Doc and Wynonna slept next to each other on the bed, their bodies curled in, backs to each other, like two pieces of the same puzzle that would never fit together. For a moment, Nicole felt guilty for staring. She stood at the end of the bed, next to Dolls who was seated in a chair close by, and just watched not knowing what else to do.
The Earp homestead felt heavy and dark. It was late and the stars were bright, but the moon was barely a sliver in the sky. Inside, the lights had long been turned off and the words had run out and now it was all silence and hurt. Nicole shifted uncomfortably.
“Waverly?” She asked and the sound of her voice made Dolls jump a little in his chair. Doc’s face twitched in his sleep, he looked pained or haunted or some horrific combination of both. Wynonna didn’t move. Her hair hid her face.
“Upstairs,” Dolls said, his eyes never leaving Wynonna. Nicole squeezed his shoulder and turned towards the stairs. She felt like she was intruding on something she couldn’t quite understand.
The small, second floor of the house held only Waverly’s bedroom and the bathroom and judging by the lack of lighting, Waverly was certainly not in bed. Nicole hovered outside the bathroom door, hesitant to disturb her girlfriend, but the day had been so long and Nicole needed to know if Waverly was okay. If they were okay.
“Waves?” she whispered, tapping on the door with her knuckle. When she received no response she cracked the door ajar slightly, just enough to see that the room was illuminated only by candles.
“Babe, it’s just me,” she said, glancing inside. What she saw broke her heart.
Waverly sat in the bathtub, her knees tucked beneath her chin, and she was crying. Tears rolled down her face and as she looked up at Nicole, her chin shook and she sniffled.
“Oh, baby,” Nicole quickly shut the door behind her and knelt on the hard, tile floor next to the bath.
“She was so cute,” Waverly said, her voice shaking with tears and Nicole could only nod in agreement, her eyes wide and wet.
“And she had that little freckle on her cheek…”
The words stopped and Waverly was suddenly weeping. She brought up her hands to cover her face and Nicole stopped thinking. Because Waverly needed her and she was in the bathtub while Nicole was not in the bathtub and that was just too far a space between them. Much too far. So Nicole kicked off her shoes, stood up, and climbed into the tub, startling her girlfriend as she did.
“Nicole! Your clothes!”
“Don’t care,” Nicole said, ignoring the discomfort of wet denim and clinging cotton. She settled behind Waverly and wrapped her arms around her, pulling the smaller woman against her.
“Now you’re all wet,” Waverly’s tears increased as she reached down to pluck at Nicole’s denim covered thighs. They were skinny jeans. There was nothing to pluck.
“I’m where I need to be,” Nicole reasoned, trying to reach for Waverly’s hands.
“But you could catch a cold, and your bandage isn’t supposed to be submerged, and…”
“What if you get the flu? Or an infection? Or what if your shirt is dry-clean only?”
Waverly tipped her head back against Nicole’s shoulder and settled. She seemed shell-shocked, confused, and Nicole just held her and let her girlfriend guide their movements. Waverly ran her hands down Nicole’s forearms and then interlocked their fingers, pulling their joined fists tightly against her chest. She was shaking and sniffly and Nicole found herself at a loss because there was no making this better.
They’d been through hell. They’d lied to each other. Waverly had kissed Rosita. Nicole had hid DNA results. Shae had showed up. There had been demons and possessions and far too much near-death for Nicole’s liking. But losing Alice was something else entirely. There was a permanency, an absence, a definite feeling of a before and an after. The baby had been with them for less than a day, but they had all subconsciously spent months fighting for her and protecting her and hoping for her.
Nicole hadn’t been surprised when Wynonna asked her to arrange Alice’s exit. Somehow she had always known that the baby couldn’t stay in Purgatory, that it couldn’t stay with Wynonna. But taking Alice to Gus meant that her little presence was still there, she was an echo now, something solid that had once existed, something residual that would remain forever.
“Do you think she’ll be okay?” Waverly asked and Nicole didn’t know if she was asking about the baby or her sister.
Waverly hiccupped and let out a tiny sob before shaking her head. No.
“The baby? Well, Gus raised you, didn’t she?”
Waverly nodded against Nicole’s shoulder.
“And I may be biased, but I think Alice is going to be more than okay. I think she’s going to be extraordinary.”
The water was cooling and Nicole shivered a little. But Waverly seemed intent on staying put and Nicole wasn’t about to disturb their little safe haven.
“Do you think we’ll ever get to see her again?”
It was a question Nicole had been asking herself all day. Seeing Alice again meant that Wynonna had done what no Earp heir had ever done before. It meant facing an army of hellspawn and surviving. It meant time. And how fair was it to Alice to bring her back to a family she likely wouldn’t recognize, to bring her back to strangers, to a world she didn’t know.
Except Wynonna Earp was the strongest person Nicole had ever met. She was stubborn and she could be mean, but there was a determination in her that went beyond stubbornness. If Wynonna vowed to break the curse and bring her daughter home, Nicole would be right there beside her, believing in her, helping her, giving her life for her…
“I don’t know,” Nicole said because she really didn’t.
Waverly had calmed, her breathing seemed less raged, and the broken look on her face had been replaced by something more pensive, something still and quiet.
“I spent the most time with her,” Waverly said, turning to look at Nicole, “It should have been Wynonna or Doc, but it was me.”
“You kept her safe, Baby.”
“We kept her safe.”
Nicole tried to keep her chattering teeth still. She wished she’d tossed her socks before climbing into the bathtub.
“I felt like…while I was holding her, I mean…I knew that I would do anything for her. I would die for her,” Waverly’s looked up with a furrowed brow, but Nicole found herself nodding along. There could be no cries of horror or surprise. Because Nicole had felt the exact same way.
“Me too,” she said.
A second passed, a beat between them, and again it felt like they were linked by some inexplicable source, like they’d known each other forever and a day. They were connected by attraction and chemistry and love and now pain and healing and the knowledge in something bigger than them, in something more important. They would fight for each other always, but Alice was the beacon and the star.
“I’m cold,” Waverly said, still sitting in Nicole’s lap, still loosely holding onto her arms and her hands.
“Then let’s go.”
It was easy for Waverly to step out of the bath, but Nicole found her knees stiff from the wet denim and it was a less-than-grateful lurch that found her finally standing on the bathmat, dripping wet, and shaking.
“Oh, Baby, you’re going to catch a cold,” Waverly cooed and Nicole let her, understanding without a word that focusing on something other than Alice for just a second was good for both of them.
“I don’t think these jeans are ever coming off,” Nicole laughed lightly as Waverly made fast work of the buttons on her shirt. The blue fabric was on the floor in seconds, followed by her bra, but the jeans really did prove a challenge. Waverly tugged and Nicole kicked her legs and by the time the jeans were around her ankles, Nicole was exhausted and achy.
“Arm, please,” Waverly reached out, removing the soaked bandage from Nicole’s wound and quickly covered the healing skin with antiseptic ointment. It stung and Nicole hissed and Waverly quickly kissed her wrist in a dance they’d been doing for days. It struck Nicole how easy this felt despite how not-normal their lives were. They moved around each other in the small bathroom without a word. Waverly passed Nicole a towel, Nicole passed Waverly her toothbrush, and when it came time to brush Waverly’s hair, Nicole was already behind her, comb in hand, ready to go.
Nicole was still shivering by the time they reached Waverly’s bedroom and for once she didn’t complain when her girlfriend piled four blankets on top of the bed. Waverly pulled on her flannel PJ bottoms and a tank top and Nicole found a t-shirt she’d left there and then they were in bed, quiet, not touching, both likely disturbed by the unnatural stillness of the house.
“You tired?” Waverly asked and Nicole rolled onto her side, propping up her head with one hand.
“Kind of. You?”
Waverly exhaled, she looked troubled, and Nicole reached out to stroke Waverly’s arm. Her skin was cold.
“I don’t want to feel like this.”
“Sad. Missing the baby. Scared.”
Nicole wiggled closer, partially to give Waverly some comfort, partially to seek warmth under the blankets.
“What can I do, Waves?”
Again, Waverly was quiet, thoughtful.
“I feel bad asking. Like it’s wrong…give the circumstances.”
“Hey,” Nicole said, stroking one fingertip along Waverly’s arm, “try me.”
They shared a few more seconds of silence before Waverly came to some sort of decision. She turned her face to look at Nicole and exhaled.
“Touch me. Make me feel…different.”
“Okay, come here.”
Waverly scooted closer and Nicole wedged one arm behind Waverly’s shoulders, pulling her closer and then onto her side. They faced each other, knees almost touching, and Nicole softly lay her hand on Waverly’s hip, teasing the waist line of her flannel pants.
There had been moments of great passion between the two, moment when clothes became a hindrance, when blankets were an obstacle, but neither made a move to disrobe or toss the sheets away. They were both still cold from the bath and Nicole felt emotionally hung-over, like her mind was still trying to process everything that had happened. Waverly’s silence, her passiveness, indicated that she likely felt the same.
“Here, let me just…” Waverly raised one leg, hooking it over Nicole’s hip so she could rub against Nicole’s thigh. She moved slowly, Nicole could almost sense her waiting to feel, so she did her part, pressing down on Waverly’s ass with her free hand, pushing her thigh up, trying to help her girlfriend get where she needed to be.
Waverly thrust down a few times before Nicole noticed the change in her breathing, before she heard an almost inaudible hitch, before the hand resting on Nicole’s arm squeezed, and Nicole took it as a cue to reach into Waverly’s pants and cup her. She circled Waverly’s clit with two fingers, eliciting a hiss from the woman next to her, and then Waverly tipped her head down, hiding her face against Nicole’s throat.
“There you go, Babe,” Nicole whispered, steadily swirling her fingers in circles, taking her cues from Waverly’s soft gasps against her skin. The fingers on her arm were sharp and the little noises Waverly was making made Nicole smile sadly. She was helping Waverly, Waverly needed her, but Waverly was also running away in this moment, using Nicole’s body to flee the pain of their present. It was an honour. It was a tragedy. Nicole didn’t stop for a second.
“Please,” Waverly begged. Nicole held her tightly and continued to stroke her, Waverly’s heat warming her frozen fingers.
There was a soft grunt against her shoulder and then a gasp and then Waverly rocked her hips once as her entire body became rigid. Nicole held on, rubbing her, feeling her, touching her, letting her know that no matter what, she would be there, she would always be there.
Waverly’s body seemed to seek Nicole, even after her orgasm subsided she squeezed her thighs, keeping Nicole’s hand trapped between them.
“Hey,” Nicole said, kissing the top of the head resting below her chin, “I love you.”
“I love you too.” Waverly’s voice was small and breathless and Nicole shivered when she felt lips against her collarbone.
“That okay?” Nicole asked.
“Mmmhmm. You want?” Waverly let go of Nicole’s arm to reach down for her ass, squeezing once.
“No. Too cold.”
Waverly draped herself over Nicole and Nicole tangled their legs and they become a singular entity, all limbs and skin and fingers and toes. Nicole still shook slightly from the bathwater and Waverly was trying to burrow into Nicole’s chest, her nose cold and sharp against Nicole’s breast. They weren’t holding each other, they were holding on to each other, grasping and grabbing beneath the blankets as if one or both of them may just disappear. Each breath Nicole took seemed to calm Waverly, each squeeze of Waverly’s fingers against Nicole’s arms and shoulders and back seemed to reassure Nicole that Waverly was hers.
“We’re going to see her again,” Waverly said her voice full of sleep and longing.
Nicole didn’t answer back. Instead she let herself remember how scared she’d been when Waverly stepped away from Purgatory, how beautiful Waverly had looked cradling that small blue bundle. She let herself remember how Alice had smelled, how her car had taken on the scent of Alice’s hair, how Alice had cried and how Waverly had calmed her with a half-remembered song.
Long after Waverly had fallen asleep, long after the sunset and rose again, Nicole let herself shed one tear for Alice and for all that was lost. And then she watched the light break over the mountains, how the red and orange and pinks of it broke through Waverly’s widow and danced in her hair, and Nicole smiled and nodded once, her chin brushing the top of Waverly’s head.
They were going to see Alice again. Someday. Somehow. They were going to see her again.