Things are different after Lizzie leaves the two of them standing dumbfounded in his living room, and when the dust finally settles with the Denver PD and Ed Gorsky. Not that anyone else seems to notice (or he hopes that they do not notice), but the air shifts between them, charged with electricity he didn’t really know was there until it glares at him right in the face.
He tries to ignore the fact that, would it have been anyone else, he wouldn’t have taken them home in the first place so he could pretend to sleep while he was in fact standing guard.
He wonders what Henry would have to say about that.
And what Cady would think of him.
(but then, it’s Vic and dammit, he didn’t ask for this to happen.)
They dance around each other, but theirs is a close dance, not quite touching but still.
He keeps his distance, but just enough to still be in her orbit, while at the same time reminding himself every time he sees her that she is married.
Until she’s not.
There’s a line drawn in the sand between them and they’re both teetering on the edge, an invisible fence, but they remain where they are, waiting for the inevitable to happen.
“You have got to do something, Walt,” Henry tells him one night – or is it morning already? – the red neon pony flickering behind him. It makes his head hurt.
By the time he thinks he should really go home by now and ignore what his friend is trying to say (and here he foolishly thought no one had noticed), he finally realizes that he’s the only one left in the bar, save for its owner.
“Do something ‘bout what?”
Henry pours himself a cup of dark brewed coffee, before fixing one with a little added Irish side to it. “That deputy of yours.” The mug slides across the bar.
Henry gives him a look that tells him that he’s not buying his bullshit. Probably why Walt never plays chess or poker against him. Probably why he never wins against Lucian at all. “Blonde. Italian. No-nonsense attitude. The one messing with your head.”
Walt grasps the small mug and brings the rim to his lips. “Ah,” is all he says before he takes a sip. Hot coffee and whisky burn his throat and he grimaces as both settle on an empty stomach. And he thought all of this was a good idea.
“Do you have nothing to say?”
He seems to ponder the question for a moment. “She’s my deputy.”
“She’s too young.”
“I think you, my friend, are the one who makes things complicated.” Henry throws his towel on the bar and empties Walt’s mug into the sink.
When he’s finally home, Walt is still wondering whether this means his friend approves or not.
Cady never said much about Victoria Moretti but when she does, he knows his daughter has been conspiring with Henry behind his back again.
It’s a long and strained conversation, at least on his part. He doesn’t want to have this conversation with his daughter; feels like they shouldn’t have it at all.
“I know you loved her very much, but it’s been two years now. I don’t want you to feel miserable anymore.”
She doesn’t say anything but her eyes say it all. Yes, you are.
“Hey, I got you to finally tell me about Lizzie and I didn’t hate you for seeing someone.” She pauses and plays with the ring around her index finger. She smiles softly, her eyes never leaving her hands, as if she were to tell him a secret. “To tell you the truth, I was a little relieved when I heard you were finally seeing someone. I will never judge you for that, you know. Means you haven’t given up on yourself.”
He lets that sink in. “Lizzie was different.”
“She’s not my deputy.”
Good Lord. He isn’t going to sound like a broken record, is he? Vic’s too young comes to mind. “Vic’s the same age as you are, Punk.”
Cady makes a sound, something along the lines of a disapproving hmpf. “I know you think you’re doing the right thing but I think you’re just making yourself – and her – miserable. I don’t think she’s a bad person, now is she?”
“And she really kicked your ass back into gear last year, when not even Henry and I could. That must mean something.”
He doesn’t say anything and she sighs. They leave it at that.
After a moment, she gets to her feet but stops at the front door.
“By the way, Dad, Branch and I are back together. I thought you’d like to know,” she tells him as she walks out the door.
“I fucking hate winter.”
The familiar voice drifts in all the way through from the front door downstairs to his office and he hears her heavy stomping on the stairs, pictures her trying to get rid of the snow both from the top of and underneath her snow boots.
“You should be used to it by now, Vic,” Branch says, which means that she must be in the close vicinity by now. “By the way, doesn’t it snow in Philadelphia, too?”
“Yeah. That’s why I should probably pack things up, get the hell outta here and move somewhere south, where it’s warm and sunny,” she retorts.
The sudden panic at her words rolls over him like a wave sucking him under water and leaving him gasping for air. He’s been afraid that she would move when the divorce papers were finally signed and her ex-husband on the way to Australia but she’d never talked about it and the status quo remained.
That is, until now.
He waits, sitting very still in his leather chair but Branch doesn’t push the subject, probably because he knows she can hold her own in a fight and doesn’t really want to experience it first hand.
He should have probably done something by now, even though Henry and Cady do not bother him about it anymore, but he leaves things hanging in the air, just as he did with everything after Martha’s death. It’s still very much like before (they still yell affectionately each other’s names a lot) but different all the same, and how could he bring the subject up without screwing it up and making it awkward for the both of them? Oh hey, by the way, Vic, in case you haven’t noticed…
Maybe he should leave a Post-It on her desk instead, and see how things turn out.
He’s never been good at the seducing thing anyway. It was still a wonder to him how Martha ever agreed to marrying him.
By the time he stands by Vic’s desk, he’s really pondering the Post-It solution and tries to locate some on her desk. She’s tried to clean it up earlier in the day but obviously it’s still a mess and he idly wonders how she manages to keep a tidy home at all. (look who’s talking now.)
But then he notices the picture standing against her phone, remembers that this was taken a year ago, when things still seemed uncomplicated.
He looks around the empty office, Ruby having gone home some time ago to avoid getting snowed in and soon followed by Branch and Ferg, before he picks up the small photograph and proceeds to stare at it and wallow in self-pity in his office alone.
Then it’s no surprise, as lost in thought as he is, that he barely hears the bouncing on the steps and shuffling all the way across the wooden floor and back before she appears in his doorway a moment later. “Hey Walt, have you seen the—” She stops in her tracks when she realizes he’s holding what has been missing from her desk.
“I like this one.”
“You never had a picture of you and your husband on your desk.”
“I know. And it’s ex-husband, now.”
A beat, and then, “I know.”
She laughs, but it sounds hollow. Soon, she’s shaking her head and looking at her feet, her hands on her hips. She clears her throat before speaking. She does that a lot, these days. “Do you know why I stayed in Durant, after the divorce?”
He feels his chest is suddenly expanding and before he thinks about what he’s doing, he’s up on his feet and standing in front of her. So this is it. The last step. “Do you even have the slightest idea why? Do you want me to tell you?” And he only nods, because his heart is stuck somewhere in his throat and she’s always been better at talking about feelings than he ever was. “It’s because I like you and I know you like me too and we’re the biggest cowards in the county, that’s why.”
They stand looking at each other for what feels the longest of time, letting her angry words sink in and when they finally move, they do it at the same time, pulled in by the other like magnets. His hands settle hesitantly on her hips before she takes a step closer and then, his hands move around to her back while hers fist his sleeves.
“You’re my deputy.” Her nose bumps his.
“I’m too old.”
Her lips brush his as she speaks. “Screw it, too.”
“Hey, you finally put a door for the bathroom,” she notices.
Her hair brushing his face as she half lies on top of him distracts him. “Mm?” he murmurs as a he trails his fingers along her spine.
“Bathroom door,” she nudges her chin in its direction and he turns his head, following her line of sight.
It takes a while to register. “Oh that.”
“Looks like you’re finally putting the final touches to this goddamn cabin.”
He’s silent for a moment, ponders the finality of it and thinks back on how he’s lived in here for almost four years and it didn’t feel like a home until a few months ago.
He thinks about how Martha would have liked it here and then he thinks about Vic in his bed, young and vibrant.
He will always love Martha, there is no doubt about that and Vic knows it and he knows she respects that. But now he feels like he can do everything: moving on, falling in love, without forgetting the past but learning to live with it.
As she settles her face back in the crook of his neck, doing just that seems like a very good compromise.
“I’m going to die in this heat. Hell, Cady is going to die in her dress. Who thought an August wedding would be a good idea?”
He stares at the long flimsy pale green dress she is wearing as she shuffles barefoot around the bedroom and he looks back to his own attire. “I’m wearing a tie and a jacket,” he says as she stands between him and the floor-length mirror to fix said tie. She’s right; they’re all going to die in this heat.
“I fucking hate summer.” Two seasons down, two to go.
He looks at their reflection in the mirror, watches the gentle slope of her neck as she throws her hair over one shoulder. “Well, I’m lucky you didn’t decide to pack and leave for warmer, sunnier lands, then.”
“Mm,” she hums. “We’ll talk about it again when there’s a fucking snowstorm in three months and we’re belly-deep in snow.” She smoothes her hands down his shoulders. “God, you’re tense. Will you relax already? You’ve been stressed all week, which means I have been stressed all week and can this wedding be over so I can collapse in bed and forget all about it and enjoy a little R&R with you.”
She smiles sweetly at him but the wicked glint in her eyes tells him that he could probably kiss the R&R portion goodbye. Not that he’d particularly mind to skip to the more pleasurable part of what she has planned to do with him this weekend, once Cady and Branch are off to their honeymoon.
Talk about a complicated pair, too.
His thoughts drift back to the woman standing in front of him, who is now pressing herself against him and it really feels nice. The wicked glint she had earlier slowly fades away and her eyes grow softer, almost golden in this morning light. “You remember that time when I told you that you were different from my ex-husband because you’re a man?”
He nods, thinking back on it, which was probably the first time he really allowed himself to see that she wasn’t just his deputy and that her husband was a complete moron.
“It was my way of telling you that you’re different because you’re you and I wouldn’t have it any other way, old man.”
She puts her hands on both sides of his face, and kisses him slowly before he can even reply, but then she has her arms around his neck now and she’s standing on her tiptoes and he almost forgets what he wants to say.
“Alright,” she says after they part. “We should probably go, now.”
She turns away but he catches her wrist, halting her movements, and lets his fingers tangle with hers. She looks back questioningly.
There’s no hesitation or second-guessing himself now when it comes to her, not anymore.
“By the way, me too.”