SUMMARY: Vic thought her day had gone bad with a busted knee, but nothing prepared her for this.

DISCLAIMER: I own nothing of LONGMIRE

RATING: T+

PAIRING: Walt/Vic

CLOSURE:

Walt and Vic were pursuing a suspect through one of the various trails in the mountains. Shots rang out, missing them, or that's what Walt had thought until he heard Vic's cry. He skidded to a halt, turned to get his sights on her, but she wasn't behind him. It took him a few moments to tune his senses to the sounding; the sound of a falling body rang in his ears. Running over to the edge of the slope, he saw Vic tumbling down, where she splashed into the rushing water below. "VIC!" Walt shouted. He looked away briefly; their suspect was gone. That didn't matter so much, not when Vic was down, and she needed him.

Vic was propelled backwards over the slope when one of the random shots connected with her, but she lucked out and the bullet went through the fabric of her heavy jacket. She rolled down the slope coming closer and closer to the rushing water. All the way down she struck just about every rock poking out of the ground. A yelp of pain caught her off guard when her knee struck a boulder seconds before she was in the water. The freezing temperatures made her gasp taking in a mouthful. Vic managed to get her head above water, coughing and hacking. She struggled to the bank digging her gloved fingers into the wet earth where she tried to pull her herself out of the freezing water.

Walt hurried down the incline, his mind screaming at him to get to Vic, he had to get to her. His boots sank into the muddy bank. He closed the remaining distance between them, got into the water to help haul Vic out of the freezing fall water. His arms slipped around her torso, getting up to the grass. She cried out, Walt thought it was because is grip was too tight on her. It was then he saw her roll to her side, her hands cradling her left knee. "Vic?" Walt went to his knees by her side, pulling her on her back. "Your knee cap is dislocated."

"WHAT?!" Vic shouted, a mixture of pain and panic. It reminded her of the trespassing bike kid, and she remembered what Walt did. She removed her hands seeing the cap was at an odd angle. "Oh god…" Vic's teeth started to chatter from the cold air, her wet clothes, and the pain. Though, unlike the biker they'd helped; his cap had been to the side. Vic's kneecap was shoved up. Beside her Walt wasted no time. His right hand gripped the back of her calf and his left cradled her heel. "What the hell are you doing?" Her question came out in a rush, the words bleeding together.

Walt slowly bent Vic's knee until he saw the cap align. "This is gonna hurt." He said seconds before quickly pulling her leg straight and a deafening pop sounded between them. Vic cried out, expletives coming out of her mouth in a rush, her hands shooting out to dig into his jacket. "You're alright now." He muttered trying not to feel the way the ice of her fingertips cut through him. They had to get up, get back to his Bronco so he could get her to the office and get her warm.

Vic didn't know what to feel first; cold or the fact it felt like there was a spoon gouging behind her reset knee cap. She was vaguely aware of him standing, of his hand taking her arm to pull her up and against him. Vic stretched her left arm across his broad shoulders, feeling the grip of his gun pressing into her hip when his arm wrapped around her waist to keep her in tight against him. If she wasn't in pain she'd make some racy joke that he would either smirk at, or shake his head. She put her foot down, put a small measure of weight on her left leg, and only felt a wince of pain.

Walt gave Vic a few minutes to gain her footing, but a few minutes was all he could spare her with the temperatures dropping in the higher elevations. The fall in Wyoming quickly gave way to winter. "Come on Vic, we gotta get back up the hill." Walt took a step, Vic's fingers dug into his shoulder, but she moved with him. He took another step, finding their footing for an easier ascent. Up and up he moved until they were standing on level ground. Vic was shivering at his side, the air was turning her to ice. They had to move quickly so he could get her in the Bronco and get the heater maxed out until he could get her back to town.

Vic couldn't tell how bad she was shaking, or how loud her teeth were chattering. Walt was holding her so tight against his side that she could barely think straight. Granted, she knew he was holding her this way because her knee felt like it had been cracked open like a cantaloupe. "Oh god… oh god…." She whimpered and it wasn't even in the fun way. Her left knee was starting to give out, but she wouldn't let it. She couldn't. Not in front of Walt. Vic had to stay on her feet long enough to get to the truck.

"You ok to keep movin'?" Walt asked. His fingers dug into her hip, the gloves he wore were soaked through, starting to freeze.

"Well, I sure as hell don't want to stay here and freeze my ass off." Vic said through chattering teeth. Beside Walt chuckled lightly, and then tightened his hold on her once more before setting off down the trail.

TWO MONTHS AGO:

The morning started off like any other. Walt Longmire got up, he showered, got dressed, went out to tend to his horse, and then came in to have coffee ready. But this morning, he smiled when he walked into the kitchen to see Vic wearing his black t-shirt that barely came down to the middle of her thigh. One time she'd said to him that she thought she had a "pretty nice ass". This morning, he definitely agreed with that. Walt took a few moments to let his eyes wander all over her body as he leaned against the entryway that separated the kitchen from the living room. Her body reacted to his stare. She knew he was gazing at her. Neither of them were willing to break the silence first. It was one of their morning rituals Walt had grown fond of over these last few months.

Vic woke to an empty space beside her. Walt was already up going about his morning, tending to his horse. She rolled over putting her face in his pillow while she battled back the onset of consciousness. Unfortunately she lost that skirmish and was forced to wake up. Climbing out of bed, she picked up his discarded t-shirt from last night where she put it on before heading in to the kitchen to make coffee. Vic always felt like a zombie, at least mentally, until she had her first hit of coffee. The kettle had just been set on the burner when she heard the front door open. His measured steps, steps she knew all too well, stopped just on the threshold of the kitchen. Walt was watching her and Vic liked it when he did. "Coffee will be ready soon." She said finally turning around to lean against the counter.

Walt combed his fingers through his hair in a semi nervous gesture. The relationship he had with Vic had taken a turn a few weeks back. They had been here, drinking, going over evidence for their latest case, and then he was kissing her. More importantly, Vic was kissing him back. Now here she was in his kitchen, wearing his shirt, and looking particularly inviting leaning against the counter. In determined strides, Walt closed the distance between them, his hands going to her hips. Walt lifted Vic so she was sitting on the edge and he was between her thighs. "Sleep well?"

"Yeah," Vic answered draping her arms over his shoulders, her fingers tangling in his hair. "Did you?" She bit her bottom lip gently when Walt's hands started to rub up and down on top of her thighs. The roughness of his work weathered hands had her synapses firing with delicious sensations. For a while last night she hadn't had the heart to fall asleep. Vic had fought with herself to stay awake, to watch Walt fall deeper and deeper in to unconsciousness. He looked at peace just lying beside her, his left hand on his abdomen and his right resting on her waist; his fingers lightly twitched against her body. She pillowed her head on her fist while she continued her vigil, the peace in the room lulled her into sleep a short time later.

"Yup," Walt answered angling his head so he could claim her lips in a lazy morning kiss. Vic giggled, which was a sound that he only ever heard when they were alone, when they were sharing tender moments together. Then the shrill whistle of the kettle echoed around the kitchen. "Time for coffee." Walt stepped away, reluctantly leaving the warmth of her body so he could take the kettle from the stove.

"That it is." Vic smiled, and then she burst out laughing. "Henry's right." She brought her hands up over her face.

"Right about what?" Walt asked glancing at his laughing deputy over his shoulder while he continued to make them coffee.

"I'm really starting to talk like you." Vic stated and accepted the cup of caffeinated nirvana Walt handed her. "Thanks."

PRESENT:

Walt got Vic to the Bronco, helping her up in the cab before he went to the back to get the blanket he kept in there. Sometimes he was known to fall asleep in his truck when he had to wait around at a crime scene. Coming back to the open passenger door, he opened the blanket and wrapped it around the huddled form of Vic as she shuddered. "Let's get you warm." He muttered rubbing his hands up and down her arms.

"Walt…" Vic put a little whine in her voice. "Is this the one you wrap dead bodies in?" She asked, though she shouldn't be too picky. The blanket was heavy enough and once the heater was turned on, blowing full force, she wouldn't mind. But for now, she was freezing, she was wet, and her knee was throbbing painfully.

"It's been washed," Walt replied waiting for Vic to settle into her seat so he could close the door. Vic rolled her eyes curling up in the front seat allowing him to shut the door. He took a last look up the trail knowing that he was making a call that was letting a suspect escape. But it was Vic, she needed attention, and Walt was going to let the man go. There was always another day. Vic needed him. Going to the driver's side, he climbed in the cab, got the keys, and turned over the ignition to bring the Bronco to life, to fill the metal monster with heat.

Vic pulled the blanket up and over her head, wrapping it tightly around her. She imagined she looked like a burrito. Walt brought the Bronco to life, air from the vents hit her, making her colder. Her teeth chattered harder even as she clamped her jaw tightly together. 'It's going to get warm. It's going to get warm.' Vic chanted over and over trying to imagine herself lying in the sun on a beach. Wasn't that what people did when they were freezing? Under the blanket she tried to pull her gloves off, but her fingers were so numb, she couldn't tell if the protective wear was coming off. Then the blanket was opening, Walt's hands were reaching inside to pull hers out. Seeing them now, she saw she had in fact taken the gloves off.

Walt started to rub Vic's hands between his big ones, trying to massage some warmth into them. He then brought them up breathing out some of his heated breath against her icy flesh. The engine rumbled, the heat filling the cab taking away some of the chill. Walt moved his hands faster, causing more friction to bring the warmth faster. Finally the heater had kicked out enough engine heat that Walt felt comfortable letting her hands disappear back into the blanket. He put the truck into drive, then his own cold hand picked up the radio. "Ruby." Walt was trying to keep his voice calm.

"Ruby stepped out. It's Branch."

"Branch, get Doc Bloomfield over to the office, get blankets out of storage, and stoke the stove to bring up the heat in the station." Walt ordered turning his Bronco onto the main road that would take them back to town.

"What happened?"

"Vic got hurt." Walt didn't even want to say that much. It was like he was lessening her as a deputy just by saying the words. He cut the radio off and concentrated on his driving. Getting her town was important, but making sure they got there in one piece was even more so. "You warming up?" Walt glanced to his right. Beside him, and he didn't know how she did it, Vic was curled up in the passenger seat with the blanket tightly wrapped around her. He could barely make out her face.

Vic drew back the top of the blanket around her head, she wasn't as cold, but she wasn't getting warm either. "For just being in the water a few minutes, I feel like I was locked in a freezer for an hour." The chattering had stopped thankfully, but her nose was running forcing her to keep sniffing every few seconds. Vic sucked in a breath and then blew it out into the blanket covering her hands. "I wonder if my lips are blue? They feel blue. Are they?" She turned her head to look at Walt while he drove. But he did spare her a glance.

"No, they're not blue." Walt answered reaching out with his right hand to place it on the shuddering blanket covered Vic. He rubbed his hand up and down trying to cause more friction, more added heat. The scenery that he normally admired slipped by seemingly unnoticed. How could he take comfort in the sight of his snow covered county when Vic was hurt and freezing next to him? It still made him question when she'd become so deeply rooted in his heart. Was it when he went to see her in the hospital after she was shot with the tranq dart, where she told him that he was a man? Was it the moment she was with him in Cady's hospital room with her hand on his shoulder? Were there too many moments to pick one that dwarfed them all? Until he had his answers, if he ever got them, he continued to rub his hand up and down.

Vic focused on the movement of Walt's up and down her right thigh. The back and forth motion helped to chase away the cold, or at least it gave her mind something else to process, something to get her brain working. Then her mind took her back to the previous night in Walt's cabin; his hot breath on her neck, the feel of his fingers digging in to her hips; the way he left his mark on her inside and out. Vic loved the way Walt would nip at her pulse making it speed up. She was trying to get her body to follow her mind into last night. It wasn't having the desired effect. The warmth of the blanket, the hot air spilling from the vents was making her tired. Each time she blinked, her eyes would get heavier and heavier. Vic hadn't been in the water long enough for hypothermia to set in, even with the temperature dropping.

Walt kept running his hand up and down Vic's thigh feeling her body going still. His Bronco hit paved roads, thus allowing him to press the gas pedal bringing the speed up. A good thing about living in a small town surrounded by lots of open space, when it was cold people mostly stayed home in front of the fires. Walt could rule the roads on days like this. He pulled his vehicle up to the curb, rubber burning against pavement from Walt stomping on the breaks. Getting out of the driver's side, the cold wind sliced through him as he made his way over to the passenger side door. He pulled it open and shook Vic gently.

Vic swore she had only shut her eyes for a few seconds, they were still on a dirt road, and then cold hair filled the cab, her door was open, and Walt was shaking her. "What?" Her voice was low, she turned letting her cold booted feet dangle until she was sure she could stand. Walt didn't leave her to sit though, his arms came around her helping her from the seat. His arm across her back was rigid, unfeeling. She knew why; they were in public. Here they had to be Sheriff and Deputy. After all, those were the roles they were comfortable with before they took a turn into being lovers. Though, since they'd mixed their person lives, their work had gotten better; at least Vic felt it had. When they started to walk across the street, Vic put some weight on her left leg. Her knee was numb, she couldn't decide if that was a good or a bad thing.

Walt pulled opened the door to the station that used to be the library. Once the door closed behind them, the warmth started to seep into them. He glared at the stairs, momentarily cursing the fact they didn't have an elevator. Tightening his hold on her side, Walt moved towards the steps making sure that his stride was a length that allowed Vic to keep up with him. He took a moment for Vic to get her balance at his side before he placed his booted foot on the first step. Out of the corner of his eye he could see her placing her left foot gingerly on that first step with him. Then, relying on his strength, he gripped her hip and the banister so he could pull them both up. Walt repeated the move, each time moving a little faster.

Vic felt her knee start to shake, it was going to give out on her if she didn't sit down soon. She had thought Walt would take her through the main door of the station, but he turned and used the Sheriff's private entrance. Since both of his hands were occupied, Vic reached out and opened the door. Awkwardly they walked into his office where she untangled herself from Walt and hobbled over to the couch. She dropped herself down, pulling the blanket tightly around her once more. "My knee feels fine now." Vic said, lying through her teeth, but she hoped Walt believed her. "The Doc doesn't have to come all the way over here." Right now she didn't want to be poked and prodded, she wanted to curl up under the blanket to go back to sleep.

"Tough," Walt grumbled. "You bring your duffle bag?" Before her divorce from Sean, Vic had been known to stash a duffle bag with a change of clothes in it for when she slept in the station after a fight with her husband. Though, now he wasn't so sure.

"Uh…" Vic poked her head out from under the blanket. "I think."

Walt took a moment to go and sit next to her. He draped his arm around her, pulling her in against him once more. "Let's get you in some dry clothes, let the Doc check that knee, and then I'll take you home."

Vic chuckled, "Oh goodie…" She rested her forehead against his stubble covered jaw. "You can see my new bed."

"Then let's get you patched up." Walt mumbled. He got up to go to the door, opening it up where he went to Vic's desk to retrieve her duffle, if it was in the bottom drawer. Pulling the drawer open he found the duffle crammed down with a few files stacked on top. Walt shook his head picking it up. When he straightened, Branch had come back into the office. The younger man was carrying a few blankets, and Doc Bloomfield was trailing behind him spitting into the paper cup he habitually carried for his tobacco.

"Where's the feisty Itallian?" Bloomfield asked in his Western drawl.

"Deputy Moretti," Walt said stiffly. He hated when people referred to Vic by her heritage. "She's on the couch in my office."

Vic sat up wen heavy foot falls came back into Walt's office. Lowering the blanket from over her head she grumbled when she saw the Japanese/Scot's-Irish coroner. "Why are you here? You cut open dead people." She pointed out.

"Well, hello to you too Deputy." Bloomfield laughed. He was unfazed by her attitude. Most of the time he was just a regular country Doctor who made home visits to those patients that couldn't come to him. "Now, what seems to be the problem?"

"You're a coroner and I'm very much alive." Vic snapped. "This is stupid." She said to the Doctor, then leaning over she looked out of the office where she raised her voice to repeat for Walt's benefit, "This is stupid!"

Walt looked at Vic, put his right hand over his .45 and snapped at her in return. "Knock it off, Vic. Let the Doc take a look at your knee." His tone was all fire and steel. He didn't need to fight her on this now that she was finally getting color back in her cheeks. She huffed out a breath in frustration before sitting back, mumbling a few choice words. Knowing that he had one a few minutes before Vic's next outburst, he turned to Branch and filled him in. "A storm's rolling in blanketing the mountain's where we were pursuing the suspect Chandler Allen. He'll have to take shelter soon. Tomorrow, I want you and Ferg on the other end of that trail."

"You got it." Branch had been tempering his gung ho attitude since coming back from his suspension. Walt had been well within his right to kick his ass to the curb, but hadn't. Instead Branch had been given a second chance; one he wasn't sure he deserved. After being shot, having his head scrambled like eggs, he managed to get his life back on track, mostly thanks to Cady. "What happened to Vic?"

"The suspect shot at us." Walt answered. "Vic lucked out. The bullet tore through the shoulder of her jacket, but sent her down a steep slope where she dislocated her knee and landed in frigid water." Walt answered. Without another word he took the folded blankets from Branch before walking back into his office.

From her place on the couch, Vic watched Bloomfield set aside his spit cup, and then he reached for her left knee. He rested her booted heel gingerly on top of his right thigh before letting his grip the wet clingy fabric of her blue jeans. Carefully, more than she thought his capable of, he pushed the pants leg up and over her knee. Her knee was red, swollen, and it was still numb. The Doc touched the top of her kneecap, testing the pain. Vic could see him touching her skin, but she couldn't feel it. "I can't feel that." She said, a small edge of panic creeping into her voice.

"That's not uncommon, the cold water and the trauma." Bloomfield replied, his tone gentle and understanding. "More than likely the nerves are crushed from the impact of your knee hitting….?"

"I think a rock," Vic answered trying to recall the precise moment, yet failing.

"Good news, Walt set the knee right away, so no lasting damage, but it will be tender for a while, and you may regain feeling in time." Bloomfield lowered Vic's pants leg. "If you don't, I wouldn't be worried about it. There's not much between your kneecap and nerves. "

"Why not?" Vic asked nearly setting her foot to the floor, but Walt was there. He set the folded blankets on the cushion next to her motioning for her to elevate her knee.

"It won't hinder your ability to walk, or run, though you may be able to predict the weather as time wears on." Bloomfield joked picking up his cup.

"Ha ha." Vic rolled her eyes pulling the blanket around her. She was getting cold again. More than anything she wanted to change out of her wet clothes and then go home. Her bed was calling as well as the promise of Walt's body and the comfort of his arms holding her.

"Don't worry Deputy. You'll be back to normal in a few days." Reaching into his bag, Bloomfield pulled out a prescription pad. In Doctor chicken scratch he wrote her out a script for some prescription Tylenol 500mlg tablets. "If that's all, I'll be out of your hair." He handed over the piece of paper before leaving.

"Thanks Doc," Walt followed him to the door. Bloomfield waved over his shoulder continuing towards the main door. Branch was at his desk and Ruby was at hers. Ferg was the only one out, possibly answering one of the many mundane calls this town was known for. He shut his office door, flipping the lock for added safety. Then he went to the second door and locked it. The last time he forgot to lock a door had been rather an awkward situation between him, Vic, and his daughter Cady. Walt was not eager to have a repeat of that. He closed the distance between him and Vic, where he sat in the vacated chair the Doctor had left behind. Gently, his voice as soft as he could make it, Walt said, "Let's get you out of those wet clothes."

"Ooh, a girl lives to hear those words." Vic tried to be mad at him for snapping at her in front of Branch and the Doctor, when he spoke to her like that, she couldn't keep it up. He was tender when he took her right foot in his hands tugging the soaked leather off of her foot. She watched as the shoe was tossed aside and Walt divested her of the soggy sock making her toes cold. Vic fought back a laugh when Walt started to massage some warmth back into her foot. "You don't have to do that." She mumbled. He just looked at her, his eyes telling her not to argue. It pleased her that she could still be amazed by Walt, amazed that he was giving her another peak under his Cowboy Sheriff façade. Rather than say anything more, she closed the blanket around her watching in utter fascination at the movement of Walt Longmire's fingers moving over her skin.

TWO MONTHS AGO:

Vic took her coffee mug and a blanket outside to the porch where she curled up on the bench to watch the land sprawling out in front of Walt's cabin. There was so much peace to be found here, sitting still, and taking a little time to feel it. Walt had an amazing piece of property; wide open space, the view of the mountain. It filled her with an inner sense of contentment. Vic could sit out here for hours and not notice time slipping by. The cabin door opened with Walt coming out, his own cup of coffee in hand. She moved so that when he sat down, her back would rest again his chest, and his left arm would drape comfortably over her shoulder holding her even closer to him. Vic sighed taking another sip of the hot liquid. She was finally in a place where she belonged, as add as it was for her to admit. Victoria Moretti, lifelong native of Philadelphia was finding some measure of peace and happiness in Abseroka County. It was because of Walt Longmire.

Walt kissed the right side of Vic's head holding her close while she watched the sprawling landscape before her. Taking a lazy morning, during a seemingly slow week had done them both some good. There had been trouble on the Res, Nighthorse and Strand were stirring the pot trying to win over those opposed to the casino now that it was complete. A body had turned up tied to a tree, scalped, and with several broken bones. One of Malachi Strand's hired thugs had been responsible, but there was no way for Walt of the department to pin it to the man himself. Even Mathias was frothing at the mouth to see Malachi behind bars. The man had been a relative of the Tribal Police Chief. Walt was trying for patience, eventually Malachi would make a mistake. Until that happened, he was trying to enjoy life, enjoy the new boundaries of his relationship with Vic.

"You're thinking about it again." Vic gently nudged Walt in the gut.

"Thinking about what?" Walt asked, his lips still against her hair.

"You're plotting a way to nail Malachi's ass to the wall and get him put back in prison, and with luck your scheme will snare Nighthorse too." Vic replied, a wicked smile on her lips.

Another light kiss to the side of her head, Walt answered, "Not today I'm not." His coffee was all but forgotten. He brought his left arm across her torso, his palm resting on her right shoulder. "How can I think about anything other than you right now?" Switching gears Walt let his body feel Vic beside him, the way she breathed in, the softness of her hair against his lips. Because of her, his life had found a new direction away from the pain of his wife's murder, because of Vic he could start to heal from it.

"Ooh, good answer." Vic chuckled resting her right hand on the inside of his left thigh. They needed more mornings like this. Idly her index finger rubbed back and forth in a small line while she watched the land before her. The silence wasn't driving her crazy like it used to. If she listened hard enough she could hear the sound of birds, of livestock, and of the other four legged inhabitants of the wide open Wyoming range. "Do we really have to go in today?"

"You wanna leave Branch and Ferg at the mercy of Ruby?" Walt joked.

Vic laughed, "No, we shouldn't, and yet I kinda want to play hookie just to pay Branch back for his 'Crazy Time' when he was hunting down David Ridges." She brought the mug up to her lips.

"We could…" Walt said. Taking the morning off to be alone with Vic sounded like a wicked indulgence.

"But we won't." Vic replied with a sigh. She knew they wouldn't. Not now and not ever.

PRESENT:

WALT'S OFFICE

Walt helped Vic stand up, his hands on her ribs while she undid her belt, unbuttoning her pants, and lowering the zipper. Her hands settled on his shoulders while he gently tugged the wet jeans down her hips. The skin that was exposed was cold and clammy. She wobbled on her feet, Walt paused momentarily waiting for Vic to balance herself. "You ok?" Walt asked looking up at her from his place in the chair. She squeezed his shoulder, silently telling him she was fine and that he should continue. He got her jeans down to her knees, after that it was just the simple matter of having Vic step out of them. Tossing them aside for the moment, Walt picked up the ace bandage the Doc had left behind. He held the edge just below her knee and then with great care he wrapped the bandage around her swollen knee to give her a little added support for the long ride home.

Vic sucked in a shaky breath watching Walt wrap her knee. She could stand, borrowing his silent strength while he showed her all the tenderness he had. He pulled the wrap a little too tight bringing a small yelp from her. "I'm ok, I'm ok." Vic said quickly feeling her left knee start to tremble again. He tucked the end in and pushed back from her so she could get her change of pants on. There was just enough give in the wrap so she could bend her knee, pulling the black fabric of her track pants up. Vic sat down unbuttoning her shirt. The finally broken in khaki uniform shirt was dropped to the floor, and her suddenly so restrictive under shirt with it. From inside the duffle she pulled out her t-shirt to put on. When she got home she would take care of the wet bra as well as her panties.

Walt had to back away from Vic, had to take a few minutes to reign himself in. He could take being shot at, had covered Vic out in the field, but the sight of her falling back about did him in. Before they had changed the nature of their relationship, Walt couldn't stand to see Vic in danger. When he turned back, Vic was in dry clothes, and she was pulling the blanket back around her. Walt took his seat in front of her once more, where he picked up her wet clothes to put them in her duffle. He was seeing her like this and couldn't help but feel responsible for it.

"It's not your fault." Vic said from behind the blanket. She knew the set of his shoulders, the slight slump to them. He was feeling guilty over this. "There was no way for us to know he had a gun." She said, but that excuse was weak. Cops were taught to expect danger in the most routine of circumstances. They had just gone to talk to Chandler Allen; he was the one who made the choice to run.

"I risk your life every time we uh…" Walt rubbed his hand over his mouth. "Every time we're out in the field something could happen to one of us." He silently worried that that day could be their last if they weren't on alert. Since meeting Vic, since working with her, he'd come to care a great deal about her; more than he thought himself capable of for another living person that wasn't Cady or the memory of Martha. Vic, as always, proved the exception to any rule or preconceived notion. She could move him to be a better man than the one she had met 2 years ago when he was just watching the clock run out.

"Walt." Vic shrugged out of the blanket, letting it pool around her waist. "We were like this before. You refused to let me go with you up that mountain, then you tried to get Gorski to leave when I didn't even want to make it your problem, and just the latest on that list, you traded your life for mine with a crazy survivalist. Just because I occupy your bed doesn't mean that your protective instinct towards me is any more heightened than it was before." She'd had time to think about this, time to put her feelings into some sort of order that she could understand. Her track record with men hadn't exactly been stellar. With Walt she felt she had a real shot at experiencing the things someone was supposed to feel when they were truly happy with another person.

"How do you do that?" Walt asked quietly.

"Do what?" Vic asked rubbing her left hand up and down her knee.

"Say exactly what I need to hear," Walt answered picking himself up from the chair. "Let me get you my other coat to wear out of here and then I'll take you home."

"As long as you stay with me tonight." Vic smiled when Walt flipped the lock and opened the door. Leaning over, she reached for her boots while keeping her left leg elevated. She was eager to head home, to crawl under her clean covers, and hopefully have Walt with her, holding her.

VIC'S HOUSE:

Walt shifted his Bronco into park outside of Vic's house. It was dark inside where as five months before it would have been blazing with lights from the lamps Sean would have left on. That was then, this was now. Sean was in Australia, leaving even before the divorce was finalized. Anything that he could pack into a few boxes he left for Vic. There were currently five large black trash bags waiting to be picked up. Walt turned the key, killing the rumbling engine. "You really want me to stay?" He asked looking at the dark house. The thought of staying the night in Vic's house made him uneasy. Lately when the day was done, Vic would follow in her truck back to his cabin. Other than that one night at Lizzie's place, Walt really hadn't spent the night at another woman's home. Even though Vic and Sean were officially divorced, there was something unsettling for Walt just walking into another man's home.

"Of course," Vic whispered. "Got rid of the old furniture and bought some that were more… me." She looked out the window, dreading going back into the frigid wind that sliced right through her. Vic crossed her arms over her chest, a low groan of apprehension rattling at the back of her throat. "I did mention I had a new bed right?" Vic looked at Walt, the teasing self-evident in her tone. Walt cracked a smile at that. She uncrossed her arms, her right hand reaching for the door latch, but she stopped at that last moment. Briefly, there was the desire for her to tell Walt to turn the engine over and head to his cabin. It was where they spent most of their nights lately since winter was upon them, even though according to the calendar it was still late Fall. She found she liked the coziness of his cabin, the fireplace that filled the four walls with the right amount of heat plus the added warmth that Walt gave her.

Walt reached over placing his right hand on her left thigh. He was waiting for Vic, for her mind to be made up. Vic placed her hand over his, her thumb rubbing back and forth in slow passes. She was stalling. He wanted to know, but only when she was ready to tell him. Walt turned his hand over, lacing their fingers together and muttered, "We can still go to my place."

"Have you ever had this nagging feeling that something is gonna happen?" Vic asked looking at her dark house. Since yesterday she'd had this gnawing suspicion that something was going to come crashing down on her head and shake the foundation of the life she had managed to keep together out here.

Walt felt panic rise in him upon hearing Vic's question. "There something I need to know?" For a moment he feared for her, tried not to jump to conclusions that Gorski had returned after 6 months of peace for Vic.

"Nope," Vic looked at Walt. "Just the feeling that I shouldn't get out of bed tomorrow." She looked down at their joined hands. "Your place sounds really good after all." Walt nodded taking his hand from hers so he could turn the key bringing the Bronco back to life. All of a sudden, her house seemed alien to her, some place she didn't want to be. There would be another time for them to stay at her house, another time to warm the new sheets of her bed. That just wasn't tonight.

TO BE CONTINUED: