Cheyenne burial. You just fucked with the nótaxe of the tribe Harlan."

She watched his eyes widen at her revelation and then released him, standing straight to stare down at him in disgust. He shuffled back upright, hate bright in his eyes.

"No white whore is nótaxe," he snapped, lip curling. "Get fucked."

Cady looked to the guards and nodded, waiting till they took him away before she pulled her phone out and ended the recording. She remained silent as she was escorted out, adrenaline still rushing through her.

She got three miles down the road before she pulled over onto the dusty side of the road and lunged from the car, the gravel biting into her palms as she heaved into the ditch. She shuddered for a few minutes until her stomach was empty and her hormones were better under control.

Slowly she sank back into the car, reaching for her water to rinse her mouth. Staring down the road, she peered into the fading sun and wondered where Emily was buried. She was more sure than before that Harlan had killed her.

Now she just had to find her.


Mathias kept looking at his phone, watching as the hours slipped by slowly, marking the time that Cady was away. She had texted a few times, but it had mostly been silent on her end. He didn't want to bother her too much, he knew she was visiting with a number of people in Texas and had a lot of travelling to do, but truth was, he missed her.

She wasn't due back until 8pm Sunday, only 36 more hours he reasoned. He could wait until tonight to call her and make sure she was okay.

It had been a quiet few days on the res, with Maya supplying more information for their RICO case and warrants being filed in preparation for arrests. The district attorney was very pleased with the work they had done and was eager to pull the trigger, but Mathias wanted to wait until Cady was back.

His cell phone rang, buzzing on his desk and he jumped for it, swallowing down his hope that it was Cady when he didn't recognize the number. The caller ID said Texas, so he answered, in case something had happened to her phone.

"This is a collect call from USP Beaumont from a federal inmate. Do you accept the charges associated with this call?"

"I…"

His tongue didn't seem to work, his entire body felt numb, disconnected.

"This is a collect call from USP Beaumont from a federal inmate. Do you accept the charges associated with this call?"

He swallowed hard.

"Yes."

There was a moment of silence and then came the voice he hadn't heard in 20 years.

"Well boy, guess you aint dead yet, huh?"

Chapter Text

Cady sighed in relief as she walked out of the small terminal in Absaroka, glancing around for Mathias's truck. He had told her before she left he would pick her up, but, she frowned, she didn't see him.

Glancing at her phone, she frowned deeper. He hadn't texted to say he couldn't get her. In fact, he hadn't texted her since yesterday afternoon. She had assumed he was busy on the res and hadn't thought anything of it, but…what if something had happened?

Worry began to gnaw at her stomach.

Walking over to one of the cabs she gave the man the address to the police station on the res and hauled her bag inside, fidgeting as he drove, anxiety swelling within her as they went and everything seemed normal on the streets of downtown.

Maybe it was nothing. It was probably nothing, she reasoned.

He had probably gotten wrapped up in stuff with the RICO case and just hadn't been able to come get her. But that didn't explain why he hadn't called or texted.

Frustration joined the anxiety and when they pulled up in front of the station she hesitated a moment, wondering if she should ask the man to stay in case he wasn't here. Cursing softly, she shook her head and dug out cash, handing over enough for the fare and tip before she slid out, hanging her bag on her shoulder.

When she entered the station Caleb and another deputy were on duty. She waved and pointed back to Mathias's office, lifting a brow in question. Caleb nodded and grinned, "He's been here all weekend. Where'd you go?" he asked, nodding to her bag.

"Texas," she replied, already halfway down the hall.

She pushed the door to his office open, knocking as it went, a faint smile curling her lips when he looked up at her from behind his desk. Instead of an answering smile, his eyes were cold and his lips turned down.

The anxiety in her stomach overflowed and she nervously reached behind her to shut the door again, her free hand scrubbing against one thigh apprehensively.

Mathias watched her, his eyes unhappy as she sank in the chair across from him. His mouth was turned down deeply and after a long moment he looked away, shaking his head. She could feel fury radiating from him, and her stomach clenched.

Did he know?

"I got a call from a prisoner in Beaumont, Texas," he murmured, face still averted, the lamp on his desk casting his face into sharp relief. "Seems you had a long talk about some missing women. About what he might remember."

"Mathias—"

His gaze snapped back to hers and she flinched at how it burned, the fury there shocking her.

"About my sister," he hissed, his fingers crinkling the papers on his desk, knuckles turning white.

"Mathias—"

He shook his head sharply.

"I've avoided that man for more than 20 years. For good fucking reason," he told her harshly. "And in one day, you manage to destroy every barrier I've tried to keep between him and I," he accused, glaring at her before he looked away, shaking his head as his throat worked.

Cady struggled to remain quiet, the desire to defend herself an instinctual one. Seeing the anger and hurt on Mathias's face though, it slowed that desire by quite a bit.

His gaze turned back to hers and she felt something in her chest crack at the sight of his dark eyes shimmering with unshed tears and the lines etched on his face from pain and sorrow. "Why, Cady? Why would you go see that monster?" he demanded, voice softer.

She took a slow steady breath, hands shaking when she lifted them from her lap to reach out and place them on his desk. Not taking his, but reaching out. A gesture; and one he would hopefully return, eventually.

"I…because when you told me about your family, and how your father abused you, I wondered if he had killed her," she admitted, wincing as he recoiled, face blanching at the suggestion. He took a deep breath, eyes shut.

Shaking his head slowly he opened them to peer at her once more. "I told you she went missing," he murmured, voice hoarse and weary.

"I know, but, I looked at her case and there's nothing to indicate she was taken. She wasn't like any of the other women who went missing from the res in the years before or after, and her boyfriend had a solid alibi. It was her testimony at your—Harlan's trial that was key to putting him away and to his sentencing the second time. He hated her," she told him softly, her fingertips inching forward, aching to take his hands in hers, to offer comfort.

Mathias shook his head, closing his eyes again as he struggled to process her theories.

Reaching out hesitantly, she laid one of her hands over his and felt her heart break a little when his eyes flashed open and he pulled his away almost immediately. He must have seen it on her face because his expression softened faintly and he hesitated before covering her hand with his for a moment and then took it away, shaking his head.

"I just, I need some space," he told her quietly.

She stared at him for a long moment, struggling with the urge to say something, anything, terrified that she had destroyed what it was that they had. Her throat burned with unspoken words and her eyes watered with unshed tears until she blinked rapidly and stood, nodding.

Keeping her gaze averted, she grabbed her bag and cleared her throat.

"Right. If you, uh, want to talk," she glanced up and found him staring at her, expression unfathomable and she swallowed hard before giving him a weak smile, "you know where I live."

With a brisk nod she turned and hurried out, choking back tears the whole way.

She ignored Caleb's passing comment and collapsed on the small bench outside the station, pulling her phone out to order a Lyft. Brushing angrily at her cheeks, she sniffled and bit her lip, cursing quietly when she saw it would take 20 minutes for a Lyft to get there.

After a moment she sighed and called the county station.

"Deputy Moretti, what's your emergency?

Cady sighed in relief and smiled weakly, "Hey Vic, it's Cady. I'm at the res station, can you uh, pick me up and drop me at my place?" she asked, aware of how awkward her question was and how tired she sounded.

To Vic's credit she hesitated for a just a beat, "Sure. Be there in a few."

Cady murmured a quiet thanks and hung up, dropping her head into hands and closed her eyes. The night around her was quiet, quiet enough that ten minutes later when tires crunched on gravel, she knew it was Vic before she saw the vehicle.

By the time Vic pulled up, she was standing straight, bag on her shoulder and a fake ass grin on her face. Vic didn't say word one, just grinned back and wheeled around the way she had come, driving them towards Cady's house without comment.

"Good trip?" she asked quietly, glancing at the bag in Cady's lap.

Cady peered out the window at the murky remains of the sunset, the sky eggplant along the furthest edges. "Sure. The best," she murmured tonelessly. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Vic shoot her a confused look before she turned her attention back to the road.

They remained silent until they pulled up in front of her house and Vic sighed, "Listen, I know me and your dad together makes you uncomfortable," she said, waving off the weak protest that Cady mounted, "No, I know. But listen. You're exactly like him. Too stubborn for your own good, determined to do what you think is right and damn the consequences."

She smiled softly and then wrinkled her nose, "But, if what your dad says is true, you're a lot like your mom too. You care about people. You want to help them. You want to make a difference and do the right thing."

She paused for a moment and then smiled at Cady, "I don't think those qualities are mutually exclusive. I think you just have to be a little smarter about when to be stubborn. Especially when it concerns people you care about," she mused, lifting a brow.

Cady didn't really have anything to say to that, so she just nodded, letting the words sink in. It had been a long evening already and she didn't have much left in her emotional tank. Giving Vic a small smile she reached over and squeezed the woman's arm, murmuring a quiet thank you before she slipped from the car.

When the front door shut behind her, she exhaled sharply, shoulders falling with exhaustion and an overload of emotion.

Shuffling back to her bedroom she tossed her bag onto her bed before pulling out the dirty clothes and shoving them into her hamper. Flipping on the shower, she stripped and hurried under the stream of hot water, letting it soothe away her aches and the emotional toll of the day.

When she smelled like jasmine and bergamot and her hair hung in a slick ribbon of dark copper down her back, she shut the water off and wrung her hair out, wrapping it in a towel before sliding her robe on.

Glancing at the clock, she was distantly amused to see it was only 9:45pm.

Time for a glass of wine then, she decided.

Pulling her towel off her hair, she ruffled it slightly and tossed the towel aside, tightening her belt on her robe as she went out to the kitchen. Grabbing a stemless wine glass from her cupboard she poured out a generous glass of cabernet sauvignon by Layer Cake.

Turning her music on, she closed her curtains and began dancing, singing along with the music. There was no rhyme or reason to the pattern of the songs, she had it set on shuffle so it went from pop to rap to classical to indie rock and still she danced and sang.

It was at the tail end of her third glass that she spun, singing along to I Feel A Sin Comin' On when she saw a dark shape at her front door, illuminated by the security light her father had installed shortly after her safe return from captivity.

Her glass slipped from her fingers and shattered on the ground, wine splashing on her hardwood floors and against her legs. She stared at the figure for a split second before darting towards her bedroom, intent on getting her gun.

"Cady?"

Mathias's voice, loud and concerned, brought her to a halt halfway down the hall.

"Cady, are you ok?"

Exhaling shakily, she laid a hand to her heart and closed her eyes for a moment, shaking her head. When he called her name again she opened her eyes and hurried out to open the door, staring at him in surprise.

"I'm fine. Why are you here?" she asked bluntly—courtesy of the wine.

He stared at her for a moment and then peered past her to where the wine sat on the coffee table and the shattered remains of the glass lay on the floor.

"I wanted to talk. Did you break a glass?" he asked, somewhat inanely.

She laughed sharply and his gaze flew to her face, brow furrowing. "You scared me. I was…it doesn't matter. I saw a shadow and it startled me. Do you want to come in?" she offered, her thoughts all running together a bit, jumbled by alcohol and emotion.

Mathias hesitated a moment and then nodded, following her inside.

Cady headed for the kitchen intent on sweeping up the broken glass and then getting a new glass. Mathias followed, watching with concern as she went to work.

"Careful, there could be small pieces," he murmured, earning him a scowl before she hissed and stumbled back, cursing. The broom dropped to the ground and he hurried over, side stepping the area and guiding her onto the couch with gentle hands.

Crouching down, he lifted her foot onto his knee, frowning when he saw the small sliver of glass protruding from her foot. Glancing up at her he found her wincing and looking apprehensive, pale.

"Is it bad?" she whispered, fingers clenching in the fabric of her robe.

A slow smile crept onto his face and he shook his head, "No, it's small. You've been shot, this should be like a bee sting," he teased.

She scowled at him and tried to pull her foot away, but his grip tightened and kept her close. His thumb stroked over her arch gently and she shuddered faintly, the action drawing his gaze up her leg to where her robe was draping over the tops of her thighs.

It took him a moment and then he looked up at her, "You have first aid stuff in the bathroom?"

She nodded and he set her foot down on the coffee table, "Stay," he ordered, standing and skirting the broken glass once more. She watched his retreat, eyes falling on the wine bottle when he was gone and wondered if she could get away with taking a swig directly from the bottle.

Probably not.

He came back a minute later, cotton swab, tweezers, peroxide and a band aid in hand. Once more he crouched down and took her foot into his lap, brow furrowing as he went to work. His eyes flashed up to hers and he gave her a faint smile, "Just remember what it felt like to get shot," he advised and a moment later the tweezers tugged and sharp momentary pain radiated through her foot before dissipating.

Cady cursed and clenched her fingers in the fabric of the couch, exhaling sharply. When he dabbed the peroxide soaked cotton ball against the wound she gritted her teeth and cursed louder, entire body rigid.

His fingers were gentle though, the entire time. When he pressed the band aid on he ran his thumb over her arch a few times before placing her foot on the couch and standing.

"Don't move," he ordered, gathering the supplies and disappearing. When he came back he took up the fallen broom and swept up the broken glass and wiped up the wine. Cady watched him work, quick and efficient and wished she could kiss him.

When he was done he stood over her for a minute, eyes dark and fathomless as they studied her. He blinked and shook his head, smile so faint she wasn't sure she actually saw it before he sat on the couch beside her.

His hand wrapped around her ankle, drawing her injured foot into his lap. Tingling pleasure and ticklish twinges ran over her skin as his thumb stroked her arch, his expression thoughtful.

"I don't know why in 20 years I never thought that he could have killed her."

His voice was quiet, contemplative.

"I guess I didn't really want to think that he would do that," he admitted. His eyes were sad when he met her gaze, "Even with how he abused us, I guess there was a part of me that always hoped he wouldn't do something that terrible to his own family. Despite all evidence to the contrary," he scoffed bitterly.

Cady hummed unhappily, wishing she could put her arms around him or kiss him or, or, anything. But she wasn't sure she wouldn't be rejected, even if he did have her foot in his lap at the moment.

"You can't blame yourself for that," she murmured softly, leaning forward and tentatively placing her hand on his arm when he scoffed. "Mathias, you can't. Everyone wants to have a happy, normal family. It's normal for you to want him to have some little piece of good, some humanity. That would mean that maybe he was redeemable, but," she hesitated and he looked at her earnestly, waiting to hear what she said.

She swallowed hard and continued, "But Mathias, I don't think he is. I don't know that he ever was. And that's not your fault, it never was," she murmured urgently.

She watched as something inside him seemed to crumble, his face falling, the stoic lines dropping as his shoulders fell and tears began running down his face.

Oh god, oh no.

Her heart felt like it would shatter and without hesitation she shifted, pulling her foot out of his lap so she could rise to her knees and shuffle over to him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders and drawing his head against her chest.

He clung to her as he cried, voice broken.

"I-I should have k-known," he rasped, "I s-should h-hav-ve gotten Em-Emily som-som-somewhere safe," he groaned, shaking his head against her chest.

Cady stroked his hair and shook her head, "There was no way you could have known what was in that man's head. You were a child too Mathias. It wasn't up to you to protect everyone. You were not responsible for what that monster did."

He shook his head and she slid a hand down to grasp his chin, lifting his face so he was forced to look at her. Her eyes were steely and sent a shiver over his skin, her strength warming his icy soul.

"Hear me Mathias. You did not deserve what happened to you. Your mother and sister did not deserve it. You were not responsible for your abuse," she murmured intently, staring him down with each word until he was trembling, but nodded.

Her fingers spread and brushed against his cheek, wiping away the river of tears that had flowed, threatening to drown him but instead had cleansed him. As he inhaled unsteadily she brushed under his eyes, a faint smile on her lips.

"Why don't you stay," she offered quietly, hand slipping down to cup his neck, thumb stroking his throat slowly.

Mathias inhaled slowly, steadily and then nodded. With a soft smile she stood and held out a hand, a relieved sigh escaping her when he took it and stood, following her back to her bedroom.

Realizing that she was still in just her robe, she flushed and went to her closet, grabbing a long tshirt and underwear and dressed quickly before emerging to find Mathias setting his tactical belt on the bedside table.

Slipping under the covers, she watched him undress in the gloom of the room, his form muted around the edges. When he joined her under the covers he hesitated away from her, his body stiff with uncertainty.

Edging closer she rested her hand in the no-man's-land between them.

"I'm sorry I went to see him without talking to you about it. I didn't think you would want me to go. I didn't want to hurt you and I did." She frowned and bit her lip, "I should have talked to you. I was just…stubborn," she sighed, smiling faintly.

Mathias smirked lightly and his hand crept out to brush against hers.

"I would have told you not to go. I wouldn't have wanted to hear your theory. I wish you had talked to me," he admitted. "But I'm…okay with how it turned out," he murmured, though he still sounded uncertain.

Cady frowned, "Are you sure?"

He nodded slowly and slid a little closer, his hand sliding up her forearm and down her torso till it rested on her waist. "I've been afraid to hear that man's voice for 20 years. I've been afraid to find out what happened to Emily. I've been afraid for so long."

He squeezed her waist gently, "But I don't feel scared when we're together. I feel like," he paused and then huffed softly, "like maybe it'll be okay."

Tears burned in Cady's throat and this time it was her turn to bury her face in his chest. He huffed in surprise and then wrapped his arms around her a little tighter, breathing out in relief.

"Me too," she whispered, so softly he almost didn't hear it the first time. "God, me too, Mathias."


He wasn't sure at first why he was awake. His eyes were slitted open, heavy and gritted with sleep and when he rolled his head to peer at Cady's alarm clock he made a soft noise when he saw it just past 3am.

Shifting uneasily, he looked down at where Cady's head rested on his chest, her arm around his torso holding him close. A faint smile pulled at his lips and he tilted his chin to inhale the sleep sweet scent of her hair.

Something bitter and acrid hit the back of his throat and his eyes opened wider as realization struck him.

Gasoline.

He was smelling gasoline.

He realized it wasn't the scent that had woken him but the sound of an intrusion; when bootsteps on the hardwood floors deep in the recesses of the house found his ears, he knew something was deeply wrong.

Placing a hand on Cady's shoulder, he shook her firmly, laying a hand over her mouth when she grumbled and protested. She sat up, giving him a worried, confused look.

"What is it?" she breathed, barely speaking the words.

"Someone broke in," he mouthed back, nodding when her eyes went wide with shock. Carefully, he rolled toward the nightstand and reached for his gun, unholstering it slowly, each rustle of the sheets or flick of leather seeming monumentally loud in the silence as his heart beat rapidly.

Cady watched him, her own heart pounding.

They both paused when they heard a rushing noise followed by the distinct crackling noise of flames. Turning back to her, Mathias's eyes were wide in the dark.

"Get your shoes on and get ready to run," he ordered briskly.

She nodded and hurried to her closet, tugging on jeans and shoved her feet into a pair of sneakers. Hastily she unlocked her safe and shoved case files and her laptop inside before retrieving her gun and shutting it once more—grateful she had invested in the fireproof safe for the extra money.

She heard the bedroom door open and then a shout from Mathias, followed by a gunshot and then something crashing to the floor. Heart in her throat she spun around the corner and inhaled sharply when she saw flames crawling along the floor of the bedroom doorway and a dark figure in the hallway, slumped to the ground.

Glass remnants on the ground told her the source of the flames and a quick glance around found Mathias grabbing the quilt from the bed and moving towards the flames. Panicking, she darted forward and grabbed his arm, coughing as smoke grew thick in the house.

The fire alarms in the house wailed and she prayed that one of her neighbors had noticed the noise and was calling 911.

"What are you doing?" she demanded, trying to pull him away from the flames.

He gestured and coughed, "Smother the flames and we can get out!" he shouted over the growing sound of flames and destruction.

Cady shook her head and pointed through the flames towards the front of the house where she could see yet more fire. "He started the fire out there! We're trapped!"

Mathias contemplated this for a moment before spinning and making for her bedroom windows. With quick efficient movements he unlocked one and threw it open, shoved the screen out and turned to her, waving a hand.

As she hurried forward she could hear sirens screaming in the distance, the glow of flashing lights approaching growing brighter in the damp dark. Her knees scraped the windowsill and she stumbled on her way through, falling to one knee before she rose, coughing and choking.

Mathias followed closely after her and tugged on her arm as he coughed and gasped for fresh air, pulling her away from the still burning house. As he guided her to the sidewalk the fire department arrived, asking questions rapidly before moving into action.

An ambulance arrived shortly after and Cady sat with an oxygen mask and watched in a daze as her house burned, water streaming from the hoses of the firefighters dulling the flames as dawn approached.

Vic and Walt came not too long after that and Mathias braced himself for a tongue lashing from the older man—at the least. When Walt did nothing more than stare at him for a moment before turning to the EMT and asking "He gonna be okay?" shock rippled through him.

Once assured of Mathias's general well being and lack of impending doom, Walt turned his attention to his daughter, hovering over her protectively.

Vic stared at the house as the flames were slowly reduced to burning embers, leaning against the ambulance where Mathias was breathing in fresh oxygen and keeping a close eye on Cady.

"How did it happen?" she asked softly, not taking out a notepad or anything else to indicate this was a formal inquiry.

"Someone broke in. Doused the house in gas and lit it up. Didn't realize right away why I had woke up until I heard him move around and smelled the gas. When I opened the bedroom door he was outside, setting a Molotov cocktail down and I startled him. He reached for his gun and I shot him. He's probably still in there," Mathias mused.

Vic shot him a quick look and then nodded slowly, "Any idea who it was?" she asked, though he suspected they both knew who it was.

"Gonna go out on a limb here Philly and say it was the same fuckers who took her."

At this she smirked, though there was little actual humor to the expression, and nodded. "Probably."

"Probably," he murmured in agreement, voice scratchy and throat hoarse from the smoke.

Vic stayed by him for a moment longer before sauntering slowly over to Walt and pulling him aside, talking too softly for him to hear. Mathias slid the oxygen mask away from his face and went over to where Cady was sitting on the curb with her own mask, watching her house smoke.

His descent was slow, limbs stiff and lungs aching. She looked up at him with wide watery blue eyes and soot streaked across her face and yet somehow, he thought she looked stunning. His shoulder bumped hers gently as he sat beside her, his hands dropping between his knees as he exhaled slowly.

When he broke out in a coughing fit she silently handed over her oxygen mask, lifting a brow that he knew meant she would brook no argument from him about it. He took it and pressed it to his face, inhaling the fresh clean air slowly a few times before handing it back.

They sat together as the sun began to creep over the horizon, watching as the firefighters crawled through the wreckage of her life, raking for hot spots and dousing them methodically. By the time they declared the fire out and announced that Cady could re-enter the remains to try and salvage things, it was fully daylight and the crowd of neighbors that had initially gathered were now dispersed.

Cady stared at the house dispassionately, knowing that almost all of her belongings were likely gone. Most things held little sentimental value; but it was the photo albums containing pictures of her parent's wedding or her mother's wedding dress or a set of first edition law texts that were all now gone that broke her heart.

Looking up at where Mathias stood over her, she brushed her hands off on her jeans and stood slowly, finally looking away from the house.

"I-I can't go in there right now," she murmured, looking up to find his eyes warm and compassionate. He nodded and laid a hand on her forearm quickly before turning to the firefighters and Vic, quietly informing them that she didn't want to go back in yet.

They taped off the house and Vic promised that the county would keep an eye on it to make sure no one snuck in and did more damage. Plus there was the whole issue of the dead guy inside.

When the last of the county vehicles (and the crispy dead guy) were gone, Mathias sidled next to her, his hand brushing against hers where it hung limply at her side.

"Why don't you stay with me?" he offered softly, and when she looked at him in surprise, he shrugged a shoulder and his fingers brushed hers again, "I want you to be safe," he explained.

She stared at him for a long moment, eyes bright and shining before she nodded and hooked her pinkie around his, turning her hand to squeeze his palm before releasing it.

As they drove away from the wreckage, she stared in the rearview mirror and watched her house disappear, wondering if she had tried to chain the wrong demons. Maybe there was no defeating these monsters.

Maybe…there was only the fight.