A/N: I know I'm a little late for the party, but this is my response to the July fanfic challenge. Takes place during 1x20. Basically, you have to use a message (song, email, phone call etc.,) and use a character alongside or other than Rayna and Deacon. For the sake of this story, Teddy doesn't know about that metal box Maddie goes through. Thanks to KarenES for inviting me! I love feedback!

Disclaimer: Haven't we been through this?

. . .

She doesn't really know what she expects to find-all she knows is that her parents aren't home and that Daphne is downstairs with the babysitter watching Mrs. Doubtfire for the second time today, so if there ever was a time to go through her mother's closet, it would be now. Maddie has seen the metal box before: big, a little rusty with sharp edges that her mother never let her near when she was younger. So she forgot about it for the most part, only seeing it fleetingly when Rayna pulled it out to get pictures and old articles to show her and Daphne.

But now her parents are getting a divorce and her life has already changed more than she ever wanted it to, and amidst all that, her mom and Deacon are together...again. Maddie had only found out about their past recently, not only because of the tabloids but because the way her father tenses up whenever she mentions Deacon warranted some inquisitiveness. She wants answers, about their past together and what it might mean now. What her mother tells her is only so helpful, and it's then that Maddie remembers the box. She's not sure it will even still be there, but she finds it quickly, hidden behind a wall of accessories. Moving quietly and carefully, the edges sharper than she remembered, she brings the box back to her room and pauses only for a second before opening it.

The pictures are still there, some old and others new, a few legal documents and mementos from throughout her mom's career-ticket stubs and song lyrics written on a large assortment of objects, ranging from napkins to pages ripped from a book. Most of it is meaningless to her, but she pushes onward, flipping through the unkempt mass of papers that her mother has stashed away. It's then that she finds something that doesn't quite fit with the rest; a report from the hospital labeled 'confidential'.

She sees her name next to her father's followed by the words 'not a match' and it doesn't matter how many times she reads it, the words stay the same.

Taking deep breaths, she attempts to try and stay calm, because it may not mean what she thinks, but then she's muffling her sobs with her hands, surprised she can hear anything, her world suddenly narrowed down to her heart pounding loudly in her chest and the sound of what she swears is her heart breaking.

Wiping at her tears she calls Talia, who supplies little comfort and no advice, although Maddie doesn't blame her because how are you suppose to react when this happens?

As far as she can tell there is nothing else that can help her make sense of what she has seen, no other papers from the hospital, nothing that can tell who her real father is, a question she never, ever though she would have to ask.

At the very bottom of the container there is a stack of postcards, held together with a rubber band-Maddie figures she has nothing left to lose.

A lot of the postcards are old, far older than her, from all over the country; there are even ones from places in Europe and one from Mexico. She reads a few of them, all addressed to her mother-some are from Aunt Tandy, a handful from Maddie's grandmother, but most of them are from Deacon.

She picks one at random, a worn picture of the Grand Ole Opry on the front along with the words 'Visit Nashville Today!' in blocky yellow letters and dated almost twenty years ago.


I know that the stage at the Opry will look a hell of a lot better with you on it tonight. Knock 'em dead, darlin'-I know you will.

All the love in the world,


The words only make her cry harder-for herself, mostly, and for her parents, and on some level for all the love that's been lost, now that she is finally seeing it with her own eyes. Pushing herself, Maddie keeps reading, no matter how much it hurts seeing another man love her mom, not more, but different than her dad ever did. And then she stops, surrounded by all the answers she went looking for, trying to decide if it was worth it or if she should have left this box and all its sharp edges tucked away.

After a while, tears still drying, Maddie carries the box back into the closet, hating it for so many reasons, but also angry at herself for missing what was so plainly hidden from her since the day she was born.

"Maddie!" Daphne yells from downstairs, completely unaware, "Come on, we're ordering dinner!"

She clears her throat. "I'll be there in a minute," she calls, sounding as normal as she can.

Running into her mom's bathroom, surrounded by a disarray of make-up and hair products, Maddie wipes off her glasses and washes her face, scrubbing at the sticky remnants of her crying until her cheeks turn pink. The young girl stares at her reflection in the mirror, swallowing thickly as the floodgates threaten to open once more, and she stands there as her sadness changes, morphing into a cocktail of sadness and anger and resentment and fear.

Her sister yells again, stomping around the kitchen, annoyed, threatening to come upstairs and get her if she doesn't come down. Normally she would get mad, but she can't bring herself to, so she just sighs and looks back in the mirror.

Maddie Conrad takes a deep breath, and if anyone had walked it, they would see a familiar look in her eyes-one that Rayna often wears. A look of determination, knowing that you are going to have to take what's coming and to weather the storm, whether you want to or not, and if anyone who knows her mother were watching, their eyes would have grown wide in recognition and they would have marveled at the similarities.

But Maddie just wipes away a stubborn tear and goes downstairs.