Rating: PG-13/T

Genre: Friendship/Hurt/Comfort

Summary: For 12_stories, prompt "Autumn", and hc_bingo, prompt "Moving". Branch helps Cady pack up and move.

Author's Note: UFFF… I know it's probably going to happen on the show, but I REALLY hope we just get to see plenty of Cady before it does.

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


"Thanks for this, Branch."

"You do realize-" Branch grunted slightly as he heaved the box into the back of the SUV. "-that if Walt sees me helping you move, he's going to accuse me of helping you leaving him alone and probably shoot me in my sleep?"

Cady rolled her eyes. "He won't hurt you." And then her expression hardened. "Other than that, I don't really give a damn what he thinks. Feel free to relay that to him if he does have a chat with you."

"Yeah, and invite him to knock my goddamn head off." Branch muttered to himself. He knew that look, and he knew what was causing that look, and it was a subject he wasn't going to touch on unless Cady broached it first.

It was fall, and last night it had rained. The air smelled of dead leaves, most of which were plastered to the pavement of the sidewalk with water. Branch had almost slipped on a patch of them when he had gotten out of his truck and cursed roundly; it made Cady snicker, so he supposed in retrospect it wasn't the worst thing in the world.

"Is that the last one?"

"Yeah; everything else is already on the moving truck." Cady's hand was resting on the doorframe, her index and middle fingers tapping the white wood restlessly. Branch tucked his hands into his pockets.

What he wanted was to beg her not to leave. Branch had accepted that they weren't going to get back together, but that didn't mean he never wanted to see her again- and he suspected the feeling was mutual. He had always known her to want more than just what Durant had to offer, but the final decision to leave had come almost out of nowhere: Cady had called Branch and asked if he would be willing to help her pack and move some boxes, and uncertain of what else to do, he'd said yes. He couldn't believe she had just up and decided to move away to Philadelphia of all places (Vic would be thrilled).

But after what had happened with her and Walt, after she had told him what Walt had kept from her for the past year…

Branch did not blame her for wanting to leave in the slightest.

He kicked at a clump of leaves on the ground. "So… You already got a job there?" Cady nodded, and when he glanced at her, her eyes jumped away from his.

"Yeah. I had a few cities considered, and the opening at the firm there was what clinched it."

"Good, good." Cady glanced back over her shoulder into the house. Since there wasn't anything left in there for her to look at, Branch assumed that she was just taking a last look before she left for good. When she turned back around, he saw that she was blinking a little faster, the way Cady always did when she was starting to tear up.

"I should get going."

Branch managed to catch himself right before he could ask if she'd already said goodbye to everyone; if she was leaving immediately, then she had said goodbye to anyone she was still interested in speaking to.

So naturally, Branch wondered if Walt was on that list.

"May seem like a dumb question," Branch said as Cady came down the steps fingering her keys. "I mean, since you're already packed and ready to go and all… But you're certain you want to go?"

Cady nodded. "Branch, I…" She licked her lips. "The only reason I stayed in Durant this long was because of dad. And then you. Now that you and I are broken up, and…" Branch saw her grip on her keys tighten along with her jaw. "I don't have a strong reason to stay here anymore. I- Honestly, I don't want to stay here anymore. And if he has a problem with that, he should have thought of that before he decided to get up my ass about dating you and then lie about my mother-"

Cady broke off from the building tirade, voice cracking with either very powerful sadness or boiling rage. Possibly a mix of the two.

Branch knew it might be testing the bounds of the just-friends thing they'd had since the break-up, but he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her. Thankfully, Cady didn't seem to mind; it wasn't like he was going to be able to pester her to give him another chance once she left, even if he wanted to.

It did hit him, though, that this was definitely an end to any potential they had to rekindling things; you couldn't start a fire when the match was almost two-thousand miles away from the wood. Branch pressed his nose into Cady's hair and sighed. Damn it, damn it, damn it, he thought as his throat grew a little tighter and his eyes burned a bit. Go away, stop that.

Cady finally wiggled out of the embrace, and she gave Branch a watery smile- and a peck on the cheek, which only made his throat close off entirely- before slowly moving to her car, getting inside, and starting the engine. In a few seconds she was off and down the road, where she would be for a while- Cady had chosen to go cross-country rather than taking a plane.

Branch watched the car go, heaved a sigh, and then turned to go back to his own truck. He took about two steps and then proceeded to slip on another clump of wet leaves, managing to catch himself on one hand before he could fall completely. He clenched his teeth when his palm scraped the pavement and stung, and he felt the irrational urge to just get up and kick the shit out of something.

I fricking hate fall.