It was a mistake. One that made him a liar, something that he couldn't fix or reverse away from no matter how hard he tried.
He had thought about it a thousand times, that much he could admit to himself. It was something he wanted, craved, a persistent notion that kept him up at night. All it amounted to was harmless fantasy, hurting no one, or so he had convinced himself.
When he'd told her husband he had nothing to worry about, he'd been telling the God's honest truth. At least, he believed so at the time. Walt Longmire was a man of his word, and he'd had no intention of breaking that oath.
One could say that the circumstances had changed, that after what had happened out at Chance Gilbert's place it was understandable or maybe even expected. The devil on one shoulder might whisper that all bets were off, that he and Vic were inevitable and it was pointless to keep fighting against it.
The more righteous half of Walt's conscience, however, would argue that what they had been through actually should have strengthened his obligation to keep a certain distance. Long-buried feelings had bubbled to the surface that were dangerous and destabilizing, and he should have been the one to make sure those heightened emotions didn't cloud their judgement and lead to reckless actions.
Vic and Sean had needed space and time to heal their battered relationship and recover from the trauma they'd experienced. Walt had needed to stop thinking about why she rushed back to him on that fateful night and how perfect, how right she'd felt in his arms at the hospital hours later.
He should have been the one to put a stop to it, but he couldn't.
When he'd met her there in the empty and darkened office, calmly waiting for him with what he could only assume to be her letter of resignation, that stubbornly persistent chink in his armor had cracked wide open. She was sitting in his chair, which he thought might someday end up being her chair. If Vic resigned, left the sheriff's department and Walt's life, could he bear the quiet torment of watching someone else sit there?
Door shut behind him, he removed his hat and set it aside as she rose. He felt unmeasurable dread as she held the envelope toward him. It had been a long day; a longer week and month, and an absolutely endless year. But this? This might just be the final straw for him.
He looked at the envelope with trepidation, making no move to take it from her outstretched hand. His name was etched on the front in her handwriting, 'Walt,' like he was just a man with that name and not her boss. It seemed so personal that for a moment he was able to pretend that this envelope was anything but what it was, and maybe that's how he ended up with the thin paper rectangle grasped between thumb and forefinger.
"I don't want to read this."
Ambient street light illuminated the side of her face. "I didn't want to write it but…" There was a slight shakiness to the breath she exhaled during the pause. "…I did. So now you have to open it."
Images flashed through his mind, looping and spiraling from the day Vic had walked into his station right up to this moment and the serious 'no bullshit' expression on her face. When had it all gone so wrong? Probably in that expired, un-commemorated nanosecond where he'd lost the battle and fallen in love with her.
The sense of defeat was crushing. He had failed himself, and he had failed her too.
"I can't." Walt's hand twitched, fingers pressing indents into the crisp white paper.
Prolonged eye contact melted away, and he wondered what it was that she had uncovered in her study of him to make her gaze drop to the floor. She stepped around the desk that stood between them like a barrier, hesitating as she passed close to his immobile frame.
"Yeah, well you need to." Her voice diminished in volume, body facing the door. "I'll leave you to work up the courage."
It stung worse than if she had wound up and slapped him. Maybe Walt had been a coward where she was concerned, but nothing that he could read inside the envelope was going to change that. Vic was pressing his hand, and he would have to take action.
She took a step, was poised to take another. Everything was a slow motion backdrop against the swiftness of his involuntary reaction. He reached out, meaning to grab her hand. Through a slight miscalculation of her speed and trajectory, his fingers ended up wrapped around her slender wrist instead. He meant to be gentle but his desperation made it hard to monitor his own strength as he clamped down over the leather-covered joint.
A small pained sound escaped her lips as she lost balance and staggered toward him, and he realized that he had completely forgotten about the injuries she had sustained up at Chance's place. His fingers slid further up toward the crook of her elbow while the hand holding the letter moved to the bottom of her ribcage, steadying. She was tense, but didn't resist as he eased her body back to rest against the desk. Walt's hands drifted away but he remained close, hovering, leaning over Vic's shoulder with one hand propped between his nameplate and the tape dispenser.
"What the hell, Walt?" The question was tinged with exasperation, but not as accusatory as it could have been. Her breathing was rapid, he could feel it against the side of his neck.
"I'm sorry," he said, surprised at the gravel-rough quality of his own voice.
She leaned away from him, forcing eye contact and shaking her head slightly. "For what?"
A drawn-out pause, as he considered.
I'm sorry that things have been nothing but difficult for you ever since you moved to Wyoming.
I'm sorry that this job and our relationship have caused problems in your marriage.
I'm sorry I've stopped thinking about your husband when I look at you.
I'm sorry that everything I do seems to get you hurt, somehow.
I'm sorry I made you think that you weren't important.
I'm sorry I haven't been able to let you in.
…I'm not sorry that I love you.
A huff of unamused laughter escaped her lips. Her head bowed forward, butting against his shoulder briefly. "Boy, that really narrows it down."
Walt shifted his weight from one foot to the other, suddenly aware of the intimacy of their position. Vic was leaning back against the front of the desk, both of her hands gripping the edge. His own hands also rested atop the sturdy piece of furniture, arms on either side of her to create a circle that contained only the two of them. The letter was still in his right hand, crumpled, a haunting barrier between the skin of his palm and the cool wooden surface.
He swayed slightly, bending his head down toward hers. He had no idea what he was doing, and uncertainty warred with arousal in the pit of his stomach like a fist clenching and relaxing at the very core of him. There was an overwhelming instinct to get closer, to show his deputy how she really made him feel and get his body to do the work of explaining just how badly he needed her to stay.
Vic was still regarding him with a quizzical expression, the one she always wore when she was trying to figure out what on earth was going on inside his head. His apology still hung in the air, and some wild and unruly quadrant of his psyche decided that he may as well really have something more immediate to apologize for.
"Just for this, then."
Her eyes were wide and bright even in the darkness as he dipped his head and pressed his mouth against hers. Vic's lips were warm and soft, slightly parted, unmoving but seemingly compliant as Walt applied a tiny amount of pressure. Breathing in through his nose, he slanted in and drew her bottom lip between both of his own in a gentle exploration.
It was the wrong thing to do, he knew it was, but it sure as hell didn't feel wrong. Walt kissed Vic more firmly when her eyelashes tickled his cheek as she relaxed into the contact. He could feel her face tilting upwards just slightly, accepting what he gave. Her compliance was making Walt's heart beat about a thousand miles an hour, and keeping his hands rooted to the desk was taking a considerable amount of effort. His lips drifted off of hers for a short moment and then resumed their searching motions, carefully discovering curves and textures.
When the kiss finally ended Vic took a deep breath, eyelids reopening with a flutter. She stared at him almost like she was seeing him for the first time, like he was a strange and unfamiliar being. There was fear there, and the sight of it gave him pause. Her apprehension made him realize the magnitude of the risk he had just taken, and for a drawn out moment he was afraid he had miscalculated and blown it once and for all.
He didn't get the chance to apologize again, as Vic's hands shot up to grasp both lapels of his unbuttoned coat and pull him into her, swallowing the rest of his words as she sealed her lips onto his.
There was no tentative uncertainty to this kiss. It was demanding, her tongue hot against his own as she slid it past his lips. He reciprocated, probing and exploring the sensitive recesses of her mouth in turn as she raised her hands from his jacket up to the collar of his shirt. He could feel her fingers against his neck, and his hands left the desk with one settling at her hip and the other winding up to cradle the side of her face.
A dangerously pleasurable shiver ran through Walt as he felt Vic's tongue tracing along the back of his top row of teeth, her fingers slipping beneath his shirt to ghost over his collarbone. He pushed closer, wanting to feel her, almost unaware of his own actions as he lifted so that her backside was perched on the desk with her jean-clad thighs on either side of his legs. Picture frames and writing implements clattered and fell, unnoticed by the two who were caught up in a blinding whirlwind of passion.
Suddenly Vic's hands seemed to be everywhere at once; running along his jaw, wrapping around his neck, tugging the back of his shirt out of his jeans and somehow successfully pushing the jacket off his shoulders and down his arms. If things didn't slow down, Walt knew he was poised for a spectacular loss of control. Their lips broke apart and he tried to calm himself at the sight of her shining eyes and kiss-swollen lips, handiwork that had set the blood pounding hard through both their veins. They were breathing heavily as he pushed some escaped wisps of blonde hair away from her cheek, caught up in the entrancing eye contact.
The silence was broken by her low, sultry voice. "Walt… what are we doing?"
Forehead touching hers, his eyes drifted shut as her fingers traced along his hairline just behind his ear. "I don't know."
Drawn together like magnets, their lips connected again. It was impossible to know which of them had initiated it, mouths fusing and twining as Vic's fingers dug their way further into Walt's hair and pulled him even nearer. One of her legs hooked around, calf dragging up to press against the back of Walt's thigh. It was like all the oxygen had leaked out of the room, both parties sighing and shuddering as their lips feathered apart and they breathed each other's air.
Walt twisted slightly, overwhelmed, burying his face in the side of Vic's neck and trying not to think about how his left hand had crept inside all her layers and onto the warm naked skin of her back. She kept touching him, almost absently, running her hands over his shoulders and back. Her lips brushed his temple as she spoke again, almost a whisper.
It was a loaded question, those two words somehow full of shared knowledge and the weight of missed opportunity. He raised his head to look at her, and he could see all the things she was really asking him.
Why now? Why not all the other times?
Why not after my painkiller-induced slip up at the hospital, or after I punched that FBI agent when you were lost on the mountain?
Why not that night at your cabin when Lizzie left us standing there like a pair of fools?
Why not in Arizona where we clearly both wanted to?
Why not in that shattered, broken moment at Chance Gilbert ' s where I fell dizzy and sobbing out of the truck and into your arms with his lifeless body still warm on the ground?
He brushed the pad of his thumb over the graze at the edge of her eyebrow, a stark reminder of how lucky they'd both actually been to come out of that situation alive. His answer was honest and, he thought, simple. "Because I don't wanna lose you."
That same eyebrow and its partner scrunched in apparent confusion as her hand came up to cover his. "I'm still here— we both are."
"Not if…" He paused, dropping his hands to his sides and standing straighter to reestablish a small amount of personal space. His eyes fixed onto the white envelope, abandoned beside them on the desk. How could she not understand what he really meant?
Walt could hardly say the words out loud. They made him feel weak, helpless, but the consequences of not saying them were too painful to consider. "Don't leave me, Vic."
"Why would you even think—" She finally noticed where his eyes were resting. "Jesus, Walt. Just what the hell do you think is in that letter?"
Frowning, he tilted his head. "You said Sean wanted you to put in your notice."
She barked out a short laugh, legs dangling over the edge of the desk. "Yeah? You know, I occasionally take orders from you because you're my boss. That doesn't mean I also take them from my husband."
Husband. There was that word again, the one that should have set off all the warning bells to Walt's sense of honor. Instead he found himself feeling a powerful wave of relief, and a persistent ache down below his belt buckle. He took a couple steps backward, turning his tall frame toward the couch and running a hand over the back of his hair. He couldn't help but notice the way it had been ruffled by her touch. Walt was pretty sure he was in trouble.
"This," Vic picked up the envelope and briefly held it up next to her face. "Is about Branch, and how he's about to go off on a psycho-vigilante rampage and take God knows who down in flames with him."
Walt could feel her walk up behind him, and he inclined his head in her direction. The feel of her hand on the center of his back, gentle fingers stroking from the junction of his shoulder blades down to the top of his jeans, played havoc with the shreds of his control. He wanted to feel her hands on his skin, unencumbered by the thin barrier of his shirt.
"You need to know the things in that letter, but it can wait… for now"
There was a sensual promise in her voice that was almost like a challenge. Her fingers moved their attentions to the back of his arm, traveling slowly downward to hook around his elbow in a loose clutch.
He turned toward her slightly. "I shouldn't have kissed you."
"The hell you shouldn't. If I'd known this was all it would take for you to get a clue I would have let you think I was resigning a long time ago."
Vic stepped right in front of him. Walt would have said she captured his gaze like a snake charmer, if he hadn't known how much she hated reptiles. Maybe she was the snake, and he was the oblivious rodent she had chosen as a light meal… boy howdy, what a way to go.
"We can't do this." Even his own throaty voice knew the statement was a blatant untruth.
Her response was to kiss him, long and deliciously slow. Their limbs were circled around each other in no time flat. One of his hands threaded its way into her hair to pull the strands free from their neat ponytail, while the other was slung low around her waist to drag her upward into a tight embrace. She wrapped herself into him, giving his lower lip a gentle bite before trailing her mouth down the line of his neck to nuzzle the hollow of his throat. While he was distracted, she managed to unfasten the rest of the snaps on his shirt.
Before Walt could manage any type of protest, Vic had pushed him back a few short steps and onto the couch. She plopped herself into his lap, legs on either side of him. Shrugging out of her leather jacket, she dropped it unceremoniously beside them. The grey pullover shirt she was wearing was made of a thin knit material. Walt couldn't resist the urge to run both of his hands down her sides from her ribs to the curves of her hips, feeling the fabric and the warmth of the skin beneath his palms. His breath hitched at the heated sensation of her lips against his ear.
"I'm never gonna leave you," Vic whispered, sliding her hands into his open shirtfront and dragging curious fingers down his chest.
He craned his neck up to kiss her, sliding his tongue against hers for a few carefree moments before trailing his lips past her chin and lightly grazing his teeth over her pulse point. This action earned him a quiet moan and an experimental roll of her denim-encased pelvis against his own. He kissed his way back to her lips, fingers sliding under the hem of her top and stroking the smooth skin as she squirmed against him.
God, he wanted her. And if the steadily increasing warmth he could feel rubbing over the growing hardness in his pants was any indication the feeling was extremely mutual. His hips ground upward without thought, seeking to intensify that mind-numbing contact. And yet he knew, even through the fog of lust clouding his brain, that this wasn't the way it should be.
She silenced him with another scorching kiss, both of her hands framing his face. She held him in place, plundering his mouth like she might never get a chance to kiss him again.
It was hard for Walt to consider what was right when Vic's hair was loose and her top had ridden up and his own traitorous hands seemed to be acting against him, grasping and stroking in turn. One of Vic's hands slid between their tightly pressed bodies, fingers dipping beneath the waistband of Walt's jeans and tugging at his belt buckle. Her other hand was rubbing over the stubbled surface of his cheek, and that was when he felt it- the coolness of the wedding ring that still rested on her finger. It was a stark counterpoint against the blistering heat that had flared between them, the metal against his skin a sobering and well-timed signifier. Walt inhaled slowly, gathering all his willpower.
"…we have to stop."
A small noise of displeasure escaped Vic's lips. "You've got to be kidding me." She peppered his face with feather-light kisses. His cheekbone, the arch of his eyebrow, the corner of his mouth. Her tongue peeked out to swipe at his bottom lip, trying to draw him deeper.
Walt leaned back as far as he could, hands gripping Vic's hips more firmly to still the unashamedly erotic movements. They shared a flash of intense eye contact, through which she came to the realization that he was not kidding. Her arms slid up to brace over his shoulders, forehead leaning past to rest against the couch cushion behind him as they took a long moment to compose themselves.
Sitting back on Walt's thighs, Vic absently straightened her shirt where the hem had gotten twisted and the v-neck collar was askew. "I can't handle all these fucking mixed signals, Walt." She looked away, gaze drifting down and to the side. "I mean… do you want me or not?"
The vulnerability radiating from the woman in front of him made Walt's heart swell, and he was determined to leave her in no doubt. He reached for her, fitting her form against his and rearranging their limbs so that they shared the sofa lengthwise with her back against his partly-exposed upper body and her head against his shoulder. Both of his arms wrapped around her, fingers stroking between the ridges of her scraped knuckles.
"I want more than just your body." His index finger caressed her ring finger, lingering over the shining adornment. "But not while you're still wearing this."
"I can take it off if that makes you feel better."
"You know damn well that's not what I mean."
Vic sighed, relaxing against him and turning her face into his neck. "It's not what I mean, either— I just suck at explaining things." Pausing, she trailed a light touch up and down his arm where it rested around her. "Sean and I are getting a divorce. We both decided it was best, so I told him to go ahead and have the papers drawn up."
Unsure of what to say, Walt tightened his embrace, resting his temple against the crown of her head. This news didn't justify anything, far from it, but maybe it lessened his guilt to some degree. He thought back over the course of their relationship; important moments, turning points, and he recalled one particular discussion that seemed especially relevant all of a sudden.
"You remember that time at the Sublettes, where I said I didn't know how people who cheated could live with themselves?"
She nodded. "Yeah. Did you miss the part where I told you I was married to the wrong man? My lack of subtlety was really wasted on you back then."
The hint of sarcastic humor in Vic's voice was oddly reassuring. She sounded more like herself, like the fierce and steady individual that Walt had grown to trust with his innermost thoughts and fears.
"I think I'm starting to understand… on both counts." He pushed the sheet of golden hair away from her cheek, so that he could see her face. She shifted in response, softened gaze infused with raw affection. Walt swallowed heavily. "But I want to do this right."
A devious smirk graced Vic's lips as she stretched her lithe frame against him enticingly. "Feels pretty 'right' to me…"
Walt rested his cheek alongside hers, speaking in a low tone. "The first time I make love to you, it's not gonna happen on the couch where Lucian takes his naps."
The corners of her mouth turned upward, showing her teeth. "Is that so? Well, what about the second time?"
He chuckled, placing a lingering kiss at the hairline just above her ear. "I was feeling kinda partial to the desk a little while ago…"
"Oooh, sounds like I'm getting a promotion— always wanted a nice cushy desk job."
They both knew that Vic hadn't developed a sudden love for paperwork.
"Sometimes patience does have its rewards."
They both also knew that Walt wasn't only talking about sex.
Sheriff and deputy grinned absently, luxuriating in their tender embrace and the new awareness it held. Maybe kissing Vic here and now had been wrong, but Walt couldn't regret it. It might have made him a liar, but some lies are honestly told. It wasn't something he could fix or reverse away from, but in spite of everything they weren't broken yet and for the first time in a long time he felt content to keep moving forward.
Life was still messy, and the road in front of him was littered with obstacles and danger. Vic's path would also be difficult, and things could so easily get worse before they got better. Still, as she kissed the edge of his jaw and placed a warm hand on top of his heart, Walt felt sure he could find the strength to carry on and meet her on the other side of all that lay ahead… and that was a prospect he could live with.