Hello everyone! I wasn't planning on writing anything S4 related this soon, but sometimes I am just an impatient jerk with no self-control and this story snuck up on me and wanted to come out. I have no idea how many chapters it's going to have, and that's the honest truth. Now that the first bit is complete I'll step back and create a planning document and see what happens.

Updates may not be swift, because I'm not an insanely speedy beast of a writer like my friend TheGodmother2! ;D I will certainly do my best to keep the story moving, though, and always greatly appreciate the feedback and messages I receive!

Blanket warning: This is set post season 4, so there will be spoilers accordingly.

Part I

Hey, do you know where my new shirt is? The blue one. I can't seem to find it.

Well, how hard are you looking?

I'm looking where the shirts are.

Well obviously you're not looking where ALL the shirts are.

I'm so sorry.

You were supposed to do the dishes last night.

I think I know how to make it up to you.

I doubt that's possible

The texture of everyday life has changed.

There are jagged edges where everything was once smooth, bumps and pockmarks in places where no obvious blemishes used to exist. Maybe it was never sunshine and roses, but he didn't recall that there had been this many thorns beneath the surface. Then again, he might have been too scared back then to reach out and touch it all with his eyes or with his hands.

The texture of life has changed, and he knows he's the one who altered it. Tragedy after travesty, mistake after near miss, the trials of existence have battered the shores and eroded the façades of once formidable humanistic structures. He tried so hard to brace up the barricades, but by the time he realized that there were massive, yawning gaps in his defenses it was already too late.

People often claim that change is for the better. That was what he had been trying to affect; to make life easier, more orderly, with clearer boundaries and unambiguous demarcations. He was trying to do what was best for each and every one of them. And now here he was after weeks of stubborn effort, barefoot and shirtless with a recently-discharged sidearm gripped in his right hand and yet another uninvited houseguest left gasping and bleeding on his doorstep.

As for his interrupted bedfellow? He'd thought she was safe, sensible, logical, and oddly comforting. How could he have been wrong on so many levels? What other fallacies had he allowed himself to believe? It was becoming clear that he'd taken the easy way out in a desperate bid for self-preservation, and look where he'd ended up. The clues had been right in front of his face, all the signs, and he had missed them so completely it was almost like he'd done it on purpose.

Walt's racing heart exacerbated the sick feeling that lodged in the pit of his stomach as he watched Donna Monaghan drop to her knees at the intruder's side, sobbing and screaming as she pawed at the trunk of his prone form and smeared streaks of red all over her demure, light-colored clothing. All the warmth and softness Walt thought he had awakened in her was replaced by something cold, twisted, and unpleasantly familiar. The rage. The panic. A single-mindedness that he himself knew well.

I think I know how to make it up to you.

I doubt that's possible

She hadn't liked the quiet. He should have known then, but he had been too blind to understand it.

This time, suggestions that he needed therapy came with the dreaded stamp that read 'COURT ORDERED' in unforgiving block letters. Walt was probably lucky he still had a job, even luckier they hadn't imposed forced medical leave in light of the department's shorthanded status, but the circumstances had shown in his favor and Dr. Monaghan's statement had been surprisingly forthcoming. He wasn't sure when he'd stopped thinking about her as 'Donna.' Probably sometime between Ferg gently but firmly escorting her from the scene and the FBI finding her cardigan on the living room floor and bagging it as evidence.

Vic was nowhere to be seen that day, and she later informed him that was attributable to the fact that there were still other crimes in 'this shit hole of a county' which didn't start and end with him. Maybe he'd deserved that venomous admonishment, but that didn't stop it from pissing him off. There was a rising tide of anger every time he saw Vic lately, no doubt another issue some barely-tested mental health professional would try to medicate out of his skull. With so many other things going on Walt wasn't sure whether the reactive emotions were actually directed at Vic or toward himself, so he did what he was used to doing— squashed them down and pinned them beneath the boulder of denial he was always carrying in the depths of his gut.

When Ruby had pushed the issue of arranging his first appointment with the psychiatrist, Walt responded with a joke about how he'd already tried 'seeing' one and that hadn't worked out too well in the end. It wasn't that he'd expected anyone to laugh ("Too soon?"), but the connection of Deputy Ferguson's fist with his jaw had come as a surprise. Maybe it was his flippant attitude, maybe it was the fact that Zachary Heflin was still unconscious in the hospital… whatever it was, the Ferg had reached the end of his rope and Walt knew the deck of rightness was stacked against him on this one.

His other remaining deputy hadn't reacted at all, not to the tastelessly inflammatory joke or to the half-hearted scuffle that followed. Vic's blonde ponytail swished to the side in irritation as her fingers hammered against the keys of her laptop, keen gaze uninterested in the prospect of Walt's injury for the first time he could ever remember. The way this day was going so far, she was probably typing up her letter of resignation. He was surprised to feel a lump in his throat at the thought, along with the nauseating knowledge that she would be entirely justified to leave him here holding five bags of shit without an ounce of remorse.

The only hint that Vic might still give a damn about anything to do with the current situation came later in the afternoon when Walt was reluctantly preparing to leave for the time and location Ruby had scrawled on a post-it and wordlessly adhered to his desk. Hat in hand, he'd cracked the door to the outer office only to see Vic throw down some paperwork, release a muffled string of curse words ending in "Son of a bitch," and kick the wastebasket across the room. Walt was never one to back down from a fight, so he claimed, but in this case he deemed it the wiser choice to shy away and use the private exit to avoid yet another fractious encounter.

On his way out Walt noticed the beleaguered office directory board with its missing and lopsided letters. At this rate he'd be lucky if he had any deputies left at all by the time their next paychecks were cut, but nevertheless he'd be damned before he threw himself on the mercy of the feds or a neighboring county again. He thought about Eamonn O'Neill's innocuously smug smile and the all too real prospect of the younger man's hand at the small of Vic's back, which a traitorous corner of Walt's mind still thought of as his own personal territory against all recent assertions and evidence to the contrary.

It would probably be for the best, he told himself, knowing as the thought danced across the landscape of his mind like a tumbleweed that it was the worst lie he'd formulated in a day jam-packed with self-deceiving fish stories of the highest order.

The shape and consistency of Walt's new existence rubbed and chafed against the constraints he'd placed upon himself as he shoved the key into the Bronco's ignition, steeling himself for more and bigger deflections as he navigated the winding roads of his own battered intellect and the even more sparsely populated terrain of Absaroka County.

Amazingly, they'd managed to find Walt a psychiatrist that he didn't want to punch five minutes into the first 'session.' It was easy to imagine that Ruby had a hand in it, right down to the discreet location of the office. The doctor was an older man with a calm demeanor, who had evidently spent some time traveling around with the Peace Corps in his wilder youth. Walt knew if there was one thing the court couldn't mandate it was to make him 'talk about his feelings', but he talked anyway.

At the end of their time the doc encouraged Walt to consider the fact that he had talked about other people and abstract concepts but had hardly spoken about himself at all, not about what was happening on the inside as opposed to at the surface level he presented to the world.

Walt thought that was what he had been talking about, and in the end he drove away from the experience feeling more screwed up in the head than he had when he'd arrived. Frowning, he gripped the steering wheel a bit tighter and wondered whether that might actually be a good thing. He called back later that afternoon and booked the rest of his appointments, figuring it was at the very least a healthier form of therapy than creating yet another clattering pyramid of beer cans.

For the next several weeks things at work were still tense, but he was trying. Ferg seemed calmer, and Walt was careful both to listen and to provide clear direction and follow up on cases. Vic was still barely speaking to him, but Cady mentioned over lunch that Vic had been saving up and looking at some small rental properties in the same neighborhood as Cady's place. He couldn't bring himself to ask his daughter for the more private details about her roommate that he secretly longed to know, especially not in light of the melancholy disapproval Cady wore in her expression when Walt spoke about his blonde deputy.

He briefly wondered when and how Vic and Cady had developed some sort of girl code and chalked his name into the column marked 'do not engage.'

Walt had never been a prodigious sleeper. The law enforcement profession didn't exactly allow for it, and the events of the past several years had conspired to keep him up at night more often than not. He'd found some measure of peace after the standoff with Barlow, and dreams had come to him for the first time in a long time. In the end he wondered whether he'd been better off without them, considering the aftermath of his failed attempt at romance.

He'd continued seeing the psychiatrist a couple times a week, and they'd talked about things like trauma and PTSD and transference— he was coming to terms with the fact that maybe he'd seen what he wanted to see, engaged in selective listening and allowed the red flags to slip his notice. He'd projected his frustrations and redirected his attraction, and he still found himself clamming up when the therapist asked him about his feelings for Vic. It was something he'd been hiding from himself for such a long time, how was he even supposed to put it into words?

The ability to sleep gradually returned to him, though he doubted he'd be ready to spend an entire night in his bed again right away. For the time being the sofa was more than adequate, and not tainted with the shameful memory of just how close he'd come to compromising himself once again. It was an incredible relief, the ability to shut his eyes and drift away to the blackness of oblivion…

Hey, do you know where my new shirt is? The blue one. I can't seem to find it.

Blonde hair, face turned away at the kitchen counter with a range of mystery ingredients strewn across the cluttered surface.

Why do you need the new one? You have like a dozen other blue shirts.

There's something bubbling on the stove. Coffee on the sideboard, ready to be poured. The light through the window suggests early afternoon.

But I just got this one. Anyway, I thought you liked me in blue.

A short laugh. Bare shoulders bordered by strips of black cotton beneath the golden tresses.

I do. Why do men suck so bad at keeping track of their own stuff?

He presses his body against hers, fingers sliding slowly over the dark fabric at the curve of her waist as he moves to encircle it.

I'm so sorry.

She puts down the spatula she's been wielding, arching her neck and stroking his forearm as his lips nuzzle the soft skin behind her earlobe.

You would know where the fucking shirt was if you'd checked on the laundry like I asked.

Smiling against the side of her neck, he presses his jean-clad erection against the firm softness of her ass.

I think I know how to make it up to you.

Her eyes flash green and gold in the sunlight as she turns in his arms, deliberately maintaining the contact of their perpetually hungry bodies. The tone of her voice is sultry, and he knows he's halfway back into her good graces already.

This better be good. I don't make my uncle Al's lasagna for uncooperative shitheads that don't put out.

The kiss is deep and rough and heated, hands grasping and crockery clattering as he lifts her onto the counter and her smooth legs wrap around his waist. All the pieces fit and it's familiar but exciting and he knows how to please her and he wants to. God, he wants—

Walt woke with a gasp, body in a state of intense agitation and mind overflowing with turbulent images of himself and Vic in blissful and undeniably alluring domestic circumstances. He sat up and held his head in both hands, elbows propped just above his knees. He couldn't help but remember the chain of events that had unfolded the last time he'd dreamed about a woman, but this new version of the scenario was far more meaningful and infinitely more terrifying.

Was this what they could have had? What he'd managed to destroy before it even had a chance to unfold?

So much for sleep. Walt rubbed the back of his neck and headed for a lukewarm shower. He had enough work to do at the station anyway, since he was still undeniably short on deputies.

Dreams are indeed funny things. Wonder what, if anything, Walt is planning to do about this one? And what's going on with Vic anyway? Seems like she hasn't decided to pull up stakes and leave town just yet…

As always, your reviews and insights are most welcome. Thanks for reading!