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Fire & Rain

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October 1, 2015

Almost six years. Nicole Haught couldn’t believe that she was back in Purgatory for the first time after almost six years. Of all the job offers she could have accepted, Purgatory was the only one that she even gave a second glance to. It certainly wasn’t for the progressive culture of the small town or its renowned police force. No, she’s stepping out of her truck, boots crunching in the gravel of her new yard, because she’s hoping to run into the one that got away. The one that got taken away, more specifically.

The air smells the same and it triggers every synapse to begin firing all at once. Her eyes flutter closed at the overwhelming sensation and suddenly, she’s sixteen again.

----

November 10, 2007

Nicole Haught checks herself one last time -- braid tight, headband to catch the loose hair once it inevitably began to fall, two black streaks under her eyes. She rolls her eyes at the black marks under her eyes. Her coach swears that it helps catch the light and “reduce glare” but Nicole didn’t buy it. At least, it makes her look kind of cool. Which she definitely isn’t. Sports are the only thing she has going for her.

“Haught, c’mon! We gotta warm up!” Nicole’s head snaps to find her coach waving her out of the locker room.

“Coming, Coach!” She calls and claps her hands together.

It’s her first game on the varsity team and she’s determined to make sure that she’s earned her place on the team. She jogs out of the locker room and into the visiting gym. It’s old… Definitely in need of an update, but it’ll do. The town’s called Purgatory for Christ’s sake. The junior basketball player still swears that’s a joke. Every sign on their way in said otherwise.

“Alright, asshole! Hands to yourself.”

A voice cuts through all the noise. Nicole’s not even sure how it reaches her ears when there’s music playing, fans chattering, and the sound of shoes squeaking against the court -- making it almost impossible to hear anything that isn’t right next to you. Still, her eyes find the source of the voice immediately.

“Shit.” A whisper slips out of her lips as she sees the girl of her dreams. Okay, maybe that’s a bit… Dramatic. Or not. Nicole swallows a hard knot and takes in the sight of a dark-haired woman with eyes so blue that it hurts. There’s no way that is a student from her school. What does Purgatory have in the water?

“Oh come on, Wynonna!” The “asshole” retorts and Nicole’s jaw tightens when he reaches out for her again.

Wynonna.

In the next instant, Nicole sees Wynonna grab the wrist that reaches out for her. It all happens in a blur, but soon, Wynonna has the boy’s arm pinned against his own back and he’s pressed against the wall of the gymnasium. Nicole’s lips tug up in a little grin.

“I warned you. Hands to yourself. Next time, I’ll break your fingers. All of them. And you won’t be able to circle jerk with your buddies. Got it?”

“Nicole! Heads up!”

Nicole shakes her head and looks up just in time to catch a ball that was headed straight for her face. “Jesus!”

Max, Nicole’s closest friend on the team, jogs up next to her and punches her arm. “What the hell were you staring at?!” And her eyes search to find the answer of her own question and sees the brunette staring at the both of them. “Oh. You useless gay ass…”

“Hey can you shut up!?” Nicole bites in a whisper. She’s not exactly hiding the fact that she’s gay, but she really doesn’t need everyone in this damn town to hear about it.

“She’s hot, Haught. And staring at you.” Max says with a smirk.

“What?!” Nicole’s head whips back towards where she’d been staring and sure enough, she catches those blue eyes looking straight at her -- through her -- she’s not really sure. All she knows is she’s stopped breathing and she can’t pull her eyes away. By god, her knees feel like they’re going to buckle under her when she sees Wynonna bite at her lip and turn away, marching into the stands.

“God, you’re the same color as your hair! C’mon, you useless thing, you. We got a game to win so you can impress that new girlfriend of yours.” Max said with a smack to Nicole’s shoulder.

Girlfriend. God, that sounds great. Nicole hasn’t even had her first kiss with a girl yet, though. And she definitely wouldn’t mind if it happened to be with that girl.

Nicole somehow manages to get her head out of the clouds and back onto the court sometime through her warm-up. Fighting the urge to search for Wynonna in the crowd proves to be one of the tougher things that she’s done in her sixteen years of living. But she swears she can feel eyes watching her as she plays. And the thought makes her show out -- playing with more drive than she ever has before.

Sometime during the first half, Nicole posts up and lets loose a shot from behind the three-point line and it falls in with a hard swish. Loud cheers erupt throughout the stands, but her eyes settle on the one she’s hoping to find. Wynonna has this little smile on her face that Nicole can’t quite pin down, but she thinks it’s an impressed one. She hopes so anyway. Fueled by adrenaline, Nicole throws a wink at the girl before taking off in a sprint down the court to post up as defense.

The game rages on - it’s a close one until the last quarter. Nicole kicks into overdrive and settles on the fact that they’re going to win. And she’s going to talk to Wynonna. And she’s going to be able to be as confident as she had been out on the court when she finally gets around to it. Hell yeah.

They do win, much to the disappointment of the home team. Nicole’s never showered after a game so quickly in her life, still careful not to get her hair wet. The boys are playing after them, so she knows that they’ll be there a little while longer, but part of her wonders if Wynonna will still be in the stands when she gets out of the locker room.

She’s back to checking herself in the mirror, now clothed with a fresh pair of track pants, t-shirt, and her sneakers. Normally, she wouldn’t have bothered, but she quickly coats her lips with her lightly tinted chapstick before slinging her bag over her shoulder and heading back out into the gymnasium.

With a one-track mind, Nicole’s eyes search the row where she’d spotted Wynonna before and her face falls. She’s not there anymore.

“Is your name really 'hot?'” Nicole jumps and spins around and there she is. Wynonna’s grinning at her with her foot propped against the wall beside the door Nicole just walked out of. Was she… Was Wynonna waiting for her? No way.

“I-- Uh…” Nicole shakes her head a little and laughs at herself. Pull it together, doofus. “Yeah. It’s H-a-u-g-h-t.”

“Hmm..” Wynonna pushes off of the wall and steps closer to the redhead, clearly giving her a thorough onceover. “At least you live up to it.”

Nicole feels her body warm and start to itch all at once. She just called you hot. Say something. Do something. Don’t just stand there with your mouth hanging open. Max is right, you are a useless gay. Sounds are just about to start stumbling out of her mouth when Wynonna steps in to save her. Sort of.

“You know, I expected you to talk a lot more, Haught Shot. After that macho display out on the court. With the winking and whatnot.” Wynonna teases, punctuating her own word with a wink and Nicole thinks she might melt into a puddle.

“Maybe I just like listening to you talk,” Nicole replies, lacking the confidence to really deliver the line as flirtily as she would have liked to. Thankfully, the older girl seems to still find it cute because she chuckles from low in her throat. Fuck, that’s the sexiest laugh I’ve ever heard in my life.

“I am known to be un poco mouthy, so I guess that’s a good thing,” Wynonna replies.

“So, what can I call you?” Nicole plays it cool, as if she didn’t eavesdrop and learn her name earlier.

“You can call me a lot of things, Red. But my name is Wynonna. Wynonna Earp.” Earp. Like Wyatt Earp? The name was everywhere around town. Nicole raises a brow but that sweet smile stays in place on her lips. “Yes, like Wyatt Earp. He was my great-great grandaddy.”

“I don’t really know what that means, but it sounds cool,” Nicole says truthfully, flashing her teeth at Wynonna. There’s a flash of something -- something Nicole would have missed if she hadn’t been staring so intently at Wynonna -- that shines in Wynonna’s eyes and melts in the way her jaw relaxes. She seems grateful for what Nicole has said, but the meaning is lost on her.

“C’mon, Haughtstuff. I promise to have you back by the time the sweaty boys finish their game.” Wynonna nudges Nicole with her shoulder as she walks past her, leading the way.

“Where are we goin’?” Nicole follows her blindly.

“Not where I really want us to go, but it’ll do.”

What did that mean? Somehow, it comes off… Well, it comes off sexual. But that’s just Nicole’s wishful thinking, she figures. Not that she just wants to have sex with her. She wouldn’t even know where to start. Well, she kind of would know where to start. It’s not rocket science, but the clumsiness. Again, never even kissed a girl before. Much less…

Nicole shakes her head and focuses her eyes low as Wynonna walks ahead of her. What a nice ass… The sway of Wynonna’s hips is hypnotizing -- so hypnotizing that she doesn’t even notice she’s about to walk into the bar that separates the double doors of the exit. Her shoulder hits it and she winces.

Wynonna turns to see what’s happened and she can’t help but laugh that same dark chuckle from earlier. “There’s a bar there.”

“Yeah, I see that now,” Nicole says, blood rushing to her cheeks. Shit. Does she know I was literally staring at her ass? That look on her face… Survey says… Yes.

Nicole speeds up enough to catch up with Wynonna and walk side-by-side with her. Which is significantly easier to manage since looking over at her is a lot more obvious than checking her out from behind. Nicole realizes they’re headed out into the parking lot towards an old blue and white truck. Probably around a ‘92 or ‘93 make if Nicole had to guess. Her own truck was just a few years younger than that because that’s what she could afford. Her parents would match whatever she could raise and she ended up with a pretty decent ride (she thinks).

Wynonna walks around to the tailgate, lets it down, and hops up onto it in what looked like one fluid motion. Nicole stands there, a little dumbfounded. Her hand grips the strap of her bag at her shoulder and she still can’t believe she’s just followed a girl out to her truck.

“Hop on up, Haught. I won’t bite just yet,” Wynonna promises with a grin that shows her teeth. Nicole melts for the nth time since seeing her. A beat passes, but Nicole finally chucks her athletic bag into the bed of the truck and jumps into the spot Wynonna designates as hers with a pat of her hand.

“So you’re just a fan of girls’ basketball then?” Nicole asks, trying desperately to go about this as subtly as she can. (And failing miserable.)

“I’m not a fan of basketball at all. I wasn’t even going to watch that game, but something caught my eye.” Wynonna leans back on both of her hands and kicks her feet out in front of her, making sure to hold her gaze on Nicole until the redhead notices.

And she does. Her brown eyes follow Wynonna’s every movement. “Oh.” Nicole speaks before she can swallow the word.

“Yeah. Oh.” Wynonna smiles and shakes her head. “So, what’s your story, Haught?”

Nicole gives a shrug, turning her body to where one of her knees is lying bent on the tailgate while the other hangs off the edge -- her body naturally pulling to face Wynonna. “For one, you can call me Nicole.”

“Not gonna happen. Your last name is too good,” Wynonna assures, turning the corners of her mouth down in a brief frown before smiling again.

“Okaaaay…” Nicole chuckles. “I don’t really have a story. I play basketball, softball, and that’s about it. I’m pretty boring.”

Wynonna narrows her eyes and tilts her head skeptically. “I’ve got tingles that tell me you’re definitely not.”

“What about you, Wynonna? What’s your story?” Every bone in her body is telling her that Wynonna is something special. That she’s got layers she would love to peel back and discover. She’s never been drawn to a person this way before and in this moment, it feels like it’s the only thing she’s ever wanted in her life.

“You ain’t got the time for that, Red. Besides!” Wynonna sits up straighter, her body mirroring Nicole’s now -- one leg hanging off the tailgate and the other with her knee bent lying across the tailgate. She scoots closer to the younger girl until their knees are touching. The way that Wynonna reaches out and grabs one of Nicole’s hand in both of hers and starts tracing her finger across the lines of her palm makes Nicole swoon. “I asked first. What’s your deepest darkest secret, Nicole Haught?”

Nicole watches Wynonna’s finger on her hand for too many seconds before even beginning to think of her answer. She’s perfectly content to just sit here and enjoy the silence of the moment, to feel the electricity emitting from Wynonna’s fingertips coursing into her hand and going straight to her chest. Her heartbeat is so loud that she wonders if Wynonna can hear it, too. Finally she tears her eyes away and the two of them look up at the same moment. Brown meeting blue in the dimly lit parking lot.

“I like girls,” Nicole breathes out -- her body expelling the information on its own, compelled by Wynonna’s piercing stare and her tantalizing touch.

Wynonna almost wants to laugh, but something tugs at her heart and makes her smile softly instead. She pauses her fingers over Nicole’s hand and lets them drop down onto their legs, still holding it. “No one knows that, huh?”

Nicole swallows and shakes her head. “Not everyone. A couple people, but…”

“It’s okay. It’s a shitty world we live in. I get it.” The sad smile makes Nicole believe that Wynonna might know more about the shitty world than she does, but she doesn’t want to press. Not yet. “Hope you know… You made it kinda obvious to me,” she teases.

Nicole ducks her head down and pushes out a shaky chuckle. “Is that a good thing?”

Her gaze remains fixed on their joined hands. At least, she isn’t going to look up. Wynonna has other ideas, it would seem. One of Wynonna’s ringed hands comes towards her face and tilts her chin up to look at her. When she finally meets Wynonna’s stare again, Wynonna is just grinning. I’ll take that as a yes? Nicole thinks.

“Seriously, what happened to the star jock that sent a wink into the crowd?”

“Guess you make me nervous.” Nicole answers honestly.

“Okay, well how about this? Close your eyes, Haughtshot. Do it.” Wynonna gives a pointed look until the redhead finally complies. “Alright, now you’re back out on the court. Kicking all the ass like you apparently do. You make the final point or shot or whatever the fuck you say when you win the game. How’s it feel?”

Nicole tries to get her head in the same space it was out on the court, but she’s failing and she can’t help but shake her head.

“Oh c’mon, you dweeb! You just won another game. You see me in the stands watching you. Just like before. What’s going on in your head?”

The aggressiveness in Wynonna’s voice jostles Nicole and she’s able to finally begin to get lost in the moment. She can feel her blood rushing and her adrenaline spiking again. She sees Wynonna staring at her and she remembers winking at her. Her eyes open and Wynonna is closer than she had been a few seconds ago when this little game started.

It knocks the wind right out of her and all of the adrenaline from earlier rushes straight to her chest and pushes her forward. Their lips touch and Nicole pauses because she has no idea what to do now. She’s just had her first kiss and she has no fucking clue what to do. Shit shit shit.

Thankfully, Wynonna’s hand finds purchase on the back of Nicole’s head over her messy braid and pulls her closer. Wynonna parts her lips and Nicole mimics her, trying to follow Wynonna’s lead. Kissing seems instinctual. Goosebumps take over every inch of her body despite actually feeling warmer.

Kissing a girl is ten times better than she thought it would be. Stars? Nah. Fireworks? Lame. Butterflies? Not this one. None of the cliches seem to do this kiss justice. A pitiful sound comes from Nicole when she feels Wynonna’s tongue slip slowly into her mouth. Nicole relaxes into it and allows her body to speak for her.

They kiss. Forever and for not long at all. Nicole feels suspended in time but when she pulls away, it’s over too soon. Her eyelids are too heavy to open for the first few seconds. Was that real? Did she really just kiss a girl? Wynonna? Prettiest girl she’s ever seen? Was that real?

“Well, Haught damn, indeed.”

Nicole finally opens her eyes and notes the slight difference to Wynonna’s lips, fresh from kissing. From kissing her. It makes her giddy. Rolling her lips together, Nicole tries to stifle the full-blown, ear-to-ear grin that threatens to break through.

“Gimme your phone.” Wynonna holds out her hand expectantly and Nicole is still trying to get her mind off of the softness of Wynonna’s lips. “Today, Haught!”

Nicole scrambles and reaches inside her bag to grant the older girl’s wish. After a few taps on the keypad, Wynonna exits out of what she was doing and hands it back to the stunned redhead. “We better head back. Wouldn’t want you to get in trouble, would we?”

Nicole still hasn’t said a word since before their kiss. All she does is nod dumbly and watch as Wynonna hops back onto the ground and waits for Nicole to join her.

“Head on in, Haught. I gotta jet. See ya around.” Wynonna closes the tailgate of her truck and gives Nicole one last wink before hopping into her truck and peeling out of the parking lot.

Nicole’s left utterly shocked by the events of the night. Her phone rests in her hand, still, and she realizes she doesn’t know what Wynonna did. She’s hoping she at least programmed her number into the device so that Nicole can call her later. Or text. Though she was just now getting into that whole trend.

The basketball player shakes her head, trying to clear up her headspace. Right now it’s all Wynonna. Wynonna. Wynonna. Wynonna. She pushes out a long breath of air between her almost closed lips and heads back to the gym with light steps. She’s walking on sunshine right now.

By the time she makes it into the gym, the game is still going and she’s got to sit through a good bit more of it. She sits in the stands and pulls out her phone, tapping around to the random applications and notices there is a new contact. Wynonna (Nice Ass) Earp. Her cheeks redden again and she knows without a shadow of a doubt now that Wynonna caught her staring when she ran into the bar.

Maybe she should change it to just Wynonna Earp in case someone gets a hold of her phone or her parents happen to snoop around. Or something. She starts to, but she just can’t bring herself to do it.

A few moments later a new text comes through.

(1) New Message - Wynonna (Nice Ass) Earp

The cellular almost falls out of her hand with her excitement. She opens it and grins.

Wynonna: For the record, I like girls, too. ;)

The short text causes Nicole to bite her lip to keep from grinning. She’s not ready to talk to her friends about this just yet. Then she notices there was another text in this thread that she apparently “sent” a little while ago.

Nicole: You’re the best kisser in the whole world, Wynonna. <3, Haughtstuff.

Nicole can’t stop the laugh that bubbles up in her throat when she reads the text Wynonna sent herself in order to get her number. She isn’t lying, Nicole thinks to herself.

“Alright, Useless… What are you grinning and laughing about? Spill. Was it--?” Max starts but Nicole shushes her.

“I got someone’s phone number. That’s it. Shut your mouth.” Nicole somewhat threatens.

Fiiiine! Party pooper.” Max leans in close so that she can whisper. “But you better tell me about this next time we’re alone.”

“There’s nothing to tell. I just got a phone number, Max.” She lies, but she’s not ready to share that they’ve kissed yet. This is something that she wants to keep for herself. For just a little while longer.

Now, she turns back to her phone.

Nicole: Hope you know… You made it kind of obvious to me.

Wynonna: Good. See ya later, Red.

Chapter Text

The day after they meet, Wynonna sends the first message.

Wynonna: Don’t worry, Haughtie. Last night wasn’t a dream. You really really kissed the hottest girl on the planet. ;)

Nicole is in her anatomy class when she feels her phone buzz in her pocket. She chances getting caught, hoping that it’s Wynonna. And it is. She flushes at the suggestive text. Wynonna may be teasing, but every word rings true.

Nicole: Wow. Are you a mindreader, Wynonna Earp? ;)

Wynonna: Definitely. Like right now you’re thinking… When am I gonna see Wynonna again? Right?

Nicole’s stomach flips and she both loves and hates the way Wynonna has her number -- in more ways than one. Because that is exactly what she’s thinking now.

Nicole: Damn. Right again. Do I get an answer?

The next time her phone buzzes, she sees that it’s a Multimedia Message. A picture? She opens it and smiles wide at the picture she sees. She wishes her phone had better quality because the pixelated image doesn’t do Wynonna justice, but it’ll do for now.

Wynonna is sitting with her jaw propped up in her hand, cutting her eyes at the camera that’s angled a little low and tongue sticking out a bit. She’s in a class. And that somehow shocks Nicole… She half-expected Wynonna to be ditching. It’s clear the picture was taken incognito. Nicole quickly saves it to her phone and reads the text that comes through a moment later

Wynonna: Now.

Nicole: Wow, I really did kiss the hottest girl on the planet. ;)

Her cheeks get even warmer as she flirts, easily confident over text.

Nicole: But will I get to kiss her again is what I’m thinking now.

Wynonna: We’ll just have to see, Haught. Gotta jet. Teach is giving me the stink eye.

Nicole: Don’t lose your phone. Ttyl.

---

They text every day. The first few days, they exchange a few flirty texts and a couple cute, completely innocent images of themselves. The fourth day -- Wednesday -- Nicole grows bold and sends Wynonna a good morning text, knowing that she won’t be up at 4am like the athlete is for her morning jog. Still, she sends it anyway. And thinks about it the whole damn time she jogs around her neighborhood.

Was that too clingy? Too eager? Maybe a text at four o’clock in the fucking morning wasn’t the best idea, Nicole. Stupid. God, she’s going to be so creeped out. Why did I do that? I wonder if I can unsend a text. Maybe I can try to look that up when I get back to the house and showered. God, I’m so stupid.

Nicole does try to search that once she’s drying her hair after her shower, but yields no results. The only way to keep Wynonna from seeing that text would be to delete it from Wynonna’s phone herself. And that ain’t happening.

Nicole has just slung her bag and her backpack over her shoulders when she feels her phone buzz in her back pocket. She fishes it out and opens their text thread. She re-reads what she sent for the thousandth time.

Nicole: Good morning, hottest girl on the planet. Had a dream last night with you in it.

Seriously, Nicole really needs to remember to leave her phone alone when she hasn’t even mustered the energy to get out of bed yet.

Wynonna: Ooooh… Good morning to me, for sure. Hmm… I hope it was a sexy dream.

Nicole’s phone just about falls out of her hands and she chokes from where she stands in the kitchen.

“Nicole? Are you okay?” Her mother’s voice calls from the other room.

“Y-yeah! I’m fine. Some orange juice just went down the wrong way!”

Holy shit. Play it cool, Haught. Flirt back. Say something… Good.

Nicole: Maybe. Too bad I’ve gotta drive to school now. Hopefully, I’ll remember it by the time I can text you again.

Wynonna: If it isn’t all you can think about all day, your dream wasn’t very accurate.

Nicole’s mouth falls open and her mouth runs dry. The dream… Hadn’t been a full on sex dream. Nicole would have been useless if she had -- If her mind had -- Fuck. Exactly what is happening right now. Nicole can’t help but picture Wynonna naked now. Underneath her. Nicole’s hands --

Buzz. Multimedia Message. Oh fucking hell.

The image shows Wynonna, still lying in bed. Her shirt is visible beside her head and she’s only visible from just beneath her collar bone to the top of her head. She’s not wearing a bra. Nicole swallows and stares. The way that Wynonna’s collarbones have pronounced dips, even with the low quality of the camera, sends heat directly between her legs. Wynonna’s biting at her bottom lip and Nicole’s pretty sure she’s dead.

Wynonna: Have a good day, Haught. Don’t think about me too much. ;)

Fat chance. Sure she hadn’t seen… anything… But Nicole’s never gotten anything like that before from anyone. All she can think about for the rest of the day is Wynonna biting her lip without a shirt on, lying in bed, staring at her.
School lets out and Nicole hasn’t had the chance to sneak a look at her phone until now as the final bell rings to signal the end of school. She sees she missed two texts from Wynonna one from around noon and one from about ten minutes ago.

Wynonna: Hope I didn’t throw you off your game too much. ;)

Wynonna: Alright, Haught. Radio silence is over. Give me the details about your dream.

Nicole grins. This morning, she’d worried over being too clingy. Now, she’s getting multiple texts from Wynonna hours apart. Something stirs in her stomach -- something warm and fond -- something she can’t seem to quell.

Nicole: Hey, sorry. Busy day at school. Didn’t mean to leave you hanging. Even though that’s exactly what you did to me this morning.

Wynonna: What ever do you mean, Haughtshot?

Nicole: The pic . You’re really gorgeous. Definitely threw me off.

Wynonna’s breath hitches when she reads the reply from Nicole. Gorgeous. She’s been called many things. But gorgeous feels so… intimate. It sends a shiver down her spine. Nicole could have said hot or sexy. Those were definitely what she was going for. But she calls her gorgeous instead.

Nicole: My dream, though… I didn’t actually have a sex dream. But it definitely involved a lot more kissing in my bedroom. Maybe I’ll get a continuation tonight.

Wynonna: That’s so PG-13. How damn boring. Maybe I can help get your imagination running a little better.

Nicole’s cheeks flush and the warmth in them spreads down her neck and settles in her belly.

Nicole: That picture of you was definitely a start. I’ve got practice now. I’ll text you after, if you want? So you can help me.

Wynonna: Don’t keep me waiting too long. I’m not as much fun when I’m cranky.

Nicole: Practice is over at 5. I’ll text you at 5:30.

Wynonna smiles to herself as she reads the reply. She wasn’t exactly looking for a specific time. Needing shit like that… So not her jam. Hell if one of the dudes she hangs out with were to give her a play-by-play, she’d probably cut him off right then and there. And still, she’s sitting here thinking about how damn adorable that redhead is for giving her a time. Making sure she knew when to expect her. Not something she’s used to. But something she could get used to.

Wynonna: You’re cute.

Nicole’s not sure what prompted that reply from Wynonna, but she’s not going to question it too much. If Wynonna thinks she’s cute, she’s just gonna let her.

Practice runs until 5:07pm and Nicole’s rushing to shower and get home in time to text Wynonna when she said she would. She makes it in plenty of time, but those extra seven minutes of practice had her wanting to pull her hair out. She pulls her phone out as she falls back onto her bed. It’s 5:27pm and she wonders if she should wait the three extra minutes so she doesn’t look to eager.

Screw that.

Nicole: You have my undivided attention, Earp.

Wynonna: Oooh, what am I gonna do with that?

Nicole: I’m lacking in imagination according to this really beautiful girl I’ve been talking to. Can you help?

Wynonna: I can. But will I?

Nicole: I hope so.

Wynonna: Tell me about your dream. Details.

Nicole feels the blush on her neck radiating again. She’s pretty sure they’re about to sext. Nicole had always found the idea of exchanging sexy text messages stupid. Until right this moment. All she can think about is what Wynonna might send her. What she might say. What image she might paint for her. Or what image she might send to her.

Nicole: We were kissing in my bed. I was on top of you. Touching you.

Wynonna: Touching me where?

Nicole: Anywhere I could get my hands.

Wynonna: Tell me, Red. Say it for me, please?

Nicole: Your neck. Under your shirt. Your boobs.

Wynonna: Did you kiss my neck? That drives me crazy.

Nicole: Yes. I really want to.

Wynonna: I want you to. Tell me what you like.

Nicole: What do you mean?

Wynonna: Where do you like to be kissed? Or touched? If I’m gonna help you I need to know a little more.

Nicole: I don’t know.

Wynonna: You’ve never?

Nicole: No.

The redhead buries her face into her pillow because she’s sure that she’s just ruined this whole thing. Why would Wynonna want to text her if she’s too lame to even have one experience. She lets out a soft groan of embarrassment into the pillowcase.

But her phone goes off a moment later.

Wynonna: Oooh… Well, next time we’re together, let’s find out.

Nicole: Really?

Wynonna: If you want to.

Nicole: I do.

Wynonna: Good. For now… Tell me what you think you might like. I know you’ve at least thought about it.

Nicole: I really like your voice. I think I’d like it if you said something in my ear. Or moaned.

Wynonna: Can you make me moan, Nicole?

In that moment, Nicole drops her phone onto her face. Just imagining Wynonna saying that in her ear… Jello. Nicole is jello.

Nicole: I’m going to try.

Wynonna: Kiss my neck. And bite it. Right here.

The image comes through a moment later -- Wynonna’s head turned to the side to expose her neck, causing the muscles to flex in a way that’s more attractive than it should be. All Nicole can think about now is how much she needs to bite Wynonna’s neck. Her beautiful, toned neck. Wynonna’s finger rests against the flesh where Nicole can only assume will elicit a moan.

Nicole: Okay. What else do you want me to do?

Wynonna: Too much to text.

Fuck…” Nicole breathes out at the implication.

Wynonna: But, I’ll tell you a couple more things. Just to help… My hips. I really like having my hips kissed and bitten. It kind of tickles, but it turns me on so much.

“Oh my god. Oh MY god. I’m going to die. This is how I die. I’m gonna die.” The younger girl is talking to herself, but she’s buzzing. Her whole body is alight with the new possibility of pressing her lips all over Wynonna’s body. Wherever Wynonna likes or wants her. Turning Wynonna on.

Wynonna: You alive, Red? ;)

Nicole: Barely. I really want to do all of this with you.

Wynonna: We will. We’ll put those soft lips of yours to good use. Don’t worry.

Nicole: Can I save the pictures you send me?

Wynonna: They’re for you, Red. You can use them however you want to.

They’re for you, Red. The pictures are for her. For her. For her to use. For her. Wow. How is it that that one phrase both made her want Wynonna more and made her feel fuzzy?

Nicole: When can you come over?

Wynonna: Eager…

Nicole: Sorry.

Wynonna: Don’t be. I like it. Saturday?

Nicole: I have a game, but you could stay over after?

Wynonna: Already having me sleep in your bed? Scandalous.

Nicole: You don’t have to.

Wynonna: We really have to work on your confidence, Haughtshot. I think it’s pretty damn clear that I want to.

Nicole: I just want you to know I don’t only like… want to kiss you and stuff. I think you’re really cool. but we don’t actually have to do any of that stuff. I just like hanging out with you.

Wynonna’s never had that before. Never. This redhead basketball chick from that other school is gonna be the death of her. She’s too considerate for her own good and it makes Wynonna feel things she doesn’t need to fucking feel. She doesn’t do relationships.

Wynonna: You better fucking kiss me, Red.

Nicole: Yes ma’am.

Wynonna: I gotta go for now. I’ll see you Saturday. Hope you’ll tell me about a better dream in the morning.

Nicole: I hope so, too. Ttyl.

Wynonna: Soon, Red. Soon.

 

_____

 

October 1, 2015

Nicole barely carries all of her boxes into the house she’s just bought before she locks the doors and heads into town. The boxes can wait. Seeing if Wynonna is there somewhere can’t. Not anymore. 6 years.

On her way into the main part of town, she passes Purgatory High. The parking lot where she shared her first kiss with Wynonna remains the same. Just a couple more cracks in the pavement. The lines look a little faded. Like the both of them.

Nicole can remember with undeniable clarity how high she felt that day with Wynonna on that truck bed. Now, the light in her chest has dimmed a bit. Wynonna’s absence took something she had yet to replace in all this time. She hopes she finds it again when she finds Wynonna. When she finds Wynonna.

She’s not even sure where she’s headed. She knows the town. But she doesn’t know where Wynonna lived… or lives . Where she works. Where she hangs out. None of that. The truck slams to a stop when Nicole sees the truck.

The truck. Wynonna’s truck. Where it began. Parked at Shorty’s Saloon. The corners of her lips tug up and she thinks. Typical.

With the truck parked nearby, Nicole stops herself and kills the engine. She checks herself in the rearview mirror. She hadn’t put much effort into her appearance, just some chapstick. Her fingers run through her long red hair and she takes in a sharp breath. “You can do this, Haughtstuff.” She calls herself for the first time in years. Something only Wynonna could ever call her without annoying her.

It’s now or never. She thinks as she steps out of the truck and heads into the bar. It’s the middle of the day, so there are only a few people there. She spots a young bartender and feels a spark of familiarity despite the fact that she’d never seen this girl before.

“Waverly Earp! What have I told you about these damn taps?”

Earp. Her sister. Nicole had never met her. Only heard stories. Both from Wynonna and others who had tried to warn her about Wynonna. Nicole only knew that… That Wynonna thought leaving Waverly alone was going to give the younger girl some kind of better life. Nicole can speak from experience that a Wynonna-less life is anything but good, and definitely not better.

“Sorry, Gus!” The sweet voice calls back to the older woman who is soaked in liquid from what Nicole assumes is a faulty beer tap. The short girl grins to herself and shakes her head as she wipes off the bar.

“Waverly Earp?” Nicole asks,  her voice not as sure as it usually was these days. She almost feels like she’s gone back in time to being 16, unsure of everything. The redhead walks up to the bar where the younger Earp stands.

“Who’s asking?” Waverly replies with an infectious smile, way more open than Wynonna had been all those years ago.

“Oh, I- I’m Nicole Haught.” She pauses like that should mean something to Waverly.

Something dawns on the girl and she throws back her head in a slow nod. “Oohhhhhh! Right!” Nicole’s eyes sparkle for a moment. “The new deputy!” Nicole’s heart drops into her gut. Not what she had been hoping.

Waverly’s eyebrows pull together, noticing the change in the redhead’s expression. “Are you not the new deputy?”

“Wh-- Oh no, I am! I was just um--” Nicole stammers, shaking her head and clearing her throat. “Is your sister around?”

“My sister?” The confusion on Waverly’s face almost makes Nicole feel insane for asking. Maybe there were more Earps in Purgatory than she had thought. “Wynonna?”

Now, Nicole is pretty sure that Waverly is going to haul off and slap her for asking.

“I, uh, yeah I-- I knew her in high school. I went to-- Another school.” Nicole tells her truthfully.

“Wynonna had friends at other schools?” Waverly looks at Nicole as if she’s sprouted another head or wings.  

“Y-yeah. We were… Good friends.” Friends. They weren’t just friends. Not really. Not… They were… Nicole shakes her head.

“Huh.” Waverly seems to accept this answer finally. “And you’re a cop?” That makes Waverly snort. “Wynonna doesn’t mix so well with cops. You had to know that.”

“Well, I’m not gonna arrest her or anything.” Nicole jokes with a half smile “Is she here?”

“Nope!” Waverly says, popping the p of her word pretty hard. Bitterness evident in the one syllable. “Hasn’t been in years. Not even for birthdays or Christmas or... anything.”

Birthdays. Nicole had just missed Wynonna’s by a little less than a month.

“I called and left her a voicemail on her birthday. She hasn’t called back. Probably didn’t even get my call. She changes numbers all the time.” That explains why Nicole still fails to track her down ever, despite her abusing her position as a cop to attempt to track the elder Earp down.

“Oh.” Nicole finally mutters, realizing that she hadn’t said anything in a minute or so. It still feels like a swift kick in the gut every time she thinks she’s this close to finding Wynonna and never does.

Waverly is eyeing her suspiciously. Her disappointment must be telling. “You and Nonna were close?”

Inseparable. I’d follow her to the end of the world. She still means everything to me. Can I have her supposed number? Please, I just want to talk to her.

“Uh. You could say that, I guess.” Nicole’s regaining her bearings finally. If Wynonna isn’t there, there’s no need in being nervous anymore. “She used to come to my basketball games a lot.”

Waverly fully laughs now, throwing her head back and slamming her hand onto the bar top. This attracts the eyes of the few patrons in the bar and Nicole looks around a bit and chuckles nervously.

A few seconds pass and Waverly finally stops laughing. “Wait--” Waverly leans forward, eyes the size of saucers. “You’re serious!? Wynonna?! Wynonna, my sister? Dark hair, blue eyes? At your basketball games? Woooow. You must have been close if she endured that for you.”

I’m not a fan of basketball at all. Something caught my eye. Wynonna’s voice rings in her ears. Oh yeah.

“Yeah…” Nicole replies wistfully. She is staring down at her own hands and doesn’t see that Waverly notices just how much Wynonna’s absence seems to sadden her.

“I think we might be the only two people in all of Purgatory that wishes Wynonna would come back,” Waverly laughs humorlessly. “Most people here tell me how lucky I am every day that Wynonna skipped town. Doesn’t feel that way.”

Nicole finally looks up at Waverly and can see that even if Wynonna thought she was doing her sister a favor, Waverly missed her more than anything. She could relate. Though, Wynonna didn’t disappear from Nicole on purpose. At least not at first, anyway. Now, the cop isn’t so sure.

“When’s the last time you saw her?” Nicole asks.

“About two years ago, but it was only for a second. The last time I really spent any time with her was about five years ago, I guess. She left right after she--” Waverly almost says something and Nicole is on the edge of her barstool, but the younger Earp stops. “Right after she finished high school. She told me someone was waiting for her. Said she would see me soon. I didn’t hear from her for almost a year and I didn’t see her again for three.”

Nicole can tell that Waverly is withholding a lot more than she’s sharing. The sting of hearing Wynonna had someone waiting for her… That she’d left with someone and didn’t come back for three years, then didn’t stick around even then. Nicole hadn’t felt the deep emptiness in her chest since the day Wynonna disappeared.

“So, I shouldn’t hold my breath for a reunion is what you’re tellin’ me?” Nicole tries to joke.

“Sorry, Officer Haught.”

“You can just call me Nicole. I best be goin’, though. First day at work’s tomorrow. I’ll see you around, Waverly.”

“Don’t be a stranger, Nicole!” Waverly gives her a smile that’s almost too sweet and it makes Nicole ache. The way her smile reaches her eyes reminds Nicole too much of Wynonna. They favor one another just enough. Waverly couldn’t have been much older than Wynonna was the last time Nicole saw her.

Nicole feels her chest tightening and her lungs trying to pull in breaths she can’t take. So, she leaves without another word.

 

---

 

Nicole’s time in Purgatory for the next eleven months was filled with stories of Wynonna’s troublesome antics and reviewing her juvenile record which was supposed to be sealed away years ago but Nedley had kept it for some reason. Wynonna sure was one hell of a woman. Nicole smiled fondly any time she heard stories of her no matter what light the storyteller was painting the Earp in.

The redhead did her best to prove herself in her role of rookie cop from out of town. She established arms-length acquaintanceships with Chrissy Nedley, the Sheriff’s daughter, and Waverly Earp, the long-lost high school sweetheart’s sister. Granted, she had grown closer to Waverly than she had intended. Connecting over their shared love of Wynonna and Nicole hanging on every new piece of Wynonna Waverly could share with her.

Life in Purgatory was getting pretty solid. Whatever time she needed to bide, it wouldn’t be so bad biding it here until Wynonna finally showed up. The police officer had begun to wonder if she should hold her breath for another decade.

And then tragedy struck the Earp/McCready clan. Curtis, Waverly and Wynonna’s uncle, died. Was killed. Brutally. Nicole had been there with Nedley when they found him. Decapitated. Nicole had never seen anything like it and she had almost gotten sick. She probably would have if it hadn’t been for Nedley distracting her and keeping her busy.

A few days later, there would be a funeral on the McCready land with a reception following to celebrate Curtis’s life.

 

---

 

September 12, 2016

 

Curtis McCready is being laid to rest today. Waverly Earp is handling it better than a young girl should. Gus McCready is holding it together just barely, but her appearance is strong. Randy Nedley is torn up and closed off. Nicole Haught is observing from afar, her mind wandering to Wynonna.

Nicole recalls everything Wynonna had ever said about the man. He was kind, understanding. He wasn’t judgmental like the rest of “this hellhole.” Curtis was always Wynonna’s favorite relative aside from Waverly. Well, it was the only relative that she’d ever really talked aside from Waverly in all honesty. And a few throwaway comments about her parents and Willa here and there. Nothing about Gus ever.

Nicole wonders if Wynonna knows Curtis is dead.

“The nerve of that damn girl! Showin’ up here now .” Sheriff Nedley’s voice reaches Nicole’s ears as she looks up from the computer she had been staring at.

“Well, Sheriff, he was her uncle, too…”

“That girl never gave a damn about anyone but herself. It’s a wonder she cared enough to come for this.”

A hot, prickling sensation spreads to every single inch of Nicole’s body. Her hands begin to shake and she doesn’t realize that she’s holding her breath.

Wynonna’s back. It’s her birthday, she remembers for the fourth time today. Why hadn’t Waverly told Nicole that Wynonna was back? Did Waverly know Wynonna was back? She couldn’t have been back for long. News spread in Purgatory quicker than a wildfire in the dry heat of summer. Especially regarding her. They still talked about her and she had been gone for years now.

Wynonna’s here. Nicole still hasn’t realized that her lungs are being deprived of oxygen. All she can think about is what she’s going to say. How do you even approach someone you haven’t seen for six years? Someone that you thought would find you years ago, but has been living her life up elsewhere? Would Wynonna even want to hear from her?

“Haught!”

Finally, Nicole jolts back into the real world and shakes her head, sucking in a sharp breath as her eyes find Sheriff. “Sorry, sir. I guess I was daydreamin’.”

“You look like you’re gonna be sick, Officer Haught. You alright?”

“I-” She takes another long breath and nods. “I’ll be fine, sir. Sorry, sir.”

“Have you heard then?”

“Heard what?” Nicole asks, truly puzzled.

“Wynonna Earp is back in Purgatory. You were friends way back when, right?”

Nicole swallows and tightens her jaw. Every time someone used that damn word to describe them, it was a lash straight to her chest. “Yes, sir. I haven’t seen her in--”

“Six years. I know, Haught. I do pay attention when you speak. I’d give her a day with her family before you went for a reunion. But, Officer Haught, that girl… She’s trouble.”

“She’s a grown woman.” Nicole snaps coldly before she can stop herself. After a moment, she realizes what she’s done. “With all due respect, sir, I just don’t think we should be calling her that girl.

“Fine. That woman … She’s still trouble. So don’t get mixed up with her if you want to keep your nose clean.”

At that, the young deputy sees red. She clenches her jaw yet again and somehow wills herself not to snap at Nedley this time. She knows the man is only looking out for her, but he clearly doesn’t know Wynonna like she does… did. “I’ll keep that in mind, sir.”

Nedley seems to notice the tension in her face and decides to make his exit. Nicole sags as he walks away, falling back against her chair and letting out another breath. Every bone in her body aches with the desire to run and find her and tell her all of the things she’s endured over the last six years. To give her --

Nedley’s right about that, though. Her uncle’s funeral is today. She’s got enough on her plate for now.

 

“Happy birthday, Wynonna,” Nicole whispers to herself. Wynonna just couldn’t catch a break.

 

---

 

Wynonna’s twenty-seventh birthday is a big fucking catastrophe to put it lightly. It starts with her fighting a -- It starts with her fighting. Next stop, funeral. Jam-packed with judgment and rudeness from Aunt Gus. Thanks, Gus. You’re a real peach. Did it stop there? Heavens no! Next up? Getting shot at by her little sister for trying to pump her little sister’s boyfriend for information. Just as she thinks her day is going to level, some douche with a badge approaches her about all kinds of bullshit.

So on it goes… More shit from Gus. Gotta get the magic gun. Gotta run into another douche with a badge. Hey Nedley. Then, her day seems to take a spring up when she meets mystery western old timey cowboy man, but that can’t last too long because now Gus is dying and Waverly’s gone and ---

Long story short, it was a shit day in the shittiest town that she had been too eager to leave. Hey, but at least she’s the heir with a magic gun and has to kill a bunch of revenants, right? What else could happen?

The next day, she’s blackmailed by douche with a badge number one and she’s apart of some black badge bullshit now. Yippee!

“Wynonna?” Waverly’s voice is soft as she approaches Wynonna once Dolls has pulled away from Gus’s place. She finds her in the kitchen clutching a tiny porcelain mug. It only takes her about two seconds to decide that whatever was in there was most likely alcoholic.

“What is it, baby girl?” Wynonna asks, tired.

“It’s kind of been a whole shit storm since you got back, but I have to tell you something.” Waverly mentions, plucking an apple out of the bowl of fruit sitting on the counter and examining it before taking a bite. Wynonna nods her head slowly and looks at her expectedly.

“Probably not a huge deal or anything, it’s just an old friend of yours is in town. Kinda permanently and well — she talks about you a lot and I think it might be good for you to maybe go see her. From the way she talks about how good of friends you were. You could use a friend right now.”

Wynonna’s face twists in confusion and a humorless laugh escapes her lips. “Waves, please..I didn’t —— don’t — have friends. Everyone hates me. You know that.”

“Well, Nicole definitely seems to think you two were close. And she doesn’t seem to hate you. Not even a little.” Waverly leans forward, resting her elbows on the counter. She takes another bite of her apple, shrugging her shoulders.

Wynonna’s face shifts and she straightens up. There is a glimmer of hope in her eyes and her mouth falls open. Waverly’s lips are struggling not to tug into a smile at seeing her sister’s reaction. She hadn’t seen a glimmer like this in Wynonna’s eyes in...well, ever.

“Nicole?” Wynonna finally asks, voice soft. She tries to push her hope down, bury it the way she’d done all those years ago. “Nicole.. who?” It couldn’t be. There’s no way in hell that Waverly is talking about--

“Haught.” Waverly answers. “Ring a bell?” Wynonna’s heart stops still. She takes a deep breath and nods a little, turning slightly away from Waverly so that she can’t see the tears that brim in her eyes. “Were you two as close of friends as she lets on?” Waverly’s voice cuts through, and Wynonna’s whole body goes rigid. She wonders exactly what Nicole’s told Waverly. The fact that Waverly keeps using the word friends stings. All her defenses shoot up in that moment. “I mean, I guess so.” Wynonna’s flippancy returns as she avoids Waverly’s gaze. “You said she’s here kinda permanently. What’s her gig?”

“She’s one of Nedley’s deputies.”

“Well that’s a swift kick to the box. She’s a cop now.” Wynonna’s lips curl in a smile that indicates no happiness with this new information and she downs what’s left in her cup.

“Look, Nonna. Just give her a chance? Even if you weren’t as close to her as she thinks you were. She talks about you a lot. She really misses you and it’s not like it’d hurt either of you to have a friend.  Be at Shorty’s with me in the morning. She usually stops by for a cappuccino on her way to work.”

Oh shit. It hits her. Work. Nicole is one of Nedley’s deputies. Now, Wynonna is one of Dolls’ deputies. They’re going to be working in the same building day in and day out.

“Goddamnit, I’m gonna have to work with her,” Wynonna mutters under her breath, smacking her forehead. Waverly scrunches up her face in confusion.

“Wynonna. Come on . Working with her will not be that bad. Jeez, I can’t believe this girl thought you were friends.” She rolls her eyes.

Wynonna walks past her and out of the kitchen groaning.  Waverly is left alone in the kitchen. She takes another bite of her apple, shaking her head in contemplation. “And everyone says I’m dramatic,” She mumbles, chewing loudly. 

 

“I heard that! You are. And I can fucking hear you chewing.” Wynonna shouts from the next room. Waverly scowls, looking disapprovingly down at her apple.

 

__

 

September 13, 2016

 

Wynonna sits at the bar, blinking sort of sleepily as she sips black coffee from a mug with both hands. It was nine in the morning, which was way too early for Wynonna, especially after a day like yesterday. But despite the fact, she’d been up and was getting ready when Waverly plowed into her room to wake her. Probably somewhat to do with the fact that she couldn’t quite sleep the night before. Too many thoughts. And they were all about a certain redhead.

She hadn’t seen Nicole in six years and now that she's about to, she can't get herself under control. Any minute now she could walk into the bar. Wynonna feels like she’s trembling from the inside just thinking about it. The memories she had of her, of the two of them together, were as vivid as ever in her mind but she knew that nothing would compare to seeing Nicole in person again. How would she look now that she was all grown up?

Wynonna gets her answer quicker than she thought she would. The door hinges creak every so slightly as the officer steps into the bar. Wynonna doesn’t turn around, doesn’t even know that it’s her for sure but she hears the footfall on the old floorboards coming towards her and she knows. Somehow, she knows. She takes a deep breath, closing her eyes, and then releasing it. When she opens them again, Nicole is standing to her right.

There’s a couple of boxes on the stool between them, so Nicole doesn’t even notice her at first and it gives Wynonna the chance to take in the sight of her unseen for a moment. The older woman feels her chest seize up, her breath catching somewhere in there. Nicole takes off her stetson and lays it on the counter, and Wynonna tries to figure out how to breathe again, how to do anything. She’s beautiful. God, she’s so beautiful. Not much had changed in that respect, only the kind of beautiful she used to be had matured perfectly and the tall, lanky basketball player Wynonna knew all those years ago had become this strong, sculpted goddess. She could just tell she was strong, by the way her muscles rippled under her shirt, by the look of the veins in her hands —— god damn, those hands. Wynonna found herself biting her lip and forces herself to look back up at her face. As if that’s going to help.

She knows she should just speak up, just say something but her voice feels trapped in her throat. But she has to. She downs the rest of the coffee from her cup and takes a moment just to breathe one more time before she looks Nicole’s way and speaks.

“Hey, Officer. Looking for an Earp? I think she’s in the back.”

In that moment, Nicole’s whole world feels like it’s going in slow motion. That voice hits her ears and immediately she’s looking to her left for the source. And she finds it. It’s her. It’s really her. Her jaw drops slightly and her eyebrows lift at the sight of her. She was standing right next to her all this time ––– okay, it’d only been like 2 minutes, but still –– there she was. Almost 10 years and finally... finally.

“Wynonna,” She breathes, almost like she doesn’t believe it and she almost doesn’t. How could it be? She’d spent so much time looking, waiting, wondering...she never thought that anything would come of it. 

Wynonna can’t help the smile that tugs at her lips when her name falls from Nicole’s lips. It sounds the same as it always did and it makes her chest feel like it’s caving in. God, she didn’t realize how badly she’d been aching to hear that. She hides it well enough, but the smile reaches her eyes and they soften probably too much. too soon. She also can’t help but notice the every perfect feature of Nicole’s face. Those fucking eyes –– her lips, her freckle  –– all of it, so perfect and so missed. Fuck, she’d missed her.

“It’s me, Haught.” She smirks, dipping her head in a single nod towards her. “It’s been ––”

“Way too damn long, Earp.” Nicole finishes, probably too quickly. But it makes Wynonna laugh. Really laugh. And the sound fills not only Nicole’s ears, but her chest with a soothing warmth she hadn’t felt in only god knows when.

“Come sit down and tell me about how you ended back up in this shithole town while we wait for my baby sister to make your coffee.” Wynonna pats the seat on the other side of her, exuding way more confidence than she feels. She still feels like she’s trembling from the inside, like she might break down and cry at any minute. But she refuses to let that happen, she holds it together. Nicole is in the seat almost before she can finish her sentence, hands in her lap looking at Wynonna, still almost like she’s in awe. And she is. She so is.

“Well, I don’t have that much time before I have to be at work but I actually –– I requested to come here. I mean, sort of. Nedley asked for me and so did another Sheriff in a town a few hours from here, but I had to choose Purgatory. Just –– needed something familiar, I guess.”

And I thought maybe you’d be here and I’d finally get to tell you all the things I never got to, she thinks.

Just then, Waverly comes out with Nicole’s coffee in her hand. “Here, for when Nicole gets he–– Oh, Nicole! Hi, wow look at that she’s here already!” Waverly laughs, looking right at Wynonna.

“Yeah, would you look at that!” Wynonna says, faking a smile and tilting her head for her sister. Nicole looks between the sisters, taking a sip of her coffee and grins. 

“I can definitely see the resemblance,” She smirks, her eyes staying on Wynonna.

 

The brunette looks back at her, and she hates the flutter she gets every time she looks into her eyes. So she looks down and at her gun belt instead. “You’re a cop ––” she states matter of factly, shaking her head. “Really did me dirty.” She kids, shaking her head.

Nicole laughs, “Okay, you got me ––” she looks down and points towards the extra-long gun taking up residency in Wynonna’s boot for the time being, “And you’re ––”

Wynonna looks down. “Black badge special deputy...sounds a lot fancier than purgatory sheriff’s deputy, I’ll tell ya that. So, I think I’ve got you beat, Red.”

Nicole and Wynonna both blush at the nickname and have to look away from one another. Waverly’s eyes travel back and forth between the both of them for a moment, and something clicks in her head.

She smirks devilishly and turns away, “I’ll be in the back getting some things ready if either of you need anything, yeah?” she tries to sound normal as she calls to them over her shoulder.

“Yeah, yeah,” Wynonna says, pouring more coffee into her once empty mug. They’re both silent for a bit too long, and Wynonna anticipates the next question before it comes.

“Wynonna, I ––– what happened? You know, back then...where’d you go? Why’d you leave?” Nicole’s voice is softer, hesitant. It almost trembles, and she wills herself not to cry.

Wynonna laughs, but there’s no humour in the sound. The older woman bites down on her lip, swirling her finger around the opening of the mug and shaking her head slightly.

“That’s a long, long story, Haught.” 

“Well I’m not goin’ anywhere. I’ve got time.”

Wynonna’s chest aches in a way that she can’t tell if it’s good or bad. Nicole deserves to know. Nicole would have never left her, wouldn’t leave her now. She knows that. Yet she still lets her next words leave her mouth.

“Yeah? Well, can’t say the same for myself. Probably won’t stick around too long.” She shrugs, taking a sip of her coffee. She never meets Nicole’s eyes. And it’s a good thing she doesn’t because she doesn’t want to see the disappointment on Nicole’s face. And it’s there, boy is it there.

“Oh –– right. ‘Course. I guess that just means I gotta make the most of you being here, then.”

She stands, and Wynonna looks up at her, surprised. Well, not really. It’s very Nicole of her to say that. She’s just gotta get used to things actually being Nicole again. She never thought she’d ever get the chance to do that.

“I’ll count on it.” Wynonna smirks.

Nicole places her stetson back atop her long, plaited red hair and tips the brim of the hat to Wynonna before picking up her drink. 

“I’ve gotta get goin’ but –– I’ll see you around, yeah?” She asks, eyes soft and wide. Hope. Love.  

“Yeah, we –– we’re gonna be working in the same building.” She smiles, cocking an eyebrow at her. “So, you’ll get more than your fair share of seeing me around.”

Nicole grins, “Lucky me... I’ll see you, Wynonna.. And hey, don’t –– run off without saying goodbye again, alright?”

Wynonna just nods softly, raising her hand in a small wave as Nicole heads out the door. She’s not prepared for the way she feels when Nicole isn’t sitting next to her anymore. Like something’s missing all over again. The heir takes a long, shaky breath and turns back around in her chair.

She rests her elbows on the counter top and drops her face into her hands. When she opens her eyes, she notices a card lying facedown on the bar. Wynonna furrows her eyebrows and reaches for it, flipping it over. She immediately smirks, which blooms into a full smile. Nicole left her business card conveniently there which –– completely by chance -– happens to have her number on it.

“Haught damn, Nic.” she mutters under her breath, studying the card.

 

Chapter Text

November 23, 2007 - 

Nicole jolts awake at the sound of her alarm. She’s never been so upset to wake up in her life. Wynonna’s help from the previous night had produced a much more elaborate, vivid dream. The cool air in her room makes her shiver as the thin layer of sweat over her body begins to dry.

“Jesus, Wynonna.” She gasps out in the darkness. If Dream Wynonna leaves her this much of a mess, she can only imagine what Real Wynonna will do to her.

And she can’t wait.

The good morning text from yesterday ended up being the best decision she could have made, so she sends another this morning.

Nicole: Good morning, Wynonna. I did have a better dream. But I think I just want to tell you about it Saturday. ;)

Wynonna’s response comes much later as Nicole’s heading out again.

Wynonna: Oh, I’ve made a tease out of you already. I’m such a great influence. I think I’d rather you just show me Saturday.

Nicole: Why not both?

Wynonna: Oooh, there’s the Haughtshot that winked at me from the court. Can’t wait.

Wynonna: Now go to school, Red. I’ll talk to you later.

The school day drags on, but the sun seems to be shining a little bit brighter than it ever has. She’s not sure if there are no clouds in the sky or if the sunshine is purely a mental high from talking to a pretty girl. No. A breathtakingly beautiful girl. Are they talking? Or are they just talking?

Part of her wants to ask Max. The louder part of her screams at her to keep Wynonna to herself for as long as she possibly can. To savor this. The moments they have with each other with no outside opinions, no interference.

Maybe they’ll talk about it Saturday.

By the time the final bell rings, she pulls out her phone and her inbox is empty. She frowns a little, but she never did text Wynonna back from this morning. So she taps out a quick message.

Nicole: Heading into practice. Hope you had a good day. Talk later?

Ten minutes pass and no reply comes through. Her heart sinks. She realizes she’s probably thinking too much into things, but something feels off that she can’t pinpoint. She’s late for practice by the time she finally puts her phone away.

Practice runs late again. This time by thirty minutes. She checks her phone as soon as she can. Nothing. The redhead worries her lip and wonders if Wynonna’s okay. Or if the thrill of their conversation dimmed so quickly.

She takes longer in the shower than she would have if Wynonna had been talking to her. It hardly distracts her. It really just spurs on a train of self-deprecating thoughts.

Of course, you’re more into her. Have you seen yourself? She probably got freaked out by all the clingy ass texts you sent. Bet she’s got your number blocked now, you creep. You finally meet an amazing girl and you scare her away within the week. Nice going.

All of those thoughts don’t stop her from checking her phone again. Still nothing.

“Wynonna, where are you?” She whispers to the screen of her phone.

She’s slinging her bag into the bed of her truck when a voice calls out her name.

“Haughtshot!”

Wynonna.

Nicole turns on her heel a little too quickly and has to grab a hold of the truck to keep herself from tipping over.

“Wynonna!” The surprise in her voice rivals the excitement and a moment later her knees are threatening to give when Wynonna smirks at her, knowing.

“Y’know… I really thought that yellow beetle over there would be your ride,” Earp teases.

“What?! Gross! Take that back.” Pure offense takes over her expression.

“Oooh. Struck a nerve. Who knew you were so fragile?”

“Wha-- I’m not! I--” The little quirk of the brunette’s eyebrow makes Nicole suddenly and painfully aware of how fragile she actually sounds over this. “Shut up, Earp.”

“Mmm. Does your bite match your bark?”

How does she make everything sound like pure sex? Oh! Because she is pure sex. Right.

The younger girl throws her head off to the side as she laughs softly. When her head turns back towards Wynonna, she’s still smiling a smile that reaches her eyes and looks straight into the crystal blue irises of the shorter girl.

“To what do I owe this extremely pleasant surprise, Wynonna?”

Wynonna shrugs. “I was in the neighborhood. But you really like to keep a girl waiting, don’t you? It’s past six. Thought you said practice was out at five yesterday.”

“You’ve been here a whole hour?!”

“Hardly, Haught. Just about thirty minutes or so. I don’t wait an hour for anything. Hell, you’re lucky I waited longer than five minutes.” Wynonna states dryly.

“If you’d have let me know you were coming, I maybe woulda put a little hustle behind it.”

“Where’s the fun in that?” Wynonna steps closer to Nicole now and leans against the truck a few inches away from the basketball player. “Plus I left my phone at home. Got distracted and forgot about it.”

Oh thank god. And thank god I didn’t send a million texts asking where she was like a psychopath.

“Do you wanna go grab a bite to eat? I’m starving. I need to recharge after practice.”

“Sorry, Haught. Left my money at home, too.”

“Don’t worry about it. My treat.”

“Nah, you really don’t need to do that.”

“I know. But I want to. If that’s okay.” Nicole looks down at the pavement and kicks at a little piece of loose gravel that she spots, nervous at admitting that.

“Well I’m not gonna turn down free food again. I can be an expensive date, y’know. Pick the place wisely, Haught.”

Nicole almost faints. Date. Wynonna says it so casually. So… fleeting. Nic’s pretty certain that she didn’t mean it like a date date, but her heart still threatens to break her chest. Her cheeks are just the slightest bit flushed when she grins.

“Don’t worry about that, Earp. I got you. C’mon.”

The look Wynonna gives Nicole has a softness at the edges of her hard eyes. Nicole can’t help but return the gaze, trying to convey the constantly growing affection she holds tightly in her chest. For just a moment, they just look.

Some sound in the distance startles Nicole and she has to look away, smiling. Wynonna laughs a soft laugh -- something that has quickly become Nicole’s new favorite sound.

Nicole sees Wynonna walk to the other side of the truck and takes a moment to inhale sharply, reestablishing her bearings. They step into the cab at the same time. Nicole’s seatbelt clicks into place but Wynonna just props her leg up on the bench and scoots closer to Nicole.

Wynonna smells… Like… Something indescribable. Something that makes Nicole feel more alive. Something Nicole never wants to go without. It completely overwhelms her.

“Red!”

Nicole shakes her head and looks ahead, finally turning the car on so that they can get going.

“Are we gonna sit in the truck all day? Because if so, we’re gonna need to drive it somewhere a little more private.”

Nicole blushes to the tips of her ears. “Sorry, I -- I’m just happy to see you is all.”

Once again, hard, blue eyes soften as they meet brown. Wynonna licks her lips and there are so many things on the tip of her tongue. She almost says something. Instead, the brunette shakes her head and scoots even closer until their shoulders are touching. A beat. “Me too, Haughtshot.”

The moment Nicole is driving onto the main road, Wynonna reaches out and grabs Nicole’s arm and slings it around her shoulders so that she can snuggle in close to her. They don’t speak on the way to the restaurant, but it’s comfortable. Nicole’s thumb on Wynonna’s arm absentmindedly caresses back and forth.

Nicole is in her athletic wear, so she decides taking Wynonna somewhere nice isn’t quite right and takes her to the local pizza place instead. Not being nice doesn’t stop it from being the best pizza she’s ever had.

“Mmm… Pizza… A girl after my own heart.” Wynonna’s voice always seems to be dripping sex.

“You’ll never wanna eat any other pizza again,” Nicole manages to reply without much of a stutter despite the fact that she wants to kiss the sense out of Wynonna.

Once they’re seated across from one another, Nicole is the first to speak again.

“So, why were you out this way, Wynonna?”

Wynonna avoids looking at Nicole, finding the napkin on the table in front of her and picking at it with her fingers. “Just in the neighborhood.”

Nicole’s gut twists because she can see there is something else that Wynonna won’t tell her. She wants to know, but she won’t push. She can’t push. All she knows is she misses Wynonna’s dimples.

“So you drove all the way out here just for me and you don’t wanna admit it?” Nicole throws at her with a quirk of her eyebrow.

Wynonna finally looks up at her, an eyebrow going up and her lips turning just slightly. “In your dreams, Haught… Actually, I think there’s still a dream you haven’t told me about.”

The basketball player swallows and bites at her lip, smirking a moment later. “We already agreed on that for Saturday. I wouldn’t want to ruin our plans.”

“Making me wait?” Wynonna pouts. “Tease.”

“I learned from the best.”

The server interrupts them a moment later and takes their order. Nicole grins as Wynonna orders buffalo chicken pizza and tells the server not to skimp out on the buffalo sauce and bring extra ranch.

They fall into a comfortable rapport. Nicole learns that Wynonna thinks bacon donuts were created specifically for her, that Wynonna despises math but loves to read (even if she’s really slow at it), and she learns that Wynonna stares when she thinks Nicole isn’t paying attention.

Nicole stares even when she knows she’s going to get caught because she can’t help herself. It doesn’t seem to bother Wynonna, thankfully, because the redhead wouldn’t be able to control it even if she tried her best.

As they finish their meal, Wynonna tells Nicole that the pizza was damn good and she might have ruined her. That’s totally okay in Nicole’s eyes because that means more pizza dates…. Not dates…. With Wynonna.

“So, Haught. Take me somewhere.”

“Like where?”

“Somewhere without anybody else around.”

Nicole looks deep into those blue eyes and searches again. There is still something there that Wynonna isn’t sharing yet. Something that she’s not sure she’s going to share with her. Not now and maybe not ever. And that’s okay. Because Nicole has this overwhelming need -- an ache in her chest -- to take Wynonna somewhere the shorter woman can just be. And she has the perfect place.

The brown-eyed girl pays their ticket and the two of them are back in the truck with Wynonna snuggled into Nicole’s side and Nicole’s arm around her once again as they ride. Nicole pulls off onto a path that’s barely noticeable. There have been rare times when someone else was out in the clearing, but Nicole crossed her fingers that now wouldn’t be one of those times.

And it wasn’t.

She pulls her truck into a small clearing and puts it in park before opening her door and taking Wynonna’s hand as they exit out of the same side.

“It’s already getting dark so that means the stars will be out soon.” Nicole explains as she walks around to the back of her truck and lets the tailgate down so that they can both climb up. Nicole walks back to the cab of her truck, almost sliding down as she sits with her back propped against it.

Wynonna fills the spot beside her and looks around, taking in the serenity of this little spot. It’s quiet and normally, the Earp’s thoughts would run wild and put her on edge. They almost threaten to until Nicole reaches out and puts her arm around her once more.

All of the raging thoughts quiet and Wynonna allows herself, for once, to fall into a peaceful silence. Something she rarely gets to experience.

“How’d you learn about this place?” Wynonna’s voice sounds different, softer. Nicole smiles softly.

“My dad used to bring me out here when I was little to look at the constellations. No city lights so you can see the stars better.”

“Those don’t make sense to me.” Wynonna admits.

“The constellations?” Nicole asks gently.

“Mhmm. I was never able to learn ‘em. They don’t look like what they’re supposed to be.”

Nicole panics for a split moment. Wynonna thinks this is stupid. Of course, she does, you geek. Who wants to go look at constellations with someone they like?

“Maybe if I had a better teacher.” Wynonna continues, nudging Nicole with her elbow.

“I could try?”

“Hmm.” And it sounds like a hum of agreement.

They don’t talk much until the night falls pitch black. Nicole searches the sky and finds a formation she recognizes. “Here… You see those four stars that kind of make a weird box?”

Wynonna shifts where Nicole’s arm is extended. “Where?”

“Right there. That really bright one? And then go a little this way and there’s a less bright one but still brighter than the others…” Nicole tries to guide Wynonna but the older woman huffs, frustrated.

Nicole spreads her legs and pats the space between them. “Here sit here so that we’re looking from the same spot.”

Wynonna’s brief laugh is a low sound that makes Nicole shiver. “Smooth, Red. Very smooth.”

The athlete opens her mouth to defend herself but Wynonna is shifting to the requested spot before the words can actually form in her mind. The brunette settles back into Nicole and pulls Nicole’s left arm around her waist.

This feels so easy. So natural. Wynonna fits in her arms in a way she’d always kind of figured didn’t really exist. The whole fits so perfectly thing always seemed like one of those movie things

“Show me again?” Wynonna asks softly, searching Nicole’s face in the moonlight.

“Okay… Look here. There’s a super bright one.” Nicole pointed once again, right beside Wynonna’s head.

“Oh! I see it. And then to the left there’s a less bright one but brighter than the other ones.”

“Right! Now down and to the left there’s a really dim one…” Wynonna nods. “Then down and back towards the right another dim one but a little brighter.” Wynonna nods again. “Then back to the really bright one.”

“Okay, so a box…”

“Right. Or the head of a dragon.” Nicole says, smile evident in her words.

Wynonna turns back over to look at Nicole again with skepticism on every inch of her expression. Nicole merely meets her gaze, dimpled grin still shining through. The older woman keeps her gaze steady before she finally shakes her head and sighs.

“Okay… The head of a dragon. Where’s the body?”

Nicole leads her, giving her the instruction of following her finger to brighter and dimmer stars until she reaches the end of the “tail” of Draco.

“That one is called Draco.” Nicole says proudly.

“Okay well why isn’t it a fucking snake? It has a big ass head and then a little stick body. It’s a snake.” Wynonna explains with sound logic.

“I guess some crusty old dude wanted to overcompensate?” Nicole suggests, moving both her arms to wrap around Wynonna’s waist naturally and pull her tighter against her. That’s when she hears Wynonna hum… Almost moan… Happily.

“You just wanted to get me between your legs, didn’t you, Red? How many times have you pulled this move?”

Nicole’s eyebrows move together in confusion. “I-- None, Wynonna. I’ve never--”

“Haught. Breathe. I was just teasing. Clearly you’ve never pulled this move before. Otherwise, you’da kissed me by now.”

Nicole’s face softens and relaxes in the same moment the rest of her tenses. You’da kissed me by now. With all her might, she manages, “Can I?”

Wynonna looks back over her shoulder before shifting her body in the next moment so that the both of them have better access to one another. “You really don’t have to ask.”

Nicole brings a hand up to the side of Wynonna’s face and cups it gently, like she might break. Her thumb moves gently over the smooth skin of Wynonna’s cheek. A moment later, their lips are touching. And it’s so different from the first kiss they shared. That one had been fueled by adrenaline.

This kiss is soft. Nicole parts her lips first, allowing herself to answer the pull of her body. This is only their second kiss, but it already feels like second nature. Nicole hums contentedly against Wynonna’s lips before she can stop herself. The moment the sound escapes her, Wynonna is pushing harder into the kiss.

The brunette brings her own hand up to rest on the back of Nicole’s head again, holding her there, not wanting this to end yet. Nicole has no intention of pulling away any time soon. Not as long as her lungs will hold. Which is longer than she would have thought.

As their lips part, Nicole leans forward until their foreheads are resting against one another. Neither of them can see because their eyes remained closed, but they’re smiling. Smiling because they’re happy. Genuinely happy for one of the first times in both of their lives.

And Wynonna feels safe. She never feels safe anymore. Not a single second of any day. She’s a burden. She knows this. Her teachers don’t want her. No parents want her. But here with Nicole, wrapped tight in those toned arms, she feels safe. Nicole has got her and there isn’t a doubt in her mind about that fact.

But, it doesn’t last long enough. Because Wynonna should have been back hours ago.

Wynonna breaks the comfortable silence first. “I’ve gotta get back.” Nicole’s face falls at this, a little pout appearing on her lips. “For the record, Red. I really don’t want to.”

“I really don’t want you to.” Nicole agrees, bumping her nose with Wynonna’s.

“God, you’re fucking cute.” Wynonna moves her hand under Nicole’s chin and pinches her face between her thumb and her fingers. “Now, take me back to my truck.”

Nicole had known it from the moment that she’d seen Wynonna. She’d felt it deep down in the pit of her gut, but she had been fighting it. Even after their first kiss. She’d known, though. After tonight… There is no fighting it for Nicole. As Wynonna forces herself out of Nicole’s grasp on onto her feet, Nicole sits for just a few more seconds -- dumbfounded and wrecked with the knowledge that she will do anything and everything she can to get closer to Wynonna Earp. So close that she can’t even remember what it was like before she met her.

---

The days pass slowly but the text conversations last all day now -- only pausing for sleep and practice. Wynonna’s around more and doesn’t have to go as much. It’s like they’re always connected and in touch.

The photos get riskier but not quite all the way yet. Nicole even sends a couple of her in her tight tank top and basketball shorts hanging low on her hips. Wynonna calls her sexy and she’s never felt that a day in her life. But from Wynonna? She believes it.

---

 December 01, 2007 - 

Saturday doesn’t come fast enough. Through all the days leading up to it, Nicole can’t force her mind to focus on anything else. Though, truth be told, neither can Wynonna.

The older girl wakes on Saturday morning (so noon isn’t exactly morning... who cares?) and immediately reaches out for her cell phone. Knowing that Nicole will have been up for hours by this point, Wynonna feels the familiar thrum of excitement that courses through her whenever she’s interacting with Nicole.

She rubs the sleep from her eyes, blinking rapidly. Just doing her best to force her vision to clear up so that she can see what kind of notifications are waiting for her.

When the words finally swim into view on the tiny digital screen, Wynonna’s lips absently tug into a shy little grin. Something she’d be embarrassed for anyone else to see but something that happened regularly now ––– all because of Nicole.

Nicole: Mornin’ Sunshine :)
Nicole: Can’t wait to see you tonight. Game's at 7. Don’t forget!

Wynonna felt a strong warmth radiating through her chest. Moving into all the different places within her body. It was like ––– thawing. When she hadn’t known she’d been frozen.

It just didn’t make sense how giddy and soft a few stupid good morning text messages could leave her feeling. But nothing about the way Nicole Haught had been making her feel since the first time she’d laid eyes on her should be making any sense in Wynonna’s broken little world.

The basketball player made her feel things she didn’t know she’d ever feel. Things she never even knew that she could. And yet, at the very same time, Nicole somehow manages to make her feel completely safe ––– even if she doesn’t know how or why.

Wynonna bites her lip to lessen the brilliant grin she’s wearing now. She types her reply back to Nicole with quick hands.

Wynonna: morning red ;)
Wynonna: wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Nicole whips her phone from within the pocket of her track pants faster than necessary at the notification.

Nicole: Y’know… Typically morning time ends when the A.M. becomes P.M.
Nicole: But I’ll let that slide since today is a really good day.

Wynonna: how kind of you. hmm… what’s so great about today?

Nicole: I’ll be with you all night.

Nicole’s directness makes Wynonna shiver. Whenever Nicole lets that confident side of her shine through, Wynonna feels it deep in her bones just as much as Nicole’s shy side makes her melt.

Wynonna: that you will, red. that you will.


--------

Wynonna shows up to the game fifteen minutes early, but doesn’t walk in until three minutes before it’s supposed to start. Nicole is warming up on the court and glances at her right as she walks in, making Wynonna believe she might have been looking for her to show up for a while now. The way the brown eyes light up and those lips curve up into a big grin all basically confirms her suspicions.

The brunette tries to suppress her own smile, but fails. Nicole raises a hand to wave to her and Wynonna blushes and ducks her head away and raises a hand in a weak reply. It makes Nic melt.

“Haught!” Max cuts through her daze again and tosses the ball her way. “C’mon, head in the game.” Nicole catches it and shakes her head clear of Wynonna’s face so she can focus on the game. Just like before, she plays harder because she knows Wynonna is in the audience. She does better. She shows out. And they win.

The team hoists Nicole up onto their shoulders for being MVP this game. She finds Wynonna in the crowd, standing up and clapping for her. Not quite cheering with all of her might, but there is a look in her eyes that pierces through Nicole. Pride. Want, maybe? Just something that makes every single inch of Nicole tingle.

--------

Nicole emerges from the locker room with damp, towel-dried hair and her post-game track suit. Not unlike the first time they met, Wynonna is propped against the wall beside the locker room waiting for her.

“You sure like to keep a girl waiting, don’t you, Haught Stuff?” Wynonna jests, kicking off the wall and joining Nicole’s side, bumping into her with her arm.

“I was sweaty and gross! I was really doing you a favor.”

“I guess getting to see this look on you was a little bit of a favor…” Wynonnna teases.

“What look?” Nicole asks, genuinely confused.

“Oh please, Red… The damp hair, the cute track pants… You know you look hot.”

“I do?” The question comes out too quickly. Wynonna stops and looks to find that Nicole is absolutely earnest in asking.

“C’mon and take me home, Haughtie.”

-------

Wynonna pulls in behind Nicole as both their trucks enter the Haught driveway. Nicole walks over to Wynonna as she gets out of hers, backpack slung over one shoulder. Nicole gives her a little smile, but for some reason Wynonna seems nervous.

Wynonna is nervous. She doesn’t really do sleepovers. She definitely doesn’t meet the parents. And she’s about to do both. With this girl that she barely knows. But wants to know more. She doesn’t want this one’s parents to hate her. To think she’s a useless piece of trash like her Aunt Gus or any foster parent she’s ever had. Nicole’s parents have to see past that. Has to see she’s not that bad of a person. Even if she is.

“Wynonna, are you okay?” Nicole asks, concern in every syllable.

Wynonna realizes she’s kind of frozen and caught in her head and shakes it a little. “I- Uh, yeah, Haught, I’m fine I just realized that I--”

“What, Wynonna?”

The way Nicole keeps saying her name is so sweet and it makes her bones ache. She’s fighting every impulse in her body to bail. That’s what she was about to do.

“Nothing, Haught. Let’s get inside.” Wynonna feels small. Nervous.

Nicole feels the nervous energy but she has no idea what it’s about or how to fix it. Nicole’s nervous for her own reasons and she wonders if they might be the same reasons.

“We don’t have to do anything.” Nicole offers.

The older girl looks up at her, confused, before it dawns on her what she’s implying. It makes her sag in a little bit of relief but not because that’s what was weighing down on her mind. Just because Nicole is so Nicole.

“Oh, Haughtshot. Let’s get inside.”

Nicole’s still confused about it all, but she takes Wynonna’s hand out of some kind of instinct and walks up to the door. The moment they step over the threshold, she drops it, though. Her parents still don’t know she’s gay. They’re sitting in the living room watching something on TV.

“Nicole?” Mrs. Haught calls out and looks over to where the two of them are standing. “Oh! This must be Wynonna!” Mrs. Haught walks over to the two of them and gives Wynonna a hug before she knows what’s going on.

“Oof.” Wynonna stands shell-shocked before she half-heartedly returns the embrace, eyes wide with horror, cutting them towards Nicole who’s giving her an apologetic look. This is definitely not what she’s used to.

“Nicole’s been talking about you non-stop for days. It’s nice to finally meet another friend. We were starting to think Max was the only one she could stand.”

“Mom!” Nicole’s entire face reddens and she can feel sweat starting to prickle at the back of her neck and heat pulse under her ears.

“It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Haught,” Wynonna says politely with a small smile as they pull apart. “And you, Mr. Haught!” She calls, peeking around to the man sitting on the couch. He smiles and walks over to shake her hand.

So far, they seem warm. Kind. Everything that she wishes she could have in her parents… Her parental figures… The ones that have her right now. She won’t have them for much longer. She just aged out of the system a couple of months ago. The only reason she’s still in foster care is because she’s still in school and probably will be for another year with how her grades are looking… Which means another thrilling year of bouncing around foster homes with people who don’t really want her because they can’t gain anything from her. Yippee!

“Wynonna?” Nicole’s voice cuts through another train of thought she’d gotten lost in.

“You alright, there?” Mr. Haught has that same kind of genuine concern that Nicole always speaks with.

“Yeah, sorry. Just started daydreaming.”

“That’s okay. It’s getting late I’m sure you girls are tired. We’re about to head to bed ourselves. Goodnight, girls. Don’t stay up too late.”

The Haught parents make their way to their room, leaving Wynonna and Nicole alone at the bottom of the stairs. Wynonna breathes deep. Nicole smiles gently and musters up the courage to take Wynonna’s hand again before wordlessly leading her up to her room.

Nicole’s room is neat. A place for everything. There are a couple of things that seem maybe just a little out of place. A pair of basketball shorts that didn’t quite make it into her hamper. There’s a poster of Pink on the wall and it makes Wynonna snort.

“What?” Nicole inquires lightheartedly. Wynonna points to the poster and Nicole’s head snaps towards it. “Pink?! What? Listen she’s an amazing singer.”

“And totally hot. You don’t fool me, Red.”

“And totally hot, so what. You jealous?” Nicole teases.

“I’m the one standing in your bedroom, Haught. Not her.” Wynonna retorts, dropping her backpack at the foot of the bed and walking over to the taller girl. She brings a hand up to the zipper on Nicole’s jacket and begins to slowly drag it down. “I’m the one with pictures saved on your phone. Not her. I’m the one sleeping in your bed tonight.”

Just like that, the teasing confident side of Nicole falters at the tips of Wynonna’s fingers. Over text, the overly confident remarks seem to come off easy. When they’re out in the world, the pressure is low. Now, they’re completely alone in her bedroom. No safety net. Nothing stopping them from…

Nicole’s jaw drops open the slightest bit and she’s staring down into blue eyes staring right back up at her. Her heart feels like it’s expanding too quickly. At any moment, she’s going to collapse when her heart bursts in her chest.

Nicole's hands tremble but she manages to reach out and rest them on Wynonna's hips. Her breath catches - it's easier if she just closes her eyes. Her long fingers grasp at Wyn's belt loops and bring her hips close, flush against her.

Wynonna is surprised at how it makes her lose her breath, the chuckle that comes with her shaky exhale gives her away. But she doesn't want to miss out on this, doesn't wanna let it go. Not right now. She reaches up, wrapping her arms around Nicole's neck and leaning her forehead against the other girl's. Nicole can't believe the feeling in her chest, radiating. She feels bright, strong.. She doesn't even realize how hard she's smiling until Wynonna speaks up.

"What, Earp?" She almost whispers. With Wynonna's low rise jeans and the way she's reaching up, her hips are exposed to Nicole's nervous hands. The redhead's thumb brushes against the soft skin there and it makes Wynonna's breath catch in her throat.

For the first time since being this close to Nicole, she looks up at her, one hand moving to rest gentle against her cheek, the other carefully tugging the hair tie from around her ponytail, freeing her long, red hair to fall around her shoulders and down her back. Nicole opens her eyes and if she ever was going to say anything else, the way Wynonna's looking at her makes it disappear somewhere back into her memory.

Wynonna doesn't say anything either, just threads her fingers through Nicole's hair gently, careful not to tangle or pull it, and leans up on her tiptoes to press her lips to the taller girl's. It's involuntary, the way Nicole's arms instantly move to wrap around Wynonna's little waist and hold her so close while she kisses her. Nothing has ever felt better than this.

----

September 15, 2016 -

On Thursday, Wynonna walks into the Sheriff's Department with an eagerness (and a nervousness) she's never worn to work before. Instead of parading into the bullpen to terrorize the deputies over a mid afternoon coffee the way she usually does, she rushes past the entrance so quickly that she doesn't even pay attention to where she's going until she hits someone.

"Gah, Wynonna. Watch it," Waverly grumbles, stumbling back. The younger sister huffs, and Wynonna hushes her, looking around spastically.

"What?! What are you doi –" Wynonna pushes Waverly back towards the break room, dipping inside and pulling her along.

"Do you know what shut up means?" Wynonna asks sharply, and Waverly pushes her sister's hands off her and steps back.

"No, I got that from you. What are you even doing? Why are we hiding?!" Waverly asks as Wynonna straightens up, still dripping with nervousness. Finally, Waverly gets it.

"Oh, don't tell me—" Waverly points towards the hallway.

"Wave, C'mon," Wynonna tries to stop her.

"You're not seriously hiding from Nicole are you? God, Wynonna, you're a grown woman being this — silly over a crush!"

Wynonna crosses her arms rolling her eyes and making a face. Yeah, she was a grown woman. And she didn't have a crush, she was head over heels in love with this woman. Had been for 10 years and had never ever admitted it to anyone but herself. And she wouldn't, she couldn't.

"Look, Waves.. you just don't understand, okay? I don't — have a crush, alright?"

"Oh, yeah right and I'm not in love with Champ, either.." Waverly mocks, and Wynonna gags.

"God, I wish that were true." Wynonna huffs, causing the younger Earp to reach out and smack her on the arm. An action which only earns a return smack from Wynonna, and before they know it, they're having a mini slap fight in the goddamn break room.

Wynonna ends it quicker than she probably would have if they were in another setting and she wasn't trying to keep a low profile. She holds her hands up in surrender, huffing at her sister.

“Waverly. please –– just –– it’s a really long story, okay? and I’d rather ––” Her words catch when a certain tall, redhead rounds the corner.

“Nicole!” Waverly and Wynonna squeal at the same time. The older Earp crosses her arms over her chest and steps closer to Waverly, which also equals further away from Nicole. Being near her felt like a forest fire, and Wynonna didn’t think she could keep herself from getting swept up.

“Everything okay in here? I thought I heard –– smacking, y’know and angry arguing.” Nicole steps further into the door frame, making motions with her hands as she speaks. Waverly steps up, purposely bumping into her sister and knocking her forward, practically into Nicole’s chest.

“Oops, sorry, clumsy me!” She puts on, grinning as she sneaks around the two of them, “I gotta go, catch you later, gators.” She squeaks, almost tripping out of the room and into the hallway. Leaving Wynonna standing in front of Nicole to fend for herself.

Nicole’s eyes soften looking down at Wynonna, the smaller woman was basically stepping on her toes but she didn’t mind a bit.

“I didn’t know you were comin’ in today.” She mutters, retracting her hands and shoving them into the back pockets of her khakis with a shrug. Wynonna couldn’t help but smile. Being around Nicole was something she didn’t ever think she’d have the opportunity to experience again.

With her arms still crossed over her chest and her eyes downcast to keep from staring, her gaze wanders to Nicole’s boots and the way her feet are positioned. Her head tilts as the memory sweeps over her, and of course Nicole notices.

“What’s that look for?” Nicole asks. Wynonna can hear it when Nic speaks, but she can also see it, the nervousness in the redhead. She looks up finally meeting the taller woman’s eyes. Nicole continues, “You stand like that when you’re nervous. Do that thing with your feet, I remember.” Her voice is soft in a way she can’t remember it being in a very, very long time.

The officer’s big brown eyes widen slightly, a pert eyebrow lifting and falling again and it all makes Wynonna’s heart flutter. Wynonna knows she has to do something, make this easier. They were gonna be working together for god’s sake, they couldn’t do that if this was what happened every time they got within three feet of one another. So, she turns on her bike boot heel and strides over to the coffeemaker to begin the routine.

Nicole is shaken, but she’s grateful for the time she has with Wynonna’s back to her to breathe and get herself in check. She closes her eyes as the deep breath rattles through her, only to lose it again when she looks towards the brunette again and notices the curve of Wynonna’s ass and the perfect swell of her thighs through her obscenely tight leather pants.

“Shit,” Nicole breathes, resting her hands on her utility belt. Wynonna whips her head around, “huh?” She asks, the gurgle of the machine making the other woman’s whisper hard to make out. Nicole shakes her head and stumbles forward and Wynonna nods, “Oh,” She smirks, turning around and leaning her back against the counter.

When the coffee finishes up, she reaches for two mugs without asking Nicole if she wants any. She pours them both and adds cream and sugar to Nicole’s til the dark liquid swirls into a milky caramel color and hands it over to the cop. “Cheers, Haught.” Wynonna remarks, clinking her mug against the other woman’s.

Nicole chuckles and nods, taking a strong sip of the coffee and sitting on the edge of the table opposite Wynonna. Like this they were the same height, Nicole would never get tired of how tiny Wynonna seemed next to her. The redhead takes a deep breath before the ache of missing her can blow through her. She’s here now, Nicole has to keep reminding herself. Still doesn’t seem real.

“Were you hidin’ from me? Earlier, with Waverly ––”

Wynonna cuts her off quickly, “No.” The abruptness earns her an eyebrow raise. “Okay, kind of but not –– in a bad way? God, that sounds so stupid.” Wynonna presses her hand to her forehead, laughing away the urge to scream or cry or get angry with herself.

Nicole reaches out, it’s a simple obvious reaction. Even after all this time, Nicole’s first reaction to Wynonna’s struggling is comfort. Her hand rests on Wynonna’s elbow and it’s enough to pull her back, kick her in the chest and make her eyes brim with tears.

“Hey, Nonna, it’s okay –– I get it. Honest. This is ––” Wynonna nods, sniffing before any tears can fall. “Yeah, it’s a lot. It is.” She composes herself, breathing deeply and looking down into her coffee. Nicole’s hand on her feels like home. God, if just this simple easy touch is enough to bring those feelings surging back, what would ––

“It’s okay. Alright, I know –– I’m just happy to see you again. Just wanna talk, get caught up –– it’s been way too long, you know? And I just —— I could use a friend, and a drinkin’ buddy on occasion, if you’re up for it.” She adds, smiling softly. It makes Wynonna laugh and nod and she drops her hand from her arm at the same time. Wynonna keeps smiling but the longing is there again, to touch her, to be touched by her.

“I’m –– happy to see you, too. And I’m always up for drinking, red.” Nicole’s eyes move over Wynonna’s face, taking her in. She’d never loved anyone else in her whole life. Knew she never would. But right here and now, she swore to herself that she’d be anything Wynonna needed, no matter what that meant. Having her back was a gift in itself, she wouldn’t waste it being selfish. Wanting too much. “You got it, Earp.”

Wynonna smiles, looking around Nicole to see Nedley poking his head in the door. The smile falls and is replaced with a groan and an eye roll. “C’mon, What, Nedley?!”

“Okay, now Wynonna don’t get your panties in a bunch. I was just looking for Nicole but I see she’s –– hard at work,” The sheriff comments, causing Nicole to turn the same color as her hair.

“Sorry, sir. I’ll –– I’ll be right there, sir.” She nods to him and he returns the notion before dipping out of the break room.

Nicole looks back over her shoulder, puppy dog eyes on Wynonna in fake anger. Wynonna can’t help but laugh, “First day and I’m already getting you in trouble with the boss.” Nicole smiles down, laughing a little herself. “Always the bad girl,” She tsks, motioning for Wynonna to follow her. They walk side by side back towards the door, stopping just short of it.

“I don’t work tomorrow, are –– when’re you off?” Nicole asks, Wynonna answers with a shrug “Hmm, i dunno, tomorrow?” Nicole chuckles and shakes her head. “How about tonight then? Friendly hang out sound good to you?” The word friendly twists Wynonna’s stomach but she smiles through it. “As long as there’s alcohol involved,” Wynonna mentions, “I can arrange that.” Nicole promises.

Their eyes finally meet again and Nicole swears there’s something more there, it tugs at her heart in a way only Wynonna’s blue eyes could ever manage to do.

“Get back to work, Haught. I’ll text you.” Wynonna says, turning to walk back down towards the BBD office. “Hey, you don’t have my number,” Nicole calls after her. Wynonna stops and looks back at Nicole over her shoulder with an eyebrow cocked. She reaches into the pocket of her leather jacket and pulls out the wrinkly business card, holding it up between her fingers. “I don’t?” Nicole smiles and looks down, blushing red as her hair again. The Earp heir shoves the card back into her pocket and keeps walking. “Later, red.”

Nicole watches her with her lip between her teeth and heat in her cheeks until she disappears into the office. “Damn, I missed you.” she mumbles to herself, taking a moment and a deep, deep breath before she steps back into the bullpen.

Chapter Text

November 23 into November 24, 2007

They had kissed until both of their knees had begun to ache from standing for so long. Wynonna breaks the kiss and hums softly, keeping her eyes closed and not noticing that Nicole does the same. 

“Maybe we should get ready for bed,” Nicole says softly. 

Wynonna grins devilishly. “Wow. You don’t waste any time…”

“I didn’t mean--” 

“I know, Haught.” Wynonna stops the younger girl before she goes completely beet red. “I brought my jammies. Let’s get changed.” 

Wynonna walks over to her backpack and shuffles around until she finds her shorts and oversized Fleetwood Mac t-shirt. With her back still turned to Nicole, she shrugs off her jacket, then her shirt, and reaches behind her back to unclasp her bra. 

Nicole’s mouth parts slightly as her eyes take in the sight of Wynonna’s bare back. Nerves take over again and Nicole turns around silently, screwing her eyes shut. She’s not quite ready to see Wynonna up close and personal. The images exchanged over text had enlightened Nicole to the desires she’d never been able to cultivate, but it was just too soon. 

Wynonna peaks over her shoulder, sneaking to see if Nicole is watching her, surprised when she sees the back of the girl’s head. A soft, subtle smile spreads over her lips. Would it ever stop surprising her at how pure Niccole is? The resulting heat is becoming more and more familiar the more time she spends on their connection. 

After a moment of reflection, Wynonna continues to change until she’s “decent” again. She turns and states gently, “I’m changed, Red. You can turn around now.” 

“Oh!” Nicole startles and opens her eyes, turning around. “Sorry, I--”

“It’s okay, Haught… You go get comfy.” Wynonna nods her head towards the door. “I’ll be waiting here.” 

Nicole grins, grateful that she didn’t have to awkwardly explain her shiness. “While I go change, pick out a movie. My DVDs are over there.” She points, turns to retrieve her sleeping clothes, and leaves the room to change. 

In Haught’s absence, Wynonna allows herself to take a second and really look at the bedroom. She’d already noted it’s neatness, but now she was noticing the cool blue tones that persisted throughout, she spots a guitar off in the corner of the room and wonders if the basketball player is musically inclined, too. Totally unfair, if so. Finally, she notices the way her DVDs were alphabetized. “Nerd,” she whispers to herself. 

The room smells just like Nicole. Wynonna’s eyes drift closed and she inhales deeply. Maybe she feels safe here. No, she definitely feels safe here. After her pause, she goes back to browsing the collection of films she can choose from. A few cute comedies, a couple movie musicals - Wynonna scrunches her nose at those - a couple cop movies - Gross … Finally Wynonna settles on Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. And she knows exactly why Nicole has this movie. 

Not long after Wynonna slips the DVD case out of the tower, Nicole walks back in. She’s wearing faded basketball shorts and a loose sleeveless shirt. Wynonna bites down to stifle the smirk of her lips. “I’m startin’ the think you don’t have any other clothes,” she jokes. 

Nicole looks down at her outfit, her cheeks tinted light pink. A breath expels from her nose and she shakes her head. “Stick with what you know.” She shrugs before walking over to her hamper and tossing the clothes she’d just taken off into it. 

“Here, Haught. We’re watching this masterpiece.” Wynonna hands over the case. 

“Oh! I love this movie!” 

“Yeah, I bet...” Wynonna teases, smirk on full display now, relishing the way Nicole’s cheeks turn a brighter red. She flops down on the bed, sitting back against the headboard as Nicole readies the movie. 

Nicole switches the lights off and slowly walks over to where Wynonna’s lying on the bed. She hesitates. 

“You okay?” Wynonna questions with sincerity. 

Nicole looks at her and nods. “Yeah, sorry. I’m just -- You know I’ve never--”

Wynonna softens. “I do know. We’re just watching a movie, Haught. C’mon.” She pats the space beside her. Nicole pauses for only one more second before peeling back the covers and joining Wynonna in her bed. 

At first, there’s just enough space between them to keep them from touching. Nicole can feel her heartbeat throbbing in her neck and temples, thumping loudly and rendering her unable to hear the sounds emitting from the television. Unfortunately, also drowning out Wynonna’s voice. Wynonna scoots a little closer and closes the space between them and nudges Nicole with her arm. 

“Nicole?”

Nicole shakes her head a little and clears her ears of the unnecessary sounds. “Sorry. I guess I zoned out.”

“Hey… You know I’m not-- I’m not here to just get in your pants, right?” Wynonna sounds sad when she asks. Immediately, Nicole’s head snaps to meet her gaze. 

“What?! Of course, I know, Wynonna. It’s not--” Nicole takes a breath. “I’m just really glad you’re here. I’ve never slept over with a girl I liked… like that . And yeah, sometimes all I can think about is kissing you, but I just like that we get to be alone and-” 

Wynonna cuts her off with a soft kiss. She could tell that Nicole was going to start spilling her guts out all over the bed and the older girl isn’t sure she could handle that right now. It already feels like she’s letting her guard down more than she ever would for anyone else. The last thing she wants to do is run for the hills before giving this an actual shot. She needs Nicole to slow it back down and step back to her. 

Nicole slumps into the kiss, relieved at how it soothes her. 

“Let’s watch the movie,” Wynonna whispers against Nicole’s lips. Nicole nods in agreement, relaxing back against the pillows against the headboard. Wynonna uses this as her opportunity to slide into Nicole’s arms, placing the redhead’s arm around her shoulder. 

The next several minutes bring a comfortable silence between them as the movie continues to play. Absentmindedly, Wynonna’s fingers find a bit of exposed skin right above Nicole’s hip where her shirt had ridden up. Her thumb smooths over the expanse slowly, without purpose. 

Nicole’s senses at her hip amplify, all other sensations fading to the background. She has to focus hard to keep her breathing steady. She starts tracing patterns on Wynonna’s side over her shirt. 

Wynonna shifts, abandoning any thoughts of Lara Croft. She tilts her head up and finds Nicole’s no longer looking at the screen either. They kiss again. Different than any kiss they’d shared so far. There’s something there -- a wanting that Nicole had felt a fraction of when they texted. 

The movie is old news. By the time it’s over, they’re still tangled up in one another. Breathing hard, feeling lightheaded from how much they’ve kissed -- only kissed -- for the near 2 hours the film’s been playing. Lips had wandered only as far down as their shirts exposed. The title screen music of the DVD has looped an unknown amount of times when the sound finally causes Wynonna to laugh. 

She looks up at Nicole as the redhead pulls back to look down at her. “What?” Nicole asks with a grin. 

“Can you turn the DVD off? If I have to hear that title screen music one more time, I might go berserk.” Wynonna asks, breathing labored from their kissing. 

Nicole obliges, lifting off of Wynonna, finding the remote, and shutting the player and TV off. The moonlight from outside streams in providing them with just enough light to be able to see one another. Their eyes having adjusted some during their makeout. 

Wynonna pulls Nicole back to her and runs her thumb along swollen lips. For a moment, she just stares. Nicole’s chest rises and falls as she tries to catch her breath. This is their first real reprieve since their kissing had begun. Wynonna allows her eyes to drop and watch the movement, getting lost in the rhythm of her breath. 

“Wynonna?” Nicole calls softly, breaking the older girl from her trance. 

“Hmm?” 

“What are you thinking about?” 

What a normal, absolutely foreign question, Wynonna thinks to herself. Had anyone ever asked her that? No. 

“Hmm.” Wynonna answers again, without the questioning tone. “Just that you’re a good kisser.” Partly true. Really, Wynonna’s thinking that this girl could be something different, something special. More than all the guys she’s dated and hooked up with, more than hurting those stupid bitches back at Purgatory High. Nicole could be hers in a way that no one or thing ever had been. 

“Oh really?” Nicole asks, feeling confidence both from Wynonna’s comment and from her own adrenaline rush. Nicole leans down and places a soft kiss on Wynonna’s cheek, dragging slowly to her ear. “I love kissing you, Wynonna.” Her voice is low and soft. 

Wynonna groans and pushes into Nicole. The grin on her face growing into a full-blown smile. Nicole pulls back in time to see it and feels like she might pass out. That smile’s for her. “Damn…” Nicole breathes before she can stop herself. 

“What else do you love, Nicole?” Wynonna wants to know more about Nicole before she allows herself to get in too deep.

Nicole pauses for a second and there’s a jerk in her chest that almost makes her say you. She realizes how absolutely insane that is - to think that she loves this girl when they’d only known one another for two freaking weeks. She knows that her emotions are just running on level 1000 from having kissed her for the last few hours. 

“Music… All kinds.” Nicole settles onto her side and props her head up on her hand, looking down at Wynonna who is still lying down. “I love rocky road ice cream and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies… I like animals. I want a cat, but my parents won’t let me have one right now because I’m always practicing some sport and I’m never home.” 

Wynonna hangs on every last word, taking mental notes and promising herself that she won’t forget any of it. She’s pretty shit at remembering anything of importance because of… Well, just because of her shitty life, but she wants to remember everything that Nicole tells her. 

“I always heard that pets end up looking like their owners so I can see you with a big fluffy ginger cat one day,” Wynonna jokes. 

“You think I’m big and fluffy?” Nicole teases, laughing through the question. 

“Oh, the fluffiest. We already know you’re a giant… Towering over me like that.” 

“I guess you’re right…”

“I saw your guitar earlier… Do you play or do you just wish you could play?”

“I taught myself how to play one summer. Just spent hours on the internet looking up how-to sites and watching videos. My fingers hurt so bad. I practiced like 6 hours a day. I’m not great at like solos or anything, but I mostly like to play rhythm guitar and sing.”

Wynonna feels a wave in her stomach and heat rising in her chest again. She sings . The second she hears that, if she ever gets the chance to, it would be the nail in her coffin. She would have fallen for her completely. 

“Well, you’ll have to serenade me one day soon.” She teases, turning on her side to mirror the taller girl. Even in the moonlit darkness, Wynonna can see Nicole’s cheeks grow red. How could she be so confidently teasing her with kisses one moment and so shily blushing the next? 

“I dunno about that…” Nicole’s only ever sung in the comfort of her own room, mostly when her parents aren’t home. The few times her parents had been home, she’d been as quiet as she could be. 

“C’mon, Haughty, I’ll make it worth your while…” Wynonna teases and leans forward. Nicole instinctually leans in as well. Soon, they’re kissing again, this time with Wynonna pushing Nicole onto her back and pressing her body halfway on top of her. 

They’re lost in one another for however long again. Wynonna eventually breaks the kiss to catch her breath and in the next moment, they’re both yawning. 

Nicole turns her head to look at the alarm clock on her bedside table and sees that it is approaching four o’clock in the morning. Shit. Had they really spent that long making out? 

They chuckle together, Wynonna falling forward and breathing against Nicole’s chest. “Let’s get some sleep, Haught.” 

Nicole hums in agreement. Wynonna settles down onto the bed and curls into Nicole, throwing her leg and wrapping her arm over Nicole’s waist. Nicole pulls Wynonna as close as she can, reveling in the way they just fit. 

“Goodnight, Wynonna,” Nicole says as she kisses the top of Wynonna’s head. 

“Goodnight, Nicole,” she replies before they drift into the most peaceful sleep either one of them had ever experienced. 

----

September 15, 2016 

Nicole spends the rest of the day with the conversation she’d had with Wynonna swirling in her mind. Sitting behind her desk and the mountain of paperwork on top of it that she couldn’t concentrate on even if she tried, the day seemed to drag on. The deputy sneakily checks her phone under the desk every couple of minutes, even though there was no indication that she’d received a text. 

Two hours before Nicole’s shift is over she finally pushes the anticipation aside and manages to get into the pile of work. A harsh knock against the doorframe startles her, causing her to make a mark across the page. Nicole looks up abruptly, only to find Wynonna with a smirk on her lips resting against the frame. Her body instantly softens, but her heart rate picks up even more.

“You scared me.” She mutters, smiling back softly and setting the pen down to give the older woman her full attention.

“Yeah, I get that a lot. Plus it was pretty funny seeing how mad you looked before you knew it was me.” Wynonna’s voice softens towards the end of her sentence. She makes a mental note that she should probably just get used to that happening around Nicole. 

Nicole lets out a laugh, shaking her head. Same old Wynonna... she’d missed her so much. The reminder of missing her for so long hits her hard then, making tears well up in her eyes. She keeps her head down so that Wynonna won’t see. 

“Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I’m leaving —” Wynonna states simply, in the same playful tone as before. 

Nicole’s head shoots up again, anguish plain on her face this time. “Wait, what?” She asks with the little bit of breath that’s left in her.

Wynonna looks puzzled for a moment before her expression crumples completely. She steps forward into the bullpen and shakes her head. “No, Nicole –– just going home. Shift’s over. That’s all.” she nods, reassuring. The look of relief on Nicole’s face hits her hard in the chest. In all the times she’d wondered about what their time apart felt like to Nicole, Wynonna had never imagined this. Pain. Fear. Panic. She could see it very plain on the officer’s face and it broke her inside.

Nicole nods, sitting up straighter. She sniffles and brushes at her nose with the back of her hand, trying to pull herself together. 

“Oh. Oh right, okay. Sorry. God, I'm sorry that was embarrassing..” She mumbles, shaking her head before looking up to the brunette with a smile. It doesn’t look forced exactly but Nicole still looks sad. 

“No, it’s okay, honest.” Wynonna almost whispers, offering her a smile in return. She steps forward, picking up some kind of knick-knack off Nicole’s desk and playing with it before setting in back down again. “How’s Shorty’s sound for tonight, huh? Simple, close-by and there’s always booze.. What’da’ya say, Haught Shot?” Wynonna crosses her arms over her chest, smirking down at the cop.

Nicole falters for a moment at the silly nickname - feeling like that gangly basketball player who was head over heels for this girl all over again... 

She snaps out of it. “I –- yeah, Shorty’s. What time?” Wynonna smiles and turns back towards the door. 

“7 sound good?” Wynonna asks over her shoulder. 

“Perfect.” Nicole replies, eyes on Wynonna the whole time she’s walking away. 

Her response could have answered Wynonna’s question or been a simple statement about the view of her leaving, both would be true, and Wynonna’d never know the difference. 

“I’ll see you then, Red. Don’t be late -” Wynonna stops outside the door and points at her. 

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, Wyn.” Wynonna’s heart flutters and she has to blink twice to wipe the dopey look off her face. 

“See ya.” She calls one last time before exiting the police station. 

Once Wynonna is out of her presence, Nicole collapses back in her chair. Both hands rubbing at her face and eyes, a deep groan leaving her. “God, you’re so stupid, Haught..” She chastises herself, thinking. 

‘How are we gonna get through tonight when we can’t even talk to one another without one of us almost having a breakdown?’ She wonders to herself, shaking her head before bringing her fist down hard against the top of her desk. 

***

Wynonna’s shower gives her way too much time to think about the upcoming date... not date. Upcoming -- hangout? Whatever. 

She sighs, not because thinking about how she’s going to see Nicole in just an hour or so is disappointing or anything, but because of the never ending sensation of nervousness that has lived within her since the sheriff’s deputy came back into her life. 

What if things aren’t the same? What if it’s too hard? What if Nicole doesn’t –– feel like that anymore? If she ever did. Wynonna shakes her head free of that intrusive thought. No, she knew Nicole had lo – really liked -  her all those years ago. She had. It was very obvious, plus the redhead was a shit liar anyway. 

But those years were long gone and Wynonna couldn’t help but be afraid now. Everything was different. More dangerous, more intense. They were grown ups now, sure,  but Wynonna was the Heir. She couldn’t even begin to dissect the feeling that burned in her when she imagined letting Nicole into the kind of danger that she faced now. She pushes it down for now, deciding to just take it one step at a time and opens her closet. 

The brunette rummages through her closet, dejecting most of the outfits she comes across. She isn’t usually this careful when choosing an outfit but tonight is –– special. She drapes her black ripped jeans over her arm and grabs a white long sleeve shirt that's cropped just enough. Wynonna reminds herself that it was almost too tight the last time she wore it before pulling it over her head anyway. 

***

There are enough people in Shorty’s that you have to speak up a little for someone to hear you but not so many that you can’t hear the music. Wynonna immediately sheds her big coat when she steps inside, kicking the snowy mush off her boots and onto the rug. The older Earp looks around, examining the crowd for the redhead and not finding her. She does happen to spot Waverly behind the bar, which was somewhat relieving, she guesses.

Wynonna hurries over and takes up a chair in front of her sister, placing her coat on the back of the one next to it to save for Nicole. Waverly’s mile wide grin gets bigger somehow when she sees her sister. The younger girl immediately pours Wynonna a glass and sets it down between them, resting her elbows on the bar and leaning in. 

“Ooooh, you guys are going on a date already?!” She teases and Wynonna smacks her elbow out from under her. 

“Hey that was uncalled for, okay,” Waverly starts, steadying herself. 

“It’s not a goddamn date, so just knock it off, alright? You’re on thin fucking ice already for that shit you pulled at the station. I’m seriously gonna give you the biggest wedgie of your life for that, Waverly.” Wynonna scolds, pointing at her baby sister. 

Waverly does all she can to stifle a laugh. “Oh come on, Nonna, that was hilarious, okay? Honestly, you get so - bent out of shape over this girl I’ve never seen you like this.” Waverly sounds amazed and a little worried. 

Wynonna thinks that she has every right to be both, if she’s being honest. She picks up the glass with a deep and heavy sigh and drinks half of it at once.  “I don’t think I can do this.” The older woman mumbles, rubbing her temples. 

Waverly scoffs, grabbing Wynonna’s wrist. “Do what , Wynonna? You say it’s not a date but you’re sweating already and you’ve been here for like 2 seconds… earlier you said you don’t have a crush but you can barely form a sentence when she’s around, so… what’s the truth? You don’t have to lie to me anymore, okay? I’m not some dumb little kid anymore.” 

Wynonna looks up, meeting Waverly’s eyes. It’s too much to admit it to herself, let alone someone else. Even if it is her sister, the person she loved most in the world. She’d gone all this time and never opened up about Nicole unless she was completely sloshed and crying on a bathroom floor or something else stupid like that.

 “I know you’re not a dumb kid okay? And I’m not lying to you. I swear I just — didn’t see this coming, baby girl.” 

Instead of answering further, Wynonna picks up her glass and downs the rest of it, sliding it forward into Waverly’s free hand. 

“God, might as well get started.” She huffs, dropping her forehead into her hand. 

Waverly rolls her eyes, a small almost smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. She’d never seen Wynonna so discombobulated over a woman, or a man, or anything , really. It was kind of sweet to see her so obviously care about something so much. Other than her, of course. The younger Earp is refilling the glass when the door to Shorty’s swings open. In walks the redhead, as tall and strong looking as ever. Waverly grins, a giddiness surging up inside her. She immediately returns to Wynonna, placing the glass down and grabbing her arm to point in the cop’s direction. 

“Look! Haught redhead, 12 o’clock!” Waverly beams. 

Wynonna’s gaze follows Waverly’s finger across the crowded room and lands on Nicole. Her mouth feels dry and Nicole isn’t even walking towards her yet. She’s stopped talking to a guy - probably another cop, Wynonna guesses. The Heir would be lying if she said she didn’t have a thing for how Nicole looks in her uniform, but seeing her in normal clothes for the first time in all these years is something else entirely. Her hair is down, flowing red and beautiful over her shoulders. She’s wearing a black button up with the first three undone and tight jeans that disappear into some worn leather work boots. Wynonna’s whole body burns. Nicole dismisses the man with a firm handshake and continues her walk towards the bar. 

Waverly taps Wynonna’s arm so hard and rapidly that it almost hurts. “God, she looks so hot Wynonna, here she comes, here she comes!” the bartender practically squeals. 

Wynonna yanks her arm away from Waverly and shoos at her without taking her eyes off of Nicole. “Cool it before she hears you!” Wynonna warns under her breath. 

The redhead finally sees Wynonna and the biggest smile breaks across her face. It reaches her eyes in the most sincere way. Nicole mouths the word “Hi.” 

 God, she was hot. And adorable. And everything . Wynonna feels like she’s on fire. She lifts a hand in a little wave before reaching to move her jacket off the empty seat and onto her own. Nicole places her jacket on the chair and moves into its empty space. 

“Hi, Wynonna,” she’s smiling still, not wanting to look away from the brunette but not wanting to seem like she was staring. She’s anxious but doesn’t want to show it. If they could just get through the night without nearly having an almost breakdown again that would be ideal, she thinks. 

“Your hair’s still so long,” Wynonna mentions, remembering for the first time in a very long time how she would braid Nicole’s hair before her softball or basketball games and brush through it after her showers. “Super pretty,” she nods, reassuringly. It sounds dumb and impersonal probably. Nothing one friend wouldn’t say to another. Wynonna absolutely hates that. 

“Oh, yeah well - thank you, I just... never felt like cutting it I guess. Maybe one day though, who knows?” 

Wynonna raises her eyebrows, imagining Nicole with shorter hair. There was that hot feeling again. She picks up her beer and chugs some to try and wash the fire away. 

“What?! You - started drinkin’ without me?! Come on, Wyn, I wasn’t even late!” Nicole feigns offense, smiling all the time. 

The older woman wipes at her mouth with the back of her hand, “Well, I was early so... and you know me.” She shrugs, motioning towards the alcohol and chuckling lightly.  

It’s true, Nicole does. That’s why she doesn’t know whether to laugh or be sad. Wynonna’s life had been hell, that much she does know. And judging by the records Nicole had gotten her hands on, Wynonna had gotten into more than she’d ever gotten the chance to tell Nicole about. The cop wouldn’t be surprised if it all caused a drinking problem of some kind. She hopes desperately (and doubtfully) that it hasn’t. 

Waverly pops back up in front of the pair, beaming. “Hey! Hey Officer, didn’t expect to see you here,” She grins, glancing over at Wynonna then back at Nicole. 

Wynonna rolls her eyes so hard she’s surprised they don’t fall out. 

“You can just — call me Nicole, Waverly... and I’m off tomorrow so we thought we’d catch up .” Nicole smiles at the younger woman. Waverly is very pretty and very sweet, but the more she spoke to her the more she could see just how different she is from Wynonna. “And uh, I’ll just have what she’s having,” the redhead slides Waverly enough cash to cover a few rounds and a little extra for her to keep. 

“Alrighty then, Nicole … I’ll be right back,” Waverly gives the officer another bright smile and wink before heading off to fill the glass. 

Wynonna snorts when Waverly sets down the beer and runs off. Nicole directs her attention back to her.

“Keep that up and she’s gonna fall in love with you, Red.” Wynonna winces but manages to keep smiling through it, swallowing hard. 

“Yeah right, Wynonna.” Nicole turns away, shaking her head and sipping her beer. 

“She’s perfect, Nic. Super cute, obvs. Gets it from me.” Wynonna shrugs, glancing over at Nicole when she knows she’s not watching. 

“Yeah, she’s great... But — I’m not interested.” Nicole assures, meeting Wynonna’s eyes. 

She must be blushing. She can feel her face heating up but she can’t look away. Not for a few seconds at least. Wynonna makes herself nod and looks back down at her beer.

“You have a girlfriend then?” She feels the terrifying anticipation for what Nicole’s answer might be springing up inside her. 

“No. No girlfriend. I’m just —— here to do my job.” Nicole’s voice sounds small and she takes another big drink.  

It’s a relief to hear but Wynonna takes the hint to just shut up before one of them gets upset. They’re just supposed to be hanging out, not talking about all of this shit. Not yet. It’s too much and too soon, Wynonna's probably already fucked something up. 

“I hear you,” She tells her, “What made you wanna become a cop, anyway?” Wynonna asks, genuinely curious. When they were younger, it was something Wynonna never considered Nicole might grow up to do. Now that she thought about it they probably couldn’t see past Nicole playing pro ball or something back then. 

Nicole laughs, the tension of their previous conversation washing away. 

“I knew you’d ask… and to tell you the truth I —— don’t have a real smart answer. I wanted to help people. Do something good, I guess.” She thinks about it for a moment, but that’s the best she can come up with. 

“Those goody two shoes still fit?” Wynonna chuckles, raising her glass. 

“Not really, sometimes they pinch.” Nicole laughs too and it feels really, really good. 

***

The bar gets more crowded with each passing hour. Nicole hasn’t talked this much in months and Wynonna hasn’t listened with this much interest since –– probably the last time she talked to Nicole. They agree to a drinking contest at some point during the night which isn’t at all in the officer’s best interest. Nicole taps out before she gets completely wasted, deciding it’s not a good look for the newish deputy. Wynonna would have drank her under the bar easily anyway. 

By the time the bar is closing, they’re a couple of the only people left. Wynonna stands leaning against the bar next to Nicole’s chair, smiling at her in her silly, drunken stupor. 

“What are you smiling so hard about, Earp?” Nicole asks slowly. She’s only tipsy, but already knows she won’t be driving herself home tonight. 

“You. You’re just –– I forgot how much –- how great you are.” Wynonna slurs, closing her eyes. 

Nicole’s chest tightens and she does her best to laugh it off, “Must not have made that great of an impression then, if a few years can make you forget.” She kids. 

“What?! No –– Nic, you.. you changed everything. For me. Really.” 

Nicole’s eyebrows shoot up and her expression softens sweetly, brown eyes melting for Wynonna like they always had and always would. 

“I’ve missed you every single day.” Wynonna’s voice saddens, and it looks like she might cry. Her hand accidentally brushes against Nicole’s on the bar, grabbing their attention. 

“You guys gonna head out soon? Bar’s closing..” Waverly pops up, startling them apart. She’s able to realize that something must have been going on, but keeps any commentary to herself due to Wynonna’s earlier threat. 

“I’m gonna call a cab but your sister here is –- wasted.” Nicole motions towards Wynonna who looks like she’s going to fall over any minute. 

“Shit… God, I hate to ask but do you think you might be able to help me get her upstairs? My lofts up there,” Waverly explains. 

“Yeah, of course.” Nicole replies immediately, standing up from her chair just in time for Wynonna to lose her balance. The redhead reaches for her instinctively, grasping her waist. Wynonna falls against Nicole’s chest heavily, grabbing at her shirt to steady herself. 

“Holy moly,” She laughs, squeezing her eyes shut to try and quell the spinning that she feels in her head. 

A deep breath pulls the scent of Nicole deep into her lungs and it makes her shiver. 

“Hey, it’s okay, I got you.” Nicole smiles down at her, completely breathless with Wynonna so close. It’s been so long and Nicole would be lying if she said she always believed she’d get to hold Wynonna again someday. She’d all but lost hope just before Wynonna showed back up. 

Waverly appears at Wynonna’s opposite side, slipping her sister’s arm up around her shoulders. “I’m sorry, Nicole she –– gets out of hand sometimes.” Nicole’s fears were confirmed, then. 

“It’s fine, Waverly, really. I don’t mind. Just –– want her to be safe.” Nicole breathes, shivering as she slips her arm all the way around Wynonna’s waist and brings her arm around her shoulders like Waverly had done. 

Wynonna’s head lolls against Nicole’s shoulder and neck, and Nicole can smell Wynonna’s perfume, or maybe her shampoo very clearly. She’s afraid the alcohol will betray her and bring her to tears. She prays to whatever is listening that she’ll be able to keep it in until she’s home, alone. 

The two women get Wynonna up to Waverly’s room without too much trouble. Waverly pulls the covers of the bed down and motions for Nicole to help Wynonna sit.

“I can get her boots and stuff off, no worries. She’ll be fine up here alone til I finish cleaning up downstairs.” 

Nicole stands up straight and nods, wiping her sweaty palms on the front of her jeans. She looks down at Wynonna who’s curled herself into a ball and can barely keep her eyes open. She smirks, shaking her head a little.

“She’s something else.” Nicole whispers, mostly for herself but Waverly hears it and laughs. 

“Right? There’s no one else like her, though.” Waverly drops Wynonna’s boots next to the bed and pulls one of the blankets up over her. 

Nicole can’t stop thinking about how pretty Wynonna looks in the glow of Waverly’s fairy lights and the way that she’d smelled and how she still felt perfect in her arms. Her breath catches hard and she feels the emotions welling up again. 

“That’s — for sure.” Nicole agrees, shoving her hands into her pockets. “I guess I’d better get goin’ then… you’re sure it’s okay if I leave my truck outside for the night?” Nicole asks, forcing herself to look away from sleepy, drunk Wynonna. 

“Of course! Just come back by tomorrow whenever you want.” Waverly insists, stepping towards her door. 

Nicole thanks her again.

“Waverly! A little help down here!” They hear from the bottom of the stairs. Waverly waves goodbye to Nicole and tells her that she can leave whenever she’s ready.

Nicole offers her a nod and a goodbye handshake. She waits until Waverly is out of the room before she steps closer to the bed, kneeling down next to Wynonna. 

“I had a good time tonight, Nonna.” Nicole smiles, keeping her hands to herself no matter how badly she wants to push Wynonna’s hair back out of her face. “It was –- really great getting to catch up with you.” 

Wynonna’s eyes look teary, she blinks slowly up at the officer, giving her the best smile she can manage,

“I know. Me too, Haughtstuff.” 

Nicole stands back up and walks over to the door, lingering inside it for just a moment,  

“For the record, I’ve missed you, too. Every day.” Nicole’s voice breaks on the last word. 

She hurries down the stairs then, grabbing her jacket and pulling it on outside so that no one will try talking to her again. The cold air hits her hard, freezing the tears that fall onto her cheeks. 

Chapter Text

December 2007 

Not a day goes by for the next two weeks where Nicole doesn’t think about their sleepover. About Wynonna in general. There’s a lingering fear inside the redhead that she’ll just be forgotten or that Wynonna will find someone better… but Wynonna texts her every single morning, night and any chance she gets in between. Some days, they get to talk more than others and Nicole cherishes those days. If she’s lucky, there will even be a phone call here and there. 

December 5, 2007  

Nicole wakes up to her alarm screaming at her and her mom knocking on her door. At the same time. She must have slept through the first alarm again. Damn

With about two weeks of school left before Christmas break, Nicole finds it harder than usual to get out of bed in the morning. Class isn’t interesting, to say the least and basketball -- doesn’t even feel worth it if Wynonna isn’t watching. Plus, her pillowcases still smell like Wynonna’s shampoo and it feels much better to just lay there and immerse herself in the scent than to think of being at school. 

She groggily reaches over and smacks around until she stops the obnoxious sound, groaning as she drops her head back to her pillow. “I’m up , mom. For real this time. Swear.” She says loud enough for her mom to get the message on the other side of the door. 

Pushing herself up on her elbow, Nicole wipes the sleep from her eyes with the backside of her hand, pulling her phone off the nightstand. The brightness of the screen makes her squint, clicking through her messages with Wynonna from the previous night. Nothing new from this morning... yet. Nicole tries not to let herself get disappointed, it’s not unusual for her to wake up before Wynonna or to send the first text of the day, but still. She sends, 

Nicole: Good morning, Beautiful <3 Hope you have a good day. I miss you, Wynonna. x

It doesn’t take her long to get dressed, which is a good thing considering she didn’t get up on time anyway. She’s brushing through the knots in her long, red hair when she hears her phone go off across the room. The brush clatters against the dresser and Nicole sprawls across her bed, grabbing her phone and opening the message immediately. 

Wynonna: Good morning, haughtstuff <3 I miss you like crazy.  Pinky promise I'm not avoiding you. Just got a job recently so that’s been taking up a lot of my time unfortunately. Plus other stuff, but no worries. I’ll see you soon, Red.  

Nicole’s heart flutters, her smile growing as she reads it over and over again. It feels so stupid sometimes that this girl has this kind of hold on her when they’ve only known each other for almost a month… but Wynonna is just worth it. She is special - Nicole had known that from the moment they met. And knowing that Wynonna hadn’t just been putting off seeing her meant a lot. 

Nicole: pinky promise? You’re so damn cute, Earp.
Nicole: A job where? Maybe I could come visit you at work sometime? ;) I gotta drive to school now, I’ll text you when I’m there <3 

Nicole sends the text and runs out of her room just as her mom is yelling her name up the stairs. 

 

***

 

Wynonna sits on the floor of her new room, empty all but the bed in the corner and the dresser. Her small suitcase is open in front of her, surrounded by a few piles of clothes. That suitcase along with one cardboard box held all of the 18 year old’s belongings. This was the 7th new room she’d had in the last 5 years. Foster care was always brutal, but it was -- something else when the kid being passed around came with so much childhood trauma and demons. Literal demons. She should be leaving for school, but instead she’s getting settled into a house that won’t ever feel like home and probably won’t last through the new year.

At least Nicole’s texts make her smile. The Earp girl’s chest aches with missing Nicole. She could barely let herself think it and surely wouldn’t be able to say it outloud, but the redhead’s arms are the one place that does feel like home to her. She wants more than anything to be there right now. Wynonna sighs deeply, forcing the tears that threaten to fall back in just as another message comes through. 

Nicole: I’m here <3 you leave for school yet? 

Wynonna doesn’t know what she’s supposed to tell Nicole. First the work question, now this… Wynonna knows she can’t tell her the truth about the job, but maybe this move could be something she could confide in Nicole about. In all honesty, it felt super fucking weird to even think of trusting someone like that, but she knew inside that she did. She trusted Nicole with everything. The fear wasn’t in telling her, it was in scaring her away. Being too much. God knows she’d been just that way too many times. 

Wynonna: Nah, I’m out today, Haughty. Home stuff. Maybe we can talk on the phone tonight, if you want to?

Nicole: I’ve got a game tonight and you know you’re always invited 

Nicole: but I totally get it if you can’t make it I’d love to talk on the phone afterwards <3

Wynonna’s heart aches. She wipes away a few stray tears and pulls her knees up to her chin, looking at the messages over and over. 

Wynonna: You don’t know how much I wish I could be there, Red. Don’t forget to send me a pic in your uniform. 

Nicole: Wouldn’t dream of it, Wyn ;)
Nicole: Ugh, I gotta go for a bit, we have a test. Talk to you later xo

Wynonna feels a hint of joy amidst the sadness that fills her up. The way Nicole makes her feel is so... horrifying. And beautiful. And she never ever wants to fuck it up. She does her best to push away the thought that it’s only a matter of time as she finishes sorting her clothes. 

 

*** 

 

Nicole hurries through her shower once she gets home and takes her dinner to her bedroom. It’s almost 10 and she hopes and prays that it’s not too late to call Wynonna. The younger girl settles in the middle of the bed and feels her heart rate pick up as she goes to Wynonna’s contact and clicks ‘call’. The line rings for a few moments, longer than Nicole hopes it will, but just before she gets too scared, Wynonna picks up. 

“Nic?” Wynonna’s voice is soft, as if she’s trying to be quiet. She had already gotten ready for bed a bit ago and crawled under the covers, waiting for Nicole to get home.  Nicole’s heart soars at the sound of it, relaxing into the comfort that surrounds Wynonna. 

“Hey, I hope it’s okay I called…” Nicole begins, keeping her voice soft, too. 

“Oh.. Yeah. Yeah, Sorry I just, I lost track of time kind of. I was just getting my things settled. I -- moved.” Wynonna curses herself mentally for not telling Nicole the whole truth. That moving hadn’t been up to her. That it really didn’t feel like “moving” and more like temporary relocation to another place that would want to rid itself of her in the next few months. 

Nicole’s heart drops, “O-oh. Well, where? You’re still...in Ghost River County, though… aren’t you?” Nicole tries not to sound too sad or too hopeful or anything that might put Wynonna off, but she’s sure that she is failing. If Wynonna’s no longer a short drive away she doesn’t know what she’ll do. 

“What? Oh, shit, Nicole… I’m sorry, yeah. Yeah, I’m still around. Not too far from the last place I lived, really. I didn’t have to change schools or anything this time.” Wynonna tucks the duvet up further around her and stares into the darkness of the room that still feels empty even with all her stuff in it. 

Nicole breathes a heavy sigh of relief, swallowing her fear and nodding, even though Wynonna can’t see it. “Okay. Okay, good. I got scared for a second.” She laughs nervously, looking down and remembering that she hadn’t even begun eating her dinner. She takes a bite, hoping that Wynonna can’t hear her chewing through the phone. “Sorry if you hear me chewing, I brought my dinner to my room so I could call you faster.” She admits, just in case. 

Wynonna smiles big at the younger girl’s admission. “That’s… really cute, Haughtstuff. I’m glad you did.” In the same moment, Wynonna remembers that she hadn’t had dinner herself. The… people... she’s staying with had come home for a while and checked in on her before leaving again. They’re nice enough but not very personable. She doesn’t know if she is thankful for that or not. Either way, they don’t have anything she can make in the house and her truck’s being fixed, so going somewhere and getting food isn’t an option. Even if she could, all the money she’s earned in the last two weeks from her job has gone to just that -- getting the truck fixed. She sighs. She checks to make sure her phone is plugged in and lays it on her pillow, putting it on speaker. 

“So, how’d your game go?” She asks quietly, glancing towards the door out of habit. 

Nicole smiles to herself, even though she doesn’t have good news to give. “We lost. I know for sure it’s ‘cause my good luck charm wasn’t there.” The basketball player continues eating quietly, trying to ignore her pounding heart. For as confident and cocky as she could be, Wynonna makes her nervous in the best way. 

The older girl’s smile dies sadly, and she has to fight off the urge to cry again. She hates basketball, hates all sports really, but she loves watching Nicole, “You’re just sayin’ that, Haught. Your team must have just been off their shit tonight or something.” She mutters, blinking back the tears that threaten to betray her. 

“Hey, that’s so not true. I mean it, Wynonna. I play better when you’re there. I’m just --” Nicole’s sentence falls off. 

Wynonna gives her a minute, but when she remains silent Wynonna asks, “Just what?” 

Nicole places her empty plate on her nightstand and collapses back against her pillows with a heavy sigh, “I’m just -- better.. With you.” She admits slowly but surely. 

The words hit Wynonna hard in the middle of her chest. She has to take a deep breath, but she can’t keep her tears back anymore. They drip slow and quiet down her cheeks in the darkness, and she can only pray that when she speaks up Nicole can’t hear them. 

Nicole panics at Wynonna’s silence, sitting up and pulling her knees to her chest, “I didn’t mean to be weird or anything, god, Wynonna, I’m sorry. I’m sorry if that sounded stupid.” 

Wynonna shakes her head before remembering Nicole can’t see her,  “No. No it’s not stupid, Nicole. Okay? Or weird. I’m better, too. With you. I really am.” She sniffles without meaning to and wipes her eyes with the back of her hand. 

Nicole catches the small sound… notices the change in Wynonna’s voice and the realization that she’s probably crying breaks her heart, “Wyn… do you wanna -- maybe --  stay on the phone while we go to sleep?” She doesn’t want to outright ask her about the crying for fear of making it worse. Instead, she decides to just be there for her. That’s all she wants in the whole damn world anyway. 

Wynonna smiles softly through her tears as they slow, and she wipes the remainder away and snuggles closer into herself, “That’d be nice, Nic.. yeah .” It meant more to her than she’ll probably ever be able to tell Nicole, and if she couldn’t be in her bed with her this would be enough. 

Nicole smiles, pushing herself up off her bed, “I’m gonna go brush my teeth and stuff and I’ll be right back, okay? Don’t fall asleep without me.” She teases. 

Wynonna can hear her smile through the phone and it makes her own grow, “Wouldn’t dream of it, Haughtshot.” 

Nicole laughs and leaves her phone on the pillow to go get ready for bed. When she comes back, she turns off her light and climbs into bed next to her cellphone. She breathes in the smell of Wynonna from her pillow and sighs, connecting the phone to its charger and placing it next to her where it won’t fall. “This can almost be like another sleepover,” She mumbles, getting settled. 

Wynonna chuckles on the other end of the line, “I guess it’s as good as we can get right now. I wish I could really be there. Your bed’s fucking comfy, Red.” She jokes, knowing Nicole will take offense. 

“Oh, so you just like me for my bed huh? I see,” Nicole responds, knowing Wynonna is teasing her. “At least it still smells like you for me,” The confession slips out before she can stop it. 

Wynonna’s face softens in the dark, feeling butterflies in her stomach at the idea of Nicole finding comfort in her smell, “Next time I’ll steal one of your shirts or something so I can have something that smells like you.” 

The redhead sighs a breath of relief and lets the thought of Wynonna in one of her shirts drift through her mind, “Oh god, you’d look so cute. Tell ya what...I’ll give you a hoodie, since it’s so cold out and all... maybe one of my basketball ones, with my name ‘cross the back.” She felt more sure of herself as she began to feel sleep creeping in on her. Less fearful of saying the wrong thing and more inclined to just tell the truth. 

Wynonna blinks heavily as she listens to Nicole talk. The sound of her voice is beautiful and soothing and just what Wynonna needs to fall asleep. For a moment, she fears that it would become something that she always needed -- but she let the fear drift away for now, “You want me wearing your name around, Haught?” 

Her voice is soft with sleep and Nicole can hear the soft smile she’s wearing, “More than anything, ‘Nonna. If you want.” 

“I’ll wear your hoodie, Nic. Duh.” Wynonna feels sleep gripping her and she breathes a soft breath through her nose as she begins to picture herself wrapped up in the taller girl’s hoodie, then in her arms. 

That’s how they fall asleep that night, thinking of one another. 

 

***

 

December 20, 2007 

Two weeks ago Nicole had been sure that she would see Wynonna again soon. But now there was only four days left until Christmas Eve and there was no trace of her. They still texted, but it wasn’t anywhere near as often. Sometimes days would go by before Wynonna replied. Wynonna had called her from a payphone one day while she was in basketball practice. Nicole waited til she was in her room to listen to the message that Wynonna had left. She was apologizing for being distant and promising her that she hadn’t done anything wrong, that it wasn’t about her… she assured Nicole that she’d explain at some point what was going on and promised that she still wanted to wear her hoodie. Nicole waited til she was in her room to listen to the message and then spent the rest of the night crying when her call to Wynonna went right to voicemail. 

 

*** 

 

December 24, 2007 

Wynonna waits for her foster parents to leave for their work Christmas party or whatever stupid shit they told her they were going to do before she sneaks down from her room with the bag of supplies she’d gotten from the grocery store earlier that week.

She had only lived in this house for about three weeks but was sure that it was a huge contender for the worst one yet. For one thing, the parents were barely ever home, but when they were they hated the idea of Wynonna so much as breathing outside of her bedroom. So that’s where she stayed when she wasn’t at school or work.  Sometimes they’d be drunk when they came home from whatever they were out doing. The man would try to pick fights with Wynonna, coming into her room to yell at her for anything he could think of. The woman didn’t give a shit. 

Wynonna had started pushing the dresser in front of her door before they got home.  They always had something to say to her when she tried to use the kitchen for anything, especially making food for herself since they never included her in their meals. She’d started eating in her truck or at school and just -- getting through the rest of the time. It’d definitely trimmed her down some, which she figured wasn’t all that bad. It’d probably earn her some extra cash at Pussy Willows if she was being honest. That was another thing, nobody knew she worked at a strip joint. She’d been hired pretty easily, she gave them a fake name and that was pretty much that. Now she stripped at least twice a week, maybe more if someone else didn’t show up. She was always thankful for the extra shifts since they meant extra money. 

But that also meant absolutely no time to see Nicole. That part sucked. A lot. All her money went to gas for her truck, her phone bill, and whatever she ate. Although she’d kept a small stash that she refused to touch since she started the job just to prepare for today, for Nicole’s Christmas present.  Not using the money had it’s disadvantages when she came up short for her phone bill and couldn’t pay, cutting out her service ‘til she could. Nicole’s phone number was the only string of numbers she’d ever memorized, which was lucky ‘cause she could call her from a payphone and let her know she’d explain herself soon. She hated herself for not being able to talk to her the way that she should, but kept telling herself that she’d make up for it and explain soon. 

Tonight, she stands in the empty kitchen and sorts out all the ingredients to make Nicole’s favorite cookies. She never cooks anything too fancy, but has always been pretty good at baking anytime that she’s tried it. Luckily, this makes the process fairly smooth. Wynonna hurries as much as she can without messing anything up, the fear of her “parents” walking in early eating at her insides the entire time. 

She finishes the cookies in record time, tasting one to make sure they’re good enough for her girl. Wynonna has to admit that she’s pleased with her work. She moves the still-warm cookies into a little red box she’d bought and goes to clean up the mess. 

When the kitchen is spotless, Wynonna collects all of Nicole’s gifts and hurries to her truck. She’s careful with the placement, making sure that the cookies don’t get crushed. Just as she’s about to climb up into the driver’s side, she remembers something, “Damn it,” she curses, stomping back through the thick snow to a spot off to the side of the house. The brunette dusts the top layer of snow off, revealing a tub of ice cream, still as frozen as it had been when she bought it. She’d been too afraid to bring it inside and didn’t want anything happening to it, so she could only hope that this trick would work. Damn, was she glad it did. 

The drive to Nicole’s house wasn’t that long from the new house, somewhere around 35 minutes. Wynonna pulls her truck into the very edge of the driveway, far enough away that the sound of the old engine won’t wake Nicole or her parents. The teenager hops out of the truck and then looks up at the house, remembering how Nicole’s bedroom is on the second floor. Great. 

Wynonna sighs, going around to the passenger side and carefully packing the gifts into her old backpack. With it slung over her shoulder, she makes her way up to the side of the house where Nicole’s window is. Luckily, the overhang of the front porch is right underneath it. If she can just get up there, it won’t be that hard to get to the window, she observes. 

As she’s hoisting herself up the banister and onto the roof at almost midnight in the middle of winter, the song ‘ The Things We Do For Love ’ by 10cc begins to play in her head. She laughs. “You’re such a dumbass,” she mutters, shaking her head. Just as she’s about to get both feet on the roof her foot slips, almost causing her to fall off completely. She catches herself on the gutter and manages to pull herself the rest of the way up, flopping forward outside Nicole’s bedroom window. 

Nicole is barely paying attention to the dumb Christmas movie playing on her TV, but she’s too busy thinking about what kissing Wynonna under the mistletoe would be like to notice the sounds of her scaling the side of her house. Until she crash lands outside the window anyway.

Nicole almost jumps out of her skin. The sound is unmistakable, she knows that someone or something has to be out there. For a moment, she wonders if she should just leave the curtain closed and go get her parents, but the curiosity and desire to be brave gets the better of her. 

She leaves the TV on, hoping to mask the sound of her walking from the visitor. Easing off her bed, long legs tiptoe over to the window. She tries to see through the curtain, but she might as well have been looking at a brick wall. It was too dark out, she was going to have to open it. “Okay, okay Nic.. just do it, just look. There’s still a window between you,” She mutters to herself, eyes closed as she tries to steady her breathing. 

When she opens her eyes, she catches the metallic glint of her softball bat resting against the wall out the corner of her eye. “Yes!” She whispers, striding over and grabbing it before returning to the window. The redhead counts to three in her mind before she pulls back the curtain. 

She has to smack her hand over her mouth to keep from screaming. Blue eyes stare back at her through the glass, looking just as surprised as she is. Her heart begins to race and she feels like she might start to cry. Wynonna is here, after weeks of barely speaking to her. She’s here , on Nicole’s roof and trying to climb into her damn bedroom window on Christmas. 

Wynonna offers her a little wave through the window and points to the lock, her small smile breaking into a grin at the sight of Nicole.

Nicole drops the bat and quickly unlocks the window, pushing it up and leaning against the sill. “What the hell are you doing, Wynonna?!” She whispers, sad and happy and confused all at once. 

“Well, damn, nice to see you too, Haughty. Geez, Merry Christmas. Didn’t see a chimney so I figured I’d have to come in through the window, deliver my girl her gifts, you know the drill.” She brushes the snow off her gloved hands and off of her pants, blowing a strand of hair out of her face as she looks back up at the taller girl. 

Wynonna’s ‘My girl’ knocks the wind out of her. That is all she wanted to be. Nicole’s stunned and emotional beyond comprehension. Tears prick in her brown eyes, but she still can’t help but laugh. This is so -- insane. Unexpected. Romantic.  Wynonna’s eyes look so blue and her hair looks so dark against the stark white of the snow. Her nose is all red from being out in the cold and it looks like her bottom lip is trembling. She is so beautiful that it hurts. Nicole can’t stop staring. 

“What’dya say? Can I come in? Gettin’ a little chilly out here.” Wynonna’s soft voice pulls Nicole out of her reverie. She reaches out her hand to help Wynonna across the threshold and into her bedroom. 

Wynonna heaves a sigh of relief, the warmth of the room instantly thawing out her frozen body. A deep breath pulls the smell of Nicole into her lungs and she feels at home, finally. She drops her bag carefully at the foot of Nicole’s bed and shrugs out of her big coat. “Look, I know I should have called or something, but I - 

Nicole surges forward and pulls Wynonna to her by her hips, kissing her hard. Wynonna’s eyebrows raise, a small sound of surprise falling from her lips as she gives in to the kiss. Her hands fall against Nicole’s chest as she kisses her back. Nicole softens, kissing the older girl more slowly, more deeply. Her hands find Wynonna’s cold face, lithe fingers caressing her cheek before she pulls away, leaving them both breathless.

“Where’d you go, ‘Nonna?” Nicole breathes, her voice breaking. 

Wynonna’s eyes stay shut for a moment, giving her heart a minute to catch up. Ringed fingers grip the back of Nicole’s baggy t-shirt and she drops her head to the taller girl’s chest. “I’m sorry, Nic... really I…” She hears the soft sniffling coming from Nicole and fear fills her body.

Instead of pushing her away, the redhead wraps her arms around Wynonna tight and holds on to her, resting her cheek against Wynonna’s head. They stand like that for a while, neither of them keeping track of exactly how long. It just feels good to be like this. For Wynonna, it’s like she can finally breathe again.

When Nicole finally lifts her head, Wynonna looks up at her with watery blue eyes and searches for the anger she feels should be showing itself in Nicole’s face. It’s not there. There’s only sadness and questions and -- something else -- that makes Wynonna feel breakable. She moves carefully out of Nicole’s arms, reaching for her hand instead and moving to sit on the edge of the bed. 

Just before she sits, she pats at the back of her jeans noticing for the first time how damp they are. “Goddamn it,” She curses under her breath. She doesn’t get to say anything else before Nicole turns towards her closet. Wynonna sighs, a sad smile turning up the corners of her mouth while she undresses. 

The redhead comes back with a big hoodie and a pair of sweatpants and pushes them gently into Wynonna’s arms, pressing a kiss to the side of her head. Wynonna’s body warms at the gestures. She’s sure that she’s red from her cheeks to her chest, but that’s okay. So this was what being taken care of felt like… weird.  

Nicole’s breath hitches as she catches a glimpse of Wynonna’s bare skin. Heat floods her insides and she turns away before Wynonna can notice or, even worse, think she’s staring and feel uncomfortable. She can’t push the images of Wynonna’s chest or her toned stomach and strong thighs out of her mind, no matter how hard she squeezes her eyes shut. 

“You can look, you know? At me.” Wynonna’s voice comes quietly from behind her and she turns to find the smaller girl sitting criss cross on the edge of her bed in her grey basketball hoodie and pants. The way she looks takes her breath again. Would she ever stop feeling like this when it came to Wynonna? She didn’t think it was possible.

“I didn’t wanna make you uncomfortable,” She almost whispers, shrugging softly. 

Wynonna reaches out and grabs her hand again, holding it in both of her’s. “Impossible, Haught.” She smirks, shaking her head before dropping her eyes to their hands. A deep sigh leaves her and she shudders. “My phone got turned off the other day, that’s why I called you from that weird number. And why I’ve been not answering. But on Wednesday I can go pay the bill and it’ll be back on.” Wynonna begins, keeping her eyes on her fingers and how they brush against Nicole’s long, calloused ones. She really had learned the guitar, hadn’t she? “I’m still sorry, cause I know you probably thought ––” 

Nicole’s shoulders slump with relief. She hadn’t been ignoring her at all. God, that feels better. There’s still a lot of ache in her chest but at least -- at least . “That you didn’t like me anymore...or that.. somethin’ bad had happened to you,” she whispers, sinking to her knees in front of the older girl. “Wynonna,” She pushes some dark strands behind the other girl’s ear and tilts her chin towards her with her finger. “Why didn’t you… I don’t know.. come by here? Or somethin’, anything.” She swallows hard, trying to keep her emotions calm and serene. She’s been so worried though, barely sleeping, barely eating. With no way of getting in touch with her. 

Wynonna sighs, her bottom lip trembling as Nicole looks into her eyes. She can’t take it for too long, and has to look away as a tear slips down her cheek. 

Baby ,” the endearment falls from Nicole’s lips easy and without warning. She’d never ever called anyone that before. Her thumb moves to brush the tear from Wynonna’s cheek. 

The sound of Nicole’s voice calling her baby is soothing and terrifying. “I couldn’t come by ‘cause my truck was getting worked on, I couldn’t even go to work, which is also why -- my phone got turned off. I used up the money I had to fix the truck.” 

Nicole stops for a moment, just listening to her. She nods along, to let her know she’s hanging on every word. “What about your -” She stops before she says it, but Wynonna knows what she means. 

A humorless laugh leaves her lips, followed by a couple more tears that Nicole wipes away. She knows that it’s now or never. She could at least tell Nicole about being a foster kid. That probably wouldn’t scare her away, right? She was kind, and gentle and the most understanding person Wynonna had ever met. Lying to her hurt worse than any pain she’d ever felt. 

“I don’t have parents, Nic. My dad -- died when I was twelve and my mom left before that. I’m in foster care still, ‘least until I graduate. That’s -- why I was moving the other day. Into my seventh home in the last five years .” She bites her lip, hard -- trying to keep the tears back but the softness she sees when she looks into Nicole’s eyes again is enough to bring the tears out in full. 

Pretty soon, Nicole is sitting next to her with her arms wrapped around her while Wynonna cries quietly against her chest. “I’m sorry, Wynonna,” Nicole whispers into her hair. She can smell her shampoo, the scent that had lulled her to sleep every night that she’d had to sleep without Wynonna. She doesn’t say anything else, mostly because she knows she doesn’t have the words. The last thing she wants to do is seem patronizing and make the situation worse. 

Wynonna finally allows herself to fall completely into Nicole’s arms. Letting herself share this huge thing cracks parts of her open - parts that have been sealed tight without budging for years. She needs to be held by Nicole, only by Nicole. She cries more freely, sobs racking her body. Nicole’s arms only grow tighter and feel stronger each time her body jerks. 

“I’ve got you, Wynonna,” Nicole promises. “I’m right here.” 

Wynonna holds tighter and her crying starts to quiet. It takes a few long minutes until the sobs stop and the tears stream more slowly from her eyes. When she feels steady enough, she pulls back to look up at Nicole. The sadness in Nicole’s eyes is different now, filled with concern and care of another kind. Wynonna feels precious . Nicole wipes away the streaks under her eyes. Wynonna sniffles and wipes her nose with the back of her hand. 

The older girl leans up slowly and Nicole moves with her. A gentle kiss with more emotion than either of them realize. They both melt into one another, pulling back moments later. Wynonna dips her head and Nicole’s lips press to her forehead. 

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. I was--”

“Shhh…” Nicole cuts her off. “You have nothing to be sorry for. We were still-- We’ve only--” The younger girl tries to find her words. To say that they are only anything feels absolutely wrong. They are everything. “You can trust me. And you can tell me anything whenever you want to. Whenever you want to. ” She emphasizes the last part, hoping her point is made. 

“How are you even a real person?” Wynonna asks, finally chuckling a bit. “Oh shit--” Wynonna realizes, pulling away from Nicole and going to her backpack. It hadn’t been that long, but… “I have ice cream in my backpack!”

Nicole watches Wynonna with this look of sheer adoration as she scrambles and pulls the rocky road out. Her favorite. Wynonna puts it on the floor near her bag and goes back into her bag to pull out the white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. Her other favorite. Wynonna looks up with a sheepish smile and finds the look of… something … staring back at her.

“I couldn't get spoons…” 

“I’ll be right back.” Nicole leans down and kisses Wynonna on the lips quickly before departing for the kitchen, carefully quiet, and returning a couple of minutes later with two spoons. Wynonna’s sitting on the bed again. God, she looks good in Nicole’s hoodie and sweats. 

“What?” Wynonna questions Nicole’s expression. She’s got a good idea what she’s thinking, but still needs to hear it right now. 

“You look so good in my clothes.”

“Oh, well, you should see me out of them…” Wynonna teases and smirks, her tongue pushing against the side of her mouth. 

Nicole’s stunned briefly. Every single time, she feels the same wave of desire and nerves and desperation crash through her. She knows she’s blushing, but she musters the confidence to smirk back at her. “After ice cream and presents…”

Wynonna bites her bottom lip. “Maybe, I am a present that you need to unwrap, Haughty.” She had missed this -- being happy . And playful. Comfortable in their bubble within Nicole’s room. She wants to stay right here always. Fuck. She realizes. This is what she had been working to protect herself from, but with one admission, that work unravels. She wants this forever. And it feels better than she imagined - still scary, but more amazing than anything. 

“Mmm. You’re killing me…” Nicole teases,  taking her place at Wynonna’s side and giving one of the spoons to her. 

“Not yet, I’m not…” They kiss briefly. “Now eat this ice cream with me before it turns into milk.”

It hasn’t melted that much by the time they dig in. Nicole’s eyes roll back and she makes an exaggerated noise at the first taste. Wynonna laughs. They catch up. Nicole talks about stupid shit Max has been doing, dumb basketball practice, and the way she’s been learning more about the guitar. Nicole leaves out the parts where people have started to warn her about Wynonna. She doesn’t give a fuck what anyone says. She knows Wynonna. Better than any of them. They have no clue what she’s gone through. Now Nicole has a little bit of a better idea.

The small tub is finished quickly between the two of them. Nicole puts the spoons in the now-empty tub and places it off to the side. “Can I give you your present now?” Nicole asks. 

“Wait-- Me first.” Wynonna insists, crawls to the end of the bed where her backpack sits on the floor and pulls a wrapped package from her bag. She tries not to let herself get too excited. The gift makes sense to her, but what if Nicole thinks it’s stupid? She shakes the thought from her head and grins as the gift lands in Nicole’s grasp. Wynonna retrieves her phone and pulls up the camera app to snap pictures of Nicole. 

Nicole waits until Wynonna nods at her and unwraps the gift. She pulls out a perfect blue polaroid camera. “Wynonna--” She breathes in awe. She thinks briefly about how much Wynonna would have had to save for this and feels a strong pang in her chest. “I love it so much.”

“I was just thinking we could start taking some pictures when we’re together. For when we can’t,” Wynonna adds with a bit of sadness. 

“D’you wanna take one now?” Nicole asks hopefully. Wynonna nods. “C’mere, then.” Nicole opens her legs for Wynonna to settle between and hands Wynonna the camera. 

“I set it up already so it’d be ready. Just give it a sec to warm up.” Wynonna offers. 

“Not a problem…” Nicole brings her finger under Wynonna’s chin to tilt her head back. Wynonna shifts without resistance and welcomes the kiss. After weeks of nothing , she understands the need to fill every empty space with kisses and returns the sentiment tenfold. Nicole breaks the kiss reluctantly. “I missed you so much.” 

“I missed you, too.” Wynonna realizes this is the first time either of them have spoken these words aloud. It feels different to hear it and to speak it than to read it and to text it. 

“Let’s take the picture. I want to give you your gift.” Nicole urges. They snap two - one where they’re both looking at the camera and smiling, Nicole’s chin rests on Wynonna’s shoulder and one where they kiss sweetly. Wynonna places the two polaroids off to the side to develop. Nicole takes the camera back and readies it to snap a shot of Wynonna opening her present. 

The box that Nicole pulls from her bedside drawer is small and Wynonna can’t begin to guess what’s in it. She takes the lid off and pulls out a long chain necklace with a key and blue bead-like things on the end.  Nicole snaps a pic. Wynonna immediately falls in love with it and that is evidenced in her expression. She takes the key in her palm and squints. “What does this say?”

“I looked it up and it could either be Athens or Athena, I think it’s Athens, but it’s greek. Athena is the goddess of wisdom and war and she’s just really kickass and that’s what I think of when I think of you.” Nicole pauses for just a second before explaining the rest, “The blue ‘beads’ are called Mati which means ‘evil eye.’ Wearing them guards against bad luck and brings you good luck and protects you from any bad stuff.”

Wynonna’s mouth parts slightly as she listens to each word and looks at the details of the necklace. It was so thoughtful. Where had Nicole even found this? Wynonna would wear it every day, always. Except when she was-- No, she isn’t thinking about that now. 

“I know it’s kinda weird.”

“No!” Wynonna sounds offended. “It’s not weird, it’s perfect. I love-- it.” Wynonna can’t believe she almost said that. Every single inch of her knows it, but she can’t fully admit it yet. There are too many things that could rip them apart. Still, Nicole feels like the end for her. Wynonna slips it over her neck. The tip of the key hangs over her bellybutton. She immediately feels calmer. 

“Merry Christmas, Wynonna.” 

“Merry Christmas, Nicole” 

Wynonna takes the camera from Nicole and places it carefully on the bedside table. She leans back and clears the bed of the wrappings and boxes. Nicole watches her curiously, leaning back against her headboard. Wynonna locks eyes with Nicole and swallows nervously. Her fingers find the bottom of the hoodie she’s wearing and she pulls it slowly up, careful not to harm the necklace hanging from her neck and leaving her in her bra underneath. 

Nicole fights the reflex to look away. Wynonna clearly wants her to look, so she does. She takes in every inch of her and can’t hide the enraptured look. Wynonna moves towards her and she brings her gaze back to Wynonna’s face.  “Wynonna…” She breathes.

“Is this okay?” Wynonna hovers inches away from Nicole’s face.

Nicole nods and reaches out to feel Wynonna’s bare skin. Nicole slides her hands along Wyn’s sides around to her back. Wynonna pushes forward until they’re kissing once more -- more deliberately this time. The air shifts and Nicole knows something special is happening and she needs it to keep happening. Her heart has never beat faster than it is right now. She’s never felt more complete or whole. 

Wynonna is brought back to life. The last time she felt this way was the last time she was here. Sounds are louder and each touch feels new and exceptional. Nothing has ever compared to the feelings evoked at Nicole’s hands, her lips, her gaze, or her careful words. Wynonna desperately clings to it in these moments and will continue to fight for it as long as she can. 

The following hours are spent exploring each other fully. Wynonna takes special care of Nicole, knowing it is her first time. Nicole is careful in return, constantly checking to make sure it’s okay that she touches Wynonna here or there. She makes sure every time before she does something new and she asks Wynonna what she should do because she needs the guidance.  No one ever paid Wynonna that courtesy before and she can’t say that she’d exactly given it to anyone else. It was always this carnal, borderline gross experience before now. This is something else entirely. 

Their intimacy flows into the hours of first light. It’s officially Christmas, now. They’re lying peacefully in each other’s arms when Wynonna notices the sun coming up outside. “Oh shit--” Wynonna whispers.

“What is it, baby?” Nicole asks, the term of endearment returning with just as much ease and more confidence. 

“It’s light out. I should probably leave before your parents get up and find me here.” 

“No, it’ll be okay.” Nicole assures her and pulls her closer. “They’ve been asking when you’re coming back. They won’t be mad or anything… Though we probably need to get dressed just in case…” Nicole adds with a sly smile. 

“Uunngh, hrmph,” Wynonna groans and nestles into Nicole’s chest. “Don’t wanna.” 

“Me either.” Nicole traces circles over Wynonna’s back and kisses the top of her head. “But we have to.” 

They dress with every ounce of willpower they have left, settle back into bed, and tangle right back into one another. In their contentment, it takes no time for the two of them to drift off into a peaceful slumber. When they wake, they spend a perfect day partly alone and partly with Nicole’s parents, who are more than happy to see Wynonna back in their home, making Nicole laugh and smile again.

Chapter Text

Wynonna wakes slowly. For a moment, she doesn’t remember where she is. She’s reminded when she feels her younger sister nestle against her shoulder. It makes her smile, reminding her of when they were kids. The morning light is soft in Waverly’s tiny loft. It helps Wynonna’s still tired eyes and still very hungover head adjust easily. The older Earp yawns, rubbing at her eyes with the back of her hand.

“Look who’s sober,” Waverly grumbles, rolling onto her back and stretching as she wakes.

Wynonna laughs softly, propping herself up on her elbow and looking down at her sister.
“Yeah, tell that to my headache.”

Waverly sits up, criss-crossing her legs and rubbing at her own eyes. “Surprised you’re up this early, honestly. Nicole and I basically had to drag your butt up here in the first place.”

Wynonna tenses immediately, her smile faltering. “Shit, Nicole.” She mutters, covering her face with both hands and shaking her head. “God, she was probably so pissed. I bet I did something dumb. Jesus, Waverly…” Wynonna begins to remember bits and pieces of the previous night, remembering talking and laughing with the redhead very easily, and the way her chest had felt looking at her again in the yellow glow of Shorty’s. Nicole had looked so beautiful, Wynonna remembers that clearly. Nicole’s always been beautiful - every time. A fragment of a memory pops into her head -- one where Nicole is standing by the door… Wynonna can’t remember what she was saying. 

“Would you calm down? Geez, you didn’t. Not that I know of anyway. She didn’t seem pissed, not even a little bit. She was happy, ‘Nonna.” Waverly smiles, feeling her own surge of happiness at someone being so… nice about her big sister. 

Wynonna lets her hands fall from her face, slumping as she looks over to read Waverly’s expression. The younger Earp is shit at lying anyway and Wynonna can tell that she isn’t. She looks down, fiddling with the frayed edge of Waverly’s comforter for a moment as they sit in silence. It’s comfortable, being like this. Something Wynonna doesn’t know if she deserves. Waverly, Nicole… none of it. 

Before she can sink too far into her harrowing thoughts, Waverly’s hand pushes some of her hair behind her ear and brings her back. 

“I don’t know what you guys… were. Or are. But I think she really, really likes you, Wynonna. As a good friend, at the very least.” Waverly almost whispers.  

Wynonna laughs at them being “friends.” God, they’d never been just friends, not really.
“Yeah, well…” She smirks, looking over at her sister, “We can just...see how long that lasts before I screw it up, I guess.” 

Waverly rolls her eyes, shaking her head as she gets up from the tangle of covers and stretches again. “On another note, I’m off today.. Champ and I are going to the mall, if you wanna tag along.” She raises her eyebrows, looking over her shoulder at Wynonna. 

The older woman makes a motion that mimics gagging with the sound to match. “I can’t think of anything I’d like to do less, actually, than be stuck in a stupid mall with that dweeb. Seriously, Waverly... ew.” She gets up from the bed and pulls the covers up on her side, noticing where her sister had stashed her boots and belt the night before. Her jeans had been left where she tossed them at some point in the night, so she picks them up and pulls them back on. “Can I borrow a t-shirt or something to wear home, this shirt smells like --”

“Like whiskey and sweat?” Waverly wrinkles her nose, shuffling through her closet. She pulls out an old white shirt that’s riddled with holes and has a faded image of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album cover on the front and tosses it over to her sister. “This is yours anyway. You forgot it... when you left.” Waverly shrugs, trying not to get sad at the thought. Wynonna is there now, that’s what matters. 

Wynonna looks down at the big old shirt in her hands, holding it out so that she can see the front. Instantly, the memories begin to swirl in her head..threatening to come out of her eyes.
“Shit, Waves.. You kept this?” Wynonna clutches the fabric that holds so many of her favorite memories. Something she thought she’d lost in time, like so many other things. But it had come back...like so many other things.  

“Well, yeah I wasn’t gonna throw it out. I knew you’d come back, ‘Nonna.” Her voice is soft, sure. 

Wynonna finally looks up at her, smiling back. She probably wouldn’t say it out loud yet, but she is really glad that she had come back.

She tosses the shirt onto Waverly’s bed, pulling off her other one and replacing it with the battered Fleetwood Mac shirt. Wynonna sits down on the edge of the bed to put her boots back on and tosses her belt over her shoulder, along with the dirty shirt.  “Love you, Babygirl.” She presses a quick kiss to the side of Waverly’s head and grabs her keys off the hook before heading down to the main area of the bar. 

It was still too early for the bar to be open, but Shorty had the door propped open while he fixed something on the outside of the building. Wynonna took the opportunity to make herself a coffee before going back to Gus’s for a shower. The espresso machine was complicated and newer than the one that had been around when she was last in the bar. She manages, though. There’s a fresh box of donuts on the bar, which she knows could only be Shorty’s doing. “Goddamnit, you do love me.” Wynonna smiles, grabbing one from the box and putting it in her mouth for holding til she gets to her truck. 

Right before she makes it to the door, Nicole walks in, stopping her in her tracks. Wynonna panics internally, her heart only beating harder as the smile on the redhead’s face gets bigger. 

“Well, good mornin’ to me.” Nicole says, her voice raspy and beautiful. 

Wynonna reaches for the donut, smiling as she chews the bite left in her mouth. “Haughty… I didn’t expect to see you… I mean I -- I was just going home.” Wynonna stumbles over her words, feeling self conscious in front of Nicole without the full memory of the previous night. Even at 8:30 in the morning after a night of drinking she looks so put together, meanwhile Wynonna’s standing there with a half eaten donut, a wrinkly old t-shirt and bed hair. 

“I just came to get my truck. Couldn’t really drive it home last night, Waves told me it was okay to leave it here.” Nicole is still smiling, but it changes when her eyes fall to Wynonna’s shirt. 

Wynonna looks down, wondering why she’s staring before she remembers what shirt she’s wearing. Her face flushes deep red, a little nervous laugh leaving her, “This was -- tucked away in Waverly’s closet. I forgot it here with some other stuff when I -- yeah.” 

Nicole’s heart feels like it’s going to burst. It’s just a damn t-shirt, Haught. She tries to convince herself, hoping it’ll stop the flood of emotion she feels. But the softness of the worn garment makes her fingertips tingle. The feel of Wynonna’s smooth skin under that fabric… She clears her throat, clearing her own head. “Yeah, I remember it.. Still looks good on you, Wynonna.” Her voice is soft, sentimental. 

It breaks Wynonna’s heart. “Look, I wanna apologize for last night, Haught. I shouldn’t have gotten so sloppy an-” Wynonna begins, but Nicole places a hand on her arm, stopping her. 

“Hey, I had a really good time last night. Okay?” 

The way she squeezes Wynonna’s arm just a little is enough to make a lump form in her throat. Wynonna gives her a soft smile and nods, “I did, too. I just --” 

“You didn’t do anything wrong, Wynonna.” Nicole assures her, staring for longer than she probably should. “We should do it again. That - or something else, whatever you want. Whichever. Anything. If - If you wanted to.” 

Now it’s her turn to stumble, and Wynonna chuckles, feeling very grateful. “I’d like that. I’ll text you, alright?” She cocks her head to the side in question. 

“Will you really text me this time or will you make me wait all day long?” Nicole teases, her hand still on Wynonna’s arm. 

The older woman blushes again, “I will, geez. What’re you gonna do, arrest me?” Wynonna teases her back. 

Nicole reddens, laughing deeply and shaking her head at Wynonna. “Yeah, maybe.” She lets her hand finally drop from the other woman’s arm, pointing over her shoulder. “Do you know what I gotta do to get someone to make me a coffee?” 

Wynonna looks down at the full cup in her hand that she’d worked so hard to make and holds it out to the officer. 

“Here. As a thank you for putting up with me last night.” 

Nicole looks between the cup and Wynonna a couple of times before taking it and having a sip. 

“Hm.. ‘s pretty good. You make this?” She asks, eyebrows raised. 

“Blood, sweat and tears, Haught.” Wynonna smirks, feeling more warm inside than the coffee could have ever made her. “I’ll text you.” She repeats, nudging Nicole with her elbow before leaving her standing in the empty bar. 

 

***

 

Wynonna moves about the homestead, newly fortified after the removal of the talisman from the ground. The home is still a work in progress, but they’ve got running water, electricity, and a place to sleep.  Revenants can’t get them here. Wynonna may be sleeping on a couch right now, but it’s safe. She’s sleeping as best as she can with the nightmares - reliving her kills over and over again. Seventy-something more to go… 

Over the last several days, the kitchen’s shaped into something usable - refrigerator and cabinets stocked, oven cleaned inside and out. The Earp Heir pulls out her phone with the cookie recipe she saved the morning after her night with Nicole at Shorty’s. White chocolate macadamia nut cookies. It wouldn’t be her first time making them, but it would be the first time in a long, long while. 

She gathers the ingredients and lays them out. One by one, each of them is checked off the list and she goes about measuring the portions. Halfway through her first measurement, she ties her hair back and streaks a bit of flour across her forehead. 

Waverly comes bounding in a beat later. “Wynonna, I’m off to wo-- Whaaat are you doing?” 

Wynonna jumps, accidentally cracking an egg onto the counter instead of into the bowl. “Ah geez. Everyone in this town needs to wear bells.” Wynonna puffs a piece of stray hair out of her face and turns to find Waverly giving her a stupid grin that made Wynonna want to give her younger sister an atomic wedgie. “I’m obviously building a new vibrator for myself. Getting lonely out here, ya know.”

“Ew.” Waverly scrunches her nose and shakes her head. “Smartass… Why are you baking?” Realization dawns. “Oh my god…”

“Waverly!” Wynonna couldn’t get over to her fast enough to stop her from speaking the words. 

“...you’re baking for Nicole!”

“Shut up! Waves. I--” Wynonna sighs and slouches. “Listen, I’m trying to do this thing where I don’t let myself be an insufferable bitch that ices out the people she lo- uhhh cares about.” 

Waverly’s eyebrows shoot up at the almost-slip. Part of her wants to keep prying like she always does, but the rest of what Wynonna said is already a miracle in itself. She decides a smirk and a chuckle will suffice to let Wynona know she heard that.

“You’re doing fine, ‘Nonna,” she encourages. “Besides, I was just coming to tell you I’m going to work and ask if I’d see you tonight… Buuuut… I’m not going to count on it.” The youngest Earp winks and turns to leave. 

“I’m going to wedgie you so hard when you get home.”

“Bye! Love ya!”

Wynonna smiles once Waverly is gone. Baking like this - in her own kitchen this time - brought her back to… different times. Not simpler. She’s never really had simpler times, but there was this full, content feeling somewhere inside her chest coming back. She remembers baking the same cookies when she was 18 in one of her foster family’s kitchens. She had had to wait until they were out for the evening to avoid pissing them off by just existing and using anything in the house. Being 18, she had only been in a foster home because she was a high school student. The second she graduated… Well… 

Wynonna shakes her head, coming back to the here and now, and finishes her baking without any other major mishaps. 

 

***

 

Nicole enters the cop shop with a sigh. It absolutely amazed her how much just being around Wynonna had made her feel like the huge hole in her soul was being filled with every second. She spends nights in her bed, resisting the urge to text the older woman. The same way they had back when. It isn’t like that now, though. At least, not yet? Maybe not ever. Nicole got lost in her thoughts too much about the way Wynonna felt or currently feels about her. Part of her knows what they meant. Wynonna had even said she missed her. Every day.

But, Nicole wasn’t that same young girl. Ever since Wynonna left, she had to build a thick skin to protect herself from the hurt that-- When Wynonna left. But this is Wynonna. Rules don’t apply to Wynonna. They never had, never would. 

Something on her desk makes her pause at the doorway. Was that- She picks up the small piece of paper on top of a tupperware container and reads, Still your favorite? She grins, realizing Wynonna’s handwriting immediately, a little more refined than she remembers.  Peeling the container lid back, the delicious aroma of cookies immediately floods her senses. Wynonna baked her cookies. Her favorite cookies. Just as she’s about to take her first bite, Nedley comes bounding in. 

“Haught. We got a code 500.”

“Hostage situation?” Nicole questions, quickly closing up her cookies and putting them in the drawer of her desk. 

“Yep. C’mon, get in your car and let’s go. I think Deputy Marshall Ass may already be on the scene with Wynonna Earp.”

Wynonna . Without another word, Nicole rushes to her car, starts it up, and peels out behind Nedley. She needs to remember her training. Focus on what you know, Haught. Don’t let this cloud your judgment. Wynonna has handled herself so far. Against some weird violent shit. She’ll be fine. She’s fine now. 

As they pull up, her body sags with relief when she sees Dolls and Wynonna standing safely by Dolls’ car. Nedley is out just ahead of her, having parked sooner, and is speaking to Dolls. By the time she approaches, Nedley is walking back to her cursing about Dolls being an ass or something, nothing new. She tunes it out and looks past to see that Wynonna seems focused on the task at hand, not even noticing that she’s there. 

“Haught!” Nedley commands her attention and her eyes snap back. 

“Sorry. What’s the situation?” She asks, resisting every urge she has to cut her eyes at Wynonna. 

“Shit. Probably best to let Dolls and Earp do whatever the hell they’re gonna do and standby at the ready,” Nedley explains and steps off to the side. 

Nicole watches intently, trying to hear what Dolls and Wynonna are saying but failing to read their lips. The look on Dolls face sparks worry in her. What was the damn plan? And then-- Did he just-- caress her face ? Her blood feels like it’s boiling under her skin. All she can do is clench her jaw and watch. 

No. 

Wynonna walks off with her hands in the air. 

“Sheriff!” Nicole protests as softly as she can manage. “What the hell are they doing?” Nicole goes to bound forward, but Nedley holds out his arm. 

“Deputy Haught. Keep. Your. Head. Draw your weapon. And provide cover.” 

Nicole’s jaw aches as she clenches harder and harder. Her weapon is drawn within the second, though, and she is ready to gun down anyone who even thinks about laying a finger on Wynonna. 

Wynonna looks back at Dolls, but then her eyes seem to find Nicole. Nicole’s expression softens and she nods. Wynonna nods back. This feeling is so sickening. All the redhead wants to do is rush after her, go in there and rescue her. But, this is a hostage situation and that goes against everything in her training. Wynonna disappears into the building with the criminal and Nicole dies little by little. 

After a few minutes, Nicole bounds forward, holstering her weapon. “What’s the plan, Deputy Marshall?”

“We surround the store. You get a clear shot, let me know. We hear shots, we go in.”

“Okay.” Nicole manages. 

“Call Waverly. Tell her that her sister’s in a situation.”

“Isn’t that Champ’s truck?” Nicole asks, trying to focus on anything but Wynonna being in danger. 

“Waverly’s boyfriend.” 

“Unfortunately…” Nicole lamented. Waverly definitely deserved better than that. Without another thought, she dials Waverly.

“Waverly?”

“Nicole? Hi! What’s up? Did you get anything delicious today?” Waverly teases. She must have known about the cookies. 

Nicole wants to smile but she can only manage to start spewing out what’s happened. “Wynonna’s in a situation. Um. I don’t know how much I can tell you. But I won’t let anything happen to her.”

“Happen to her- Nicole, what are you saying?”

“Deputy Marshall Dolls, Sheriff Nedley, and I are on the scene. Wynonna just went in to try and negotiate through a hostage situation.”

There’s a pause. “Nicole, please don’t let anything happen to her I-- we just got her back.”

“I won’t. I’ll die before I let something happen to her. I’ll keep you updated as much as I can.” 

“Thank you. For calling.”

“Of course. Oh- Sorry, uh, Champ might be in there, too. His truck’s here.” 

“Champ? Oh. Thanks. Um. Make sure they’re okay, please.” 

“Will do. I’m sorry I don’t know much about what’s going on. Only what I saw. You know how Dolls is.”

“Yeah…” The worry in Waverly’s voice is palpable through the phone. “Thanks, Nicole.”

The conversation ends. An eternity passes before Wynonna emerges. As a human shield. Nicole wants to pull the trigger, but she can’t. There’s no clear shot that won’t end up with Wynonna dead. She feels utterly powerless. 

“Do you have a shot?” Dolls asks Nedley. 

“Jesus, Dolls. They got a human shield.” 

“Okay, I can offer safe passage in return for the hostages!” Dolls calls out. 

Nicole’s going to be sick. They have no power in this situation. 

“Here’s our safe passage! Anyone with a badge follows us, they all die!” 

The bile in her throat rises. She feels frozen. She wants to scream. 

“Deputy, did they find what they were looking for?” Dolls calls out

“Yeah. Loveless heart, but don’t sweat it. I’m gonna kill these sons of bitches with my bare hands.” Wynonna answers. Loveless heart? What the fuck? The response does little to calm the growing fear inside of Nicole. Wynonna is still being Wynonna. Normally, it would make her feel warm. 

She misses something Nedley hollers and Dolls hollers back. 

“What!? We’re just letting them go!?” She approaches Dolls with a blind fury. 

“No.” 

“Well it damn sure looks like it!” Nicole bites back. 

“Deputy Haught. Stand down.” Nedley warns. 

Dolls remains emotionless. She’s sure that he’s going to threaten to have her arrested for treason or something ridiculous again. 

“You two, clear the scene.” Dolls states as if Nicole hadn’t just overstepped. 

If looks could kill, Dolls would have dropped stone cold immediately. Nicole grinds her teeth and whips her head around in sheer frustration. She tries but can’t contain what she does next. She turns back on her heel and points her finger in Dolls face. “If you let one damn hair on her head be out of place, I’ll handle you myself.”

It’s clear that Dolls has a plan that he isn’t allowing either of the Purgatory officers to be privy to. 

Dolls looks blankly at the distraught deputy. “Sheriff, you’d be wise to keep your deputies in check.” He calls out, not even dignifying Nicole with a direct reply. “Clear the scene. I’ll be in touch.”

Nicole begrudgingly turns to follow orders. As she walks to the back of Dolls’ car, she slips her phone into the back of the vehicle by easing the door open with just enough space and slamming it shut, giving the illusion of kicking it out of frustration in the same instance. She’s truly pushing her luck with Dolls at this point, but there’s no way that he couldn’t see how much she cares about Wynonna. He might have been a complete douchebag, but that didn’t mean that he couldn’t see, right?

Without any other reprimands, the car takes off with her phone. 

 

***

 

When the scene is clear, she calls out to Nedley, “Sheriff, I can track where Dolls went.”

“How?” Nedley sounds skeptical, but interested. 

“I dropped my phone into his car before he took off. I’ve gotta go make sure Wynonna is okay.” She waits a second. “I promised her sister.”

“Listen, Deputy Haught. Shoot straight with me. I know you and Wynonna used to be friends and probably are friends again. You go. Watch from afar. Don’t get caught or so help me, Haught, I won’t have any choice. I’ll be lucky if he lets me just fire you and doesn’t arrest you on the spot.” 

Nicole nods, understanding. Without another word, she gets in her car and is on her way, tracking her phone using the systems in her car. 

 

***

 

Wynonna pulls the trigger on Peacemaker, sending a bullet through Shorty’s head and sending the revenant who stole his body back to hell. There was no other way. Shorty was in pain. He begged for death. It was all she could do. A sob wrecks her body and she collapses onto one of the only people in this stupid town whoever showed her any kindness. 

Nicole parks her squad car away from where she sees Dolls’ car abandoned - making sure to  hide it from the path that will be taken on their way back into town. She seizes the opportunity to retrieve her phone without Dolls figuring her out as quickly as she can. Her eyes search for Wynonna next. And she finds her. Wynonna is kneeling over a body… Shorty. It has to be from the looks of his boots. Dolls walks away. Shit. He’s walking to where she is. 

Nicole hustles away from the car and hides in a place where she can continue to look out at Wynonna.

Nicole had promised. Watch from afar just to make sure Wynonna is okay. No interfering unless absolutely necessary. Nedley couldn’t save her from this wrath. Wynonna is alive, but Wynonna is not okay. Every bone in her body tells her to run to Wynonna. Wynonna needs her. Wynonna needs someone, something. Dolls had just left her there. 

Then, Dolls drives the car up to where the van is parked and reemerges with a body bag. For Shorty. He stands back for a few minutes before Wynonna rises up on her knees and wipes her eyes. Together, Wynonna and Dolls move Shorty into the bag and get him into the car. That’s when Nicole knows she has to make a run for it to her squad car and beat them back to the station. 

Watching from afar had never been harder in her life. 

 

***

 

At the cop shop, Nicole fills Nedley in with all she knew. Shorty was dead. Didn’t know the cause of death. The criminals were nowhere to be seen. Nedley had told her Champ had just arrived to get help, but Dolls had phoned in a few minutes before to call them off. 

“I know it was hard for you not to interfere,” Nedley says solemnly. 

“With all due respect, you don’t know how hard.” Nicole answers softly.

“Thank you.” The Sheriff reaches out a hand to place on Nicole’s shoulder. “Listen, I might not know the ins and outs of all your… stuff… but, you’re a good deputy. And a good friend. That girl needs someone like you. Especially if she’s stickin’ around this town.” 

“Sheriff-”

“I know. I got history to get over. I’m workin’ on it. Just… be careful, still.” 

Dolls enters the police station several minutes later. No Wynonna in sight. Nicole approaches him. “Where is she?” she demands, remembering at the last second that she isn’t supposed to know exactly what happened and stopping her questioning there. 

“Safe. I sent her home. She’s been through enough. That’s all the information you may have at this time, Deputy Haught.” Dolls did emotionless too well. Did he feel anything? “Thank you for your work today.” 

Nicole eases up. “Of course. Th-thank you for keeping her safe.” 

Wordlessly, they part. Sheriff Nedley meets Nicole before she can reach the doorway where her desk sits. “That’s enough for the day, Haught. We’ve got this.”

“But Sheriff, my shift just started with all this.”

“Go home. Go see Wynonna. Whatever it is you gotta do.”

Nicole has never wanted to hug a man more than she does at this moment. “Thank you, sir. Thank you. Thank you!” 

 

***

 

Nicole pulls up to the homestead, relieved to see the familiar old truck parked out front. Is she absolutely out of her mind for coming out here like this? She inhales a long, slow breath and finds her resolve. Wynonna needs someone. She has Waverly. Maybe… No. No. She is going to just be there for Wynonna. She’s going to offer at least. 

She grabs the cookies Wynonna made her and climbs out of her truck. She hadn’t wasted any time on changing, still sporting her uniform. She knocks on the door and bounces nervously on her heels. 

Waverly answers. “Nicole… Hi.” Her sadness is tangible. 

“Hi. Um… So-”

“She’s not talking to me. Not yet. I don’t know if she’ll talk to you.” Waverly interrupts, crossing her arms, rubbing one hand over the opposite arm. 

“Can I come in and try?” Nicole asks softly. Wynonna could turn her away. Probably would at this point in their new relationship. “I’ll leave if she wants.”

“Please try. I don’t know what you guys have, but… I think she probably needs you.” Waverly admits, sad about it but Nicole could tell she’s trying to be understanding. 

Nicole steps past Waverly. “Thank you.”

Waverly nods wordlessly, points Nicole towards the older sister, and walks upstairs. 

Wynonna lands in Nicole’s view. Her dark hair has lost some of it’s waviness and is falling, still beautifully, along her back. There’s an empty glass in her hand she’s holding by the rim. She’s facing a dying fire, one foot propped up on the chair she’s sitting in with the other stretched out in front of her. She seems oblivious and somewhere far off. 

Nicole takes slow strides towards her, placing the cookies on a nearby table. “Wynonna?” She pleads quietly. 

Wynonna sparks a bit, shaking her head slightly and looking over with a dull glimmer in her eyes. “Nicole?” The hope almost matches the level of sorrow in her tone. Almost. “I--” She clears her throat and sucks a deep breath in through her nose. “Weren’t you supposed to be at work?” 

“Nedley let me go home for the day.” Nicole answers. 

“Why?” Wynonna asks, turning back to stare at the flames. 

“Well, uh-- We don’t have to talk about anything unless you want, but, um,” Nicole pauses. Wynonna sighs and turns her gaze back. Nicole thinks she’s made a mistake in coming here. Wynonna couldn’t seem less interested if she tried. Still, she has to be honest. “Wynonna, I tailed you and Dolls. I was worried about you.”

Wynonna’s mouth sets in a hard line. “You did what?” Oh shit, there’s anger. Not what Nicole wants to evoke right now. 

“Listen--”

“No. You listen, Haught.” Wynonna rises from her seated position and places her glass on the table. As she gets closer to Nicole, the emotion in her voice grows with every word. “If Dolls had caught you there, he would have like put you to death or charged you with treason or whatever the fuck it is that he threatened that one time. You can’t just do shit like that.” 

Nicole notices the moisture forming in Wynonna’s eyes and guilt floods her body. “Wynonna--”

“The shit that Dolls says - what he does - I don’t think he feels anything and he wouldn’t care about taking care of a cop from this shithole town. I would never see you again and I just got you back so, you can’t fucking do this shit. You just can’t.” Wynonna’s crying now, tears streaming one after another. Her eyes are bluer, more intense when she cries. 

Nicole reaches out before she stops herself and wraps the smaller woman in her arms, holding tightly. Wynonna doesn’t struggle -- just melts into Nicole and wraps her arms tightly around the redhead’s muscular torso, clinging desperately. 

“Wynonna, I got there right at the end. I was being careful. I promise. I’m here. I’m here.” Nicole placed her mouth against Wynonna’s head, not kissing, just resting. “I couldn’t just let you go, either, you know,” she tries to reason. 

Wynonna fists the uniform shirt and pulls her impossibly closer. For a good long while, they stand in silence. Nicole moves her hands in gentle movements over Wynonna’s back. Emotions release and they relax. Neither one is sure how long they stand just like that before Wynonna pulls back far enough to look up at Nicole. Those brown eyes are ready and waiting, gazing down at the Earp Heir with understanding. 

“I’m sorry.” Wynonna manages, slipping out of Nicole’s grasp. The officer reluctantly lets her go without a fight. 

“It’s okay. I swear. I get it.”

Wynonna wipes at her face and nose, blowing out a loud breath through her mouth. “So, what did you see?” The walls are going back up and Nicole wants to stop them before Wynonna can shut her out. She hates this. Why can’ they just curl up in each other’s arms like they used to?

“I got there and you were-- kneeling over Shorty. I wanted to run up to you so bad,” Nicole admits as she bites the inside of her bottom lip. “I knew I couldn’t - like you said. I don’t think I’m s’posed to know that Shorty’s dead. Dolls didn’t brief us on anything. He just let me know you were safe. Nedley let me come here after.” 

Wynonna nods. So, Nicole didn’t see any of the demony shit and didn’t see that she had had to shoot Shorty. Good. But not good. It would have made this a little easier. All she wants to do is tell Nicole everything - the curse, the demons, what her job really is, that she doesn’t even know if she likes Dolls half the time right now, why she went away without a word those years ago . That she wants to go back to lying in Nicole’s truck and looking at the stars. 

“Wynonna, I just wanna be there for you,” Nicole assures her. “We don’t have to talk. Or we can if you need to.” Nicole picks up the container of cookies and holds them up. “I got your cookies. Haven’t had the chance to eat one yet.” 

Watery blue eyes fix on Nicole’s hands. Wynonna wets her lips and can’t help the almost imperceptible tug of her lips. That tall, lanky basketball player turned tall, solid police officer still knew exactly what to say. The Heir couldn’t share what she wanted right now - just like she couldn’t so many times when they were younger. Nicole always understood then, too. 

“If they suck, Waverly made them.” Wynonna jokes. “Drink?” 

“Yeah, that sounds good right now.”

“Sit. I’ll be back in a second.” When Wynonna gets into the kitchen, she stops to catch her breath. First, Shorty dying. Then, Nicole admitting she put herself in danger of BBD’s wrath. If her life could give her one break, just one. Like maybe 24 hours without something . That would be fantastic. One more deep breath. She shakes her head and brings the almost full bottle back with two glasses. 

Just like that , her breath is gone again. Nicole has unbuttoned her shirt, revealing a tight black undershirt. Her red hair has been released from the french braid, wavy and messy. Her Nicole. Post-game, unwinding Nicole. The same Nicole she’d spent hours kissing, hours learning about, hours falling for. Her Nicole . Now? After all this time. This couldn’t be real. Wynonna clears her throat. “Do you need some clothes? Those khakis definitely give a nice view of your ass, but they don’t look very comfortable?” 

Nicole looks over her shoulder at Wynonna and grins. The comment about her ass makes her ears flush red and neck tingle. She shakes her head. “No offense to either of you, but I don’t think any of your shirts will fit me, but I’ll take some sweats or shorts.” 

“You got it, Red.” Wynonna places the bottle and glasses on the table between the chairs. “C’mon…” 

The two of them walk over to where Wynonna’s currently storing her clothes by the couch she sleeps on. Nicole watches her with starry eyes. Their lives may never be the same as they were. It doesn’t matter. As long as their lives are intertwined, Nicole will tackle everything else with as much fervor as she’d kept in their time apart. 

“Will these work?” Wynonna holds up a pair of sweats. Nicole nods and reaches for them. “You can get changed here. I’ll be back by the fire.” 

The smell of Wynonna - whiskey, gardenias, and jasmine - is strongest in this corner of the small home. Part of her wants to ask Wynonna if they could sit in here, but thinks better of it. Best not to push her luck anymore today. Her change is quick after she lingers for just a second. The sweats hang a little low on her hips and even then, the bottoms don’t reach her feet, stopping just above her ankles. She folds her pants and uniform shirt neatly and places them on the couch near her boots on the floor.   

As she heads back to the chair, Wynonna chuckles. “Damn, I forgot how tall you are.” Wynonna can’t help but notice the small expanse of exposed skin between the undershirt and sweats. “Now, come eat one of these damn cookies and have a drink with me.” 

Nicole does.The first bite into it almost makes her cry. The taste and the smell make her happy, sad, longing, everything all at once. Her pause must have been longer than she intends. 

“That bad?” Wynonna asks, holding an unbitten cookie. 

“Wha- No! Not at all. They’re just like you used to make them. They’re perfect. Just-- Took me back.” She attempts a small smile to ease the growing tension.

The sad smile speaks for itself and compels Wynonna to take a bite. She hasn’t had one of these since the last time they’d eaten them together. Nicole’s right. They’re damn good, but they stir all that shit right up. Shit Wynonna’s not ready for, especially today. “You’re right, Red. These are perfect.”

Nicole doesn’t miss the avoidance of mentioning the past and she wonders if she’s gotten too comfortable too quickly. Wynonna had said she missed her, but she had been drunk. Nicole tries to remember that everything is different even if it’s not. The feelings are still there in full force. The need to protect Wynonna seems even stronger now that Wynonna is in whatever trouble she’s in with Dolls. The way they can just be seems like it’s there a lot of the time. Even if it comes with the baggage of Wynonna potentially leaving at any given moment. 

“Thanks,” Wynonna finally speaks again. 

“For what?” Nicole asks sincerely. 

“For being here.”

“Always. Anytime.” Nicole’s conviction takes Wynonna off guard despite its familiarity. Their eyes meet. Wynonna’s are still light red from crying earlier and bluer irises make the urge to kiss her as close to impossible to resist as it can get. Not the time or the place. Wynonna breaks their eye contact with a tsk . She pours each glass and holds it out for the redhead who accepts and drinks immediately. 

“Shorty never held all the shit I did as a kid against me.” Wynonna’s voice is quieter than it has been. “I fucked up, snuck into his bar and stole his booze more times than any person can count and he never turned me into the police. He tried to keep me outta trouble. He was one of the only people happy to see me when I came back. Him, Waverly, and you.” Wynonna gulps the rest of her glass, hissing when it burns her throat. “Now he’s gone.” And I killed him. 

Nicole listens without judgment, without interrupting, scared to spook Wynonna from talking. After a few seconds, when she’s sure Wynonna is done, Nicole offers, “I’m so sorry, ‘Nonna.” It’s not much, but it’s all she has. The last thing Nicole thinks Wynonna needs is some long list of assurances about who is still here and it’ll all be okay and Shorty is at peace or whatever it was people normally say. 

“Hmm,” Wynonna hums in acknowledgement. The nickname keeps her walls lowered. She isn’t waiting for Nicole to say more. She doesn’t need a lecture or a pep talk, just the ear Nicole is lending and... “You still happy to have me back?” Reassurance. “Even with all this… shit …?” 

Nicole moves from her seated position and kneels in front of Wynonna so she can reach out and take Wynonna’s hand in hers. “I didn’t come to Purgatory for the nightlife and bright lights.” 

Does she mean…? Yes. Without coming right out and screaming it at her, Nicole just admitted to Wynonna that she moved here for her. If Wynonna would have given it any extended thought, she would have come to the conclusion herself. Purgatory couldn’t have paid her for shit. What else was here? Nicole’s history with Purgatory began with her. Wynonna can’t take the earnest shine in those pretty brown eyes. She pulls the inside of her cheek between her teeth and nods. 

“Can I braid your hair?” Wynonna asks. 

“Yeah, of course.” Nicole releases Wynonna’s hand and turns to sit in between her legs. The second those ringed fingers are threading through her hair, her eyes close and she leans into the touch. They don’t talk for a while. Just drink and sit in a comfortable silence.

The rest of Nicole’s visit is spent talking about random details. Wynonna learns Nicole developed a love for rock climbing and still maintains her love for Pink and Lara Croft. Nicole learns that Wynonna never really stopped getting into trouble, but that Greece had been her favorite place she’d landed. Greece. Nicole had noticed almost immediately the first time she’d seen Wynonna that she’s still wearing that old necklace. It’s a little worn all these years later, but Wynonna’s taken care of it. They talk about visiting Greece together without a mention of the necklace still hanging around Wynonna’s neck.

Nicole hears a creak upstairs and remembers Waverly. “Should I go soon? So you can talk to Waverly?”

“Shit.” Wynonna realizes that she’d given Waverly the cold shoulder. The freshness of Shorty’s death… Of her killing him… had closed Wynonna off to Waverly. Waverly, who had also lost Shorty, the man she’d worked for for the past few years. “I--” 

Nicole rises to her feet and smiles down at Wynonna. “It’s okay. She’ll understand. She kind of already did. She knew you needed space. She hoped you’d talk to me.”

“Of course, she did.” Wynonna sighs, still feeling the guilt of her selfishness. 

“Hey.” Nicole seems to read her mind. “It’s okay that you couldn’t talk to her yet. It’s okay that you needed something else. But if you’re up to it, I think she needs you.” 

Wynonna doesn’t believe her, but she’s sure Nicole is right. She always seems to be. “Okay.” The older Earp smiles gently and rises to stand in front of Nicole. She reaches out a hand and plays with the ends of Nicole’s undershirt, fingertips brushing her bare skin. Nicole thinks she might faint. “Thank you. For this. I, um, I’m glad you’re here.”

“You don’t need to thank me, but you’re welcome.” Nicole reaches to tuck a loose strand of Wynonna’s hair behind her ear. The sharp intake of breath from Wynonna is impossible to miss in the silence and the way that Nicole’s gaze bears into her. In a moment of weakness, Nicole allows her hand to find the key of the necklace and smoothes her thumb over it briefly.  “I’ll see you tomorrow?” 

“Yeah, sure thing, Haught.” Wynonna looks down at Nicole’s fingers playing with the necklace she’d worn every day for almost 10 years. She lets the fabric fall from her fingers and her hand falls limp at her side. At the same time, the key falls from Nicole’s grasp. 

Nicole gathers her uniform and slips on her boots over the sweats. “I’m a call away if you need me. Anytime, okay?”

“Got it.”

Nicole leaves the homestead, still sad for Wynonna but content that their connection is still there and that she can still help. 

Wynonna sighs and watches Nicole pull away. This definitely had not been in the cards for her in coming back here. With the curse, could she even keep this going? She couldn’t put Nicole in this kind of danger? What the fuck was she going to do? 

“Is Nicole gone?” Waverly asks softly from the stairs. 

“Jesus! Waverly, I’m seriously going to need you to make more noise when you walk around.” Wynonna jumps around and sees that Waverly’s been crying and her arms are wrapped protectively around herself. “Yeah, baby girl, she’s gone. C’mere. I’m sorry I wasn’t ready to talk earlier.”

“It’s okay,” Waverly offers weakly. “Can we now?” 

“Yeah, we can.” 

Wynonna lets her guard down with Waverly. Tells her everything because she can. Waverly understands and insists she should be able to join her on the field to help. Wynonna can’t bear the thought, but she feels better. Waverly knows the whole truth and right now, that has to be enough. She can’t share everything with Nicole yet. If she’ll ever be able to.

Chapter Text

December 31, 2007  

 

There’s one week left before they both have to go back to school, and one day left in the year. Wynonna figures that since her “parents” hadn’t seemed to notice her missing for Christmas,  they wouldn’t really give a shit if she stayed at Nicole’s for the week. She tosses some underwear, a pair of jeans and a couple shirts into her backpack, thinking that she’ll either be in Nicole’s clothes or out of clothes altogether for most of the time anyway. 

Her phone rings just as she’s zipping up her bag. She picks it up, knowing exactly who it will be. 

“Hey baby.” Nicole’s voice is soft over the phone and Wynonna blushes to her ears. 

“Hey Haughtstuff, I’m about to head out. I was just finishing up grabbing my stuff.” Wynonna suddenly remembers the small box tucked underneath the edge of her bed. “Shit,” she curses under her breath for almost forgetting. 

“What is it?” Nicole asks, concern coating her tone. 

“Nothing, just almost forgot something,” the older girl assures her, reaching for the box and opting to carry it rather than risk wrinkling her pristine wrapping job. 

Nicole laughs softly before she speaks, “Alright... by the way, I called ‘cause Max just called me.” 

Wynonna rolls her eyes as she slings the backpack over her shoulder and tucks the present under her arm. “Okay, and?” She’d never met Max, but the chick seems like a real bitch from what Nicole had shared about her. She couldn’t imagine that kind of person being Nicole’s best friend… but then again, she couldn’t imagine someone like herself being Nicole’s — whatever she was. 

“Anyway… she invited us over tonight, for a New Year’s party,” Nicole finishes, eager for Wynonna’s reply. She knew that Max could be — stupid. But she’s her friend, and she hopes that maybe, no matter what she said, that she might actually like Wynonna once they meet. 

Wynonna’s eyebrows pull together, confusion wrinkling her features. “Us? As in not only you, but also me?” The surprise is evident in her voice. She’d been to more than her fair share of parties, including ones thrown by people from other schools, but she hadn’t quite pegged Nicole as a partier. 

“Yeah, us , Wynonna.” Wynonna can hear her smile. “Please? It’s gonna be fun.” Truth be told, Nicole’s mostly excited for the chance to go out with Wynonna again -- to let other people see them together. She feels so proud of Wynonna, of how she feels about her… even if they haven’t put a label on anything. 

“Just checking, Red. Plus, I just liked hearing you say that.” Wynonna smirks, deciding to grab another pair of jeans that might look better if they were going to a party. “Okay, I’ll be over in a few.” She bites at her nail, further chipping the black polish. She fights the incredibly powerful, incredibly scary urge to end the call by telling Nicole that she loves her. The feeling in her chest is insane. Prior to meeting the younger girl she had no idea that anything could feel like this. Or really that anyone could ever make her feel like this.  

“Alright, ‘Nonna. Drive safe.” Nicole feels giddy inside. 

“You know it,” Wynonna assures her, ending the call. She takes a deep breath before leaving her room, trying to exhale the intense weight of... feelings. 

 

***

 

Nicole sprints down the stairs when she hears Wynonna’s truck pulling up the driveway. She’s moving too fast to stop when her mom steps out and they collide, hard . Nicole reaches out instinctively, her hands on either of the woman’s shoulders keeping her from toppling. 

“God, mom, I’m so sorry,” she blurts, reddening at the thought that her mom would notice how excited she gets over Wynonna. 

“Geez, Nikki. Be more careful, please?” 

Nicole grimaces at that nickname. “Ew, mom! You know I hate that. Call me Nic if you’re gonna give me a nickname.” 

“Sorry, sweetie!” Mrs. Haught replies with no sincerity. “Look, what’re you gonna do if you fall down the stairs one day? Then you can’t play,” her mom grumbles, more concerned than upset at the fact that she’s the one who got bumped into. 

Nicole shrugs, shoving her hands into her back pockets. “I’m fine, mom. ‘M not gonna fall, I just — Wynonna’s here, and Max’s —- family is havin’ that party tonight..” She catches herself quickly, before her mom can ask if there will be adults. She hates to lie, mostly because she isn’t very good at it, but she isn’t about to miss out on the opportunity to show Wynonna off. 

As if on cue, there’s a knock on the door and Nicole’s heart swells. She points in the direction of the door and turns away from her mom to go let Wynonna in. Wynonna’s smiling when the door opens and Nicole feels her knees buckle a bit at the sight. Her brown eyes melt, shining with pure adoration as she slumps against the door frame. “God, you’re pretty,” she whispers to only Wynonna. 

The brunette bites at the inside of her lip and looks up through her lashes, cheeks bright red. “Keep it in your pants, Haughty. I can see your mom in the kitchen,” Wynonna teases, reaching for the hem of Nicole’s sweatshirt and letting her fingers brush briefly at the skin underneath. 

The athlete’s breath catches, her eye’s fluttering shut. “Wynonna, p-please come inside already,” she stammers. It’s her turn to shake her head and bite her lip, moving to the side so Wynonna can brush by her. The shorter girl chuckles on her way past. 

“Wynonna!” Nicole’s mom calls from the kitchen. 

The two of them poke their heads in, “Hey, Mrs. H!” Wynonna greets her happily. The woman is always incredibly nice to her. She never questions when Wynonna wants to stay over, even though she definitely would if she knew what goes on inside her daughter’s bedroom. That’s beside the point. Wynonna really enjoys the idea of a family. A real family. Being in Nicole’s house, even around her parents, feels warm. Like a home’s supposed to feel. Like hers had felt at times when mama was still around.

“We’re glad you made it safe, sweetie. You know how it is, if you need anything don’t be afraid to ask.” 

Nicole interrupts, “I got it, mom. She’ll tell me if she needs anything, won’t you, Earp?” Nicole smirks, nudging against Wynonna’s side with her elbow. 

Wynonna nods. “Totally. Thanks a lot, Mrs. H.” She smiles again, offering the woman a wave as Nicole practically pulls her up the stairs by the hand. 

Inside the safety of Nicole’s room, Wynonna drops her backpack by the wall like always and places the present on the nightstand.

Nicole takes a seat on the edge of her bed and watches Wynonna’s movements, eyebrows knitting together when she finally notices the gift. “Wynonna — what’s that?” She asks, pointing towards it. 

Wynonna looks up from where she’s working on pulling her shoes off and smiles. “Oh that… a little something for Saturday.” 

Nicole’s jaw goes slack when she realizes. Her birthday. Wynonna had just given her the most perfect Christmas presents and now she had something else for her. 

The brunette sets her shoes down and walks forward, settling across Nicole’s lap and wrapping her arms around the redhead’s neck. 

Nicole’s arms instantly circle Wynonna, holding her close. “You didn’t have to do that, you know?” Nicole looks up at her, big brown eyes full of unmistakable love.

Wynonna tucks Nicole’s hair behind her ears and smiles down at her, pressing their foreheads together. How had she gotten this fucking lucky? She’s still waiting to wake up from the dream that this has to be. “I know. I wanted to,” she assures. “Now, are you gonna kiss me or what, Haught? I’m withering away over here.” 

Nicole laughs, brushing her nose against Wynonna’s a few times before pressing her lips to Wynonna’s. Kissing her always feels brand new. The fire in her chest tells her that it always would. 

“So what time are we supposed to head to your bff’s house?” She twirls a strand of ginger hair around her finger, eyes lingering on Nicole’s lips. 

Nicole sighs, smirking up at her girl. “10, I think. I figured we’d go eat first, if you wanted. And you might actually like her, you know that?” She doesn’t believe it herself, not really. Max is everything Wynonna isn’t. She would and has made that clear in all the years Nicole has been friends with her. She isn’t all bad. She keeps Nicole’s secret and has never treated her differently because she’s a lesbian, but she’s still an athlete who cares about popularity and cliques. Wynonna doesn’t fit anywhere and that’s one of the things Nicole loves, but Max? 

Wynonna shakes her head. “I don’t know, Red. She seems — bitchy, honestly. And not in the fun way. She’s kinda mean to you… from what you’ve said. I just don’t see that going down too well, ‘s all I’m sayin’.” The older girl knows that she’ll fight for Nicole at the drop of a hat. Without question, no matter who it is. 

Nicole nods, shrugging when Wynonna makes the point about some of Max’s antics. “Don’t even worry about that okay? I just wanna have fun with you, ring in the New Year… kiss you at midnight, all that stuff. I don’t care about anything else,” she admits truthfully, lifting her eyes to Wynonna’s cool baby blues again. 

Wynonna lets the strand of hair unravel from her finger. The same finger lifts Nicole’s chin and she smiles. “You got it, Haughtshot.” Her voice is low and gentle. She notes the chills along Nicole’s arm and smirks. One last, long kiss while they wait for the time to go. 

 

*** 

 

At a quarter to nine, Nicole opens the passenger’s door of her truck for Wynonna to climb in. 

“So chivalrous,” Wynonna comments, pressing a kiss to Nicole’s cheek on her way up.

The way Wynonna climbs in gives Nicole a perfect view of her ass in the tight black jeans she’s wearing and she bites her lip. “Anything for my girl.” The taller girl smirks, shutting the door once Wynonna is safely inside. 

Wynonna can’t stop staring at Nicole while she drives. Dressed in a tan corduroy jacket with a white fleece collar and dark jeans tucked into her boots, Nicole looks like something straight out of a dream. Long red hair flows over her shoulders in small, natural waves and the hand that isn’t on the wheel is gripping Wynonna’s thigh. 

“I can’t believe that you look like that and have the last name that you do. It’s stupid. How are you so —“ Wynonna begins, eyes glued to the other girl’s incredibly attractive side profile. 

Nicole laughs and glances over in Wynonna’s direction. She’s pretty sure she’s going to turn into a puddle. 

“So... what?” Nicole shakes her head, still smiling as she watches the road. 

“So goddamn beautiful. And hot. And you .” Wynonna feels so breathless and has to finally look away. 

Nicole knows Wynonna would be able to see how red she was if it wasn’t so dark in the cab. “You’re just sayin’ that,” Nicole’s voice is soft, close to a whisper. How could someone like Wynonna think all those things about her? A gangly, way too tall for her age, ginger basketball player. Sure, she’d probably consider herself pretty most days, but compared to Wynonna? Just thinking about her always takes Nicole’s breath away. 

Wynonna leans her head back against the seat and smiles, looking back towards Nicole, “I’m really not.” Her hand finds the one on her thigh and intertwines their fingers instead. She squeezes gently, her thumb running back and forth over the other girl’s hand. 

Nicole sighs, sneaking another glance at their hands on Wynonna’s lap, her smile growing. 

A comfortable silence fills the truck for a moment. The fact that they don’t need to talk or do anything other than just be together is so different from any relationship that Wynonna has ever had. She leans forward and turns the volume dial on the radio up slowly. Wynonna recognizes the song immediately, it’s one of her favorites. ‘ Landslide ’ by Fleetwood Mac.  

“I love this song,” Nicole blurts out, tightening her hold on Wynonna’s hand. 

The older girl’s eyebrows raise, her mouth open slightly as she looks at the redhead, amazed. How does she just keep getting more perfect? “Me too, Haught,” she mutters, resting back against the seat again. She tilts her head, watching Nicole drive and mouth the words to the song. 

Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’, ‘cause I built my life around you… 

The song sounds different to Wynonna this time. It’s like -- she’s hearing it for the first time, feeling it in a new way. Falling for her is like a landslide. She feels like she’s gonna cry, but the song ends and the truck pulls into the parking lot of the same little pizza joint they’d hit up a few weeks ago. 

Nicole cuts the engine and turns towards Wynonna, who slides across the bench of the truck to  pull her down by the collar of her jacket, kissing her hard. Nicole makes a sound of pleasant surprise and catches on quickly, her fingers tangling in Wynonna’s hair. Wynonna places her own hands on either side of Nicole’s face. When they finally part, Nicole takes a deep breath, admiring how Wynonna looks in the neon blue glow of the restaurant sign. 

Her ringed thumb brushes across Nicole’s bottom lip, resting there for a moment. The younger girl’s long fingers wrap around Wynonna’s wrist, holding her hand steady. She presses a soft kiss against her thumb and smiles sweetly down at her. 

“You know, I could spend all night kissin’ you, but -- aren’t you hungry?” At first she sounds tempted, but the question at the end of her sentence causes her to chuckle. 

Wynonna laughs too, her thumb sliding away from Nicole’s lip as she tangles their fingers together instead, “You know, Haught, now that you mention it… yeah.” 

Nicole rests her forehead against Wynonna’s as they laugh together, feeling completely herself in a way she never imagined she would. “You’re somethin’ else, Wynonna Earp.” 

I’m yours, Wynonna thinks, but all she lets out is a soft sigh. 

 

***

 

They finish eating just before ten. Luckily, Max’s house isn’t far away, but Nicole knows that it doesn’t matter if they aren’t right on time. Never being late is just a habit she had.

Wynonna takes her hand as they’re walking out of the restaurant, leaning her head against the taller girl’s shoulder for a moment. Nicole feels her cheeks heat up in contrast to the cold night air as she presses a kiss into Wynonna’s hair. 

Almost immediately, she notices the disgusted looks from a couple passing them on their way inside. She feels her heart sink. She doesn’t recognize them, not even a little bit, so she’s not worried about being outed to her parents or anything. Just the simple sadness that being who she is is  wrong to someone else. Nicole knew that something like this was bound to happen eventually, she just hadn’t expected it so soon, and for such an innocent display of affection. 

A gentle squeeze on her hand pulls her back to reality. They’re back inside the safety of her truck. Wynonna sits in the middle of the bench, stroking Nicole’s thigh in an attempt to comfort her. When Nicole looks at her, she feels herself calming, slowly. “I’m sorry, Wyn, I just — how can people be like that?!” 

Wynonna can hear the angry tears that threaten to fall in Nicole’s voice. She pushes some strands of hair behind Nicole’s ear and shakes her head. “People are fucking mean. They just suck, Nic. It sucks, but –” She shrugs, dragging her fingers gently through red hair. There isn’t really any but to follow her declaration. People just suck

Nicole takes a deep breath, letting the feeling of Wynonna playing with her hair relax her. She lets her head fall back and closes her eyes briefly. “It does suck. I just -- don’t want you to be uncomfortable. I mean, I don’t wanna be either, but -- I wish people could just mind their business, I guess.” She huffs, bringing her head back forward. 

Wynonna smiles softly, brushing her nose against Nicole’s cheek. “Hey, don’t worry about me, okay? I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks of me. But I want you to be happy, and comfortable. So, if you don’t wanna -- hold hands and stuff when people can see, I get that.” She’s being completely honest. Nicole isn’t out and if something makes her uncomfortable Wynonna definitely doesn’t want to add to it. 

Nicole looks over at Wynonna gazing up at her, a gentle smile spreading across her face, “I am happy. And I’m comfortable. With you ,” she confirms, leaning down to rest her forehead against Wynonna’s. 

The older girl warms. “Alright, Haughty. Just — remember all that okay? You get to call the shots.” She leans back just a little so that she can look her in the eyes. 

Nicole smiles at her, offering her a small nod. “That means a lot to me, Wynonna.” Nicole wishes with every part of her that she could find the courage to say more, that she could find the words to explain the way that the brunette makes her feel but every time she tries only three words come to mind. Three words that she couldn’t let herself say for fear of being too much too soon. Instead, she presses a soft kiss to Wynonna’s lips. “I think we’ve got a party to get to.” 

 

*** 

 

They can hear the music from the party playing over their own inside the truck and before they even kill the engine. Nicole feels a tight knot of nerves twist in the pit of her stomach. She just wants Wynonna to enjoy herself.

Wynonna turns her head towards Nicole and raises her eyebrows, the corner of her mouth lifted in a tiny smirk. “Ready, Haughtstuff?” She squeezes Nicole’s thigh and lets her hand linger there for a moment. 

The redhead takes a shaky deep breath, brown eyes drifting from Wynonna’s face down to her hand and back. “Yeah, just -- one more kiss before midnight?” She asks, tongue darting out to dampen her lips. 

Wynonna’s already leaning in, a cute laugh falling from her lips as they meet Nicole’s. Her hand squeezes more around the younger girl’s thigh, and she smiles, feeling Nicole take the opportunity to let her tongue slip into her mouth, brushing against her own. Wynonna has kissed way more people at her age than she’d like to admit, but nothing compares to how kissing Nicole feels. Over and over again, and it only gets better each time. Wynonna wants to feel this forever. 

They finally part after a few moments, Nicole feels delirious and proud at the same time, because she sees the same sated look on Wynonna’s face. “I think I’m ready now.” 

Wynonna rolls her eyes and they both laugh as they get out of the truck, walking side by side towards the party. 

Wynonna stays close to Nicole’s side, both hands jammed in her pockets. From what she sees so far, none of these people look familiar. She’s grateful for that fact. The last thing she needs is an old bully or some lame-ex-whoever saying something stupid in front of Nicole. 

There’s a large fire blazing up ahead. Wynonna notices that’s where most people gather for obvious reasons. It’s fucking cold out -- an outdoor party without a fire would be impossible. 

Nicole leans down when they get closer, her hand pressing gently against Wynonna’s back, “You okay?” Nicole asks against her ear, causing Wynonna to shiver. 

“Never better, Haughtstuff. Where’s your friend?” She asks, facing Nicole. The way the fire reflects in her eyes and off her hair completely kickstarts Wynonna’s heart. It makes her wish they were back in the truck making out or back in Nicole’s room doing --- other things -- instead of out here surrounded by these people. “You’re hot, Haught.” She mouths, knowing that’s the only way she can say it without someone else hearing. 

Nicole reads Wynonna’s lips easily. The compliment makes her laugh and shake her head, biting at the inside of her lip as she blushes. 

“Haught!” The sound of Nicole’s name being called gets their attention, both heads shooting towards the sound. Max is there, waving them over. 

“There she is,” Nicole comments, stealing a glance to try and read the expression on Wynonna’s face. “C’mon, Earp,” Nicole chuckles, taking Wynonna by the hand and leading her through the group of people. 

Max is both everything and nothing that Wynonna ever expected. She’d seen one picture of the two of them together in Nicole’s bedroom, but it was several years old. The little dorky blonde in the picture had grown up to look like every single girl who had ever made fun of Wynonna. She prepares herself for this time to be no different. 

“Hey Max, hey guys --” Nicole greets her friend and the dark-haired girl and boy lingering next to her. “This is m- Wynonna.” Nicole stumbles over her words and Wynonna looks up at her, lifting an eyebrow at the way she introduces her. There’s no disappointment or shame on her face, she looks -- proud. Wynonna’s heart melts before she realizes she’s just staring and not greeting the other people. 

“Right, yeah, I’m -- Wynonna.” She waves, becoming hyper aware that she and Nicole are still holding hands. It wouldn’t be obvious to anyone who didn’t look down and Nicole doesn’t let go so neither does she. 

The boy and girl smile back at her, offering their names which she forgets within the minute and Max looks --- sneaky, just like Wynonna expected. 

“Wynonna. Last name’s Earp, right?” Max asks, looking her up and down. Wynonna feels her throat tighten at the way Max says her last name. What is she getting at? 

“Yeah. That’s me.” She swallows hard, wishing she could curl up and die. Nicole’s fingers tighten around hers, soothing her. 

“Oh, so you don’t go to our school right?” The boy whose name Wynonna doesn’t remember asks. She looks for the mal intent behind his words but doesn’t find any. Maybe she’s safe, for now. 

“Nah, Purgatory High’s where I go. Graduating this year, fingers crossed.” She jokes, and they all laugh. Keep ‘em laughing. That way they can’t laugh for mean reasons, she reminds herself. 

They all talk in a small group for a few minutes and Nicole feels her chest swell with pride as she watches Wynonna interact with everyone, feeling hopeful that Max isn’t going to fuck everything up. 

“It’s getting a little cold over here, I think we’re gonna go closer to the fire.” The dark-haired girl tells Max, before looking over to Wynonna, who is starting to shiver. “Are you cold, too?” 

Wynonna laughs, nodding once. She’d shoved both hands back into her pockets a while ago. She hates not holding Nicole’s hand and hopes that might change by the fire. “Yeah, I’d better get over there too before I turn into a popsicle or something,” She looks to Nicole and is met with the incredible warmth of her chocolate eyes. “You coming, Red?” She asks, smiling at her in the way that is truly only for her. 

Nicole is about to follow without a question before Max interrupts, “Wait, Haught, before we head over, come grab something to drink.” 

Nicole cuts her eyes at the blonde but she doesn’t budge. With a sigh, she turns back towards Wynonna and brushes her hand against her back in secret. “Go ahead over there and get warm and I’ll bring you something to drink,” Nicole offers. 

Wynonna glances between the redhead and the blonde and nods at Nicole, reminding herself that she’s safe with her. “Don’t leave me hangin’, Haughty.” Wynonna winks at her before walking off. 

Nicole takes a deep breath, trying to mask most of her annoyance as she approaches her friend, smacking her lightly on the arm. “What is your problem?” She questions under her breath, grabbing two cups and filling them with hot water from the dispenser. 

Max turns towards her, rubbing her arm. “Ow! What’s my problem? Okay, how about what’s yours?!” 

“I don’t have a problem, Max. You’re the one being weird. Is it because of-of Wynonna? What’s your deal?” She doesn’t look at her while she talks, just tears open the instant hot chocolate packets, dumps the powder into the water and stirs. Truth be told, she doesn’t wanna hear the answer to that. Because she already knows what it’s going to be

“How come you didn’t tell me that it was her? That’s the girl whose number you got, isn’t it? She’s just -- bad news, Nicole. Seriously.” 

Nicole stiffens, biting the inside of her jaw. She lets the drinks sit and turns slowly towards the much shorter girl. “I don’t have to tell you everything, Max. I’m still trying to figure everything out myself, so can you give me a break? Besides, you don’t know what she’s like. You hear what other people spread, but you don’t know her.”

“Oh and you do after -- what? -- two months of talking to her?” Max fires back. 

Nicole balls her hands into tight fists for a few seconds before uncurling her fingers. “God, can’t we just go have fun? All of us?” The redhead crosses her arms over her chest, talking low as she tries to reason with her friend. 

“Whatever, Haught. I’ll be nice, for now. Just don’t let your dumb girlfriend get you into trouble.” Max raises her hands in surrender before reaching for her new cup. 

Nicole feels like someone lit a match inside of her when Max calls Wynonna ‘her dumb girlfriend.’ Before she can stop herself, she grabs the blonde by arm. “Hey, watch your mouth, alright? Don’t talk about her like that.” She feels brave. Wynonna makes her brave. 

Max pulls out of Nicole’s grasp and laughs. “Okay, Haught, damn. It’s just a joke, anyway. You really got it bad, don’t you?” She taunts, leaving Nicole alone at the table. 

The athlete takes a moment to compose herself in, pulling a deep breath in through her nose before taking the two drinks and heading back to Wynonna. Just when she thinks she’s done being annoyed for the night… her eyes land on the person talking to (and standing way too close to) Wynonna. A football player named Trevor who goes through girls like changing underwear. The girls are probably still more frequent, Nicole thinks. 

She sets her jaw and keeps walking towards them. Her heart drops when she sees Wynonna laugh at whatever undoubtedly stupid thing he’s saying. Nicole hates the creeping feeling of doubt that sneaks into her chest. She has no reason to doubt Wynonna, but honestly, the doubt is in herself. She pushes it away as she approaches them. “Hey, I’m back,” She says, only to Wynonna. The redhead feels an incredible surge of confidence and passes Wynonna’s drink off to her before draping an arm around her. 

The gesture is unexpected, but completely welcomed by Wynonna, who settles easily into Nicole’s warmth. “Sorry it took me so long, had to make it myself,” she mutters to her girl, tilting her head to the side as she looks up and meets Trevor’s eyes. 

He looks confused more than anything, probably about how a girl had possibly stopped listening to him as easily as Wynonna had when Nicole appeared. “Hey Haught, didn’t know you knew Wynonna.” 

Nicole lifts an eyebrow, “I didn’t know you did, either, Trevor.” Her voice is low and cool. Her confidence surprises her a little. Adrenaline’s still coursing through her body after her infuriating encounter with Max. Right now, she feels like she can do anything she wants...

Wynonna keeps her eyes on Nicole, completely taken aback and honestly… turned on by the display. Nicole has no reason to be jealous, Wynonna knows. Nobody anywhere could pull her attention away from Nicole. Not even a little bit.

“Well, I didn’t before tonight. We were just talking, y’know, gettin’ to know each other,” he starts, eyes hungry and fixed on Wynonna. 

Nicole chuckles, humorlessly. “Right. Don’t you have somewhere else to be?” She asks outright, tightening her arm around Wynonna. 

The older woman bites the inside of her lip to hide the grin that threatens to spread across her face, blowing gently to cool off the steaming cup in her hand. “Sounds super important,” Wynonna plays along, finally taking a sip of her drink. 

“Nah, I don’t think so...” He seems to genuinely think about it. 

God, what a fucking idiot , Nicole thinks. “I think so, Trevor. I do.” She interrupts, looking down at him. He’s taller than Wynonna but not taller than her. “Get lost.” It doesn’t sound mean, but it doesn’t sound like he has another option either. 

Finally, he rolls his eyes and walks away, mumbling under his breath. 

Wynonna finally lets out the giddy giggle she’s been holding in, dropping her forehead against Nicole’s chest. 

Nicole feels a smile threaten to tug up the corner of her mouth, but she tries to hold out, “What’s so funny, huh?” 

Wynonna lifts her head to look at Nicole’s face, blue eyes shining with adoration. “God, I can’t help it, you’re just so —” She lets out a breath, eyes fixed on Nicole’s face still. She looks so beautiful and cocky and –– fuck, it makes Wynonna want to take her home. 

“I’m so what? Silly? He’s so gross, Wynonna, and he was flirtin’ with you! I couldn’t let him get away with it.” She worries her lip, eyebrows still raised as she waits for Wynonna’s answer. Of, course she isn’t upset with Wynonna. She has no reason to be, but that doesn’t stop her from feeling jealous at the idea of some dumb guy thinking that he has a chance with her girl.  

Wynonna tilts her head for a moment, realizing that Nicole isn’t really laughing, “Hey, wait a second,” she reaches up and links her fingers with the ones resting against her shoulder, “I don’t think you’re silly. I was gonna say — sexy.” She leans in to whisper the last word. “That was hot, Haught, are you kidding me?” Wynonna scoffs, grinning brightly up at Nicole. 

The redhead can’t hold back her smile anymore. It breaks across her face and she bites down on her lip again, hanging her head as she blushes hard. “Wynonna,” she breathes, looking around to see if anyone was staring at them. Nobody’s even looking in their direction. Perfect. She takes the opportunity to lean down and press a quick kiss to Wynonna’s lips, still feeling invincible. 

They talk and laugh and dance together for the rest of the party, almost ignoring the existence of anyone else around them. When anyone does speak to them, they don’t bring up Wynonna’s past or her last name or anything else painful. They just... have fun. Something Wynonna isn’t accustomed to at parties. She’s usually causing trouble just for the hell of it.

“We’re gonna do the fireworks, it’s almost midnight,” Nicole hears Max say. 

She pulls her phone out and checks the time, 11:52PM. Nicole nods to let Max know she heard and grabs Wynonna by the hand, leading her towards the house. 

“Where’re we goin’, Haughtstuff?” Wynonna asks, following along anyway.

“You’ll see,” Nicole answers softly, looking back at Wynonna over her shoulder. 

Nicole leads Wynonna through the people lingering inside away from the cold, past the couples making out in the living room and up the stairs. The redhead pushes open the first door they come to and suddenly they’re inside what Wynonna knows must be Max’s room. 

The younger girl turns around and pushes the door closed behind them before stepping to Wynonna and taking her face in her hands to kiss her slow and deep, the way she hadn’t been able to do in hours. 

Wynonna’s hands settle on Nicole’s hips and she melts into the kiss without question. She pulls back after a moment and glances towards Max’s pristine looking bed, “Nic, I’m here for it but are we really gonna do this in the room of your friend who most definitely hates me?” Wynonna asks, breathless and still on fire from everything that night.

Nciole laughs, resting her forehead against Wynonna’s. “No, I think that’s gonna have to wait til we get home, sadly, but I -- I brought you up here for another reason,” she begins, Nicole moves to grab one of the extra blankets draped across the end of Max’s bed and walks to the window. She sees the time on the nightstand alarm clock, 11:57PM. The redhead pushes the window up and steps out, holding her hand out to Wynonna, “Come here,” she beckons with a smile, her voice soft and full of -- something

Wynonna’s breath catches. God, Nicole really has me. She makes her way to the window and steps out, taking Nicole’s hand for help. 

The taller girl wraps the big blanket around her shoulders before she sits down, spreading her legs to give Wynonna room to sit between them. Wynonna makes herself at home there, snuggling back against the redhead and clutching the rest of the blanket around herself.

They can hear the sound of the people downstairs counting down to 12:00. When they all start to cheer, Wynonna turns in Nicole’s grasp and the redhead tilts her chin up and kisses her deeply. The older girl clutches Nicole’s jacket in her hand as she falls into the kiss. Since she met Nicole, it seems like that’s what she’s always doing -- falling.  

The first of the fireworks goes off in the distance, but they don’t stop kissing. Wynonna kisses her until she can’t possibly go another second without breathing. Nicole holds her close when they finally break. 

“Happy New Year, Nic,” Wynonna whispers, looking up at the taller girl. 

Nicole grins and presses a soft kiss to the brunette’s nose, “Happy New Year, baby.” 

Wynonna falls more deeply and hopes that Nicole is falling for her the same.

The fireworks go on for a while and they can see them beautifully from where they are.  Wynonna looks at them, but Nicole only looks at her. After a while, Wynonna leans her head back against Nicole’s shoulder. “This is — really fucking romantic, you know that?” 

Nicole laughs, brushing her nose against Wynonna’s cheek. “It’s our first one, it’s gotta be special. As special as I can make it anyway.” 

Wynonna feels her eyes watering. “You make everything special,” she almost whispers. 

Nicole’s eyebrows pull together when she notices Wynonna’s tears, “Wyn... why’re you crying?” She uses her thumb to brush the stray tear away. 

“I’m just happy, that’s all. I swear. Happy tears, Haught. I love -- this. Being with you.” She feels like she can barely breathe. I love you. I love you so goddamn much, she thinks. 

Nicole’s concern melts away, her own breath catching the way it does anytime Wynonna says the word love, “I love this too,” she agrees, tightening her arms around Wynonna and pressing a kiss to the top of her head. 

 

*** 

 

January 5, 2008 

 

Falling asleep and waking up every day with Wynonna in her bed has to be the best thing to happen to her. Ever. Nicole can’t even let herself think about sleeping alone on Sunday night and waking up for school on Monday. Ugh.  

This morning when she wakes, Wynonna is propped up on her elbow, looking down at her. Nicole blinks sleepily up at the brunette, trying to get her tired eyes to focus. Even though she’s cognizant, the vision of Wynonna makes her smile. “Mmm - good mornin’,” she mumbles out, her voice low and raspy from sleep. 

Wynonna shivers and goosebumps cover her whole body at the sound of Nicole’s voice. “Good morning, birthday girl.” She bites her lip and reaches out, combing her fingers through Nicole’s messy morning hair, careful not to pull. 

Nicole’s eyes fall closed again and she lets herself melt into the feeling of Wynonna touching her. 

This isn’t the first time Wynonna had told her happy birthday, of course. They’d stayed up well past midnight celebrating. The thought makes her smirk as she continues running her fingers through Nicole’s hair. She lets them move to where the freckled skin of her shoulder is exposed by the cutoff muscle shirt she wore to sleep.

Tracing over Nicole’s freckles makes Wynonna think about the stars they’d spent so much time looking at together, all the constellations that Nicole had shown her and helped her to understand. She leans down and presses a kiss to the place where her fingers had just been. 

A soft, happy sound comes from Nicole before she rolls over, blinking up at Wynonna again, “Happy birthday to me.” She smirks, taking Wynonna’s hand and pressing a kiss to her knuckles. The redhead stretches and yawns big before she pushes herself up and leans back against her headboard. “C’mere,” she whispers, tugging at Wynonna’s hand to urge her closer. 

Wynonna takes the invitation with pleasure, straddling her hips so that she’s seated on her lap. 

Nicole’s grin widens, her strong arms wrapping around Wynonna and holding her as she leans in to kiss her, really kiss her, for the first time since waking. 

The older girl drapes her arms around Nicole’s neck, smiling into the kiss. She’s getting so fucking used to this. Waking up here, falling asleep next to the girl she -- cared very deeply about. She can’t lose this. She can’t

Nicole’s hands find their way underneath the big t-shirt of hers that Wynonna is wearing, her fingers drawing gently circles against the bare skin of her back.

Wynonna pulls back from the kiss after a couple of minutes pass. “You still haven’t opened your present! I completely forgot about it last night,” she admits, fingers tangling in long, red hair. 

Nicole nuzzles her nose against Wynonna’s neck. “You’re my present,” she reminds her. 

“Yeah, I know, but you’ve got another one,” Wynonna teases. 

The older girl leans over to grab the blue box off of the bedside table, reluctant to move from her place on Nicole’s lap. She does, though, sitting criss cross in front of her instead before putting the box in her place.

Nicole pouts at the loss, but can’t help the smile that comes from seeing the effort Wynonna put into even wrapping the gift. Everything was so detailed. Wynonna really tried so hard for her and she appreciated every. single. second of it. She could only hope that Wynonna knew that. 

Wynonna bounces a little when Nicole takes the box into her hands. It wasn’t as big as the Christmas gift, but she hopes that it’s still good enough. 

Nicole finds the small card attached to the outside of the box and grins as she reads:

For my Haughty
From your Wynonna
Happy birthday

Nicole dizzies at Your Wynonna. Hers. She struggles to keep her composure and chances a glance at Wynonna. Wynonna looks at her with shining eyes and a subtle smile. Nicole shakes her head, turning her attention back to the still unopened gift and slowly starts to peel the wrapping off. The first thing she pulls out is a carefully rolled blue woven guitar strap. Her mouth parts as she lets it unfurl. “Wynonna, it’s so gorgeous. Oh my god.” 

The awe in her voice causes the older girl’s pride to swell. “Keep going! There’s more.”

Nicole continues. Next, a pack of guitar picks. She notices a few of them have letters etched over them: W.E. with a heart drawn beside them. Lastly, she pulls out a capo. 

“That thing was something the dude at the store said you needed if you were playing acoustic guitar. I didn’t know if you had one or not, but I couldn’t remember seeing one in here.” Wynonna explains. 

Nicole smiles. “I don’t already have one. Thank you.” She puts the gifts off to the side and reaches out to pull Wynonna in for her thank you kiss. “This is perfect, Wynonna. I’ll never play with anything else,” she murmurs against her lips. 

“Will you play something for me soon?” Wynonna asks sweetly. 

Nicole’s nerves threaten to get the better of her, but she would be lying if she tried to say she doesn’t want to immediately use the gifts that Wynonna had gotten her. Rising from the bed, she glances out her window and checks to see if her parents are home. Their car isn’t there. “My parents must have gone to get stuff for dinner…” She comments mostly to herself. 

“Does that mean soon is now?” Wynonna grins adorably at Nicole before pouting her lips. 

Nicole reddens and smirks. “Okay… You have to promise not to laugh. I’ve been practicing this one and I think I can do it without lookin’ at the stuff.”

“Nic, I’m not going to laugh. But you don’t have to do this, you know.”

“No, I want to. Give me a second.” Nicole moves to place the guitar strap on her guitar, slings it over her shoulder, and grabs one of her new picks. She takes a deep breath and starts strumming the opening chords of She Will be Loved by Maroon 5. 

Wynonna feels like she can’t breathe the second Nicole begins to sing the words of the song. Cliche as it might have been, it strikes every personal chord in her body. Wynonna knows that Nicole is singing the words directly to her. She considers that Nicole might have been preparing for this specifically. The message behind it… She will be loved. Before she can stop them, Wynonna feels a couple tears stain her cheeks. 

Nicole finishes the song a few minutes later and strums the final chord. It takes a few seconds for the sound to fade. She can’t bring herself to look at the older girl sitting on her bed just yet. 

“Nicole…” Wynonna pleads. 

Nicole snaps her eyes to the girl so quickly at the sound of her voice, afraid that she’s messed up with her song choice, but Wynonna looks at her like -- Not like she’s upset. Like she’s -- feeling everything she is. The guitar is placed back on its stand before Nicole walks over to the brunette. 

Wynonna pulls her down without a warning and Nicole catches herself from completely crushing her. They’re kissing with absolute urgency and necessity. Nicole returns every bit of emotion that Wynonna pours into her actions. 

“Wynonna…” Nicole breathes against her ear. Wynonna arches up into her and sighs heavily. “I--” Nicole starts, but stops again when Wynonna’s fingers dig into her back. She’s not sure if Wynonna’s trying to silence her, but she can’t finish her thought. Instead, she brushes her lips along the older girls neck and they take full advantage of the alone time they have while her parents are gone. 

Best. Birthday. Ever.

Chapter Text

Wynonna’s phone buzzes. 

Nicole: Hey, I have something for you. Is it okay if I come by?

Wynonna narrows her eyes at the text. What could it be? Her mind begins to race and she wonders if she’s forgotten something. Should she have something for Nicole? What day is it? Shit! She needs to answer. She quickly taps out and sends a reply. 

Wynonna: Sure. Right now?

Nicole: Yeah, if that’s okay. 

Wynonna: Come on over, Haughty. I’ve got coffee and one hot ass.

She scrunches her nose at her attempt to tease the officer, trying to tap into the way they used to talk to each other. Things still hadn’t gone anywhere. One tragedy after another really puts a damper on her pussy game.

Nicole:  One of those things sounds better than the other. 

Wynonna grins. 

Wynonna: Which one? ;) 

Nicole: I’ll see it… I mean you soon. 

Wynonna feels an old pang in her heart. Texts from her Haught girl… woman, now. Such a strong, tall, beautiful woman back in her life at exactly the moment she needs someone like her the most. Like always. She grins and bites her lip at the reply. She hears Waverly come down the stairs, but she doesn’t try to hide her happiness this time. She doesn’t want to. 

“What’re you smiling at?” Waverly asks with a good hunch at the answer. 

“Nothin’,” Wynonna answers and stows her phone in her pocket. She sips the coffee in the mug she’s just poured. “Oh, Nicole’s on her way, by the way.”

Waverly sneaks a smile. “Oh, that’s what.”  

Wynonna doesn’t deny it, just shrugs and smirks.

“Do I need to suddenly remember some thing I need to do and get out of here?” Waverly offers with an exaggerated wink. 

“No, you brat. She just says she has something for me.” Wynonna realizes how it sounds a second before her sister speaks.

“Oh, I’m sure she does .” Waverly teases, wiggling her eyebrows. Her teasing grows relentless the more time passes. Wynonna still hasn’t let her younger sister know just how extensive her history with Nicole is, but she guesses her younger sister can just see it. It was -- is -- pretty powerful. To Wynonna at least. Still, Waverly thought they were just old friends. 

“You gotta give that whole shtick a rest eventually.” Wynonna retorts. 

“What shtick? I don’t have a shtick. Just eyes.” 

“Hmm,” Wynonna considers. “And a big imagination.”

“Whateeeever you say, ‘Nonna.” Waverly moves past her older sister and fixes herself a cup of tea. Wynonna shakes her head and makes her way back into her bedroom to get dressed for her visit. 

Some time later, the sound of Nicole’s truck approaching makes Wynonna’s heart leap. Waverly quickly makes her way back up to her room without a word. She’s growing tired of watching the two of them make googly eyes and tiptoe around whatever the hell it is the two of them share. If one of them doesn’t budge soon, she plotted to lock them in a room until they finally get their heads out of their asses. 

Wynonna sits in one of the chairs in front of their fireplace until she hears the knock at the door. The butterflies in her stomach start up again with a vengeance. Soon, she’s pretty sure the butterflies will turn into bats or eagles. She walks over the door and pulls it open. 

Nicole stands there in a blue sweater and jeans that hug her thighs a lot better than the khakis Wynonna's most used to seeing her in now. Every single time Wynonna allows herself to really look at Nicole she realizes just how much the woman has grown into her stature. Muscles everywhere, just the right size. Her long red hair hangs, unstraightened and unstyled. Even casual like this, Wynonna can’t imagine a more beautiful person. A few seconds pass and she sees that Nicole has a present. 

“Hey, come on in. I’ll get you some coffee.” 

Nicole steps over the threshold and smiles that criminally sweet smile as she passes by Wynonna. The Heir closes the door, looks up at her then moves past Nicole into the kitchen. She nods for Nicole to follow. “What have you got for me? A present? Did I miss something?” 

“No, but I sorta did,” Nicole starts. Wynonna moves about the kitchen and fixes Nicole’s coffee the way Wynonna’s seen her make it at the station. Nicole continues, “You got back on your birthday and there’s been so much goin’ on, I haven’t had the chance to give you your present.” 

“My--?” Wynonna’s mouth parts slightly in surprise. A birthday present. A birthday present? Is this a joke? 

“Happy birthday, Wynonna. A little late, but better than never, right?” 

Nicole’s puppy dog brown eyes turn Wynonna into a puddle. She reaches out and trades the coffee for the present. She gives one last glance between the box in her hands and Nicole’s sweet, expectant face. With a smile on her lips, she opens the gift and gasps softly when she sees what it is. The box says that this is some special light that makes it look like there are stars on the ceiling and around the room it sits in. Stars. 

“Do you like it?” Nicole questions adorably.

“Nicole-” Wynonna breathes. 

“Y’know, because we used to-- I just thought maybe it’d help you sleep better.” Nicole’s face burns red hot and she thinks maybe she should just stop explaining the gift. “If you don’t like it, I can return it and get you something better.” 

“No! Please… Nic, it’s amazing. How’d you know I haven’t been sleeping well? Are the bags under my eyes that bad?” Wynonna jokes, trying to stop the sentimental tears from streaming from her eyes. 

“What?! No! I just-- Because you used to have really bad nightmares… And you’ve been through a lot since you’ve been back, so I just kind of made a guess. You always look beautiful, Wynonna.” 

Wynonna keeps forgetting the natural earnest nature of the redhead. Or maybe she keeps expecting it to go away because it’s too good to be true. She’s not sure which it is, but either way it continues to surprise her. “I really do like it. God, I can’t believe you got me a present.” 

“You only turn 27 once.”

Oh if only you knew what that meant for an Earp, Nicole. Wynonna places the gift on the table and steps closer to Nicole. “Do you wanna go see how it looks?” Her head tilts forward and she cuts her eyes up in a pleading gaze. 

Before Nicole can answer, Wynonna’s phone rings and she groans loudly. When she checks the caller ID, it’s Dolls. “Fuck, I’m sorry I have to-- It’s--” She flashes the phone at Nicole apologetically before answering. Nicole gives her an understanding nod, but smiles a little sadly. 

“Ugh, Dolls are you sure this isn’t one of those things we can … Okay, fine … Yeah … Okay! … I’ll be there as soon as I can, keep your panties on, damn.” Wynonna hangs up and she turns to look at the gorgeous, thoughtful woman in her kitchen with a fresh cup of coffee and dashed hopes. “I have to go.” 

“I heard,” Nicole replies softly. The deflated look on her face makes Wynonna want to empty the entire salt shaker at the station into Dolls’s coffee mug. “It’s okay, Wynonna. It didn’t sound like you were given much of a choice. Is everything okay?” 

“Yeah, just some dumb special task force bullshit case or whatever… Raincheck on testing the lights?” Wynonna gives her own puppy dog stare this time. 

“Name the time and place, I’ll be there, Earp.” Nicole assures her. “Now, go.”

Wynonna gives one more apologetic stare and reaches out to grasp Nicole’s hand briefly in hers. “Thank you. I’ll talk to you soon.” 

“See ya, Wynonna. I’ll see myself out.”

“Finish your coffee first!” With that, Wynonna makes her way out of the homestead. 

A few minutes later, Waverly comes bounding down the stairs hollering along the way. “Sooooo… What did Niiicole giive y-- Oh! Nicole! Heh, hiiiiiiieeeee,” Waverly flushes and Nicole shakes her head. 

“Hi Waverly.” The differences among the Earp sisters really threw Nicole through a loop. Waverly’s so bright and innocent in so many ways even at twenty-one years old. At eighteen, Wynonna had already been through so much. Waverly probably doesn’t even realize how much Wynonna being gone might have protected her.

“Where did Wynonna go?”

“Some case. Dolls. Something. I was just finishin’ my coffee and I’ll get outta your hair.” 

“Actually…” Waverly starts, walking into the kitchen and sitting down at the table where Nicole had also found a place. “Can I ask you something?” 

Nicole panics a little. What could Waverly want to ask? Still, she would always lend an ear to an Earp. “Sure, what’s up?” 

“You’re a lesbian, right?” Waverly blurts out. Nicole’s eyebrows shoot up and her eyes grow wide, looking ready to fall out of the sockets. “I’m sorry! I just--”

“Yes, Waverly. I’m a lesbian. Why do you ask?” Nicole’s heart thumps loudly in her own ears. She can feel her pulse under her chin and on the sides of her neck. Did Wynonna tell her about them? What did she say? Fuck fuck fuck. 

“I, um, I needed someone to talk to about… stuff. ” Waverly squirms in her chair and wrings her hands. “I think I… I think I like girls…”

“Oh!” Nicole’s taken aback by the declaration. That was definitely not what she had been expecting. “Wow. Have you ever told anyone that?”

“No! I thought-- Well I didn’t want to talk to Wynonna about it. She’d make fun of me.”

That statement threatens to send Nicole into a full fit of hysterical laughter. Waverly literally didn’t know anything did she? It wasn’t Nicole’s place to say anything, but if Waverly could tell that she was a lesbian, surely she could connect some dots? Nicole must have made a face, because Waverly continues talking.

“Not because she’s homophobic or anything! You definitely know that she’s not homophobic already, though.” Nicole’s eyes bulge again. Maybe she did know… “Since you guys are such good friends and she obviously doesn’t care that you’re a lesbian. She’s just mean to me, y’know. Sisters!” A nervous chuckle follows her rambling and she brings a palm to the side of her face.

Nicole grins gently at the younger Earp. Her nerves are palpable. “Waverly, it’s okay. You can talk to me. Do you have something specific that you want to talk about?”

“Well, how did you know? That you liked girls like that?”

“I’ve known as long as I can remember. I had my first crush on a woman when I saw Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft when I was 11. Never saw a boy that made me feel that way and I tried to force it because I wanted to be ‘normal.’ It never stuck, though. I only ever dated women even in high school” Nicole’s heart aches. She and Wynonna hadn’t dated officially. But she still counts her.  “What makes you think you like women?” 

“I guess you being here and you being so yourself kind of got me thinking about some feelings I’ve always pushed away. Since I liked boys, too, I just didn’t really think it was important, but it’s started feeling like I’m not really being true to myself. And like… I’m missing a big part of… life? I guess.” 

Hearing that the way she lives her life inspired Waverly to look within herself made Nicole feel proud to be who she is. It wasn’t an uncommon feeling, but it always feels better when someone else gets something out of it. “Is there a woman you have your eye on?” Nicole asks with a warm smile. 

“What?! No, oh my gosh. No, not right now. I mean, I used to have a small crush on my friend Chrissy, you know, Nedley’s daughter… But that went away pretty fast. It’s just-- I keep remembering little things about being in high school. Wondering what it’d be like to kiss a girl or to date a girl. Stuff I totally shoved down because I didn’t want to face it.”

“Well, it sounds to me like maybe you’ve spent a lot of time shoving stuff away or down instead of letting yourself figure out what it is you really want. And listen, whether you are with a man or a woman or someone who falls outside of the gender norms, someone will always have something to say. So, you might as well just be with the person you want to be with no matter what.”

Waverly sags and Nicole can practically see a weight being lifted off of the younger Earp’s shoulders. She remembers telling her old friend, Max, that she was gay and how freeing it felt. Being able to release your truth always feels good. 

“I can see why Wynonna’s friends with you.” Waverly attempts to compliment, but Nicole would never be able to hear friends and not shudder at the word in relation to Wynonna. Wynonna’s her… Wynonna.  

“Well, you’re my friend, now. And I’m here for you if you need someone to talk to about anything, okay?” Nicole assures her. 

“Okay. Thank you. I’m not-- You won’t tell Wynonna about this, will you?”

“It’s not mine to tell, Waves. But I do think that you should give her a chance. When I told her I liked girls in high school, she was so... kind . She made me feel normal. I had only known her a few minutes, too, but something inside me just felt like I could tell her. She’s the second person I ever told. And my life has been changed ever since.” 

Waverly listens in shock as Nicole describes the gracious response Wynonna had given her years ago. She was so kind . That sentence in regards to Wynonna seems so foreign to Waverly. She can’t think of one other person in the world who had spoken a kind word about Wynonna to her. “Have you ever told Wynonna that?”

Nicole pauses. “I’ve told Wynonna a lot of things. But, no. I haven’t told her that .”

“I think you should…” Waverly narrows her eyes and purses her lips a bit to the side. Something devious flashes in her eyes. “How about we make a deal? If I promise to talk to Wynonna about all this, you’ll tell her what you just told me?”

“Oh, Waverly, I don’t know about that…” Nicole recoils slightly, shaking her head with uncertainty written all over her face. 

“C’mon! Shake on it.” Waverly holds her hand out and waits for a few long seconds. Finally, Nicole shakes her head again and grabs Waverly’s hand in a firm shake. 

“Fine. It’s a deal” Nicole assures her. 

 

***

 

Wynonna’s shaken by the death of one of her old classmates, Megan Halshford. Megan was someone who had hated her and she returned the hate in full and then some. One of the more cruel things she had done in her teen years… That had been before Nicole, though. 

The first revenant that Waverly sends them to as their lead, Father Malick, ends up being a wild goose chase and Wynonna sees some mutton-chop-sporting ugly in the car mirror. Their next lead is fucking Samantha “Perky Tits” Baker. Can life give her a fucking break from all the past high school bullshit? The answer? Decidedly fucking not.  

“This is why I never wanted to come back here!” The Earp Heir spouts off as she hurries away from their encounter with Samanta Baker. 

“Spit it out, Earp. We don’t get overtime,” Dolls answers coldly. 

“Okay, I was sixteen and fresh out of my latest foster home and even for Purgatory High, Megan was ew-ugh ,” she rambles with disgust and quickness. “You know her dad owned the local slaughterhouse and she used to fill my locker with entrails. Every Friday… Because my clothes were wrong… Because I’d been in juvie. Because I was the crazy girl who killed her own father.”

Dolls looks like he actually cares for once and Wynonna looks away. “Where are you going with this?” He asks evenly.

“That bash Samantha talked about? Yeah, I was there… But I wasn’t getting wasted. I was hooking up with Megan’s boyfriend, Brad. Didn’t even like him, really. I just wanted to hurt Megan the best way I knew how. And so she found me on top of him and… Payback’s a bitch. She lost it. Bawled her eyes out. Total mess. Grabbed Brad’s keys and peeled out. Problem is Megan…” Wynonna’s voice breaks and she has to clear her throat. “Megan couldn’t drive. And I never thought about how she got home that night and now, I find out--” Wynonna laughs humorlessly and turns away from him.

“Wynonna…” Dolls interrupts her before she can continue on. 

“No, stop. I’ve heard that tone my whole life.” Wynonna can’t take anymore of his harsh judgment and unfeeling commentary. His robotic ways of pushing his fucking emotions down inside. 

“Actually, I was going to say you were only sixteen.” 

Wynonna turns, surprised at his empathy. Her words fail her now after having babbled on about her past transgressions. The softness on her face makes her feel utterly exposed, but she feels all of the guilt rushing back into her, fresh and destructive. She does all she can to keep the tears in. 

“We all make mistakes,” Dolls continues. 

Wynonna shakes her head in disbelief. “That’s the most un-Dolls thing you’ve ever said to me.” A small chuckle escapes her. 

This is too much. Dealing with all of this is too much. Dolls giving her sympathy, being an actual human being? Showing her understanding? There are only a few other people who would pay her that courtesy. Waverly and…  Nicole’s puppy dog eyes flash so clearly in her mind. Nicole still actually seems to want her... Wynonna, try as she might to convince herself otherwise, keeps being proven wrong when Nicole keeps being there. 

She doesn’t deserve it. She will never deserve Nicole. Her past has too many skeletons - literal ones. A woman’s father is dead because she just had to get back at that bitch, Megan. Who knows how many other bodies are hers to claim? Who knows how much blood she would get on her hands trying to break this curse?  No. She’s a killer now - even if she does put down demons. They used to be human. She was stupid to ever think she could deserve Nicole. 

 

***

 

Today is just Wynonna’s favorite day ever. She stands with Dolls and the wife of her newly-killed probation officer in newly-killed probation officer’s home. Woo! The fun never ends as Dolls learns of the corruption Wynonna had dealt with being one of Jay’s probationers. 

Dolls brings his palm up to his face and Wynonna knows what he’s thinking. Why did I ever deputize this woman? Instead, he asks Suzie, “Did you know he was dealing?”

“Oh, a little weed. I didn’t know he’d become Purgatory’s Walter White. Not until today! It was like he’d lost his mind! He kept going on about this spectre coming for him - that I need to forgive him!” She pauses and turns away from the Black Badge agents. “Then the spectre comes to me.”

“The mirrors!” Wynonna connects the dots from earlier. Ugly mutton chops in the car mirror! 

“Oh shit! Wynonna--” Dolls responds 

Now, it’s a mad dash to cover every reflective surface in this ugly house. Wynonna can’t believe she keeps having to help people who have continually contributed to the ruining of her life before she had the chance to make her own decisions. She follows Suzie while Dolls splits up to cover the other mirrors. 

“We need to talk.” Suzie says abruptly. 

“Yeah, can it wait?” Wynonna dismisses her and continues to cover a mirror. “I’m trying to save your ass here.”

“Oh, you’re gonna save me alright. I need you to forgive me.” 

Wynonna looks over her shoulder in confusion. “Why?”

“Because I-- I was to blame for you being sent back to juvie”

“What!?” Wynonna’s blood boils. She only half-hears the shitty explanation this bitch gives her. “You ratted me out?!” If it hadn’t been for that time in juvie, her life could have been different. So many thoughts bombard Wynonna as she brushes past the woman begging for her forgiveness. She can’t forgive her. She can’t . Even if she wants to save this woman, there’s no way she can forgive this. It’s too much, too fast. She can’t process it. 

“Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Forgiven? Or not?” A demonic voice sounds so loudly, like it’s right in her ears. 

“Yeah, I forgive her! Okay, I forgive her!” Wynonna lies, but this woman doesn’t deserve to die for what she did. No matter how much Wynonna now hates her guts. 

“No, you don’t. Not in your heart.” The spectre calls her bluff. Wynonna looks around panicked. He can’t come in here. The mirrors are covered. He can’t! But the scarf slips away and there he is. 

“I can’t move. Help me.” 

Wynonna shoots at the reflection, but nothing happens. He’s still there. Hurriedly, she searches the room. It’s too late. She finds him in the reflection of the television and he’s already slit Suzie’s throat. Wynonna looks back in time to see her lifeless body slip to the ground. Then, he’s there in another mirror. 

“I can taste it. The guilt… Repent, Wynonna Earp. Two hours to find forgiveness from the souls you hurt. Tick-tock.” She shoots uselessly at his reflection as he walks away and disappears from view. 

No. No, no, no. The realization almost causes her to collapse. The list of souls she’s harmed is way too long. How was she supposed to get forgiveness from this town? Everyone still hates her even though most of her mistakes had been made when she was still a kid. No.

“Earp, what the hell happened?” 

“She’s gone… And I’m next.” 

 

***

 

Wynonna doesn’t know where to start when Dolls gives her plan B. Find everyone you’ve hurt and beg for their forgiveness. The first person she thinks of is Nicole. Nicole who hadn’t gotten word from her in the seven years before they reunited. Nicole is the person she had hurt the most because Nicole’s the person she… cared for… the most. And Waverly. Nicole and Waverly. But, Waverly’s her sister, right? Getting her forgiveness would be easier than getting Nicole’s, she thinks.

Oh, shit, she almost forgets the other part of the plan.  Get with Waverly and have her identify the right revenant because they need his name. That’s where she starts. 

 

***

 

“Sorry, I’m supposed to go find all the people I’ve hurt and beg their stupid forgivnesseses!” Wynonna calls out after having briefed Waverly with the basic information.

“But everyone hates you Wynonna!” 

“I’m aware!” 

 

***

 

Wynonna rushes to Nicole’s house, beating harshly on her front door continuously until the redhead opens the door with a confused expression. Some of the confusion disappears at the sight of Wynonna, but Wynonna’s panic remains. 

“Wynonna, what’s going on?” Nicole reaches out and pulls Wynonna into her house and shuts the door behind her. Her hands rest softly on Wynonna’s cheeks, hoping to soothe her. “Talk to me. What is it?” 

Wynonna exhales, keeping her eyes screwed shut. The feel of soft hands almost quiets her, but she can’t forget what brought her here in the first place. 

“I just needed to say I’m sorry!” Wynonna says in one breath. She looks up through her lashes with the most pleading look and continues with just as much urgency, “Y’know for leaving without a word and not saying goodbye all those years ago. I have a reason, but it’s a long story and I don’t have a lot of time.” She knows that if she goes into the story, Nicole might forgive her more easily, but there would be too many questions. Way more than a two hour long conversation. No time right now. 

“Wynonna, slow down.” Nicole urges softly. This makes absolutely no sense to the officer. “Not a lot of time? I--” Her thumbs move sweetly against Wynonna’s cheeks, attempting to calm her to no avail. 

“I’m really running out of it right now, okay, so I just need to know if you can forgive me.” Wynonna interrupts Nicole before more time is wasted. She still has to go talk to Waverly.  

“Forgive you for what? ” Nicole seems genuine when she asks. Wynonna forgets to breathe for a moment. Is Nicole serious? Like there’s nothing in the world that she holds against Wynonna. Nicole interrupts the barrage of thoughts once more. “Wynonna, I may not know the whole story, but I’m not mad at you for anything. I’m not mad at you for disappearing. I want to know what happened… But, I’m not mad. I know you wouldn’t-- I mean I have hope that-- Listen, I don’t have anything to forgive you for.” 

“What?” Wynonna pauses in complete disbelief. Finally, she feels like she can breathe and sucks in a sharp breath through her mouth. 

“I would forgive you, Wynonna. I’d forgive you for anything, I think,” Nicole admits earnestly. “But, I don’t hold anything against you. We were-- We were basically kids.” Nicole promises her. 

Heh, heh, heh. You’ve wasted your time, Wynonna Earp. The guttural voice fills her head. She jumps out of Nicole’s grasp. 

“What is it?” Nicole asks, confounded by Wynonna’s abrupt movements. She can’t hear the demonic voice. 

You do not need forgiveness from this one. There is no harm in her soul caused by you. Tick-tock. You’re almost out of time. Soon, you’ll be mine. The voice disappears and the cold presence goes with it. The revenant’s left her now and she’s left with so much wasted time between the drive here and the drive back. Well, not completely wasted time. The knowledge of Nicole’s forgiveness - or rather the lack of necessity for it - gives Wynonna hope she needs more than ever.

“Wynonna…” Nicole steps towards her again and reaches out a hand hesitantly. 

Wynonna shakes her head and looks up at her again. She leans into the touch this time. Her own hand covers Nicole’s on her face again as her eyes slip closed only for a second. The weight of her fate almost suffocates her. She turns her head and presses a kiss to the palm of Nicole’s hand. “I have to go. I promise we’ll talk soon. I promise, Nicole.” 

Nicole gasps at the feel of Wynonna’s lips on her skin for the first time in so long. The intensity of her emotions makes her heartbeat pound loudly in her ears and her neck throb. Wynonna’s words reach her and she wants so desperately to understand what’s happening.  

“Okay…” Nicole manages. She holds Wynonna’s hand tightly and brings the back of it to her lips, returning the gesture Wynonna had just given her. “Go. I’ll be here. Please just-- Let me know you’re okay. When you can.” 

One tear falls down Wynonna’s cheek. She’s going to survive this. They’re going to get this stupid revenant. They have to. She has to talk to Nicole. For real. “I will. Trust me.” 

“I always have,” Nicole promises. 

Wynonna rushes out of the house, leaving Nicole alone with a new flurry of confusing thoughts. 

 

***

 

They do win. Wynonna survives. Dolls almost doesn’t. Plan A doesn’t work, neither does Plan B. But with Doc and Waverly, Wynonna is able to defeat mutton chops and send another one of the Seven back to hell. If only, everything ended there. Wynonna had been half-right about the souls she’d wronged. Waverly is the one who holds the most hurt in her soul from Wynonna for reasons Wynonna understands completely. 

Back at the homestead, Wynonna chews on the skin inside her lip and pulls out her phone, dialing Nicole’s number. 

“Wynonna!” Nicole answers almost instantly. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, Nic. I’m okay,” she replies with a smile. “I just wanted to check in, like I promised.”

“Thank you. That was… confusing.”

“I know. I’m really sorry. And I want to explain everything soon, but I need to talk to Waverly tonight. She-- I owe her a lot, too.” 

“It’s okay. I told you--I’ll be here. Go talk to your sister.” Nicole waits for a second, considering her next words. “And if you want later, you can call me back. And we can fall asleep together. Like we used to.” 

Wynonna feels she may cry again. Fall asleep together. “Okay, Haught. You got it.” 

“Talk to you soon, Earp.” 

Wynonna ends the call. It becomes clearer than ever that any intentions Wynonna had of leaving Purgatory will go nowhere. Nicole is here. Waverly is here. The shitty curse is here. She belongs here and she thinks for the first time that it’s not so bad. 

“Waves?” Wynonna calls out, but doesn’t receive any answer. She travels through the house until she finds her little sister, researching once again. She smiles sadly. “I’m sorry.”

“You ate all the corn chips again?” Waverly deflects. 

“Waves, I’m serious. I’m sorry for being the heir.”

“Pfft, no. I only said that because Vidal Sassoon would have killed you if I didn’t find something to be mad at you about. I didn’t actually mean it.” 

“Yeah, you did.” Wynonna is done tiptoeing around everything. If she’s going to be here, she’s going to fix what she can. 

“Well, it was a stupid thing to say.”

“Okay…” Wynonna shakes the bottle of some disgusting bubblegum alcohol at Waverly and tsks. “We’re going to do this the hard way.”

“The bubblegum sake I imported from Japan!? Wha-” 

Wynonna takes a drink and shows her clear disgust as the alcohol burns her throat. Even she doesn’t think she can drink this crap.

Fine. ” The way Waverly speaks the word scares Wynonna a little, but she’s ready. Ready to have her baby sister back. Waverly’s the only person who has always loved her. Through the years without Nicole and the years before Nicole, there was Waverly. Wynonna slides down the wall and settles on the floor.

“I spent years compiling research on the revenants. I did a four-year university degree by correspondence on ancient cultures and languages because I thought that maybe-- Maybe, I could break the curse. And you... who's never tried to be good at anything in life... got to be the special one… while I just got to be Waverly."

Maybe, Wynonna isn’t as ready as she thought. Waverly’s words tear straight through her and rip her apart. Her body rocks without her permission. People really think she never tried. Hearing it from Waverly… Wynonna swallows the thick knot in her throat and forces her eyes down for a few seconds while Waverly finishes speaking. 

“Who everybody loves because you’re so awesome. I mean, you have a million reasons to hate me, and you still love me…. It’s what I love about you, dude,” Wynonna offers. This conversation’s about how Waverly feels. She can wait and talk about her side of things later. Or not, considering Waverly probably wouldn’t believe her anyway. 

“Pass me the booze.” Waverly deflects again. 

“Isn’t this the part where you say you love me, too?” Wynonna grins up at her baby sister and swings her knees in and out in what she hopes is a cute way. 

“You know… You’re awfully needy for a lone wolf.” Waverly states, leaving Wynonna without the affirmation she needs. Waverly takes another disgusting swig of the bubblegum sake and winces as it goes down. “So, I talked to Nicole for a while after you left earlier.” She blurts out. 

“What?! Why?” Wynonna snaps a little harsher than she intends. Fuck, what the hell could you have said to Nicole, Waverly? Shit, shit, shit! 

“I just… I wanted to ask her about some stuff.” Waverly’s coldness is gone now, replaced by nerves. 

“What… stuff?”

Waverly pulls her eyebrows down and purses her lip. Whatever her sister is about to say must be something serious. Wynonna’s anxiety starts to get the better of her. Just as she’s about to demand Waverly tell her, Waverly speaks. 

“Look, Wynonna, you have to be serious about this okay. And be nice. And don’t make fun of me, because I wasn’t even going to talk about it with you yet, but Nicole said I should and--”

“Waves! What is it? If you can tell Nicole, you can definitely tell me, baby girl. C’mon! Am I really that bad?!” 

“No! You’re-- You’re just my sister. ” Waverly tries to explain, but realizes she’s only making Wynonna’s point. “Okay, so I… asked Nicole how she knew… That she… liked, um--” 

Wynonna’s heart drops straight to her ass. She just knows that Waverly is about to say “you.” 

“Girls.” Waverly finally finishes.

Oh. Wynonna understands and softens again. “Baby girl…” She practically coos. 

“Wynonna, please!”

“Waves… I’m not making fun of you. I’m sorry you thought I’d make fun of you. Um… Why exactly did you think that? Considering…” She tilts her head from side to side, still not ready to talk about her and Nicole. 

“Yeah, I know. I guess because you’re always teasing me about Champ.” 

“Well, that’s because Champ is just about the biggest dumbass in this town and not worth your time. I’m so fucking stoked to hear that you guys are over, though.” Wynonna chuckles. 

“We’re not,” Waverly bites back. 

“Oh.” Wynonna scrunches her nose. “Gross. Okay, sorry. Well, what are you thinking? With the liking women stuff?”

“I don’t know. Nicole is just so confident and she got me thinking about things. Like, she just knows what she wants and she doesn’t let anything stop her from going for it.” Waverly pauses for a second and gives Wynonna a pointed look. “Even when what she wants is absolutely impossible to deal with.”  

As Waverly gushes about Nicole, Wynonna can’t help the slight swell of jealousy in her gut. It’s pretty clear that Waverly isn’t saying it like that but it doesn’t make it any easier to hear. Completely understandable as it may be, Wynonna wants to be the one to sing Nicole’s praises. The only one. She’s distracted from the jealousy when Waverly drives her point home by implying Nicole wants her. Wynonna raises a finger in warning to Waverly, giving her a pointed look of her own. 

“Sorry,” Waverly resigns. “Anyways, it just got me thinking about how I used to think about what it’d be like to kiss a girl or date a girl. Or how I maybe wanted to kiss Chrissy at one point.”

“Chrissy!?” Wynonna throws her head back, laughing. It takes her a few seconds to realize Waverly doesn’t find it funny. “Sorry, sorry. I’m sorry, Waves. It’s not that it’s a woman. It’s just-- Chrissy? That girl is as straight as they come.” She clears her throat and sobers. “But, listen… It sounds like you really need to take some time and let yourself feel things you haven’t let yourself feel.” 

Waverly smiles knowingly and her eyes sparkle as she looks at her older sister.

“What?”

“You might wanna take your own advice, Wyn.” 

“We’re not about me right now, kid. We’re talking about you. And I want you to know that whatever you decide to do, you’ll have my full support,” Wynonna promises. Waverly smiles. After a beat, Wynonna adds, “Well besides Champ. If you decide to keep doing him, I pull all support for that. But… Anything else, I’m there for you, baby girl.” 

“Thank you, ‘Nonna. I think I still have to figure some stuff out, but I feel better. When you talk to Nicole, will you tell her I talked to you? We kinda made a deal and I want her to know I kept up my end of the bargain.” 

“What deal?” Wynonna narrows her eyes. 

“Nothing huge. Just… let her know.” 

“Fine… I’m going to go to bed now, though. I’m done with this emotional rollercoaster of a day.”

“Goodnight!” 

Wynonna changes into her pajamas when she reaches her room. The galaxy light sits on her bedside table and she realizes that Nicole or Waverly must have moved it there after she left earlier. When she sees that it’s plugged in, she knows it must have been Nicole. The image warms her. She finds the switch after a few seconds of searching and turns it on. Deep purples and blues fill the space along with what seems like hundreds of bright white “stars.” 

She pulls out her phone and taps Nicole’s name. Again, the answer is almost immediate. 

“Hey there. How’d that go?” Wynonna can hear the grin on Nicole’s face. 

“As good as it could go. We worked through a little bit. And she talked to me about something you’re apparently already privy to…”

“What’s that?”

“That she might like girls…” Wynonna answers expectantly, hoping for an answer to whatever “deal” Nicole and Waverly have made.

“Oh, wow! She already mentioned that, huh? Damn! Did she tell you that she was afraid you’d make fun of her?”

“Yeah. Isn’t that fucking rich considering…?” Us. 

“Yeah. I had to try really hard not to laugh when she said that. I actually told her…” Nicole chuckles and clears her throat. “She made good on a promise we made so um, I guess it’s my turn…”

Wynonna swallows. “Oh yeah? What promise?”

“When she said that you’d make fun of her, I told her about how you made me feel in high school when I told you the same thing.” 

The room seems to go completely still - no sounds, no air to breathe. Nicole told Waverly how she had made her feel? God. “How’s that?” Wynonna encourages. 

“I told her how kind you were. How normal you made me feel. And… And I told her that my life has been changed ever since. That moment is so important to me, Wynonna. You really helped me become who I am today, you know. And it all started there.”

“Nicole…” Wynonna breathes out, unable to stop herself. 

“I’m sorry that was… I know that’s a lot, but I promised Waverly if she talked to you I would tell you all that.”

“Don’t be sorry.” It is a lot. There’s no denying that. But Wynonna doesn’t want Nicole to be sorry. “I just-- You know me. I’m shit for words. But, thank you. For telling Waverly all that. I’m starting to think you might be the only person who thinks I’m good. ” 

“What? No, Waverly definitely thinks you’re good.”

“You didn’t hear some of the stuff she said to me tonight.” 

“Well… Listen, while you weren’t here, I got to spend some time with Waverly. She told me good stories about you. She missed you just as much as I did. We both couldn’t wait for you to get back. I don’t think she’d care if she thought you were bad.”

Wynonna will never tire of hearing people missed her. Her existence seemed so inconsequential for so long - still does to most people now. But Waves and Nic? They missed her. “You always know what to say, Haught. How do you do that?”

“Dunno… Maybe I just know you.” 

“I don’t know. I’ve been pretty fucked up since high school.”

“But you’re still you. ” 

“What if I’m not?” Wynonna asks, fighting to keep her walls lowered. 

“Well, if you’re not, I want to get to know you all over again. Because I’m not letting you go this time.” The openness of the younger woman will amaze Wynonna for the rest of their lives (she hopes). 

“You’re still you , aren’t you?” Wynonna asks with a smile. 

“Still me. A little taller… Much hotter… But still me.” Still yours , Nicole thinks. 

“Mmm… You got that right.” Wynonna chuckles in the same instant she yawns. 

“Go to sleep, Wynonna.” Nicole says softly. 

“Are you tired, Nic?” 

“A little. I won’t be far behind you if you fall asleep on me.”

“Okay… The birthday present you got me is perfect by the way. I can’t wait for you to come over and see it.”

“I can’t wait either, b-” Nicole catches herself. She can’t believe that she almost slipped up and called her that after all this time. “Now get some rest. You seemed to have had one hell of a day.”

Wynonna wonders if Nicole was going to say what she thinks she was going to say. “Okay, Nic. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Wynonna.”

Chapter Text

January 17, 2008

 

Almost two weeks have passed since the best week of Nicole Haught’s life. With school back in session, though, the whispers are only getting louder and harder to ignore. Most of them are whispers about her apparent gayness - those roll right off her back. The whispers about Wynonna , though - those have threatened to get her into trouble a handful of times. 

The first time happened on the first day back when that douche, Trevor, walked right up to Nicole and asked where her whore girlfriend was. Nicole had clenched her fist so hard to keep from knocking him out for so long that her palm had fingerprint bruises for the next day. 

The next time, it’s fucking Max. 

“Why are you wasting your time on that loser? You have no idea who she even is. She’s going to ruin the rest of your high school years.” Max bites at her while they’re alone in the locker room after a workout.

“Max, I’m really tired of this shit, okay? You don’t know anything about Wynonna. You don’t know what I know. You don’t fucking know her. So you better keep your mouth shut about her from now on, because I’m not gonna let you talk about her like that.” Nicole attempts to reason with her, but not without evident annoyance and exasperation.

“Nicole, are you serious? You’re going to choose her over me?” 

Nicole pauses in shock. Her eyebrows move together in confusion. “What are you talking about? I’m not choosing anyone. You’re not my girlfriend, Max.” 

“Yeah, and neither is Wynonna, is she?” 

This knocks the wind completely out of Nicole’s chest. She and Wynonna haven’t labeled anything and that’s okay with Nicole, but having it thrown back in her face by the one person she’s been able to trust this whole time… It’s harder than she can admit. She clenches her teeth until her jaw aches. 

“It doesn’t matter if she’s not my ‘girlfriend.’ She’s mine, ” Nicole shoots back, air quoting the word. “I know you don’t know what that’s like since you can’t keep any guy on your arm for more than a week. But, she is. And I thought you would be happy for me. I’m done with this.”

Max doesn’t get another word in before Nicole leaves her alone. 

 

January 23, 2008 (6 days later)

 

Nicole hasn’t talked to Max since their last confrontation over Wynonna and she’s starting to think she’s made a huge mistake. People stop caring whether Nicole can hear them. The whole school “knows” she’s gay now and she’s terrified that it’s going to get back to her parents. She’s hoping to lie her way out of it if it ever does. It wouldn’t be hard as long as her parents never hear the crap people spew about Wynonna. 

Wynonna Earp is crazy. I heard she’s a killer. She even killed her own dad. Yeah, well I heard that she thinks demons are real. Can you imagine that? I hear she’s cursed. Where she goes, she leaves nothing but destruction. Most of Purgatory High has had their way with that slut. You hear that, Haught? Your little girlfriend is a cursed killer. Soon, she’s gonna leave you broken-hearted. I’d run if I were you. 

Nicole thinks ninety percent of it is bullshit. She obviously knows the killer part is. Wynonna isn’t some mastermind murderer and there would never be a doubt in Nicole’s mind about that. Even if some of the other stuff is true… That doesn’t change the way Wynonna makes her feel or the warmth that she genuinely radiates just from being around her. 

“Yo, Haught!” An obscure male voice calls out to her in math class. The teacher isn’t in yet. She recognizes him as a senior on the boys’ basketball team seated next to her. She keeps her head low and doesn’t acknowledge him.

“Haught, I saw your girlfriend on Saturday,” he continues with a stupid smirk on his face. Nicole’s still avoiding looking his way. Saturday, Wynonna had been at work. Nicole still doesn’t know exactly what it is she does or where she works, but it doesn’t exactly surprise her to hear that someone had seen her.

“And?” Nicole manages through gritted teeth. 

“And?! Ooh hoo hoo, boy was she workin’ that pole. I can see why you’re tappin’ that!” 

Nicole’s head snaps to see the too-pleased face staring smugly at her. Workin’ that pole. That can’t mean… Wynonna’s a stripper. It makes sense all at once. That’s why she works so late. That’s why Nicole gets texts at three and four in the morning after Wynonna’s gotten home. Still… 

“Ouch… You didn’t know your girl was a stripper, did you? And even better… at Pussy Willows - what a fucking dive. Perfect place for a girl like her, though.” 

Before she can stop herself, she’s on her feet and brings her fist down hard across her classmate’s face. Her knuckles crack and she knows her fist is going to hurt later, but she can’t feel anything but fury and the adrenaline rush from it right now. 

“Fight! Fight! Fight!” calls sound around her, muffled by the pounding in her ears. 

She swings again, but he catches her fist and shoves her back, causing her to stumble and hit the side of her face on a desk on her way down. 

“You stupid bitch!” 

“Man stop! You’ll get in more trouble than her!” One of his buddies steps in front of him to stop him from inflicting more damage on her.

She rises to her feet and takes a step back towards him when the teacher comes running in. “Nicole! Chad! Principal’s office. Now!” 

 

***

 

Nicole, Chad, and a handful of picked classmates go through a questioning process. Even though Nicole threw the first punch everyone had told the principal that Chad had basically been asking for it. Nicole’s surprised when the questioned students simply state “He was making fun of Nicole’s best friend. Saying really bad stuff about her, trying to push her buttons.” 

The staff had obviously heard all the same stuff that Nicole’s been hearing for the last two weeks. She’s sure now that all this crap is going to get back to her parents, but the teachers seem mostly uncomfortable discussing anything about it with her. 

Nicole wonders why until she hears the assistant principal say, “We can’t mention… Her preference when we talk about this with her parents. We wouldn’t want them to say we’re being… discriminatory.” 

Nicole’s sent home for the day, but she’ll be able to come back to school tomorrow. When Nicole steps into her house, her mom is there, immediately grilling her. Nicole barely gets a word in edgewise until her mom notices her watery eyes. 

“Oh Nikki!” Her mom coos and tries to wrap Nicole in a hug, but Nicole breaks. 

“Mom! I don’t like that name!” Her hands shield her from the embrace. Angry, confused, hurt tears pour from her eyes now.  “I-- I’m sorry. I’m sorry, mom. I just couldn’t take it. He was being awful and mean and I couldn’t take it. I’m sorry.” 

“Sweetie... “ Her mom’s voice seems gentle, but she knows that she’s still in trouble. 

“Can I go to my room? Please?” 

Mrs. Haught seems to consider before nodding. “We can talk more about it later, okay? But we will talk about this.” 

When Nicole gets to her room, she locks the door and falls onto the bed so she can finally really cry . The weight in her chest spreads to her limbs, weighing her down so she’s unable to move. Hours pass until she cries herself utterly empty. Not knowing everything about Wynonna isn’t new. Wynonna shares more and more with her every single time they’re together, though, and Nicole’s grateful for that. Her promise is still good - that Wynonna can share stuff whenever she’s ready. 

It’s just… Hard. Learning that Wynonna’s a stripper from one of the sleaziest boys at school scares her. The last thing in the world she ever wants is for Wynonna to get hurt or taken advantage of. The things that Chad said… She worries that she might vomit if the words keep replaying in her head. The thoughts of Wynonna hurting… Somewhere Nicole can’t find her… Nicole would rather die than not know if Wynonna’s okay. 

She hadn’t bothered with the light so her room grows dark around six o’clock. She realizes that she hasn’t looked at her phone in hours. Sighing, she pulls it from her pocket.

Wynonna: Haughty, I miss you. 

Wynonna: School sucks. I can’t wait to see you this weekend. 

Wynonna: Practice go okay? 

Wynonna: Nicole? Are you okay? 

 

(3) Missed Calls Wynonna (Nice Ass) Earp

 

Nicole sighs and types out a reply.

Nicole: I’m sorry. Today was a tough day. I’m okay. Probably won’t answer much. Don’t feel real talkative.

Wynonna: I’m sorry, baby. I wish I could kiss you and make it all better. I’m here if you need me, okay? 

Nicole: Do you work tonight? 

Wynonna: And tomorrow, sadly. I’m sorry I wish I could come see you. 

Nicole: It’s okay. 

Wynonna: Can I do anything else? 

Nicole: Nope. 

Wynonna: Okay. I’ll text you when I get home after work like always. I’ll be thinking about you all night. 

Nicole starts to cry again. She really thought that she had completely run out of tears. With Wynonna being so sweet… So caring and kind, it hurts even more. She’s too good for this world… Nicole needs to see her. 

 

***

 

Wynonna stares at the messages, re-reading them for the twentieth time. Even when Wynonna had disappeared, Nicole never seemed cold over text or on the phone. Something must have really brought Nicole down today. She’s never hated her job more than she does right now. The only place she wants to be is by Nicole’s side, wrapping the tall girl up in her arms and making sure she knows whatever happened will mean nothing sooner rather than later. 

She needs this stupid job, though. No family. Foster parents don’t give a shit. It’s the only way she can live and keep up what relationship she has with Nicole. 

 

***

 

January 24, 2008, 2:27am

 

Wynonna wipes her face down with a baby wipe, erasing as much of her makeup as she possibly can. Tonight had been slow for tips. Weekdays always were, but she still had made a couple hundred bucks. She puts on her jeans, pulls Nicole’s hoodie and her necklace over her head, and exits out the back door, stepping into the crisp cool air. 

Her truck is parked as close to the door as it can get, but she’s frozen in her tracks when she sees what truck is parked next to it and who’s standing there. 

“Nicole…” Wynonna breathes. 

Nicole stands with her hands shoved in her pockets, leaning against the front of her truck, head down. She’s wearing a knit cap and bundled up in the same jacket she had worn to the New Year’s party. Wynonna notices how exhausted she looks even in the darkness and dim light of the parking lot. 

“What are you-- How did you--?” Wynonna can’t figure out what to say. She’s trying to fight her instincts to go on the defensive and doing… not well. 

“Find you? One of the boys at school said they saw you here Saturday,” Nicole answers softly, biting the inside of her cheek. 

Wynonna notes the hurt in her voice. Shit. One of Nicole’s schoolmates seeing her strip had not been anything she had considered. It’s over. It’s all over. Wynonna knows it. Being a foster kid isn’t a big deal, but a stripper? Wynonna knows this is the nail in her coffin and she’s about to lose the best thing in her life. “Nicole, I--”

“Wynonna… I just-- I wish you had told me,” Nicole admits. She lifts her head, but turns her face to avoid looking at Wynonna. She doesn’t know if she will have the strength to have this conversation looking into Wynonna’s deep blue eyes. “I know I told you to tell me stuff when you wanted, but you could seriously get hurt and how would I even know where to start looking for you?” 

Wynonna takes a few steps closer, praying for Nicole to glance at her. Nicole’s brown eyes would melt away the walls rising within her in a second. She needs for them to be melted, because she can feel anger stirring. Anger at herself that won’t help with Nicole at all. “Nicole, I’m sorry,” she offers shortly.  “I was… I am… embarrassed. I didn’t want you to think less of me.” 

Nicole shakes her head, unable to find words before Wynonna continues. 

“I need this job, Nicole,” Wynonna states matter-of-factly. “It’s the only thing that pays enough for me to take care of myself. You don’t-- You don’t know what it’s like for me here. This town… Talks. They say a lot of shit about me so I can’t really get a better job than this. No one here wants me for anything else.” 

“Wynonna… I don’t care that you’re a stripper,” Nicole states boldly with a sigh. 

Wynonna winces at the word. She’s never said it out loud and hearing Nicole, of all people, be the one to say it almost destroys her. 

Nicole continues, “I really don’t. I just care that you could get hurt… The guy that told me about you is a fucking piece of trash. Thinking about people like him…” Nicole brings a hand to her face and rubs harshly. “People like him or worse taking advantage of you or hurting you… I just don’t know what I’d do.”

What? Wynonna can’t believe that Nicole isn’t mad at her, but she also absolutely can believe it . Nicole’s been nothing but understanding this whole time. With every piece of baggage shared, Nicole has accepted it with grace and held Wynonna. Why would this time be any different? It almost makes this worse. How was Wynonna supposed to protect herself when Nicole never gives her a reason to need to? “I’m sorry, Nicole. I should have told you. I was scared.”

Nicole shifts, shoving her hands back into her pockets. She finally turns her head to look at Wynonna for the first time and sees that she’s got her hoodie on… and the necklace. She can’t help but soften. I’ll be thinking about you all night. Nicole realizes she had told the truth.

“Nicole! Your eye!” Wynonna notices the bruise around Nicole’s eye on the side of her face. She steps into Nicole’s space and tries to place a gentle hand there, but Nicole recoils from her touch for the first time ever. “Nicole… Please…” Wynonna begs. 

The taller girl bites at her lip. “I’m fine, Wynonna.” Nicole doesn’t know what she’ll do the first time Wynonna touches her. It’s taking everything in her not to fall apart again after the exhaustion of the day. One touch would completely undo her. Right now, she needs her resolve. It’s the one thing she has control over, shaky control, but control nonetheless.

“What happened?” Wynonna asks, fiddling with the key around her neck to give her hands something to do. 

“It’s nothing. Had a bad day, I told you.” She shrugs.

“Nic, please. Did someone hurt you? I’ll beat the shit out of them. Was it Max?” Wynonna rambles, anger boiling inside her. 

“No, it wasn’t Max. It’s fine.” 

“Nicole!” 

“I punched the asshole that told me about all this, okay?! He said some really gross things about you and I punched him. He shoved me down and I hit my face on the desk. I’m okay!” Nicole finally answers loudly. 

Wynonna can’t help the brief, warm feeling in her gut after Nicole admits what happened. Nicole had been defending her . Really defending her without any ulterior motives. Defending her when she wasn’t even around to see it. No one had ever defended her. She saddens for just a moment before her anger starts to rise again. “Nicole, I’m not worth that.” 

Nicole looks like she’s been stricken. “What?”

“I’m not worth that! You-- You’re so good at school and basketball and you have so much going for you. I’m not worth getting in trouble over or fighting over, okay? Like I said, people talk shit about me. That’s just how it is. You don’t need to do all that.” It comes out harsher than she intends, but the thought of Nicole fucking up her whole life for her… She can’t ruin her. For once in her life, Wynonna can’t destroy what she loves.

Nicole scoffs. “Wooow… Are you serious, right now?” Nicole steps away from Wynonna, unable to handle the effect of her proximity paired with the way Wynonna’s words cut deep inside her chest. “You are fucking worth it. I’m sorry that every idiotic person in your life besides me has convinced you you’re not. But you’re worth it to me. And I’m going to fight for you. Every time.” 

Wynonna realizes what’s happening too late. Nicole’s putting up her own walls -- walls that Wynonna’s never seen until now. Walls that Wynonna never considered existing. Being shut out by Nicole is like being fractured into a million irreparable pieces. “Nicole--” Wynonna begs, eyes watering, shaking her head. 

“No, stop! I don’t want-- I can’t hear it anymore. What do I have to do? What do I have to do to make you see that? Don’t you know that, Wynonna? I just want-- I can’t do this right now. I’m tired of hearing that you’re not worth it. I can’t--” Nicole shakes her head and moves around Wynonna to the door of her truck. 

Wynonna rushes to get in her way. “Nicole, I’m sorry, please just--”

“Wynonna, I just can’t right now. I can’t deal right now. I’m tired. I’m sorry I should have waited to talk to you- I just--” Nicole sighs and deflates. She shakes her head, she really just can’t. “Please move.”

Wynonna reluctantly steps out of the way, tears falling quietly down her cheeks. “Baby, please…” 

“You’re worth… Everything to me…” Nicole offers as she stands between the now-open door and her truck. 

Wynonna can’t find anything to say. So many things bombard her all at once and bottleneck in her throat, unable to escape. She feels so stupid. Words constantly fail her and since Nicole won’t let her touch her… To let her show how she feels rather than talking... She doesn’t know what to do. “I-- I don’t--”

Nicole nods when she sees this going nowhere. “Just tell me when you get home safe, please...” She steps into her truck without another word, starts the engine, and pulls away.

Wynonna watches, stunned. All at once, a million things run through her head that she could have said, done, anything. She collapses into herself, bent at the knees and curled into a ball. She sobs freely, uncaring about the noise she’s making. 

 

***

 

Nicole’s lying in bed about thirty something minutes later, watching her phone. Finally, it buzzes after a few more minutes. 

Wynonna: I’m home.

Nicole: Thanks. Me too.  

Wynonna: We still on this weekend? 

Nicole: Dunno. 

Wynonna: Okay. 

After Wynonna presses send, she curls up in her bed and wraps her arms around herself. She cries as silently as she can manage, not wanting her “parents” to wake and have to come up with an excuse for her disturbance. Nicole’s hoodie usually makes it so easy to fall asleep after work. It feels fading now. Like Nicole’s slipping away. 

The only other person she wants to talk to is twelve years old. There’s no way that she could call her baby sister after three o’clock in the morning even if she had a good reason. There’s also no way she could talk to her baby sister about this period. 

She doesn’t sleep. 

 

***

 

Nicole wakes a few hours later, feeling empty. Her muscle memory reaches for her phone. No new messages. Not surprising. Normally, she would type out a good morning text. This time, she places her phone on her nightstand and goes about getting ready normally. Everything’s hazy, but she ends up at school on time somehow. 

Wynonna: At school? 

Nicole: Yeah. You? 

Wynonna: Yeah. 

Nicole goes through the motions, never cracking a smile the whole day. Max doesn’t care enough to notice she’s miserable. Chad has an ugly bruise that takes up the entire side of his face. Nicole sees that Max seems to be fawning over him after practice. Disgusting . Nicole’s high school life would never be the same after this. 

Through all that, Nicole and Wynonna don’t text at all. Later that night, Nicole’s phone buzzes.

Wynonna: At work. 

Nicole: Be safe. 

 

***

 

January 25, 2008 3:17am

 

Back in her bed early the next morning, Wynonna types out a text. 

Wynonna: Home safe. 

Nicole: I’m glad. 

Wynonna’s surprised when the answer is immediate. 

Wynonna: Are you okay? Why are you still up? 

Nicole: Can’t sleep. 

The older girl chews the inside of her lip until it bleeds as she considers her next reply. She’s in this mess because she couldn’t be open and honest with the person who’s done the most for her recently. No amount of pride or self-preservation is worth the way she’s feeling now. She types her most simplified feelings out, hesitates, and then, hits send.

Wynonna: I miss you so much.  

Nicole reads the message over and over. She had spent all day missing Wynonna, too, but she’s not sure whether to reciprocate the message. She sees Wynonna’s tear-filled eyes as clear as she can see the screen of her phone. Yesterday was too much, but Wynonna is still… Hers. Right? She tries to convince herself. She sighs. 

Nicole: I miss you, too. 

Wynonna: Really?

Nicole: Yeah. A lot.

Wynonna: <3

Wynonna: I think I’m going to pass out now. Goodnight. <3

Nicole smiles sadly at the hearts Wynonna sends. 

Nicole: Goodnight. <3

They both sleep for a few hours this time -- not as restful as either of them need, but some sleep nonetheless. 



***

 

Nicole : Good morning. I’ve got a game tonight so I probably can’t text much until after. 

Wynonna: Good morning. I remember. I’m off work, so I’ll be around whenever. 

Nicole: Okay. I’ll text you a little when I can. 

They don’t talk as much as they did before the disaster morning happened, but they at least talk more than they did yesterday. Nicole grins when Wynonna sends her a good luck text right before she has to put her phone away and head out onto the court. 

As the team runs into the gym, Nicole sees her instantly. Wynonna sits a few rows behind where the team will be sitting. Once again, she’s wearing Nicole’s hoodie. Nicole notes that she looks smaller and so tired. Nicole lifts a hand to wave at her.

Wynonna smiles for the first time in the last day and a half and waves back with the sleeve of the hoodie halfway up her palm. The hoodie swallows her even more than it had the other morning. 

Nicole runs over to their bench and takes off her track jacket and pants. The whole time, she’s looking at Wynonna who’s looking back at her. “I didn’t know you were coming,” Nicole says loud enough so that Wynonna can hear her apathetic to anyone hearing her. 

“That’s why it’s called a surprise, Haughtshot,” Wynonna replies without an ounce of her typical sharpness. She sounds and looks so soft. 

“Well… Looks like we’re winning tonight.” My good luck charm is here. 

Wynonna smiles wide, teeth baring and her dimples showing so clearly. “Go get ‘em.” 

 

***

 

Nicole plays with a renewed sense of vigor every time she looks to the stands and Wynonna’s still there. They win. Nicole is crowned MVP at the end of the game for scoring the most points and recovering the most rebounds. 

Wynonna sits on the seat in the stands closest to the locker room as she waits for Nicole to come out. 

Max comes out first and if looks could kill… They would have both dropped dead the second they laid eyes on each other. 

“Don’t you have a pole to slide on?” Max bites. 

“Awww you guys talk about me when I’m not around, that’s so sweet! Yeah, it’s pretty nice for people to actually want to see me without my clothes on. You can’t relate, huh?” Wynonna replies with more venom and a more vindictive smile. 

“You’re such a stupid bitch. I don’t see what Nicole sees in you.” 

“More than she’ll ever see in you again,” a voice behind Max causes her head to turn. Nicole’s standing there now. 

“Whatever, have fun with your whore, Haught.” Max says as she walks away. 

Nicole takes an aggressive step towards her, but Wynonna’s on her feet and has her hands on her biceps before she can get far. 

“Whoa, Nic. Thank you. Thank you , but I don’t give a shit about Max.” Wynonna explains, bringing a hand up to Nicole’s face to force the redhead to look down at her and not where Max had just disappeared from.  “I just wanted to see you.” 

“I’m sorry…” Nicole says, leaning into her hand. 

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for. Can we… Go to your truck or something? Flourescent lights and nasty gym smell is not how I wanna have this conversation…” 

Nicole looks around. There’s no one else left in the gym. Nicole had been the last one out on purpose because she didn’t want anyone to make a scene with them. So much for that… The basketball player nods and walks side-by-side with Wynonna to her truck in the mostly empty parking lot. A few other students lingered, but nowhere near her truck. 

Wynonna slides in through the driver’s side before Nicole follows behind her. With the door closed and lights still off, they’re safe to say or do whatever they need to. 

“Nicole--”

“Wynonna--” 

They speak at once and chuckle together as the tension eases. 

“Nicole, let me-- I practiced this okay, I don’t know how much longer I can go without saying it before I can’t  anymore…”

Nicole gives her a nod. 

Wynonna reaches out to hold one of Nicole’s hands in both of hers. “I’m really sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about my job and I’m sorry that it was scary to find out from not me. But I’m-- I’m mostly sorry because I shouldn’t have-- I haven’t had this before. Someone like you who believes me and cares about me like this.” 

Nicole’s hanging on every word, nodding when Wynonna pauses to encourage her to keep going. 

“You do everything right, okay? And that terrifies the shit out of me because-- Because I’ve gone through more “parents” than years I’ve been alive… I have a sister, who is a freakin’ angel. I love her so much. She’s twelve and her name is Waverly. My aunt and uncle kept her and-- Put me into the system because I-- I’m crazy. My blood family doesn’t even want me so… Why would anyone else?” 

“Wynonna, I want you,” Nicole assures her. 

“I know,” Wynonna replies quietly. Tears silently slip out of her eyes and down her cheeks. “God, I know. I do. I swear. It’s just hard for me and I don’t really feel like I’m worth… much on most days. I was scared when you found me there. I thought you were just going to be done with me and I did what I do best - tried to protect myself and take care of myself. I’m just sorry.” 

Nicole brings the back of her hand to wipe Wynonna’s cheeks dry. Her hands cup Wynonna’s face like she’s breakable -- Wynonna feels that she might be. Nicole brushes gentle yet firm strokes over the sides of Wynonna’s face with her thumbs. 

“Baby… It’s okay.” Nicoles steady voice, full of adoration , assures Wynonna.

Wynonna breathes out a heavy breath of relief, hearing Nicole call her baby again. 

Nicole continues, “I don’t-- I don’t want to be done with you. I don’t think, um… I don’t ever want to be done with you.” She dances around the declaration of forever , still unsure of herself.   “And-- If you’ll let me, I want to help you protect yourself. I want to protect you.” 

“You do that already. I’m sorry I tried to protect myself from you when I know I don’t need to.”

“Shhh… Can you come home with me tonight? I know we planned on tomorrow--” 

“Please, God yes .” Wynonna breathes out with a humorless laugh.  

“We can talk more about whatever you want. I want to know anything you wanna tell me. I’d love to hear about your sister… Or we can just lay… Whatever you need.” 

Wynonna pushes forward and kisses Nicole for the first time in over a week . Nicole reciprocates hopelessly. Fingers tangle into long brunette strands and pull them together as closely as possible. The kiss is messy, lips and teeth and tongue seeking any amount of closeness they can get. Wynonna groans against Nicole’s mouth and pulls back. 

“Y-you. I just need… You, I think,” she manages to say. Nicole can see how hard it is for her to bare her heart like this. 

“You got that. Every day, any time.”

“Can we go home?” Wynonna asks with pleading blue eyes. 

“Yeah, of course..” 

Chapter Text

Wynonna’s back hits the mat hard. She didn’t think Dolls was joking when he said he was going to get her into better demon-killing shape. For one thing, the man never jokes. But she wasn’t expecting to get her ass handed to her like this, either. She pushes herself up slowly, wincing from the growing soreness in her muscles. 

“What the hell, Dolls? I’m not gonna be able to -- kill anything if you keep kicking my ass.” Wynonna groans, finally getting to her feet. She brings her arm across her chest, stretching the aching muscle. 

“Yeah, well, you won’t have an ass to kick if I don’t, so,” he states firmly, shrugging. “You need to get it together, Earp. Think about it. Find my weakness.” Dolls rolls his shoulders, readying himself for their next go-round. 

Wynonna sucks in a deep breath, squaring her shoulders, “You sure you have one?” She challenges, flexing her fingers before squeezing both hands into tight fists. 

The deputy marshall steps back into Wynonna’s space on the training mat. He reaches for her and she ducks out of the way. He swings and she dodges. The pattern continues for a few moments, the two of them going back and forth pretty steadily for a few moments. 

Wynonna tries everything that she knows. Every possible insult, jab, hit –– anything to take the larger man down. Nothing gives until he surges backwards, giving her enough room to flip forward. She catches him off guard with the aerial kick and lands a heavy blow to his torso, putting him on his knees. 

In the same second that she gets him in a chokehold, the sound of glass breaking pulls their attention. 

Wynonna’s eyes land on her ginger cop, standing motionless in the doorway, mouth open wide. The older woman’s eyebrows raise, her grip on Dolls loosening. She glances from Nicole’s face, down to the shattered coffee mug and back up, a soft smirk of realization tugging at her lips. 

“You good, Haughty?” She quips, standing up straight and cracking her knuckles, hands coming to rest on her hips. 

Nicole blinks a few times and breathes in deep before finally forcing herself to snap out of it. Seeing Wynonna like that — all of her usually hidden muscles rippling — makes her shiver. “I - uh - yeah, just… clumsy. God, I’m sorry you guys.” She spares another glance at Wynonna before crouching down towards the mess. 

“Whoa, Haught — broken glass? Can’t just pick that up.” Dolls calls, getting to his feet. He grabs a towel from the desk and shoves it into Wynonna’s arms. “Go help her, Earp. I’ll go get the broom.” His tone is almost annoyed, but he’s wearing a slight smirk. 

What does he know? Wynonna wonders, eyebrows tugging together as she takes the towels and heads towards Nicole. 

The officer moves out of the way so that Dolls can pass her by, muttering another sorry in his direction. He didn’t like her much, she could tell. Though it seemed like he didn’t like anyone much, which made her feel less bad. 

Wynonna crouches down next to her, the small smirk still on her face as she starts drying up the coffee, “You’re not so clumsy, Haught.” Wynonna almost whispers, glancing up at the redhead. 

Nicole’s heart rate picks up, both from being so close to Wynonna and from her questioning why she’d dropped the mug. “Sure I am, sometimes,” she tries, doing her best to keep her eyes away from the veins in Wynonna’s neck or the sweat dripping down her chest and between her - okay Haught, pull it together! She swallows hard, taking the other towel gently from Wynonna and drying up the rest of the spill. 

Wynonna chuckles lightly. “Only when you’re nervous.” She recalls the only times she’d ever seen the redhead lack grace -- they’d mostly been times when Wynonna herself had done something to stress her out. 

“Something make you nervous, Nic?” Wynonna’s voice is quiet and low. She rests her arms on her knees, looking up to meet Nicole’s eyes. Her red hair is back in the tucked in braid she wears for work but a few wispy strands frame her face, making her look so young. Wynonna’s eyes soften as she watches her, her mind wandering back to some old memory of the two of them when they were teenagers. She lets herself remember until it hurts too much. 

A smile tugs at the corner of Nicole’s mouth as she watches Wynonna watch her. In the close proximity, the officer tries to think of something semi-intellectual that she can say to defend herself... nothing comes. She has one thought. “You’re just –– beautiful.” She finally stammers out, feeling incredibly brave before she begins to feel stupid. 

Wynonna’s smugness washes away, lips parting slightly while Nicole’s words play over and over again in her head. Before she can respond in any way, Dolls steps back into the doorway and practically over the two of them. It pulls them out of their moment and they both rise to their feet in a haste, practically knocking into each other as they stand. 

The taller man looks between the two of them, feeling the heavy tension that lingers. “You think you can manage?” He asks with a sigh, lifting an eyebrow in Wynonna’s direction before passing the broom and dustpan off to Nicole. 

Nicole wipes her clammy palms on the front of her khakis, giving him a nod, “Yes sir, sorry again for the mess.” 

Wynonna looks between them with her hands on her hips. She knows the look Dolls is giving her. It makes her feel nervous and like she wants to question him until he fesses up to whatever he’s thinking. Instead, she narrows her eyes at him and shakes her head. 

He rubs his face to hide the smirk and turns away from the women. “Nothing to apologize for when you’re the one cleaning it up.” Dolls tosses his shirt over his shoulder, making his way back towards the door. He stops, resting his hand on the door frame and looking at Wynonna, “Again tomorrow?” 

He makes it sound like a question but Wynonna knows she doesn’t really have a choice. She grumbles, knowing that her muscles will ache so much in the morning that she won’t even feel like rolling out of bed, “Am I allowed to say no?” She sounds more hopeful than she feels. 

“Not a chance.” He gives them a final nod and smacks the door frame before leaving them alone again. 

Wynonna rolls her eyes, turning towards the officer and taking the dustpan from her hands. The brunette drops to one knee, holding the dustpan steady for Nicole to sweep in the broken mug. 

Nicole falters for a moment seeing Wynonna get down on one knee and look up at her like that. The redhead hopes that the shiver that courses through her isn’t as obvious as it feels. “You don’t have to help anymore, Wynonna… I made the mess.” She shrugs, sweeping the pieces carefully into the pan. 

“Yeah, well, who were you bringing the coffee to? Dolls?” She teases, pushing the pieces of hair that fall in her face back behind her ears. 

The younger woman’s breath catches and she smiles, looking down and away from Wynonna. “Nah, it was — for you. Payback for giving me yours the other day. I thought it would be sweet and I fucked it up.” She sighs, reaching her hand out to help Wynonna up. 

The brunette smirks up at her, taking her hand and a deep breath. She lets Nicole pull her to her feet, being careful not to spill the glass again. When she’s standing in front of Nicole like this she notices for the first time since being with her again how much taller she really is. “You weren’t lying,” Wynonna starts, blue eyes lingering on Nicole’s lips. “You did get taller.” She shifts her gaze upward, finding brown eyes again. God, would they ever not make her feel like she was gonna melt? 

Nicole leans on the broom a bit to keep herself steady, since being close to Wynonna had already called her coordination into question one time today. The taller woman keeps Wynonna’s hand in her own, thumb brushing over her knuckles absentmindedly. “Yeah, yeah –- the boots add a little something, too,” she says softly, smiling down at her. 

Wynonna’s eyebrows raise, the dimples in her cheeks deepening when she laughs. “Oh, they sure do.” She feels her pulse pounding in her ears. This feels so — familiar, yet terrifying. Like yet another thing that Wynonna doesn’t deserve. She steps out of Nicole’s space, dumping the glass into the nearby trashcan and crosses her arms over her chest. 

Nicole sighs, her heart breaking a little bit at the loss. A lot had happened since Wynonna came home. There was so much good to outweigh the not so good, but still a part of Nicole worried that maybe things would never be like they used to be. No matter what happened though, she was just happy to be near Wynonna again. That would always be enough. 

“I promised you some explanation,” Wynonna reminds her even though she hasn’t forgotten. 

“I know, and I know you’ll give it to me when the time is right.” Nicole responds softly, tucking her free hand into her back pocket. 

The older woman’s heart swells at her sincerity. Nicole had always been that way, patient and understanding with her in a way that nobody had ever been. Wynonna nods, reaching for her jacket and her phone that she’d left on the table at the start of her sparring session. “You busy this weekend?” She asks almost timidly. She hadn’t felt butterflies like this since… well, since the last time she’d been with Nicole. 

The officer thinks for a moment, before she remembers that she’ll have company. “My friend from college is coming into town for a few days, that’s it though.” She explains it plainly, her expression never giving away her feelings on the situation. “You wanna meet her?” 

Wynonna feels panic welling up inside her. The last time Nicole had asked her to meet a friend of hers it hadn’t ended that well for any of them. The brunette lifts an eyebrow, tucking her jacket underneath her arm. “I don’t know about that, Haughty. Your friends never like me.” 

Wynonna leans against the doorframe, knowing that she needs to get to the office and that Nicole has spent more time in here than she probably should’ve. She doesn’t want to leave, though. Doesn’t want to waste any time she gets with the redhead, no matter how short or seemingly insignificant. 

The cop rolls her eyes, laughing softly as she tucks the broom away in a corner and turns back to Wynonna. “That was one time. Besides we’re all grown up now, and she’s not like Max.” Nicole remembers the blonde girl that she hadn’t talked to in god knows when. The memory leaves a bad taste in her mouth. 

“Yeah? We’ll have to see, Red. Anyway, I gotta get to work, I guess. You too, I’m sure. Don’t let Nedley ride your ass for taking so long, blame it on me.” 

Nicole shakes her head, crossing her arms to keep herself from reaching out and pulling Wynonna back in. “Never, Earp. I owe you a coffee still.” She reminds her, another excuse to keep her there a little longer. 

“I won’t forget, Haughty.” Wynonna winks at her, letting her hand slide away from the doorframe slowly as she walks away. 

 

-- 

 

Wynonna sits across from Waverly in a cracked corner booth in the only diner Purgatory has. She looks over the menu for probably the 97th time, even though she knows it practically by heart. She’d been here dozens of times when she was younger, even once before with Nicole after one of her basketball games. The older Earp remembered praying the whole time that nobody would confront them and say anything stupid. Her prayers must’ve gotten answered for once because they’d actually been able to enjoy the night without any douchebags interfering. 

“Waves, do you know what you want yet? The menu’s got one side and reading it over and over again isn’t gonna make any of the options vegan.” Wynonna rolls her eyes, slouching in the seat. 

“Geez, what’re you in such a rush for? It’s only been like 10 minutes since we sat down…” Waverly chews on the inside of her lip, pulling the menu up in front of her face. She isn’t taking her sweet time deciding her order. She’s waiting on Nicole to show up. But the catch is that she hadn’t exactly told her big sis that anyone would be joining them. 

The older woman narrows her eyes, sitting up again and smacking the menu back down to the table. “What are you doing, Waverly?” Wynonna watches her baby sister, who is just shit at lying, completely fold in front of her. 

“Okay, god, fine I’m just –– I’m trying to wait because I invited Nicole…” Waverly’s voice trails off at the end of her sentence, making the words almost inaudible to Wynonna. 

Wynonna leans over the table slightly, tilting her head towards her sister, “Speak up , tinkerbell.” 

Waverly huffs and leans back as far away from her sister as she can, throwing her hands up in the air, “I invited Nicole, alright?! We ran into each other and it seemed like a nice thing to do.” 

Wynonna’s heart stops in her chest, her face immediately dropping to her hands. She rubs her face slowly, trying to push down the urge to give her sister the trademarked wedgie. “Yeah, so nice. Super nice, Waves.” 

“What’s your problem ?! Do you like her or not? Because even I’m getting mixed signals here. When you two are together –– it’s like ––” Waverly motions in the air, trying to come up with some expression to convey the completely palpable tension that follows Wynonna and Nicole into any space they share. 

Wynonna reaches her hand out, pressing her fingers to Waverly’s lips just as the door opens across the room. In walks Haught, tall and gorgeous as always. She’s dressed in a pair of tight jeans, a maroon colored t-shirt with a sexy leather jacket over it. Her hair is pulled back in just a ponytail now, but the cute wispy pieces still fall in her face. 

Wynonna’s mouth feels dry, then she notices the woman walking in beside her. Her heart drops to her stomach. Nicole’s “friend” is one of the most beautiful women she’s ever seen. Her hand drops limply from Waverly’s mouth and thuds against the table. She chews on her bottom lip harder than she probably should. The woman is around the same height as her, dressed in a crisp looking white button up and light jeans. Her brown skin looks so soft and her hair is perfectly styled and when she laughs her smile lights up the room. It hits Wynonna in the stomach, hard. This woman, Nicole’s “friend” is everything Wynonna isn’t. 

“Hey, you guys!” Waverly calls over her shoulder, waving the pair over to them. Her stomach twists with worry when she spots the woman Nicole’s brought along. When she’d asked to bring a friend, Waverly hadn’t expected this . She turns back around in the seat and mouths an “I’m sorry” to Wynonna. There’s a rage in her eyes that Waverly can interpret easily. She’s definitely in for the biggest wedgie of all time. 

“Hey, you two,” Nicole’s musical voice washes over Wynonna as she steps up to the table. 

The older woman takes a ragged breath, putting on her best smile before looking up to greet them, “Hey Haught. And Haught’s friend .” Wynonna scrunches her nose up at the last part, feeling like her heart is going to burst the more she thinks about Nicole and this woman… 

“This is my friend from college, the one I was tellin’ you about this mornin’.” Nicole points to her and Shae smiles her beautiful smile at the Earp girls again. 

“My name’s Shae, it’s nice to meet you, Nic’s told me a lot about both of you.” 

The beautiful woman even had a pretty name . Wynonna could just die. She can’t even keep her eyes on them for too long. It was too much. God, she could just kill Waverly for this. 

Waverly, however, couldn’t take her eyes off of Shae. “Oh, here, sit!” She pats the seat next to her and scoots in, giving room for Shae to sit. 

The older Earp takes the cue to scoot over and let Nicole sit down next to her, another punch in the fucking stomach. Not only was she going to have to sit through dinner but next to her stupid, perfect –– Nicole? 

“You guys didn’t have to wait for us, I didn’t know what time we’d make it,” Nicole looks to Waverly when she speaks, trying to keep her breathing somewhat normal. Which was always hard when she was next to Wynonna. 

“Oh, it’s totally fine! We haven’t been waiting long at all anyway,” Waverly lies right to their faces. 

Sure, it hadn’t been that long, but it felt like a fucking lifetime to Wynonna. She pushes the worn out menu across the tabletop so that Nicole can look at it. 

When the officer reaches for the menu their hands touch, only briefly. Still, it makes her smile and turn the slightest bit red. She remembers the last time they were in this diner like it was yesterday. “I already know what I’m gonna get,” she says mostly to Wynonna. 

The older woman looks up at her, the stupid little grin she’s wearing melting her heart completely. “Yeah?” Did she really remember, after all these years? 

“Yeah, those pancakes were way too good to forget.” Nicole smirks, propping her elbow up against the table edge and resting her chin on her hand. 

Wynonna’s stomach soars and she has to look away, “They were pretty good, yeah,” she agrees, looking towards her sister instead. In that moment, she’s pulled out of the memory she’d been sharing with Nicole and is forced to remember the moment they’re in. Nicole just walked in with this smokeshow by her side. Wynonna couldn’t compete if she tried. 

They order their food and talk and laugh about any and everything they can think of while they wait and then some more while they eat. Wynonna and Waverly learn that Shae is only in town for a few days, that she’s a doctor. Just the thing Wynonna had always wanted to be. A doctor in another city looking into a position here in Purgatory. Of course. This just got better and better.   

Somewhere in the middle of Wynonna shoveling pancakes into her mouth, trying to ignore the sinking feeling that’s only growing as the night drags on, Shae laughs particularly hard at a comment Nicole makes. “Oh god, when we were together she used to hate that.” Shae says to Waverly, who laughs in return with no acknowledgement or hesitation. 

Wynonna, however, has to brace herself and do her best not to be sick. When we were together. The words play over and over again in her head. They’d been together at some point. Shae wasn’t just Nicole’s friend, she was her ex-girlfriend. More than Wynonna had ever been. It feels like a knife twisting in her gut. 

It takes her a minute, but the younger Earp finally picks up on her sister’s reaction, a dreadful feeling washing over her. She makes sure that no one is eating anymore before she pushes her plate away gently, faking a yawn. “Ugh, I am so sorry. Just –– it’s been such a long day, can’t wait to curl up in bed, y’know?” She giggles.

Wynonna has to fight the urge to roll her eyes at her overly dramatic little sister, even if she is extremely grateful to her for initiating an end to their little surprise dinner.

Shae stands up first, stretching after sitting for so long, “That was really fun, you guys. I had a lot of fun. It’s so nice that Nic has friends like you two here.” 

The use of Nicole’s nickname paired with the word friends sends a sensation of pins and needles through Wynonna’s whole body. 

Nicole stands up from the table next, her heart feeling too heavy for her chest. She could tell that something was up with Wynonna, her biggest fear was that it was because of her. Had she done something wrong? 

The older woman follows her out of the booth, the four of them standing in a group next to the table. Nicole reaches across Wynonna and grabs the tab that the waitress had left for them. 

“Oh, she didn’t split it,” Wynonna mutters, leaning closer to Nicole to try and see the amount for her and Waverly. 

“Oh, don’t worry about it.” Nicole crumples the sheet in her palm, her other hand brushing against Wynonna’s back reflexively. 

Wynonna trembles when Nicole touches her, but her body betrays her and she leans into it. “Nicole, you don’t have to ––”

“Hey. I got you, Earp. Well... Earps .” She corrects, smoothing her hand up and down Wynonna’s back for a moment. She smiles warmly down at Wynonna then towards Waverly before stepping away to pay the tab. 

Waverly raises her eyebrows towards Wynonna, pulling a face to hide the way she wants to smile. 

The Earp heir rolls her eyes for maybe the hundredth time that night and shoves her baby sister towards the door. They linger outside the diner, waiting for Nicole. Waverly and Shae chat to themselves a bit, but Wynonna stands with her arms around herself. When the redhead steps out the door, she bites down on her bottom lip, breathing out through her nose. 

“We should do this again, maybe. Before I leave? Or something.” Shae puts the thought out there, sounding more than happy to get together with the three of them again. 

Wynonna would rather die. She puts on her best smile when she notices the taller woman’s puppy eyes lingering on her. “Sounds super dupe. You guys are a riot.” She hopes it doesn’t come out as bitter and biting as it feels when she says it. Shae laughs, so it must not sound too bitchy. 

As they say their goodbyes, Nicole steps closer to Wynonna, pulling her in for a hug. Wynonna exhales sharply, leaning into the hug and wrapping her arms around Nicole’s waist. She breathes in the smell of her as much as she can, even if it makes her feel like she’s going to break down. 

“You okay, Wyn?” Nicole whispers against Wynonna’s ear, brushing a hand against the back of her head gently. 

Wynonna pulls herself back, standing up straight in Nicole’s arms. “Yeah, Haughtstuff. I’m good, just tired. Seriously, don’t worry about me.” She looks anywhere but into those chocolate eyes. 

“If you say so,” she says softly, letting her hand fall slowly away from Wynonna’s hair and withdrawing her arm from around her. 

Wynonna steps out of her hold and closer to Waverly, who’s waiting by the truck. 

“Nighty night, Red. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” 

“Goodnight, Wynonna. I’ll see you.” Nicole gives her a small smile and wave as she steps toward her own truck. 

Wynonna’s heart breaks in two as she climbs into her truck and watches Nicole drive off with Shae in the passenger seat. 

 

*** 

 

Open mic night at Shorty’s... How in the hell had Nicole let Shae talk her into this? She’s still not sure she’s actually going to sing yet. But Shae kept goading her into it. Wynonna will fall in love with you. You gotta do it. C’mon, you wimp. Nicole can’t stand the thought of someone questioning her bravado. 

They had gotten their drinks from Waverly earlier who told them that Wynonna might or might not show up. That might be the deciding factor of whether Nicole gets up on that stage. They’d just have to see...

Wynonna busts into Shorty’s some time later, dying for an entire bottle of whiskey. Cannibal revenants -- not in the damn pamphlet. Her eyes immediately find Nicole first -- they always do. The reflexive happiness is squashed within the second when she sees that beautiful ex-girlfriend of hers laughing it up at her side. 

Nicole’s head turns and they lock eyes. She stops what she’s doing and raises a hand to wave at Wynonna with a widening smile. It almost melts Wynonna’s worries away. Nicole hadn’t even hesitated to turn her attention to her and that has to mean something, right? Wynonna smiles and waves back.

“Wynonna!” Waverly’s voice cuts through their small interaction and the elder Earp heads to the bar to find her baby sister. “You’ll never guess what Curtis left me in the piano!” 

Wynonna scrunches her nose a little, unable to stop glancing at Haught and Shae. “Huh- What? In the piano?”

Waverly follows her sister’s line of sight and finds them. She cuts her eyes back at Wynonna. “Nicole asked if you were going to show up tonight....” Waverly assured her older sister, trying to wipe that worried furrow from her brow. “I told her I didn’t know since you were ‘working’ but I told her I hope so. She has a guitar case with her, I think she might be singing tonight.” 

“She--” Wynonna feels the air rush from her lungs at the prospect. Her face warms and reddens. She hasn’t even taken a drink yet, but she knows that she’s flushed across her face. 

“Wyn?”

“Do you really think she’s going to sing?” Wynonna asks, her voice equal parts hopeful and troubled. 

“Well, it is open mic night, Wynonna. I don’t think she’s ever brought a guitar in here before!” Waverly explains matter-of-factly. 

Wynonna’s face falls. 

“What? Is she bad or something?” Waverly asks, assuming that the history she knows very little of means something here. 

“No, she’s-- She’s something else. I just -- realized she’s probably singing for Shae…” The heaviness of the statement weighs hard on both the Earp sisters as they consider it. Nicole had never brought her guitar in here before and she’s been here over a year at this point. Neither of them get the chance to dwell on it because Nicole’s shouting Wynonna’s name and waving her over. “Fuck, shit, damn it all to hell…” 

“Go, ‘Nonna! Take this…” Waverly pours Wynonna a glass half-full of her favorite whiskey. 

Wynonna tosses it back like a shot and winces loud. “Fill it, again... “ 

“Jesus, Wynonna…” Waverly obliges anyway. 

With her glass filled, a little liquid courage coursing through her, and her throat burning, Wynonna walks over to Nicole and Shae and gives the best smile she can manage. 

“Wynonna!” Shae’s the first to speak. “Listen, you gotta help me convince Haught to sing tonight. I barely got her to bring her guitar. But she’ll do anything you ask her to.” 

“Shae!” Nicole smacks at her friend’s arm before moving closer to Wynonna. “I’m sorry. Don’t listen to her, she’s been hit over the head a few too many times.

“Oh… So you won’t do anything I ask you to?” Wynonna asks, taking a sip of her drink and looking up through her lashes at the tall woman. 

“Wha- I- Uh-” Nicole stammers and dips her head down, staring at the floor. 

The dimples of her cheeks still make Wynonna swoon. That shy smile really destroys every bit of resolve Wynonna has. 

“Well, I didn’t say that,” Nicole finally finishes. 

Wynonna can’t stop her smile now - a genuine one - and she forgets, for a second, that Shae is there… Until the other woman speaks. 

“On that note! I’m gonna go ask your sister for another round…” Shae announces before leaving Wynonna and Nicole alone for the time being. 

Shit. The Earp Heir watches Shae walk away and fully convinces herself that she just screwed this up again. She hates feeling jealous and she hates that Nicole still looks at her like that and says things like that while having this other woman in her life. Perfect, sexy doctor lady.

“Wynonna?” Nicole asks softly once Shae’s out of earshot, pulling Wynonna’s focus back. Wynonna raises her brows in question. “Did I… Do something wrong?” 

Wynonna startles for a moment. “What?” Shit, is she being that obvious? Fuck. “No, why?” The brunette tries to play it off with a shrug and another sip.

“You just-- Well you’ve been a little weird today earlier at the diner. I just wanna make sure. You’re probably just busy…” Nicole shakes her head and looks away from Wynonna. She takes a long drink from the bottle in her hand. 

“Yeah, that’s all, Haught. I just got done wrapping up a case with Dolls.” It’s only partly a lie. That’s not all . “You haven’t done anything. You’re still perfect.” 

Nicole dips her head again and takes another step closer to the shorter woman, naturally gravitating to close the space between them. “Still, huh?” 

The closer Nicole gets, the hazier Wynonna’s head feels. “Yeah… Still.” Wynonna’s dying to reach out and thread her fingers through Nicole’s loose red hair and pull her down for a long, overdue kiss, but she can’t find the courage or the confidence. 

“I’ve never been perfect, Wyn,” Nicole offers.

“You have to me, Nicole,” Wynonna states in her haze. She takes the next step closer and she can feel it coming. Nicole’s leaning down towards her and she’s tilting her head up. Finally, they’re going to kiss. Finally, Nicole’s going to kiss her. 

Before it happens, Wynonna falls forward into Nicole who catches her with ease, placing her free hand against the small of Wynonna’s back and holding her against her body in a protective way. Wynonna’s arms wrap instinctively around Nicole and she’s careful not to spill her whiskey.

 A drunken Shorty’s patron had tripped over his feet and is now apologizing profusely, holding out his hands and touching Wynonna in an apologetic, but unnecessary way. 

Nicole shoves the man away with the hand with her beer.  “Take it easy, man. No need to get handsy.” 

“I’m sorry, ladies. Had a bit too much…”

“Yeah, well have a bit too much somewhere else, numbnuts!” Wynonna snaps, moving to leave just one of her arms around Nicole’s waist, hand finding a place on Nicole’s hip. She points away from them with her other hand, still clinging to her whiskey glass. 

“Geeze, sorry…” That’s the last of the apologies before the man walks away with his head hung in shame. 

In his absence, their proximity becomes overwhelmingly clear. Neither of them make a move to separate. Nicole’s thumb caresses over Wynonna’s lower back and she looks down at her. “You okay?”

“Pride’s a little bruised, but can’t say I’m hurting from where I’m at…” Wynonna admits with a grin, looking up. “Not when I got these strong, Haught arms to save me…” She practically purrs.

Nicole chuckles and pulls Wynonna tighter against her. “We both know you don’t need saving… But these strong, Haught arms are here whenever you want ‘em.” 

“Nicole, you’re never going to guess--” Shae’s voice reaches them before the sight of her does. Wynonna remembers at once why her nerves had gotten the better of her in the first place and she slips reluctantly out of Nicole’s grasp. Nicole seems to try to hold her there for a second, too, but ends up relenting. 

“Ah, shit. My bad,” Shae says, giving Nicole a look that can only be read as please don’t fucking kill me later. “I didn’t see that you were still over here… You guys must’ve been cozy…” 

The smirk on Shae’s face makes Nicole smile and that makes Wynonna’s jaw clench hard. Some part of her recognizes that it’s not the same kind of smile that Wynonna’s used to seeing on Nicole, but any smile right now makes her feel like she shouldn’t be here. 

“Shae, shut up. What were you gonna tell me?” Nicole shakes her head as she asks. The tone she takes isn’t a way that she’s ever talked to Wynonna.

A voice comes over the microphone. “Nicole Haught… Deputy Nicole Haught to the stage.”

“Shae…” Nicole warns. 

“Oops! You better get up there!” Shae says with a shrug. 

“Fucking hell…” Nicole sighs. “Fine, hold my beer.” The cop hands it off to her friend and turns to look at Wynonna. “Been a while, huh? Promise not to laugh, Earp.”

Immediately, Wynonna’s called back to the first time Nicole ever sang for her. “Nic, I’m not going to laugh,” she echoes her eighteen-year-old self. 

Nicole walks off and leaves Shae with Wynonna. “I remember when she wouldn't even look at her guitar. So damn proud of her. I wonder what she’s gonna sing. I mean, I think I know...“ 

Wynonna listens and tries desperately to quiet the knots twisting and turning in her gut. Shae has so much of Nicole that Wynonna could never get… Her college years… The years that Wynonna had spent alone around the world, knowing she would never have what she had with Nicole again. She’s so out of her league here… If this is a competition, she’s losing and she knows it. No matter what Nicole says. There’s no competing with Shae… 

“I think I need another drink… And to sit down,” Wynonna says out loud and walks away without giving Shae a chance to rebut. 

“Wynonna! Nicole’s about to sing!” Waverly says excitedly as she pours more whiskey in Wynonna’s glass. The opening notes of the song sound and Wynonna forces her eyes to find Nicole on that stage and the world stops. 

Nicole’s guitar hangs on her shoulders with that same guitar strap that Wynonna gifted her on her seventeenth birthday. It’s worn now, but it’s undoubtedly the same one… But a different, better guitar. She had kept that same guitar strap...  Wynonna can’t allow herself to wonder if the pick has her initials etched into it. 

As Nicole picks the opening to the song, Wynonna watches, afraid to blink and miss anything. Nicole lifts her head and finds her in the crowd and begins to sing. 

Are you still in love with me
Like the way you used to be or is it changing?
Does it deepen over time like the river
That is winding through the Canyon?

“Oh my actual God!” Waverly says quietly to herself and partly to Wynonna, but Wynonna doesn’t even notice. Wynonna listens carefully to the words Nicole’s singing… To her. Unmistakably to her. Shae is on the other side of the room… Nicole is staring at her.

Are you still in love with her?
Do you remember how you were before the sorrow?
Are you closer for the tears
Or has the weight of all the years left you hollow?

The tears slip out before she realizes. The raw emotion in Nicole’s voice fills Wynonna from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. As inconspicuous as she can, she wipes the tears from her cheeks. 

Are we strangers now?
Like the Ziegfeld Gal and the Vaudeville show?
Are we strangers now
Like rock and roll and the radio?
Like rock and roll and radio

“Wynonna! She’s singing to you!” Waverly says in a whisper. Still, Wynonna can only focus on one thing -- Nicole. 

I can see you lyin' there
Tying ribbons in your hair and pullin' faces
I can feel your hand in mine
Though we're living separate lives in separate places

Are we strangers now?
Like the Ziegfeld Gal and the Vaudeville show?
Are we strangers now?
Like rock and roll and the radio?
Like rock and roll and radio

All these white lies hanging like flies on the wall
Hard wired, road tired
Counting curtain calls and waiting
Waiting for the axe to fall

Every word resonates their truth. The years they spent apart had been hell for Wynonna with very few moments of happiness. The sorrow had almost left her hollow and crushed. The questions -- are they strangers? Or do they still -- Are they still-- ? 

Are you still in love with me
Like the way you used to be or is it changing?
Does it deepen over time, like the river
That is winding through the Canyon?

Are we strangers now?
Like the Ziegfeld Gal and the Vaudeville show?
Are we strangers now?
Like rock and roll and the radio?
Like rock and roll and radio

When the song concludes, Shorty’s erupts in applause for their resident Haught cop. Wynonna is still watching in shock, mouth parted slightly and tears still rolling quietly from her eyes. She’s on her feet before she knows it. She hears Waverly call after her as she nearly runs for the door. It’s too damn much. Too. Damn. Much. 

Nicole watches Wynonna leave, devastated when she disappears through the doors of the bar. She tries to smile at the applause she hears. After she gets her guitar packed up, she meets up with Shae and heads over to Waverly at the bar - who looks like she’s been crying. 

“Waves, is Wynonna okay…? Are you okay?” Nicole asks, eyeing the younger Earp with concern. 

“Oh. Yeah, Nicole, I’m fine. Uh, I-- I think she had to go… Work on something for... work.” Waverly’s inability to hide the truth appears again and she knows that the cop will be able to see right through her. 

“Waves… Will you just… Um… Will you tell her that… It was for her? The song.” Nicole manages and Shae smiles softly, glancing over at Waverly. Shae places a supportive hand on Nicole’s shoulder.

“Wow! Um, yeah, I’ll tell her, Nicole… It was beautiful. I’ll tell her.” Waverly nods, looking between Officer Haught and her friend. 

“C’mon, Haught. You’re too sad to stick around here. We’re not repeating 2013’s cryfest in public.” Shae moves her protective hand to Nicole’s back. As they turn to walk away, she looks back at Waverly and smiles wide.

 

***

 

Waverly comes home around two o’clock in the morning after having completed her closing tasks. She finds Wynonna sitting on her bed in her room with the star lights that seemed to stay on every night. Wynonna’s wearing a hoodie Waverly’s never seen before and hugging her knees to her chest. “‘Nonna…” Waverly coos softly. She moves next to Wynonna and wraps her older sister up in a tight hug. “Why’d you dart out like that earlier?”

Wynonna sniffles and exhales sharply. “Because! Stupid, perfect Nicole Haught! Why does she keep doing that ? She keeps looking at me like that and that stupid song! That stupid song that just fucking summed up how I fucking feel about her. She just keeps doing that and making me fucking sad because I don’t deserve her! I never did!” 

“Wynonna--” Waverly tries to cut her off. 

“And now?! Now, perfect, sexy, doctor Shae blows into town being perfect and knowing Nicole better than I ever will. Who was I kidding thinking Nicole wanted me?” 

“Wynonna! She--” 

“I fooled myself, Waves. I really fooled myself. I can’t compete with Shae.” 

“Wynonna! Listen!” Waverly finally shocks the Heir into listening. “Please… I’ve never seen you like this, but just let me talk… Nicole told me to tell you… The song was for you. ” 

Wynonna finally stops for a second and looks at Waverly with shining, puppy dog eyes. “She what?” 

“She did, ‘Nonna… She came up after you left and made sure I would tell you. And Shae… Let me just tell you… Shae’s not here for her like that.” Waverly smirks with the knowledge Wynonna doesn’t have. 

“How do you know that?” Wynonna narrows her eyes, noting the underlying hint of something .

“Because… I have a date with her tomorrow night,” Waverly says with a little too much pride. 

“You…” Wynonna realizes everything all at once and hangs her head as the events of today play out. Every time she had read too much into Shae’s fondness of Nicole… It had only been friendship. That’s why Nicole had kept flirting with her and only her. That’s why Nicole sang her that song and tried to keep her pressed against her body at Shorty’s tonight. 

“Oh my god!” Wynonna groans, bringing her hands up to her face. “I’m such a moron. Such a moron. I’ve been such a dick to Shae. It’s so embarrassing.” 

“Look.. I was worried, too, for the record. But… When Shae left you guys to come get drinks tonight, she walked right up to me and started flirting and I just… Wynonna, I swear she is a stupid, perfect, sexy doctor. I got so tongue-tied! I can’t believe she asked me out.” 

Wynonna’s tears have stopped and she turns to look at her baby sister, grin reaching her eyes. “Baby girl, I’m so happy for you.” And me, honestly.   “But what about dumbass rodeo clown?” 

“I dumped him earlier… You were always right about him and I just.. Couldn’t take his comments about me being pretty and smart like it was some revolutionary act. Musta been fate, huh?” 

“So baby sis is going to date my ex’s ex…” Wynonna muses, shaking her head. 

“Your ex…? I KNEW IT!! ” Waverly practically squeals at a deafening volume. She lets Wynonna out of her grasp and launches of the bed, clapping her hands together. “ Finally! You admit it!”

“Waves! Wait-”

“I knew you weren’t just friends. ” 

“Waves look, I didn’t mean-- We never labeled it back then, okay? Don’t say anything to Nicole. We never -- made it official.” Wynonna pauses, worrying her bottom lip. “You remember when I told you that I had someone waiting for me back then… It was supposed to be her.

“What happened?” Waverly asks, sitting back down, captivated by her sister's new sincere honesty. 

“Oh that’s a long story for a different day, but turns out fate just didn’t have it in the cards then… But maybe? I don’t know, Waves. Do I even deserve this chance with her?”

“I think you do, but it’s not always about ‘deserve.’ No matter what you’ve done or do… That woman wants you now .  Anyone with eyes can see that. You’re all she’s talked about since she got here. She sang that song tonight for you . She lo-” 

“Not yet. Not yet, Waves. I can’t hear that. I can’t think about that. If she doesn’t end up-- Just let me hear it from her if she wants to say it, okay?” 

“Okay… For what it’s worth… It seems pretty obvious.”

Wynonna smiles fondly at her little sister and knows that she’s right, but still, she can’t let herself settle on the fact. “Don’t you have a sexy doctor to thirst over…”

“Yeah and you might want to text your sexy cop… She’s worried about you.” Waverly offers. “I love you, ‘Nonna. Goodnight.”

“G’night, baby girl. I love you, too.” 

Wynonna breathes out harshly again and reaches for her phone. 

 

Officer Haughty 

2 New Text Messages

 

She slides it open. 

 

Nicole: I hope you’re okay, Wyn. 

Nicole: I’m sorry if it was too much. 

“Oh, Haughtstuff…” Wynonna sighs. 

Wynonna: I’m sorry for bailing. You still got it, Nic. 

Nicole: Still got what? 

Me. Wynonna thinks to herself. 

Wynonna: You sounded so beautiful. Waves told me what you told her to. 

Nicole: Is that okay? 

Wynonna: More than okay, Haught. Thank you. We really have to have that talk. 

Nicole: Name a time and place, I’ll be there. 

Wynonna: You always are. It’s me that’s gotta get my shit together. 

Nicole: I’m not going anywhere. 

Wynonna: I know. Can you tell Shae I’m sorry? I’ve been weird, like you said. 

Nicole: I’ll tell her. She’s really just a friend, you know. 

Wynonna: I know now. But thanks for telling me. 

Wynonna: I’m about to crash, Nic. 

Nicole: Get some rest, baby. I’ll see you tomorrow. 

Wynonna gasps when she sees it. Baby. It’s been so long. Her heart starts pounding hard against her chest. She feels safe for just a second before her phone buzzes again.

Nicole: Shit, Wynonna I’m sorry. I didn’t even think.

Wynonna: Don’t be sorry. Please. 

Nicole: Okay.

Wynonna: I still love when you call me that. We’ll talk soon. 

Nicole: I look forward to it. Goodnight. <3

Wynonna: Goodnight <3

Chapter Text

February 13, 2008 

 

The first thing that Wynonna notices when she pulls up is that Gus’s truck is nowhere to be found. Good. That means she won’t have to deal with being berated. Yet. She grabs her backpack off the seat and hops out of the truck, boots crunching on the frozen grass. 

She looks around her aunt and uncle’s yard on her way to the porch, a pang of sadness hitting her in the gut. This could have been her home. It was supposed to be, since it’s where her baby sister still lives. Waverly is the only reason Wynonna ever comes around anymore. Her aunt hadn’t wanted her . Too much trouble, too hard to get along with, not worth trying for anymore; the list goes on. As much as she wishes it doesn’t, it still hurts to remember the day she’d come home from school to find a social worker sitting with them in the kitchen. 

Before Wynonna can get fully up the steps, the door flies open and Waverly is out the door and in her arms, too tiny to topple her but solid enough to knock the wind out of her. Wynonna’s groan slips into a laugh, her arms tightening around her baby sister.

“Seems like somebody missed me.” Wynonna smiles, pulling back from the hug, brushing Waverly’s long hair out of her face, and tucking some strands behind her ear. 

She is beautiful. People could always tell they were sisters but Waverly still looks a little different than Wynonna and their late older sister, Willa. Waverly’s hair is lighter and her eyes crinkle in an adorable way when she smiles. She reminds Wynonna of their mama, more than anything else. That hurts, too. 

“I always miss you, Wynonna.” Waverly squeaks, arms still wrapped around Wynonna’s waist. 

She’s only twelve, the same age Wynonna had been when all hell had broken loose at their house. The day their dad and sister had been killed. She was there, hiding in some small, dark place where Wynonna had stuffed her to keep her safe. But she heard everything, and saw things she still wishes she hadn’t. 

Watching the hell Wynonna had gone through in the years following it had almost been worse somehow. She kept her mouth shut and pretended while her big sister got poked and prodded and made fun of every single day. She still heard Wynonna’s name around school sometimes with Wynonna being five whole grades ahead of her. But Wynonna had made her promise to never talk about it to anyone, no matter what. She hadn’t, and now she knew why. 

The older Earp pinches her little sister’s cheek and gives her a wink. “I miss you, too, kid. All the time.” Wynonna slings her arm around her sister’s shoulders and walks them towards the house. 

Waverly is good. A goody two shoes to her core. She can be annoying and bratty but that’s just part of being a younger sister, Wynonna figures. In some ways, Wynonna feels glad that she got forced out of this house years ago. She misses her baby sister every day but if it would save Waverly from turning out like her, she’d leave again. She’d start all over. A million times. 

“Aunt Gus isn’t coming home ‘til late.” A deep voice calls from the kitchen. 

Wynonna looks up immediately to find their Uncle Curtis leaning against the doorframe, a soft smile on his face. Her smile widens immediately and she moves towards him, hugging him tight.

“Where you been, girl?” he asks, the smile still present in his voice, the way it always seemed to be. 

“You know me, I’ve been all over.” She lets out a heavy sigh, pulling back from the hug a bit reluctantly. 

Curtis loves Wynonna, too. He always had been soft on her. Understanding when she did bad shit, or got into fights at school. He never yelled at her, never even raised his voice. Her uncle was kind to her when nobody else was. He gave her the truck she drives, much to Gus’s dismay. Wynonna knew that if it had been up to him, she’d still be here with Waverly. But it wasn’t, and Gus got the final say that sent her packing. 

“As long as you’re staying safe, bein’ good and all that.” He nods, shoving his hands deep into his pockets. 

Wynonna gives him a smile and a short nod. “I’m doin’ my best.” It is a weak attempt, but she knows he understands. 

“That’s all you can do,” he says, gently. 

“We’re gonna go hang out in my room, but you’ll call us when dinner is ready?” Waverly peeks around Wynonna, raising her eyebrows at their uncle. 

Wynonna almost forgets that families do that. She never has dinner with her foster parents. The only family dinners she’s used to anymore are the ones she has at Nicole’s house. 

“You’re stayin’ for dinner, right? Gus won’t be home before, so…” Curtis shrugs, turning away from them and retreating back into the kitchen. 

Wynonna feels a little guilty for the shame that’s always so evident when he talks about his wife. It’s not his fault her aunt doesn’t care for her.  He tries. That’s enough for her. 

“Yeah. Yeah, I’ll stay.” She nods, pushing her hair back behind her ears. 

“C’mon…” Waverly grumbles, grabbing Wynonna by the wrist and dragging her up the stairs to her room. 

Every time Wynonna steps through the door waves of memories wash over her. They shared this room for a while, slept snug in the same bed that Waverly still has. It was extremely hard for a while after Wynonna left, for both of them. Waverly cried herself to sleep every night and Wynonna didn’t sleep much at all without her sister. 

“Look, ‘Nonna! I got a new bedspread, it’s pink and you can turn it over and the other side is — look! green!” Waverly tells her, running over to flip the corner of the comforter up. 

Wynonna shakes her head. “What happened to our old one?” She asks, pulling off her jacket and tossing it across the end of the bed before she sits.

“Oh… uh — nothing. It’s still in the closet,” Waverly points towards the double doors on the other side of the room. “Why?” The younger girl climbs onto the bed and sits criss-cross, watching her sister take off her boots and toss them aside. 

Wynonna wonders for a moment if she should even ask. If it would seem dumb to tell Waverly she wants it. She’d never had anything like that of her own and sleeping at “home” is hard enough as it is. She shrugs, pulling her knees up to her chest and scooting back against the pillows. 

“Do you think Gus would be mad if I took it with me?” She asks softly, not looking at Waverly when she does. 

“Oh.. .oh , probably. But! I can lie?” Waverly offers, scrunching her face up in a stupid, cute way. 

It earns a smile from Wynonna and makes her feel less shitty for asking, “No, babygirl, you’re not lying for me. Plus you suck at it, so...”  

Waverly makes a noise and pretends that she’s offended, reaching out to smack Wynonna’s arm even though she knows she’s right. 

The older girl returns the smack a little rougher, in true big sister fashion. 

The two of them break into a fit of laughter and swatting that melts away Wynonna’s heavy burden for a while. 

A couple of hours pass. Waverly tells Wynonna everything that she’s missed since the last time she saw her a month or so before. Wynonna lets her do most of the talking when it comes to school and friends and things she just can’t relate to. She doesn’t mind just listening. 

Just before six o’clock, Waverly is lying on her stomach across the bed, flipping through some dumb, teenybopper magazine and pointing to all the boys inside that she thinks are cute. Wynonna listens, agrees with her or makes a face, whichever is the necessary reaction to the dudes Waverly is showing her. 

A little bubble of text that reads “How to know if your crush likes you!” near one of the pictures catches Wynonna’s eye. The older girl feels her cheeks redden as she thinks about Nicole. Tomorrow is going to be their first Valentine’s day together and she still hasn’t decided what to get her. 

Wynonna lays on her side, leaning on her elbow before she takes the magazine out of Waverly’s hands to get a closer look. 

“Hey!” Waverly squeals, about to reach for the book back before she realizes her sister is actually reading it. “I didn’t know you could read,” she teases. 

“Ha ha, so funny.” Wynonna mocks in a dumb voice, sticking out her tongue and reaching out without looking to flick the younger girl right in the middle of her forehead. 

“Ow!” Waverly yelps, rubbing at the now stinging place between her eyes. 

“Do you know what tomorrow is?” Wynonna asks, tossing the magazine over her shoulder and onto the floor when it proves to be completely useless. She knows Nicole likes her, she doesn’t need any help there. She just doesn’t know what to get her for Valentine’s Day. 

Waverly raises her eyebrows and pushes herself up on her elbows, kicking her feet absentmindedly. “Duh! Valentine’s Day!” She says the words in a sing-songy voice that makes Wynonna roll her eyes. 

“Do you –– have a… is there anyone who you… like? Like that? Do you get what I’m saying here, Waves? Do you have like, a crush on anyone? Or whatever.” Wynonna stumbles over her words, thoughts about how Nicole is way more than some stupid crush and always has been swirl around in her head, making her almost dizzy. She’d never asked Waverly about anything like this before because it had never mattered before.  

“Oh my god! Okay, I thought you’d never wanna – cause you know, you never wanna talk about stuff like this,” she begins, resting her chin in her hands. A big smile spreads across her face and her feet begin kicking just a little quicker. “I’m just so excited, ugh, okay! Yeah! Of course, I mean, who doesn’t?! There are sooo many cute boys at school, but you know I think that this one named Evan is probably the cutest. We sit beside each other in English and Math. He always wins every time we play dodgeball in gym, but whenever we do boys against girls, he always lets me win! Isn’t that like, really sweet?!”  

Waverly gushes about the boy that Wynonna can only imagine smells of absolute armpit. She rolls her eyes where Waverly can’t see and throws on her best smile to mask it. 

“Yeah, babygirl. Sounds like a dream… Do you think like you’d do anything for him for tomorrow? Like as a gift?” Wynonna pokes to the best of her ability without explicitly asking what she really wants to ask. She can’t believe she’s lying here, asking a twelve year old for relationship advice. “Or theoretically speaking , what would you do if you liked someone a lot and it was Valentine’s Day?” She pushes on. Good thing she has little to no dignity left anyway. 

“OH! I mean, duh! You have to get candy, whatever kind is their favorite. And cards are always cute! Aw, ‘Nonna remember how you always make me those cards for every holiday…” Waverly’s voice trails off for a moment, sadness creeping in at the thought that her sister had forgotten about her for this one. “Anyway, something like that…” 

Wynonna’s eyebrows raise. “Oh yeah, it’s in my bag.” Wynonna’s pretty sure it’s just dumb, but Waves keeps them all. Every single one is up on a bulletin board near her bed. 

The light returns to Waverly’s eyes. “See! Something like that! Except, for a crush. Uh… oh, Wynonna! Bracelets! I’ve just learned so many cool ways to make bracelets, I made them for all my friends, look!” 

The younger girl sits up and pulls up the sleeve of her sweatshirt, revealing a ton of beautifully woven bracelets of so many colors. Some of them look so intricate, Wynonna thinks they must have taken her days. “That would be such a good Valentine’s Day gift for a crush! Oh gosh, I’m gonna make Evan one right now!” Waverly practically jumps off the bed and scrambles to the desk in the corner. 

When she comes back, she’s carrying a neatly organized bin of all kinds of bracelet making supplies. Wynonna raises her eyebrows, feeling worry set in. 

“Waves, I don’t know how to make anything cool like that…” She pushes herself up and sits criss-cross, eyes scanning over what looks like hundreds of different colors of thread. 

“I can help! It’s really not that hard, ‘Nonna. I think you can definitely make a few of these without really practicing!” Waverly puts the bin to the side and scoots closer to Wynonna, pushing her sleeve up again and laying her arm on Wynonna’s knee to show her the different patterns she’s wearing. 

She rattles off the names of a few and explains briefly how to make them and how long it would take. One of the last one’s she points to is the one that catches Wynonna’s eye the most. 

“This one’s a fishtail, super easy but very cute! You know, like the braid! And you’re already so good at braiding, I mean you taught me!” Waverly praises, smiling up at her big sister. 

Wynonna looks up to meet her eyes, her soft smile growing. Waves could be so fucking annoying but she could also be really sweet. And sometimes the kid really knows what to say. 

“I think I’ll do that one, then.” She nods once, pulling the bin into her lap to find the colors she wants to use. 

Her eyes land on a brilliant red and she grabs it, setting it aside. She finds another one a few shades lighter that she knows will just go well with it and puts it aside, too. Next, she pulls out a bright blue. Maybe the prettiest color of it she’s ever seen. It reminds her of Nicole instantly. The colors in her room, her sheets, her favorite shoes, some of the threads on the guitar strap she’d given her for her birthday. Everything . Wynonna smiles softly and looks for a lighter shade to go with it the same way she’d done with the reds. 

“That’s gonna look so pretty, Wynonna,” Waverly comments with a soft smile that reaches her eyes when Wynonna looks up at her.

“Here, pick yours,” She mutters, handing the bin off to her sister. 

Around seven, Curtis comes up the stairs just as Wynonna is finishing up her two bracelets. One for her and one for Nicole. 

“Dinner’s ready, girls,” he tells them, leaning his head inside the open door. 

“Okay, Uncle Curtis. We’ll be down there in a sec.” Waverly doesn’t look up from the incredibly detailed pattern she’s almost done weaving. 

Wynonna nods to him and gives him a smile that he returns before making his way back downstairs. She ties off the final knot of her own bracelet and holds the two of them side by side. They were identical and really well made. Wynonna feels...proud? Nicole’s going to love it, she just knows. It feels kinda weird to be so confident in something like that, but Nicole makes her feel comfortable all the time. She loves any and everything Wynonna does for her, and so Wynonna doesn’t have any doubts this time. 

“Who is the other one for?” Waverly asks, leaning over her to get a better look.

“Oh, just –– my friend.” Wynonna keeps her eyes down so that maybe Waverly won’t see her cheeks get red. If she does, she doesn’t comment on it. 

“Well, they look really good, ‘Nonna! I told you they would! Here, look at mine! Do you think that Evan is gonna like it?” Waverly holds out the orange and yellow one that she’d made. 

Wynonna prays silently that the stupid guy will appreciate it. “It’s beautiful, babygirl. If he doesn’t like it, he’s an idiot.” 

Waverly smiles brightly at her and leans in, wrapping her arms around her neck and pulling her into a hug.

 

***

 

They eat dinner the way they used to. Gus worked shifts at Shorty’s that kept her out late, so it was often just the three of them. 

Laughter and stories are told that Wynonna had almost forgotten about. Being here like this, everything almost feels normal again.  The only thing she’s missing is her Haught basketball player. The older Earp lets herself picture the pretty redhead sitting in the empty seat next to her, around this table, laughing and chatting it up with her family. 

God, Waverly would adore her. Curtis would, too. She is perfect, just the kind of person Wynonna needs in her life. The kind her family would want her to be with. Too bad she’ll never see the day. 

When dinner is over, Wynonna knows it’s time to leave. Even though she doesn’t want to, there’s not a chance in hell that she wants to still be there when her aunt gets home. 

She says her goodbyes to Curtis before he heads off to do the dishes. She’s about to pull Waverly in for a hug but the younger girl stops her before she can.  “Wait! I’ll be right back, go ahead to your truck.” 

Wynonna’s eyebrows tug together but she follows her sister’s orders, looking over her shoulder at her running up the stairs as she exits the house. Wynonna tosses her backpack onto the seat, unzipping it to pull out the kind of squished card and tiny bag of Waverly’s favorite candy when she hears her tiny boots crunching in the grass. 

She turns to face her with the goodies in her hand, only to find her little sister clutching the old bedspread against her chest. Wynonna’s heart melts a little, her shoulders slouching as she softens. 

“Waves...” She starts, shaking her head.

“Aunt Gus won’t notice. Probably. C’mon, Wynonna… I’m not even using it. You need it more than us.” Waverly’s voice is soft as she pleads, like she’s trying not to cry. 

Wynonna stands there for a moment just looking at her kid sister holding the comforter they used to sleep under every night. The one that belonged to their mom . She feels hot tears pricking at her own eyes and blinks them away, taking the cover out of Waverly’s arms and putting it on the seat by her backpack. 

“Here, Happy V-Day, kiddo.” She sniffs, passing the candy and the card off to Waverly and wiping at her eyes with her thumb. 

The younger girl surges forward, wrapping her arms around Wynonna’s middle and burying her face against her. Waverly‘s not doing as well as Wynonna is with trying not to cry, but she never did. 

“I wish you didn’t have to go,” Waverly mumbles, the words are muffled by Wynonna’s big jacket, but she knows what they are. They have this same interaction every time she has to leave. 

“I know. I do, too.” Wynonna whispers, holding her. 

When Waverly finally pulls away, Wynonna wipes the tears from underneath her eyes with her thumb. She pushes her hair behind her ears again and sighs heavily. 

“I’ll see you soon, okay?” She tries to sound sure, but she never can. Maybe Waverly believes it, even if she doesn’t. 

The younger Earp nods, letting her hands fall away from Wynonna and shoving them into the pockets of her hoodie instead. “I love you, Wynonna.” Waverly’s bottom lip quivers when she speaks. 

“I love you, too, babygirl.” Wynonna’s voice is soft just before she drops a kiss on the top of Waverly’s head. “I gotta get outta here. Be good, mmkay?” She winks, earning a smile from her sister. 

“Always.” Waverly promises, turning back towards the house as Wynonna climbs into her truck and cranks up. 

She’s barely gone for 5 minutes before Waverly sees Gus’s headlights pulling into the drive. 

 

*** 

 

Wynonna times it perfectly . Gus is nowhere to be found when she steps foot in Shorty’s Saloon for the first time in months. It’s not crowded at all, pretty typical for a Wednesday night. 

There’s not even anyone behind the bar currently. Wynonna smirks to herself, stepping right behind the polished hardwood like she owns the place. If she’s going to spend Valentine’s Day with her girl, she’s gonna bring a few refreshments. She’s looking through the unopened bottles for something Nicole might like, her favorite whiskey already in hand, when she hears a throat clear behind her. 

“Goddamnit! Jesus!” She jolts, causing a couple of bottles to knock together but not quite making them fall over. When she looks over her shoulder, it’s none other than Shorty himself. 

He’s another who had always been overly kind to her. He knew what she’d been through, at least partially. Wynonna always figured that he must believe her, at least a little bit, because he never called her crazy or put up with it when Gus did. 

“Heeeyy, Shorty…” she turns her surprise into a big smile, settling on grabbing a second bottle of her favorite. 

“You know, if you’re gonna steal my booze, you can at least greet me first. ” 

His tone is gentle and Wynonna can see the smile threatening to break across his face. 

She laughs to herself, clutching the bottles in both hands. “I didn’t know if you were around, or I so would’ve!” She defends, shaking her head. 

“Yeah, yeah. Special occasion?” He asks, motioning to the two bottles. 

Wynonna had been getting alcohol from Shorty’s since she was fifteen. He didn’t always like it, but he learned to deal with it as long as she didn’t cause any trouble for him. Any trouble she had caused, had never come back his way, so he let her be. Life was hard, he didn’t want to judge. 

“You could say. Look, I’d love to hang and chat, but I really gotta get –– goin. School tomorrow and everything.” She makes a face, shrugging her shoulders. 

“Alright, you be smart.” He tells her patting her on the shoulder. 

Wynonna winks at him and turns to leave. “Thanks, Shorty. Really. I’ll pay you back eventually.” She offers, knowing that she could never fully do that. 

“Just stay out of trouble, Wynonna.” He tells her earnestly. 

She gives him one final nod before heading back out into the cold. 

 

*** 

 

Wynonna isn’t expecting anyone to be in the kitchen when she comes in. To be fair, living with the foster parents she has is more like living alone most of the time, but there they are tonight. Both of them, sitting at the kitchen table. 

A feeling of dread washes over Wynonna. Her knuckles tighten on the strap of her backpack, grounding herself. “Sup.” She lifts her eyebrows, stone faced. 

“Don’t ‘sup’ us. It’s a school night and you’re just getting home?” The man’s voice is so irritating already, she hates the sound of it coated in venom even more. 

“So what? You don’t care any other night. Or day. You just don’t care.” She shrugs, trying to hide her nerves behind a tough exterior, like always. 

“Well, we do care when it starts affecting us . Your school called today. You’ve missed so many fucking days that if you miss any more you’re gonna fail or we’re gonna have to go to court, or both. And your grades are so shitty that you’ll probably fail regardless. Did you know that?” 

His words cut deep. Wynonna’s doing her best, or so she thought. Between work causing her to get home at two and three in the morning, not eating the way she should and trying to catch up on sleep, the amount of days she’d actually missed must have slipped her mind. 

“Yeah, I mean… No. I didn’t know I’d missed that many days for it to be such a big deal, anyway. But I know. About the grades.” She tries to bite back, but it sounds fragile and she hates it. 

“Are you stupid? You know what about your grades? The principal said he’d never seen a GPA that low before..” He comes back, almost laughing in her face. 

Wynonna feels the fear and the anger well up inside of her. Her black chipped fingernails dig into her palm so hard she thinks it might bleed. “I said I know, okay?” 

“If you fail, we’re stuck with you for another year. So you need to get your shit together, because I don’t want any more calls from that school, do you understand? It makes us look bad.” He jabs his finger at his own chest. His wife sits quietly, not caring how he talks to Wynonna. 

Of course she doesn’t care. Nobody does. Well, somebody does. Nicole does. Wynonna forces herself to focus on Nicole, just Nicole. 

“Whatever. I’ll make sure you don’t get anymore calls.” She mumbles, fighting the urge to cry. She steps past them, crossing the room towards the stairs, “You won’t be stuck with me if you just get rid of me like everyone else always does.” Wynonna’s voice breaks when her feet hit the stairs. She takes them two at a time, slamming her door shut behind her and turning the lock. 

She sits the backpack aside, being mindful of the alcohol inside, even in her rage. The tears that come burn as they fall. The anger rips at her insides, she feels like she’s being pulled apart. Wynonna sinks to the floor right there and sobs as quiet as she can, not wanting to give them the satisfaction of hearing her cry.    

 

February 14, 2008

 

School drags on and Wynonna really does her best to do better. It’s just so fucking hard when she doesn’t eat enough and works well into early hours of the morning. Focusing is as close to as impossible as it can get for her. 

Her useless “parents” don’t seem to grasp the fact that she doesn’t want to repeat her last year of high school anymore than they want to keep her for another year. Another year stuck at Purgatory High with an entire student body of tormentors really isn’t anywhere on her bucket list.

School is over, though. Her bag is waiting in her truck and Nicole is waiting in their sanctuary - their parentless sanctuary. Mr. and Mrs. Haught had taken a Valentine’s Weekend trip and left earlier this morning. Wynonna and Nicole get the entire weekend alone. No sneaking around. No being quiet. No putting clothes back on when they go to fall asleep. All of those thoughts chase the shitty ones from yesterday away and Wynonna smiles. 

She approaches the Haught house and grins as she sees movement through the windows. Her tall Nicole is moving frantically and she wonders what the redhead has up her sleeve. Valentine’s Day had never been something Wynonna had gotten to enjoy and something she’d never admit to anyone that she always wanted. After New Year’s, Wynonna knows that this will have been worth the wait. 

Nicole opens the door before Wynonna rings the bell and pulls her into a deep kiss--right there in the doorway. It’d only been a little over a week since their last, but it always utterly deluges her being with deep longing and a need to be completed once more. Wynonna brings her hand up and grabs a fist full of Nicole’s jacket, tugging her closer. 

“Alright, Haughtshot,” Wynonna speaks softly against Nicole’s lips. “Let’s at least save it for the couch…” 

“Can’t I be happy to see my girl?” Nicole begs with a grin. 

“Please, never stop doing that,” Wynonna replies more candidly than she means to. 

“I won’t, Wynonna. Ever,” Nicole promises, matching her tone. 

Wynonna sucks in a sharp breath and groans, still smiling. “Nicole, if you have any plans for us tonight, you’re gonna have to step back.” Wynonna pushes at the taller girl weakly and she reluctantly steps off to the side and lets Wynonna walk in. “I’ve got party favors that need refrigerating. We’ve gotta save ‘em for the weekend, though, because I’ve gotta go to school tomorrow.”

Nicole nods and helps Wynonna put away the alcohol that Shorty had let her “steal.” Nicole takes Wynonna’s backpack and bag from her and sets off towards her room with Wynonna following. As they reach the door, Nicole stops abruptly and shakes her head. “You can’t come in yet. Hold on.” 

Wynonna’s face softens but her eyes narrow with curiosity. What could be waiting for her on the other side of the now-closed door that Nicole had just slinked through carefully? It only takes a few seconds for Nicole to call her in and Wynonna reaches out and turns the handle to her safe place. 

Her mouth drops open as she takes in the sight of balloons, a bouquet of her favorite flowers, red lilies, a small gift bag, and a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Nicole is off to the side with a small camera recording Wynonna’s awe. 

“Nicole…” Wynonna speaks, shaking her head and beaming. She looks over to Nicole whose smile mirrors hers behind the camera pointed at her. 

“Do you like it?”

“Like it? Nic… It’s amazing.” Wynonna moves towards Nicole and Nicole turns the small viewfinder around so that she can point the camera at the both of them as Wynonna moves in to hug her tightly. She lays her head against Nicole’s chest and warms even more at the image of them in the viewfinder. “When did you get a camera?”

“One of my birthday presents from my parents. They got it for me because they heard me singing one day and thought I might want to make videos… Not exactly what my first thought was,” Nicole replies. 

“Naughty Haughty…” Wynonna teases and smirks. 

“Wait- No! Oh my--” Nicole chuckles at Wynonna’s implication and uses her free hand to guide Wynonna’s face towards her. “I just want to use it for stuff like this. Memories with you I want to be able to watch as many times as I want. Now kiss me, Earp.” 

“Bossy looks good on you…” Wynonna retorts before obliging. When they finally break apart, Nicole’s hand had shifted a little and they weren’t centered in the viewfinder anymore, but Wynonna knew it would still be a cute clip to watch later. 

“Let’s do presents.” Nicole glances over at the clock that reads 3:20PM. She has plans for them that are a little time sensitive, but they have enough time for this plus-the plans were tied up in Wynonna’s gift bag. 

“More presents on top of all of this. Such an overachiever, Red.” Wynonna tsks. 

“You already know,” Nicole shoots back confidently. 

Nicole sets her camera down on her bedside table and points it towards the bed where she takes a seat. Wynonna retrieves Nicole’s gifts from her bag which aren’t much, but are all she could manage. Nicole wouldn’t mind and the warmth and security from knowing that makes Wynonna excited rather than ashamed to exchange gifts. She joins Nicole and sits.

“Whose first?” Wynonna asks. 

“I’ll open yours first if that’s okay. Mine kind of leads to a little more later…”

“Oh, does it?” Wynonna quirks an eyebrow at her. 

“Something a little earlier than that little bit of more later.”

Nicole has really come into herself over the last few months, Wynonna notices. That basketball star who winked at her had been there all along, but she’s present so much more now. It makes Wynonna shiver to think about how much the both of them have grown into being with one another. Wynonna shares more of herself and Nicole lets her confidence shine through. 

“Fine. Here… It’s not much.” Wynonna offers, holding out the present. 

Nicole takes it and gives her a pointed but still gentle look. Wynonna smiles softly and nods, shaking away the insecurity that lies within her. 

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Nic.” 

Nicole pulls out  two Aero chocolate bars, and envelope, and finally, a bracelet. “You remembered my favorites,” Nicole says mostly to herself. The gentle smile makes Wynonna love her more. The fact that she’s so excited over the simple things Wynonna can give her makes her think maybe she can be enough, but she has to keep trying. Nicole takes the bracelet next and places it on her wrist immediately. 

“It matches mine,” Wynonna states plainly, showing off her wrist. “I made them with my sister.” 

Now, that look . Brown eyes shine brighter as she realizes they now have matching bracelets to wear -- bracelets that Wynonna made with the sister that she had talked more and more about missing since Nicole learned about her. “I love them so much, Wyn.” 

Finally, she opens the envelope and pulls out a card. It looks homemade, too. Nicole smooths her fingers over the beautifully drawn words on the front. Happy Valentine’s Day, Nicole Haught is written larger than everything else and at the bottom right hand corner there is about an inch-wide heart with Wynonna written within it. Nicole opens and reads to herself. 

Nic,
This is my first of these and I’m really glad it’s with you. I don’t really know how to do this. So, I’m just going to tell you some things I love about you: 
-the way your hair smells when you hold me
-you let me tell you things when I’m ready
-you’re really smart
-your voice
-you still want me even when you learn about my fucked up stuff
-your Haught ass... smile
I hope we can do this again next year.
xo Your Wynonna.

Nicole’s eyes begin to water halfway through reading. She has to bring her fingers up to pinch the tears from her eyes to keep them from dropping onto the card and ruining it. She finishes it and closes the card up. Without a word, she leans forward and kisses Wynonna sweetly. She assures Wynonna softly, “We’ll do this again next year. Don’t worry. I’m not goin’ anywhere, Wynonna.” 

After a few seconds, Nicole reaches for the gift that she had prepared. Sniffling away her tears, she hands the gift over to Wynonna. The first thing Wynonna pulls out is a plastic CD case. It’s titled Nic’s Wynonna Earp Soundtrack Vol. 1 with a tracklist of 10 songs on it. 

  1. She Will Be Loved - Maroon 5
  2. I Will Follow You Into the Dark - Death Cab for Cutie
  3. Landslide - Fleetwood Mac
  4. You Shook Me All Night Long - AC/DC
  5. Crazy for This Girl - Evan and Jaron
  6. Just the Girl - The Click Five
  7. Realize - Colbie Caillat
  8. Hot - Avril Lavigne
  9. You and Me - Lifehouse
  10. Collide - Howie Day 

Wynonna reads over every single track and laughs loudly when she gets to the AC/DC song. She can’t wait to listen to this CD until it couldn’t be listened to anymore. The unspoken truth hangs between them. This CD is Nicole’s way of confessing the way she feels for her without saying it herself and risking anything. You’ve got nothing to risk, Nic. I’m here with you. 

“We can listen to it during the car ride…” Nicole says, breaking the spell. 

“The car ride to where?” Wynonna narrows her eyes for the second time of the afternoon. 

“There’s something else in there.” Nicole nods

Wynonna looks back into the bag and sees two small pieces of card stock. As she pulls them out, she gasps. “The aquarium?” She asks. The light in her eyes is childlike and Nicole resists the urge to kiss her senseless again. 

“Yeah, it’s a little bit out of the way, so I don’t think anyone we know will be there. I figured we could just be , you know. Is it okay?” 

“I’ve never been to an aquarium,” Wynonna admits bashfully. 

“Really?!” Nicole’s eyes widen and she’s suddenly on another level of excitement. “Do you wanna go? It’s okay if you don’t.”

“Yeah, I really wanna go, Nic. This is so-- How do you keep doing that?” Wynonna breathes. 

“I follow my gut. It led me to you. It’s got a good track record so far… Let’s go. It’ll take us a little under an hour to get there. I want you to be able to really, really enjoy it now. I loved the aquarium when I was little.” 

“Take me away, Haught.” 

 

***

 

Around 4:45PM, they park Nicole’s truck in the designated parking area. Wynonna feels a little queasy now that they’re here. This is sort of their first date date where they don’t have to be wary of either of their classmates coming up on them and causing a scene. Wynonna feels the crushing weight of expectations closing in around her until Nicole pulls her closer against her with the arm that’s around her shoulders. 

“You okay, baby?” Nicole asks. 

“I’m just excited,” Wynonna tries to cover herself. 

“I’m excited, too. You’re gonna love it - I hope. We’re in time to get some dinner from the caf and then we can explore until we’ve seen everything you wanna see. And I’m not gonna let go of your hand the whole night,” Nicole adds the last point with so much pride and excitement it dissolves Wynonna’s intrusive thoughts. 

“Your hand’s gonna get sweaty.” 

“Don’t care. I want everyone to know.” You’re mine and I’m yours. Her eyes finish the sentence neither of them can bear to hear or speak. 

Wynonna offers her hand to Nicole. “Let’s go.” 

 

***

 

They have dinner and the nerves in Wynonna are all but gone by the time they get up to begin exploring. The aquarium is decorated with hearts and flowers and love quotes. There are so many couples walking around hand-in-hand that none of them are even going to notice the young women doing the same. Wynonna realizes when she sees a gross couple kissing sweetly that none of them are going to even look their way just like Nicole and Wynonna aren’t going to look theirs. 

“Where to first?” Nicole asks, grabbing a map of the aquarium and handing it to Wynonna. 

Wynonna identifies where they are on the map and opts for the closest exhibit, not really knowing what to expect. Penguins. Those are cute enough. Nicole walks first and pulls Wynonna along on their way. Nicole snaps her head over to Wynonna when she hears the shorter woman gasp. 

“Shut up, they’re so cute. What the fuck?” Wynonna says, wearing a dopey grin. One of the penguins slides across the wet ground and into the water. The way it swims makes Wynonna bounce slightly on her toes, mouth agape in wonder. She’s never seen anything like this before. A whole group of penguins swim around one another, accidentally bumping flippers here and there. 

“That one is my favorite,” Wynonna offers without prompting and points to one that is rolling around in the water with reckless abandon, hitting any other penguin that dares to get in its way. 

“I wonder why…” Nicole teases. She watches the penguins every few glances, but for the most part, she’s keeping her gaze on Wynonna. She hasn’t seen Wynonna like this before. Just… Happy. Not worried about anyone around her. 

“Shut up, Haught. It’s a badass.” Wynonna shrugs her shoulder and takes on a smug look. 

After a few more minutes of admiring the penguins, Wynonna chooses the next nearest - jellies. They don’t spend too long looking at those. Wynonna remarks they seem like such “useless creatures” and Nicole scoffs and challenges her to give them the benefit of the doubt. After they read a few infographics, Wynonna decides she’s right while Nicole holds fast to jellyfish having a purpose.

The sea otters are next. 

“They’re like water puppies but also water cats! ” Wynonna proclaims. Nicole smiles for the millionth time and her jaw aches but it’s worth it. One larger otter lies on its back in the water and holds its pup as they float by. One plays with toys that the exhibit leaves in the water, trying to get another to join in. However, the playful one is left flying solo. Two off to the side, float peacefully with their hands clasped. 

“That’s us,” Nicole says. 

Wynonna looks up at Nicole with puppy eyes. She almost looks like she’s ready to cry, but Nicole’s not entirely sure. The older girl leans in closer and whispers, “I want to kiss you, Nic.” 

“Then, kiss me.” 

They share a soft, sweet, public kiss with no regard for any of the other couples in the exhibit. Wynonna moves to pull away but Nicole leans down further and tugs her closer, bringing Wynonna back in for one more sweet kiss. Kissing in public comes with a thrill Nicole hadn’t anticipated. The urge to show Wynonna off isn’t new, but the rush she gets from truly showing her off is intoxicating. 

Everything is perfect, even for a moment. The soft, light atmosphere covers them from any prying eyes if there are any. Let them look . No one says anything to them and so they bask in their moment together. 

“Where to next, baby?” Nicole asks against Wynonna’s lips. 

“What’s next? The belugas?” Wynonna thinks out loud as she looks down at the map. Belugas. Wynonna had heard the term for them before and maybe had even seen them, but she couldn’t place their appearance. 

The second the belugas come into view, Wynonna picks up her pace a bit and drags Nicole with her as she moves in to get a closer look. “What are these? They look so stupid” She laughs through her words in the most endearing way. “They look so squishy and dumb !” 

Again, Nicole watches Wynonna. 

“These are my favorites. I just know it,” Wynonna declares confidently. “They look stupid. They swim around stupid. They’re like showing off! They’re toying with us.” 

The beluga whales are even more playful than the sea otters were. One of the belugas keeps rising and falling in the water, putting on a show for the audience. A few of them a little farther off are chasing, bumping against and playing with each other, their blubber squishing. 

“So stupid…” Wynonna’s nose scrunches up and she smiles in a way that Nicole sees usually when they’re alone and Nicole’s acting stupid to make her laugh. Yep, these are definitely Wynonna’s favorite, Nicole agrees silently. 

They linger there until Wynonna’s the one to suggest they move on. Nicole wouldn’t dare tear her away from the joy of these melonheads. The final exhibit is dolphins, Nicole’s favorites. 

“These are my favorites,” Nicole explains when they’re standing in front of the extremely smart creatures. “During the day, they do dolphin shows. We’ll have to come back some time so you can see them.”

“What do they do?” Wynonna asks, wanting to get as much out of this as she can. 

“They jump out of the water like really high and hit stuff hanging from the ceiling over their exhibit. Do flips. The trainers hold on to their fins as they swim. Really cool stuff. They’re so smart . Like just as smart as humans, probably smarter than most of the people in our high schools…” Nicole jokes. “The first time I saw the dolphin show, I cried.” 

“Aw! Nic!” Wynonna reaches out and plays with the red hair falling around her face. “That’s so cute.” 

“Hey, it’s a really cool thing, okay?” Nicole blushes as she defends herself. 

Wynonna wants to tell her she loves her. “Yeah, yeah. I’ll believe it when you bring me back here to see it.” 

“You got it, Earp.” 

They finish with their adventure just before closing time. Nicole makes sure to stop by the gift shop and buy Wynonna a stuffed beluga whale to commemorate their date.  

Nicole had told the truth. All the while, she never let go of Wynonna’s hand unless absolutely necessary. They kissed each other. They acted like a couple. Even if they still hadn’t put a label on it. Fuck labels. All Nicole cares about is how they feel every time they’re together. 

 

***

 

It’s almost ten o’clock by the time they get back to Nicole’s house. They would need to go to sleep soon with it being a school night. They had spent the car ride talking about all the cool animals and what they would do when they came back. Some of it was spent in comfortable silence as they let the CD keep playing on repeat. Wynonna soaked in every word. 

In Nicole’s room, they work together to clear off the bed and put the balloons off to the side. They change into their sleeping clothes and get settled in bed. The only light streaming in is the bedside lamp and the light from the moonlight. Nicole reaches for the camcorder beside the lamp and switches it on.

Nicole signals for Wynonna to lie in her arms and Wynonna happily falls into her. 

“Did you have a good Valentine’s Day, Nonna?” 

“It was perfect, Nic. But you knew that, didn’t you?” 

“I had a pretty good idea,” Nicole says with a confident smirk and shrug. 

“Cocky looks so sexy on you…” Wynonna purrs at Nicole, moving to kiss her slowly and sensually. Nicole’s hands smooth their way over Wynonna’s back and down to settle against her ass. 

“Alright, we’re not making those movies… Yet.” Nicole manages before moving out of Wynonna’s grasp and shutting the camcorder off. 

When she goes back in for a kiss, she notices Wynonna looks like she’s gone to another place. Her eyes are distant and her jaw is tight. 

“Baby?” Nicole beckons. 

Wynonna takes a second before she shakes her head. “Huh?”

“What is it?” Nicole takes Wynonna back into her arms and holds her sweetly. 

“Um.” Wynonna manages only the sound. All the crushing weight of her parents and failing and being exhausted all of the time crashes over her. Nicole waits patiently, rubbing her back to let her know she’s there. 

“I’m failing,” Wynonna admits for the first time. “I’m failing school. With only a little more than a couple months left, it’s not looking good. Not since I have to-- work.” 

“Do you want to start studying more?” 

“Not really,” Wynonna laughs humorlessly. “But, yeah. I don’t want to fail, Nic. I don’t want to be in the fucking system for another year. And I don’t want to drop out of high school just to get out of the system.” After a moment, she whispers almost too quietly to hear, “I want to graduate. I want to be a doctor.” 

Nicole tightens her hold on the woman falling apart in her arms. “We’ll study. I’ll do all I can to help. You can do anything, Wynonna. You do so damn much already. You take care of yourself and you take care of me… I’m alright. I’ll be alright no matter what you have to do, okay?”

Wynonna cries softly listening to the way Nicole believes in her. 

“If you have to spend some extra time at school and less time with me, we’ll make it work. I’m gonna be here no matter what at the end of the day.” 

“I don’t want to lose time with you. I’d go crazy.” Wynonna practically pleads. 

“Then, we’ll spend some of our time doing school stuff. We will turn this shit around together.” 

Wynonna sighs, relieved that Nicole doesn’t put up much of a fight in regards to spending less time together. She knows they have a tendency to get enraptured with one another, but she also knows that Nicole will do whatever she can to make sure she ends up happy. 

Nicole places a tender kiss to Wynonna’s forehead. Wynonna’s eyes close as she takes in the sensation of gentle, soft lips against her skin. Someone cares. She continues to spill open.

“I can’t fucking stand not being able to live on my own. It’s not like my dumb ass guardians do anything to take care of me. I don’t make enough money for my own place, though. Barely enough money for food, gas, and a phone.”

Nicole considers for a long moment. What she thinks is risky. Riskier than anything they’ve admitted aloud so far. She swallows the knot forming in her throat. 

“What, Nic?” Wynonna asks softly, noticing the unspoken words swimming around Nicole’s shining eyes. 

“When I turn eighteen, we could get a place,” Nicole offers, rushing through the sentence. Before Wynonna gets time to respond, Nicole continues, “I know it’s like a year away, but I could get a job now. And I have some stuff in a savings account my parents started when I was twelve. Might be enough to get us started. They said they would put more money in it when I did good in school or at a game. It’s probably got a bit in there, but I’m not allowed to get it until I’m eighteen.”

“If I graduate this year, where would I go until then, though? I wouldn’t be in the system anymore. I’d be homeless… I guess I could see if my uncle could talk my aunt into letting me stay for just a year… Until… We get a place. I’ve been trying to save up what I can, but I think I’ve only got like a month’s worth of rent in savings…”

Nicole swells when Wynonna echoes her words. She wants this. She wants to get a place with her in a year. They both want this. They’re both in this - whatever it is. “If your aunt won’t let you, we could talk to my parents…” 

“That’s tricky, Haught. I don’t think they’d be too happy if they ever found out what we do up here together…”

“We can worry about that later.” 

“Nicole…” 

“Look, I won’t let you be homeless. I’ll figure something out.” 

The determination in Nicole’s voice makes Wynonna ache. No one has ever wanted to care for her like this . She realizes there isn’t much either one of them could really do in this situation but the thought comforts her. 

Wynonna kisses Nicole softly again. “Thank you,” Wynonna manages in a broken voice. “No one’s ever-- tried like you do.”

“You’re worth it, Wynonna. I told you. I’ll keep telling you. We’ll figure it all out.” 

“We will,” Wynonna decides with finality. Nicole Haught has her back and her heart. More than she’s ever given to anyone. 

“Let’s get some sleep, baby. I can see how exhausted you are.” Nicole suggests, caressing Wynonna’s back. 

“But before I had my breakdown, we were just about to--”

“Shhh. We’ve got the rest of the weekend together. You need sleep. School soon… You need to be able to focus at least one day. I’ll make you breakfast before you leave. Tomorrow, you start turning this shit around. Because you’re Wynonna Fucking Earp.” 

Wynonna turns to kiss Nicole one last time before the both of them drift off into a peaceful sleep.

Chapter Text

The house is quiet by the time Waverly comes downstairs to prepare it for her party. Being here alone is still a little weird. The homestead isn’t a place that holds too many fond memories for the youngest Earp. The only good ones that she can pull from somewhere deep are only good because of Wynonna. Being back with her now, living in this house again...Waverly hopes that it means their luck will turn around. 

The house stays tidy for the most part, since it’s just the two of them and Doc, who comes and goes. Waverly turns on the speaker in the living room and soft indie music fills the house as she begins to move around, straightening up anything that’s even slightly out of place. 

Never leaving Purgatory is a huge embarrassment on its own, but only having two “close” friends in the whole town is just another level of sad. Waverly doesn’t even really know how she got here. Chrissy Nedley is a good girl and a really good friend, but Stephanie Jones kind of sucks, if she’s being honest. Unfortunately, she’s the reason Waverly is even throwing a party tonight. Trying to be a good friend, trying to turn this haunted house into more of a home.

Waverly finishes tidying up and grabs the half full laundry basket out of the corner of Wynonna’s “room.” It’s not much, this little space Wynonna has made for herself. An area that she’s pretty sure was meant to be a dining room or something, sectioned off by a curtain with all of Wynonna’s things tucked away inside. It’s scarce, but very Wynonna. 

She smiles when she notices the nightlight sitting on the bedside table, a gift from Nicole to her big sister and something Wynonna loves and uses every single night. Waverly shakes her head, tossing Wynonna’s strewn clothes into the basket to be washed. The last piece of clothing is an old dark green hoodie draped over the footboard of Wynonna’s bed. The one she’d been wearing the other night after Nicole’s performance at Shorty’s. 

Waverly sets the basket down, her eyebrows pulling together as she picks up the hoodie in both hands, reading the front for the first time.  “Basketball? No way Wynonna played basketball in high school… this isn’t even our school…” Waverly mutters to herself. It takes a moment, but the realization hits her hard. She lets out a gasp and flips the hoodie around. “I frickin’ KNEW IT!” The youngest Earp nearly shouts. In faded white letters across the back of the sweatshirt is a name. Haught. And the number 23. This hoodie belonged to Nicole, from all those years ago. Wynonna still has it. 

“Frickin’ knew it…” Waverly mumbles. She can’t contain her smile as she shoves the raggedy thing into the basket and heads off to finish the laundry. 

 

***

After the day Wynonna has had, all she wants is to drink the whole bottle of whiskey she’s carrying and curl up in her bed talking on the phone to Nicole until she falls asleep. She’s passing by the bullpen on her way out the door when the faint lamp light from the first desk just inside catches her eye. Wynonna steps back into the doorway and sure enough, her favorite cop is sitting behind her desk, rubbing her neck. The brunette admires her quietly for a moment, smirking softly before she taps on the doorframe to get her attention. 

Nicole startles slightly, looking up and softening immediately at the sight of Wynonna. Her hand falls slowly from her neck and into her lap, lips tugging into a smile. 

Wynonna speaks up before she can, “It’s Saturday night, Haughtstuff...I’m the town pariah with ten years of bad deeds and social suicides to make up for, but what’s your excuse?” The older woman unscrews the cap of her bottle and brings it to her lips. 

The officer watches her, lifting an eyebrow and leaning back in her chair a little. “Nedley.” She says simply, still so lost in watching Wynonna complete the most simple of tasks.  

“Say no more. Bosses are the worst.” Wynonna huffs, stepping into the office, just a little closer to Nicole’s desk. They were alone here, she knew that much. This was the first time they’d been truly alone since the day she killed Shorty. The thought of it makes her heart rate pick up.  

“Also, I’m scared mine might be dead?” Wynonna spills, quickly drowning her statement with a gulp of whiskey. It’s true, everything she says to Nicole always is. She doesn’t have a fucking clue what happened to Dolls today, she could only hope it isn’t another failure she’d have to add to her long ass list. 

The redhead’s eyes widen, panic washing over her. She and Dolls don’t get along that well, but she doesn’t wanna see him hurt. 

“Kidding. Only kidding.” Wynonna saves quickly. Even though she doesn’t know what happened to him, she truly doesn’t feel like he’s gone, so it’s not a lie. Plus she doesn’t want Nicole worrying. 

The cop lets out a sigh of relief and leans her elbows on her desk. “Scared me for a second.” She chuckles, pausing for a moment as she remembers something. 

Wynonna reads her expression. “What you thinkin’ about, Haughty?” She asks, stepping closer again. 

“Just that… I’m kinda glad I wasn’t the only one not invited to the party.” Nicole smirks as she says it. She doesn’t know Waverly’s friends well enough to attend a bachelorette party for her, but she knows Chrissy and Waverly and Wynonna . She couldn’t help but feel a little left out before...well, before Wynonna had shown up here. 

Wynonna’s brows wrinkle, she finally closes the space between herself and the desk and sets the bottle between the two of them. “What party?” 

Nicole looks down at the bottle first and gives it a thought. She’s technically still at work, and in uniform, but she isn’t really working… Fuck it, she thinks. The younger woman picks up the bottle and brings it to her own lips. A shiver runs down her spine, thinking of how this is the closest she’s come to kissing Wynonna in so many years. Maybe it’s as close as she’ll ever get again. She is going to savor this. 

“Drinking on the job…someone’s been a bad influence on you.” Wynonna comments, smirking down at the officer. She has to admit, it’s incredibly sexy to see Nicole drink straight from her bottle while she’s still decked out in her cowboy cop getup. And at her desk, to boot.

Nicole laughs, rubbing the excess alcohol from her lips with the back of her hand. “Yeah, yeah. Some rules are made to be broken, Earp,” she says softly, standing up from her chair. Wynonna comes around to stand face to face with the taller woman behind her desk. 

“You didn’t get invited to your own sister’s party? Chrissy’s the one that told me.” Nicole asks, passing the bottle back to Wynonna from a much closer proximity than is necessary. Neither of them are about to complain. 

Wynonna takes the bottle and slumps to the floor, resting her back against the front of the desk that sits behind Nicole’s. She pats the space on the cold cement floor next to her. 

“My sister’s the one throwing the party? Figures. All her friends hate me. Now, sit your fine, khaki’d ass down, Red. We’ll have our own party.” It really is a fine ass. Always has been. Wynonna silently thanks Nedley and maybe Jesus for the fact that the Purgatory Sheriff’s Department uniform consists of tight khaki pants. 

The younger woman shakes her head, taking a seat next to Wynonna and leaning back against the desk to mirror her. Their bodies are close, but not too close. Not close enough , she thinks. Being near Wynonna again has ruined her completely. She knows that living without her, without whatever it is they have again, just won’t be a viable option for her. She keeps her left hand on her belt unless she’s reaching for the whiskey, fighting the urge to reach out to Wynonna.

They talk and laugh for a while, passing the bottle back and forth between themselves. Nicole tells Wynonna stories about before she came home. Wynonna talks a little more about the time she spent in Greece and offers tidbits about Waverly’s stupid friends to assure Nicole they aren’t missing out on anything by not being at the party.

“One time, Stephanie told me that I should consider getting a butt lift.” Wynonna faces Nicole, resting her head against the desk. 

They’ve gotten closer over the last hour or so of talking. Wynonna’s feet are up in the chair in front of her but their hips and thighs rest against one another’s perfectly. 

Nicole immediately takes offense to the statement. “What?! Your ass is like…” Maybe the alcohol is getting to her a little because she pauses and takes a moment to really think about Wynonna’s ass. Her hand makes a gripping motion in the air and her face does something that makes the older woman warm in lots of places. “It’s top shelf, Wyn. It’s top shelf.” 

Nicole finds words that she hopes are innocent enough to get the point across without putting Wynonna off. Though, nothing about that display puts Wynonna off in any respect. The redhead faces Wynonna, her head leaning against the desk the same way. Their faces are close… she can smell the whisky mixing with the sweet scent that was just Wynonna.

“Yeah, you’d know…” Wynonna says in a low voice, eyebrows raising as many memories of the not so innocent things they’d done in their teen years come flooding back. It’s her turn to shiver. 

“Trust me, I haven’t forgotten.” Nicole bites her lip, the urge to lean forward and kiss Wynonna after all this time is stronger than ever. The alcohol hasn’t clouded her senses, pretty much just pushed down her worries. 

Wynonna considers it. And then she considers it again. And again. She’s almost convinced herself to just — put aside the stupid curse and the demon bullshit for one night and let herself have what she’s wanted since she found out Nicole Haught was waiting around Purgatory for her… but she stops. Wynonna drops her forehead against Nicole’s shoulder and lets out a heavy sigh. 

There are so many things they haven’t talked about. So much time had passed and so much had been left unsaid all those years ago. Wynonna wishes with her whole heart that they could dive into that right now and make it right. But there are other things pressing on them, on the town, on her –– that she has to deal with. 

“I’m sorry, Nic… I just –– there’s so much shit, you know? That I haven’t told you. Mostly because of Dolls and Black Badge watching me like a hawk to make sure I don’t completely fuck up everything for them, but –– I know you’re not stupid. You’ve noticed the weird shit that happens around here?” 

Wynonna sits up and pulls her knees to her chest as she speaks, suddenly feeling ten years younger again. Confessing all her secrets, well most of them, to this tall beautiful woman who is somehow capable of understanding the way nobody else had ever been. 

Nicole reaches out and rests her hand on Wynonna’s knee, not wanting to lose the contact she’d been given but wanting to comfort her. She always wants to comfort her. “Hey, you don’t have anything to be sorry for, okay? I’m here. Always. I’m not goin’ anywhere, Wynonna. Okay? You can take your time…” Nicole pauses, her thumb brushing gently over Wynonna’s knee. 

The Earp heir breathes out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding, relaxing against Nicole’s side. 

“But yeah, I think ––  I know what you’re talkin’ about. Somethin’ like that…” Nicole points to a file that’s resting on the edge of her desk just in front of them. 

Wynonna narrows her eyes, leaning forward to grab it. Nicole smiles as she watches her, reaching out and tugging Wynonna back to her side by her belt. The older woman smirks as she settles next to her again, opening the file across their laps. 

“That is victim number 3.” Nicole states plainly, taking a deep swig from the bottle. 

“The same guy killed three women?” Wynonna asks, looking over the pictures and reports sprawled mostly across Nicole’s thighs. 

The officer nods, pointing to the autopsy report. “Apparently. Cause of death appears to be multiple lacerations but as you can see, this report’s practically illegible.” 

She taps the paper and Wynonna can feel the annoyance radiating from her. She leans into the taller woman a little more to try and take it away. It works, because when she looks up, Nicole is smiling down at her. “This stuff’s not normal,” she says simply. Her voice is soft and gentle and not afraid or judging… Wynonna had been wrong about all the fears she’d been harboring about this conversation. 

Blue eyes stare deep into brown ones, looking for some sign of fear or doubt. She doesn’t find anything like that. Only care. Only love. “No, Nicole. It’s not. Purgatory isn’t… the weird shit that happens here isn’t just by chance… It’s never just whatever hokey story Nedley pulls out his ass to cover it up. There’s always something more… Something…” 

“Supernatural?” Nicole asks, saying the word that Wynonna had been too afraid to say. She remembers the whispers that went around her school, around the whole town about the woman sitting by her side. 

“They used to talk...the kids at school, parents, everybody at some point… people told me you believed in demons…” Nicole begins, looking right into Wynonna’s eyes. She feels the older woman tense up and reaches out, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and smoothing her hand over the back of Wynonna’s head.

“Hey… I never thought you were crazy. I still don’t and I never will.” Nicole’s tone is firm yet gentle. Her fingers tangle in thick, dark curls as she waits for Wynonna’s response. 

Being held by Nicole soothes her in ways she hasn’t felt in such a long time. It takes her a moment, but she manages to keep her lip from trembling long enough to ask, “What do you think, then?” Wynonna hates the way her voice sounds so small and afraid.

“I know … that you were right.” Nicole assures her, squeezing gently at her knee. 

Wynonna feels tears welling up in her eyes. When she drops her head to wipe them away with her palm, she sees red spatter across the files. 

“Baby...” The word comes out without hesitation and with so much concern. Nicole’s fingers tilt Wynonna’s chin up towards her. “Your nose…” 

Wynonna wipes at her nose with the back of her hand and sees the trail of red that follows. Almost instantly, the answer clicks in her head. 

“We – we have to go see the body.” 

 

***

 

They step into the morgue and Wynonna is immediately hit with a chill. Something just feels… off. She takes another long swig from the nearly empty bottle she’s still gripping, a shudder wracking her body. The gross smell that was lingering inside didn’t help. “Ew,” Wynonna mutters. 

Nicole leads, holding the case file under her arm. The officer catches a glimpse of Wynonna’s cute shudder. “Yeah, they say you get used to the smell.” She shrugs, keeping her smirk out of Wynonna’s view. 

“I spent a summer’s probation on roadkill removal… pfft! This is nothin’.” She waves it off, but wrinkles her nose again anyway. 

Nicole finds the body with ease. She checks the tag dangling from the corpse’s toe just to be sure. “Here she is…Joyce Arbour.” 

Wynonna steps up to the table and Nicole follows, keeping her eyes on Wynonna. Finding out about all of this had been...interesting, but all she can really think about is how long Wynonna’s had to deal with it on her own. The officer’s heart aches for the woman she — cares so much for. Wynonna deserves so much more than all of the shit she’s been dealt. Nicole hopes desperately that she’ll be able to give it to her. 

Her reverie is broken when she watches Wynonna set the whiskey bottle down on the autopsy table. The younger woman rolls her eyes playfully, taking it away and moving it elsewhere. When Nicole stands back up, she steps closer and looks over Wynonna’s shoulder. When she sees the body, she notices that Joyce… “She kinda looks like you, Wynonna.” Nicole observes out loud. 

“Super duper weird pick up line, Haughtpants. I know it’s been a while, but damn...” Wynonna mumbles, shaking her head. Her smirk falters as she studies the body, “Jesus Christ, who did this?!” She wonders out loud. 

“Someone who knew what they were doing.” The voice comes from behind them and Nicole spins around instantly. She puts herself between Wynonna and the stranger, arms stretched out and one hand resting on her gun. Wynonna’s safety is her number one thought. 

The act of bravery doesn’t go unnoticed by the older woman. She feels her heart swell, even as anger for the stranger rises up inside her. “DUDE! This is a morgue! Wear a bell, or something!” She shouts, closing her eyes and pressing her fingers to her pulse point only to find it racing. 

The man apologizes profusely, blaming it on something completely fucking stupid like being a ninja and wearing cotton balls for shoes… what an idiot. 

Nicole lets her guard down some, but still keeps herself between him and Wynonna. 

The doctor gives his input and tells them some things that they don’t know about the body. Nicole mainly hangs there and listens to Wynonna ask questions and notice new things about the wounds and the situation itself. If she’s being honest, she’s kind of amazed by Wynonna. All the knowledge she has, all the questions she just knows to ask… Nicole has always known that Wynonna is smart, but seeing her like this… does something to Nicole. 

The redhead feels a tug in her chest at the memory of Wynonna wanting to go to medical school when the weird doctor asks her if she’s ever studied forensics. Nicole figures that hadn’t worked out for Wynonna. 

Suddenly, the sound of footsteps somewhere else in the morgue puts them all on alert. Nicole and Wynonna immediately look to one another just before the alarm goes off. 

“Someone went into the cooler...did you guys come alone?” The doctor asks them. Wynonna raises her eyebrows and Nicole gives her a nod. 

“Pretty sure, doc...there more than one way into the cooler?” Wynonna asks, never taking her eyes off of Nicole. 

“Yeah, there’s the rear exit.” He confirms. 

“Okay, I got it,” Nicole says, pulling her gun from its holster.

Wynonna’s heart drops into her stomach. “Nicole…” Her voice almost breaks. She has no idea what freaky thing could be out there toying with them, ready to take Nicole away from her again. This time for good. She doesn’t want to think about it. 

“I’ll be okay. Stay with him, okay? I’ll go to the back and you two go to the entrance.” Nicole gives Wynonna a pointed look and Wynonna understands everything that it means. 

The brunette pulls Peacemaker from her holster and watches Nicole head outside, worrying the inside of her lip already. When she and the doctor step into the cooler, there’s nothing there. A heavy door slams somewhere behind them, causing Wynonna to jump. Her heart is pounding, she can feel it in her ears.  “Nicole!”  She shouts, her chest splitting at the thought of Nicole being anything but okay. 

They hurry back out of the cooler when they don’t find anything and Nicole comes in right behind them. A wave of relief washes over Wynonna so strong that she has to fight the urge to rush into her arms. The sight of Joyce Arbour’s body is enough to screw all that up. 

Her once closed eyes are wide open and staring on and on and on, forever. Through Wynonna’s soul, she feels like. There’s a playing card, a Jack, between her teeth. Wynonna feels her blood run cold. 

When she turns to look at Nicole over her shoulder, she watches the cop’s face twist in fear. “Jesus, Wynonna…” Nicole hisses, moving towards her and taking her face in both hands. “You’re bleedin’ again.” Wynonna reaches up and wipes at the blood, her mind running in a million different directions. 

 

***

 

Back at the Sheriff’s Department, Wynonna follows Nicole into the little breakroom and begins searching the cabinets. 

“I don’t think you’re gonna find any more booze in there.” Nicole teases, sitting down on the edge of the table and crossing her arms over her chest. When she’s alone with Wynonna, everything feels more stable and quiet. Even if she knows that it isn’t. And she does, especially after what they just saw. 

“Don’t sound so disappointed. I figured maybe we could use something other than booze, surprising I know.” Wynonna takes the can of coffee down from one of the cabinets and begins prepping the coffee maker to brew it. 

The sound of the machine whirring fills the silence. Wynonna turns around to find Nicole watching her with a soft smile on her face. The Heir moves into the officer’s space, stepping between her legs and slinking her arms over Nicole’s shoulders. She puts up no resistance. Her long arms wrap around Wynonna’s waist with ease and hold her there. 

“I’m telling you, Haught… things are gonna get way weirder now that you know the truth. This… is just the beginning. Trouble follows me, wherever I go.” Wynonna’s voice comes out as barely more than a whisper. 

Nicole smiles softly, shrugging her shoulders. “Well, so will I.” She says it so matter of factly, with so much confidence that it takes Wynonna back. 

The brunette’s eyebrows pull together, fingers playing with the little wisps of red hair at the back of Nicole’s neck. “What do you mean?”  

“I mean, I’m here. For whatever. I’ll go with you anywhere.” The younger woman’s warm brown eyes melt when she looks at Wynonna. 

It’s such a pure, honest statement...it’s so Nicole that it makes Wynonna feel like crying. 

She doesn’t get the chance because her phone rings loud and clear, breaking the comfortable ambience of the room. Wynonna steps out of Nicole’s embrace and sees Waverly’s name on her screen and answers immediately. 

Nicole can hear Wynonna’s sister practically screaming on the other end of the line from where she’s standing. 

“Wave… Wave, slow down… What do you mean you killed a stripper?!” 

Nicole stands up from the table and moves to Wynonna’s side. 

“Okay, don’t worry, baby girl. I’ll be right there.” Wynonna hangs up the phone and shoves it into her pocket, looking up at the taller woman and taking a deep breath. 

“Nicole, will you.. Will you come with me? Waverly needs us.” 

Wynonna’s request knocks the wind out of her. “Us?” She manages to get the word out, breathless. 

“Well, Waverly needs me. But I –– I need you.” Confessing that feels like a ton of weight lifting off of Wynonna’s shoulders. She doesn’t know what it means for them right now, but she knows that it’s true. She does need Nicole. She always has. 

“Always.” Nicole reaches for her hand, “We’ll take the cruiser.” 

 

*** 

 

Wynonna stumbles out of the police car just in time to see Waverly get thrown against the side of the barn. 

“Waverly!” She yells, and hears it echoed by Nicole, who is right behind her. The older woman watches the redhead kneel down next to Waverly and knows she’ll be okay. 

Peacemaker glows bright orange when Wynonna points it at the Witch. She’s about to pull the trigger when she hears Doc’s voice behind her. “She’s mine!” He yells, pulling his own trigger before she gets the chance. 

The bullet hits the Witch somewhere in the shoulder and she vanishes, her zombie minions fall lifeless all around them. 

Wynonna drops the gun and tries to catch her breath, turning to Doc. “You wanna explain to me what’s going on here?” She asks, already moving towards Waverly and Nicole. 

“That was my Seven. And probably my best chance of bringing her down...You best see your sister.” Doc’s disappointment turns to concern for Waverly as he waves Wynonna off.

She doesn’t waste any time running over to them. The older Earp drops to her knees beside her baby sister and her Nicole. 

“Waves… Hey, you okay?” Wynonna’s voice is soft, her hands moving Waverly’s hair out of her face to get a better look at her. 

Nicole just watches the way that Wynonna softens around Waverly. The way she loves her with everything. Nicole knows already, but watching them in this moment proves to her that Wynonna would do anything for her sister. Something about it makes her fall even deeper, something she didn’t know was possible. 

Wynonna wraps Waverly in her arms to try and keep her from shivering and presses a kiss to her forehead. “That was really brave. Stupid! But brave.” 

Waverly manages a soft smile, leaning more into Wynonna. “Can we go inside?” She sounds twelve again. 

The older Earp nods, looking up at Nicole. “Thank you, Haught.” The look in her eyes says more than words could ever say. It makes Nicole ache. 

 

***

 

Nicole finishes up with her “questioning” of Chrissy so that she can file an “official” police report, standing by her cruiser. Wynonna walks over hesitantly as Chrissy finishes giving her perspective of the events. Chrissy leaves them alone to rejoin Waverly on the porch. 

“Are you okay?” Nicole asks Wynonna, reaching her hand out to cup the side of her face gently. 

Wynonna leans into the touch without hesitation and allows her eyes to fall closed. There is something in the way Nicole touches her that immediately causes all the tension in her body to start easing. If she’s going to make it through ending this curse and come out on the other side, she’s going to need this. 

“Better now,” Wynonna admits. She opens her eyes and looks up at Nicole. As always, she finds nothing but love. “Nicole, there’s so much more to all this demon shit than you know. I don’t even know where to start.”

“Well, how about we get started over some pancakes?” Nicole offers, raising an eyebrow and smiling hopefully. 

“You always know what I need, Haught.” Wynonna returns the smile. 

Nicole chuckles. “Yeah, I do. C’mere…” Nicole reaches out and pulls Wynonna into a tight hug, wrapping her arms around the shorter woman’s shoulders and bringing one of her hands to rest against soft, brunette locks. Wynonna settles into the hug and wraps her arms around Nicole’s waist as tightly as she can. Her head rests against the officer’s chest and she breathes in the smell of her. 

Waverly is watching from the front porch with a grin on her face. Chrissy follows her gaze and shakes her head. The sheriff’s daughter scoffs. “Can the both of them get their shit together?”

“Wait-- You know?” Waverly asks with wide eyes. 

“Waves, all of Purgatory knows. My cousin says they used to hang at that diner a lot back in high school. When Wynonna met her, the trouble stopped. Well, sort of. For the most part, my dad says.” 

“They--” Waverly looks back to her sister and Nicole in time to see them getting into the car. “Why didn’t she say anything then?” 

“Well he said Wynonna didn’t talk about her back then. But everyone talked about them in high school. They just didn’t know Nicole’s name. He said Wynonna tried to keep Nicole as far away from all of them as she could. I think we both know why.” Chrissy says, shrugging. 

“You don’t care that she’s-- That she likes girls?” Waverly asks, nervously picking at the blanket wrapped around her.

“What?! No, Waves, of course not. I’ve never cared about stuff like that!” 

“Oh!” Waverly bites at the inside of her bottom lip for a second. “Because I like girls, too.” Before Chrissy can say anything else, Waverly continues, “You know that totally hot doctor lady that’s Nicole’s friend? Shae? We’ve been on a couple dates.” 

“Oh. My. GOD! Tell me EVERYTHING. God, such an upgrade from Champ Hardy, ewgh.” 

Waverly shakes her head, relieved to be able to share this side of herself with someone other than Wynonna and Nicole -- who are more than preoccupied with one another and their ever unfolding history. She pulls Chrissy into the house and catches up with an old friend, telling her all the non-demony parts of her life. 

 

***

 

In the police cruiser, Wynonna watches Nicole carefully. Nicole had only been back in her life for a little over a month, but in ways, it feels like she never stopped being a part of it. Every single time she’s in Nicole’s presence, it feels just like it used to. Hell, it feels better than it used to because now Wynonna doesn’t have anyone to answer to but herself. No stupid foster parents. No stupid school. They could really just be them. 

“Something catch your eye, Earp?” Nicole jokes. It had been one of the first things that Wynonna had ever said to her. She remembers, “I wasn’t even going to watch that game, but something caught my eye.”

“Oh, you did that a while ago.” Wynonna takes a deep breath. “This demon shit… It fucking falls on me a lot deeper than just me being a part of the stupid Black Badge Division. I’m ‘The Heir.’” Wynonna punctuates the title with air quotes. “Great-great-grandaddy Wyatt killed a bunch of outlaws and somebody decided to curse him so all those asshats would come back as demons called revenants. Demons that can only be put down by Peacemaker--”

“Your abnormally large glowy gun,” Nicole figures. 

“Yep. And Peacemaker only works for Yours Truly. Some stupid rule of the curse is it all activates when the Heir turns twenty-seven and all the revenants that the previous Heir killed come back from hell, crazier than ever. Fun times for me that some of these ugly sons of bitches are back from hell for the third time.” 

“Guess that explains why you weren’t demon-hunting in high school,” Nicole says. 

Wynonna takes a moment to smile as Nicole effortlessly rolls with all of the shit she’s unloading on her. In that moment, she remembers all at once the way she’s always felt. There’s no one else in the world who could deal with all this shit with as much grace as Nicole. “Yeah, I was a little busy just trying to get by back then.” 

“I think we did okay for a while,” Nicole glances over at Wynonna with those kind eyes. 

“Better than okay.” They share a moment of comfortable silence. 

Nicole feels all of the fire rush into her chest again. Something comes over her and she asks with as much confidence as it takes, “You still my girl, Wynonna?” 

Wynonna opens her mouth to respond, but before she can say anything, they notice a man flagging them down and Nicole slows the car. 

In an almost blink of an eye, the doors to the cruiser fly open. Nicole tries to hit the brakes and figure out what’s happening. In the next moment, she feels the impact of the blow to her head and her vision goes fuzzy. She reaches out towards where the blow was dealt and feels her palm split open, crying out.

“Nicole!” Wynonna’s scream devastates. She’s next, though. It happens faster than she can react. The blow to her head knocks her out. 

Nicole tries her hardest to move her arms, but she can barely make out the shape of Wynonna. She’s slightly aware of the prick that she feels in her neck before she starts to pass out. “Wynonna,” she whispers desperately, trying as hard as she can. But she slips into unconsciousness. 

 

***

 

Doc hears the eerie music as he checks out the spot where he’d shot Constance Clootie. He follows the sound with guns drawn and finds the cruiser rolling slowly along with both doors open. 

“Wynonna! Officer Haught!” He calls out, praying for an answer. When he sees inside of the cruiser, there’s a bloody handprint and no sign of either of them. He notices a wallet and picks it up, undoubtedly belonging to the officer. 

He opens it and notices all her belongings are still in there. A photo pokes out of one of the folds and he pulls it out to look at it. It’s folded up to fit inside and he notices it looks older, faded. It is a picture of Wynonna and Officer Haught smiling and… cuddling?  

“Oh damnation…” he breathes out. He realizes that it’s deeper than he and Dolls had realized. Wynonna and Officer Haught’s history is deeper than some flirtation they hadn’t followed through with. He notices the card in the windshield next and knows. Jack has them. 

He takes off to the station and finds Dolls and Sheriff Nedley to let them know what has happened and that they need to find Wynonna and Ms. Haught immediately. 

 

***

 

The tightness in her head is all too familiar when she wakes up. A hangover? Huh? Wynonna cannot remember anything at first. She’s somewhere with a water stained ceiling tile. A hospital? “Waverly?” she calls out for her sister first. “Nicole?”

A semi-familiar voice answers her. “Hey, hey, hey. No, you’re okay. Lay back.” 

It’s the creepy morgue doctor man with the ninja shoes. She squints. “What happened?” 

“Deep breaths, Deputy Earp. Remember me?” 

“Dr. Ninja. Wait, am I in the morgue?”

“Thankfully, no. You’re in a hospital.”

Wynonna notices immediately -- a hospital. Where is she? 

“Do you remember anything about the accident?” 

“Accident? I was at the homestead. Zombie strippers…” Wynonna tries to pull the memories back but they keep going fuzzy. 

“Oh, okay some memory loss is totally normal after such a trauma.” 

Wynonna narrows her eyes, studying Dr. Nina more closely. None of this is making sense. “Where’s Waverly? Where’s my sister? Where is Nicole?” 

“No, we have to limit your visitors right now until… Wynonna I need you to listen to me.” 

The accident.

“Why can’t I move my legs?” 

“There’s no easy way to say this. You suffered severe damage to your spinal cord, causing paralysis from the waist down.”

“You don’t understand! I love my legs, they’re what I walk on! What are you giving me? I feel so--” She has to take a deep breath. She can barely focus on anything. There’s too much. An accident. She’s paralyzed. She can’t see straight. 

“You feel hungover? You’re very lucky you didn’t kill someone, Miss Earp.”

“Wha- I wasn’t drunk… anymore. Ask Nicole.” Nicole. “Nicole! Nicole was driving. Where’s Nicole?!” The desperation in her voice makes her sound pitiful, but she doesn’t care.  

“Shh… Let me listen…” Dr. Ninja puts the stethoscope against her chest and she tries to calm down, but the thought of Nicole somewhere hurt… It rips through the haze as much as it can. 

“So, wait, you’re a full-on doctor? Wynonna questions suspiciously. None of this feels right. When he tells her that he practiced at a medical school that doesn’t exist, she knows. He’s Jack. The last of The Seven. She finds the IV and folds it over so that whatever is making her hazy will stop soon. He goes on about some more creepy shit that Wynonna doesn’t really pay attention to. 

After a beat she speaks up, “One question: Do you only use the cane as a weapon or are you hiding a limp under all that bullshit?” 

“Excuse me?” 

“Princeton doesn’t have a medical school, dickwad. You’re not a doctor. You’re a killer, a revenant.” 

His jaw clenches and Wynonna’s growing more terrified by the second before she remembers her again.  “Where. Is. Nicole?” Wynonna says more forcefully and tries to sit up again. “Where is she? Is she okay? You have to tell me! Is she okay?!” 

He grins at her distress. “Have to prep an OR, be back in a jiff!” 

“If you killed her, I will torture you until there’s nothing left before I send you back to hell!” 

 

***

 

Nicole wakes in the hospital. Her head is pounding where she’s been wounded. Her hand aches and itches and she notices she’s bandaged there. Her chest hurts almost more than anything else, though. Why does her chest hurt?

“Wynonna…” Nicole whispers. She grits her teeth. She’s not hooked up to anything. That’s good. She’s been in worse shape than this before from rock climbing. She moves to get up. 

“Whoa, slow down, Deputy Haught,” Nedley’s voice finds her as he steps back into the room, having only just stepped out a moment before. 

“Where’s Wynonna?” Nicole asks, disregarding Nedley’s careful tone. 

“Deputy, you need to rest. We found you--”

“Where is she, Sheriff?” Nicole bites hard. 

Nedley pauses and looks down at the floor. 

“We don’t know,” he manages. 

“You don’t know ?” Nicole shakes her head and makes a move to get up again. 

“Nicole, you need to--” 

“I need to find Wynonna.” Nicole is sitting on the edge of the bed when Dolls, Doc, and Waverly come walking in. She settles back at the sight of Waverly, looking distraught and wrecked. Dolls and Doc look like they’re holding it together, but she can see the underlying worry on their faces, too.

“Deputy Haught,” Dolls starts. 

“I would feel better if her doctor checked her out before you started interrogating her, Deputy Marshall,” Nedley offers. 

“Nedley, I’m fine. I need to help. I need to find her,” Nicole says more determined than she’s ever felt. She can’t lose her again. She can’t. Not now. Not after everything. 

“Fine… I’ll go take care of that cat of yours.” 

“She doesn’t like men.”

“Yeah, well. Who does?” 

Nicole tries to smile but she can’t manage it. She looks to Dolls who is watching her expectantly. 

“Alright Deputy Haught, what’s the last thing you remember?” Dolls questions.

“Wynonna in my arms. She smells like gardenias and whiskey,” Nicole replies quickly. Dolls doesn’t say anything else, just raises his eyebrows and moves his head to tell her to go on. 

Nicole clenches her jaw and screws her eyes shut. “And, uh, a man… Stepping out on the highway, flagging us down.”

“Description?” Dolls asks not bothering to look up from his notepad now. 

“Nothing. I’m going blank.” Nicole manages and she wants to fucking cry and scream. Why can’t she remember how she got here? Then, she can see the trees. “Until the woods.”

“What happened?”

“Somebody was carrying me? I was blindfolded, I think?” Nicole remembers the prick in her neck. “Or just really drugged… Next thing I know, I’m freezing cold, covered in dirt in a ditch by the side of the road.” 

“So, what about Wynonna? Do you remember anything about Wynonna?” Dolls encourages. 

“She screamed my name right before I passed out. I don’t know anything else. I couldn’t see anything.”

“Sight ain’t your only sense, Ms. Haught…” Doc gives his partner a look and Dolls steps aside. “What did he smell like? Close your eyes. Take a deep breath in. Let the memories come.” 

Nicole does. “Sour. Musty.”

“Like death?” Dolls asks.

“No. Spoiled fruit… and gasoline. He kicked me.” Doc had been right. Remembering what she had smelled triggers more and more details and she thinks for the first time she could kiss a man. “See, I couldn’t figure out why my chest was hurtin’. He threw me down and he said… You’re the wrong kind.” Nicole realizes at the same time Dolls does. 

“What about Wynonna?” Waverly asks desperately. 

“She must be exactly what Jack is looking for.” 

Doc and Dolls share a look and Waverly tries to keep a brave face. 

“What’s the plan?” Nicole says rising to her feet and stumbling for just a second before getting her bearings. 

“The plan? No, Deputy Haught, you are not a part of a plan ,” Dolls states plainly. 

“Like hell, I’m not!” Nicole says stepping towards the special agent before Doc intercepts her. 

“Now, Officer Haught, give me a second to speak with my partner?” Doc offers. Dolls rolls his eyes behind him. 

Doc pulls Dolls off to the side and speaks softly, “Xavier, you cannot keep that woman from going after Wynonna.” 

“I don’t care if they have a fling or whatever the hell they have going--”

“It is more than that and you and I have known this. But we did not know it was this much more than that…” Doc pulls the photo from his jacket pocket and shows Dolls the image of the two women as teenagers. “This was in Officer Haught’s wallet. It appears as if it has remained there for some time. You either let her be a part of this team, or you will get her killed when she goes off on her own.” 

Dolls looks at the image of a young Wynonna. He cares for her more than he is willing to admit. It’s impossible not to care for Wynonna, he finds as he watches Doc’s eyes soften at the picture as well. Dolls glances over his shoulder and can see Nicole getting ready to take off. 

“Fine,” he speaks loudly enough for her to hear now. “Officer Haught, you will assist us, but there is something you need to know.”

“Jack’s a revenant, isn’t he?” Nicole asks. 

Dolls freezes. “How do you--”

“Wynonna was telling me about them. Because you disappeared on her. She needed someone she could trust. She didn’t know if you’d be coming back,” Nicole says with more vitriol than she intends. 

Dolls looks over to Doc who stares back at him with gentle, understanding eyes. He turns his gaze back to Nicole. “Well, then since you’re up to speed on that, I guess we better go figure out what spoiled fruit and gasoline could lead us to.” 

The combined minds of Waverly and Doc lead them to a location Wynonna could be held at. It has to be where she is. It has to be. 



***

 

Wynonna watches in horror as Bethany gets wheeled away with the last of The Seven. If only Bethany could have grown the balls to go get help. But it’s up to her. She doesn’t know where the hell she is and she doesn’t know if Dolls or Waverly or Doc will be able to find her. And she still has to find Nicole. 

Nicole -- who has to be alive. There’s no other option. If Nicole was gone, Wynonna would feel it. She would feel it deep in the pit of her chest that she wasn’t here anymore. Wouldn’t she? Nicole is okay. Wynonna has to find Nicole. 

Alone now, she’s regained feeling in her legs. The cloud from the IV has lifted and she knows she has to make a move. Jack will evidently be back to get her and she needs to be able to find her gun. She hides in the shadows and watches carefully as he loses it when he realizes he’s lost her. She follows him carefully until he looks inside a barrel and Wynonna knows. She steps to him and holds the scalpel to his throat. 

“Know how to make someone show you where something precious is hidden? Set fire to their house. It’s the first thing they go for…” Wynonna says, reveling in the shift of who has the upper hand. 

“Wynonna… Don’t be rash. You’ll never find Officer Haught without me,” he replies in an almost sing-songy voice. 

“New deal, Reggimite,” Wynonna says, pulling the revenant away and pushing the scalpel further into his neck. “Tell me where she is and I’ll make your trip back to hell an express. Screw around, and I will have some fun before I blow your revenant brains out. I will make sure you feel pain you didn’t even know existed, you sick fuck. I will rip you apart piece by piece until there’s nothing left to send to hell.”

“Hell?”

“You killed Nicole, didn’t you, you fucking son of a bitch?” Wynonna moves around him and starts to shake at the thought of Nicole being gone again. He says no and she notices it then. “Red blood. You’re human.”

A gasp is knocked out of her as she’s thrown back by something. When she sits up, she sees that Dr. Ninja is dead with a cane sticking out of his back and who she knows undoubtedly is the real Jack walking up. 

He drags her away before she can get her gun. She’s screwed. 

 

***

 

Nicole is getting ready to start going absolutely berserk on this town if they don’t get the exact location nailed down with Doc’s source. They go through hell and half until finally the three of them -- Nicole, Doc, and Dolls -- arrive. Doc volunteers to go in and distract Jack. Dolls will standby and Nicole will find Wynonna.  

When Doc enters, Wynonna’s lying on a table and Jack is holding terrifying claws over her chest. Doc fires the shot right as it looks like Wynonna is about to lose her heart. 

Wynonna turns to see Doc and only Doc and she can’t help her disappointment. “Took you long enough.” 

“You’re welcome,” Doc replies. 

Jack is thoroughly distracted as he goes to handle the gunslinger’s intrusion. Wynonna feels a tap at her feet and looks down to find Nicole looking back up at her. Relief and hope replace every other emotion in her body. Nicole is okay and she’s here. Nicole moves Wynonna away and starts to free her from her restraints. 

“Nicole… I thought…” She whispers, careful not to tip Jack off to Nicole’s presence. 

“Shhh, I’m okay. You’re okay.” Nicole assures her, always the rock that she is. 

Dolls sneaks up and Wynonna tells him where her gun is and urges him to go get it. Dolls nods and takes his orders from the Earp Heir. Nicole reaches out and touches Wynonna’s face carefully. They only have the second to revel in the fact that both of them live. 

Wynonna looks over at the fight between Doc and Jack and realizes she has to step in. She finds the Stone Witch’s dagger and plunges it carefully into Jack’s back. 

“Did I get ‘im?” Doc gasps. Wynonna falls forward and reaches for him. 

“Not your job,” Dolls answers, bounding in with Peacemaker, and her necklace.

Nicole takes the necklace at the same time that Wynonna takes the gun. Wynonna presses her lips to Peacemaker’s handle, relieved to finally have it back. She turns to Nicole who’s looking down at her with fear and faith in her eyes. Nicole gives a small smile and places the necklace around Wynonna’s neck. With one simple gesture, they restore something sacred between them. The tide is turning in their favor. 

“Go get him,” Nicole encourages. “I got your back if you need it.” 

“Stay here. Stay safe, please,” Wynonna begs. “If I need you, I’ll scream. He’s wounded. Should be easy.” 

Nicole nods without another word. She understands. Wynonna has the magic gun. It has to be Wynonna and she would just get in the way with this one. 

 

***

 

Wynonna finds him easily, crawling pitifully on the floor, wounded from the bewitched dagger. She pulls the dagger out of him without regard and tosses it to the side. She kicked him over so that he’s lying on his back. 

He pleads with her, a last ditch effort for his life with the question of what happens once he’s gone? 

She huffs. “Order too much Thai, open a bottle of wine and kiss my girl?” 

Jack goes on for some time more, Wynonna doesn’t pull the trigger and she can’t pinpoint why. Is she really about to kill the last of The Seven? Everything that Jack is saying feels plucked straight from her mind. What’s next? Savor the kill. You’re full of fear. I wish I could see what happens next. Now you have to deal with the bigger problem. All by your lonesome. 

Finally, she shakes herself free of listening to his monologue. “I ain’t interested. And I’m not lonesome. I just prefer to hunt alone.” She pulls the trigger. The last of The Seven is dragged to Hell. 

 

***

 

Nicole hears the shot ring out and she takes off towards the sound. Doc and Dolls follow behind. The dagger flies close to the ground towards them and she sees Wynonna sitting down. Nicole already knows she’s crying. The officer turns to nod to the two men who nod back. They walk away. 

With soft slow footsteps, Nicole approaches Wynonna and sinks to her knees beside her. Wynonna stares straight ahead, tears flowing freely down her cheeks, for a few more moments before she looks to the face of the woman she loves. Soft fingers smooth over her cheeks and wipe away the tear stains. 

“Nicole, will you stay the night with me?” Wynonna pleads, every emotion she’s feeling as raw as it can be. 

“Of course, I will.” 

 

***

 

Nicole and Wynonna enter the house, both battered and bruised. Wynonna leans into Nicole with her arm around her waist and Nicole holds the shorter woman up as best she can. Waverly meets them at the door and tackles Wynonna with a hard hug. Nicole steps off to the side and smiles softly. 

“Wyn…” Waverly breathes, crying softly. “I thought I’d lost you again.”

“I’m not goin’ anywhere, baby girl.” Wynonna guarantees. Waverly nods and leaves them alone. 

Nicole walks Wynonna to her bed and helps her get dressed in comfortable clothes. Wynonna points Nicole to a pile of clothes that should fit her. Nicole changes with her back to Wynonna, careful not to overstep any bounds too early. Wynonna needs comfort, she doesn’t need anything else right now. Nicole recognizes exactly what she needs. 

Wynonna curls up under the covers and waits for Nicole to join her. Before climbing into bed, Nicole turns on the starry lights and shuts off the overhead lights. The second she’s under the covers, she pulls Wynonna into her arms and holds her tight. 

The weight of everything they’ve experienced together over the last day starts to lift. With Wynonna back where she belongs, she allows herself to melt into Nicole’s chest. All of her hardest days had been turned around by this exact gesture once upon a time. Things are much worse, way more complicated, and altogether different, but Nicole’s steady heartbeat still soothes her just the same. 

“Nicole…” Wynonna starts. 

“I’m right here, baby,” Nicole promises. 

“With me?”

“Always.” 

Chapter Text

Nicole wakes to the sound of her phone buzzing on the table beside Wynonna’s bed. She lets it buzz. There’s nowhere else in the world she would rather be than right here… Wynonna is snuggled in her arms, head resting on her chest and arm draped over her midriff that’s been exposed by her shirt creeping up during her sleep. Nicole tightens her arms around the woman and presses her lips to Wynonna’s forehead sweetly. Wynonna’s out like a light, though. 

Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.

Still, Nicole ignores the annoying sound. Wynonna shifts a bit and Nicole fears the sound is going to wake her. Carefully she reaches her arm over to the device to lift it from the table. She’ll switch the vibration off and they’ll be fine. 

“Mmm, baby, who is it?” Wynonna asks sleepily, nestling closer. 

Nicole’s arms tingle when Wynonna uses baby. It’d slipped out of Nicole more and more lately, but not yet from Wynonna… Until now. Nicole smiles softly. “I don’t know…” She looks and sees that it’s Sheriff Nedley. “Ah shit, it’s Nedley…” What could he want? He had given her the day off despite her being more than capable of going in… She’d helped rescue Wynonna after all.

“You better answer it. He’s got Stick-up-the-ass syndrome if I’ve ever seen it…” Wynonna’s sleepy voice is still music to Nicole’s ears -- one of her favorite sounds in the world. Wynonna’s fingers slip further under Nicole’s shirt and tickle against the skin of her belly. Nicole shivers and Wynonna notices. “Answer it…” Her voice is dangerous now.

Nicole abides Wynonna’s command. “Sheriff?”

Wynonna traces her fingertips over the dip of Nicole’s belly button and down towards the waistband of her shorts. 

“Uh… I--” Nicole stammers. It’s been too long since anyone has touched her this way. It’s been longer than Wynonna could know… Wynonna’s the only one who has ever touched her there. In all these years, Nicole had sworn to her girlfriends that she didn’t like to be touched ever and she would give and give until the girls passed out. In all these years, Nicole’s the only one who had pleased herself. 

Wynonna swells with pride when a simple touch of her fingertips renders this new, in-charge Nicole useless. So, there are still some things that never change… Nicole is weak to her touch. 

“What?” Nicole says with more command. 

Wynonna pauses her torture. 

“Fuck, okay. No-- No, I understand, Sheriff. I’ll be there in a while. I’m-- Yeah, I’ll be there soon.” Nicole hangs up and places her phone back onto the side table. 

Acid gathers at the base of Wynonna’s throat. Nicole has to leave her. No. Not after… Wynonna feels her stomach churn and she’s sure she’s going to be sick. She needs to stay in this bed with Nicole all day… Her nightmares had been manageable only because Nicole had her arms around her… No. 

“Nic…” Wynonna starts pitifully. 

“I know, baby… Fuck,” Nicole sighs and wraps her arms back around Wynonna for the next few moments. “It’s something Nedley really needs me for. You know I’m the only one there with a brain. He didn’t want to call me in…”

Wynonna sighs. She knows it’s the truth. Nedley had almost had to deputize Champ at one point because of the limited candidate pool in Purgatory. Wynonna brings her fingers up to trace over a chain around Nicole’s neck that hides mostly under her shirt. “Why do you have to be so damn smart and perfect?” 

“It’s my curse,” Nicole jokes. She brings her own hand up to hold Wynonna’s and stop her from playing with the chain, caressing her thumb over the back. 

“Oh no… Now I gotta deal with jokes from you about this? ” Wynonna retorts in mock annoyance. 

“I need to get up…” Nicole says, but makes no move. 

Wynonna’s face falls. She’s scared, but she can’t speak her fears. She’s scared of what it’s going to be like to be alone after last night. The Seven are gone and now she has to deal with the rest of this fucking curse… She has to deal with everything Jack said to her… She has to just fucking deal . And she doesn’t think she can do that alone. 

“Hey… I’ll come back after… If you want… I know -- I know last night was a lot for you…” Nicole remembers the way Wynonna trembled in her arms until she fell asleep. She remembers the way Wynonna’s body jerked awake every few hours with a new nightmare.

“Okay,” Wynonna offers weakly, rolling away from Nicole so that the taller girl is free to leave her. “Tell me when you get to work and everything so I know you’re okay.”

“I will…” Nicole goes about putting her clothes back on so she can leave the homestead. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Wynonna sits up and pulls the covers up around her, nodding. 

Nicole’s heart aches… She can see the scared eighteen year old she had fallen in love with all over again… She walks to Wynonna’s side of the bed and leans down to place a soft kiss on now-awake Wynonna’s forehead. “Try to get some more sleep if you can…”

The feel of Nicole’s soft lips on her skin causes Wynonna to relax a little, but also makes her wish that she could just tug Nicole back into bed and kiss her senseless. It still doesn’t feel quite right yet, though… “Hurry back,” Wynonna demands softly. 

“I will.” 

Without another word, Nicole wills her feet to walk away from Wynonna so that she can take care of whatever Nedley needs her to take care of. 

 

***

 

Wynonna sleeps restlessly… Nightmares plague her and she keeps seeing all of her kills being dragged into the fiery pit that leads back to Hell. In truth, she had enjoyed killing them all… Serving justice for the ones who hanged her dead father upside down in that haunting photo. That had been her purpose . Avenging her father… 

Her father she had just learned was a dirty traitor who worked with these fucking demons . It makes sense now that he tried to train Willa so fervently instead of trying to break the fucking curse himself. Wynonna couldn’t imagine leaving this curse for anyone to inherit. Certainly, she’d never want her child to deal with this shit. 

Piece of shit. Asshole of a father… Not exactly news… But still heartbreaking. 

She wakes for good a few hours after Nicole leaves in the late afternoon, but doesn’t get out of bed yet. She rolls over to hug the pillow Nicole had slept on and takes in a deep breath. The natural scent of the woman soothes slightly, but a moment later Wynonna feels like crying. Why couldn’t Nicole still be here? 

She does cry, clinging tightly to the pillow. Dealing with her shit is the last thing she wants to do… She wants to escape. She wants to sit on Nicole’s bed and “watch” Tomb Raider for the thousandth time. “Watch” being that it plays in the background while Nicole kisses her and plays with her hair and tells her all the little things that she likes about her. 

Whatever Nicole is doing, she hasn’t texted since she got there. Wynonna glances at the clock… Almost five o’clock. Waverly’s at work… Shae’s probably there, too. Maybe they can distract her.

 

***

 

“Did you get any sleep last night?” Shae asks Waverly with a smirk. 

“What?” Waverly asks, forehead wrinkling in confusion before she picks up on the suggestion. “Oh! You mean--” Waverly giggles, shakes her head, and clears her throat. “You know… I don’t think they did anything. I didn’t hear anything all night and this house has thin walls, so I definitely would have heard. I think they just… slept.”

“Really?” Shae asks, clearly unconvinced. 

“I swear! Wynonna went through… A lot... Yesterday… It was kind of sweet.” Waverly says wistfully. 

“I just know that after seven years of being away from the person I was in love with, I wouldn’t be able to keep my hands off of them.”

Waverly freezes. Hearing it stated so plainly by someone other than herself is disorienting. “Wynonna’s only shared so much. She’s pretty emotionally challenged that way… What has Nicole told you?”

“Uh-uh. You know I can’t share that. But you can see with those beautiful green eyes of yours that they’re in love. Anyone can see that,” Shae declares confidently. 

Waverly smiles at the compliment and nods her head. “Yeah… Anyone can… I just hope Wynonna’s doing okay. Nicole had to leave for work before I did and Wynonna looked kinda pitiful.” 

Right then, Wynonna bursts into Shorty’s and the only thing on her mind is getting drunk as hell. She finds her sister and her sister’s… girlfriend? Who cares? They were dating or something... Once she got over her dumbass fear that Shae wanted to steal Nicole (Nicole who isn’t really hers anymore now) away -- a fear that was entirely of her own creation -- Wynonna loves the fact that Shae seems really into Waverly. The biggest upgrade in the world

“What’s up, dweeb?” Wynonna greets Waverly, then turns to Shae. “And Shae.” 

“Ass…” Waverly shakes her head. 

“Hey, Wynonna,” Shae greets with a grin. “You seem to be in good spirits.” Shae turns to give Waverly a confused expression. Isn’t Wynonna supposed to be pitiful or something? 

Wynonna slams her palm down onto the bar excitedly. “Well, yeah! Time to get drunk . That’s my favorite time of the day!” 

Waverly tenses because she knows that Wynonna is going through more than she can mention in their present company. The last thing she thinks her big sister needs is to get wasted right now. “Wyn, are you sure you sh--”

“Oh, shut up and pour me some whiskey. Neat.” Wynonna waits for a moment, groaning when she sees Waverly being reluctant. “C’mon, sis, don’t make me climb over and get it myself. You know I will.

It’s true. Waverly reluctantly obliges. 

 

***

 

A few drinks in, she’s having a good time sitting with Waverly and Shae. Shae tells her a few stories about Nicole for the time that Wynonna couldn’t be with her. Nicole really really loves rock climbing. And stargazing, but she would only ever want to do that alone. Shae begged for Nicole to tell her about the stars but Nicole would tell her that it was something she held close with someone else. 

Wynonna knows it’s her.

“And that necklace she wears… Wynonna, she, like, never takes that thing off. Hasn’t all the years I’ve known her,” Shae says shaking her head. 

Wynonna recalls the chain her fingers danced along earlier. The chain always stayed hidden beneath her clothes, Wynonna remembers. She doesn’t have a clue what is on it. “What’s so special about it?” 

Shae furrows her brow at the inquiry. Hadn’t Wynonna and Nicole slept together last night? “Wait, you mean you didn’t see it last night?”

Wynonna shakes her head. “We just went to sleep, perv. She keeps it under her clothes, all the time.”

“She didn’t used to…” Shae murmurs, barely audible enough for Wynonna to hear. 

“Huh?” Wynonna asks, feeling hazy already from her drinks. 

“Nothing, Earp… You can ask her about it later.” Shae assures with a secretive smile. 

Wynonna shakes her head free of any further speculation and keeps throwing the drinks back.

 

***

 

Two and a half hours pass and Wynonna’s well out of control. She’s filling her own glass using the taps on the opposite side of the bar. She’s attracted a crowd who has followed her example, getting drunk and dancing to the songs pumping through the saloon. 

“Shae… I am worried about her.” Waverly says over the loud music and chatter of the crowd. 

“Should I call Nicole?” Shae asks. 

Just then, Waverly’s phone buzzes. 

Nicole: Waves, is Wynonna okay? She’s not answering her phone. 

Waverly: She’s here. At Shorty’s. Wasted and partying. “Dealing” the way she does. 

Nicole: I’ll be there in a second. I’m changing at the station and I’ll be there. 

Waverly: Are you sure you wanna be around her like this? 

Nicole: Waves, I want every second I can have with her. Plus I have to look after her. 

Waverly: Don’t say I didn’t warn you… 

 

***

 

Nicole arrives about fifteen minutes after the last text exchange. Shorty’s is madness. Wynonna is dancing, surrounded by a bunch of dumbass citizens who seem to be having fun, but Nicole can’t help but worry they’re making fun instead. Nicole walks down the stairs and Wynonna’s eyes snap over to her. 

Wynonna gasps and smiles wide at the sight of the redhead woman. “My baby !” She declares loudly for everyone to hear. Nicole looks around and no one seems fazed… She’s not worried about anyone knowing she loves Wynonna Earp, but she is worried about people giving Wynonna Earp a harder time for being with a woman. 

Wynonna stumbles into Nicole and Nicole’s quick arms catch her before she falls. “Nicole Haught, my hot Naughty Haughty. Remember when I called you that before? Back when we dated in high school?” 

Dated. Nicole’s jaw clenches. They’d never said that out loud. 

“Oh wait, no. Wait we never called it that…” Wynonna remembers shaking her head. “Back when we-- I dunno what to say…”

Nicole shakes her head. “Wynonna-”

“Nuh-uh. I’m Baby to you, Haught. And don’t forget it,” Wynonna jabs her finger into Nicole’s chest. “Kiss me, Haught. Please I wanna kiss you so bad.” 

Nicole keeps her steady arms on Wynonna, looking down at her with love and concern. “ Baby, do you wanna go home?” 

Wynonna scrunches her face in confusion. “No! I want to stay here! And have fun . With my friends!” 

Nicole looks over Wynonna’s shoulder and notices that the crowd does seem to be waiting for her to return. The life of the party. Nicole looks over and finds Waverly looking apologetic but also in shock. 

“Go get a drink and then come dance with me?” Wynonna asks, pushing out her bottom lip to pout up at Nicole. 

“Yeah… Okay, I’ll be there in a second…” Nicole offers with a soft smile. 

Wynonna bounces away from her and takes her place back in the middle of the action. Nicole walks over to Waverly with no intention of getting a drink tonight. 

“Nicole… I’m sorry I told you--”

“Waves, it’s okay. I know she’s-- She’s going through a hard time. I just want to be here for her.” 

“She’s been screaming about you all night…” Waverly offers. “She’s told everyone that you’re her girl and that you’re the best person ever. And can you believe my girl is a cop?

Nicole doesn’t take her eyes off of Wynonna as Waverly speaks. The thought of Wynonna literally screaming from the rooftops about her being hers would have made her feel warm and proud at another time. Part of it still does, but the concern wins over every other emotion right now. 

“Nicole… You really should try and get her home…” Shae urges gently. 

“I know…” Nicole sighs.

A man tries to take Wynonna into his arms and pull her in. Nicole raises to her feet within a second and begins her walk over to the pair. 

“Hey, get the fuck off of me!” Wynonna pushes out her hands to get the man off of her, but her drunken state has weakened her and the man persists. 

The next second, Nicole shoves the man away, stepping protectively in front of Wynonna with fire in her eyes. “Couple of options here-- I could book you for assault right now. Think I might… Or you could walk your ass far, far away from us and take your bullshit elsewhere. You choose.”

The man takes one step towards the off-duty officer and Nicole plants her feet, ready for whatever is about to happen. The clearly drunk man would be easily overpowered by her. That seems to become clear because the drunkard seems to shrink before her and slink away. 

Nicole turns around to find Wynonna looking more than shaken -- she looks terrified. “Wynonna…” Nicole starts reaching out, but Wynonna jerks away from her shaking her head. Nicole holds her place where she stands, waiting patiently. 

Wynonna’s fog seems to clear after a second. “Nicole…” She takes an unsteady step towards the redhead and stumbles. Nicole catches her again. Wynonna looks up with a new expression of distress. “I’m gonna be sick--” 

With as much awareness as she can muster, Wynonna takes off for the bathroom and Nicole follows close behind. Wynonna slams into the first open stall and falls to her knees in front of the toilet. Nicole’s hands hold her hair back a second before Wynonna begins to vomit. 

“I’m here, baby. It’s okay,” Nicole assures. One hand continues to hold Wynonna’s hair back while the other caresses over her back. This continues until Wynonna can’t seem to get sick anymore. Wynonna slumps and Nicole takes her into her arms, sitting on the bathroom floor in Shorty’s. 

“I’m sorry…” Wynonna manages. 

“Don’t be.” Nicole holds her securely to her chest until Wynonna’s breathing starts to even out again. “Can I take you home, now?”

Wynonna sniffles and Nicole realizes she’s started to cry. It only makes her hold the smaller woman tighter. “I’ve got you, Wynonna.”

“Are you gonna stay with me again?” Wynonna slurs.

“Yeah, I’ll stay with you again.”

“The homestead’s the only safe place, y’know.”

“What do you mean?”

“The ground… Revenants can’t come there. You gotta stay with me so you can be safe. Cause they all know now. They all know what you mean to me.”

I’m not even one-hundred percent sure what I mean to you, Wynonna. How could all the revenants in Purgatory know? 

“I told everyone tonight. That you’re my girl… You used to be my girl…” Wynonna’s sobering, and it’s becoming clear in her speech, but her mind is taking a moment to put the filters back in place. 

“When you sober up, we’ll talk about this again…” Nicole promises. She doesn’t want to have this conversation unless she knows Wynonna will remember. 

“We’ll talk, we’ll talk, we’ll talk. Always supposed to talk. We never talk. I miss talkin’ to you,” Wynonna pouts. 

“We’ve talked about a lot of stuff, ‘Nonna. Just not the stuff we really wanna talk about… Not until yesterday. We started--”

“Yeah, we started. Gotta finish, I guess. Then I had to fuck it all up.” 

“You didn’t fuck anything up. Let’s go home, okay?” Nicole stands and reaches down to help Wynonna do the same. 

It’s a bit of a struggle but when Wynonna is finally back on her feet, she seems a little sturdier than before. Still she wraps her arms around Nicole’s neck and looks up at the woman with soft blue eyes. “Home. You’re my home. Always was. Always have been. Nothing’s been home since you…”

Nicole’s left breathless again. She can’t help the feelings surrounding her heart with every word. Words that had been unspoken until now. The list of unspoken words Nicole has only keeps growing with every second… But...

“Wyn, please… Let’s talk about this tomorrow.” 

“Fine. I mean it, though.” 

“I believe you… I just want you to remember what I say back to you…”

Wynonna considers for a second and nods. “Probably a good idea.” She falls forward and rests the side of her face against Nicole’s chest. “Take me home.”

 

***

 

At the homestead, Nicole helps Wynonna change into her pajamas, brush her teeth, and makes her drink four full glasses of water before she lets the older woman fall asleep. It’s a relief when the woman’s sickness truly seems to have run its course back at Shorty’s. 

Nicole doesn’t even bother to change out of the clothes she has on because she doesn’t want to take a second of her attention away from caring for Wynonna just in case. They snuggle up in Wynona’s bed again and Wynonna doesn’t seem to mind the denim on Nicole’s legs or the tight sweater Nicole’s wearing. She falls asleep instantly in the glow of the starry night light. Nicole stays awake for hours, on high alert as Wynonna sleeps hard and peacefully in her arms. 

 

***

 

Wynonna stirs sometime in the middle of the night. Her head feels a little wobbly, but she can tell that the hangover will somehow be minimal. Pieces start to knit together in her mind. She takes a deep breath in and a lot of it comes rushing back as she takes in the scent of Nicole. 

Nicole sleeps soundlessly on her back and Wynonna is snuggled against her chest for the second night in a row. She remembers the younger woman caring for her… Brushing her teeth for her . Making her drink water. Wynonna realizes at the same moment her bladder might burst. She slinks out of the bed as carefully as she can, not wanting to wake Nicole. 

After she’s emptied her bladder, she takes a second to splash water on her face. It clears the last of her fog and she feels completely sobered up, with only a slight reminder in her head of what she’d done several hours ago. God, how was she going to face Nicole in the morning?

When she gets back to her bed, Nicole is awake and sitting up against the bed frame, watching expectantly. “Hey…” her soft, tired voice sounds through the quiet of the early morning. “You okay? Did you get sick? I’m sorry I fell asleep.”

“Nope. Just peed,” Wynonna answers with a soft smile. A moment later, she jests, “What kind of sicko sleeps in jeans?” 

Nicole chuckles sleepily. “You fell asleep and I wanted to make sure you were okay. I didn’t think about changin’ my clothes.” 

“Well, get to changin’ ‘em… You know where they are by now…”

Nicole shakes her head and raises up from the bed at the same moment Wynonna plops back down onto it. Nicole stands right beside the bed and starts to undress. Wynonna watches the taller woman carefully as she slips out of her jeans and reveals cute, tight briefs underneath. Wynonna’s breath catches hard when Nicole strips off her shirt and what’s hanging on the chain around her neck is finally revealed to her. 

“Nicole…” Wynonna speaks her name like a sacred promise. She moves across the bed to get closer to Nicole. She swings her legs off the bed and Nicole’s standing between them now.

The emotion of her name is lost on her as she looks down at Wynonna. “What?”

“Your necklace.” Wynonna reaches out and takes it into her hands and eyes it carefully.  

Oh shit. In her sleepy state, Nicole had forgotten that she’d been keeping this particular accessory a secret to Wynonna. Fuck. “Oh, I--”

“Shae said you never take it off… How long have you worn this?” 

Nicole silently curses her friend for even mentioning the damn necklace. It’s clear that she hadn’t spilled the beans about what was on it, though, or Nicole was sure that Wynonna would have mentioned it when she was drunk. 

“Since you left.”

A ring hangs around the chain and Wynonna’s thumb smooths over it. It’s hers . Wynonna had taken this ring off of her finger and put it onto Nicole’s years ago in the back of Nicole’s truck when they were holding one another and planning their future together. 

“Since I left?” Wynonna asks, begging for confirmation. 

“Yeah, I’m sorry. I know it’s weird--”

“It’s not weird.”

A tangible shift shakes the air between them. Nicole’s chest heaves as the weight of the room grows heavy. Wynonna straightens and brings her eyes from the piece of jewelry up to the eyes staring down intently at her. It’s too much. It’s everything . The way Wynonna’s piercing blue eyes see straight into her heart. 

Nicole pushes forward in the same moment that Wynonna’s hands reach out to grasp at Nicole’s face. Their lips meet in a kiss that shakes both of them to their very cores. This last month in the making… All these years in the making... All of the pent up emotions neither one of them could ever express are poured into this kiss. 

There are no words to describe the burning in both of them. They kiss until Nicole’s forced to pull away to breathe. “Wynonna, are you--”

“Yes. I’m here. Totally here. Please, ” Wynonna begs, tangling her fingers in Nicole’s hair. “I need you.” 

“I need you, too,” Nicole breathes. 

“Take me, then. Fuck, please. ” Wynonna pleads with everything in her. 

Nicole wastes not one second more. She finds the hem of the shirt Wynonna’s sleeping in and pulls it off over her head, leaving the Earp Heir bare from the waist up. Nicole’s arm wraps around Wynonna and she lifts her off the bed in a fluid, easy motion, just enough to lie Wynonna’s head down in the pillows and settle herself on top of her. 

Wynonna whimpers at the way Nicole handles her. She’s stronger now, more sure of herself. Wynonna longs to learn every new little thing about the way Nicole’s going to make love to her. To both her dismay and her pleasure, Nicole spends much more time merely kissing her lips, reacquainting herself with the way she tastes and moves against her own lips. 

Just as Wynonna is about to burst, Nicole moves her attention to her neck and then her chest. Wynonna holds her there, scratching lightly and lovingly at the redhead’s scalp. “Yes, Nicole, you feel so good. Fuck, I missed you.”

“I missed you, baby. Every damn day,” Nicole speaks against Wynonna’s smooth skin, kissing her way down Wynonna’s abdomen. 

“Please.” Wynonna pushes her hips up, urging Nicole to leave her bare under her. Nicole happily consents. Wynonna lies naked and squirming under her gaze now. Brown eyes behold her as if she’s precious, because to Nicole, she is. 

“Nicole, your-- Can you-- I want to see you.” Every pause is punctuated with a deep breath as Wynonna tries to keep her devices. Her imminent combustion threatens with every passing second. Nothing in her life has ever felt this important or this intense. 

Nicole puts up no fight at all as she strips out of her underwear and pauses for a moment on her knees to continue her study of the woman lying on her back. 

“C’mere…” Wynonna beckons, reaching out her arms desperately for to get contact with Nicole once again. Nicole falls forward and kisses Wynonna with renewed fervor. Hands smooth over every inch of skin they can feel. Every touch leaves a trail of little fires in their wake. As Nicole’s hand travels lower, she props herself up on her forearm to lock gazes with Wynonna. 

“Is this okay?” Nicole questions.

Wynonna feels like crying. This is her Nicole. The woman who always asked no matter how many times she had touched her, explored every inch of her. Nicole always asked. “Yes, please. More than okay. Touch me, Nicole, please.” 

And Nicole does. Wynonna pushes into the touch and Nicole steadies herself by looking deeply into her eyes. “I’m still your girl, Wynonna.” 

Wynonna can’t respond, though. All she can do is feel Nicole’s fingers, arch and push up for more. One of her hands rests against the side of Nicole’s face while the other digs into the flesh of Nicole’s back. She nods and moans because that’s all she can manage. 

“I’ve always been your girl, Wynonna,” Nicole promises. 

The way Nicole keeps saying her name sounds like a divine covenant. It causes her to unravel second by second. Nicole brings her higher and higher until she can’t contain it anymore. 

Nicole!” Wynonna moans loudly as her body shakes with the impact of Nicole’s love for her -- Nicole’s complete and immutable love for her. Nicole’s unstoppable love for her, because the younger woman barely pauses to let Wynonna ride out the first climax before she kisses her way down her body.

Nicole is relentless until Wynonna starts to giggle because of the sensitivity between her legs. Nicole crawls slowly back up Wynonna’s body with a content smile on her lips. They kiss sweetly and slowly, a change in the pace and tone of their reunion. Wynonna carefully rolls them over until Nicole is on her back and she’s hovering above her now. 

Wynonna finds the ring resting between Nicole’s breasts and takes it into her hands again. “I can’t believe you kept this.” 

“Of course, I did, baby,” Nicole states matter-of-factly. “It was a promise…”

“A promise that I broke…” Wynonna says sadly. 

“Hey…” Nicole smooths her hand over Wynonna’s cheek and around her neck. Her thumb caresses over Wynonna’s cheek. “We’re here now. That’s what matters. I got you back.” 

Wynonna pauses. “You do. You’ve got me. I never got to answer you…” She takes a deep breath. “I’m still your girl, too, Nicole…” 

Nicole pulls Wynonna in for another kiss, hot and messy again. Wynonna groans into her mouth and smooths her hand down the front of Nicole’s body. Nicole tenses and reaches out to stop Wynonna’s hand. 

“What is it?” Wynonna asks, concerned. 

“I just-- Um… I want you to. Fuck, I need it. Fucking bad. Just… No one has, um--” Nicole inhales intensely. “I never let anyone touch me like that . Since-- I just didn’t want anyone to so I-- I might be--” 

Wynonna leans down to kiss Nicole again, softly. “I understand,” she swears. “I don’t have to if--”

“No, I want you to. I really do.”

“Okay… Remember the first time?” Wynonna asks. 

“Of course, I do. I remember every second.” 

“It’s just me…” 

Nicole can’t believe that it really is Wynonna. The only person she ever felt comfortable enough to be just like this with. It really, really is Wynonna. She nods and guides Wynonna’s hand between her legs, almost losing it as soon as she feels her again.

It’s just like their first time, only so, so much better. Their emotions have only grown since that first Christmas together. Nicole had learned more about her own body and Wynonna had clearly remembered every little thing that drove her crazy. 

That Christmas, they had loved one another until the sun had begun to break. This time is no different… As they settle into bed, they hold one another carefully, lying face to face. Fingertips trail over bare skin and they look deeply into one another’s eyes. 

“I can’t believe this is real,” Nicole says dreamily. 

“I know the feeling,” Wynonna agrees. 

“When I wake up, you’re going to be here in my arms?”

“Or you’ll be in mine.”

They share one last smile before drifting off to sleep in each other’s arms. Both of them forget about the curse, the years they spent apart, and all of the shit they’re going to have to face together, just for a few hours. 

Wynonna remains in Nicole’s arms where she belongs.

Chapter Text

May 8, 2008  

Wynonna squints hard against the blinding sunlight. Basketball sucks but at least it was indoors , she thinks. Along with the brightness comes the heat, and Wynonna can already feel herself starting to sweat. Gross.  

The field is crowded with people she doesn’t know, thank god . Even though she doesn’t know them, the people at Nicole’s school still seem to know her. Not surprising, not even a little. Still, the older girl would be lying if she said that it doesn’t bother her sometimes –– to think about the things Nicole might have heard about her. Wynonna wraps her arms around herself, slouching forward the slightest bit. 

She’s dressed in black ripped jeans and one of Nicole’s softball team t-shirts with her number and name across the back. Wynonna had chosen to leave her hair down, covering that for the most part, just in case. Making Nicole uncomfortable or getting her in trouble for –– whatever it is they are –– is the last thing she wants. 

School had gotten only slightly better for her. Not socially, of course. But academically… she hadn’t failed every single test she took. Mostly D’s but there had been a few C’s and even a B scattered in there, too. It’s all thanks to Nicole. 

She helps her study for hours, helps her with her homework, even does some of the math for her when Wynonna’s too frustrated and worn down to get through it. Having Nicole through this means the whole world to Wynonna. More than Nicole could ever know. 

Even now, Wynonna sits with a notebook open in her lap and her English book on the metal bench beside her, desperately trying to squeeze in her homework before work tonight. She’s rereading a sentence for the 3rd time when she hears a snicker come from somewhere behind her. 

When she peeks back, sure enough there’s a group of 5 or 6 ugly dudes staring in her direction. She remembers one from the New Year’s party at Max’s but can’t remember his name. Her stomach aches a little but she manages to roll her eyes and ignore them. 

A moment later, she sees a group of girls in uniforms spilling out of the locker room across the way. A soft smile tugs at the corner of her mouth when the only redhead and the tallest girl on the team finally steps out, looking around for her . When Nicole’s eyes meet Wynonna’s, the older girl feels the ache inside warming away. 

Nicole’s grin is bright and wide and for Wynonna only. She drops her head in the absolutely adorable way Wynonna loves and jogs in her direction. 

“Hey, Haughtstuff.” Wynonna grins up at her softball player. 

“Hey baby... everything goin’ okay?” Nicole’s voice is low and soft, her smile audible. She reaches out and touches the bare skin of Wynonna’s knee that’s visible through the tears in her jeans before sitting one step down, between her boots. 

Wynonna bites at the inside of her lip, feeling it everywhere when Nicole calls her baby. She raises an eyebrow when the younger girl gets seated, closing her notebook and laying it to the side with her textbook and pencil. 

“Much better now.” She smirks. Wynonna knows that Nicole had been talking about her work, but she vowed to never miss an opportunity to tease her. Her hands immediately reach forward, brushing through Nicole’s long, wavy locks and tucking a few of them behind her ear. “Turn around, Haughty.” 

Nicole does as she’s told, leaning happily against Wynonna’s legs as she feels the brunette’s ringed fingers begin to twist in her hair. Nicole could braid her hair herself, sure. But nothing beat the feeling of Wynonna’s fingers in her hair, whether it was like this, or –– 

“Your hair’s grown a lot… since we met, I mean.” Wynonna comments, concentrating deeply on getting the braid tight and neat for the softball player. She’d done this before for some of Nicole’s basketball games, but this was the first time she would get to see her play softball. She’d missed some between staying after school for help and work, but still, Wynonna had been to more sporting events since meeting Nicole than she ever had before in her whole life. 

“Yeah? Should I cut it?” Nicole is only joking, but still curious about what Wynonna might say. 

“Up to you, baby… you’ll be hot no matter what.” Wynonna shrugs, coming to the end of the braid and using the hair tie from around her own wrist to finish it up. Her hand smoothes down the back of Nicole’s head and over the finished braid. “All done.” 

Nicole feels her cheeks burn at the compliment, the sincerity in Wynonna’s voice hitting deep. She believes she’s beautiful because Wynonna says so. The younger girl turns around to face Wynonna, resting an arm across her lap. 

Nicole is reminded of something she’d forgotten when she feels what’s in her pocket pressing against her leg. “Almost forgot,” She mentions, digging into the pocket of the tight pants and pulling out something that looks like black lipstick. 

Wynonna’s eyebrows go up and she laughs. “Wait, you wear lipstick to play softball?!” 

Nicole breaks into a laugh too, shaking her head at the older girl. “No, silly...it’s eyeblack. It’s for your face… keeps the sun outta your eyes.” She uncaps the stick and reaches for Wynonna’s face with one hand. 

Wynonna doesn’t resist, she just leans in closer and lets Nicole smear the black stuff under each of her eyes. 

“Perfect. God, you look so cute. Now you do me.” Nicole says softly, handing the stick to Wynonna. 

“You can bet your ass that I’m gonna.” Wynonna winks, causing a deep blush to rise in Nicole’s cheeks and start her laughing again. “What, just two lines? Thick ones?” Wynonna asks after a second, looking between Nicole and the thing in her hand. 

“Well, not too thick. ‘Bout like this.” Nicole shows her a width of about an inch with her fingers. 

Wynonna leans in close again, holding Nicole’s face gently in her hands. Her eyes narrow and her tongue pokes out the corner of her mouth as she concentrates on getting the lines right. 

Nicole’s heart is pounding just watching her. Everytime she thinks she’s fallen all the way, as far as she can possibly go, Wynonna drags her deeper and deeper into love. Her hands rest against Wynonna’s legs, fingers brushing over the skin that’s exposed through the rips in her jeans. I know I’ll be happy forever. as long as I have her , she thinks. 

“Alright I think I did a pretty good job, you look hot… What’s new.” Wynonna shrugs, capping the eyeblack and handing it back out to Nicole. She reaches into the side of her backpack and pulls out a compact mirror, opening it for Nicole to see herself. The redhead just keeps looking at her like she’s the sun in the sky. 

“What, Haughty?” Wynonna asks, her voice dripping with sweetness. 

“I just… I’m glad I have you. I’m glad you’re here.” Nicole surprises herself when she says it. Not like she hasn’t ever said anything similar before, but the situation is so normal that it makes it feel more intense. 

Wynonna softens even more, if that’s even possible. “I… I’m glad too, Nic. I really am.” She assures, reaching out to rub her hand over Nicole’s bare arm, forgetting about the mirror altogether. 

A whistle blow turns both of their heads in its direction. Nicole sees her coach waving everyone in and sighs. 

“I gotta go, baby.” Nicole mutters, rising from the bleachers and reaching out to the older girl who is already holding out her hand for her. 

Wynonna squeezes Nicole’s hand and Nicole squeezes back, smiling down at her. 

“Go get ‘Em, Haughtstuff.” Wynonna winks up at her, letting her hand fall away from Nicole’s slowly and missing it immediately. 

***

It doesn’t take long for Wynonna to realize that she definitely likes softball better than basketball. No matter if it’s hot, no matter if she has to sweat. Seeing Nicole running around in those tight little pants is worth every. single. second . It helps even more that she’s such a badass. Wynonna watches the whole time in complete awe of how good Nicole is. The younger girl is built for this. 

Wynonna’s chest aches with pride, tears even pricking in her eyes a few times when Nicole makes a homerun or does something else that looks cool. Wynonna doesn’t know all the ins and outs of the game, but some of it starts to make sense to her as she watches. If she wants to know more later, she’s sure Nicole will tell her. 

When the game is over, Wynonna cheers along with everyone else for her girl’s win. She packs up her books and slings the backpack over her shoulder, stepping up to the fence to wait on Nicole. She sits the backpack on the ground by her feet while she waits, leaning up against the fence with her arms over her chest.

Some people up and leave but a few small groups of people linger near her and chat. Wynonna feels a little nervous, but as long as she has her eyes on Nicole, she’s content to wait for as long as she needs to.

It’s not long at all, though. As soon as Nicole gets her bag repacked she’s out of the dugout and heading for the gate, right towards Wynonna. Haught’s smile is wide when she comes through. The athlete drops the bulky bag to the ground and practically runs to Wynonna, wrapping her up in her arms and lifting her feet off the ground. 

Being lifted up and spun around makes Wynonna’s heart soar. She wraps her arms tight around Nicole’s neck and they laugh together. When the taller girl puts her back on her feet, Wynonna opens her mouth to say congratulations but Nicole wraps her arms around her waist and pulls her close, cutting her off with a deep kiss. 

It takes Wynonna by even more surprise than the big hug. She falters for a moment but closes her eyes, melting into Nicole and kissing her back. After a second she pulls back, staying close to Nicole’s face but letting her eyes drift around them. Some people are staring, some look uncomfortable and like they’re trying not to stare, and some just keep minding their business. Wynonna gets nervous for a second, but she can’t stop smiling. Her fingers smooth over the now messy braid in Nicole’s hair. “ Haught …” The word comes out so breathless. 

“What’s the matter, baby? Do I stink?” Nicole laughs, brushing her nose against Wynonna’s. 

The confidence that radiates off of the younger girl in this moment is enough to make Wynonna’s knees weak. She doesn’t care who sees them, that much is obvious. She’s kissing Wynonna right out in front of everyone she knows, and she couldn’t be bothered. 

Wynonna is at a loss for words as she looks up at her, crystal blue eyes wide and shimmering with adoration. There’s a deep yearning in her stomach, a heat rushing over her at the display. Seeing her girl dominate the field, not to mention having to look at her ass in those pants all that time, had already set a fire within her. This was fanning the flames. “Kiss me again, Haught?” She asks, pulling her bottom lip between her teeth. 

“You got it, Earp.” Nicole doesn’t hesitate for a second. One hand rests on Wynonna’s cheek and the other on the small of her back. She holds her close and kisses her like her life depends on it. Anyone can look, Nicole doesn’t give a single fuck. This was her happiness, and it didn’t depend on anyone else. 

When the kiss finally breaks, Wynonna feels absolutely drunk on Nicole. Her eyebrows raise and her face is fixed in a permanent expression of bliss. Nicole chuckles down at her, the smile on her lips never faltering. 

“God, I cannot wait to get you home.” Wynonna purrs, squeezing Nicole’s shoulders in both hands. Out the corner of her eye, she can see someone staring. And man, they’re staring hard. When she looks over, sure enough it’s fucking Max. Wynonna rolls her eyes so hard she thinks they might fall out. The sight of the blonde girl seething with rage, or boiling with disgust or whatever fucked up emotions she was feeling wasn’t enough to spoil Wynonna’s high, though. 

Nicole knows immediately. “God, is she…” 

Wynonna presses her fingers to Nicole’s abdomen, fingers drifting to her belt loop and holding her in place. “Fuck her.” Wynonna says plainly, knowing that Max will either hear or be able to read her lips. 

Wynonna glares at her and sends her a wicked smirk before looking up at the redhead. She tilts her head sweetly, lacing her fingers with Nicole’s. “Let’s go home, baby.” Wynonna says, standing up on her tiptoes to press a kiss to Nicole’s cheek. 

The taller girl can’t argue. She warms from her head to her toes again under Wynonna’s gaze, under her lips. Kissing her and holding her out in front of everyone was so liberating. She knows how much she needs to feel this way forever. Proud . Even stupid Max won’t ruin that today. 

Nicole bends to pick up her bag and toss it over her shoulder, keeping her other hand intertwined with Wynonna’s. Wynonna bends to pick up her own backpack, but Nicole stops her. 

“I got it, baby.” Nicole says softly, kissing the side of Wynonna’s face as she picks up the backpack by the top handle with her freehand.

Wynonna grins up at her, laughing softly. Partly because she knows the display is just burning Max up inside and partly because she just loves being sweet like this with Nicole. Not having to cower or hide. 

Nicole holds Wynonna’s hand tight and carries her backpack all the way to the truck. 

***

June 14, 2008

Wynonna’s new home doesn’t technically have “parents” anymore… Just a couple of gracious people who took in troubled, homeless teens who aged out of the system. Even with her still being in high school for another year… That only kept her in the system when she was seventeen when the school year began. She realizes how fortunate she is to be given the break she’s given with these two. They’re pretty great so far, too… Way different than the shitty storm of shitheads she’d gotten actually in the system. 

They allow Wynonna her freedom during the summer months as long as she stays out of trouble -- and surprisingly, she has. Nicole’s influence, no doubt. It had crushed Wynonna to fail, but Nicole hadn’t abandoned her or made her feel stupid. She’s still by her side and Wynonna is renewed in her determination to graduate alongside her girl. 

With the support she has from her new home, she might actually be able to stop working at that horrible place soon and get a safer job … She doesn’t have to buy her own food anymore, but she still pays for her own gas and phone bill. She’s actually able to start saving up for her place with Nicole next year… With Nicole working, too -- coaching at the local rec center, their savings are looking better and better… They might actually have a shot at their plan coming to fruition. 

Right now, though, it’s ten o’clock in the morning on a Saturday in the summer. Nicole’s ever present, super attentive parents are off on their own thing. Again. Nicole doesn’t care about their constant absence anymore, though. Her setup isn't that bad, after all. It always just means more time with Wynonna. 

It’s rare that they get out of bed before noon over the last few weeks, being summer. Today is special. Today they’re going to have another first together in a place that has to be perfect for them.

Wynonna stands, looking at herself in the mirror in Nicole’s bedroom. She’s wearing a black bra underneath a rainbow knit tank top tucked into black denim shorts that cut off just below her butt. Her red high top chucks really complete the look. Glitter has been carefully placed on her cheekbones and around her eyes.  Her lips are red and she thinks she looks pretty damn good. Her hair is done in loose waves, but something seems off. It’s the same hairstyle she’s worn for a few years now, so there’s not actually anything wrong, but…

“Haught?” Wynonna calls out for Nicole who’s stepped into her closet and has been getting dressed. 

“Yeah, baby?” Nicole asks, walking out of the closet fixing the collar of her shirt. 

Wynonna grins her special half-smile, taking in the absolutely adorably hot vision of Nicole in her outfit. Her blue eyes sparkle and she makes her way over to Nicole. 

Nicole is dressed in a loose rainbow polo that leaves a good few inches of her toned belly exposed. White denim shorts hang a little loose around her legs, cuffed and stopping mid thigh above her knee. She’s got white high top chucks that complement the red ones Wynonna’s wearing. A white baseball cap with a little rainbow on the front sits on her head, turned backwards, as her red hair is naturally the slightest bit wavy and down. Wynonna has the thought that she’s going to put two small rainbows under her eyes just like the eyeblack she wore for softball. 

“Damn, you look so fucking adorable, but so damn hot, too… I really just wanna…” Wynonna’s fingertips find the bare skin of Nicole’s exposed abdomen and press gently. “We can celebrate our Pride right here, can’t we?” 

Nicole smirks, her hands finding their rightful place linked at the small of Wynonna’s back. “We can … God, you look beautiful, Wynonna… So happy… I love seein’ you like this.” 

Wynonna ducks her head, hiding the blush on her cheeks. It’s a definite change from all the black that usually dominates her outfits and the muted makeup she normally wears… 

“Wait, did you call me out here to get me in bed?” Nicole asks, chuckling. 

“Huh?” Wynonna looks confused for just a second before she remembers. “Oh! Right… I was just lookin’ in the mirror and I think I want you to do something for me…”

“What is it?” 

“Will you cut my bangs for me?” Wynonna asks, looking up with soft pleading eyes. 

Nicole moves her head in a way that shows surprise. “You want me to what now?”

“Oh c’mon, it won’t be hard. I’ve done it before and I can get you started… Pleeeeeease? I’ll do whatever you want in return.” She pouts, batting her lashes at the taller girl. 

Nicole’s eyebrow quirks and her head rolls back a little, knowing she’ll always do anything Wynonna asks. She leans down and whispers in Wynonna’s ear, “You’ll do that anyway, won’t you?” Wynonna shivers and Nicole swears she hears a little whimpering sound. The redhead continues, “But, I’ll cut your bangs, ‘Nonna. Just walk me through it.” 

“Seriously, Haught, you have gotta keep it in your damn pants if you ever want to take me somewhere…” Wynonna teases. 

A few moments later, they stand in the bathroom and Wynonna’s smiling in the mirror with Nicole standing behind her looking as well. The bangs that Nicole had helped with are actually really fucking cute and Wynonna finally feels like she’s ready. Nicole’s arms circle her from behind.

“Good call, baby. You look perfect,” Nicole says before placing a sweet kiss to Wynonna’s cheek. 

Wynonna grins. “You almost do, Haughtstuff… I just want to add one more thing to you if that’s okay…” 

Nicole eyes her suspiciously. “Mhmm…?” 

“I’m gonna put little rainbows under your eyes like your black lipstick mess you wear for softball. That sound good?”

“Sounds badass. Plus that stuff drives you crazy…”

“No… You drive me crazy. In anything.”

With that final touch complete, the two of them take one last look in the mirror. Nicole goes over to get her video camera and switches it on to kickoff their documentation of the day. She turns the viewfinder around so that she can see the two of them as she presses record. Her arm wraps Wynonna up, half-pressed against her body. 

“Alright, Wyn, where are we headed to?”

“Well, Nic, we’re headed to the Calgary Pride… Like the two big ole gays we are…” 

Nicole laughs, looking down at the girl in her arms. “You excited?”

“Nah, it’s not gonna be a big deal.” She shrugs it off. 

Nicole shakes her head, playing along, “Yeah, you’re right. Probably super boring.. Dull. I bet we’ll be home within an hour…” Wynonna nods emphatically for the camera. When she turns her head back, Nicole’s eyes are still on her and they move into a quick kiss at the same time. 

“Let’s go…” 

***

Rainbows. Everywhere. Everywhere. Nicole and Wynonna walk hand-in-hand into the crowds… There are booths and vendors… People in leather outfits that make Nicole blush and Wynonna grin from ear to ear. So many couples who look just like them and others who don’t. None of them are staring at them because they look like they’re completely a part of this crazy crowd. A friendly stranger hands them a pamphlet with the vendor layout and schedule of events for the day. 

Nicole takes it and flips it over in her hand. “Jesus… There’s so much to do… Karaoke… A costume contest. Brunch with Drag Queens… A Bunch of performers on the mainstage… A gay history walk. A party later but it’s eighteen and up…” Nicole sighs. 

“Why do you sound disappointed?” Wynonna asks with a sparkle in her eyes. “Baby, you are partying with Wynonna Earp… You think I can’t get you into an eighteen and up party? Ye of little faith…”

“But how? I don’t have a fake ID or anything!” 

“You don’t? Huh… What’s this?” Wynonna asks, pulling the small wallet out of the back pocket of her shorts and a very realistic ID with Nicole’s picture on it. “This right here says my Nicole Haught was born in 1989… Gasp, you’re older than me?!” 

Nicole watches on in amazement. “You…”

“Me?” Wynonna asks, swaying cutely. Her tongue off to the side of her mouth between her teeth in the cutest way. “Look, I just wanted my girl to be able to do whatever she wanted… Today’s gonna be perfect. I’m not letting a stupid few months stop us from having that.” 

“C’mere, Earp…” Nicole pulls Wynonna in for a slow, deliberate kiss. 

“Alright, Haughty… Keep up!” Wynonna challenges against Nicole’s lips and takes off fast, making Nicole have to chase after her. 

They spend the day visiting different vendors, taking all the free swag offered to them. Soon, Nicole’s backpack is covered in rainbow pins and buttons, both of their arms are covered in new bracelets, and they’ve got 4 new polaroid pictures taken by complete strangers who are more than happy to capture their happiness.

Wynonna reluctantly agrees to take the Gay History Walk and ends up loving it . Who knew history could be fun when it wasn’t about stupid, crusty white dudes who were probably big assholes.

Throughout the remainder of the day, they almost completely fill up the memory card before they even make it to the party. Nicole can’t wait to watch all this footage later. She’s already thinking about all the ways she can piece together the footage she already has for an epic Valentine’s Day Gift in February.

At the party, they dance and laugh. They make a few temporary friends for the evening. Nicole watches Wynonna who looks completely in her element amongst a crowd of partiers. It’s easy for Nicole to fall in line with Wynonna because Wynonna holds onto her and keeps her right by her side the whole time. Nicole wishes for forever every single time Wynonna’s melodious, loud laugh escapes her lips. 

Wynonna promises forever with every kiss, hug, and touch she gives throughout the night. Pride is absolutely perfect. One day… Hopefully soon… This could be their always instead of their temporary escape from the reality of being high school students whose parents/hosts didn’t know they were in a… whatever they were in with each other. 

As the night concludes, Wynonna and Nicole sink down in the seat of Nicole’s truck for a few blissful seconds. Nicole rolls her head over and watches Wynonna carefully. “Did you have a good day, baby?” 

Wynonna snuggles herself into Nicole for a few seconds. “Best day ever… At least… Until you give me another one of those like you always seem to…” She buries her face in Nicole’s neck and simply exists. 

“I can’t wait until we live together and can have a new best day ever every single day…” Nicole looks dreamily ahead of her, holding Wynonna close. 

Wynonna truly can’t believe that she’s here. She has someone who is planning a future with her… Someone who… Cares about her in ways no one ever has… Seemingly the only person in the world besides her little sister and Uncle Curtis who didn’t think she was a complete nutcase or a total lost cause. 

All of the perfect moments of the day flash back through her head all at once. A rush of courage surges through her and she pulls out of Nicole’s grasp just enough so that they can look into one another’s eyes in the moonlight. 

“What is it?” Nicole asks, curious about the new something expression in Wynonna’s eyes. She can see it’s good, just has no idea what’s about to come, but it feels like something is coming. 

Wynonna looks at the rings on her finger and spots her favorite -- a simple onyx ring with a silver band. Right around the onyx, the band is subtly ornate. She pulls the ring off her finger and takes Nicole’s hand in her own. 

Bile forms at the base of Nicole’s throat. What is Wynonna doing? Fuck is she proposing? What the actual fuck? Okay, shut up, Haught you’re seventeen. Just let Wynonna say her piece. OH my god. 

“Haught… Nicole… I want you to wear this… If you want. It’s my favorite and I just… I want you to know that no matter what happens or where I am, I’m always thinking about getting back to you so we can have more days like this. I, um, I promise that I’m your girl and that I’ll be here for you. Always.” Both of them had kind of coined that term for the other, staying away from girlfriend . Wynonna was never one for labels , but she did like to be Nicole’s. “So…?”

Nicole doesn’t blink, doesn’t want to miss a single part of this. It’s not like Wynonna’s honesty is new to her, but this… This is. Wynonna bares her soul so completely with this display and Nicole can’t help but feel like she’s finally made Wynonna feel safe, just like she always wanted to. Her mouth hangs open until a full-blown smile reaches her eyes. 

“Of course, I’ll wear it, Wynonna. I’ll never take it off,” Nicole breathes out. “Put it on me…”

Wynonna obliges. 

“I’m your girl, Wynonna. You will always have a place with me. I promise. ” She echoes Wynonna’s words. 

The older girl relaxes and falls back into Nicole, sealing their promises with tethering kisses.

***

July 4, 2008

The weekend after Canada Day, Nicole is standing at the foot of her bed shoving clothes into a duffle bag when Wynonna walks into her room. The older girl has a bag of her own slung over her shoulder, her hair pulled up in a messy ponytail and sunglasses pushed up on top of her head. She cocks an eyebrow, looking at the mess that the redhead is sorting into the bag. 

“Hey baby, sorry for not meeting you at the door, I’m almost done I swear.” Nicole says, glancing up at her. 

Wynonna cocks an eyebrow, looking at the mess that the redhead is sorting into the bag. 

“What is up with all this packing, Ron Weasley? We goin’ to Hogwarts or something?” She teases, dropping her bag to the floor and jumping onto Nicole’s bed. 

Nicole tucks away the final pieces of clothing into the bag and zips it before she stands up straight, hands on her hips. “We’re goin’ away. Just you and me.” She’s wearing a confident smile, watching eagerly for Wynonna’s reaction. 

The older girl’s eyes widen and she leans towards Nicole. “You’re takin’ me on a trip, Haughtstuff?” Wynonna smiles, tilting  her head to the side. 

Nicole laughs, stepping around the bed to Wynonna’s side and sitting down next to her. She wraps her arm around her waist and pulls them both back til they’re laying down across the bed. Wynonna’s head rests against the mattress, looking up at her and she’s propped up on her elbow, smiling down. 

“Not too far. My aunt has a house at Lake Mcdonald. She usually stays all summer but she’s goin’ away for a few days and she told me I could bring some friends to stay up there.” Nicole begins, the smirk on her face growing when she mentions the friends part. 

Her fingers dance over the exposed skin of Wynonna’s belly where her shirt rides up. Having four full days away from everything with Wynonna was going to be amazing. Another glimpse at what their lives would be like in a little less than a year, when they were living together. 

Wynonna pushes herself up a bit, narrowing her eyes at Nicole and smirking herself. “Hold on a sec, Haughtshot...you told your parents and your aunt that you were taking a few friends out to the lake? But really it’s just gonna be the two of us?” Wynonna can’t hide the pride she feels at Nicole being the slightest bit cunning to get them away on their own for a bit.

Nicole leans her forehead against Wynonna’s, her grin spreading wider. “That’s exactly what I did, yeah. We’re gonna be totally alone, no one to bother us.” She presses a soft kiss to Wynonna’s nose, brushing her own against it afterwards. 

“God, Nic, you’re so…” Wynonna begins, falling back against the mattress again and staring up at the pretty redhead hovering over her. She loses her thought even though her mind is consumed entirely with thoughts of Nicole. She doesn’t know which ones to choose, what word to say. 

“Yeah, yeah…” Nicole grins, leaning down and pressing her mouth to Wynonna’s before she can finish anyway. 

Wynonna doesn’t protest. A weak sound leaves her when Nicole kisses her and she just lets herself feel this happiness and be kissed. 

“We gotta hit the road if you wanna have all day today.” Nicole says against Wynonna’s mouth when she pulls back from the kiss.

“Aye, captain.” Wynonna winks, fingers toying with the redhead’s hip.  They lay there kissing for another moment or two, finally reluctantly parting. Knowing that if they don’t, they’ll never leave.

***

The drive takes a few hours, but they make it worth every minute. Wynonna doesn’t know if she’s ever been happier than she is right now. She’s slumped in the seat beside Nicole, head leaning back with her bare feet up on the dash. Both the windows are down and the summer air blows their hair around wildly.

Nicole looks so good with Wynonna’s sunglasses on. She’s smiling, singing along to the radio. One hand on the wheel and the other, the one wearing Wynonna’s ring, is resting on her thigh. 

Every time she thinks this thing can’t get better, it just does. 

They get to the lakehouse a little after noon. Everything looks so beautiful here. The water goes on for miles and the mountains look huge and gorgeous right behind it. It’s the perfect place for them, Wynonna thinks. The best part was that it seemed like they really would be alone. The other houses aren’t really close to Nicole’s aunt’s place, and the folks who stay here seem to just keep to themselves. 

They get settled in pretty quick and spend the rest of the day just exploring. Nicole makes them a nice dinner that night and they exhaust one another in all the best ways until the early hours of the morning. 

The next day, Wynonna walks out of the bedroom they claimed the night before to find Nicole in the kitchen, making a snack for the both of them. 

“I figured we should eat before we go swim or kayak or whatever we decide, y’know?” Nicole says when she hears Wynonna walk in, looking up a second later. 

Her jaw drops when she sees Wynonna dressed in jean shorts and a dark blue bikini top. The best part is that she has Nicole’s blue flannel over it. She’s seen Wynonna dressed up and she’s seen her completely bare, but every time she sees her in something new it takes her breath. Especially seeing Wyn wearing her clothes. She knows it always will. 

“Wynonna…” Her name comes out in a breath, eyes sparkling as she drops the knife that she’d been spreading peanut butter on their sandwiches with to the counter. Nicole wipes her hands off on a nearby towel, coming around the counter and picking up her camcorder. 

Wynonna turns even more red when Nicole sets the camera on just her. It was easy enough to make all their cute little video diary entries when Nicole was standing next to her, but always made her blush a little more when the redhead decided to put her alone in the spotlight. 

“God, would you look at that …” Nicole says for the camera, her voice oozing with adoration. 

Wynonna rolls her eyes and shoves her hands into her back pockets, shaking her head as she looks up at the younger girl. “Yeah, yeah we get it, I’m super hot…” She shrugs, but the smile and the blush on her face exposes how much she’s really loving the treatment.

“You look beautiful, baby. Where’d you get that shirt?” Nicole teases, stepping in a little and reaching out with one hand to tug at the flannel that’s way bigger on Wynonna than it is on her.  

“This bad boy? Oh, it was just hangin’ out in my Haughty’s bag, figured I’d take it for a spin.” Wynonna retorts, unable to keep from grinning when she looks up and sees the smile Nicole is wearing. 

“C’mon, Nic, don’t waste all the space on me before we even get any of the really pretty stuff.” Wynonna reaches out for the camera with one hand and motions to the view outside the big windows with the other. 

Nicole expertly avoids her hands and keeps the camera trained on her. “Hey, watch it... videos of you are never a waste of space and you... are all the pretty stuff. The prettiest.” Her mock stern tone fades when she gets to the end, melting all over again at just how pretty her girl was.  

“Can you believe we get to be out here all alone together?” Nicole asks, turning the camera towards the windows as she steps behind Wynonna, wrapping her in her arms. She records the view for a moment before turning the camera on the both of them. 

Wynonna snuggles into her arms easily and she can see the bliss on her own face in the small viewfinder. It was almost jarring to really see herself in this moment, completely happy and at home in Nicole’s arms. 

She turns her head to look up at the redhead and presses a lingering kiss to her cheek. Nicole turns her head to press her lips to Wynonna’s and as the kiss begins to deepen Wynonna chuckles and pushes the viewfinder on the camera closed. 

***

Wynonna stands in her bikini near the edge of the long dock that stretches out over the water. She watches over her shoulder as Nicole strips out of her t-shirt, leaving her in her simple black swim top and shorts. The older girl chews at the inside of her lip as she looks over her. Damn.  

“C’mon, Haughtass…you’re sexy and everything but you’re taking forever.” Wynonna teases, crossing her arms over her chest. 

Nicole raises an eyebrow, smirking at her as she begins to walk her way. “Oh yeah? You in a hurry to get in the water?” She questions, picking up her pace. 

Wynonna lifts an eyebrow, before she realizes what’s happening. Once it clicks, she lifts both eyebrows. “Haught…” She warns weakly, laughter following the word. 

Nicole starts to laugh, holding her arms out to Wynonna. “You should hold your breath.” She gives the single warning as she wraps her up in her arms. Nicole is gracious and waits a few seconds for Wynonna to comply before she takes them both off the edge and into the water. 

They both come up laughing. Nicole comes up first, and watches Wynonna surface right behind her. Only the sight makes her heart stop in her chest. Wynonna, with her hair even darker from being wet and all slicked back, laughing as the sunlight sparkles on the water all around her. The water that matches her eyes. Nicole can’t stop smiling. 

“You’re such an ass, Nic.” Wynonna says playfully, swimming forward and wrapping her arms around Nicole’s neck. 

It’s not too deep where they are, Nicole can touch on her tiptoes. She steadies herself and guides Wynonna’s legs to wrap around her waist. The redhead is still smiling when she leans in and kisses Wynonna. 

“I’m yours.” Nicole reminds her, wholeheartedly. 

Wynonna runs her hands over Nicole’s wet hair, admiring how pretty she looks like this. Laughing and having the time of her life in the sun. It’s only been a day and sure they still have two more but Wynonna wishes they could stay here forever. 

“Don’t you forget it.” She says softly. 

***

The next couple of days are spent in absolute Heaven. They swim for so long every single day. Wynonna had forgotten how much she used to love swimming before this. Nicole teaches her how to kayak and Wynonna flips them over on purpose. They even try fishing and of course, Nicole is basically a pro but Wynonna absolutely hates it. They try so many new things and spend time enjoying so many of the things they already love. 

Being like this with Nicole just feels right. In ways Wynonna has never dreamed of. In eighteen years, Wynonna couldn’t pull from memory a single time that she’d imagined ever having a wedding. Even as a kid, she just wasn’t the kind of girl who got the luxury of thinking about stuff like that. 

On the night before they have to pack up and go back home, back to their normal lives and back to school soon… Wynonna wakes up in the middle of the night. The room is dark but the light from the moon pours in through the room’s large window. Wynonna blinks the sleep from her eyes, looking down at Nicole sound asleep by her side. Wynonna is careful not to move, not wanting to risk waking her. 

The taller girl has her arms wrapped around Wynonna’s middle, her head resting against her chest and her lips are parted just so. She looks beautiful and peaceful and Wynonna finds herself thinking about a wedding for the first time in her life. Nothing crazy, of course she wasn’t planning on telling Nicole that or jumping into it right away or anything like that. She didn’t even have the balls to ask Nicole to be her girlfriend yet, even though this felt like...so much more than that. It’s just a thought that lingers in Wynonna’s mind as she watches Nicole sleep. If I ever marry anyone, I know it’ll be you, She smiles at the thought before she settles back down and drifts off to sleep again. 

***

September 2008 

The most amazingly perfect summer is over and school is back in session. Wynonna is not looking forward to a whole other year with the douchebags at Purgatory High, but in all honesty, she’s not as bothered as she used to be. A lot of her bullies from her grade have graduated and she hopes that most of the people left will just ignore her so she can pass and get the fuck outta here. Plus, she’s going to have the sweetest deal ever at the end of this tunnel -- the start of the rest of her life with Nicole Haught. 

The people hosting her so kindly have continued to let her eat with them and care for her better than any of her past guardians -- so much so that Nicole had even spent a couple of nights with her this summer. The best part of it all is that she’s saved up so much more money. With Nicole’s savings account she’ll get in about four months and her job, she’s saved up a good bit, too. It’s all falling into place. She’s just gotta make it through the damn school year. She’s going to get that diploma and she’s going to live the life she’s finally starting to believe she might deserve.

Chapter Text

September 12, 2008 

Nicole knocks on the door to Wynonna’s house, feeling nervous all over. This isn’t the first time she’s been here, not even close. They still spent more time at Nicole’s house, but since Wynonna had come to live here in the summer, things are different. Nicer, especially for Wynonna. 

The door finally opens after a few seconds that feel like hours to Nicole. 

“Good Morning, Mr. Evans…” She starts, smiling at the man. He’s about the same height as her, maybe in his late 40s. They’ve talked over dinner and said hello and goodbye to one another but Nicole doesn’t feel any less nervous showing up unannounced to his home at seven in the morning. 

“Nicole! Good morning!” The man gives her a nice smile, sounding genuinely surprised to see her but not upset, she thinks. He steps out the way, giving her room to come in.

“I’m sorry it’s so early, I know you weren’t expecting me…” She says stepping into the house. Nicole holds up the brown bag she has in one hand and motions with a nod to the drink carrier she has propped against her hip.

“I wanted to bring Wynonna breakfast before school, since it’s her birthday and everything.” Nicole shrugs, her soft smile remaining in place. God, she hopes this doesn’t seem weird or out of place. She doesn’t care much about anyone else knowing they’re dating… or whatever, but their parents are still an issue when it comes to that. Neither of them want the other one to get in trouble so they keep it to themselves. There’s also the whole spending the night together thing the both of them are sure will get taken away the second parental figures find out.

Mr. Evans brightens, laughing softly. “That’s so thoughtful, Nicole. Man, Wynonna is so lucky to have a best friend like you,” he comments, a hand coming down to pat Nicole on the shoulder. 

Nicole aches a little when he refers to her as simply Wynonna’s best friend. She is that. Always will be. But they’re so, so much more. 

“Oh, I guess I should go ahead and ask if she’s planning to stay over at your house this weekend? We wanted to do something nice for her tonight. Of course, you’re always invited.” 

Nicole feels her face heat up, her smile growing a little wider. “Oh! That’s so sweet, yeah of course I’d love to be a part of whatever you guys were planning. We can just go to my house afterwards.” 

Mr. Evans gives her a nod. “That sounds perfect. Don’t tell her, if you can help it. We figured a surprise would be nice.” 

A deep sense of warmth grows in Nicole’s chest. Wynonna finally has people who care about her at home, people she could even consider a family. They want to celebrate her birthday and make it nice for her. It’s everything that Wynonna deserves. 

“I’ll do my best, Mr. Evans.” Nicole smiles. “I’m gonna head upstairs. Thanks again… you know, for letting me in and inviting me and everything.” 

“Thanks for being there for her.” He says, giving Nicole a simple wave before she heads up the stairs to Wynonna’s room. 

 

***

 

Nicole pushes the door to Wynonna’s bedroom open gently. It doesn’t make a sound as it opens, and the redhead does her best to close it quietly behind herself. Apparently she does a good enough job, because the older girl sleeping across the room never stirs. 

Nicole can’t contain her smile as she thinks of what she’s doing. Sneaking into Wynonna’s bedroom while she’s asleep with breakfast and coffee on her nineteenth birthday. She sits the bag and the drink carrier down on Wynonna’s dresser and tiptoes over to her bed, slowly easing down on the other side. 

The younger girl takes a moment to just breathe out slowly and look at her girl. Nicole bites at the inside of her lip, a wave of happiness hitting her hard in the chest. 

Wynonna looks so beautiful all the time, but when she sleeps, it’s different. She looks even softer, like the weight of everything she has to deal with every day is easier to carry. Nicole knows that she would do anything in the world to keep her safe, to make sure she always feels loved.

She reaches out and tenderly brushes her bangs out of her eyes. “Hey, baby,” she says softly, not wanting to startle her. 

Wynonna still jerks a little when she feels Nicole’s touch and hears her voice, blue eyes opening and looking up at the girl sitting on her bed. “Nicole?” 

Wynonna thinks she must be dreaming at first. After a couple of blinks, she realizes Nicole is really in her room. She sits up, rubbing at her eyes, “What’s.. What’s going on?” Her voice is groggy from sleeping. 

Nicole’s grin widens and she scoots closer to Wynonna, both hands reaching out to touch her and ground her, to help her ease into waking. “Hey, yeah… I’m here,” she assures softly. 

The brunette looks up at her, settling into her touch. She feels her heart rate slowing with Nicole’s hands on her and her gentle voice filling her ears. Wynonna smiles at first and then begins to laugh. “What the hell is going on, Haughty? It’s like… almost time for school,” Wynonna says and then panics. “Shit! Am I late for school?!” 

She hurriedly pulls her phone out from under her pillow and glances at the time. 7:15. She still has like 45 minutes before her alarm would even go off. She takes a deep breath and looks back to Nicole, scooting closer to her. 

“Well, I wasn’t gonna miss the chance to be the first one to tell my girl happy birthday.” Nicole smirks, reaching up to tuck Wynonna’s hair behind both of her ears, her heart melting a little at the sight. 

Wynonna’s eyes soften, lips parting as she looks up into Nicole’s eyes again. “Nicole.” Her name comes out with a breath, arms reaching out to wrap around the taller girl instantly. Wynonna buries her face in Nicole’s chest and pulls her scent deep into her lungs. 

Nicole wraps her arms around Wynonna without hesitation. Her fingers drift into her hair and play with it as she holds her. “I brought you breakfast, baby.” Nicole smiles against dark hair. 

Wynonna pulls back after a second, keeping her hands on Nicole and just looking at her. She knows that Nicole might say it’s just breakfast or something like that, but nobody has ever done anything like this for Wynonna before. Just the fact that Nicole had been brave enough to come over without her knowing and wake her up, undoubtedly having to talk to her parents alone… it means so much. More than Wynonna thinks she’ll ever be able to convey. 

Nicole takes Wynonna’s silence with ease and comfort, letting her have the time she needs. 

“You’re perfect. Don’t try to argue with me either, alright? You just… God, I can’t believe you’re mine, Haught.” Wynonna sighs, shaking her head back and forth slowly and biting her bottom lip as she smiles. 

Nicole takes Wynonna’s face in both of her hands, laughing softly as she leans in to brush their noses together.  “I wasn’t gonna argue. I know that I am to you. C’mere, Earp,” she whispers Wynonna’s name and closes the space between their lips. 

Any time spent not kissing Wynonna Earp feels like time wasted to Nicole. She’s reminded of this feeling every time their mouths are close, and it takes her over when she feels the older girl’s lips against her own. 

Wynonna grips at Nicole’s sweater, wanting so badly to just pull it over her head and never get out of bed today. Unfortunately, that isn’t on the table right now. The brunette sighs as she breaks the kiss, pulling back from Nicole so slowly. 

“Bet the food and the coffee are cold by now.” Nicole teases, climbing off the bed to go retrieve the items she’d left on the dresser. She sits the bag down in front of Wynonna and places a coffee in her hand. 

Wynonna looks in the bag first and pulls out two neatly wrapped sandwiches, knowing immediately which one would be Nicole’s. She hands it over before also pulling out the little box of donuts tucked neatly at the bottom. A soft smile tugs at the corner of her mouth as she watches Nicole climb back onto the bed holding her own coffee.

“You know me so well, Haughtstuff. Bringing my favorites. The sandwich, the donuts, you .” Wynonna’s voice is sweet, the way only Nicole has ever heard it.  

Nicole rolls her eyes playfully, unable to hide the blush spreading across her cheeks. 

“Yeah, yeah… Well, you’re my favorite. And when we’re finished, I’m gonna drive you to school.” Nicole says more confidently, leaning back against Wynonna’s headboard and taking a long sip from her cup. 

Wynonna’s heart skips a beat or two. Shit. Nicole going to her school? Would that be okay? Would anyone be mean to her because of it if they ever saw her around? Wynonna’s head spins in a million different directions imagining all the ways having Nicole around the losers at Purgatory High, even for a second , could go. 

Nicole can see her struggling and her eyebrows pull together. “You okay, baby? I mean.. It’s alright if you don’t want me to. I just figured…” 

“No, no it’s not that I don’t want you to… I’d love that so damn much. I just… I don’t want anyone to be mean to you if they see you somewhere else after that. You know, cause you were with me. The kids there don’t compare to the other losers, they’re really fucking mean, Nicole.” Wynonna expresses, reaching out to place her hand over Nicole’s. 

“I don’t care, ‘Nonna. I wanna drive you. Besides I won’t even get out of the truck. Those losers can say what they want about me if that’s what they wanna do. It’s my girl’s birthday and I wanna have every minute I can with her.” Nicole’s smile never leaves. 

It causes Wynonna’s to come back, eventually reaching her eyes. She squeezes at Nicole’s hand once. “My brave Haughty. My Knight in shining armor.” Wynonna winks at the redhead. 

“Let’s eat, you still gotta get dressed, sleepyhead.” Nicole chuckles, reaching out and unwrapping Wynonna’s sandwich for her and putting it back into her waiting hands. 

 

***

 

Nicole plays a copy of the CD she’d made for Wynonna on their drive to Purgatory High. She holds Wynonna’s hand in hers the whole ride and Wynonna stays snuggled into her side. 

When they pull into the packed parking lot, Wynonna’s stomach knots up. 

Nicole pulls into the drop off area, taking advantage of the sluggish movement of the other cars to stop for a moment and bring Wynonna’s knuckles to her lips. 

“Try to have a good day, okay? I’ll be here to pick you up, too,” Nicole promises, looking into Wynonna’s eyes. 

Wynonna feels safe, no matter what’s going on outside of this truck. She has Nicole now and she’ll have her when the school day is finished. She holds on to that, giving her a simple nod. 

“Happy birthday, baby,” Nicole says with a soft smile, brushing her hair behind her ears and leaning in to kiss Wynonna deeply one more time before it’s her turn to hop out. 

“Thank you. For everything. I’ll see you later, Haughtstuff.” Wynonna sounds soft as she moves away from Nicole and gets out the truck with her backpack in tow, shutting the door hard behind her and heading into her personal hell. 

Nicole watches her all the way til she’s inside. “Please let her have a good day. Just one day.” She whispers to herself, chewing on the inside of her lip as she drives off. 

 

***

 

She stays out of school for the day and spends it preparing to give Wynonna the best birthday weekend of her life. 

After she takes some time to make sure she has everything she needs, she heads back to her own house. She silently thanks God or whoever that her parents had decided to take off again this weekend. Shocker. 

The redhead hauls the bags she’s accumulated into the house and up to her room. Once she’s up there, she paces for a moment, trying to decide how exactly she wants everything. 

She spends a couple of hours cleaning her room and decorating it with all the things she’d bought. Red streamers hang from the ceiling over her bed, each one with a printed picture of the two of them attached to the end of it. Nicole sits the two bouquets of balloons at either end of her bed. Balloons that say Happy Birthday , some that are just red, and another few that look like half bitten donuts just because she knows Wynonna will like them. 

Nicole sits on the floor for a while, carefully wrapping the gifts she’d gotten for Wynonna. When she’s finished, her room, mainly her bed, looks like a shrine to Wynonna Earp’s birthday. She stands back with her hands on her hips, admiring her work with a smile. 

 

*** 

 

Of course, Wynonna hadn’t really been expecting her classmates to give her a fucking break on her birthday. They never had before. But it sure would have been nice. 

The day feels like it drags on longer than any other. Every chance she gets, she’s texting Nicole. They talk about how they can’t wait for the weekend and all the fun they’re gonna have and everything they’re going to do. Everything. 

When school is out, Wynonna practically runs out to wait for Nicole. She sits quietly with her head down on a bench just waiting til she sees that red truck pull up. She doesn’t try to hide her smile as she stands up and jogs over, waving through the window at her girl before she pulls open the door. 

“Hey, baby,”  Nicole says happily, excited to see such a big smile on Wynonna’s face. The day couldn’t have sucked that much then, she hopes. 

“Hey Haughtshot, god, I missed you.” Wynonna’s almost laughing when she says it, her voice is so bright. She tosses her backpack into the floorboard and climbs into the truck. As soon as the door shuts behind her, she’s in Nicole’s arms. 

 

The redhead pulls her close, tightening her grasp and kissing the hell out of her. “I've been waitin’ to do that all day long,” Nicole says, breathless when they separate. 

“Take me home and we can do more than that,” Wynonna basically purrs, brushing her nose against Nicole’s neck. She almost forgets that they’re in the parking lot of her high school. 

Nicole laughs, closing her eyes and running a hand up Wynonna’s back. “As much as I wish we could just do that… we gotta go back to your house first.” 

The older girl sits back, putting some space between the two of them so that she can see Nicole’s face better. Her eyebrows tug together before one lifts, blue eyes narrowing. “What? Why? I got my stuff this morning.” Wynonna shrugs, shaking her head at the other girl. 

“Nah… can’t tell you.” Nicole sounds smug, her grin as wide as ever. If only Wynonna knew that the whole thing is even mostly a surprise to her. Sure, she knows that the Evans’ want to do something for Wynonna, but hasn’t got a clue what the something is. 

“Fine, Haughty. But it better be good if it’s more important than getting naughty with you for my birthday.” Wynonna pouts, making Nicole laugh and roll her eyes. 

“Okay, now...I didn’t say it was more important.” She settles back into the seat and pulls her seatbelt across her body, motioning for Wynonna to do the same. “I just said we have to do this first . We’ll be back at my place sometime tonight, and we have it to ourselves.”  Nicole smirks, chancing a peek at Wynonna. It’s worth it, too, to see the look on her face. 

“Haught damn, how lucky is that.” Wynonna settles back against the bench seat after buckling up and lets her hand wander over Nicole’s thigh. 

Nicole laces their fingers together as she pulls onto the road. “Super lucky. Did you have a good day though? I mean… as good as it could be, anyway?” Her tone shifts from confident and cocky to sweet and concerned as she asks one of the questions she’s been thinking of all day. 

“It sucked absolute balls, as always. Kids were mean, one dumb dude kept throwing shit at the back of my head in math just because the teacher felt like pointing out that it was my birthday. You know all the stupid jokes everyone was cracking about me being older than basically everyone… psh, whatever though.” Wynonna waves it off, honestly not feeling much of the hurt that it might usually cause since she’s so high on how it feels to be with Nicole. 

“Oh! This one chick did talk to me though. A squirrely redhead named… shit, what’s her name again?” Wynonna looks around waiting for the answer to come back to her. 

Nicole is listening very closely, but her ears definitely prick up even more when Wynonna mentions another redhead. Irrationally, she feels a speck of jealousy brewing inside herself. 

“Mercedes! Mercedes Gardner. That was her name. Weird, but she did tell me Happy Birthday and that she likes my bangs after class when absolutely no one was around to see her talk to me. Still a win I guess.” Wynonna shrugs again, looking back towards Nicole. 

After hearing how the interaction went, Nicole’s stupid jealousy washes away. Her lips tug into a smile for Wynonna, just feeling relieved that she at least had an interaction like that today, amidst all the bullshit. 

“That’s good, baby. I’m glad someone was nice, you deserve that. You deserve more.” Nicole clarifies, squeezing Wynonna’s hand. 

“I’ve got you… I don’t know what I did to deserve that.” Wynonna admits, looking up through her lashes at the younger girl. 

Nicole stumbles over her thoughts for a moment, feeling a deep ache to just admit how much she loves Wynonna tingling way far down in her bones. “You really do have me, Wynonna.” Nicole says sincerely.

A moment of comfortable silence passes between the two of them. “I’m still your favorite redhead, right? Not gonna replace me with the squirrely one? ” Nicole jokes, trying to keep a straight face. The minute Wynonna’s laugh fills the truck, she breaks into a laugh of her own. 

“God, no. You’re definitely my favorite redhead. You’re just my favorite,” she says, still chuckling softly. 

“Always?” Nicole asks, glancing down at Wynonna again. 

“Yeah. Always, Red,” Wynonna swears, wrapping her arms around Nicole’s and snuggling into her shoulder while she drives. 

 

***

 

Wynonna’s a little surprised that both her guardians are home when they pull up. Usually, one or the other was a little later from work when she got home from school. 

They get out of the truck and Nicole lets Wynonna walk ahead of her up the steps. “What the hell do you have up your sleeve, Haught?” She asks, glancing over her shoulder. 

“Just… open the door.” Nicole urges, truthfully not knowing what to tell her. 

When Wynonna puts in her key and enters the house, Mr. & Mrs. Evans are standing in the kitchen. One of them is holding a large balloon in the shape of a 1 and the other is holding one in the shape of a 9. 

“Surprise! Happy birthday, Wynonna!” They both shout excitedly. 

Wynonna is completely stunned to say the least. She feels herself smile at least, but honestly she feels like she might start to cry. Nobody had told her happy birthday in a long time, certainly not anyone who was meant to be a caretaker for her. 

“Guys…” She manages, a nervous laugh following the word. She feels Nicole’s hand on her back and takes a deep breath. 

The Evans’ come forward and each wrap her in a hug. Hugging anyone who isn’t Nicole is rare and weird for Wynonna, but they’d hugged her before and honestly she feels like hugging them back now. They don’t even have to take care of her, but they are . They are doing things like this. They care. 

“I made dinner, tacos! Your favorite! And you can open your presents now or wait until after,” Mrs. Evans says, her arm still around Wynonna’s shoulders. 

“I… I don’t even know what to say,” Wynonna stutters, looking around the room at the way they’d made it look nice for her. They’d done all of this for her. 

“Well, that’s okay, you don’t have to. Just enjoy it.” Mr. Evans smiles, walking to the table and pulling out the chair Wynonna usually sits in, then pulls out the one next to it for Nicole. 

The four of them talk and laugh together through dinner. It reminds Wynonna of sitting at the table with Curtis and Waverly. Her heart aches a little, wishing they could be here now. This feels safe. Similar to how she feels sitting around Nicole’s kitchen table with her parents. This is how it’s supposed to feel, she thinks. More than once, she has to blink her tears away. Nicole always notices and reaches out to rub her thigh, always unnoticed. 

Wynonna decides to wait until after dinner and cake to open her gifts. The first one that she unwraps is a couple of band t-shirts, Fleetwood Mac and Bon Jovi. Wynonna thinks one of them must have been able to hear her music from upstairs at some point and laughs softly. 

“I love these. I mean it, I’ll wear them all the time.” She smiles at the two of them.

The next is a smaller box and Wynonna removes the lid to find a black cord bracelet with a metal charm. A small W is etched into one side and on the other a date. The day Wynonna came to live with them. Tears well up in her eyes and this time, she can’t stop them. 

“We know you won’t be here forever...It’s really such a short time we get to spend with you and we just want you to always know that you mean a lot to us. We care about you, Wynonna, and we hope we make your time here good.” Mrs. Evans speaks up, almost sounding like she might cry, too. 

Wynonna wipes at her eyes and her nose with the back of her hand, successfully getting the tears under control. “This means a lot to me. All of this. Nobody’s ever done anything like this for me before. So, thank you. For it all.” Wynonna says sincerely, looking between the two of them. 

Mr. Evans wipes his eyes, but laughs to pretend he isn’t getting emotional. “I think we should say thanks to Nicole for getting you back here for this. And for keeping the idea a secret since this morning!” He laughs again and Mrs. Evans laughs with him.

Wynonna turns to look at a red-faced Nicole, her blue eyes burning with love. “You said you didn’t know…” She smirks, nudging the redhead with her elbow. 

“Hey, well, in my defense I just knew I had to get you back here for something special.” Nicole raises her hands in surrender. 

It earns a laugh from everyone, and a soft head shake from Wynonna. 

They spend a little more time together before Wynonna and Nicole get ready to leave. Wynonna gives each of her parents a nice hug at the door. 

“Thanks again, for making my birthday special.” She smiles at both of them. “I’ll see you Sunday.” 

“We’ll -- we’ll let you guys know when we get there safe.” Nicole adds. 

It warms Wynonna’s heart to be this way with Nicole, with a family. Even if it is sort of pretend. The Evans’ don’t know that the other girl is Wynonna’s…. Nicole. They just think that they’re best friends. And they are that. Wynonna’s never had a best friend before Nicole. But she almost wishes she could just tell them the truth about the two of them. Part of her becomes hopeful that they will understand. 

They escape out to the truck before she can think about it too much. Nicole opens the door for her and smacks her playfully on the butt as she climbs in. 

“Hey, Haughty… watch it. We’ve still gotta drive,” Wynonna warns, just as playful. 

Nicole climbs into the truck after her, laughing as she cranks up. “Baby, don’t worry. Your birthday fun is just gettin’ started.” 

 

***

 

Nicole makes Wynonna stand outside her bedroom door with her hands over her eyes while she checks everything one last time. She turns on the lamp and lights a couple of candles on her dresser as a finishing touch. 

“Alright, keep ‘em closed…” The redhead instructs, coming out to wrap her arms around Wynonna from behind and guide her into the bedroom by her hips. “On the count of three… one… two… three!” 

Nicole’s hands slide up Wynonna’s arms and pull her hands gently away from her face. She winds her arms back around Wynonna’s middle and pulls her close to her chest, snuggling into her as she takes in the sight of the room. 

“Haught…” Wynonna mutters, her hands finding Nicole’s on her stomach and grabbing them, holding tight. “When did you do all this?” Wynonna sounds completely amazed. 

Nicole presses a gentle kiss to her cheek before unwrapping her arms, lacing their fingers together and leading Wynonna closer to the bed. “Today. I skipped.” She shrugs, her smile and gaze trained on her girl never wavering. 

Wynonna steps up, reaching out to hold steady one of the pictures dangling from a streamer. It is a copy of one they’d taken at pride together. The day and its significance is written in Nicole’s beautiful handwriting at the bottom. 

“There’s so many…” Wynonna breathes, taking her time when moving between all the different moments suspended beautifully from Nicole’s ceiling. 

When she reaches the last one, her eyes fall over the presents wrapped in the middle of the bed. The older girl feels her heart swell once more, eyes burning with the threat of tears again. God, how many times could she almost cry in one night? 

Wynonna turns back to Nicole, immediately seeking her touch. Her arms go around Nicole’s waist and she melts into her. “Thank you, Nicole…” She whispers, her voice breaking as she clings to the younger girl. 

Nicole wraps Wynonna up, holding her close. “You haven’t even seen everything yet, Wyn.” Her voice is gentle, as is the little laugh that follows her words. 

Wynonna pulls back a little to look up at her, her bottom lip trembling. “I don’t have to to just be thankful for you. You’re the best gift, Haught. Always will be.” She lets go of Nicole with one hand to wipe her nose with the back of it. “This is the best birthday I’ve ever had. Because of you.” Wynonna’s voice is so sincere, so full of emotion. 

It’s hard for Nicole not to feel like crying, too. “Oh, baby… I hope I make you feel that way every year.” It’s another promise of forever. Nicole doesn’t ever want to stop promising forever to Wynonna. She won’t. 

Nicole leans down and takes Wynonna’s chin in her hand, lifting it upwards to kiss her sweetly. 

“I could just keep kissin’ you all night… but I really do wanna see you open your presents.” 

Wynonna laughs, leaning her forehead against Nicole’s. “Fine, but you have to give me so many kisses to make up for all this fucking crying.” She sniffs, chuckling again as she moves to sit on the bed. 

“I’m so down!” Nicole laughs, coming to sit by her. She picks up one of the neatly wrapped boxes and puts it in Wynonna’s hands. 

Wynonna always feels kinda shitty for tearing into the beautiful paper. Nicole just knows how to make the wrapping itself look like the gift. Underneath the wrapping is a pretty wooden frame with a picture of the mountains and the lake at Lake McDonald under the glass. Wynonna’s eyebrows raise as she looks over it, admiring the view once again. It’s her favorite place she’s been with Nicole so far. 

“The lake… did you take this?” She smiles up at the redhead who hasn’t stopped looking at her. 

Nicole nods, reaching out to point to a figure standing on the dock. “Look... there.” 

Wynonna notices that it’s herself immediately. Nicole had taken this picture of her. 

“Nic… God, you… how do you even think of stuff like this?” Wynonna looks up at her in awe, keeping the frame safely in her lap. 

Nicole’s big brown eyes shine down at her, radiating joy. “You can put it in your room at the Evans, then we’ll put it on the wall in our apartment.” 

Wynonna can feel her face soften at Nicole’s suggestion. “That sounds perfect… you’re so fucking perfect.” 

Nicole laughs, shaking her head. She reaches for the next one and gives it over to her. “Just keep opening your presents, Earp. There’s more where that came from.” 

The one Wynonna opens next is a shirt box with more folded t-shirts stacked inside. “Well, shit I’ll never run out of clothes again.” Wynonna chuckles, unfolding each one and looking at the fronts. 

Some are of bands and movies that Wynonna loves, and one has the logo for Buffy the Vampire Slayer across the front. Wynonna immediately knows it’s her favorite. 

She looks at Nicole, beaming. “Does this mean we can watch it together?” Wynonna grins. 

“Open the next one and I think you’ll have your answer.” Nicole slides the next present Wynonna’s way. 

She tears off the paper to reveal the first season of Buffy on DVD as well as a copy of The Princess Bride

“This is like my favorite movie in the whole world.” Wynonna looks up at Nicole, completely enamored. 

“I remembered.” Nicole lifts her eyebrow, smiling back at her. 

God, how does she do this? How does she remember everything…? Make Wynonna feel so damn special all the time?

“About Buffy, I could only find season 1. Plus they’re a little expensive but I don’t even care, I swear we’re gonna find them all and we’re gonna watch this damn show.” 

“Nicole, are you joking? It’s perfect . This is perfect. I love... it all . So much.” Wynonna sits the DVDs aside and leans into Nicole, shifting up to press a kiss to her lips. 

Nicole indulges the kiss for a few moments before reaching around Wynonna and grabbing the last gift bag and dropping it into her lap between them. 

“Last one, I swear…Well, one that comes in paper anyway,” Nicole teases, earning a smirk from Wynonna. 

Inside the bag are tons of Wynonna’s favorite candies, a new pair of red earbuds and an envelope. Wynonna takes a second to put a piece of candy in her mouth and open one for Nicole before she takes out the envelope. 

The words For My Girl are written across the front in pretty blue pen. Wynonna lets her finger brush over it gently, being very careful when she opens it as not to ruin it. On the inside, a note is folded in two. Wynonna glances at Nicole as she opens it, her heart speeding up again. 

Baby, 

When you’re reading this letter, it’ll be your 19th birthday. I just wanted to write something that you can keep with you all the time to let you know how proud I am of you for getting here. Everyday you amaze me in a new way. You’re so smart and you’ve been working so damn hard. You keep your head up higher than anyone I’ve ever known. I can’t wait to spend more birthdays with you. I knew from the moment I met you that you were special. It makes me feel special that I get to be yours. When things get hard, just know that I always will be. I’m your girl, Wynonna. Forever.  

Always, 
Your Nicole. 

 

Wynonna is wiping away tears again by the time she finishes reading. She makes an immediate promise to herself that she’ll never lose this. She’ll keep it with her always, no matter what .

The brunette turns to Nicole, leaning her head against her chest. “You are special. You’re so goddamn special, Nicole. Fuck, I’m so… I’m so lucky.” Wynonna wipes her eyes and they’re a little red from crying when she meets Nicole’s. 

“I’m the luckiest, baby. I mean that, too. Okay? Every word.” Nicole points to the letter in Wynonna’s hands. 

The older girl folds it neatly back up and places it back into the bag, setting everything on the floor and climbing into Nicole’s lap easily. “I know you do, I promise.” Wynonna feels like she’s on fire. “But I really want you to show me, right now…” Her voice gets low, a soft smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth and bringing out her dimples. 

Nicole’s breath catches in her throat. Her hands go to Wynonna’s hips and travel up her back, smiling wide as she falls back on the bed, pulling the birthday girl down on top of her. 

Chapter Text

Nicole wakes before Wynonna again. This time, though, she does it all on her own. The smaller woman facing away from her has her body pressed firmly against Nicole’s front. Nicole’s strong arm holds her safely in place. Wynonna’s hair smells like whiskey still, but Nicole doesn’t mind in the slightest. Underneath it all, it still smells like Wynonna

Pulling in a deep breath through her nose, Nicole lets her eyes drift closed again. Images of the early morning play in slow motion--Wynonna’s look of pure bliss, the way her eyebrows push together and up a little bit when Nicole-- Nicole tightens her arm around Wynonna’s body and she feels her stir. 

“Mmm, I’m not goin’ anywhere, baby,” Wynonna hums softly and so raspy. Her voice is deep and low with sleep. “I’m right here.” 

Nicole melts at the reassuring words. “I know, ‘Nonna.” She leans down to press a sweet kiss to Wynonna’s bare shoulder. She grins when Wynonna shifts  in her arms just enough so that she can turn her head and give Nicole a good … afternoon kiss. Nicole’s hand moves from Wynonna’s middle up to cup the side of her face as they kiss slowly, tongues moving together languorously. 

Pulling back, Wynonna chuckles low. The feeling of pure happiness had almost been forgotten. The remnants of it had kept her going on some days, but the absence of it… The fading of it… Had almost ripped her apart on others. Now, it’s fresh in her chest and taking her over completely again, mending some of the utter shit from the last few days. 

“Naughty Haughty… Like when we…” Wynonna started, scrunching her nose in embarrassment.

Dated in high school?” Nicole asks, quirking an eyebrow and smirking. 

Wynonna turns away and buries her face into her pillow, groaning and hiding. 

“Hey now… Come back…” Nicole coos, moving so that she can roll Wynonna onto her back and prop herself on her elbow to look down at the blushing brunette who hasn’t opened her eyes yet, face still twisted. She leans down and presses soft kisses to each closed eye, the tip of her nose, her cheeks, and finally kisses her lips for a few moments. 

When they separate, Wynonna’s face has relaxed and Nicole smiles. Nicole continues, “So you can announce to all of Purgatory that I’m your baby but you’re getting shy about saying we dated in high school?”

Nicooooole,” Wynonna whines, pouting a little now and shaking her head. She feels eighteen again. “Are you just going to make fun of my drunk babbling all day?” 

“Maybe…” Nicole teases, running her hand down Wynonna’s side and settling softly at the curve of her hip. “But I’m not making fun… Not really.”

Wynonna narrows her eyes and smiles. “Then, what are you doing?”

“Talking to you. There’s a lot of stuff I really wanted to say, but like I said…”

“You want me to remember,” Wynonna finishes. 

“Yeah.” Nicole pauses, caressing her thumb over the skin of Wynonna’s bare hip. “I really don’t even know how to start any of it so I’m just gonna say what I’m thinking. Just stop me if you don’t want to hear any of it because I don’t want to make you feel like you have to--”

“Nic!” Wynonna stops her, reaching up to tuck strands of Nicole’s long red hair behind her ear. “You’re not gonna make me feel like I have to anything . Ever. Just… Say whatever you want.”

“Okay,” Nicole practically exhales the word. “I just really want you to know that I want whatever you want. I’ll kiss you and hold you and be there for you, just like before. Exactly like back then, if that’s what you want. You said that I--” Nicole breathes in deep and nods, never taking her eyes off of Wynonna’s. “You said that I was your home and I feel the same way about you. I feel like I can finally fucking breathe again, but I am gonna be whatever you need. I want to be.”

Wynonna barely blinks as Nicole pours her heart out. Exactly like back then, if that’s what you want. Wynonna can’t remember wanting anything more. I feel the same way about you . Tears form in the corners of her blue eyes and her lips turn up in a subtle smile before her mouth opens, baring her teeth in a wide grin. Wordlessly, she pulls Nicole into another kiss. 

Nicole’s lying on her back before she registers what happens. Wynonna straddles her waist and sits back on her knees to look down at Nicole with shining eyes, the covers falling off her, pooling on Nicole’s thighs. Nicole’s hands grip at Wynonna’s hips and hold carefully. 

“Wynonna, what’s--” Nicole leans forward and focuses her eyes on a small marking on Wynonna’s hip, something she’d missed in the dim light of their lovemaking earlier. It’s a small number, 23 , tattooed on her skin. 

Wynonna looks down at the exact moment Nicole grazes the pad of her thumb over it and flushes again. “It looks like a twenty-three, doesn’t it, Haughty?” 

“For me?” Nicole asks breathlessly. 

Wynonna has a quip on the tip of her tongue, ready to reply with her sharp wit and sarcasm. Her heart catches it, though, and pushes it aside. She purses her lips and finally grins softly. “For you,” she assures with a simple nod. 

“But you didn’t--” Nicole starts, shaking her head. 

“I got it after,” Wynonna finishes. 

Nicole shifts, sitting up but keeping Wynonna straddling her waist. Her strong arms hold Wynonna as she scoots to lean back against the headboard, looking up into Wynonna’s eyes again with their faces inches apart. “I can’t believe you got a tattoo for me.” 

“Really, you can’t?” Wynonna asks, face soft and full of amusement at the woman’s wonder. 

“No, I really can’t. I didn’t know that-- Wow,” Nicole finishes with the shake of her head. 

“C’mon, Haught. You definitely know,” Wynonna challenges. After a moment of staring, she clears her throat. The last several years without Nicole had been spent building a fortress back up around her heart, but she could still feel that Nicole would never hurt her. She musters every bit of courage she has and fights her body’s natural defense mechanism. 

“Look, I’m even more broken than back then and talk even less about shit that matters, but… I meant it when I said I need you. If I’m gonna break this fucking curse… If I’m going to not fucking lose my damn mind killing these demons… I want us the way we used to be. All of it.” Every word makes her bones feel tired, but not because she regrets saying them. She’s not used to being vulnerable like this anymore. It’s terrifying and exhausting. Her brain sends her an afterthought that she can’t quite force out of her mouth, I want even more. 

Nicole’s eyes shine with tears now. I’ve got my girl back. The one. The only one I’ve ever-- She nods. “Then you got me, Earp. And I got you.” 

They kiss again. A moment later, there are heavy footsteps bounding down the stairs. They scramble to pull the covers up over Wynonna’s shoulders, but she doesn’t bother to get off of Nicole. Hopefully, the younger girl won’t come barging into her “room.” 

“Are you guys awake, yet?!” Waverly calls out.

“Yeah, but do not come in here.” Wynonna warns with a stern, sisterly command that makes Nicole grin sideways at the interaction. 

“Ew! Like I need to see all of that! I already heard it all this morning!” Waverly teases, scrunching her nose up. 

“Get headphones then, loser!” 

“I was just letting you know… I’m going out with Shae today… I won’t be back until late!” 

“Be safe! Don’t hurry back. Call me if you need me. Try very hard not to need me.” 

“You two have fun… Catching up!” Waverly calls out the final sentence before the door opens and clicks behind her, leaving Wynonna and Nicole alone… Truly alone .

“Hmm… Now where were we, Haught?” Wynonna asks, leaning back in and letting the covers fall from her shoulders again. 

“Oh… Right about… Here…” Nicole answers, kissing Wynonna once again. 

They spend the rest of the day catching up. 

 

***

 

The next day, Wynonna strides into the station with coffees and breakfast for both her and Nicole. Nicole had come in a couple hours earlier and had undoubtedly stopped by Shorty’s for her coffee but Wynonna figured it would still be nice to give her something else that wasn’t brewed in the break room. 

Confidence and surety practically ooze off of her, matching the outfit she picked out, specifically to taunt Nicole as they worked. Leather pants cling even tighter (if that’s possible) to every curve and dip of her legs and a black, patterned lace shirt puts her red push-up bra on display. As she steps into the room where the desks are lined up, she smirks at the sight of her baby hard at work, scribbling away on some piece of paper. 

“Hey, Red,” Wynonna greets, a little too much sex dripping in her tone. After spending all day in bed with Nicole yesterday, she can’t turn it off.

“Hey, Wynonna,” Nicole answers, finishing up what she’s writing. She looks up with a dopey grin in place on her lips. That grin quickly melts away and her mouth hangs open at the sight of Wynonna. “Holy sh--”

“Language, Officer Haught. We’re at work,” Wynonna warns with a teasing gaze. She walks over and places one of the coffees and the bagel in front of Nicole, taking a seat on the edge of the desk so her legs hang off right by Nicole’s arm resting on the chair. “Hope you’re hungry.”

“Oh, I’m definitely hungry,” Nicole replies, quiet enough so that only Wynonna can hear. 

“Poor baby… You better eat up, then.” Wynonna pouts at first, then smiles again. 

“Is this gonna be an everyday thing now?” Nicole asks, eyes glued to Wynonna’s chest for too many seconds. 

“Breakfast? Don’t count on it. You know how hard it is for me to wake up on time much less early enough to get food.” 

“Not breakfast… This…” Nicole nods her head as her eyes travel over every inch of Wynonna. “You drivin’ me even more crazy with outfits like this.”

Wynonna leans down so that her mouth is right next to Nicole’s ear. “Baby… I’m going to drive you crazy with more than just outfits… All day long, I just want you to think about how bad I want you to… eat . Because that’s exactly what I’ll be daydreaming about. All. Day.” 

Nicole shivers, feeling the goosebumps start at her neck and run down her arms and leg, most prominent on the side Wynonna’s whispering into. “Fuck,” Nicole whispers. 

“We will…” Wynonna promises before getting up off the desk. “I’m late now, though. I’ll see you tonight, Officer Haught. For dinner.” 

Nicole stares greedily as Wynonna walks away, a perfect view of the way Wynonna’s ass sways in those just-tight-enough pants. How is she ever going to focus again? It had already been hard enough before they had slept together again for the first time… Now?  

“Wynonna Earp, I missed you,” Nicole says to herself. 

 

***

 

“A brain peeler? ” Wynonna near-shouts at Dolls. 

“A psychological assessment.” 

“I was ‘assessed’ plenty when I was a crazy teenager who ‘dreamed’ up demons.”

“Yeah, well, Head Office insists on it.”

“Tell Head Office to suck it.”

“You tell them. There's an analyst waiting in the interview room...”

Wynonna can’t fucking believe Dolls is going to put her through this shit. After… She had stupidly convinced herself that maybe just maybe there was a fucking heart under all that bullshit bravado… Maybe she had a friend. Fuck that...

 

***

 

“This isn't about getting kidnapped. It's not just that. Sheriff, come on, you gotta admit this place is weird.”

“It's a small town, Nicole. It's quirky. It's called Purgatory, for chrissake. Look… if you think it's anything more than that, you might as well put in your resignation.”

This feels like an absolute slap to the face. How could Nedley even manage to say that to her? He always went on about how she’s his best officer. Fucking douche.

“I don't want to resign. I like it here!”

“Good.”

It dawns on her. Her jaw sets tightly. She states plainly, “I'll redo the report.”

Nicole storms out of Sheriff’s office and barely handles not slamming the fucking door behind her. She had been so sure that Nedley knew about all the weird shit in Purgatory and wanted him to know that now, she does, too . Instead, he shows her he has his head so far up his own ass… 

She needs to vent. She needs Wynonna. Today had started out so damn good. She heads over to BBD and knocks on the door, entering when she notices it seems empty. Where are they? 

“Deputy Marshall Dolls and Deputy Earp are in Interview Room #2 with somebody from their Head Office or something,” a fellow deputy calls out to Nicole. 

“Thanks…” 

Nicole makes her way down to Interview Room #2 and lets herself into the observation room without much thought, operating on blind rage. 

Dolls tries to block her from seeing through the glass behind him. “Officer Haught, I know that I allowed you to work on a case a few days--”

Nicole’s jaw tightens hard when she sees Wynonna hooked up to a machine and hears some horrid woman asking questions. “Dolls, what the fuck is going on?” 

“She’s undergoing a mandatory psychological assessment after--”

“After what? After she killed another demon? What is the point of this?” 

“Do you have disturbing and repeated thoughts or flashbacks of killing your father?”

Dolls turns his attention from Nicole back to Wynonna. “Wait, why is she going off book?” 

“Off book?” Nicole asks, seething even more now.

“Sometimes, I guess,” Wynonna answers. Nicole begins to shake, seeing how upset the question makes her. 

“When was the last time you had sexual intercourse?” 

Wynonna’s mouth opens in offense and she scoffs. A glint shines in her eye though and she closes her eyes. Her head rolls back a little, making a show, before she answers, “Mmm… All day yesterday…” 

Dolls clears his throat and refuses to look over at Officer Haught, knowing full well exactly what that answer means for the other person standing in the room with him now.

Nicole flushes, but smiles just a bit, seeing Wynonna make this woman as uncomfortable as she can. 

After a second, Wynonna goes stone-faced again. “What’s that got to do with anything?” 

“Dolls, end this,” Nicole demands. 

“The bomb in the Bleaker Case was traced back to a young woman who ran briefly with the Banditos. You ran with the Banditos. Two people died.” The woman continues her grilling.

“Is there a question in there?” Wynonna asks, voice choked up.

“Dolls! I’m going in there, this is done. ” 

“Officer Haught, you will stand down. Or I will have no choice --”

“Yeah fucking arrest me for treason, put me to death. You obviously don’t give a shit, do you?” Nicole accuses. 

“Would you consider yourself a murderer, Wynonna?” The grating woman’s voice pierces through Nicole’s anger and she saddens, turning back to see the absolutely dejected look on Wynonna’s face. 

At the same time, Nedley appears at the doorway. “Officer Haught, go cool off. Outside. The whole station can hear you losing your head.” 

Nicole uses every ounce of control she has to comply, storming outside and kicking at a rock on the ground. 

 

***

 

“You left me in there with a bureaucratic sadist. And I was alone and scared.” Wynonna says, voice breaking and tears threatening. 

“You're not alone, Earp. 

Yeah! Or a murderer!” Wynonna counters. Dolls doesn’t budge.  “Okay,” she scoffs, sucking her teeth in annoyance. “Just once, I want you to say it--That you care about me.”

Dolls barely blinks. 

“Pussy.” Wynonna accuses, pointing directly between his eyes. 

Dolls sighs. “Earp. You failed the assessment. You're suspended until further notice. Badge.” He holds his hand out.

“Perfect.” Wynonna bites, taking her badge off and throwing it to the floor beside Dolls. “Have fun with your girlfriend.”

 

***

 

Wynonna goes to find Nicole, but she’s not sitting at her desk. Fucking perfect. She’s out on patrol or some stupid shit… Fuck it all. She hurries out of the station, hellbent on making it to her truck and heading straight to Shorty’s. 

“Wynonna!” Nicole’s voice calls out to her and stops her in her tracks. 

“Nicole,” she sighs, sagging with some relief. 

“I tried to get in there. I tried!” Nicole tells her, taking Wynonna into her arms at the same moment the smaller woman collapses into her. “I tried, Wynonna. They wouldn’t let me. Nedley sent me out here. Told me to cool off.”

“Did you hear--” Wynonna sounds small. So different from the woman who had sauntered into the cop shop earlier. Nicole’s heart breaks. 

“Not all of it. I came in near the end. Around the sex question.” Nicole holds the Earp Heir tight.

“The only question that didn’t kill me to answer,” Wynonna offers with a half-hearted laugh. 

“I’m so sorry, baby. I wish I could deck that bitch and Dolls, if I’m bein’ honest.” 

“I’m fucking suspended because I failed another fucking assessment. Story of my fucking life, right? Nothing’s changed since fucking high school, huh? I’m still a stupid idiot who can’t pass a test.” 

“Hey, now,” Nicole reprimands softly, taking Wynonna’s face in her hands. “Fuck Black Badge. Fuck that walking nightmare of a woman. You’ve never been stupid or an idiot. Never will be. Don’t talk about my girl like that… I’ve fought people for sayin’ a lot less, you know…” 

Wynonna looks up with tear stains on her cheeks, lip trembling through Nicole’s small speech. Without Nicole, this would be unbearable. The kind words make her feel hot all over, but all of the anger continues to stir in her chest. All she wants to do is release the storm brewing in her. 

Her eyes lock on Nicole’s deep brown eyes, looking at her like she’s everything good in this god forsaken world. It clicks for her in that moment… The way she can release the storm and not destroy everything in her path.  “I need you,” Wynonna speaks, fisting her hands in Nicole’s jacket. 

“You have me,” Nicole promises, still full of love and understanding. 

“No, Nicole. I fucking need you,” Wynonna growls low, pulling Nicole down by the collar. “Right fucking now. That’s what I need.” 

Realization dawns and Nicole glances around them, finding Wynonna’s truck parked in the parking lot on the other side of the street. “Your truck?” Wouldn’t be the first time. 

Wynonna doesn’t respond with words. She takes Nicole’s hand and practically drags the police officer until they’re in the “privacy” of her old beat up truck.

 

***

 

Wynonna sits in Nicole’s lap after they’ve reluctantly pulled their clothes back on. Both of them breathe heavily, trying to catch their breath after releasing so much anger and frustration in such a short amount of time. Neither one of them had wanted to, but Nedley had radioed for Nicole to come back from her breather about fifteen minutes ago when they were busy. 

“Oooh,” Nicole winces. “I might have left a few reminders behind.” She’s sincerely apologetic when she notes the bruises through the lace top. 

“Good. I’m gonna need ‘em since you have to go back to work.” Wynonna kisses Nicole sweetly, changing from the frantic, furied pace from only moments ago. 

“I’ve gotta get back in there before Nedley has my ass more than he already does.”

“Oh no, that’s my ass, Haught. Want me to make sure Nedley knows it?” 

Nicole laughs. “Y’know… I think that might not make things better for either of us, so I’m going to have to very sweetly decline that offer.” 

“Fine. Whatever you say, Haughtshot. Pour a whole cup of salt in Dolls’s coffee for me?” 

“As you wish, my lady,” Nicole replies. 

Wynonna’s breath catches. The Princess Bride. Nicole remembers. Wynonna feels ignited again and groans. “Go. Get out of here, Nicole Haught. You can’t keep sayin’ things like that. Go.” 

Nicole chuckles and kisses her goodbye one last time before the rest of her shift. 

 

***

 

Wynonna bursts into Shorty’s, wrapped up in her coat. Waverly’s at the bar talking to one of her dumb ex-boyfriends. 

“Move,” she barks at him. When he makes no move, she draws the word out, getting in his face. “Mooooooove.” 

“Damn, Wynonna. What’s crawled up your ass? You seemed so happy this morning.” Waverly asks, accusingly. 

“Fucking Dolls. That’s what. I failed some stupid psychological assessment, surprising exactly no one. Dolls didn’t do shit to help me and now I’m suspended until further notice,” Wynonna explains, mocking with her tongue through her last words. 

“Ouch. I’m sorry, ‘Nonna. Nicole’s at work, huh?” 

“Yeah, but my good deputy took care of me before I left.” Wynonna smirks. 

“Oh, Wynonna, c’mon. I love you guys together but I don’t need to know every time you guys have sex now. Ugh.”

“Weren’t you just all in my face about getting my shit together with Nicole?” 

“Yeah, but I don’t need all the dirty details!”

“Payback for every nasty detail you ever shared about Champ. One comment from you about Champ is like ten from me about Nicole. And you know it.” 

Waverly pouts and rolls her eyes. “ Fine. Whatever. Can we change the subject?”

“Fine. Talk about anything but Dolls. Fuckin’ pussy ,” Wynonna spits. “And get me a glass of whiskey? Just one… I don’t wanna be too sloppy when Haught gets off.” 

Waverly smiles softly. Nicole really is something else for her sister. “Okay, how about Halloween is about a week away and we haven’t made any plans? Shae and I want to be D.E.B.S.” 

Wynonna can’t help but laugh. She and Nicole had watched that movie in high school and it is perfect for Shae and Waverly. “Oh, that’ll be hot.”

“Yeah, so what are you and Nicole gonna be?” 

Wynonna purses her lips and push them off to the side, thinking. “I dunno. Last time we spent Halloween together, we were Westley and Buttercup.”

Waverly squeals. “Oh my god! That sounds so cute! Your favorite movie… Aw, ‘Nonna!”

“Waves, can you cool it for like three seconds with the squealing and oohing and awwing! It was a long time ago.”

“You were Buttercup?” Waverly asks, eyes shining and hopeful. “Please, ‘Nonna! Please tell me about it!”

 

***

 

October 31, 2008

Somehow, Wynonna manages to convince her boss to let her have the whole weekend off. 

She sends Nicole a text that she’s headed home when school gets out, but hops in her truck and hurries over to Nicole’s house instead. 

Both of her parents are home when Wynonna arrives, so she starts prepping a story. 

She doesn’t even have to knock, as soon as she gets to the door, Nicole’s mom opens it. 

“Wynonna! I didn’t expect to see you ‘til later!” She moves over and motions for Wynonna to come inside anyway. 

The teenager feels her chest warm up as she steps into the house. “Yeah, I just figured I’d come on over and wait for Nicole here, do some homework or something,” she offers, knowing by now that Nicole’s mom probably doesn’t really care if she gives a reason for why she’s there, but she does anyway. 

“Oh, yeah sure! Just let me know if you need anything before she gets home, sweetie.” Nicole’s mom smiles at her, patting her on the back before heading back into the living room to continue whatever she was doing before Wynonna showed up. 

Wynonna takes the stairs two at time, smiling all the way as she tosses her backpack down on Nicole’s bed and tugs the zipper open. She pulls out the boxes of purple and orange string lights, bags of candy and various other decorations and tosses them onto the bed. 

It doesn’t take her very long to get the room looking spooky. When she steps back to look, it’s actually the perfect blend of spooky and cozy. On the wall above the bed, she’s hung fake sparkly spiderwebs.  The sparkles in the webs shimmer under the purple and orange lights that are hanging on the wall above them and wrapped around the bed frame. Wynonna digs through Nicole’s enormous collection of blankets until she finds one that happens to be huge and black and tosses it across the end of the bed. Wynonna pours all the candy into a cute jack-o-lantern bucket and tucks several Halloween-ish DVDs inside it. She sits it up against the pillows as a finishing touch.

Not long after she finishes, she hears Nicole pulling into the driveway. A giddy sound that might’ve been embarrassing if she wasn’t alone leaves her mouth. Wynonna sits back on the bed, crossing her legs and waiting. 

She listens close, hearing Nicole open the door and come inside downstairs. 

“Hey, Mom. Wynonna’s here?” 

Wynonna hears her say. It makes her smile even wider. Only a few more seconds pass before she hears the other girl coming up the stairs and before she knows it, Nicole is in the room with her. 

The younger girl stops in her tracks, taking a minute to embrace the sight before her. Wynonna sitting in the middle of her bed with her favorite black jeans, the Buffy shirt Nicole had gotten for her birthday and her hair half up. Twinkly Halloween lights hang along the wall around some fake spiderwebs. With the lights off, it looks absolutely magical. 

A wide grin spreads across Nicole’s face as she drops her backpack and duffel bag to the ground. “Baby, you did all this?” Nicole asks, pulling her sweaty basketball jersey off and tossing it to the side as she comes closer to Wynonna. 

“Happy Halloween, Haughtstuff.” Wynonna beams, dangling her legs off the edge of the bed and opening them and her arms for Nicole to step in. “And you really are hot. Geez, Happy Halloween to me.” She says, wrapping her arms around Nicole’s bare waist. 

Nicole laughs lightly, wrapping her arms around Wynonna and taking another look at the decorations now that she was standing closer and in the arms of the girl who’d done it all for her. 

“Is that candy?” She reaches out, grabbing the bucket and tugging it closer to them. “Man, and movies… Baby, you thought of everything.” Nicole stops for a second, leaning down to press a lingering kiss to Wynonna’s lips. 

“I am a genius when it comes to Halloween, Haughty,” Wynonna admits cockily, eyebrows raised when she pulls back from their kiss. 

“After the party, we get to come back here and snuggle up together and watch whatever you want.” Wynonna adds, letting her hands drift over Nicole’s hips. 

“Whatever I want, huh?” She smirks, reaching into the jack-o-lantern and starting to unwrap the first piece of candy she pulls out. 

“Don’t worry, there’s wimpy ones in there, too,” Wynonna jokes, tightening her grip on the taller girl before she tries to get away. “Oh, the costumes! Are they in your closet?” Wynonna asks, leaning back on the bed a bit. 

Nicole’s smile grows when she thinks about their costumes. She can’t believe she’s dressing up as characters from Wynonna’s favorite movie with her for Halloween.

“Yeah, they are. Mom said they’d be out of the house before we leave, too, so that’s a big plus.” Nicole doesn’t really want her mom or dad wondering why the hell she and Wynonna chose to dress up as Westley and Buttercup. 

Nicole steps away from Wynonna and walks into her closet. When she reemerges, she’s got two dress bags in her hands. The redhead drapes them across the end of the bed and Wynonna leans over on her elbow to watch. Nicole picks up her own to show her first. It’s a black billowy top that laces up in the front and tight black pants. 

Wynonna lifts her eyebrows, smirking up at Nicole. “You’re gonna look so hot, baby. Holy shit!” 

The excitement on Wynonna’s face is more than enough to make Nicole proud. 

“You just wait until you see yours .” Nicole unzips the bag to reveal Wynonna’s long red dress. 

Wynonna’s mouth hangs open a little and she moves to sit up on her knees, taking the dress in her hands. “It looks so pretty, Nic. I’m already scared I’m never gonna wanna take it off.” 

“Oh, you sure about that?” Nicole remarks, lifting an eyebrow at the older girl. 

“Okay, no in that case, I definitely am gonna wanna get out of it, don’t worry.” Wynonna teases back. 

 

*** 

 

Nicole makes sure to pull the camera out and get a video in before they head off to the party one of her friends invited them to. New non-Max, non-jerk friends. Since falling out with Max and basically saying fuck it about everyone at school knowing that she’s gay and with Wynonna, Nicole had definitely lost a few friends. But if she’s being honest, she doesn’t care at all. Wynonna makes her happy and that is worth way more than any of those people. 

They arrive at the house around nine o’clock that night. Nicole checks her ponytail in the mirror before getting out of the truck. She tucks her fake sword into place on her belt and looks down at herself one more time. “Do I look okay?” She asks, her concern for how she looks completely melting away when she lays eyes on Wynonna again. 

She’s a vision with her dark hair curled perfectly and hanging around her shoulders. The dress fits her perfectly and clings in all the best places. Nicole can’t stop staring. 

“I said, you look perfect, Haught. Now what? You just gonna stare at me all night long?” Wynonna’s cheeks are red when she speaks, looking up at Nicole through her lashes. 

“Is that what the lady wants?” Nicole wraps her arms around Wynonna, pulling her in close. 

The brunette can’t help but laugh at Nicole’s adorable, charming display. “The lady… wants to get our asses into this party so that we can have a little fun before we take them back home to your cozy bed.” Wynonna runs her hands up Nicole’s arms, resting them against her biceps. 

“As you wish.” Nicole says dreamily, repeating a line from the movie.

 Wynonna exhales a deep breath, eyes and heart melting as she looks up at the younger girl. 

“C’mon, Haught. Before I change my mind and ask you to take me home right now.” 

Nicole takes her girl by the hand and leads her into the party, knowing she’ll always do anything Wynonna asks. 

 

***

 

The party is already loud and crowded when they walk in. Wynonna stays close to Nicole’s side, letting her take the lead once again. These friends seem a lot nicer than any of the douchebags they’d hung out with at Max’s New Year’s party. Sophie is the name of the girl who’d invited them, and she and her friends stick around for the most part. 

 It doesn’t take very long for them to begin to blend. There are so many people all around, all wanting the same thing, just to have fun. Wynonna finds that to be so easy when she’s in Nicole’s arms. They’re able to laugh and dance and kiss each other whenever they want to. Without looking around to find out who might be staring or talking about them, without being afraid. 

When they’re dancing in the dark to whatever crazy music is playing, Wynonna finds herself stuck watching Nicole watch her. She has another moment like the one from the last night at the lake house. It comes when she’s twirling underneath Nicole’s arm and falling against her chest. The older girl looks up into her eyes and sees... everything. It feels like they go on that way forever.

“I’m feelin’ a little thirsty I’m gonna go get us something to drink.” Wynonna tells Nicole after a while of talking with Sophie and her friends. 

“Alright, baby. I’ll be right here.” Nicole promises, wrapping her hand around Wynonna’s wrist gently and pulling her forward to kiss her deeply before she leaves. 

Wynonna is trying to decide what Nicole might want to drink the most when she hears a familiar, almost obnoxious voice laughing nearby. She crinkles her eyebrows, looking in the direction of the sound to find exactly who she suspected. Mercedes Gardner, laughing with her head back and coming this way. 

Goddammit .” Wynonna mutters under her breath, hoping that the girl simply wouldn’t recognize her. Mercedes isn’t bad. Not at all. She’s actually been nice to her over the last month, since the first time they’d spoken on Wynonna’s birthday. But it’s hard to trust anyone at all, especially anyone who goes to that school. 

She’s too late though, Mercedes does notice her. “Oh my god, Wynonna!!” Mercedes practically yells, hurrying over to her side. 

“Heeeey, Mercedes!” Wynonna exaggerates, still focusing on choosing a drink for Nicole. 

Mercedes bumps into Wynonna’s side before leaning back against the table of drinks and snacks Wynonna is looking at. 

“I did not expect to see you here, Earp! Everyone always acts like you don’t have any friends!” The younger redhead seems genuinely surprised. 

Wynonna chuckles low and humorously, finally just picking up a diet soda for Nicole. “They aren’t wrong. I don’t, not really,” she admits, shrugging a bit sadly. 

“That’s so lame. I think you’re kinda cool. Don’t tell anyone at school I said that, but like totally. Plus you’re super hot, you gotta be here with someone. C’mon tell me who, swear to god I won’t tell anyone!” Mercedes reaches out and lays a hand on Wynonna’s arm. 

She must be really stupid because Wynonna believes her. Telling all her bullies that she maybe has one or two friends isn’t going to fan their flames in some big way, Wynonna thinks. Plus, Mercedes’s comment about her being hot makes her consider that maybe they aren’t so different. At least when it comes to people they like. 

“Oh… I’m just... I’m here tonight with my… Nicole. She’s over there. The tall one.” Wynonna points over her shoulder to where Nicole is standing. 

When she glances over there herself, she can’t help but notice a short blonde wearing devil horns and not much more standing super duper close to Nicole. Her Nicole. Wynonna knows she must be staring for an extended amount of time because she feels Mercedes sidle up beside her, looking in the same direction. 

“Yeah, so why’s Amy all over her? If she’s your…” Mercedes starts, but Wynonna looks at her and stops her words immediately. “Right, listen... I don’t care, Earp. Not about that. I’m not gonna say anything about it. Seriously. You get so much shit already, no need to bring anyone else into it or make it any worse.” 

Mercedes crosses her arms over her chest, directing her attention back to the blonde creeping closer and closer to Nicole. “Shit, she’s really moving in.” She comments. 

Wynonna stands stone faced, trying her hardest to not feel the rage and jealousy that are welling up inside of her. Nicole wouldn’t do that. Nicole says she’s yours so she is. Nicole is in l-- Wynonna stops herself there. She watches as Amy reaches out and runs her hand up Nicole’s arm, almost the same way she had outside. 

She feels like she’s going to vomit. But then she sees Nicole step back and begin to look around and Amy… walking away. 

Nicole spots Wynonna and smiles briefly as she heads across the room to her. 

“Here she comes, what’re you gonna say to her, Earp?” Mercedes presses. 

Wynonna finds that her new friend’s voice grates and grinds just makes her wanna die.

“I’m not. Who cares honestly, it’s not even a big deal.” Wynonna shrugs heavily, popping the tab on the soda she grabbed for herself and taking a long drink. 

“Hey,” Nicole says as she comes into view, reaching out for her. 

Wynonna lets Nicole take her in her arms. She lets her side be pulled against Nicole’s front because it feels safe, no matter what. 

“Who was your little leech?” Wynonna says, looking up. Her mouth quirks up at the side and she chuckles in a way that conveys no humor. The jealousy burning and seething deep in her chest. 

“Oh, her… God, Wynonna I didn’t even know she was flirting with me. Not at first. Not til she touched me.” Nicole begins apologizing frantically, the guilt clear even though she’d done nothing wrong. Wynonna was watching nearly the whole time and still, she feels jealous seeing someone think they can touch her girl. 

“It’s fine, Nicole. Seriously don’t even worry about it. You didn’t do anything wrong.” Wynonna says plainly, shrugging one time and shaking her head. 

Nicole straightens up, wrapping her arms around Wynonna more. “No, I didn’t like it. I feel all weird now. I don’t –– I just don’t like the thought of anyone else touching me. Anyone who isn’t you.” 

Wynonna’s face softens, the aching in her chest soothing at the sincerity in both Nicole’s words and her big brown eyes. Wynonna’s lips spread into a genuine smile and she lets herself melt against the taller girl more. 

“God, you two are sickeningly cute.” Mercedes’ abrasive voice cuts right through the moment. 

Wynonna narrows her eyes and turns her head to glance at the other redhead. “Haughty, this is the one I was telling you about. Mercedes Gardner. Apparently the two of you have a mutual pal somewhere down the line, other than me anyway.” Wynonna clarifies, looking back to Nicole. 

“Oh, you. You’re Mercedes! Yeah, Wynonna’s talked about you some.” Nicole smiles and reaches out to shake Mercedes’ hand. “I’m Nicole. Nicole Haught.” 

“Haught? That’s really your name? And you… damn, Earp, go ahead!” Mercedes raises her hand for a high five that Wynonna returns, rolling her eyes even though she’s smiling. 

“Alright, enough of that. I actually think we’re gonna maybe head out. Thanks for being cool, Mercedes.” Wynonna clinks her can against the younger girl’s, wrapping her other arm tighter around Nicole’s waist. 

The tall redhead looks down at Wynonna, something close to sadness in her eyes. She waits until they’re back in the truck to speak. 

“Are you sure you’re not mad? Cause it’s okay if you are. I’m sorry, Wynonna, I didn’t mean…” 

Wynonna leans over and takes Nicole’s face in her hands, pulling her into a deep kiss. Nicole lets out a little whimper against her mouth as their tongues begin to move together. They kiss for what seems like forever and not long at all. Wynonna pulls back first, a sated smile on her lips. 

“I’m not mad at you. Or anyone. Fuck that chick for thinking she could hit on you, and yeah, it made me a little jealous at first but I have eyes, Nicole. You didn’t do anything wrong and I know that. Even more than seeing it, I can feel it. Every bit of me knows that you’re mine. Every. Bit.” Wynonna claims, brushing her nose against Nicole’s slowly. 

Nicole is breathless, both from kissing and from Wynonna’s words. It’s true. It’s all Nicole ever wants Wynonna to know and believe. 

“You promise?” Nicole asks, her voice no more than a whisper in the dark cab of the truck. 

Wynonna holds out her pinky for Nicole to take, smiling up at her when she feels the longer one wrap around it. “I promise you, Haughty. I trust you. Always.” 

Wynonna brings their hands up and presses a kiss to Nicole’s before letting her pinky go. 

“And that’s not why you wanna leave?” Nicole asks almost timidly, glancing back towards the house. Honestly, she’s over it just as much, if not more than Wynonna seems to be. Nothing sounds better to her than curling up in bed next to her girl. Her Wynonna. 

“It was fun and all but I just wanna go be with you. Just you, Nic.” Wynonna promises again, with her words and her eyes. 

“As you wish.” Nicole says again, much softer this time. She leans down to press a kiss to Wynonna’s forehead before driving them home. 

 

*** 

 

The house is empty when they get home and they waste no time stripping out of their costumes and climbing into the shower together to wash away all the sweat and stress of the night. 

Wynonna is tucked under the covers of Nicole’s bed when the younger girl comes in with a fresh bowl of popcorn. The brunette props herself up on her elbow, pushing the covers back on Nicole’s side for her to climb underneath. 

She’s wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and some cute pajama pants with bats and ghosts on them. Wynonna is dressed in just one of Nicole’s big t-shirts. She snuggles into Nicole’s side, nuzzling against her arm. 

“Are you sleepy already? We haven’t even turned the movie on yet.” Nicole laughs, running a hand over Wynonna’s hair. 

“What? I can’t just snuggle against my girl? Geez, noted.” Wynonna says playfully, pretending to move away.

“Nuh-uh, you get back here! What am I gonna do if you wanna watch something scary and I can’t cuddle you?” She pokes her bottom lip out in a pout, holding out her arms for wynonna to come in. 

The older girl doesn’t even pretend to hesitate. So what if it seems like a surrender? She’ll surrender to Nicole any day. 

“That’s what I thought,” Nicole teases, keeping one arm around Wynonna as she looks through the array of movies in front of her on the bed. 

Two of them look absolutely terrifying, and the other two she’s seen before and loves. It isn’t a hard choice though, she only hopes that Wynonna doesn’t think she’s lame for not choosing one of the scary ones. 

“This is my pick...is that alright with you?” Nicole says meekly, holding up the DVD case for Hocus Pocus.

To her delight, Wynonna’s eyes completely light up. “I was kinda hoping you’d choose that one.” She grins. 

Nicole gets up and puts the movie into the DVD player, coming immediately back to bed. She settles back against the pillows and stretches out her arm for Wynonna to come lay against her chest. 

The older girl pulls the covers up around the two of them as the movie starts. She takes another glance around the room she decorated before turning her gaze to Nicole’s face. 

The redhead notices after a moment. “What, baby?” Nicole asks quietly, rubbing her hand over Wynonna’s bare arm. 

“Nothin’ I just… I love this .” Wynonna says with her whole heart, hoping that Nicole catches what she really means. 

The gentle smile that reaches her eyes tells Wynonna everything she needs to know.

“I love this, too. So much.” Nicole assures her, pressing a kiss to her forehead. “Happy Halloween, ‘Nonna.” She says. 

“Happy Halloween, Nic.” Wynonna says back softly, settling comfortably into her girl for the night. 

 

***

 

Present Day, Shorty’s 

“You two were like really a thing , huh?” Waverly looks proud and happy when Wynonna finishes telling the story of their only Halloween together before. 

“Yeah, we were something…” Wynonna replies wistfully. “We are again.” She sighs, shrinking down and leaning over the bar a little. 

“Okay, so what are you guys gonna go as this year?” Waverly asks again, bouncing more this time. 

It dawns on Wynonna as she thinks about costumes that Nicole might like. A mischievous smile spreads across her lips. “Oh I know what I’m gonna be… But it’ll be a surprise to my Haughty.” After a second, she seems confused. “Wait, where are we going to be dressing up at?”

Waverly seems to think for a few minutes before she snaps her fingers. “Halloween bash. Here! At Shorty’s. Low pressure… The whole gang can be here. And most of the friends you made the other night when you were dealing .”

Wynonna is skeptical at first, tilting her head and eying her sister through almost closed lids. Waverly pouts and bounces again. Wynonna sighs. “Ugh, fine. Fine! Whatever. I’ll be there.”

 

***

 

Wynonna spends the rest of the day with Doc, who doesn’t treat her much better than Dolls had earlier today, but she still can’t stand to see the asshole die. So, she helps him literally put the Stone Witch into the ground. Salt flats where she can’t use her powers. Finally, putting Doc’s number one enemy and purpose for living to rest. Maybe, just maybe, Wynonna thinks, Doc can finally stop acting like the biggest tool in the universe. 

When Dolls’s name lights up her phone screen, she pinches the bridge of her nose. Has she not endured enough?  

“What?” She answers coldly. “Fine. I’m on my way.”

“I thought you were angry with Xavier,” Doc prys. 

“Xavier?” Wynonna’s face twists in bewilderment. “When do you two get on a first name basis?”

Doc tenses, raising an eyebrow and diverting his gaze. “That is none of your concern.”

“Okay, asshole. He’s still my boss. Even if I do want to punch his face. So I gotta listen. I guess,” Wynonna reasons. Mostly, she’s hoping that Dolls will fucking apologize. 

 

***

 

“You passed the second assessment with flying colors,” Dolls tells her.

“I didn't take a--”

“Sure, you did. Early this afternoon. Don't you remember? I mean, you had three energy drinks and you swore like a truck driver, but yeah, you passed.”

“That sure sounds like me. But this does not sound like you. Say something Dolls would say.”

“You're a good deputy, Earp.”

“No, that's not it.”

“I'm not good at apologies or…”

“Feelings.”

“I am a soldier, Wynonna. That’s all I know. But, I do… care. ” 

“Good enough start, Xavier ,” Wynonna tests the first name, but immediately decides it feels weird coming from her. “Nope. Not for me. I’ll leave that one to Doc. Or do you call him John? Henry?”

“Wynonna…” Dolls warns. 

“What? I’m just--”

“Overstepping. That’s enough for the day. Go home to your girl.” 

 

***

 

Wynonna does go home to her girl, to Nicole, every single night after that. Most nights, they stay at the homestead due to Wynonna’s paranoia about the revenants targeting the people she cares about. The few nights that she stays with Nicole at hers, Wynonna puts Peacemaker under her pillow just in case. So far, Nicole seems safe at her place. Wynonna can’t find peace with Nicole being without her there, though. She has to protect her. 

“Hey, Haught?” Wynonna says after they’d been lying in bed for a little while, trying to see if Nicole is awake. 

“Yeah, baby?” Nicole answers immediately. 

“Did Waves tell you about the Halloween thing?” 

“Huh? Oh, no, but Shae did. Are we going?” Nicole asks, yawning. 

“Only if you’ll be my date,” Wynonna requests.

Nicole chuckles and snuggles closer into Wynonna’s back. “Baby, I’ll be your date to everything ever. You don’t have to ask. But it’s cute that you did.” She kisses the side of Wynonna’s neck and snuggles in closer. “What are we gonna be?” 

“Hmm?” Wynonna queries, unsure of what Nicole means. 

“Our costumes. What are we goin’ as?”

“Oh! Well, mine’s a surprise… Just for you. You’ll have to wait and see.”

Nicole sags a little, slightly disappointed they’re not going to match like last time. 

“Don’t worry, baby, I promise it’s gonna be so worth the wait.” 

“Fiiiine. Guess I got some brainstorming to do,” Nicole resigns. 

They fall asleep soon after.

 

***

 

October 31, 2016

The last week or so was quiet, a welcome reprieve from the steady gloom and doom of the month following Wynonna’s arrival. Wynonna and Nicole both attribute it to the fact that their coming back together restored some balance to the universe. Whatever the reason, Wynonna thanks the stars every night for giving her at least a few days to breathe and she hopes that tonight can be fun. They all deserve it.

Wynonna lets Waverly drag her to Shorty’s earlier than necessary to “help set up.” Because she loves the dweeb. Nicole’s working anyway so it’s not like she has anything better to do. Dolls is spending the day with Doc? The two of them had grown so cozy right under Wynonna’s nose. Granted, she had been dealing with all her own stuff and her own coziness .

Setting up for the party is easier than Wynonna expects. She starts to wonder why Waverly needed her help at all. She doesn’t care enough to ask. When Shae arrives, she and Waverly disappear upstairs to get into their D.E.B.S costumes. There’s only about an hour left before people will start piling in for the festivities at Shorty’s. 

Wynonna sits down at the bar on her phone. 

Wynonna: Baby, I miss you. When are you gonna be here?

Nicole: A couple of hours. I’m sorry, Wyn. Nedley gave me the best shift he could for the day.  

Wynonna: Pouting. 

Nicole: When I’m not there to bite it? 

Wynonna: Mhmm

Nicole: I can maybe knock it down to an hour and a half? 

Wynonna: :) Hurry. I’m excited. 

Nicole: Me too, baby. I promise. I’ll do what I can. <3 

Wynonna: You always do. See you asap, Red. 

 

***

 

Just shy of the two hour mark, Nicole rolls into Shorty’s as a ghostbuster. She notices the schoolgirl-esque outfits first--Shae and Waverly. Her eyes scan the crowd for Wynonna, but she can’t spot her. She figures she must be in the bathroom. If Wynonna was anywhere in this room right now, her eyes would have settled on her first.

The next semi-unexpected pair she spots is Doc and Dolls as Han Solo and Lando Calrissian. “No way…” She whispers to herself. Those two? How does Doc even know who Han Solo is? Nicole figures he might not… But if he does, it’s probably Dolls’s doing. The image of Doc struggling to understand Star Wars makes her laugh as she walks down the few stairs near the entrance. 

The room seems to stop in the next instant as her eyes and so many others find the woman walking down the stairs. 

Wynonna. 

Wynonna is in a dark, sleeveless belly shirt, short shorts, two thigh holsters, a thick belt, and mid-calf combat boots. Her hair is french braided. Lara Croft. The muscles of Wynonna’s arms flex and the veins in her hands somehow look like they’re protruding more. Are they? Or is Nicole going insane with desire at the sight of her?  Holy shit. HOLY SHIT. She’s Lara Croft. Nicole gawks shamelessly (so do many others), frozen where she stands. 

“A ghostbuster,” Wynonna observes as she approaches Nicole. “You’re so fucking cute. I love the goggles, glasses thing you got going on there.”

Nicole continues to stare with her mouth hanging open. 

The sense of accomplishment makes Wynonna feel a little dizzy. Nicole is speechless. Her costume is perfect. “Are you just gonna stare all night? Or--”

“Wynonna, you’re…” Nicole starts dumbly. 

“I’m…? Hot? Sexy? Perfect? Irresistible?” Wynonna fires off many options. 

Finally, Nicole shakes her head and closes her mouth, a slight smile left behind. “All of that. And mine.” 

Wynonna shivers at how forceful that sounds coming from her officer. “Yours.”

Nicole reaches out and pulls Wynonna in by her bare waist and kisses her, maybe a little too passionately for Shorty’s, considering she’s a cop in the town. She’s out of uniform, though, and she can’t find it in her to care when Wynonna looks this damn good. 

Wynonna pulls out of the kiss first, but doesn’t move herself out of Nicole’s grasp. “So, we have friends or something we should maybe go talk to.”

Haught’s signature puppy dog stare makes an appearance. 

“Oh no. That’s not fair, Haught. Put that away.” Wynonna chuckles, bringing a hand up to cover Nicole’s face from her view. Nicole leans into the touch. “No, stop it. Haught!” Something wets Wynonna’s palm and she takes her hand back. “Ewagh! Licking? Licking, really?” 

“Ew? You’re gonna ew my tongue on your hand when it’s been in--” Nicole raises her eyebrows, a look of deviance in her eyes. 

“Do not finish that sentence,” Wynonna warns half-heartedly, still chuckling through it. “God, I knew you were going to be a horn dog when you saw me in this, but damn.” 

Nicole shrugs, clearly unapologetic. “You’re getting exactly what you wanted, Earp. Deal with the consequences of being sexy.” 

“Shut up and come over here with me.”

They walk over to Waverly and Shae who are being sickeningly cute

“Daaaaaamn, Wynonna,” Shae exclaims, unable to stop herself from giving the older Earp a onceover. “Shoulda guessed you’d go as Haught’s ultimate fantasy. You okay over there, buddy?” Shae directs her question to her ghostbuster friend. 

“Oh yeah, totally fine. All good over here,” Nicole lies, forcing a straight, toothy “smile.” 

“Can you two keep it in your pants for at least a few hours?” Waverly boldly questions the two of them. “Jeeze, you two really do turn back into teenagers around each other. It’d be annoying if it didn’t make me so happy to see you like this, ‘Nonna.” 

Wynonna leans into Nicole through all of this, smiling shily. Nicole wraps her arm protectively around the smaller woman. “Look I still had a couple years left of being a teen Wynonna missed out on, so give us a little bit of time to savor it!” Nicole shoots back. 

“Oh savor away!” Waverly grins wide at the sight of the two of them. Wynonna deserves this. After all the heartache and the hate from this town, she deserves this. Shae leans over and whispers something to Waverly. Waverly throws her head back dramatically and almost shouts, “Oh my god! Can those two get it together now?” 

“Huh, who?” Wynonna asks, turning to follow Waverly’s line of sight at the same time Nicole does. 

Doc and Dolls are laughing. Like really truly laughing with each other. Wynonna had been pretty convinced they hated each other upon their first meeting, but the signs recently had been mixed… Xavier and Henry always refer to each other as such. 

“Oh shit!” Shae celebrates. 

Doc leans in too close and whispers something in Dolls’s ear. Wynonna sees an expression pass over his face that she would have bet one-thousand dollars against him having. Bashfulness. There’s a slight tug at his lips and he nods. 

“Damn, is there anyone in Purgatory who doesn’t wave a huge rainbow flag?” Wynonna shakes her head and runs tongue along the inside of her cheek smugly. 

“Oh, there’s plenty. But us gays always tend to stick together,” Shae assures her. 

Wynonna turns to smile at the woman who she had originally pegged as an enemy. She could be so stupidly blind when it comes to Nicole. “Never had a group of friends like this.”

“Well now you do, Earp!” Shae speaks again. “I feel like I’ve known you a lot longer than I have. Nicole made sure of that. I got your back. If your girl’s ever not around.”

Waverly watches Shae with this twinkle in her eye, constantly amazed by the way Shae seems to see things with such attention and grace. She steps up on her tiptoes and places a kiss to her cheek. “Isn’t she something?” She asks dreamily. 

Wynonna grins at the sight of her baby sister happy, too. “She sure is, baby girl.” 

 

***

 

The night goes on and the gang have a supernaturally uneventful evening. A few cooky sights make Wynonna feel like something might be amiss, but it always ended up being some Halloween antic. Whatever happened tonight, it seemed that everyone truly came out to have a good time. 

“Wait, is it me or are Waves and Shae definitely flirting with Doc’s friend over there?” Wynonna asks Nicole with narrowed eyes. 

Nicole looks over and smirks. “I’ll be damned. No, baby, that’s not just you. They’re both flirting with her. What was her name?”

“Rosita,” Wynonna recalls. 

“Right… Shae’s always been poly, but I didn’t know Waves was, too…” Nicole muses.

“Huh. I don’t know if Waverly realizes she is… Or if she does, it must’ve just happened. She mentioned liking girls but never mentioned liking girls.”

“Well, Shae is definitely putting her moves on Rosita. And she would never do that without talking to Waves first,” Nicole assures her. 

“Hey, no judgment from me. Whatever makes Waves happy, makes me happy. I will hate them both with no discrimination if either one of them ever leaves a hair of Waverly’s out of place.” 

Nicole laughs and shakes her head. “I’d really like it if my longest friend didn’t screw over my giiiirl’s sister.” She stumbles over not calling Wynonna her girlfriend, reminiscent of the old days. 

“Your giiirl would really love that, too. Haught. I like Shae a lot, but no one is ever gonna be good enough for Waves to me. No offense to your longest friend… And you know what? I think that title belongs to me. Even if I am more than that, too.” 

“Oh, I love when you get all territorial,” Nicole teases, wrapping her arms around Wynonna’s waist and linking her fingers together right above the curve of her ass. 

“Good.” Wynonna manages to only need one word with just the right amount of suggestive tone to make Nicole ache. 

Nicole’s eyes cut away from Wynonna for long enough to watch Rosita, Waverly, and Shae make their way upstairs. “Oh damn . Look but don’t be obvious about it.”

Wynonna does her best to abide and catches the final glimpse of the three of them disappearing from view on their way to the apartment above the bar. She turns back to look at Nicole with her mouth agape. 

“Wynonna, she’s grown…”

“Yeah, I know. Damn… Reminding myself that she was stuck with Champ Fucking Hardy for years… She deserves to actually get off however she wants.” 

“Speaking of getting off how we want… Does this mean we can skip out?” Nicole propositions hopefully, bringing back the puppy stare. 

Wynonna searches the room for Doc and Dolls and notes they’re noticeably absent, too. “You know what, fuck it. Yes. Take me home, Haught.”

Chapter Text

November 10, 2008

It’s been one whole year since the first time Nicole Haught saw Wynonna Earp across the Purgatory High gymnasium. One whole year with the girl who had seen her when she felt more or less inconsequential. One whole year since her first kiss ever. One whole year later and Nicole wouldn’t change anything. 

It’s rare for any of her classmates to stay in a relationship for more than a few months, much less a year, and it makes Nicole feel so at peace knowing that she’s found her person. She grows more confident every single day that she has one-hundred percent found the woman she’s going to be with always. Part of her berates herself for being so hopelessly romantic, but her heart tells her she’s right. 

 

***

 

Wynonna finishes up writing in her journal. Her journal has always held all the thoughts she couldn’t speak aloud, mostly to Nicole. Ever since Nicole, her journal had turned into her nightmare log. Demons and shooting her dad. Losing Willa… Seeing her ripped out through the window. As much as she loves and trusts Nicole, she can’t bring herself to bring all that up yet. Demons and being a father killer… Yeah, Wynonna would have to keep waiting to see if this is what she feels it is. 

She smiles at the date in the top right corner of the page. It’s been a year. Nicole has done nothing but care for Wynonna at every turn. When she found out Wynonna was a foster kid whose family didn’t want her… Who could barely afford to live… When she found out she was a stripper because some douchebag at school had seen her… When she failed last year… Not only had she taken care of her, she had fought for her. Probably more than Wynonna even knew about. 

She swears to the stars they gaze at as much as they can… I’m not letting you go, Nicole Haught.

Her phone buzzes. 

Nicole: Hey baby. It’s been a year since the first time we kissed. Thank you so much for the best year of my life. Can’t wait to have another one.

Nicole: I’m about to come pick you up. Are you ready?

Wynonna smiles. It’s the first day of school that she’s going to miss this year. She had even told her teachers that she wouldn’t be there and had gotten ahead… She’s doing so good in school this year… Well B’s mostly, but that’s so good for her. 

Wynonna: Let’s get it going then, Haughty. I’m ready for another best year with you. You’re the best damn thing in this world. Thank YOU. 

Wynonna : I’m ready and waiting for you. Always. 

Every text is like that lately. Sappy and true. Wynonna doesn’t hold back anymore. She has no reason to. This feels so good and so free. All Wynonna had needed was someone who would just care enough to stick around long enough to lower her walls. Nicole had even gone a step farther and built her own walls for Wynonna, protecting her as much as she could. 

She waits for Nicole to pick her up and slips her journal into the hiding place in her room. 

 

***

 

Nicole doesn’t even get to knock on the door before Wynonna’s opening it with a cute half-smile already in place on her lips. The taller girl responds beaming back at her. “Hey, baby,” Nicole greets. “Are they--” 

“At work.” Wynonna says, swaying a little.

“Oh thank god,” Nicole exhales, wrapping her arm around Wynonna’s waist and pulling her into a soft kiss of greeting. Wynonna has to go up on her tiptoes a little and it makes her feel small and cute in Nicole’s arms, as always. When Nicole pulls back, she holds her there. “I can’t believe you’ve been kissing me for a whole year, Wynonna Earp.” 

Wynonna runs her nose along Nicole’s and chuckles. “Believe it, Red. No one else has ever kept Wynonna Earp for this long. Many have tried, many have failed. But not you, though…”

“Not me…” Nicole agrees, cockily. “No, I’ve got you, Earp. Always . Just like you said.” 

“Have I ever told you cocky looks so good on you?” 

“Once or twice…” 

“Mmm… Are you gonna feed me? Because I’m starving and you promised you had a day planned… Like you always do.” Wynonna questions, finally resting back on the flats of her feet. 

“Yep. Lunch first, then the rest…”

“One of these days, I’m gonna make you spoil a surprise, Haught. Just wait.”

“Never gonna happen. I like spoiling you too much.” 

“We’ll see…”

 

***

 

They eat lunch at the pizza place they went the first time that Wynonna had surprised her in the parking lot of her school. Nicole orders for them both. Buffalo chicken pizza, no skimping on the buffalo sauce and extra ranch. Just like last time. Wynonna laughs when Nicole impersonates her and hides her face in her hands. 

Pizza comes and pizza goes. Nicole handles the check and grabs Wynonna’s hand as they walk back to her truck. She stopped caring months ago whether people knew they were together. Her parents never paid enough attention to pick up on it and her school was too afraid to appear prejudiced to ever bring it up. 

Nicole drives them to a donut shop that she’d searched for a nice small trip across town for one specific reason. To get Wynonna a bacon donut. Another callback to a conversation they had had in that pizza parlor a year ago. Nicole wants Wynonna to know she remembers everything. And always will. 

 

***

 

Wynonna begs Nicole to take her home and Nicole doesn’t put up much of a fight. They have time to kill and she’s just as desperate for her by the time they make it to Nicole’s empty house. This time, just because her parents are at work and not because her parents skipped out on her again.

After a couple of hours, they dress out of necessity. Nicole’s mom will be home within the hour and Nicole doesn’t want to be there when she gets there. The sun is going to set in about an hour, so Nicole drives them out to their stargazing clearing which also makes the perfect sunset-gazing clearing as well. 

They sit in the back of her truck, Wynonna between her legs, fitting perfectly. Nicole peppers sweet kisses along her cheek and neck as they watch the sky turn beautiful shades of orange and purple. 

“Haught, is there anything you can think of that would make you… Not want this anymore?” Wynonna asks, all of the emotions of the day circling her heart and making her question. 

“You mean you?” Nicole asks. “Anything that would make me not want you?” Nicole tightens her arms around Wynonna and holds her close. She’s silent for a few long moments as she considers, really considers, never wanting to lie to Wynonna. 

A few moments later, she shakes her head. “No. I think I know who you are. I feel like I really know you. And I want you. I know that we’re young or whatever, but… I feel like I’m my best me when we’re together. Because you keep me on my toes. And you make me laugh. You give me shit and it makes me wanna be better or more fun. You make me so happy and so what if we’re young? I feel like I can take on the whole world when we’re together. I’m not giving that up for anything.”

Wynonna feels her heart tightening and beating hard in her chest. Nicole has a way with words and baring her soul that Wynonna envies in a way, but mostly just adores. Because she’s the one who gets to look on in awe at the soul of this girl. “Me either,” Wynonna responds. It’s the best she can do right now… Haught knows. She knows that she knows. 

Nicole presses a long soft kiss to Wynonna’s cheek, running her nose along the skin there. “Good… Why did you ask?”

Wynonna chews the skin on the inside of her cheek. “There’s just a lot of my past you still don’t know about. I don’t want you to look at me different.”

“Your past is your past, Wynonna. Especially since anything that happened a long time ago… means you were a kid. I’m not gonna hold any of that stuff against you, okay? I mean what I said Wynonna. I’m not giving you up. I promise. I never will.” 

Wynonna turns in Nicole’s arms and brings her hands up to cup Nicole’s face before she kisses her slowly and deliberately until neither one of them can breathe. Then, Wynonna kisses her a bit more. They sit in comfortable silence for a short while, foreheads and noses pressed together and eyes closed. 

Nicole checks her phone for the time when it’s gotten so dark they can only see the stars and what the dim light of them illuminates. 

“Alright, one more stop…” Nicole says. 

“Wait, what? Where else could you take me?” Wynonna asks, confused delight taking over her expression. She considers all of the trips down memory lane and jokes, “Aquarium’s gonna be closed soon so we should probably just stay here.”

“Nope. One more. And you gotta wear a blindfold.” Nicole says with a chuckle. She stands and hops down from the bed of the truck so that she can help Wynonna down. 

“A blindfold? What the fu- Nic, where the hell? You’re not like taking me somewhere to kill me right?” Wynonna jokes. “That your M.O.? Make a girl weak in the knees for a whole year and then get rid of them?”

Nicole laughs loudly. “Shut it, Earp. C’mon… In the truck.” 

Once they’re inside, Nicole leans over to the glove compartment and gets out a small scarf she’d put there earlier and ties it around Wynonna’s eyes. She does a couple of gestures before deciding Wynonna can’t see anything and then takes off. 

 

***

 

Nicole helps Wynonna out of the truck and walks her back to the tailgate once she’s let it down. 

“Nicole, I am going to fall on my ass. You gotta let me take this thing off!” Wynonna protests. 

“Not yeeeet,” Nicole rebuts. “Besides…” Nicole lifts Wynonna with ease, setting her onto the bed of the truck a moment later. “I got that covered.” 

Wynonna gasps a little, wrapping her arms around Nicole’s neck as she’s lifted without much warning. She smirks and her whole body screams at her to kiss Nicole senseless--if only she could see the girl. 

Nicole hops up onto the truck bed a second later and sits beside Wynonna. Nicole turns Wynonna and positions her so that they’re sitting a specific way. “Take your blindfold off.”

Wynonna does, pulling it off and rubbing her eyes a little. It’s dark out, so her eyes adjust quickly. She looks around and raises a confused eyebrow. “Haught… We’re in the parking lot of my school…"

“Yeah…” Nicole says, grinning. She scoots closer and takes one of Wynonna’s hand into both of hers and starts tracing along the lines of her palm… Just like Wynonna had done to her a year ago. In this exact spot. 

“Nicole…” Wynonna breathes when she realizes what’s happening. 

“A year ago… You brought me out here. You took my hand just like this… And I felt like I was gonna pass out. You asked what my deepest darkest secret was… And I told you I liked girls.” Nicole recalls. 

“I remember.” Wynonna says, curious what else Nicole’s going to say. 

“You told me to close my eyes and you brought out something inside of me. You woke me up and I started really living the second I kissed you. I’ve been wide awake ever since and I wanna keep living and kissing you. For as long as you’ll have me.”

It’s Wynonna’s turn to have the wind knocked out of her. All she can do is push forward, initiating the kiss this time. This kiss is vastly different from their first, having had so much practice in between. Wynonna’s hands still find purchase on the back of Nicole’s head and pulls her closer. Nicole falls into it with ease and comfort rather than panic and worry. 

When they part, Wynonna laughs softly. “You really know how to take a girl’s breath away, Haught.” 

“I only wanna take yours away.” 

“Good.” 

Sadly, they don’t get to spend the night together, but the day together is so perfect that neither of them can find it in them to mind much. Nicole takes Wynonna home and kisses her goodbye from her truck. 

 

***

 

Christmas 2008 

 

Wynonna spends Christmas Eve day with Waverly, Curtis, and Gus. Gus comments that Wynonna seems to be doing better and Wynonna thinks for a second about asking if she can bring Nicole by sometime. Gus ruins that the next second by making a remark under her breath to Curtis that she doesn’t think Wynonna can hear. 

It’s just a matter of time before she goes off the rails again, Curtis. But I’m grateful Waves is getting this time with her. 

Wynonna excuses herself as soon as their scheduled time expires so that she can go be with the family that actually wants her. Truly.

Nicole comes over to spend Christmas Eve night at the Evans household. Wynonna is able to make Nicole’s favorite cookies alongside Mrs. Evans instead of sneaking around the house, paranoid to get in trouble. Mr. Evans and Nicole talk about the latest Raptors game. 

It’s the perfect balm to the shitty comment from Gus that’s still replaying at random times in Wynonna’s head. Nicole starts making eyes at Wynonna when it gets later in the night. As sentimental as Nicole had made their one year “anniversary,” she knows what’s going on in her head. One year since the first time they’d spent all night exploring each other… Nicole looks like that’s all she can think about.

That night, she shows Wynonna just how much everything has changed, taking control through most of the things they do together. Wynonna almost tells her that she loves her too many times. Every time she loves someone, they disappear… She can’t bring herself to say it. 

 

***

 

Early on Christmas morning, they head over to the Haught household. This time, Mr. and Mrs. Haught have bought Wynonna a gift as well. She opens the present and pulls out a black sweater. It makes her smile softly to herself. Maybe they didn’t pay a whole lot of attention, but at least they knew Wynonna’s wardrobe was mostly black? 

Up in their sanctuary, they prepare to exchange the gifts that they couldn’t share with the elder Haughts. 

“You parents really have gotta be the most clueless people on fucking earth,” Wynonna says as she plops onto the bed. “Second Christmas in a row I’m here and they still think I’m just your best friend. At least my folks have the excuse of only having me for a little while…”

Nicole shakes her head. “My parents have never been super attentive. But I stay outta trouble and they leave me alone. Hell, I don’t even know if they’d care if I did tell them I was gay or that I spend every night kissing you in this bed.” She climbs over Wynonna and kisses her quickly to make her point. 

“They might not care about the kissing… But all the other stuff…” Wynonna jokes against Nicole’s lips. “Now, get off of me for a minute, Horndog. You still have another present.” 

Nicole rolls off of Wynonna and sighs playfully. The both of them go to grab their final gifts. Nicole opens Wynonna’s first. 

Inside is another homemade card. It reads:

 

My Haught Baby,
Merry Christmas. You know all the stuff I want to say, but never seem to be able to. This year, I want you to think about last year. I was afraid I’d lost you because I had to work so hard to get by. But you just held me and kissed me and told me you’d be there. And you were. Still are. I’m in such a different place because of you. All I needed was for you to believe in me. You make me stronger. You know me better than anyone else in the world. Thank you for giving me a new chance at this. 

Yours,
Wynonna 

 

She pulls out a simple blue notebook with a subtle N.H. + W.E. etched into the corner. She opens it and notes that each page starts out with a note already in it. 

“It’s a journal. I keep one and it helps me a lot and I wanted to get you one. You can do it whenever you feel like it, but I’ve written you a note at the top of every page. A little something that I love about you for every page. Because when I journal, it’s usually because I’m sad or mad or something else bad, so I just wanted you to have a book full of reasons why you’re the best person ever.” Wynonna explains, wearing a proud smile. 

“Baby, this is so perfect…” Nicole says sincerely. She leans forward and kisses Wynonna sweetly. Pulling back, she flips through the pages again, only catching glimpses of some of the notes. Still certain words make her grin. “I’ve never really journaled before, but I think I want to start writing about all our best days… Since we keep having so many of ‘em.” 

“Whatever you wanna use it for, Haught,” Wynonna assures. 

“Your turn…” Nicole says, placing her journal and card in the box and setting it off to the side. She hands the new gift over to Wynonna and bounces excitedly. 

Wynonna opens as quickly as she can, eager. It’s a photo album, full of their memories together. Polaroids, other photos she had gotten printed from her phone and other camera, their tickets to the aquarium, stubs for the movies they’d seen together. 

The tears begin to fall down Wynonna’s cheeks and she doesn’t try to stop them as much anymore. She used to hide her emotions, but now, she just lets them flow freely. She releases them because she knows they’ll be fostered and protected in Nicole’s hands, in her arms, or in her eyes. These are happy tears. She flips through the pages and lets the nostalgia of every memory flood her with warmth. The album is a little over halfway filled with a bunch of blank pages at the end.

Nicole reaches out and brushes her tears away carefully, smiling softly all the while. “I know it’s not filled all the way, but I figure we have a lot more memories to make. We can fill it up soon enough,” Nicole declares dreamily. 

“I look forward to it, baby… Fuck, I’m never gonna get used to this.” Wynonna shakes her head through the words. “I don’t know what the hell I did to get you in my life, but I just wanna thank past-Wynonna for whatever it was.” 

Nicole moves the presents out of the way and maneuvers so she can wrap Wynonna up in her arms. “I’ll thank past-Nicole for whatever she did to get you, too. Merry Christmas, baby.”

“Merry Christmas, Nic.”

 

***

December 31, 2008 

 

Nicole comes down the stairs a little after nine in the morning, her duffel bag slung over her shoulder. Both of her parents are in the kitchen, a sight unusual to her unless it’s a planned family dinner. 

“Good morning, Nikki!” Her mom greets brightly. The ugly nickname immediately makes her want to roll her eyes. 

“Mornin’ mom… seriously though, how many times do I have to say…” She sighs, leaning against the doorway. 

“I know, I know… I just forget –-” Nicole’s mom tries to resolve, turning to face her. 

Her dad just laughs, getting up from the table and stopping on his way past Nicole to kiss the side of her head. “You don’t forget, you just don’t care.” He mutters, heading to the coffeemaker. 

Nicole looks at her mother, raising her eyebrows and pointing in her dad’s direction. “He’s got a point.” She shrugs, sinking her hand into her back pocket. 

“Anyway… you’re sure your aunt said it was okay to invite people out there for a party?” Nicole’s mom changes the subject. 

Though Wynonna likes to say that the list of things Nicole isn’t good at is very, very short, neither of them can argue that lying is all the way at the top. 

“Yeah. It’s not that many people don’t worry. We’re not gonna do anything crazy,” Nicole assures. 

That much was true… it isn’t that many people at all… in fact, it’s only two. Nicole had spun the same lie earlier this year and spent a few days alone with Wynonna at her aunt’s lakehouse. They intend to do the same thing again, this time to ring in the New Year. 

“Okay, I just don’t want anyone getting hurt out there,” her mom continues. 

“What? You mean like drinking? We aren’t gonna. Swear.” Maybe that’s a lie, maybe it isn’t. Either way, they won’t get out of hand. Nicole would never do anything to put Wynonna in danger. Nothing. 

“Okay, sweetie. I believe you,” her mom says and she sounds truthful. 

With all the lying she has to do to keep herself safely in the closet aside, Nicole has never given her parents any reason not to believe her or trust that she’ll be responsible. It’s not exactly a reach to say that she’s the most responsible person in the household at any given time. 

“I’ll let you guys know when we get there, okay? I’m picking Wynonna up. Everyone else is meeting us.” She nods, hoping that she’s been believable. 

“Okay, be careful. We love you,” her mom says softly. 

Nicole steps in her direction and gives her a brief one armed hug. “Love you guys, too.” 

“Love you, kid. Oh, and tell Wynonna we say hi and Happy New Year,” her dad says as she’s going out the door. 

It brings a tiny smile to her face. “Gotcha.” Nicole nods, heading to her truck. 

 

***

 

Wynonna is already out on the porch with her bag when Nicole pulls up. The redhead grins from ear to ear at the sight of her Wynonna standing all bundled up and waiting for her. 

She rolls the window down. “Hey girl, you need a ride? I’m headed to the lake.” Nicole shouts out the window. 

“How lucky, that’s where I’m headed, too.” Wynonna plays along, shouting back as she walks to Nicole’s truck. 

When Wynonna gets closer, Nicole leans over and opens the passenger door for her. “I think it’s me who got lucky.” 

Wynonna laughs as she tosses her bag in. “You’re so silly,” she teases, climbing up into the red truck and sliding across the seat to settle at Nicole’s side. The older girl grabs the front of Nicole’s coat and pulls her into a kiss. “I missed you.” 

Nicole is breathless when Wynonna pulls away--the kiss making her heart flutter. “I missed you too… even if it’s just been a day.’ Nicole chuckles, pressing her lips to Wynonna’s cold ones again. 

“I don’t care if it’s been an hour. A minute. I’ll always miss you when you’re not with me,” Wynonna admits. Maybe it sounds kind of lame but she doesn’t care. Not anymore. 

Nicole softens, resting her forehead against Wynonna’s for a moment. “Soon you won’t have to miss me, cause we’ll be done with school and moving in together. God, can you believe the year is over already?” Nicole asks, her smile still present. 

Anytime she talks or even thinks about her plans to move in with Wynonna once they graduate her heart feels like it’s going to jump out of her chest. The fact that the months are practically melting away is both invigorating and terrifying. 

She’s not scared to take a step like that with Wynonna, but she is scared of missing anything along the way. Of rushing through anything. She wants all the time in the world with this girl and she wants it forever. 

“Well, it’s not over yet. I think we’ve got a lake to get to and some celebrating to do first, Haughtstuff.” Wynonna smiles, nuzzling against Nicole’s cheek before pressing a kiss to it. 

“Oh, you’re right… on it.” Nicole smiles back before settling into the driver’s seat for the ride. 

 

*** 

 

They stop for breakfast on the way and sing along to the radio the way that they always do. Wynonna finds herself just staring at the younger girl more times than she can count. Watching how she concentrates when traffic picks up, or reaches out to hold her hand or rest hers against Wynonna’s thigh. The sight of Wynonna’s onyx ring on her finger will never get old. 

At some point, Nicole notices that the brunette has been playing with the ring around her finger for a while. 

“What you thinkin’ about, baby? You want it back or something?” Nicole only jokes. 

Wynonna’s head snaps up and in Nicole’s direction immediately. “What? No, never ––” Wynonna tries to defend but Nicole soothes her with a gentle grip on her thigh. 

“Relax, ‘Nonna it was just a joke. Like I'd ever take this off. You’re not gettin’ this one back.” Nicole promises, Wynonna can hear the sureness in her voice and it sends a soothing warmth through her chest. 

“Good, I don’t want you to. I put it on you for a reason, Red. I made a promise.” Wynonna settles back against the seat, reaching out with her other hand to let her fingers play with Nicole’s ponytail. 

“I know, baby and we’re keepin’ it. Always.” Nicole says simply, intertwining her fingers with Wynonna’s and bringing her knuckles up to her lips while she drives. 

“Always.” Wynonna repeats, her voice barely more than a whisper as she watches Nicole promise forever with her once again. 

 

*** 

 

They get the lake house to themselves for only two days this time, but Nicole promises that it’ll be worth it. Since they both have jobs now, they don’t get to have every single day of the holiday break together the way they did last year. It sucks, but they both know that having the money will be worth it when they get ready to move in together. 

It’s too cold for swimming or many of the other outdoor activities that they enjoyed in the summer, but that doesn’t stop them from having fun. Nicole takes Wynonna on a hiking trail that shows them a view of the lake from up above. 

Looking out from way up here with Nicole’s arms around her, Wynonna feels like she can do anything. 

The redhead rests her chin against Wynonna’s shoulder and hums contentedly. “Being out here with you feels like a dream.” She mumbles, pressing a soft kiss with her cold lips to Wynonna’s cheek. 

A soft chuckle escapes the older girl, and she settles back into Nicole’s chest. Her hands rest over Nicole’s on her waist. “It’s real, Haughty. This … it’s the realest thing I’ve ever felt.” 

Nicole raises her eyebrows, her breath catching with Wynonna’s admission. Something tells her that she isn’t just talking about sharing the scenery with her anymore. The urge to tell her pulses through Nicole’s blood, aches in every part of her body. 

She knows that when Wynonna is ready, though, that she’ll say the words. She wants to give that chance to her. Until then, Nicole is content with knowing in every part of her being that they both feel it. 

“I know what you mean, Wynonna,” she whispers, nuzzling her nose against Wynonna’s cheek. 

 

*** 

 

In the middle of the day, they take a hot shower that takes up maybe a little too much time before Nicole starts preparing what she wants to make for dinner. 

Watching Nicole do things she’s good at will never get old, Wynonna decides. Usually when she isn’t good at something, she just pretends to hate it. With Nicole, that’s harder. Nicole never makes her feel stupid, or less than because she doesn’t get something or isn’t amazing at it. Wynonna thinks that Nicole would spend years trying to teach her anything she wanted to be taught. 

She’s content to just watch for most of the cooking, though. Something about Nicole doing it for her makes it feel... romantic. Barf. She’d become so sappy for the first time in her life. Spending a year with the human embodiment of a golden retriever will do that to you , she decides. 

“If you see anything you wanna try just let me know,” Nicole says at one point while she’s chopping chicken. Wynonna can’t even remember the name of the dish Nicole decided on, she just knows that it looks really fucking good. 

“I’m just lookin’ at you, Haughtstuff. And I can think of so many things I wanna try,” Wynonna teases, leaning across the counter and resting her chin in her hands.  

Nicole reddens at the proposition. The last year has definitely shown her that, even though she can ooze confidence at times, Wynonna’s way of making her shy and soft will never wear off. 

“Yeah? You know I’d try anything with you, Wynonna. Not even just sexy stuff, I know that’s what you mean, I just –– yeah, I really think I’d do anything you wanted to.” It’s as if she’s realizing it for the first time, or really accepting it. Definitely the first time she’s saying it out loud to this extent. 

Wynonna’s eyes soften and her shoulders slump a bit under Nicole’s confession. She slides her hand forward across the counter and lets her fingers brush against Nicole’s arm. “Haught…”

“Earp…” Nicole returns, her voice matching the airy sweetness of Wynonna’s. 

Wynonna hops down from the bar stool she’d been perched on and makes her way around the counter to wrap the taller girl up in her arms from behind. She presses a kiss to the bare skin of Nicole’s shoulder, exposed by the sleeveless shirt she’s wearing. 

“I’d do anything with you too. Anything in the world.” Wynonna admits, resting her cheek against Nicole’s back. Her hands clasp together over her stomach and she shuts her eyes, breathing in this moment. I want to do everything with you. Just you. Forever, Wynonna thinks. 

 

*** 

 

They finish dinner and it’s the best thing Nicole has made for them so far. Wynonna knows that she thinks that after every new recipe that the other girl tries, but they really do just get better and better. 

Nicole builds a fire for the two of them outside afterwards. They roast marshmallows and attempt to make s’mores, but mostly they just make a mess. 

When they clean up, Nicole settles in a chair with Wynonna curled up on her lap and a big blanket wrapped around the both of them. For a while, they just sit and talk with one another. Being this close, they only have to whisper. There’s something incredibly intimate about it. 

Nicole notices the way Wynonna’s eyes shine in the firelight while she tells a story and she can’t look away. It dawns on her for maybe the umpteenth time that this woman sitting in her arms wanted her. Really wanted her. Wynonna had more than proven it over and over again and still Nicole finds it unimaginable. 

Her hands smooth over Wynonna’s thigh and her back, just enjoying the way she feels as she watches her eyes. 

Wynonna notices the intense look on Nicole’s face and her raised eyebrow tells the younger girl that she wants to know what it’s for. 

“Hold still, okay?” Nicole says after a few moments, wrapping one arm tight around Wynonna to keep her from falling off her lap when she leans over to pull their camera out of the bag she’d brought out with them. 

Nicole turns the camcorder on and flips it on the both of them. Seeing them reflected in the small viewfinder makes her smile instantly. Wynonna snuggles into Nicole’s neck, hiding part of her face. The big grin she wears is unmistakable, though. 

“Uh uh now, no hiding.” Nicole scolds her, laughing softly. 

“I’m not hiding, ‘m just being held by my Haughty.” Wynonna teases, wrapping her fingers in Nicole’s sweatshirt underneath the blanket. 

“Oh, is that what?” Nicole says softly, relaxing into Wynonna. Her fingers play in dark, curly hair as she holds her, just letting the camera record their comfortable quietness for a few moments. 

“Baby?” Nicole says after a moment, “Got any New Year’s Resolutions?” Her lips press into Wynonna’s hair and she looks up at the camera again, a small smile etched on her face. 

“Seriously?” Wynonna laughs lightly, leaning her head back a bit to look up at Nicole. 

“C’mon… anything. I’ll think of somethin’ if you do.” She swears, rubbing her hand slowly over Wynonna’s back. 

“Okay… hmm..” Wynonna thinks for a moment or two. “Uh, I guess… getting a better job, that’s definitely up there. Um… getting an A on a test? Is that too lame?” 

“Nuh uh..” Nicole smiles down at her, shaking her head as she watches her come up with things. 

“Okay, that… and uh, just be the best version of myself for you.” Wynonna finishes almost shyly, her fingers still grasping at Nicole’s shirt. 

“Baby, you’re the best for me. All the time. You always always have been and you always will be.” Nicole assures, leaning her forehead against Wynonna’s for a moment. 

“What’s yours then, Haughtshot?” Wynonna asks before she can let herself become too wrapped up in the emotions of Nicole’s reassuring words. 

“Mine... oh... I was too busy listening to yours. You’ll have to give me a sec…” She laughs, closing her eyes. 

Wynonna laughs too, so much she even snorts. “God, you’re such a loser…” Her voice is full of love. 

“Okay, um… Find the perfect place for us. Number one. Climb a mountain...I dunno which one, so don’t ask me that yet...” 

Wynonna laughs again, watching Nicole with the same adoration that the redhead had given to her. 

“And uh… oh my god, get a cat!” Nicole’s eyes brighten and Wynonna’s mirror them, her lip curling with her soft smirk. 

“Those are so good, baby… I’m kinda jealous…” Wynonna jokes, making Nicole crack up again. 

“Whatever, yours were good too...besides what’s it matter when we get to do them all together anyway.” Nicole brushes her nose against Wynonna’s before kissing it softly. 

Wynonna reaches up and takes Nicole’s face in her hands, leaning in and giving her a long lingering kiss. 

Nicole lets herself get lost in it for a few moments, forgetting about how she’s holding the camera before something jolts her back. She pulls away from Wynonna abruptly. “Oh my god… It’ll be midnight soon.” She says, closing the camera up and urging Wynonna to stand up from her lap. 

“Jesus, Haught… what the hell…” Wynonna wraps the blanket around herself, eyebrows knitted together in confusion. 

Nicole takes her by the hand and leads her away from the fire. 

 

*** 

 

They walk for a few minutes, but when they’re almost there Wynonna recognizes it. Even in the dark, the floating dock stands out. The moon is big and full tonight and it shines brightly on the calm water. 

Her heart swells a little bit, thinking about the last time they were out here. Nicole remembers everything, all the time. She always makes everything special. 

“Alright, if you even think about pushing me in that water tonight… might just have to break my promise.” Wynonna says playfully, still letting Nicole guide her farther onto the dock. 

“I wouldn’t do that ‘cause I don’t plan to go in after you.” Nicole assures, looking back over her shoulder at the brunette, lips twisted up in a smirk. 

“Ass…” Wynonna mutters under her breath. 

Nicole gets them to the end of the dock and sits down, patting the space in front of her for Wynonna. She’s so used to this by now, but she still loves seeing Nicole pat the empty space for her. 

Wynonna wraps the blanket around Nicole’s shoulders before she sits down and lets herself be pulled against her chest. She tightens the blanket around the both of them and settles her head back against Nicole’s shoulder. 

Nicole’s mind goes back to the night a whole year ago when they sat just like this on Max’s roof. The thought almost makes her laugh now, after all the shit they’d been through with her old friend. Those moments on the roof with Wynonna had been so magical despite everything else. Nicole has no doubts that this moment will be too. 

“My aunt said that some of the people who live around the lake like to do fireworks, so I figured we’d watch.” Nicole explains, resting her chin against Wynonna’s shoulder. 

She maneuvers her arm out from under the blanket enough to see her watch light up in the dark. 11:58PM. 

Nicole counts down the minutes in her head and as soon as the clock strikes midnight the first fireworks go up over the lake. 

Wynonna smiles wide, turning in Nicole’s lap to wrap her arms around her neck and kiss the hell out of her. They’re both smiling almost too much to kiss, but they keep going until their lungs sting. 

Wynonna holds Nicole’s face in her hands and looks up into those big brown eyes. She sees the light from the moon and the colors from the fireworks and most of all, love shining in them and her heart skips a beat or two.

“Happy New Year, baby.” Wynonna whispers when she finally catches her breath. 

Nicole smiles and pulls her in closer, wrapping her arms tight around her waist and kissing her again. “Happy New Year, Wynonna.” Nicole whispers back against her ear when she pulls away. 

 

*** 

 

January 5, 2009 

 

Nicole wakes up to the smell of breakfast. When she opens her eyes and rubs the sleep from them, there’s Wynonna setting up a tray with two plates and glasses. 

“Baby? Wh- did you… make breakfast?” Nicole blinks slowly, trying to wake up. Usually, she’d wake up if Wynonna moved out of bed, but they’d had a long night and she’s worn out to say the least. 

Wynonna’s smile beams when she looks up to see Nicole sitting up in bed. “Good morning, birthday girl.” Her voice is soft and sweet as she climbs onto the bed, crawling over Nicole and planting herself in her lap. 

The younger girl’s smile widens as Wynonna straddles her, long arms wrapping around her waist and holding her close. “Good morning …” Her voice is raspy and low from sleep and it makes Wynonna shiver. 

Wynonna’s hands drift over Nicole’s bare back, her smile staying put as the redhead presses kisses to her face and neck, everywhere the big t-shirt she stole from Nicole doesn’t cover. 

“Hey now, I worked hard on this breakfast, you don’t want it getting cold…” Wynonna gently tilts Nicole’s head back so that she’s looking up at her. She stares down into her eyes for a long moment. 

God, she can’t believe that she’s gotten to do this for 2 birthdays in a row… that she’ll get to do it for every birthday to come. 

Wynonna leans in and kisses Nicole deeply, pushing her tongue into her mouth. Nicole moans into her, kissing her back just as deliberately. The kiss seems to last forever and Nicole swears she’s dizzy when Wynonna pulls back and climbs off her lap all too soon. 

She brings one of the plates over and puts it in Nicole’s lap instead. There’s a few misshapen pancakes absolutely smothered in syrup and some bacon that looks like maybe Wynonna forgot about it for a second. It looks delicious either way and even more than that, it makes Nicole smile so hard she feels like she’s gonna cry. 

“Baby… you did this all by yourself down there?” She chuckles a little, thinking about how hard Wynonna must have worked to simply not burn down her parents house. 

“Yup, all for you.” Wynonna looks so happy and proud of herself, Nicole can’t stop looking at the way she bounces and sways in her cute little pigeon-toed stance. 

“I’m the luckiest girl in the whole world.” Nicole adds, reaching out for Wynonna’s hand and bringing it up to her lips. 

“Well what are you waitin’ for? get over here and eat breakfast with me, my girl worked hard on this.” Nicole smirks, picking up the plate from her lap and sitting back against her headboard. 

“Don’t get syrup on your sheets, it’ll make it smell like pee in here,” Wynonna comments as she climbs onto the bed next to Nicole. 

The absurdity of it makes Nicole laugh hard. “Pee?” 

“Yeah! That’s what dry syrup smells like. Are you new?” Wynonna teases, jabbing Nicole with her elbow. 

They eat breakfast in bed together, spending a little more time between the sheets without their clothes when they’re done. 

After an hour or so, Wynonna rolls out of Nicole’s arms and slips the big t-shirt back over her head before going to grab the neatly wrapped present off Nicole’s dresser. She comes back to bed and sets the box between them and watches, waiting for Nicole to tear into it. 

“You gotta open the little note on the outside of each thing after you open all the things.” Wynonna clarifies, nervousness filling her up. 

She’s not even sure why, they’d given one another gifts plenty of times now, but this feels… different. It’s the first gift of the New Year. The year they really get to start their life together. Wynonna just wants everything to be perfect. 

Nicole’s smile is wide and permanent as she tears into the paper and opens the box. Inside, there’s three items wrapped in dark blue tissue paper, each with a little note attached to the outside. She picks up the smallest one first, pulling the note off and sitting it aside the way Wynonna instructed. 

Nicole unwraps the paper to find a pretty leather keychain with the letter H embossed on it. She runs her fingers over it, glancing up at Wynonna with her smile pulling to one side. “This is so pretty, baby.” 

“Keep going, keep going…” Wynonna urges, pulling her knees up to her chest. 

Nicole continues, pulling out the next item and unwrapping it to find a harness and heavy duty carabiners. 

She looks up again, excitement in her eyes. “This one’s for climbing, isn’t it?” Nicole asks, teasingly.

“Ugh, yes… stop asking questions, keep opening presents.” 

“Wynonna! This thing was probably so much money are you kidding? It’s so pretty…” 

Wynonna blushes as she lets Nicole fawn over the biggest gift for a moment, reveling in the joy she sees in the younger girl. 

Nicole laughs to herself and shakes her head as she puts it to the side to pull out the next present, eager to know how all these things go together. The next thing is a small blue collar with a little bell attached to it and a blue flannel bow. This one stumps Nicole the most. 

“Is this a cat collar, ‘Nonna?” Nicole asks with a little chuckle, looking it over and over. 

“Yeah, now open the envelopes.” She says softly. 

Nicole puts down the collar and picks up the first envelope. “For the keys to our perfect place.” She reads aloud from the tiny card inside. Her heart melts, but she keeps going, taking out each card and reading it.  

“For all the mountains you’re gonna climb.” 

“For the cat.” 

It finally clicks. Nicole remembers the things she’d listed for her New Year’s resolutions… Wynonna had remembered every one and turned it into this. Nicole feels like her heart is going to burst in her chest. 

“Oh my god, Wynonna… baby…” She hears her voice tremble before she feels the tears prick in her eyes. 

“God, I hoped you wouldn’t cry.” Wynonna sniffles, already feeling the tears streaming down her own cheeks at the sound of Nicole’s voice breaking. 

Nicole takes Wynonna in her arms, holding her close with one hand on the back of her head and the other on her back. They sniffle and cry together for a moment before Nicole pulls back and cradles Wynonna’s head in her hands. 

“I wanted to make it special because we’re –– we’re starting our lives together this year… for real and - and I wanted you to know that I wanna do all those things with you. I want it all, with you. I can’t believe we’re gonna get it. I can’t believe I’m with you.” Wynonna forces the words out even if it feels like her chest is splitting open. 

She wipes at her nose with the back of her hand and takes a deep breath, smiling again through the tears.

“It’s so special, Wynonna. You make –– everything special.” Nicole’s voice breaks again but she smiles too, just before pulling Wynonna in for a long, sweet kiss. 

“I want everything with you too. Always.” She whispers when they part, wiping Wynonna’s tears with her thumbs. 

Wynonna wipes the tears out from under Nicole’s eyes in return. “Promise?” She asks with a small smile, her voice meek from crying. She holds up her pinky, just like she had that night in Nicole’s truck after the Halloween party. 

Nicole laughs, loud and beautiful, fresh tears coming out as she nods and wraps Wynonna’s pinky up with her own. “I promise. Always.” 

 

***

 

February 2009

 

Nicole: Wynonna? It’s been like two weeks. Can you please just let me know you’re okay?

Nicole: Baby, please I’m freaking out.

Nicole: Where are you? I’ve tried your house. They said you’re not there anymore. I wish I knew where Gus lived… 

Nicole: What did I do, Wynonna? Please come back. 

 

March 2009

 

Nicole: It’s been over a month… I know sometimes you needed time before but… I thought we were past that. Please, baby. Just let me know if you’re alive. 

Nicole: No one will fucking tell me where you are. They just keep telling me you left. Where did you go? 

Nicole: I can’t find Waverly or Gus. No one in Purgatory will tell me anything. I’m trying to find you. I’m coming, Wynonna. 

Nicole: I was gonna ask you to prom soon… 

Nicole: I was gonna ask if you wanted to be my girlfriend.

 

April 2009

 

Nicole: Prom’s coming up. I know you hate this shit, but I really thought maybe you’d want to go with me. I was gonna wear a suit. I was gonna tell my parents. 

Nicole: I got kicked off the softball team today. Missed too many practices. And I’m almost failing two classes. 

Nicole: My mom is fucking pissed at me. 

Nicole: My parents know I’m gay. They know that you were more than my friend. 

 

May 2009 

 

Nicole: I keep dreaming that you’re somewhere that I need to rescue from, but I don’t fucking know where it is. I wish I could rescue you. If you need it. 

Nicole: Went to Purgatory again today. Still all anyone says is you’re gone. No one will tell me where Waverly is because I’m just some old weirdo asking about a 13 year old. 

Nicole: Wynonna, please, I’m begging you. Somehow get this. Get this and come back. I’m still waiting. I’m gonna keep our promises. I’m never gonna give up on you. 

Nicole: Graduated today. We were supposed to be moving into our new place next week. I found a good one. You would have loved it. 

Nicole: Moving out on my own. I don’t want to be here without you. Fuck my mom. 

Nicole: I’m gonna start writing all this in the journal you got me. I’m losing this phone… Getting a new one in my own name. But you’re not getting these… That’s pretty obvious. I was just trying to hold onto hope, I guess... I wanna make sure when you come back, you’ll know what you missed. The journal will be for you. 

 

September 2009

 

Nicole: Happy Birthday. I miss you. I’m still looking.

 

November 2009

 

Nicole: Today would have been two years together. I’m still yours. I’m still looking.

 

December 2009

 

Nicole: Merry Christmas, Wynonna. Still looking.

 

January 2010

 

Nicole: Happy New Year, Wynonna. Still looking.

 

February 2010

 

Nicole: Happy Valentine’s Day. Sill looking 

ERROR: THIS MESSAGE FAILED TO DELIVER. INVALID NUMBER. 

Nicole: Happy Valentine’s Day. Sill looking 

ERROR: THIS MESSAGE FAILED TO DELIVER. INVALID NUMBER. 

Nicole: Happy Valentine’s Day. Sill looking 

ERROR: THIS MESSAGE FAILED TO DELIVER. INVALID NUMBER. 

Nicole: Happy Valentine’s Day. Sill looking 

ERROR: THIS MESSAGE FAILED TO DELIVER. INVALID NUMBER. 

Chapter Text

Wynonna rubs her eyes, sitting up in Nicole’s big bed. It’s empty. Before she can start to worry about why Nicole isn’t in bed with her, her senses catch up to being awake and she smells breakfast. A soft smile pulls at the corner of her mouth and she shakes her head lightly, taking in a deep breath. 

All the time spent away from Nicole had almost gotten Wynonna to believe that it had been a dream. Now, being back with her like this, she’s reminded of just how real that happiness had been. It was hers then and it’s hers now. I’m not letting it go, not again, Wynonna promises herself. 

The Heir pushes herself to the edge of the bed and stretches, squinting at the warm sun coming through the window. Sometimes when she’s in Nicole’s house, she feels like she can pretend there’s nothing bad happening outside. Just for a little while. 

Wynonna grabs a t-shirt from Nicole’s drawer and pulls it on over her underwear, not bothering to get pants. She walks slowly down the stairs, a little smirk still on her face as she thinks about sneaking up on the redhead. As soon as she reaches the kitchen, though, Calamity Jane runs up and brushes against her leg, making a loud, happy noise. 

Nicole’s head turns towards the sound, beaming when she notices the brunette standing in the room with her. 

“Good morning, baby. Look at you…” Nicole sighs, sheepishly turning back to the bacon sizzling on the stove.

Wynonna laughs gently. “I’m wearin’ a t-shirt, Haught… just a t-shirt. Only thing special about it is that it’s yours.” Even though she’s trying to object, her cheeks are red and her smile shows off her dimples. She bends down and scratches the cat on the head, enjoying the fact that it seems to like her so much. 

“Hey, it’s been a long time since you came walkin’ down the stairs in the morning while I cooked for you. I’m gonna enjoy it every chance I get.” The words pull at Nicole’s heart as she speaks them, thinking about just how long it’s been. 

“Alright, Haughtstuff…” Wynonna breathes. She walks further into the kitchen, taking in all of Nicole’s hard work. Pancakes, eggs and perfect toast all wait for the younger woman to be finished with what she’s cooking now. 

“God, everything looks and smells so good.” She comments, feeling her stomach start to grumble. 

Nicole is standing in her underwear and a tank top and when Wynonna feels her mouth start watering, she decides it probably has more to do with that than the food. 

Wynonna comes up from behind and wraps her arms around her. “I mean everything. ” She draws out, biting her lip as she runs her hands up and down the taller woman’s sides. 

“How come you get to talk about how good you think I look but I can’t talk about you bein’ sexy in my t-shirt?” Nicole smirks, raising an eyebrow and glancing at Wynonna over her shoulder. 

“I never said you couldn’t...but you didn’t even try to argue with me, which means you know you look good.” Wynonna shrugs, pressing a series of kisses to places where Nicole’s shirt exposes her strong shoulders. 

“Mmm, whatever you say, baby.” The redhead laughs, removing the last of the bacon from the skillet and turning off the stove. She turns around in Wynonna’s arms and wraps hers around the shorter woman, leaning down to finally kiss her good morning. 

Wynonna gives into the kiss easily, making a small sound against Nicole’s mouth. Nicole’s hand drifts lower, pushing up the edge of Wynonna’s shirt to run her fingers over warm, bare skin. She makes a pitiful sound against Wynonna’s lips in return and finally forces herself to pull away, chuckling lightly. 

“I didn’t just make all this to let it get cold and if we keep that up... that’s exactly what will have to happen.” She warns playfully, smoothing her hand over Wynonna’s hip and letting her t-shirt fall back into place. 

“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Wynonna concedes, taking in a deep breath. 

Nicole tears herself away from Wynonna long enough to make each of them a plate while Wynonna pours their coffee. 

When the older woman goes to sit the mugs down on the kitchen table, she finds a worn box with the lid half on sitting off to the side. Her brow furrows as she sets down the coffee, hands going to the box. 

Wynonna’s fingers trace the ragged edges, sliding over all the torn and cracked parts. She has a feeling what she might find in there, but she doesn’t want to just open it up and start rifling through it without asking. 

“Baby?” Wynonna asks just as Nicole comes up beside her holding their plates. 

“Yeah? Oh…” Nicole says, her voice trailing off when she notices. 

The redhead puts their plates on the table and pulls out a chair for Wynonna to sit down in. She pulls out the seat next to Wynonna and takes it, scooting closer to her. “That’s uh… those are… well, you can open it and look for yourself, if you want.” Nicole urges. 

Most of her believes that Wynonna will be so happy to see all the memories that she’s had packed away in that box for the last seven years. Another, smaller and more afraid part, thinks that maybe she’ll think it’s weird that Nicole kept up with all that stuff all this time. That she left it out on the kitchen table because she was going through it recently.

Wynonna looks towards Nicole for a moment, blue eyes brimming with emotion. She reaches out with her left hand to find Nicole’s as she pulls the box closer to them with the other, pushing the lid the rest of the way off. 

She feels like her chest is going to explode when she sees everything that’s inside. Wynonna pulls in a shaky breath, taking her hand away from Nicole’s to begin going through the contents. 

There’s probably more than 50 polaroid pictures inside, most of them with dates and other small messages scribbled along the bottom in either Nicole or Wynonna’s high school handwriting. There’s several other pictures that were printed out, as well as so many notes and cards and other things from Wynonna that she’d managed to save over the years. 

Wynonna’s mouth hangs open as she picks up the stack of pictures, turning more towards Nicole as she begins to look through them. She can feel the tears running down her cheeks and she doesn’t even try to stop them. 

Nicole reaches out and wraps an arm around Wynonna, resting her chin against her shoulder as they look through the pictures. 

“You kept all these…” Wynonna begins, her voice breaking with tears before it changes to a laugh when she sees a picture of the one time Nicole let her do her makeup and dress her up in her clothes. 

“Oh god, that one…” Nicole laughs too, closing her eyes tight and turning red at the memory. “I looked so stupid, look how short your pants were on me.” She chuckles through her words, finding that she has to wipe tears from her own eyes. 

Wynonna laughs even harder, to the point of snorting. She leans against Nicole and they laugh and cry through the memories together, remembering to eat their breakfast along the way. 

Wynonna rereads all the cards and notes Nicole has saved and they make her chest ache. There was so much love in everything, even then. As much as she could possibly give to Nicole without actually saying the words. God, now she wishes she could’ve said them. She wants so badly to do it now, feeling nineteen all over again, but the fear of dying or losing Nicole at the hands of this fucking curse crawls back up in her throat and she can’t.  

“Are these prom tickets?” Wynonna asks, pulling out two dark green pieces of card stock with fading ink. Her eyebrows pull together and she turns to look into Nicole’s eyes. “We never…” she starts, but trails off, shaking her head. 

“I was gonna ask you. Wynonna –– there was so much I wanted to say… so many things I wanted to do. Before you went away.” Nicole almost whispers, reaching up and brushing away Wynonna’s remaining tears.

“I was gonna ask you to my prom… I picked out a suit and everything. I thought about it for so long –– how I’d tell them and how I’d finally ask you to be my girlfriend.” Nicole sighs, her gaze dropping. “God, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said all that…” 

Wynonna turns fully to face her and watches a couple of tears fall to Nicole’s lap. She reaches out to lift her chin up. Her eyes soften, head tilting to the side as she looks at the woman in front of her. Still aching over what could’ve been –- what should’ve been –– after all these years. Wynonna could relate. 

“Don’t you dare apologize, Nicole Haught,” she starts, hearing the fragility of her own voice. She keeps going, though. Not letting fear stand in her way this time. “ I’m sorry –– that you paid for those dumb prom tickets and didn’t get to use them.” She kids, running her thumb along Nicole’s jaw and cracking a little smile when she makes the younger woman laugh hard. 

“I’m sorry I didn’t get to go to prom with you. I would’ve said yes when you asked.” She says more softly, moving her hands to Nicole’s cheeks and holding her face. Her thumbs brush gently against her skin, taking in the way she looks. God, she is so beautiful, Wynonna thinks.

“You can still ask me, you know? The other thing…if you still want to.” She nudges, using all of her bravery. When Nicole’s eyes brighten and go wide just before she smiles, Wynonna feels like there’s a weight that’s lifted off her shoulders. A heavy burden she’d been carrying for nearly a decade.  

“What? You –- you mean…” Nicole stumbles, reaching out for Wynonna’s hands. She chews at the inside of her lip, feeling her pulse begin to pound. She was finally going to get this? Finally going to be able to ask this woman to be her girlfriend? Finally going to be able to call her that?

Wynonna nods, lips pulling to the side in a little smirk as she tries to keep from crying again. She wants to let Nicole have this moment that they’ve both been waiting on for what feels like forever. 

“Oh my god, okay.. I uh –– I don’t remember now, all the stuff I wanted to say back then...I mean I’m sure I could, I just ––” Nicole starts to ramble, her cheeks matching the color of her hair.

“You don’t have to, Haught. Just say what you feel now. It’s just me.” Wynonna soothes, her voice soft in the way it only ever is for Nicole. 

The redhead takes a shaky breath, closing her eyes as she breathes it out. Her thumbs smooth over the backs of Wynonna’s hands and she finally opens her eyes again, grinning wide as she looks at the woman in front of her. 

“I’ve wanted this for as long as I can remember. I know it’s –– silly, considering… I mean, I know what we were. Are. I don’t need a label to make that more clear or real to me. But, I really wanna ask. Wynonna Earp –– will you be my girlfriend?” Nicole breathes out hard. 

She doesn’t really realize how much her tears are falling until Wynonna reaches up to wipe them away, with the biggest, most beautiful smile on her face. Wynonna pulls her bottom lip between her teeth, still smiling as she begins to nod. 

“Nicole Haught –– I thought you’d never ask.” She answers, feeling her chest tremble as she breathes out. 

Nicole’s arms are around her before she knows it, scooping her up out of the kitchen chair with ease. The younger woman sits her down on the edge of the table, instantly claiming her lips in a bruising kiss. Wynonna whimpers against Nicole’s mouth, wrapping her arms around her neck, her legs around her waist, and tangling her fingers in long red hair. 

Nicole reaches behind them, pushing the box off to the side and sparing a glance to make sure they’d put the dishes in a safe enough spot before she starts kissing her way down Wynonna’s neck. 

 

***

 

Three days later

Wynonna stands in the doorway of the Sheriff’s Department, watching as people file in and out. Someone comes to collect each one of the girl’s they’d rescued from the Pine Barrens. A mom, a dad, a sister, brother, cousin...someone comes for every single girl except for Eve. Wynonna feels every ounce of doubt inside of her vanish. 

Nicole finishes up with the paperwork for the last survivor aside from Eve. The officer looks at the stranger with kindness and concern, reaching out and placing a hand on her arm on her way to Wynonna. “I’m sure somebody will be by here soon.” Nicole tries to sound reassuring, but the smile that Eve gives her is weak and it doesn’t hold any hope. 

Nicole deflates, breathing out a deep breath as she goes to her girlfriend’s side. Wynonna is just staring at the girl in a way that Nicole doesn’t understand. “Baby…” Nicole starts softly. 

Wynonna gravitates towards Nicole, her body knowing that it needs to be close to her. “Nobody’s coming for her.” Wynonna says, sounding almost numb. 

Nicole’s eyebrows pull together and she shakes her head a little, reaching up to tuck some of Wynonna’s hair behind her ear. “Wynonna, what do you mean?” 

“Nobody’s coming for her. She’s not...who she thinks she is. She shot Peacemaker, Nicole. It worked for her.” Wynonna’s voice sounds broken, and when she looks up at the taller woman there are tears pooling in her eyes, making them bluer in a beautifully heartbreaking way. 

Nicole takes a moment to let the words sink in. “But you told me nobody else can unless they’re the Heir...even Waverly can’t and she’s your sis–– oh. ” Nicole falters, watching Wynonna’s tears begin to fall down her cheeks. She knows what this must mean… that Eve isn’t Eve she’s… 

“We left her. We just left her. We stopped looking for her and she was out there, all this time.” Wynonna muses, sounding far away. 

Nicole reaches out for Wynonna’s hand, intertwining their fingers. At this point it’s so late and the office is so empty that it doesn’t matter, but Nicole knows that even if people were around she wouldn’t care. Wynonna needs her and that’s what matters. 

“Hey, baby… Shhh, it’s –– I”m sure it’s not just that simple. Okay? You were a kid. You saw what happened. Why would you think anything else, especially somethin’ like this could happen…” Nicole tries to reason with her, but it doesn’t pull her back from that far away place, not all the way. 

“I’m gonna take her home.” Wynonna says quietly, turning towards Nicole but not looking up yet. 

“Do you want me to meet you there or?” Nicole asks. Even though they hadn’t spent a night apart, she still wants to give Wynonna the option to take space if she needs it. Especially tonight.

“Please, Nicole.” Wynonna sounds and looks so small when she looks up at the cop. Nicole just wants to hold her. 

“Okay. Okay, baby I’ll be there when we get everything finished up here. Be safe, okay? I’ll be right behind you.” Nicole promises quietly, kissing Wynonna’s knuckles before letting go of her hand reluctantly.  

“Nic. Thank you.” Wynonna mutters, nodding and wiping away her tears with her fingers. 

“Eve.” Wynonna speaks up a moment later, getting the girl’s attention. She reaches out and motions for her to come. “Come on, you’re gonna go home with us.” Her voice is tender, it soothes the anxiety swelling in Nicole’s chest just enough. 

It’s scary to see Wynonna this way, this upset and hurt. Thinking yet another thing is her fault. Nicole hates seeing Wynonna hurt and even after all this time and all the shit they’ve gone through together it never gets easier. 

She watches from the doorway as Wynonna leads Eve out of the Sheriff’s Department.

Chapter Text

The last few days have been absolute insanity at the homestead. They were right, Eve is Willa. If Wynonna or Waverly had any doubts, Peacemaker choosing to work for Willa instead of Wynonna and giving her back her memories really cleared them up. 

Nicole lingers around the homestead at Wynonna’s request, despite the fact that she would rather do almost anything else in the world besides be around Willa. She’s here for Wynonna, she reminds herself every single time. And Waverly--who needs the support a little more than Wynonna when it comes to Willa. 

Waverly seems to have gotten much smaller, sinking into herself every time Willa is around. Nicole notices and she’s surprised when Wynonna doesn’t. At one point, Nicole goes to Waverly and places a supportive hand on her shoulder. Nicole smiles down at her reassuringly when she looks up at her. Waverly does her best to smile back. 

Now, the two of them are sitting at the table and Nicole is dressing Waverly’s wound. Wynonna and Willa are outside doing… whatever. Until, Willa isn’t. The eldest Earp stomps into the kitchen.

“How many times do I have to tell you that shit is poisonous?” Willa spits at Nicole. 

Nicole sets her mouth in a thin line. “I’ve been dressin’ her wound since it happened--”

“Yeah, and I’ve been redressing it.” Willa doesn’t let Nicole finish. 

“Of course you have,” Nicole says under her breath. 

“What was that, Ellen ?” 

Waverly bites down hard. Nicole can’t see how much Waverly is struggling not to say something. It’s no secret to anyone in the town that Nicole’s Wynonna’s girlfriend at this point… And it’s no secret that Waverly is Shae’s (and maybe Rosita’s, too, if people are paying attention). 

“Nicole, just--” Waverly starts.

“It’s okay, Waves.” 

“Yeah, Waves, Nicole can take care of herself. And apparently Wynonna and you…” Willa accuses. 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Nicole asks, defensively. 

“It means… can you you keep your greedy lesbian hands to yourself when you’re supposed to be Wynonna’s… whatever it is you are?” 

“I’m her girlfriend. And Waverly’s my friend. If you paid attention, you might have noticed she’s with my best friend.” 

“Yes, it’s all very strange and… gross . Look, can you just leave so I can take care of my baby sister?”

“Fine,” Nicole huffs out. “Waves, will you tell Wynonna to call me?” 

“Y-yeah, Nicole. I will,” Waverly finally speaks again. 

Nicole doesn’t want to leave Waverly alone, but she knows the youngest Earp won’t come with her. She won’t ruin what Wynonna’s trying to repair between the three of them… Even if she’s not the one who is ruining it. 

 

***

 

Wynonna comes in a few minutes after Nicole walks out. 

“Where’s Nicole?” She asks first.

“The officer had to leave,” Willa says with more light in her voice than she had earlier.

“She said to please call her ,” Waverly adds, trying to give Wynonna a secret look. 

Wynonna furrows her brows in confusion. “Oh… Okay. Well, before I do that we need to talk about what we’re gonna do next. With all this shit.” 

 

***

 

Some time later, Wynonna walks out of the house and sees Nicole’s cruiser still parked out front. Her eyebrows come together in confusion. Hadn’t she left a little while ago? Her eyes scan the horizon for her girlfriend. When the tall redhead is nowhere to be found, she makes her way over to the barn. 

There, she is, sitting on the bed out there kicking at the ground a little. Wynonna smiles a little at the sight of her, but quickly notices that Nicole seems upset? Or sad? She’s doing that thing with her mouth… 

“Hey, what are you doing out here, baby?” Wynonna asks.

Nicole’s gaze finds her and her lips pull into a small, sad smile. “Just needed some air. Willa is… intense,” Nicole says carefully. 

Wynonna narrows her eyes and crosses her arms around her body protectively. “Well, yeah, no shit. She’s been missing and in a cult for god knows how fucking long. I think she’s allowed to be intense.” 

Nicole takes a moment, rolling her tongue along the inside of her cheek as she struggles to find the words. Her fingers massage into the middle of her forehead for a few seconds. “Yeah, I guess.” 

There’s only one other time Wynonna can remember Nicole talking to her like this and it did not end well then. The night that Nicole found her at Pussy Willows in high school was still in her top ten worst feelings she had ever experienced. Wynonna sighs. “Stop pulling your punches. What’s your issue?” 

A few more moments pass with Nicole avoiding Wynonna’s gaze, toeing her boot into the ground as she remains on the bed. 

“Nicole!” Wynonna says harshly. “What the fuck?” 

Nicole snaps her head towards Wynonna now. Her tongue wets her lips and Wynonna can tell that something is about to erupt between them… And she doesn’t like it. 

“Fine.” Nicole’s initial word is short, cold. “Willa’s been through a lot, sure. But she’s got no right treating Waverly like that… Or me.” Nicole stands to her feet and begins to walk towards Wynonna who seems smaller than normal. “All of you have been through shit. Loads of it. You especially, but you don’t go around using your sister as a punching bag.” 

Wynonna scoffs, shaking her head. “That’s just Willa. She doesn’t mean it like that--”

“Doesn’t mean what like that, Wynonna? Willa’s been real careful about what she says when you’re in earshot… Well, heh,” Nicole laughs humorlessly. “careful enough, I guess. Your big sister is kind of a bitch… And a homophobe.” 

The Heir laughs in disbelief as she shakes her head and turns away from looking at Nicole. Her arms fly open, falling limp at her sides. “Unbelievable…” 

“What?!” Nicole asks, taking another step towards Wynonna and forcing herself into Wynonna’s line of sight. “Wynonna, I’m just trying to look out for you--

“Tough shit, Nicole,” Wynonna shoots back, interrupting whatever Nicole had left to say. “I took care of myself long before you came along and I took care of myself when I was alone all these years.”

Nicole physically recoils at the words and then freezes. Completely. 

Wynonna immediately regrets what she said. Immediately wishes she could take it back and rephrase it… Take it back and let Nicole finish her piece. She realizes her defenses blaring warning signs in her head and realizes in the same moment who she’s looking at. Nicole had never deserved her defenses. 

Tears shine in Nicole’s eyes as she remains frozen. Her mouth slowly falls open with a long breath she’d been holding. Her eyes betray her and tears start to run silently down her cheeks. Her voice is weak when she finally speaks. The words come out too evenly, almost emotionless. “Well, Wynonna. You know... I only know how to take care of you. I don’t know how to stand off to the side and not do that. So, I’m sorry if I overstepped.”

Wynonna feels her body begin to tremble. This is the first time she’s seen Nicole cry in over seven years. Nicole’s coldness terrifies her. She has to make a different move. She has to talk. She has to this time. She can’t let Nicole drive away and leave them broken for any amount of time. Not like last time. 

“Nicole, please…” Wynonna breathes out, desperately. “I just got my sister back. and I just got you back and all this shit is happening all the time. I don’t want you to not take care of me but some of this is on me to deal with. Just on me.”

The younger woman seems to snap out of it when Wynonna begs her. She throws up her hands. “And nothing is on me?! Sure! ‘Cause what am I supposed to do when you’re running off into the woods to fight demons and I don’t even know where you’re going or if you’ll come back?” Nicole’s tears are falling, hot and angry now. “Am I supposed to just deal with that? Or deal with your sister being mean to me for no reason?” She pauses, collects herself, and continues, “Wynonna, I’m not helpless. And I wouldn’t lie to you about this.”

"I know! You're not helpless and you've never lied to me. You've fought for me longer than basically anyone else in my life. But listen, Jack almost killed you-- No, he did fucking kill you. You had to be revived on site! So, I'm sorry if it seems like I’m trying to keep you out of things or not telling you everything. I just don't want this fucking curse to get you killed AGAIN. I love you! And I can't lose you."

Nicole freezes again, but differently this time. "Did you just say that you--" 

Wynonna softens when she comprehends what she’s just said in a moment her brain was unable to filter. She swallows and stands a little taller, walking towards Nicole as the air shifts.  "Yes, Nicole. I love you." A million other things run through her mind all at once. A million more things to say. A million things left unsaid that want to start pouring out of her to keep this woman at her side. 

She doesn’t get the chance because Nicole takes her face in her hands. "I love you, Wynonna. I've loved you since the second I kissed you. I should have said it then and I never stopped."

It’s Wynonna's turn to freeze. After a moment, she shakes her head and manages to say, "Fucking kiss me, Haught." 

Wynonna doesn’t wait for Nicole. She reaches up and pulls Nicole into the longest overdue kiss. The kiss is full of now-spoken feelings suffocating the air they’re breathing. A decade’s worth of build-up, exploding around them. Nicole moves her arms to wrap around Wynonna’s middle and pulls her in closer and closer. It’s never enough, it never feels like they’re as close as they should be. 

The shorter woman is pulled onto her tiptoes as her arms wrap around Nicole’s neck, fingers tangling into her long hair. The anger and the sadness melt away as they kiss. Wynonna has started to cry with Nicole now. Her body is expelling all of the pent up shit that had been threatening to burst out since long before they’d been separated. 

Neither one of them know how long they just kiss . With their foreheads pressed against one another, they merely stand and enjoy the silence between them. 

“I’m sorry,” Nicole speaks first. 

“No, I’m sorry,” Wynonna counters. “I-- It’s not like I haven’t noticed that Willa’s been less than stellar. I was just trying so hard to make everything perfect. With you… And Waverly… And Willa back? It’s like… All of my dreams coming true all at once. I just wanted it to be… Simple.” 

“I understand, baby. I’m sorry I was so upset just now. I thought if I came out here, I could clear my head and talk about it the right way…” 

“Shhh… Shut up. I don’t--” Wynonna runs her nose along Nicole’s and shakes her head gently. “I don’t wanna talk about her anymore. Not right now. I just-- I love you, Nicole Haught. I wanted it to be different when I finally said it to you. I wanted there to be a lake or stars or something. Maybe beluga whales or dolphins. Right now, I just want to tell you I love you over and over.”

Nicole laughs, a smile reaching her eyes and making them crinkle. “I love you, Wynonna Earp. I always knew. I was just waiting on you to say it. But, I knew, Wynonna.”

Wynonna pulls back to look at Nicole. She smiles sadly. “Maybe if I would have said it then, you wouldn’t have--” Wynonna pauses. Her bravado fades and she moves her arms to wrap around Nicole. She buries her face in Nicole’s neck. “I’m just glad you don’t think I ruined your life anymore.” 

Nicole is relaxing into the touch until Wynonna says the last statement. She goes rigid. “What are you talking about?” Nicole asks, genuine shock in her voice. 

Wynonna nestles into Nicole’s neck even more. “I don’t blame you, Haught. It’s okay--”

“No, Wynonna, what do you mean? You thought that I thought... you ruined my life?” Nicole pulls back so she can take Wynonna’s face back into her hands. “What made you think that?” 

Wynonna looks up into brown eyes with a profound sadness as she relives the memories. “Your parents… And Max.. And basically everyone when I went to find you after…”

“When you went to find me?” Nicole feels her body tighten. “Wynonna… When did you go to find me?” 

 

***

 

January 2010

 

Wynonna tears into the driveway of the Haught residence. She barely remembers to put the truck in park before jumping down out of the driver’s seat. The first thing she notices is Nicole’s truck is nowhere to be found. Her eyes dart up to the room she’d climbed into more times than she could count. 

Nervously and eagerly, she reaches for the doorbell. A few moments later, Mrs. Haught is the one to answer the door. 

“Mrs. Haught! Hi!” Wynonna says with a smile. The smile quickly disappears when she notices the disgust written clearly across the old woman’s face. She clears her throat. “I-is Nicole here?” 

“Wynonna Earp…” The name seeps out like poison. Wynonna wants to run and hide… But nothing is more important than getting back to Nicole. Nothing. “You’ve got some nerve showing up here now.”

“I’m sorry?” Wynonna replies, gutted and confused. 

“She’s not here. Nicole moved out last year. She doesn’t really visit.” 

Wynonna feels like she’s going to be sick. “Oh. Would you mind telling me where she moved to?” 

Mrs. Haught laughs in a way Wynonna can only describe as cruel. “Yes, I do mind, actually. You really have some kind of balls… Showing up to my house and asking for my daughter after what you did.”

“What I did?” Wynonna asks, shrinking into herself. 

“You have that coy act down to a science. It’s sickening. No wonder you were able to fool my sweet Nikki.” 

“She hates that name,” Wynonna says more protectively now, feeling more steady defending Nicole. 

“Not until you came along.”

“She always hated it. Her whole life.” Wynonna’s confidence is shaky, but for Nicole--she’ll always stand tall, as tall as she can.

Mrs. Haught shakes her head. “You almost ruined her life, Wynonna. I won’t be telling you anything. She doesn’t want to see you.” 

Wynonna feels all of the blood drain from her body. A miracle is the only thing keeping her on her feet. “You’re lying,” she insists, trying to get her bearings back. Nicole would always want to see her. She didn’t almost ruin her life… They… They were going to start their life. 

The way Mrs. Haught’s jaw tightens gives Wynonna the only clue she needs. She decides to do what she does best… Run in guns blazing.

Wynonna pushes past Mrs. Haught recklessly, storming into the house and heading straight for the stairs. “Nicole!” She calls out desperately. 

“You get out of my house now!” Mrs. Haught screams, running after Wynonna up the stairs, but Wynonna is too fast. 

Mr. Haught emerges from the living room. “What is-- Is that Wynonna?” He asks, but his voice is less venomous. Almost hopeful. Wynonna doesn’t hear it. 

Wynonna bursts into Nicole’s room… Or what used to be Nicole’s room. The pictures of them are gone. Her guitar is gone. The bed is an ugly orange color… The walls are beige. Everything is different. There’s nothing left of Nicole’s. Nothing. It doesn’t even smell like her anymore. “Oh god…” Wynonna breathes, realization hitting her as reality crashes in around her. 

“Get out of my house before I call the police and get you sent back to jail,” Mrs. Haught threatens. Nicole’s father is close behind and he steps in between them. 

“Honey…”

“Don’t honey me. Get this girl out of our house. Now.” 

“No fuckin’ problem, bitch,” Wynonna says with vitriol as she pushes past them again and runs down the stairs and out of the place that once made her feel the safest. She collapses on the grass beside her truck and the contents of her stomach expel from her mouth. She retches and gags for a few seconds until she feels hollow. 

A few moments pass and she gets back into her truck and pulls out of the driveway, parking on the street nearby so she can wrap her head around what’s happening. She doesn’t have a phone. She doesn’t have anything. Just all the belongings she could pack in her duffle bag from Gus and Curtis’s… 

Nicole isn’t here. Nicole has moved away. Last year. She still did it. They’d never actually gone to look at a place… Wynonna doesn’t know where to start. She doesn’t know what college Nicole picked and she had so many options… So many options. All over the place. She tries to take in deep breaths, failing. 

“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon. You got this, Earp. Breathebreathebreathe,” she tries to talk herself down. “You’ll find her. You’ll find her. Okay… Okay…”

It takes Wynonna some time to work through the panic that had seized her. She finally decides to drive the long way to the lake house… The only other place she could think of. No one is there. She sits out on the dock for a long while considering her options… There aren’t really any. 

All of Nicole’s friends will have graduated by now… And Nicole hadn’t ended up with that many friends after she had chosen to keep being with her… There’s only one of those friends that Wynonna even had an idea about finding without her phone.

The thought makes bile rise in her throat again. This could be her last chance.

 

***

 

The beat up truck pulls up to the house where she’d spent New Year’s 2008… 

She knocks on the door and one of the people who she hates most in this world stares her down. 

Max. 

“What the hell are you doing here?” Max spits out. 

Wynonna’s really feeling the love today… 

“Look, the last fucking place I want to be right now is right here, but I am out of options… I’m just trying to find Nicole.”

“What makes you think I know where she is?” 

Wynonna sighs, rolling her eyes. “I don’t have my phone anymore so I can only actually go to places where I know to look. One of those places is here. Can you help me or not?” 

“This is rich as hell,” Max taunts, shaking her head with a sneer. “Wynonna Earp asking me for help… You really are a crazy fucking bitch, aren’t you?”

Wynonna feels her hands curl into tight fists and she has to use all the restraint in the world not to knock the shit out of this dumb bitch. “Yeah sure, whatever. Just--” Wynonna tightens and unfurls her fingers a few times before sagging. “There’s nothing more important to me than this, okay? I don’t care what you run around and say about me… Call me crazy, a slut, whatever. You have to know-- Max, please, just help me find her.”

Max seems to doubt herself for a few seconds… Very short seconds before she straightens again. “I don’t have a clue where she is. We stopped talking long before you up and left her.” 

“I didn’t leave her,” Wynonna defends. 

“Really? Up and disappear without a word and you didn’t leave her… What would you call it then, Wynonna?” 

“It’s none of your business. But I didn’t leave. And all I want…” Wynonna’s voice grows weak. “All I want is to find her. It’s the only thing I’ve thought about since-- Max, you have to know what we have, please.”

“No, Wynonna, I don’t know. All I know is I lost my best friend when you came into the picture. And then, I had to watch her almost ruin her damn life moping over you. There were so many other girls… Better girls for her that wanted her… But she only had eyes for you.” Max sounds so bitter as each word punctures a new wound in Wynonna. 

Max continues, “You don’t have a fucking clue what losing you did to her. You have no idea. So, no. No, Wynonna, even if I did know where she was, I wouldn’t help you. Because I might not like Nicole anymore, but I definitely don’t hate her enough to put you back in her life.” 

 

***

 

Present Day

 

Nicole and Wynonna sit on the edge of the side of the bed. Nicole’s leaning forward with her forearms on her knees as she watches Wynonna recollect the painful memory. 

“After that, I-- I did the only thing I knew how to do. I ran away. I got my passport and shit… And while I waited on that, I kept going around your town… Asking anyone I kinda recognized. The pizza place… Either no one knew or no one would tell me anything… They really… They really thought I ruined your whole life.” Wynonna finishes, sadly.

Nicole begins to tremble with anger. “I can’t fucking believe--”

“Nicole? What is it?” Wynonna asks, reaching her hand out to rest on Nicole’s back. 

“I fucking told my parents everything. I told them everything. I told them how much I loved you… How much I was sure you loved me. I left my new number with them, Wynonna. I fucking told them to give it to you when you showed up. I knew you would. They knew where I was. They could have just--” Nicole brings her hands up to her face as angry tears prick in her eyes. 

Wynonna feels sickened all over again… Just like she had then. “That means…”

“Yeah, Wynonna. You should have been with me. All this fucking time. We should have been together. I never, never told anyone I didn’t want to see you again. It’s all I’ve fucking wanted since you… left .” 

Wynonna pulls Nicole into her arms and holds her. The taller woman curls up under Wynonna’s chin, rests her head against Wynonna’s chest, and wraps her arms around Wynonna’s abdomen. Wynonna lets her fingers trail through Nicole’s hair. 

Wynonna knows this is it. While they’re airing all this shit out. This is where she tells Nicole what happened. “Nicole… I didn’t leave…”  

Nicole pulls back and looks up at Wynonna with watery eyes. “Are you going to--”

“Yeah, I--” Wynonna breathes deep. “I used to keep journals, you know that. Well, back then, when no one knew about the whole demons thing… That’s the only place I could talk about them, write them out. The Evans… They found them and read them… I got home from school one day and Gus was sitting at their table.” 

Nicole sits up and reaches for Wynonna’s hand, silently encouraging her to keep going. 

“Gus told them… About a time that I was put into a mental health hospital when I was younger, right after I shot my dad. About how much it ‘helped’ me. They had been discussing it for hours while I was at school… They forcibly admitted me again. Gus told them not to let me say goodbye to anyone… Because she knew I would run away.”

“Wynonna…” Nicole’s voice is thick with sadness. 

“I was hoping they’d tell you… That the Evans would tell you and when I got out you’d be waiting. I told Waverly you were… Well not you , but I told her I had someone waiting for me.”

Nicole thinks back to the conversation she had had with the youngest Earp upon her arrival to the town. She told me someone was waiting for her. Said she would see me soon. I didn’t hear from her for almost a year and I didn’t see her again for three.

“I was looking and waiting… For years. We just didn’t know how to find each other then.” Nicole breathes out.

Wynonna shakes her head, in complete awe of her girlfriend and her gentleness… Her kindness. In all these years, that remained and Wynonna finds herself falling deeper in love every moment. “So, you were really never mad at me? I spent years thinking you hated me… And I didn’t blame you.”

Nicole reaches out to tuck Wynonna’s hair behind her ear and lovingly caresses her cheek. “I was mad. A lot. Never at you. I guess I just--” Nicole takes a deep breath. “I just have always believed in you, Wynonna. And we-- Well, back then I just really believed in us by the time everything happened. We were gonna get a place and you let me into your life more and more. I kept having these nightmares that you were somewhere I needed to save you from. I never really let myself consider that you really left me.”

Wynonna listens in amazement, dumbfounded but hanging on every word. 

“Being without you was hard and sad and some days…” Nicole tilts her head and bites the inside of her cheek. “Some days, I didn’t get outta bed. I didn’t even think I could go on. But then, I would think about you. And you would come to me in a dream and it could be as simple as you smiling at me and saying ‘I miss you, Haught’ and I would think about finding you again someday. And I would get my hope back.” 

The brunette woman leans in and places a soft, slow kiss on Nicole’s lips. “I did miss you. All the time. I miss you now when we’re not together. I can’t lose you again.” 

Nicole becomes more determined than anything. Her grip on Wynonna’s hand tightens. “We will never lose each other again. I will always find you. Always. I swear.” 

Wynonna brings her free hand between them and holds out her pinky. Nicole softens at the nostalgic gesture. She brings her pinky up to link with her girlfriend’s. “Me, too, Haught.”

Chapter Text

Over the last several days, Willa had gotten… Better? Or worse. Nicole’s not sure. She seemed to be gaining her bearings more and more… She’s still got a mean streak to her, but she’s been more subtle about it. Nicole wonders what exactly happened… The change just seems… Out of place. 

That suspicion only grows at the party… Where the lot of them are sure that something big is going down. Nicole’s waiting for Wynonna to show up, standing with Doc, Dolls, Shae and Rosita. Waverly and Willa had walked off moments ago. Willa’s too giddy for the impending doom the rest of them feel. All of them, save Willa, are on high alert. 

“What’s Earp wearing, Haught?” Dolls questions. 

“I don’t know. She wouldn’t tell me. Said it had to be a surprise,” Nicole comments with a smirk. 

“Of course… Gotta make an entrance.”

“That’s my girl,” Nicole says dreamily. 

A moment later, she feels a shift in the air and her head turns to find Wynonna parting the crowd like the Red Sea. All eyes are on her, but Nicole doesn’t notice because her eyes are completely focused on her, too. Her mouth parts slightly as she walks towards them. She’s wearing a red number with a plunging neckline. Her hair cascades perfectly over one shoulder and her lips are painted red to match her dress.

“Breathe, Nic,” Shae teases from behind her, but Nicole doesn’t hear it. All the sound in the room is gone. Wynonna utterly takes her breath away. The small smirk on those red lips makes Nicole’s knees go weak and she worries she might topple over. 

Their group slinks away to a nearby table, leaving Nicole frozen in place when Wynonna’s finally standing in front of her. 

“Baby, if you don’t close your mouth, you’re going to start drooling,” Wynonna says, voice low. 

Nicole stares for a few more seconds, shaking her head and closing her mouth in the next moment. “Wynonna… You… ” Nicole takes a deep breath and grins wide. “Wow.” 

Wynonna ducks her head away, smiling shily. When she brings her gaze back to Nicole, she’s unable to say anything because Nicole takes her face into her hands and places a soft, long kiss to her lips. Wynonna leans into the kiss, like she always does, and hums. They part a few seconds later. 

“I’m not the only one who cleans up good,” Wynonna remarks. “This look…” Her ringed fingers reach out and lightly grab the lapels of Nicole’s black jacket and smooths down them. Nicole’s got a black vest underneath and a white button up on under that. Her black pants and black loafers tie the look together. Her red hair cascades around her face perfectly, in messy waves, not quite curled. “So hot… Wish we weren’t staring death in the face. I’d like to take you somewhere private.”

Nicole smirks and smooths a thumb over Wynonna’s cheek. “Aren’t we always staring death in the face?”

“Officer Haught, are you trying to seduce me in the middle of the apocalypse?” Wynonna teases, faux scandalized. 

“No, I’m trying to seduce you before the apocalypse.” 

“Ugh, stop, don’t make me horny and sad before the apocalypse.” 

Nicole grins and shakes her head. 

“Besides I’ve got this… I think this has some answers for what’s planned tonight…” Wynonna says, pulling out the letter she’d found in the barn. “Better brief the team…” 

Right as the words leave her, Willa and Waverly are walking towards them. Nicole puts a protective arm around Wynonna as they walk their way over to the table the rest of the gang is at. Wynonna explains. 

“They have to cross the line with the Earp Heir… And the Heir has to go willingly on the Winter Solstice…”

“We have less than twenty-four hours…” Dolls remarks. 

They reason through it all and Nicole can feel the shift in Wynonna when it hits her.

“I’m not the true Earp Heir,” Wynonna states. The sadness in her voice would probably only be obvious to Nicole and Waverly. “Willa is.” 

God, what bullshit, Nicole thinks, but settles for clenching her jaw and rubbing her hand over Wynonna’s back. Wynonna moves out of her touch and goes towards Willa. 

“We have to get you out of here.” Wynonna demands, determined. 

“Oh screw that. I’m not going anywhere.” Willa doesn’t budge. 

 

***

 

“Wynonna…” Nicole starts once they’re off on their own again, everyone splitting off into their little couples… or throuple. 

“Nicole, no… Bobo is right. It’s Willa. She’s the Heir. I tried to shoot a revenant earlier… Peacemaker flickered and jammed. Whatever our connection was … That gun’s clearly made its choice.” 

“So what?” Nicole asks, reaching out and putting her hands on Wynonna’s waist pulling her in close. Her hands smooth around to the small of her back. 

“So, I go back to being a plain ole human…” Tears start to well in blue eyes, making them shine in the beautifully painful way that makes Nicole ache. “I just-- I never wanted this, but after a while… I just felt… I just felt like it fit. Like I was meant to be.” She looks down, fixating her gaze on one of Nicole’s buttons. “But I’m not. I’m not special. I’m just some girl.”

“Wynonna Earp,” Nicole starts, bringing her finger to Wynonna’s chin to force her to look up at her. “You have never been just anything. Ever. I have been in love with you since long before you became the Heir or carried a ridiculously large gun around in your boot. You are not ‘some girl.’ You are everything.” 

Everything. Wynonna’s tears fall and she pushes up to kiss Nicole, maybe a little too passionately to be in public, but neither of them seem to care. 

“Wynonna!” Doc runs up to the two of them frantically with an empty champagne glass in hand. 

Wynonna and Nicole pull apart reluctantly, a little annoyed. “Fuck, Doc, what?” Wynonna asks. 

“Did you drink any of this champagne?” 

“No! Why?”

It all goes to hell from there. Bobo’s master plan was poisoned champagne… Driving the town so mad… And putting a bounty on Wynonna’s head. Nicole, Doc, and Dolls manage to get Wynonna out of there, but are left behind to try and fend off the mob. 

 

***

 

Utter fucking chaos leads Wynonna and Willa, now dressed in casual clothes and jackets, to the police station after a crazed Chrissy Nedley informs them that she has Waverly. Wynonna’s already fucking done with everything by the time they get there -- Not knowing where Nicole is. The fact that Willa is more worried about some stupid ass gun than their baby sister. The whole town out to really kill her instead of just hate her and make her want to die. 

Wynonna can’t keep up. Her head is spinning. Waverly took Peacemaker from Willa. Willa is pissed. 

“I don’t think the Willa that came back is our Willa,” Waverly says. 

Willa sighs, pulling a gun from her pants and points it between her sisters. “What I am, is the goddamn Earp Heir and I’m running out of goddamn time. I don’t want anyone to get hurt. 

Wynonna can’t make herself believe that. “Nobody’s getting hurt on my watch.”

“Nobody else, you mean. Me. Daddy. Everyone else out there. When are you going to take responsibility for all that you’ve done?!” Willa near-screams the last bit. 

“Why did Bobo save you at the homestead? Why did you save him?” Wynonna’s piecing it all together now. She finds herself wishing she hadn’t been so blind to having her sister back. That she would have listened to Nicole and Waverly more when they’d tried to warn her. 

“Wynonna? Baby, is that you?” Nicole’s voice reaches them before the sight of her does. She’s in her uniform now, holding her weapon’s belt. 

Shit, Wynonna thinks. Willa turns the gun on Nicole as quickly as she can. 

“Whoa… Whoa…” Nicole raises her hands in surrender.

“Give me Peacemaker or I punch a bunch of holes in your girlfriend,” Willa spits. 

“Wynonna, don’t do it,” Nicole says with confidence. She doesn’t even know why Willa doesn’t need Peacemaker, but the fact that Wynonna is trying to keep it from her at all is enough for her. 

Wynonna can see that Willa isn’t her Willa but she can’t make herself believe that Willa will kill Nicole… Not when she knows how much she means to her. “I know you won’t shoot.” 

“What do I care about some ginger butch cop?” Willa says, very convincingly. 

“Wynonna, she’ll do it,” Waverly says frantically. 

“Waverly…” Nicole warns quietly. 

“If I don’t have it in three…”

“Wynonna, don’t give it to her,” Nicole urges again, giving her girlfriend a pointed look. 

“Two…” 

Wynonna doesn’t know what to do. She can’t let Willa unleash Hell on Purgatory, but she can not. Absolutely can not. Lose Nicole Haught. 

“Here…” Wynonna says, utterly defeated. She holds out the bag with Peacemaker in it. Willa snatches it. 

“So naive, so emotional.” Willa says, shaking her head. 

“This isn’t over. I’m coming for you.” 

“Then I better slow you down…” Willa says. 

The realization dawns on her one second too late. “Nicole!” 

But the shot rings out and Nicole’s face down on the floor before she can get in the way or do anything. Wynonna runs to Nicole’s side at the same moment that Willa storms out of the room, on her way to end the world. 

“Nicole, please, baby nonononono,” Wynonna falls to her knees and helps Nicole turn over onto her back, pulling her quickly into her lap. Waverly follows close behind kneeling beside them with tears in her eyes. 

“Wynonna--” Nicole gasps, writhing in pain. 

“Shhh, baby.” Wynonna looks down at Nicole’s torso for the wound and furrows her eyebrows. “No blood… Why is there no blood?” Wynonna rips open Nicole’s uniform shirt and a huge grin breaks out across her lips. The tears flowing from her eyes turn into happy ones. 

“I’m wearing a bulletproof vest… It’s kind of standard operating procedure when we got a 404 on our hands… Bunch of crazy hicks off their rockers?” Nicole looks up at her girlfriend, smiling sort of goofily. 

“My smart girl,” Wynonna breathes out. One hand comes up to the side of Nicole’s face and she holds her tenderly. Waverly watches with stars in her eyes. Losing Nicole would have been hard for her, but she knows that Wynonna would have never recovered after this. Not after everything 

“We’ve gotta get her to the hospital,” Waverly says. 

“No, I’m just gonna be bruised. You both gotta go get Willa. I’ll be okay in a few minutes,” Nicole insists. 

“Where are Doc and Dolls?” Wynonna questions. 

“Shorty's. Something about an antidote,” Nicole answers. 

“Ugh, you’re so smart… So perfect, I love you,” Wynonna says before leaning in to kiss her, unleashing all of the grief she felt for the short amount of time that she thought Nicole was shot. They kiss for too long because Waverly smacks Wynonna’s arm. 

“Kiss more later. We gotta go!” Waverly says, wrapped up in her jacket after leaving the two of them for a brief moment. 

Wynonna smiles down at her girlfriend. Nicole grins back up. “Go,” Nicole urges. “I’m fine, baby. Go!” 

Wynonna and Waverly run off. 



***

 

Wynonna’s alone with Willa at the line after a literally explosive battle with Doc and Bobo way back behind her. The two men had been affected the most by the grenade Wynonna’d tricked Bobo with. 

“I’m faster than you,” Willa confidently calls out. 

“You’re my sister,” Wynonna answers, shaking her head. She can’t kill Willa. She can’t… 

“I promise this will be quick.” 

“You know you can’t.”

“You keep saying that.”

They draw on each other in sync and Wynonna’s terrified. She can’t do this. Maybe Willa can’t either. 

“Squeak,” Willa spits out. And pulls the trigger. 

Click. Wynonna gasps. It won’t work. Click. Peacemaker has turned its back back on Willa. Click. Willa went wrong. 

A gunshot sounds loud behind her and Wynonna startles, looking back to see Dolls with his weapon drawn and aimed at Willa. Willa begins to bleed out of her abdomen. Wynonna watches in horror as a large tentacle demon takes Willa up and begins to jerk her around. Peacemaker drops to the ground. 

Wynonna runs to the gun and picks it up. 

“WYNONNA!” Doc calls out, firing off shots.

It’s then that Nicole makes her way to them as well. “WYNONNA!” She echoes Doc, trying to run faster, to move quicker, but she can’t. She’s in so much pain, but she had to find Wynonna. She had to be here. 

Wynonna speaks. “Make your peace.” Then the shot rings out and Willa’s head falls back. Shot dead by her own sister. The rumbling of the earth shakes them all. Dolls moves to Nicole’s side and holds her steady to keep her from falling. 

The real Earp Heir, Wynonna, runs back towards them, sliding over the line in just enough time to seal the border back up and cause the tentacle to turn to... goo? 

Doc and Dolls help Nicole over to Wynonna and she falls down to her knees, reaching up to cradle Wynonna’s face in her hands. “I’m here, Wynonna. I’m here,” she says softly. 

Wynonna melts into her touch and sags into Nicole. Nicole feels the pain in her ribs, but she ignores it. Nothing’s more important than being here for Wynonna after this. Wynonna doesn’t say anything, can’t form any kind of thoughts for a short while. 

Doc and Dolls hang back, watching them and clinging to one another. Dolls reaches out and cradles the back of Doc’s head, pulling him forward to rest their foreheads together. 

“Nicole,” Wynonna almost whispers, her voice weak. 

“I’m here,” Nicole repeats. 

“Move in to the homestead, please. For real. I can’t-- I need you as safe as you can be. I can’t lose anyone else,” Wynonna sounds like she’s pleading for her life. The tears are burning hot in her eyes, but refusing to fall. 

“Of course, ‘Nonna. Of course. Our place together. Like we planned. About time,” Nicole says softly, trying to get a smile out of Wynonna. 

Wynonna tries to smile, but she can’t. “I love you.” 

“I love you, too,” Nicole answers. 

 

***



One Year Later - November 10, 2017 

 

Wynonna wakes up much earlier than usual. The sun isn’t up all the way yet, but the small amount of light there filters in through the gaps in the curtains, and shines on the old floorboards and over the bed. She moves slowly, careful not to disturb the sleeping woman snuggled into her back. Blinking slowly, trying to adjust to being awake, she glances towards the alarm clock beside the bed and sees that it’s only a little after six o’clock in the morning. 

The date shines brightly there too, a combination of numbers she’s kept close for a decade now. November 10, 2017. Exactly ten years have passed since the first day she met Nicole Haught. Since she gave her her first kiss on the tailgate of her old truck in the parking lot of her high school. 

Wynonna’s chest swells with the memory, a soft smile tugging up the corners of her mouth. She buries her face in the pillow, as if trying to hide it from exactly no one. If someone had told her at the beginning of last year that she’d be here right now, waking up in her – their – bed on the homestead with a sleeping Sheriff Nicole Haught snuggled into her back she would’ve laughed in their face and probably laid them out, too. 

It’s real though. They’d really spent a full year together after all those godforsaken years apart. Wynonna feels herself begin to get emotional thinking about all the shit they’d gone through in that year.

Wynonna killed her older sister and asked Nicole to move in with her on the same day. With all the shit that got into the Ghost River Triangle because of Willa, there weren't too many days free of sending something back to hell but she always had Nicole by her side whenever that weighed heavy on her. Nicole cut her hair and became Sheriff of the town, something she’d more than earned.

Waverly had the hard task of telling her sister that one of her girlfriend’s is a revenant, which turned out better than either of them would have predicted. Honestly, it only made Wynonna more adamant about breaking the curse without having to hurt one of the women her baby sister is in love with. Doc and everyone else found out that his boyfriend is also a dragon. BBD went to shit and practically abandoned them, but they’re still managing. Plus they did get nerdy Jeremy out of it, so maybe it wasn’t all bad. 

For the time being, they’re okay. Right now , Wynonna thinks, we might get some time to be a little bit more than okay. 

She turns over in Nicole’s arms, adjusting just enough so that the redhead can snuggle against her chest. Long arms readjust around Wynonna’s middle and a soft, sleepy sound leaves Nicole as she settles, never waking.

Wynonna holds her close with one arm, fingers drifting underneath her t-shirt and making gentle shapes on her warm back. Her blue eyes still feel heavy and she knows she’ll fall back asleep again soon, but for now she just watches her girlfriend. 

Her girlfriend . She’d never get tired of that. She hadn’t and she’d been practically wearing it out for a whole year now. Wynonna watches the way Nicole’s soft breathing makes a few strands of her newly cropped hair blow back and forth and smiles. 

“I love you so fucking much.” she whispers, laughing softly and shaking her head just a bit. 

Nicole doesn’t stir, but another softer sound leaves her and her fingers flex softly against her back. Even in sleep she’s aware of Wynonna and aware of her love for her.  

Wynonna settles back into the pillows and breathes out, letting her eyes close. She breathes in the smell of Nicole, something she never has to live without now. It’s on everything – the bed, their clothes, it lingers in the house. It makes Wynonna feel safe just like it always has. 

Before she drifts off to sleep again she thanks her lucky stars that this woman with her brave, beautiful heart and her soul-soothing smell somehow made it back into her life after everything. She falls asleep praying to whoever is listening that she’ll really get to keep her forever. 

 

*** 

 

Wynonna strolls into the Sheriff’s Department around noon, carrying Nicole’s favorite lunch. She’s wearing her favorite black ripped jeans and that old Fleetwood Mac t-shirt with Nicole’s worn out blue flannel from high school over the top of it. 

As she pushes her sunglasses up onto the top of her head, she swears she sees a suspiciously perfectly high ponytail peek around the corner down the hall and then dip back out insanely quick.

Wynonna narrows her eyes, a wary feeling creeping over her as she begins to walk towards Nicole’s office. The closer she gets, the more evident the hasty whispers become. The Heir figures there’s no point in sneaking; if Rosita was in there, she’s already seen her. 

Wynonna acts as natural as she can, coming around the corner and into the office like she does every other day of the week. This time though, she’s met with her tall, pleated-pants Sheriff sitting against the edge of her own desk holding a bouquet of ten red lilies in a vase. 

Wynonna’s shoulders sag, her eyes softening as she takes in the view. “Nicole…” Her voice comes out softer than she expects, a soft laugh following the word. She shakes her head, biting her lip as she steps further into the office. 

She’s so enamored with her girlfriend that she almost doesn’t notice her baby sister and Rosita standing in the corner, looking like they’re watching the gayest Hallmark movie ever made. Almost. 

Waverly basically squeals as she snaps a few more pictures and Wynonna rolls her eyes affectionately at the two of them. “Such fucking nerds.” she mutters, her voice full of nothing but love. 

Rosita laughs, taking the hint before her girlfriend gets it and placing her hands on Waverly’s hips to guide her out of the office. 

“Okay, okay we’re out!” Rosita says on the way by. 

“Love you!! I’ll send you the pics! And the video!!!” Waverly calls over her shoulder as she’s pushed out of the office. 

Nicole shakes her head, her shoulders rocking with her laughter. “I told them that wasn’t all necessary…” She starts, looking up at Wynonna again. 

Wynonna can see that Nicole’s cheeks are as red as her hair and it only makes her grin grow wider. She pushes the office door closed behind her and twists the lock before finally making her way over to the Sheriff. 

Wynonna sets Nicole’s lunch down on an empty part of her neat desk and moves to stand in front of her.  One hand reaches to rest over Nicole’s on the vase and the other goes to the petals of one of the beautiful blooms. The older woman feels her heart skip a few beats. 

“The lady tried to talk me into getting roses, but I figured that these were more our thing. There’s ten...” Nicole says softly, sounding a little bit breathless, almost nervous. 

“They’re beautiful, Nic… and I know, I counted ‘em. That’s...” She says with a gentle smile, shaking her head.

Nicole sets the vase gently on the desk beside her and takes Wynonna’s hand, pulling her into the space between her legs. When Wynonna looks up into those big brown eyes, she feels herself melting all over again. 

Nicole’s arms wind easily around Wynonna’s waist and pull her close, not waiting another moment before pressing her mouth to her girlfriend’s. One of her hands drifts down into Wynonna’s back pocket and the brunette makes a soft sound and smiles into the kiss. Her hands find the black tie that Nicole wears around her neck and grasp it. 

Nicole’s mind flashes with the memory of their first kiss. The first kiss she ever, ever had. She remembers the way her body ached with nervousness. The way she had instantly felt completely overcome by Wynonna. That feeling hadn’t gone away, not even a little bit. 

Now here they are with ten years between then and now. Nicole’s a little taller, a lot stronger and much braver. She knows that no matter how brave she gets, Wynonna Earp will always make her weak in the knees. 

The younger woman pulls back first, bringing the hand resting on Wynonna’s waist up to cup her cheek instead. 

“I love you, Wynonna.” She says sincerely, her thumb brushing gently against Wynonna’s smooth cheek. “I can’t believe it’s really been ten years since the first time we did that.” 

Wynonna can barely form words. The kiss had taken every ounce of air from her lungs and hearing the reminder of their anniversary in Nicole’s voice again makes the weak feeling linger in her bones even more. 

Her eyebrows raise and one side of her mouth quirks up in a dopey smile. 

“I love you back, Haughtstuff. So much. God, you were so nervous back then, now it’s me who –– can’t catch my breath.” She says dreamily, chuckling as she plays with the fabric between her fingers. 

Nicole cradles Wynonna’s head and gives a gentle squeeze with the hand that’s still in her pocket, a soft smirk on her lips. 

“Just ‘cause I promised myself I’d never waste an opportunity to tell you I love you doesn’t mean I’m not nervous. You still make me nervous, baby. Butterflies don’t even stand a chance when it comes to what you do to me.” Nicole says, seeming to gain confidence the more she speaks. 

“You’re always such a goddamn poet, too… how’d I get this lucky?” Wynonna wonders, tilting her head a little to the side and bringing her other hand up to twist gently in the red hair at the back of Nicole’s neck. 

The officer laughs, bringing both of her hands to Wynonna’s hips and pulling her to sit on her lap instead. Her arms wrap around her again and she presses a kiss to her forehead before leaning back to look at her for a long moment. 

“I wanted to ask you something.” Nicole says, chewing on the inside of her lip. She smiles reminiscently as her fingers grasp the worn out old shirt of her’s that Wynonna is wearing. She can see her as clear as day, eighteen and standing in her bathing suit with this over the top. 

Wynonna feels her pulse start to pound in her ears and she lifts an eyebrow, nodding.

“Yeah?” She asks, almost timidly. 

“Well, I was wonderin’ if you wanted to go out to the fields and look at the stars tonight. It’s supposed to be really nice out. We can take blankets and everything and get all cozy in the back of your truck.” Nicole reddens as she asks, as if Wynonna would say anything other than yes. 

The older woman’s smile grows when she hears what Nicole has to say. Stargazing, just like old times. Damn, Nicole Haught would never stop amazing her. 

“Are you asking me out on a date, Sheriff Haught?” She feigns surprise, unable to wipe the mischievous smirk off her face. 

“Yes, ma’am, Wynonna Earp. I sure am.” She says back, mirroring Wynonna’s expression. 

“Well, how could I say no?” Wynonna answers. 

They both grin as Wynonna pulls Nicole down into an ever deepening kiss. Wynonna gives herself mental kudos for locking the door on her way in. 

 

*** 

 

Nicole gets home from work and goes straight to getting ready for their date. 

After her shower, she dresses in the pair of jeans that she knows Wynonna particularly likes and tucks in an orange button up shirt that’s a few shades darker than her hair. The officer rolls up the sleeves and blow dries her hair, leaving the short locks in messy waves. 

When she comes out of the bathroom, Wynonna is already sitting in the kitchen with Waverly. 

“About time, Haughty. Stars might’ve packed up and left by now,” Wynonna teases, all the while biting her lip as she takes in Nicole with hungry eyes. “Damn, you look good though.” 

“Oh, whatever… like it doesn’t always take you forever to get ready. Sorry, I wanted to look good for you,” Nicole grumbles back playfully. 

Wynonna gets up from the table and smacks Nicole’s ass as the taller woman is pulling on her jacket. The redhead rolls her eyes, cheeks burning red as she shakes her head. 

“Come on, right in front of me?!” Waverly squeaks from beside the fridge. 

“Can it, Waves. We get to be as gross as we want, wherever we want today,” Wynonna defends, giving her baby sister a look over her shoulder. 

Nicole turns around to face Wynonna and holds up her jacket to help her into it. When the shorter woman is bundled up, Nicole turns her around by her shoulders and looks at her, softening visibly. She’s wearing the same outfit from earlier, but Nicole is taken by it still. 

“You look so beautiful, baby.” Nicole kisses her sweetly. “Did you get everything? Blankets, all that?” She asks, playing with one of Wynonna’s perfect curls. 

“I got everything. It’s all ready, just waiting for us,” Wynonna confirms, looking up at her girlfriend with pride. 

“Let’s go then, before the stars pack up and leave,” Nicole teases Wynonna’s words from a few moments ago before intertwining their fingers. 

“Should I wait up?” Waverly calls to them, winking with a stupid grin on her face. 

“Up to you, kid. We’ll be safe, all that shit. Love you.” Wynonna smiles and says over her shoulder while pushing Nicole out the door. 

“I love you both!” Waverly calls after them, sagging against the counter with her mug in her hands. She smiles to herself, alone in the kitchen, shaking her head after they’re gone. 

 

*** 

 

They’re sad to find that the old pizza place they used to have dinner at before going out to the fields closed down a couple of years ago. To make up for it, they get pizza from another place and sit in the parking lot of the closed restaurant to eat it. 

Nicole drives Wynonna’s truck up to the same spot they always used to park. She feels like a teenager again when she climbs into the bed and spreads out the blankets and a few pillows they’d brought to make themselves comfortable out here. 

The officer settles back against the truck, getting comfortable and patting the space between her legs for Wynonna to sit. The brunette claims her place, sighing as she settles easily against Nicole’s chest. 

“Looks like they waited for us,” Nicole comments, tilting her head up to look at the millions of stars glowing in the night sky above them. 

“Oop. Look. Draco’s there,” Wynonna is the first to point it out, reaching her hand up to trace the stupid stick body of the constellation. “So dumb,” she comments, shaking her head. 

Nicole grins, resting her chin against Wynonna’s shoulder as she looks up with her. She remembers that first night, teaching Wynonna what she knew of the stars. 

In the years without her, she could barely bring herself to look up. Now, she wants to see every single light there is to see, because she has her light back. For good.  

“Cassiopeia, too,” Nicole points out next, reaching one of her arms up to point at the collection of stars. 

“Which one’s your favorite now?” Wynonna asks, tilting her head to look up at Nicole’s face. 

“Hmm… alright, I know it’s boring but... I like the dippers a lot.” 

“The little one or the big one?”

“Doesn’t matter. I think they’re both cool,” Nicole says softly, looking down at Wynonna. 

Wynonna seems to think about it for a second, making a pouting face as she does before nodding. 

“Yeah and they just make sense. They’re the shape that they’re called, y’know? Unlike fuckin’ Draco. Loser.” Wynonna makes a pfft sound and shakes her head, letting it fall back against Nicole’s shoulder. 

The younger woman closes her eyes and laughs loudly, her arms tightening around the smaller woman. “God, I love you, Wynonna Earp.” Nicole says, breathing out a sigh of relief when she does. 

“I love you, Nic.” Wynonna sounds like she’s lost in some sort of a dream. 

They sit that way for a long time, blissfully unaware of anything outside of this place. It’s like it always was. They name as many constellations as they can and look up more to try and name those, too. At one point, Wynonna bets Nicole that she can count more stars than her but both of them lose their place too many times because they can’t stop laughing. Most of all they kiss and talk to one another, about everything and nothing. 

There’s a moment when they’re sitting in the quiet night air, Nicole’s arms keeping Wynonna warm under the blanket that’s draped around them. 

“Nicole?” Wynonna asks softly. 

“Hmm?” 

“Do you want to get married? To me?” 

Wynonna just says it. Soft but quick, before her chest won’t let her. Now her own heartbeat is the loudest thing around. She can hear it in her ears, feel it thrumming through her whole body. 

Worst of all, Nicole doesn’t say anything for a second. And then another second later, she laughs.  

Wynonna feels like she’s going to shrivel up and die. How could she have gotten it so wrong? Every sign was there, or so she thought. Had she read them all wrong? Was that –– something Nicole hadn’t ever wanted? Not even with her? 

Wynonna makes herself sit up some and turns around in Nicole’s arms just a little, enough to see her. 

“I’m sorry, ‘Nonna –– I just…thought you asked if I wanted to get married.” Nicole says, even though it feels stupid. 

Of course, Wynonna couldn’t have said that . It’d be ridiculous of her to even say she thought it. Still, her heart is hammering and she can feel her eyes getting watery. How could she have heard that? How dumb did she look right now? 

“I –– I did.” Wynonna begins, the realization hitting her that Nicole wasn’t saying no… she just doesn’t believe she’d actually heard it right. 

Wynonna shoves the blanket off of herself and gets up on her knees, moving so that she’s straddling Nicole’s lap. The Heir takes in a deep breath and begins digging around in her jacket pockets until she finds the object she’d been looking for. Wynonna had been carrying it with her for weeks at this point, waiting for the moment because she hadn’t wanted it to be planned. 

Out comes a tiny blue box. Wynonna only notices how badly she’s trembling when it takes her a few tries to get it open. When she finally does, she glances at the band before turning it around to Nicole. 

Nicole doesn’t remember exactly when she stopped breathing, but she finally sucks in a shaky breath when she’s face to face with the ring. It’s a band of silver with a beautiful band of green and blue opal in the middle. It looks so indescribably perfect for her that she knows nobody else could have picked it other than Wynonna. 

“Oh… Wynonna, a-are you serious? You wanna marry me?” She breathes out finally, smiling as hot tears well up in her eyes and spill over. She doesn’t even care, she can’t stop looking between Wynonna’s face and the ring in her hand. 

“I’m so serious, Nicole. See? Picked it out myself.” She motions to the ring and chews at the inside of her lip. “And I’m here, on two knees, not just one! That’s how serious I am about wanting to marry you , Nicole. I-I barely know what I’m doing half of the time, but you always know.” Wynonna starts talking and she’s afraid that she won’t be able to stop. 

Everything is just rushing out now, words she’d spent so much time being terrified of not being able to find come to the surface.

“What I’m saying is, it’s you. It always has been. I’ve known that for a really, really long time. That I’d only ever want this with you. And I do want it. So fucking much. I want you more than anything.” She feels her breath catch in her throat and reaches up to wipe tears she didn’t know had started to fall. 

“So will you? Will you marry me, Nicole Haught?” Wynonna chokes out, laughing through her tears at how fucking relieving it is to finally spit that out. 

Nicole’s hands go to Wynonna’s waist easily and she’s nodding, biting down on her bottom lip as she starts to laugh too. “Yeah. God, yes , I’ll marry you, Wynonna. Oh my god. Yes! ” She says through the tears and the laugher. 

Wynonna lets out a heavy sigh, feeling like she’s never felt. Nothing could compare to this. She leans forward, resting her forehead against Nicole’s and shutting her eyes tight as she smiles. “Oh, thank god.”  She laughs brightly, her voice still tearful in the happiest way. 

Nicole takes Wynonna’s face in her hands and pulls her in for a kiss. It’s full of everything they’re feeling. Their tears mix together on their cheeks and it’s like they can’t get close enough, can’t kiss one another deep enough.

Wynonna manages to pull back first, making a sound like she’s just remembered something. 

“The ring! You gotta... I gotta put it on.” She says, sounding almost shy. 

She fumbles with the box again and this time, Nicole reaches out to help steady her hands as she takes the piece of jewelry out of its box. Wynonna lets the box fall to the bed of the truck and takes Nicole’s left hand in her own. She holds it for a moment, glancing up at Nicole’s tear stained face again and laughing softly before slipping the ring onto Nicole’s finger. 

They both stare at it for a moment and it feels like the world just stops. Wynonna can’t believe she made it here, to this moment. Nicole can’t believe that the woman who had been her first everything, her only everything , had gotten back to her and is here putting an engagement ring on her finger.  

Wynonna brings Nicole’s knuckles up to her lips and presses the softest of kisses there. Nicole melts at the display, feeling just how completely she belongs to this woman. 

“I love you so much, Wynonna. I am so in love with you, baby. I can’t believe this is real. That you’re gonna be my wife,” she breathes out, looking wholly awestruck at the smaller woman on her lap. 

You’re gonna be my wife. It hits Wynonna in the chest. Hard. 

“I’m so fucking in love with you, Haught. I ––” Wynonna breathes the words but the rest is cut off by Nicole surging up and kissing her again. 

It’s more hungry this time, more desperate. Wynonna moans weakly against Nicole’s mouth and wraps her arms around her neck, tangling her fingers in her hair. Nicole pushes forward, maneuvering them so that she can push Wynonna backwards and hover over her. Wynonna lets her, easily. They undress one another in a fever, aching to be close, barely being able to stand breaking their kisses for even a second. Nicole pulls one of the blankets over their bare bodies and they love one another fully under the stars. 

 

*** 

 

The two of them stumble into the homestead around 2AM. Even now, they’re barely able to stop kissing and whispering back and forth long enough to get inside the house. They try to be quiet though, sure that Waverly is asleep by now. 

As soon as they close the front door, Wynonna presses Nicole against it and kisses her and the kitchen light comes on, making them both jump. 

“Jesus, Waves!” Wynonna hisses, turning to look at her younger sister standing in the kitchen with her arms crossed and an expectant look on her face. 

Wynonna can’t stand it, she grins wide and picks up Nicole’s left hand, holding it out for Waverly to see that the ring is finally, finally in place. 

Waverly squeals-- actually squeals--as she runs forward to wrap both of them up in a hug. Nicole and Wynonna laugh, wrapping their arms around the younger girl. Wynonna presses a kiss to her baby sister’s head when she feels her tears against her cheek. 

After a few moments, Nicole pulls back and holds Waverly at arms length to look at her. “Is this... why you kept lookin’ at my hands all weird all the time?” she asks, raising an eyebrow at her friend. 

“Oh my god. It’s just been so rough! I didn’t know exactly when she was gonna do it at first so I kept checking in case you two decided not to tell me.” Waverly laughs, leaning back into Wynonna again to soothe her mild embarrassment. 

Wynonna laughs, wrapping Waverly in a big hug. “Baby girl… as if I wouldn’t tell you.” She shakes her head, kissing Waverly’s again.  

“Ugh… I know. Oh, I’m just so happy. I love you both so much!” She squeals again, reaching up to wipe the tears from her eyes. “Oh my god! I have to go tell Rosie and Shae!” She jolts out of Wynonna’s arms and practically bolts up the stairs to call her girlfriends. 

Wynonna finds her way back into Nicole’s arms easily, clasping her hands at the small of Nicole’s back. Nicole threads her fingers in Wynonna’s hair, the curls long disheveled from their time in the truck bed. She pushes the dark hair behind her ears and smiles down at her lovingly. 

“I’m marrying Wynonna Earp.” Nicole says softly, voice full of wonder. 

“I’m so sorry.” Wynonna laughs, making a face as she looks up at the taller woman.

“Don’t you dare. I’m the luckiest woman in the whole damn world because I’m gonna get to be your wife.” Nicole says firmly, still smiling sweetly down at her fiancee . If she thought she’d never get used to girlfriend, she has no idea how her heart will be able to handle this.  

Wynonna melts when Nicole says that, calls herself lucky for getting to belong to her this way. She pulls in a shaky breath and presses her lips together for a moment, just taking in Nicole’s face. 

“You’re sure you want this? It’s not gonna be easy, being with me forever. Things are scary, it’s hard being with me. Loving me. Cause of all this shit and I just want you to be happy, Nicole.” Wynonna begins, but stops when she notices Nicole already shaking her head. 

“I’ve always been sure about you. I’ve never had a doubt. Loving you is not hard. It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I got you, Earp. I’m not going anywhere. Ever.” Nicole promises. “You sure you wanna be my wife, though?” She asks a little timidly. 

Wynonna shakes her head with tears in her eyes again. Nicole has never doubted her. It’s never been hard for Nicole to love her. It’s something she’s always known but has been reluctant to let herself believe at times. Wynonna makes a promise to herself that she’ll start trying to always believe it. 

“I’ve never wanted to be anything more.” Wynonna says surely, her voice wavering from the oncoming tears. 

“Oh, baby…” Nicole grins, leaning down and presses a sweet, lingering kiss to Wynonna’s lips before pulling back and holding up her pinky to her. 

“Promise?” She asks gently, her free hand coming up to rest against Wynonna’s cheek and brush away a tear with her thumb. 

Wynonna laughs, causing a couple more tears to fall. She lets Nicole wipe those away too and bites her bottom lip as she nods up at her, wrapping her pinky up around her’s. She can’t get over the ring around Nicole’s left finger now. The ring she put there. Wynonna smiles brilliantly and nods again. 

“I promise.”