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Waverly’s head snapped back against the brickwork, she saw a million stars all at once and her brain felt like a deadweight as it rattled around in her skull when he grabbed her by her long mousey brown hair and pulled her forwards at an alarmingly sharp 90 degree angle. She winced and cried out hand flying up to claw at his, nails digging into the skin and breaking it a second later till she was scratching against the fresh wounds she’d just made desperately trying to gain grip enough to pull him away.

His breath seeping rancid curls of air that smoked inches from her face, she gagged on the sickening smell of day old draught beer mixed with vomit as he pulled her head up and back, grazing it into the wall behind her before bringing his knee up to collide roughly with her stomach, winding her and cracking at least two of her ribs, Waverly’s wordless squeak was exhaled with blood as it dripped thickly from the corner of her mouth landing on the ground in front of her. He sneered at her, an insane little hiss leaving his mouth through the many gaps in his teeth, the hand that wasn’t gripping her hair groped under her shirt, searching for any small map of her skin that he could touch inappropriately.

The darkness all around them made her feel like she was suffocating in it’s closeness, when in reality she never believed that a second later she really would be struggling for air, his forearm pressing her esophagus sharp against her windpipe crushing it into the bricks behind her. Strangled gasps escaped from her, as he lifted her higher than he was off of the ground, her little legs dangling and kicking uselessly in his direction as they had little to no effect on his death grip. Her vision fogged at the corners, blurring to a pinpoint in the middle till she watched in tunnel vision as he undid his belt and whipped it off with a crack catching the skin on her thighs but she couldn’t scream even if she’d wanted to, the scream she wanted to bleat was cut off by his big beefy hand that had replaced his forearm only moments ago, his fingers grazed her blueish jawline as he leered at her, delighting in the fact that she was turning a wicked shade of purple, her pretty pink lips now blue and broken, red seeping through the cracks dripping down onto his hand and to her horror he leaned in and licked the stain of her life’s blood from his hand before removing his pants shoving them down his legs, hand never too far away from his bulge as he licked up her chin to her lips and kissed her roughly just as darkness kissed her kindly and passed out, sinking limply into his crushing grip.

~ w ~

Light shimmered all around her before she noticed that Nicole was kneeling in front of her, smile spread across the entire map of her face, she held it up in front of Waverly, a beautiful filigree ring that was engraved with both their names, wordlessly she read Nicole’s lips as her girlfriend silently breathed “Marry Me, Waverly Earp” and a crowd she didn’t see till now applauded them both as Nicole caught her by surprise and lifted her into the air holding her tighter than she ever had before, Waverly burst into laughter and closed her eyes, happier than she’d ever been. Then Wynonna hugged her on her wedding day, shedding tear after tear onto Waverly’s beautiful white laced dress, her hands clasped between the two most important people in her life, her sister on her left and her wife, Nicole at her right side smiling down at her like this was hands down the happiest they were ever going to be again. Waverly stared up at her dreamily no sound emerged from her mouth as she whispered “I love you” up at her beautiful wife and stood on her tippy toes to reach the red head’s lips, kissing her lightly before she gasped clutching her stomach in shock; she was seated now, Nicole’s hand pressed hard against her own as her wild worried eyes searched Waverly’s for something she couldn’t comprehend till she glanced down at her hand hovering over her swollen belly, and stifled a silent cry as she looked up Wynonna walking into the hospital room carrying their baby son. Her heart ached deep down to her core, she didn’t believe she could love anything more than this, this right here, she hesitated a look up at Nicole who smiled knowingly kissing her head as she waved her grown up son off to college, sobbing in her wife’s arms as he slipped into the driver's seat of her old red Jeep and waved at them enthusiastically before disappearing from view. Waverly couldn’t contain those tears even as Nicole tried to take away her pain with soft fingers wiping away her tears but they weren’t tears of sorrow anymore, her son had just placed his baby daughter into her arms, stroking her hand softly as he pulled away the grin he wore enveloped his entire face. Waverly was sure this that this had to be the happiest she’d ever been; an older more aged Wynonna beamed at her from across the room as she glanced down at her birthday cake, the writing wishing her “Happy Birthday Grandma” “82 today”, Nicole’s hand rested on her shoulder as she smiled and encouraged her to blow the candles out before the wax dripped onto the cake; placing her hand over Nicole’s squeezing hard, her heart filled with so much love it was fit to burst, she glanced up at Wynonna who smiled knowingly at her before taking a deep breath and blowing all the air her lungs had to give.

~ w ~

She came to in a puddle of what smelt like piss; her guts hurt too much for her to rationalise that she didn’t throw up at some point and was probably lying in piss and vomit. Her throat felt like she still had barbed wire wrapped tight around it, her skin prickled with a burning sensation as she became away of the wetness on her cheeks and started to remember what had happened before; she daren't move, her arms felt like lead weights attached to an equally deadweight body; what her vision allowed with her head at such an awkward angle watched as he, Tucker, approached her crawling with his pants down at his ankles. She couldn’t move even if she’d wanted to; the ache between her legs made her want to cry as she realised with a thudding reality what had happened when she’d been out cold; her thighs were slick with something wet and she was cold, frozen even; the night had drawn even closer in the aftermath; she was on her back in the alleyway behind Shorty’s and so very sure she was moments away from her demise; she couldn’t scream, yell out or stop his advance as he grappled with her flailing hands as she tried to fight him off; a syringe in one hand his blown pupils gawked down at her gleefully and when Waverly knew she didn’t have the strength in her arms to hold him off anymore, her mind envisaged Nicole for her, she stood close to her but far enough away that she couldn’t reach her. Far enough that a small sob escaped her badly beaten throat and cried out her name as best she could;

“Miccolle..”

It wasn’t even close to sounding like her name and though Waverly tried again for a second time the sound didn’t catch and it was but a breathless whisper as Tucker’s syringe entered her body just below the crease in her collarbone, pinching at the black bruises he’d left on her before that she knew she should feel but was thankfully numb to.

She thought she would see the ocean before she died, she wanted to have seen it once at least with Nicole by her side, holding her hand, pulling her close. Her pupils dilated as the liquid worked it’s way inside her bloodstream flooding her system as Tucker’s hands eased pressure on her limbs and seconds later the pressure was gone entirely replaced by a floating feeling and a semi heavenly feeling of hope; her heart fluttered, alive with the serum that whizzed through her, alighting all her nerve endings and sending little electric shocks to her every fingertip. Heart on fire, it burnt her to breathe in and scorched her to release that breath till she wasn’t sure she was even breathing air anymore; her ears burned and sounds were muffled; but there was heavy commotion and she felt the ground beneath her vibrate; softly at first but becoming more flurried and defined; vaguely aware of three or four sharp sounds above and behind her she felt a hard vibrating thud as something hit the ground unmoving.

On her back now staring up into the unknown, the stars so bright above her, her eyes had trouble focusing when all she could see was black with specks of white so so many miles above her; her world seemed too small now; and her breathing shallowed for a minute or two before the pains came pressing hard down on her like fingers, a shimmer of red, and a wisp of colour in her otherwise colour drained world; soft pressure at her mouth, lightly brushing her cracked lips before she was being lifted closer to those stars; pressure all around her body, holding her damaged broken bones together with what she sensed was love.

Love.

Waverly turned her head ever so slightly, the red billowed all around her, pupils blown she stared high into oblivion as the poison Tucker shot her up with came crashing down on her with full effect; gasping breaths, she choked on nothing as Nicole’s face came into view, eyes wrought with fear; sweat beaded on her forehead and she shouted words down at Waverly that she couldn’t hear; after what seemed minutes of no air, she sucked one deep breath in again, coughed it out and sucked it in endlessly on repeat, aware of Nicole’s hands on her face, begging her, pleading with her to “breathe” and “breathe for her” it felt like floating on a breeze of devil’s breath; the stars exploded above her, all pretty lights a plenty as she felt soft lips that grazed hers, it was breath that was pushed into her mouth as her chest responded with a rise and fall as Waverly stopped breathing.

Chapter Text

Nicole exhaled deeply and saw the thin curls of her breath as condensation in front of her face, shivering in an almost immediate reaction she pulled the warmth of her standard issue police bomber jacket tighter around her shoulders before pushing her gloved hands into the inner pocket to retrieve her phone. She sat silently in her cruiser, parked at the back of a warehouse a couple of miles outside of Purgatory. She’d been there since the falling of dusk at just before 4pm as Winter’s cooling hands curled around the mountains and slipped into the valley finally blanketing them all in darkness. She hadn’t moved from her position, the numbness in her butt didn’t thank her and her toes were joining it as she flexed them inside her boots. In the illuminated silence her phone screen lit her face in a brilliant white light before she dulled the light and flicked up her messages, frowning she studied the last text she’d received from Waverly, wondering if she should be reading between the lines;

 

Waverly:

“Car battery’s dead, Wynonna’s not picking up her phone, probably out cold at the homestead; can you come pick me up after my shift? I finish at 1:15am. Love u, Waverly x”
-- Read 21:56

 

Something in the way it read didn’t sit right with her, it wasn’t as if Nicole didn’t know when Waverly finished her shift at Shorty’s, they’d been seeing each other for more than a year now, she’d met her from the bar countless times, ran around her parked cruiser or Waverly’s jeep and opened the door for her to get in before returning to her side and she smiled now with a warmth in her features as she remembered how Waverly liked to shift her weight into Nicole’s side, indicating she wanted her girlfriend’s arm around her; ‘to share warmth’ she had stated matter of factly in the beginning, before it was actually summer and neither wanted the warmth, they just wanted the feel of each other on their skin. They wanted the touch. Nicole’s brow furrowed reading Waverly’s name as the sign off to the end of the text, she never used her full name.

 

Nicole scanned up through scrolls upon scrolls of Waverly’s previous messages, all signed off as ‘Waves’ or just ‘W x’ and that ‘love u’ it was informal at best, she worried a piece of skin on her bottom lip as the streetlight ahead of her in the mist flickered drawing her attention away for a second to stare out at the nothingness that flooded the space in front of her cruiser. She’d been on this stakeout every night for the past week with nothing, just empty silence, the small sound of a small animal routing around in the garbage can a couple of blocks down; the silence was deafening and yet it beautifully completed her. Nicole couldn’t remember a time that she didn’t have this much quiet and it made her sleepy even if she had to be alert right now. She softly chucked the binoculars from her lap onto the passenger seat and glanced at the bright green neon lights on her dash; the time read 23:59 and she watched it as it flipped over to 00:00, absentmindedly downing the dregs of her long cold coffee she swallowed the liquid thickly instantly regretting her choice to be healthier and caffeine free as the non sweetened bitterness stayed in her mouth.

 

She’d been putting off the inevitable, but now as all her distractions came to a close, Nicole knew she would have to step out into the cold night and make a round on foot before she called in her unsuccessful night and returned to the station. She reasoned that the cold wouldn’t last long when she met Waverly in a little over an hour and an out cold Wynonna would mean they could ‘cuddle’ without the fear of being overheard and the possibility that they’d find the older Earp sister outside Waverly’s room making gagging noises every chance she got. Checking her firearm was at her hip, safely contained within its holster, she pulled another parker through the grating from the backseat and pulled it on over her jacket as she left the vehicle; breaths short and smokey in the fluorescent light above her Nicole’s left hand held her flashlight, her right hand clutched at the gun mere seconds after she had exited the cruiser.

 

She did the once around. Nothing, she doubled back and slipped through a short-cut and back again on herself, still nothing. Her phone vibrated against her ribcage.

 

Frustrated she returned to her cruiser, only aware that there was a crackling noise from the radio when she was a good 20 metres away. Breaking into a jog, she holstered her gun and almost ripped the door off scrabbling for the radio;

 

“Haught receiving, please repeat”

 

The radio was eerily silent, it was colder on the inside of her vehicle than outside, little flakes of snow started to float down and gather on the windshield as the radio crackled to life again;

 

“Officer Haught, Nicole.. *crackle* it’s Randy..”

 

Nicole swallowed away the lump in her throat thickly, they never referred to each other by their first names over the radio.

 

“..*crackle* ...ker Gard… *crackle* ..repeat, Tucker Gardner escaped from St. Jude’s this… *crackle*..ternoon..”

 

Nicole’s blood ran cold, fear flooded her nervous system and she was aware she was on autopilot before she had even kicked the cruiser to life, jumping forwards the metallic hiss hit her ears at a thousand miles an hour whilst Nedley’s voice over the radio continued on as if he knew she’d heard and was trapped in a shock state acting purely on cop instinct;

 

“Nicole… *crackle* ...Don’t do anything stupid!”

 

Nicole gripped the leather of the steering wheel, her knuckles turning white, the fear in her eyes turning to hate encapsulating every nerve ending in her body as her senses flared; the text was never from Waverly, it was from him, he was baiting her; she felt foolish and scared for an instant, she should have trusted her instincts, she felt something not right and had pushed it aside so carelessly and now.. What if Waverly was as scared as she felt right now, what if she’d felt a growing anxiety creeping up on her before he appeared; she prayed to a god she did not know that Waverly was okay, and pushed her foot to the floor.

 

~ w ~

 

“Do you love her?”

 

Wynonna’s pinky finger pressed against the officer’s chest just above the Purgatory Police Department badge eyes searching Nicole’s for an answer to her loaded question. They both sat on the floor of Nedley’s office an empty bottle of whiskey at Wynonna’s feet and their current one in the redhead’s hand, contents being knocked back passed her rosy pink lips as she downed a big gulp, fire burning her throat as it worked it’s way into her system.

 

“What..?!”

 

She choked, whiskey going the wrong way she coughed, wild eyes staring back at Wynonna, scared she’d given the game away to her new girlfriend’s sister.

 

“It’s a simple question dude, do you love her? Waverly..”

 

She pushed her sister’s name in the direction of the taller woman next to her, as if Nicole needed her to clarify who they were talking about. They’d been talking about her in some way shape or form all evening. Nicole struggled with the creeping blush that worked it’s way across her chest and up her neck, thankful for her uniform shirt hiding the dead giveaway that Nicole’s love for Waverly was very much apparent.

 

“Waverly.. As in your sister?”

 

Duh! Nicole thought, who else would it be and how many other Waverly’s did she know for Pete’s sake! Rolling her eyes inwardly, she set the whiskey bottle on the lanoline floor between them; hazarding a nervous look in Wynonna’s direction. She needn't have, it was written all over her face and Wynonna smirked, picking up the discarded bottle and downing a good three to four gulps before she wiped the residue off her lips with the back of her hand and chuckled at Nicole’s expression still one of absolute ‘oh shit I’ve been caught out’ shock.

 

“You’re a dead giveaway Haughtstuff!”

 

She pushed the recently empty whiskey bottle away with her foot to join it’s friend, before glancing up at the flushed Officer Haught.

 

“It’s a good thing I like you..”

 

It was a soft smile from the corner of the brunette’s mouth, a slight lift of her lip but it was enough to leave Nicole with a weird sense of belonging. Breaking down those heavy walls that she’d used to shield the outside world from their budding relationship till Waverly was ready to come out. It was easier for Nicole, she had been out since college, but Waverly, she’d been nervous and hesitant and so that’s when Nicole had suggested they be ‘just friends’ in the company of friends till the time at which Waverly felt comfortable enough to take those steps with Nicole by her side.

 

“It’s Waverly… Wynonna..”

 

An uncontrollable smile working its way through her entire body, butterflies fluttered against her heart, their wings drawing her confession to the surface;

 

“How can I not love her?”

 

It wasn’t even a question; it was a statement.

 

How can I not love her.

 

~ w ~

 

The snow fell in slow motion around her; kissing her pink cheeks lightly, her scorched breath coming in hot furls of moisture as it hit the frigid night air; her gun at arms length, poised, gloved index finger ready at the trigger. Her red curls hung damp around her face and neck, sticking to the hot surface of her flushed skin.

 

The figure in front of her moved jerkily, pants around his thighs, clutching onto something in his left hand, eyes wild he grinned a toothy insane grimace in her direction. The white suit of his hospital gowns clung to his soaking wet body that was the shade of yellow and stank of piss. Anger bubbled beneath the surface of Nicole’s steadfast stance, her gun hand unwavering was joined by her other hand as she inched forwards every so often when he was looking down or in the other direction.. Behind him at a silhouette on the ground.

 

Nicole squinted as best as she could in the billowing cold flakes that now clung to her eyelashes and hair around her face. She couldn’t see much with the silhouette shrouded in the shadows hidden slightly by the darkness of the alleyway;

 

“WHERE IS SHE?!”

 

She found herself spitting from her numb lips, as they curled up showing her bared her teeth anger leaking out of her every pore. The silhouette shifted slightly, the streetlight catching a glint off a bracelet on a purpling black wrist. Its turquoise-blue gem catching her eye like a punch deep to her stomach; she exhaled her shock with a quick and sick sounding motion, gun hand wavering as his laughter nudged her closer to an edge she wasn’t ready to fall over right at this minute. Bile rose in her throat and threatened to spill out all over the sidewalk, swallowing the burn her hands gripped tighter on the gun; closer than she was before, a mere 10 or so metres from the assailant, she could see the syringe now; the needle soaked in red that she could see painted all over his body in the half light of backdoor to Shorty’s.

 

She daren’t hazard a look down at the silhouette; no, not silhouette. At Waverly, her Waverly ; she knew now, she’d slipped that bracelet over her petite hand at the Poker Spectacular just six months earlier; the turquoise-blue gem had been fitted in there herself; it reminded Nicole of that stunningly drop-dead gorgeous dress that Waverly had been wearing that night, it was just coincidence that they had been the same colour. Fate even.

 

She was nearly on him.

 

“Drop the weapon and get your hands in the air Tucker!”

 

The strength in her voice shocked her; because deep down inside Nicole was struggling to breathe, running over all those useless facts from the academy about what to do in a situation like this, she wasn’t prepared; she wouldn’t have ever been prepared, not for this. Not for it to be Waverly.

 

It all happened in such a swift motion Nicole was glad for her reflexes, because he had come at her then, the syringe ahead of him, threatening her, grinning at her it was that same grin that remained on his face as she fired her gun and hit him in the chest, the fucker kept coming and she wasted no time at all firing off another two rounds. He’d dropped like that deer she’d shot when she was 11 on that hunting trip with her father; she’d felt remorse then, she didn’t now.

 

He spluttered on the taste of his own blood, never wiping that stupid grin off of his face, but leaving her with words she would remember later when the silence was deafening.

 

“She’s mine now..”

 

Nicole left him drowning in his own blood; his coughs and gurgles not even making it to her ears as she let her firearm slip from her hand, she was at Waverly’s side before the gun had even hit the ground.

 

Waverly stared up, not at her though, beyond her up at the stars, or the snow, she wasn’t sure she was even seeing anything, and Nicole didn’t know where to place her hands which was stupid, she wanted to comfort her, pick her up and hold her close and tell her that she wouldn’t ever let anything like this happen to her again. But her girlfriend’s skin was mottled black and blue with shades of purple and a bloodied stain on her left clavicle where the needle had broken through the bruise and left behind bloodied skin. Nicole choked back a sob;

 

“Waverly, baby..”

 

It was all she managed as her eyes caught sight of the angry red stains on her girlfriend’s thighs and her hand hovered shakily over the bruising marks of fingers pressed so vigorously into her skin it had left behind a very obvious reminder of just what Tucker had done before Nicole had managed to get there.

 

Her breath stuck in her lungs, she purposefully held her breath through the overwhelming smell of the attack seeping through her fragile resolve; her index and middle finger gentle pressed at Waverly’s neck for a pulse, there was so much bruising to her torso, Nicole wasn’t sure she was even breathing anymore and as what small amount of medical training she’d had in the academy took over; she resisted the urge to move the smaller girl lest she cause her even more injury.

 

“Sweetheart, I need you to tell me you’re okay…”

 

She didn’t expect an answer but talking to her, not at her, helped her to do what needed to be done, to keep her head level, on course and collected. She felt like she would fall apart at any given moment, but that was on the inside, where she was Waverly’s girlfriend, her exterior was Officer Haught, and right now Waverly’s broken body needed her to be Officer not Baby.

 

Gently she lifted Waverly up slightly, cradling her close to her lap so she could slide her hands under her and check for any further injuries, all the while apologising to her for hurting her and agreeing that she knew it was painful but to talk to her if she could.

 

“Waverly?”

 

She was inches from her face now, brown eyes staring deep into her green ones as she stared back eyes glassy. Her red hair brushed Waverly’s face slightly, deftly as if she had intended the touch all along and Waverly gasped, drawing a thick painful liquid filled breath deep into her bruised chest cavity, filling her sore lungs completely before she coughed and exhaled forcefully, her body convulsing before Nicole.

 

Nicole’s hands were on Waverly’s shoulders now, not holding her down, never holding her down, but preventing her thrashing around from doing herself more damage; her gasps were few and far between and Nicole could feel the prick of tears as they finally caught up with her and lip trembling she begged like she’d never begged before;

 

“Breathe baby… breathe for me… ”

 

She felt Waverly go limp in her arms, one more breath dragged into her lungs, it was exhaled without force in a whispering hiss as Waverly stopped breathing.

 

Time drowned a disorientated Nicole as she fought a battle for lost time, sirens in the distance provided her with a symphony and chorus of ‘what if’s’ as her mind tried to prepare her for what might actually come to be in the moments following this; but she wasn’t just like anyone else, not her Waverly, how could she not love her? And so with every ounce of resolve Nicole had left in her whole body she continued to breathe for Waverly watching as her chest rose and fell from every breath she breathed into her mouth; remembering the last time she had brushed these lips with hers just that morning before work, they had been soft and pink then, not broken, bloodied and bruised.

 

“Please baby… breathe…”

 

There was a commotion behind her and seconds later a hand on her shoulder, squeezing, pulling her away, she fought it, angrily expelling expletives before collapsing forwards, her face brushing Waverly’s cold cheek as her tears wet the skin and she kissed her slowly, pushing one last breath to her lips and watching the rise and fall of Waverly’s chest.

 

Nothing.

 

“Waverly…?”

 

Nicole’s emotionally heady voice searched for hope like it was a white flag waving her surrender to the woman who lay before her, who had unconditionally stolen her heart.

 

Then a glint, a flash of turquoise-blue and a quiet shaky breath.

 

Waverly breathed on her own for the first time in three minutes.

 

Nicole clung onto her hand for dear life.

Chapter Text

The bright white fluorescent light flickered above her head aggravating her already burning migraine, like an intruder in her conscious, it required such a large amount of her headspace she wasn’t ready to relinquish right now and so with all that she had left in her emotionally tired shell she fought against its damning pressure build up as she stared down, unfocused, at her quivering hands stained red, the colour of Waverly whose blood soaked body was an image permanently printed on the backs of her eyelids.

 

The slow motion clunk clunk of a clock ticking flooded into every crease of deafening time echoing in the empty space around her, her breathing loud in her own ears as her fingers carded through her hair for the tenth time that she’d been sitting in this position in the last half an hour. There wasn’t a manual for this, there wasn’t even a way to prepare someone for how to feel when something like this happened to someone you loved and you had to play that waiting game that tested every inch of your breaking heart laced it with hope and packed it off for the next 3 hours with a semi stitched up version of faith that faltered every minute that ticked by and still there was no news. And still they waited.

 

At some point a calloused hand gently pried open her fingers and pressed a luke warm coffee cup into her freezing hands, her numbing fingers welcomed the sudden heat and clasped around the object searching for the source of the warmth but before long it had gone cold again without so much as meeting her lips to be consumed. She left it on the floor at the foot of her chair leg and rose to pace again for an unprecedented amount of time that night, shivering under the coolness in the clinically smelling air conditioning but also because she was remembering little details now; pulling memories from the back of her mind into her conscious to be mulled over obsessively before being placed back where they had been found in the wrong order leaving her confused about what she had really witnessed and what had been placed there by her mind trying to be kind to her heart because the reality was all too real and soul consuming.

 

Waverly died again in the back of the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

 

And it shredded Nicole, she had never felt so useless as watching the paramedics breathing life back into her girlfriend’s lungs as she sat frozen to the spot with Waverly’s lifeless hand still clutched in her own, gasping back her own sobs as her other hand pressed flush against her mouth stifling her anguish.

 

She still wasn’t breathing as the gurney had hit those bay doors with the force of a hurricane and no sooner had Nicole caught up with them was Waverly’s hand pulled from her own and she was rushed her away without so much as another word; she didn’t even have a chance to tell her she loved her. One hour forty minutes of silence and someone appeared; green scrubs the colour of mint and their words were hollow, matter of fact and to the point; they spoke with a familiarity of professionalism and Nicole recognised it as the person she had become earlier than evening when she’d found Waverly. The level-headed cop that assessed the situation and reported their findings without emotion. Nicole’s mind probed and revisited all the things that the doctor wouldn’t say to her because she wasn’t next of kin. She had spoken then, even though she was aware of Nedley’s presence next to her by his hand upon her shoulder, the way he comforted her was by way of mutual understanding, he was there to ask the difficult questions when she could no longer ask them. He’d said he would call Wynonna, and Nicole shook her head, this needed to come from her, it would be her single most difficult phone call to date. Wynonna’s voice on the other end of that phone call could have written the saddest symphony as it collected emotions the further along they went as Nicole slowly explained what had happened. She was out of province with Doc a good three hours away in thick snow. Neither Nedley nor Nicole questioned how she managed to get there in just over two; the ragged expression that Wynonna wore as she collided with Nicole’s body pulling her into a furious hug, both their arms and hands gripping onto the other for dear life. When they pulled away they did not hide the tears that they both had in their eyes.

 

This was their Waverly.

 

Nicole pulled Wynonna to the side away from the crowd forming in the waiting room, she struggled to meet her eye in the stead of what she needed to say;

 

“Wynonna I..” She swallowed thickly, her words caught in her throat; “I ordered a rape kit” when she met Wynonna’s gaze again her eyes were glassy threatening to spill their emotions at any given moment. Both women knew what that involved and that Waverly would need to be awake for it to happen, she would need all of their support and so Nicole did what any one of their family would have done in that situation, she comforted the elder Earp sister; reaching for Wynonna’s hand, giving it a gentle but reassuring squeeze.

 

When the surgeon appeared for the first time that night shadowed closely by the nurse who had spoken with Nicole earlier; they asked for Waverly’s next of kin and Nicole’s heart sank as Wynonna stood frozen to the spot, instinct taking over she’d crossed that floor in seconds and joined her fingers with Wynonna’s holding her ice cold hand in her own as she took a deep breath and asked all those difficult questions that she knew Wynonna couldn’t. It was like some unspoken language between family, like Nedley’s confident hand on her shoulder earlier.

 

Waverly was in recovery, she had extensive injuries and the recovery process would be a very difficult one, they had highlighted that she would need to have trauma counselling, that the damage Tucker had inflicted was substantial, brutal, there were broken bones and internal bleeding; she was badly hurt and only time would tell just to the extent of what damage had been inflicted and just how much it would affect her life going forwards.

 

Nicole wanted to be sick. She wanted to run to that bathroom down the hall and throw up what was left of that bitter cold coffee that sloshed around in her stomach making her retch. But she was stoic; her fingers still laced within Wynonna’s, her other hand on her arm, gently gripping it seemingly holding the other woman up as the weight of the doctor’s words hit her like a ton of bricks.

 

When Wynonna collapsed to the floor Nicole had gone with her; enveloping the older woman in an embrace that she could sob into unashamed, supported. They’d stayed that way till Wynonna’s sobs had reduced to the occasional sniffle bought crashing back to reality when the nurse from before showed them to Waverly’s room and Nicole had let go of Wynonna’s hand on the threshold of room 176 watching as the brunette crossed the small expanse of linoleum floor to Waverly’s bedside.

 

All Nicole could see were tubes and wires and breathing equipment, machines hooked up to gas and oxygen and the heart monitor beeped furiously as it peaked and spiked and beeped loud enough to grate against her eardrums and the drip drip of fluids, her eyes followed the tubes down to her arms, her black and blue arms with needles sticking out blanche white against her bruises; her eyes found her Waverly amidst all of this, tiny Waverly, chest rising and falling slowly, breathing, slowly. Panic rose in Nicole’s chest, she couldn’t, no she… she couldn’t see… stars, she could only see stars and the way the black hugged at the edge of her vision, her tunneled sight focusing and unfocusing on Waverly’s small figure hidden beneath all of those wires, and oh god she couldn’t breathe; when she swallowed it was dry, it was harsh and she tried to take a breath but it just wasn’t there to take. Gripping the door frame tight enough to make her knuckles turn white; Nicole’s heart raced and her head spun, her hands were clammy, chest burned under the weight of the lungfuls of air she wanted to inhale but couldn’t, her hands shook as she tried to steady herself enough to remember to calm down, her tunnel vision causing her to see spots now instead of stars; spots that distinctly resembled a brunette’s stunningly long brown curls as they bobbed about in front of her;

 

“Nicole? Nicole breathe..” Wynonna’s hands were on her arms just above her elbows, squeezing her tightly, pulling her through the panic attack and grounding her; “like me.. In.. *she inhaled deeply* and out… *she exhaled slowly, forcefully* yes, just like that Nicole” again Wynonna coached the redhead to breathe like her, slow and steady and breathed a gentle sigh of relief when Nicole gasped suddenly pulling long deep breaths into her oxygen starved lungs; “that’s it.. Atta girl, you got this…” Wynonna’s fingers rubbed soothingly against Nicole’s arms, reassuring her as she slowly lead her to the chair at Waverly’s bedside, joining their hands, she gently stroked Waverly’s before kissing it lightly; “I’ll be right back babygirl” she swallowed and gripped Nicole’s shoulder tightly; “She’s in there Nicole, I know she is” before slipping out of the room the door clicked shut behind her leaving them alone.

 ~w~

I drown in the oceans

That keep us apart

Mapping distant stars

 

And can't you see it was all for you?

 

But i can't lose you.

Chapter Text

 

She’d been here once before, when the icy water flooded into her lungs and reeds caught around her legs pulling her further under the surface down into the deepness, a dark depth that had no life. Wynonna’s hand had been so far away that day, in both instances when she’d screamed as she felt the ice give way beneath her, thrusting her hand towards the figure of her sister on the shoreline, Wynonna’s face contorted with fear reaching silently screaming as Waverly sank beneath the ice and again when she’d fruitlessly reached high above her in the water, desperate fingers touching Wynonna’s only for an instant before Waverly had slipped from her reach. In those little moments before she was rescued Waverly had been somewhere else. Here. In a place with muted colours and a fog that never really lifted, people enveloping the space around her, floating closely though not close enough to touch, because she had reached out to them then, a child of six searching for comfort in an in between where there was none, the truth printed on their smudged out faces, every one of them searching for their own existence in the fog. Waverly hadn’t stayed long then, the edges glowed a bit and there was a humming, a sound she didn’t recognise at first till it was one of the only sounds she remembered from that day; Wynonna sobbing, and the warm wet of her tears as they splashed on her face, burning against the cold, her skin a hue of blue that was missed from the colour wheel and when she’d sucked the frigid air into her burning lungs with a gasp her tiny body was crushed with the weight of Wynonna’s hug pulling her into an embrace that spoke about those minutes when she was pulled out of the water and wasn’t breathing.

 

That was then, this was now, a foggy darkness that had a plethora of people floating about with no faces. Waverly’s heart pounded in her chest that burned in two distinct places where they’d placed the defibrillator pads and an electric current had run through her entire body jolting her from the fog lifting her higher and higher and higher towards the sound of beeping and voices, clear as day, closer and closer still before a hand grabbed hers and pulled her back into the neverending mist, grounding her, his face blurred out but she knew it was him, her father, she didn’t need to see his face to know the connection. Waverly wondered if Willa was here too, wondered if she had been allowed to step into the light yet if peace had allowed her or if she too dwelled down here in the bottom darkness crawling in and out of these shapeless people hiding in the shadows with him. Waverly’s heart thudded, fear rose in her throat as she drew the deepest of breaths in a futile attempt to calm herself. She hadn’t thought it before, foolish really, what if he was down here, in a literal purgatory with her as memories of glorious red came back to her, a face so clear and anxious, worried even as hands stroked her face and she, her mouth moved but she couldn’t make the words make sense. Where was she? This girl with hair as red as a sunsets golden glow and what if he was down here with her in the long dark? Waverly pulled her hand away from her anchor, he made no move to stop her, no movement at all, just her moving in the sluggish undertow as if she were still underwater somehow. Frozen in one place, there’s breathing close to her now, breathing directly down her neck from the darkness at her back and she knows, yes Waverly knows it’s him and she’s terrified she won’t make it back to the glorious brilliant colour red.

 

.w.

 

Nicole could have sworn she’d felt it, the shift in the fabric of the blanket at Waverly’s fingertips, She held her breath, eyes flicking rapidly between the sheets and her girlfriend’s face searching for any sign that she wasn’t just imagining what she knew she already was. Waverly wasn’t waking, she had in fact lay sleeping for the last three days, the only signs of life were the slow and steady rise and fall of her chest, the tubes taking her breath away with just how small Waverly was beneath them. Nicole’s head throbbed, it was a constant headache she’d had now since they’d bought Waverly in seventy six hours ago, because despite being nearly dragged from her bedside by first Nedley and then Dolls, Nicole had slept in this crooked position her hand placed over Waverly’s since she’d entered the room with Wynonna seventy one hours ago. Her sleep was restless, only for a few hours at a time and infested with night terrors that weren’t limited to finding Waverly’s broken form that night, but what she dreamed of doing afterwards had the Gardener boy survived. Her anger bubbled to the surface in those dark dreams, she tortured him in a way she never knew she had in her. She always killed him in the end, but the darkness encouraged her, told her it was okay to hurt him as much as she did because he in turn had hurt the one good thing that Nicole had found in her life. She knew the darkness lied, she knew it’s claws had a grasp around her neck urging her to keep going when she’d cut thin slices from Tucker’s skin and poured bleach into the open wounds, she knew the darkness was just that, a darker version of her conscious trying in vain to make sense of what happened but every time she woke it would be to run to the nearest bathroom down the hall and retch until her stomach hurt, and retch she would, even going so far as to stick her fingers down her throat to make damned sure that all that inner evil had finally left her, before staggering back to Waverly’s bedside, numb inside but peacefully so.

 

Nedley had had no luck extracting Nicole from the chair to the left of Waverly’s bedside, even going so far as to threaten her with disciplinary action should she miss yet another day of work, Nicole knew it was a hollow threat but it wouldn’t change her stance, she cared more for the woman lying prone in that hospital bed than the gun she held on her hip, Nedley had apologised quite soon after that, protesting the way that Nicole pushed her badge and gun towards him in defeat, as if he was feeling the guilt of his outburst, Nicole only nodded, pocketing her badge, and putting her gun back in its holster before returning to her post, her warm hand covering Waverly’s slightly cold one.

 

Wynonna caught her on the second day coming back from the bathroom, the redhead wobbled on her feet as Wynonna reached out to steady her, ignoring the hand that battered her gesture away, her body supporting the younger woman despite the obvious smell of vomit that seeped out of her pores. Wynonna knew better than to scold her, instead she settled Nicole on the oversized sofa at the back of the private room, ignoring her protests to let her sit once again in the chair, somewhat jokingly threatening her with handcuffing her to the radiator should she move, Nicole hadn’t laughed at her ‘joke’ but she didn’t move either, just looked up at the older woman a defeated look in her eyes. It wasn’t the first time Wynonna had picked her up from the brink of despair and she was almost certain it wouldn’t be the last. Wynonna had muttered something about coffee and making it sweet and strong and no sooner had she disappeared she had returned and was pressing a rigid plastic receptacle into Nicole’s open hand, steaming hot coffee wafting up into her nostrils before it’s heady scent hit her brain and for a second she was human again, not some sleep deprived zombie. Wynonna had rested her hand on her shoulder and turned for the door before Nicole couldn’t take the silence anymore;

 

“Wait--”

 

Her voice was foreign to her, a little bit itchy in the back of her throat and deeper than she sounded when she woke up in the early mornings before the sun came over the horizon. She swallowed hard; “Stay…. Please- stay” Wynonna had turned before she even managed to get the ‘stay’ passed her lips and watched as Nicole patted the cushion next to her before nodding slightly a small smile creasing into the corner of the older Earp’s mouth. She slowly sat placing peacemaker at her feet, pushing at the handle with her toes, head lower than her shoulders, slumped into a position that was neither comfortable nor productive. Nicole watched as Wynonna’s hand shifted to land on her knee and she breathed a sigh of relief when Wynonna spoke; “it’s okay Haught-” she drew her eyes level with the officer now, eyes swimming in fresh tears, “it’s okay to be fragile, to be not sure of yourself and to worry” she squeezed Nicole’s knee, “it’s okay” she swallowed hard again, not taking her eyes off the redhead, “but it’s not okay to fall apart completely” she was serious now. Wynonna’s hand had gripped her tighter, nails slightly digging into her skin beneath her pants, Nicole’s attention peaked as she watched Wynonna closely, waiting for the blow that she was sure was inevitable, waiting for the nasty words to come slipping out, she knew she deserved them, she deserved it all for not getting to Waverly in time.

 

But they never came, the tightness in her chest that made her head spin and her heart thump louder than ever had not been expecting Wynonna to say what she said next and her reaction was only to sob and curl up into Wynonna’s embrace like a child would do their parent. “You do not get to fall apart because when my baby sister wakes up, and she will Nicole, I know she will, she’s going to need her girlfriend like she’s never needed her sister.” Wynonna’s embraced tightened, pulling her shoulders in tighter against her own as her hands slowly smoothed the fabric of Nicole’s shirt over the small of her back; “Waverly’s gonna need you more than she’s ever needed me Nicole, and we both know that’s the truth” Nicole found she couldn’t stop the tears once they’d started to overflow, it was a build up of everything from the last couple of days and the need to stay strong for everyone else around her because she was the pillar of missed emotions, only here were all her fears being laid out in their magnificent rawness and Wynonna just held her, no questions asked, only affirmations of Nicole being as much the best of the best as her sister was.

.w.

 

Waverly’s gasping breaths couldn’t pull enough air into her lungs, despite the burning deep down in her burning chest she pushed on, running clean out of one maze into another and then out of that one and straight into yet another till the sheer amount of them blurred out at eight or nine, she wasn’t sure anymore. Still she heard the grating sound of his nails on the wall behind her, his rancid breath blowing hot air down her back and she ran and ran on till she wasn’t sure which direction was which anymore, till she was sure her legs would give out and her muscles burned from overuse. She had come so far and yet it wasn’t far enough and no matter how long she’d sprinted and how much distance she thought she’d put between them still he gained ground on her till she knew the burning in her thighs was not due to her muscles tensing up, the aching between her legs had been there since the beginning but she had chosen to ignore it in favour of old memories and fleeting ghosts with no faces. As she ran she felt the warm trickle of moisture down the inside of her leg followed by a dull pain in her abdomen; her white dress stark against the red she saw as she looked down coming to a complete stop in her tracks, her hand hesitated before touching and coming away deep crimson, not the red she wanted to see; where was she? The redheaded girl in the snow?

 

He was closer now and she knew there was no escape, no getting away because she’d been running for the longest time and no matter which exit she took he still found her, still breathed down her neck and touched her in the most inappropriate places, his hands drowning in red the bright pristine white of his suit soaked in it, till all he was was red, head to toe red. Not her red, never her red. Waverly’s breaths came in short sharp gasps, god it was cold, her limbs felt numb and when she looked down she was standing in snow blood red snow, frozen to the spot watching him, that shadow approach, already knowing the ending, but hoping against hope she was wrong, she’d been wrong before; couldn’t she be wrong just one more time?

 

.w.

 

Nicole’s hand closed around Waverly’s, picking it up from the blanket, the sound of beeping in the distance as her cradled the younger girl’s fingers between her own before bringing it up to her lips and leaving a soft kiss to the top of her purple and bruised knuckles; “Come back to me baby,” Wynonna had left her an hour ago, the words she’d shared with Nicole had hit her in a way she’d never thought they would and as complete as Waverly made her the moment they started dating, it was Wynonna’s acceptance of their relationship and their subsequent friendship that made her feel like she had a family again, made her realise what was worth fighting for and she’d be damned if she let Waverly forget that.

 

.w.

 

Waverly drew a deep breath, her hands at her sides, the numbness at her feet had reached her thighs and the burn had subsided slightly, the cold seeping through just as quickly as his hands had reached for her, the way his fingers had moved across her skin and she remembered this from before, his bad breath and toothy grin inches from her face as she balled her fists at her sides, nails biting into her palms, half moons cutting into her skin, bleeding tiny drops of blood into the stark white snow at her feet. Waverly knew now that her red wouldn’t come, that she wasn’t in this in between with her, that Waverly was lost here somewhere she could only assume was between life and death with the shadow of her rapist perpetually tormenting her because she only had memories to a point of what happened, the fog was letting her relive the rest, the part where she had passed out. She wanted to vomit, she wanted to scream, both would not make it passed her throat but her tears fell to compensate and when he noticed them he’d sneered, whispering that there was no one coming to save her and Waverly felt more fear now than she had done then, because she knew what was coming would keep coming till she died.

 

Waverly wished for death, wished for a gloriously sunset red vision filled death.

 

She closed her eyes and waited for the impending pain, holding her breath lest she pass out and spare herself from the impending trauma. Her final thought went to Nicole and Wynonna, to the ice she’d fallen through as a child, to Wynonna who’d pulled her frozen lake and cried when she’d been okay, to Nicole and her first kiss and the messiness of it and all those thereafter and Nicole’s fingers tracing her every scar on her body as she made love to her in the light of the setting sun on that late October evening, the feeling of Nicole’s hair under her fingers as she’d come undone in her arms and for the first time felt so very complete in the kind of completeness she’d never felt with Champ. Those fleeting smiles that Nicole made when she realised that Waverly had been watching her for the longest time and that nervous embarrassment in her face when Waverly had kissed her in the middle of the bullpen at the Purgatory Police Department and despite it all, despite the feeling of a hand closing around her neck and another hand between her legs, Waverly smiled at the memories of Nicole, and hoped she could keep remembering them long after this was over and she was ready to greet death as fast as she had been brought into this world.

 

Behind her closed eyes she saw her, hair as red as she remembered, a smile that comforted her as her vision swam and he choked the life out of her once again; and when Nicole reached for her this time, her bloodied hand greeted it, connecting fingers and she held on for dear life, pulling the spectre of her girlfriend closer to her because she wanted to say goodbye before she didn’t have the air left in her lungs because the darkness was creeping into her now, she longed to feel her lips on her skin again, longed for another lifetime where they’d met outside of Purgatory and were safe and sound, oh if she could have done things differently maybe a lot of things had been safe, a lot of people hadn’t have had to die.

 

Nicole grabbed ahold of Waverly’s hand tighter than she thought humanly possible, pulling her away from the danger, her lips moving but no sound reached Waverly till the blood stopped rushing in her ears and she forced her eyes to open, blinded in the brightness that was no longer fog, his hands now longer squeezing her neck, she drew in the deepest breath she had in what seemed like forever, choking against the tube in her mouth she coughed and sputtered and through the haze of a sudden onslaught of sound she heard it, those words that Nicole had been saying all along that never made it through the darkness till she’d opened her eyes and accepted the helping hand Nicole offered;

 

“I’ve got you Waves, I’m here and I’ve got you”

 

Nicole’s voice shuddered with emotions, she looked down examining the patterns in the blanket, not noticing the movements of Waverly’s waking till her hand twitched in hers and Waverly’s fingers closed tighter around her own. It was only a broken whisper but Nicole heard it as clear as day.

 

“N..Nicole…”