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In Another World

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***

“No. No way. In fact, hell no, Waves.”
“Language!” Waverly gasped, placing her hands over the sleeping baby’s ears in Wynonna’s arms.
“Oh come on, she’s a week old, she has no idea what we’re saying.” Wynonna hoisted Alice a little higher in her arms and turning away from Waverly.
“It’s so environmentally conscious though! And you’d save so much money in the long run,” Waverly wedeled, swinging around the banister to climb a couple of stairs to stand just a little taller than her sister, “And we can just wash them in the sink-”
“No, nope, we’re not washing any kind of sh-” Wynonna stopped herself at the look from Waverly and rolled her eyes, “poop, down the sink in the kitchen where we eat food. We’re getting disposable diapers, that’s it, Waves.”
Waverly pouted and flounced down the stairs to crash into Nicole’s chest, still glaring at Wynonna. Nicole huffed out a breath but smiled and wrapped her arms around Waverly.
“Thanks for the help, Haught-stuff,” Wynonna griped, bouncing Alice a little in her arms.
Nicole held up one hand in defense before replacing it to comb through Waverly’s hair, “Hey, I’m not getting in the middle of this. You’re just lucky she hasn’t gone off about all the breast feeding techniques she found on Youtube. Not one of our more pleasant night.” The last bit was directed down at Waverly who was currently trying to burrow herself as far under Nicole’s chin as humanly possible.
“I just wanted to be prepared!” She exclaimed, stepping back from her girlfriend and then rounding on Wynonna again, “But really, you should use a C shaped hand to help push-”
“Nope! La la la la la!” Wynonna shouted, startling Alice awake. The baby jerked a little in Wynonna’s arms and then her little lip curled up and she started to cry.
“Shit,” Wynonna muttered, pulling the baby up closer to her face, “I’m sorry, baby, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you, Alice. Shhhh. You’re okay, baby girl. I’m sorry” She nuzzled the baby’s cheek and pressed kisses against her silky dark hair and soon enough Alice quieted. Once she was resting easy again, waving her tiny fists in the air, Wynonna turned back to Waverly.
“We are so not talking about my boobs right now.”
“But-”
“Nope!” Wynonna groaned then, “I have to pee again! I thought this would stop after this little nugget came out but apparently not.”
She passed Alice off to Nicole, despite Waverly’s clear expectance to hold her, “Sorry Waves, you lost baby privileges when you started talking about how to hold my boob to feed her.”
Nicole smiled down at the tiniest Earp, the bitty, bright blue eyes, still slightly crossed but almost seeming to focus on her face. She wandered away from where the other two were shouting at each other from either side of the bathroom door and made her way to the couch in the living room. Since Wynonna’s ‘nesting’, the room looked much brighter, and the decorative pillows made the old sofa feel almost luxurious. Nicole leaned against the arm of the couch and put her feet up on the cushions enough to sit Alice up against her knees. The baby gurgled, waving her fists again, and pushing her way almost out of the blue blanket she’d been wrapped in. Her “Superhero in training” onesie (Doc had giggled for a solid minute after finding it in the store the other day and Wynonna had rolled her eyes at the sight of it, but smiled when she thought no one else was looking) had a tiny stain of spit up on the shoulder.
“Hey there, little bit,” Nicole whispered, leaning close that she might be clear for the still nearsighted baby to see, “Hey bug.” She rubbed noses with Alice and started making funny faces.
“You’re pretty much never gonna get hurt, you know that. You’ve got aunties and uncles and your momma could… well I mean she has faced down the devil. I mean. Basically. And your dad. Well. I’m still not totally solid on what’s going on with him but he loves you more than anything. Even that stupid hat.”
“Officer Haught, I am appalled at your allegations!” Doc had just walked in the front door, a bag of take out in one hand. Dolls followed close behind with another bag and Jeremy brought up the rear with a case of beer (and juice for Wynonna which she would whine about but drink. For Alice.), “My hat is not stupid. Though you are correct. I do love this pretty little peach more than just about anything.” Doc leaned over the back of the couch and tenderly kissed Alice’s forehead. Alice’s fists waved at the sudden facial hair but she made a sweet cooing sound that even Dolls smiled at as they marched to the kitchen.
“Hey Pod,” Jeremy bounced up, “Look what I got.” He shifted the drinks and reached into his pocket to produce a small, smiling, stuffed pea. Nicole laughed as he placed it in front of the baby before hurrying off to answer whatever Doc had yelled from the kitchen.
“See,” Nicole whispered, “We’re crazy, but we’re our crazy. Nothing’s ever gonna happen to you.”
A defeated Waverly appeared at her side and flopped down on the floor next to them, “She is so stubborn.”
“Oh gee, I wonder where you get it from,” Nicole laughed, kissing the top of her head and Waverly glared a little bit.
“You’re not gonna be like that, are you, baby girl?” Waverly clambered to her knees and leaned her head against Nicole’s stomach to talk to Alice, stroking her tiny feet, “You’re going to be calm and rational and listen to what people say, right?”
There was a snort from the doorway. Wynonna, a cup of juice in hand wandered in and plopped down next to her sister, “I’m sorry, have you met either of her parents?”
Alice’s head turned toward her mother’s voice and she waved her fists again.
Nicole felt funny, keeping the baby in her lap with Wynonna there but she seemed perfectly content to lean against the sofa next to Waverly and talk to the baby from there.
“Yes and I’m hoping their bad habits cancel each other out,” Waverly shot back, grinning at Wynonna. She swatted Waverly’s arm but then pulled her into a hug.
“I know you’re just trying to help. But for the love of my tenuous sanity, please no more talk about my boobs and their milk,” She shuddered a little, “Or ask how my uterus is doing. That’s why we have a doctor.”
“We do?” Waverly seemed surprised.
“Well. Sort of. I’m supposed to go see her tomorrow so.”
“Wynonna!”
“What! I’m going aren’t I?”
“In what car? I’m pretty sure you can’t put the car seat in your truck.”
“Which is why I was gonna ask to borrow your Jeep?” Wynonna smiled at Waverly, keeping her pulled in close, “Please! It’s for your niece.”
Waverly huffed, “You so don’t get to use that all the time.”
“Oh, I think I’m gonna,” Wynonna laughed and Waverly wiggled her way out of their hug, sticking out her tongue and laying her head back on Nicole’s stomach.
“Asshole.” She muttered.
“Language!” chorused Wynonna and Nicole, falling out into fits of laughter when Waverly gave them the dirtiest look she could muster and the scooped Alice up from Nicole’s lap.
“Come on, baby girl, let’s go see what the boys are doing. Et tu, Nicole?” she grumped, causing the other two to redouble their laughter. But Waverly smiled to herself and the baby as she turned away. She’d take all the teasing in the world to see those two smiling.

***

After a dinner of take-out, alcohol and lounging around in the living room together, Alice drifted off in Wynonna’s arms. No one commented on how the heir still teared up sometimes when she looked at the baby and Wynonna hurried off shortly after to lay Alice down in the bassinet that Gus had sent in her room. Doc, Dolls, Jeremy and Waverly were playing poker for pennies around the coffee table, Waverly perched on Nicole’s lap. Everyone was warm and content and a little bit tipsy. After folding her hand, Waverly turned and started pressing kisses to Nicole’s cheeks, giggling and edging ever closer to being properly drunk. They were all still in shock over what happened a week ago. The baby, the fight for the town, the fact that they’d all survived somehow. This calm atmosphere was almost scary it was so foreign but they were all trying their best to enjoy it while it lasted.
Everyone had (unofficially) moved onto the homestead. Doc still preferred his old bed out in the barn and Dolls took Waverly’s old room. Waverly and Nicole stayed in Willa’s old room that Waverly took over and Wynonna and Alice slept in her room. Jeremy even spent most nights in their parents’ old room downstairs. No one seemed to like the idea of being separated at the moment so they just kind of circled wherever Alice was.
Dolls folded his hand too and stood up stretching, “Bathroom. Anyone want anything?”
“Beer.”
“Whisky.”
“Beer.”
“Tequila!” Waverly chirped. Nicole laughed and shrugged when Dolls looked to her. He smiled and traipsed off, wandering to the upstairs bathroom. Wynonna had been gone for a while and his protective streak (even in the homestead with everyone around) was flaring up.
Her bedroom door was cracked open and he could hear Wynonna singing, softly, a little bit gravely but pretty nonetheless. Dolls knocked gently as he pushed the door open. Wynonna didn’t look up from the bassinet but patted the bed beside her with her free hand.
Dolls sank down next to her and watched Alice’s face as she dreamed. Wynonna finished her song and then sat back, still stroking the baby’s cheeks and forehead.
“I… She’s here and I still can’t believe it,” she whispered, leaning her head on Dolls shoulder.
“Pretty incredible,” He hummed, watching the tiny blue blanket across her chest rise and fall.
They were silent for a time, both watching the littlest Earp in the soft light from the bedside lamp. And then-
“Dolls what if I fuck this up?” He barely heard her, “I mean. What if I should have sent her away. There are still tons of revenants and the curse and. She’s just tiny and perfect and squishy and defenseless. She deserves so much better than me and this place and-”
“Hey,” Dolls wrapped his arm around her shoulders and squeezed, “Shh no, that’s not gonna happen. The homestead is safe again, the revenant activity has died down since the guys trapped Clootie again. We can keep her safe. We just have to stay calm.”
Wynonna laughed wetly, “Yeah, that’s what daddy said and look what happened there.”
“Well, you two have something he didn’t.” Dolls said.
“What?” Wynonna bit out, wiping her cheeks but keeping her eyes on Alice.
Dolls coaxed her face around to look at him, fingers under her chin, “Me.” He caught a tear as it escaped and brushed it away gently, “And Doc. And Waverly and Nicole. Hell, Jeremy has already started building a panic room to put her in if shit hits the fan. We all love you both. Not a soul in this house wouldn’t give their lives to protect hers.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of too.” Wynonna whispered.
“Did Wynonna Earp just admit to being afraid?” Dolls gasped, looking down at her. But he had the intended effect. Wynonna chuckled and wiped her face again.
“Yeah, well. Too bad I already said it. Can’t record it now.”
Dolls laughed too and stood as Wynonna did. She took the baby monitor off the bed side table and leaned down to kiss Alice, “Sweet dreams baby girl.”
She headed to the door and Dolls hung back long enough to run a thumb over her cheek, “Nothing’s gonna happen to you, little asskicker.”

***

Penny poker had somehow devolved to Waverly drunkenly recreating a scene from a James Bond movie, using Nicole as her femme fatale and Doc as her arch nemesis. Dolls and Wynonna returned to her jumping from the couch to the easy chair with the other three crying with laughter.
“And then he has this adrenaline gun in his car because he got poisoned and so. He takes it and,” She made a sound effect like some kind of injection and stuck the imaginary needle in her neck, “So he passes out and- Wynonna!” Waverly leapt off the chair and grabbed her sister’s hands, “Hi, do you remember what happens next?”
“Okay, which of you numbskulls gave Waves tequila?” Wynonna laughed.
“Me!” Waverly shouted, jumping up and down and thrusting a hand in the air, “I gave Waverly tequila!”
“I should have known,” Wynonna muttered, “Alright, double O seven. Let’s see what you’ve got against the Earp Heir.” Wynonna handed Nicole the baby monitor and then threw Waverly over her shoulder. Waverly screamed with laughter as Wynonna tickled her sides, carrying her out the front door and into the front yard. The warm week had ended suddenly and the cold snap had brought with it an extra couple feet of snow.
“No no no! Wynonna nooo! I’m not wearing a jacket! I’ve got a crop to on!” But that didn’t stop her big sister from chucking her into a snow drift. Waverly scrambled to her feet shrieking from the cold and brushing snow off her stomach.
“Well that’s what you get for wearing a crop top in March!” Wynonna laughed.
Waverly was about to respond when a perfectly aimed snowball hit the back of Wynonna’s head. Both of the girls turned to find the other four on the porch, decidedly not looking at them or one another, poorly smothered grins on their faces.
Wynonna cocked an eyebrow and surveyed all of them, “Dolls. Why are your hands behind your back?”
He shrugged, “Habit I guess.” But there was a glint in his eyes. Before Wynonna could say more, Waverly had launched a snowball from behind her, aimed for Dolls but hitting Jeremy.
“Hey! I’m not a part of this!” He squealed, shaking snow off his face.
“You are now,” Dolls laughed, picking Jeremy up like a human shield and taking off toward the barn just as Nicole gathered a handful of snow and smashed it in Doc’s face. He spluttered, moustache quivering as Nicole cackled, reaching Wynonna and Waverly in three strides of her long legs and heading to the collapsed shed.
“Come on, we need cover!” She called as Jeremy and Doc started hurling snowballs from behind bales of hay and the corner of the barn. Doc was still looking affronted but slowly made his way to join them.
Wynonna and Waverly laughed and ran to catch up with Nicole. She’d already stock piled a small stack of ammo and Wynonna grabbed one, aiming for Dolls. It hit him square in the chest and he laughed loudly when Jeremy it her shoulder a moment later.
Doc got a snowball to the hat from Waverly which made his moustache tremble almost more than when it hit his face and Nicole landed a hit much too close to Jeremy’s crotch for his liking and he yelped, diving behind Dolls.
Nicole giggled and then shrieked when Waverly snuck up behind her and stuck her freezing hands full of snow up the back of Nicole’s shirt, wrapped her arms around to the front and held tight. Wynonna sank to her knees, laughing harder than she had in years, watching Nicole spinning in circles trying to get Waverly off her. On the other side of the yard, Jeremy had jumped on Dolls back and they were chasing Doc around, trying to place his snow filled hat back on his head after Jeremy had stolen it. Wynonna just wanted to stay in this happy moment forever; sleeping baby, drunk, happy family, no impending doom, safe and loved Waverly. It was all just too perfect.
A screech rent the night air, echoing from the baby monitor Nicole had set on the porch near them. Wynonna’s heart stopped as she leapt to her feet. I knew it. I knew it was too good to be true. If they touch her…
“Alice!” She was sprinting into the house before she knew it, Waverly at her side, tears of fear already blooming in her eyes. Doc was right on her heels, and Jeremy too. Dolls and Nicole had both drawn their guns, backing toward the house, checking all the corners and horizons.
“No visible enemies.” Nicole muttered as they reached the front door.
“Upstairs. Go.” Dolls slammed the front door shut and they took off toward the stairs.
Wynonna threw herself into the room, Peacemaker in one hand the other balled into a fist, “Alright shitbricks, if anyone touches my-” but the room was empty. Alice was squalling from her bassinet and both the Earp sisters hurried to her side, Wynonna slipping the gun back into her boot and then scooping up her baby. She checked every finger, every toe, her cheeks, her neck.
Jeremy, Doc, Nicole and Dolls had all crashed through the door seconds after them and were waiting with bated breath as Waverly looked under the bed and in the closet. Alice had stopped crying and was now looking up at Wynonna curiously.
“Well?” Doc asked gruffly, shuffling forward.
“She’s fine. She’s okay.” And then a smile, her first smile, bloomed over Alice’s face.
“Oh my god she’s smiling at me! Waverly, look she’s smiling!” Everyone crowded around to see and Wynonna cooed, “Oh you’ve got the gummiest, weirdest, most perfect little smile I’ve ever seen. Did you hear all the fun outside and feel left out?” Alice gurgled in response.
“Decided to scream to get all of our attention,” Nicole chuckled, pressing a hand over her heart.
“Well, she is an Earp,” Dolls muttered, grinning as Alice smiled again and hooked her little fingers in Wynonna’s lip.
“We’ll have to teach her less horrifying ways to communicate,” Doc hummed, taking Alice from Wynonna and tickling her tummy.
“You two?” Waverly scoffed, “Please, leave that to Auntie Nicole and Auntie Waverly!”
Nicole blushed but wrapped her arms around Waverly’s waist, passing her chilly hands over the part of Waverly’s stomach exposed under her crop top.
“Cold!” Waverly jumped but Nicole held on and nuzzled her freezing nose into Waverly’s neck.
“Payback’s a bitch, huh Waves?”
“Gross, get a room,” Wynonna teased, sticking her tongue out at them.
“We will. Good thing it shares a wall with yours.” Waverly took Nicole’s hand and flounced out of the room, dragging Nicole behind her. Wynonna groaned but smiled as her little sister laughed her way down the hall. This was why youtube and headphones were created.
“Doc, you still on for more cards? I’m trying to master my poker face.” Jeremy struck a serious expression that wouldn’t have fooled a baboon.
“I’ll be right down,” Doc murmured, still only with eyes for Alice.
“Come on,” Dolls threw an arm around Jeremy’s shoulder, “I’ll teach you Doc’s tell.”
“I do not have a tell.” He grumped but they were already gone, on their way down stairs.
Wynonna and Doc stood together, staring down at their baby, Wynonna’s head leaned against his shoulder.
“We made something pretty cool, huh?” she hummed, stroking Alice’s cheek.
“Very cool, indeed,” Doc whispered back as Alice’s eyes began to droop.
“We got pretty damn lucky. With her. With Clootie. With everyone on our side.” She couldn’t look up at him.
“That we did. That we did. But I swear by every power in me I will not bank on anymore good luck where this angel is involved.”
“Absolutely not.”
They were quiet for a moment until Alice’s eyes drifted completely shut. Then Doc turned to speak into the top of Wynonna’s head.
“I heard there was a plan B. If all went to hell in a handbasket. I would very much like to know-”
“Gus.” Wynonna cut him off, “Gus was plan B. I was going to send her to Gus.”
“How?” Doc asked, cradling Alice a little bit tighter.
“Nicole. And a helicopter. And a couple other people. Good people that I can trust.”
They were quiet again.
“I was going to make sure you got to see her though. They wouldn’t have left until-”
“I know, I know.”
Silence once more. Alice sighed in her sleep and pressed her nose to Doc’s chest. Doc pressed a kiss to Wynonna’s forehead and then took a deep breath.
“Why didn’t you then? Send her to Gus?”
“I… I don’t know. I think I wanted her to know. About this, about all of us, her family. About how to protect herself if we couldn’t. The more I thought about it, the more I realized she’s safer here, with us. As crazy as that sounds.”
“Not crazy at all.” Doc murmured, “Wynonna Earp, you are one of the bravest people I have met in my life. And I’ve met my share. And I am very happy that this child will have you as a mother.”
Wynonna laughed, a tear splashing down on his shoulder, “Say that in a couple years when I can drink again.”
Doc chuckled but said nothing. Gently, he replaced Alice in the bassinet and headed for the door, “Would you like to assist me in showing Jeremy just how terrible his poker face is?”
“Ah, tempting. But I’m sure she’ll be up soon to eat and I’m dying for a nap before that.”
“As well you should have one.” Doc smiled and kissed Wynonna’s forehead again before sauntering toward the door. When he got there, he paused, looked back and tipped his hat, “Ladies.”
He closed the door quietly behind him and Wynonna flopped back on the bed.
“We all got pretty lucky, kid.”
She was asleep before Doc made it downstairs.

Chapter Text

As Wynonna had expected, she was perfectly healthy, even given the unorthodox place she had given birth. Alice was a bit on the small side, but healthy and with ‘the strongest set of lungs I’ve heard in a while” the doctor had said after administering a shot and receiving an answering wail. It had taken everything in Wynonna not to shove the doctor away as Alice screamed in displeasure, only calming down when she was bundled up in her blanket again and in her mother’s arms.

She pulled into the homestead, Waverly’s Jeep crunching through the snow and Alice asleep in the back. Dolls’ and Doc’s cars was still there, along with her truck, Nicole’s cruiser and… An old station wagon Wynonna didn’t recognize. Instantly, her hackles went up. Gus would have told them if she was coming for a visit and Nedley only came out if he absolutely had to. Other guests were virtually unheard of.

“What’s going on?” She breathed, parking next to her truck and killing the engine. Peacemaker was in its usual spot, in her boot and she crunched carefully to the backseat, head on a swivel as she hoisted Alice out of her car seat. The littlest Earp blinked awake in the harsh sun but sensed the tension rolling off her mama and stayed quiet, curling in close to Wynonna’s chest.

“That’s my girl,” Wynonna breathed, tucking Alice up close in the crook of her arm (she really was on the scrawny side) and drawing Peacemaker with her free hand. Everything seemed quiet and the house looked completely normal but… something felt off.

She decided to take the entrance in the kitchen, knowing the element of surprise would be more on her side from that direction, along with easier access to one of the bedrooms if there was a need to hide Alice.

The knob twisted easily and Wynonna crept into the house, taking care to miss the noisy floorboard and closing the door carefully. There was a murmur of voices, coming from the living room, dominated by a strong, low voice that Wynonna hadn’t heard in years. But… surely not.

Tucking Peacemaker back in its place and gently lifting Alice to rest against her shoulder, Wynonna made her way to the living room, stomach suddenly in very tight knots.

            Dolls and Doc were hovering in the doorway by the front door, both looking more uncomfortable than she’d seen in ages. Waverly was sitting with her back to Wynonna, tucked up as small as she could be in the easy chair, one hand tangled in Nicole’s hair from where her girlfriend was sitting on the floor with her back pressed up against the chair. Jeremy was standing in the opposite corner, pacing and talking a mile a minute, gesturing and laughing a little bit hysterically. And then, in the middle of the couch, broad shoulders, long, dark braid down her back, shot with grey and a sweater Wynonna could remember burying her face in as a little girl, watching Waverly drift off when she was no bigger than Alice.

“Oh look, Wynonna, Wynonna’s back. Hey Wynonna!” Jeremy spluttered, eyes wide as he tripped over himself to come to her side.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, “I… she knocked and I answered the door and she just walked in like… well.”

“Hey, Jeremy,” She stopped him with a hand on his arm, “It’s okay. You’re okay.”

 He nodded, swallowing hard and scurried to join Doc and Dolls.

 Wynonna ignored the woman on the couch as best she could, instead crouching down by her sister.

“Hey, Waves,” She murmured, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear with her free hand and continuing to curl it around her ear until Waverly turned and met Wynonna’s eyes, “Hey. I guess this is what I get for going to the doctor, huh? Miss all the excitement.” Her voice felt tight but it served its intended purpose as Waverly giggled a little, eyes brighter than usual.

“Yeah, what were you thinking? Taking care of yourself? Come on, Wynonna.”

Wynonna smiled and pressed a kiss to her head, catching Nicole’s eye and cocking her eyebrow. Nicole shrugged minutely and tilted her head, lips pressed together hard. Wynonna grimaced as she pulled back and then carefully set Alice in Waverly’s arms.

“She needs Auntie Waverly cuddles. The mean old doctor gave her a shot and she is pretty pissed.” That seemed to do at least a little bit. Waverly looked a little more anchored, holding Alice close and murmuring about all the good the vaccine would do. Nicole had twisted a little and wrapped a hand around Waverly’s ankle. Waves was in good hands.

Slowly, Wynonna stood, and finally, because she had no other choice, turned and faced their guest.

“And where have you been exactly, Wynonna Grace?” Her mother turned and gave her the same head tilt and not-quite-glare as if she were six years old again and coming in after sundown because she was climbing around in the barn.

Wynonna’s stomach rolled but she tried to steady herself, stepping forward a bit to block Waverly from view and cocking a hip, “Hey mom. Good to see you too.”

“Don’t you sass me, young lady,” Michelle Earp straightened her sweater, “Not when I’ve come all this way to tell you some important information.”

“Oh, is it that you’re going out of town for, I don’t know, 17 years?” Wynonna snarked, channeling childhood hurt into attitude that her mother never stuck around long enough to experience, “Or does it have to do with our sister being missing because, surprise. We found her. And another surprise, she’s dead again. For real this time.”

The tension in the room ratcheted up as Michelle stared at Wynonna, “You found Willa?”

“Oh cut the bullshit, you didn’t care the first time we lost her, don’t act like you do this time either.”

“How dare you-”

“Oh my god. How dare I?” Wynonna’s blood boiled and she tossed her hair over her shoulder, “Really? You left us, didn’t come back to see how Waves and I were, didn’t come get us when Daddy died. You didn’t look for Willa. You were just gone,” Wynonna gritted her back teeth and she could feel Waverly’s fingers tangle in the back of her sweater, “We were your daughters and you just left! Waverly wasn’t even five yet.”

"Where was all this when we last met up?” Michelle’s eyes flashed and Wynonna felt Waverly jerk her hand back as if she’d been burned.

“You went to see Mama?” She whispered, “And you didn’t tell me?”

Wynonna spun and dropped down to her sister’s side, “No, Waves, listen-”

But Waverly was already scrambling out of the chair, cuddling Alice up against her chest and she shot out of the living room.

“Shit,” Wynonna muttered, “Thanks,” She threw over her shoulder to her mother as she rushed to catch up with Waverly.” Nicole looked like she wanted to jump up and go too but Wynonna shook her head and held up her hand, “I got her.”

Waverly had already shut herself in her room by the time Wynonna huffed up the stairs. She tried the door handle which turned easily but there was something holding the door closed.

“Go away, Wynonna.” Waverly did her best to hide the tightness in her voice but Wynonna knew. She always knew.

“Waves, come on, let me in,” Nothing, just a sniffle and a wobbling hum of a lullaby. Wynonna’s heart ached and she leaned her head against the door.

“Waverly, please.” Still no reply.

Time for another tactic, “You’ve got my kid, you know. And I’m pretty sure all the love in the world won’t make feeding her a possibility for you. Unless you have formula stock piled in there, but that’s ridiculous,” she forced a chuckle and then realized who she was talking to, “Wait, holy shit, do you have formula hidden in there?”

Not even a giggle. Wynonna slid down to the floor, forehead still against Waverly’s door.

"Waves. Please. Just let me explain. It just. Happened and I didn’t want to worry or upset you or-“

The door flew open and Wynonna toppled forward, catching herself on her hands. Waverly stood, Alice clutched close, tears streaking down her cheeks and fire in her eyes.

“What do I have to do to prove to all of you that I don’t need protecting? Huh? What do I have to do to make you all treat me like a goddamn adult? For goodness sake Wynonna, I’m 23, I have multiple degrees, I fought off a demon that tried to take over my brain for almost two months, hell, I delivered your kid!” Alice looked slowly from her aunt to her mother but decidedly stayed quiet, “I can shoot and fight just as well as any of you,” Not strictly true but Wynonna didn’t think it was the right time to bring that up, “I’ve studied all the history of this and know it better than the dude who actually lived through it.”

“I know!” Wynonna jumped in, louder than she meant to, “I know. It’s just. You’re my baby sister, Waverly. And back then… hell, we barely spoke, let alone about her. Please. Will you just let me in to explain?”

Waverly’s chest was still heaving from her rant but she nodded slowly, stepping to the side so Wynonna could come in.

“Thank you.”

They sat on Waverly’s bed, laying Alice between them and putting pillows on the other two sides to box her in, even if her mobility was limited to kicking her legs and waving her arms.

“Okay. So. I went to see her as a favor to Gus.”

“What-”

“Waves, please just let me get this all out, it’ll make a little more sense then. Okay?” Waverly nodded and Wynonna took a deep breath.

“So. I did it as a favor to Gus. About five years ago, Mama got blood poisoning somehow and Gus knew we were the same blood type. So, she called me and asked. And kept calling and asking for a couple of days before I finally gave in. Mama was over in the Big City and I was a little north of there so I went. She may have abandoned us but… I couldn’t just let her die. And I’ve heard blood poisoning is a pretty nasty way to go…” Wynonna paused to clear her throat, and Waverly reached over and took her hand which did nothing to stem the waterworks she was already trying so hard to fight.

            “Um. So I went, and I gave the blood and I wasn’t even going to see her but. I was like, loopy from blood loss and…”

            “You’re allowed to miss her.” Waverly whispered.

            Wynonna laughed, still looking down at their clasped hands, “I really don’t even think it was about that. I just had to know. What she looked like, if her voice sounded the same… I don’t know. But before I could stop myself I was in her room and I just stared at her. And she stared back and finally, all she said was, ‘Thank you’. And I couldn’t even open my mouth. I just stood there for what felt like forever. And then a nurse came in and I ran.”

            “Why didn’t Gus tell me? I would have helped-”

            “I know you would have, and so does Gus. But you were just barely out of high school, Waves. None of us wanted to put that stress on you, Curtis and Gus knew you’d drop everything and you’d just started classes and… She doesn’t deserve the good that you are.”

            “She doesn’t deserve you either.”

            Wynonna scoffed, “Debatable.”

            “No, it isn’t. You’ve done so much, selflessly and…”

            “And I’ve got a lot of shit to make up for.”

            Waverly looked like she wanted to contradict but Wynonna plowed on, “You know, I remember, you must have only been about a year old, the first time Mama took us to the arch. Willa and I were scared because she’d just packed us up in the car and spun out of the homestead, trying to hide the fact that her nose was bleeding and her eye was almost swollen shut. But you…” Wynonna grinned at the memory, “You didn’t know anything bad was happening. You were just so happy to be in the car and going somewhere. You were all smiles and babbling and looking at me and Willa and playing with our fingers,” Wynonna paused to wipe her cheek, not entirely sure when she’d started crying, “It was like the sun came out and you were just at the center of the light. And I decided right then that no matter what, I was gonna protect you from whatever I could.”

            Waverly whimpered and leaned her head against Wynonna’s shoulder.

            “And I know I didn’t always do a great job and I ganged up on you with Willa but… Making sure you stayed in the light was all that mattered. Even if it meant I had to be far away to keep it safe. And I just… I still see it sometimes and I can’t bring myself to snuff it out even a little.”

             Waverly pressed her face into Wynonna’s neck and clung to her hand, “You have to let me deal with it sometime.”

            “I know. I know and I’m trying, baby girl, I swear. But I am never, ever going to stop trying to protect you.”

            “Same goes for you, dummy,” Waverly laughed wetly and pulled back, wiping her cheeks and then gently thumbing away the tears on Wynonna’s face.

            “I love you, Waves, and I’m sorry I wasn’t here when she just… barged in. And for all the other times I wasn’t here too.”

            “I love you too. And. I don’t really know what good it would have done. No matter how much we tried to get her to leave she said she had to tell you something important and then attached herself to the sofa. I didn’t really know what to do, I mean, I barely knew her. I kept remember so many silly little details that don’t even matter, the way she smelled, the scar on her shoulder, how she looked when she picked us up. And I was suddenly four again and scared because she just. Left.”

            “It’s not the easiest life, but here we are.”

            Waverly laughed, “More or less in one piece.”

            “More or less,” Wynonna’s eyes skated over Alice, blue eyes wide as she turned this way and that, trying to keep track of what sounds came from where.

            “She’s going to have it so much better,” She breathed, “That’s why I couldn’t follow through with sending her away. I wanted her to know that she is loved and she has a family and no matter how or why that family is together, we still are one. And we stick together and love each other, no matter what.”

            “Wow… motherhood has made you such a squish,” Waverly hummed, laying down next to Alice on the bed, taking her tiny hand and staring at her fingernails, “Can we just stay up here? I don’t want to deal with whatever she’s going to say. Not right now.”

            “I know dude, but we gotta.” Wynonna hoisted herself off the bed and stooping to pick Alice up off the bed, “The sooner we talk to her, the sooner she’ll leave.”

            Waverly groaned from the bed but Wynonna just turned and headed for the door, pausing when she realized her sister wasn’t with her.

            “Waves, please? I don’t know if I can do this without you.” Even though things were patched up with Waverly, her stomach still rolled violently at the thought of talking to her mother downstairs and it felt like her chest was in a vice.

            “You’re Wynonna Earp,” Waverly snorted, “You can do anything.” But she slid off the bed and joined the other two Earps at the door, kissing Alice’s hand where it rested on Wynonna’s shoulder.

            “Actually, can you take her? Part of me doesn’t want to… share her, ya know?”

            Waverly nodded and took the baby, tucking the tiny face under her chin and adjusting the blanket around her.

            “Alright, let’s do this.

           

            Slowly, the three descended the staircase, and turned toward the living room to find Dolls and Nicole standing guard at the entrance. Waverly touched Nicole’s back gingerly and instantly had her full attention.

            “Okay?” Nicole hummed, so low that Wynonna barely heard.

            Waverly nodded, pressing her forehead briefly to Nicole’s. Wynonna stood just over Dolls’ shoulder. From her vantage she could see Jeremy and Doc leaning against either side of the entrance that led to the front door.

            “What are you doing?” She whispered.

            “She, ah… tried to follow you and we all kind of. Reacted. We weren’t sure about the vibe up there.”

            Wynonna squeezed his hand hard, breathing out a sigh, “Thank you.”

            He just barely winked and then let go of her hand and relaxed his position somewhat.

            “Finally,” Michelle turned toward the girls, “Your friends have kept me in here the entire time.”

            Wynonna didn’t respond, just sauntered in with a confidence she didn’t feel and leaned against the side of the easy chair. Waverly had taken up her spot again but this time, Nicole squeezed herself into the seat too and ended up half sitting on the arm, fingertips just barely trailing over Waverly’s shoulder. It didn’t escape anyone’s notice that Michelle’s eyes narrowed at that.

            “Alright, we’re here, so start talking so you can start leaving.” Wynonna drawled.

            “Really? You’re not going to introduce me to my grandchild?” Wynonna winced. She knew her mother couldn’t have missed the tiny bundle she and Waverly had passed back and forth but ‘my grandchild’ grated against her ears.

            “Um, nope. My kid is my kid, I get a say in who they meet and, oh look, it’s not you. Don’t need you breaking any other Earp hearts.”

            There was a flash of something in Michelle’s eyes that looked like hurt but she hid it quickly and crossed her legs.

            “Well this is a family matter so…” She cast a haughty gaze over those on the perimeter and Wynonna’s blood boiled.

            “Yeah, the family’s all here. So start talking.”

            “I don’t think you understand me, Wynonna-”

            “Yeah, I do. So get on with it.”

            Michelle Earp pursed her lips but thankfully, didn’t push the issue any further, “Alright then."

            She cast one more dark look toward Nicole, who met her eyes fully and wrapped her arm more fully around Waverly, not breaking eye contact as she kissed her head. Michelle frowned a bit more but broke off first, instead turning to Wynonna.

            “You’re missing a Clootie.”

            Wynonna snorted out of reflex, “Yeah, okay. Pretty sure we got all of them. One’s lost her head in the salt flats, one’s trapped in an old mine shaft, thanks to the boys and Doc and I literally split a bullet in half midair to kill the other two.”

            “There is another.” Michelle insisted, tight lipped.

            “Wait, are you talking about the sons?” Dolls asked, earning a surprised glare from Michelle that he completely ignored.

            “Yeah, because Waves made sure one couldn’t come back,” Wynonna said proudly, “and the revenants took care of the other one with an actual firing squad so.”

            “There’s another child of Clootie.” Michelle snapped.

            “How the hell would you know?” Waverly muttered in a low voice, eyes locked on her mother’s shoulder, not wanting to see her face.

            “Because I was married to an Earp and there are some things that have been lost apparently.”

            “Wait hold on, another kid? Clootie? With who? Niether of the Grey Gardens girls ever said anything about having a kid.” Wynonna dropped on to the other arm of the chair. It groaned at being piled three people high but held true.

            “That’s because it was out of wed-lock” Michelle answered, making it sound like it was ridiculous that Wynonna hadn’t come to that conclusion first.

            “That must have been hard,” Jeremy tried to laugh. They all stared at him until he jumped and explained, “Um, you know. Polygamy. Already had three wives and-”

            Doc clapped a hand on his shoulder, “We understand, son.”

            Michelle turned back to Wynonna, “Judge Clootie was a polygamist but he also had more extramarital affairs than anyone could keep up with. Only one produced a child though.”

            “Yeah, okay,” Wynonna spun her hand, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

            “The child’s mother was Wyatt Earp’s sister.”

            Silence rang through the house as every (adult) eye fell on Michelle.

            “No fuc-fudging way,” Wynonna breathed.

            “Wyatt didn’t have a sister,” Waverly snapped, “I’ve read everything there is about him and there was never any mention of-”

            “Oh little darlin’, that’s where you’re wrong I am afraid,” Doc’s eyes had clouded over and he tipped back the brim of his hat, “Wyatt did indeed have a sister. Greta. They were not close and grew even further apart when Wyatt arrested her husband, Richard, for horse rustling. She was a spiteful, mean little viper before then anyway.”

            If Michelle was confused about Doc’s intimate knowledge of Wyatt’s family, she didn’t show it, “Spiteful enough to take up with Wyatt’s arch-enemy just days after her husband’s hanging.”

            “Come to think of it, no one saw her after that day. Everyone reckoned she’d run off or died of grief somewhere.” Doc muttered, smoothing his moustache, “Truthfully, I didn’t pay much attention to her, just tried to steer clear.”

            “Well she did run off. But only after she figured out that she was pregnant.”

            “Okay,” Wynonna sighed, “So how do we know she wasn’t just knocked up by her husband before he was hanged?”

            “Her husband had been away for a month and a half before returning and they did not have a moment together. Wyatt arrested him on his way back into town.” Doc supplied.

            Wynonna blew out a sigh, “I don’t suppose she was just… having fun sleeping around behind her husband’s back? Could be lots of guys?”

            “Greta was full of venom but she was devoted to Richard until his feet stopped twitching.”

            “Thanks, Doc, not an image I needed,” Jeremy muttered and Wynonna bit back a sarcastic comment about literally all the other weird, gross, morbid shit he’d seen. Not now.

            “So. This other kid. Is half Earp and half Clootie?” Nicole murmured, “Honestly, how has the world not actually ended yet?”

            “And that’s another problem,” Michelle cut Nicole off, flicking her eyes over how Nicole’s finger was wrapped in the baby’s tiny grasp, “Since it isn’t fully a demon or one of Wyatt’s revanants, it can come and go from the Triangle as it pleases.”

            “It can leave the Triangle?” Dolls breathed, straightening, “How-”

            “I don’t know how, I just know it can. I’ve been looking,” Michelle dug a flash drive out of her pocket, “This is all I know. It’s not much, but it might be enough to get you started. It seems now that the demon Clootie has awoken, there’s no telling who or what will be trying to gain his favor.” She stood and took two steps toward Waverly before Wynonna jumped up and plucked the drive out of her fingers.

            “Check it out,” She hummed, tossing it to Dolls. He caught it deftly, nodding, followed to the kitchen by Jeremy and Doc. No one even bothered to ask Michelle how or why she knew. It wasn’t important. If the information checked out, they were in a whole new shitstorm.

            Michelle was still staring at Waverly who had finally locked eyes with her mother and had the same look as when she’d opened the door to yell at Wynonna, even though her chin wobbled every few moments.

"Waverly, I would love to talk to you about all the information I’ve found. Shall we go sit out on the porch?” Her voice was soft and sounded like something Waverly had forgotten. Wynonna saw her wince and the twitch of her jaw. Fuck. Michelle completely ignored Nicole and took another half-step closer.

Waverly opened her mouth and closed it several times and Wynonna was about to pull her mother away when her sister finally answered, shaking but loud, clear and firm, “No.”

Michelle’s eyes narrowed, “Waverly, this is important and-”

“She said no,” Nicole cut in, standing and towering over Michelle by at least six inches, an intimidating sight in itself, but Michelle stepped in closer, mouth twisted.

“Listen here, girlie,” she spit, “This is none of your business. Why don’t you run along and arrest the town drunk? Or maybe the donut shop is still open?”

“Leave her alone,” Waverly snapped, jumping to her feet and resting Alice against her shoulder. She shoved her way between the two of them, hair flying, eyes ablaze, “What the hell give you the right to come in here and ruin everything we’ve made? What the fu-”

“Waverly Amelia Earp,” Waverly flinched again, taking a step back into Nicole’s chest unintentionally, “You cannot talk to me like that. I’m still your mo-” But Wynonna had had just about enough. Clamping her hand hard around her mother’s elbow, she yanked her away from the others and didn’t release her vice like grip until she had pulled Michelle through the house and out the front door, slamming it behind her.

“Wynonna-”

“Look. I understand part of why you left. I really do. Daddy was… well he had a hard time even when he didn’t drink. And he took it out on you which wasn’t right. But you left three little girls alone with him and that wasn’t right either.”

“He never laid a finger-”

“No, no never. He wasn’t there though. Willa mattered, I did sometimes and Waverly… it was like she didn’t exist. And after he died and they took Willa, Waverly kept asking when you were going to come back, just like when you left. Asking if you were going to come get us now. She kept promising she’d be good and wouldn’t sneak extra cookies or…” Wynonna sighed, running a hand through her hair, still haunted by the frail little voice of six year old Waverly, cheeks wet with tears, trembling from head to toe with grief and fear and everything in between as she climbed up onto the sofa to sleep with Wynonna when they were staying with Curtis and Gus at the beginning.

“She thought… I don’t know what she thought, she was just a baby But I knew and I had to be the one to keep telling her you weren’t coming back. And I was a kid, I wanted my mommy just as much as she did. But it was suddenly just me and her and I… did the best I could. Wasn’t always great, but I did it.”

There was true anguish in Michelle Earp’s eyes and, it felt like for the first time in 17 years that she might, maybe have regretted leaving them behind. Wynonna tamped down the little ember of hope. You’re not a kid anymore. She’s not magically going to come back and change.

“Wynonna, I’m so sorry. It-”

“Look. I don’t care about sorry,” Wynonna cleared her throat and walked to the other side of the porch, “Waves might, but I’m past it. If you really want to prove it, keep coming back. Because I won’t let you hurt her again, even if that means I never see you either. And if you ever break my kid’s heart… you’d better keep running and pray revenants find me first. So think real carefully about what you do next.”

“I still can’t believe you’re a mother,” Michelle murmured, low and soft like she used to when she told stories and Wynonna’s stomach swooped again, this time with the thought of her tiny Alice, cuddled up and warm inside, surrounded by love. She had no idea-

“Yeah, you and the rest of this town.” Wynonna snorted, breath puffing out in clouds around her rosy cheeks.

“Although it does make sense.” Michelle continued on as if Wynonna hadn’t spoken.

She flared up, “Why, because I’m the irresponsible one? Or because of-”

“You were always the protector. Even as a little girl, you used yourself as a shield between most things that would hurt your sister. You even…” Michelle paused, clearing her throat, “You even tried to jump between me and your father. You couldn’t have been more than five but-”

“I remember.” Wynonna’s teeth gritted. She could still see it all too well, Daddy drunk and screaming. Mama yelling back, tears streaming down her face, lip already bleeding. Wynonna throwing Willa’s hands off her and running between them. It was the only time Ward had ever hit one of his daughters in malice, striking Wynonna across the cheek with the back of his hand as he swung wide and causing her to careen into the end table. It was the only time Mama had ever hit back. The black eye had lasted for weeks and matched the one on his daughter.

“Can I ask… what’s the name?”  Wynonna jumped, trying to reel everything back in.

She couldn’t bring herself to look at her mother as she fiddled with the key around her neck, “Alice. Her name is Alice Michelle.”

“Her middle name is-”

“Yeah, don’t… It just flowed well, that’s all.” They were quiet again, Michelle trying to mask the quick catch breaths as sighs. They stood side by side in silence for a while, leaning against the railing and looking out at the homestead. Worn and torn as it was, it was still home. The little embers from earlier flared again and Wynonna ached for more.

“Just…” She started, “Just, give me another reason for that to be her middle name. That’s all.”

She saw her mother nod out of her periphery. Michelle wiped her cheeks and stretched slowly.

“Perhaps later this week.” She whispered.

“Perhaps a specific day.” Wynonna countered, arms crossed.

“Wednesday,” Michelle supplied immediately, “Maybe I can bring you dinner? We can… talk?”

“Everyone is still gonna be here.” Wynonna warned.

“I’ll get enough. Waverly doesn’t even have to eat in the same room with me if she doesn’t want to.”

Wynonna chuckled, “She will and you...” she started to say “know it” but that wasn’t true, was it?

“You’ll have to stop glaring at her girlfriend too,” She said instead to fill the awkward hole, “And antagonizing her. Nicole’s a good person, smart. She may be bossy but she loves Waverly almost as much as I do.”

“How long have-”

“Long enough.”

Michelle nodded absently, “I see.” They stood in silence for a few more moments before she took a step toward the stairs, “Wednesday.”

“Don’t make me into a liar. Well,” she acquiesced, “Don’t make me a liar to my sister.”

“I won’t.” And with that Mama Earp strode to her station wagon and crunched through the snow, away from the homestead, turning toward Purgatory as she went.

Wynonna stood and watched until her car disappeared, trying to fight the pit in her stomach. Hell of a day and it was barely noon. She groaned and dropped her face into her hands, scrubbing hard against her eyes.

“I wish I could drink.” She groaned, head tilted back, hands still over her eyes. But that wasn’t a possibility. Her baby was inside and would need to eat soon. Alcohol would have to wait.

With a sigh, Wynonna pulled the front door open again, finally shedding her winter coat and hanging it on a hook by the door. There was commotion in the kitchen, all three of the boys trying to out talk each other. She’d deal with that in a second.

Waverly and Nicole were still in the living room, though Alice was nowhere to be seen. Nicole had Waverly wrapped up tight to her chest and her lips pressed to her hair, murmuring low and dropping kisses in between.

“Where’s my kid, love-birds?” Wynonna tried to sound blasé as usual but it fell painfully flat. She was just so fucking tired.

“Doc,” Waverly mumbled against Nicole’s flannel, not even raising her head, just turning her eyes to Wynonna, “They’re in the kitchen.”

“So I hear,” Wynonna leaned against the entry way to the living room and shucked off her boots. Nicole was still draped over Waverly, eyes closed, bottom lip between her teeth and running her hands through Waverly’s hair. Good. She learns quick.

“Beat it, Haught,” Wynonna almost hated to break them apart, “I gotta talk to my baby sis. Go make sure the boys don’t start a fight or something. Can’t have them breaking the kitchen table again.”

Nicole nodded, twitching her lips up into a gently, questioning smile and Wynonna nodded. She really was alright. Exhausted and annoyed and becoming more scared with every passing moment but. Alright.

Nicole kissed Waverly’s head one last time and then strode into the kitchen, immediately telling Doc to back away from the computer.

Waverly stood in the middle of the living room, hands clamped in her sweater and staring at her socks, “Not the best start to a Wednesday.” she hiccupped a laugh, head still low. Wynonna’s heart squeezed and she ambled over to her sister, taking one of her sweater-paw hands.

“Definitely not. Not our worst. But still. Pretty shitty.”

“Yeah.”

They stood together for a moment, just hands clasped, feeling the weight of everything that had happened in that house.

“Hey,” Waverly tapped Wynonna’s cheek gently until their eyes met, “Are you okay?”

“Hey, that was my question.”

“Too bad, I asked first.”

Wynonna sighed, “Yeah. Just…” She didn’t have the words for how she was feeling. Instead she pulled Waverly down onto the couch and laid her head against her shoulder.

“I know.” Waverly whispered, leaning her head against Wynonna’s.

“She wants to come back Wednesday,” She felt Waverly stiffen, and hooked her arm around Waverly’s, “She says she wants to bring dinner, talk.”

Waverly didn’t say anything.

“You don’t have to see her. No one would blame you.”

Still nothing. Sighing, Wynonna snuggled closer, trying to push all of the strength she had into Waverly.

“I should have talked to her.” Wynonna sat back and stared at Waverly.

“Waves, you-”

“No, I should have. There’s no telling if she’ll actually come back and… I just froze and got scared.”

“Dude. That makes freaking sense,” Wynonna said, “She left when we were little. She never talked to us, never tried to come help. We don’t owe her anything.”

“But she’s our mom,” Waverly whispered, and Wynonna felt a band spring from around her chest. Ever since that day by the stairs, and then in Shorty’s when Waverly had confessed to not thinking she wasn’t an Earp, she had been terrified of losing another sister. But shooting Peacemaker seemed to have put her mind at ease, at least for a while.

“I know. It’s so much easier said than done.” Wynonna sighed, “But I really do think she wants to be around. I don’t know why now and I don’t know if it’ll stick. But I made her aware that this is her last chance.”

“Wynonna-”

“I didn’t threaten her!” Wynonna whined, and then at Waverly’s look, “That much…”

“Leave it to an Earp…” Waverly muttered but she was smiling.

“You think she was right about the Clootie/Earp thing?”

Waverly sighed, “I don’t know. I’ll have to look at that flashdrive. I don’t know why she didn’t tell us about it before but. It doesn’t matter.” She stood and pulled Wynonna up after her, “But we better get started.” Her cheeks were dry and her voice was steady. Leave it to Waverly to bounce back at the thought of research.

The kitchen was still a flurry of movement. Doc and Jeremy had been shunted away from the table where Dolls was scrolling through documents, Nicole leaning over his shoulder, a hand on the back of his chair. Doc was telling Alice about how he and Wyatt had been trapped in a saloon in Montana, years ago, while he and Jeremy pulled out the ingredients for lunch. Pancakes by the look of it. Wynonna’s stomach growled and she went to join them, mostly just to take back the baby.

Nicole turned to talk to Waverly as they came in, but she popped up on her toes, kissed Nicole with her hands on either side of her face and then shooed Dolls out of the chair in front of the computer.

Dolls and Nicole both smiled as she folded herself into the chair and chirped, “Alright. What have we got?”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

 

Nicole closed the computer as quietly as she could. Her eyes itched after spending a majority of her off time for the last two weeks, staring at the computer screen with Waverly, sorting the information, printing it off, giving Jeremy every lead they could find. They’d even made a board (complete with red string at Wynonna’s insistence, much to Dolls’ annoyance) with all the print outs, pictures of the Clooties, everything they’d been able to scavenge from Black Badge, even a list of the remaining Rev-heads. Still nothing of the EarpClootie hybrid.

Next to her, Waverly sighed in her sleep, head dropped onto her folded arms, hair cascading over her shoulder and brushing her thigh, just below her pajama shorts. Her nose scrunched in her sleep and it took everything in Nicole not to run a finger down it, smooth the creases.

They’d been running themselves ragged, especially Waverly, in search of their newest problem. Dolls and Doc took turns staking out the collapsed mine shaft where Clootie was still trapped (and occasionally screaming, it really was creepy just how far it could be heard), just in case the DemonKid showed up. But so far nothing. Michelle’s research had been shoddy at best and poorly organized, a fact Waverly harped on for so long that even Alice seemed to be getting a little tired of it. Not that anyone blamed her. She wasn’t wrong on any of the counts and Michelle was already such a touchy subject.

To everyone’s surprise, Michelle had turned up again, on Wednesday like she had said, arms piled high with pizza and looking much less sure of herself than she had the week previously. Wynonna was as nice as Wynonna could be, Dolls polite as ever. Doc was his usual charming and cordial self and Jeremy had babbled the entire time. Michelle had even looked Nicole in the eye as she handed her a plate and almost smiled. Only Waverly had been, uncharacteristically tacit. She stuck with whoever wasn’t talking to Michelle at any given moment and cuddled Alice, answering as succinctly as possible when her mother turned a conversation her way.

No one blamed her for that one either. To her credit, Michelle tried more than anyone else could hope to when faced with an angry Earp but eventually she’d drift away, leaving Waverly to herself and the baby. She kept trying though, every one of her five subsequent visits.

Alice wasn’t a fan of her grandmother’s either. On her third visit (the Sunday after the pizza dinner), Wynonna had awkwardly held out Alice to her mother. Nicole had been on duty for that exchange, but according to Waverly (and Dolls whose word she put a little more stock in where Mama Earp was concerned), Alice had lasted maybe a minute, studying her grandmother’s face before  breaking out into yet another ear-splitting shriek until Wynonna took her back. Alice had calmed almost immediately and Michelle had left quickly after.

Waverly mumbled something in her sleep, sighing and pulling Nicole back to the present. The clock on the stove read 2:12am. Shit. She had to be at the police station at 8 and Waverly was going to be keeping an eye on the bar while Doc rested after his watch tonight.

With a quiet groan, Nicole stood, stretching enough that her shirt rode up over her bellybutton, the chill in the kitchen from the drafty back door nipping at her stomach. With a shiver, she pulled the shirt back down and made sure all the doors were locked. Which of course they were because Wynonna had become something of a security freak, and with good reason. But it made Nicole feel better to check them all herself.

Jeremy shifted on the couch where he’d fallen asleep hours before, as she walked back through from checking the front door, mouth open and just the barest hint of stubble, patchy, over his chin.  He’d kicked the blankets off his legs but now pulled them up closer to his body. Nicole adjusted his blanket back over his feet without thinking and then continued back to the kitchen, stifling a yawn.

She ran her fingers across Waverly’s back, shifting her hair a little more. Waverly opened one eye blearily and looked up at Nicole with a soft smile. Nicole felt her heart melt at the look, her insides flipping because Waverly was looking at her like she was the sun and Nicole had never felt so in love with someone as she did at that moment.

“Hi baby,” Waverly croaked, head dropping back against her arms. It took Nicole’s breath away.

“God, I love you,” Nicole whispered, unable to stop staring at Waverly.

“Mmm, love you too.” Waverly’s eye closed and Nicole giggled.

“We need bed.”

Waverly whined, “So far though. Comfy here.”

“Won’t be in the morning.”

Waverly groaned and buried her head further in her arms. Laughing, Nicole slid an arm under her knees and the other around her back and hoisted Waverly up into her arms. Waverly squeaked, eyes popping open and she threw her arms around Nicole’s neck, but she relaxed almost immediately, tucking her head against Nicole’s shoulder.

“Don’t have to carry me,” she hummed, eyes drooping closed, “Can walk.”

Nicole smiled as she climbed the stairs, Waverly still securely held to her chest, “I know you could, but I like carrying you,” Waverly’s hair smelled like strawberries and a little bit of sweat and it was such a familiar scent now, that Nicole pushed her face closer, breathing deeply.

Waverly smiled and hummed in contentment, eyes closed and she pressed kisses against Nicole’s neck, nipping lightly at her ear as she got higher. A shiver ran down her spine again. It felt like kisses from Waverly would never, ever lose their spark.

They reached the top of the stairs just as a topless Dolls was slipping out of Wynonna’s room, Alice, wide awake and blinking in the light of the hallway, held against his chest. Nicole raised an eyebrow and she and Dolls studied each other’s cargo.

“Everything okay?” They whispered at the same time and then smiled a little. Dolls might have been a hardass to start out with but he had really loosened up, especially since Black Badge’s disappearance. He and Nicole had formed a strange, unspoken bond, both officers of the law, both working a bit out of their jurisdiction because they knew it was right.

Nicole nodded and mouthed, “Girlfriend perks,” over Waverly’s head.

Dolls nodded , smiling even wider and shifting Alice. She looked tiny against him, resting in the crook of one of his arms, little yellow sleepsack riding up over her miniscule socked feet.

“Wynonna’s exhausted but someone’s not ready to go back to bed. Figured she and I could set up camp across the hall, maybe go over the files again.”

Nicole nodded and swooped close, clumsily kissing baby Alice’s face, “Don’t you two stay up too late.”

“You either,” Dolls mocked and Nicole rolled her eyes and he clapped a hand against her shoulder as he passed her toward the other end of the hall.

“Night Dolls,” Waverly mumbled, “Give Alice kisses.”

Dolls chuckled and nodded, “Always do. Night, Earp. Haught.”

They heard him start humming as Nicole nudged the bedroom door shut behind her. As gently as possible, she laid Waverly down on the bed, rolled the shorts off her legs and chucked them on the chair in the corner. Waverly wiggled her way back toward the middle of the bed, eyes still shut. Nicole smiled and then tipped her head back, stretching up again, fingers bumping the low, slanted ceiling. There was a squeak of bed springs and then cool, slim fingers sliding over her stomach, followed closely by the soft press of lips along the line of her hip bone. Nicole gasped, eyes fluttering closed as the fingers skated slowly higher.

“Waves.”

She got a hum of response that vibrated against her stomach and she couldn’t fight the little moan that slipped past her lips. She felt Waverly smile against her skin as she succeeded in pushing the shirt up high enough that, with a grunt, Nicole tugged it off herself.

“Baby, it’s almost 3 in the morning,” It sounded feeble, even to her own ears. Even more, to her disappointment, Waverly pulled away and Nicole blinked her eyes open in time to see her peel her own sweater over her head. Then she was back, fingers tucked into the waistband of Nicole’s sweatpants, quickly pressing them down and off her legs.

“So what?” Waverly whispered, looking up at Nicole from under her eyelashes. Nicole’s mouth went dry at the sight of Waverly, mostly naked, moonlight shining against her skin and staring up at her with that look again. Damn her. The spark that had begun to ignite in her stomach, bloomed into a full blown fire and she pushed Waverly back on the bed.

“You know what,” She growled, crawling over Waverly and swooping to kiss up her neck from her collarbones.

“Finally,” Waverly groaned, knotting her fingers in Nicole’s hair and tugging her mouth up to hers.

Nicole’s tongue slid against Waverly’s. In a sudden, incredibly smooth move, Waverly bridged, rolled and tugged Nicole down to the bed, straddling her waist, on top, and looking very smug about it. Nicole lost her breath, eyes trailing down from where Waverly’s were sparkling, to watch her own hands slowly dip beneath the waistband of Waverly’s underwear and curl around her hip.

What difference does an hour or two of sleep really make?

 

***

 

Dolls only woke up with he felt someone slide into bed next to him. Every muscle in his body clenched and he knotted a hand in the back of Alice’s sleepsack where she was drooling on his chest. But then the smell of cinnamon and gun powder wafted over him and his body relaxed.

“Wynonna?”

“Shhh. Go back to sleep.” But her voice sounded thick, raw, and as she slid a hand up Dolls’ bicep to sweep over the baby’s hair, he could feel her shaking.

“What’s wrong?” He covered her hand with his and tried to make out her face in the pre-dawn light just barely filtering through the curtains.

But Wynonna kept her head ducked down into the shadows, “Nothing, Dolls. Bad dream. Go back to sleep.” She scrunched closer into him, knees bumping his thighs and icy toes pressing into his calves.

Slowly Dolls shifted, moving Alice so she was still asleep, but laying between them on the bed now. Instantly Wynonna swooped in, pressing her face close to the baby’s and sighing deeply, smoothing one finger along the palm of her dimpled hand. Dolls stayed on his side and reached an arm across, sliding his hand just under Wynonna’s shirt to rest on her hip, trying not to think about the circumstances surrounding the last time the three of them were in this bed.

“We’re all here. Nothing going to happen.”

Wynonna knocked her forehead against his shoulder and then pressed a kiss against it, “I know. It’s just…”

“I know,” Dolls squeezed her hip and then let his hand hang limply over the small of her back, gently tracing patterns, “I know. Try to sleep though.”

 

***

 

Dolls was gone when Wynonna woke up; He was supposed to relieve Doc of his watch at 7:30. She only barely remembered him rolling away from her, the space where his hand had been, cold as he pulled away, smacking a kiss on Alice’s tiny cheek as he stood. She was pretty sure she’d pulled him back down and kissed him, half awake and still a little scared from her dream, as he left, which was so not something she wanted to think about right now, she realized. He’d lined up a couple pillows along Alice’s other side, even though Wynonna was almost completely curled around her. She was still asleep, scowling a little bit with both little hands balled into fists.

Wynonna smiled gently at the baby before carefully scooping her up and slipping across the room to deposit her in the bassinet. She took one more deep breath of baby smell from her the top of her head before laying Alice down and snagging the baby monitor sitting on the bedside table.

Nicole’s huge orange cat, Calamity Jane, sauntered through the door as Wynonna started to leave, sniffing around her feet before hopping up on the bed and giving her a quiet chirp. Wynonna smirked. In the week and a half that the cat had been at the homestead (it didn’t look like anyone was leaving anytime soon, it just made sense. The cat didn’t need to be alone all that time and once Nicole had gone to feed her, Wynonna just suggested she bring her back. For Nicole’s sake, and the cat’s obviously. She definitely wasn’t happy that her house was full and domestic and warm for the first time in almost two decades. Nope.), it was rare to see her somewhere Alice wasn’t; curled up on the back of the couch behind whoever was holding her, weaving around the legs at the table, following Wynonna when she went to nurse in private. Wynonna even let the cat sleep in bed with them when she wasn’t wrapped up around Waverly and Nicole in their bed.

“You gonna watch her back?” Wynonna asked the cat.

Calamity Jane meowed quietly, leaning over the side of the bed to sniff the bassinet before curling up just as close to it as she could and starting to purr.

She really was Nicole’s cat, “Good kitty.” Wynonna shut the door behind her.

Waverly and Jeremy were both slumped over the kitchen table, clutching mugs of coffee and blearily going over evidence yet again. Waverly didn’t even look up from her file, just held a third mug out to Wynonna.

“Tea?” Wynonna asked.

“Well, I don’t want my niece’s growth to be stunted,” Waverly muttered, eyes glued to the page.

Wynonna whined but took the tea, “I’m taking the internet away from you. Research is making you annoying.”

“Would you know Clootie’s kid was a girl if I didn’t have the internet?” Waverly shot back, smirking up at her sister.

“Wait, it’s a girl?”

“As far as we’ve been able to tell,” Jeremy mumbled, “Even with all the stuff your mom gave us, there’s still not a lot to be found.”

“But you’re sure it’s a-” Wynonna was cut off by the slamming of two doors outside the house and both Doc’s and Dolls’ voices shouting for someone “open the damn door!”

All three of them shot up like they’d been electrocuted. Wynonna threw open the kitchen door. Dolls’ car was parked right outside and both men were fighting a small figure, dragging her out of the back even as she kicked and scratched. One more toss of her head as she snarled at Dolls and Waverly gasped, knotting her fingers on Wynonna’s wrist. The girl was the spitting image of…

“Willa?” Wynonna choked out, fumbling for Waverly’s arm too.

“Willa like. Your dead sister Willa?” Jeremy asked,

“Yeah, twice over.” Wynonna breathed. Now that she was looking closer, there were very obvious differences. Her nose was less angular than Willa’s, freckles dotted her cheeks heavily in a way Willa’s smooth skin never had, and her hair was, in its high ponytail, much closer to her own shade than Willa’s. She threw her head back, missing Dolls’ face by millimeters and Wynonna saw her eyes for the first time. One was electric blue the other, deep brown and they were flowing between being obsidian black to looking like regular eyes.

“What the fuck?” Waverly breathed.

Dolls and Doc finally got her out of the car, screaming and still trying to get away from them.

“She was trying to get into Clootie’s tomb. We caught her before she made it, clearly.” Doc called, locking her flailing legs under his arms while Dolls picked up her front half and they hurried toward the house. Wynonna blocked the entrance.

“Um hello? No. In the barn.”

“Really?” Doc asked, sweating even in the icy air.

“Yeah or did you forget who’s upstairs?” She snapped.

His eyes went wide and his mustache twitched, “Right you are. To the barn.”

Jeremy jumped out the door and hurried ahead of them to drag the door open and Wynonna turned to Waverly.

“I’m going to go help them, you stay in here with Alice and-”

“Wynonna-” Waverly started, looking indignant.

“No. Waves. Please. You’re… both of you need to stay in here until we know what we’re dealing with?”

“I’m pretty sure we’re dealing with-”

“I know! I’m pretty sure too but. Please.”

Waverly watched her big sister’s eyes, dark with worry and stress, more lined than they had been and she couldn’t bring herself to add to it. Silently, she nodded, took the baby monitor and walked toward the stairs, phone already out of her pocket.

“Nicole. Um. So shit’s kind of hit the fan.”

Wynonna sighed at her sister’s retreating back and then swung her coat over her shoulders, tucked Peacemaker into her boots and headed for the barn.

“Time for a family reunion,” she muttered to herself, slamming the door behind her, “Great.”

 

***

An hour or two less sleep, it turned out, truly did make a difference. Nicole slumped over her desk, nursing her third cup of coffee and willing her eyes to stay open. Nedley had her on desk duty (he’d been trying to keep her out of the streets in case the Earps needed her. Not that he said it explicitly, but Nicole could tell), going over paperwork that Lonnie had botched. She’d spent the first 20 minutes of her day staring at the pile on her desk and alternating between annoyance at Lonnie and reliving the night before. Just the thought made her heart race.

Another swig of coffee and then a hunt for the white out; Lonnie had misspelled the world “assailant” no less than four times on this particular report. She was digging through the bottom drawer of her desk when the small bell at the front desk chimed.

“I’ll be with you in just one second,” She called, finally spotting the little green bottle in the back of the drawer and stretching to curl her fingers around it. She sat up with a sigh and left the bottle on her desk as she ran her fingers through her hair and turned for the front.

“How can I help-” It was Michelle Earp, “Oh.”

Michelle shifted uncomfortably, tugging on the strap of her bag, “Hello, Nicole. Or, should I be calling you Officer?” It felt like a barb.

Nicole gritted her back teeth and answered as politely as she could manage, “Nicole is fine.”

Michelle nodded and then refused to look at Nicole. Any progress that had been made on her visits to the homestead seemed to have regressed. For several minutes, there was silence, Nicole studying the older woman, and Michelle looking anywhere but at her.

“Well,” she finally broke the silence, “I see this place hasn’t changed since-”

"Mrs. Earp, what do you want?” Nicole interrupted, “because I’m working and I don’t have time to chit chat while you try to experience Purgatory again. If there’s something you need, please-”

“I need you to talk to Waverly.”

Nicole’s eyebrows shot up and she took a step back for a moment. Surely, surely  Michelle was not coming to her for help with the Waverly situation.

Michelle continued, “She won’t look at me, barely speaks to me.”

“Gee, I wonder why?” Nicole muttered under her breath.

Michelle’s eyes narrowed but she didn’t respond to that, “I know I… left and. She’s upset but.”

Nicole had no sympathy. Seeing Waverly shrink into the arm chair, feeling her trembling, the short breaths and glassy eyes when Michelle had appeared on the homestead the first time. Her lion’s heart flared and she crossed her arms.

“You don’t get to decide how she responds to your reappearance. You left, like you said. She was four. Your husband was an alcoholic and your eldest daughter terrorized her. She was on her own for 17 years. You didn’t even come back when their sister and father were killed by the demons you knew about.  You let Wynonna  get put in and out of foster homes and mental institutions for years, even though what she was telling everyone was true. Even if it meant taking those two away from each other for longer than they’d even been alive, you still didn’t show up. Why the hell would anyone want you around after that?” Nicole’s chest heaved, imagining littler Waverly and Wynonna yet again and wishing there was some way she could go back in time and save them from all the heartbreak.

Michelle’s eyes turned to storm clouds and she opened her mouth to respond, but the chiming of Nicole’s phone cut her off. Shooting one last, dirty look, Nicole picked up the phone.

“Hey, love,” she murmured, watching with an odd amount of satisfaction as Michelle’s face fell a bit.

“Nicole, um,” Waverly’s voice was pitched up and Nicole could hear her feet on stairs, “So, shit’s kind of hit the fan?”

Nicole pressed the phone closer to her ear and her breath caught, “What do you mean?”

"Well… Doc and Dolls were trading shifts over at the mine, and-”

“She came?” Nicole breathed, feeling the color drain out of her cheeks.

There was the sound of a door closing and a meow Nicole recognized.

“Hi, Jane,” Waverly hummed and for some reason that made Nicole’s heart kick even more, “Dolls, Doc, Jeremy and Wynonna have her out in the barn. I’m upstairs with Alice,” She could hear the bitter note in Waverly’s voice, but relief filled her chest just for a moment.

“Okay, I’ll be there soon.”

“The more back-up the merrier honestly. Are you sure Nedley will-”

“Waves, I just have to say it’s for you and he’d fly me to Nepal if he had to.” She heard Waverly huff out a breath but could tell she was smiling. Nicole glanced up to see Michelle watching her like a hawk and her stomach knotted. She took a few steps back into the bull pen, toward Nedley’s office.

“Another problem: Your mother is here.”

Waverly’s sigh crackled across the line, “At the precinct? Why?”

“She was… Never mind, I’ll tell you later. Question is, do I bring her?”

Silence from Waverly as Nicole chewed her lip. It stretched for nearly a minute.

“I know, baby, but-”

“Bring her,” Waverly grunted, “She can stay in here with Alice.”

“You sure?”

“Not really but… I’ll see you soon. Love you.”

“Love you too,” Nicole sighed and shoved the phone in her back pocket before turning to Michelle, “Come on.

She grabbed her keys from her desk and pushed out from behind the swinging double gates by the front desk. She was out the door and heading toward the front by the time Michelle caught up with her, taking two steps for every one of hers.

“Is everything alright?”

“We’ll see,” Nicole grunted, pulling her coat tight and shoving out the front door, “Looks like you’re getting time with Alice, after all.”

 

***

Getting the girl settled in the barn took considerably less effort when Wynonna had Peacemaker leveled at her chest. The old wooden chair from the rafters and a significant length of chain that Wynonna had no idea where they’d gotten, bound her quickly, both Dolls and Doc hanging on to the ends.

“Well, hello, cousin,” the woman snarled, her two toned eyes focused on the end of Wynonna’s gun, no longer shifting but still rather off putting.

“Never had a cousin before,” Wynonna grunted, pulling back the hammer on Peacemaker, “Much less a half demon one. Give me one good reason I shouldn’t keep that the same.”

The girl rolled her mismatched eyes, shifting her gaze between the four of them before finally settling on Doc, “I thought I recognized you. John Henry, I presume?”

Doc’s moustache twitched, “What would give you that impression?”

“My mother had a sentimental streak at the end of her life. Wyatt had many stories about you, pictures too, and Mother took some when she left Purgatory. The last days of her life were spent shuffling through those pictures like tarot cards and muttering fragments of stories Wyatt told her.  There were whispers you lived still and here’s the proof.” The girl sneered, seemingly smug that she had caught them off guard.

Doc’s hands curled into fists, thumb searching for the ring that was no longer there and Wynonna felt guilt swoop through her chest. Grinding her teeth, she shoved the gun closer.

“Well congrats, you know about Doc. Still doesn’t explain why I shouldn’t blow you back to hell.”

“Never been there, so it wouldn’t be back,” the girl replied, but Wynonna could see the fear in her eyes as the gun neared her nose.

“Not making a great case for yourself,” Dolls grunted from behind Wynonna, a napkin pressed to his bleeding lip, the one good shot she seemed to have gotten in.

There was a creak behind them as the barn door opened slowly. Nicole ducked through first, still in uniform and service weapon drawn, followed by Waverly, a shotgun steady against her shoulder.

“What the hell are you-” Wynonna started, staring at her sister.

“It’s fine. She’s taken care of.” Waverly kept her gun trained on the girl in the chair but locked eyes with her sister. Wynonna’s eyes flicked over to Nicole and back to Waverly. There’s no way they would have left her kid in any kind of danger.

Slowly, she nodded and then turned back around, feeling Nicole and Waverly flank her on either side, “Alright, you’ve got one more chance. Tell me exactly why I shouldn’t blow you away.”

The girl looked up at her, eyes flooding slowly with inky blackness, “Because you can’t kill my father without me.”

Stunned silence filled the barn as her words registered with everyone.

“Damn, that is a really good reason,” Jeremy whispered and then grunted as Dolls wrapped an arm around his shoulders and covered his mouth with his hand.

The girl smiled, genuine, at Jeremy response, “So, I’m betting you want to keep me around. My name is Ruth. And you need me more than you know.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

Alice did not wake up happy. From the moment Michelle scooped her out of the basinet, dodging a monstrous, glaring orange cat, she was screaming or squirming and sometimes both at once. Surly her daughters had not been this particular. Michelle carried the screeching child down the stairs, the quietly growling cat at her heels the whole way.

Three empty mugs sat on the table, long since cold and surrounded by sheets on sheets of paper, more than what she’d had on her flash drive. Waverly was everything Gus had said she was. Michelle’s stomach swooped but she pushed aside the guilt. Not now. The cabinets and fridge were sparsely stocked, mostly alcohol and takeout utensils but finally she found the bottles and formula in the far corner.

It was incredibly difficult to make said bottle with a cat weaving through her legs and a squawling baby trying her level best to get as far from her as possible. Michelle nudged the cat away with her boot but each time it came back, yowling and batting at her feet.

“Are you trying to make me drop her?” Michelle finally shouted, startling both Alice and the feline into silence.

The cat stared back at Michelle with a gaze that made her uncomfortable with how close to human it was but, with one last look, it sauntered slowly over to the table and jumped up, curling over the research and sitting down amid the mugs, keeping its eyes fixed on Alice.

“Even the fucking cat is against me,” Michelle muttered, turning back to the bottle and glancing down just in time to see Alice’s face screw up into another pitiful wail.

“No no, baby Alice, I’m so sorry.” But the damage was done and the baby continued to scream. This was not how she wanted to get to know her grandchild at all.

 

***

“I met him only once. I was twelve,” Ruth began, still chained to the chair but no longer facing down three guns, “He and my mother wrote one another fairly often. He was checking on my progress I suppose. We met down in Illinois, I think. He was able to sneak away from Wyatt with the help of his wives.”

“They didn’t mind helping him sneak out to visit his kid that he had with another woman?” Waverly asked, thinking back to Constance, Widow-Mercedes and Widow-Beth. Somehow none of them struck her as the understanding type.

“They were polygamists, they were used to sharing one man? Or, I don’t know, they knew she was probably stronger than all their kids combined?” Jeremy piped up, having finally pulled Dolls fingers from over his mouth.

“Jeremy,” Dolls barked but the demon shook her head.

“No, he’s actually not wrong. I was more powerful than their kids. Wanted to knowabout it in advance. They were monstrous then anyway, according to mother,” Ruth responded, looking at Waverly and seeming to actually enjoy telling her their story.

“You have no idea,” Nicole muttered, “Met all but one and let me tell you. Monster is pretty much spot on.”

“I heard stories. But then around the ‘50’s, they disappeared,” her eyes shifted to Dolls, “Your people, I suppose.”

Dolls gave her his usual, expressionless look, “No idea what you’re talking about.”

“Please,” Ruth snorted, “I can always spot a lawman,” and then with a quick look at Nicole, “Or woman. No offense intended just. Obviously different branches,”

Nicole looked a little miffed but completely unsure how to react to this, suddenly, cordial demon. It was more disconcerting than getting the red eyes or the growl. But this, acting like a real person? It raised the hairs on the back of her neck.

“Yeah, we get it, they both look hot in tight black,” Wynonna sniped, ignoring the pleased short from Dolls and the obvious twitch in Henry, “What does this have to do with Demon Daddy.”

Everyone around her retched, including Ruth.

“God, Wynonna!”

“Never again, Wy.”

“NO. EW. WHY?”

“Earp, what the fuck?”

Wynonna rolled her eyes, “Oh my god, shut up, I realized it was bad as soon as I said it.”

Ruth gave one last theatrical shudder before continuing, “As I was saying, he came to see us in Illinois. Mother took us to a carnival. I was so excited. Mother wouldn’t ever tell me much about him but I’d made up this incredible fantasy of who he could be, that he might stay,” Ruth got a far away look in her eyes, “He changed his face in order to fit in. I didn’t know it until later. I just thought he was very handsome and seemed like he wanted to be there with us. It was almost like having a real family.” Wynonna felt her heart tug at the wistful voice that seemed all too familiar to her.

“My friend from school, Marietta, she met us there part way through the day, and stayed with us through the circus show and walked home with us. She was the tiny thing for twelve, all spindly and freckles and blonde, but a kinder soul there never was. She used to take any deformed baby chickens other folks had, or ones with broken legs, and she’d nurse them to health or give them a warm, safe place to pass on.”

“Who did this kid think she was, Snow White?” Wynonna cut in and Waverly whacked her arm.

“Wynonna.”

Wynonna rolled her eyes but Ruth barely seemed to take notice, too wrapped up in the memory, “Anyway, we walked her home and then went home ourselves. My father even stayed for a cup of tea with mother once I’d gone to bed.

“I woke up in the middle of the night. Father was standing over my bed but he’d taken off his handsome face. He was pale and had cruel eyes and all of his face just seemed… sharp. His hands seemed like claws. He didn’t say anything he just beckoned to follow him. And then, in the living room,” Ruth stopped short, the far-off look in her eyes hardening.
  
“He’d gone back, taken Marietta from her home and brought her there. Her arms and legs were tied to a kitchen chair. She was gagged. Her eyes,” Ruth shuddered, looking mournful, “I’ve never seen someone look that afraid.”

The barn was dead silent, quiet enough to hear the snow start up again outside. No one dared prod her, not even Wynonna, just waited.

“He had a horrible look on his face and he told me that… that killing her was the next step in advancing my abilities. I’d always known I was different; my senses were stronger, my body was stronger. When I was afraid, I could feel something stirring in the back of my mind but I’d never had a name for it. Mother had never said. Father knew though and he thought it was time I learned. He said it had to be me that killed her. That it had to be someone with whom I’d shared a meal. Mari and I had passed an apple back and forth that very day.

“Marietta looked at me with such betrayal and fear and… like I was something less than human. And I knew I couldn’t do it. I told my father as much. He insisted, saying it was my path, this was how things were supposed to happen. ‘Why should they have all the power then we are a thousand times stronger than any of them?’ I still refused. She was my friend.

“He lost it then, howling like… it was horrifying. He turned on my mother. It looked like he was pulling her limb from limb but he didn’t lay a hand on her. I screamed for him to stop but he said she’d corrupted me of my birth right. I made something up, said she’d tried to teach me the old ways. It wasn’t a lie but Mother… she may not have been a nice person but she never wished harm on the innocent. Ever.

“I put the blame on myself, said I’d refused to let her teach me,” Could demons cry? It looked like her two-toned eyes were filling with tears, “He left her be and she ran from the home. It was just me and him Marietta. He had me around the throat, his nails were like razors, he pressed them against my skin. He said that if I wouldn’t kill Marietta, if I wouldn’t take the power, he had no use for me. One more chance he said.

“He kept trying to ignite the part of me that was part of him. I could feel it lurking in the back of my mind, screaming to just do it. Take that fragile human and rip her to shreds. But all I could think of was Marietta, how gentle she was with all the little birds and animals she cared for. How she’d taught me to tie my shoes, how we’d sit in meadows making daisy chains, the way her mother and sisters looked at her. It was like she was sunshine that kind of… lit up the darkness, pushed the demon away enough for me to think like myself. As long as I remembered her, I was me.”

Wynonna could feel herself getting swept up into the story, eyes filling with tears and she heard Waverly sniffling behind her. She’s a demon her head tried to cut in, Demons lie. Another voice that sounded suspiciously like Waverly whispered But she’s also an Earp. The other side snorted, Earps lie too dummy.

“I told him I couldn’t do it. He sank his nails into my throat and… there was so much blood and his eyes were so cold. ‘I should have known you’d be useless. It’s the Earp filth in your veins’ he said and he threw me down on the floor.” Ruth lifted her chin and five long, thin scars, four on one side and the fifth on the other, were pink across her neck. Waverly gasped and Wynonna winced.

“I thought he’d just leave, leave me to die, leave Marietta tied to the chair. He almost did, he was at the door when Marietta whimpered. He froze. He seemed to big all of the sudden, filling the house. Although that could have been the blood loss. Everything was getting rather fuzzy. But I watched, helpless as he turned from the door, and his eyes were glowing red as he crossed the room. The whole house shook. He sliced all the ropes off her and took off the gag. She tried to run for the door but she barely made it a step. He…” Ruth was definitely crying now, though her voice was steady, “He grabbed the top of her head and just… shook her. Picked her up and shook her. I heard her neck break. When she went limp he threw her across the room. She looked like a rag doll. ‘Her death might have meant something. Now you just let your friend die.’ That was the last thing he said to me before he left. I tried to drag myself over to her but I was losing so much blood and I wouldn’t control my body. The darkness was roaring in my ears, enjoying the destruction but looking in her lifeless eyes… She was just gone and I was bleeding out too far away to make sure she wasn’t alone. I was sure I was going to die, alone, with my best friend already dead across the room.”

No one spoke. There were no words to be said. Not an eye in the barn was dry.

“My mother came back a bit later. I don’t remember very well. She went to get a witch in town she knew. She saved me but Marietta… there was nothing to be done. It took me almost a week to be well enough to stay conscious. By then, Mother and the witch had taken Marietta and left her in a field near her family’s home, close to the edge so she’d be found. The whole town attended the funeral. Except Mother and I. We packed our home and moved back across the border,” Ruth seemed to come back to present, chained in the barn and meeting great-great-great relatives. Wynonna ducked her head and turned her back on Ruth, trying to discretely wipe the tears from her eyes. Waverly had tears still coursing down her cheeks and Nicole was mopping at her cheeks in vain. With a deep breath, Wynonna turned back.

“So you want him dead too.”

Ruth nodded, “There’s a darkness in me. I can control it most of the time but if I’m caught off guard or in danger it just… takes over. You all saw it when you first brought me here. The memories of Marietta get me through the times that aren’t life or death but…there’s something not human about this one, and my brain just reacted.” She nodded over at Dolls.

“Yeah, we know. Haven’t really had time to talk about it,” Waverly responded.

“Not the time, Wave,” Dolls murmured back, but gently.

“Right, sorry.”

“I want to kill the darkness in me. And he is the root of that darkness. He must be stopped.”

“Why show up now, though?” Wynonna asked, “He’s been locked in that old mine for decades.”

“The seals. I thought they would stay intact and he would be imprisoned forever. But I underestimated his wives and their…devotion. When the final seal broke and he woke, I knew. He cannot be released onto this world. Especially,” Ruth cocked her head to the side, “not when you have a little one like that around.”

They all froze.

“What’re you-What are you talking about?” Wynonna stuttered, nostrils flaring and her fingers tightening around Peacemaker.

“Come now, I’ve heard her yelling inside the house since those two,” she nodded over toward Waverly and Nicole, “Came in.”

“What do you mean?” Waverly jumped in, clenching her teeth a bit.

Ruth rolled her eyes, “The baby. The angry little girl inside.”

No one moved a muscle, not daring to meet one another’s eyes. Waverly’s fingers crept forward to catch the tails of Wynonna’s coat and Doc looked as if he was about to explode from the inside out. Ruth looked at each of them in turn, seeing the hesitation.

“I am not my father,” she bit out, “I’m here because I would like quite the opposite of what he wants to happen to that child.”

It was a watershed moment. They could trust her or not. They could take her at her word and believe the Earp was stronger than the Clootie. All eyes slowly dragged over to Wynonna, waiting to follow her lead however this was going.

There were a tense few moments of silence but finally, Wynonna sighed and nodded, tucking the gun into her boot. She rubbed the back of her neck and glanced back in the direction of the house.

“Who-”

“Michelle.”

Wynonna snorted, “Screaming makes sense.”

“Whose child is she?” Ruth asked, settling back into her chair.

Doc nodded proudly.

“Who else but the heir’s?” Wynonna joked.

Ruth let out an impressed laugh, “An Earp and a Holliday. Together again. I shudder to think about her teenage years.”

Nicole muttered, “Oh god. I hadn’t even thought.”

“So, what was your big plan in all of this? Just show up at the mine, try to, I dunno, crush him with a rock or-”Wynonna motioned to Dolls and Doc to stand down. They followed her order, somewhat warily, still watching Ruth like a hawk.

“Honestly, I hadn’t really gotten that far,” Ruth shrugged the chains off and flexed her wrists, “I thought I’d just, you know, wing it once I got here.”

“Oh dear God, she really is an Earp,” Dolls muttered, dodging Wynonna’s punch to his arm.

“Well we’ve been spending all of our energy focusing on finding you but… I guess since you’re here now we can move forward with how the hell do we kill an unkillable demon?” Wynonna offered Ruth her hand, “I’m risking a lot here. A lot. If you double cross me. If you hurt anyone of my family,” She gestured around to the rest of the barn, “There isn’t a tomb or a curse or witch that can keep you safe from me.”

Ruth met her gaze, two toned eyes less terrifying than they had been at the outset. Slowly, she reached up and took Wynonna’s hand, using it to pull herself up before shaking firmly.

“I understand. It won’t come to that. I appreciate what you’re risking. But we want the same thing. My father cannot be allowed to continue. If he is released-”

“Terrible gruesome death, we know,” Nicole cut in, holstering her gun finally and wrapping an arm around Waverly’s shoulders, “Nothing really new.”

Ruth looked over them all with an appraisingly; A stoic, not-quite man, a 130 year old cowboy, a small, nervous boy who smelled of chemicals and excitement and two warrior women, all looking to the fearless heir to lead them through.

“I will do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes for us to destroy my father.”

Wynonna tried to hide a smirk, “That’s what this team does best. Take shitty odds and turn them into a win.”

Ruth grinned back, “Excellent. I’ve been alone for far too long. Some teamwork will do me good. Now, when do I get to meet my tiny cousin?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

 

            Wynonna excused herself from the barn, saying there was something that needed to be attended to before Ruth had any more introductions. Waverly had jumped in, already tumbling over a thousand questions and making sure Ruth knew everyone’s names. Trust Waverly to ease the tension when our demon cousin comes to visit, Wynonna thought, smiling as she slipped out the door.

            Doc caught up to Wynonna as she got to the porch, “Wynonna, a word.”

            “What’s up, Doc?” Her joke was lost on him but it pulled her a little closer to earth, back to “normal.”

            He huffed in the early morning air, breath puffing out in clouds, “I am not meaning to question your judgement. You know I trust you, however. Are you sure about this?”

            “What? Teaming up with my half demon cousin who’s been alive for just shy of 115 years?  Trusting her not to go all dark side and rip us apart? Because no. I’m not sure. But if the last two years have taught me anything, it’s that trusting my gut has never led me wrong. And my gut says she’s one of us. She’s been lost, alone and maybe motherhood has made me a squish but I kind of get how that feels. And if she’s really family, I’ve got to try.”

            There was a glint in Doc’s eyes and he took her arms gently, pulling her into his chest and pressing a light kiss against the side of her head, “Wyatt would be proud. He wasn’t perfect, by any means, but the man had heart unlike anyone else. You and your sister are living proof of that.”

            Wynonna sighed, closing her eyes and sagging against him. She took a deep breath. Cigarettes and gunpowder. Whiskey and leather. No matter the emotions it stirred in her, it smelled safe.

            “I trust your gut too, Henry,” she whispered, nudging the crown of her head against his jaw, “And if you think she’s dangerous-”

            “There is no doubt in my mind that she is dangerous,” Doc cut her off, holding on a little tighter, “But I think she’s the kind of dangerous that will fit in nicely here.”

            Wynonna sighed again and squeezed one last time before letting him go, “Thank you.”

            Doc smiled gently, tipped his hat and moseyed back over to the barn, closing the door behind him. Wynonna sighed, scrubbing cold hands over her cheeks and wishing, for the thousandth time that morning, for alcohol before opening the front door. The baby’s yells echoed from it seemed like every direction and Wynonna was oddly proud. She was doing her best to forgive Michelle, be a good example for Waverly, for once. But her mother was in obvious discomfort, bouncing Alice in her arms and circling around the coffee table as Wynonna entered the living room and she couldn’t help the smirk that crossed her face. Michelle still deserved a little hell. The hurt in her from childhood hadn’t disappeared by half and she wasn’t above admitting that to herself. Calamity Jane was perched on the back of the couch, glaring daggers at the woman who was holding “her” baby. Anytime Michelle got too close or Alice screamed particularly loudly, the cat would let out a yowl of obvious anger.

            “Are you pinching my baby?” Wynonna finally asked, not bothering to remove her coat. All three of the room’s occupants turned to look around at her, Alice hiccupping herself into silence at the sound of her mother’s voice.

            “Where have you all been? Officer Haught just brought me in here, Waverly dropped a baby monitor in my hand and they were out the door with guns drawn. No one’s told me a word about what’s happening or what all the fuss is,” Michelle shifted Alice in her arms and the baby let out an angry squawk, “Is this really the situation you want to be raising-” But Wynonna had plucked Alice from her arms and was walking away, cuddling the baby up against her cheek.

            “I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you woke up, little one. Dolls and Doc found the person we’ve been looking for. Remember the one Auntie Waverly and Auntie Nicole and Uncle Jeremy have been looking for?”

            “You found them?” Michelle asked, eyes wide. Wynonna ignored her.

            “But she’s not a bad person. My gut says she’s not and Doc’s… Daddy- ew oh god no… Doc’s gut says she’s not and… I think we can trust her.” Alice blinked up at her curiously. At birth, her eyes had been bright blue but they’d lightened some to a blue grey that mirrored Doc’s. Her little fingers curled out of their blanket and reached up to brush Wynonna’s cheek. Her heart melted.

            “You’re our last test though, okay? The whole family will be around and if you don’t like her, she’s gone.”

            “You’re basing your choice to trust this half demon, on your gut, the gut of the man who betrayed Wyatt and a baby?” Michelle asked incredulously.

            “Rest of the family seems to trust her,” Wynonna responded, not looking up from Alice who was trying to pull at her bottom lip, “Alice is the one who matters most. If she doesn’t scream, I’m going with it.”

            “What about me?” Michelle barked back, still horrified at her middle daughter’s decision making choices, “She screams any time I hold her.”

            “Yeah,” Wynonna threw over her shoulder, walking through the kitchen and out the back door, “Well, jury’s still out on you.” And she slammed the door behind her but it was too late. Michelle’s words were stuck in her head. Sighing heavily and shifting the baby up against her shoulder, Wynonna poked just her head around the door of the barn. Ruth and Waverly seemed to have become fast friends, Ruth perfectly content to answer the all her questions coming at her in rapid succession. Nicole hung back a bit, watching Waverly with the mushiest heart eyes Wynonna had ever seen. Her hand rested on the butt of her gun though and Wynonna could still see the tension in her body. Jeremy was staring up at Doc and talking to him in the breathless way that seemed to be the norm between them. And Dolls… Dolls’ eyes were on her the moment the door opened.

            Wynonna tried not to notice and instead called, “Yo, Wave, Nicole, Dolls, I need a hand with something for a second.”

            Ruth took a few steps forward but Wynonna shook her head, “Just… give me a minute.” Her cousin looked a little put out but nodded sinking back into the chair and watching the other three slip out of the barn. Dolls pulled the door shut behind him and sighed out a breath in the cold air.

            “So?” Wynonna prompted, looking between all of them.

            “I like her,” Waverly piped up, already rubbing a corner of the baby’s blanket between her fingers.

            “Yeah, Waves, I know you like her but… Can we trust her?”

            “To be fair,” Dolls cut in, “None of us trusted each other in the beginning.”

            “Yeah,” Wynonna said, exasperated, “But that’s different. We’re all humans. She’s a… oh am I being racist?” She stopped herself, genuinely concerned.

            “I think technically it’d be species-ist,” Nicole provided.

            “Well… shit, I’m an asshole, not a bigot,” Wynonna grumbled.

            “We can turn over the moral implications later, Earp. Right now, what do you need help with?” Dolls eyes were tired and it wasn’t even noon.

            “This!” Wynonna replied, “Trusting her, what do we think?”

            “I trust her,” Waverly said instantly, “And I’m an excellent judge of character.”

            “You befriended a revenant who slammed you head first into a pool table, tried to kill me in the middle of giving birth and also tried give your niece to the blood thirsty crowd outside,” Wynonna reminded her, softening the blow with a gentle nudge against her head against Waverly.

            Waverly huffed, her eyes a little shinier than they had been a moment before. Dammit. Wynonna hadn’t meant to hurt her with that. It had been snippy though. The tension was getting to her. Carefully, she nudged her sister’s arm and laid Alice in them, smiling when Alice blinked in the sun and immediately tangled her little fingers in Waverly’s hair.

            Wynonna wrapped an arm around her girls and then turned to Nicole, “Haught-pants, what do you think?”

            Nicole didn’t bat an eye at the name, “She’s not like other revenants.”

            “She’s not even technically a revhead.”

            “Well… Demon, spook, creepy bad guy whatever. She… seems like she has a heart. And her humanity.”

            “Dolls?”

            “I’m with Nicole and you know we’ve got your back no matter what,” His eyes glinted in the winter sun and Wynonna bit the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling up at him.

            She took a deep breath, kissed Waverly’s head and smiled down at the baby, “Alright. The Alice test it is.”

            Waverly moved to hand the baby back to Wynonna but Wynonna shook her head, “No,” She patted the outside of her shoe where Peacemaker rested, “Ya know… just in case.”

            “You won’t need it,” Waverly promised, but she hitched Alice up in her arms and let Wynonna led them back into the barn, Nicole and Dolls flanking her from behind.

            Ruth’s head snapped up as they reentered, breaking from Jeremy instantly. Nicole took a cautious step closer to Waverly and Dolls shifted a little closer to Wynonna but Ruth didn’t notice. Her eyes were on Alice.

            “Oh is this her?” Her voice was soft, lighter than it had been earlier.

            “Yeah,” Wynonna responded, suddenly rethinking this choice. But it was too late. Alice’s eyes were locked on Ruth, who had taken several steps forward.

            “Oh,” Ruth breathed, “it’s been a bit since I’ve been around a baby,” With a tentative finger she reached over and stroked the back of the Alice’s hand, marveling, much like Wynonna had, at the size of them, “How can she have such tiny finger nails?”

            Wynonna laughed quietly, heart still in her throat as Alice stared up at Ruth. Everyone held their breath as they took each other in. Waverly’s hand was fisted in the blanket around Alice and Wynonna was doing everything she could not to hold Peacemaker at the ready.

            But all their tension was for nothing. Ruth’s fingers were gentle as she reached up and stroked Alice’s rosy cheeks before skating back down to her tiny hands. Little fingers closed around Ruth’s pointer and Alice seemed content to watch her in a bit of wonderment.

            “Do you want to hold her?” Waverly asked, instantly to turn and see Wynonna’s reaction, eyes wide. Ruth turned to look up at her too. Wynonna tense but nodded stiffly finally, not even hiding the hunch in her back as she reached for Peacemaker.

            Ruth watched her with concerned eyes, “I don’t have to, if you’re not-”

            “No, it’s… fine,” Wynonna wasn’t a great liar but the fact that Ruth had offered not to even when she so clearly wanted to, had eased the nausea rolling in her stomach. No one moved.

            “No, seriously. I’m okay with it,” Wynonna almost believed herself.

            Ruth straightened excitedly, holding out her arms gingerly. Slowly, Waverly passed Alice over, placing the baby’s head in the crook of Ruth’s left elbow. Ruth’s eyes got even bigger, a smile splitting her face, as Alice stared up at her, little mouth open in an ‘o’. The barn was quiet as they watched Ruth hold the baby and sway, babbling nonsense at her quietly. After a few moments, Alice chirped back and cooed, curling her hand around one of Ruth’s fingers again. The whole barn sighed with relief, and Wynonna stood up straight again.

            “Did I pass the Alice Test?” Ruth asked quietly, still making faces down at the baby.

            Wynonna chuckled awkwardly, “I forget you’ve got such good hearing.”

            “Perks of being part demon?” Ruth shrugged.

            “Come on, let’s go inside. It’s colder than Thor’s ballsack out here.”

            Waverly led the them all back inside, Wynonna, Ruth and Alice bringing up the rear. Alice seemed fascinated by Ruth’s hair which she’d taken from its ponytail. It curled more tightly than Wynonna’s and the new shape captivated her.

            “Sorry about… you know, earlier,” Wynonna said awkwardly, sticking her hands in her back pockets.

            “Makes sense,” Ruth responded, “I would have done the same. Probably would have shot me first honestly.”

            Wynonna snorted, “Yeah, well… everyone keeps telling me motherhood has made me soft.”

            Michelle was still pacing the living room when they came back inside, Calamity Jane nowhere to be seen. She opened her mouth to speak to Waverly, first through the door, but her youngest took Nicole’s hand and pulled her off into the corner of the living room. Nicole almost felt bad for Michelle but not enough to stop Waverly from leaning against her and dropping a kiss on top of her head.

            “What do you think you’re doing?” Michelle’s voice was icy as she watched Ruth coo quietly to Alice.

            “Momma, it’s-”

            “I can’t believe how irresponsible you’re being, Wynonna,” There was fire in Michelle’s eyes and the team finally knew where Waverly and Wynonna learned their rage, “Do you know how stupid this is? This demon is carrying my grandchild-”

            “Whoa hey, take a quick step back and evaluate. Because she’s sure has hell about fifty other things before she’s your grandkid. Including the Earp heir until I break this fucking curse. I’ll be damned before she’s going to have to deal with this bullshit. If Ruth says we need her to kill Clootie-”

            “She could be lying to save her own skin? To take your baby and disappear?” Michelle was red faced and there were tears in her eyes, “I lost Willa and you girls, I’m not-”

            “You didn’t lose us!” Wynonna bellowed. A spark ignited in Wynonna’s chest and Michelle’s words were like gasoline. Doc, Dolls and Jeremy seemed frozen at Wynonna’s back, halfway between intervening and valuing their own lives too much to try.

            “You fucking left! I thought we’d been over this a couple times but apparently memory problems run in the family. You. Left us,” Wynonna was shaking and Waverly broke off from Nicole to hold Wynonna’s hand, taking her place at her sister’s side and glaring down their mother, a fire growing in her own chest, “Actually, ignoring that you left us with Daddy, a traumatized, low functioning alcoholic with tunnel vision and anger management issues like the Hulk, you didn’t come looking when Willa got taken. You didn’t try to come for Wave and I. You let us grieve and be ripped apart and you did nothing. Not a call, not a word. We were kids. The only reason I came to that stupid hospital is because even though you left us, I didn’t want you to die.” A tear of rage dripped off of Wynonna’s eyelashes and Waverly squeezed even closer. Nicole had followed Waverly over and stood by, a third, intimidating addition to their unit. Her heart ached to hear Wynonna’s voice so strained and cracked, to see how tightly Waverly clung to her sister, like if she loosened her grip, Wynonna would be plucked away from her again. Tears coursed down Waverly’s cheeks, her jaw tight and her mouth set hard.

            “Wynonna-” Michelle started, suddenly looking much older than she had since coming to the homestead, but Wynonna bowled through her. Spark to flame to wildfire, the Earp girls were blazing and scarier than any demon they’d faced.

            “You don’t get to tell me how to parent. I might be shit at it but at least I’m not abandoning my baby. At least I’m not letting her be alone and scared. At least I’m not letting her think she’s crazy. At least I’m going to make damn sure she knows how loved she is. And she’ll be strong and brave and good. And she’s gonna do it without you. Just like we did.”

            The house rang with silence, even Alice was quiet from her perch in Ruth’s arms. Michelle was shaking too. Wynonna leveled a glare at her mother but her voice was low, calm, steady despite the tears now streaking down her face.

            “We’re glad you came and gave us this information, but…You don’t get to come back after all this time and expect us to be the little girls you left behind. Our job is to fight those evil shit-tickets and make sure they don’t escape, for everyone and this curse is going to end with me. We’ve seen shit and done shit and been through shit that you can’t even imagine but we’re still here. And we have a family. So, if you don’t trust me and you don’t trust that I’m doing what I think is right, you know exactly where the door is. It hasn’t moved in 17 years.”

            No one moved. Waverly shuddered next to Wynonna as slowly, their mother, never once breaking eye contact, picked her coat up off the couch and walked through the front hall. There was a slam and Michelle was gone.

            Slowly, Wynonna reached up and wiped her cheeks, “Sorry Waves, I guess I still suck at setting good examples.”

            Waverly shook her head, wrapping her arms around Wynonna and leaned her head against her shoulder, “Think you’re doing just fine.”

            Wynonna didn’t look at her sister but pressed a kiss to her head, “Go catch Ruth up. See if she…”

            “I got it, Wynonna,” Waverly squeezed her hand one last time, “Just… go sit.”

            She nodded, gritting her back teeth and scrunching her eyes shut for a moment before turning to the rest, trying to pull up her usual unfazed expression, “Alright, show’s over. Doc, you’re on breakfast duty, Jeremy, make sure he doesn’t burn the house down.”

            “It was one time! How was I to know that foil did not go into the microwave?”  But Doc’s retort held no real venom, just keeping up their banter for Wynonna’s sake. Jeremy didn’t notice though, just pat his shoulder and steered them toward the kitchen.

            “Ruth, I’m gonna need my kid,” Wynonna held out her arms and with a final, fond look down at the baby, Ruth passed her over, gently untangling her hair from Alice’s grip.

            “She is wonderful. Thank you for-”

            “Yeah,” Wynonna coughed, unable to look away from her daughter’s face, “Well, just don’t make me regret it.”

            Ruth nodded and then turned to Waverly expectantly.

            “I need to grab a couple things from upstairs,” Waverly said, reaching over to weave her fingers between Nicole’s, “I’ll bring it all down to the kitchen?”

            Ruth nodded again, mismatched eyes flicking down to their linked hands and smiling a bit, “I’m excited to see what you’ve learned.”

            She wandered off in the same direction as Doc and Jeremy and Wynonna turned quickly and hurried toward the stairs, whispering to Alice. Dolls followed her a few steps but ended up leaning up against the wall in the hallway, staring after her with a look Waverly didn’t quite recognize on his face. Nicole came up behind her and wrapped her arms around Waverly’s waist.

            “You okay?” The smell of her conditioner washed over Waverly and she tucked her head up under Nicole’s chin.

            “Do you need to go back to desk duty?” Waverly whispered. She didn’t want to talk about her mother or the pressure that was mounting to put an end to all of this. Nicole could feel the tension across her torso and decided not to push for the moment.

            “Yeah, I think so,” Nicole sighed, pressing her face into Waverly’s hair, “I’m the only one who has any idea how to correctly do paperwork.”

            Waverly pouted, turning to burrowing her head against Nicole’s shoulder and curling against her, “Nooo.”

            Nicole huffed a laugh into the top of Waverly’s head, “I know but someone’s gotta work a real job around here.”

            “Hey,” Waverly pulled back to look up into Nicole’s face, arms still clasped around her waist, “Doc owns Shorty’s now and I run it, that’s a real job!”

            Nicole laughed again, “I know baby, I’m just teasing.”

            Waverly sighed and pressed a kiss to Nicole’s shoulder, “Fine. You’ll come home after, right?”

            “Of course. I need to grab a couple more clothes from my place but then I’ll be home,” And Waverly felt her stomach turn happily when Nicole referred to the homestead as home.

            “Okay. Well. Get going then,” She slapped Nicole’s butt and grinned when her girlfriend gave her a mock gasp.

            Waverly laughed, “I love you.”

            “I love you too.”

           

            Nicole had almost made it to her squad car when the door to the Homestead shut behind her and she heard Dolls calling from across the yard. She pulled up short, pushing her gloved hands further into the pockets of her coat and waiting for Dolls to jog out to her.

            “We need to talk.” Dolls had never been one to mince words and dawdle with pleasantries.

            “The ring-” Nicole started.

            “Yeah and the file.”

The nausea that swept through her every time she thought about the secret she and Dolls were keeping from the Earp sisters came again. From the look on Dolls’ face, he was just bothered by it as she was.

“Are you sure you’re ready to get it all out there?” Dolls ducked his head, a tell for any time emotions came up.

Nicole shrugged, swallowing hard against her suddenly tight throat, “Not really. But… We’ve found her, Ruth. We don’t really have much of a choice. The sooner we get this done with-”

“The sooner we’re all safe, yeah.”

“Assuming they don’t hate us after,” Nicole muttered.

“Hey,” Dolls clapped a hand on her shoulder and squeezed, “You’re Auntie Nicole. You’re not going anywhere. Someone’s gotta teach that kid how to be at least a little normal.” His eyes looked almost fragile and Nicole caught his hand as he went to pull away and waiting for him to meet her eyes.

“And you’re Dolls. Pretty much irreplaceable. Wynonna always…”

Dolls pulled his hand away and huffed, “Yeah well… Better get going. Gonna be a long one.”

“She was a wreck when you were gone,” Nicole called after Dolls’ retreating back, “You matter, Dolls. To all of us.”

The Deputy Marshal didn’t look back as he ducked back into the homestead. Nicole sighed, blinking back tears again, dropping down into her squad car and starting toward Purgatory with the knot in her chest tighter than it had been all month.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

 

            Wynonna locked herself away upstairs, laying on the bed and tracing her fingers over Alice’s cheeks and arms and hands. The baby latched onto one of Wynonna’s rings and stared, wide eyed at the glinting metal. The showdown with her mother had sapped her of all energy and focus. They could do without her for a bit.

            All of the work she’d done to set a good example for Waverly, give their mother a second chance, to try to repair things, had been for naught. At the core, she was still a scared ten years old, watching her mother’s tail-lights disappear around the corner in the opposite direction of Purgatory. She’d been responsible for a little girl then just like she was now. Daddy had flat out ignored Waverly, turning a blind eye whenever Willa’s dislike of her baby sister reared its head. Wynonna was the only one who had been safety for Waverly, the only one who was patient, who listened to her stories about her imaginary friends and dried her tears when she cried. Her chest ached at the memory and her eyes stung, thinking of tiny Waverly and watching Alice. No, she’ll have it much better.

            A knock on the door interrupted her memories. Wiping her eyes quickly but leaving her fingers for Alice to hold, she sat up.

            “Come in.”

            Jeremy’s curly hair preceded him into the room, carrying a plate with pancakes and a couple strips of bacon. It smelled amazing and Wynonna’s stomach rumbled. She needed to remember to eat more regularly.

 “Hey, I figured after the crazy family reunion and all of that you might be hungry and I wanted to see if I could take The Pod with me. Maybe show her Aesop Rock. It’s never to early to learn how to talk fast,” Jeremy rambled as usual, doing his best to be supportive. He was still the new kid and didn’t know entirely how to deal with emotional Wynonna.

            She did her best to hide her smile from the little dork, watching Alice turn her head at the sound of his voice, “You drew the short straw, huh?” she asked.

            “No!” He answered too quickly, “I just…”

            “Jeremy,” Wynonna took pity on him, smiling a little, “Thank you.”

            He grinned hugely and made his way into the room, setting her plate on the bedside table and turning to look at Alice, eyes dancing, “Hey Pod,” He knelt down next to the bed, chin on his hands to be on eye level with her. It took her a moment but when she focused on him, her little face split into a huge, gummy smile.

            “Wynonna! She’s smiling at me!” Jeremy bounced a little and it was almost too easy to imagine him as an excitable little kid, “Oh you’re so cool,” he turned back to Alice, tickling her little foot.

            Wynonna couldn’t speak, her chest felt funny and tight again but in the good way. Who would have thought the baby nerd would get her like this? She cleared her throat, picked up the plate and stood.

            “If you’re listening to music, put her on her stomach. Can’t have my kid having a weird flat head.”

            “Actually they make helmets that help reshape-”

            “Probably best if we can avoid that though?”

            “Right, yeah,” Jeremy scooped up Alice, still a little awkward at doing it himself but incredibly gentle, slow and calculated.

            They tromped down the stairs together, Wynonna munching on her bacon as they went. At the bottom of the stairs, Jeremy started toward the living room but Wynonna’s voice pulled him to a halt.

“I’m glad you stayed Jeremy,” The Earp heir wouldn’t make eye contact at first, eyes focused down at her plate, but with a sigh she lifted her gaze, “Really. Without you… I don’t know where we’d be. But it wouldn’t be great.”

Jeremy beamed, maybe more brightly than when Alice had smiled at him, “What’s family for?”

Wynonna bit the inside of her cheek and ruffled his hair as she slid past him toward the kitchen, “If you teach her to swear before I do, I’ll kick your ass.”

“There she is,” Jeremy called after her and Wynonna lifted her middle finger to him in response.

“Yep,” she heard him tell Alice, “That’s definitely your mom.”

 

 

            Ruth, Waverly and Doc spent the better part of the day working through history, between Doc’s memories before being dropped in the well, what Ruth had learned since her introduction to her father and Waverly’s life-time of research. Wynonna popped in to offer insight every now and then, and propping her chin on top of her sister’s head to watch Ruth like a hawk, looking for any indication that she was not as she claimed to be.

            No such flags were raised. In fact, watching Ruth interact with her sister made Wynonna even more positive about her choice to trust her. Their cousin seemed kind to the core, genuinely interested in doing what was right and hearing about all Waverly had learned. She peppered Doc with questions about Wyatt and their adventures. He was happy to oblige, finding comfort in another person from his era in a way the Earps hadn’t seen before.

Jeremy brought Alice back in to Wynonna, saying he and Dolls had to make a run to the store for a few things and telling them all how Alice had almost rolled from her stomach onto her back before scampering off after Dolls.

            Alice was content being passed from Waverly to Ruth to Doc. She actually held her head up for a few moments, staring at her father’s moustache with wide eyes before her little neck muscles gave out and she curled herself against his shoulder. Doc’s calloused, free hand came up to rub Alice’s back and he rested his cheek on the top of her head. His eyes sparkled when she made a little coo noise and Wynonna had to tear her gaze away, confronted by the familiar feeling of guilt that overtook her when Doc or Dolls made her heart skip a beat. It was ridiculous. She was a grown woman, a badass, a mother, protector of the world (well. Kind of, she liked to think of it that way). And yet these two idiots could spin her brain up into a tizzy like no other.

Waverly eventually got annoyed with her sister’s constant interruptions and shooed her away, “We’re trying to make progress, quit asking Ruth how many presidents she managed to sleep with.”  Wynonna went upstairs to wash the horrific start to the day out of her hair, but as she turned back, Ruth held up four fingers and grinned at her. Goddamn, she really is an Earp.

 

XXX

            Nicole scrubbed her eyes with gloved hands, thankful she hadn’t taken the time to put on make up before work today, as she rolled up to the homestead, a bag stuffed with clothing on the passenger seat. She turned off the lights of the squad car and killed the engine but made no move to get out. Getting out would mean going inside and telling her most kept secret, more than Shae, and she was terrified of what she could be losing.

 

            “Nicole, you’ve got to go faster, if they catch up to us-” Waverly was strapped into the front seat, holding tiny Alice so close Nicole was afraid she might crush the newborn.

            “I know baby, but if I flip us on this ice, it’s not going to make much difference if they catch us.” Nicole’s knuckles tightened on the steering wheel as she glanced in the rearview mirror. The truck was still gaining on them steadily, at least two revenants in the cab and three more hanging out of the bed, red eyes blazing and screeching like wild animals.

            They took the next turn hard, the back end of the squad car fishtailing but Nicole controlled the skid perfectly, thankful for the empty stretch of road toward the homestead as she swerved over the double line. The revenant driver didn’t fare as well but managed to point the nose of the truck toward them and flooring it after they stopped skidding a short way into the field to their left. The truck came ever closer, and the gunshots began, whizzing past the squad car as Nicole swerved this way and that, keeping their target moving and inconsistent. The noise of the guns woke Alice, who looked up at her aunt and let out a pitiful wail that broke both of their hearts. But they had to cross over, had to get to where the amolite’s protection would shield Alice from danger.

            Waverly was almost backward in her seat, “Nicole-”

            “I see them,” she gritted out, heart pounding. The arch at the entrance to the homestead loomed in the distance, a clear delineation of safety. Nicole’s foot was on the floor, eyes flitting from one mirror to another to the road ahead. The Revenants were almost upon them and she urged the squad car to go faster, now heedless of the ice. If it happened she’d handle it but-

            The arch was just 100 yards ahead. Nicole took the turn calculatedly early, letting the momentum of the skid she knew was coming, carry them sideways until they were pointed perfectly down the driveway and she floored it onto Earp land. There was an audible roar from the Revenants behind them and a symphony of gunshots. Alice screamed but it didn’t matter now. Nicole whipped the car around the corner of the house, shielding them from the revenants’ bullets and finally threw the car into park, knowing they were safe with several acres of protected land at their backs.

            The baby continued to cry, waving her tiny fists. Waverly leaned close and shushed her, pressing her lips against the baby’s forehead. Nicole kept her head on a swivel but reached over and ran a hand along the baby’s front, an extra comfort, more love and strength she could feel. Slowly, Alice hiccupped her way back to silence, brand new blue eyes staring up at the two of them wildly.

            “She’s got Doc’s eyes,” Waverly muttered, looking down at her niece like she was the one thing that could turn the world on its axis.

            “Yeah, but that hair’s all Wynonna,” Nicole responded, brushing her hand gently over the thick, dark hair on her head.

            They sat for a moment longer in the dying sunlight before Waverly shivered and glanced out the window again, “We should go in. It’s going to get cold and…”

            She didn’t need to finish, Wynonna was the only thing on Nicole’s mind too. She had hated leaving the heir at Shorty’s alone but Alice was now all of their priorities and she’d seen Dolls slip in the back door as well as she sped toward the line of the Ghost River Triangle. Dolls would sooner die that have Wynonna not get back to the baby.

            Carefully, Nicole got out of the car first, gun drawn, just in case somehow someone had gotten onto the homestead. She side stepped around the front of the car and opened Waverly’s door, still keeping an eye out, but all three of them made it inside the homestead without incident. Inside, the house felt hollow and dark, even when Nicole walked from room to room, flicking on lights and checking under beds and inside closets. Empty, as she had known it would be, but a relief none the less. Waverly set to putting together a bottle for Alice, a long overdue first meal for the baby. By the time Nicole had swept the whole house and finally engaged the safety on her gun, she found the two of them on the couch, Waverly’s eyes glistening with tears as she tried to press the bottle against the baby’s protesting lips. Nicole ran a gentle hand over Waverly’s hair as she came up behind the couch.

            “She won’t eat,” Waverly muttered, going to try for the bottle again but being met with stubbornly closed lips, “She… She’s been alive for three hours and forty seven minutes,” Of course she’s been keeping track down to the minute, Nicole thought, a smile tugging at her lips, “and she hasn’t eaten anything. And she’s already so small,” A tear dripped down Waverly’s cheek and Nicole circled to crouch next to her.

            “Do you mind if I try?”

            Waverly nodded and passed her first the bottle and then the baby, curling up into a ball in the corner of the couch as Nicole boosted herself up on the opposite end, marveling at the newest, smallest Earp. She took a slow, deep breath and then another, watching as the baby curled against her calmed slowly. Gently, Nicole teased the nipple of the bottle past Alice’s lips and, with a slightly perplexed look, Alice began to suck.

            “How-”

            “You’re just… a little anxious and I think she could feel that. Babies tend to take on the strongest emotion of the person holding them.” Nicole rocked back and forth gently, resetting the bottle tip in Alice’s mouth when it popped out and gently coaxing her to drink more.

            “How’d you know that? How did you stay that calm?” Waverly scooted her way over to Nicole, sliding her fingers into the red locks and brushing through them in a far too distracting way.

            Nicole didn’t respond, just smiled and hummed, leaning into the feeling of Waverly’s hands in her hair and the tiny warm bundle in her arms. If she closed her eyes and tried really hard, she could almost imagine that this was their future. Waverly pressed against her side, and it was their baby in her arms, safe and warm. Maybe Waverly had given birth, or she had or maybe neither of them and they’d just adopted this precious little dream. She and Waverly would raise a good, kind human who was brave and loved with all their heart and-

            “I can feel you thinking,” Waverly’s voice was hoarse in her ear and when Nicole met her eyes, she could see that maybe, maybe Waverly was thinking about the same thing she was.

            But instead of voicing it, Nicole shook her head. Later, she thought, We’ll have all the time in the world for that later. Instead she leaned forward and gently pressed her lips to Waverly’s, relishing the sigh that caused her to sag even more against Nicole. She nudged in more, wanting to deepen the kiss but Waverly pulled back, giggling gently.

            “As much as I love kissing you, and you know that I do, we probably shouldn’t scar Wynonna’s daughter any more than she already has been on her first day of life.”

            Nicole flushed and glanced down at Alice. The baby had stopped drinking her bottle and was staring up at them again with those wide blue eyes that seemed much too wise for her very limited time on the planet.

            “You’re right. She has had it pretty rough so far,” Nicole ran a finger down Alice’s nose, across her round little cheek. There was still a little bit of after-birth something dried below her ear but that didn’t matter. The baby really was gorgeous. She already had them wrapped around her little fingers. Heaven help them when she learned how to use it.

            “Well,” Waverly murmured back, folding the blanket back to count Alice’s little toes, “She is an Earp. Gotta learn quick that it comes with the territory.”
            Nicole laughed and nudged her temple against Waverly’s head, “At least she’s got the a whole team looking out for her.” Alice didn’t seem to be interested in the bottle anymore so Nicole gently lifted her up, out of the blankets and against her shoulder. She patted the baby’s back until a tiny burp came out and Alice relaxed fully onto her chest.

            “She’s just so perfect,” Waverly breathed, “How can something so small be so perfect?”

            Nicole just shook her head, pressing a kiss to the side of the baby’s head and taking a deep breath of baby smell before gently handing her back to Waverly.

            “She needs some Auntie Waverly cuddles. It’s been a pretty dramatic start to life.”

            “She seemed just fine with Auntie Nicole cuddles,” Waverly replied, but took the baby no less, happy to lean back against the arm of the couch and let Alice lay on her chest. Nicole’s cheeks went hot at ‘Auntie Nicole’ but she tried to play it off.

            Of course, Waverly notice, “Hey. You’re a part of this family. And you’re stuck with us.”

            Her throat closed up and she reached for the hand Waverly held out, “No where else I’d rather be.”

 

            Hours passed. Still no word from Wynonna or Dolls. Doc and Jeremy had business to attend to at the mine shaft but they promised to let them know if they heard from Wynonna and to hurry to the homestead as quickly as they could. Darkness fell well and truly and Waverly’s nervous energy was steadily building, coming off her in waves. Alice slept in Nicole’s arms when Waverly could no longer keep still, pacing from room to room while Nicole tried to keep her heartbeat slow and her breathing steady so as not to upset the baby. Alice seemed perfectly content to lay on Nicole’s chest, cuddled up half under her blanket, half under her aunt’s jacket. The steady rise and fall of the baby’s back under Nicole’s hand, the little puffs of air against her cheek were a reminder, every second, of what exactly they were fighting for.

            “What do we do if Wynonna doesn’t come back?”

            Nicole didn’t realize Waverly had wandered back into the room, too busy staring down at Alice and trying to keep it together when she was itching to go out and help their friends. Not that Waverly wasn’t, she knew. She was just better at controlling it than Waverly.

            “What are you talking about, baby?” Nicole hummed, softly laying a hand over Alice’s ear so could speak somewhat normally.

            Waverly’s eyes were sparkling as she twisted her hands in her shirt, “What if…”

            What if Wynonna dies? Nicole thought, What if she loses her sister? Alice loses her mother? The town loses their heir?”

            “We’ll go,” Nicole responded before Waverly could force out the words that stuck like sap in her throat, “We’ll call up the boys and get out of town with Alice. If she can’t grow up here safely, she can’t save it later.”

            “Wynonna doesn’t want her to have to save it and neither do I,” Waverly bit out quietly, “So we would find a way before she had to.”

            “Without a doubt,” Nicole replied quickly, “But… if that were to happen right now. We’d go. The big city or your Aunt’s place. Hell, we could go to the US. Although, with the way their political climate is looking, we’re probably better off fighting off the demons.”

            Waverly laughed wetly, coming to sink onto the couch at Nicole’s hip.

            “We would go, just us, or any of the boys who wanted to get away, we’d have a family. We would raise her and love her and when the time was right, you’d teach her her history,” Nicole continued, pressing a kiss to Waverly’s head, “And all of us together, we’d teach her how to fight. How to take care of herself. How to trust her gut. And if she wanted to, and if we hadn’t found a way to break the curse ourselves, we’d let her choose to come back here or not. And we’d tell her all about her mother and say that she would have supported her whatever her choice.”

            Nicole can feel hot tears leaking into the shoulder of her shirt and her stomach drops, “Oh baby, no don’t cry. We’re not going to have to do that though. Your sister is one of the strongest, most ornery people I’ve ever met and I’d sooner take Nedley’s mug than bet against Wynonna coming back for either of you.”

            Waverly nodded, “I know. But. I just wasn’t expecting…all of that.”

            Nicole flinched, “Shit… I’m sorry, I…”

            “No, no,” Waverly’s cool fingers were under her chin, tilting Nicole’s head until their eyes met, “I wasn’t expecting you to-”

            “You said it yourself,” Nicole responded, “You’re stuck with me.

            Waverly sagged against her empty side and shimmied her way up onto the sliver of couch between Nicole and the edge, “I’m not letting you go any time soon.

 

            Waverly eventually fell asleep against Nicole’s chest too, emotionally exhausted and physically drained. Her cheeks were pale, making the deep purple bruise along her cheek where Rosita had smashed her face into the pool table even more prominent. The revenant was lucky Nicole hadn’t been there. Alice slumbered on too and Nicole kept silent vigil over them, staring hard at her phone where it sat on the coffee table, willing it to bring them any news of the rest.

            There was a noise of tires on gravel and every fiber in Nicole’s body tensed. Waverly sensed it and stirred. Nicole pressed her lips to Waverly’s head but sat up, carefully sliding Alice off of her chest and into Waverly’s arms.

            “Be careful,” Waverly whispered. There was no discussion about going or not and Waverly had to be the one to stay with the baby. Nicole clicked the safety off on her gun and crept to the front door to peer out of the side window. A long black SUV was rolling down the driveway, blacked out window enough to give Nicole a jolt of adrenaline. It had to be them. Had to be.

            “Stay here,” Nicole hummed, slipping out the front door and holding her gun at the ready at her side. She took the stairs slowly, watching the vehicle come to a halt ten feet from the front door. The driver side door opened.

            “Dolls,” Nicole breathed, relieved. He was a little bloody, a little bruised but over all, no worse for wear. Physically, he’d looked worse, but his eyes… he’d been through hell, “Wynonna?”

            He nodded and jogged around the car to open the passenger side. Slowly, Wynonna’s legs appeared, shaking. Nicole rushed over, reholstering her gun and reaching out to grab Wynonna’s arm.

            The heir looked pale. Her lips were dry and cracked, eyes sunken and trembling from head to toe. But she gripped Nicole’s arm with her usual ferocity, gasping as she pulled herself up to stand and look Nicole in the eye.

            “Nicole, the line. Alice. Waverly.” Her eyes filled with tears as she searched Nicole’s for answers, clinging to her other arm. She could feel the tension from Wynonna, see her swallowing hard, trying to control the fear that was building in her.

            “It’s okay, they’re okay. They’re perfect,” Nicole leaned in and held tighter to Wynonna, “The baby’s Doc’s,” She breathed, “And Wave didn’t burn. Not one bit.”

            Wynonna tried to hold it together. She really did. Her lips trembled and she choked back a sob, “Really?”

            “I swear, Wynonna. They’re perfect.”

            Wynonna’s eyes overflowed and she collapsed forward to rest her head against Nicole’s shoulder. Nicole took it in stride, winding her arms around her friend and squeezing, “It’s okay. Let’s get you inside. Your baby’s been missing her momma.”

            At that moment, Waverly came crashing out of the house, a pistol in one hand, Alice cradled against her chest with the other. In the next instant, the gun had clattered to the porch and Waverly was throwing herself at Wynonna. Nicole held steady while they got their feet under them and Waverly pressed her forehead against her sister. Alice was placed in her mothers’ arms and Wynonna was sobbing, pressing her face against the bundle of blankets, kissing every little finger and holding on to Waverly for dear life.

 

            Nicole came back to herself as the front door opened and Waverly stepped out into that same porchlight, wrapped in a blanket and smiling at her with such affection that for a second, Nicole forgot how to breathe. What more was she going to have to lose in order to do what was right? Shaking her head, Nicole pulled off her gloves and left them on the glove compartment.

            Taking a deep breath, she waved, picked up her bag from the seat next to her and opened the door. Waverly drifted down onto the steps, feet covered in thick wool socks. Nicole locked the squad car and tossed the bag over her shoulder, forcing a grin for Waverly’s sake.

            “Hey,” She hummed, skipping the bottom step to be on the same level as Waverly and pressing a quick kiss to her lips, before continuing to the porch. Waverly’s finger on her arm stopped her before she could get to the door.

            “Hi,” Waverly chirped back, using the front of Nicole’s uniform to pull her back down for a second, lingering kiss that shot sparks to the tips of Nicole’s fingers and set a fire roiling low in her stomach. Waverly slid her hands up and around , threading into Nicole’s hair. She hummed as Waverly’s tongue ran over her bottom lip and suddenly, anxiety took over. She and Dolls had lied to the Earps. For months, they’d kept a secret because they didn’t know how to handle it. Because Nicole had been afraid and even though he wouldn’t admit it, so was Dolls. And now Waverly was kissing her like it was just a normal day, like Nicole wasn’t about to destroy their happiness. This could be the last time Waverly ever kisses me.

            The thought fanned the fire in her stomach and Nicole let the dufflebag drop, sliding her hands around Waverly’s waist under the blanket. Her skin felt hot against Nicole’s cool fingers and she was, yet again, endlessly thankful that her girlfriend had a crop top for every conceivable occasion. She ran her fingers across Waverly’s flat stomach, relishing the way she sighed against Nicole’s lips, ab muscles jumping at the attention. It was all the encouragement Nicole needed and she pressed forward, backing Waverly until her back hit the side of the house. The blanket slipped from around Waverly’s shoulder as Nicole pressed their bodies together, sliding one of her legs between Waverly’s and skating her hands up higher under her shirt.

            Waverly groaned, rocking against Nicole’s leg and knotting her fingers into Nicole’s hair, pulling slightly as Nicole nipped at her lip. Nails rain against Nicole’s scalp, then down her back, judt under the collar of her uniform then back into her hair and she moaned, pulling herself from Waverly’s lips and pressing kisses down the column of her neck, trying to memorize what exactly her skin felt like, the precise pounding of her pulse because if this was going to be the last time…

            “Oh,” Waverly was gasping and it sounded like music and Nicole just wanted to burrow deep inside this moment and never come out, never move forward.

            She reached her collar bone, biting gently before making her way back up the other side of Waverly’s neck, tongue flicking out to skim against her skin, hands dropping to slip through her belt loops, pressing their bodies as close as possible. Waverly tugged at Nicole’s uniform until the shirt came untucked and she could get her hands underneath, pressing her hands as flat and wide as she could, trying to touch as much of Nicole as possible. Their chests heaved against one another and all the world seemed to stop as Nicole slowly kissed up her jaw to her lips.

The kiss transformed, from hot, needy and much too arousing for their current position, to slow, gentle passion. Nicole cradled Waverly’s cheeks in her hands, memorizing every bit that she could. Waverly’s eyes fluttered open as Nicole ended the kiss slowly, pressing their forehead together. It took several moments for them to get their breath back, haloed in the light of the porch while darkness consumed everything around them.

            “What was that for?” Waverly breathed, mirroring Nicole’s hands and brushing her thumb over the scar on Nicole’s cheek.

            Her girlfriend shook her head, pressing one, two, three last gentle pecks against her lips before pulling back and staring at her. Waverly’s stomach dropped. It was the same look Nicole had had that day in the hospital when-

            “You know I… I love you so much, Waverly Earp.”

            Waverly’s heart constricted and she leaned forward to bury herself under Nicole’s chin, “Oh baby, I love you too.”

            None of the tension in Nicole’s body eased and Waverly felt her stomach drop further. Wordlessly, Nicole pressed a kiss into her head, picked up the blanket from where it had fallen to wrap it around Waverly, grabbed her duffle bag and took the youngest Earp sister’s hand.

            “Come inside,” Nicole whispered, “And call everyone together, okay?”

            “Why?” Waverly tugged Nicole back as she went for the door, “Nicole, what going on? You’re scaring me.”

            A silence stretched between them and Nicole seemed at a loss for words. She looked up, then down, and then everywhere but Waverly’s eeyes. Her view shifted every few seconds and she tried to calm the anxiety in her.  Slowly she brought her gaze up to meet Waverly’s, tears building even as she blinked furiously against them

            “Please, Wave, please don’t hate me.”

            “Baby, no,” Waverly pressed herself forward, taking Nicole’s face in her hands again and for the thousandth time, cursing all the horrible things she’d texted Nicole during their fight, “No, I could never hate you. Never.”

            The contact and words seemed to have the opposite effect that Waverly wanted and a tear splashed out onto Waverly’s thumb, dripping from Nicole’s lashes, “Wait another couple hours and then tell me that again.”

            With that, she gently tugged her face away from Waverly and opened the door to the homestead and Waverly, feeling sicker than she had in ages, followed her in.

           

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

 

            Everyone gathered in the living room, Ruth holding Alice propped up against her bent legs with Calamity Jane sitting on the arm of the couch behind them, purring softly. Wynonna settled herself at the other end of the couch, feet propped up on the coffee table and picking away at her nail polish. Jeremy, as usual, followed Doc and hovered next to him by the door way to the kitchen and Waverly had folded herself up in the easy chair, worried eyes tracking Nicole’s every movement.

            She’d changed from her uniform into soft dark jeans and an oversized sweater, the maroon one she knew Waverly liked. Her face was paler than usual and she seemed to be trying to dam up her emotions, keep her face neutral. If Waverly didn’t know her so well, she wouldn’t have noticed, but she did and she had and all she wanted was to hold her until that look went away.

Dolls stood with Nicole in front of everyone else, the file behind his back, Bulshar’s ring behind hers. He was, as ever, unreadable, completely devoid of emotion.

            “What’s goin’ on, Haught cakes?” Wynonna quipped, but pulled herself up short, also noticing the fragile hold her friend had on control.

            Nicole and Dolls looked at one another before, sighing, they revealed the items behind their backs and set them on the coffee table.

            “We…I haven’t been completely honest,” Nicole started, staring down at the ring and closed file, “And. It’s time I tell you all everything.”

            Wynonna’s eyes narrowed and Waverly could see her physically holding herself back from jumping down both Nicole’s and Dolls’ throats, but put enough trust in them that she let it ride. For now.

            Nicole wouldn’t meet Waverly’s eyes as she stooped and opened the file,  carefully laying out all four of the pictures inside, some black and white, some in color. A farmland, ringed with trees, a high fence and bodies scattered as far as the pictures stretched. Men, women, children, old, young. Like they’d simply dropped dead where they stood with no warning.

            Waverly gasped quietly, leaning forward in her chair, and picking up the one nearest her. Wynonna snatched one up too and she scooted over to put it in Ruth’s field of vision as well. Doc and Jeremy stepped in closer to survey the pictures as well.

            “This is the Cult of Bulshar or… well they were,” Nicole started, staring down at the two remaining photographs as she spoke, “It’s been around… I don’t know how long. A long time. If I had to guess, since just after Wyatt came to Purgatory. It started in northern Alberta but it’s been moving south as time has gone on.

            “The followers of the cult are told that Bulshar is God’s chosen angel to create His next child, a savior or… something. I can’t really remember,” Her voice dropped and Nicole pressed her fingers against her forehead, “He was supposed to create his own child to rule on Earth while Jesus ruled the sky. But. Well we all know that’s bullshit. Bulshar tricked unsuspecting clergy people into following him, gave them power, corrupted them. They’re told that they were blessed by Bulshar to…to lead people to his ways and find him the one to birth his child.” Nicole was wringing her fingers and fiddling with the turquoise ring on her right hand, still not raising her gaze from the photos.

            “And then, every thirty years or so, there’s a mass suicide,” Nicole shuddered, “Like, Jonestown-scale mass suicide. The cult leaders tell everyone that the special drink will ascend them to the next level, bring them closer to Bulshar and being blessed.  But it’s just… it’s just dandelion tea and cyanide.”

            “Wait,” Wynonna piped up, “Hold on, because like. Ruth is for sure his kid. And Bulshar and Clootie are one in the same so-”

            “It’s just some bullshit lore, Wynonna,” Nicole snapped, “Something said to trick hopeless people into joining something they think is bigger than themselves. Giving them power over vulnerable people. I’m sure Ruth is very strong and all of that but, it’s… he’s a fucking demon, he’s evil! Once they drink the tea, they all die, all of them except the top elite people. They don’t drink the same tea, they just make it look like they do so everyone else thinks they’ve been chosen by the angels. They take the blood of those who have died, every person, and they mix it with holy water from the church where you great-granddaddy first interred the demon. ‘Blood of the sinners, purified.’”

            “I am made whole in the house of my enemies,” Wynonna breathed.
            “Yeah, it’s what they use to… to anoint new members too,” Nicole responded, and a shudder passed around the room, “I don’t know why they didn’t just dig him up or… maybe they didn’t even know he was there. The story only goes that Bulshar was “imprisoned by the evil creatures of the world” because he had too much power to create the next Jesus or whatever and they didn’t want that.”

            “Wait, wait so how do you know all of this?” Jeremy cut in, “Because like, this file is tiny and you’re not even reading from it, so-” realization hit him and his eyes went wide, “Oh. Oh. Shit. Nicole.” She and Jeremy shared a long look before she broke off, rubbing her palms against the tops of her jeans.

            “My parents got married young,” Nicole had sunk to the floor, crosslegged behind the coffee table, still refusing to meet any of their gazes, “They were high school sweethearts, married right out of high school and… There wasn’t much for them in a small town. They had me pretty soon after. We didn’t have a lot, from what my mother said. They were…” Nicole seemed to search for the word, “God-fearing? Devout... To say the least.

            “I don’t really know how we ended up there. We… they joined when I was two, so it was all I knew. I… I won’t bore you with the details of…” Nicole was unsettlingly shaky, the confidence and grounded energy she usually exuded completely gone. They could see her jaw working, back teeth gnashing against one another as she continued.

            “It’s pretty similar to every other organized religion. Men are seen as superior, women are only for having children or doing work around the home. Everyone that wasn’t a man was supposed to be seen and not heard. Punishment was-” she worked her jaw, the scar on her cheek waxing in the light and Waverly’s heart felt like it was crumbling, “Anyway. I was ten when my little brother was born. And my mother started questioning things. Started to get scared. Every Sunday, the clergy would talk about how the time was coming to join Bulshar. Mom… My mother. Tried to talk to my father, tried to get him to see what was going on, to leave but my father had risen through the ranks. It was the first time he’d ever had any kind of power over others, any real control of his life and it… he wasn’t the same. He thought my mother had been taken by the evil of the world, convinced himself it was all real. He locked her in the house, kept her tied by the ankle to their bed so she couldn’t run. He took my little brother from her, I wasn’t allowed to speak to her, only bring her food and water. I was in charge of my little brother as well. He was barely a few months old but…”

            Nicole shook her head and stood up again, beginning to pace back and forth across the living room, “A couple of weeks went by and… Well I disobeyed. My mother and I would talk when I was sure my father was out of the house. She told me about her sister who lived in the city and the world where people dressed in bright colors and women were doctors and everything was different…” Nicole’s voice broke but she continued to pace, still not looking anyone in the eye.

            “Then, one night, a bunch of men came to our house. They were yelling about how the time had come and the wicked must go before to pave the way for the blessed. It was so loud we could hear them all the way down the road. I was in my mother’s room and I was afraid so I started to hide. I wanted to get in the closet but she tore open the window and dropped me outside. She said to run.”

            Nicole’s lips were white as she pressed them into a line, “I tried to hold onto her hand but she pulled away and shut the window. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I’d taken her ring.” The turquoise was barely visible between her twisting fingers.

            “ I couldn’t move. I… We lived in the very back of the complex, right near the fence  but I didn’t want to leave them all. I could still hear what was going on inside, the walls were really thin.

            “Someone was carrying my little brother and he was crying. My mother was forced…He barely knew our mother and they-” No air seemed to be left in the room, “They… The tea…I…in his bottle,” He eyes had lost all focus, and her breath was coming in quick short bursts, hands clenching and unclenching, “The woods seemed like they went on for ages. No one… I went to-” She was shaking, knees and hands trembling violently and the room slid out of focus, just a swirl of colors and shapes swimming before her.

 Waverly had heard enough. Wiping her cheeks, she was up before she even realized, catching Nicole by the waist as she turned to make another pass across the living room.

            “Baby, breathe, Nicole,” She caught her girlfriend’s face and pulled them around, meeting eyes for the first time in what felt like hours. Nicole’s dark eyes were bloodshot and dilated as she met Waverly’s and a sob broke from her chest.

            “Wave, I lied, I’m so sorry, I lied again, and-”

            “No, no shhh. Shh…” Waverly guided them to the floor, cradling Nicole in her arms, carding her fingers through the red hair and whispering to her gently, both of them wholly unaware of the rest of their family, who watched on in heartbreak.

            Dolls cleared his throat and stepped up, trying to pull attention, “The last known sect of the Cult of Bulshar was found in 2002, about 15 miles outside the town of Faust. They were the fifth group found like this,” he gestured at the pictures, “Black Badge, since its inception, has taken charge of these cases.”

            “Why the hell keep this from us until now?” Wynonna fired up. She’d taken her daughter back from Ruth, chest aching when Nicole had talked about her baby brother. Nicole flinched at Wynonna’s tone and she shook her head, hard, trying to pull herself up, away from Waverly, defend Dolls and herself.

            “Wynonna, I-” Each breath wheezed through her throat and all the fight went out of Wynonna.

            “Shit,” She crossed the room, Alice against her chest and crouched next to them, “No, Nicole, shit, I’m not talking about you. I… Dolls,” she threw a dirty look over her shoulder, “Should have told-”

            “Don’t- blame him. Don’t. It’s… I… I didn’t even know. Didn’t even… know,” Waverly’s fingers between hers felt like all that was real and faintly, she was terrified that she was crushing the smaller hand. She wanted to let go but the idea of leaving her only tether was equally scary. You’re hurting her. Stop! Nicole’s hand sprang open and she tried to shake her hand away but Waverly held tight, smoothing her fingers across Nicole’s palm.

            “Didn’t even know… Widows said Bulshar. Asked… asked asked asked,” Fuck, what are the words. Her eyes burned and she squeezed them shut. Pins and needles shot through her fingers and her chest felt like it was on fire. Another hand rested on her shoulder.

            “Nicole, hey, breathe,” Wynonna. Waverly’s fingers stroking over hers. Wynonna’s palm running over her back. Oh god. Why don’t they hate me? Get it together, Nicole, come on.

            “Nicole asked me to look into the left over BBD files that Jeremy and I had managed to save, after you defeated the Widows,” Dolls cut in gently, “It wasn’t my story to tell.”

            “I’m so so sorry. I’m so sorry,” Nicole was saying over and over again. Wynonna squeezed her shoulder and took in the rest of the room. Ruth was half out of her seat, seemingly unsure what to do but desperate to help. Doc and Jeremy were stock still, pained expressions on their faces as the watched Nicole shaking in Waverly’s arms.

            “Can you give us all a minute?” Wynonna asked quietly, nodding the rest of them toward the kitchen.

            The rest nodded, slowly making their way out of the room and Wynonna met Dolls’ eyes again. There was no blame in them. His chest expanded in relief.

            “You too, Dolls,” She murmured, not moving her hand from Nicole’s arm, “Bring us some water, if-”

            “Of course,” he ducked out of the room and Nicole was left alone with the three Earps.

            “You don’t have to say anything, baby,” Waverly whispered, letting Nicole’s forehead rest on her collar bone, “Just breathe. You’re okay. You’re safe. I love you.”

            That didn’t seem to be the right thing to say. Another breath almost whistled down Nicole’s throat and she shook her head violently again.

            “No, you shouldn’t. You-”

            “Hey,” Wynonna cut in, trying to bring a little levity, break the cycle, “Don’t tell my baby sister what to do.”

            Nicole’s eyes went wide and she swore, “Fuck, I wasn’t trying. Wave I-”

            “Fuck,” Wynonna grunted, “It’s been a minute since I’ve done this. Okay, Haught, just keep breathing. It was a bad joke. Shit.”

            Wynonna took her free hand after shifting Alice to her shoulder and she watched as Waverly took deep, exaggerated breaths, pressing the hand of Nicole’s that she held, against her ribs, letting her feel the rise and fall.

            “Haught,” Wynonna tried again, voice softer, “Hey. When you feel up to it. Tell me five things you can see. Just five.”

            “Um,” Nicole’s head snapped up and she tried to focus on something immediately. Wynonna squeezed her hand and Nicole took another deep breath.

            “I… I can see Alice’s socks,” Her eyes had zeroed in on the baby, half awake on her mother’s shoulder, “And… I can… can see Waverly’s purple nail polish. The… the the throw, the red throw on the couch. Wy… Wynonna’s necklace and … and P-peacemaker.”

            Wynonna nodded encouragingly, “Good, yeah. What about four things you can hear?”

            In the back of her mind, Nicole felt embarrassed by Wynonna leading her through a coping exercise but on the other hand, it was so incredibly comforting to have people holding her up, after hearing all the horror, hearing her lies. Having people support her.

            “The fire crackling. Um… Um,” There was a far off clink, “Doc finding the whiskey.”

            Waverly laughed and nodded, “Good, baby, what else?”

            “Your voice,” Nicole’s tone softened, trying to map out the sound waves of Waverly’s voice in her head.

            Quiet snuffles, little huffs, “And… and Alice. Um. I. can hear. Alice. Breathing.”

            “What about three things you can feel?” Waverly jumped in, fingers tracing against her palm lazily again.

            “You,” Nicole gasped, “You and… and the floor the floor and. Wynonna’s hand.”

            “Smell? Two things you smell?” Wynonna could feel the tension slowly draining from the officer as she was forced to push her awareness elsewhere.

            “Smoke from the fire. Perfume.”

            “And one thing you can taste?” Waverly finished.

            Nicole turned her focus to her mouth and wrinkled her nose, “Ashy. Dry.”

            Dolls had come and gone with the water without her noticing until Waverly was pressing the cool glass into her hand. Mouth parched, Nicole wanted to try to down the whole thing in one. But that wouldn’t help the roiling in her stomach. Instead, she took small, measured sips, still trying to find a more stable breathing pattern.

            “We need to do it again?” Wynonna asked, “We can do it as many times as we need to.”

            “Just one more?” Nicole breathed, “One more time?”

           

            The second round went much more smoothly. Slowly, Nicole came back to herself. The tingling in her hands faded, breaths came easier and the world steadied. Waverly’s fingers against her palm were almost hypnotic and even having Wynonna near was a strange comfort.

            Slowly, Nicole pulled herself fully vertical again, feeling embarrassed at her break down, as happened every time. She’d never been around anyone when it happened though. Their comfort almost made it bearable.

“I’m so sor-”

            “Dude, no more apologizing. We get it. You’re talking to the queens of family trauma repression and unexpected freak outs. You’re in good company,” Wynonna squeezed her shoulder once more and then sat back on her heels all the way. Waverly still hadn’t spoken, just pressed a kiss against her shoulder.

            “I’ve… I’ve never had to tell anyone any of this, not even…”

            “No one’s ever heard this part of your life?” Waverly asked softly, sounding a little horrified.

            Nicole shook her head, “I say I don’t talk to my family and most people just leave it at that. I mean, I’m a lesbian. It wouldn’t the most uncommon story.”

            Waverly dropped her head against Nicole’s arm, skating her fingers up and down.

            “So you… you left?” Wynonna prodded gently, ignoring the hard look Waverly turned on her but Nicole shook her head. This was good. She needed to talk this through, out loud. At least once in her life.

            “I crawled under the fence once my mother stopped crying… Knowing they weren’t there anymore…” She cleared her throat, taking a deep breath to dispel some of the lingering anxiety.

            “Wandered around the woods for a night, maybe two, not really… I mean I’d never been outside the compound that I could remember. Police picked me up a couple mornings later, walking along the road. They thought I was a run away or some kid that got left behind when their family went camping. But then they couldn’t find my father’s last name in the data base when I told them his name. Haught was my mother’s last name so I decided to use it. Figured, they’d find my aunt who lived in the city. I stayed with her until I was 17. Kinda reminds me of Gus, actually,” Nicole chuckled, knocking her head against Waverly’s.

            “But… well she died. There was a break in at the store she owned. And… Well that’s why I wanted to be a cop. It was only a month before my 18th birthday so I didn’t have to wait long to join the academy. Really nice, old lady fostered me for that month, actually. She baked me a cake when I graduated the academy.”

            Wynonna seemed to bristle slightly at the mention of ‘fostering’ and Nicole didn’t miss Waverly’s free hand sliding over to rest on her sister’s ankle, just above her sock. What an interesting group they were.

            “What about the ring?” Wynonna asked, a little sharper than she normally would have been, “Does it-”

            “Have a meaning, yeah. I don’t remember what exactly but from the stories I remember, only Bulshar was ‘worthy’ of wearing the ring. They said ‘the Lord’s blessing wasn’t meant for mortals. Such power would only corrupt us.’ One of the major jobs of people in the cult, usually the kids was to take little trowels of dirt and sifting through them. To find where the ‘evil’ in the world had disposed of it.”

            “Jesus Christ,” Wynonna muttered, “These loonies were completely brainwashed.”

            Nicole felt a weird surge through her, like a need to defend the cult members. They hadn’t all been just crazies who didn’t understand that they were being manipulated. They were the kind old woman who always gave Nicole a handful of blueberries when she brought the milk bottles from the houses in their area. The teenager who stopped the other little kids from picking on Nicole about how red her hair was. The sweet little old guy with the grandson a couple of years older than her, who brought her books as the boy outgrew them.

            “Some of them just had nothing else to believe in,” She heard herself saying, harsher than she meant, “I… Some people just needed something.”

            Wynonna sighed and ran her fingers through her hair, “God, how does this keep getting more and more fucked?” She glanced down at Alice, “Sorry.”

            “Did they ever say what would happen when Bulshar came back?” Waverly asked, still fiddling with Nicole’s fingers. They slipped around to touch the ring and it felt like an electric shock.

            “I…” Nicole closed her eyes and furrowed her brow in concntration, “I… don’t remember. I’m sorry. It… I tried to block it all out. My aunt… she never wanted to talk about it. Told everyone my parents died in a car wreck. I almost believed it for a while. I’m trying-”

            “No, it’s fine, we know you are, baby,” Waverly whispered, “You-”

            “Nicole,” Wynonna cut in again, worrying her lip between her teeth, “I…” She looked conflicted. Trauma trying to respect trauma battling mothering instincts. Nicole made the choice for her. She’d do anything to keep Alice safe, to make Waverly’s life easier, to free them all of this bullshit.

            “What do you need?”

            Wynonna swallowed hard but got out, “When we got Willa back, Dolls… Dolls kind of hypnotized her. Tried to pull up some repressed memories. I know it’s a lot to ask-”

            “Wynonna!” Waverly snapped, “Is that a good idea? The last time Dolls hypnotized someone, she turned evil and shot Nicole.

            “I know, baby girl, but we know Nicole is made of stronger stuff. She has what… what Willa didn’t. Us.”

            Nicole was touched by… damn, by all of it. Waverly’s protectiveness, Wynonna’s confidence in her, saying that she had them.

            “But what if-”

            “Waves,” Nicole hummed, sliding her fingers around Waverly’s wrist gently, “It’s okay,” She turned to Wynonna, trying to convey her gratitude through her eyes, “I’ll do it. Name the time.”

            “Tomorrow.” She responded quickly, “You’ve… you’ve done enough tonight, Haught. Rest up. ‘Cause tomorrow’s gonna be another long day.”

            Nicole nodded and Wynonna gave her one last (dare she say it) sisterly look, before unfolding herself and rising, nodding toward the kitchen, “I’m gonna-”

            She and Waverly nodded and Wynonna took a step away before Nicole’s voice stopped her.

            “Hey, can…” Wynonna turned, brushing her hand gently over Alice’s head and Nicole faltered. She watched as Alice slowly lifted her head against her mother’s hand, wobbling slightly and swallowed past the new, weird lump in her throat.

            Not a word passed between them. Wynonna smiled sadly and turned back to crouch in front of them, slowly shifting Alice into Nicole’s arms.

            “Can you hold her for a sec? Need a stretch and while baby muscles are a thing, so is baby sweat.”

            Nicole cuddled the baby in close, grateful that Wynonna hadn’t made her say it out loud, “Yeah, sure. Whatever you need.”

            Wynonna shot them both one last smile then wandered back into the kitchen, ruffling Nicole’s hair as she passed.

            “Alright,” they heard her call out, “Anyone else got tragic backstory they want to get out today? Because two in a day is just about my limit so I’ll need either a shit ton of liquor or a night to recharge.”

            Waverly snorted softly leaning against Nicole’s side and smiling down at Alice who was patting her little hand against Nicole’s sternum. She pressed her face to Alice’s dark hair and inhaled the baby scent again, sighing at Alice’s little noises.

            Waverly watched her girlfriend in silence, heart swelling and breaking all at once. Everything Nicole had told them seemed so… impossible. Logically, she knew that people survived cults, people lived in cults. But Nicole? Her Nicole? Vibrant, kind, rational, steady, affectionate Nicole.

            “I can’t believe…” she trailed off, running a nail over the bottom of Alice’s foot.

            Nicole sighed again, heavier than before, “I know baby. And I’m… I can’t tell you how sorry I am that I lied to you. Again. I swore no more secrets but I kept another one and-”

            “No, no. Nicole,” Waverly’s stomach dropped and she pressed her fingers under Nicole’s chin until finally, finally, their eyes met, “No, I… This is different. This… this was your life, it’s completely different than…I wasn’t trying to say anything like… Nicole, I just… No one’s heard about all of the… And I just wish I could fix it or take the pain away or…”

            “Babe, now you know how I’ve felt for the last year and however long. Hearing about all… and then Willa and your mom and…”

            Neither of them knew where to go from there. Their sides were pressed together, backs propped on the coffee table. Together, they watched Alice snuggle closer to Nicole, yawning widely.

            “She’ll have it better than all of us did,” Waverly whispered, thinking back about the death of Doc’s mother, Jeremy’s car crash, Dolls’… whatever had happened to him as a child had clearly not been good, the murder of Ruth’s best friend, right in front of her, at the hands of her father, Nicole’s survival, of her’s and Wynonna’s, “She and her cousins and siblings and all of their kids.”

            Nicole’s heart kicked at cousins and she blinked down at Waverly, “C…cousins?”

            Waverly’s cheeks went red, “Well… one day?” and it took everything in Nicole not to burst into tears as Waverly brought her eyes up to meet Nicole’s. She still wants… She still wants a future? With me?

            “One day, with me?” She found herself whispering, afraid to break the spell.

            “Who else?” Waverly laughed quietly.

            Nicole was pretty sure she’d be able to fly if she wanted to, “Oh… Oh Waverly. One day. Absolutely.”

            Waverly’s smile was brighter than sunlight on snow.

 

XXX

            Wynonna bundled Alice off to bed once Nicole and Waverly joined the rest of them in the kitchen, letting Nicole get in one more quick kiss on the baby’s head before taking her to say good night to everyone else. Doc held her close for a moment longer than usual and Dolls gave her the gentlest tickle on the tummy. Everyone else slowly wandered off to bed after that. Jeremy tried to be sweet and gallant (mostly to impress Doc if he was honest with himself) and give up his bed to Ruth and take the couch but she, just as gallantly, refused.

            “Jeremy,” she laughed as he babbled at her, “I’m half demon. Demon constitution trumps skinny, little scientist. No matter how sweet you’re trying to be.”

            He didn’t fight her much longer after that, just enough to show he wasn’t impressed by the “skinny, little scientist” bit. She really was an Earp.

 

            Everyone traipsed away to bed pretty quickly afterward. Doc stole away upstairs instead of wandering out to the barn, slipping into Wynonna’s room when he thought no one would notice (being away from Alice made him antsy after the day’s events and even laying on the floor next to her bassinet and listening to her breathe would ease his heart.) Of course, Dolls did. His door was shut with a  bit more force than usual. Ruth took up residence on the couch and Waverly and Nicole holed up in their room, Calamity Jane, following close on Nicole’s heels.

            The room was cool and dark, Waverly under an extra three blankets besides the duvet she and Nicole shared, her ear pressed over the steady thrum of Nicole’s heart. It was still pounding faster than the usual.

            “Nicole?”

            “Hmm?”

            “Are… are you okay? I know it wasn’t easy to talk about…”

            Nicole didn’t answer for a moment and Waverly snuck her hand under the hem of her t-shirt, drawing slow patterns over her smooth skin. Finally, Nicole sighed and pressed a kiss to her hair.

            “Yeah. I’m… I feel like I’m forgetting them.”

            “I’m sorry baby,” Waverly whispered back, burrowing closer and sliding her fingers up to trip over Nicole’s ribs.

            “No, I… it was bound to happen. Fifteen years of trying to forget. Now I really am.”

            They were quiet for another few minutes, Nicole combing out non-existent knots in Waverly’s hair.

            “What was your brother’s name?” It felt like it had been hours, but probably only minutes had passed.

            “Noah,” Nicole whispered, reverently, “His name was Noah.” But her chest expanded in a deeper breath and Waverly pushed a little further.

            “What color was your mother’s hair?”

            “I… I think it was lighter than mine. More strawberry blonde. Curly. I was always jealous of that.”

            “Did your mother sing songs to you when you were little?”

            “Wave, you don’t have to-”

            “One piece at a time. That’s how we lose people,” Waverly parroted Wynonna’s words from what felt like eons ago, “And… and if I can help you keep them… even a little bit.”

            Nicole huffed into Waverly’s hair, “What did I ever do to deserve you, Waverly Earp?”

            Waverly scoffed and dug her chin against Nicole’s chest, “Hush. Just… I love you, okay? And… you-”

            “Here Comes The Sun,” Nicole stopped her gently, not sure she could handle whatever Waverly was going to say next, “The…The Beatles song.” She hummed the first few lines quietly.

            “I love that one.”

            The questions continued until they both fell asleep, more solid than they’d felt all day.