Actions

Work Header

Dust to Dust

Chapter Text

January 20, 2018 

 

This morning is the coldest one they’ve had in a while. Wynonna and Nicole had to put extra blankets on the bed the night before and Nicole had almost been late for work because of the ice on her windows. 

The last person Wynonna expects to see when she steps onto the porch is Waverly sitting out by the frozen pond. 

She’s bundled in several layers, but Wynonna still notices her light tremble when she walks up behind her. It’s not a surprise, Waverly can hear her boots crunching on the snow, but she doesn’t speak up. 

“Waves? What you doin’ out here? It’s cold as hell, baby girl.” Wynonna shoves her gloved hands deep into her pockets and tries to create some kind of heat to keep them warm. 

“Remember when… When I fell through the ice?” Waverly starts, messing with one of her nails. 

Wynonna notices that they look like she’s been biting at them again. And that she isn’t wearing gloves. Wynonna takes her own off and hands them over to Waverly, who puts them on robotically. 

“I do. You were going after Mr. Rabbit.” Wynonna nods. 

Her memory fails her sometimes, she’s not exactly sure why. But she doesn’t forget the good things she had with Nicole when they were younger and unfortunately, she doesn’t forget the bad things from her childhood, either. 

“When I fell through, I was scared. But I finally understood… Willa had tossed Mr. Rabbit out there on purpose. She knew the ice was thin. That even if she was watching, she wouldn’t pull me out. That she hated me. Now I know why.” 

“Is this about that journal entry thing? About you not being an Earp?” 

Waverly stiffens. She doesn’t need to answer, this is answer enough. Wynonna moves closer to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. 

“Waves, I remember the day you came home from the hospital. I picked out your name myself. They wanted to call you ‘Welcome’ for fucks sake. Welcome Earp , think about that!” 

The attempt at a joke doesn’t seem to give Waverly any kind of reprieve from her deep, saddening thoughts. 

“I tried so hard. Nobody but you ever celebrated my birthday. Or ordered copies of my school pictures. Or paid attention to my report cards.”

“Mama used to call you her angel.” 

That almost gets Waverly to laugh. “Yeah, well… Mama left. And Daddy wouldn’t even look at me. Maybe… because I wasn’t his?” Waverly leans into Wynonna’s shoulder better, resting her head there. 

“Look… I didn’t realize how hard it was for you. But that doesn’t mean you’re not an Earp.” 

“Well, we’ll see. I filled out some papers… just waiting for Shae to get them back.” 

“Like – like a DNA test?” Wynonna asks softly. 

“Yeah.” 

They’re quiet for a moment, just looking out over the frozen water. Wynonna slides her hand down, lacing Waverly’s fingers with her own. 

“No matter what the results say, you’re my baby sister. You’re Waverly Earp. You always will be. Got it?” Wynonna’s reassurance is firm, but gentle. 

It soothes Waverly in a way she hadn’t realized she needed. She will never doubt Wynonna’s love for her, but it helps to hear her say it. Waverly squeezes Wynonna’s hand, a soft smile making its way into her face finally. “I love you, ‘Nonna.” 

“I love you, baby girl. More than anything. Now, get your ass inside or something, it’s too damn cold out here. I have to go. Meetin’ Nic at the cop shop,” Wynonna mentions as they’re walking back to the house. 

“Cute coffee date with your sweetie pie?” Waverly asks, eyes gleaming a bit at the thought. Always the hopeless romantic.

“Sweetie pie? Gross .” She pauses. “I wish, but nah. We’re bustin’ in on your creepy ass stalker.” 

It’s Waverly’s turn to cringe. “ Gross. ” She makes a disgusted face, crossing her arms over her chest. 

Tucker has always been downright creepy, but his obsession with her has gone to new extremes lately. Finding out he’d been up in her bedroom, pretending that that poor girl was her … the thought still makes her shudder. 

“If you two don’t get to him before Rosie does, there might not be much of him left to get.” 

Wynonna grins at the possibility. “Might not be the worst idea.” 

“Hey, he’s still human. He can change. Right?” 

“Doubt it. Dude’s muy fucked up. But I admire your sweet, beautiful soul and I know that your super sexy demon and doctor will, too. Even if they want to rip that fucker limb from limb. As they should.” 

Waverly finally laughs and Wynonna feels triumphant as she opens the door to her truck. 

“Oh! Speaking of my sexy demon…” Waverly turns back to face her sister, tilting her head to the side, “Rosita and I are going to pick up your save-the-date cards later on and if you’re done, you know, wrangling Tucker, I thought it’d be nice if you came with?” 

Wynonna’s eyebrows raise. Save-the-date cards . Every time a new detail about her wedding is mentioned, she has trouble processing it. Maybe it’s dumb, but the thought of finally holding the cards and seeing which of the bajillion engagement pictures Waverly took she decided to use is… exciting

Besides, any time she gets to spend with Waverly is treasured and important, especially now when her little sister is having such a rough time. 

Wynonna nods to Waverly, getting into her truck. “For sure, baby girl. I’ll let you know when we’re done cleaning up that shit stain and you can grab me from the station?” 

“Got it. Be safe, okay?” 

“Always am. Besides, I’ve got my Haughty. Everything will be A-OK.” 

***

Wynonna and Nicole come crashing through the doors of the Gardner mansion together. The older woman enters first, holding Peacemaker by her side and Nicole flanks her, weapon drawn and ready. 

“Police! Come out with your hands up!” Nicole calls loudly, the sound echoing through the expansive house. 

Wynonna’s gaze is fixed up the stairs. “Tucker Gardner, we’re here for you, you little skidmark.” 

Somewhere in the house, a woman yells. Nicole reaches for Wynonna instinctively with one hand, still holding her gun in the other. They give one another a look. That’s all they need. 

The couple moves together towards the calls for help, finally reaching the room the screams seem to be coming from after a few moments. Wynonna kicks the door in and Nicole is a little surprised to find that it’s just the two Gardner sisters, Beth and Mercedes. 

“Wynonna?” Mercedes sounds confused. 

“Thank god you came!” Nicole can’t tell if Beth is putting on or if that’s just her real, annoying voice. Judging by her sister’s… she wouldn’t be surprised if it was. Either way, she drops her weapon, staying close to Wynonna. 

“Where’s your deviant brother?” Wynonna deadpans. 

“You don’t have him? Great police work. Just stellar.” Mercedes snaps, earning a sharp glare from both women. 

The older redhead straightens up, trying to resolve it. “I’m sorry. I-I just am really freaked out and… and angry!” Something about the way she speaks seems off to Wynonna. This doesn’t feel a whole lot like the fun bitch she knew in high school. 

Wynonna turns her head to look at her fiancée, who is already looking at her. 

“I’m gonna check the bedrooms. Stay here and stay safe, okay? Yell if you need me. I’ll be right back.” Nicole’s still serious tone is slightly different when she speaks to Wynonna. Softer. 

“You know it, Haught. Same to you.” Wynonna winks, watching Nicole leave the room before turning back to the sisters. 

“The last thing we remember is we passed out then we woke up locked in this room.” Beth explains, like it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to her. 

Wynonna starts a slow circle around the room, trying to take in everything as she does. If something is awry here, she doesn’t wanna miss it. 

“While you say you were asleep, Pervert Gardner Junior kidnapped a girl and held her in my sister’s bedroom.” Wynonna’s stone faced. Not giving them an inch. If either of them have any remorse for their younger brother, she doesn’t want shit to do with them. 

“I wish I could say I didn’t know it was just a matter of time. Tucker’s out of his tree. He must have roofied the Pinot Grigio.” The more Mercedes says, the less Wynonna buys. 

“So you two don’t happen to know a couple of bitches that like to get their Halloween on in creepy, black dresses?” She lifts an eyebrow, coming around behind Beth’s chair. 

“Um… no idea what you’re talking about. Sure you weren’t just drunk again?” Mercedes stands. 

The jab stings a little bit, but Wynonna won’t show it. 

“We’ve been locked in here for days! We’re victims! Just like everyone else!” Beth starts to sound frustrated. 

With that, she gives just enough to make Wynonna lean over the chair and near her face. “Everyone?” 

“Yeah?” With that answer, Wynonna grabs hard at Beth’s shoulder. The same shoulder of the Widow that she’d put a bullet in in the basement of Shorty’s. 

Beth gasps and Mercedes quickly moves to her side, pushing Wynonna’s hands off her sister. 

“She doesn’t need a fucking back massage, we need you to get your ass in gear and find Tucker.” Mercedes bites. 

“Frankly, he terrifies me.” Beth tries to sound pitiful. 

Wynonna stands up again just as Nicole is coming back into the room. “I heard a gasp, everything okay?” She asks, only to Wynonna. 

Wynonna nods, moving back to the Sheriff’s side. “We’ll be watching the house 24-7.” Wynonna says, not bothering with a further explanation. 

“What?! You’re gonna be watching us?” 

“It’s just for your protection.” Nicole adds, “In case he comes back.” 

“If you have nothing to hide then what’s the problem?” Wynonna narrows her eyes, looking between the two of them. 

She doesn’t know Mercedes well enough to know her tell for when she’s lying. 

“We’re not like our brother. I thought you of all people would get that.” Mercedes spits acid at Wynonna. It burns, just the way she wants it to, but Wynonna doesn’t let that show, either. 

“Nah, sorry. I don’t have time to play nice anymore.” Wynonna’s smile is almost scary. 

Nicole clears her throat and pulls a card out of her pocket. “Here’s my card. Call if you see him?” She sets the card down on the coffee table and follows the shorter woman out. 

“Baby, what is it?” Nicole says when they’re outside and out of the Gardner’s range. 

“I don’t know yet but something isn’t right. I feel it in my gut.” 

Nicole puzzles a bit and just looks at her. Wynonna turns her head to see the look on her face and urges with her hands. 

“Mercedes wasn’t Mercedes . Don’t you agree?” 

“Well, I don’t know her like you do…” 

“She’s usually a fun bitch, not a bitch bitch.” 

Nicole considers it, pulling her lips to the side and shrugging. “Okay, yeah. I can see that.” 

Mercedes had been lacking her usual, upbeat charm… if that’s what you wanted to call it. 

“Tucker had Hypnos put the town to sleep for the widows, right? Do you think his sisters were working for them, too?” Wynonna says it with so much conviction. She’s really on to something. 

Nicole’s lips pull into a sideways smile and her chest warms, still looking at her finacée as they walk back to the cruiser. Wynonna catches her staring and looks towards her, wearing a smirk of her own. 

“What, Haughtstuff?” 

“I just – you’re so goddamn smart , baby. You figured that out in like 3 minutes, all on your own.” 

Wynonna feels her cheeks and nose flush with heat. This cold ass day is no match for Nicole Haught’s love and praise. 

“You just love me, Haught.” Wynonna shakes her head, chewing on the inside of her lip. 

“I do, but that doesn’t take away from how smart you are. You don’t give yourself enough credit.” Nicole says sweetly, kissing the side of Wynonna’s head as she opens the passenger door for her. 

Wynonna pauses and turns her head to kiss Nicole fully. Her mouth is warm and tastes like coffee. Wynonna hums into the kiss and drags it out a little longer before pulling back and dropping into the cruiser seat. 

“What was that for?” Nicole’s cheeks are bright red and she sounds breathless. 

“You know how I get when you start callin’ me smart.” 

Nicole laughs, shaking her head. “You’re somethin’ else, Earp.” She says softly as she closes the door for Wynonna. 

***

“I texted Waverly on the way, she and Rosie should be here soon.” Wynonna tells Nicole as they stand by Nicole’s car in the parking lot of the Sheriff’s Department. 

Nicole has Wynonna wrapped up in her arms and her back pressed against the driver’s side door. They’re keeping one another warm, without a doubt. Nicole’s hands smooth down Wynonna’s sides underneath her big jacket and she presses kisses against her neck. 

“Keep that up and I’ll say screw the save-the-dates and follow you into the office.” 

That’s supposed to get me to stop?” Nicole chuckles against Wynonna’s ear. 

“You two. How come every time I see you you have your tongues down one another’s throat?” Lucado’s voice startles them apart. 

Nicole starts frantically smoothing the front of her uniform and Wynonna stands up straight, still cursing under her breath. 

“That’s how it is when you actually have someone who wants your tongue down their throat. I know you can’t relate…” Wynonna quips back, giving Lucado an overly sweet smile. 

“Hilarious. Got any news about your black ghost bitches? Something I actually care about?” 

“I- we… maybe we’ve got something. I can tell you about it i-inside. Wynonna’s got stuff to do with her sister.” Nicole explains, one hand resting against Wynonna’s hip as she leans in for a kiss.

It’s short and sweet, but Nicole refuses to leave Wynonna without one. 

“Be careful, okay? And come right back when you get ‘em ‘cause I wanna see.” Nicole grins. 

Even the annoyance caused by Lucado can’t keep her from being excited about seeing the first piece of their wedding come together. 

Wynonna nods, smiling up at Nicole and leaning back against the car. “I’ll hurry back. Pinky swear.” Wynonna offers, raising her pinky to the redhead. 

Nicole melts, wrapping her slightly larger pinky around Wynonna’s. “I love you.” 

“I love you, too.” Wynonna promises and watches her girl walk into the station. 

***

Rosita and Waverly pull into the station parking lot with Greedy by Ariana Grande bumping on the radio. Waverly pulls the Jeep into the empty parking spot right beside Wynonna’s truck and waits for her to come out of the station and join them. 

Waverly taps her fingers on the steering wheel, leaning her head back against the seat as they wait. Too much time passes. 

“Didn’t you tell her we were on the way?” Waverly looks to Rosita and asks softly. 

Rosita’s nose scrunches up with the question and she shows her girlfriend her messages with Wynonna, “Yeah, look. She texted back, said she’d be waiting.” 

Waverly leans over enough to see the messages and sure enough… Wynonna should be here. 

“I guess she’s inside and lost track of time?” Waverly tries, chewing on the inside of her lip. Waverly has a weird feeling deep inside. Something’s off. 

They wait for just a few more minutes before Waverly turns back to her girlfriend, her hands resting on the steering wheel. “Maybe we should just go in and see?” 

“Okay, baby.” Rosita can see the worry in Waverly’s eyes. She wants nothing more than to make it go away. 

Rosita and Waverly get out of the Jeep and Rosita opens the door to the station for Waverly. As she’s holding it, something off to the side catches her eye. Something on the ground near Nicole’s squad car. 

“Wait a sec, baby…” She says softly, stepping around Waverly and walking towards it with her arms crossed over her chest. 

The revenant kneels next to the darker spot on the pavement. From this close up, it’s impossible to deny or argue it away. Thick, dark red blood pools there in a few different spots. 

“Is that…” Waverly’s voice sounds far away. 

Terror practically pulsates off of her body. Rosita wants to reassure her, wants to prove to her that they’re wrong. That it isn’t blood, certainly not Wynonna’s or anyone else’s that they know. But when a metallic glint near Nicole’s back tire catches her eye, Rosita feels her stomach twist even more. 

“Oh no…” Waverly’s soft, pitiful voice gets even sadder, more frantic. 

Rosita lifts the long, gold chain from the ground and holds it carefully in her hands. All the pieces are there. The key, the beads, the tassel… just the clasp is broken. Like it was pulled off Wynonna’s neck. 

“Nicole! Oh, god… god , Nicole!” Waverly is hysterical as she can Rosita make their way down the hallway towards the Sheriff’s office.

With Waverly’s yelling, the heads of several deputies pop out of doorways to find the source of the problem. It doesn’t take long at all for Nicole to come clambering out of her office. 

“Waves?! What is it, what’s wrong?” Nicole’s hands find Waverly’s shoulders before going to her face, holding it gently. Her cheeks are wet with tears that are still falling. “Waverly, where’s your sister? Where’s Wyn?” 

Waverly just starts to cry harder. 

Nicole feels her heart start to pound. Hard. She turns to look at Rosita, who honestly looks more scared than Nicole has ever seen. “Rosie, wha ––” 

Rosita doesn’t know how to say it. “Nicole, I –- we pulled up. We were waiting for Wyn to meet us and she didn’t. We thought she was just in here with you but then on our way in I saw…” 

Nicole shakes her head. “No. She – I just came inside like 15 minutes ago. I was just with her. She… what did you see?” 

Rosita holds up the necklace for Nicole to see. A bit of blood has tracked from the chain and stained Rosita’s fingers. “It was by your cruiser. And there’s… blood. A lot. On the pavement.” 

Nicole feels dizzy. No way. There’s no fucking way this is happening. Wynonna’s necklace. The one she never takes off. Not in years. The redhead prays that when she reaches for the necklace, her fingers will just go through it. It’ll be some kind of mirage and she’ll just wake up from this nightmare.

Long, shaking fingers reach for the chain and close around ice cold metal. Her head spins and she has to catch herself on the wall to keep from collapsing. The way her stomach lurches warns her that she might get sick. 

“Woah, woah… Nic.” Rosita is at her side immediately, a strong arm around her waist keeping the much taller woman up. 

“I’m fine. I – we don’t have time for this. We need to f-find out what happened.” Nicole breathes, shaking her head to rid herself of the tears that sting in her eyes. Nicole moves out from Rosita’s hands and back into her office. 

She wastes no time pulling up the security cameras for the building and going to the ones out front. She pulls the footage back to the correct time. Rosita and Waverly huddle around her and watch. They see the two of them kissing against Nicole’s car. Then Lucado comes. Nicole goes inside. Wynonna waits around for a couple of minutes before a big Dodge truck pulls up and a man gets out. The recording then cuts to Rosita and Waverly being outside. 

Nicole’s eyebrows pull together angrily. “What the fuck? No. No! It can’t just… it can’t fuck up right there!” She sounds so afraid as she pulls the footage back over and over, only to find the same gap. 

“Nicole… hey… at least we can see the truck, and the guy. He looks a little bit familiar. Do you recognize the vehicle?” Rosita tries to speak evenly, doing her best to calm down both of the women next to her. 

“Every hick in this town has a fucking truck and you can’t see the plates here, I don’t have a clue!” 

“Okay, well, let’s see… it looks like –– Wynonna!” Rosita’s eyes widen and her mouth drops. 

“It looks like Wynonna what ?!” Nicole talks so fast and intensely. 

“She- your phone! She’s calling you! Nic, she’s calling!” Waverly practically squeals, more or less hopping up and down when she sees her sister’s contact info pop up on Haught’s phone that’s lying on the table. 

Nicole scrambles for it, forcing her jittering hands to answer it as fast as she can. “Baby? Wynonna?!” 

“Hey, baby, I – I’m sorry, I-”

Nicole feels so much relief spread through her chest at the sound of Wynonna’s voice. It just sounds like… like Wynonna. And she sounds okay. 

Nicole stands up from her desk, pushing her hand through her hair roughly. She doesn’t even acknowledge the tears streaming down her cheeks or the way her own voice shakes. “Baby, oh my god. What the fuck? What happened? We – watching the security footage from outside, it looks like someone took you? There’s blood and y-your necklace?” 

“Oh, that. Not mine. I got in a killer right hook before JC explained himself. Please tell me the necklace can be fixed though.” 

“JC? I– o-of course it can. Wynonna, are you –– okay?” 

“Juan Carlo just has some things he wants to discuss with me.” 

Wynonna’s being cryptic. Trying to say enough without saying too much. He doesn’t want her on the phone. Nicole gets it immediately and her brain switches, trying to decode as Wynonna speaks. 

“Wynonna, where are you?” She asks, sounding a little steadier with Wynonna speaking to her. Knowing she’s okay. That it wasn’t her blood. 

“Ahem… let’s just say, we’re at a cross-roads. We’ve reached a communion. Jesus Christ’s country house!”  

That’s all Wynonna gets out before the phone goes dead.  

“Wynonna? Baby? Ugh, fuck. Fuck !” Nicole clutches her phone hard and rubs her face even harder with her free hand, groaning. 

“Heeeey, hey this is good news, right?! She’s okay. And she said Juan Carlo… I think I know that name.” Rosita mentions. 

“Isn’t he the… the volunteer fire chief?” Waverly questions, wiping her eyes. Knowing her sister is okay at the moment has calmed her enough to help her stop crying, at least for now. 

“That and he’s… special. Not sure what it’s about, I can’t put my finger on it. But he doesn’t hurt people. Not that I’ve ever heard of.” Rosita moves to Waverly’s side and wraps her arm around her, holding her girlfriend close. 

“I just –- don’t trust that. His... his name doesn’t tell me where he is and I need to get to her.” Nicole breathes. She sounds completely exasperated and she’s pacing. 

Rosita understands. She can practically feel the deep ache that Nicole is experiencing. It’d happened to her when Waverly was possessed. 

“Well, she gave you hints… right? Cross-roads. Too many of those in the Triangle… uh, communion? Jesus Christ… They’re at a church!” It only takes Rosita a second to figure it out.

In this moment, Nicole is beyond grateful for the genius. Her eyes widen and she starts racking her brain. 

“There are a ton of churches around here, right? D-Didn’t Jer come up with a list?” Nicole moves around her desk, closer to them. 

“A list that got stolen by the spooky sisters? Sure!” Waverly quips. 

“You said he’s the volunteer fire chief, right? Maybe a call to the fire station would be a good idea? I mean, maybe one of them knows something?” Rosita suggests. 

Nicole and Waverly both look to Rosita with cinched eyebrows and parted lips. 

The call to the fire station takes more time than Nicole likes. Her worry for Wynonna only grows with every passing second, and Ewan is being less than cooperative. 

Just when Nicole thinks she’s going to start having another panic attack, Rosita and Waverly come crashing into the office once more. 

“Highway 62. There’s an old chapel out there. Juan Carlo has a chop shop nearby so that’s totally where she is!” Waverly explains, almost excitedly. 

Nicole feels her heart start to beat faster. Now that she has a location, a target, she needs to get into gear. The redhead starts scrambling into her jacket and plucks her keys from the drawer in her desk.

“Okay, if uh –- if anyone needs anything just… well, Waves, maybe just call Nedley and tell him what’s going on. So, he can be looking out…” Nicole talks at the two of them and is almost out the door when she notices Rosita shrugging into her own jacket and kissing Waverly goodbye. 

“What’re you doin’?” 

“I’m going with you, duh,” Rosita says it plainly, like Nicole didn’t even need to ask. 

“No, Rosie – I can’t ask you to… what if – ” 

“What if, what? What if Wynonna kicks my ass for letting you go alone? And you didn’t ask. I volunteered. Plus, Ewan mentioned stuff about the seals and I’m starting to think this might have something to do with the Widows. I can’t let you go into that alone.” 

Nicole lets out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. A bit of weight lifts off her shoulders with Rosita’s dedication. It’s true, Wynonna would kick someone’s ass if Nicole went after her into a potentially dangerous situation alone. 

“Don’t worry, Nic. I’ll call Nedley and then I’ll go grab the cards so you guys have something nice to look forward to when you bring my sister and my girlfriend back home safe.” Waverly tries to smile. 

The attempt makes Nicole smile only a little in Waverly’s direction. She nods to Rosita. “Let’s go.” 

***

Wynonna hasn’t really ever seen anyone look as calm as he always seems to with Peacemaker pointed between his eyes. Juan Carlo clutches her cell phone and doesn’t budge. He’s almost… smirking. It’s not devilish or coy, just… calm. 

“Thought we’ve done this dance before?” The smirk grows. 

Of course, they had. Wynonna met this man the day she killed her older sister. He was standing on the other side of the line and when she pointed Peacemaker at him, he looked how he does right now. Calm.

Juan Carlo had warned her about the things that wanted into the Triangle. Wished her luck. Told her they’d be watching, whatever the fuck that meant. Probably whatever this is , she thinks. 

“You know I’m not a bad guy. And you got into my truck after you decked me.” He hands her back her phone and she snatches it from him, shoving it into her pocket. 

“You said you have answers about the venomous vixens.” 

“I do.” 

“Then tell me.” 

“I can’t. I mean, literally. It’s my burden. My ‘curse’ . To survive, and witness. Never to decide. But you, Wynonna Earp… you’re all choices. I can show you what you want to know but you must go willingly.” 

Wynonna laughs. “Whoomp, there it is. The illusion of free will.” 

“Go into the church, with his gun and this…” Juan Carlo reaches out to her with something held in his hand. 

“Wyatt’s badge?” Wynonna looks and feels beyond confused, but she takes the piece of metal from him. 

“Place them in the center of the mark I have made and read the words. Now, before the sun sets. Or… you know, don’t.” He shrugs, seemingly neutral about whatever choice Wynonna decides to make. 

The Heir breathes for just a moment. Her brain is rapid-firing a million thoughts a minute. Finally, she looks up from the badge and at him. 

“Nicole is on her way.” Wynonna swallows thickly, feeling a little sick at the notion of Nicole coming out here into the middle of nowhere for her. Sure it seems safe enough right now but what if… 

“I have no doubt.” 

“I supposed to be looking at my stupid save-the-date cards right now.” Wynonna huffs. 

“You’ll be reunited with your fiancée and your sister before sundown.”

Wynonna looks at him with narrowed eyes, then back at the badge. She laughs a little, she can’t help it. “This is fruity, even for you.” 

“What do you have to fear, Wynonna? With Peacemaker at your side?” His question seems genuine. 

What do I have to fear? Everything. Because I’m not at their side. I’m not at Nicole’s side. 

Wynonna swallows her fear and steadies herself. “So, this little ritual is gonna show me how to stop the Widows before they find the third seal?” She ignores his question and asks one of her own instead. 

“Oh, Ms. Earp… it’ll show you a shitload .” 

Wynonna lifts her eyebrows and makes a face at him. Her cold hand clutches Peacemaker tighter and she steps away from him and towards the old church. 

***

Nicole barely puts the cruiser in park before she and Rosita are out. The Sheriff draws her weapon on the only man standing outside the church. She’s not sure how, but in less time than it takes her to blink, the gun is out of her hands and resting flat on his open palm. He’s standing more than six feet away, it doesn’t make sense… 

Rosita doesn’t take time to ask questions. All she knows is Wynonna is nowhere to be found and this man has powers of some kind. That’s all she needs to know. 

She steps in front of Nicole, the skin around her eyes darkens to black and her irises burn red. “I don’t need a gun to rip you apart.” She warns. Her voice is angry and dark as the demon within her rumbles to life. 

“I know you don’t, Ms. Bustillos.” 

“Where is she? What did you do with her?” Nicole speaks up, sounding more scared than she wants to, even though she might be more scared than she’s ever been. 

“She’s a willing participant. That’s the way it has to be.” 

Rosita lunges forward and grips the collar of Juan Carlo’s jacket. The sound that comes out of her is animalistic. She almost lifts him off the ground. 

“Hey… I know what you are and what you’re not. I know the things you’ve done… because you had to. You’re not evil, and neither am I.” His voice is strained and cautionary as he tries to reason with the revenant. 

The honesty and kindness makes Rosita falter. She releases her grip on him just a little and her eyes flicker back to brown slowly. “Just.. open the door.” 

“It’s not locked. And though her body lies in the chapel, Wynonna is no longer in our time.” 

Nicole isn’t even really sure what that means but it burns her. Makes her feel shattered and broken apart all over again. Wynonna’s body. She fucking hates how those words make her feel. 

“Her… body? Did – did you drug her?!” Nicole feels anger and fear surge inside her and she steps up, getting in the man’s face. 

“No drugs. She’s fine. But she won’t be if you wake her.” 

The small woman calms, reaching out and pressing a hand against Nicole’s abs, pushing her out of Juan Carlo’s space. “What the fuck does that mean?” She asks, still standing between him and Nicole. 

“Wrenching someone from a vision quest before they have completed their journey breaks their mind, or kills them.” 

Nicole feels like she’s going to pass out or throw up again. She can barely see the man in front of her for the spots in her vision. The cop swallows hard and tries to push the way it feels to know Wynonna is doing something that could get her killed out of her mind for just a second. Just long enough to learn what she can do until this fucking vision quest is over. 

Nicole pulls herself together just enough. She knows she has to, for Wynonna. If there’s any hope of getting her home alive, she has to. With tears in her eyes, she straightens up and looks down at the man, poking a finger into his chest hard. “If you fucking hurt her…” 

“I couldn’t, Sheriff. And she needs to see the past, if we have any hope for a future.” 

Nothing makes Nicole feel any better. She’s pretty positive that it won’t until Wynonna is awake and okay and in her arms. Safe. 

Juan Carlo hands the redhead her gun back and she takes it before turning away from him and heading into the chapel. 

The sight of Wynonna laying there on the ground threatens to break her all over again. Rosita is right behind Nicole, calling her name as she steps into the church but nothing can pull Nicole’s focus away from Wynonna. She rushes to her side, dropping to her knees and skimming her hands over her fiancée’s unconscious body. 

“Oh, baby… Wynonna…” Nicole breathes, tears wetting her cheeks. 

She pulls a glove from her hand with her teeth and wraps long, warm fingers around Wynonna’s wrist, searching eagerly for a pulse. She finds it quickly, even though Wynonna feels cold. Nicole lets out a heavy, shaky breath and a few tears fall with it. The thrum of Wynonna’s strong, unyielding heart soothes more than anything else has so far. More than anything ever could. 

“Be careful… don’t wake her.” Rosita’s voice finally cuts through. 

Nicole looks up to her friend and she can see relief on her face too. She wipes at her tears with the back of her hand and nods, sniffling. “I-I know… I just… had to check.” 

Nicole lets go of Wynonna’s arm gently and pulls her jacket back over the exposed skin, trying to keep her as warm as possible. Her fingers brush lightly against the older woman’s cheek and she can feel her lip trembling. In this moment, she can’t even care that Rosita is seeing her cry, seeing her weak. 

As many times as she’s died or almost died for Wynonna, the idea of her doing it hurts too much to take. Even the thought of Wynonna not waking up from this is too much for her to manage. Nicole squeezes her eyes shut and takes in a deep breath. Her fingers tuck a couple of hairs behind Wynonna’s ear. 

“Don’t do anything too fun without me, okay?” She almost laughs softly through her tears. “I’m here, baby. I’m here.” Nicole’s voice isn’t much more than a whisper, but it’s broken enough to make Rosita feel like she’s going to start crying too. 

They both notice the way Nicole’s voice makes a tiny smile appear on Wynonna’s sleeping lips. It makes Nicole’s heart start racing with fear and relief. A bright smile appears on Rosita’s face and she reaches out and grabs Nicole’s free hand, squeezing it gently. Nicole lets herself sit back against one of the rickety old pews and blows out a heavy breath, prepared to stay there for as long as it takes. 

Once Rosita is sure Nicole is as okay as she’s going to get, she decides to give her some time alone. She closes the big clunky door behind herself as quietly as possible and steps out into the cold. Juan Carlo is leaning against one of the old hitching posts, rubbing his arm. 

“How long does this take?” She asks, crossing her arms over her chest. 

“Time’s not really my strong suit.” 

“Yeah, and you’re not entirely human.” It’s an observation she’d made and decided on when he’d magically snatched Nicole’s gun. Plus the whole not being able to force anyone to do anything had to mean something. 

“Not for a while now. I was granted immortality, like your friend Doc. Along with some other perks, and some burdens.” 

Rosita nods, walking around to lean against the post next to him. She looks at the strange way he’s rubbing his arm and thinks she couldn’t have hurt him that badly. Then, she looks out into the white abyss and wonders how the hell this group always gets themselves into situations like this. “Have you ever thought of… I dunno, sitting down with us over dinner? Explaining some stuff? Well, them at least. I can’t go to their house.” 

“I’m not allowed to interfere.” 

Rosita’s eyebrows raise and she laughs. “This isn’t interfering?” 

“Oh, indeed! It is, but at this point I’m no longer afraid of the consequences.” 

Rosita’s eyebrows pull together as she watches him slowly lift his coat sleeve. Dark veins of rot stretch down his forearm, a sickly wound taking up almost all of the space. Even she winces. 

“A wound like this is fatal, even for me.” 

“Hey, listen… I can call someone from our team, we can get you to a hospital.” Rosita can’t seem to take her eyes off of it. 

“There’s no time. She’s here. Sooner than I expected, damn her. She’s looking for the third seal and I don’t have it nor do I know where it is.” He explains. Rosita’s heart starts pounding as she looks up and finds who he’s talking about. It all clicks into place. 

“The widows… they did that to you?” Rosita rises from her position, adrenaline coursing through her. Her first thought is Nicole and Wynonna inside the church. She makes quick decisions, doing what she thinks is best. Right now, that’s leaving Nicole with Wynonna. She moves to Nicole’s car and pulls out an extra gun, making sure it’s loaded. 

“Can you fight?” Juan Carlo asks. 

Rosita looks at him and cocks the gun, her red eyes coming out to play again. “Try and stop me.” 

The revenant moves past him, away from the church to meet the incoming widow half way. 

“Rosita! Whatever happens to me… don’t let her get to Wynonna.” Juan Carlo warns. 

Rosita hears him, but she doesn’t answer. For as long as she’s lived, she’ll die before she let anything happen to Wynonna or Nicole. She just hopes it doesn’t have to come to that now that she really has something – two somethings –  to live for. 

Rosita scans the trees down where she’d seen the ghostly woman appear. There’s nothing, and then there is. She’s there, right in front of her. Rosita’s body feels cold on the inside, the same sensation as when she’d met the widows before. It makes her bones ache and she can see her breath more than before but she doesn’t falter. 

“It’s over. Step away and you might be spared.” The distorted, annoying voice speaks from under the black veil. 

Rosita’s eyes burn bright and she grins, tilting her head. “Jinx. I was just gonna say the same thing. Except for the spare part.” Her demonic grumble is much more threatening than whatever this spooky sister has going on.

“Wynonna Earp dies tonight. I’ll kill her little girlfriend, too, I’m not picky.” 

Rosita feels angry. She grits her teeth together and points the gun at the shadowy figure. “You’re gonna have to go through me first.” 

“That’s the best invitation I’ve had all day.” The widow sounds almost cheerful as she lifts her hand. “Come, sister.” 

Rosita is caught off guard by the other widow sister sneaking up behind her and only realizes at the very last second. Just enough time to get out of the way. The widows move too fast and in circles. It’s like they’re everywhere and nowhere at once. Rosita aims and reaims, trying to get her eyes on them so she can shoot, even if she’s pretty positive it’ll be useless. 

Her heart is pounding in her ears. The next thing she knows, she’s on her back and they’re over her. She screams and their vapor clouds her vision. She doesn’t breathe it in this time, instead she holds her breath and closes her eyes, hoping that’ll work. 

Rosita blinks up at the two sisters standing over her, feeling a little dizzy. Holding her breath hadn’t worked. 

“Well, now I’m hungry.” 

“You’ve tracked the prey. Now, we feast.” 

Rosita knows with complete certainty that the only thing that can kill her is a bullet from Wynonna’s gun. No matter what these bitches do to her, she’ll come back. She only hopes that she doesn’t have to suffer the way Juan Carlo is suffering. The revenant swallows a hard lump and leans her head back against the soft snow before she passes out. 

Nicole hears the scream from inside the church and knows immediately that it’s Rosita. Her blood runs cold and her hands start to tremble. She kisses Wynonna’s face and stands to go and help her friend. Leaving Wynonna feels like the hardest thing she’s ever had to do. 

When she steps out of the church doors, Nicole is met with the searing screams of Juan Carlo. He’s laying there on the steps of the church and his body is being torn into by two shadowy black figures. Nicole figures that if the sight wasn’t so shocking, she’d probably feel the urge to throw up. She’s never seen the widows like this before, never this close. 

She feels the cold wash over her and sees her breath differently than she can in the normal weather. This was the experience Wynonna had told her about, when she thought she was being haunted. They look up at her with pieces of Juan Carlo hanging from their mouths and Nicole knows that she’s next. They’ll do this, or worse, to her in order to get to Wynonna. Nicole steadies herself and prepares to fight as hard and for as long as she can. 

One of them lets out a steady stream of vapor and a piercing screech. It makes Nicole’s ears ring and the vapor knocks her to her knees. 

Before they can move, towards her Rosita appears and steps in front of her again, with burning eyes and ice clinging to her lips. She fires two shots, one at each sister. 

The shadows scramble and Juan Carlo, or what’s left of him, is left gasping for breath on the church steps. 

“Rosita…” He chokes. It doesn’t take a second before Rosita shoots him to put him out of his misery. Slowly, the red fades from her eyes and she pulls in a harsh breath. She looks down at Nicole, stone faced. 

“Rosie…” Nicole sounds shaken and breathless. Ice pales her lips and she goes cross-eyed before she falls against Rosita’s legs. 

“No, you don’t…” Rosita groans, bending and pulling the much larger woman into her arms. 

The revenant makes her way into the church with Nicole’s deadweight and lays her near Wynonna. She stumbles back to the front, groggy from the poison and grabs one of the stray pews, heaving it in front of the door. Rosita works as fast as she can, stacking as much as possible between them and the door. 

Her vision is starting to waver again, she’s seeing two of everything. Rosita makes it back to where Nicole is before she collapses next to her against the hardwood. Her muscles feel tired and sore, but she’s surprised to find that the twisted sisters hadn’t tried to make a meal of her. 

They must not like how demon tastes , she thinks. The thought almost makes her laugh before she’s pulled into unconsciousness again. 

Night falls soon after. The three women remain sleeping on the church floor when the widows metal claws push the door open as much as they can. No matter how they try, the wood doesn’t budge. 

“Damn her! She has claimed sanctuary. Get the torch.” One widow spits at the other. Soon, both of the sisters stand in front of the old wooden structure with burning torches in hand. 

“Church or brothel, house or barn. These houses of men. In the end, they all burn.” One sister chants, leaning in and letting the fire catch and spread through the church. 

***

A bell ringing. Chiming, over and over. That’s all that echoes in Nicole’s ears from the moment she wakes. Her face is hot, much hotter than it should be in the snow. The first face she sees is Rosita, standing over her. Yelling at her. Saying her name. She looks scared, tired. Like she’s been crying. The flames from the burning church glow in her warm eyes. 

“Wynonna…” Nicole chokes out, pushing herself up out of the snow. 

“Nicole, no, you need––” 

“Sheriff…” A firefighter tries. 

“I need Wynonna. W-Where is she? Where’s my fiancée?” Nicole pushes by the fireman and Rosita. The smaller man has no chance in hell of stopping her and Rosita could if she wanted to but she doesn’t. 

Nicole sees her not far away, laying on the ground. Nicole feels like she hasn’t slept in weeks. Every part of her burns and hurts but she runs anyway. She doesn’t think about anything else, just getting to Wynonna. When she runs, she doesn’t hear the people calling after her or trying to put out the burning church. She doesn’t hear the bells anymore or notice the man following her, calling her name.  

The redhead crashes on her knees beside Wynonna’s body. She reaches for her wrist, then her neck, not finding the beat she needs in either place. Wynonna doesn’t have a pulse. 

Nicole is trembling everywhere, her hands, her lips. Snot and tears are running down her face and she still can’t hear anything, not even her own voice. God, she must be screaming and Wynonna just looks like she’s sleeping. 

“Wynonna. Baby. Please! Please wake up. Please be okay. Please!” Nicole checks for her breathing again and... nothing. She pulls off her remaining glove and pushes her hands into Wynonna’s jacket, starting compressions on her chest. 

“Sheriff, your friend already tried… an ambulance is on the way but… Haught, you’re hurt, I can help with that. Just let me help you…” The fireman tries but Nicole doesn’t listen. 

She elbows him out of her way hard and lifts Wynonna’s chin, pinches her nose and breathes two breaths into the love of her life’s lungs. 

“Come back to me, Wynonna. Don’t do this, baby. Don’t leave me again. Please.” Nicole begs through tears. 

Finally, Wynonna coughs. And again. And again. 

“Yes! Oh, god. Yes! Come on, Wyn. I’ve got you. Oh my god. Thank you, thank you.” Nicole takes Wynonna’s face in her hands, touching her cheeks, her hair. Everything. 

Wynonna opens her eyes, pulling frozen breaths into her burning lungs. All she can see and smell and taste is Nicole. “Nic.” 

Nicole pulls Wynonna up and into her arms, holding her against her chest and sobbing into her hair. “I t-thought I lost you.” Nicole chokes out. 

Wynonna buries her face in Nicole’s neck, her cold nose pressing into Nicole’s warm neck and nuzzling. She laughs softly even though her throat burns. The older woman’s voice sounds creaky when she speaks. “You can’t g-get rid of me that easy, Haughtstuff. You p-promised me a –– wedding.” 

***

Nicole doesn’t try to argue about going to the hospital when she knows Wynonna is alive. They both get checked and come out with nothing more than some smoke inhalation and some scrapes, and some bruised ribs from the CPR. Rosita, of course, is perfect. No injuries, no problems. 

Waverly shows up to the hospital, almost more hysterical than she’d been earlier in the day.

Shae and Rosita come out of the examining room and she rushes into their arms. 

“Oh! Baby…” 

“Waves, oh… When I called the station… I didn’t mean you had to come, they’re fine. We’re fine.” Rosita reassures, pressing a kiss to Waverly’s face. 

“Nicole was about to come home with Wynonna, they’re just getting dressed.” Shae adds, brushing some of Waverly’s hair back out of her face. 

The youngest Earp looks up at her girlfriends with red eyes and a trembling lip. “I–I just heard there was a fire and someone was dead and I – hurried. I was so scared. So scared, god.” Waverly buries her face in Rosita’s chest. 

Shae looks at them with a soft smile and rubs Waverly’s back, kissing her head and soothing until she calms. “Shhh… it’s okay, sweet girl. I’m sorry today has been so fucking insane for all of you. I’m gonna go check in with the nurses but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to come home with you, okay?” 

Waverly nods, taking a deep breath and wiping her eyes. “Okay, yeah I… really need it after today. Need you both.” She confirms, taking one of each of their hands and pressing a kiss to the back. “Besides, I think they deserve the house to themselves for the night.” Waverly nods in the direction of the examining room that holds her sister and Nicole. 

“That reminds me… I guess I might as well say this now. I got your results back, they’re in my office. I’ll bring them home and you can open them whenever you’re ready, baby.” Shae lifts Waverly’s chin with her finger and wipes her tears, speaking softly to her. 

Waverly thinks about the morning. About sitting with Wynonna by the frozen pond. The reassurance that had filled her when Wynonna held her hand and promised that no matter what, she’d always be her sister. Wynonna’s unwavering love. 

“I… I think I wanna do it with Wynonna. Not tonight, God, not tonight. But when I do, I wanna be with my sister.” Waverly nods, looking at each of her girlfriends. Their eyes reflect nothing but love and understanding back at her. 

“Of course, angel.” Rosita nods, pulling Waverly into another tight embrace and just holding on to her. 

“Yeah, Waves. Whatever you want.” Shae agrees. “I’m gonna go get ready, so we can all get the hell out of here. Please be careful driving home and don’t… run into anything else terrifying. I love you both.” 

“We’ll try.” Rosita smiles softly, leaning over to kiss Shae’s cheek and return the ‘i love you’ before she walks away. 

***

After a tearful interaction with Waverly at the hospital and a careful shower at home, Nicole and Wynonna lay quietly together in their bed. Wynonna is curled into Nicole’s chest, eyes closed but not sleeping. They haven’t said much more than ‘I love you’ over and over again. Wynonna hasn’t brought up the vision quest or the fire so Nicole hasn’t pushed. 

Nicole keeps pressing kisses to Wynonna’s face and head, touching her back and her arms, every part of her she can. Trying to remind herself that Wynonna is okay and here with her. 

“Nicole…” Wynonna speaks up finally, her sweet breath tickling Nicole’s neck. 

Her necklace lays on the nightstand with Wynonna’s for the night. Nicole has already promised to take it to be fixed first thing in the morning. 

“Yeah, baby?” Nicole leans back enough to see Wynonna’s face. 

“The – the third seal? It’s Doc’s ring. Constance Clootie’s wedding ring. She gave it to Doc, tied his immortality to it.” 

“That’s… pretty smart. Who's gonna rob a gunslinger, right?” Nicole decides, brushing her fingers softly through Wynonna’s drying hair as she explains. 

“I also know what happens if those bitches in black break it.” Wynonna’s eyes fill up with tears, but she swallows, not letting them fall. 

Nicole stiffens a bit, aching at the fear she sees in those blue eyes. She doesn’t speak, she just lets Wynonna take the time she needs before she finishes. 

“Clootie, the demon who started this whole goddamn story… will rise. And he will be pissy, given the whole buried alive thing…” She starts to sound like she’s rambling and her gaze is past Nicole, it looks far away. 

Nicole leans in and kisses her face, down her cheek and to her lips to bring her back. When the kiss breaks, Wynonna smiles against Nicole’s lips. 

“I’m fine, baby.” Wynonna whispers, kissing Nicole again softly. 

“Good. Because you really, really scared me tonight, Wynonna.” The sincerity and pain Wynonna finds in her favorite pair of eyes breaks her heart. Her smile falls and she tilts her head. 

“I just… passed out for a little while, Nic. I’m okay. I was okay.” 

“No, you didn’t. You didn’t just pass out. You didn’t have a pulse when I got to you. You weren’t breathing. Wynonna you – for more than a minute, you were dead and I was so fucking scared I wouldn’t get you back.” Nicole’s voice is thick with tears and they slide down her cheeks freely. 

Wynonna’s eyebrows pull together and she reaches up, brushing at the tears under her finacée’s eyes with her thumbs. Her lips part and her eyebrows raise as she tries to digest the information she’s been given. 

“I – wow. Never done that before.” She breathes, biting down on her lip. “Nicole, I’m.. I’m sorry.” 

Nicole shakes her head, wrapping Wynonna’s hand in her own and bringing it to her lips for a long kiss. 

“Just… please, god, don’t do it again.” Nicole begs, opening her eyes to look at Wynonna. She reaches and caresses the brunette’s cheek. 

Wynonna’s heart flutters in her chest, reminding her she’s alive and that she’s so fucking in love with this woman. That she never wants to do anything to hurt her. She hates that this happened, that it hurt her. She doesn’t know how she can keep a promise like this, but she nods anyway. 

“Okay. Okay, Nic. I won’t. I love you.” Wynonna kisses her again and prays that she didn’t just lie to the woman she loves most in the world. 

“I love you so much, Wynonna. More than anything.” 

“I know. I know.” Wynonna swears, twisting her fingers in short red hair. 

They kiss, just kiss, for who knows how long before it becomes anything else. It’s slow, they aren’t in any rush. Warm hands travel where they want and rest there, brush there, squeeze there. They love one another for what feels like forever in the quiet of their bedroom, under the light of the star lamp Nicole bought for Wynonna. 

After a while, Wynonna looks up from tracing patterns on Nicole’s bare chest. “I also.. saw Robert. Bobo. He was…” Wynonna seems to think, to be remembering something. 

Nicole props herself up on her elbow and looks down at her. She watches as her eyes widen and she sits up too, legs dangling off the edge of the bed with the covers still wrapped around her. 

“Baby? What is it?” Nicole asks, shifting across the mattress to press herself into Wynonna’s back. She wraps her arms around the older woman’s waist and rests her chin on her shoulder. 

“The Earp Heir, dead.” Wynonna wonders aloud. 

Nicole thinks she gets what Wynonna is hinting at. If the heir dies, all the revenants she put down come back. Does that mean… 

“It was only for a few seconds, right?” 

“77.” Nicole confirms the exact number of seconds. Too many , she wants to say. 

“Do you think…” Wynonna tries to question, but laughs and shakes her head a little. 

“I don’t know, baby. But I promise… no matter what, I’m here.” Nicole swears, holding her hand up and offering her pinky to Wynonna. 

Wynonna turns her head enough to brush her nose against Nicole’s. She nods and lets herself settle back into the warmth and sturdiness of Nicole. Beautiful, kind, steadfast. Her Nicole. Always. She looks down at the waiting hand and smiles, wrapping her pinky around Nicole’s and kissing her lips. 

“I almost forgot.” Nicole whispers, grinning as she pulls away from Wynonna and moves off the bed for just a second. 

Wynonna’s brow furrows as she settles back into the bed, resting with her back against the headboard. She watches Nicole go to her jacket and dig around in the pockets. The tall woman comes back to bed and wraps herself in the covers, sitting up against the headboard with Wynonna. She places a thick envelope on Wynonna’s lap. 

Wynonna smiles, knowing immediately what it is. Long fingers reach for the flap and she leans her head against Nicole’s shoulder as she pulls it open carefully. She reaches inside, pulling one card from the stack of many and turning it over. 

The picture Waverly had chosen shows Wynonna sitting on the tailgate of her truck and Nicole standing between her legs. Nicole’s hands rest on Wynonna’s thighs and Wynonna’s left hand is on Nicole’s cheek, her ring on display. They look close to kissing, but Nicole’s grin is miles wide and Wynonna just looks content and so happy. Behind them, the mountains and sky stretch on forever. 

“It’s perfect.” Nicole sounds breathless when she speaks. She leans more into Wynonna, her hand resting on her leg and squeezing softly. 

Wynonna smiles brightly, her dimples deepening. She can’t stop looking at the card. At Nicole’s smile. At her ring. At their names and the words ‘Save The Date’. At November 10, 2018 , right there on paper. 

“It’s.. this is really happening.” 

“Oh, it’s happening. We promised, remember?” Nicole turns to rest her face against Wynonna’s, nuzzling her nose against her. 

“I remember, Haughty. I won’t let you down.” Wynonna’s still smiling. She’s really doing it. She’s gonna marry the love of her life. The only person she’s ever loved. Nothing is gonna stop it, not some stupid fucking curse, not even death.