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Seeing Things

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He knows he’s kind of a player.  

 

It works out well for him.  No strings, no long term attachments, no wife worrying about him late into the night when he’s working.  He doesn’t go as far as seeing multiple people at the same time - and that’s what it is, he’s seeing them, he’s not dating anyone - because he’d fucked that up in high school when he was a kid and learned the hard way that it rarely worked out well.  Plus he liked to think he grew a little empathy as he aged.  

 

So yeah, he checks her out, once or twice.  When she’s not looking.  Looking doesn’t do any harm, and it’s easy to take a glance and say nothing.   Checking out doesn’t cross the professional line.  Plus he hardly ever fucks with white women anyways. Especially not the sheriff’s daughter.  

 

He doesn’t really know her, either, and even if he’s a player he likes knowing his girls.  He’s not heartless, and understanding how someone’s head works usually helps him.  Of course, that starts to change the more cases she accepts.  She’s around more.  Even stops getting weird looks from the other cops in the office.  Hell, at one point she brings a mug ; at least she brews coffee for the whole office. And not that he’d say anything, but the coffee she brews is actually a damn sight better.  He wonders if she’s sneaking in some expensive beans - they mostly used shitty canned stuff.  

 

She’s never really obtrusive.  Pops in now and again to ask questions, mostly about navigating the rez.  She keeps to herself unless she needs to, like she’s afraid of taking up too much space, like if she does he’s gonna tell her to get off his land.  

 

He doesn’t know where along the way he starts really paying attention.  He likes being alone in his office with his skulls and his computer and the endless case files, but he lingers sometimes, chatting with his officers on the way to or from the coffee pot.  Standing around like that, he learns a few things as he watches Cady out of the corner of his eye.

 

She’s quiet.  Tries to stay in line.  But when she’s working, really focused on working, she starts to spread out.  Take up more room.  That hesitance and self consciousness disappears when she’s working, fading away to laser focus.  She forgets that coffee she brewed, pouring over pages and pages before finally taking a sip and frowning at the cold beverage like it had personally offended her.  

 

That’s when she reminds him of Walt.  When she’s focused like that, to the point where she doesn’t notice the world spinning around her.  It’s a weird contrast, seeing her like that, and then seeing her when she wakes up from it, suddenly that meek girl again that keeps asking for permission, self conscious and aware she shouldn’t be there. It lets him know that, if she needs to, she can be fierce. Just like her dad.  Unlike her dad, she has the good sense to not piss off everyone in a fifty foot radius the rest of the time.  

 

She’s good with clients, too, from what little he’s seen.  They don’t meet at the station much.  Usually she goes out, pursuing cases across the rez all on her own.  But he’s seen one or two times, the gentle way she talks to people.  She’s got facets to her, and it’s interesting.

 

A couple of the staff even end up relaxing enough around her to talk casually, and judging by the way he hears people laughing at her jokes, she’s gotta be funny, too.  He lets them joke, because it’s not negatively impacting work, and honestly on some level he likes trying to puzzle her out.  She’s very unlike her father, and yet she’s got that Longmire steel in her bones.  

 

What’s real fascinating is how naive she can be, sometimes.  Maybe it’s just him being cynical, but she’s got those big eyes and that boundless optimism.  If she wasn’t so good at her job - making headway, slowly but surely, forcing her way through the cases he left her - he would’ve thought she’d never cracked open a case file in her life.  It’s so obvious she wants to believe she can make the world a better place, that she wants to believe the best of humanity.  Some of the things Mathias had seen, he’s not sure where his faith is now; probably buried six feet under with all the victims of countless crimes he couldn’t fix.   

 

But she’s still going. And there’s always hope in her eyes, even when it gets a little worn and ragged on the edges. It’s fascinating. It’s attractive in a way he doesn’t know how to quantify.  

 

There’s a while there where he doesn’t understand what’s happening in his own head.  Cady Longmire isn’t a case, and he doesn’t need to be obsessed with solving her.  She is who she is, and for the most part, she’s not his business. It comes crashing down when, one night after he got off work, he fantasizes about her as he jacks off.  He comes hard, and spent a while staring at his ceiling, hating himself.

 

That’s when the puzzle pieces clicked into place, outlandish as they were.  He’s too old, too experienced, too much of a womanizer to be thinking like this.  Hasn’t dealt with it in a long damn time. Despite all that, he was already in deep.  Crushes were total shit.  

 

---

 

He runs, sometimes, on his days off.  It’s not too long after he fit the puzzle pieces together that he finds her when he’s on one of his runs.  Broken down, in the dirt, on the side of the road.  Her car’s listing with a pretty fierce flat, but she’s already fixing it when he arrives, brows knit together with frustration and the knees of her nice suit all dirty.  She’s got the hubcap off, the flat tire overturned in the dirt, and the lug wrench in her hands.   

 

“Need a hand?”  He calls, and she jerks her head up with a start.  

 

“No,” she says, giving him a tight smile, this sort of look he’s never seen on her face before.  Like she’s pissed off she got caught in a moment of weakness.  “I got it.  But, thanks, Mathias.”  

 

He pauses, aware of a bead of sweat rolling down the back of his neck.  He walks over anyways, taking a swig from his water and eyeing the car.  “It looks like you do,” he agrees.  

 

Her brows tug together more, almost embarrassed, now.  He wonders if she hates being seen like this; uncomposed, in the dirt, with the situation out of her hands.  “Just have to get the spare on, that’s all.”  

 

She’s right; the hard part’s over with.  All that’s left is the spare. It’s leaning against the rear bumper, notably mismatched, smaller than the other tires. He leaves his water bottle on the roof of the car, and he grabs the spare, bringing it over to Cady.  

 

She looks at the tire first, then her eyes flicker up to meet his.  “Thanks,” she says, barely more than a murmur.  Like she doesn’t understand why he’s helping her.  It makes him wonder how much her dad bitches about him.  

 

“No problem,” he says as she takes the tire, pushing it onto the wheel hub.  She dares another confused glance in his direction, so he puts his hand on his hips and looks away, down the road. “Who are you going to see?”  

 

“Mary Little Horse,” Cady says, plucking the lug nuts from the pile next to her knee and threading them on, one by one.  “And I already saw her, thank god.  I wouldn’t want to keep her waiting because of this.”  She throws her hand at the car, frowning at it again.  

 

“I’m sure she appreciated it,” Mathias mutters. Little Horse was having issues with the casino.  One of many that was.  “You heading back to Durant after this?”  

 

“Yeah,” Cady says as she grabs the lug wrench.  She gives him one more sidelong glance.  “Why?  Is there somewhere else I should be?”  He can hear the unspoken question - is there a new case for me?

 

Mathias shakes his head.  Despite himself, a couple of shitty pickup lines flicker in the back of his mind. He ignores them. “Nah.”  He grabs his water bottle off the car.  “You shouldn’t be driving too long on that spare, though.  That kind’s not made to hold up too well. Especially out here.”

Cady nods.  She goes back to tightening the lug nuts. He waits a moment more, watching her.  That sharp focus is written on her face again.  It's amazing when it makes an appearance.  It fades away quick, her eyes flickering up as the rumble of another car starts down the road.  

 

For a moment she almost looks scared.  It confuses him for half a second before he remembers, distantly, the story in the papers from last year - local woman, Cady Longmire, caught in hit-and-run .  He almost feels glad he stopped.  Not like he could’ve done much if the car was intent on hitting them, but he had a feeling Cady’d be a lot more on edge if there wasn’t someone else standing by.  

 

Then he sees the truck, and he can’t stop the frown from crossing his face.  He knows the beat up piece of crap.  A 1992 Ford F-250, dented and red and white, the windshield still busted despite the fix-it tickets he knows it had gotten.  Even though he couldn’t see it, he knew the tailgate had fallen off the bed of the pickup a long time ago.  That’s Rita’s truck.  

 

He might have sighed.  The look that Cady gave him says he probably did.  But he puts his water bottle back on the roof of the car and waits with his arms crossed - knowing Rita, she’d probably stop.  She was nosey as hell.

 

True to form, the beat up Ford slowed down to a crawl.  Rita cranks down the window, leaning an elbow out and arching an eyebrow at the scene.  There’s a mischievous glint in her eye when she catches sight of Cady, and Mathias standing so close by.  “Everything okay here?  He’s not bothering you, is he, sweetie?”  

 

Mathias glowers.  If he wasn’t tired of this sort of shit, he would’ve snorted at the way Cady stumbled over her words to defend him.  

 

“No!  No.  Everything’s fine,” Cady said, shoving her hair out of her face and flashing the biggest, most sincere smile she could.  “Just stopped to help, that’s all.”

 

“We’re fine, Rita,” Mathias says, flat and annoyed.  “Officer Larance gave you a fix-it ticket for that windshield last month.”

 

At her name, Rita grins. “Sure did.”  She turns her attention back to Cady, and it takes work for him to keep himself from groaning.  “You sure, kid?  Matty’s a wily one.”  

 

“Matty,” Cady repeats.  There’s shock and a thread of laughter in her voice, like she’s just barely holding back.  

 

“Yep,” Rita says, that wicked grin still curling her lips.  “And trust me, when Matty offers help, he usually wants something in return.” she winks, her emphasis making it agonizingly clear what she was implying.  She pursed her lips a little, the smile still hidden in the corners of her mouth as she surveyed the scene.  “Good luck with the flat.  Looks like you got it well in hand after all.”  

 

She gives a little wave and starts to roll her window up, gunning the engine as she pulled away.  Mathias glares after her.  He carefully doesn’t look at Cady until Rita’s truck is far along down the road.  

 

When he does, Cady’s staring at him, this huge, self-satisfied smile on her face.  Like the cat that ate the canary, except in this case the canary was that incredibly unprofessional nickname.  “ Matty ,” she repeats, on the edge of laughter.  

 

“Don’t you start,” he grumbles.  But there’s something about the smile on Cady’s face that draws a lopsided smirk from him.  

 

“Ex girlfriend?”  Cady asks, the humor in her voice tempered with the smallest sliver of empathy.

 

“Something like that.”  Mathias turns and grabs his water off the car, hopefully for the last time.  “Haven’t seen her around in a while.”  

 

Cady turns back to the car, lowering the jack.  “Can’t be easy, dating with your job.”

 

“No kidding,” Mathias agrees.  “I’m on call all the damn time.  Plus, usually I’ve arrested somebody they know.  It can get awkward.”

 

That makes a smile flicker across Cady’s face as she tightens the lug nuts one last time.  “Yeah.  The last person dad tried see was somebody he met on a murder investigation.”  

 

Mathias snorts.  He has a tough time imagining Walt Longmire dating anybody, but if really tried, he could see it being something that socially awkward.  “Sounds about right.  You want me to put the flat in the trunk?”

 

The question seems to catch her by surprise, and she looks at him for half a moment, the lug wrench still grasped in her hands.  “Ah...sure!”  She says, after a moment, pulling the jack out from under the car and standing. Then a stupid grin crosses her face, and her voice takes on a teasing tone.  “Unless you’re going to want something in return.”  

 

It’s walking the edge of being flirty.  He grins despite himself, grabbing the flat tire from where it laid in the dirt and hauling it to the back of her car.  “I think you’re doing more than enough, working pro bono with the tribe.  Any something would just be a nice bonus.”  

 

It slips out before he can stop it, and as the words leave his mouth he wants to hit himself.  That was definitely crossing the line, professionally speaking.  

 

Cady makes a noise that’s somewhere between a stifled snort and a laugh, and she pauses with her hand on the latch for the trunk, giving him a look.  “Did you just flirt with me?  Wow, your ex was right.  You are wily.”

 

The hot flush of embarrassment crawls over his skin.  He can imagine her telling her dad, casually, like it didn’t matter, and Walt going on the warpath.  He has to deal with enough shit from the Longmires already.  On the bright side, the lopsided smile on her face said she wasn’t one hundred percent ticked off.  

 

Instead of responding directly, he jerks his chin at the trunk.  “You gonna open that, or am I gonna stand holding a flat all day?”  

 

The lopsided smile on her lips grows into a small grin, and she opens the trunk, dumping in the wrench and the car jack.  He hefts the flat up, shoving it into the trunk as gently as he could, and backs away just as quick so she can shut it.  She does with a slam, then fishes her car keys out of her pocket, favoring him with another smile.  More genuine, this time.  

 

“Seriously, thanks, Mathias.”  

 

He nods.  “Drive safe.  Go get that tire replaced.”  


He watches her get into her car and start it up, the engine purring to life.  It kicks up dirt as she pulls back onto the road and drives away.  He stands by the side of the road for a minute more after she leaves, and then he takes another drink of his water and gets back to running.  

Chapter Text

It keeps popping up in her head the rest of the day, at the strangest moments.  While she waits to get a new tire put on, while she drives, for her whole shift at the Red Pony before she goes home.  She gets in late, and she tries to distract herself with the handful of clients she had, spreading the case files out over her coffee table, over her couch, over the dining room table.  

 

She keeps going back and forth.  One case file, another one, a third after that.  Picking them up, trying to read sentences, rereading them three or four times, then setting them down again.  It bothers her that she can’t focus.  It wasn’t a big thing.  She shouldn’t be losing focus over this.

 

She goes into the kitchen to make coffee, carries around the mug for a little while, then waves at Vic when she comes in from work and tries to read another case file.  She almost manages to get halfway through it, but then somewhere in the scans of the files she catches Mathias’s name, and that just brings back the stupid memory that, for whatever reason, she’s having trouble shutting away.  She throws down the case file with a disgusted noise and goes to get coffee.  

 

Cady doesn’t realize Vic is watching her until the other woman follows her into the kitchen, brows knit together in confusion.  Cady glances at Vic, and then down to the still full coffee mug that Vic’s toting around.  Cady’s coffee mug from ten minutes earlier.  Cady freezes with a new mug in her hand, her other hand on the coffee pot.  

 

She scrambles for something to say.  “Coffee?”  She asks brightly.  

 

“No, I’m good,” Vic says slowly, concern in her voice.  “I had like five cups today.  And it’s midnight. You okay?”  

 

“Sure!”  Cady says, putting the coffee pot back on the heater and moving to replace the mug in the cabinet.  “Just - you know.  Stuff.”  

 

Vic hands Cady the full mug, and Cady holds it close, taking comfort from the way the heat filters through the porcelain.  Vic leans a hip against the kitchen counter, crossing her arms.  “Yeah, I know about stuff.  Anything you want to talk about?”  

 

Cady opens her mouth, then closes it, tapping her fingers on the mug.  She wants to say it out loud to somebody.  She can’t tell Henry, and she can’t tell her dad; they’d get weird and overprotective, and it was probably nothing.  “It’s nothing,” she says, out loud, like that would make her stop thinking about it.  It doesn’t, and Vic’s stare isn’t helping either.  Cady mumbles the next part, staring down at the mug in her hands.  “It’s just. I think Mathias was flirting with me, today.”

 

“Mathias?”  Vic repeats, incredulous.  She pushes herself off the counter, her hands moving to her hips.  “As in Police Chief Mathias?  Short grumpy bastard?”  

 

“Yeah,” Cady says, eyes flickering up to meet Vic’s, her voice small.  

 

“He can flirt? ”  Vic says, that incredulity only growing.  

 

“Apparently,” Cady says, flicking a hand out in a frustrated gesture.  “I mean, we ran into each other by accident.  I was on the rez, meeting a new client - a new maybe-client, I guess - and I got a flat and he found me changing it.”  

 

“Mathias flirted with you while you changed a tire,”  Vic says, the strangest smile flickering across her face.  “Are you kidding?”  

 

Cady flailed her hand in the air again.  “Nope!  I almost wish I was!”  She paused, giving Vic a wide-eyed stare.  “You can’t tell dad.”  

 

Vic let out a short bark of a laugh.  “Oh no.  We are not telling your dad.  That is fucking hilarious though.  I didn’t know Mathias had any emotions other than ‘pissed off’.”

 

“Neither did I,” Cady says, though that’s not quite right.  She’s seen him smile before, seen him laugh, seen him be friendly with his officers and be sympathetic with victims.  Mathias has layers that her dad probably never sees.

 

“How do you feel about it?”  Vic asks, crossing her arms again.  “I mean, he doesn’t exactly seem like your type.  Aside from the fact he’s another guy who’d piss your dad off.”

 

Cady blinks a couple times, trying to process that.  The fact that Vic was talking about her type - and did she have a type?  Was it really as simple as guys that pissed off her dad ? - like she might actually consider it threw her for a loop for a moment.  

 

But that made her wonder why she couldn’t get it out of her head.  It wasn’t like it had grossed her out. It hadn’t make her feel uncomfortable.  If anything, it made her feel a little bit more relaxed.  If Mathias was flirting, it meant he didn’t find her annoying.  Didn’t hate her for butting in to tribal business just like her dad always did.  It probably helped that she’d asked for permission first, but still.  

 

“I don’t know,” Cady says, after a moment.  “I mean, I don’t even know if he was serious.”  

 

Vic grins.  “Then maybe you should find out.”  She’s teasing, at least a little, but Cady has the uncomfortable feeling that it’s not 100% joking.

 

“That would be so unbelievably unprofessional,” Cady says, putting her hand to her forehead.  A little smile flickers across her face before she can stop it.  “Plus I think dad might disown me.”

 

“If Walt could survive Branch, I think he’ll be okay,” Vic says.  She has to stifle a yawn.  “I mean, Mathias only socked him in the face once, far as I know.”  

 

Cady blinks, trying not to let the dim horror show on his face.  “How many times did Branch…?”

 

Vic shrugs.  “They fought,” she says, “A lot.  I don’t know how many times they got physical, just the one time I broke it up.”  

 

“Oh,” Cady murmurs. She doesn’t ask anymore.  Doesn’t need to, because Vic yawns again and shakes her head, like she’s frustrated by her tiredness.  

 

“I’m gonna call it a night,” Vic says, pushing her arms out from her sides in a tired stretch.  “Don’t stress about it.  Like you said, it’s probably nothing.”  

 

“Good night,” Cady says.  She stays in the kitchen as Vic leaves, moving to lean against the counter.  She put the coffee mug down, frowning to herself.  

 

If she were being honest - really honest - with herself, part of the reason she couldn’t get it out of her head was because it had been kind of nice.  Weird. Very weird.  But nice.  Most of the flirting she got was from half drunk idiots at the Red Pony, people who quickly backed off after Henry gave them dark glares. Having someone sober flirt with her was a nice change.  In a strange way, having somebody who wasn’t afraid of her father was nice too.  Most of her dating options in Absaroka county dwindled fiercely when they found out her last name was Longmire.

 

And honestly, it helped that she liked Mathias’s smile.  

 

---

 

For a couple days, she doesn’t make it out onto the reservation.  A client comes to visit her one day, and the next she has to help Henry take inventory at the Red Pony, which takes a lot longer than she would like.  

 

The third day she has to go to the casino. Mary Little Horse had wanted to have another talk, but the only time she had free between work and her kid was her lunch break during her shift.  That found Cady at the casino, talking with her client in hushed voices out back about the case in question.  There’s some issues with the casino management, of course, and that was something that Cady was finding in droves with her other clients, but Mary is far more concerned about the custody battle between her and her non-native ex-husband.  It created a difficult, complex forest of red tape that Cady is more than happy to weed through for her.  

 

It’s not a long meeting, by any stretch of the imagination.  Mary only has a half hour break, but by the time it’s over, it seems like a little bit of stress had gone out of the woman’s shoulders.  Cady hopes she’d helped, at least.  

 

Despite herself she slips back into the casino.  There’s a coffee shop inside, and even though she doesn’t really want to patronize the place, she needs the pick-me-up before she drives back to Durant.  

 

She makes it halfway across the casino floor, darting between banks of slot machines as she goes.  It’s crowded for a little after noon on a weekday; she wonders if a tour bus had come by. The influx of white-haired folks scooting around with walkers seemed to imply that yes, one had; from the retirement village, at that.  

 

She dips past a couple of seniors and nearly runs straight into Mathias, stopping short at the last second.  He jerks to a stop too, arching his brows at her.  He’s decked out in his uniform; black shirt, jeans, the jacket that seems out of place in the climate controlled building.  

 

“Well, imagine seeing you here.”  He looks tired.  More than that, exhausted; his eyes were shadowed like he hadn’t slept, that almost ever-present frown a little more narrow than normal.  

 

“I had a meeting,” Cady says, “Mary Little Horse again.  Are you working a case?”  

 

That makes a narrow smile flicker across his face for half a moment, and he runs a hand through his hair.  “One of many.”  

 

“You look like hell,” she says.  That makes him huff out a breathless laugh.  

 

“Thanks,” he muttered.

 

“Sorry,” she says with a little wince.  For half a moment, there’s an awkward silence between them.  He looks at her, a gauging look, as the sounds of the slot machines rang out all around them.  It’s like he’s waiting to see how she’ll react.  She sucks in a breath, and before she can think better of it, she asks.  “Do you want a coffee?  I was about to go get one.  If you have time, I mean.  I wouldn’t want to keep you from anything. I don’t know if what you’re working on is time sensitive, or...”  

 

The longer she talks, the more that something that might be amusement begins to glint in his eyes.  An expression crosses his face, something that’s hard to describe - it looks like he’s smiling just with his eyes.  “Sure,” he says.  “I could use some coffee.”  

 

“Great!”  She says, flashing her brightest smile at him.  “My treat.”  

 

He snorts.  “Are you kidding, Ms. Pro Bono?  I should be paying.”  

 

“Hey, I still have some money,” she says, starting towards the coffee shop once more.  Mathias follows, keeping close.  She doesn’t know why she’s suddenly so aware of his proximity, but she is.  

 

“I can’t imagine you’re getting a whole lot working part time at the Red Pony,” he says.

 

“I get good tips,” she argues.  The unspoken part of that thought is that she gets good tips for Durant, and that isn’t saying much.  It was fine when she was just supporting herself, but court fees and gas for driving all over is starting to pile up.   

 

“Yeah?”  Mathias says, arching a brow at her as they come to the coffee shop, nestled in the recesses of the casino.  It’s a gaudy little thing with a red neon sign and a menu that has more milk and sugar than caffeine.  Still, the menu has basic drip coffee, and that will be good enough. There’s a line, so they join up, standing next to each other as they wait.  “How’s your tip jar looking after getting that tire replaced?”  

 

Cady glances down, fiddling with the cuff of her sleeve.  “Okay, yeah.  It’s not as good as it was.”  

 

“I’ll get it,” Mathias says, a vague smirk on his face as they scoot up in line. That catches her attention.  

 

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re trying to pay for my coffee,” she says.  

 

He tilts his head, glancing at her from the corner of his eye, and after a moment he shrugs.  His lips are still turned up at the corners, the smallest smile possible.  “What if I was?”  

 

Cady doesn’t get to reply, because the person in front of them in line steps out of the way, and then it’s their turn to order.  The woman behind the register takes their order, and despite the previous conversation, Cady still fumbles for her wallet.  She’s too slow, and Mathias pays in cash before she can even get her card out.  

 

As the woman behind the register is picking out change, she gives Cady a side-eyed look, and then turns her stare to Mathias.  “Sandra’s asking about you.”  

 

Mathias makes a face, a narrow frown, his brows coming down to a straight, frustrated line. It’s a look that Cady recognizes from a few days ago, when he’d seen that red and white pickup coming down the road.  Suddenly she has to bite back the urge to laugh; she’d bet money that Sandra was another ex.  

 

The cashier hands over his change, and Mathias takes it.  “Sandra stopped returning my calls three months ago.  If she wants to contact me, she can make an appointment with the office.”  

 

The cashier shrugs.  “Your drinks’ll be ready at the end of the bar.”

 

Cady manages to keep from giggling until they get to the end of the counter.  Mathias stuffs his hands into his jacket pockets and glowers at her.  It has the exact opposite of its intended effect, and she can’t help it; she starts laughing.  

 

“I’m sorry,” she says, waving a hand.  “I’m really sorry.  It’s just that my dad did not tell me how much of a flirt you are.”  

 

“I don’t flirt with your dad,” Mathias deadpans. It makes her laugh again.  

 

“How many exes do you have ?”  She asks, after a moment.  The barista puts their coffees on the bar, and they grab them, Cady guiding them towards the exit.    

 

Mathias grumbles something, taking a sip of his coffee and glaring at the casino as they walk through it.  She’s probably supposed to be sorry, but she’s not.  “Not that many,” he says, “But they’re all coming out of the damn woodwork.”  

 

“Hey, having some is better than having… none.”  Her voice hitches a little when the word comes out.   None , not really, not with Branch gone.  She didn’t really have a chance of running into him by accident.  It makes a little sadness spark in her, and she takes a sip of her coffee too.  Still, she is who she is, and the past is the past, so she forces the smile back onto her face.  

 

It fades when she realizes that Mathias is giving her that gauging look again.  She can’t remember if he knows, or if he heard, or if it even registered on his radar that she’d had a thing with Branch.  Everyone in the sheriff’s office knew, obviously, but she didn’t think it had been big gossip around Durant and especially not on the reservation.  But there’s something in his eyes, something that makes her think he had his suspicions.   

 

If he knows, he mercifully doesn’t say a word.  He nods, and he turns his head, looking out the big glass doors that head to the parking lot.  He’s back to looking exhausted.  She wonders how long he’s been awake.  

 

“Is your shift over soon?”  She asks, barely more than a murmur.  

 

He glances at her, a tired look.  It takes a moment before he cracks a smile.  “My shift is never over.”  

 

The rez is almost as understaffed as the Absaroka sheriff’s department.  She sucks in a breath and lets it out in a sigh.  “You should try and get some sleep, if you can.”  

 

The smile on his face turns wry.  He hefts the coffee cup.  “That’s what this is for.”  

 

“I guess that’s the next best thing,” she says, returning that smile with one of her own.  He starts out the glass doors of the casino, and she follows him out into the parking lot.  She can see his cruiser, parked a few lanes away.  

 

“Where are you parked?”  He asks.  She gestures to her car, parked a few rows away from his.  He pauses, squinting at her car for a handful of seconds before turning his attention back to her.  “Coming into the station tomorrow?”  

 

She nods, reaching up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear.  “Just for a few minutes.”  

 

“That’s a shame,” he says with a crooked smile.  “Larance has been brewing the coffee the past couple days.”  

 

That startles a short laugh from her.  “Was Larance the one making coffee before?”  Mathias nods, and she tries not to shudder at the memory of the mud they’d been drinking before she’d dared to brew her own.  “I am so sorry.”  

 

“Yeah, well,” Mathias says.  He leaves it at that.  

 

Cady glances back at her car with a sigh.  She’s not exactly excited about the road trip home.  “Well, I should go,” she says.  “Thanks for the coffee.”  And then, before she can rethink it, she leans over and wraps an arm around his shoulders in a quick hug.  He hugs her back without any of the surprise she’d half expected, his hand warm on her waist.  

 

When she pulls away, she has the hot flush to her cheeks that means she’s probably blushing.  She puts on a big smile, rushes out a quick “Be safe out there!”  and then turns to walk to her car.  

 

She really hopes that he hadn’t had time to notice the flush on her cheeks, but when she dares a glance over her shoulder, the grin on his face says he had.  

Chapter Text

The call comes a day or two later, after Mathias had finally gotten some much needed sleep.  It’s early afternoon, and he’s at work in his office, filling out paperwork when Meryl from the front desk pokes her head in.  

 

“What?” he asks, half a sigh.  

 

“Dispatch got a call, it’s that lawyer girl,” Meryl says.  That makes him look up from his paperwork.  “Says she found some guy drunk on the side of the road.”  

 

He grimaces.  “She say if she’s hurt, or he is?”  

 

“Nope,” Meryl says, popping the p in the word before disappearing out the door.  Mathias sits for a moment longer, trying not to groan.  If it’s Cady, and if she’s hurt, he’s going to have to call Walt, and the less he calls Walt the better.  

 

Eventually he gets up, gathering his coat and his keys.  He gets the location from dispatch before heading out, and then it’s a long dusty drive out to the far reaches of the rez.  

 

Cady’s call came from near the border, a gravel road that didn’t get a whole lot of use anymore.  On the drive over he wonders if she got lost, or if she’d been looking for trouble.  He wonders if she found trouble, and that’s why she called.  He drives in silence, listening when the radio buzzes occasionally, hearing the crunch of gravel under his tires and the ping of rocks flicking up into the undercarriage.  

 

He finds Cady’s car before he finds her, pulling up behind it on the shoulder of the road.  Still in his truck, he gives a good glance around.  At first, he doesn’t see anything, and the quiet seems wrong.  

 

A minute goes by, and nothing happens, so with a muttered curse he climbs out of his truck.  He looks around once more, and then he can hear it, distant over the wind.  Somebody’s talking.  

 

It takes a moment to figure it out, and then he realizes they’re on the other side of the road.  At least, that’s where the talking is coming from. He strides over, the gravel crunching under his boots.  

 

The shoulder on the other side of the road stays flat for about twelve feet before dipping down into a dry riverbed.  That’s where Cady is, perched on a rock and watching a sunburnt man who’s laying in the riverbed, staring at the sky with pitch black eyes.  

 

“Cady,” Mathias calls.  She whips around, staring at him.  If the man is aware that Mathias is there, he doesn’t react at all.  “This the drunk guy?”

 

“Yes,” Cady says, then pauses, her brow wrinkling.  “I never said he was drunk. I said he was intoxicated.”  

 

Mathias follows the same path that Cady took, walking in her footsteps as he came down the dry riverbed.  He eyes the guy on the ground as he does, and he comes to a stop just behind Cady’s right shoulder.  

 

“You okay?”  He asks, daring to reach out and rest his hand on her shoulder.  It’s the wrong damn time to feel satisfied when she flushes, but he does anyways.  

 

“I’m fine,” she says, waving a hand.  “I mean, he elbowed me, but he didn’t mean to.”  

 

“Hmph.”  He lets go of her, edging around to crouch next to the guy.  He’s wearing clothes that are covered in dirt and clinging weeds, and at some point he’d lost a shoe. The man’s pupils are completely blown, and he’s not tracking movement too good.  Mathias waves a hand in front of his face, and the guy turns his head, looking a little bit to the left of Mathias’s face.  

 

“It ain’t real, it’s a painting,” the guy says, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world.  “It’s just one whole damn painting and they keep changing it.”  

 

“He’s pretty screwed up,” Cady murmurs.  “When I found him he just kept on telling me that meaning has no meaning, and he threw up when I gave him water.”  

 

Mathias sits back on his heels.  “Yep.  He’s trashed.”   He let out a little sigh through his nose.  “Looks like he’s been wandering for a while, too.”  

 

“He won’t move,” Cady says, propping her chin on her palm.  “I tried to tell him to stay on the road after I called, but…”  

 

“But he’s blitzed out of his mind,” Mathias says, a little frustrated smirk crossing his face.  He fights the urge to sigh again.  “You said he puked already?”  

 

“Yeah.”  

 

“Good.  Maybe he won’t puke in the cruiser, then.”

 

Getting the guy up is a struggle.  He doesn’t really respond, doesn’t do much more than blink owlishly and let his head roll around when Mathias grabs his arm and hauls him up.  Cady goes to the guy’s other side without Mathias even asking, and she laces an arm underneath the guy’s and helps carry him up the bank.  

 

They slip and slide a couple times, and the guy doesn’t help at all.  He goes limp, like a toddler, and once again Mathias wants to curse.  By the time they make it up the bank they’re both sweating.  

 

The only other issue comes when Mathias tries to put the guy in the back of the cruiser.  He has enough time to haul the door open.  That’s when the guy flips, suddenly reeling back and flailing his arms.  “No no no, I need the sun, you’re trying to kill me!”  

 

The guy kicks and twists, yanking his arm from over Cady’s head and bringing his elbow back.  It catches her right in the face and she yelps, jumping away and clapping her hands over her nose.  

 

It’s the noise that Cady makes that makes Mathias stop giving a crap about the stoned idiot.  He still has a pretty good grip on the guy’s other arm, and that he twists around behind the guy’s back, shoving him against the cruiser hard enough that it rocks a little.  That knocks the fight out of the guy, and he goes limp again, so Mathias stuffs him into the back seat and slams the door.  With any luck, the guy’s too fucked to figure out door handles.  

 

“Cady?”  He whips around and strides over to her soon as he slams the door shut.  She still has her hands clapped over her nose and her eyes are wet.  “Let me see.”  

 

“It’s fine,” she says, and she pulls her hands away long enough to wipe at her eyes.  She forces a smile.  “See?  Fine.”  

 

“You sure?”  He demands, and he grabs her hand when she moves to cover her face again.  She’s not bleeding, which is good, but he still searches for any sign she might be really hurt.  If he sends her back to Durant with a black eye he’d get an earful.  “Don’t have to act tough for me.”  

 

It makes her laugh, just a huff of breath but that’s better than nothing.  “I’m okay,” she says.  “Just tearing up, y’know?  Always happens if I get hit in the nose.”  

 

He searches her face for another handful of seconds for any sign of bruising or discoloration before he nods.  He moves on to something else, letting go of her hand before he can think too much about the stupid shit he’s been doing.  “Wanna tell me why you were way the hell out here?”  

 

She shrugs, wiping her eyes one last time.  “Just driving,” she says.  

 

He arches an eyebrow and gives her a look, one that she wilts under a little bit.  “You were lost.”  

 

Another little huff of laughter left her, but it was frustrated this time.  “Ugh. Yes.”

 

It makes a little smile flicker across his face.  “You need a better map.”  

 

“I’m starting to think I need a guide,” she grumbles, running a hand through her hair.  A couple strands fall in her face, and Mathias wants to smooth them back, an impulse that he ignores. “Though I guess it worked out well for him that I got lost this time.”  

 

“That’s true,” Mathias admits, glancing over his shoulder to the cruiser.  The windows are tinted, but he can see the shadow of the man sitting at an angle, like he couldn’t figure out which way was upright.  “Well, I’ve got him now.  If you wanna keep getting lost, feel free.  If you’re sure your face is okay.”

 

“Still okay,” she said, more warmth in her tone than there had been a minute ago.  When he turns back there’s this odd little smile on her face.  “Thank you,” she says, and this time when she hugs him it’s more personal. Closer, and it lingers, the press of her body against his.  

 

He loses his head a little.  She pulls away after a moment, but he pulls her back, and this time he kisses her.  And that lingers too, his lips against hers, and all he can smell is her perfume.  It’s a gentle kiss, and he doesn’t push it any further, and when she breaks it he doesn’t follow her, even though he wants to kiss her again.  

 

“Too much?”  he asks, looking up at her.  Her eyes are wide, her face flushed and her lips parted just a little.  The tilt of her brows is almost concerned, almost afraid, and he steps away from her then.  

 

But then she licks her lips and focuses on him, that laser focus she switched in and out of so damn quick.  “No,” she murmurs, and she twines her arms around his neck, kissing him again.  

 

He smiles against her lips, his hands finding a place on her hips, and he holds her close against him.  He’d have a hell of a time explaining this later, but for now?  Fuck it.  It was good.

 

---

 

The first thing that Mathias figures out is that Cady is a damn good liar.  

 

The day after their sordid makeout session in the middle of a gravel road, she came into the office and didn’t even bat an eye at him.  It was a pretty good act, too, until he realized he could make her blush by brushing by a little too close.  He can keep up with her, too; he’s great at acting like he doesn’t give a damn.  Except those rare moments when she feels bold enough to tease him with that stupid nickname; whenever she calls him Matty he can’t keep away the grin.

 

The only problem is they’re both always working.  He wants to get her back to his house sometime.  Soon, if he could help it.  Instead they settle for some teenage bullshit, parking places and meeting up for stolen moments.  That’s how he learns the second thing - Cady is just as horny as he is.  They don’t quite reach into kinky realms, not yet, but there’s a night where they’re parked and she climbs onto his lap, grabbing a fistful of hair and kissing him until they’re both out of breath.  She nearly rips the buttons off his shirt. At least when she leaves marks, they’re somewhere he can easily cover up.  

 

It’s interesting, seeing how much she hides behind being an unsure good girl.  He even tells her that, one night when they’re in his car, and it makes her laugh.  The different sides, the ones she shows the world and the ones that come out when she’s with him, they’re still fascinating to him. He knows they’re not the only facets of her, either; he looks forward to seeing her in the courtroom sometime.  He wants to see how confident she can be.  

 

The third thing he finds out is that she’s just as bad as relationship crap as he is.  It’s one of the rare times he’s in Durant when she corners him in a parking lot, not even out of sight of the sheriff’s office.  She stutters some lame conversation starter, and he leans against his car, watching her stumble over her words.  

 

After a moment she gives him a look, sharp and shrewd, like she knows he’s just waiting for her to get to the point.  She bites her lip, and then she does.  “I just.  What are we?  I mean, us.”

 

“What, you need a label?”  He asks, tilting his head.  

 

“Maybe,” she says, tucking her hair back and glancing around.  Checking for anyone who might be watching.  “I don’t know.  I just need to know. What is it to you?”

 

He shrugs.  “We’re seeing each other,” he says.  “That’s all it needs to be.  Anything else is up to you.”  

 

She huffs, but it’s not happy, and she stares out across Durant.  There’s something more that she wants to say, it’s clear in her body language, so he waits.  It comes out a minute later, when she turns sharp eyes to him.   “I’m not sure I can date another cop.”

 

He knows she’s talking about Connally.  He’s not stupid, and it confirms some suspicions he’d had.  A murdered ex couldn’t be easy - especially not the way that Branch had been killed.  He wasn’t going to say the same sort of thing couldn’t happen to him, though he liked to think he was less reckless than Branch was.  

 

“I didn’t say we were dating,” he says, “I said we’re seeing each other.  It’s different.”  

 

When he puts it like that, some of the tension goes out of her shoulders.  She nods, ducking her head a little.  “Okay,” she says, and then again, “okay.  I can do that.”  

 

“I sure hope so, you’ve already been doing it,” he says, and he gives her a grin.  It makes her smile, and that’s good enough.  

 

They see each other a few more times, more of those stolen moments in cramped cars, before shit hits the fan.  There’s the shooting, and the sheriff showing up on his land and bagging the oil rig worker.  Between Longmire, the rig workers, and everything else that’s always going on on the rez, he doesn’t even have time to pick up the damn phone and call.  Not like Cady’d have time either; any time she didn’t spend on her case files, she was working at the Red Pony.  He’d probably been stealing the few moments of free time she’d had.  

 

It gets worse and worse, and then he finds Standing Bear’s truck covered in blood.  He puts two and two together, has a pretty good idea what the hell happened.  He doesn’t even think about the shitstorm that he’s bringing down on his head when he arrests Henry, he just does it, because he needs to get some kind of respect back.

 

It’s only when Cady storms in that he realizes what he did.  He stands by it, sure, but he has never seen her this pissed, this upset.  She isn’t even subtle about it.  When she comes in she goes straight to his office and slams the door shut behind her, color high in her cheeks and her eyes wild.  

 

“You can’t hold my client,”  she says.  

 

He leans back in his chair, staring up at her. There’s no question in his mind she’s talking about Henry. It’s hard work to keep his voice calm when he speaks.  “How do you figure?”  

 

That sparks a sharp-edged smile on her face, and she looks like she wants to pace, but all she does is shift back and forth on her feet.  “He hasn’t confessed to anything, has he?”  

 

Mathias watches her, still as he could be.  “No, he hasn’t spoken to anyone. That doesn’t mean I can’t hold him.”  

 

“What evidence do you have?”  She demands.  “A stolen truck with blood in it?”  

 

Mathias nods, the smallest fraction of a movement.  “Standing Bear’s blood.”  

 

“Do you have a blood sample?”  Cady asks.  “Or the gun that shot the oil rig worker?  Do you have any evidence, hard evidence, that my client was involved in the case?”  

 

Mathias has to grit his teeth. “I still need a blood sample.”  

 

“Get a court order,” Cady snaps.  “And the gun?”  

 

He can’t help himself; he glares at her.  Being yelled at is starting to piss him off.  “He hasn’t told us where he dumped it yet.”  

 

“He doesn’t need to tell you anything,” Cady says, “not without me present.  What you have is a pile of circumstantial evidence that can be explained.”

 

“What I have,” Mathias growls, “is Henry Standing Bear’s truck, covered in blood, and Henry Standing Bear with a bullet wound in his thigh.  The shooter left the scene in a car.  How much you wanna bet the tread marks match Standing Bear’s truck?  What I have is an accomplice .”

 

“You have nothing,” Cady growls back.  She pulls herself up, standing as straight-backed as she can, glaring at him.  If he didn’t know better he might say she was tearing up a little.  “Now can you please take me to Henry so I can provide him with the legal counsel he requires?”

 

He glares at her, and he wonders why the hell he hated himself so much that he kept getting involved with Longmires.  “I think you’re too close to this case,” he says, and it makes righteous fury burn in her eyes.  

 

“Take me to my client,” she repeats, her voice freezing cold.  

 

What Mathias wants to do is swear, maybe kick something.  What he does is get up from behind his desk and take Cady to where Henry Standing Bear is being held, grinding his teeth the whole way.  

 

The energy between them must have been like a goddamn forest fire, because even Standing Bear catches on when they enter the room, glancing between Mathias and Cady like he was expecting a full on brawl to break out.  When Cady steps into the room and murmurs a frosty ‘thank you’, Mathias slams the door and storms away.  And that’s that, for now.  

 

 

Chapter Text

It’s not hard for Cady to tear the case apart.  It feels terrible - awful - because what she has to do is blame it all on Gab, and that feels so incredibly wrong.  She doesn’t want to demonize the girl more, but from what information she got from her dad, Gab was in the wind.  Henry was still here, and neither she nor the sheriff were going to let Henry go to jail again any time soon.   

 

They don’t have the bullet that tore through Henry’s leg, so they can’t identify it; the tire matches the tires on Henry’s truck, but a deeper forensic search of the truck finds hair and skin samples that can be identified as Gab’s.  That paired with the oil rig workers who had attacked her father made it relatively easy to convince the courts that Henry was just caught between two forces.  

 

She has to ignore the way that Mathias glowers at her during the proceedings.  It’s only after Henry is finally cleared that she can sort of relax, though it’s not going as well as she hoped, because now her dad is dating the psychologist and her patients are kicking up all kinds of trouble.  Not that her dad will tell her outright what’s going on; he keeps talking about ongoing investigations, and she can tell he’s still bitter because she’d lied to him about Henry, but it makes her worry nonetheless.  

 

After the dust settles, Cady realizes she’s somehow isolated herself. Vic’s caught in her own drama, something that Cady is more than willing to keep herself out of.  She’ll protect Henry to the ends of the earth, because he’s like her second dad, he’d been there for her time and time again, but she couldn’t shake the knowledge that she had lied for him.  Plus she’d taken the money from Nighthorse, and that made things strange.  Not just between her and Henry, but between her and her dad, too. It’s rocky, and they don’t talk quite as carelessly as they used to.   She still gets breakfast with her dad every week at the Busy Bee, but it’s tenser, now.

 

She doesn’t even want to think about when she goes to pick up more case files from the rez. Most people don’t seem to care too much, but Mathias...Mathias is angry, and she knows it, so she steers clear of him as much as she can.

 

She wouldn’t trade getting Henry out of trouble for the world, but there’s still times when she wishes they could go back to whatever she and Mathias had been for those couple of weeks.  Seeing each other, like he’d always called it.  She missed it, as nebulous and strange as it had been.

 

It doesn’t really change until a meeting with one of her clients goes wrong.  She realized something was up when she couldn’t reach Andrew over the phone, and even though it was probably better left to law enforcement, she drove out to check on him anyways.  

 

The dog’s barking in the yard when she pulls up, and knocking on the front door doesn’t get an answer.  She checks the door.  It’s unlocked, so she hammers on the door one more time, and when she doesn’t get an answer she steps inside.  

 

She doesn’t get two steps into the living room before she sees Andrew, her client, sprawled out on the couch, the gun in his hand and his blood on the wall.  It takes a moment for her to process, staring wide-eyed and breathless, but then she stumbles back out of the house.  Crime scene, it’s a crime scene, and she can’t be in it.  

 

As the dog rushes by her to try and get in the house, she grabs its collar and pulls the door shut.  Then she sits on the stairs as the dog scratches at the door, and she fumbles for her phone.  

 

It takes two tries before she can call the tribal police, and it confuses her when she realizes that she’s speaking very calmly, telling the dispatcher everything they need to know.  It’s not until the conversation’s over and she’s hung up that she starts to cry.  

 

She manages to compose herself before the tribal police get there, but only barely.  Two cruisers pull up, officers she doesn’t know.  She almost wants to cry again, and she doesn’t know why; Instead the dog whines and puts its nose in her face, and she has to push it away to stand.  Her hands are shaking.  

 

She gives her statement to the one while the other canvasses the scene.  She’s not surprised by the questions, the way that she’s asked everything again and again, six ways from sunday.  Then she writes a statement and they send her on her way.  Her hands are still shaking when she gets into her car, and as stupid as it is, she wonders what will happen to the dog as she drives away.  

 

At this point she’s spent enough time driving around that she’s relatively certain she knows where she’s going.  She drives like she’s lost anyways, watching as the time ticks by, before going to a little dive bar on the side of the road.  She doesn’t even think how out of place she’ll be, she just knows she needs a drink.  

 

A beer goes by, then two, then three.  It’s not working fast enough and so stupidly she chases her last two beers with shots.  She realizes she made a mistake when she stands to go to the bathroom and the world spins around her a little.  That’s when she pays and goes out to her car, sprawling out in the back seat and staring at the ceiling.  

 

She thumps the palm of her hand to her forehead.  “What are you doing?”  she murmurs to herself.  It’s not even four in the afternoon and she’s above the legal limit.  But of course that question makes her remember the blood spattered on the wall, and she knows exactly why she’s legally drunk in her car on the rez.  

 

She has her phone out and she’s wondering who she can call to pick her up when there’s a knock on her car window.  She nearly jumps out of her skin, and when she scrambles up, she sees who it is.  She covers her face and sinks back on to the seat.  

 

“Open the door, Cady,” Mathias says, his voice dim and muffled through the car door.  

 

He’s probably still pissed.  The thought makes her tear up a little bit, but she pushes it away as she sits up, scooting over to the door and cracking it open.  

 

He grabs the handle and pulls it the rest of the way, staring at her with dark eyes.  The breeze from outside is soothing, if nothing else.  

 

“Why are you here?”  She asks, still sitting in the car, not quite ready to slide out.  

 

“A white girl gets drunk in a rez bar and then wanders off.  You think I need that on my watch?”  He pauses, then jerks his chin towards the bar.  “The owner called me.  Thought you’d be driving drunk. I put it together after hearing Andy shot himself.”  

 

“I wasn’t going to drive anywhere,” Cady murmurs, rubbing a hand over her face.  “I didn’t wander off.”

 

“I know,” Mathias says.  His voice is gentle, calmer than it has been in a long time.  He pauses, looking out at the horizon.  “You wanna talk about it?”  

 

“No,” she says, and she finally slides out of the car.  It got too hot in there anyways.  She takes the door from Mathias, shuts it, and she sits down with her back against the rear wheel of her car, knees to her chest.  She doesn’t care about the dirt, not really.  She just sits and stares.  

 

He sighs.  It catches her a little bit by surprise when he sits down next to her, one knee up and the other leg sprawled out.  “Do you want to talk about anything ?”

 

She thinks she hears some tiredness in his voice, a certain level of exhaustion, and she wonders if he ever missed her.  

 

She fiddles with the hem of her pants for a moment before asking something else, something she’d wanted to know the answer to for a long time.  “Why’d you go after Henry so hard?  He’s not a bad guy.  You know he’s not.  Is it just a vendetta against my dad?  Against….me?”  Her voice cracks a little on that last question.

 

Mathias is silent for a long moment.  She doesn’t dare glance over to see the expression on his face.  When he speaks, though, she realizes she wasn’t wrong about the exhaustion in his voice.  “My people don’t get to experience a lot of justice.  You know that.  Court takes a long time and the laws are complicated, especially when outsiders are concerned.  We get screwed over more often than not.  I’m trying to keep things legal, to get some kind of retribution for the people who need it, but it takes a long time and it’s a lot of work. So this vigilante shows up, the ‘new Hector’, and suddenly I’m a goddamn joke.  He’s getting shit done, and fast.  Then, to add insult to injury, I have to take him down.  Vigilante justice isn’t legal, you can’t prove it’s right, and it can get a lot wrong.  Not only do I get to be a joke, holding up the white man’s law, I’m also the bad guy.  I’m taking away the one hope people have.”  

 

He drags the heel of his boot through the dirt, and he sighs again.  “It’s not about you.  It’s not about your dad.  It’s not even about Standing Bear.  It’s about trying to get any respect out here.  But now?  I’m probably lucky I even still have a job.”

 

Cady goes quiet too, because it’s all true, and it’s all things she probably should have thought of.  She still wouldn’t take it back.  No, she loves Henry too much, and she wonders if that’s part of her dad’s problem, too.  Bending the rules for the people you love.  But she understands a little better, now, and Mathias is more than justified.  

 

“I’m sorry,” she murmurs.  

 

“No you’re not,” he says, a wry smile flickering across his face.  There’s no mirth there.  “You got your way.”  

 

She has to fight back the urge to argue, to say she really is sorry, but she swallows it down.  She nods, and she drops her head to her knees.  “I didn’t want to screw you over in the process,” she says, after a moment.  “But I did.”  

 

“Yeah, well, you Longmires always do,” he says.  “I’m used to it.”  

 

She can’t say anything to that, but it makes guilt bleed to life in her gut.  She wants to apologize again, but it won’t fix anything.  “I want to be on your side, too,” she says, after thinking for a bit.  When it comes out, it sounds childish and stupid.  

 

It makes something that’s almost a smile tug at his lips.  “Keep helping my people close cases, then,” Mathias says.  “It helps.  Might give people something to hope for.”  

 

She nods, and they go silent again.  It’s surreal, sitting in a dirt parking lot with Mathias at her side, still a little tipsy.  At least she doesn’t want to cry anymore.  She feels numb, and a little dull, and filled with the loss of Andrew, who she’d hardly gotten to know.  

 

“I’m sorry you had to find the body,” Mathias says, after a moment.  “Andy had issues. Not surprised it ended this way, it’s more common than you’d think.  But it sucks anyways.”

 

“It does,” she agrees.  Once more they fall into silence, but this time it’s less stressful, less tense.  It’s just sad.  Tired.  But at least tired is better than angry.   

 

---

 

He sits with her a little while longer before getting a call on his radio.  He has to leave, then, and she doesn’t begrudge him that.  Maybe it’s still because she’s a little tipsy, maybe it’s because she really does miss him, she doesn’t know, but when he gets up to leave she grabs his hand and squeezes it, thanking him for checking on her.  He gives her a long look before he leaves, a little nod, and maybe she imagined it but she thought he curled his fingers around hers for half a moment before leaving.  

 

She leaves as soon as she sobers up enough to drive, and she goes back to Durant.  She’s spacey the rest of the day, and when Vic asks she explains Andrew’s suicide.  It makes Vic give her a sympathetic look and leave her to her case files.  

 

The next morning when she meets her dad for breakfast, he gives her a hug before they sit down.  It catches her by surprise and she blinks at him, forcing a wide smile.  “Hey, dad.  What’s up?”  

 

Walt gives her an awkward glance before settling into his seat across from her.  “Heard one of your clients shot himself.”  

 

The smile on her face fades.  “Did Vic tell you?”  

 

“Nope.  Mathias.”  He continues when her brows knit together in confusion.  “He figured he should keep me in the loop, in case they need to ask you more questions.  Doesn’t sound like they will.”

 

“Oh,” she says.  She goes quiet for a moment, then shakes it off.  “Yeah.  It was… bad.”  

 

“I’m sorry, punk.  If you ever, uh, need to talk… well. You know.” her dad trails off, fumbling with his fork.  

 

A flicker of a smile crossed her face.  “I can always talk to Henry,” she jokes, poking fun at how awful her dad is at emotional conversations.  It draws a smile from him and a huff of laughter.  

 

The rest of the meal is light talk about other things.  As light as it can be, and as much conversation as they can manage.  It’s difficult, though.  There’s so many subjects they don’t talk about.  They don’t bring up Vic, they don’t bring up Henry’s case, not anymore.  Cady skirts around any issue that involves Mathias, and she has to work hard not to cringe when her dad asks if Mathias had been giving her any trouble.  She can tell - and she feels it in her gut, too, a distant regret - that Andrew’s suicide made her dad think about Branch.  It was the most awkward breakfast they’d shared in a long time, and that was saying something.  

 

It’s another two days before she goes out on the rez, and this time it’s to the casino to talk to Jacob about a few things.  She still felt awkward and strange, backed by money from the man her father had a vendetta against, but after many different talks she’d made it clear that she had no interest in being Jacob’s pawn.  For the moment, he was allowing it.  She wasn’t looking forwards to the day when he changed his mind.  

 

It’s when she’s about to excuse herself from her meeting with Jacob that she runs into Mathias again.  He’s leaning against the railing separating one of the casino’s restaurants from the casino floor, smirking as he watches her wrap up with Nighthorse.  It catches Cady’s attention, and because of that it catches Jacob’s - he glances, over, one brow ticking up just slightly as he sees the chief of police standing by.  

 

“Excuse me,” Jacob mutters, breaking away and striding over to Mathias, who pushes himself off the railing.  

 

Cady fidgets for a couple of seconds before following, her curiosity getting the better of her.  Jacob gives her a warning glance, but she just raises her eyebrows in a challenge - she’s still a free agent, as far as she’s concerned.  Jacob holds her gaze for a moment before glancing away.

 

“Mathias,” Jacob says.  “What brings you to my casino?”  

 

That lazy smirk is still affixed to Mathias’s face.  “You got a shoplifter.  I was nearby, I came to check it out.”  

 

“Seems more like something for my security team,” Jacob says casually. “A little below the police chief.”  

 

Mathias shrugs, sticking his hands in his pockets.  “They called me.  Guess your shoplifter took about two hundred bucks’ worth of stuff.  Didn’t know the gift shop had such expensive junk.”  

 

Jacob’s expression turns stormy the longer Mathias talks, his brows knitting together.  “Ah.  Well.  If you’ll excuse me, I have to have a word with my head of security.”  He pauses, deigning to give Cady a nod. “Ms. Longmire, always a pleasure.”

 

It’s a song and dance Cady’s familiar with, and she nods back with a sugary sweet smile.  Jacob strides away, and she’s stuck with Mathias, who’s still smirking.  It’s directed at her, this time, instead of Jacob.  

 

“Still can’t believe you’re in Nighthorse’s pocket,” he says, soon as Nighthorse is out of hearing range.  

 

She gives him a look, one that makes the smirk on his face turn into a grin.  “I am not in his pocket.”

 

“He’s funding you,” Mathias says.  “You’re in his pocket.”  

 

Cady blows out a sigh, glowering after Nighthorse’s retreating back.  “Well, he’s not asking me to do anything ethically questionable yet.”  

 

“Yet,” Mathias repeats.  He pauses for a moment, letting the silence hang between them.  He glances away, and the only sign that he’s uncomfortable is the way that he shifts his weight from one leg to the other.  “Coffee?”  

 

She stares at him, and she softens a little.  “Yeah,” she says, a little embarrassed by the warmth and eagerness in her voice.  To cover it up - she hopes she can cover it up, but she’s pretty sure she can’t - she gives him a shrewd look.  “But I’m paying this time.”  

 

He snorts, the grin coming back.  “Okay, okay.  This time.”  

 

They don’t chatter while they get coffee.  It’s not like last time.  But this time, the silence isn’t uncomfortable.  Cady feels okay.  The cashier is a different person, too, so no commentary about Mathias’s exes.  Though the cashier does eye up Mathias when he orders, and Cady has to tamp down a little bit of jealousy.  

 

She questions that jealousy the entire walk out to the parking lot.  It surprises her with its intensity, and suddenly she wants to know if she’d been replaced, if she was one of the exes now.  Ex-something, because they’d never been dating.  Just seeing each other.  

 

“Um,” she says, once they’re in the parking lot.  He glances at her, arching an eyebrow, and that expression alone makes her want to kiss him.  She doesn’t, because she knows that Nighthorse has security cameras all over, even in the parking lot.  She sucks in a breath, and she forces out the question before she can rethink it.  “Are you seeing anybody?”  

 

Now both of his eyebrows arch up, and the smallest of smirks curls his lips.  “Nope,” he says.  “Why? should I be?”  

 

He’s teasing her, and he’s enjoying how she flushes, she can see it on his face.  It works.  She’s embarrassed, and she shrugs, taking a sip from her coffee.  But she’s smiling too.  She one-ups him.  “Well, I mean, the cashier was really checking you out.”  

 

Immediately Mathias wrinkles his nose, pulling a face.  “Oh hell no.  That’s Jessica’s niece.”  

 

Cady can’t stop herself, a laugh that was nearing maniacal levels bursting out of her. Mathias gives her a stern look, one that doesn’t carry all the way to his eyes.  “Is Jessica an ex too?”  The expression that crosses Mathias’s face says that yes, clearly Jessica was.  “Oh my god!  You get around!”  

 

“That was a year ago,” he says, defensive.  

 

“I don’t know, Mathias, I’m starting to think you’re a player,” she teases.  He gives her a dirty stare, and she starts giggling again.  

 

Mathias waits until she calms down to drop the next question.  “Are you working tonight?” Something about the way he asks it makes the breath catch in her throat.  

 

“No,” she says, and then a second later she cringes.  “But I have to review a case file tonight for a meeting tomorrow evening.”  

 

“Bring it over to my place,” he says. “We can look it over.”  

 

That makes her heart jump, and she looks at him, really looks.  He’s serious, and he’s sincere, dark eyes watching her for her reaction.  It seems so fast.  They’d only made up - if she could call it making up, she’d been drunk in a parking lot - a handful of days ago.

 

Maybe he’d missed her, too.  

 

“Okay,” she says, barely more than a breath.  He smiles.  

Chapter Text

When he gets home, Cady’s already there waiting, the case file in hand.  He has to grin, and he lets her into his house before getting them a couple of beers.  

 

They do actually talk about the case file.  It’s fine by him.  If he was being honest, he missed watching her work, watching that focus sharpen and the way she got more animated the longer she talked.  His place isn’t big, but she paces around it anyways, gesturing with her beer in hand.  He notes that she’s careful not to spill anything.  

 

He gives her some advice, here and there, but she’s already in deeper than he’d expected her to be.  She’s good at what she does, and the scared, inexperienced girl he’d met when she first started working pro bono had long since faded away.  There are still some stumbling blocks, things she didn’t think about; she hasn’t been doing this that long and the way tribal, state and federal law interact are fucking labyrinthine.  But he points them out to her, and the smiles she gives him could light up the world.  

 

Before, they’d acted like horny teens, grinding on each other whenever they had the chance. Now she ends up curled against him on his couch, both of them flicking through the case file she brought over.  It feels surprisingly natural, and there’s a casual physicality that he enjoys.  

 

At a certain point, she’s had enough, and she stacks up the case file tidily before straddling him.  Then it’s back to acting like teenagers.  It’s slower, though.  Calmer, because neither of them have anywhere they really need to be.  They take their time, kissing and touching, reacquainting themselves with each other’s bodies, and then he takes her to his bed.  

 

They spend a long time there, and he finds he can elicit all kinds of reactions from Cady that he really enjoys.  It’s fascinating to watch her eyes go glassy, to hear the sounds she makes when he hits the right spot, the way she writhes on his bed.  Eventually she has enough and takes control back, and he lets her; hell, he just enjoys watching her move.  

 

He has no idea how long they go, he’s too busy to keep track, but by the end of it they’re both satisfied and exhausted.  They don’t even clean up, which he’ll probably regret in the morning.  When she curls up against him, he can’t even think about getting out of bed.  

 

He jerks awake the next morning, rudely awakened by his phone ringing. Cady groans and rolls away, curling up in a ball and covering her ears, and he grumbles as he reaches over, grasping for the receiver.  

 

“Mathias,” He answers, flopping back into bed.  Cady comes back, then, her legs tangling with his.  He wraps his free arm around her shoulders.    

 

“Hi Mathias, this is Ruby.”  he recognized the old woman’s voice, which made him call into question just how many damn times Longmire had her call instead of just calling himself.  “Look, could you keep an eye out for Cady?  She was last seen heading towards the reservation, and Walt says her phone’s going straight to voicemail.  He’s real worried.”  

 

Of course he’d be. So much shit had happened in the past couple years that Mathias couldn’t blame him.  Ruby sounded worried, too. Cady, close enough to overhear, jerked up.  She scrambles for her pants, pulling out her phone and cursing when she sees that it’s dead.  

 

It’s only because he’s still not exactly awake that it slips out.  “He doesn’t need to be. She’s fine.”  

 

Cady turns and stares at him like he’d kicked a dog, and he winces.  He winces again when she practically throws herself at him, putting her ear close enough that she could listen in on the conversation.

 

“You sure?” Ruby asks, voice still worried.  “How do you--oh.”  Mathias winces for a third time when realization colors the old woman’s voice.  “Oh no, you are not saying what I think you’re saying.”  

 

He glances at Cady, looking for permission.  Too little, too late.  She just groans and drops her head to his chest.  

 

“Afraid so,” he says, reaching to stroke Cady’s hair with his free hand.  She doesn’t pull away, so there’s that.  

 

Ruby made a noise in the back of her throat.  “I am not getting in the middle of this.  Walt!”  

 

Mathias takes that moment to pull the phone away.  “Sorry,” he mutters to Cady, smoothing her hair back.  

 

“I’m starting to think my type is guys who piss off my dad,” she mutters.  Despite himself, Mathias snorts.  Then he hears a noise on the other end of the line, and he brings the receiver back to his ear.  

 

It’s Walt’s voice, now.  “Ruby says you know where Cady is.”  

 

“Yep,” Mathias says, trying to think of the diplomatic way to tell Sheriff Longmire I screwed your daughter .  He can’t come up with much, so he doesn’t waste any time getting to the point.  “She stayed with me last night.”  

 

“Oh my god,” Cady whimpers, mortified.  

 

There was a very long pause on the other end of the line. So long that if Mathias didn’t know it was a landline, he would’ve thought the connection went out. Then Walt spoke in a low rumble.  “Both of you.  In my office.  Soon as possible.”  He hung up with a click.  

 

Mathias looks at the phone for half a second before putting the receiver back. Cady shifts away, sitting up.  “I think your dad is planning how to kill me.”  

 

“You’re the worst,” Cady says, giving him the lightest punch in the ribs.  Her voice is far more upset than the punch would imply.  “If my dad isn’t, I am.”  

 

Mathias sits up with a groan.  “He’s not a stupid man, Cady, he was gonna figure it out.”  

 

She frowns at him.  She’s genuinely upset.  It takes him a moment to realize that she’s not exactly upset with him; maybe it’s just the situation.  “Yeah, but it’s none of his business who I sleep with!”  

 

He agrees with a little dip of his head.  “It still isn’t any of his damn business.”  

 

“But dad always makes it his business.” Cady groans and puts her face in her hands.  “I swear, it’s like I never stopped being twelve in his mind. He’s going to kill me.”  

 

“No he’s not,” Mathias says.  He shouldn’t be fighting away a smile, but he is; he should be more concerned about Longmire’s reaction, but he’s not. Her reaction is endearing, kind of cute.  He knows Longmire, though, knows that the guy loves his kid.  She’ll be fine.  Then a different idea comes to life in his head, and the urge to smile fades.  He falls back to being carefully neutral.  “What are you gonna tell him?  That it was a one time thing?”

 

“No,” she says, and then she drops her hands to her lap, her spine going ramrod straight. She’s eyeing him with a certain amount of trepidation. “ Was it just a one time thing?”    

 

He’s already been honest with the sheriff.  Might as well be honest with Cady, too.  “I don’t want it to be,” he says, and that’s the truth.  “But it’s your decision.”  

 

“It’s not,” she says, and in that decision, at least, her voice is firm.  “Not a one time thing.  You’re not getting out of this that easy.”  

 

It makes him grin.  “I didn’t expect to.  Nothing with a Longmire is ever easy.”  

 

---

 

They drive to Durant in their own cars.  Cady speeds, so she gets there before him, and she’s already in Walt’s office when Mathias climbs the stairs to the Absaroka county sheriff’s department.   

 

Ruby gives him a look when he comes in the door, and she tsks and shakes her head, going back to her work.  Ferg doesn’t seem to know exactly what’s going on, and Vic gives him a special kind of death glare, her hands tight around her Philadelphia Flyers mug.  

 

“You’re a fucking idiot,” she says.  

 

Mathias doesn’t even bother to glare back, turning his gaze to the shut door of the sheriff’s office.  “Shut up, Philly.”  

 

There’s no banging or shouting from the locked office, which he’s counting as a good sign.  Less good when he hears the other door slam, the one that goes to the landing outside.  A moment later the door opens, and there’s Walt, giving Mathias a look that could freeze boiling water.  He stabs a finger towards Mathias.  “You.  My office.”  

 

“I’m not one of your deputies, Walt,” Mathias replies.  He follows the older man anyways.  Everyone in the room is watching.

 

He shuts the door behind him when he steps into Longmire’s office.  “What are you gonna do, hit m--”

 

It’s a bad choice of words, because next thing he knows someone’s grabbed the lapels of his coat and slammed him against the wall. It happens fast, and it takes Mathias a moment to realize it wasn’t Longmire shoving him against the wall, it was Henry Standing Bear.  he wonders how long Standing Bear had been hiding in Longmire’s office.

 

“I would not joke about that if I were you,” Standing Bear growls.  

 

“Henry,” Longmire says, and it takes a moment but Standing Bear releases Mathias, stepping back with his fists balled at his sides.  

 

“Great,” Mathias says, rolling his shoulders.  “I get to talk to both dads at once.”  

 

Henry pulls a narrow, angry smile, crossing his arms.  Walt just walks behind his desk, sitting down and fixing Mathias with a long, hypercritical stare.  

 

“How long?”  He asks.

 

Mathias doesn’t roll his eyes, but he wants to.  He hooks his thumbs through his belt loops and stands, arching an eyebrow.   “How long what, Walt?”

 

“How long have you been sleeping with my daughter?”  The way Walt asks it is cold and calm.  It sounds dangerous.  Henry’s glare narrows, the angry smile still plastered on his face.  

 

“I don’t see how that’s any of your damn business,” Mathias replies, matching Walt’s tone.  

 

“She’s my daughter,” Walt says, and a hint of a growl creeps into his voice.  

 

“You know, last time I checked, Cady’s an adult,” Mathias says, cultivating that lazy, lackadaisical tone in his voice.  No reason to escalate, not right now.

 

“We are simply invested in her well-being,” Henry says, and if Mathias didn’t know better he’d say Henry was more angry than Walt was. It pisses him off, a little.   

 

Mathias cocks an eyebrow, tilting his head.  Annoyance finally bleeds into his voice.  “Oh, like you were when you got her to cover up your shitstorm?”  

 

It’s a touchy subject. Longmire’s glare gets darker. Henry’s hands tighten, and his eyes narrow.  “I was acquitted of all charges,” Standing Bear snaps.

 

“Yeah, I noticed.  Mostly because of her.”  Mathias turned his gaze back to Walt, half a mirthless smirk on his face.  “Mopping up after the two of you. No wonder her type of guy is somebody who ticks you two off.”   

 

For a moment, that makes something interesting flicker across Walt’s face.  But then Henry’s shoulders tighten, and Mathias tenses.  He’s pretty sure he’s going to get socked in the face, but Walt’s voice cuts through again.  “Henry.  Wait outside.”  

 

Henry turns around, scowling.  “Walt, I do not think--”

 

“Outside,” Walt repeats, meeting Standing Bear’s glare with a steely look of his own.  “I can handle this.”

 

It’s difficult not to smirk when Mathias overhears Henry growl “ Longmires” under his breath like a curse word.  He knows that feeling all too well.  With one last deadly glare, Henry storms out.  He slams the door so hard that the glass in the windows rattle.  Then it’s just the two of them;  Police Chief Mathias, and Sheriff Walt Longmire.  

 

This time, Walt stands and goes to the window, peering out the blinds.  “How long have you two been, uh…”  He pauses, rolling his hand in the air in a vague, uncomfortable motion.  

 

Mathias sighs.  The tension had left the room with Standing Bear, and Walt didn’t look like he was going to start a fight.  Not yet.   “We had been seeing each other a couple weeks before I arrested Standing Bear.  We took a short break after that.”  If that wasn’t a hell of an understatement. “Last night’s the only time she stayed over.”

 

Walt gives him a sharp look from across the room.  “Is it going to be the only time?”  

 

At that moment, Mathias isn’t exactly sure which answer is more dangerous, yes or no.  With an uncomfortable shrug, he tells Walt what he told Cady.  “That’s up to her.  I don’t want it to be.”

 

Walt grunts and looks away, back out the window.  He’s quiet for a long time, one hand on his hip, the other on the window frame, looking out on the park.  The silence draws out.  Out in the other room, the floorboards creak; somebody’s probably eavesdropping, and it’s probably Vic. It doesn’t matter.  Mathias waits.

 

Minutes pass, and eventually Walt lets out a tired sigh.  He steps away from the window, moving back to his chair and easing into it like his joints hurt.  Maybe they do; old bastard has been through a lot.  “If you hurt her,” he says, “we’re going to have a problem.”  

 

The words catch him by surprise, and it takes a moment to process. Mathias blinks.  “Sheriff, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you just gave me the okay.”  

 

Walt grunts again, a noncommittal, semi-unhappy noise.  “Not exactly.  But Cady did.  So I guess I don’t have much choice.”  

 

Mathias goes silent, waiting to see if there’d be more to that speech. Once again the silence draws out. Walt just stares at him, hands folded on his desk.  

 

“That it?”  Mathias asks, after a moment.  

 

“That’s it,” Walt confirms.  “I don’t have to like it.  But at least you’re not running against me for sheriff.”  He slaps his hand on the desk, turning in his chair to face the window once more. “Do me a favor, steer clear of Henry for a few weeks. I don’t think either of us wants to deal with the assault charges.”

 

Mathias snorts.  When Walt waves a hand at the door, that’s it; he doesn’t bother saying a damn thing. Vic and Ferg could deal without goodbyes.  He just slips out the side door, and he leaves.  

 

Cady’s waiting for him, leaning on his police cruiser when he comes downstairs.  Her brows are drawn together in worry, her eyes big and scared.  The smile she gives him when she catches sight of him is a little shaky.  When he grins back at her, she almost looks relieved, some of the worry leaking away.  

 

“How bad was it?”  She asks, glancing up at the windows to the sheriff’s office.  Mathias is pretty sure everyone’s watching through the blinds, which is the only reason he keeps his hands off her.  No point tempting fate, or Henry Standing Bear.  Whoever was watching.  

 

“Not that bad,” he says, putting his hands on his hips and wearing a concerned frown, mostly for effect.  “I think your dad endorsed me.”  

 

That makes her eyes go wide.  It startles a short laugh out of her, and she tucks a strand of hair behind her ear when she speaks.  “Did you ask permission to see me?”  

 

“No,” he says, “I told him you’re an adult and what we do is none of his business.”  That makes her laugh again, a little more genuine and relaxed than before.

 

“Wow,” she says.  “Well, I’m glad you left with all your teeth.  That is one assault charge I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of.”  

 

“Neither would I.”  He pauses, glancing up at the blinds of the sheriff’s department.  He’s pretty sure he sees someone dart away at the last minute.  

 

He’s gotta be back on the rez in time for his shift, but the phone call had woken them up early enough that he still had maybe an hour and a half of free time.  He turns back to Cady.  “Breakfast?”

 

“Breakfast,” Cady says, “please.  After that much stress I need a good meal.”  

 

Sure, they’re not exactly dating, but Mathias opens the car door for her anyways.  She thanks him, but she teases him too, calls him Matty and makes him grin.  They take off in the cruiser, and Mathias doesn’t really give a shit what anybody will think.  They’re good.