A/N: Oh Branch, what are we going to do with you?
I don't own Longmire, but I think it's a wonderful show and the rest of the world should too. Just sayin'.
He's never said it. Maybe he should.
Branch remembers how it started, their conversations and touching her felt electric and right and wrong all at once.
"You know you're not staying, right?" she'd told him once, his face buried in her pillow and it was late.
Her voice was laughing and his was muffled. "Come on, seriously?"
"Rules are rules."
"Made to be broken."
Cady had pulled the sheets off him. "You don't really want to break the rules, being a Sheriff's deputy and all."
He'd lifted his head and bit his lip thoughtfully. "Makes sense that the lawyer made up those rules."
She threw his pants onto his back, his belt buckle cold on his skin, and laughed quietly as she turned from him.
"You're breaking my heart, woman," he'd mumbled but he was smiling all the same.
He's never wanted to hurt her. That's not what it's about. Not about hurting Walt either. It's about getting places, moving up, changing things. If he could have Cady and be Sheriff he'd die happy, he's sure of it. But that would be easy and life's not easy.
Her life isn't easy. He's watched as taking care of Walt strains her, makes her lose herself in him some nights and maybe that's not a bad thing but Cady tells him she feels emptied, hollowed out. Branch doesn't want that for her. He wants to make her feel complete.
She leaves town for two months and doesn't answer his calls. Branch is sure Walt knows more than he's saying—he's read the letter after all, about the detective from Denver—but something nags at his conscience that maybe the guilt drove her away.
He makes the decision to harden up, put her out of his mind and focus on winning. He one-ups Walt, feels good about it too. He looks at the County with a sharp eye, now the overlord, but he spends time at the Red Pony, quietly hoping.
"If you are here because you think she might be here," Henry tells him disapprovingly, "I am going to have to disappoint you."
"Just having a drink, Henry," Branch replies, nonchalant, but it's a lie because Cady could walk in any night. She likes Henry.
When he hears she's back Branch panics, but coolly masks it when he talks to her. She smiles at his sign but looks at him with piercing eyes that say too much and never enough. She seems different, fulfilled and he wonders idly if she's met someone.
The rules creep up again.
"You know I'm not going to invite you in, right?"
But Branch laughs and keeps it simple. He tells her he hopes to be friends and she doesn't say anything but her eyes smile. She tells him to take his sign and she laughs quietly as she slips by him.
His heart beats hard and he panics because he should say it, but he really shouldn't. Instead he lets her go.
Nights pass and he goes back to the Red Pony to order a single malt, while Henry casts an unsure look over him. A soft folk song plays an offbeat rhythm and maybe life's like that. It's a quiet night, no bustle, and Branch enjoys the scotch with Henry asking about the campaign.
"It's all in the cards, Henry. I don't tip my hand that often."
But Cady walks in and he wants to, he really does. He'd show her the entire deck if it meant being able to have her.
She orders her own drink—Rainier—and sits with him and attempts "friendly". At first it's an uneasy fit but they settle into it. Small talk mostly. She leaves after one drink, has a quiet word to Henry and then she's gone.
It's hard to come back from where they've been, but Branch loves her and that's not going to change. He's never said it. Maybe he should.