Six days. They had administered the antidote to Nicole six days ago. Wynonna had run against the clock, Jeremy and Rosita had run against the clock, but it had been- well, not too late, there was still a chance, a good chance according to the doctors, but Nicole’s body had already begun to shut down into a coma when they got there. Nicole’d been asleep ever since.
Waverly was sitting beside Nicole’s bed, a book on her lap to keep up with the research the team needed without having to leave her girlfriend by herself. She was not researching anymore, though. Her eyes kept finding Nicole’s chest - the rhythmic rise and fall one of the only things bringing her comfort right then -, and one of her hands, the one that was not snugly fit against Nicole’s own, ran intricate patterns on Nicole’s arm, sometimes connecting the tiny dots – four on her left arm – and sometimes tracing imaginary mazes, too lost in her own thoughts.
That’s why she didn’t notice the flutter of Nicole’s eyes nor the slight change in the beeping of the machine that monitored her heart rate. Not until Nicole’s arm and hand reacted to the stimulus she’d been unconsciously offering.
Waverly jumped from her seat, book falling forgotten on the floor, as her eyes zeroed on Nicole’s face. A still confused and probably unseeing pair of brown eyes ran over the room, unfocused.
Waverly ran to the door. “A doctor! I need a doctor, please. She’s waking up.”
Two nurses came in and started examining the redhead.
“That means she’s okay, right? She’s awake. She’s okay.” Waverly tried to get closer to Nicole, but the nurses kept her away, her back touching the wall as she searched for any sign that Nicole could see her, recognized her form even though her eyes were probably unused to the light and to so much information at once after almost a week of darkness. “You’re going to be okay, baby, you’re going to be okay.”
Waverly and the nurses had left the room when the doctor arrived, asking for privacy so he could test Nicole’s responses in a quieter environment. Waverly took the chance to call Wynonna. Her sister had been beating herself up for failing Waverly when she’d said she’d do it, she’d save Nicole. But Nicole was awake now. Everything was going to be fine.
“Baby girl, she’s awake? She’s okay?” Wynonna asked as she walked faster than her pregnancy should allow her to.
“Yea, I don’t know if everything is fine, but she’s awake. The doctor is still in there. How long do these tests take anyway?”
As if on cue, the doctor left the room, pulling the door between them and Nicole to prevent their conversation from traveling, but without closing it fully.
“Miss Earp,” the doctor said addressing the younger sister, “physically she is fine, but she seems to be experiencing some memory loss.”
“She forgot the attack?” Wynonna asked.
“She says that the last relevant fact she remembers is graduating her Academy. She believes she has memories from after that, but nothing major enough for her to place it.”
Waverly forgot to breathe.
“Do you know how long ago that was?” The doctor prompted.
“Well, she came around the same time I did, right, Waves? So… about ten months ago, I’d say, maybe more.”
“She doesn’t remember me?” Waverly asked, not really registering what Wynonna had said.
“I don’t know. If your sister is right, she seems to have forgotten almost a year. But the mind is a tricky thing, some memories are harder to erase. She didn’t know she was in Purgatory, though, when I talked to her, but remembers thinking about taking the Sheriff’s offer to work here. As it is, she didn’t suffer any head trauma, so I believe she has a good chance of full recovery. I would recommend that she stays somewhere familiar to her; that should help kick start her memory.”
Waverly nodded numbly as her feet took the choice from her and headed into Nicole’s room.
The redhead seemed distracted, a frown on her face as she studied the bandage on her arm.
“Hey,” Waverly said timidly, her throat hurting at the forced passage of air.
“Hey.” Nicole offered a small smile, though her eyes had none of the usual warmth she reserved for her.
“You don’t know who I am, right?”
Nicole studied her face, taking longer on her eyes, her expression suddenly softer.
“No, should I? The doctor said I lost some of my memory, but he couldn’t tell how much.”
“I’d say almost a year, Nicole.”
“A year… You know me? We’re close?”
A sad smile painted Waverly’s face. “Yea, we’re close, I’m Waverly,” she approached Nicole’s bed, teasing the sheet with her fingertips, “you’re my- my friend.” She noticed Wynonna leaning against the doorway. “Mine and my sister’s.”
Wynonna smiled, but didn’t move from her safe spot, “hey, Haught.”
“Wynonna, Waverly,” she said as if trying to commit the names to memory. “I’m sorry, guys, I don’t remember you. There’s… nothing.”
“That’s okay,” Waverly soothed, though she was sure her expression betrayed how not okay all of this was, “the doctor said that staying in a familiar environment might help you, so we’re bringing you home, okay? You need someone to keep an eye out for any symptoms, so it’s either us or the hospital.”
“Right, of course, it’s just… Are we really that close? Cause I feel like- like I’d be staying in a stranger’s place.”
“I know it feels like we are, but we’re not strangers, Nicole.” Waverly swallowed her heartbreak, trying to keep her voice steady as she continued. “You’re really important to me. There’s no way I’m letting you out of my sight until you’re comfortable again here in Purgatory.”
“Ok.” Nicole acquiesced, though her eyes kept searching for something in Waverly’s.
“Ok. I’m just,” the younger Earp averted her eyes, afraid of what she might show. She pointed towards the hallway, already making an escape, “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
Waverly all but ran out of the room. She would have to hold it together not to scare Nicole. Nicole was the one who didn’t know anyone around her, who didn’t know the town she was in, Waverly would have to keep herself under control around the other woman.
“Waverly, wait! Wav- Waverly!”
Wynonna finally reached her, pulling her back and around roughly by her wrist.
“How are you this fast with extra 20 pounds in your belly?”
“Heir skills. Come on, Waves, why didn’t you tell her you’re her girlfriend?”
“She doesn’t know anyone here, Wynonna. She doesn’t know the town. She doesn’t know that she’s here in this situation because a demon,” she whispered, looking around to check for eavesdroppers, “bit her. And she’s going to find the last one out really fast, because the marks in her arm will show her that it was a human bite, and regular people are not venomous! I’m not just going to throw one more thing on her. She has enough on her plate without having to force herself to like me.”
“Force her- You know what? Fine. Keep your little charade. Let’s just get her home. I can’t stand this hospital anymore. One week is enough.”
When they got home, Waverly took it upon herself to show Nicole around the house and directed her to the bathroom to have a proper shower after a week of being cleaned only with a wet cloth. As the night approached, they all sat together to have dinner and to situate Nicole a little better on what was her life now, only, given their avoidance of any demon talk after such an eventful day, their chat ended up being mostly about funny situations they’d faced together. Wynonna was very proud of how drunk she’d gotten Nicole, and Nicole was mortified over how strong she’d come on to Waverly when they met.
“Wynonna sleeps downstairs and you,” Waverly elongated the last word, “will be sleeping with me.” She said as she indicated the bed in the lower corner of the room.
Nicole raised an eyebrow and smirked at her.
“Ah- I mean, in the same bed, like really sleeping, not-
“I know what you meant. I’m just messing with you. So… have we done this before? Sleeping, ‘like really sleeping’, in the same bed?”
Waverly could feel her cheeks pinking at the teasing, but her answer felt honest, “yea. Yea, we have.”
The room was dark, but Waverly’s eyes had already adapted to it, so that tracing Nicole’s features as she slept was easy. She should be asleep herself, as she hadn’t slept much at all during Nicole’s whole coma period, but having her so close without being allowed to touch her – nothing much, just running her fingers through her hair, down her jaw just to tilt her chin for a single kiss would be enough – was unsettling. The whole situation had her heart running, as if she was about to do something that terrified her. Only she wasn’t. She knew she wouldn’t touch Nicole like that when the other woman didn’t remember what they meant to each other – she would have to tell her everything if she were to act on it. And just that, just the thought of the consequences of something she had already decided not to do had her heartbeat thrumming as if it were a hummingbird’s, anxiety cutting her breathing short and fast.
She had to get out.
Waverly headed down the stairs, already finding more breathing room, and her eyes met Wynonna’s as the other woman polished her gun absentmindedly.
“Can’t sleep either?”
“Yea, I-” Waverly huffed and took a sit beside her sister. “It’s been so long since I even talked to her, even before the coma, and now she was right there, sleeping beside me. I just couldn’t shut my brain off.”
“Your brain, huh?”
Waverly chuckled, “yea, other parts too. I just- I miss her, I miss touching her- not, I’m not trying to traumatize you. I mean just, you know, holding her hand? Holding her. Anything.”
“I don’t get it, Waves. Why don’t you tell her the truth? I know she doesn’t remember you, and you guys probably shouldn’t jump into bed considering the circumstances, but she might be okay with, you know, what you just said would be enough.”
“I can’t just tell her and have we heading in the same direction we were before without telling her I kissed Rosita. And I can’t tell her about Rosita when she doesn’t even remember me, much less remember liking me. What reason would she have to stay with someone she doesn’t know, but knows that cheated on her?”
“Well, for starters, she doesn’t even know where she lives. So where would she go, huh?”
Waverly chuckled. Then sighed. “I don’t know what to do.”
“Sleep, baby girl. Who knows? Maybe she’ll remember before you have to make any big decisions.”
Waverly sat Nicole down by the kitchen table and took her injured arm. The medicine and new bandages were already on the table.
She untied the old bandage from Nicole and prepared herself to explain the wound the redhead would find in her skin.
“I thought I heard you guys saying it was a black widow bite. This looks very human to me.”
“Yea, a widow. Not a black widow spider.”
“A woman bit and poisoned me?”
“No, no. Oh. That would have made more sense… Any chance we can still go with that?” Waverly asked, partly joking, partly desperate for a way out. But Nicole's serious expression answered for her even before her words could.
“Look, I don’t have one year worth of my memories, I don’t know anyone here. I don’t know you. But I do trust you, there’s something about you that I…” Her eyes searched into Waverly’s, as they’d been prone to do since she woke up. “I just do. And I need to know what is going on, okay? I have no idea what my life has been like, I need something solid to build onto.”
Waverly nodded, but she didn't know where to start. She never had to the first time.
“You’re right. It’s just hard to explain. You’ll think I’m crazy.”
“Right... Here goes nothing," she cleared her throat. “The woman who bit you is a demon. She’s a demon and she thought you had something she wanted. You didn’t, though. And my family hunts demons. Mostly Wynonna, but yea, it’s what we do.”
“O…kay? How do you guys hunt demons? Is it a Buffy kind of vibe?”
She couldn't tell if Nicole was making fun of her or not. “Yea, kind of. Only Wynonna has a gun that was enchanted or something - we don’t really know, it happened before our generation - instead of a stake.”
“Hum.” Nicole said as she adjusted herself to sit more comfortably.
“You think I’m crazy.”
“No. I’ve seen some weird shit. I’m okay with demons.”
Waverly smiled in doubt as her eyes traced Nicole’s face. No signs of deception showed in her eyes.
“You’re amazing, did you know that? I thought you’d accepted it so well before because you’d seen how crazy Purgatory is.”
Nicole’s lips formed a smile as answer, but not her usual one.
This Mona Lisa was hiding something.
Well, she had the right to. At least for now, when she couldn’t remember loving Waverly.
Breaking their eye contact, the young Earp reached for Nicole’s arm again, resting it on the corner of the table with the palm up.
“This will burn, but I need to clean it. Try to stay still.”
“Sorry.” Waverly moved her hand like a fan, trying to get the cool air to alleviate the burning.
“Not your fault,” Nicole said, raising her eyes to meet Waverly’s, but the other woman kept her head down.
The brunette huffed. “Yea, it is. That’s how you got hurt. You were protecting me.”
“Well, I’m a cop, Earp. I might not remember most of my time as a graduate police officer, but I know that that’s what I am. And I know that the fault is always with the aggressor. Were you the aggressor?”
“No… Though I did put up a fight.” Waverly grinned.
Nicole’s smile was soft – a real one –, as were her eyes, “then it wasn’t your fault.”
And Waverly couldn’t help but lose herself in Nicole a little bit. The warm honey-like color of her irises luring her in. She didn’t notice the movement, but suddenly Nicole was kneeling right in front of her. Eyes searching, always searching, as her thumbs traced her cheekbones.
“Is this okay?”
It made Waverly want to cry at how much of her Nicole was still there. It made sense, of course, she had only lost a few months of her life – a year couldn’t make a grown woman lose such a strong trace of her character. But it still made her tremble, it still reminded her of every time Nicole had asked is this okay?
Is it too much?
Are you sure?
Can I touch you here?
Waverly smiled fondly, nodding, “it’s very okay.”
The younger woman rested her cheek against the redhead’s palm, but the comfort changed soon as the other woman brushed a strand of hair behind her ear, stroking her lobe, her jaw, then tilting her chin to press a chaste kiss to her lips.
Waverly promptly drowned in the contact, her body following the known steps to that dance – one hand in Nicole’s hair, the other guiding her girlfriend into a firmer kiss, lips fitting perfectly together until it wasn’t enough. Until she needed more taste, more heat. Sucking a bottom lip, tracing the inside of the upper one with her tongue. Nicole’s tongue on her tongue. Nicole’s tongue inside her mouth. Nicole’s tongue inside her. Nicole inside her.
The redhead was the one to ease out of the kiss first.
“How did you know?” Waverly’s chest rose and fell as if they’d been doing a lot more than kissing, and the strained breathing showed in her words.
“Lots of things. But, mostly, it just felt right.”
“Yea… It always did with us. I didn’t realize it back then, when we first met, I didn’t know what it meant, but looking into your eyes always felt like this.” She blushed, reminded again that their first meeting, for Nicole, had been the day before. “I mean, it must feel different for you-
“No. I feel it. I don’t- I do know what it is, I guess I just don’t understand it.”
Waverly felt like she might just drown in Nicole again.
“Why didn’t you tell me that we were together?”
Waverly sighed because this was it. This was what was going to lead them to the conversation she'd been afraid of since before the hospital.
“I did an awful thing before you were attacked, and I knew that I’d have to tell you and earn your forgiveness before we could do this. I thought that if I gave you time to remember or to start liking me again, I’d have a better chance with you.”
The redhead seemed to make herself all open, all comfort. “What did you do?”
“You don’t have to tell me, but I feel like I’d forgive you anything, and I’ve only known you for a day. Parts of me have only known you for a day.”
“We,” Waverly swallowed, making up her mind. “We were fighting. When you were hurt we’d been fighting for a few days, I wasn’t talking to you.”
“You weren’t talking to me because of this thing you say you’ve done?”
“No, no. You kept something that was mine from me, you did it because you knew it would upset me… it was a DNA test, I’m not an Earp, after all, and you knew that knowing that would hurt me. So, when the mail came, you hid it from me.”
Nicole frowned, her hands offering contact to Waverly’s, the tips of her fingers trying to tease the other woman’s palm into taking hers. “I’m sorry, I-
“Don’t worry, you’ve apologized enough and I’ve… punished you enough. I hadn’t realized that that was what I was doing. Punishing you. You wanted to talk to me, apologize, and it turned out that you were right, you know? I mean, it was mine and you shouldn’t have kept it from me, but I wasn’t ready to read it. Or maybe I would have been if you were there with me. But everything happened at the same time, I learned I wasn’t an Earp, and Wynonna is a mess with her pregnancy and I need to be here for her more than ever now, and you… We were fighting and I completely ignored you, or was mean to you, for days. It just… those were pretty shitty days, Nicole.”
“Ok. I did something that made a rough patch even rougher. What happened then?”
Waverly’s tears ran free down her face. No point in trying to reign them in at that point.
“I kissed another girl.”
“Why?” Nicole’s eyes still held such warmth for her. And maybe it was because she didn’t remember. Could she really feel all that hurt that some girl she barely knew had kissed someone else? Waverly probably didn’t feel like her girlfriend to her.
“I don’t know. It was such a stupid thing to do. I was so upset- and I know that’s no excuse, but I was upset and we were drinking champagne and she said… she said that it was okay if our relationship, mine and yours, wasn’t perfect because if things were perfect champagne wouldn’t have bubbles. It made more sense then. I don’t know, she said something sweet, made me feel better, it felt like she understood me. And then I kissed her.”
Nicole ran her thumbs on Waverly’s skin to brush her tears away, replacing the lock of hair behind her ear and pressing a kiss to her cheek.
Waverly felt like she could breathe again for the first time in almost two weeks.
“I am so sorry, Nicole. I don’t ever want to kiss anybody else. Only you. I made a really bad decision-
“Shhh. It’s okay, baby. You were in a really bad place, we were fighting, you saw something comforting and you took it.”
Waverly nodded eagerly, torn between focusing on the pet name - was she remembering? - or on the forgiveness.
“It was just a kiss, right?” Nicole checked.
“Yes, of course, I kissed her and it was… It wasn’t bad, at all, it just- You know how it felt- well, I don’t know if you feel the same way, but when you kiss me, my chest feels so warm, and you always put your hands on my waist, so my side feels warm too and the base of my spine feels warm and it’s probably a combination of all that and your smell – you smell really sweet – and your taste and it all just… I don’t think about the kiss when I’m kissing you, it’s just you.”
Nicole traced the contour of Waverly’s lips with her thumb, her eyes finding Waverly’s again. “I don’t know how memory-me would react to that, but I’m okay with what happened. I mean, if we’re going to still be together, or work towards that – considering my situation –, I would hope that you don’t kiss other people, even when you’re upset. But yea, of course I can understand and forgive that it happened once.”
Waverly laughed in relief and held Nicole to her, breathing her in and feeling her close again, finally.
“Okay. Now, when you get your memories back, I really, really need you to remember this, alright?”
Nicole chuckled as her hands ran up and down Waverly’s sides once, settling below her waist, thumbs tracing her hipbones, “I’ll do my best.”