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Merry Earpmas and a Haught New Year

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One Week Until Christmas

The raw winter air assaults Nicole’s exposed skin as she stands in wait.  She rubs her gloved hands together in an attempt to keep the cold from seeping through.  There is no way she’s rushing this.

Waverly looks the tree over one more time, her hands shoved deep in the pockets of her puffy winter jacket.  Her head tilts back and forth, taking in every angle before she spins back around to Nicole, bouncing up on her toes.  “This is the one.”  Her rosy cheeks lift in an excited smile.

“Yeah?  You’re sure?”  Nicole asks, even though she hopes Waverly won’t change her mind.  It’s been over an hour since they started traipsing through the woods.  Truth be told, if Waverly wanted to look at a thousand more trees, Nicole would do it, but this one actually seems perfect, and she’d be lying if she didn’t admit to being cold.

Waverly nods with finality.  “I’m sure.”

“Well, all right then.”  Nicole rubs her hands together again.

“Is this a lesbian thing?”

Nicole stops in her tracks.  She almost forgot about Wynonna standing behind them.  Although how, she’s not entirely sure, given the steady stream of snark and complaints that have come from her since the start of this endeavor.  “Excuse me?”  She asks, trying to puzzle out exactly what Wynonna means.

“You know, the whole doing everything by hand thing.”  Wynonna responds, wiggling the fingers on one hand in a way that isn’t quite lewd, but close enough.

Nicole rolls her eyes.  “No, cutting down your own Christmas tree is not a lesbian thing.  I just like the rustic feel of it all, the satisfaction of doing it myself.”  She shrugs a shoulder, fighting a smile at the “I’ll bet” she knew Wynonna would throw her way.

She kneels down to open the hard plastic case she set in the snow while waiting for Waverly to make a decision on the tree.  “Besides, I’m not completely doing it by hand.  If I was, I’d be using an axe.”  She stands again, pressing the priming bulb on the chain saw in her hands.  “But instead, I brought a fun toy to get the job done.”  She grins at Wynonna.

Wynonna chuckles.  So many innuendo jokes, so little time.  Like–”

Nicole pulls the starter cord on the chainsaw, cutting her off with the noisy buzz.  She revs the engine a couple times,  wiggling her eyebrows up and down at Wynonna, and laughing at the finger she gets in response.  She tosses a wink at Waverly before turning her focus on the tree. 

It doesn’t take long before the tree is down and Nicole puts the chainsaw back in its case with a satisfied smile.

“Wow, you really know how to dispatch that wood efficiently.” 

Nicole is pretty sure her sigh can be heard by every tree in the acres of woods surrounding them.

“What?  You didn’t let me finish my last one, so that’s what you get.”  Wynonna shoots at her, pulling a flask out a jacket pocket. 

Waverly raises her eyebrows in question, but when Wynonna holds the flask out to her, Waverly shrugs and takes it from her.

Nicole finds herself in the familiar position of being amused, charmed, and perplexed by the Earp sisters all at once. 

A light snow starts as she and Waverly carry the tree out of the forest, Wynonna following behind and informing them that her lady bits will never thaw out from this endeavor.

“And here I thought I was the biggest baby in the family when it comes to the cold.”  Waverly states, clapping her hands together to dislodge the pine needles from her gloves after they deposit the tree in the back of the truck.

Wynonna narrows her eyes.  “You know, it’s not too late to cancel this whole Christmas thing.”

“It absolutely is too late.  We waited too long to get started on our holiday season to begin with; we only have one week to enjoy all things Christmas.”  Waverly whines.

“Sorry, kid,” Wynonna slings an arm around her shoulders, “demons don’t have the same holiday spirit as you.  I know the evil things haven’t really cooperated the last couple weeks with your mission to make the yuletides gay.” 

Nicole doesn't even have time to fully open her mouth to tell Wynonna not to go where she knows she’s going, before she does exactly that.

“But luckily, Nicole can help you out with that.”

Nicole thinks her smug grin is way too satisfied as she yanks open the door to the truck.  “It’s not my fault, they just come so easily.”  Wynonna is still chuckling to herself as she climbs in and shuts the door.

“Hey,” Waverly whispers, pressing her gloved fingers to Nicole’s jaw to turn her attention back to her, “thank you for doing this.  You have no idea how much it means to me.”

Nicole feels her heart trip in her chest at the soft smile Waverly gives her.  “Of course.”  She tells her, in lieu of all the words that want to spill out.  Instead she leans forward into the gravity that always seems to tug between them.

Their lips barely brush together when she hears the truck engine start up and the tires crunch forward through the snow.  “Wynonna!” She yells, and the truck jerks to a stop.  She and Waverly both sport matching glares when they open the passenger door.

“What, it looked like you both wanted stay out here making snow bunnies.” 

“Har har.”  Waverly deadpans, climbing onto the middle of the bench seat.

Nicole slides in after her, settling back into the seat and pushing the beanie off her head as she waits for the heat to kick in and take away some of the chill.  Waverly reaches for one of her hands, threading their fingers together and giving a gentle squeeze.

Nicole squeezes back, content in listening to the Earp sisters banter the whole way home.

*****

Nicole studies her handy-work setting the tree upright in the holder.  She decides to give it a quarter turn to move a small gap in branches towards the corner so no one will see it.

She looks to Waverly for the final decision on positioning, and is rewarded with an enthusiastic nod.  “It’s going to look so good once the lights and ornaments are on it!”  She claps her hands together and goes up on her toes to kiss Nicole’s cheek before spinning on her heel to retrieve the bags of holiday items she’s stock piled for this very occasion.

Wynonna watches her go, the corner of her lips quirked in amusement.  “Wow she is excited.  I didn’t know she had such a thing for Christmas.”  As if on queue, Waverly’s voice carries down the stairs to them as she starts singing Jingle Bells.  “Seriously, she is absurd levels of into this.”

Nicole makes herself busy fluffing up the branches on the part of the tree that lay flat on the ride home, taking her time while she contemplates exactly how she should handle this moment.  “Hey, Wynonna?”  She starts, her tone even.  “How old was Waverly when the Revenants attacked the homestead?”

Silence reigns for a good thirty seconds before Wynonna responds, her voice cautious at the turn of conversation.  “Six.”

Nicole hums in response, crouching down to arrange the branches on the bottom of the tree.  “And how old was she when your Momma left?”

“Younger than that.  Why?”  Wynonna’s voice is tight in answer, and Nicole knows she’s treading on tenuous ground.

“It’s just that, maybe this year, Waverly feels like it’s the first time in a while she has a family to celebrate Christmas with.”  Silence stretches between them.  She’s not the only one who feels that way is on the tip of her tongue, stretched taught across her shoulders, but she swallows it.  This conversation isn’t about her.  She uses her hand to brush the fallen pine needles on the floor into a pile that will be easier to sweep up later as she waits for a response.

Wynonna’s footsteps sound as she walks away, and Nicole fears she may have overstepped her boundaries.  She puffs out her cheeks as she considers a way to smooth things over.  She hears glass clinking, and she turns to find Wynonna walking back in to the living room with two high ball glasses filled with amber liquid. 

Nicole brushes her hands together as she stands to accept the glass Wynonna holds out to her.  She swirls the contents of the glass, arching an eyebrow in question.  “What’s this for?”

Wynonna takes a breath, shoulders rising and falling with the effort, before she holds out her glass.  “To spending Christmas with family.”  Her eyes hold a soft sincerity for a handful of seconds before a sarcastic glint takes hold again.  “Even when it means being subjected to a level of festive cheer that would make even Santa Clause cringe.”

The corner of Nicole’s mouth curls up as a warmth takes hold in her chest.  For Wynonna, that’s awfully sentimental, and she’ll take it.  They clink their glasses together before taking a sip.  Nicole huffs out a laugh when Wynonna throws the entire contents of her glass back in one go. 

Wynonna points at her.  “I’m expecting one hell of a present from you, though.”

Nicole touches two fingers to her brow in salute.  “Yes ma’am.”  She finishes the contents of her glass, handing it back to Wynonna as Waverly comes barreling back down the stairs with an energy that is equal parts astounding and adorable.

“I couldn’t decide if I wanted white or colored lights, what do you think?” She asks, putting multiple bags on the couch and pulling an ever growing pile of boxes out of them.  Before Nicole can respond, she starts again. “I also wasn’t sure if we should top the tree with an angel or a star, so I got both!"

A snort sounds from the kitchen.  “You said top.” Wynonna mutters.

Waverly rolls her eyes, but the cheerful smile is still there, and it’s a beautiful sight.

“Why don’t we see how the tree looks with both kinds of light?”  Nicole tells her.  The happiness on Waverly’s face is its own kind of reward.

It takes them hours to get the tree just right, a time that Wynonna fills with so much snark and sarcasm, Nicole can’t even begin to fathom where she gets it all from, but the time spent is well worth it when Waverly kisses her on the cheek and whispers that the tree is perfect.

*****

Christmas Eve

Nicole sighs as she finishes filling out the report in front of her. Dealing with an indecently exposed Santa Clause is not exactly high on her list of things she wants to do on Christmas Eve, but one of the Anderson brothers, dressed as Santa for the family Christmas party, had other ideas when he stopped in for a few too many drinks at Shorty’s before a very public urination session in the street.  He’s sleeping it off in the holding cell.

She eyes the clock on the wall, doing the mental math on how many hours are left until her double shift is over.  Too many, as far as she’s concerned.  Yet the circus that is Deputy duty in Purgatory on Christmas Eve will be worth it when she has all of Christmas Day to spend how she pleases.  It’s why she voluntarily signed up for the back to back shifts.  She just has to make it till Seven a.m., and right now the clock hands seem stuck on Seven-Thirty p.m. 

She almost has herself convinced to check the batteries in the clock when Waverly comes strolling in, to-go coffee cup in hand.

“For my hard working elf on this fine Christmas Eve.”  She holds the cup out with a smile.

Nicole furrows her brow.  “I’m not the one who’s height challenged, babe.”  Theirs fingers brush when she takes the cup, and Nicole marvels not for the first time how a simple skin on skin moment with Waverly can still make her heart flip in her chest.

Waverly takes a seat on the edge of the desk, a glint of something in her eye that isn’t particularly appropriate for the work place.  She leans in to whisper, fingers reaching out to tuck a bit of Nicole’s hair behind her ear.  “Make fun of my height all you want, we both know you love it.” 

Nicole swallows, her eyes cutting back to the clock.  Damn it, only three minutes down since the last time she checked.  She sighs again.  “Remind me why I volunteered for this double shift again?”

“Because, silly, then you get to spend all of Christmas day with me and the family.”  Waverly reminds her.

Nicole gives a light tug to the scarf around Waverly’s neck to pull her in for a kiss, because she simply has to after such a statement.

“Oh my god, if you two could ever go five seconds without sucking face, it would be a damn Christmas miracle.”  Wynonna cuts in.

Nicole sighs against Waverly’s lips.  “Hi, Wynonna.”  She pulls back to a more respectable distance.  “What are you two up to tonight?”

Waverly drops her hands into her lap.  “I’m heading to the senior center after this.  I go every year to drop off some baked goods.  I tried to talk Wynonna into going, but she refuses.”  She shoots her sister a look.

“What?  Just because it’s Christmas, doesn’t mean demonic evil takes a break.” She hitches a thumb over her shoulder.  “I’m going to check in with Dolls, see if anything needs to be killed tonight.  Don’t worry, I’ll make sure to be super festive about it, make holiday puns before I shoot, and all that.”  She shrugs.  “Besides, I can’t come with you because old people hate me.”

Waverly raises her eyebrows and rolls her lips inwards.

“I know, I know, everyone hates me.”  She waves a dismissive hand in their direction.  “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have somewhere better to be than within a hundred feet of your love.  You guys make me want to vomit, and the last thing I want is to be sick for Christmas.” 

“Wow.”  Nicole says, watching her walk away.  “She is not feeling the Christmas spirit tonight, is she?”

Waverly squints after Wynonna.  “Seems pretty normal to me.  Besides, she promised she’d be all kinds of festive tomorrow, so that’s all that matters to me.”  Waverly’s eyes follow the same path Nicole’s have so many times tonight, taking in the time.  “You get done at seven?”

Nicole inwardly sighs at the reminder of how much time she has left.  “Yeah, seven.”  She leans back in her chair, swaying side to side ever so slightly.  “I figured I’d head home and grab a few hours of sleep before heading over to help get Christmas dinner ready."

Waverly scoots forward on the edge of her desk.  “Or,” she starts, setting a foot on Nicole’s chair to stop her from swaying, “maybe, you could come right to the homestead when you’re done your shift.”  She looks behind her to make sure no one is around before reaching out to tug on Nicole’s collar.  It’s barely any pressure, yet Nicole gravitates forward on instinct.  “You can crawl into bed with me, keep me warm for a bit, and I’ll get to wake up on Christmas morning in your arms.” 

The words land squarely in the center of Nicole’s chest.  “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”  Waverly smiles at her, hands finding their way to her shoulders.  “That way, you can sleep as late as you need, and when you get up, you’ll already be at the house.  If you want, I can stop at your place on my way home, pack you a bag.”  She scrunches up an eye. “Although I think at this point enough of your stuff has found its way to my bedroom to cover several days of clothing needs.”

Nicole is happy in the knowledge that Waverly is right, and that Waverly has her own drawer full of clothes in the dresser at Nicole’s place.  It’s another small step in their relationship that tugs at Nicole’s building sense of forever.  They don’t talk about it explicitly yet, but the particular light shining in Waverly’s eyes tells Nicole they’re on the same page.

“I think I could be talked into such an arrangement.” 

The smile Waverly rewards her with is radiant, and leaves Nicole sure in her decision. 

She sends Waverly on her way soon after that.  As much as she’d love to chew up more time being distracted in such pleasantly diverting ways, she really should focus on her job. 

Speaking of which, typing up some lingering file reports might use up a good chunk of time.  She looks at the clock yet again, and this time she does get up to check the batteries, because good god, how can the time be moving so slow?

*****

Christmas Morning

Nicole steps into the house with as light a step as her heavy work boots will allow. She fumbles a bit trying to pull them off without noise, wincing when a dull thud sounds out. She doesn’t want to start out Christmas morning on Wynonna's bad side by waking her up with clumsy movements.

"Ho ho ho." Wynonna's voice rasps out from the stairs, and Nicole nearly jumps out of her skin. Wynonna looks more than half asleep as she descends the steps. "Needed the bathroom." She trudges past Nicole with a casual wave towards the stairs. "Go slide down Waverly's chimney, Santa Haught."

Nicole watches her retreat behind the curtain to her bedroom, shaking her head before a yawn hits her. She really needs sleep.

After a trip to the bathroom and a change into more comfortable clothing, she’s exhausted.  It takes her longer than she'd care to admit to dig to the bottom of the pile of blankets Waverly is buried under, but once she slips into bed, she's rewarded with instant warmth. She burrows into her girlfriend's back, wrapping an arm around her waist.

"You're getting coal." Waverly mumbles.

"What?" Nicole asks, unsure if she heard right. She props her head up on her hand to look down on Waverly's profile.

Waverly blinks her eyes open, rolling onto her back to look at Nicole more fully. "I love you, but if you don’t get those cold feet away from me, you’re getting coal for Christmas."

Nicole chuckles, sliding her offensive icy lower extremities away from Waverly's legs. "Sorry, baby. Better?"

Waverly nods against the pillow, letting out a sleepy sigh as she turns back onto her side, pushing back more securely into Nicole. "Much."

“I love you.” Nicole whispers against Waverly’s temple, pressing a kiss there before she slips back down to make herself comfortable.

It only takes a moment before she feels the weight of sleep coming on.  Just before she drifts off, she feels Waverly squeeze the hand she has resting against her stomach. “Merry Christmas, baby.”

Nicole puffs out a breath, but before she can respond, the warmth and contentment lulls her to sleep.

*****

The first thing Nicole is aware of when she wakes is the lack of her girlfriend in her arms, which is not her favorite way to start a day.  A hand against the sheets on the other half of the bed tells her Waverly has been up for awhile.  She blinks at the alarm clock, surprised to see it’s past noon.  Later than she intended to sleep, but the rest seems like a godsend after the double. 

She takes the time to splash some water on her face and do a quick teeth brush before pulling on one of her PSD hoodies she keeps at the homestead and heading downstairs. She pads down the hallway to an array of mouth-watering smells and the sound of Waverly humming.  She’s smiling before she even enters the kitchen.

“Waves, mash me.”  Wynonna says, holding out a hand from her position at the oven, standing over a pot.

Waverly shimmies her way over to her sister with the requested utensil in hand, never breaking her hum.  It’s when she spins on her heel to head back to her task that she notices Nicole leaning against the doorframe watching them.

“Good morning, sleepy head.”  She goes up on her toes to kiss Nicole on the cheek.

Wynonna throws her a look over her shoulder.  “Dude,” she starts, “I look like an actual responsible adult when you sleep till noon, so, thanks for that.”  She grins before turning her attention back to the pot in front of her, which, from what Nicole can tell has steaming potatoes in it ready to be mashed.

“Are you sure we should be letting her do that?” Nicole asks Waverly, making sure her voice is loud enough for Wynonna to hear.  “You know how her cooking usually turns out.”

Waverly waves a hand.  “It’ll be fine.  How wrong can mashing potatoes go?” She shrugs, pulling the refrigerator open.

Considering that in the five seconds that have passed, Wynonna has already managed to launch a large sized mush of potatoes out of the pot and onto the stove, Nicole figures it can go very wrong.  She’s saved from pointing that out when Waverly hands her a tall glass holding a thick green liquid.

“Everyone is getting here at two for the dinner, but I figured you’d need something to tide you over until then, so I made you a smoothie. And,”  She gives one of her pleased smiles that never fails to make Nicole want to sigh in appreciation.  “I made it green, for Christmas.  Oh, but don’t worry, there’s no chemicals in there, the kale is what gives it the color.”

Wynonna barks out a cough, and Nicole is pretty sure she hears a “Disgusting” somewhere in the middle of it.  She ignores it in favor of trying the drink, which she has to admit is pretty damn good.

Waverly ends up shooing her out of the kitchen after that, to shower and get ready for company.  She is adamant that she has everything under control, and the way the declaration makes her look so happy is everything to Nicole.

By the time Doc arrives, with Dolls and Jeremy close behind, Nicole has the fireplace crackling and Waverly is done setting the table for dinner.  Wynonna helps out, and seeing her with a sparkle in her eye as she quips the hell out of her sister feels like a gift in itself.

Doc and Dolls manage to get into a pissing match of sorts over who’s going to carve the turkey, which ends with Wynonna telling them both to put their candy canes away.  She hands the utensils to Jeremy.  “Don’t mess it up, science boy.” 

Jeremy looks far more serious than is necessary for cutting up meat, but he does an admirable job. It’s not long before everyone is full and ready to deal with their food comas on the couch while opening gifts.

The first gift handed out is to Jeremy, from Waverly.  “A new Optimug Prime!” He exclaims, holding the mug with a reverence most would reserve for priceless artifacts.

“I’m still sorry about the last one.”  Waverly tells him, voice soft with remorse.

Jeremy waves a hand to fend off her sorrow.  “Completely okay, but I am happy to have one back in my life.”

Nicole watches as they share a hug.  She knows how much time Waverly put into looking for that mug.  She helped in the task, because, truth be told, she harbored more than a little guilt over the whole thing.  Her relief was obvious when they finally found the right one, and Waverly held her face in her hands as she told her she’d shatter a million of Jeremy’s favorite mugs if it meant saving her, that she’d gladly do it all over again. It’s possible Nicole teared up in the moment

Doc and Dolls gift each other ammunition, which is amusing enough, until Nicole and Doc open their gifts to each other to discover they both got gun polish.  Doc’s dimples pop when he thanks Nicole with sincerity.  “Knowing someone else who values the state of their firearms as much as I do is a pleasure.”

Wynonna holds up Nicole’s gift to her with eyebrows raised.  “Given our history with this, I fully expect you to hog at least half of the bottle.” 

The bottle of whiskey is the same kind they drank on the Department floor while lamenting over their lack of invites to Waverly’s party.  Nicole knows what happened in the aftermath of that night doesn’t hold the most pleasant of memories for either of them, but out of the ashes of the ordeal she thinks something was born that put them all on the path to this very moment, and she wouldn’t trade where they are now for anything.

A warmth slides along Nicole’s leg, and she looks down to find Waverly’s hand there, squeezing gently.

Nicole gives Waverly her gift next, her heart thrumming in her chest with nerves. 

“A plane ticket.”  Waverly states, after opening the envelope.

“It’s an open-ended one.  I know there are important things going on here, so no rush, but I thought, maybe someday, you might let me take you to see the ocean.  Whichever one you want.”  Nicole rambles.  She didn’t think she’d be this nervous, but Waverly beams and says she’d go anywhere in the world with her, and Nicole forgets all about her nerves.

Waverly gives her climbing chalk and a new chalk bag, and Nicole loves it.  She promised to bring Waverly out climbing once the warm weather hits, and she’s giddy at the idea of sharing one of her passions with her.

Waverly leans in to her ear while everyone else is busy in their own conversations.  “This is your practical gift.  You have something else coming later.”  She tugs lightly at Nicole’s earlobe with her teeth before pulling away, her face fixed in a completely casual look as she surveys the room.  Nicole can feel the tips of her ears warm, but she manages to join back in the moment without anyone noticing.

When Dolls brings out his house gift, everyone is distracted anyway.

“You got us a kids toy?”  Wynonna asks, eyeing the box with two kids remote controlling tiny cars around a race track.

Dolls schools his face into an expression Nicole normally only sees in BBD strategy meetings.  “What’s the matter Earp, not sure you can take me?”

The indignation on Wynonna’s face is comical.  “I’m just afraid I haven’t had enough alcohol to make this a fair fight.” 

“Then fix that.” Dolls tells her slowly, his expression unmoving.

Wynonna doesn’t have to be told twice.  “Nicole!” She calls out after clanging around in the kitchen for awhile.  Nicole grabs the whiskey she got Wynonna for Christmas on the way in, assuming that’s the reason for the summons.  She takes the time to squeeze Dolls’ shoulder as she walks by, as a thank you for his willingness to buy into Nicole’s request for everyone to give the Earp sisters the family Christmas experience she knows they never got to have together.

Wynonna takes one look at the bottle Nicole waves in front of her and dismisses it.  “No, dude, I’m not wasting that on these knuckleheads.  That’s for you and me to crack open some time when we’re alone.” 

Nicole is surprised at how much the words touch her.

“Spiked hot chocolate?”  Wynonna asks when she finishes rummaging around in the cabinets. 

Nicole eyes the bottle of Peppermint Schnapps with mixed feelings.  She doesn’t hate the idea, but she remembers all too well her last run in with the alcohol.

Wynonna scoffs at her hesitation.  “Why am I even asking?  You’re in my house, you play by my rules, Haughtstuff.” 

Once the hot chocolate is ready, Nicole watches on as Wynonna pours more and more liquor into the mug. “Okay, okay.”  She tries, but Wynonna just furrows her eyebrows at her.

“Dude, it’s like drinking Christmas, remember?  Obviously more is better.”  She screws her face up into an absurd kind of smile and gives a thumbs up before pressing the mug into Nicole’s hands.  Nicole figures it would be rude not to drink it.

Strangely enough, time ceases to have a coherent track from that point on. 

Nicole is aware of donning a Santa hat at some point, before taking a remote control to challenge Doc to a race, who somehow manages to take out both their cars on the second lap. 

When Waverly situates herself between Nicole’s outstretched legs to try her hand at racing Jeremy, Wynonna throws a handful of nuts at them.  “Boo, that’s cheating, and disgusting.”

Waverly flips her off, much to the enjoyment of the room, and Wynonna makes a show out of rolling her eyes and heading into the kitchen, where she says the bottles of booze will respect her authority. 

Nicole squeezes at Waverly’s waist in encouragement when she nudges out ahead after the first lap.  “Give him hell, baby.”  She murmurs in her ear before carefully extricating herself to get refills for both of them. 

She stops short of the doorway to the kitchen when she sees Wynonna and Doc sharing a quiet moment.  Their eyes speak volumes, and Nicole has a pretty good idea what they might be talking about.  She turns back around, attempting a casual lean in the doorway to block them from any prying eyes. They should have as long as they want alone, as far as she’s concerned. 

She feels a light butt tap when Wynonna walks by a few moments later, a wink tossed her way as she passes, and something sincere in her eyes that they will never, ever, need to say out loud.

Waverly squeals when she wins her race, throwing her hands in the air and doing a happy dance on the spot.  Nicole thinks it might be one of the most adorable things she’s ever seen. 

Her cheeks are warm, and she’s had just this side of too much to drink, but Nicole doesn’t care.  The room full of people in front of her are family, and they all accept her in a way she never even knew she needed until she had it.

Waverly manages to sneak up on her in her distraction, tugging gently on the end of her Santa hat.  “Your is a little off-kilter there, Santa Haught.”

Nicole looks into the sparking eyes of the girl she loves more than anyone, or anything, in this world,  She has every intention of saying something profound in the moment, but instead, the fuzziness of her brain pushes out a whispered “You are so pretty, and I like you so much” instead.  She feels her heart trip at the way Waverly’s face softens at the words.

“Right back at you.”  She murmurs, before pressing their lips together.  She pulls back, tossing a furtive look over her shoulder at the loud group behind her.  She turns back with the spark of something in her eyes that makes Nicole swallow.  “I think,” she starts, fingers tugging at the hem of Nicole’s sweater, “this party is winding down, and it might be time for your other gift.”

“Yeah?” Nicole asks, her pulse fluttering.

“Yeah.”  Waverly responds, taking a step back.  “Meet me upstairs in a few minutes?”

Nicole just nods, trying not to draw any more attention to the two of them.  She watches as Waverly manages to slip up the stairs without anyone noticing.  Well, almost anyone.  Doc gives her a wink when their eyes meet, turning his attention back to the excited explanation Jeremy is giving him for why the tiny cars are able to move around the track without flying off.

“Nicky!  Get your impossibly swagtastic ass over here and give Dolls the second best challenge he’s going to get tonight while I use the bathroom!”  Wynonna yells.

Nicole narrows her eyes, her mouth setting in a firm line.  “Never call me that.”  She grounds out.

Wynonna grins.  “Good, use that anger for a higher purpose.”  She gestures at the track.

Nicole rolls her eyes, but she pushes off from the door frame to take her place next to Dolls.

“Haught,” he starts, handing a remote to her, “I would say good luck, but nothing is going to help you beat me.” 

Whatever else Nicole has on her mind is pushed out immediately.  “Oh, it is on, Deputy Marshal.”

Time has no meaning as the cars whip around the track.  Dolls nudges an elbow into Nicole’s side, an ‘accident’, and Nicole nudges him back.  Jeremy dubs their race a “Clash of the Titans”.

“You got nothing, Haught.”  Dolls drawls out, seeming far too calm for Nicole’s taste right now.

She’s aware of something on her periphery, but she is not going to let herself be distracted with only two laps to go.

“NICOLE!”  Wynonna tries again.

“Hmmm?”  Nicole responds, focus still zeroed in on the task at hand.

“You need to go upstairs. Now.”  Wynonna tells her.

Nicole laughs.  “Really, Wynonna?  Trying to distract me for Dolls is a pretty low tactic, don’t you think?”  Nicole's tongue finds its way to the corner of her mouth, the end peaking out in her concentration on the last lap.

“Of for fuck’s sake.” She hears Wynonna mutter before the remote control is yanked from her hand.

“What the hell, Wynonna?  I had her right where I wanted her.”  Dolls exclaims, his remote also no longer in his grasp.

Wynonna ignores him, fixing her gaze on Nicole with an intensity that is more than a bit unnerving.  “You need to straighten your Santa Hat, get your ass up, and go upstairs, like, five minutes ago.”  She tells Nicole, not breaking eye contact.

Nicole blinks at her, aware that the alcohol has slowed her comprehension skills, because for the life of her, she can’t figure out why Wynonna needs her to go upstairs so badly.

The crunch of a chip breaks the silence between them, and everyone in the room turns to shoot Jeremy an incredulous look.  “What? Tension makes me need snacks.”  He tells them, popping another chip into his mouth.

Wynonna shakes her head at him before turning her focus back to Nicole.  “Dude, Waverly is waiting for you upstairs, dressed in a way that makes me worry about her contracting hypothermia, and I REALLY need you just to go up there so I can start my process of drinking so much I forget I ever saw anything, okay?”

Doc has the decency to cough and look around as if he’s searching for something, and not at all aware of the conversation going on.

Nicole stands so quickly she actually stumbles a bit, planting a hand on Jeremy’s head to steady herself.  She clears her throat, looking around the room without making any actual eye contact with anyone.  “Gentlemen, it’s been fun.”  She heads for the stairs, stopping just short of the bottom step to turn back.  “And, uh, Merry Christmas.”

Nicole hears a smattering of response back from them, but by the time she hits the top step on the stairs, her hat is straightened and her stride has purpose.  Merry Christmas, indeed.

*****

New Year’s Eve

Nicole knows she should be a better host.  With two minutes to go until midnight, she should be making the rounds to ensure all her guests have fresh drinks for the countdown.  At the very least, she should check on Nedley, since he is her boss and all.  Yet she finds herself in the far corner of her kitchen, thoroughly distracted. 

The cause of her distraction is currently giving her a particular look that Nicole has never been able to resist.

“Something you need, Waves?”  Nicole asks her.

Waverly hums out a response, hooking a finger into one of Nicole’s belt loops to pull her closer.  “Yeah, a kiss.

Nicole looks over her head at the clock on the wall.  “We have like, a minute and a half until midnight.”  She mentions, a lopsided smile taking over her face.

Waverly pouts, which is fighting dirty as far as Nicole is concerned. 

“Is that a no?”

Nicole pretends to mull it over for approximately five seconds before wrapping her arms around Waverly's waist.  “Well, you know what they say, how you end a year is a good indication of how you’ll spend the next.”

Waverly plays with the rolled up sleeve on Nicole’s button up.  “Well, in that case...”

Nicole closes the last inch of space, pressing their lips together.  She’s vaguely aware of the countdown that starts in her living room, but she can’t find it in herself to care about missing it.  She already has everything she could ever hope for in the new year.

“You two seriously couldn’t wait one more freaking minute until midnight?!”  Wynonna’s voice carries across the kitchen. 

Nicole lifts a hand from Waverly’s hip to flip her off without breaking their kiss.  She can’t help but smile against Waverly’s lips when she reaches out for her hand and pulls it back into place.

When the shouts of “Happy New Year!” ring out, Nicole is exactly where she wants to be, in a house full of family, kissing the girl she hopes to kiss for every New Year’s Eve to come.

Best holidays ever.