Close

Rating: PG-13/T

Genre: Angst/Drama/Romance

Summary: For the angst_bingo challenge, prompt "Tight Spaces". She is difficult to ignore. Branch/Cady. Missing scene from 7.08 "An Incredibly Beautiful Thing".

Author's Note: I have SO BADLY wanted to write Branch/Cady. And now I have. :3

Disclaimer: I don't own Longmire. It belongs to Craig Johnson and A&E.

()()

The office has never felt so small.

Branch's desk is no less than twenty paces from the holding-cell, where Cady is sitting with the baby Ferg and Henry found. His now ex-girlfriend is less than ten feet away from him and, given the way things ended, neither of them seems to be comfortable with even faking platonic, casual interaction with one another.

He's torn: He misses her, badly, but having her so nearby is starting to hurt. And what's more, Cady's maternal streak is coming out in spades and she is being almost everything Branch has ever loved about her. Hearing her coo to the infant and chatter pleasantly with the Ferg and Ruby makes him cringe and lose focus.

And of course, these occasions are interspersed with morons trying to claim that they know something about Evelyn Mace so they can get that ten-thousand dollars. He's forced to sit through each and every one of them, and he can count on one hand the number that seems to be genuinely interested in just being of help. Branch is seriously starting to regret the very concept of cash rewards for information, and suspects that this is (at least partially) exactly what Walt wanted in the first place.

Long line of sleaze-balls plus ex-girlfriend as a result of an uneasy breakup nearby equals a very bad day for Branch Connally.

Once, Cady gets up and goes into Walt's office. She does not even glance at Branch as she walks by, and Branch knows it's on purpose. He isn't certain what would be more awkward: This silent, mutual agreement to avoid contact with one another, or the idea of them actually interacting and having to come up with things to say to one another. He has absolutely no idea what to say to her, and isn't entirely certain he wants to know what she would say to him.

You're acting like an idiot. Stop focusing on Cady and get the job done. It's easier said than done, though, because one of the most remarkable things about Cady is how easily she catches your attention when she walks into a room. Everything about her radiates confidence; she is difficult to ignore.

You've been calling her all week. She has not picked up once. It's over. Live with it.

But how can he? The break-up came out of nowhere. Branch had known that Cady was uncomfortable with the entire situation and paranoid that Walt would find out, but he hadn't been aware that she was regretting it enough to break things off. And doing it in bed? That had been as expected as a crowbar upside his head.

Cady leaves Walt's office, and this time she glances Branch's way. He catches her eye, and she jerks her head to the side very noticeably- It's a good thing there are too many people here for Ruby, Vic or Ferg to notice, because they would have noticed.

Walt, however, might have noticed: Because it's just after that Branch sees that he's followed Cady out of his office. He's inquiring to Vic about that October girl who's planted herself on the bench across the street. Branch's eyes dart back to Cady and follow her into the cell, where she sits down again and smiles at the baby.

Branch could use a drink. Something strong.

"Walt! This gentleman-" Ruby's tone implies that the man is anything but, "-says that he has valuable information about Evelyn Mace, but he won't talk to anyone but you." She waves her hands and walks away, and it takes quite a bit to rile Ruby like that, so Branch has to figure the guy's a real dick.

Walt ushers the man into his office and shuts the door behind them. The new guy is one of the thankfully-diminished crowd of people. Branch counts and finds only eight left, and is relieved- somewhat. Because once these people are gone, there will only be so many distractions. And the silence in the office will be unpleasant.

You can sit here and stew like the little pussy Lucian accuses you of being, or you can say something to her. If you don't want to admit that she's over you, break the tension, get a feel for what she's feeling, whatever, do something before your head explodes.

Branch glances to the left one more time, and catches not only a flash of red hair, but blue eyes as well. He decides, and turns to Vic. "You got the next one?" He asks, twitching his head in the direction of the remaining (supposed) informants.

"I'm supposed to be watching her." Vic jerks a thumb out the window to October, who hasn't moved a muscle.

"She's not going anywhere." Branch doesn't wait for a response, stands up and walks over to the holding-cell before he loses his nerve (and he will lose it, just like he's lost the nerve to find and speak to her in person rather than over the phone a dozen times over the past week). He takes a breath. "Do you need anything?"

For a second, Cady looks like a deer in the headlights. She doesn't seem to notice, but Branch's grip on one of the bars of the cell is iron-clad. She glances from him, then to the baby, then off to the side, and then finally back up to Branch again.

"Nope. No, we're, uh- We're good. And Ferg's been pretty on-top of this." He has- the Ferg is absolutely charmed by the kid, and he steps in whenever Cady needs a break. The little boy is facing him, and Branch sees his eyes focus on him briefly before darting back to Cady. Branch smiles.

"He's cute." Cady smiles briefly too, and damn it, he feels like some lovesick moron for wishing she still smiled at him like that.

"He is." The awkwardness springs back with a vengeance, and Branch looks at a spot over Cady's shoulder rather than her eyes. "So… If you need anything-"

"I'll let you or- you know, Ferg-"

"-know."

"Yes."

Cady looks as uncomfortable as Branch feels, and so he turns and walks back to his desk. Vic is giving him a look out of the corner of her eye as she interviews one of the last informants; this isn't the first time she's looked at him like that after seeing him talk with Cady. She has his number.

Not like there's anything to uncover now, though, is there?

Even when the people are gone, Branch still has plenty to do. He'll be in the office for a while yet, and that social worker won't be coming for the baby until later on in the day. If their interaction had been more successful the idea of being in the same place as Cady until then wouldn't bother him as much, but that was not a success by any stretch of the imagination and so this is going to be a nightmare-

The door to Walt's office opens suddenly, and he and the man emerge.

"Branch- We have a lead." Walt eyes the departing man with a thinly-veiled disgust Branch has only seen a handful of times before. But then, next to Ruby, annoying Walt Longmire was a piece of cake. "We're heading to the hospital."

Branch nods and grabs his jacket, shoulders sagging slightly in relief. "Right."

He does not look at Cady.

-End