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hopeless teenage hearts

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July 15, 2008

 

Wynonna bounds down the stairs, early enough to catch the both of her ‘parents’ before they head off to work. She’s made herself presentable, with one of her nicer t-shirts and a pair of jeans that aren’t ripped and frayed. She’s nervous. They’ve given her no reason to be… A couple weekends ago she’d disappeared to the lakehouse with Nicole and she spent a lot of weekends at the Haught residence and they never seem to mind. 

This is different, though. 

She finds them sitting at the table having breakfast. 

“You’re up early! We figured you’d be sleeping for a few more hours!” Mr. Evans remarks. 

“Oh, yeah! I just was wondering… Can I ask a question?” Wynonna asks, trying to keep momentum before she loses her gumption. 

“Sure, honey, what is it?” Mrs. Evans replies, but Mr. Evans nods along encouragingly as well. 

“Well, you guys know Nicole--”

“Your best friend!” Mr. Evans replies brightly. 

Wynonna tries not to blanch at the descriptor. She’s trying very hard not to get kicked out of this house… It would help to stay put since she’s trying to actually graduate this year and get her place with Nicole. She doesn’t think they’re homophobes, but who the hell knows these days?

“Yeah, her!” Wynonna replies, trying to sound just as bright. “I was wondering if it would be okay if she stayed the night this weekend. Maybe Friday and Saturday if that’s okay?” 

“Oh! Of course, she can, Wynonna! Will we need to make her a bed on the couch or are you guys okay sleeping in your bed upstairs? I know it’s only a full, so--”

Wynonna interrupts Mrs. Evans before she can go on. There’s no way she’s not sleeping in the bed with Nicole. Are they crazy? “No, it’s plenty big enough for us! We’re small gals!” 

The Evans’ smile at Wynonna and both nod approvingly. Mrs. Evans speaks up, “Of course. One condition -- you girls have to have dinner with us on Friday, at least. I want to get to know Nicole. Deal?” 

Wynonna grins and nods quickly. “Super deal! Uh, her favorite is fettuccine alfredo… I can help make it. And I can pick some stuff up at the store while you guys are at work today?” 

“Nonsense. I’ll pick everything up, but I’d love to have your help in the kitchen,” Mrs. Evans says. 

“You got it.” Wynonna says, beaming. 



***

 

Later that day

 

Wynonna makes the drive to Nicole’s house once she knows that the Haught parental units have gone off to work as well. Nicole greets her the way she always does. Kisses galore. They end up cuddled on the couch with some random show playing in the background. Wynonna’s seated next to Nicole, curled into her side and they can’t stop kissing every so often.  She hums against Nicole’s lips and pulls out of the kiss. 

Wynonna worries her lip and looks up at soft brown eyes looking straight through her. Why is she nervous? They’d spent close to a year sleeping in the bed upstairs every single opportunity they had… 

“What is it, baby?” Nicole asks, face full of concern. 

Wynonna softens at the genuine care written in every inch of Nicole’s flushed face. She reaches over and tucks Nicole’s hair behind her ear. Her hand rests on Nicole’s neck, her thumb brushing over the reddened cheek. “Nothing to look so worried about, Naughty Haughty… I just have a proposition for you.” 

Nicole straightens. The arm wrapped around Wynonna tightens and the other arm moves so that Nicole can rub over Wynonna’s arm with her hand. “Name it, ‘Nonna.” 

“Would you maybe want to… come over to the place I’m staying with The Evans? And stay the night this weekend? They said you could on Friday and Saturday. I figured it might be nice to have a change in scenery for you--us.” Wynonna rambles on, unsure of why she tries to sell it to Nicole so much. Turns out, she doesn’t need to. 

“I always want to stay with you. Don’t care where it is,” Nicole answers. “Do they know that we’re--” Nicole raises her eyebrows. 

“God, you’re cute. You think these people know the dirty things we do in the dark and still said yes to you staying the night…” Wynonna teases with a shake of her head and a smirk on her lips. “They think you’re my best friend. They don’t know that you’re that plus my girl . My cute, perfect girl who kisses me goodnight and holds me close under the covers.” She leans up to press a soft kiss to those lips she already misses. 

When they part a few seconds later, Wynonna continues, “It’s not because I don’t want them to know. I just don’t know how they’d react and I don’t wanna fuck this up. It’s basically my last chance. Plus, they already asked if they needed to make a couch bed for you.” 

The look of horror that flashes across Nicole’s face makes Wynonna chuckle. 

“Don’t worry, baby, you’re sleeping with me…” Instant relief makes Nicole sag and Wynonna laughs again. “So, same drill as when your parents are home.”

Nicole nods. “Alright, baby, sounds good. I’m pretty pumped! Do you think they’re gonna like me?” Nicole’s face flashes through all of the emotions she lets spill out of her mouth. Gentle agreement… Excitedness… And then finally a cute furrowed brow and worried look. 

“Babyyyy,” Wynonna drawls, reaching up to smooth out the crinkle between her eyebrows. “I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to not like you… But they’re gonna love you. It’d be impossible for them not to.” 

Nicole feels the heat in her chest spreading to her shoulders. They’re gonna love you. It’d be impossible for them not to. Wynonna always finds ways to suggest her love for Nicole without saying it… And she shows it even better. Still… Any time it gets into that territory, it shakes Nicole the same. 

“What’re you thinking about, Haught?” Wynonna asks after a few seconds. 

“Just you… As usual,” Nicole replies smoothly. The corner of her lips tug up a bit. 

“Smooth talker… you just want in my pants. Did I bore you with my parental talk? Poor baby…” Wynonna pouts and moves to climb into Nicole’s lap. 

“What?! Wynonna, no--”

“Shhh, I’m teasing. Let me tease,” Wynonna says leaning down to brush her lips against Nicole’s. 

“Yes ma’am…” 

 

***

 

July 18

 

Nicole smooths out the shirt she’s wearing as she steps out of her truck in front of the Evans’ House. She’s wearing a plain, fitted blue button-up and a pair of her nicest jeans. She wants to look nice, but not so nice that it raises suspicion in Wynonna’s ‘parents.’ She grabs her overnight duffle bag from the seat and slings it over her shoulder before making her way up to the porch. 

She rings the bell and Wynonna answers. Nicole notices right away that Wynonna had the same idea that she had. Wynonna looks nice… but not too nice for their dinner. “Nicole…” Wynonna breathes out. “You look--” 

“You, too, Wynonna,” Nicole offers briefly. It physically pains the both of them not to kiss one another in greeting, but when Mr. Evans appears behind Wynonna, Nicole knows that they made the right decision. 

“Nicole!” He calls out happily, bounding forward and reaching his hand out for Nicole. “It’s nice to finally, really meet you instead of waving to you from the porch,” he jokes. 

“Same to you, sir,” Nicole says, grasping firmly and shaking. 

“Good handshake,” he notes with a twinkle in his eyes. “I know I can trust this one, Wynonna. She’s a good.” 

“The best,” Wynonna replies, not taking her eyes off Nicole. 

“Well, don’t be rude, Wynonna, bring your bestie in!” He says, trying to be hip, before turning and walking back towards the kitchen to his wife. 

“Absolutely disgusting…” Wynonna murmurs quietly, mimicking a face on the verge of throwing up. 

“Yeah, bestie--” Nicole teases.

“Do not!” Wynonna raises a finger and presses it against Nicole’s lips. “Get your ass in here, Haught.” 

Wynonna takes Nicole’s bag upstairs and places it in her room before coming back downstairs and helping with cooking. Nicole hangs around the kitchen, leaning and offering to help with both Wynonna and Mrs. Evans insisting that she not lift a finger because they’re making her favorite. 

“Nicole, food made by people who love you always tastes better,” Mrs. Evans says as if she’s imparting great wisdom. Wynonna just smiles softly and looks over to Nicole with that familiar sparkle in her eyes. 

Wynonna continues to sneak peeks at Nicole every chance she gets. The tall girl looks so cute  with her hands shoved in her pockets, swaying a little nervously and leaning against the kitchen island. 

Mr. Evans comes into the kitchen when the dinner is almost done and sits at his place at the dining room table. “So, Nicole, tell me all your secrets,” he starts. “You play basketball, right? You a Raptors fan?” 

“Am I a Raptors fan?” Nicole asks and her face lights up. “Of course, I’m a Raptors fan. I can’t wait for the games to kick back up in October.” 

“Yeah, those 76ers don’t stand a chance.” 

“Oh god… Now, he’s got someone to ramble about basketball with…” Mrs. Evans whispers to Wynonna. 

“Her, too… I don’t know a thing about any of it. Barely know what’s going on at her games,” Wynonna whispers back. 

“You stick with me, then!” 

 

***

 

Wynonna sits across from Nicole and the Evans sit at opposite ends of the table, as well. The conversation is carried by the adults at the table, but Nicole falls in easy where she can. Nicole answers all of the questions they have for her truthfully, thankful when neither one of them thinks to ask about boyfriends. 

Wynonna is the quietest of the four of them, watching closely as Nicole seems to just fit. It makes her feel… warm. She can’t believe this is real. Nicole is sitting in a house that she lives in, getting on with the people graciously hosting her. Hell, they adore her even more than Wynonna could have ever dreamed. 

It’s no surprise, though. Nicole has that kind of heart that just wows people and shines. The kind of heart that Wynonna wishes she had… but Nicole having it… And being hers… That would be enough. More than enough. More than everything in the world. 

 

***

 

Nicole insists on helping Mrs. Evans with the dishes after dinner, before they go watch a movie together. Wynonna tries to pretend like it doesn’t make her heart beat out of her chest to see her –– Nicole getting along so well with her new family. 

When she steals a small glance, she sees the two of them talking back and forth at the sink, and then Nicole says something that makes Mrs. Evans laugh harder than Wynonna’s ever seen. It makes Nicole laugh, too, and she tosses her head back and scrunches her nose in the most beautiful way. Wynonna knows she’s staring and she can’t help it. Her eyebrows raise and pull together and she has the dopiest grin on her face. 

“Popcorn’s gonna burn…” Mr. Evans nudges Wynonna’s arm and snaps her out of it. 

She shakes her head, turning back around to pop open the microwave before it gets down to the last few seconds. When she looks back up to the man, he’s laughing. 

“I was just ––– trying to hear what they were talking about.” Wynonna says, blushing furiously. She juggles the hot bag and opens it carefully, pouring it into a bowl.

“Yeah, I’m interested in what’s got them laughing so hard, too,” he says kindly, reaching over and passing the salt to Wynonna without her asking.

“Thanks.” She says softly, giving him a single nod as she adds the right amount of salt to the bowl. 

Nicole and Mrs. Evans finish cleaning up around the same time. Wynonna passes off the popcorn to Nicole and grabs them something to drink from the fridge. 

“Well, I don’t know about you ––” Mr. Evans says, turning to his wife, “but I’m exhausted. I think I’m gonna go on to bed,” he says simply. 

Wynonna feels a bit relieved that they won’t be hanging around with them for this part. Being around them isn’t awful, it’s not even bad. She just doesn’t wanna sit on the couch and watch a movie with Nicole and worry about them staring at her. 

“Me too. I’ll be right after you,” Mrs. Evans says back, before smiling towards the girls. 

“You guys don’t wanna watch?” Nicole says, without thinking. 

Wynonna nudges her from behind, subtly and Nicole purses her lips, knowing it’s too late to take back what she said. 

“Oh, no, sweetie. You girls have fun!” She insists, patting Nicole on the shoulder. 

Wynonna smiles at both of them. “Thank you guys again for letting Nic come over,” she says nodding, surprised by how emotional it makes her feel. 

She’s never had this, never thought she would or could. Even if they doesn’t know that Nicole is –– more than just her best friend… they’re kind and caring and everything she could’ve ever asked for. Why couldn’t they have been her parents all along? Maybe then she wouldn’t be so fucked up. 

“Of course, Wynonna. You’re a good kid. You deserve to have friends over when you want them,” he tells her, as if he’s surprised she needs to be reminded. 

Nicole watches on in absolute amazement and happiness. This is truly what Wynonna deserves. 

The Evans’ say goodnight to the girls and when they’ve been left alone, Wynonna smirks up at Nicole. 

“What’re you lookin’ at me like that for?” She asks, feeling her face get red. 

“You just come over here and get along with them so well like that… be so sweet and charming… honestly, Haughty… get your ass into that living room before I say we’re skipping the movie.” Wynonna shakes her head, her smirk still persisting but her eyes are soft. 

Nicole’s small smile turns into a wide grin and she ducks her head and lets Wynonna lead her to the living room. 

 

***

 

The movie that Nicole picked out is a musical called Rent. It’s beautiful and tragic and makes Wynonna ache to see New York City. 

Wynonna makes sure that Nicole knows that the character Maureen reminds her of herself and doesn’t miss the way Nicole practically drools over her. 

“I’ll make a note.” Wynonna says quietly, smirking. 

“About what?” 

“The leather pants.”

Nicole’s eyes widen a bit and her face gets red when she thinks about Wynonna in pants like that. 

Wynonna just laughs then smiles and settles a little bit closer to Nicole. As close as she can to make it seem normal if one of the Evans’ were to walk in. 

They’re nestled on the couch, a big blanket over their laps and the popcorn bowl sitting on their legs between them. They each eat with the one hand they have sticking out from under the blankets while the two between them are underneath, intertwined. 

There’s a part in the movie where Maureen gets down on her knee, takes a ring off her own finger and puts it on the hand of Joanne, her girlfriend. Promising to commit to her. Wynonna feels her breath catch in her throat as she watches. 

The whole time, Nicole can’t stop smiling softly and fiddling with the ring that Wynonna had taken off and given to her a month ago. 

Wynonna thinks back to the last night at the lake house, when she’d woken up in the middle of the night and thought about how she knows that if she ever gets married, it’ll be to Nicole and only Nicole. 

This only makes that feeling stronger and she doesn’t know how to process that. 

She spares a glance at Nicole and sees her smiling, playing with the ring she gave her and her heart swells. She can’t stop the grin that spreads across her own face, catching Nicole’s attention. 

The redhead looks over at Wynonna fully and her smile widens, too. For a moment, they just look at one another, feeling the same thing without speaking it out loud. 

Wynonna tightens her grip on her girl’s hand and Nicole brushes her thumb over Wynonna’s sweetly. 

They both cry when Angel dies. Wynonna leans her head on Nicole’s shoulder and cries a little quieter, but Nicole still knows. She leans her head against Wynonna’s and lets her tears fall quietly too. 

 

***

 

When the movie is over, Nicole folds the blankets and Wynonna takes their empty dishes to the kitchen before they head upstairs. 

Once in the safety of her room with the door closed, Wynonna moves into Nicole’s arms and seems to sink into her. “God, that was way too long without this.” She sighs, closing her eyes and letting out a deep breath. 

Nicole laughs softly, wrapping her arms around Wynonna. One rests at the back of her head and she leans in to press a kiss to her hair, closing her eyes as well. 

They stay like that for a moment or two before Wynonna pulls back and looks up at the taller girl. “So, how do you like them?” She asks, as if the question has been weighing on her all night. 

Nicole knows immediately that she’s talking about the Evans’ and she smiles, rubbing her hands up and down Wynonna’s arms. 

“Baby, they’re – really great, actually. They’re nice, they seem to really care. It’s what you deserve. I’m so happy that you have them. Really. This has been –- so, so nice to see. I feel like I’ll sleep better when I can’t be with you, just knowing that you really are safe,” Nicole admits, tilting her head just so. 

Wynonna’s heart melts a little bit at the idea of Nicole finding it hard to sleep because she’s worried about her. “You had fun? You really mean it?” Wynonna questions again, scrunching her nose up a little and closing one eye. 

Nicole laughs and reaches out to run her finger down the bridge of Wynonna’s perfect little nose, as if smoothing out the wrinkles with her touch. “Yes. I do,” she says confidently. 

Wynonna accepts with a sigh and a soft smile, moving her arms from around Nicole’s torso to take her hand instead. She moves towards the bed and sits down on the edge of it, criss-crossing her legs. 

Nicole follows her to the edge of the bed, but seems to get lost looking around the room on the way. 

Wynonna tries to follow her glances, but can’t quite pick up on exactly what she’s looking at. This is the first time she’s really seeing her room, her space. Wynonna remembers the first time she was in Nicole’s, how she wanted to take in everything and learn it all. 

She knows what Nicole is doing right now is no different, but she’d be lying if she said it doesn’t make her a little nervous. Nicole’s room is so pretty and full of things that have made her her for her whole life. Wynonna’s is borrowed at best. But she’d done some things that she specifically wanted Nicole to be happy about, and she wonders if the girl has noticed yet. 

“Whatcha lookin’ at, Red?” Wynonna asks, unable to take the quiet anymore. 

Nicole seems to snap out of it and look back down to her, a soft smile making the corner of her mouth twitch. 

“Just lookin’... it’s pretty in here, Wynonna. Very you,” Nicole compliments, taking both of Wynonna’s hands in hers. 

Wynonna seems to relax a bit at the nice words, some of her worry washing away. “Really? I… I tried to make it nice in here. As nice as I could. I put up some nice pictures of some mountains that I found, cause they reminded me of you. And a poster, behind the door. Look.” She urges, pointing towards the door Nicole hadn’t looked at. 

When the younger girl turns around, she’s met with a poster of Pink taped neatly to the wood. It’s smaller than the one she has, and a different picture, but still super hot and it makes her laugh. 

“Pink…” She says the woman’s name like she can’t believe what she’s looking at before turning back to Wynonna.

“Again...reminded me of my Haughty.” She boasts, brushing her thumbs over the backs of Nicole’s hands. She glances down at them and notices the biggest thing. 

“Oh! Yeah… the… my parents wanted to get me bed stuff for in here, I told them I could but they insisted, like a welcome home gift or something for when I moved here. I picked these out, ‘cause they made me think of being snuggled up in your bed.” She says softly, feeling extremely vulnerable admitting these things. 

“Baby…” Nicole coos, her shoulders sagging as she takes in the dark blue comforter and pillows. Some of them are the solid blue of the bed, and some are a dark floral pattern of the same colors. Nicole figures the sheets will look the same as those from what she can see peaking out. 

She moves her hands to Wynonna’s face and leans in for a long, deep kiss. When she pulls back, she presses her knee into the bed and pushes herself up onto it, basically into Wynonna’s lap. 

Wynonna receives her easily and happily, grinning as Nicole invades her space. She twists her fingers into the redhead’s hair and pulls her down for another kiss, feeling starved after the last several hours of not getting to kiss her. 

“Do you like it? Or is it weird...I’m just trying to feel comfortable here, and you’re –– what makes me feel the most comfortable,” Wynonna admits when their kiss is over, holding Nicole close still. 

“It’s not weird, Wynonna. It’s perfect. It’s -- everything. I love that I can make you feel that way.” Nicole assures, brushing her thumb over Wynonna’s warm cheek and her nose against hers. She continues sweetly, “It looks beautiful in here. A beautiful room for the most beautiful girl… I think I have a few more things for you to add, though. If you want to.” 

Nicole shrugs gently, very reluctantly getting off of Wynonna and going over to her bag. She pulls out a few items before returning to the bed, opting to climb up and sit beside Wynonna instead of on top of her for this. 

Nicole drapes something made of fabric over Wynonna’s lap and Wynonna reaches for it, knowing it immediately. 

“One of your pillowcases...” She says, smiling to herself as she holds it in her hands. She can’t resist bringing it up to her nose and inhaling, breathing in the familiar smell of Nicole’s bedroom. 

“I know it won’t match perfectly, but to be fair I didn’t know your stuff was even the same color before I got here, so at least there’s that.” Nicole shrugs, smirking.

“I thought you’d like –– to have something else that smells like me. And when you need it washed, just bring it over and it’ll keep smelling like my room.” She explains. 

Wynonna watches her with so much love and adoration, a silly little smirk on her face. The love she has for Nicole Haught aches in her bones. 

“You’re something else, Haughtstuff.” Wynonna breathes, reaching over for one of the pillows immediately to replace the case with the new one. 

She folds up the old one and drapes it over Nicole’s knee. “You take that one, then. For the same reason.” Wynonna says, quietly, putting her hands in her lap.  

Nicole’s smile is wide as she looks down at the dark blue fabric before looking back up at Wynonna. “Thank you, ‘Nonna.” She says, setting it aside. 

“I’ve got these, too.” She says gently, holding out a stack of pictures of the two of them for Wynonna to look at. 

Nicole had been careful not to pick ones that straight up screamed that they were gay, just in case. But the ones she did choose are still some of their best. Ones where they look so happy, or ones from a moment that’s only special because they shared it. Pictures that Wynonna can put up in her room for just the two of them to know the story behind. 

Wynonna softens as she takes the pictures, shuffling through the stack and remembering the occasion for each and every one. “I can put these on the wall?” She asks when she’s reaching the end. 

She traces her finger over Nicole’s face in the one she’s looking at now, one from when they went to the aquarium. Nicole is beaming and so beautiful. Wynonna looks up to see the same expression staring back at her now. 

“Yeah, baby. Whatever you want. I figured you’d want to, if you felt comfortable enough.” She says, reaching out to rest her hands on Wynonna’s thighs. 

“You’ll help me put them up tomorrow?” Wynonna asks with her bottom lip between her teeth. 

“You got it, Earp.” Nicole says gently, leaning in to kiss Wynonna’s nose.

They get ready for bed and Wynonna climbs under the covers first, gravitating to the same side she normally lays on when they’re in Nicole’s bed. She pulls the covers back for her and waits for her to get in. 

It feels weird but in a good way to be curling up against Nicole in her own bed. She wraps her arms around the taller girl’s waist and leans her head against Nicole’s shoulder. They settle like that for a moment, Nicole’s arm around her just brushing up and down her arm as they lay in the dark. 

“Have you ever been to New York, Nic?” Wynonna asks, thinking back to the scenery from the movie they’d watched. Thinking about how it made her feel. 

“Yeah I have. When I was younger, but not in a couple of years. My aunt took me the few times I did go and we saw shows on Broadway.” 

Nicole doesn’t have to ask if Wynonna has been, she knows enough to know the answer. The girl hadn’t even seen an aquarium before they’d gone together. In a way, it’s nice to think about all the things she’d get to see Wynonna experience for the first time. 

“We’ll go one day. Just the two of us,” Nicole says matter-of-factly, already imagining the smile on Wynonna’s face the first time she sees the city. 

“Yeah?” Wynonna smiles, twisting her fingers in Nicole’s shirt. 

“Yeah, baby. I’d love that. To see you see it for the first time,” Nicole promises, leaning over and kissing Wynonna’s head.

“I’d love that, too,” Wynonna says simply, her hands pushing up under the big t-shirt Nicole is wearing. Her nose nuzzles against Nicole’s neck and she can feel her warming underneath her. 

“Your bed is comfy, too. For the record.” Nicole’s hands travel under Wynonna’s shirt and trail up her back. She sighs into the comfort of the embrace, smiling softly as Wynonna’s nose and breath brush against her sensitive neck. 

“Wynonna…” She says in a way that’s probably meant to be in warning but comes off more sing-songy and breathless. 

“Yeah, baby?” Wynonna asks, pressing a kiss to the skin under her lips. 

“You said like when my parents are home…” She reminds her of her own words from earlier, her own hands never stopping their trailing of Wynonna’s skin. 

“Yeah, I meant quietly,” Wynonna clarifies in a soft whisper, shifting herself to straddle Nicole’s hips.

Chapter Text

September 8, 2012

 

Nicole turns the key to her apartment and opens it, letting her girlfriend, Taylor walk in ahead of her. The night had been perfect, a dinner and movie of Taylor’s choosing, celebrating their six month anniversary. Taylor’s been nice… So sweet and fun. Nicole really likes being with her. It’s fun and low pressure. 

It still doesn’t compare… 

“Oh what’s this?!” Taylor calls from deeper into the apartment. 

Nicole turns to lock the door and turn the latches. “What’s what?” She calls over her shoulder.

There’s no answer. Nicole’s smiling softly when she turns around… Her face quickly falls when she sees what Taylor had been talking about. All of the color drains from her and there’s a terrible pit in her stomach. She watches her girlfriend of six months shuffling through a stack of polaroids from a box she’d carelessly left on her dining table. 

“Who is this?” Taylor asks, weakly. 

Nicole swallows, taking a few hesitant steps towards her. 

“Nicole, who is this?” Taylor asks again, her voice shaking. 

“Her name is Wynonna,” Nicole answers finally, feeling small. 

Fuck, how could she have been so stupid? Earlier, she was hit with nostalgia after seeing a post on Facebook, prepping for the pride festivals around. She’d only wanted to look at the polaroids from that time, but of course… She spiraled and lost track of time. She got ready for her date with Taylor and completely forgot about the box sitting on the table.

Taylor’s voice cuts through her panic. “And who is she to you?” 

Everything. Nicole’s heart responds, a knee-jerk reflex when it comes to Wynonna. She takes a breath and straightens, trying to make herself bigger.  “She’s from my past.” 

“From your past…” Taylor repeats with a humorless laugh. “What’s she doing on your table in the present?” 

“I was looking for something…” Nicole lies. 

Nicole watches helplessly as Taylor becomes fixated on one picture in particular. Nicole steps into her space now so she can see everything the other woman is seeing. It’s a picture from the Pride festival. Wynonna’s hand is cupping the side of Nicole’s face and Nicole’s arm is extended out taking the polaroid. They’re smiling so brightly and their noses are touching. Nicole feels an ache in her chest. 

“She’s from your past, huh?” Taylor questions again, her voice sounds rougher now… She’s upset and Nicole can’t blame her. “If she’s from your past, why do you wear her ring around your neck every day?” Taylor flashes the picture for Nicole to examine more closely.

Shitshitshit. What was there to say to that? How could Nicole save this? Could it be saved? “Look, I just-- Like the ring and I promised I’d always wear it so--”

“So you keep promises to your ex-girlfriends?” 

“It’s not like that -- she wasn’t my girlfriend.”

Taylor full-on laughs in a bone-chilling way. “Wasn’t your girlfriend?! Then what the fuck was she Nicole? What was she? There are dozens of pictures in there of you two… You still have some of her fucking clothes! Or is she wearing your clothes in these?” 

Both. Nicole thinks. “Taylor…” 

“Did she die?” Taylor asks softly. Nicole can see that her girlfriend is trying to work through the possibilities--the things that would make this okay--that would make it something she could handle. 

That question kicks Nicole straight in the chest. Thinking of Wynonna… Dead… She clenches her jaw and shakes her head. “No, she isn’t dead,” she says surely. 

Taylor nods, as if understanding. 

“Please, let me explain--” Nicole offers. 

“What could you possibly say, Nicole? You obviously still have feelings for this girl.” Tears brim at the edges of Taylor’s eyes and Nicole takes a step toward her girlfriend with her arms ready to wrap her up. The blonde woman recoils. “No! Don’t-- Touch me.” 

“Taylor, please, I haven’t seen her in three years.”

“What happened?” 

“I-- I don’t know.” Nicole explains. 

“You don’t know? What broke you up Nicole? What happened ?” 

“We never-- Broke up. I don’t know what happened. I just haven’t seen her and I don’t know where she is.” 

“What the fuck ?” Taylor’s shaking her head over and over now, like she’s trying to shake all of this information out of her head. Like she’s trying to forget all of it 

“She-- She’s not--- I’m not--” Nicole swallows. “I’m here with you. I’ve been with you for the last six months and we’ve-- We’ve been having fun right?” 

Taylor scoffs again, her head toward the ceiling as it shakes. “Fun…” The word sounds like venom as it escapes the woman. “Fun… That’s what this has been for six months.”

Shit. 

“Do you love me, Nicole?”  Taylor looks up at Nicole with a pleading shine in her eyes.

Double shit. 

“Nicole?” 

No. 

“I like you a lot,” Nicole says gently. 

Taylor starts to cry now, tears streaking down her cheeks. Nicole knows then that it’s over. The blonde woman takes a step back. “I’ve been falling for you… Falling so in love with you for months… And you-- You can’t, can you? You’re still-- You haven’t moved on because you never got closure.” 

Shut up. Shut up. Stop talking like you fucking know me. Shut up. Nicole thinks to herself. The thoughts only come because the other woman is completely right--has completely called her out and is trying to make her confront things she still hadn’t fully confronted. 

“We’re done, Nicole, I’m sorry--” Taylor says quietly. “I can’t-- I can’t compete with a ghost. I can’t compete with her.” 

No, you can’t. 

“Taylor, I’m sorry, I really am sorry,” Nicole says sincerely. Her eyes have started shining with tears that will fall soon. 

“It sucks because I know you are…” Taylor says with a sad smile. “I’ll see you around… And… I hope you see her again. Even if it’s just to-- To get the closure you need. Goodbye, Nicole.”

Nicole shakes her head and swallows her tears back down, desperate to cry in solidarity. “Goodbye, Taylor.” 

Taylor walks out the door and Nicole collapses into a dining chair by the table. Her face falls into her hands and she starts to cry freely. It’s been a while since she’s had to really start to confront the emptiness--the weight of losing Wynonna. It’s been a while since she had to really think about the fact that even three years later, she’s still not over her. 

She hasn’t heard a word from Wynonna… There were hopeless days that she thought she never would, but her heart would lift at the thought of Wynonna… That she’s still out there somewhere and one day maybe they would find their way back to each other. And she would let herself get hopeful again. 

Now… She’s not sure which she’s feeling. A beautiful, nice woman just broke up with her and left her alone with a box of memories. A beautiful, nice woman who was here, in living color. One who remembered the things she liked… Who kissed her gently and didn’t push her to let her touch her in ways she still couldn’t fathom anyone else touching her. 

She couldn’t fathom anyone besides Wynonna seeing her fully, touching her fully. She still couldn’t imagine it. Her hands wipe harshly down her face, leaving her flushed and tear-stained. “Goddammit, Wynonna…” She breathes. “Where the fuck are you?” 

 

***

 

Wynonna steps off the bus and the second that the gravel of her hometown crunches under her boots she feels an overwhelming sense of dread. She already hears a small voice in her head telling her to just turn back around and leave. That she should have never come in the first place. That Waverly won’t want to see her, that nobody will. 

She takes a deep breath and pushes the feelings away the best she can. Tells herself that it isn’t true. If nobody else in this godforsaken town wants to see her, she knows that her baby sister will. 

It’s the first time she’s seen Purgatory in three years. Nothing looks any different, not really. A few new cafes and restaurants. The only bar in sight is still Shorty’s. That brings a little smile to her face. Wynonna makes a mental note to stop by and see Shorty before she leaves again. 

The walk through town to Gus and Curtis’s isn’t that long. Wynonna just slings her bag over her shoulder and walks on, not stopping long enough to let anybody recognize her and ask her why the hell she’s back. She’s not interested. She’s here for one thing and one thing only. Waverly turns seventeen today. 

Her younger sister is the only person she’s kept in touch with in Purgatory since she left, but Waverly isn’t the only person she thinks of when she thinks about where she came from. 

Being here again is like a hot knife in her back because of the woman she’d left behind three years ago. Wherever she was then, or is now. Wynonna feels a lump form in her throat as she thinks of her. Of Nicole Haught. The one person she never seemed to be able to stop thinking about for too long.  

Wherever she is, whatever she’s doing right now… she hates Wynonna’s guts . She thinks that Wynonna ruined her life. That’s all Wynonna needs to keep reminding herself of. 

It doesn’t stop the ache, not even close, but it feels a little easier than thinking Nicole is out there somewhere hopelessly in love with her still with no answers. Hurts a little less than kidding herself into thinking that the redhead she’d pinky promised to start a life with is still holding onto that promise. Still waiting for her. 

Before Wynonna knows it, she’s standing in the driveway of Gus’s house. Breathing in through her nose and out through her mouth slowly, she shakes the haunting thoughts from her mind. 

“Alright, Earp. You got this. It’s just Waverly. Waverly loves you, always has.” Wynonna mutters to herself under her breath. 

She shifts her bag on her shoulders and glances towards the vehicles parked in the yard. There’s no sign of Curtis or Gus’s truck, but there are still two vehicles parked under a big tree. A shiny red Jeep, undoubtedly belonging to Waverly, sits pretty next to her old blue and white pickup truck. 

Wynonna laughs a little without any humor. She hadn’t been prepared for the way the sight of a fucking truck would kick her in the chest. All at once, so many memories come flooding back. Sitting in the bed of it wrapped up in Nicole’s arms. Laying across the bench seat in the cab with Nicole’s body draped over her. Crying with her face buried in Nicole’s neck after another stupid fight with her awful foster parents… and so much more. 

Fuck. ” Wynonna breathes, rubbing her hand over her face. She tucks the stray hairs that have fallen out of her ponytail behind her ears as she walks up the steps and onto the porch. 

Wynonna drops the bag that, even though packed scarcely, had gotten a little heavy on the walk over. She lets herself pull in another deep breath before she knocks, praying that it’s Waverly who answers the door. 

Her ringed fingers flex before forming into a fist and rapping against the door three times. 

There are a few seconds of waiting where Wynonna worries nobody is actually home, but then she hears Waverly’s voice from the other side of the door. 

“Coming!!” She calls, sounding slightly less squeaky than the last time Wynonna had spoken to her. 

Her heart rate begins to pick up and she feels a small smile pulling at the corners of her mouth. True excitement, something she hasn’t felt in a while.

The door opens and Waverly is standing there, only a little bit taller and with much longer hair.

“Hi! What can I –– oh my god.” Waverly begins with a smile that quickly melts into an expression of complete surprise. 

“You know you shouldn’t just ––” Wynonna begins but she’s cut off by Waverly rushing into her arms, knocking the air out of her.

“Wynonna! Oh my god, I can’t believe it –– you’re here.” Waverly sounds like she’s crying. 

For someone so tiny, she sure has gotten strong. Wynonna coughs a couple of times, trying to regain her breath before wrapping her arms around her sister in return. 

“Jesus, kid… you almost took me down.” Wynonna laughs, really laughs as she hugs Waverly tight. “Yeah.. It’s me. Happy Birthday, Waves,” she mutters against Waverly’s hair. 

“You came back just to see me? Just for my birthday?!” Waverly pulls back, keeping Wynonna at an arm’s length so she can see her. 

She sniffles and makes a weak effort to brush away her tears. It makes Wynonna snort, even though she feels like she could probably cry too.

“So dumb…” She mutters affectionately, wiping away the tears from Waverly’s cheeks with her thumbs. “Of course I did.” Wynonna assures, bending down to grab her bag off the porch. 

“Can we go in? I did walk all the way from the station.” Wynonna taunts, wrapping an arm around Waverly’s shoulders. 

“Oh, geez! Yeah! God, why didn’t you just call or something, I would’ve picked you up.”

“Wouldn’t be much of a surprise then, would it?” 

Waverly shakes her head and laughs, leaning into Wynonna’s shoulder as they walk into the house. Wynonna presses a kiss to the top of Waverly’s head and kicks the door shut behind them. 

“Gus and Curtis at work?” Wynonna asks when they’re up in Waverly’s room.

She drops the bag by the bed and flops down on it, like no time has passed. As she looks around the room, she notices that a few things have grown with Waverly. The room is still disgustingly pink and girly, but could probably pass as a seventeen year old’s room instead of a twelve year old’s. 

Wynonna props herself up on her elbow and notices that all the holiday cards from her are right where they used to be. It makes her smile softly to herself. 

“Yeah, they are. Probably ‘til tonight. We had a birthday thing at Shorty’s last night because of it, with my friends and everything. I’m sorry you missed it.” Waverly winces, sitting down on the edge of the bed and folding one of her legs under her. 

Wynonna nods at the news, figuring as much. In a way, she’s kind of relieved. She’d never be welcome at something like that, no matter who said she was. She would never, ever feel it. 

“No worries, it was probably lame anyway.” Wynonna jokes and it makes Waverly roll her eyes and smile. 

“Where have you been anyway? I mean... three years, ‘Nonna? I’ve missed you so much.” Waverly sighs, her eyebrows raising as she thinks about everything Wynonna missed over the time she was gone. 

Wherever she’d been, she still found a way to make and mail Waverly a card for every holiday, just like always. Gus had gotten the mail the first time and tossed them right in the trash when she saw they were from Wynonna. Luckily, Curtis had spotted them before they’d been ruined and taken them out to give to Waverly. After that, he made sure he was around to get the mail so that the cards would go straight to Waverly. 

Wynonna thinks of all the places she’d been in the time she was gone. All the couches and floors she’d slept on. All the things she’d seen and people she met. It didn’t compare, and it never, ever made her stop missing Nicole. Not unless she was too drunk to see, let alone think. 

“I’ve been a lot of places, baby girl. So many. Saved up a good chunk of money all that time ago, so I’ve been using it to just –– travel.” Wynonna sighs, picking at a stray string on Waverly’s comforter. 

That money was meant to help her start her life with Nicole… but that hadn’t worked out, had it? 

“Well, like where? Did you go to the states? Oh my god, ‘Nonna did you go to California?!” Waverly asks, a childlike excitement coming over her. 

Wynonna smiles as she looks up at her. So beautiful and brilliant and she’d never been a single fucking step out of this goddamn county. 

“I did go there, for a bit. It’s not that great, but the beach can be pretty. Not as pretty as Greece. That’s where I’m going next.” Wynonna admits, feeding Waverly’s desire for knowledge of her adventures. 

Waverly’s eyes widen and her mouth drops. “Greece?! Like actual Greece? Like in Mamma Mia?!” Waverly squeals. 

It makes Wynonna’s stomach churn but she still smiles, pushes through it for her little sister. “ Exactly like Mamma Mia , Waves.” Wynonna chuckles, laying flat on her back again. She stares at Waverly’s ceiling and her mind goes back to kissing Nicole in the movie theater during the credits of that movie. 

What she doesn’t say is how important Greece had become to her since Nicole had given her this necklace. The one she still wears around her neck, that she’ll always wear. She’d picked her stripper name for a Greek goddess for crying out loud. Then seeing that movie with Nicole, and so many other things. It just – made sense for her to go there. She knows she has to go there. 

“Oh my god, Wynonna...that’s such a dream. I wish I could come.” Waverly sighs heavily, moving onto the bed more and laying back so that her head is resting against Wynonna’s stomach. 

Wynonna drops a hand to Waverly’s head and gives it a few pats, running her fingers absently through her sister’s hair. “Me too, Waves. We’d kill it together, you know? Have so much fun.” 

Wynonna dreams about it for exactly three seconds before she’s reminded just how much better off Waverly is without her around constantly. Without the big ugly shadow of Wynonna’s fuckups looming over her. 

They’re quiet for a moment as Wynonna thinks… Maybe long term isn’t ideal, but she’s here for now. She could give Waverly an adventure while she is, couldn’t she?

“Waves?” 

“Yeah?” 

“Do you have stuff planned for today? Like for your actual birthday?”

“Nah… we did it all last night. Nothing special today.” She shrugs, sounding a little sad about it. 

“Bullshit.” Wynonna smirks, leaning up enough to look down at Waverly. 

Waverly sits up, her eyebrows pulling together as she looks at her older sister.

“What?” 

“Have you ever been to the aquarium?” Wynonna asks softly with a little sideways smile. 

Waverly lights up, smiling so big it makes her eyes crinkle and shaking her head. 

“The aquarium?! No!! No, never!” 

“Well, today’s your lucky day. We’re gonna go on our own little adventure.”

 

*** 

 

Wynonna had been expecting a deep ache when she stepped back into this place. One of their favorite places to come together. A special gift that had been given to her for the first time on their first Valentine’s Day together. Standing here now without Nicole’s hand in hers feels empty and wrong. 

Then she looks over at her little sister, practically jumping up and down with joy and they’ve only just walked through the entrance. The light that pours out of Waverly makes Wynonna’s sad heart beat a little better. 

Waverly has her nose buried in a map someone handed to her on her way in. Wynonna plucks it from her hands and folds it up, shoving it into the back pocket of her jeans. 

“Hey!” 

“Shhh, Nerd. You’re not gonna need that. I know where everything is.” Wynonna smiles, putting her arm around Waverly’s shoulders again. 

Wynonna takes her to each exhibit, one by one. It’s pretty fun to watch Waverly get to experience this place for the first time. Watching how happy she gets when she watches the penguins. Listening to all of the shit she already seems to know about every single thing they come into contact with. Waverly is so fucking smart. Wynonna finds herself being thankful she isn’t always around to screw her up. She has such a big chance. 

“‘Nonna, look! Don’t they look so cool?!” Waverly calls, pulling Wynonna out of her trance as she points to the dumb jellyfish wobbling behind the glass. 

“No, those are stupid. Nothing cool about them.” Wynonna crosses her arms over her chest, shaking her head. 

“What?! Oh my god, no! You know what, when things are rough or conditions aren’t that great, some kinds of jellyfish can reverse their development? Basically turn back into kids to wait out the hard times? You don’t think that’s cool?” Waverly asks, never taking her eyes off of the blobs floating in the blacklighted tank. 

“Okay, okay smartypants. That – is interesting. Kind of a pussy move if you ask me, but still. Interesting, I guess.” Wynonna grumbles, smirking as she grabs Waverly’s wrist to haul her off to the next exhibit. 

The otters are being so playful, swimming around and playing with their toys and one another. It’s one of the cutest displays Wynonna has ever seen out of them and Waverly is practically glued to the glass. 

“I knew these would be your favorites, I just knew it, babygirl.” Wynonna laughs, standing next to her and pointing at the two baby otters playing around their mama. “They’re so cute, it’s stupid.” Wynonna smiles, shaking her head. 

“They are! They are my favorites, oh my god. Look!! Look, ‘Nonna, those ones are holding each other’s little hand.” Waverly’s voice gets impossibly higher as she points to two otters floating off in the distance. 

Wynonna’s smile falls and she stays quiet, wrapping her arms around her middle as if trying to hold herself together. Every time she starts to feel happy, something else jumps out and reminds her way too much of Nicole. 

She doesn’t know how long they stand there before Waverly is in front of her, tugging at her hand and asking her where they’re going to next. 

“Are you okay, ‘Nonna?” Waves asks, tilting her head a little in concern. 

“Yeah, yeah Waves...I’m good. Just thinking.”

“About what?”

“Nothing. Don’t worry. Uh, why don’t we go see my favorites next?” Wynonna asks, changing the subject. 

Wynonna pushes Waverly ahead of her, right up to the glass of the beluga whale exhibit. 

“Now this… is a cool animal! I know they look really stupid, and they kinda are but like, in a really cool way. Look! Just look.” Wynonna points into the exhibit she’d looked into so many times. 

Waverly lays her hands against the glass as she looks in, staring in amazement at the big blobs of blubber floating around the icy water. 

“Yes! They do look stupid! But so cute. Oh, look! ‘Nonna! There’s a baby one! Oh, it’s so little! Well, not really but… Look!” Waverly pulls Wynonna up next to her, giving her more room to see in. 

Wynonna’s eyes fall on the chubby baby beluga swimming happily next to its mama and her heart soars before it breaks. She aches to see the look on Nicole’s face after seeing this dumb little baby flop around next to the much bigger whales and sighs knowing that she never, ever will. 

“Is this the first time you’ve ever seen a baby one?” Waverly asks, clasping her hands together as she looks up at her big sister with excitement. 

“Yeah, baby girl. There were just the three big ones before, every time I’ve ever been,” Wynonna answers, still staring at the little whale. 

“Oooh, that’s so exciting!” Waverly grins, wrapping her arms around one of Wynonna’s and leaning her head against her shoulder. 

They stand there looking at the whales for a long time, not really saying anything. Waverly lets Wynonna choose when she’s ready to move on. 

“Well, I think that’s it… I think we saw everything.” Wynonna sighs, smiling over at Waverly as they make their way towards the exit. 

Something catches Waverly’s eye when she looks towards her sister. “Nuh uh! There’s another thing, I think that’s the last one though!” Waverly beams, pointing past Wynonna’s head.

When Wynonna turns, she’s met with the big letters announcing the dolphin enclosure a few feet away. Immediately, she feels a large lump form in her throat and hot tears begin to prick in her eyes. Nothing else in this whole goddamn aquarium had gotten to her like this. She’d made herself stop thinking about it so much that she’d almost really forgotten. Until now. 

“Come on, ‘Nonna! Let’s go see.” Waverly takes her hand and tugs her toward it. 

Wynonna has to practically drag her heels to get Waverly to stop at the entrance. 

“What is it?” 

“I don’t wanna go in, but you should. I’ll just wait out here.” Wynonna’s voice sounds weak. 

Waverly furrows her brow, taking one of Wynonna’s hands in both of her own. “Why not? Is – is something wrong? Do you feel okay?” Waverly asks intently, keeping her voice soft. 

“Yeah, Waves. ‘M just tired. From traveling, I think. It’s been a long day, I think I’ll just sit while you go look. Seriously.” Wynonna takes her hand back from her sister and turns her around by her shoulders, shoving her off in the direction of the dolphin exhibit. 

“Okay… I’ll be right back.” Waverly offers a smile over her shoulder before hopping into the entrance. 

Wynonna collapses onto the first bench she sees, dropping her face into her hands and letting a few of the hot tears she’d been holding back fall into them. 

“Stupid fucking dolphins,” she mutters, wiping harshly at her eyes before resting her elbows on her knees and shaking her head. 

“You should fucking be here, Red. This was a dumb idea, it’s not –– right without you,” Wynonna mutters the words to herself, knowing that nobody will hear them but also that she probably looks crazy to anyone watching her. 

Wynonna gets a few more moments to calm down and wipe away any evidence of tears before she hears Waverly’s sweet little voice calling for her again. She puts on her best smile and stands up from the bench, waving for her sister. 

“Right here, kid. Did you like?” She asks, shoving her hands into her back pockets as they walk towards the exit for real this time. 

“They were so pretty! And there were so many of them, obviously, since dolphins love to stay in pods. But it was really magical in there! Like nothing else.” Waverly shakes her head, smiling while she recounts it. 

“Yeah? You should see the show they do. It’s like the coolest thing ever.” She shrugs, watching the way Waverly gets excited at the mention of it. 

 

*** 

 

When Waverly pulls her Jeep into the driveway, both Gus and Curtis’s trucks are there. Wynonna’s heart sinks a bit, having hoped she’d be able to hang out a little more before her aunt was home.

As soon as Wynonna got old enough, she decided she didn’t want anything to do with the woman who had turned her life upside down on multiple occasions. Now is no different. 

Wynonna reaches into the backseat and grabs her bag dropping it into her lap. Waverly slumps back against the seat, turning her head towards her sister. 

“You aren’t coming in... are you?” She asks a bit sadly. 

“Nah, baby girl. Not tonight. But I promise I’ll see you before I go, okay?”

“Which is when?”

“Tomorrow night.” Wynonna sighs, picking up the stuffed otter she’d bought for Waverly and plopping it into her lap. 

“What?! That soon?!” Waverly gasps, clutching onto the otter and pulling it against herself. 

“I’m sorry, Waves. I just –– you know I can’t stay here.” 

“I know,” Waverly admits after a moment, looking down and playing with the stuffed otter feet. 

“Did you have a good birthday, though?” Wynonna asks, the corner of her lips pulling up.  

“The best. Thank you, ‘Nonna.” Waverly smiles big, the disappointment washing away in favor of the happiness her sister had given her today. 

“I’m glad, baby girl. I’m really glad.” She smiles and it’s genuine, reaching her eyes. 

“Wait, I forgot you said you walked here… let me at least take you to wherever you’re staying?” Waverly says after a moment, pleading with her eyes. 

“Nah, babygirl, it’s fine. It’s not far. I kinda wanna walk.” Wynonna shrugs, giving a smile that she knows will reassure Waverly. “Plus I don’t want Gus getting mad at you on your birthday.”

“Alright… you promise you’ll see me before you leave though?”

“Promise.” Wynonna nods, leaning in to kiss Waverly’s forehead before she gets out of the car. “Goodnight, Waves. I love you.” 

“Be careful! And text me when you’re… wherever you’re going! I love you!” Waverly calls after her, watching for a bit before she gets out of the Jeep and goes into the house. 

As Wynonna walks, she thinks about their day. She feels sadness, and a little bit of anger, but her little meltdown at the aquarium had absolved most of that. Mostly, she just feels grateful. Grateful for having had Nicole at all. Grateful that she’d been given that perfect adventure by her. Grateful that she got to share it with her baby sister. 

If Nicole hates her now, at least she has those memories. Those moments that made it all worth it. The tears flow quietly down her cheeks and she wipes them with the back of her hand, laughing softly to herself.

“Thanks, Haughty.” She mutters with nobody around to hear it. 

Chapter Text

February 14, 2009

 

Wynonna’s been in this fucking place for over a month. No matter what she says or how she tries to convince this stupid place that she’s cured , they always call her bluff. Truth is, she’s never going to be cured because the demons are real. The demons are real and they took her sister into the hills and killed her. 

And Wynonna killed her own father trying to stop it. Being in this stupid place makes the nightmares worse… She wakes up in cold sweats every night… Calling for Willa… Calling for Waverly… 

Calling for Nicole. 

The cool air makes her sweat-soaked body tremble as she tries to wrap herself up in the thin duvets that make her bed. She realizes the date a moment after the fog from sleep and nightmares clears. 

It’s Valentine’s Day. She should be snuggled up with Haught by a fire or something… Maybe buying stuff for the place they were going to pick out… Are going to pick out, she corrects herself. She’s getting out of here. She’s getting out of here and Nicole will understand that it wasn’t her fault. 

Nicole… Would visit her if she can’t get out fast enough… Nicole will figure it out. 

How could she? 

She pulls out a hidden notebook from a place in the wall under her bed... A trick learned years ago during her first go at this. 

She opens to the next blank sheet and starts to write. 

Happy Valentine’s Day, Haughtstuff. It’s day 37 in here. I keep convincing myself that you’re gonna come kicking the door in and rescue me. Maybe you will. I’m so sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye. I hope the Evans told you what’s going on… Kind of… Not all of it. I’ll tell you when I get out of here. Food here sucks ass. Could go for some Haught-cooked meals. And a hug. A massive squeeze all the damn breath outta me hug only from you. I miss you. I’m gonna get outta here soon. And I’m going to tell you what should have told you so long ago. 

 

***

 

Nicole wakes after another restless night of… Trying to sleep. At some point, she must have fallen asleep or something even though it never really feels that way anymore. She reaches for her phone and sighs when the reminder of the day shines bright. Stupid Valentine’s Day. 

It’s been over a month since the last time she heard from Wynonna. It’s been two weeks since she tried to go to the Evans’ household and tried to ask where Wynonna had gone. 

“Sorry, Nicole. She doesn’t live with us anymore. We can’t tell you where she is.” 

Can’t tell you where she is. Can’t tell you where she is. 

So, she’s somewhere. She’s somewhere and Nicole knows Wynonna would never just abandon her. Every fiber of her being is sure that Wynonna’s in some kind of trouble and every fiber of her being aches to do anything to find her. But, she just fucking can’t. 

She wants to go scout around Purgatory, but she doesn’t even know who to start with. Mercedes maybe? But how did she get in touch with her? Wynonna had only ever told her about her blood relatives who didn’t want her, but she’d never seen any pictures of them or knew where to find them. Nicole has no idea what strangers could help her -- if any of them could. 

Nicole looks across the room to the gift she’s had ready since before Wynonna disappeared. Rising to her feet, she walks over to it and starts to pull the contents from it. The first item is a new CD… A follow up to last year. 

 

Nic’s Wynonna Earp Soundtrack Vol. 2

 

 

  1. I’m Yours - Jason Mraz
  2. Yellow - Coldplay
  3. Only Wanna Be With You - Hootie and the Blowfish
  4. Bleed to Love Her - Fleetwood Mac
  5. Songbird - Fleetwood Mac
  6. Can’t Fight This Feeling - REO Speedwagon
  7. Still - Matt Nathanson
  8. Gravity - Sara Bareilles
  9. Make You Feel My Love - Adele
  10. Bette Davis Eyes - Kim Carnes
  11. She Will Be Loved - Covered by Nic

 

 

The love in each song is more… Obvious than last year’s. Nicole Haught loves Wynonna Earp and she knows that Wynonna knows even if the older girl hasn’t been able to say it yet. They’re moving in together, for God’s sake. She swallows the knot forming in her throat. They should be listening to this right now, kissing in her bed and laughing and smiling. 

But Wynonna’s… Somewhere. 

The next item is a small envelope with two tickets to prom. Nicole had it all planned out. She’d played the scenario in her head one trillion times. She lets it replay in her mind. 

Wynonna smiles Nicole’s special smile and places the CD off to the side. The envelope in her hands makes her cut her eyes suspiciously at Nicole. Nicole nods, encouraging her to open it. Wynonna sees the tickets and looks at Nicole with hesitation and intrigue. 

“I was hoping… I could take… My girlfriend to prom… And also was wondering if you would be my girlfriend?” Nicole asks, begging with big brown puppy dog eyes. “Only if you want to. You don’t have to. We can just stay like we are and go to prom and we--”

Wynonna cuts her off with a kiss and they fall back onto the bed. “Yes, I want to be your girlfriend, Haughtstuff. And I’ll go to this totally stupid prom. We’ll be the hottest ones there.” 

Nicole shakes her head as the fantasy plays out in one of the many varied ways she’s dreamed up. Tears gather in her eyes and her face twists in anguish. She screws her eyes shut and tears fall stupidly onto the tissue paper of the bag. Wynonna’s favorite candies make up the rest of the contents in the bag. 

Sniffling, she stuffs the CD and the tickets back into the bag and puts it back where it had been sitting. She walks over to her bedside table and opens the drawer, pulling out her collection of notes and cards from Wynonna. She sifts through them until she gets to the note from last year’s Valentine’s Day. 

The list of things Wynonna loves about her. And then… 

I hope we can do this again next year.
xo Your Wynonna .

Nicole had told Wynonna not to worry… They’ll do this again next year. Here it is… Next year has become today… And Nicole plans to spend her day moping in her room. 

“I miss you so damn much, Earp,” Nicole whispers as she traces her fingers along Wynonna’s handwriting. 

Then come and get me, Haughtstuff. Wynonna’s voice answers her in her head and Nicole feels insane. What ,are you just gonna lay here? What would Westley do? 

Nicole sits up as the loud voice in her head tries to keep her from moping. 

“I told you I would always come for you…” Nicole whispers. Westley’s line almost always makes Wynonna tear up every time they watch it when they’re going to sleep. 

Nicole gets dressed and runs down to her truck. She’s going to spend the day exploring Purgatory… Trying to get answers

 

***

 

March 07, 2009

It’s 11:30PM and the nurses called for lights out thirty minutes ago. Wynonna lays still in her tiny, uncomfortable bed for a while, until she thinks that her roommate has fallen asleep.  

After waiting long enough with no sign of movement, she reaches for the book again. The brunette sprawls out across the bed on her stomach, chewing on the end of her pen as she looks at the blank page. 

Day 58, Red. It’s been way too long since the last time I saw you and I feel like I’m fucking dying. I hate it here. Hate being stuck in this place without you. Since you haven’t shown up yet that either means you hate me or that you don’t know where I am. I hope it’s the second one. I don’t want you to hate me, Nic. I miss you so goddamn much. 

Wynonna has to stop writing to wipe away her tears. Some have already fallen onto the paper and she doesn’t wanna ruin the page completely. 

“Goddammit…” She hisses under her breath, wiping her tears harshly. 

“Are you crying?” A voice says, startling her. 

Wynonna jumps, making a mark on the page without meaning to. “For fucks sake...mind your fucking business, alright?” She says, trying to keep her voice down but the boiling anger and sadness inside of her is making it so hard. 

“Hey, calm down...I just wanted to see if you’re okay…” Her roommate whispers, sitting up in her bed. 

Wynonna takes a moment or two to try and calm herself down, moving the blankets so that her book isn’t obvious. 

“You’ll get in trouble if they know you have that, you know?” 

“Yeah, I fucking know, genius. Why do you think I keep it hidden? What’re you gonna do? Tell on me?” 

“Why do you hate me? What did I do?” 

“I didn’t say I hate you. I don’t know anything about you.” 

“Exactly! But you’re never nice to me. Why?” 

“I’m not here to make friends, alright? I’m not even supposed to be here.” 

“I don’t think any of us think we’re supposed to be here bu–”

“But nothing. I’m not supposed to be here. Already been through this shit before. I’m not fucking crazy, alright?”

“I know you’re not crazy.” 

Wynonna pauses. She takes a deep breath in through her nose and sits up on the bed a little more. She really looks at the girl for the first time, as best as she can in the dim light. 

Her name is Hayden, even though Wynonna’s never said it. She looks younger than Wynonna, black hair that she always keeps in two braids. She looks sweet and bored. Normal. 

Wynonna thinks just from this interaction that she...kind of reminds her of...Waverly. 

“Why’d you say that?” Wynonna asks, keeping her voice steady. 

“‘Cause I just do. You’re kinda mean, sure. But not crazy. I’m sorry that you’re stuck here.” 

Wynonna swallows the lump in her throat and nods one good time. 

“Thanks.” She mutters, closing the book and tucking it and the pen back in their hiding place. 

Wynonna slumps back into bed. She takes the one lumpy pillow she has and holds it to her chest, letting her head thunk against the mattress. She pulls the covers over her tiny frame and curls up. 

Wynonna pretends like it’s Nicole’s chest she’s snuggling into instead of some lame excuse for a pillow. 

It’s quiet in the room for a few minutes and Wynonna almost thinks that Hayden has gone back to sleep. 

“Hayden?” She whispers, the sound penetrating the quiet easily. 

“Yeah?” Her voice sounds soft. 

“Sorry. For being a bitch to you.” 

“It’s okay.” 

Silence falls in the room again. Wynonna closes her eyes and does her best to smell Nicole, to pretend she feels her breathing against her. 

“Wynonna?” Hayden’s voice makes her jump a little, her heart racing inside. 

“Yeah?” 

“I’m not gonna tell anyone. About your book.” She assures. 

Wynonna clutches her pillow tighter. “Thanks.” She whispers in the dark, closing her eyes again. 

 

***

April 17, 2009

 

Prom night. Three months without Wynonna. Three months of pure shit. Nicole’s off the softball team because she let her grades drop too low, missed too many practices, and got in another fight with people trashing Wynonna at school. 

Who gives a shit about any of the losers at school? Wynonna’s voice cuts through her pity party again. This and the videos she has of Wynonna are all she has left of her voice. She doesn’t care if she seems crazy or insane. She loves when Wynonna speaks up inside of her head. 

“Nikki!” Nicole’s mother calls from downstairs somewhere. Nicole doesn’t answer. She’s on her bed playing with her unused prom tickets. 

“Nicole! Please come down here! Don’t make me come up there!” 

Nicole rolls her eyes and sighs. Reluctantly, she rolls out of bed and drags her feet as she exits her room and stomps down the stairs. 

“In the living room,” Mrs. Haught calls a little too coolly. Nicole knows that means they’re going to attempt to parent her and all she wants to do is retreat back to her room. They never try to parent her until they’re upset. Why couldn’t they just pretend she doesn’t exist and leave her alone like they do so well? 

Nicole walks in with her hands in the pocket of her hoodie. “Hmm?” 

“Sit down. Your father and I want to talk to you…” Nicole obliges. “Now, we know that… You’ve been having a hard time… Without Wynonna around.” 

Fuck. No, please, no. Don’t make me talk about her. Ice forms in her veins and freezes her. Please. 

“Do you have anything to say?” Mrs. Haught asks. 

Nicole shrugs. “She was-- My best friend. Of course, I’m sad without her. ‘Specially since I dunno what happened.” It’s the rehearsed answer. The answer she’s repeated over and over and over to anyone who attempted to care and ask her about anything. 

“We understand that, Nikki…” 

“Mom, please-- Stop with that.” 

Mrs. Haught’s jaw juts out as she bites down on her teeth hard. “I’m sorry, sweetie… We understand it’s hard but… It’s been long enough… You’ve got to let her go. You have other friends!” 

Just like that, ice becomes fire and Nicole feels blind rage spread deep in her bones. “Really? Name one,” Nicole bites. 

Mr. Haught tries to speak up, “Nicole… We’re just--”

“You’d do well to watch your tone, young lady. You may be eighteen now, but you still live under my roof. That means you will show respect.” 

Nicole laughs humorlessly and shakes her head. “Whatever. Now you care...” she mumbles under her breath. 

“What was that?” 

“Nothing. Name another friend… Go ahead.” Nicole raises her eyebrows and purses her lips expectantly. 

“What about Max?” 

A boisterous laugh escapes Nicole. “God, you two really don’t pay any damn attention to me, do you? I haven’t talked to Max in over a year.” 

“Watch. Your. Mouth.” Mrs. Haught warns again. “Nicole, my patience has almost run out. I know that Wynonna was your best friend, but you cannot just lay around and throw your life away over a lost friend.” 

That’s it. Nicole stands and throws her hands up in defeat. “She wasn’t just my best friend , okay?” 

Mr. Haught looks to his wife and studies her expectantly. His wife’s face twitches in a way he’s all too familiar with. Disgust. Contempt. Anger. 

“And what does that mean?” 

“For over a year… For over a damn year, I’ve brought her home for every holiday-- Valentine’s Day, Christmas, my birthday… New Year’s for Christ’s Sake! What do you do on New Year’s, Mom?” Nicole’s voice grows louder and more passionate. 

“Nicole…” 

“No, I’m so tired of hiding. I’m so tired of you only caring when it’s convenient for you. Wynonna was… Is…” She corrects herself and continues. “She’s the person I-- love. More than a friend. I love her so much, mom. I just-- I don’t know where she is or what happened but I know she loves me, too, and she wouldn’t just leave me, so I’m sorry! I’m sorry that I can’t just get over it! But, I can’t !” 

Nicole begins to sob, unstoppable and utterly heartbreaking. Mr. Haught stands to his feet in a blink and moves to pull his daughter into a tight hug. “Nicole…” his voice is gentle and sweet. Sympathetic, Nicole thinks. 

The young, broken girl lets herself be held by her father. She sinks into the embrace and tries to let it comfort her the way that a parent’s embrace should comfort their child. But, it doesn’t help. Nothing ever helps. Nothing would ever help when it comes to Wynonna. 

“It’s gonna be okay,” Mr. Haught assures his daughter. 

“You have been lying to us… For over a year… Bringing that harlot into my house…”

“Mom!” 

“And letting her corrupt you, doing God knows what… I always knew that girl was trouble.” 

“You liar! You love Wynonna!”

“I love you, Nikki! And this girl has just… Abandoned you… Used you up and left you like you were nothing!” Mrs. Haught begins to cry herself, but it feels like more of a show than anything. Nicole hates it. 

“She didn’t use me. She never used me. And she-- She didn’t leave me. She wouldn’t…” Nicole’s voice grows weak. 

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. Some of Wynonna’s last words to her replay in her head. Wynonna’s voice speaks the words and they douse the fire within her with gasoline. 

“She didn’t leave. And I’m not gonna ‘get over’ her. I love her. More than anything. When she comes back, I’m going to move in with her and we’re going to start our life together like we planned.” 

Mr. Haught takes a step away from Nicole and turns to his wife. He pleads with a silent look at her. Please don’t do anything stupid. 

“You know what? Go ahead and move out… When you graduate, I don’t want you here. I don’t want to see your face and I don’t want you to cry to me when that perfect fantasy world of yours never sees the light of day.” 

“Honey, no. This is not the way…” 

“You keep your mouth shut, too. You are always too easy on her and look at what's happened. She’s planning to run away with some delinquent who can’t even graduate high school. She’s going to throw her life away!” 

Nicole butts in, still raging and on fire. “She,” Nicole near-screams. “ is going to be just fucking fine without you. I always have been. I’m done with this shit. Don’t worry, I’ll be out right after fucking graduation. And don’t ever call me unless it’s to tell me Wynonna’s looking for me.” 

Without warning or permission, she storms back up the stairs and slams her door, locking it behind her. They could kiss her ass for all she cared. If only her father had a damn backbone. 

Proud of you Red. Thanks for telling them about me. I miss you. 

“I miss you so much, ‘Nonna… I’m going to wait for you. I’m going to be yours. Forever. Like I promised… Pinky promise,” Nicole whispers the words and collapses onto her bed, grasping for the pillow Wynonna usually slept on…. Crying herself to a pitiful sleep. 




***

 

June 27, 2009

Anything that didn’t involve Wynonna getting to be alone in her room was the worst part of this whole thing. Every goddamn day, having to be up early when she could barely sleep the night before. Having to take medicine that didn’t do a goddamn thing. Having to sit around and listen to people talk about things they didn’t know shit about.  

Every day it gets worse and worse. Every day she gets more antsy. The more time that passes, the less Wynonna is able to hold onto hope that Nicole will figure out where she is. Or that she even cares. 

It’s stupid, Wynonna tries to remind herself when she can, to think that Nicole doesn’t care. That she isn’t trying her best. Any good thought is hard to have when she’s stuck in here, though. 

Today, Wynonna sits slumped in her chair for what they call “education group”. Every once in a while, this old blonde lady comes in and preaches to them all about different disorders, or the issues with discrediting medication, or just basically tries to make them feel grateful that they’re here. 

It never works on Wynonna and only makes her feel angrier. Both for herself who has already been through this shit before and for the people stuck going through it now. Some of them probably just like her, with no real reason to be here. 

To make matters worse, it’s the same woman who did this when she was hospitalized the first time. Surprise...she hasn’t gotten any better at it. 

Wynonna clenches and unclenches her fists, trying to focus on anything else just to drown out the bullshit this lady is spewing. 

She picks at a frayed string on the sleeve of her sweatshirt. Nicole’s sweatshirt, really. It’s one of the only belongings that mattered that she’d been allowed to keep. Of course, they took the fucking string out of it but at least she has it. 

Wynonna finds herself reaching for the chain that used to hang around her neck everyday all the time only to grasp at nothing.

 There’s a dull ache every time she can’t wrap her fingers around the cool metal of the key or play with the velvety tassel. She takes a deep breath in through her nose and lets it out her mouth. 

You’ll get it back when you get out. It’s safe. Locked up somewhere. They won’t lose it. You’ll get it back. You’ll get her back. 

Wynonna repeats the mantra she’d created for this situation when she’d first been admitted. 

“Wynonna? Wynonna.” Her name being called finally pulls her attention. Though she doesn’t know how many times it’s been called. 

“Shit…” She mutters under her breath, sitting up in her chair. 

“Mind your language, please. I bet you weren’t listening either, were you?” The old woman scoffs, crossing her arms and looking in Wynonna’s direction. 

“What? Is this school? Sure, I was listening.” Wynonna narrows her eyes. 

“Then what did I say?” 

“What you always say. Some bullshit that you don’t know anything about.” 

The lady raises her eyebrows and Wynonna can feel everyone staring at her. Her face starts to burn with anger and she crosses her arms over her chest, clenching her fists tight. 

“Excuse me? You’re completely out of line.”

“I’m not. I’ve been sitting here for fucking months listening to your shit. Listening to you tell us about disorders you’ve never experienced and tell us to take our medicine like good boys and girls or else we’ll be crazy forever. And you know what? I’m fucking sick of it.” 

Wynonna’s voice gets louder and louder as she continues to speak, feeling the rage that she’d pent up for so long welling up inside. 

She already knows that there's a tech or maybe two on their way to escort her out, so she stands up.  

“You think you’re the expert, Miss Earp? Just because you’re on your second stay ––” 

Wynonna lunges for the woman and she feels arms wrap around her waist and pull her back before she can do anything. 

Fuck you . Fuck. you. You don’t know anything about me.” She shouts, writhing in the tech’s arms. She’s no match for him, though. He’s stronger than she was even before she’d come here and more or less stopped eating again. It’s no use. 

Someone else in the circle of chairs starts to cry, loudly. Wynonna takes a deep shaking breath even though she just wants to fucking hit something. 

The teenager straightens up and shows the man that she’s good, that she isn’t going to do anything. He lets her go, still standing between her and the educational speaker. 

“Maybe you guys should look into getting someone to come talk to us that isn’t a fucking quack.” Wynonna spits, looking back over her shoulder at the woman as she’s being escorted out. 

She looks unfazed and it makes Wynonna even madder. The brunette kicks at a lonesome chair and knocks it over. She knows this behavior will earn her more evaluations and probably time alone. Maybe more medicine. 

She doesn’t even care about all of that. She just hopes that it won’t earn her more time here. More than she already has. 

They make her meet with the counselor to discuss her outburst which doesn’t help to calm her down at all, even though she pretends that it does. 

They schedule a fuckton more evaluations and personal therapy sessions for her and she can practically see her metaphorical ticket out of here floating away in the wind. 

Back in her room, the first thing she notices is that all of Hayden’s belongings are gone. Wynonna turns to the tech who walked her here and gestures to the empty bed. 

“Where’d she go?” Wynonna asks, exasperated. 

Hayden hadn’t exactly been her friend, but they’d been talking more since that night when Wynonna apologized to her and Wynonna found it comforting to be around someone she didn’t actually hate. 

She’d told her a little about Nicole, more than she’d ever told anyone else but still not a lot. They probably could’ve been friends. 

“She went home. This morning, actually. Treatment is finished. She didn’t say anything to you?” 

“Nope. Good for her, I guess.” Wynonna sighs, going over to sit on her bed. 

The tech gives her a nod, closing the door behind him when he leaves. 

Wynonna falls back on the bed, groaning and rubbing her hands roughly over her face. She stares up at the water stain spots on the ceiling for a while, blinking slowly. 

Around this time last year, Wynonna had slipped her favorite ring off her finger and put it on Nicole’s. Promising herself to her in the best way she knew how. She thinks about that day they’d spent together at Pride. Their first one. They’d been so happy, so free, and so fucking proud. All of that seems like a lifetime away now. 

Wynonna sighs, sitting up. She pulls her slip-on Vans off and sets them aside, neatly. Wynonna looks down at the socks she’d pulled on today. Blue with fat, white beluga whales all over them. The corner of her mouth pulls up in a sad smile. 

She starts chewing on her lip when she remembers an interaction from when she’d first been sent here. Wynonna had tried to bring her stuffed beluga whale Nicole had gotten her at the aquarium. 

Being almost an adult and being reluctant to do without the thing had gotten the BPD label slapped on her pretty fast. Wynonna didn’t know if it was a valid diagnosis or not, and honestly she didn’t really care. She just wanted to do anything to get out of here as fast as possible, and she knew throwing a fit over keeping it wouldn’t help her case. 

Curtis had promised to give it to Waverly for safekeeping and took it home with him when he and Gus left her there that day. The hospital didn’t change their mind about the BPD diagnosis. 

The small girl leans off the edge of the bed and reaches under to grab her book from its hiding place. It’s not in the exact spot she put it before, and she would remember that. She knows she would. 

Her heart begins to race with panic, knowing for sure that someone had messed with it. They probably knew it was there and were trying to catch her going for it. 

She pulls it close to her chest and sits up fast, looking towards the door when she does. Nobody comes rushing in. Wynonna waits another moment and still...nothing happens. 

She sighs with relief, settling back against her pillows and bringing the book into her lap. 

There’s a yellow piece of paper from a small writing pad sticking out of the book. The same kind that lived on the desk of the nurse’s station. She remembers from the time she’d managed to steal a pen from there. 

Wynonna pulls it out and looks over it. The handwriting on the note is small and very neat, but unfamiliar to her. She starts reading it outloud, under her breath. 

 

Wynonna, 

I didn’t want to tell you that I was leaving. It just felt wrong because you should be leaving, too. I’m sorry you’re not. Don’t worry, I won’t read anything in your book, just didn’t know where else to hide this. I wanted to say that I liked being your roommate, even when you didn’t like me. You seemed cool. I wish we could be friends outside of that place. Maybe one day we can be. Thanks for talking to me the last couple of months. I hope that Nicole comes to see you soon, or that you get out and get to see her. She sounds like someone really good. Thanks for telling me about her. I know that she’s kind of your only friend, so it’s okay if you didn’t think of me like that. Honestly, this note is probably weird to you. Sorry. I just wanted to tell you bye because I think of you as my friend. It’ll be okay, Wynonna. You’ll see her soon. 

-Hayden

 

Wynonna doesn’t know how to feel when she finishes with it. Part of her wants to be happy but the bigger part just feels – empty.  Another person had considered her a friend and she’d lost them. You’re so stupid, she thinks. 

Wynonna takes her time folding up the note and tucks it away into the back of her book.  The last line of the note replays in her head over and over and she feels herself start to cry a little bit. 

She brings her sleeve-covered hand up and wipes at her tears, sniffling before she opens her book to its next blank page. 

Wynonna takes a shaky breath and puts the pen to the paper. 

 

Baby,

I hope that you still want me to call you that when I see you again. It’s been so fucking long. Wherever you are, I hope you’re okay. And Happy. I hope that you are happy, however you can be. Today was rough. I really fucked up today. Got into trouble. I’d been keeping it together so well this whole time. Really thought I was on the right track. But I let this stupid lady get the best of me and well...who knows what’s gonna happen now. They called it a “violent outburst” even though I didn’t get to hit her and I only kicked a chair. Whatever. I think I can forget getting out of here by Thanksgiving. Maybe not even by Christmas. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I got locked up in here again. I keep telling myself that you just don’t know how to find me and that’s why you haven’t come. I believe it for as long as I can until my stupid brain tries to tell me that you don’t want me. I don’t care how bad I get, Nicole. I’ll never let myself believe that. Not really. You’re the only person that’s ever wanted me. And I still want you. I’m still yours. Always. Just like I promised. I hope you found a place for us because I can’t wait to be there with you. In our perfect place. I hope it’s soon, baby. I have so much to tell you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before. 

Til next time, 
Your Wynonna 

 

Wynonna closes up the book and manages to get it tucked safely away before she drops her face into her hands and sobs. 

 

*** 

 

December 24, 2009 

 

Wynonna stands in front of her mirror and pulls on the black sweater Nicole’s parents had given her last Christmas. It was the only ‘nice’ piece of clothing she’d brought with her and one of the only ‘nice’ ones she even owned. 

She sighs heavily, the air pushing her cheeks out as she exhales. The full black outfit doesn’t really scream Merry Christmas but it’s the best she can do. 

She likes to look nice when Curtis and Gus (usually only Curtis) visits her, as if that’ll prove to them that she’s...doing better.

In the last few months, she’s put off any and all talk of demons in her sessions. She admits (falsely) that she made everything up. That the nightmares don’t happen anymore. Luckily, she never got another roommate so there’s no one to say that she’s lying since she wakes up nearly every night crying. 

Wynonna’s on the perfect track to finally get the fuck out of here. She hopes. 

Sitting in the visitation area, she feels nervousness creeping in her belly. Wynonna clutches the construction paper card she’d made for Waverly. 

Even when she’s in here, she refuses to let a Christmas go by without making her baby sister a card. She’d done the same for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween. All of them. Just like always. 

Wynonna wishes so much that she could just get something to Nicole somehow. The hospital won’t let her mail things and she doesn’t trust Gus not to go through her stuff for Waverly or else she’d try. Wynonna doesn’t even want to think about what Gus would do if she found out Nicole was...more than her friend. And she doesn’t want to bring Nicole into the middle of this. 

You’ll be out soon enough, she tells herself. She’ll understand. You have hundreds of letters written to her in that book. She’ll get those when you get back to her. 

Wynonna shakes her head free of the thoughts when she sees the doors open and Curtis walk in, accompanied by Gus. No Waverly. Gus never lets Waverly come visit. 

Wynonna’s stomach churns a little bit. Seeing Gus was always harder than just Curtis. Gus is the reason she’s here in the first place. The reason she’d ever ended up in a place like this, even before. 

She pushes herself up from the table and gives them a meek wave and a small smile. 

Curtis’s grin is wide and his arms are open before he ever gets to her. 

“Hey there! Merry Christmas! How’s my girl?” He asks in his gruff, always-happy voice. 

Wynonna appreciates the hug more than she realized she would. Extended periods of time without touching anyone who cared about her had made her even more standoffish, but she’d never shrug off a hug from her uncle. One of the only people in this stupid world who gave a shit about her at all. 

Wynonna smiles softly, even laughing a little before the hug ends and she just shakes her head up at him, crossing her arms over her chest. She knows Gus won’t offer a hug, she never does. Frankly, Wynonna doesn’t want one. 

“I’m...okay. I guess. Better. ” She tries so hard not to make the lie sound bitter. “Merry Christmas to you, too.” She offers, mostly to Curtis. 

They move to sit, the way they’re meant to when visiting. They get 45 minutes instead of 30, a special Christmas extension. 

“How’s Waverly?” Wynonna asks first. That’s always her first question. 

“She’s fine.” Gus says harshly. 

Wynonna keeps her lips tightly together and tilts her head, tapping her fingers against the table. 

“That’s...good. Thought maybe –– well, hoped you’d let her come. For Christmas at least.” Wynonna shrugs, looking down at her hands, half covered by the sleeves of her sweater. 

She doesn’t sound snarky or mean, mostly she just sounds sad. 

“Waverly doesn’t need to be in a place like this.” Gus repeats the same line she’d said over and over, anytime Wynonna asked. 

She probably hoped Wynonna would just shut up and stop asking by now, but of course, the Earp girl never learns her lesson. 

Curtis stopped trying to tell Gus that Wynonna didn’t belong in a place like this either a long time ago. 

“I made this for her. Tell her sorry I couldn’t...do more.” Wynonna offers, sliding the card across the table, directly to Curtis. He gives her a gentle nod. 

“She knows, Wynonna...She’ll love the card.” He tries to reassure her and it works a little. It makes Wynonna smile softly. 

“So I… I’ve been getting really good evaluations lately. I stopped having nightmares and stuff.” 

She lies. Not about the evaluations, but about the nightmares. She’d been able to start really bullshitting her way through the evals. Anything to get her out of her. 

“They told us! They said you were doing a lot better.” Curtis says, sounding proud and excited. Gus doesn’t say anything and she doesn’t meet Wynonna’s eyes. 

Wynonna lights up at that. If they were telling them good things about her then that must mean… 

“They said that your treatment would be over in January. You’ll be able to leave.” Curtis breaks the news to her and Wynonna feels so happy she could cry. 

“They… I get to – I’ll be done?” She asks like she can’t believe it, but Curtis is smiling. He’d never lie to her. Plus, Gus isn’t smiling, which is even more proof that he’s telling the truth. 

“I asked if we could tell you. Figured that’s as good a Christmas present as any,” he says, reaching across the table to pat her hand. 

“Are you kidding? That’s the best!” Wynonna beams, smiling more in this moment than she had in a long, long time. 

Before she knows it, the supervisor is coming over to tell them that their time is up. Wynonna doesn’t sadden the way she usually would. 

Honestly, she’s not sure anything could bring her down from the feeling of knowing she’ll be going home in a few weeks at the most. She’ll be back in Nicole’s arms so fucking soon. 

Wynonna hugs Curtis again and gets a pat on the back from Gus. Another, maybe even more unexpected surprise for the evening. 

“Tell Waves that I love her, okay? That I’ll see her soon?” Wynonna asks before they leave. 

Gus nods and walks ahead of her husband and Curtis winks at Wynonna, letting her know that he’ll be sure to pass it and the card along, no matter what. 

That night, Wynonna can’t wait to go back to her room. She’s so ready to write a perfect Christmas letter for Nicole. One she’ll get to let her read in just a few weeks. 

She takes her medicine when it’s time and practically vibrates until it’s time for bed. When the lights go out, she lays still until she knows the rounds are complete and then reaches for her book. 

Wynonna turns over onto her stomach, pressing the book into the pillow and flipping to the next empty page. The book is almost full at this point and she says a silent ‘thanks’ to whoever is listening that she’ll be out of here soon.

For the first time, she starts writing with a smile on her face. 

 

Nicole, 

Merry Christmas, Haughtstuff! I know we were supposed to be spending this one together, just like the last two. I wish we were, so fucking much. It’s been two years since our first one. I wish more than anything that we were doing everything we did that night again and more. God, by the time I’m back to you it’ll seem like the first time all over again. 

I have good news, though. Curtis and Gus came and Gus wasn’t completely awful. That alone is good news, but the big point is that they told me I’ll be getting out in January. I’m not sure of the exact date yet, but I’m sure I’ll know soon! 

Fuck, I really did it! I got through this. All thanks to you, Haughty. When I get back to you, we’ll move in and I’ll get my GED I guess. Maybe go to school like we talked about. I’m really happy, for the first time in a long time. I can’t stop thinking about seeing you again. Kissing you. Maybe this is my Christmas miracle. I can’t help but feel like it’s because you’re looking out for me out there. 

I’ll see you soon, Nicole. I’ll get to hold you and kiss you and tell you everything in just a few weeks. Please still be waiting for me. 

Love always, 
Your Wynonna xo 

 

Wynonna puts the book away and turns over in bed with a smile on her face. When she falls asleep that night, she dreams about Christmas with Nicole. For the first time in so long, there’s no nightmares.

Chapter Text

Aug 23, 2008 

 

Wynonna stomps into the disgusting “dressing room” that she shares with the other girls and throws on Nicole’s hoodie over her bare chest to imitate the warmth of being surrounded by her girl. 

Tonight fucking sucked. 

Men had been too handsy. More handsy than she’d been used to -- even for Pussy Willows. They’d been so fucking handsy that the skeezy ass manager even came out there with the bouncer to have the men removed… 

Before even moving to wipe her makeup off, she grabs her phone and types out a message to Nicole. It’s just past 2:30am so she knows that Nicole’s asleep but there’s no one else in the world Wynonna wants to talk to right now. 

 

Wynonna: I just had such a shitty fucking night. Still at the stupid bar. I miss you so fucking much.  

 

She tosses the phone out in front of her and groans when it causes her makeup bag to clatter to the floor, spilling the contents all around her. “Shit!” she screams too loudly, uncaring about the attention it draws. 

Wynonna’s sweeping as much of the contents back into the bag when she hears her phone go off. Scrambling to her knees, she grasps for it. A reflexive smile appears on her lips at Nicole’s name. Tears of relief well up in her blue eyes. 

 

Nicole: I’m so sorry baby. I miss you too. More than anything. What happened? 

Wynonna: You’re up late, Haughty. Fuck am I glad. 

Wynonna: Just stupid pricks that make me tired of this place. Good money, I guess, but… I feel gross. 

 

Wynonna sighs and cleans up the rest of the mess she’s made. Her phone dings again. 

 

Nicole: You’re not gross ever. They’re fucking gross. They’re fucking lucky I wasn’t there. 

Wynonna: No more fighting for me. No matter how sexy it is. 

Nicole: Ruin my fun… 

Wynonna: I would never… We can have wayyyyy more fun without you getting all busted up ;) 

Wynonna: Why are you up so late? 

 

It takes a little while before Nicole texts back. Wynonna goes about getting herself back to her glorious, normal self. Right as Wynonna slings her bag over her shoulder, her phone sounds again. 

 

Nicole: You’ll have to tell me about those things when you call me after you get home… 

Nicole: I was playing Tomb Raider Anniversary. The new one comes out in a couple months.

Nicole: Anyways… back to fun with you ;)  

 

Wynonna grins at the reason Nicole’s awake. Since the moment Wynonna had met Nicole, the nerdy redhead had been over the moon for Lara Croft. One of these days, Wynonna’s going to show Naughty Haughty just how sexy Lara Croft can be--right up close and personal. One day. 

 

Wynonna: Nerd. 

Wynonna: I’ll save the juicy details for when you can actually hear my voice, Red. <3 

Nicole: Mmm I love when you tease. I’m gonna go get myself a late night treat - might take me a few to reply, but I promise I am so not sleeping. 

Wynonna: I’m about to drive home too so it’ll take me a while to text back. You better not fall asleep after getting me all revved up like this. 

Nicole: I would never. Talk to you soon, baby. 

 

***

 

Wynonna drives a little too fast. A cop flashes their lights at her and she sends up a silent prayer to whoever the hell is listening when that’s all that they do. She slows down to the speed limit and does not one kilometer over the rest of the way there.

Ugh, she’s probably asleep by now, Wynonna tells herself just before the last turn. Her phone sits with an unread message that had come through several minutes ago. The temptation to check it is overwhelming. One time tempting fate with the law is enough for her in one night, though.

The old pickup pulls into the Evans’ driveway and her heart comes to life. Nicole’s truck is sitting there. The corner of her mouth pulls up into a sneaky smirk. Goodie-two-shoes Nicole Haught… sneaking out after two in the morning for her… 

The redhead steps out of the truck with a backpack and a smirk of her own in place on those sinfully soft lips. Wynonna runs up to the taller girl, barrelling into her almost hard enough to knock the girl off her feet. Nicole’s solid and strong, though, in every sort of way. 

Nicole’s arms put her hoodie to shame--they always would. Wynonna lets herself melt into Nicole completely. The peace washes over her little by little, starting in all the places where their bodies are touching before spreading through the rest of her until it settles bone-deep. Nicole holds her as tightly as she can without hurting her. Wynonna feels a soft kiss press into her hair and she pulls back a little.

“I probably smell like smoke and booze,” Wynonna winces. 

“Only a little. You mostly smell like my ‘Nonna,” Nicole assures her with a soft smile. 

Wynonna can’t believe she’s come home from work to this. Next year… She would come home from work every day to this. Hopefully, it would be a different job… But, it wouldn’t be a different person. Ever. She hopes. 

“C’mere…” Wynonna breathes out before pulling Nicole in for a long, slow kiss. All of the tension in her body explodes in little bursts and releases in tingles. When they part, Wynonna chuckles. “So… I’m your late night treat, huh?” 

“You got it…” Nicole nods. “They won’t mind that I’m here, will they?” 

“Nah… They like you more than they like me,” she half-jokes. “Be really quiet when we go in… I try not to wake them. God, I’m so fucking glad you’re here.” 

They make their way up to the house, hand-in-hand, unafraid that anyone will see them at this ungodly hour. It feels nice--how they’re meant to be. 

Nicole lowers her voice as they get close. “My girl needed me. What was I s’posed to do? Stay home and play video games?

“Well, I’m no Lara Croft…”

“No, you’re way better than Lara Croft. You’re Wynonna Earp.” 

It will never be normal for Wynonna to hear her name spoken with so much reverence and adoration. The only time she ever likes the way her name sounds is every time it comes from Nicole Haught’s lips. 

“Yeah, yeah,” Wynonna teases with a shy smile. 

They approach her room slowly with as few creaks as possible. The moment they’re behind the safety of her door, Nicole comes up behind Wynonna, wrapping the smaller girl up in her arms. She only gets to press a few kisses against her cheeks before Wynonna slinks out of her arms. 

Nicole looks at her with concern and a questioning face. 

“Believe me, Nic, that’s all I want right now, but you gotta let me shower first… I feel…” 

“Gross. I’m sorry, ‘Nonna, I should’ve realized.” Nicole wrings her hands over her chest. 

“No! No, it’s okay. I’m not--” Wynonna takes Nicole’s hands and brings them both to her lips. She looks up at her with a small smile. “Go get comfy in bed… I’ll be back in like fifteen minutes, tops.” 

Nicole relaxes, letting her shoulders slump and her lips curve up again. “As you wish…”

Precisely eleven minutes later, Wynonna walks back into the bedroom wearing her robe and a towel on her head. Nicole’s lying on the bed with one arm behind her head and the other resting over her belly, scrolling on her phone. She’s wearing her favorite sleeveless muscle shirt and pair of basketball shorts. Her eyes immediately go from the phone to Wynonna. 

“Mmm…” Nicole hums contentedly as the aroma of a freshly-showered Wynonna fills her nostrils. “That’s my favorite smell in the world… Gardenias and you.” 

Wynonna chews the skin inside her bottom lip as she takes in the sight of Nicole like this. It’s how she’s seen Nicole more times than not, but it always heats her up just the same. “What does me smell like?” Wynonna asks playfully. 

“Can’t really explain it. It’s just… you. It makes me feel--” Nicole tries to find the right words. Words that will say I love you without saying them outright. “Safe. Good. Like I’m where I’m s’posed to be.” 

Wynonna’s cheeks redden at the admission. “I know what you mean, Red.” 

Nicole grins wide, moving to sit up against the back of the bed. “Good.” 

Wynonna makes her way over to her chest of drawers and pulls the towel free from her hair as she walks. Damp, dark brown hair cascades over one of her shoulders in the way you only ever see in cheesy teen rom-coms when the too-beautiful-for-this-world girl appears on screen. Nicole watches with a slack jaw. 

The brunette can feel those brown eyes fixed on her and she can’t help the sly grin from forming on her face. She drops the towel to the floor and opens the drawer with her oversized t-shirts and sleeping shorts. Her back is to Nicole now as she deliberates what to wear to bed. Wordlessly, she unties the robe and lets it fall off of her shoulders and pool around her ankles. 

Nicole gasps without meaning to and Wynonna grins even more mischievously, still out of Nicole’s view. 

Wynonna’s sculpted like the Greek goddess that she’s always reminded Nicole of. No matter how many times they love one another in that way, Nicole thinks she’ll never stop being in awe of her sheer beauty. 

“Should I even bother with the clothes, Haughty?” 

Nicole blinks. “Wh- Uhhhhh…” 

Wynonna peers over her shoulder with a glint in her eye. Her voice is low and dark when she asks, “How many times have you seen me like this, Nic?” 

Nicole softens when Wynonna’s eyes are on her. “Never enough,” Nicole answers back with a bit more confidence, but still gentle. 

“Smooth-talker…” Wynonna turns back and takes out the largest shirt she has and throws it over her head--one of Nicole’s. When she turns to walk to the bed, Nicole’s already reaching out for her. Who is she to deny Nicole what she wants? She climbs into Nicole’s lap, straddling the taller girl. 

“Wanna talk about your night?” Nicole asks carefully. Her hands join at the small of Wynonna’s back over her shirt. 

Wynonna ducks her head down and her eyes focus on her fingers playing with a frayed edge of the old shirt Nicole’s wearing. She sighs. “I don’t know… Not much to say. My job is full of sleazebags… Tonight, it just felt… Worse. Like… it just kinda reminded me that I’m--” Wynonna chokes a bit, having to clear her throat. These words are heavy and vulnerable, but this is Nicole. “Am I that worthless?” 

“No.” The response is immediate and sure. Nicole hates the way that stupid place makes Wynonna feel. She hates the baggage that Wynonna carries with her every step of her life that makes it impossible for her to quit working there. If Wynonna would let Nicole help more… But, she knows. She knows Wynonna has to take care of herself, and she will always be there to support her. 

Nicole massages her thumbs into Wynonna’s back. “You’re worth everything and more to me, Wynonna,” she states boldly. She’s said it before--the night she found out about Wynonna’s job. “You’re doing what you have to do to make the money you need--the money we’ll need when we get a place together… But that’s it. That place doesn’t mean you’re worthless. Nothing will ever mean that, okay?” 

Wynonna looks small. She feels small. She curls up, shifting herself so that she can lay her head on Nicole’s chest. Her arms wrap around Nicole’s middle as she nestles herself as far into Nicole as she can. Nicole’s arms wrap around her small shoulders, one hand resting between them and the other cradling her head. 

“Thank you, Haught,” Wynonna manages. 

“I got you, Earp.” 

“Kiss me until I can’t think about anything else?” Wynonna asks, peering up at Nicole with a slight pout on her lips. 

“Always…” Nicole assures. 

 

***

 

That Night

 

Nicole backs into the spot at the drive-in movie and puts the truck in park. It’s dollar movie night because they’re playing an older movie-- Coyote Ugly. Nicole had fallen hopelessly in love with Piper Perabo after they’d rented Imagine Me & You one night at the lakehouse. Apparently, she plays guitar and sings in this one. She can’t be more excited. 

The two of them gather their blankets, pillows, and bag of snacks and make their way into the bed of Nicole’s truck. The sun’s just beginning to set as they set up a comfy spot for them to settle into.

“I always wanted to see this movie,” Wynonna comments. “It came out right before-- Right before I got put into the system. Seemed so kickass, though.” 

Nicole grins. “Well, I hope it lives up to your expectations.” 

The cheesy, rising music starts to play as the Touchstone Pictures logo appears on the screen. Wynonna moves into Nicole’s open arm and starts to eat her favorite chocolates from one of the movie theater boxes they’d brought in. 

As the movie gets going, they are quiet and attentive. The cute and innocent thing Violet has going reminds Wynonna of Nicole and it makes her chuckle. Then, the owner of the bar appears and Wynonna’s eyebrows raise. “This woman is hot. ” 

Nicole shakes her head. 

“What, you don’t agree?” 

“I definitely agree… She reminds me of you, though… Attitude and confidence…” 

Wynonna smirks. “Lucky you…”

Nicole quickly changes her mind when the brunette from an earlier diner scene with even more attitude appears at the bar. She’s captivated immediately with the women dancing on the bar and slinging bottles so expertly. She knows she’d be exactly like Violet if she was in this film. But, that brunette… 

“Pick your jaw off the truck bed, baby…” Wynonna whispers into Nicole’s ear. 

Nicole clears her throat and laughs nervously. “Sorry, I’m--” 

“That one reminds you of me now, huh?” Wynonna teases. “Again with the leather pants… Will your useless gay ass even be able to make it through this movie?” 

Nicole nudges Wynonna. “If I don’t make it through the movie, it’ll be your fault, not some girls on a screen…” 

They kiss briefly before going back to watching the film. The next part that catches Wynonna’s eye is when the hot brunette that is definitely-her-but-not-her has her leg grabbed by some tools. It makes her flash to earlier that morning… Only in the film, she gets to dump a bucket of ice on the douchebags. 

“Wish I had buckets of ice at the ready at work,” Wynonna comments. Nicole pulls her closer, wanting to protect her from all the bad in the world.

They fall into the attentive silence as the plot picks up. The Australian man is cute and even Nicole finds herself feeling butterflies for their budding romance. Things get out of hand at the bar again and Violet’s beautiful singing power saves them… Wynonna scoffs skeptically. She and Nicole both laugh when the brunette says what Wynonna herself had been cynically thinking. 

“Maybe, I’ll sing in a bar one day…” Nicole says dreamily. 

“I’ll be there to see it,” Wynonna promises. 

The songs are stupidly catchy and Wynonna can’t help but move along to them when little snippets of them play. The intimate scene makes Wynonna turn to start pressing teasing kisses along Nicole’s neck until they get lost in one another for several minutes. Only when a stringy melody starts to play do they pull apart and see that Violet is now sitting naked at a keyboard. 

Then, she’s sitting naked with a guitar. Wynonna turns to Nicole again. “Mmm… When are you gonna serenade me naked with your guitar, Haught?” 

“You’ll just have to see, Earp.” 

The softball scene gets to Wynonna the most out of the two of them for obvious reasons… Nicole looks over to see Wynonna biting her lip and stealing glances at her.

Everything’s bliss… Until it isn’t. The cute Australian man turns out to be just like every other man… At least when he’s upset and it makes Wynonna freeze up. The things that he says… If Nicole ever… But she would never… All of her worthless feelings come rushing back from earlier in the morning. 

The man who is supposed to care for Violet shames her for dancing on a bar, for showing skin. “Your fans are waiting for you to crawl on the bar!” 

“Hey...” Nicole beckons for Wynonna’s attention. 

“Hmm?” Wynonna tries to seem like there’s nothing wrong. 

“He’s an ass. A fucking asshole… He’s just a jealous douchebag,” Nicole says with conviction. 

“Oh yeah, totally,” Wynonna replies unconvincingly, turning her lips down in a frown and nodding. 

Nicole’s finger gently guides Wynonna’s face away from the movie. “I don’t feel like that.” 

“I know…” Wynonna doesn’t get any more persuasive. 

“I don’t,” Nicole repeats. “I never will. There’s nothing wrong with what you do, ‘Nonna. I’m just sorry it’s in such a shit hole where you come out feeling shitty… And unsafe... But there’s nothing fucking wrong with what you do. Okay?” 

Wynonna eventually nods. “Okay.” She leans forward and rests her forehead against Nicole’s. “You’re un-fucking-real, Nicole.” 

“I’m yours, Wynonna.” 

The rest of the movie unfolds. It’s time for Violet to suffer after a short while of bliss… Then, the bliss is back… LeAnn Rimes is there… And they live happily ever after. The song that plays during the credits--the one Violet had started to write right after their fight/breakup--hits them both right in the heart. 

Wynonna shifts to sit between Nicole’s legs like they have so many times and they just sit there with Nicole’s arms wrapped tight around her until someone comes and makes them leave. Wynonna cuddles into Nicole’s side the whole drive home and they don’t speak. Neither one of them wants to say what’s running through their mind. 

Please remember, they both think. Then, they hope they never have to spend enough time apart to need to remember. 

 

***

 

March 6, 2014 

 

The apartment feels a little bigger with most of her things packed away in boxes. Graduation is coming soon and when it does, Nicole will be relocating to a different kind of “school” a few hours away from this one. 

She only has to pass two more physical exams and one on paper before she’ll be considered for recruitment. 

Nicole hadn’t always wanted to be a police officer. Truthfully, she hadn’t known what she wanted to be for a long time. When she chose to study Criminal Justice at university, things started to slowly fall into place. 

Nicole is smart and strong and good at following the rules – she’d basically been the poster child for all of those things her whole life--until Wynonna added a little spice into her day-to-day. It’d been a miracle that she even got into school at all after practically bombing her senior year. 

It all hit her one day when she woke up in class after sleeping through a math test. Wynonna had to work so hard and have your help to be half as good as you at school and you’re throwing it away. The realization felt like a knife in her chest. 

She’d spent so many nights up late with Wynonna trying to help her with her work, helping her study to get a passing grade on a calculus test so that she wouldn’t fail again. One night, Wynonna hadn’t been able to get off work even though she had a ton of work due the next day. 

She came to Nicole’s room, exhausted and in tears with no idea how she was going to finish it all. Nicole had helped her until she started to cry even harder, nothing was making sense. Nicole held her while she cried and eventually Wynonna fell asleep with her head in the redhead's lap. Nicole finished all her homework for her that night. 

Even though Wynonna was somewhere else, Nicole knew then that she had to keep going. To get out of here. To do something that mattered

Her grades in college have been spotless, every single year. Even now, in the last semester of her senior year, she’s acing everything, doing her very best to keep going, and to be the best she can be. It’s what Wynonna would’ve wanted , she reminds herself when it feels hard. 

Tonight, the redhead sits on the floor in front of the coffee table with her knees pulled up to her chest, her back resting against the couch. 

Her ponytail flops over her shoulder and drags over her paper as she writes. She pushes it out of the way a few times only for it to continuously fall back. Eventually, she huffs and sits back, pulling the hair tie out and stretching her arms over her head. 

Nicole rubs her face tiredly. It’s almost two in the morning and she’s been doing this paperwork for hours. 

As if she needs something else to screw with her already floundering focus, the upstairs neighbors start to move around with lead feet. Nicole looks up, thinking that if they stomp any harder they might come through and land on her coffee table. 

She looks over to the closed door that leads to the apartment’s second bedroom. The room that belongs to her Biomedical Science major ex-girlfriend. 

If things had gone as planned, that room in their perfect place might be some kind of cute music/study room. It should be a place where she and Wynonna could relax and do their work together. If things had gone their way, Nicole wouldn’t be moving away soon. 

Nicole hopes that, even if things had gone according to plan, she and Shae would have still met one another and become best friends. That’s what they were meant to be all along. 

Their romantic relationship had only lasted three months before Shae picked up on the fact that Nicole wasn’t ready to be in one--that she’d probably never be ready until she found Wynonna Earp again. 

Nicole knows that if Wynonna and Shae met that they’d love one another. They were alike in a lot of ways, but still very different. Nicole finds herself thinking all the time about how she hopes they get to meet one another some day. 

The tall girl stretches her legs out and breathes out a heavy sigh, leaning her elbow back against the table and picking up her pencil once again. She does her best to refocus, wanting to get through the rest of the packet before she goes to bed. 

The neighbors don’t stop stomping and she can’t hear anything else. It’s too quiet in the rest of the flat. 

“It’s two in the goddamn morning… don’t you guys ever just sit? Sleep?” she grumbles to herself, reaching for the TV remote and flipping it on without even looking up. 

The sound isn’t loud enough to wake Shae but at least it’s enough to drown out the sound of the resident elephants. 

Nicole puts her pencil back to the paper. When her brain registers what’s playing on the TV, the lead breaks. 

She feels mechanical as she forces herself to look up from the table at the screen. Coyote Ugly. She hadn’t seen this movie since… 

Tears start to form in her eyes and she finds herself trying to swallow a lump that just won’t go down. 

Nicole sits up straighter again and lets the broken pencil clatter against the table and roll away. She pushes her hair behind her ears and tries to take a deep breath. 

Thinking about Wynonna never stops. The older woman is always in her head, no matter what. Wynonna has been an inescapable part of her for nearly seven years. 

It’s not like Nicole would ever want to escape, though. She loves feeling Wynonna in everything. She loves hearing her voice in her head when she needs it the most. Dreaming about her. She never wants those things to go away. 

Sometimes though--times like tonight--the memories sneak up on her and they hurt more than they heal. It’s like pulling a scab off an unhealed wound. When it comes to Wynonna, Nicole knows that the wound will always bleed. 

The scene that plays out in front of her shows the two main characters arguing. Nicole can remember that Piper Perabo’s character is named Violet, but doesn’t have a fucking clue what the man’s name is anymore. The scene infuriates her the same way it had six years ago. 

She rakes her short nails over her bare thigh, moving to fiddle with the edge of her shorts before finally having to clench her hands into fists. She remembers thinking of Wynonna feeling like this girl does. Nicole remembers looking over and promising Wynonna that she’d never feel the way this dickhead guy did. 

The next scene makes Nicole hurt down to her bones. Violet gets fired because of the loser guy and eventually she starts to sing her song, Please Remember. It’s a short bit of the song but Nicole aches for Wynonna with every word. By the time the song fades, Nicole is wiping tears away from her cheeks. 

There isn’t much left of the film after that and Nicole wouldn’t be able to pull herself away and finish her work if she wanted to. She pulls her knees up under her chin again and watches the rest, trying not to let tears cloud her vision the entire time. 

She finds herself laughing at funny parts, even through the tears. It’s almost like she can hear Wynonna laughing with her. Almost.  

When the movie ends and Violet kisses the man, who is named Kevin apparently, the credits start to roll and the Leann Rimes version of Please Remember starts playing over them. 

The song had given Nicole a lot of feelings back then. It made her think of Wynonna and how happy she was with her. She remembers more than ever how lucky she felt to be with her and how she thought she’d never know exactly what this person is singing about because she’d always have Wynonna. 

Nicole had learned the song on guitar anyway and tried to sing it for her on their last day of summer break. She hadn’t been able to get to the second verse without losing it. 

Wynonna had gotten on her knees, taken the guitar off her and put it to the side. Nicole remembers the tears in Wynonna’s eyes as she climbed into her lap, straddling her and cradling her head in her hands. 

Nicole remembers being seventeen and feeling like a stupid baby, sobbing into Wynonna’s chest at the thought of their summer being over--at the thought of ever being without her. Now, here she is at twenty-three, sobbing alone on her living room floor in an apartment that should’ve been theirs. 

Nicole had been planning on forever and had gotten exactly four more months with Wynonna after that. If she’d only known… 

The redhead doesn’t realize when the movie officially ends and the channel switches to something else, something quieter that doesn’t hide the sounds of her crying as well. Hell, Nicole doesn’t even know how long she’s been crying by the time she hears a voice. 

“Nic? What’re you doing?” Shae’s tired voice calls quietly from the doorway of her bedroom. 

Nicole jumps a little as she lifts her head up from her knees. She shakes her head and tries to speak up, but her throat tightens and she pulls in a small, strangled breath instead. 

“Nicole…” Shae feels herself deflate as she hurries to her friend’s side. The shorter woman pushes the coffee table out of the way and sinks to her knees, wrapping Nicole up in her arms and pulling her close. 

She doesn’t have to ask anymore to know when things like this happen that they most likely have something to do with Wynonna. Nicole isn’t the kind to get so stressed over school or work that she’ll break down like this. Wynonna has always been the only thing. Still, she can’t say she was expecting it. It had been a while since the last time Nicole got like this. 

“If – if I’d known… maybe I’d –– maybe I-I... ” 

“No, Nic… No, don’t do that. Don’t blame yourself.”

“How am I supposed to do that? I let her go… I didn’t look h-hard enough – I… ” 

“You did everything you could. You’ve told me a million times.” Shae’s voice is kind and soft when she speaks, only wanting to comfort Nicole. 

“I don’t – want it t-to be over, Shae. This was s’posed to be our place… our perfect place. And I’m leaving it. I’m leaving her. ” Nicole’s whole body shakes with sobs. She shrinks and twists, turning to bury herself further into Shae’s embrace. 

“You’re not, Nicole. It’s not… it’s not over. Alright?” Shae’s voice breaks a bit as she tries to keep herself steady. 

As long as they’ve known one another, they’d always been there when the other needed it. Most of Shae’s breakdowns are about her family or about school related stress and Nicole always knows how to help. Shae hopes that she’s made the taller woman feel half as safe and understood as Nicole has made her. 

“If - maybe … If I’d just finished the song…” If Nicole was going to say anything else she doesn’t get to finish. Shae closes her eyes and lets a silent tear or two slide down her cheeks as she hushes Nicole and holds her a little bit tighter. 

“Come on, Nic… you need to go to bed okay? Let’s just go to bed.” 

Nicole doesn’t answer, she doesn’t even stop crying as she stands with Shae’s help. The dark-haired woman helps Nicole to her bedroom and pulls back the covers for her. 

Nicole grasps for the pillow with the dark blue pillow case. It’s the one Wynonna had given her a long time ago. She clutches it to her chest and buries her face against it. It doesn’t smell like Wynonna anymore and hasn’t in years, but Nicole sleeps with it every night. 

Shae’s heart breaks as she pulls the covers up over her friend. For someone so strong and so tall, Nicole looks tiny and fragile like this. Shae hates it. 

Shae brushes Nicole’s hair out of her face. “Go to sleep, okay? Get some rest. Everything is gonna be okay, Nicole.” Shae’s been saying the same words for a long time and just praying every time that she’ll be right. Maybe, things will be okay one day. Maybe, her best friend will get the person she loves more than anything back. One day. 

Nicole sniffles, done crying for the most part. Nodding slowly, her eyelids already look too heavy to hold open. Shae knows that they’ll be puffy tomorrow. 

The med student moves towards the door and cuts out Nicole’s light. 

“Wait…” 

Shae turns back around immediately, eyebrows raised when Nicole’s frail voice fills the quiet. 

“Don’t leave. Sleep in here? Please.” Nicole sounds desperate and childlike, but so tired. Shae can hear the tremble in her voice and the threat of tears just from that. 

“Okay. Shhh… okay. I will.” Shae closes the door and moves to the other side of the bed. 

Nicole is already snuggled back into the pillow with her back to the other woman. By the time Shae gets between the sheets, Nicole’s breathing seems more even and she can almost swear that she’s asleep. 

Shae sighs, settling into the familiar bed and pulling the covers up over them both. She lays on her side and her hand drifts up to run through Nicole’s long hair in a soothing way. 

“Shae?” Nicole’s voice startles her a bit. Shae’s already falling asleep and had been sure Nicole had already fallen asleep.

“Hm?” 

“Thank you. I love you.” 

“I love you, too, Nic.” Shae smiles softly in the dark. 

Shae makes herself stay awake until she knows for sure that her best friend is asleep. Before she drifts off, she sends up a silent prayer to whoever is listening that Wynonna Earp is out there somewhere and that she’s okay. Nicole will find her again and they’ll be happy, she thinks to herself. 

Chapter Text

November 10, 2007

Wynonna Earp rushes into the gymnasium, trying to escape the incessant hands of Pete York, her ex-boyfriend. Why in the hell had she ever dated this fucking loser?

“Wynonna, wait!” Pete reaches for Wynonna and she shrugs out of his touch, still moving through the smelly gym where a game is evidently about to start.  Music is pumping and Wynonna can feel her annoyance already reaching unreasonable heights. 

“Alright, asshole! Hands to yourself.” Wynonna shouts. 

“Oh come on, Wynonna!” Pete nearly whines and reaches out to touch her again.  

Wynonna’s dealt with enough grabby hands in her life to know exactly what to do when this dork thinks he can touch her whenever he wants. Without second thought, Wynonna grabs the wrist of the hand that attempts to invade her space and twists it behind Pete’s body.

With maybe a little too much force, Wynonna pushes him up against the wall. To make her point even clearer, she slams him against it one more time for good measure.  

“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?” Wynonna warns through gritted teeth. 

“Nicole! Heads up!” A voice calls out for a girl named Nicole on the court. Wynonna can’t explain why, but she looks. 

Her hands drop away from Pete who resigns and retreats, leaving Wynonna to look for this Nicole. She finds her immediately. 

A tall redhead shakes and snaps her head towards the voice who had called for her… Just in time, it seems. She catches the ball and Wynonna sees her call out, “Jesus!” 

A blonde girl jogs up to the redhead and there’s a weird tugging in her gut as they interact. The vibes from Blondie… are not cutting it, but blue eyes are drawn back to the redhead. Toned arms clutch at the ball in her hands… Her big hands. Wynonna bites her lip as she wonders if the vibes she’s picking up from Red… Are accurate. If maybe… She’s found the next person she wants to have a good time with. 

She can’t make out exactly what’s being said but she thinks she picks up on the word gay. It sends a shiver down her spine… But Red isn’t pleased with that. Wynonna clenches her jaw hard at the thought that Blondie is being mean… Suddenly, she wants to fight. 

She’s distracted from that thought when Red’s mouth does something so damn cute… Wynonna smirks without realizing it. 

Red’s head whips towards her a moment later and Wynonna doesn’t shy away from looking directly into brown eyes. Those brown eyes cause a jolt in her chest and she thinks for a moment that she’s known this girl forever… Like they have always been in each other’s lives… But she’s sure this is their first “meeting.”

They stare… For what seems like a long time but is really only a few moments. Wynonna pulls her bottom lip between her teeth and turns towards the bleachers… She can endure one gross basketball game. The need to know this redhead overwhelms every inch of her. 

On a normal day, Wynonna Earp would never be caught dead in the stands of a high school sporting event. Jocks…. Not really her thing. Or so she thinks. The presence of the redhead on the court fucking screams jock.

Red is cocky… And has every right to be. Because she fucking owns the rest of the dweebs squeaking around on the shiny gym floor. One shot in particular seems to impress the fanatics surrounding her and it causes a slight smile to tug at the corner of her lips as she watches Red revel in the praise. 

Then, Red’s eyes find her. The cocky little shit winks . The gaze is gone too quickly as the athlete returns to the game. Wynonna rolls her eyes light-heartedly and huffs out an amused breath through her nose. 

This stupid basketball game drags on. All Wynonna wants is for it to be over so she can finally speak with the confident girl who had caught her eye too damn long ago. This girl better be something goddamned special after enduring this hell… 

Red’s team wins which means Purgatory loses. Not that Wynonna cares. As the players retreat into the locker rooms, Wynonna walks around the bounds of the court so she can lean against the wall besides the door where the locker rooms are. She kicks her foot up against the wall and waits. Impatiently.

Wynonna almost gives up by the time the girl exits the locker room. Track pants do the girl all of the justice and Wynonna bites her bottom lip again at the sight. There’s a look of disappointment on the taller girl’s face as she scans the stands and Wynonna hopes selfishly it’s because she’s looking for her. 

Wynonna speaks up, “Is your name really 'hot?'”  

Red startles and turns to look at her. Wynonna grins. Something is a little different about the girl… She seems… Not so cocky after all? Maybe, she’s just surprised. 

“I-- Uh…” Nicole shakes her head a little and laughs. “Yeah. It’s H-a-u-g-h-t.”

Well… Maybe she really isn’t so cocky. The little stutter as she starts to talk makes Wynonna’s chest feel gooey… Melty… Oh fuck. She gets a fucking grip before she speaks again. 

“Hmm..” Wynonna pushes off of the wall and steps closer to Red, allowing her eyes to travel over the basketball player’s long frame. “At least you live up to it.”

A few long moments pass and Wynonna waits for Nicole to retort… The way that Haught had performed on the court really built up a certain expectation. But, nothing comes. Haught stares at Wynonna like a deer in headlights and that stupid melty feeling only gets worse. 

“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.  

“Maybe I just like listening to you talk,” Haught finally speaks. The line comes out adorably. Wynonna wonders if Haught had been trying to be smooth… It sort of works. 

A low chuckle rumbles through her throat before Wynonna replies, “I am known to be un poco mouthy, so I guess that’s a good thing.”

“So, what can I call you?”  

“You can call me a lot of things, Red. But my name is Wynonna. Wynonna Earp.” The brunette waits for the inevitable reaction, but it only comes slightly… Not like she expects. Still, she clarifies for the other girl. “Yes, like Wyatt Earp. He was my great-great grandaddy.”

“I don’t really know what that means, but it sounds cool,” Nicole says, flashing her teeth. 

A wave of relief spreads through Wynonna, starting in her chest. Wynonna can peg a liar from a hundred miles away, but Haught is genuine. The dirty, muddy history of the Earp name is lost on this girl from a different school. It’s refreshing to feel like maybe… maybe… Wynonna can have a clean slate with someone--someone to really see her. Her jaw relaxes at the thought.

“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’?” Despite the question, Haught still follows. Wynonna smirks.

“Not where I really want us to go, but it’ll do.” Wynonna flirts shamelessly. She can feel eyes on her and it makes her feel warm all over. She wants Haught to look at her, to want her. She wants Haught just the same. The duration of the basketball game is more than enough time for…

There’s a soft metallic thunk and Wynonna turns to see what’s happened. She chuckles at the girl again. Oh, how fun… the basketball player had been distracted enough by Wynonna’s ass that she had run into the separator between the doors. Unable to keep it in, she pokes a bit of fun at Red. “There’s a bar there.” 

“Yeah, I see that now.” Haught blushes and jogs to walk by Wynonna’s side now, instead of behind her. 

They approach Wynonna’s old truck. She walks around to the tailgate, lets it down, and hops up onto it with ease. Wynonna expects Haught to follow suit, but she just stands there, looking lost. 

“Hop on up, Haught. I won’t bite just yet,” the brunette offers with a tooth-baring grin. She pats the place beside her. A beat passes, but Haught finally chucks her bag into the bed of the truck and jumps up.

“So you’re just a fan of girls’ basketball then?” 

Wynonna fights the urge to laugh at Nicole’s attempt at small talk… It’s no doubt a way to ask Wynonna if she likes girls. She shakes her head. 

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

“Oh.” Nicole speaks and Wynonna’s not too sure she meant for the word to come out. 

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

Haught 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. “For one, you can call me Nicole.”

“Not gonna happen. Your last name is too good.” Wynonna frowns a little 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?” 

Wynonna’s blood runs cold for a moment. Her story is riddled with bullshit… Trauma… Death… Horribleness. There’s nothing good that comes to mind when she thinks about her story. Time to deflect...

“You ain’t got the time for that, Red. Besides!” Wynonna sits up straighter, her body mirroring Nicole’s -- one leg hanging off the tailgate and the other with her knee bent lying across the tailgate. She scoots closer to the athlete until their knees are touching.  

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. “I asked first. What’s your deepest darkest secret, Nicole Haught?”

Blue eyes stare at the patterns of her own finger on Nicole’s hand for a few moments until they tear away to look at the other girl’s face. Their eyes meet in the same instant, having looked up at the same time and it makes Wynonna feel weak. Those eyes… Could those puppy dog eyes cut her a fucking break? Wynonna Earp doesn’t do feelings. 

“I like girls,” Nicole breathes out, almost like she hadn’t meant to say it. 

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. She aches for the girl in front of her. Aches so much that she can’t just… Be herself. That they both can’t. Not without harsh judgment. Wynonna speaks softly, “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 on Wynonna’s lips holds the weight of her whole life. She hopes Nicole doesn’t pick up on the immense, deep sadness she feels. She attempts to keep the conversation light-hearted while still being there for Nicole through this reveal. “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?”

Wynonna stares intently as Nicole refuses to tear her eyes away from their hands now. She gives the girl a few moments before taking matters into her own hands--literally. One of her hands moves to gently tilt Nicole’s chin up so that their eyes can meet again. Instead of answering Nicole’s sweet question, Wynonna gives her a smile. 

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

“Guess you make me nervous,” Nicole says. Wynonna appreciates the conviction. 

“Okay, well how about this? Close your eyes, Haughtshot.” She waits for a moment. Nicole doesn’t oblige so she continues, “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?”

Wynonna looks on as the athlete’s eyebrow furrows just slightly. She can tell the redhead is trying, but can’t quite seem to hit the mark. Red shakes her head and Wynonna grows more determined. 

“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?” She insists, a little more aggressively than intended, but when she sees Nicole jolt, she thinks maybe… Maybe, she’s getting somewhere. Unknowingly, Wynonna leans in closer, anxious to see what happens. 

Brown eyes shoot open and it’s then that Wynonna realizes that she’s leaned in. All of the air seems to have left her lungs as the shift occurs between them. Wynonna barely sees it coming. 

Nicole kisses her. Her eyes fall closed slowly as the sensation of soft, gentle lips pressing against her own causes her to feel dizzy. This is a feeling she never knew she could feel. From one little kiss. 

It’s not a little kiss, though. It rips Wynonna up in the best possible way. Her hand moves to the back of Nicole’s head, never wanting this to end, and pulls the girl closer. She yearns to taste her and drink her in. So, she parts her lips and Nicole moves with her in a way that feels destined. Fire spreads beneath her skin and pricks all of the hairs on her body to stand. 

The brunette lets her body take control. She slips her tongue into Nicole’s waiting mouth and feels the urge to cry when Nicole moves into her… Her body basically begging for everything Wynonna wants to give her. 

Wynonna realizes now that she wants to kiss Nicole more… And more… She doesn’t want this to be some one-night stand… Some quickie in the parking lot of the school that she’s only ever experienced misery at. 

No. 

Wynonna realizes that she wants to get to know Haught… Learn everything there is to know about her and pray that the girl doesn’t push to know the same about her. Wynonna wants to know Nicole Haught… Wants to know what makes her tick… Wants to unlock that cocky basketball player she’s gotten a glimpse of… She wants… Nicole. 

They kiss for as long as they both can stand it. Parting feels cruel and causes a bone-deep ache to settle in Wynonna. She opens her eyes to find Nicole’s still mostly closed… Heavy lidded and dazed. Was that… Had that been... Wynonna wonders for a moment if she had just been Nicole Haught’s first kiss, but doesn’t want to push it by asking. 

From the way that Nicole had kissed, though, it just seems unrealistic… How could she be that good of a kisser if… She shakes her head a bit. Say something. 

“Well, Haught damn, indeed.”

Perfect pun. Nice. 

A moment later, brown eyes find her again. When Nicole rolls her lips between her teeth, Wynonna knows she’s trying not to wear a dopey grin… Because Wynonna’s trying not to do the same damn thing. 

“Gimme your phone.” Wynonna holds out her hand expectantly and Nicole still seems dazed. It would be annoying if it wasn’t so fucking cute. “Today, Haught!”

Haught 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’d done and hands it back to the stunned redhead. “We better head back. Wouldn’t want you to get in trouble, would we?”

It’s then that Wynonna realizes Nicole hasn’t spoken since before… Since she told the brunette that she makes her nervous. Pretty damn nervous… Wynonna thinks how lucky it is that Nicole had said she “likes listening to her talk” since she’s done all the damn talking. 

Nicole nods, still not speaking. Wynonna shakes her head and hops off of the truck bed, looking expectantly at the other girl. Nicole does the same. 

“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.

She only drives for a little while before pulling off to the side of the road. She’s a little too eager to talk to Nicole again, but she couldn’t stay back at the school any longer. She could feel herself unraveling all at once and needed to get her head back on her shoulders. 

Wynonna scrolls to the message she’d sent herself from Nicole’s phone and programs Nicole’s contact into her phone under the name Haughtstuff. 

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

Wynonna smirks at the message and begins to type another one. 

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

It doesn’t take too long for a reply to come through. 

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

The response makes Wynonna laugh freely in the privacy of her truck. Haught using her own words against her sends another tingle throughout her body. 

Wynonna: Good. See ya later, Red.

The Earp girl tosses her phone off to the side and puts the truck back in drive. Every single part of her is screaming-- Nicole Haught is something special. Don’t fuck it up. 

Chapter Text

December 24, 2015 - The Big City 

 

The bar is rowdy for the holiday and it surprises Rosita a little. For the most part, she’s thankful. The crowds coming and going keep her busy, and if she’s focused on working, she won’t have much time for anything else. 

This bar is decently sized, with a beautiful modern, brick interior. It’s one of the nicer places that Rosita has found herself working in, that’s for sure. It’s only been a few months, but her boss is nice enough and everyone, including her, knows that she’s great at this job. 

Being a bartender is something the revenant has done and done again over the years. By now, it’s like second nature. Being alive for hundreds of years can make things start to get boring. 

Coming to work gives her a sense of purpose. It seems to remedy the restlessness for a while and being able to pay the bills doesn’t hurt. It’s just one reason why Rosita had asked to work on Christmas Eve months ago. 

“If you somehow still have presents to buy, the extra tips from tonight sure won’t hurt.” A happy voice calls from beside her. She’s speaking up just enough to be heard over the music. 

Dana is early sixties with blonde hair and a smile she never takes off. She has been working in this bar since it opened years ago and she’s been more than kind to Rosita since she started. Rosita is thankful that she gets to share most shifts with Dana. 

Rosita turns her head towards the voice and forces out a short laugh before quickly refocusing on the pint she’s pulling. 

“I don’t really buy presents. Don’t have a reason to.” Rosita shrugs, her smile faltering sadly.

“You don’t celebrate?” 

“Something like that…'' Rosita trails off, hoping that answer will be enough for the other woman and she won't have to elaborate on how or why. Dana doesn’t say anything else, so she figures it is. 

Rosita is handing off the pint as she feels Dana brush past her and tuck something into her back pocket. Dark eyebrows pull together and she turns to look in the direction the woman has gone, reaching into the pocket to see what she put there. 

Dana is standing a couple of steps away, wiping down the counter. The thing she’d tucked away is a wad of cash. One of the tips she’d been talking about. 

“Dana, I’m not taking this.” Rosita shakes her head, holding the money out to her. 

“It’s yours.” Dana says surely. 

“Well... unless you got it out of my jar, it’s not .” 

“Sure it is. Someone left it down there. For you.” 

“How do you know?” 

Dana shakes her head, never looking at Rosita’s face. “Damn, Rosie, just take it. Add it to your tips. Use it for yourself . Gas. Whatever you want or need.” 

Rosita looks at it again. It’s not much, ten dollars at the most but she’s pretty sure it wasn’t meant to be given to her. Dana is caring, too much for her own good sometimes. 

Either way, Rosita can tell she just wants to do something good, so she’ll let her this time. The bartender shoves the money into her pocket again with a deep sigh. “Thank you, Dana. That’s sweet.” 

“Don’t worry about it, honey. Merry Christmas.” 

Rosita nods, her lips pulling into a weak smile as she looks down and finds anything to busy her hands and mind. 

The hours of work pass too slowly. It seems like after the interaction with Dana, every mention of the holiday gets harder and harder to ignore. They even start playing Christmas music on the jukebox. At least it’s Elvis , Rosita thinks. 

The bar clears out just before midnight. Rosita and Dana clean up and Rosie watches Dana walk to her car, making sure she gets there safe. Dana waves to her and Rosita returns it before she turns to start the block and a half walk back to her apartment. 

The walk is short enough and Rosita enjoys it, even in the cold. Dana used to ask every shift if Rosita wanted a ride home. She’d say she didn’t want something bad to happen to a pretty girl like her. Rosita would always just laugh and reassure her that if someone messed with her, the bad would happen to them. 

She still doesn’t know if Dana thought that meant she carried a weapon. Surely, the waitress couldn’t know the truth. That a demon lives underneath that beautiful skin. Either way, Dana stopped asking if she wanted a ride a long time ago. 

“Oh! Rosita, wait!” Dana calls, stopping Rosita in her tracks. 

The bartender turns on her heel and pulls her jacket around her more. The wind blows her hair into her mouth and she lifts a hand to pull it away. “What’s the matter?” 

Dana turns back towards her with a small container in her hands and walks over to her, pushing it into Rosita’s waiting hands. The brunette’s eyebrows pull together, studying the red and white box. 

“Dana, what’s this?” 

“Cookies. My grandkids and I baked them last night. I wanted to bring you some, I just forgot about ‘em until I saw them just now.” She explains, pushing her hands back into her pockets. She shivers from the cold, even though it doesn’t seem to bother Rosita too much. 

Warmth and sadness spread through the revenant’s chest. She’s just holding some cookies, but Dana’s words rip through her. She’d made these with her grandchildren, with her family. They were probably so happy, and they wanted to share that with her. 

Rosita lifts her eyes to the other woman again and her expression softens. “Dana…” 

“You keep the container for as long as you need. Be safe walking home, Rosie. Merry Christmas!” The woman smiles, patting Rosita on the arm before turning to hurry back to her car and away from the cold. 

Rosita doesn’t get a chance to protest anymore, not that she thinks she could. It’d been forever since she had a family, or anyone to do anything like this for her. Even the smallest gesture means a lot to her, even if it makes her a little sad.

She watches as Dana’s car drives off and exhales a deep breath. Rosita’s walk home is quiet for the most part. On her way, she passes through the middle of the city’s downtown area. 

Before she gets there, she hears the soft Christmas music and the people laughing. Even at midnight, there are couples ice skating in the small rink there and others standing around drinking hot chocolate. 

Rosita doesn’t let herself look at them for very long. She keeps her eyes down, watching her feet move across the snowy sidewalk. She does all she can to ignore the music and the laughter and most of all, the ache in her chest. This has to be the hardest time she’s had ignoring these feelings in decades. 

When the woman finally reaches her apartment, she locks the door behind herself and leans against it for a moment, taking some deep breaths. 

The studio apartment is small. There’s a couch when you first walk in with a small distance between it and the kitchen. Rosita’s bed is as far away from the door as possible, settled nicely in the corner. She has a desk, a bookcase and a few other pieces of furniture but nothing excessive.

It’s safe here. There’s no decorations, no twinkly lights or a tree to suffocate her. She can play whatever music she wants, do whatever she wants to distract herself from the holiday. 

Rosita sits the cookie container down and shrugs out of her coat, tossing it onto the couch. She slips out of her shoes next, leaving them by the door as she goes straight to take a shower. 

Once she’s clean and in her favorite pajamas, Rosita drags herself to the kitchen and pours a big glass of wine. The weight of the evening is something she can’t seem to shake off her shoulders this time. 

Christmas music echoes in her mind and her body feels heavy with missing the people she’d lost long ago. The only thing that has a chance of taking that away is the alcohol. 

Brown eyes find the cookie container again and the ache that comes with thinking about Dana and her happy family rippled through her again. Rosita breathes out harshly through her nose and makes a choice. 

She can’t change how she feels, how she aches and misses loving Christmas. But she can be happy for this woman from her job. She can be happy that she knows someone who is good and that they have a family to spend tonight and tomorrow with. The cookies given to her are the closest she’ll get to feeling that. So, she opens the container and eats one. 

Somehow, it makes her feel a little bit better. The ache is still pulsing through her bones, but she takes the cookies and the wine to her bed and sits in the middle of it. Rosita turns on her laptop and goes straight to the movie Up. 

She always finds herself leaning on this movie when she needs some comfort. It reminds her of a life she wishes she could have and lets her hope for a while. 

By the time the movie is over, Rosita has finished the cookies, two and a half glasses of wine and has cried more times than she can count. The ache from earlier has mixed with… everything else. Not quite gone, but not as loud on its own anymore. She thinks that she can manage this feeling. 

In her slightly drunken sadness, the revenant snuggles underneath her covers and turns the movie back on to play for a second time as she drifts off to sleep. 

 




December 24, 2015 - Purgatory 

 

Nicole sits in the middle of her living room floor, wrapping the last gift she needs to stick underneath her tree. When she’s finished, there are only four presents wrapped perfectly in shiny green paper. 

Shae is the only person she’s bought Christmas presents for in years. They always get one another something, no matter what. These are just a few small things Nicole collected throughout the year.

It makes her excited to stand up and step back and see them under there, even if the rest of the tree is a little bare. She put lights on it, but not much else. After all, it’d only been two months since she moved here and bought a house. Being a rookie cop in this town doesn’t pay much, but she’s getting by. 

Honestly, she wouldn’t even have a tree if not for the older man who lives next door. He came knocking a couple of weeks ago and had dragged the big tree all the way over into her yard. 

It was too big for their house, so he wanted to offer it to her if her ceilings were higher. They were. So, Nicole took the tree and then offered to go help him find a smaller one. 

Thinking back to the man even now, the way he reminded her of her father makes her feel a little sad. Nicole wonders about him and how he is. Even about how her mother is sometimes. She misses them, especially him, even if she hates it. 

Nicole takes a deep breath and shakes away the thoughts of her parents. Shae should be here soon. They weren’t able to see each other last year for Christmas and frankly, Nicole just misses her best friend. 

That thought and this holiday is always a double-edged sword. Of course, Shae is her best friend, and has been for years. But she’d considered Wynonna that, too. Her best friend and so much more. Her everything

Christmas is theirs. It always would be. She doesn’t know if she’d be able to make it through her first Christmas in Wynonna’s hometown without Shae. 

Nicole goes to tidy up the already-tidy kitchen. She tosses out a few unneeded pieces of mail and fixes the few things stuck to her refrigerator. 

The redhead looks for a moment at the three cards hanging onto the appliance by magnets. One is from Sheriff Nedley, the next from Shae’s parents, and the last is from Waverly. 

The youngest Earp had kindly handed it to her at Shorty’s one morning with her coffee and told her how she wished Wynonna was there to spend Christmas with them. Waverly couldn’t have known how badly Nicole wished for the same thing or that she’d cried in her squad car when she left the saloon. 

The magnet that holds up that card is placed strategically over Waverly’s boyfriend’s face. Champ is… fine, she guesses. He’d been tolerable every time she’d ever had to interact with him, but it’s not hard to tell that he’s way too dumb for Waverly Earp.

Nicole wonders what Wynonna would think about him and laughs to herself imagining all the bad names she’d call the poor, stupid dude. 

Nicole’s fingers drift to the polaroid hanging on her fridge. It’s the one of her and Wynonna in the kitchen of her aunt’s lakehouse years ago. 

Nicole’s chest aches seeing Wynonna smiling like that and wearing her blue flannel over her bathing suit. For a moment, she feels like she can smell her shampoo. Just when her eyes start to burn, her phone rings in the living room, startling her back to reality. 

The redhead races to grab it, already knowing that it’ll be Shae. She answers, her smile audible, “Hey! You good? Almost here? I haven’t gone to the store yet, I was gonna wait on you.” 

“Hey, Nic… I– I’m sorry, I didn’t get to leave. I was about to, and then I got called back for an emergency at the hospital. I’m gonna be stuck here all night. I’m so sorry.” 

Nicole’s face falls. Suddenly, it feels much too cold inside her house. She feels empty, like she’s caving in. 

“Nicole?” Shae beckons on the other end of the line. 

Nicole finally shakes her head, pushing her long hair back out of her face. “I– yeah. I’m here. Uh… geez, Shae. I’m really sorry.”

“I didn’t want to disappoint you. Please believe me? If I’d had any other choice I –” 

“No, no don’t apologize! You – it’s not your fault. It’s okay. We’ll – we’ll see each other in a few days? Maybe.” 

“I should still be able to make it some time this weekend. I don’t wanna give a definite time but I’ll do my best, Nic.” 

“You always do, Shae. Just – keep savin’ lives and me and your presents’ll be here when you get here.” Nicole laughs softly, biting at her lip to keep her tears back. 

“I love you. I’ll see you soon, I swear. Merry Christmas, Nic.” 

“I love you, too. Merry Christmas. I’ll see you.” Nicole breathes out before they hang up. 

With the call ended, Nicole sinks down onto her couch and buries her face in her hands. 

Her tears flow out of her hot and heavy until they can’t anymore. She feels herself drowning in the fear of being alone and feels the Wynonna-shaped wound tear itself open again and again. This had lasted all night last Christmas. Nicole hadn’t moved from her lonely bunk at the Police Academy. 

By the time she looks up tonight, only about 45 minutes have passed. The officer sighs a heavy breath and wipes her face roughly. She looks up at the Christmas tree illuminating the living room. Nicole notices for the first time the way it shines off the framed picture of Lake McDonald. 

The frame had been a gift for Wynonna’s nineteenth birthday. She kept it on the wall at her foster parent’s house for a while, but one night she and Nicole were playing around and it fell. Nicole had promised to get it fixed and give it back, but she never got the chance. It’d been with her since. 

Somehow, the soft yellow light reflecting off the glass makes Nicole feel like she can hear Wynonna’s voice. Nicole closes her eyes and she can see her. If she didn’t know better, she’d think she was standing in front of her. 

Wynonna would take her face in her hands and make her look up at her. She’d wipe those tears out of Nicole’s eyes with her thumbs and she’d laugh a little bit, a sweet soft sound. 

“Get up, Haughtstuff,” she’d say. “The store closes in an hour and you don’t have anything in this house for tomorrow. You’ll be okay. You always are.” 

Nicole opens her eyes and takes in a deep breath, but when she does Wynonna isn’t standing there. She’s not holding her face and the tears are still sliding down her cheeks. 

She feels calmer, though. Somehow that always works when she needs it the most. Wynonna is always there in her mind and in her chest, soothing her from wherever the hell she really is. 

Nicole finally pulls herself to her feet and grabs her wallet and her keys off the counter. She pulls her Carhartt jacket over her baggy red sweatshirt and leans down to slip into her boots. 

The tall woman bends her knees a little to look into the mirror by the door. Her brown eyes are a little red and puffy, but she wipes them again and takes another deep breath before redoing her ponytail and heading to her truck. 

 

*** 

 

The grocery store parking lot is almost empty. Nicole immediately feels guilty for pulling up so close to closing time when she sees an elderly employee sweeping the floor inside. She almost cranks her truck back up and goes home, but she sees Wynonna’s eyes shining and hears her say that she doesn’t want her to be hungry tomorrow.

“As you wish.” Nicole mumbles to herself, barely more than a whisper before she steps out of the truck. 

The redhead treads carefully across the frozen lot and into the dimly lit store. It’s barely warmer in here than it is outside. Only a few people seem to be working. An old woman, a teenage girl and a man probably around her age. 

The old woman smiles and waves to her. “Merry Christmas, Officer. Let me know if I can help you with anything.” 

Nicole hadn’t been here long, but this was the only grocery store in Purgatory and every employee seemed to have memorized the fact that she’s a cop by now. This woman is nice to her every time she comes in.

Tonight, Nicole smiles back and gives her a nod. “Merry Christmas to you, too, Miss Shirley.” Nicole keeps her voice soft and grabs a basket, eager to get what she needs and just get home. 

She grabs a few things that she’ll need for dinner tomorrow, and some for the next few days. When she ends up in the ice cream aisle, Nicole finds herself staring into one of the glass cooler doors for much too long. 

Her favorite ice cream sits on the shelf. Every time she wants it, she tries to convince herself that she doesn’t because it just makes her think of Wynonna and their Christmases. Sometimes, she gives in. Usually, Shae buys the ice cream for her and that’s easier. 

Nicole almost walks away from the cooler when she sees her--eighteen year old Wynonna in Nicole’s green basketball hoodie that’s too big for her. The sleeves droop over the palms of her hands and the necklace hangs around her neck. She smiles after she’d climbed the side of Nicole’s house in the snow to bring her cookies and ice cream on Christmas. 

Nicole’s eyebrows raise at the memory, her breath leaving her for a second as she recounts. When it fades, Nicole opens the cooler and grabs a pint of her favorite brand of Rocky Road. 

On her way to the register, Nicole keeps thinking about the memories and manifestations she’s been experiencing tonight. She knows that it’s only her imagination. The voice she hears isn’t really there and she isn’t seeing Wynonna’s ghost. But it helps. 

It helps enough that she stops by the bakery and grabs a box of white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies and tosses them into her basket. They won’t be nearly as good as the ones Wynonna made for her, she knows. But for a second, she feels hopeful that she’ll get to taste those cookies again. The ones made by the person she loved. Loves.   

Nicole carries the paper bag filled with her groceries out to her truck, trying to see through the cloud of her breath on the way there. It’s cold tonight. One of the coldest nights there’s been in weeks. Figures. 

She’s sitting in her truck, waiting for it to warm and rubbing her hands together when she notices something small moving in circles near the drink machine outside the store. The officer squints her eyes, trying to see through the cold windshield. 

“What the hell?” She whispers, curiosity overwhelming her. She opens the truck door and looks out, able to get a better look without the frosty glass in her way. There’s definitely something there. Then she hears the sounds. 

Tiny, pitiful cries coming from the little thing. Nicole gets out and stuffs her cold hands into her pockets, keeping her eyes narrowed as she approaches it. 

“Oh… What are you doin’ out here?” Nicole’s voice goes soft as she speaks to the crying animal. 

It’s a kitten. A small, ginger cat with long hair, trembling from the cold and crying its head off. Nicole stoops down slowly, feeling the cold, wet of the pavement soak through the knee of her jeans. 

“Hey. Hey… don’t run, okay? I won’t hurt you.” She talks to it like it will understand, like saying that will make it trust her. Maybe it works, because the cat doesn’t run. It lets her pick it up and bring it closer easily. 

Nicole’s big hands make the cat look tiny. It’s freezing , even with all that hair. She holds it up and it looks at her with wide, green eyes that make her heart do flips. 

“You’re cold… and hungry, I bet. Where’s your mama, huh? Why’re you alone?” She coos, watching the cat struggle, not to get away but to get nearer to her. 

“Okay, okay. Don’t worry. I won’t leave you out here.” She promises. Nicole holds the cat with one hand and unzips her jacket a little with the other. 

“Don’t scratch me, either. I’m helpin’ you.” She warns, gently tucking the cat into her jacket and cradling it there to help it get warm. 

“Everything alright, officer? We’re about to close up but I didn’t wanna leave you out here if somethin’ was wrong.” Nicole looks up towards the voice and sees Miss Shirley. 

“Hey, yeah everything is alright, I just – there was a cat. A baby one. I- I couldn’t leave her.” She explains, standing up and shrugging. 

Suddenly, the realization dawns on her. She needs stuff for it. Food. Litter. Litter box. At least one toy. She’d have to take it to the vet the day after tomorrow. Nicole takes a deep breath and feels thankful she’d saved a little bit of money for an emergency. This counts as an emergency, right? 

“Well, alright honey, if you’re okay…” 

“Miss Shirley, wait. I know y’all are about to close, but – can I grab some stuff for the cat real quick? I’m sorry.” 

“No, don’t apologize! Come on.” Miss Shirley waves Nicole in with the most sincere expression. 

Nicole walks as fast as she can to the store’s one pet aisle and keeps glancing at the cat in her jacket to make sure it’s okay. By the time she’s collected everything it’ll need, she looks down to find that it’s fallen asleep in there. Nicole smiles. 

“That’s nice of you, you know. To take that poor thing in.” Miss Shirley says when Nicole gets to the checkout. 

“It’s just so cold. I couldn’t –- besides, I’ve always wanted a cat.” Nicole says softly. 

They say goodbye again and Miss Shirley locks the doors behind Nicole this time. 

 

*** 

 

Nicole brings everything inside and gets it ready. She realizes that an hour has gone by by the time she gives it a bath to rid it of fleas, finds the best spot for the litter box and covers up all the small spaces it might crawl into. Is this what being a parent feels like? She wonders. 

The little cat lays sleeping on the couch, curled up in a ball. It still looks scraggly, but Nicole figures it’ll grow into it’s fur. Sitting back on the couch with the TV on, she pets it over and over as it sleeps. Her heart starts to race as soon as she remembers something. 

Nicole gets up off the couch as quietly as possible, careful not to wake it. She goes to the box she keeps on a shelf nearby and takes the lid off reaching inside without looking. She knows the contents of this box better than anything else in her home. 

The officer bites her lip as she pulls out the small object. The tiny blue cat collar Wynonna’d given her for her eighteenth birthday. For the cat. Nicole laughs, reaching up to wipe the tears off her face with the back of her hand. 

She’d found a place. She’d climbed a mountain. Now, a tiny ginger cat just like Wynonna had joked about is sleeping on her couch. 

She turns back to the couch and softly clasps the collar in place without ever waking it up. It fits perfectly. Nicole shakes her head, smiling even as she keeps crying. What else could this be other than some kind of miracle gift from her girl? 

“Thank you, Wynonna. Wherever you are,” she whispers. 

Nicole sits on the couch a while later, holding the almost empty pint of ice cream and watching TV while still racking her brain for what she should name this cat. It’d jumped down from the couch a few times and played with the toy she got. It sniffed the tree and tried to play with the lights. Eventually, it just came back and curled up to sleep a little closer to her. 

The redhead flips through the channels until a familiar cartoon from when she was younger catches her eye. The Legend of Calamity Jane . A badass, redheaded wild west character. Nicole had always wanted to be like her. 

She watches the show for a few minutes and it doesn’t take long at all for her to realize that this character is a lot like Wynonna. 

“Calamity Jane. That’s a good name. Another redhead, super cool. Reminds me of Wynonna, who I bet you’ll love. What do you think?” Nicole asks, looking down at her. 

The cat doesn’t move anything more than her tail, which flips a time or two. It’s a good enough answer for Nicole. 

“Calamity Jane, it is.” Nicole smiles, rubbing the animal’s head as she starts to purr. Just like that, her first Christmas back in Purgatory isn’t so lonely. 

Chapter Text

June 27, 2008 

 

Wynonna is thankful for her first full weekend off in what feels like forever. Two weeks ago, she’d put her ring on the finger of the best girl she’s ever known. Since then, everything has stayed pretty perfect. Nicole has work today, so Wynonna sleeps in and then spends time at the library.

It’s a new habit she’s really started to love. Nicole went with her the first time and they both got library cards. The pair spent hours looking at all the academic resources that could help Wynonna prepare for the next school year. Anything she can do to get on track and stay there, she tries. Nicole is always there by her side, helping her along and being proud of her no matter what. 

During her last few visits, Wynonna has been studying up on the things her History teacher had been going over when she would fall asleep with her head on her desk during his class. Today though, she finishes studying about the Roman Empire and curls up on one of the couches with Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande. 

Wynonna had been eyeing the book practically since she started coming here. Taking regular breaks from studying to creep over into the medical section and browse had become her thing. She’s been keeping a list of the things she wants to read after she finishes each “lesson” in the plan Nicole helped her come up with. This one has been at the top the whole time. 

By the time Wynonna’s phone alerts her that she has an hour before Nicole gets off of work, she’s read 96 out of the 270 pages. The older girl collects her things, checks out the book with the old librarian who knows her by name, and heads to her truck. 

The soundtrack Nicole made her for Valentine’s Day plays all the way to the recreation center Nicole works at. Wynonna drives around back and parks near the small field, knowing that’s where Nicole will be. 

Wynonna grabs the hat Nicole leaves on the dashboard of her truck and puts it on, pulling her ponytail through the loop. As soon as she gets out of her truck, she can hear her Haughty’s voice and the now familiar ding of a metal bat. 

A wide grin spreads across her face as she walks closer to the field, carrying a bag of things she’d stopped at the nearby gas station for. Wynonna leans forward against the short fence and drapes her arms over. 

She watches for a moment as Nicole gets down on her knee and explains something to one of the shortest girls in the group of seven to ten year olds. Watching Nicole with these kids has been something Wynonna could never have prepared herself for. 

Not only is Nicole just an excellent athlete, but she’s so good at teaching. She’s patient and kind and caring. Wynonna knows that better than anyone. 

The kid nods and Nicole steps off to the side, smiling at Wynonna before she turns back to watch. Wynonna watches, too, and the kid hits the ball perfectly this time. Nicole’s face lights up and she cheers, clapping hard. 

Wynonna pulls her lip between her teeth and feels herself melt for this girl all over again. 

When the play is finished, Nicole calls the kids in and says a few things to them before sending them off to the dugout for a break. They go one way with the other teenaged coach and Nicole heads straight for Wynonna. 

“Hey, Haughtstuff. Got you a snack! Oh, and your favorite chips.” Wynonna calls out to Nicole, wearing her big smug, happy grin again. 

Haught gives Wynonna that perfect lopsided grin, rolls her eyes playfully and ducks her head in the cute way that makes Wynonna’s heart feel like it’s doing somersaults. 

“You’re somethin’ else, Wynonna.” Nicole says softly, walking up to the fence. She leans down and tilts her head so that she can kiss Wynonna without their hats colliding. 

Wynonna pushes up on her toes and brings her free hand to the back of Nicole’s neck while they kiss slowly and sweetly. When they part, they’re both still smiling. Nicole’s face is warm and a little bit red from the sun. 

Wynonna’s fingers brush against her cheeks delicately, eyebrows creasing slightly. “Do you need sunscreen?” 

The way she asks makes Nicole’s heart flutter. “I – It’s just a little bit longer, baby. I’ll be okay. Thank you, though. You’re sweet.” Nicole tells her softly. 

Nicole would never get over how much Wynonna cared about her. Even though she was hard with other people. Even if she was reserved and scared of a lot of things. With Nicole, she’s always been amazingly considerate and kind.

“Also, how many times have I told you you shouldn’t lean your pretty face over this fence when they’re playing? You never know what’s gonna happen, I don’t want you gettin’ hit.” It’s Nicole’s turn to sound soft but concerned. 

Wynonna laughs, shaking her head. “Right, Haughty. I think I’ll live. Do you know how many times I’ve been hit before?” 

Nicole doesn’t want to think about it. Wynonna’s laughing, but the thought makes her stomach churn. 

“Well, not on my watch. Never.” Nicole promises, her hand brushing against Wynonna’s cheek. 

Wynonna turns her head enough to press a kiss to the middle of Nicole’s palm. “Whatever you say, Red. Here, cold drink. You’re sweaty.” 

“I’ll sit with you while they rest.” Nicole steps away a bit before moving back up to the fence and hopping it easily. She lands in the grass next to Wynonna and winds her arm around the smaller girl’s waist. 

Wynonna swallows hard, eyes wide as she looks at her Nicole. She could see Nicole do that move a million more times in her life and still think it’s incredibly sexy. 

They move to the empty set of bleachers and sit, their knees touching. Wynonna tells Nicole about finishing a lesson and the book she started while Nicole eats the snacks Wyn brought her, hanging on every word. 

“I’m proud of you. My smart, beautiful baby.” Nicole smirks with Wynonna nestled underneath her arm once she’s done eating. 

Wynonna blushes where Nicole can’t see, nuzzling her face more into the redhead’s neck. She stays that way for a moment, before she’s reminded of something and sits up again. 

“Oh, when you’re all done I-I wanna take you somewhere.” Wynonna bites her lip, blue eyes shining as she looks at Nicole. 

The taller girl’s eyebrows raise and a slow smile starts to spread on her lips. “We’re goin’ on a date? With me all gross from work?” 

“Well, we can go home and shower first if you want to.” Wynonna suggests, waggling her eyebrows. 

“Oh, we can, huh?” 

“You don’t wanna?” 

“Did I say that?” 

“Not in so many words.” 

“Not in any words, Wyn. Tell me where you’re takin’ me.” 

“It’s nothing special.” 

“Everything you do for me is special, ‘Nonna.” 

Wynonna’s eyes soften and she looks down at her shoes for a second, letting those words sink in. It’s hard to believe sometimes, but she believes in Nicole more than anything. 

“Can I surprise you?” Wynonna asks sweetly and so sincerely after a moment of quiet. 

Nicole smiles tenderly, nodding at the other girl. “Of course, baby. Whatever you want.” 

“Thanks, Haughty.” Wynonna sighs, leaning in to give Nicole another sweet kiss. 

Most of the money they make gets saved for their future. Wynonna doesn’t get to put as much aside since she still pays for her truck and phone bill. The Evans offered to take over that part, but Wynonna couldn’t let them.

Still, she’d put aside a little bit of money for this date she’d been thinking about for a good chunk of time. She wants to take Nicole someplace fun, somewhere she’ll really like. She wants to do it all herself. Wynonna just prays that the younger girl will like it as much as she hopes. 

***

Nicole’s practice doesn’t last much longer and they don’t waste too much time getting ready back at Nicole’s house. It’s not long at all before Wynonna is behind the wheel and driving them to a place Nicole still hasn’t guessed. Boy, has she tried. 

Wynonna pulls into the parking lot of a place Nicole has never been. The outside of the building looks fairly unsuspecting and for a moment, Nicole still can’t place where they are. Then she sees the sign and the bright neon lights on the inside and her eyebrows shoot up. 

“You brought me to the arcade?” Nicole asks, gaping at Wynonna. 

Wynonna swallows a hard knot and her shoulders go a little bit slack. She feels the blood drain from her face and shakes her head softly. Immediately, Wynonna starts to pick at the skin around her nails and she shrugs. 

“Yeah… d-do you not –– is it dumb?” Her voice sounds tiny and honestly a little scared when she asks. 

Nicole’s hands are on her face and her body is close to Wynonna’s before she even knows it. 

“Oh, baby.. No! Of course not, it-it’s perfect! I’ve never been here before, kinda forgot it existed. I’ve never been to any real arcade before, actually.” Nicole admits, a brilliant smile on her face. 

Wynonna soothes instantly, slouching into Nicole’s embrace in a happy way this time. A soft sound leaves her and she drops her head against Nicole’s strong shoulder. 

“God, I thought I fucked up.” Wynonna breathes out, laughing softly. 

“Never. God, never, Wynonna. I’m so excited I–I don’t even know what to say.” 

“You don’t have to say anything, Haughtpants.” 

“Well, maybe I know one thing. You’re amazing, Wynonna Earp. You’re perfect.” Nicole sighs at the end of her words and her eyebrows are pulled up so softly before she brings Wynonna’s face to her own and kisses her so deeply. 

“Well, lucky you, I guess. I’m all yours.” Wynonna jokes bashfully. 

“Damn right. Lucky me.”

***

Wynonna drags Nicole through the doors of the arcade and immediately they’re both overtaken by all the sights and sounds. The blacklights make the patterned carpet beneath their feet glow  and there’s so many things to do, Nicole doesn’t know what to choose first. Her grip just tightens on Wynonna’s hand and she doesn’t let go. 

“C’mon, cutie. First things first.” Wynonna pulls her along to one of the token machines and pulls out her wallet. 

“You want me to?” Nicole asks softly. She never wants to overstep or make Wynonna feel incapable. Still, she can’t stop herself from offering to pay for things a lot of the time with the knowledge that money has always come easier to her. 

Wynonna smiles and shakes her head, starting to fish the wad of cash she’d brought out of the small zipping case. “I got it, baby. This is like –- the only good part about my job.” Wynonna admits, shrugging. 

Nicole smirks and sidles up beside her and watches her feed cash to the machine in exchange for two cupfuls of tokens. Wynonna shoves one into Nicole’s waiting hand and laces her fingers with the other. 

“Where to, Haughty?” 

“I have to pick?” 

“I picked everything else, so yeah!” Wynonna smiles, looking around and trying to guess what Nicole will choose first. 

“I think… air hockey.” Nicole suggests. 

Wynonna looks up to find that precious smile that she loves on her face. She’d do anything Nicole wanted. 

“Deal. I’m gonna kick your stupidly hot ass.” 

“Oh, you’re on.” 

They play the game three times, Wynonna wins two out of three. Nicole pulls them along to Space Invaders , A Fast and The Furious racing game, Skee Ball and dozens of other things. 

They do everything and stay glued to one another while doing it. Nicole’s pretty sure Wynonna never stops smiling all night and that means she doesn’t either.

At one point, they take a break to get food in the small cafeteria and they sit on the same side of the booth and whisper sweet things to each other. They kiss like nobody's watching. They laugh and joke and talk. 

Eventually, Wynonna lifts her head from where it’s resting on Nicole’s shoulder and looks up at her through her lashes. 

“I do actually have one request…”
“Anything.” 

“You sure?” 

“Positive.” 

Dance Dance Revolution .” Wynonna says it with as straight a face as she can manage. 

Nicole looks mortified instantly. “Oh, god, Wynonna! I can’t ––” 

“Yes! You can!” Wynonna breaks, smiling and pushing her out of the booth and back onto her feet. 

Wynonna flings her arms around Nicole’s neck and kisses her all over her face. “C’mon, baby. You said!” 

“God… fine. You’re so…” 

“Pretty? Hot? Funny? Definitely the last one, right?” 

“Definitely... all of them.” Nicole sags, wrapping Wynonna in her arms and kissing her. 

“Stop trying to distract me with kisses and let me beat you at dancing.” Wynonna laughs when she pulls back from the kiss. 

Wynonna gets her over to the game finally and it’s a laugh fest from beginning to end. Wynonna can barely stand up straight from laughing so hard. Nicole manages to get her when she’s down and wins.  

“That’s – so not fair!” 

“Fair’s fair! Maybe if you weren’t so busy makin’ fun of me…” 

“I wasn’t making fun, I love… how you dance.” Wynonna loses her breath when she almost tells Nicole she loves her. God, does she love her. 

Nicole catches it and her breath gets caught, too. This happens a lot, from both of them. She knows what Wynonna is saying without words. 

“I’m sure… is it my turn to pick again?” Nicole says more softly. 

“Yeah, go for it.” Wynonna says just as soft. 

She’s grateful for these in between moments. When she almost says what she’s sure Nicole knows. What she wishes more than anything her brain would let her tell this perfect girl. One day, maybe soon. 

Nicole takes Wynonna’s hand and brings it to her lips. “I know just the thing…” 

“Oh, yeah?” 

“Yeah, and I’m for sure gonna kick your ass this time. Again.” Nicole will never stop gloating about beating Wynonna at Dance Dance Revolution. 

Nicole pulls her over and stops her in front of a big game called Hoop Fever . Wynonna’s big ego fails miserably. Haught’s right, she is gonna kick her ass with this one. 

“Okay, talk about unfair… how am I supposed to stand a chance?” 

“Aw, baby come on… it’s just a game.” Nicole pleads, laughing softly and wrapping her arms around Wynonna from behind. 

Wynonna leans back into Nicole’s chest and whines exaggeratedly. 

“Come on, ‘Nonna. For me?” Nicole pouts, giving Wynonna those big brown puppy dog eyes. 

Wynonna smiles wide and shakes her head. She can’t resist that . Wynonna turns out of Nicole’s embrace and bends to put tokens in the game. It starts up and Wynonna’s sure she sees stars in Nicole’s eyes. 

The basketballs roll down on each side and both girls pick up their first one. Nicole shoots hers into the net expertly and Wynonna gives her best attempt but it hits the rim and bounces off. 

Nicole flies through the rest of the balls and is done before Wynonna gets to her fourth. The machine screams that Nicole is the winner and Wynonna chucks the rest of the basketballs haphazardly. 

“Surprise, surprise!” Wynonna says, sticking her tongue out at Nicole. 

Nicole’s grin doesn’t waver, it gets wider as she leans her head back and laughs. “Baby…” Nicole wraps Wynonna up in one arm and puts more tokens in the machine with her free hand. 

“What’re you doing, Haught?” Wynonna smirks, trying not to sound soft. 

“Playing fair.” Nicole murmurs, pressing a kiss to the side of Wynonna’s head. 

The basketballs roll out again and Nicole picks one up and starts explaining the form Wynonna needs to use. Nicole explains it gently, but not in a demeaning way. Wynonna barely retains what Nicole is telling her, all she can think about is how much she loves her. How lucky she is to have her. How she never wants to lose her. 

Nicole shoots the first ball and then puts the next one in Wynonna’s hands and steps behind her. Big, strong hands rest against Wynonna’s arms and help them into the position Nicole told her about. Wynonna feels like putty in those hands. But when she shoots the ball, this time it actually goes in. 

The excitement that courses through Wynonna is like nothing else. Her eyebrows shoot high and her mouth hangs open, a loud sound erupting from her as her arms raise in the air.
“I did it!” 

“You did it, baby!” Nicole cheers just as loudly and looks just as excited. More excited than when she’d won. 

Nicole helps her that way through every single one and they get a high score together. 

They play until they run out of tokens and finally lug all their tickets to the counter and pick out stupid prizes. Wynonna drives them back to the Evans’ and they sneak inside and up the stairs to Wynonna’s room. 

Wynonna lays Nicole down in her bed and kisses her for what feels like an eternity. By the time Wynonna is snuggled up on her chest and they’re about to drift off to sleep, Nicole lifts a hand to Wynonna’s hair. 

“Baby?” 

“Mmhm?” 

“I just wanted to say thank you.” 

“For what?” Wynonna mumbles sleepily, lifting her head some. 

“For everything, for being you. For tonight. It was so much fun. I love… being like that with you. Having fun. Watching you laugh.” Nicole muses, sounding like she’s lost in some beautiful dream. Like she might even cry.  

“Nic… you don’t have to thank me. I love… giving you things. Being with you.” 

There it is again. Those sweet ‘ I loves’. 

“I just… ‘m so happy, ‘Nonna. So happy.” 

“Me too, Nic. Me too, baby.” Wynonna whispers, pressing a kiss to Nicole’s chest and nuzzling in closer. 

Wynonna falls asleep not long after and Nicole stays awake for a while, watching her and crying softly in the dark of Wynonna’s room. Happy tears. Hopeful tears. Tears of so much love she doesn’t know where to put it all, how to hold it all in. 

“Please don’t ever take this away from me.” Nicole prays in a quiet whisper to whoever will listen, staring up at the ceiling.