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“Tell me about Rosita.”

 

The room was warm, almost humid, and the shadows from the low-burning candles looked like ghosts against the dark walls. Outside it sounded like rain was trying to wash away Purgatory, as if the heavens wanted to banish the very land from the earth. Lightening flashed in the mountains and with each rumble of thunder, the windows shook and the house groaned, a wounded, determined sound that served as a challenge and a dirge.

 

Waverly lay back on her bed, naked and sweaty, her hair feeling oddly too heavy, too thick. But it was her chest that felt the weight from Nicole’s words, her chest and her stomach. When she licked her lips, she could still taste Nicole, and between her legs, despite the sticky evidence of their recent exchange, she felt empty and achy. She wanted Nicole’s fingers again. Her mouth. But instead she had to deal with Nicole’s words. She owed her that. At the very least.

 

She rolled to her right, finding Nicole already on her side, staring at her with big, sad eyes.

 

“There’s no excuse,” Waverly said, dropping her head onto the pillow. Nicole mirrored her actions.

 

“I know, but I want to understand better.”

 

Waverly wasn’t sure what good this could possible do. They were together and more honest than they’d ever been. Which is why she couldn’t deny Nicole anything, not in this moment.

 

“I was hurt,” she began, finding it difficult to stay still on the bed. “We were in such a bad place and I was so mad…there’s no excuse.”

 

“Waverly, please.”

 

The youngest Earp wondered when her back had started hurting, when her knees had starting cramping. She wasn’t old, not by far, but her body was tired and she felt so damn heavy. Nicole was so close, she could lean over and kiss her if she wanted, but the space between them needed to be filled with words instead of touches. Again, she owed that to Nicole.

 

“The second I kissed her, maybe even the second before, all I could think about was you. I was upset and she was smart and pretty and I’d been drinking. But when my lips touched hers it felt so wrong, like I’d touched my mouth to a stove top.”

 

Nicole reached between them then, resting her fingers against Waverly’s lips. Waverly could smell herself and she opened her mouth, flicking her tongue against the pads of Nicole’s fingers.

 

“I feel like I should be mad at you, but I’m not. Not really,” Nicole said.

 

“You’re allowed to be mad, Baby. I cheated on you.” The very idea set Waverly’s stomach adrift. It made her question everything she thought she knew about herself. Then again, everything was a lie, so little of what she knew was real, why should this be any different?

 

Nicole looked uncomfortable and frowned.

 

“It was a mistake,” she said as she ran her thumb along Waverly’s jawline.

 

“You should hate me.”

 

“I could never hate you.”

 

Thunder boomed outside, rattling the windowpanes. It sounded like an old, withered hand was rapping on the glass, trying to reach for them. But the Earp Homestead was old and solid and would not give up easily. Waverly exhaled and waited for the lightning.

 

“You made a mistake,” Nicole whispered in the pause, her hand folding around Waverly’s cheek, "we both made mistakes.”

 

A flash of electricity temporarily blinded Waverly, her vision going black and then there was just Nicole, a pinpoint, all Nicole, her face and her eyes and her mouth. Her whole world in that second was Nicole.

 

“Nicole, it’s okay.”

 

“No, it’s not.”

 

“We both did stupid things. They can’t just cancel each other out,” Waverly tried to argue, but she wasn’t quite sure why she felt the need to fight this. She had kissed Rosita and it had been a horrific lapse in judgment. But Nicole had lied to her too. And then Nicole had almost died and now they were talking, really talking and Waverly found that she only cared about what truly mattered.

 

“I’m not sweeping this under the rug,” Nicole said, “But it’s been so crazy, Waves. Sometimes it feels like I can’t even finish a thought in this town…”

 

“I’m confused all the time.” It felt good to say it, to confess it, to try to put words and shapes to her muddled mind. Everything happened in the blink of an eye, they lived in constant, mortal danger, and it led to split-second decisions and regrets. That was Purgatory. That was being an Earp.

 

“I’m not confused about how I feel about you.”

 

Waverly could hear the unasked question in Nicole’s voice. But I am confused about how you feel about me. How could she not be? After Rosita and Waverly’s reaction to the DNA results…

 

“I’m in love with you,” Waverly said. The thunder shook the room again and the lamp in the corner flicked out. There were still the candles and their shadows grew longer and more sinister. The room seemed to fill with demons, their writhing bodies held only by Willa’s wild-flower wallpaper.

 

“I’m in love with you too.”

 

The sweat on their bodies had long since cooled and Waverly found herself shivering.

 

“Tell me about Shay,” she said.

 

Nicole smiled a small, strange smile.

 

“We met rock climbing. We fell under the spell of Brittany Spears. And it was over before it started,” Nicole shrugged slightly, pulling the hand that had been resting on Waverly’s cheek back to settle against the bed.

 

“You have a wife, Nicole. How did I not know that?”

 

“Between the tentacle and the widows…it’s just a hard thing to bring up in conversation,” Nicole grimaced. She didn’t look embarrassed, more tired, sheepish.

 

“But a wife.”

 

“Are you more upset that you didn’t know or that I’ve been married before?”

 

Waverly swallowed hard. She felt naked in more ways than one and found herself wishing she hadn’t tossed her quilt on the ground.

 

“It doesn’t seem like something you’d do…”

 

“My parents had just disowned me and I felt free, free for the first time in my life,” Nicole said, her voice somehow airy and free from the judgment Waverly thought she might inflict upon herself. There was no regret in her voice. Waverly silently chastised herself for feeling angry about that, for wanting Nicole to feel regret.

 

“Shay was, well Shay was Shay.”

 

“Beautiful? Brilliant?” Waverly hated how resentful she sounded. Nicole darted her hand forward again, curling it around Waverly’s wrist.

 

“Don’t,” she whispered, her thumb slipping over the tendon beneath Waverly’s palm.

 

“If it didn’t work out, why didn’t you guys get a divorce?”

 

“Just didn’t seem important at the time. We were going in opposite directions, she was off to LA and I didn’t know where I was going to end up. We’re better friends than we were wives, we just didn’t get around to the paperwork.”

 

It made sense. It was logical. And Waverly knew that she couldn’t be mad about Nicole having a past. But she was. Irrationally so.

 

“Do you know that I get jealous every time I see Champ?” Nicole’s words caught Waverly off guard.

 

“Wait, seriously? Why?”

 

“Because he’s seen you naked. And he’s touched you. He was your first and I hate him for it, which is totally unfair because I didn’t even know you then.”

 

“I hate that she’s seen you naked,” Waverly said, “I hate that you’ve had a wedding before.”

 

“And I hate that he knows what you taste like.”

 

The words made Waverly lightheaded. She squeezed her thighs, squirming as her body demanded more, demanded to be filled and touched. Nicole noticed her movement, dark eyes drifting from Waverly’s lips to her breasts and then down, between her legs.

 

“I hate that Rosita knows what it feels like to kiss you,” Nicole said, breathless, a slight sheen of sweat over her upper lip. The hand that had been motionless around Waverly’s wrist stirred, Nicole’s index finger rubbing tiny, nearly imperceptible circles against Waverly’s skin. The room felt hot again.

 

“She doesn’t,” Waverly said, surprised at how low her voice sounded, “Not really. I’ve never kissed anyone the way that I kiss you.”

 

Waverly didn’t know how to put what she meant into words, she didn’t want to try. But kissing Nicole felt different than anything she had ever known. There were days when she couldn’t stop kissing her, she found herself sneaking away from work to find Nicole in the break room just for a soft, tiny peck. She woke up every morning wanting to find Nicole’s lips and on the night’s they had to be apart, she felt the loss of Nicole’s mouth so strongly that it caused her pain.

 

“How many times have you almost died?” Waverly asked instead.

 

Somehow Waverly knew that if she moved, if she reached for Nicole, their conversation would be over and they needed to talk. But when her eyes dropped from Nicole’s face, she noticed how shaky Nicole’s breath sounded, how suddenly hard the peaks of her breasts had become, swollen and dark and it made Waverly wonder how they would feel against her, between her legs, a tight nipple against her swollen clit. She wanted to cum against that perfect, white breast, she wanted to see Nicole’s chest glistening in the candlelight and know that she had marked her, that Nicole was Waverly’s and Waverly was Nicole’s and Shay and Champ and Rosita could fade away. She squirmed again. Her thighs were wet.

 

“Six, I think?”

 

“Nicole…”

 

All thoughts of Nicole’s breasts temporarily disappeared and instead Waverly couldn’t stop thinking about Nicole’s heart. She always thought that the Earps lived dangerously, that they faced death everyday. But it was Nicole who seemed to be the danger magnet and Waverly hated the memory of her screaming in pain, of how she had tried to say goodbye. It gave her nightmares.

 

There were only three candles remaining and the room glowed a hazy yellow. Outside the rain seemed even louder than before, each drop a drum beat against the windowpane. It made the room feel small, the belly of a whale surrounded by waves and wind and sea.

 

“Can’t remember the first time, I had really bad chickenpox as a kid. Almost did me in,” Nicole said and Waverly closed her eyes.

 

“Then there was the time my appendix burst, which is how I found out I’m allergic to thiopental. That’s a two-for-one because the appendix nearly killed me and then the thiopental nearly killed me.”

 

Nicole spoke with a hint of laughter in her voice, as if she’d told these stories over and over. But for Waverly it was a torture because she knew what it looked like when Nicole Haught was in the hospital. The way the gown fit her body…

 

“I ran into a house fire once, but it was totally worth it because I managed to get the cat out. And the baby.”

 

“Wait, what?”

 

“Nedley told me that I had no heartbeat when they found me after the Jack the Ripper thing, so that’s five. And then there was the whole Widow bite thing. So…six.”

 

“Nicole…”

 

“I’ve always been a bit accident prone,” Nicole said, smiling.

 

She was all contradiction and Waverly couldn’t quite put the pieces together. Organized and proper with a moral code, yet fearless to the point of recklessness. Nicole Haught would likely still try to make her bed with two broken arms. It made Waverly feel like she didn’t know her girlfriend at all. Except that wasn’t quite true because Waverly had always felt like she knew Nicole, like she had known her in another life or in some cosmic, impossible way, as if they had been made of the same star stuff and had finally been reunited.

 

“Can you try to be a little more careful?” Waverly asked, moving her hand so she could trace the scar left by the widow’s rotting teeth on Nicole’s arm. She felt each indentation, each tooth mark and shuddered.

 

“No,” Nicole said, her dimples flashing in the candlelight.

 

“You’re so bad.”

 

“Very.”

 

Waverly was throbbing now, she was almost uncomfortable in her need, and she wanted nothing more than to inch her fingers up Nicole’s arm, to curl her hand around Nicole’s shoulder and pull her in. Except she couldn’t stop asking questions, not in this found safe space, not in this darkened womb that held them both so strongly.

 

“Tell me about your adventures, about where you’ve been,” Waverly asked.

 

“Well, you know about the rock climbing,” Nicole began and Waverly let herself imagine Nicole holding onto some mountainside, biceps straining as she pulled herself up, sweat dampening her temples, turning her hair from auburn to crimson.

 

“I went sky diving once, been meaning to do it again. And bungee jumping, but I like the sky diving better.”

 

Nicole flying. Nicole hovering above the earth, laughing as she plummeted, her fingers outstretched, as if to grab the sky and take it with her…

 

“Then there was scuba diving in Costa Rica…”

 

“You went scuba diving?”

 

All thoughts of the sky disappeared. The closest Waverly had been to scuba diving was a worn-out VHS copy of The Little Mermaid she had found in Willa’s closet. Nicole had seen and done so much. Waverly had barely left the front porch.

 

“Yeah, saw sharks and turtles, it was incredible.”

 

Waverly was about to ask for more details when the last candle flickered out, casting the room in sudden, inky darkness. She gasped, surprised, and that’s when Nicole scooted forward, her side coming into contact with Waverly’s side. In the blackness, Waverly could just make out the shape of Nicole, her silhouette, the only light coming from the occasional flashes of lightening outside. For all she knew, she could be in bed with a stranger. For all she knew, she could be in bed with the love of her life. Her heart thumped loudly.

 

“At first it can be so scary,” Nicole’s breath brushed past Waverly’s shoulder, across her chest, and her skin erupted into gooseflesh.

 

“People really aren’t supposed to be underwater, we’re not made for it, so it takes a few seconds for the body to get used to the shock.”

 

There were fingers tracing patterns across Waverly’s ribcage, electric touches that went right to Waverly’s core.

 

“The first thing is your ears, because the water fills up everything, every crevice.” With her index finger, Nicole made a line across Waverly’s abdomen, from one hip to the other. Waverly’s fingers balled into the sheets.

 

“And then you have to remember how to breathe. You have to trick your brain to trust the oxygen tank, to count every single breath. One. Two. Three. But pretty soon you adjust to it and all you can hear is the sound of your own breathing. One…two…three.”

 

The tip of a tongue ran up the column of Waverly’s throat, leaving a hot, wet trail, and then there were open-mouthed kisses beneath her jaw. Nicole’s tongue batted against Waverly’s lips, stealing her breath away, taking it as her own.

 

“Sometimes, if the water is murky, it’s hard to know what you’re looking at and then out of nowhere something brushes against you.” The hand on Waverly’s belly disappeared and there was suddenly a flutter against her knee and then beneath her breast and then behind her ear.

 

“I saw a shark once, a tiger shark, it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. And the most dangerous. Until I met you.” Nicole’s tongue found Waverly’s lips again and Waverly opened her mouth, overwhelmed by the feel of Nicole, Nicole who seemed to be everywhere and nowhere.

 

Waverly felt Nicole’s hand descend and come to rest just below her naval.

 

“Their eyes aren’t really black, more blue, and I swear it looked at me, it saw me, its fin brushed against my hand…so rough…and then it disappeared again, like it decided not to hurt me, like it was okay with me being there.”

 

Sharp teeth nipped the skin between Waverly’s breasts and she called out, startled.

 

“But the thing about the ocean, what always surprises me most,” Nicole’s lips were against Waverly’s ear now, “is how deep it is, Waverly.”

 

A single finger was suddenly inside her and Waverly gasped, tipping her head back in a surprised, sudden moan.

 

“It’s deep and it’s dark and it’s everywhere.”

 

A second finger joined the first and Waverly dug her fingers harder into the mattress. With her free hand she reached wildly for Nicole, trying to find some purchase, something to hold onto, and what she found was a shoulder, hard and solid beneath her sharp fingers.

 

“It’s so wet that soon you don’t even feel how wet it is…”

 

Nicole’s fingers curled and then thrust, curled and then thrust, and Waverly arched off the bed.

 

“You’re surrounded by it, it’s all you know and all you can see.”

 

Nicole’s mouth ghosted across Waverly’s collarbone, a hot tongue dipping against the muscles in her neck.

 

“And even though it’s so dangerous, even though you know it can hurt you, you never, ever want to leave because it feels like home in some way that you can’t quite understand, it feel like coming home.”

 

The fingers between Waverly’s legs left suddenly, but only for a moment, as they spread wetness up over Waverly’s swollen clit. When they entered her again, Waverly called out, spreading her legs widely. She didn’t care about the noise or about what she must look like, spread and soaking and so open for Nicole. She squeezed Nicole’s fingers inside. When Nicole’s thumb pressed down on her clit, all Waverly could do was call Nicole’s name, the only sound she could make was Nicole’s name, as if it had been the only word she’d ever known in her life.

 

All she could hear was her ragged breathing and the sound of Nicole’s fingers thrusting in and out of her heat and the rain against the window. Nicole shifted again, Waverly never let go of her shoulder, but now there was a new sound, an unmistakable bzzzz, and when Nicole moaned, Waverly knew that her girlfriend was fucking herself, she was fucking both of them, and everything was hot and aching and sweaty, so much sweat and softness and silky touches, sticky, everywhere, everywhere.

 

Waverly squeezed Nicole’s fingers again, holding them still, because she wanted to hold onto her, wanted to cum all around her, and Nicole let her, not moving, panting loudly in Waverly’s ear as the buzz of the vibrator let Waverly know that somewhere close, Nicole was just as ready as she was. She imaged what Nicole must look like, posed over Waverly, one hand buried between Waverly’s legs, the other holding a vibrator to her own pussy, that pink, perfect flesh, that one spot, to the right, that made Nicole gush for her…

 

Nicole’s teeth set into Waverly’s neck, biting down hard and it was sharp and shocking and enough to make Waverly let go. Her hips bucked and every bone in her body felt like they were breaking apart as she undulated around Nicole’s fingers, the rhythmic, muscular dance nearly painful in its consistency. When Waverly felt a sudden dampness on her thigh, when she realized that dampness was dripping as Nicole lowered herself onto Waverly’s body, she came again, incapable of making words, incapable of anything but lying open beneath Nicole.

 

In that moment she knew what it was to almost die, to feel like her lungs and her heart had stopped. For the world to turn black and silent and then suddenly loud again. She knew.

 

“Waverly?” Nicole’s voice was beside her ear again, but Waverly’s grip on Nicole’s shoulder was gone. She was overwhelmed and dizzy and she reached down to force Nicole’s hand to cup her, to hold her as she felt each fading tremor. She held her hand over Nicole’s hand, needing the comfort of her as she rode out the last of her orgasm and then she let go, her muscles no longer able to take the strain.

 

Nicole gathered her up and Waverly let herself be turned and flipped so that she was lying sprawled against Nicole’s chest. They were both panting, streaked with sweat and more, and Waverly darted her tongue out to taste the salt on her own lips, on Nicole’s skin.

 

“Nicole…”

 

“I’m here, baby.”

 

“Nicole…”

 

“We’re going to be okay, Waverly,” Nicole said, folding both arms across Waverly’s back. Waverly was still spasming, softly, lightly, and it felt too good in Nicole’s arms, her tired body gently pressing down against Nicole in the darkness.

 

“Nicole,” was all Waverly could say, letting herself sink down, using Nicole’s body to keep her steady. The rain seemed so loud and her head felt so heavy. Nicole peppered Waverly’s face with kisses and the hands on her back tickled against her skin and Waverly was reminded that this woman beneath her almost died, was almost lost to Waverly forever.

 

“Nicole,” Waverly said again. Hand drifted over her shoulder blades and down, stopping finally at the small of her back.

 

“Sleep, baby. I’ll be here in the morning. We’ll both be here in the morning.”

 

The last thing Waverly said, the last thing she could think to say as she drifted to sleep was, “forever.” Nicole sighed and inhaled sharply and she was so incredibly alive beneath Waverly.

 

“Forever.” Waverly heard somewhere in the dark.

 

And she dreamed of nothing.