A/N: I got an idea, and I just ran with it. I know the concept is a little overdone, there are a lot of 'girl leaves, girl comes back' stories on FF, but I couldn't help myself. Hopefully this will turn out a little different. I might eventually play a little bit with the timing- but I promise, it won't seem outrageous. The Light and the Glass begins a couple weeks before the timeline of the first season, and this first chapter is the prologue, mostly setting up the circumstances that lead Mattie back to Charming. This is my first SoA fic, so please review and let me know what you think!
PS- I don't own any of the SoA universe, just Mattie.
Don't get any big ideas
They're not gonna happen
You paint yourself white
And fill up with noise
But there'll be something missing
Now that you've found it, it's gone
Now that you feel it, you don't
You've gone off the rails
So don't get any big ideas
They're not gonna happen
You'll go to hell for what your dirty mind is thinking
Radiohead – Nude
The reflection in the mirror wasn't anybody that Matilda recognized. A pale face swathed in expensive foundation, mouth swiped with peach lipstick, cheeks defined by a tiny twinge of bronzer. Cosmetic perfection. But one look at those exhausted hazel eyes shattered that assumption. The woman staring back at her was attractive, maybe, but she wasn't real. None of it was real. The pin straight hair pushed behind ears glittering with emerald studs was still her natural color, but the texture was wrong. Mattie missed her curls. Not as much as she missed everything else, but it was easier for her to focus on the superficial. Anything more meaningful and she'd just… dissolve.
Her outside was so much nicer than the inside. New York hadn't changed how she felt about the world, it didn't sway her alliances or her beliefs, but it had made Mattie so hollow that she wasn't sure how she made it out of bed every morning. The streets outside were a vast rushing sea of emptiness, all those people and those cars going somewhere. All she could do was watch. She had no place to go, nobody to see. Six years in that fucking place and she still had nothing. Well, maybe not nothing; she had an apartment full of furniture and a closet jam packed with outfits that she never wore anymore and kitchen with a pantry full of foods that she couldn't bring herself to eat. Mattie was alone, but she almost liked it better that way. It was easier than lying and smiling and pretending that it was all okay. Mattie had never felt like a whole person in New York.
Sometimes, on days that weren't quite as bright and sunny as the one which loomed outside her bathroom window, she tried to convince herself that this was all she ever wanted. Her dreams had led her to this apartment, to this man, to this job. In California, they all told her that she was meant for greatness. A long time ago, Mattie thought that she would find it in the City- although she could not remember when it became so normal to refer to this place in such grand terms. Patrick brought her there after she graduated college, swinging her gracefully across the country into a city that gasped with the air of millions of pretty, shiny people. Potential glistened everywhere, and Mattie threw herself into the fray with little regard for her own sanity.
Now she was twenty-seven and was so disillusioned with the little façade she'd eagerly built six years ago that she could barely breathe. Charming had not always been good to her, she knew that all too well, but it had never ever made Mattie feel like such a mutant. Her head was in New York, but fuck, her heart was always back there. It had been simple to disguise the feeling of displacement, to hide it as well as she hid all those other difficult emotions, but now she couldn't do it anymore. To think that her psychiatrist fiancé couldn't see Mattie's soul-crushing depression was baffling. Or it just meant that she was very good at protecting herself from prying eyes.
The idea of leaving New York was always far-fetched, especially after she finished up at Columbia Law and passed the bar exam. With Patrick's connections it had been easy enough to secure a spot at a distinguished practice. Family law, divorces, that was what they specialized in, mostly for the rich and brainless. Once upon a time, Mattie dreamed of criminal law, of courtrooms and objections and closing arguments, but somehow Patrick had convinced her that it was a bad idea. Matilda, in his humble opinion, had a very hard time discerning the difference between right and wrong. Maybe she just didn't think about it within the stark limitations he gave those two terms. In her mind, there was a whole shitload of grey in between.
Patrick didn't understand her, not at all. He didn't see why she was unhappy and he certainly didn't try to understand. There was nothing sinister about New York; there was nothing inherently wrong with the place he'd adopted as his own. He had no idea what she went through every single day. To him, New York City meant freedom. He saved her from Charming; from the world that he believed would eventually kill Mattie. Patrick thought of himself as a hero, of Mattie perpetually as a damsel in distress. She wasn't. Mattie could take care of herself, she was composed and intelligent, but it all just disappeared the moment she set foot in the City. Matilda Cardinal was not herself anymore.
That well-paying job suffocated her, that doting fiancé infuriated her to no end, and there was nothing that Mattie could do about any of it. Except whine. She'd gotten pretty good at that, right? She'd stand in her bathroom and hide for hours at a time, wishing that she could do something. Take some pills, slit her wrists, press the barrel of a gun against her skull- if Mattie were more courageous, she'd do it. She needed to remove herself from the world. Then it wouldn't be anybody else's fault, just hers.
Would he be sad to hear of her death? And if he were, would that really make it worth it? Mattie shuddered. In the rare moments when she left herself vulnerable, his name hurt so fucking badly. She swallowed hard, losing her resolve to leave the apartment. No, she needed to be here when all the images and all the feelings ran rampart across her skin, when her hollow soul was filled with self-loathing. Mattie was so damned weak. But only when she was alone. If Patrick walked in the front door, she could swallow those emotions in a heartbeat. His ex-wife considered Mattie frigid- a sentiment that, at times, was not exactly wrong. The only people that would argue against her views were a whole coast away.
How anybody could love this flinty façade, Mattie didn't know. It was a miracle that Patrick still wanted to marry her, especially when she'd been dragging her feet for the better part of three years. She didn't want a giant wedding with more colleagues than family, didn't want the designer dress or the elaborate reception. Exactly the opposite of Patrick. Mattie lied, said she wanted to wait until their age difference wasn't so apparent, but even she was having a hard time believing that one. Patrick was rapidly approaching his fifties, which she didn't mind, really. He was still attractive, with that little bit of grey encroaching his blonde. But she would always be twenty-one years his junior, no matter how long she avoided the issue. That difference had never really been the problem.
Plus, they'd technically been married since the moment they'd arrived in New York City. It sure was easy to go down to city hall and sign a couple pieces of paper, so that Patrick could add Mattie to his health insurance. Mattie had been Mrs. Muldoon since her twenty-second birthday, but it wasn't an anniversary that Patrick regarded officially. It made things easier, in general, but he thought that Mattie wanted more than a certificate of marriage. She didn't.
Opie and Donna's wedding, now that was Mattie's ideal. Small, held in the last glowing embers of dusk one summer evening, it was all so perfect. She told Patrick about it once, how the ceremony was beautiful and the love between the pair was so damned palpable, and he'd just smiled and said that it sounded nice. Nice? He didn't understand how everyone was family, blood or not, how they all just laughed and smiled and celebrated Donna and Opie. And Donna was Mattie's best friend. Or she had been, before Mattie ran away. Before a lot of things.
It would be hard to leave New York, not because she was attached to it, but because there were a lot of loose ends to tie. Leave her job, divorce Patrick, find some place to live, and Mattie honestly wasn't sure if that was less overwhelming than just staying put. And where would she go? Ha, she knew the answer to that one before she even asked it of herself. Charming. All roads pointed back to California. There were excuses that she could make, how her mother and brother were still there, but Mattie didn't feel like lying anymore. Frankly, it was getting difficult to determine when her few truths blossomed into deceit. She wanted to see Tig again. There, that wasn't so hard.
He probably didn't even register her absence. The concept stung, but Mattie was used to it. Tig had never been one for fidelity, and she was only seventeen when she first fell for him. A child. A stupid naïve child who thought that big bad Tig would love her as fiercely as she loved him. Her first love. Fucking fuck, Mattie thought, feeling the sobs hit her so squarely in the chest that she sunk into the tiled floor, letting the cold marble absorb her sadness. She hadn't always been like this, she was sure of it. Mattie had gotten over Tig once, and for the life of her, couldn't figure out where the oozing wounds had come from. She wasn't living because she couldn't exist without him. That was what happened when seventeen-year-olds fell in love. But Mattie was twenty-fucking-seven with only a few months to go before her next birthday. Grown women did not obsess over past lovers like she did. It was not normal.
Maybe it was. She didn't have any damned clue what normal felt like anyway.
Mattie had nobody to talk to. Her mom didn't understand her discomfort in New York, and if she didn't get that, there was a snowball's chance in hell that she would know what to say about Mattie's unresolved feelings. Donna was busy with the kids, and Opie had just gotten out of jail, so Mattie didn't want to bother her. And Tig? Well, Mattie would be lying if she said she didn't want to hear his voice, but there was no way that he was going to listen to her shit. Mattie needed out of her own head. That would make life easier.
Now, was life better or worse before Tig decided to pay her a visit three months ago? He was only in New York for a few days, but he had found her and looked at her with those fucking blue eyes and she just… collapsed. Mattie thought her world was whole before Tig was present within it, a notion that was dismantled so easily that she didn't even realize he'd done it to begin with. There was club business in the City, something with the Irish that he didn't elaborate upon because she was no longer in the loop, but he wanted to see her. What did that mean? Nothing probably, because Tig was not one for head games, he was straightforward. Not like Mattie.
And then she took him home and they made love and Christ, it had all been so right. No man had ever filled her in that way that Tig could, how he always seemed to enter her and surround her with his whole body at the same time. He pulled her into his chest and wrapped his arms around her so tightly, holding Mattie against him as he thrust between her legs. And she still remembered all the ways to made him gasp her name into the air, how to roll her hips against his and scrape her teeth against his shoulders. An afternoon of sex, waxing and waning between sheer friskiness and unbridled need for each other. God, it was so good. Exactly what she needed. Tig finally gave her the freedom that she sought from the moment she moved to New York. And then he had to say it.
Baby, come home. I need you.
Tig had fucked her in more ways than one. It wasn't fair. Had Mattie said something similar, he would've scoffed and reminded her that he didn't do old ladies. Christ, he put his dick in anything remotely pussy-shaped. Mattie was just convenient. Not special. She never was, not to him, not to Patrick, nobody. Even at seventeen, she'd known that Tig would never pay her any attention. Although, she had to give credit where it was due, he did wait until she was eighteen to fuck her. Good for him, she thought, picking herself off the bathroom floor. The world wasn't going to wait for her. Mattie needed to make a decision.
Stay and rot, or go back to Charming and get rejected. Not just by Tig, but by the club. They probably thought her some sort of traitor, leaving SAMCRO without warning like she had. Mattie was ingrained in that universe since she was a child, and she shed it like a second skin, running away from the only people who would ever love her unconditionally. She'd be lucky to see the inside of the clubhouse ever again, where she'd once spent so much time. Mattie started out playing with Jackson and Opie, and eventually somehow ended up with her spine pressed against Tig's mattress. A pretty big leap, something at which Mattie was an expert.
Thinking about changing back into pajamas and sulking in bed, Mattie crossed the apartment, leaving her comfortable bedroom in favor of the laptop still sitting on the breakfast bar in the kitchen. It was her favorite link to the outside world, which she knew wasn't exactly healthy, but it served her well. No new e-mails, her clients were all pacified and Patrick was with his patients. He didn't know that Mattie had cheated on him, and he especially didn't know that it had been with Tig, although Pat only knew him as her ex. She had been spectacularly tight lipped about Charming, which her fiancé found frustrating.
Gemma had taught Mattie to distrust outsiders before she learned her multiplication tables. And she wouldn't lie, it served her pretty well.
The real estate websites appeared on the computer screen before Mattie registered them. And how Charming's zip code got typed in the search, well, she couldn't explain that either.
Finding a house was not the same as actually leaving, Matt reminded herself, clicking through a few listings. This was just a fantasy, an escape from a spoiled life that she had no real excuse to hate. But as the perfect little bungalow loaded, there didn't seem to be any reason not to call the realtor. Plus, she had the money saved up- part of being a much younger woman in a relationship meant that she got a pretty decent allowance every week, which, combined with what she earned at the firm had left a decent amount of zeroes in her bank account- enough to put an offer in. Once that was done, it didn't seem so hard to look for moving companies, you know, just in case that her bid got accepted. Which it wouldn't, Mattie was sure, even as she thought about how long it would take to pack her things. A couple weeks, maybe, if she went slowly.
Fuck, if she could box up all her things, Mattie could certainly leave Patrick. Actually, it surprised her how little guilt she felt about the whole thing. When she told him, he didn't even argue, just questioned her motives. Why did she need to leave? Where was she going? Why would she go back to that place? And when he asked if it was because she knew that he was having an affair- with a patient, no less- Mattie just smiled. New York would be a memory soon enough.
It was another three weeks before she was back in Charming. Just before her twenty-eighth birthday, Matilda Cardinal was finally back where she belonged.
She swiped the back of her hand against her forehead, wiping off the sheen of sweat that had collected there. Her new home wasn't big, smaller than the apartment in the City actually, but there seemed to be so many things that she needed to do before she could get comfortable. There were walls to paint, shelves to build, rugs to position, and fuck, if she could only think about how all those boxes in the basement were going t to get unpacked. An infinite task sat in front of Mattie, and less than half of her shit had arrived. Why had she decided to do everything by herself?
Oh yeah, because she wasn't quite ready to reveal her presence to Charming just yet. Her fucking mother- although Reese Cardinal hadn't really ever deserved the title- didn't even know her daughter was back. Although, if Matt wanted to be honest, it would probably be a while before Reese found out. Gemma was the person that she needed to talk to, despite the fact that Matt had no idea how to approach her after all the time that passed. She'd missed a lot, and didn't particularly think that she deserved to be forgiven. Mattie knew what it felt like when family skipped out on you. Gemma had taken over the maternal role once Reese ran off, but she pretty much had the reins since Mattie's birth. Then Mattie had to completely shit on their bond by pulling the same stunt as her mother, just fourteen years later.
And Tig? Christ, she had no idea how to deal with him, even though her feelings had toned down since she arrived back in town. Matt had done what he asked; she'd left New York, but didn't know how to explain the decision. She was bored? Lonely? His words had affected her so wholly that she didn't know what to do with herself? Fuck. And it didn't help that Tigger always saw through whatever defense she placed between the two of them. He knew her better than she would like to admit. He interpreted her guarded nature as shyness. Tig wasn't wrong, but she didn't like any of her weak points exposed. It was her plan to avoid him as long as possible because she had the terrible habit of saying whatever was on her mind when he was around, something that she could not handle just yet.
Mattie had no idea how to restart her life, how to approach the only family she'd ever known, but for right now she was going to focus on unpacking. The upstairs bedrooms still needed another coat of paint, so she was confined to sleeping in the living room for the time being. Which would've been a lot more appealing if the new furniture had gotten delivered. A pillow and a couple of comforters were not Mattie's idea of a comfortable mattress, but she wasn't going to complain. Gemma taught Matt that more she asked for, the less she'd get, and New York had proved her right.
After she shattered a glass platter on the kitchen floor, Mattie gave up. Every box she opened either belonged in the bedroom or on a bookshelf that hadn't arrived yet. Frustrated with her lack of organization, Matt headed out the garage, where she'd put the broom and dustpan. She hadn't even spent a whole day in her new house and she'd already ruined something. This place was supposed to be perfect, setting things up was supposed to be therapeutic. Mattie had no say over the décor in the apartment, everything was set out exactly how Patrick's interior decorator said it should be, because as Patrick frequently reminded her, there was a certain way to do things in New York society. His fiancé was not even cultured enough to arrange her own closet.
And now, when she finally had the power to make the decisions, Matt couldn't get through more than a dozen boxes without feeling like a moron. Which if Patrick was to be believed, she was. How many times had he questioned her judgment? She didn't know enough about the world to take the subway to school, and he made her take a car service. You know how to alienate a law student? Give her access to a chauffer and a Lincoln Town Car. Or it was the fact that Mattie couldn't make dinner for his kids, because she didn't know about their special needs. And she certainly couldn't discipline them, either. Matilda Cardinal was less independent woman and more Eliza Doolittle to his Henry Higgins. An experiment, not a relationship. Although she didn't know what she expected from somebody that married her in order to add her to his health insurance. Now, that was a bond. Tig had saved her ass more times than she count, but that paled in comparison to all that Patrick did. In her ex-husband's opinion, anyway.
That was a very weird thing to consider. Mattie wasn't even twenty-eight and she was getting divorced. She hadn't really been married, per se, but it didn't make her any less of a failure. If she did want to get down to brass tacks, it had been harder to leave her job than it had been to leave Patrick. Maybe that made her a terrible person. No, not maybe, probably. Matilda was a shitty person, and she fucking hoped that she could get back to where she'd been such a long time ago.
The garage was really the only area of the house that didn't look like war zone, housing a few cleaning supplies and her car. The Mercedes had been completely useless in New York, but it was the first thing that she shipped to California. Mattie had no idea what made the automobile so special- she still missed the little Honda she drove in high school- but Patrick upgraded hers every couple years. Because spending an exorbitant amount of money on something that was hardly ever used was how he showed his love. She hated the shiny hunk of metal, the black paint reflecting Mattie's undone image right back at her. Curls askew, pants all wrinkled from being buried at the bottom of her carry-on, shirt speckled with sweat stains. Matilda Cardinal was a sight to see, and not a good one at that. If Patrick had seen this girl, he might not have been so eager to bring her to New York in the first place.
Seeing the baseball bat resting against a set of shelving that the previous owners hadn't bothered to take with them, she knew that she was going to do something stupid. It was an easy out, an entirely simple way to take out her aggression. Matt had left New York with nothing but a few well-placed words to Patrick, a couple discussions with the firm, a meeting with her financial advisor. It was quiet. Entirely the opposite of what she wanted. Patrick was supposed to fight her, he supposed to scream and tell Matt that he needed her and that she couldn't leave him, but he just accepted her decision without so much as a raised voice. No. She wanted to have it out with him, but he was so damned pacified throughout the whole thing that Matt wasn't sure whether it made him a saint or an asshole. Fuck, he didn't even argue about dividing their belongings or whether she was entitled to any alimony, Patrick told her explicitly that Matilda- he never, under any circumstances, called her Mattie- could have whatever she wanted. Was he heartbroken? Relieved? Christ, she just didn't know. All that mattered was all the fury that had built up, all the anger towards Patrick that Mattie could never resolve. And as the bat sank into the hood of the Benz, her chest loosened just a bit.
She swung into the headlights, busted through the tinted windows, ripped out her GPS system, before hearing her shrieks. Mattie's voice bit loudly into the air, mixing into the tears that she'd never shed. New York had been a shoddy solution for a lot of things, but it never erased her emotions in the way that she needed. Mattie had been a zombie on the east coast, so insanely numb to what went on her heart. This was better. Misery was not something that Matt could not stand any longer.
Plus, now that her car was pretty well fucked, there was only one place she could take it. Teller-Morrow was the best garage in the county. Yeah, she'd have to explain the scatterbrained damage that Mercedes suffered, but one more lie wouldn't kill Mattie.
Although, if she saw Tig tomorrow, that just might.
A/N: I just wanted to add that while Mattie was young when she first fell for Tig- I'm trying to make the back story as natural and un-creepy as possible. Also, it's not going to be the main focus, I promise.
Anyway, thanks so much for reading and please let me know what you think!