DISCLAIMER: The Longmire characters are the property of Shephard/Robin Company and The Warner Horizon Television. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2014 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
Walt sat on the bed, staring at the connecting door. Had the guy who checked Vic and him in given them adjoining rooms on purpose? Had it looked like they needed a connecting door?
And was he madder at the guy for thinking so or at himself for the way his heart was beating way too damn fast. Vic was his...colleague. Well, his subordinate—that was even worse. What the hell was wrong with him? They had a dead girl who needed justice and Henry was in prison, and here Walt was, sitting like a teenager, staring at a connecting door as if all the wonders of the world were contained beyond it.
Old damn fool.
A soft knock sounded and he took a deep breath, then got up and walked to the door. Before he got there, he checked his hair, smoothing it down—like Vic hadn't seen his hair at its goofiest?
She had her hand raised when he opened the door, as if she was debating whether to knock again.
"Hey," he said, and his voice came out huskier than he meant it to. If he'd ever said hello to Lizzie that way, she'd have done cartwheels.
"Hey." Her voice was husky, too. Sexy, in that "I'm a little bit of a badass but also vulnerable" way he was pretty powerless against. The backstory she'd shared hadn't made her less attractive to him. More the opposite.
She laughed, in that softy, breathy way that said she was amused and the slightest bit uncomfortable. "You should come in or I should come in."
"I did." She pushed past him. "Okay, so, this case—I told you I've walked in Polina's shoes and, well, this case is pushing all my buttons. I'm low on...filters or tact or whatever it is that keeps someone from taking another person's beer."
"Okay." For someone working up to an apology, she sure did look ticked off.
"So...I'm sorry. That it made you uncomfortable."
He looked down, mostly because he didn't want her to see he was amused. Not at the apology—that was big of her—but at how she'd phrased it. She'd drink his beer again in a heartbeat, in other words, if he hadn't been a jerk about it.
"Are you going to say anything?" She sounded even more ticked off.
He took a long breath and leaned up against the doorframe. "You want me to say it's okay and don't worry about it? Or you want me to tell you it wasn't you sharing my beer that made me uncomfortable?"
Her expression changed, the anger falling away. "I don't follow."
"I think you do. You sat down and took a swig the way a woman does when she's with someone. Not when she's with her boss. But...a man." Her man, but he'd stop there and let her jump on the comprehension locomotive. Before she could say anything, though, he held up his hand. "It felt...natural. And then—"
She looked down. "Your wife. I'm sorry. You just told me about her and I didn't think—"
"It's not about my dead wife, Vic. It's about your husband, who is alive, whose ring you still wear. It was sparkling to beat the band down there while I was thinking how..." How easy it would have been to slide his hand over and touch her skin, as he took the beer back for an easy pull and then let her take it again. How it could turn into a game, their game, so easily.
"Oh." She let out a shaky breath—did she not realize the effect she had on him? Even if nothing was going on, just like he'd told Lizzie.
Or was it going on if he thought about it a lot—too much maybe?
He wasn't sure what to do, finally glanced into her room. Yep, same as his, right down to the ugly bedspread.
He glanced back at Vic; she was biting her lower lip like she did when she wasn't sure what do to—damn it all. Did he have to catalog everything about her? She walked over to his bedside table, her back to him, then she turned around and held her hands out.
She'd taken the ring off.
"On or off, you're still married."
"Sean's leaving. He's going to Australia. And...I'm not. I've got this brilliant career here with upward mobility potential." She started to laugh, but it wasn't the kind of laugh he liked. It was the kind that meant a person was so hurt they didn't want to chance crying for fear they wouldn't stop.
"I'm sorry. They have cops in Australia, I think."
She laughed, and this time it was a real laugh, because he'd been funny, for her, even though he'd also sort of been trying to be helpful.
you want me to go?"
The way she said it, the way she was looking at him, he wasn't sure if she meant did he want her to go away right now, back to her room, or go to Australia.
The answer to either, was a big, fat no. "You gotta do what feels right."
"I was doing what felt right, Walt. It made you uncomfortable." Her voice held a hint of steel under the huskiness. She probably had no idea how much he liked that about her. That she could be hard and soft, all at once.
She picked her ring up, studied it for a moment, then slid it onto her finger. "What do you want me to do?"
"Stay." He didn't stop to think before he said it, and he meant it in every single way possible. He hoped she'd think he meant stay in Wyoming. Not stay in his room. In his bed.
In his arms.
She closed her eyes and nodded. "Yeah, that's what I want to do, too." She smiled and he could see her pull the armor of her persona around herself, the tough East Coast woman, no bullshit, just answers, and give 'em to her yesterday. "Okay, enough drama, right?"
He walked over to her, smoothed her hair back, and saw surprise in her eyes. "Stay but don't stay married to him."
He wasn't sure if he was asking her to do that or telling her to do that.
He nodded slowly. Their eyes locked, and he knew he was going to break his rules for her, all of them, now or later, it didn't matter. He'd been losing this fight since the day she walked into the station.
The warble of her phone broke the moment. He'd never hated modern technology more—or been so grateful for it.
Because he didn't want to break his rules for Vic. He wanted to do this right, and get to know her in more ways than he already did, and marry her, and keep her safe and she'd do the same right back for him.
She hurried to get the phone, listened for a bit, and then said, "Okay, thanks, Branch." She cut the connection and turned to him. "Credit card was used."
"Let's go, then."
"Guess we won't need the rooms." She pulled on her jacket and gave him his favorite version of her "Let's go kick some ass" grin. "Not for tonight anyway."
"You are a bad girl." He reached for the doorknob. "Gonna lock this up. Don't want that desk clerk to get the wrong idea."
"No, wouldn't want that." She surprised him, scooting in before he could shut the door. "So lock it already. We've got bad guys awaiting."
He'd never wanted to kiss a woman so bad in his life. "Well, I'm not the one standing here yammering."
She walked to the door—could that be called a walk? He'd never seen her put quite so much swing in her hips. Then she looked back, and he could tell she knew exactly what she was doing to him.
He shook his head. "Trouble."
"I never said I was anything but. Were you even listening to me at the bar."
"Mostly. I may have been a bit befuddled by the beer sharing. Ask forgiveness, not permission, right?"
She laughed. "Yep."
He shut the door and handed her his key. "I'll pull around to the office. You can hop out and tell the guy we're not staying."
"You realize he'll think we did make use of the room, right?"
"Not very good use of it. A man should take his time." He met her eyes. "Don't you agree?"
"I would never argue with you."
He made the sound that said, "Bullshit" without him having to swear. As she climbed into the truck next to him, she settled her hand on his. "I really like you, Walt. I mean there's other feelings, too. Lots of other feelings. But I really, really like you."
"I really, really like you, too."
She nodded, her eyes shining in a way he found nearly mesmerizing, but he forced himself to put the truck in gear. Now that they had their feelings cleared up, there was a bad guy to bring in. Walt found himself grinning like a damned fool as Vic took the keys in to the clerk, then walked—no, that was a sashay if he'd ever seen one—back to the truck.
"Bad girl," he said, as he pulled out on the highway, headed toward justice for Polina.
"Mmm hmmm. Let's nail this guy to the wall if he did it." Her tone changed, going from the playful seductress to the deputy he needed—that he depended on.
It was what he loved best about her. She always knew just how to be.