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When the Levee Breaks

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On July 14, almost exactly two months since Jack’s birth, he had his two-month check-up. Dr. Washington was only able to get them in that morning, which unfortunately meant that Matt was supposed to be on-shift. He took leave for the morning, but after lunch was due at the firehouse. Matt had been more than willing to go along with her insistence that he be there, since Jack was getting his first full set of vaccinations. The check-up itself was pretty quick. Jack was growing rapidly, as he was supposed to be doing, and his sleeping and eating schedule was in the normal ranges. He had all the right developmental milestones ticked off. He did not like shots, though, it turned out. He cried after every shot, and Sylvie ached a little for his discomfort, but she also had to bite back laughter and tears both over Matt’s reaction. He flinched at the first one and couldn’t watch the rest. She was married to the man and had honestly not had a clue how much he hated needles. Combining his own dislike of needles/shots with his son’s distress, and Matt was not in a good mood at all. If glares could kill, Dr. Washington would be down a couple nurses. The moment it was over, Sylvie hadn’t a chance of comforting her son; Matt scooped him up and had him practically inside his shirt with him, clasped tightly to his chest with softly whispered words running gently over the baby’s head. Getting Jack out of his arms was going to be impossible, at least until he absolutely had to be set in the car seat.

Despite the fact that the appointment had not been delayed, all they had time for was a relatively quick lunch and then she was dropping Matt off at 51. He was still a little out of sorts, though at least the actual baby wasn’t – Jack slept through lunch easily, safe in his car seat, apparently over his ‘trauma’ in the doctor’s office. Matt was not. She almost texted a warning to the guys at the firehouse. Matt was going to be in a stinker of a mood this shift. It probably didn’t help, at least so she figured, that she was back on full-time next shift, and she was joining Matt for his therapy session tomorrow afternoon. Both were likely to contribute to Matt being a bit anxious and on-edge today. If she was really feeling nice and generous (to the guys at 51), she would help him calm down, but the only one-hundred-percent tried-and-true way to do that would be obscene and definitely illegal in a restaurant. Their not-yet-reinvigorated sex life was still on way too thin of ice to get by with teasing him, either, and promising him more when he got home tomorrow. She couldn’t actually promise she’d be in any sort of mood for sex tomorrow morning when he got home, plus, they’d be dodging the baby’s schedule. So instead she just kept conversation light, hoping to distract him with pleasantries.

 

There wasn’t, quite, a stampede when everyone realized that she had followed Matt into the common room of the house. Matt just waved and headed towards the locker room to change out, leaving Sylvie to be set upon by her coworkers. You’d think they’d never had the chance to see a baby before. Every single person here had already seen the baby at least once. Some of them, like Kelly, were regular visitors. Most of them stopped by on their way into Molly’s many evenings, keeping the visits nice and quick, but their house really was incredibly convenient for that sort of drop-in visits. It also allowed her or Matt to sometimes pop over and see everyone while the other stayed at home with Jack. So it wasn’t exactly anyone’s first time meeting Jack Casey, but they seemed to think it was a one-chance-only event.

“He’s awake and not demanding a meal, take advantage of this time.” Sylvie laughed, as nearly everyone tried to gather around Jack’s car seat.

“He’s so much bigger. I saw him two weeks ago.” Cruz shook his head.

“He has more than doubled his birth weight, he is growing so fast.” Sylvie admitted. “He eats like his father.”
“Yeah? When’s the last time Casey gained weight? 1999?” Mouch half-grumbled.

“Nah, he’s gained muscle mass since he came on with the department.” Kelly shook his head.

“Come on, Mouch, you’ve lost weight training for that mud run.” Cruz encouraged. “We all have.”

“Can I hold him?” Stella asked, and Sylvie nodded, helping unstrap Jack before Stella scooped him up. His eyes were still wide open, and he was clearly taking in the number of faces and voices around him. Sylvie took the chance to dart off for a bathroom break. Jack was perfectly safe. She had some paperwork to give to Chief as well, plus, she was just hoping to ‘hang out’ for a while at the house, sort of a practice for being here next shift. Plus, Foster was going back to medical school and starting soon, so there were only a couple shifts between her coming back and Emily leaving. She wanted to enjoy that time. By the time she came back from the bathroom, Jack was in Matt’s arms, head on his shoulder.

“Hey, Sylvie, just in time.”
“In time for what?”
“Jack is getting his first introduction to the truck.”
“Matt, he’s 8 weeks old.”
“Don’t worry, I won’t put him on the aerial.” Matt paused, canting his head towards Jack and in a stage whisper added, “Yet. Once you’re walking kiddo, we’ll start you on the ladders.”
“Absolutely not.” Sylvie decreed, following Matt out onto the apparatus floor. “He is not going near any ladder until he’s sixteen.” Matt shot her a look. She sighed. “At least six.”

“Your mommy worries too much.”
I worry too much?” Sylvie laughed. Matt was overprotective to something like the Nth power.

“It’s a fire truck, Sylvie. My truck. He’ll be fine.”
“No ladders.” She reminded firmly. She didn't care that Matt knew that truck and every ladder on it like it was an extension of himself. She didn't care that for himself he had no problem moving up the aerial while it was extending and moving, trusting his feel for the ladder completely. He was not taking their son on a ladder until he was much, much, much older. 

“Come on, son, you wanna see the fire truck, right? Next visit, Uncle Kelly will show you around the Squad.” Matt talking to Jack about the truck was adorable and made her heart melt. Not enough that she was going to give ground on letting him on any ladders for many years yet to come, but still gooey and melty. Everyone else had come out, too, and the Truck crew were fully participating in Jack’s little tour of Truck 81. They all knew Jack had no clue what they were saying, but still, it was probably the most in-depth ‘tour’ that any kid had ever had of a fire truck. Ten minutes later, it was ruined by the sharp familiar sound of the bells, calling Truck 81 to a car accident. Matt moved swiftly, handing Jack back to her, dropping a kiss on her lips, and running a hand over Jack’s head.

“I’ll see you guys tomorrow morning. Love you.”
“Be careful.” Sylvie reminded, and he smiled over his shoulder, waving in acknowledgement. She knew he would be as careful as he could be, but she still worried every shift while he was gone. She felt Kelly arrive to stand off her left shoulder.
“Come on, let’s go back inside. I can take Jack if you want some time.”
“Ah, actually, I think the fussy is only partly the loud noise of the bells. Someone is ready for his luncheon. Once he’s fed, though, I’m going to take you up on that – I’d love to catch up with Howe and Foster, before I start back next shift.

“Built in babysitters.” Kelly grinned, waving at the remaining guys from Engine and Squad.

“Yeah, until the bells go off anyway.” Herrmann backed him up.


 

“You can relax a little.” Matt bumped her shoulder lightly with his own, as they headed down the short hall to Dr. Sandlin’s office. Their time in the waiting room had been brief, but still, it had been enough, really waiting for this all day had been enough, to make her nervous. “You’re not on trial, Sylvie. I am, sort of, but you’re not.”
“Therapy is not about blame.”

“Sometimes it is.” Matt corrected her gently. “At least, for me, it kind of is. But not for you. You’re just here to help me out.”
“I know. I don’t know why I’m nervous.” She smiled at him as he held open the door.

“I’m always a bit nervous.” Matt shrugged. “Dr. Sandlin is scary.”
“I’m sure I’m terrifying.” Sylvie turned to smile, and was just a little taken aback. Matt had never described his therapist, and Sylvie certainly had never pushed him to talk about anything about his therapy. She’d known, of course, that Dr. Sandlin was a woman, and she’d gotten the impression she was not particularly young, but she somehow had not pictured a woman barely five-foot and probably sixty or so years old, with black hair, streaked with just a bit of gray. She almost giggled, at the idea of Matt being scared of this tiny little woman.

“Dr. Sandlin, this is my wife, Sylvie. Sylvie, this is Dr. Sandlin.”
“I’ve told Matt he can call me Peggy, and so can you. If you’d rather use my title, of course, whichever you’re comfortable with is fine. Have a seat.”
Sylvie took one of the chairs, set up a little like someone’s living room except there were several types of chairs in the grouping and absolutely no sign of a sofa. Matt went straight for a very comfortable looking leather chair, so Sylvie took the one on his right side. It was comfortable enough, though she didn’t think she sunk into it the same way Matt sunk into his.

“Sylvie, Matt has given me permission to mention some of the things we’ve talked about in his sessions with you while you’re here; sort of as they come up, this won’t be just repeating things we’ve already done. We’re here really to talk about Matt’s goals, but also, if you have concerns or questions, this is a great time for you to bring those up as well.”
“I can’t think of any right now, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“When we started, or I started, I guess, Dr. Sandlin asked me to set three to five priorities, in order, sort of things I wanted to address that I thought were problems in my life. Problems maybe isn’t the right word. Just issues. Things I want to learn to cope with better, I guess.”
“Coping mechanisms is really the goal of my practice.” Dr. Sandlin told her. “I can’t ‘cure’ anyone of anything, it’s not that sort of doctoring. But Matt has expressed some concerns with his skills at dealing with long-standing issues and his reaction to certain things. That’s really what we’re working on.”
“Okay.” Sylvie nodded, following so far.

“My first priority is parenting. I want to make sure I’m better at parenting than my parents were.” Matt smiled tightly at her. She’d known already that Jack was really his primary motivation for going to therapy at all. “My second priority is our relationship. I want to be a better husband than…well, than my father was, or I’ve been in the past. My third priority is, well, I guess my relationships with other people. That second goal is the one I think we’re focusing on the days you’re here. Other days, too, but just…yeah.” Matt shrugged.

“Okay. What do you need from me?”
“What do you want Matt to get from therapy, Sylvie?” Dr. Sandlin asked, her tone completely neutral.

“Confidence in himself.” Sylvie didn’t even have to think about it. “He’s so insecure about himself, about his worth, I guess. I want him to know he matters and that he isn’t his parents. He’s a good man, and a great father. A great husband, too.”
“Anything else?”
“Closure, I think. He has a lot of kind of dangling things. Issues from the past that come up and hang over him sometimes. And I’d like it if the nightmares went away.”
“How bad are the nightmares, Matt?” Dr. Sandlin asked.

“Not so bad.”
“Nightly. Sometimes more than once.” Sylvie corrected. “He’s not sleeping anywhere near enough.”

“How long have you had that level of sleep disturbance?”
“I’ve always had nightmares. They’re normal, aren’t they?”
“Some nightmares, yes. That many is not normal, Matt.” Dr. Sandlin gently insisted.

“I have bad patches. I have since I can remember. This one started when I started therapy. I thought, you said things get harder, then get better. This is just part of ‘harder’.”
“If your thoughts are disturbed enough to cause persistent nightmares, Matt, we may need to look at other therapeutic measures in concert with our discussions.”
“I’m not taking anything.”

“Leaving aside your expressed disdain for anxiety medications, there are certain bedtime routines and things that can help improve your sleep patterns. Sleep deprivation actually increases a tendency to nightmares as well, and having a new baby is certainly likely to cause some sleep deprivation.”
“Bedtime routines?” Sylvie asked, curious.

“Consistency and relaxation are very important. Try a long relaxing bath, for example, and quiet, soothing activities like reading a book or even doing a puzzle helps for some people. Meditation practices are helpful. And make sure the bedroom is kept for just sleeping and sex. Nothing stressful.”
“Well, we can do baths and quiet time.” Sylvie acknowledged. That was easy enough.
“Also, reducing or eliminating caffeine less than 12 hours before you intend to sleep is usually a good idea.”
“No caffeine after lunch basically?” Sylvie asked, wrinkling her nose. She looked at Matt, who looked like he’d just been told he’d have to part with Truck 81 or something equally horrific. Caffeine ran like a river in the firehouse.

“No one likes me when I’m not caffeinated.” Matt shook his head. “I don’t even like me when I’m not caffeinated.”
“Start trying to cut down in the evenings, at least. It should help you sleep better.” Dr. Sandlin repeated.

“Aren’t we supposed to be talking about all my old crap or something?”
“We can do that if you’d like, yes.” Dr. Sandlin allowed. “Sylvie, before we start with Matt, do you have any concerns about your relationship with Matt? Any issues you think we need to focus on?”
“No. I’m…he’s wonderful. Our marriage is, well, not perfect, no one’s is perfect, but it’s wonderful. Isn’t it?” She looked at Matt, concerned now that he had issues or he wasn’t happy or something.

“It’s not you.” Matt tried to smile, but failed. “I feel like I’m screwing up all the time. Going to really screw it up and…do something unforgivable.”
“But there’s nothing wrong. We don’t fight at all. Not serious, real, fights. We’re two people living together, we’re going to have stupid little arguments over…what to watch on TV or the fact that you keep kicking the thermostat down.”
“You keep the house at like 80 degrees.” Matt grumbled, rolling his eyes.

“And you set it at about the temperature of a refrigerator.” Sylvie shot back, the constant debate over the temperature of the house was their one ongoing sticking point. Thankfully it was a good-natured eye-rolling sort of argument.

“Then she wonders why I end up sleeping naked on top of the covers.” Matt shook his head.

“That isn’t really a reason for me to stop doing it. Getting you naked is actually more a reward for my behavior.” Sylvie teased him, though it was also absolutely true. She turned back to Dr. Sandlin, though. “That’s our idea of a fight. It’s…I know we’re still in the early part of a marriage, but I don’t have any real concerns or complaints. Except that I know he does.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not sure about complaints. I worry sometimes that he wouldn’t tell me if he did have any. But that actually links back to my points that I know he has concerns. And I don’t know what to do about any of them. Because he never talks about his feelings or his needs or…and they’re not really about us. They’re about earlier stuff.”
“Yes, that’s what Matt has told me as well.” Dr. Sandlin’s statement was maybe not meant as a reassurance, but it worked that way for Sylvie. She felt a wave of relief rush through her. If Matt was focusing on his past issues, that was good. She’d been worried that there were current issues that she didn’t know about, that maybe Matt was unhappy with their life. He seemed happy. He said he was happy. But he’d seemed happy and said he was happy with Gabby, too. Well, he hadn’t actually, she realized. In hindsight, he hadn’t always seemed happy and he’d never said he was happy. He hadn’t said he was unhappy. Matt had said almost nothing, to any of them, about his marriage or his life away from the firehouse. He’d looked at Gabby with such love, though, they’d all thought, Sylvie had certainly thought, he was very happy.

“I…I thought maybe talking some things out would be easier with Dr. Sandlin here to make sure I don’t fuck it up too badly. Words are…I always say it wrong.” Matt sighed. “So I can talk with you, and her, and hopefully not fuck up our marriage by saying the wrong thing to you, or she can help me recover when I do get it wrong.”
“You’re not as bad with words as you think you are.” Sylvie pointed out.

“Sylvie, do you think that’s one of the issues Matt needs help with then?”
“Actually, yes. He doesn’t always find the most poetic way to put things, but I like the sort of…Matt-isms, I guess. He’s genuine. And if he didn’t bungle something up, he’d be too perfect and I’d think I actually married a Disney prince.”
“I don’t like talking.” Matt admitted, his voice uncharacteristically quiet and sort of soft.
“Why not?” Dr. Sandlin asked, tone still utterly neutral. Sylvie liked that, wondered how much practice that took. Nothing in her tone would give Matt any direction he ‘should’ go to give her the answer she wanted.

“When I say things…things get worse. If I just keep my mouth shut, it’s not so bad. Usually.”
“What sort of things get worse?”
“Whatever situation I’m in.”
“Work situations?”
“Sometimes. Usually things in my relationship, though. Relationships. I always upset people, even when I don’t mean to. Not just my wife-“
“You don’t upset me. I mean, not usually. Sometimes I have to wait for you to get your words out, you’re kind of hesitant, but it doesn’t upset me.”
“Yeah, I do. Like right now.” Matt pointed out. “You’re upset right now, because I opened my damned mouth.”
“That’s what therapy is for, Matt.” Dr. Sandlin noted. “We all need to express ourselves. It’s very important that you feel like you can tell Sylvie your thoughts without upsetting her.”
“I’m ‘upset’ now because I’m worried that you feel like you can’t tell me things. Anything. I love you, Matt. That’s not changing, even if I do get a little frustrated by an opinion you have or something.”
“You can’t know that.”
“Actually, I can. Because I know you. You’re too good a man to do or think or say anything actually unforgivable. I’m not saying you won’t piss me off massively at some point, of course you will, you do, but it’s not going to” she cut herself off, realizing of course the root of the problem here. “I’m not Gabby, Matt. I’m not Gabby. There’s my concern, Dr. Sandlin. I feel like I’m being constantly judged and measured by Gabby’s standards, not my own. Not our own.”
“Matt?”
“It’s not a comparison. I don’t sit around and compare my two wives or anything.”

“No one is saying you are, Matt. But do you think you carry over issues from your first marriage into your marriage with Sylvie?”
“We’ve talked about it before. I know I do.” Matt sighed. “That’s why it was on my top list of priorities for our meetings, I mean, the meetings with Sylvie here, too. I still have the same problems that caused the end of my first marriage. I want to do better. I have to do better this time.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong!” Sylvie barely kept herself from shouting. “All you did was finally stand up for yourself, Matt. It’s all either of us did. How she reacted to that; that is all on Gabby. Not us. She ran away. We didn’t push her away.”
“I was cruel. I said things I shouldn’t have said. I didn’t really listen to her.”
“I think you did.” Sylvie disagreed vehemently. “I think you did listen to her, every time, and that’s the problem.”
“What do you mean, Sylvie?” Dr. Sandlin asked.

“Looking back, and I’ve heard a lot of what happened from both sides now – Gabby and Matt both have talked to me about these events, though at different times – she had this gift, sort of, for making herself the victim. Everything in her life was about her. Her needs. Her wants. Her dreams. Her goals. Her values. Her. Even when she was helping other people, it was how she wanted to do it, when she wanted to do it.”
“Doesn’t it make me a jerk, though, a bad husband, or fiancé, or boyfriend, or…there were times I wasn’t even sure what I was to her, but whatever I was to her, wasn’t it wrong that I didn’t always want her to have her needs, her wants, her dreams, her goals…all of it? I should’ve put her, well, everything, ahead of me, shouldn’t I? Isn’t that what love is? Forgetting yourself for her?”
“Not if she has to hurt you to get those things.” Sylvie didn’t wait for anything Dr. Sandlin might say. She’d been sort of waiting for this conversation for a long time, it felt like damn near forever.

“I should be happy because she’s happy.”
“That sounds great, but doesn’t always work. A life together isn’t a romantic film. Matt, you’re human. You have needs, and wants, and goals, and dreams, too. And marriage is about balancing both, not about you giving up all of yours for all of hers. Just as your wife shouldn’t give up on her needs, wants, goals, and dreams for yours. Balance.” Dr. Sandlin’s voice was still completely even, not a trace of any sort of judgment either of Matt or Gabby.
“Nothing was as important to me as her.” Matt admitted, voice soft and low again. “It’s even…it’s even more that way with you, now, Sylvie, you and Jack. I don’t…you never believe me, but I don’t have any need or want or goal or dream that outweighs keeping you both safe, happy, and with me.”
“There it is.” Sylvie looked at Dr. Sandlin. “There’s his real fear. Isn’t it Matt? You’re terrified I’m going to leave you.”
“Every woman does.” Matt halfway shrugged. “It’s what women do. They leave. When you don’t or can’t do what they need from you, want from you, they leave. And they should. When I’m not good enough, not…a person who adds anything to your life anymore.”
“There’s a lot to unpack in that, Matt.” Dr. Sandlin said. “Let’s talk about these things.”
“Talk about what?” Sylvie asked. “He already thinks I have one foot out the door. He doesn’t trust me. And I hate it.”
“It’s not you.” Matt insisted, voice stronger now. “It’s me. I’m going to fuck up. I’m going to do the wrong thing at the wrong time. I’m going to fuck up so badly, be such a fucking disappointment or worse, and you’ll have to leave. And you’ll be right to do so. You know how I feel about women staying in a bad relationship. I’m…there’s something wrong with me, Sylvie. I don’t know what it is. That’s why I’m here. I’m trying to figure out what it is so I can fix it. Fix me. Or at least give me the tools to fix what I break when I break it, before it shatters entirely.”
“Which comes back to you not trusting me to stay, when I swore to you, in front of God and everyone we know, that I would be with you, love you, honor you, and yes, sometimes get really fucking angry with you, until one of us dies from it.”

“No woman ever stays, Sylvie.” Matt pointed out, voice now plainly harsh.

“That’s not fair. You can’t judge 51% of the population by Gabby Dawson.”
“It’s not her. It’s every fucking woman I’ve ever known. They come in and out of my life, tell me I matter, tell me they love me, then they ditch me. How long it takes me to fuck it up varies, sure, I set some sort of Guinness record in fucking up with Gabby – I pissed her off so much she ditched me four times in as many years – but I’m here trying to be better because I nearly…I nearly…with Gabby, when she left it…wrecked me.”
“I know.” Sylvie was barely holding back tears. She knew this would be tough, but it also felt like lancing a festering wound. Utterly awful, painful, and kind of gross, but also a massive relief.

“You don’t know.” Matt shook his head. He glanced at Dr. Sandlin, but then brought his eyes back to Sylvie. “Severide wasn’t wrong. I had a death wish. I had worse, in fact.”
“What?” Panic shot through her whole body, and her heart started racing. He couldn’t mean what she thought he meant with that.
“Sylvie, do you know how many times I had to ask Gabby to marry me?”
“Three times.” She did know that, now. She hadn’t known about that middle time, before, but she did know about their first engagement, she’d been around for part of it after all.

“I was getting ready to ask Hallie the third time when she died.” Matt’s half-smile was tearful. “How many men do you think have to ask six times to get married the first time? Then, just staying married was…I failed at that. We were married about a year and a half. It’s not 72 hours, but it’s a pretty dismal record.”
Gabby ran away. It’s what Gabby does, when things get hard. Emotionally hard.”
“I’ve had some pretty…low spots in my life. Times when I felt like I had no one in the world who gave a damn if they saw me the next day or never again. Walking into work, knowing everyone knew I’d fucked up, that I’d driven her away from not just me, but all her friends and her life and…everyone missed her so much. Gabby was, is, an amazing person, she just couldn’t…live with me. Even Severide said it was on me to fix it, to get her back. And I couldn’t. She has so much bigger and better things to do than put up with me when I held her back so much. So I meant what I told her, she was right to go.” Matt’s voice broke a little, but he quickly gathered himself. “So it was my fault she left you all. I knew it was my fault. I tried to think it wasn’t, but it was always there in the back of my head. I knew it was on me. I knew everyone would’ve rather I left and she stayed. I’m…not nothing, but nothing much, certainly not anything special.” Matt’s eyes were on his knees, but then he looked up and met her eyes cleanly, a bit of fire in them. “I hope you never have, and as long as I’m alive you never will, feel like that. Like there’s not a person on the planet who would miss you more than a week after your funeral.”
“Matt.” She put her hand on his nearest arm, needing to touch him, but not wanting him to stop talking, either.

“I’ve never felt more like trash thrown aside along the highway or something, just the junk tossed out, unwanted, completely useless and unneeded. But I was lucky, I guess. I found enough value in what I do, what we do, that I reminded myself every day that I’m damned good at what I do, that as long as I could help people, that I had a duty to do it, that even if I wanted, just wanted….” Matt trailed off, Sylvie glanced at Dr. Sandlin, who sort of waved her off saying anything. After a moment, Matt spoke again. “It didn’t matter how much pain I was in. I had a duty to help other people. I kept remembering what Sister Domitia told me when I was a little boy: that God made me what I am for a reason, a reason I’d know in God’s own time. And he made me a pretty damned good firefighter and a decent contractor. So I focused on work. I did a lot of charity construction work. And believe it or not, somewhere around the time of Naomi and the trailer fires, saving people from shitty construction, not even waiting to hear the bells, but being proactive and using my knowledge to get ahead of a tragedy, it was like…it got better. Then I was nearly shot in the face, and I knew then, I still wanted to be here. I just had to figure out what I was going to do with it. But if I fuck this up, too, Sylvie, I don’t think there’d be ‘getting better’ after that. I’m not threatening you with anything or trying to manipulate you. I’m here, learning to cope better, with everything, because the idea that I could fuck up and drive away you and Jack, I wouldn’t survive that. More importantly, you and Jack, especially Jack, deserve a lot better. Better than me being afraid. So no matter how painful this is, it’s better than that. I need you to help me.”
“I’m not going anywhere, Matt. Ever. I’m not going to wake up one day and…God, I can’t even pick a feeling right now.” Sylvie realized. “I’m scared and hurt and angry and…you honestly think I’m going to pack up one day, take our son, and just leave you? You think I’d do that?”
“When I’m thinking, no, I don’t.” Matt managed a half-smile. “When I’m feeling, not thinking, I can’t seem to help it. My mother left. My sister left. My aunt kicked me out. My other aunt kicked me out. My foster mothers all kicked me out. Girlfriends always left. Hallie left. Gabby left. I’m no good with women.”
“I’m not other women.”
“That much I’m very well aware of.”
“I won’t stand to be blamed for other women’s actions, though. So, that is definitely on the agenda for your therapy. If I can help set the agenda.”
“Absolutely. That’s why you’re here.” Matt assured her, earnestness clear in his face. “I need your help, I can’t make myself fit for our marriage without your help.”
“You’re already ‘fit’, Matt.” Sylvie reassured him. “I’m not lying when I say you’re the best man I’ve ever met.”
“Not yet. But I will be.” Matt held his shoulders more square. “I’m going to live up to the things you say about me, that you see in me. I’m going to deserve you.”
“So, what is the agenda for all this, then?” Sylvie asked, looking at Dr. Sandlin. “His trust issues, and…?”
“My fear of expressing disagreement. I guess maybe that goes along with trusting myself to not break things, though.” Matt answered instead. “My temper and anger management is always on my list of concerns. My bouts of situational depression, according to Dr. Sandlin, need to be worked through. Also, lingering trauma from the stuff when I was a kid, and then my dad’s death. Did I get it all?”

“That’s what I have in my notes, in the rough outline anyway.” Dr. Sandlin confirmed.
My goal, overall, Matt,” Sylvie dropped to her knees in front of his chair, her hands clasping both sides of his face, forgetting the setting for just a minute, “is for you to see what I see in you, what Jack sees in you, what just about everyone but you sees in you. I just want you to know how amazing and beautiful and strong you are, and to put as much value in you, and your life, as the rest of us do. You are so loved, baby, and I want you to be able to see it, and feel it, and own it. That you deserve that love.”
“I want that, too.” Matt smiled wetly, and kissed her.