They’ve been so eerily silent for so long, Wynonna has to say something. Dolls has been treating her with kid gloves since she got back, gentler and kinder than she thinks she deserves, and she can feel that Waves is still pissed at her—she can’t really blame her—and Doc’s fucked off to somewhere, and she feels like she’s been suffocating since she stepped foot back into Purgatory. She hasn’t even had Revs as a distraction, none have show their ugly faces since the showdown at Shorty’s.
Honestly, it was only a matter of time before she exploded if only to break the silence.
If it surprises Dolls when Wynonna asks, after Waverly has left for lunch with Nicole, “Can we like, train, or something?” it’s nothing compared to how she feels when she hears the words escape her.
There’s a moment when his face is clouded by doubt, and actual anxiety that he’ll say no clutches around her heart—and that should give her more pause, really, but she wants to do literally anything than sit around pretending she’s any help in the research department and stew in her own head. Maybe some of that anxiety is evident, or maybe he just knows her, because he just shakes his head a little and eyes her top-to-bottom and says, “I think you left some sweats in my office.”
Of course, she starts to regret her decision to ask to train after he knocks her on her ass. “Oh, rusty isn’t even the word for it,” she groans, slapping his proffered hand away and scowling up at him.
“Not here to take it easy on you, Earp,” he says, pointed but not unkind.
This time, when he offers his hand again, she takes it and lets him leverage her to his feet. “Nothing about this is easy,” she mutters. Her words catch up with her and she shakes her head with a quick, “Don’t.”
“C’mon, Wynonna, you—”
“Do. Not,” she says firmly, stepping back and rolling her shoulders. “Just, you know… kick my ass some more.”
And… he does. He kicks her ass so thoroughly¸ but somehow the exercise makes her feel better. Even with every part of her body aching and her lungs burning, she feels almost lighter. She’s too worn out to turn her head, and from where she’s splayed out across the mat all she can see is the slope of his hunched shoulder. The only noise is the gentle sounds of him slicing and chewing an apple, but this quiet isn’t so oppressive.
“Hey,” she huffs, kicking out her foot until her sneaker nudges into something solid—his thigh? his ass? “Thanks.”
She can hear his knife pause mid-slice. Then it continues as he asks, “For what?”
“You’re a smart guy, Dolls,” she says with a frown even if he can’t see it.
He doesn’t respond for a long time, and she doesn’t really know what she expects him to say. She sees the apple core fly in a graceful arc towards the corner where the garbage can is and, in just a moment, hears it hit the ground wetly. “Damn,” he grunts. Almost in spite of herself, she snorts sharply as he rolls to his feet just on the edge of her vision. She lets her eyes fall shut, realizing only now how little sleep she’s gotten in recent weeks. “Not a great place for a nap,” she hears him say.
“It’s horizontal,” she mumbles thoughtlessly.
She looks up in time to see him shrug and drop down next to her in one smooth motion, and he’s close enough that she can feel the warmth of him but not touching her. It gets her to lift her head, just a little, and she’s oddly fixated on the way his hands are folded just under his ribs.
“Are you gonna nap with me in solidarity?” she asks, lips curling.
“Well, not if you’re gonna make fun of me,” he replies, eyes shut and face serene.
“That’s fair,” she says, still staring at his hands. There’s the flash of a memory—fear and relief and warmth against the chill of ice and snow and the smell of smoke clinging to her nose. Her fingers itch to touch his, but she’s suddenly shy. The words you’re an amazing agent ring in her ears, and she realizes with a pang she doesn’t want to be rejected, Christ. Frankly, she’s disgusted with herself.
He’s watching her when she chances a look back up and, caught, her face heats. It’s unequivocally, without doubt, 100% a moment, and she thinks it would be so easy to curl into him—it wouldn’t be perfect, she’s covered in dried sweat and sore and exhausted, and they’re on a too-thin exercise mat, but she could do it. She thinks, Waves was right, he wanted to be more, and she thinks, he kissed me back, and she thinks, I could do this.
The moment she really resolves to do something, the door bangs open and she gasps so hard she almost chokes on her own tongue.
“Um… there’s a real weird vibe in here,” Nicole says. “What’s—”
“Nothing,” Wynonna interrupts, ignoring her protesting muscles as she scrambles to her feet. “Did you bring me steak fries?”
Brow furrowed, she replies with a drawn out, “Yeah.” She has the distinct look of a woman who wants to ask a potentially mortifying question, but, thank God, keeps her peace as she hands over a Styrofoam container. “And an unreasonable amount of brown mustard, which I maintain is a bizarre choice.”
“It’s delicious, I don’t wanna hear it,” she protests, ignoring that Nicole and Dolls share a look as she flips open the lid and gazes lovingly at the golden-fried goodness.
“I think we gotta just let her have her moment,” he stage-whispers.
“Screw both of you,” she grumbles, wounded.
By the time they’re on their way out, Wynonna’s talked herself into believing that what she thought could maybe have been a moment—the same one in which she damn near launched herself at his damn face—was in fact just temporary insanity on her part and that what she really needs is a good (but solitary) orgasm to clear her mind and she’ll be fine. She’s so thoroughly convinced herself of that it throws her off guard when he catches her by the elbow and nods toward the SUV. “Why don’t you come to my place?” he offers.
“You have a place?” she demands. “Wait, are you back at the motel? ‘Cause hard pass.”
“I didn’t stay there, Wynonna, I hid my stuff from a creepy government agency there,” he says. His tone is serious, but the corner of his mouth is lifted. “I’ve got an apartment.”
Thoughtlessly, she follows him. “That really only raises more questions,” she mumbles as he shuts her into the passenger side. “I’m serious,” she continues when he gets in. “How do you pay for it? Does Black Badge offer a generous severance package that you’re hiding from us? Are you moonlighting?” Having gotten no response, she hems, “You know, there’s no shame if you’re—”
“Hey, here’s an idea, let’s not finish that thought,” he interrupts, so falsely cheerful it completely derails her, prompting an inelegant laugh that makes him look entirely too pleased with himself. “I was thinking pizza.”
“I like the way you think,” she says. “But only if it’s garbage can.”
“Incidentally exactly where it belongs,” he responds loftily. Mock offended, she clutches her chest. “Pizza is really just a ploy for buffalo wings anyway.”
“I know this, and you have a problem,” she teases, twisting the hem of her shirt around her fingers. “No one likes buffalo sauce as much as you do. It’s frankly a little uncomfortable.”
“Says Ms. Enough-Hot-Sauce-To-Down-A-T-Rex,” he points out.
Eyes narrowed, she says, “It’s not the quantity I have a problem with, it’s the type.” He plays hurt well and she crows, “What! It’s not my fault you picked an inferior sauce. Cover yourself in sriracha for all I care, but pick a good hot sauce.”
“First of all, please never mention me putting hot sauce anywhere but in my mouth,” he scolds. “Also, we’re here,” he says as they pull in front of an honest-to-god house. Like, in the middle of town. Where he has neighbors.
“What,” she says blankly. Certain this is some kind of trick, she looks around. “You’re not serious.” He turns the engine off and cocks a brow at her and she gasps, “Oh my God, you’re serious. You live right here! You’ve—you haven’t lived here the whole time?”
Amusement crinkles the corners of his eyes as he replies, “No, I have not lived here the whole time, but I have lived here for a while.”
“Since when?” she demands, feeling a little unreal like the world’s tilted beneath her.
“Uh,” he pauses with a cringe. “More than a year and a half.”
“More than a…” she trails off faintly.
“You gonna be okay? Where did you think I’ve been living?”
“The… woods? The station? Maybe you were shacking up with Doc?” she suggests.
“Yeah, that’d work out well,” he deadpans. “You gonna keep freaking out or did you wanna come inside?”
“Who’s freaking out?” she laughs lamely, shoving herself outside to look up at the house—it’s nothing worth note, really, except this is apparently where he lives.
This is where he goes when he’s not with them, and something about that concept just floors her. She realizes, as she follows him up to the front door, how little she still knows about him and what goes on with him and—and, shit, that’s her fault, isn’t it? Not, like, on purpose, but she doesn’t ask, and they’ve been so preoccupied with everything else (Her Shit, she thinks sullenly), and all she really knows about him is the stuff she’s guessed or observed or prised out of him. She knows the stuff you learn about a coworker, but what else does she really know? She didn’t even know where he lived—she’s only guessed where he’d hid his stuff. Something clings icy at her throat as she hovers behind him.
“I don’t wanna hear shit about my decorating scheme, it’s not like there’s a conveniently-located Ikea nearby, okay?” he warns, which she only barely hears around the panicky thrum of her heart.
When he lets her in, the giggle she lets out is manic and choked and she covers her mouth with both of her hands. On the one hand—okay, the decorating is bad, nothing matches, the coffee table is leaning, and there’s folded laundry on a dining table she knows, more than she’s ever known anything, that he absolutely does not use to eat. She realizes he’s kind of staring at her and she did just have what could be construed as the precursor to a meltdown.
“It’s um—it’s very bachelor chic,” she chokes.
“Don’t be an ass.”
“Okay,” Dolls sighs, sucking hot sauce off his thumb even as she throws a gently-used napkin at him in mock disgust. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Um, I’m gonna… need you to be more specific,” she responds haltingly, picking at the label on her beer.
His head tilts and his expression goes soft but exasperated, and she busies herself with snatching another slice from the box on the lopsided coffee table. “Listen, Wynonna,” he says gently, “If you need to talk about anything…”
“I’m good,” she shakes her head. When she sees the not-quite-veiled look of disbelief he sticks her with, she groans and bites the inside of her cheek and says, “Dude—everything is weird and sucks but not in a way I wanna talk about.” But it feels like a lie—tastes like one, sounds like one—and it’s not fair to deflect, but what she hears herself mumble is, “You live in a house.”
“I do live in a house,” he scowls, confusion evident all over his face.
Huffing a sharp breath, she stares down at the heavily-topped slice in her hand and, embarrassed, says, “It’s just that—it’s just that I didn’t know you live in a house.” And then, once the words are out, she feels herself needing to explain, “Like, everything’s always crazy, but, like, how did I not know where you live? And now I’m thinking, oh, shit, I don’t know anything about you, what the fuck and—”
“Hey,” he whispers, hands up like he’s trying to placate a skittish horse, “Hey, it—”
“It’s fine,” she groans, tossing the pizza back into the box and shoving to her feet. She feels a flush of—of shame all over her as she paces as far away from him as she can in the living room, and she asks desperately, “Is there any way we can pretend I didn’t say anything?”
“No,” he says simply, and he’s still got that comforting-a-wild-animal look as he stands, comes closer so slowly her lungs start to ache with the breath she’s holding. She’s not exactly certain what it is she expects, but it sure as shit isn’t being pulled into his chest. It’s easy to let herself be crushed against the warmth of him, clinging to the back of his shirt and breath shuddering against his neck. “I’m sorry,” he whispers into her hair.
“Fuckin’…” she trails off, losing the thread just a little when he rubs her back, “Damn right you’re sorry.”
“I’m serious,” he frowns gently as he breaks away just enough for her to see it. “You know I—I trust you.”
It’s said so plainly that she can’t immediately respond, there’s something thick and painful in her throat she has to swallow. “Yeah,” she scoffs weakly. “Yeah, I know. Traumatic experiences really bond people.” Unwilling to keep looking at his calm, open face, she presses her nose into his neck and squeezes her eyes shut—like, she might as well press her luck a little more. To her very earnest surprise, he lets her, and she wonders if there’s a way to convince him to just… keep hugging her.
Which is, admittedly, a weird thing to wonder, but today’s been a weird day.
“Not that this isn’t awesome,” he says eventually, “But do you wanna sit back down?”
Well, so much for that.
She takes one deep breath and pretends not to notice the odd little thrill in her belly at the sweat-soap smell of him before unwillingly stepping back, not entirely able to ignore the way her heart hammers when his hands stay on her shoulders. He dips his head a little to catch her gaze which had been lingering somewhere past his right ear, tucks her hair back in a way that has no right to feel as familiar as it does, and suggests softly, “Why don’t you grab a couple beers?”
Her brow furrows, just a little, but she feels her head bob as she makes her way to the tiny kitchen. Resisting the urge to snoop—c’mon, how many chances will she get to see if he’s secretly got a freezer full of ice cream?—she snags a couple bottles from the fridge and finds him lounging at the far end of the couch. He’s got this faraway look in his eye, and his fingertips drum the arm of the couch. She collapses into the opposite corner of the couch and, when he doesn’t look at her immediately, touches the cold bottom of the bottle into the side of his neck.
“Shit,” he hisses, snatching the beer from her and giving her a scowl that clears quickly into a look she barely registers as nervousness. “You were half-right about me growing up in Arizona,” he says slowly. “I lived in a suburb with my family until I was eleven. Our house always seemed so huge—”
“Wait,” she interrupts, wide-eyed when she realizes what’s happening, “Wait, you don’t have to—”
“I know I—”
“I mean it, I didn’t mean you had to—”
“Wynonna,” he cuts in, snagging her fingers briefly, she thinks just to shut her up. It works, anyway. As soon as it’s clear all further protests have died on her tongue, he pulls his hand away. “I know, okay?” Her thumbnail digs into the wet paper covering her beer as her lips twist and, at length, she nods. “I don’t think the house was that big, but I was a kid. And I was kind of… you know…” he trails off and holds his thumb and finger a centimeter apart in front of one eye, and she lets out a soft, incredulous laugh. “Yeah,” he drags out wryly. His face takes on that distant look again, and his voice is so, so quiet when he says, “You know, it was before I became a teenager—and I was a shithead as a teenager, so my parents kinda lucked out on that one—” her heart stutters a little at the word parents, “And I think I had a pretty happy childhood.”
She doesn’t know what to say, but her chest aches. She watches him take a long drink.
“I have four sisters—now, they were teenagers when I—when I left.” There it is again, that world-tilting feeling. “They once convinced me I was adopted, that Dad found me as an egg in the desert. That… ended up being a little too on the nose,” he winks, yanking another laugh out of her. She knows what he’s doing—she knows this isn’t a happy story, and she feels like she’s at a cliff’s edge waiting for the drop.
“What, um,” she clears her throat. “What happened when you were eleven?”
Nodding, he says, “That’s the question. Obviously, my parents didn’t know they were handing me over to a shady arm of the marshal service. They said they were a school.” He frowns as if he can’t quite remember. “Something about exceptional test scores, but I don’t actually know what tests.” He pauses, and she waits. “It really was a school, technically. We had to be, like, convincingly well-adjusted to work with the public,” he continues thoughtfully.
“Oh, so they were still working out the kinks on that one when you got there, huh?” she jokes lamely, but he gives her a real, if strained, laugh. Still, she reaches for his hand again, only partially out of guilt.
It’s just past four in the morning the next time Wynonna checks the time. She’s not sure when it was that he stopped talking, having let her tug him he’s kind of on top of her—and she thinks she must be taking advantage of him in some way as she rubs his back and neck and wraps around him as his weight settles into her. His breath is slow but uneven at her throat. Feelings aren’t exactly her forte on a good day under circumstances—right now, she has no idea what she’s feeling… or what he’s feeling, or what he’s thinking, and there’s a creeping certainty in her gut that he regrets telling her as much as he did.
“Hey,” she whispers. His head only lifts a little, not enough for her to see what his face is doing unless she moves and she can’t do that, in any case. “You wanna show me your bedroom?”
He pushes off of her and he frowns in confusion. “Yeah, I’m not exactly in the mood—”
“Mm, noted,” she says dismissively, “But not what I meant. I am not sleeping on this couch, and we do need to sleep.” As she points this out, she holds up her phone, screen facing him, to show him the time.
“Jesus,” he grunts.
The rush of actual, honest-to-god fondness she feels when he scrubs his face and looks around, almost like he’ll be able to find the last couple hours he lost, almost makes her dizzy. When he stands, he offers a hand and pulls her to her feet and, without thinking, she lurches into his space, lips jarring into his. It’s quick and chaste, but hard, and when she jerks back in horror because he literally just said he wasn’t in the mood. She starts to apologize, but the words die somewhere between her mouth and his—this kiss is just as brief, but his fingers dig into the back of her neck with just short of bruising force. His hand drops to hers as he releases his grasp on her, and he tugs her back towards a closed door.
The bedroom is lived-in but tidy, and there’s a stack of cracked-spined books on a nightstand next to the bed. Before making any sort of move further into the room, she glances up into his eyes. His face is thoughtful but present, so different from the look he’d had earlier. She lets go of his hand and steps up to the bed, self-consciously shimmying out of her jeans and, because she’s not that kind of masochist, gets her bra off under her sweater.
She climbs under the covers, pointedly ignoring his mildly amused look as she lays back uneasily against his pillow.
“You just make yourself at home,” he teases.
Petulantly, she sticks out her tongue, yanks the comforter up to her chin, and cocks a brow expectantly. Her heart gives a little flutter when he smiles gently before smacking the light switch and plunging them into darkness. She has a moment to wonder if being a dragon came with the ability to see in the dark—it’s more fun than the more likely explanation, that he just knows his way around his room—before his own jeans hit the floor and the mattress dips under his weight.
She can feel his hesitation as he lays next to her, again close enough to feel his body heat but not close enough to touch, and she only waits a beat before reaching blindly for him. As soon as her fingertips brush his shoulder, he shifts into her, bare legs sliding warmly against her own, and he lets her guide him until he’s half on top of her. He’s close enough now, head next to hers on the pillow, that she can turn and brush her lips against his, and she finds herself pressing soft kisses to every part of his face she can reach.
With a quick exhale, not quite a laugh but almost, he groans, “Wynonna, sleep.”
“I know, I know,” she murmurs, eyes shut although it hardly even matters. I know, I just can’t believe this, she thinks. She realizes the chill in the pit of her gut is worry that the morning is gonna press the reset button and they’ll never be like this again. “Thank you—I mean, I’m sorry, I—”
She doesn’t know what she wants to say, but he quiets her with an open-mouthed brush of his lips to her temple.
“Okay.” Well, he mostly quiets her, anyway. “Okay.” His forehead presses to the place his lips had touched and some of the chill thaws.
It doesn’t take long for him to fall asleep—it hadn’t the first time, either, and she’s a little jealous of whatever skill he has that allows him to just… drift off. For her, it takes longer. She holds him as much as she can hold anyone who’s taller than her by a head and is kind of curled around her, and her fingertips massage softly at his shoulders as she listens to his steady breathing. There’s a weight in her chest she can’t quite explain, a giddy sort of mesh of everything he told her and her own perverse happiness at being told and his trust in her, that she almost can’t breathe past. There’s something else, too—she feels sad, she realizes, for the child he was, before Black Badge.
She doesn’t know when she finally falls asleep, thinking about the family he apparently has. Wondering if he—rebel that he is, in his way—broke the rules, if he reached out, if he ever spoke to them, wondering what they know about their brother and what he does and who he is.
The only thing she is when she wakes up is hot. He’s like a person-sized space heater—half-heartedly, she thinks about how hot he is, har-dee-har—and she’s honest-to-God sweating. She’s all tangled up in him, and it takes way too long to free herself enough to get her legs out from under the blanket. Dolls makes a soft, whining noise and seems to try to inhabit the exact space she’s in, snuggling closer and damn near giving her beard burn—which, don’t get her wrong, she loves, but is moderately problematic.
“Good morning,” he mutters, voice sleep-raspy in a way that is… also problematic.
“Better and better,” she replies, breathless in a way that only makes her feel warmer, and she frees herself a little more to turn so they’re facing one another, heads on the pillow.
Boldly, like she just can, she strokes his cheekbone and watches in wonder at the fact that he just lets her, head turning ever so slightly into the touch. His eyes flutter shut and she doesn’t try to suppress her smile as his hand comes up to cover hers. She wants to say something but can’t find the words. Instead, she presses her luck by slotting their mouths together, slick and hungry but willing herself to be soft, yielding when he pushes her back and settles between her legs. Through only his boxers and her panties, she can feel the hot length of his cock and it stokes her own need as she squeezes him closer.
“God,” he breathes, hips rolling against hers.
“I want—I want—do you want—” she gasps nonsensically.
“We gotta…” he trails off, lips and stubble and teeth at her throat. With an unhappy groan, he pushes up as far as her grasp will let him. “We gotta work, Wynonna.”
“Fuck it,” she urges, arching up to catch his lower lip between her teeth. “Fuck it, fuck me.” As if summoned purely by her own lust, his phone screams somewhere on the floor. “Wait, wait, not yet,” she whimpers even as he’s pulling away. Defeated, she flops back against the pillow and tosses a melodramatic arm across her eyes.
After shutting off the alarm, he climbs back up next to her and slides a hand up her thigh. She fights a laugh when she feels him peck her elbow, trailing down her arm until she flings it out to her side and eyes him.
“C’mon,” he orders, dropping his forehead to hers. “If we don’t go soon, your sister will absolutely call.”
“If you think that talking about my sister will turn me off,” she starts sternly, “You are right, I can’t have sex with you and think about her. That’s a low blow.”
This close, hit with the full power of his grin, she almost can’t breathe. “Let’s go, I’ve got an extra toothbrush you can use.”
“Mm, you just keep getting sexier,” she mocks, but she lets him ease her out of bed. Tipping her head back, she pouts, mildly, until he sighs and kisses her.
“Good?” he asks sardonically.
“I guess,” she sighs, put upon. There’s an actual, real-live sparkle in his eye when she pulls back. “What?”
“Your hair is a mess,” he laughs, full and deep and real enough that she almost doesn’t feel embarrassed. Almost. His laughter just intensifies when she tries to comb her fingers through it.
“I didn’t even move that much, you had me pinned,” she mutters. It’s really sweet of him to try to stifle himself as she frowns, but it doesn’t really work and she breezes past him. “I saw a coffee machine in the kitchen, that’s not just for show, is it?” she asks, fighting to keep her voice steady.
“Nah, I keep it as a memento, it’s completely hollow inside.”
“I’m not sure the sass is entirely warranted, but what do I know?” she complains under her breath as she fumbles through his cabinets to find filters and coffee. She makes it stronger than even he likes it—making up for lost time—and as it brews she putters over to the bathroom, leaning against the doorframe and watching him brush his teeth.
Like a creep.
He catches her eye in the mirror and quirks a brow ever so slightly, reaching with his free hand to hold up a toothbrush that’s still in the package. Dragging her feet purely for effect, she stomps to his side. It’s weirdly, unexpectedly intimate to brush her teeth next to him—the bathroom, like the rest of the place, isn’t huge, and their elbows keep knocking, and they keep catching one other glancing over in the mirror, and she somehow wants to lean as close to him and as far from him as she can possibly get.
He rinses with a mouthwash that looks dubious at best, and when he offers it, it only seems polite even when she wouldn’t be caught dead actually using regular mouthwash on a normal day—she can’t even pretend to swish though before she spits, sputtering, and glares at the label. “’All natural,’” she scoffs with extreme prejudice.
“It’s better for you,” he replies after a few moments.
After a brief, judgmental conversation in which Wynonna is convinced Dolls really thinks she’s gonna leave his house pantsless, they finally hit the road about an hour after she knows he likes to be at the station. He doesn’t seem too hurt over it, but she anxiously rolls the travel mug he’d pressed into her hands—“You made this abomination, you’re drinking the rest,” he’d said with half a smirk—between her palms as he drums his fingers on the steering wheel along time with the music playing softly on the radio. There’s a notoriously slow traffic light just before the station’s parking lot and the tension held between her shoulder blades only grows as they wait for the light to change.
“You don’t, um,” she starts, tapping the metal mug with her nails. “You don’t, like, regret it, do you? Telling me what you did?”
Her wording is stilted and it’s not how she wants to ask—she’s not even sure it’s what she wants to ask—and she can’t quite look at him, instead finding her eyes drawn to the droplet of coffee on the mug’s plastic lip. He doesn’t respond, and she feels his gaze heavy on her. They stay silent for so long, and he stares at her for so long, that the light must change because the big truck behind them honks, once and sharp, and she feels him start and hit the gas with a little too much zeal.
“That absolutely did not just happen,” he says seriously as he parks. “And—hey, I’m gonna need you to look at me.”
She thinks very briefly about just going inside, but then she’s also pretty sure he wouldn’t let her get away that easily. (She wishes, even more briefly, that he’d just ignore her—but that’s not true, a fact that is unnervingly clear to her.) Sighing, she twists in the seat, and when he reaches for her, she thinks he’s moving in for a kiss—which would be ill-timed, but appreciated because she’s reasonably certain she could do that for the rest of forever—but instead he just curls a hand around the back of her head and nudges his forehead into hers. For a long moment, they’re breathing the same air.
“The only thing I regret telling you is that I once, in a fit of boredom, read the entire Twilight series,” he says eventually.
“Yeah,” she breathes, pressing into the touch for just a beat longer before she pulls away. “I regret that you told me that, too.”
“We should go inside,” he points out. “Where we work. Which is where I’ve been trying to end up for, like, two hours.”
With a derisive noise, she shoves her way out of the car. “Don’t you blame your focus issues on me,” she scolds. As they walk towards the door, the backs of their hands keep brushing and she says thoughtfully, “It’s gonna be brutally obvious to, like, everyone that I’m full-on walk-of-shame-ing it.”
“It is not my fault that you’re wearing the same sweater—I offered a shirt.”
“Oh, yeah, that woulda thrown ‘em off the scent,” she mocks as she yanks the door open for him with a quick wink, smile wide. He obligingly rolls his eyes but doesn’t respond, which is probably for the best.
“I’m gonna make some actually potable coffee,” he says, fingers barely brushing against the small of her back for half a second before he’s gone.
“Drama queen,” she whispers.
Waves is at the table in front of an alarming stack of books she’s sure are moldy enough to be dangerous. Her sister takes one long look at her and lets out a long, knowing, “Oh.”
“Do you have a brush?” she asks with a pointed look to Jeremy, hunched over a tablet.
“In the office,” Waverly responds slowly, grabbing her bag and practically dragging her into Dolls’ office.
“Do you really keep an extra hairbrush in here?” she demands.
As if to fully drive home how fucking stupid she thinks that question is, Waverly whirls around to face her fully and says, “No. It’s in my purse.”
“Oh, right,” Wynonna scoffs. “I knew that. Can I… thanks,” she mutters, shaking her hair out of her ponytail to brush through it.
“So,” she grins, bouncing on her toes and clenching her hands in front of her chest. “You were out all night.”
It’s a bit of a shame that she has to tell her the truth—both because she looks so excited, and because as truly, wonderfully, unironically great the night before had been, something about it still feels too raw and fresh to really talk about—but she just lets out a gentle breath and says, “We just… talked. He talked. Dolls talked.”
“Oh.” Her face only falls a little. “But that’s good, right?”
“Uh-huh, it only took nearly two years to break through that rough, tough, super-sexy exterior to get to his soft center,” she jokes with a smile. She watches Waves’ face go a little doubtful, and she says, “No, listen, it was good. It was really good.”
Once her hair is tamed, she throws it back up and cocks her head ever so slightly at her sister as if to ask how it looks.
“Better, you did look a little…” she pulls a face.
The thing is—Wynonna doesn’t really know where to go from here. And days pass. It’s not like things go completely back to normal, it’s just that they’re never alone for a few minutes together. It would happen that way, wouldn’t it? Just when she’s finally, finally gotten to a place where she thinks—just maybe—they’re getting their shit together, the world falls apart again. Of course, the Revs couldn’t stay in hiding forever, and then there’s a new Monster of the Week. There are moments, though, when she feels the change between them, when his hands stay on her shoulders or hips or lower back just a little longer, or he lingers in her space, or looks at her more warmly than anyone’s ever looked at her. It’s overwhelming, and scary, and she has no idea what to do because—because…
Because if she felt less, she’d know exactly what to do.
The realization hits her in the shower, of all places. Of course, it’s not like she wasn’t aware of the fact that feelings had developed, it’s just that… well, when did they have a chance, ever, to address that situation? And, she has to admit grudgingly to herself, when did she ever have the inclination to address that situation? And when did she start referring to it as a situation?
She’s been freaking out in circles about it when the water goes cold, and she hardly even notices it until Waves bangs on the door and she realizes she’s shivering and still has conditioner in her hair. With a groan, she rinses faster than she has ever rinsed her hair in her life and damn near leaps out of the tub.
Once she’s got herself mostly dried off and wrapped up in a bathrobe, she opens the door and winces at her sister. “Sorry, you may wanna wait,” she says.
“No kidding,” Waverly responds, but at least she looks amused. “You were in there for like half an hour.”
“Well, we don’t have a detachable showerhead, so it took some maneuvering,” Wynonna jokes.
“Way more information than necessary,” she cringes with a laugh. “I need to brush my teeth.”
With a wiggle of her eyebrows, Wynonna sidesteps out of the way. She thinks, as she digs for clean-or-at-least-not-covered-in-ick jeans, maybe this is just how they’re supposed to do things. Maybe that night was a freak incident—just like the night she died. Maybe they’re just meant to dance around each other, very occasionally colliding only to fling themselves apart or be flung apart by real life. It’s a sad, shitty thought.
“It’s bullshit is what it is,” she mumbles to the otherwise empty bedroom. At least she sounds confident.
She spends an inordinate amount of time trying to decide between her cleanest—read, only slightly spattered with blood—pair of jeans, and a pair of actually clean leggings. What’s she really worried about—Revs and demons don’t actually care what she’s wearing when she sends them back to hell. And, well, if she’s trying to impress Dolls, he’s definitely seen her in worse conditions.
She’s not trying to impress him, for the record.
In the end, she goes with the jeans for what is actually a well thought out reason, which is that jeans hold up at least a little better than leggings in case she has another run-in with big-ass spiders. Her thoughts, though, are still almost entirely on her own feelings, which she really doesn’t appreciate given she spends an admittedly unreasonable amount of time not examining her own feelings. And there are feelings, and they’re pressing, nameless (unnamed, a part of her mind whispers) against the back of her teeth and just under her ribs.
And now with that inconvenient revelation, she’s got what feel like actual butterflies in her chest. Like she’s in some kind of terrible cheesy romance novel. Fuck.
While Waves showers, she works through a good half a pot of coffee—she missed it so much, almost as much as whiskey—and tries to figure out what exactly she’s gonna do about this. There’s a measured, reasonable part of her that is urging her to actually talk to the guy, but that part is small and weak because it’s never really exercised, and there’s a much more persuasive part of her that’s whispering to her to just… let it run its course. She’s fickle, after all, isn’t she famous for it? It’ll probably just work itself out of her system.
Like a flu.
She’s got kind of a record for listening to that voice and she’s right on the edge of not wanting to break that streak.
So, basically, she’s made zero progress, which she is woman enough to admit is right in line with her own personal expectations of herself.
“Keep that bar low, Earp,” she mutters.
“Talking to yourself?” Waves pipes behind her.
“Well, I am crazy,” she says acridly to her coffee.
“You are not, so don’t start,” she counters firmly, and an arm wraps around her as she feels damp hair on her bare shoulder. “You wanna talk about it to a person?”
She feels her sister hum before pressing, “Is it about Dolls?”
“Don’t you have, like, an amazing outfit to put on? Something suited to make us mere mortals feel lucky just being in your presence?” Wynonna demands helplessly. “Or were you gonna wear the robe to the station?”
When she looks, Waverly is pursing her lips and her eyes are narrowed, but she, thankfully, says nothing except, “Fine, I’m getting dressed.” As she leaves the kitchen, though, she calls over her shoulder, “But maybe you should talk to him about it instead of your coffee.”
Scowling, she grumbles childishly, “Talk to him instead of your coffee.” Then, quietly, “Baby, you have got to be more quiet about your fucking crises.”
“I hate this so much,” she whines under the spray of the decontamination shower.
“Yeah, well, you’re the one who shot a roman candle at a scorpion the size of a schnauzer, so I dunno why you’re bitching at me,” Dolls replies easily from his own stall.
Wynonna yanks a piece of—yick—giant bug out of her hair and tosses it on the floor with a shudder. “I was improvising, and I saved your goddamn life, and your pretty face, so shut it,” she says with a scowl that doesn’t feel near as effective as she’d like given that she’s naked, stinking, dripping, and still at least half-covered in exoskeleton.
“You think my face is pretty?” he asks before laughing at the face she pulls. “I was not complaining—I’m just saying, you saw the bodies. We dunno what’s in those things’ blood. Better safe than sorry since you blew the thing up.” She hates it when he’s reasonable because, in spite of her best efforts, she can’t really argue with him. He reaches over the plastic partition curtain, and she goes stock still, very, very aware that they are both very naked and his eyes are locked on hers so she feels every inch of exposed skin in a way she hadn’t before. She’s not sure if she should be offended by the fact that his eyes do stay on hers, but his thumb swipes over her cheekbone and he smiles and every coherent thought evaporates. Even the shower doesn’t smell quite as bad—god feelings have made her a fucking loser.
And it’s a nice moment until he pulls what she’s pretty sure is a leg out of her hair. “That’s so gross,” she says faintly as she closes her eyes. Whatever it is hits the floor with a wet noise she doesn’t want to think too much about. Dolls shuts off his own shower and she emphatically does not look as he steps out, wrapping a towel around his hips, especially not when there are water droplets rolling down the glistening muscles of his back.
Nope, especially not then.
But just to be sure, she turns her back to him and steps under the blast of terrible, reeking water until she stops feeling solids coming off of her. “Hey, am I good?” she asks, as she turns back to him.
“Like, as a person?” he asks, pulling his T-shirt over his head. “I mean, you’re a… you’re definitely on the good end of the spectrum.”
“You know exactly what I was asking, but thank you, I think,” she frowns.
“Oh, yeah, there’s no more scorpion in your hair,” he grins, holding out a towel for her.
“I don’t understand why it always has to be giant bugs—why not giant kittens and puppies?” she complains as she dries off.
“It’d be more effective,” he says, “Way more people would approach them.”
“E—Exactly, thank you,” she cries victoriously. The way he’s smiling makes her feel warm all over and her heart throbs and cheeks flame. Clearing her throat, she wrings out her hair. “Plus, it would be adorable. Big ol’ demonic Clifford? Absolutely. Hell yes.”
“You’re thinking about getting a puppy now,” he says seriously.
“No, I’m—” she scoffs but he pins her with a look that makes her reconsider. “I mean not seriously. I’m not home enough for a puppy, and—and—” his shoulders are shaking with silent laughter as he crosses his arms. “Shut up, God.”
“I’m sorry,” he laughs unrepentantly.
Lips twisting, she shoves past him to grab her own clothes—clothes that aren’t covered in gross but are covered in sweat, because she still hasn’t brought a spare change up from the last time she took hers home to “do laundry”. As she gets dressed, she asks over her shoulder, “Hey, did you—do you maybe wanna grab some Chinese and, like… come eat it at the…” She trails off when she turns and sees him clearly suppressing riotous laughter. “What?”
“Are you asking me on a date?” he asks, smiling so hard his face has gotta hurt.
“We get Chinese no less than four times a week,” she deflects. “If that’s a date, we’ve been dating since approximately three days after I met you. Which makes this my longest-running relationship.”
His eyebrow flicks upward quickly, but then he shakes head. The smile doesn’t go away, though, or fade much. “Alright,” he shrugs. “Let’s go.”
“I hope you know as soon as we get to the homestead, I’m getting into a real shower,” she says as they leave.
“You say that, but I have a single rebuttal.” He waits obligingly for her questioning glance. “Dumplings.”
“Ah, okay, fair enough,” she responds with mock solemnity as he follows her outside. His hand bumps into hers, and she huffs.
He stops her short of opening the SUV door with a quiet, “Hey.” When she whirls, he’s much closer than she anticipated, and his hand on her upper arm. “Thanks for saving my pretty face.”
“I think we can all agree it looks best like this and not, like, oozing pus and blood,” she says as seriously as she can, “Just doin’ my job, as far as I’m concerned.”
He rolls his eyes, and she thinks this is the moment—she should actually talk to him—should tell him how she feels. She can’t summon the words, though, and he squeezes her arm just a little bit before letting her go and grabbing the door for her. As she turns her back to him to step up inside, she closes her eyes in mild horror and gives the smallest shake of her head. He shuts her in, face unreadable, and skirts around the front of the SUV.
Contrary to what Dolls seems to believe, Wynonna really can control herself, even when faced with a double helping of dumplings. Of course, her version of controlling herself involves whispering, “Gimme, gimme…” when he comes out of the restaurant carrying a box of takeout, planting the warm cardboard in her lap, and shoving one in her mouth before he’s even hit the road again. She’d ignored the comment he’d thrown at her about not eating in his car and licked grease off her fingers. Once they’d gotten to the homestead, she’d made good on her promise to go take a real shower, and soon she smells like soap and not like disinfectant. She finds him on the couch, meticulously digging shrimp out of his dragon and phoenix, and she doesn’t say anything at first or come any closer because she’s all caught up in the way he does that—it’s such a weird little thing, that he eats everything separately, that he always starts with the shrimp, that she notices.
Eventually, though, she has to concede that just standing there, watching him, is a little creepy, and saunters over and collapses right next to him. She plucks up a pair of chopsticks and, instead of going for her own chicken, she reaches over to steal a floret of broccoli.
“Rude,” he admonishes.
Instead of answering, she bites down on the crunchy stalk with a punctuating wink before grabbing her own food. “You know what? I love that you know my order,” she sighs happily around a mouthful.
“Is it because the owners hate you and my knowing means you never have to go in?” he asks knowingly.
“Only a lot.” She catches herself grinning at him for, like, a full minute and looks down, flushing.
“I knew you only kept me around as a buffer between you and the entire town,” he says, mockingly forlorn.
“Mm, you caught me,” she responds. “So, like, just so you know, that was the worst part of you being—you not being around.”
“Oh, I’ll bet,” he chuckles, knocking his shoulder against hers. “Is that all you love about me?”
It’s one hell of a loaded question, and she hesitates a beat because this is—it’s fun, and they’re joking, and he’s joking, obviously, and she doesn’t have to make it anything it isn’t. Then, she hears herself start, “Well, you’ve got a great a—"
His mouth mashes into hers and effectively cuts her off, and she almost drops her takeout on the floor in her hurry to return the kiss. He pulls back just a little until it’s less rough—until it’s sweeter and slower and she almost can’t breathe. When she breaks it, though, he chases her, and she can’t help the breathless laugh that bubbles out of her. She does manage to break away, though, but only long enough to drop her food back on the coffee table. Before she can get a chance to really think about it, she grabs his, too, with a quick, “Chinese food is better cold,” and sets it next to hers. He sits back as she climbs into his lap and cards through her damp hair, eyes warm and she feels like he’s looking for something.
“I have to tell you something,” she says, keeping her voice barely above a whisper in the inches between their lips. He doesn’t ask, but his eyebrows raise, and she lets their noses brush before admitting, “I kinda wanted to ask you on a date.”
His head falls back, and her fingertips trace over his jaw. “So, is this a date?”
“Well, you did buy me dinner,” she responds, sugary-sweet.
“I always buy you dinner,” he points out.
“See? Longest-running relationship,” she says. She lets him reel her in, so gentle and slow she thinks she might actually explode when his lips brush against hers. Her hands slip down his chest, and there’s urgency thrumming in her ribcage that she tries to stifle as his own grasp moves to her waist and guides her closer. With a quiet, impatient noise, she pulls back enough to catch his gaze as if to make sure this isn’t just one-sided—as if he didn’t just kiss her. Breath hitching, she watches him catch his lip between his teeth and whispers, “Jesus.”
His smirk is entirely too smug, but she can feel his gasp when she dips her head to nip at his jaw. One big, hot hand slips up under the back of her shirt as the other tangles in her hair, and she lets out a shuddery little breath as she smears lips and teeth against the grain of his stubble.
“You are just making out with my beard, right now,” he murmurs. “Should I be jealous?”
“Yes,” she answers seriously, pulling back and leaning her elbow on the back of the couch, resting her head on her hand, and rubbing her burning lips together. “It’s only the beard I’m attracted to. If you could anthropomorphize that baby, I’d be right outta here with that bad boy, just like that,” she punctuates with a snap.
“Anthropomorphize,” he repeats, tilting his head. “That’s a million-dollar word.”
Sighing, because they’ve probably killed the mood so she might as well go for it, she says, “You know when you learn a new word and it pops up everywhere after that so you never forget it? I watched a bad documentary about animated talking animal movies.”
She’s not sure what she expects his reaction to be, but he just gives her a full-belly laugh that she feels everywhere, pressed all into him, and draws her in for a deep, hard kiss. “You’re something else entirely, you know that?”
“Oh, I’ve been told,” she breathes against his lips. Her forehead drops against his as his thumb rubs slow arcs across the middle of her back. Not for the first time, she thinks she could be perfectly happy just staying like this—she could live in this feeling, the gentle way he touches her and his slow breathing and the warmth of him. Eventually, though, her hips start to ache from the position and she shifts and clears her throat. “Do you, um, do you wanna see my bedroom?”
On their way to the bedroom, her phone rang, because of course it did. It hadn’t been anything so serious that it really needed to be a phone call—the rest of the gang went on an expedition to buy Purgatory’s entire supply in pesticides in hopes that Jeremy can make something potent enough so that they don’t have to rely on Wynonna’s improvisation skills to dispatch the rest of the scorpions, and when they got back to the station, Waves was half-worried when she and Dolls weren’t waiting for her. Wynonna told her a half-truth about dinner—is it even a half-truth when they really did get dinner?—and told her an entire lie about probably coming back in a little bit later. At least she didn’t sound too concerned, or like she was holding her breath on that promise, and she let her go with a coy little, “And be safe.”
Dolls is sitting on the edge of her bed, and in spite of the fact that no one’s there to walk in on them, she shuts the door, leaning her full weight onto the handle for just a moment, eyeing him. He holds a hand out to her, smiles when she does as she steps forward to take it. It would be so easy to slide between his legs, push him onto his back, eat her way into his grin until all she can feel is him and her and skin on skin on skin—instead, she sits next to him, lets him tangle their fingers together.
“Are you sure?” she asks softly, looking at his chin because she can’t quite meet his gaze.
“I just mean—do you want to do this?” she presses, squeezing his hand. “I don’t wanna be—” she stops short of saying the only port in the storm. “I just want you to… want… this…” she trails off uncomfortably. Scrunching her face, she can’t help but shake her head because she shoulda just gone with option 1.
He makes a soft noise and almost tenderly draws her chin up with the lightest touch of his fingertips. “C’mon, have you ever known me to do something I didn’t absolutely want to do?” he asks, half-seriously.
“Frequently,” she says simply. “That’s why I’m asking.”
“Why are you really asking?”
Later, she’ll say the question, so direct, his eyes boring into hers, startles the honesty right out of her when she responds, “Because I think I might love you kind of?” Given she hadn’t even let herself think the words, let alone say them out loud, she isn’t quite sure how to process her own outburst and she’s on her feet and three steps away before she even knows what she’s doing. “I’m s—” no, she doesn’t want to apologize. Finally, she whips around and says, “Listen, you don’t have to say it back.” She flails a little helplessly. She’s in this deep, after all. “I don’t wanna just have sex with you—even though I’m absolutely sure that would be fantastic—I wanna hear about how invested you were in Bella’s relationship with Jacob—”
“I was Team Bella,” he interrupts, pushing to his feet.
“You’re full of shit,” she smiles. “I wanna hear the undoubtedly bad stuff, and the good stuff, and I wanna get cockblocked by your stupidly early alarms—and you. I want you. God, I sound like a Hallmark movie.”
“Just a little bit,” he chuckles, coming closer. His smile is quiet, almost private, as he cups her jaw, tipping her head back so she meets his gaze once again. “I have never felt for someone the way I feel for you.” At that, she lets her eyes fall shut in relief or overwhelmed pleasure or something she can’t quite name—his lips press dryly to her forehead and her cheeks and her chin before she laughs. “And I was absolutely Team Bella—she deserved better.”
“Sure you were, boss,” she says into his mouth.
Without another word, he swings her around and, hands firm on her hips, walks her backward to the bed. He keeps her from falling backward when the backs of her knees hit the mattress, and she lets out a breathless giggle as his tongue slips into her mouth—he kisses her so deeply she almost forgets to breathe, and his hands slide up and down her back under her top. Her fingers dig into his shoulders, slide down his chest, her arms wind around his neck, she finds she doesn’t quite know where she wants to be touching him because she wants to touch him everywhere. He moves so slowly and so smoothly that she almost doesn’t notice him ease her backward, and he pillows her head in one hand as he lays her down.
“Smooth,” she laughs when he breaks the kiss to straddle her hips and in one fluid motion tugs his shirt up over his head. “Christ,” she whispers, stroking his bare stomach, then his chest, eyes fixed on the skin under her fingertips.
“Oh, you do know how to flatter an ego,” he teases with a grin just short of cocky.
Fighting to keep her own movements gentle and easy, she pushes him onto his back, slides on top of him, one thigh caught between both of his. She kisses him, quick pecks that are almost teasing as one hand lazily traces every inch of him she can reach without moving and they’re slotted together just so and when she rocks against him it’s good—not enough but good. And she finds when her teeth catch at his earlobe, his gasp sends a thrill through her belly—she finds that she needs to find out what else makes him make that noise.
What she learns is that there’s a spot just under his ear that makes his fingers flex convulsively because she can feel his grip tighten at her ribs through her shirt (a shirt that’s feeling tighter and more restrictive by the second), and when she sucks there, he lets out a rumble. When she grinds against his crotch, he groans and arches up into her, and she grips his hip for leverage and then she can feel him trying to suppress a moan. Before she can continue her—what, experiment? Exploration?—he’s got her flipped and he’s inching her shirt up with his lips at her throat. She wriggles, suddenly impatient under his feather-light touches, and hikes her knees up around his waist even as he hunches over her, nails just pressing into his sides.
He grasps her breasts and she bites her lip around a moan, and then his mouth is on her chest—sucking bruises on her bared collarbone, then catching a hard nipple between his teeth as one hand slips down her belly, under her pants, and she mumbles some nonsense about multitasking while her hips stutter with every gentle caress. Then, because she needs to, her hands are working his jeans open, slide under his boxers, and he pops off her chest with a gravelly noise deep in his throat.
His lips are on hers again, hungrier now as she strokes him slowly.
He breaks away to breathe, “Do you have—do you have a—”
“Nightstand,” she nods, not yet releasing him. He kisses her again, once, hard, before pushing up and off the bed.
As she tracks his movements around the room, she shoves up further onto the bed until her head is nestled against the pillows and writhes out of her pants impatiently. He’s got this strange, soft expression on his face as he pushes down his own jeans. It’s sorta weird-sexy when he rips open the condom with his teeth, eyes still on hers, and she rolls her eyes and snorts and reaches for him even as he’s climbing up between her legs, dropping kisses wherever he can reach as he goes. For a moment, he just settles, his hips against hers, rolling against her, one hand coming up to her face, one thumb stroking her cheek, and there’s a quiver in her chest as she turns her face into the touch and presses a dry kiss into his palm. When he eases into her, his forehead bumps against hers and she lets out a shuddery breath, pulling him in closer and tighter.
His movements are smooth and controlled and she gasps and moans, relishing his own low noises of pleasure, and when his teeth drag over that spot on her throat, it sends a jolt straight through her and she can’t help but whine a quiet, “Do that again.”
He chuckles warmly but does, and it makes her toes curl, and she tilts her head as far to the side as she can and scritches the back of his neck thoughtlessly as his hand slides down her thigh to hike her knee up higher. His other hand works into her hair, fingers digging into her scalp just so as he shoves up onto an elbow—the angle lets her roll up to meet his thrusts and that’s good, that’s better. Heat pools in her belly, coils in her, and her nails drag down his shoulders and she hears him suck in a breath. Their movements become more urgent and she’s so close—she can hear herself moaning, loud and eager.
His lips slam into hers as she comes, and she’s helpless to do anything but let him lick into her mouth and swallow her cries as her vision goes sugar-bright and every part of her tenses. Even as she’s coming down, she feels him groaning into her lips, hips stuttering, and she strokes his back and neck and chest almost absently until he stills and lets out a quiet, breathless moan.
As he settles into her, all warm and heavy, he buries his face into her neck and she pecks his shoulder, arms winding around him.
She lets him rest for a few minutes before, “Do not fall asleep on top of me.”
He starts and guiltily—and sleepily—kisses her throat.