The deafening shots fractured the inky blackness of the night with a finality that not only unsettled Vic but pierced her to the very core. It stabbed at her heart and if believing she'd already lost him, when the body bag had hurtled down the shaft and slammed into the cold concrete of the bunker floor, wasn't bad enough. Now, the sickening thought that Chance Gilbert had finally taken out his revenge on Walt by slaughtering him was creeping through her veins, like an insidious poison attacking her nervous system.

What the fuck had just happened and why the hell had Walt just virtually signed his own death warrant by sacrificing himself for her and Sean. Of course she knew without even having to contemplate it for more than a few seconds that it was all for her. The stupid stubborn son of a bitch would die for her without even a second thought.

At this point she wasn't sure if the concussion was making her hallucinate because why the hell had Ed Gorsky just helped them escape and at Walt's instruction? But there wasn't time to think about that.

The Bronco appeared up ahead on the bend.

"Stop here." Vic stared blankly out, eyes fixed on nothing but the perpetual darkness in front of her.

As Ed turned, she could see pity in his eyes and the urge to punch him was fierce but she had neither the physical or emotional strength to do it.

"Good bye, Vic." Ed Gorsky walked away from the car without turning back. Vic Moretti had been damaged so deeply, so much more severely than he could ever have achieved and it was over.

Vic looked at her husband in the back seat but all she could see from him too was pity and something else. Defeat. Defeat and resignation and perhaps just a little disgust. She waited for him to speak, to beg with her not to go back but he just looked away. Such was his cowardice and indifference that he wasn't even prepared to fight for his own wife.

In that moment Vic knew. She knew that she had never truly loved Sean. Maybe at one point in their relationship she'd thought that they were in love. Since arriving in Absaroka County though, she had discovered that her whole definition of love had been turned on it's head. She'd learned that love was about respect and acceptance. It was about trust and selflessness. Above all, it was about unconditional devotion and the willingness to do absolutely anything for that person, even if it meant losing yourself in the process.

In a small Sheriff's office in Absaroka County she had learned what true love meant, because she had fallen in love for the first time in her life.

Without hesitating, Vic threw open the door and ran to the Bronco. She turned it around and with her eyes fixed unwaveringly on the road, fighting to control the stinging tears, she drove back to Chance Gilbert's property.

Back up had already started to arrive as she frantically scanned the brightly lit area for any sign of Walt. There were flashing lights everywhere and a searing pain shot across her forehead.

She spotted a team of paramedics huddled over what must be a body and her heart almost stopped. She struggled to control the instant wave of nausea that threatened to engulf her. Vic slammed on the breaks sending loose chippings flying through the air as the wheels of the Bronco skidded to a halt a few yards away.

"WALT!" She shouted, stumbling from the Bronco towards the group of people. She roughly pushed one of the medics out of the way but to her relief, all she saw was the sneering face of Chance Gilbert. She could tell that he was in some considerable pain and she was glad but the look he gave her was enough to shatter her fragile patience and she snapped.

"I should fucking kill you, you fucking son of a bitch. What did you do to him?" she spat with such venom that a nearby officer was forced to intervene and restrain her for fear that she was about to assault him.

Then she heard it.

"Hey, hey, take it easy with her, there's no need for that," Walt snapped and tugged the officer from Vic and pushed him away.

Walt held her by the tops of her arms as she shook uncontrollably. The tears that she'd managed to keep at bay whilst she struggled to drive now cascaded down her cheeks. Thin rivulets of dirt and grime streaked her face until she looked like a defeated warrior.

"C'mere," he spoke softly as he tried to gather her into the safety of his arms but an approaching medic made her pull away.

"Sheriff Longmire, we need to get that wound of yours cleaned up and then we'll get you over to the hospital."

Panic set in yet again and Vic scanned his body for any sign of injury, then she saw it. The hole in his left sleeve. The oozing blood glistened in the stark light from the vehicles.

"I'm fine, really. It's just a nick." Walt could see that Vic was struggling to hold it together. "Tell you what, my Deputy here will drive me up to the hospital."

Far from happy, the medic agreed to let them go.

"C'mon, Vic. Let's get out of here. You okay to drive?"

Vic nodded, not yet able to find any words. They settled into the car in silence.

"Just drop me at the Office, Vic. I'll clean myself up there," Walt suggested gently so as not to worry her.

Without a reply, Vic turned the Bronco in the direction of the hospital and Walt knew better than to tell her otherwise. Not tonight.

"You're a lucky man, the bullet just grazed you. No serious damage." Dr Weston finished sewing up Walt's arm.

Walt glanced across at the corner, where Vic sat, staring at the ground, nervously turning the brim of his hat around in her fingers. There was no serious damage to him, he already knew that but Vic was far from okay and it worried him.

"Now you just need to go buy some lottery tickets and take some time off work."

Vic never wavered. Walt couldn't tell if she was in shock or if she was just pissed at him for being so reckless because even he knew that his actions had been far from rational.

"And Deputy Moretti, if you er, still have a headache in twenty four hours, come back and see me." Vic stared vacantly at Dr Weston. "A Grade two concussion's a really serious injury."

The doctors words seemed to echo in her head. She knew she was there in the hospital but nothing made sense to her. It was probably the head injury that was making her feel so spaced out but part of her felt as if she was losing a grip on reality. Feeling the adrenalin finally drain from her body, she slumped back into the chair and pulled Walt's coat and hat more firmly into her lap. The coat was warm and heavy and it comforted her, grounded her. Her fingers feathered over the gleaming star before gently touching the ragged gash in the suede of his jacket. It was just a rip but it was so significant. It represented the fragility of life and the fact that in their job, every time they were called out, she knew that she would have to face the uncertainty of never seeing him again and she didn't know if she could handle that anymore.

Walt had ever seen Vic look so small and vulnerable. She was his no nonsense, plain speaking Deputy. As strong as they came. But sitting before him was a broken woman and he wasn't sure that he'd be able to put her back together again.

He pulled on his blue denim shirt as Vic wiped away a stray tear from her cheek.

"It'll be all right," Walt nodded toward his jacket, "a needle and thread, I'll be back to normal." But Walt doubted that it would be as easy as that for Vic. You couldn't go through what she had and come out the other side unscathed. He also doubted that it was just her treatment at the hands of Gilbert that had got her this traumatised but he would have to bide his time and wait for her to open up to him.

"Yeah..." Pulling herself together, Vic stood and held out his jacket.

As he reached for it, his hand brushed hers and he could feel every shake and tremor that she was trying to hide from him. Falling apart before his eyes, Walt pulled her to him and wrapped his uninjured arm around her shoulders as she sobbed into his chest.

"It's okay, Vic. It's gonna be okay."

She tightened her grip on him, her hand, still holding his hat, snaked around his back and she clung on to him desperately. The stark reality that only an hour ago she thought she had lost him, that he had been erased from her life abruptly hit her and stole her breath from her. Gasping, she never wanted to feel that way again. The thought of losing him was just too much to bear.

She felt his strong arm caress her back. Moving in smooth comforting strokes as her right arm glided up, over his shoulder until her hand gripped the collar of his shirt tightly.

Walt could hardly stomach seeing her this distraught, this wounded. He whispered words of reassurance to her and cradled her head in his large hands.

Dr Weston rounded the corner with two bottles of pills in his hands but stopped short when he saw the two officers wrapped in each other's arms. Walt caught sight of him out of the corner of his eye and acknowledged him as the Doctor placed the pills down on a nearby table.

Gradually, Vic began to relax in his arms. Her grip loosened as he continued to trace circles across her back. Their embrace became less desperate but was replaced by something else. By a feeling of belonging.

Gently so as not to alarm her, Walt slowly pulled away and held her by her shoulders. He looked into her heavy eyes and could see how shattered she really was.

"You need some rest. I think they brought Sean in here to check him over. You should go find him and take him home," Walt suggested.

Vic shook her head firmly, "No, I don't wanna see him."

"Vic, he's your husband. He'll wanna see you. I know I would if I were him." The kindness of Walt's smile almost made her cry again. His eyes were so expressive, they gave away every thought and feeling that he had.

"But you're not, are you? You're not him. You could never be him because he's a coward and a bully and a..." Vic slumped down into the chair and began to rock, still grasping his hat in her hands.

"Hey, shush now. Don't upset yourself like this." Walt immediately sought out the chair next to her and slid his hand over hers, curling her fingers beneath his.

With his free hand he touched her chin and gently turned her face to his. "You're tired and you're hurt. You need somebody to look after you. If you won't see Sean then at least let me drive you home."

Again, Vic shook her head. "I wanna get out of here but I don't wanna go home."

Walt stood and slowly pulled Vic up with him. Still holding her hand he took his hat from her and placed it on his head. He slung his coat over his shoulder and led her out of the hospital.