Walt turned the beautifully pearlised rectangular card over in his fingers, not unlike a cheer leader twirling a baton. The arrival of said card had gotten him so distracted in his thoughts that he didn't even hear Vic enter his office until she dropped down heavily into the chair opposite him.
"Whatcha got there?" Vic Moretti had never been one to stand on ceremony and her need to know exactly what Walt was up to had multiplied ten fold over the last few months.
"Um..." Walt looked down at the card that dangled from his fingertips before hastily shoving it in his desk drawer.
"Nuthin'," he answered a little too abruptly.
"Didn't look like nothin'," Vic persisted. She tilted her head and her pony tail bobbed behind her as she refused to break eye contact with him until he faltered under the awkwardness of her scrutiny.
Walt dropped his eyes to his fingers which were drumming a nervous beat on the highly polished wood of his desk top.
"It's an invitation."
"Oh... to?" To say Vic's interest was piqued would have been an understatement.
"Just some function, nothin' really."
"Hmmm... so why're ya acting as if it's the end of the world?"
"I didn't think I was," he lied unconvincingly.
"Fine." Vic pushed herself up on the chair arms. " If ya don't wanna tell me what's got you all maudlin' that's up to you."
Vic had long since learned that if Walt Longmire didn't want to talk then nothing was going to persuade him otherwise. Besides, she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of knowing that she was desperate to find out what it was all about. Her hope was that it had nothing to do with Dr Donna Monaghan. She hadn't seen any sign of her of late and Ruby hadn't taken any messages for Walt recently. Or maybe it was from someone else. Since she'd fully recovered and returned to the trailer park, Vic had found herself irritatingly out of touch. She'd virtually been living with Walt and whilst the thought of that had been more than appealing on several levels, in reality it had been all kinds of awkward. Mainly because she could have easily made it more than it was... just a boss, colleague if you will, taking responsibility for his employee. At least that's how she thought Walt had looked at it.
She'd grown tired of wanting something more and it never being reciprocated.
Vic slinked out of his office, hips swaying provocatively. Provocatively. That was definitely the word that sprang to Walt's mind as he watched her perfectly formed ass disappear out the door as she slowly pulled it too behind her.
He slumped back in his chair with a heavy sigh and rubbed his hand roughly across his chin. He slid open the drawer. Taking out the card he held it between his thumb and forefingers.
'To Mr Mrs Walt Longmire
Mr Mrs Ralph Edwardsrequest the honour of your presence at the marriage of their daughter Hannah Elizabethto... '
Walt hadn't seen Ralph Edwards in almost twenty years. They'd played college football together and at one point had been pretty good friends. Walt had attended a college reunion, at Martha's insistence, back in the late 1990's, that was the last time he'd seen Ralph. He'd found that they still had a lot in common, particularly the fact that their daughters were of a similar age. However, Walt had always been notoriously bad at keeping in touch with people and his stubborn insistence that he didn't need a cell phone didn't make it any easier. So, it came as no surprise that his former buddy didn't know about Martha's death.
"RSVP to Mr Mrs R Edwards..."
Shit. This wasn't something that he was going to be able to ignore.
Walt was pretty proud of the fact that he'd finally been able to "get his shit" together as Vic would probably say. He'd compromised and was now at peace with himself where Martha was concerned. He'd never forget her and would always love her but he knew now that there was a place in his heart for someone else. On days like today though, when he was so brutally reminded that he used to be a husband as well as a father, he did get maudlin'.
Vic knew him too well and there had been a time when that had scared him, not any more though. What scared him now was the fact that he was realising that the place he'd set aside in his heart for someone else, was looking more and more like it had her name on it...
Vic hadn't exactly slammed Walt's door shut but the irritated way in which she huffed as she threw herself into her chair and slumped forward with her head rested in her hands probably went some way to alerting her long suffering colleagues that her and Walt had fallen out... again.
Ferg looked over at Ruby who merely shrugged her shoulders and carried on with her mail sorting.
"What's up, Vic?" Ferg decided to try and help his friend and colleague.
Vic looked up slowly and then began flailing her right arm in the direction of Walt's door.
"It's that- that son of a..."
"Vic!" Ruby scolded sharply. "That's your boss and the highly respected Sheriff of this county that you're about to malign."
"Yeah, I know but he's so damn fu..."
"VIC!" Ruby shouted firmly. "You know what he's like, deal with it."
It wasn't often that Ruby got involved but when she did, Vic always felt like she had to tow the line. Ruby usually knew best.
Vic let out a heavy sigh and slumped back into her chair. Ferg dropped his head and continued sifting through the list of attendees at a local businessman's party to see if he could spot any familiar names that might give them a lead in their current case.
The aroma of freshly ground coffee beans wafted over to where Vic sat and she hauled herself out of the chair. She picked up the jug and began to pour herself a mug of steaming black coffee.
Ferg looked up and glanced toward Vic, then he swivelled in his chair and looked at Ruby. He gestured with his head towards Vic who seemed to be making a meal of fixing up her brew.
Ferg gestured again and silently mouthed the words, "Go talk to her," Ruby rolled her eyes at him but realised that she probably wasn't going to get any peace from either of them unless she went and talked to Vic.
Cradling her mug of coffee between both hands, Vic kicked open the bull pen door and sought the solitude of the landing. She sat down on the bench and glanced at the side door to Walt's office. There was little point trying to talk to him and in all honesty she didn't really know what to say anyway. She couldn't say what she really wanted to and she was fast believing that particular ship had sailed a long time ago.
Lost in thought, Vic's head snapped to the left as she heard the bullpen door click open.
"Mind if I join you." Ruby pointed to the bench.
Vic merely shook her head and Ruby settled on the bench beside her.
"What's bothering you, Vic?Walt doesn't normally rattle you this much."
Suddenly, the dark steaming liquid became the most interesting substance in the universe as Vic stared intensely down at the cup nestling between her knees.
"It's usually Walt that plays that card, not you. If you wanna talk, Vic, I'm happy to listen but I'm not gonna try and get blood out of a stone." Ruby began to stand until she felt Vic's hand reach out and gently grab her arm.
After Ruby sat once again, Vic sat up and rested her back against the bench.
"Has he always been like this? I mean was he such an awkward son of a bitch before his wife died?"
Ruby laughed and rested her hand on Vic's forearm.
"Essentially he's still the man he always was; honest, dependable and honourable but you have to remember, Vic, that when Martha died a part of him died with her. He's come a long way since she passed and you know what..." Ruby tipped her head to look at Vic who looked across. "A lot of that is down to the support he's had from Henry, Cady and also from you."
"I think he'd tell you that I've just been a monumental pain in the ass to him," Vic sighed.
"No, you've challenged him, you've kept him going when he would quite easily have given up and you've given him something to care about." Vic looked up sharply but Ruby continued. "He relies on you, Vic, more than you realise."
"If he cares about me, Ruby, then why does he always shut me out?"
"He's a man, he doesn't see something when it's staring him right in the face. The two of you need your heads knocking together."
Vic raised one of her eyebrows and was about to speak when Ruby decided to take the bull by the horns and say what should have been said years ago.
"When you first joined us and I watched you fawn around Walt like a lovestruck teenager I thought you just had a crush on him. After all, he's a handsome man, he has a presence about him but then after your divorce, that crush turned into something more. The loyalty you show towards him isn't just that of a Deputy towards the Sheriff, I know how much he means to you, you'd do anything for him." Ruby looked towards Vic whose eyes were beginning to glisten.
"When all the rumours were going around about you and Walt, I knew none of it was true because he's an old fashioned type of guy, he does things by the book and he'd never jeopardise your career but that doesn't mean that it wasn't obvious that you both care about each other and maybe if things were different?"
Sticking her thumb into her sleeve, Vic wiped away the moisture around her eyes as she nodded her head at the kind secretary's words.
"What am I supposed to do, Ruby?" Vic whispered softly.
"Just do what you've been doing. Be there for him. He needs you, Vic." Taking Vic's hand between her own, Ruby gave it a squeeze. "Don't give up on him, Vic."
The creak of Walt's office door made the two women jump. Placing his hat on his head, he stopped short as he saw the two of them, hands still joined, gaping at him.
"Is everything okay, ladies?" he enquired without stopping on his way to the stairs.
"Just fine, Walt," Ruby replied and smiled broadly in his direction.
Not hearing a response from Vic, he turned, "Good. I have something I need to do. I'll be gone for a few hours but you can get me on the radio with anything urgent."
After a final look at Vic, who seemed far from fine, he made his way down the stairs two steps at a time.
"See," Vic flung out her arm in Walt's direction. "He really is a son of a bitch."
"I heard that," Walt shouted up the stairs before slamming the door behind him.
Telling Ralph Edwards face to face about Martha was the only way he could have dealt with it. Ralph had been shocked and apologised for the insensitivity of the invitation but Walt reassured him that he wasn't to have known. He even went as far to say that it was in fact his own fault for not having kept in touch with his friend.
As they bade their farewells, Ralph insisted that Walt's presence at his daughters wedding was still very much expected.
"I don't know what your current, um... " the smaller man hesitated, trying to find the most suitable words, "... erm, 'situation' is but you're more than welcome to bring someone along with you. Most of the other guests our age have a significant other," Ralph chuckled uncomfortably. "You might feel a bit out of place otherwise."
"Not sure I have a significant other," Walt smiled at his old friend. "So, I'll see."
The whole situation had just gone from bad to worse as far as Walt was concerned. He should just have made a phone call. It would've been easier to get out of the whole thing that way. Now he just felt even more obligated to go...After driving for hours, the welcoming glow of the Red Pony's sign was a sight for sore eyes. He pulled the Bronco into the parking lot and trudged up to the door. As soon as he reached the bar he threw his keys in Henry's direction.
"Ah, I'm assuming it has been 'one of those days'," Walt's old friend turned away from him and hung the keys up behind the bar.
"You could say that," Walt replied in the affirmative.
"Do you want to break the habit of a lifetime and talk about it?"
Walt stared at Henry and pointed to the bottle of whiskey that stood in front of the mirror.
"I thought not," Henry sighed as he poured his friend a large measure.
The glowing amber liquid burned as it slid down Walt's throat barely touching the sides. He slammed the glass down on the bar and nodded for another.
"On one condition." Henry hovered the neck of the bottle over his glass.
"What's that?" Walt asked.
"Fine. Just fill it up." With a full glass in his hand Walt took off his hat, made himself comfortable and resigned himself to the inevitable.
"Do you remember Ralph Edwards?"
"Yes, good football player. Didn't like me very much, if I recall correctly."
"He wasn't perfect but he was a pretty good friend to me. Anyway, I got an invitation from him, to his daughter's wedding."
"This is why you are in such a foul mood?" Henry couldn't quite understand Walt's logic.
"Yep... well no, not exactly." Walt looked across to see Henry rolling his eyes at Walt's usual lack of articulation.
"The invitation was to Mr Mrs Longmire. He didn't know about Martha."
"I see and you are feeling guilty because you didn't tell him. It is understandable but it isn't the end of the world, Walt," Henry had learned a long time ago that his friend didn't always think rationally where his wife was involved.
"It put me in an awkward position. I've been to see him and I've explained about Martha." Walt held out his glass to be refilled. "He still wants me to go... and he says I should bring a significant other."
"Ah. Do you have a significant other? I thought you weren't seeing Donna any longer."
"Hmmm, that does not surprise me. To be involved with someone generally requires a degree of -involvement!" Henry smirked as he poured Walt another drink.
"Henry!" Walt warned. "My personal life is none of your damn business."
"No, it is not but I am your friend and I cannot stand by and watch you turn into a celibate old man. I think you've had enough." Henry placed the bottle of whiskey back beside the mirror.
"Shall I ring Vic to pick you up?"
Walt raised his hand to stop Henry from picking up the phone.
"No, I've pissed her off enough today already. Not that I really know why." Walt picked up his hat and placed it on his head. "Ferg's on duty. He'll give me a lift."
After calling Ferg, Henry turned his attention back to his drunken friend.
"Have you thought of asking Vic if she'd like to be your significant other... to the wedding I mean?"
"She's my Deputy, Henry, it wouldn't be right."
"I'm hardly suggesting you marry her, Walt! It is acceptable to take a friend to such occasions. She is your friend, is she not?" Henry smiled.
"Yeah, she's my friend," the telling sigh that came from Walt was enough to make Henry understand his friends dilemma.
"Invite her, Walt. I think you'll find the world will not stop revolving and you might even enjoy yourself. You used to be able to do that."
The saloon doors flew open as Ferg made a less than subtle entrance.
"I believe your ride is here," Henry patted his friend on the shoulder. "Think about it."
Nodding, Walt walked towards his Deputy and followed him out into the night...
Weeks passed without any serious felonies or misdemeanours in the County of Absaroka. Vic and Ferg had been bored and become somewhat complacent, something that irked Walt. He knew that the crime levels hadn't dropped just because they were that good at what they did and at some point they'd have to deal with a major incident. So, it came as no surprise to him when they received the call that there was a serious domestic dispute which required their immediate attention.
Tempers amongst the community had risen along with the scorching temperature outside. It had only been a matter of time before something had to give.
"Hey, Walt. The Ferg and me'll deal with it. You stay here, take it easy," Vic let her legs slide off her desk and reached for her keys. Before she even made it to the door, Walt was there, hat in hand.
"Last time I looked I was still the Sheriff in this County. So that means I say who takes the shout."
Vic looked over at Ferg and shrugged her shoulders.
Heading out of the office Walt looked back at his deputies, "Vic, you're with me. Ferg, stand by in case we need back up."
The Bronco was parked across from the office and Walt was wasting no time, hardly letting Vic shut her door before he screeched off, tyres spinning.
"Hey, slow down, Cowboy, you're treating this pretty seriously for a simple domestic."
"Can't take anything for granted in this line of work." Looking across at Vic, he could see that she was hanging on for dear life. "I thought you of all people would know that."
Vic winced. She knew that Walt was referring to her and her ex-husbands encounter with Chance Gilbert.
"Yeah, I'm not taking it for granted but this still seems extreme. All we know is that there's been a few raised voices. How bad can it be?"
"Well, you obviously haven't come across Ben Miller yet. Last time this happened his wife ended up in hospital with concussion."
"So why's he not in jail?" Vic finally relaxed her grip on the dash.
"His wife refused to press charges. Only because she was scared of him. Anyway, I've heard he's been losing big at the casino. Drinking and gambling's never a good combination. This has been on the cards for a long while."
Arriving at the Miller's ranch, the first thing that they spotted were the horses in the adjoining field. They were agitated and skittish and when the shots rang out from the house they realised why.
"Jesus, Walt. You weren't joking." Vic reached behind her to grab the flak jacket from the back seat. Before she could pass Walt his, he'd sprinted from the Bronco to a nearby tree.
"Radio, Ferg. Tell him we need back up. Shots fired."
When Vic joined him by the tree, she thrust the vest at him. "You need to put this on."
Walt could see by the look in Vic's eye that there was no point arguing, so he slipped it on and fastened up the sides.
"I'm gonna try and speak to Ben, see if I can't diffuse the situation. Keep out of sight, I don't wanna spook him. Who knows what sorta state he's in."
Vic nodded and raised her gun to cover him.
With arms raised, Walt walked slowly out from behind the tree.
"Ben, it's Walt Longmire, what seems to be the problem in there," Walt shouted, all the while surveying the obvious ways in and out of the house.
There was no reply but he could hear a loud commotion coming from beyond the porch door.
"Ben, why don't we talk. I'm sure we can sort this out. Is Molly in there with you?"
A shaky female voice replied to his question, "We're fine, Sheriff but I think it's better if you leave."
"Can't do that, Molly. Not until I've seen that you and that boy of yours are okay."
"Tom's not here, he's staying with his grandparents, it's just me and Ben." Molly Miller cried out in pain and Walt instinctively reached for his sidearm.
"Ben. Why don't you send Molly out, then we can talk, man to man," Walt was grasping at straws. He knew how volatile Molly's husband could be but he had to do something to try and bring the situation under control.
"Hows about you send that blonde Deputy of yours in to get Molly? Seems a shame her hidin' behind that tree."
Walt looked behind him and saw Vic walk into the open and make her way towards him.
She leaned in to Walt and whispered, "I think it's our best chance."
"It's not happening, Vic. If anyone's going in there it's me."
"Send her in, Sheriff or I might just have to do something I'll regret," Ben Miller was seriously slurring his words and had obviously consumed a large amount of alcohol.
"He's pissed, Walt. Even if it goes to shit I'll be able to handle him and you'll be right there." As Vic finished trying to persuade him, Ferg arrived and took up position behind the car.
"Okay, but you get Molly and you get out. Don't go tryin' anything else. Leave that to me."
"Not a problem. Wish me luck," Vic winked at Walt and once again he cursed her complacency.
"Okay, Ben. Deputy Moretti is gonna come to the porch and you need to send Molly out to her." Walt edged forward so he could get a direct shot at the door if he needed to.
It swung open and Molly Miller appeared looking petrified. She was shaking and was only wearing a t-shirt and her underwear. Vic stopped for a moment when she saw the state of the woman. Before Vic could reach her, Molly collapsed and fell down the stairs of the porch. Vic lurched forward towards the stricken woman. As she did so, the porch door swung open violently and Ben Miller stumbled towards the two women.
Seeing the drunk man, Walt pulled his gun from it's holster and aimed it at him.
"Drop the gun Ben and no one'll get hurt."
Instead he just pointed his gun directly at Vic's head. "Nah, I don't think so. Drop yours or I'll take them both out with one shot."
Beads of perspiration were forming on Walt's forehead and he pushed his hat away with his freehand.
"You know I can't do that, Ben but you do have a choice. Why don't you make the right one and we all walk away from this."
Walt could see Vic kneeling on the floor trying to comfort Mrs Miller who had just come round and was beginning to panic. He knew the situation had just got a whole lot more serious as Molly Miller began to scream hysterically.
"Shut her up, shut her the fuck up," the husband began to shout angrily at Vic.
"Drop the gun, Ben or you'll leave me no choice," Walt shouted over the distraught woman's screams.
Before Walt had a second to think, Ben Miller swivelled around and discharged his gun erratically at Walt, who in turn squeezed the trigger of his Colt.
Miller fell to the ground and dropped his weapon. Walt was on him in a flash and kicked the gun away from the injured man's reach.
"Call an ambulance, Ferg," Walt shouted and then helped Vic to her feet.
"That was too close," he rubbed his visibly shaken deputy's arms. "Next time, we do it my way." Vic nodded and steadied herself by placing her hands flat on his chest...
Back at the Sheriff's office, Ruby had been waiting patiently for them to get back.
Walt walked in first and headed straight for his own room where he placed his hat on the stand.
Vic sloped in behind him followed by Ferg.
"Are you alright," Ruby asked, instantly aware that they all seemed a little on edge.
"Yeah, it was a close one, Ruby but we're fine," Vic nodded and eased herself down into her chair.
Walt appeared out of his office and headed for the coffee machine.
"There was a call for you while you were out," Ruby explained. "Some guy called Edwards. Wanted to know if you needed any recommendations for places to stay next weekend."
Walt turned slowly to look at Ruby. He'd completely forgotten that the wedding was only in a few days time.
"Thanks, Ruby. I'll give him a call back." With a mug of coffee in hand, he returned to his office and slammed the door shut.
"Shit," he mumbled to himself and rummaged around in his top drawer to find the invitation.
A soft knock on the door stopped his frantic search. "Come in," he barked.
"Erm, Mr Edwards asked you to call him back on this number." Ruby held out a slip of paper in Walt's direction.
"Right, thanks Ruby." Walt smiled awkwardly at her and when she made no signs of leaving he asked, "was there something else?"
"Yes, I was just wondering. Have you asked her yet?"
"Asked who - what?"
"Walt Longmire, don't play stupid games with me. Have you asked Vic to go with you to that wedding next weekend?"
"How'd you know about that... oh wait, don't tell me - Henry," Walt sighed and slumped down in his leather chair.
"Well someone's gotta look after your best interests since you don't seem to give a damn about them." She could see his lips part as he formulated a reply but she didn't give him time to continue. "Why don't you just grow a pair, Walt and ask her. You need someone to go with you and I'm sure Vic'll jump at the chance. Just do the logical thing for once in your life."
The feisty secretary shrugged her shoulders as her boss sat before her, seemingly lost for words.
"I'll send Vic in shall I?" Ruby smiled demurely as she turned and re-entered the bull pen.
"Walt wants to see you, Vic. I wouldn't keep him waiting dear." Ruby didn't stop at the desk but instead went quietly and sat down at her own with a self satisfied grin on her face.
Vic knocked and entered his office, she turned and pointed towards Ruby at her desk.
"Ruby said you wanted to see me."
"Uh, yeah, take a seat, Vic."
Before he could tear a strip off her about her failed attempt to escort Molly Miller away from her lunatic husband, she decided it would be better to get her apology in first.
"Look Walt, I know it didn't go to plan out there and maybe I shouldn't have suggested that I be the one to go in there and get..."
"Vic... stop. I don't wannna speak to you about the Millers."
"Oh - Oh right." Vic settled back in the chair and allowed herself to relax a little. Her eyes followed Walt's hand as he reached into his drawer and pulled out a white envelope. Taking out the card, he placed it in front of Vic.
"You remember a few weeks ago, you asked me about this card?" He tapped it several times with his finger.
Vic looked at Walt who nodded to her by way of permission for her to pick it up.
She scanned the invitation and then looked back up at him.
"I uh, I wondered if you might like, um I mean if you might want to... go with me," he bumbled in usual Walt fashion.
"It's addressed to Mr Mrs Longmire," Vic visibly squirmed in her seat. "You don't want me to pretend to be..." She shook her head.
"What, my wife? Christ no, I mean not that you couldn't, you know, what I mean is it's perfectly possible that you could be my wife but no. Erm, Ralph knows about Martha but he still thinks I should bring someone along." Walt smiled nervously and threaded his fingers together, resting his hands on the desk to stop them from betraying his discomfort.
Vic slowly closed her mouth and swallowed.
"It says the wedding is next weekend. You couldn't have asked me a bit sooner?"
Walt's head dropped and he began to realise that because of his insecurities, he'd probably left it too late to ask her.
"I'm sorry, Vic. Look, forget I asked you. It was a stupid idea anyway. I'm gonna tell him I can't go. Didn't particularly want to anyway."
"Wait! It's fine, in fact it gives me the perfect opportunity to splash out on that pretty dress I saw the other day." Vic grinned and rubbed her hands together. "Just tell me what I need to take and I'll sort it. Are we staying overnight? I heard Ruby say something about motel recommendations."
"Yeah, we'll need to stop two nights I think, unless one of us doesn't drink."
"Well, that's not gonna happen," Vic quickly answered. "Two nights it is then. It's like a mini vacation."
Her exuberance was catching and just for a fleeting moment, Walt wondered why he'd been so reluctant to ask her in the first place.
"Anything you need to buy, Vic, just let me know. I don't want you out of pocket because of it."
"Okay, if you insist." Vic breezed out of his office and immediately began searching the internet for the dress she'd seen online, humming to herself all the while.
At the other end of the office, Ruby smiled to herself and made a mental note that she'd have to call in at the Red Pony on her way home.
...Friday came around at an alarming speed. Whilst Ruby busied herself with the task of making the temporary Deputy Walt had enlisted feel at home, Walt talked to Henry to put him on stand by just in case anything untoward happened in his and Vic's absence.
They'd left it until the last minute to travel late in the afternoon and they had a six hour car journey ahead of them before they made it to Rock Springs.
Vic had clocked off at Walt's insistence so that she could get her things together. He'd already brought his gear into work with him and when he was satisfied that he'd done all he could to ensure that Absaroka County didn't fall apart while he was gone, he went into the Reading Room and changed for the journey.
Even this late in the day the temperature was still stifling, so he pulled on a dark blue t-shirt and changed into stone washed jeans.
He collected his hat, small hold-all and suit-bag from his office.
"See you Monday," he tipped his hat at Ferg and Ruby before placing it firmly on his head and slinging the bags over his broad shoulders.
"Enjoy yourself, Walt," Ruby shouted after him. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
The fact that Vic still lived at the trailer park was troublesome to him. She'd been perfectly welcome to stay at his cabin, there really hadn't been any reason why she had to move back to this God foresaken place.
He pulled the Bronco up next to her trailer and honked the horn once. Vic stuck her head out of the door and waved. When she didn't immediately appear, Walt huffed in annoyance and pushed open his door.
He made his way around to the side of the van and peered in through the door.
"You ready to go?"
"Yep, just trying to..." he could hear the sounds of Vic physically struggling with something. "... get this son of a..."
"Would'ya like some help?"
"Nope, I got it," she panted, clearly out of breath.
He could see her slowly backing her way towards the door, dragging something behind her. With one final pull, Vic toppled backwards out of the trailer door directly into Walt's outstretched arms. The huge bag that she'd been hauling out of the van landed on top of her.
"You do know we're only stopping for two nights." Walt surveyed the messy pile of limbs and luggage that lay before him.
"You can never pack too many things. Gotta be prepared for all eventualities." Vic picked herself up and dusted down her figure hugging jeans.
Walt's eyes travelled down and watched as she rubbed her hands over her ass but he wasn't quite quick enough to avert them before Vic spotted him checking her out.
Clearing his throat he reached down to pick up the large black bag. It was heavier than expected and now Vic found that it was her turn to watch as the exposed muscles in his arm flexed with the exertion of lifting the bag.
"You sure you don't have a body in here or sumthin'. You never did tell me where Travis went," Walt chuckled to himself as he dragged the bag over to the Bronco.
They shared a pleasant companionable journey. Walt answered as many questions as he could about Ralph and she'd been surprised but happy to discover that Ralph and his wife had only met Martha once before. Although Vic had been excited and pleased with the fact that Walt had thought to invite her, she'd been understandably nervous about how she might get compared to Martha. She knew that she'd fail hands down on all fronts in that respect. Even though Walt didn't often talk about his wife, she knew from his unwavering devotion towards her that she must have been a remarkable woman.
Finally, after six hours on the road, they pulled into the Country West Motel, Rock Springs.
From what she could see, it looked simple but nice. It was a similar lay out to the last Motel they'd stopped in when they'd been on a case. By now though it was pitch black outside and they wasted no time in unloading the Bronco and checking in.
With key cards in hand, Walt carried both their bags while Vic took charge of his suit-bag.
"Did you get a new suit for the wedding?" Vic asked.
"Nah, I figured my usual one would be okay. Don't get to wear it much." Walt glanced across at her. "D'you think I should've?"
"No, no from what I remember you look pretty good in it," Vic grinned and gestured to the two doors that were just up ahead. "Looks like this is us."
The doors lay directly next to one another, just as they had done before.
Walt slid his card into the lock which pinged green first time. He grinned broadly and pushed his foot between the door and its casing to stop it from clicking shut.
"Hmmm, you're a quick learner," Vic smirked as she did the same with hers.
Hesitating briefly, Walt swung Vic's bag from his shoulder, "I can take your bag in," he offered but Vic shook her head and they swapped the bags they'd been carrying.
"Well, It's an early one tomorrow... so I've asked for wake up calls." Walt shuffled from foot to foot finding the whole situation a little too uncomfortable.
"Great idea..." Vic smiled and then threw her thumb over her shoulder in the direction of her door. "Better get some shut eye then, I guess."
"Yep, we should." Without thinking, Walt leaned in and placed a quick kiss on Vic's cheek before hastily retreating into his room.
A stunned Vic raised her hand to her cheek. She could still feel the moist heat where his lips had fleetingly grazed her skin. It was the first time he'd ever kissed her and it didn't really come as any great surprise to her that he was acting like a perfect gentleman. She found herself suddenly thinking irrational thoughts. She was feeling jealous of a dead woman. The same dead woman that had been lucky enough to have Walt Longmire court her all those years ago. She wondered if he'd been as handsome then as he was now, or if age had matured him well. Snapping out of it, she huffed as she dragged her bag by both handles into her room and kicked the door shut.
The rooms were small but comfortable and functional and to Walt's huge relief there wasn't an adjoining door in sight. After kissing Vic on the cheek he wasn't sure he'd be able to resist the temptation of knocking on her door during the night if she was so easily accessible. He stripped off his clothes and lay them on a chair in the corner of the room. Thankfully, the room had air conditioning because he wasn't sure that it was only the intense humidity that had gotten him all hot and bothered. He slipped between the cool crisp covers on the bed and within minutes had drifted off to sleep.
For Vic, it took a little longer, as she pondered over Walt's kiss and her surprising regret at the fact that their rooms weren't adjoining. But then she remembered the trouble it could've got them into the last time if they hadn't had a new lead come up on the case.
With the help of a couple of shorts from the mini bar she finally stripped for bed and managed to drift off into a fitful sleep.
The following day they both rose early and got themselves dressed ready for the wedding. Walt was already cursing the fact that he was forced to wear a shirt and tie in such ridiculous heat. He'd just run his comb through his hair and checked himself in the mirror when he heard a knock.
He smooth down the sides of his hair one final time before pulling open the door. Vic smiled at him and lifted her arms a short way before letting them flop down to her sides.
"Here I am." She looked him up and down before twirling around, the flimsy fabric of her dress rising and falling like a carousel. "Will I do?"
Walt stood and stared at his Deputy taking in every delicious inch of her. Not only did she look stunning in the low cut, pale blue dress but he'd never seen her with her hair curled before. Her light golden tresses bounced as she came to a stop before him.
"You look, beautiful, Vic," he finally managed as he opened his door a little wider allowing her to step into his room.
"There's uh, there's a button undone at the back there," he pointed behind her.
"Oh... well, d'ya mind." Vic turned and presented him with the lightly tanned skin of her back.
Feeling hotter than ever, his big clumsy fingers fumbled with the insanely small button. Finally sliding it through the buttonhole, Walt softly rubbed the tops of her arms with the palm of his hands.
"You really do look beautiful, Vic."
Clearing her throat, Vic turned and immediately missed the warm comfort that his hands had afforded her.
Placing her hand on his lapel and then straightening his tie, Vic whispered, "You don't look too bad yourself. In fact, I'd say we scrub up pretty well."
"Vic, I just wanna thank you for coming with me. I know I wouldn't've come on my own."
"Hey, I wouldn't miss it for the world. It's not like I get invited to many weddings. Infact, the only one I've been to was my own and the least said about that, the better." Vic grinned and glanced at her watch. "We better get goin', it's only the bride that's allowed to be late."...
Leaving the Bronco at the motel they called a cab and within twenty minutes they'd arrived at the venue for the wedding. It was a modern hotel with landscaped grounds. Obviously chosen for the wedding photos Vic thought to herself.
They were greeted just inside the foyer by Ralph and his wife who gave Walt a huge hug.
"Um, this is Vic," Walt introduced his Deputy to them both.
"It's lovely to meet you, Vic. You'll have to tell us later how you and Walt come to know each other." Ralph Edwards seemed like a nice guy and Vic nodded as he and his wife directed her and Walt to a room in the far corner of the hotel.
"The ceremony is taking place in there and then we'll move into the grounds for some photos and then back in for something to eat."
"Thanks, Ralph," Walt shook his friends hand, then placing his palm at the base of Vic's back he guided her gently towards the far room so they could take their seats.
Hannah was as pretty as Walt remembered her to be and her new husband seemed like a respectable young man. It made him wonder what it would be like when Cady ever found herself someone that she loved enough to marry. Her relationships so far had been questionable at best. All that he wanted for his daughter was for her to find someone just like he had, someone that he thought he couldn't live without.
As the wedding party began to filter out of the room and Walt made no signs of following, Vic nudged him with her knee. "Hey, time to make a move."
They smiled their way through copious amounts of photos and by the end of it Walt felt as if his jaw was about to drop off. Rubbing his face he looked towards Vic, "I don't think I've smiled so much in years."
"I know for a damn fact you haven't," she laughed and slid her arm through his. "Just the lunch to get through then we can kick back and have a good time. I'm dyin' for a beer."
There were many qualities that he admired in Vic, her loyalty and bravery were amongst her finest but above all it was the fact that she was just Vic and there wasn't one pretentious bone in her body. He didn't feel as if he had to treat her any differently than he did The Ferg, although there were obvious differences between the two Deputies and Ferg most certainly didn't have the same effect on him that Vic did!
The meal was pleasant enough. They sat at a round table with three other couples, all of whom appeared to be married. Ralph had been right, if he'd turned up without a partner he'd have been like a fish out of water. Lounging back he slung his arm across the back of Vic's chair. She was sitting forward with her elbows resting on the table deep in conversation with a young woman to her left.
He studied the curve of her shoulders and let his eyes wander down to the small of her back. It would be so easy to just run the back of his fingers down her arm to her elbow and it took him all of his self restraint not to act on his feelings.
He needed a distraction and he found it when an announcement was made that the bar was now open.
"Hey, Vic, wanna drink?"
"Yeah sure, I'll have a beer, thanks." She turned to look at him and realised that he'd taken off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and loosened his tie. He was just in the process of popping his top button with one hand when she placed her hand on his other.
"You okay?" she asked, softly.
"Yeah, just too goddam hot. "Nothing a beer can't fix," Walt grinned. "I'll be back soon."
At the bar, Walt found himself next to Ralph who obviously had the same idea that he had.
"That husband of Hannah's is a lucky guy," Walt slapped his friend on the back. "Lemme get you a drink."
"Hey, no, this one's on me, to thank you for coming."
Walt nodded his head and placed his order with the bartender. Taking a swig from their beers, the two friends leaned with their backs against the bar and looked across to where Vic was still deep in conversation.
"You two make a handsome couple," Ralph observed. "Where'd ya meet each other?"
"Vic's my Deputy, we're just friends."
"Yeah, yeah, of course you are. I saw the way she was looking at you. She's smitten, Walt."
Walt turned and leaned his forearms on the bar, picking absentmindedly at the label on his bottle of Coors.
"I'm sorry, did I say something out of place?" The concern was evident in his friends voice.
"There hasn't been anybody since Martha, not really anyway. But when I'm with Vic she makes me feel alive again."
"So why don't you tell her how you feel?"
"It's complicated. I'm her boss, Ralph."
"Yeah, so. You're professional enough to handle the situation. You're not getting any younger Walt. You have to do what makes you happy."
"Thanks for reminding me that I'm also too old for her."
"Why don't you let Vic decide what she wants, 'cos it's pretty clear to me that what she wants, is you." Ralph prodded Walt with his index finger and it was obvious that the father of the bride was well on his way to being moderately inebriated.
Walt made it back to the table as the young woman that Vic had been chatting with was whisked onto the dance floor. The lights in the room had been lowered and the waiting staff had cleared away the remaining plates and lit small tea lights on all of the tables.
Vic accepted her drink eagerly and took a long sip to try and quench her thirst.
"At least I'm not drinking yours this time," she tipped the neck of the bottle towards him and he smiled and raised his eyebrows in amusement.
Vic loved how his eyes twinkled when he smiled. He didn't do it nearly often enough but when he did she often found herself caught under some mysterious spell. She struggled to tear her eyes away from his as she could feel the heat rising in her cheeks.
"Was it like this when you got married?" she asked him the first thing that came to mind and immediately regretted it but to her surprise a low chuckle rumbled in his chest.
"Nope, not exactly. We had a small service, a few drinks with friends and then we went straight to a local motel."
"You didn't have a honeymoon?"
"We did, but we went the following day. The motel was a stop gap to give us a little privacy." Walt raised an eyebrow suggestively.
Vic blushed again and felt a tingle low down in her stomach.
"Can I ask you a personal question?" She rested her chin on her upturned hand and leaned in towards him.
"Depends." Walt copied her actions resting his own chin on his hand.
"Was your wedding night the first time you'd... you know." Despite her usual cockiness she found herself feeling shy under his scrutiny.
"Had sex?" he stared her directly in the eye. "Yeah."
She tilted the bottle to her lips and Walt watched as they glistened around the rim of the bottle. When she released it, a drop of beer lingered at the corner of her mouth threatening to drip onto her delicate dress.
Reaching out, he cupped her cheek and with the pad of his thumb, he gathered the stray drop.
"It was worth waiting for, at least that's what Martha told me." He winked mischievously and Vic reached out to grasp his wrist as she laughed openly.
A slower rhythm started to drift from the dance floor. Some of the younger single guests made their way back to the tables and in turn it quickly filled with couples who easily fell into each other's embrace.
'Say it's here where our pieces fall in place,Any rain softly kisses us on the face,Any wind means we're running,We can sleep and see 'em coming,Where we drift and call it dreaming,We can weep and call it singing.'
Vic closed her eyes, still grasping Walt's wrist and began to hum softly.
Sliding his hand away from Vic's grasp he took her hand properly in his and threaded their fingers together.
Vic slowly opened her eyes and tugged at his hand. "Dance with me... I love this song."
She edged backwards towards the dance floor dragging him with her until they reached the edge and he pulled her into his arms. His hands snaked around her waist and hers slid up his chest and over his shoulders, coming together at the back of his neck.
They swayed slowly to the music and Vic rested her forehead on his shoulder as he pulled her closer to him.
'Where the sun isn't only sinking fast,Every night knows how long it's supposed to last,Where the time of our lives is all we have,And we get a chance to sayBefore we ease away,'
Finally, lifting her head, Vic sought out his deep blue eyes. Her humming had turned into singing and Walt's eyes fell to her lips as she softly sang,
"For all the love you've left behindYou can have mine."
Taking her chin between his thumb and forefinger, he tipped her head slightly before looking up from her lips for her approval. The nod of her head was almost imperceptible but it was enough and he dropped his mouth to hers kissing her tenderly.
Their foreheads touched as the music faded away. Completely lost in the moment it was only the bustle of people around them that alerted them to the fact that everyone was leaving the dance floor.
Walt took Vic by the hand and led her back to the table where he plucked his jacket from the back of the chair.
"Time to make our excuses," he whispered into her ear. His voice was thick and gravelly, and Vic wouldn't have believed that it could actually be any sexier than it normally was if she hadn't heard it with her own ears.
She gladly let him lead her away from the table waving feebly at the young woman that she'd been talking to earlier in the evening.
After saying their goodbyes to the happy couple and her parents, Walt flagged down a cab. They sat in the back seat with their hands clasped together, neither one of them talking. Every now and again, Vic would feel the rough pad of Walt's thumb rub delicately across the back of her hand.
As they came within about five minutes of the hotel, Walt leaned forward and asked the cab driver to let them out.
Walt held the door open as Vic slid out. It was still warm but the sun had set and they could see the glow of the Motel's lights up ahead.
He held out his hand and she took it willingly, smiling, their fingers threaded together once again as they slowly began walking.
"When I asked you, I didn't plan for this to happen," he explained, honestly. "The last thing I want is to mess things up. I'm not exactly good at this."
"I think you're doin' pretty well." Vic squeezed his hand.
He let go and slid his arm across her shoulders as she in turn slipped her arm under his jacket and around his waist.
As they reached their rooms in the Motel, Walt took out his key.
"Is there likely to be any jealous exes of yours takin' compromising pictures of us this time?" Walt smirked as he pushed the door open and let her in first.
"Not this time." Vic reached for his hand as he shut the door and she pulled him to her. She slid his jacket from his shoulders and pulled his tie from around his neck. He held her as close as he possibly could before dropping his lips to hers. The kiss this time wasn't slow or tender, it was desperate and needy and as they broke apart they both fought for air.
"I need you to know that I didn't sleep with Lizzie or Donna," Walt breathed heavily.
"Hey," Vic held up her hands as if in surrender. "You're not exactly preaching to the Virgin Mary here."
"Vic," his tone was serious. "But I also want you to know that that's exactly what I want to do right now... with you."
"But... there's a but isn't there?" Vic sighed as she rested her hands flat against his chest.
Walt nodded his head sadly. "While we're still looking for Malachi and the Irish mob are at large, I can't let anything get in the way or cloud my judgement."
Vic nodded, she knew that what he said made sense but she also knew that the likelihood that things would settle enough, even after they found Malachi, for them to start a relationship was highly unlikely. For as long as she was his Deputy, he'd never commit himself, no matter how much he wanted to.
"So what do we do now?" She asked him, her fingers sliding between the buttons of his shirt to the coarse hairs that lay beneath.
"We go back to work I guess and we find them and we move on." Walt lifted a stray curl from the side of Vic's face and tucked it behind her ear. He threaded his fingers through the hair at nape of her neck and guided her to him.
Their lips brushed briefly before she pulled away.
"I should go." Vic pointed towards the door. "If we get an early start we can be back in Durant just after lunch."
She pulled away from him but he reached for her hand holding it lightly until her fingers fell away from his grip.
As the door clicked shut behind her, Walt turned and kicked the leg of the bed in frustration. The only consolation that he could draw from their complicated situation was, that at least now, Vic knew exactly how he felt and maybe one day, when Absaroka County wasn't in the grips of a drug and corruption epidemic they would be able to act on their feelings for one another.
In the next door room, Vic flopped down on her bed not even bothering to undress. Her eyes stung as tears began to well and slowly trickle down her cheeks. She couldn't remember ever having feelings as deep as the ones she held for Walt. Not for Sean or Eamon and definitely not for Travis. She'd felt actual physical pain as she'd walked away from him a few minutes earlier and she didn't quite know how she'd manage to look him in the eye the next morning and have to pretend that it was just business as usual.