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Perfect is overrated.

It sounds a lot like something Wynonna would say, honestly, and she’s tried to get Rosita’s voice in her head to switch to her sister’s, but it’s no use. Rosita’s voice stays because Rosita said those words when they were drinking champagne in a hot tub together, right before Waverly sent the meanest text message of her life and then kissed someone who isn’t her girlfriend.

Of course, she’s totally the type of person to kiss someone who isn’t her girlfriend and then promptly realize how banana-sandwich crazy-in-love she is with said girlfriend and then feel beyond awful about the whole thing; so it doesn’t even matter that they’ve now confirmed their feelings for each other in an alternate timeline or that Nicole basically hasn’t stopped smiling since Waverly dropped the L-word in the barn, because she’s obviously the worst for letting this happen.

The literal, actual worst , whispers the tight bundle of anxiety in her stomach that’s been taking up more and more space with each passing week, day, hour that she allows Nicole to think she isn’t scum of the earth. Because she’s seriously the scummiest, maybe scummy enough to deserve a face-to-face conversation with Peacemaker—and not the zingy one-liner type Wynonna likes, but the ground-opening-up-and-swallowing-you-whole type. The type that doesn’t let you hurt anyone else, ever again.

If everything was perfect, champagne wouldn’t have bubbles.

She can’t decide if Rosita is the bubbles in her and Nicole’s relationship champagne, or if Waverly is the bubbles in her own relationship champagne, or if she should even be pursuing this metaphor at all because it hypothesizes that Rosita and/or her involvement makes Waverly and Nicole better, and that can’t be right.

(It also means Rosita is a defect, a flaw, and Waverly can’t quite agree with that, either.)

No defect, no bubbles, no magic.

Nicole Haught is magic. She’s beautiful and compassionate and brave and Waverly doesn’t need to get any bubbles involved in order to love her more; not that she hasn’t tried to do just that, especially since the hot tub incident, but if your heart threatens to burst every time your partner looks at you, that must be a good sign, right? A sign that you couldn’t love them more, and that you don’t need to.

Or maybe that tightness in her chest, those waves of electricity pulsing behind her rib cage, are just a hell of a lot of anxiety building up over the fact that—

“I kissed Rosita,” she blurts as she sets a fresh mug of coffee on Nicole’s desk.

The biggest brown eyes abandon the stack of paperwork in front of them and snap up to meet hers. “Pardon?”

“Rosita and Waverly, in the hot tub, with a bottle of champagne,” she explains breathlessly.

“But no Miss Scarlett or Colonel Mustard, huh?” Nicole asks, sounding kind of numb.

Waverly can feel a migraine coming. “Be serious! As in, seriously, fully, completely mad at me. Nicole, I—”

“Kissed Rosita,” she finishes like she’s working out a tricky crossword clue.

“Cheated on you!” Waverly emphasizes maybe a little too loudly, and she glances over her shoulder for Nedley or townsfolk, but they’re still alone in the office.

Nicole wraps her fingers around the mug’s handle and her thumbnail picks at a chip in the rim, but she doesn’t take a sip. “W-when… when did this happen?” she manages, her tone way calmer than it should be. “The hot tubbing. And the kissing.”

Waverly swallows hard. “You sure you don’t want to do this in an interrogation room?”

“Waves, I’m not interrogating you,” Nicole says gently, but Waverly’s bottom lip is wobbling and she can feel her knees kind of doing the same thing. Nicole rolls her chair back a few inches, holds her arms out. “C’mere.”

She resists at first, because scummy people shouldn’t sit in non-scummy people’s laps, but she rounds the desk and sinks into Nicole’s embrace anyways. “How are you not furious right now?” she asks in the smallest voice.

Nicole brushes her thumb against Waverly’s cheek, along her jaw, down to her hammering pulse point. “Just tell me what happened.”

 

\\\///\\\///

 

Here’s what she’s been able to gather so far:

  1. Rosita invited Waverly to a spa after her and Nicole’s fight.
  2. Rosita spent most of the afternoon trying to talk Waverly down.
  3. Rosita did not pursue or take advantage of Waverly.
  4. It’s hard to avoid making lists when you’re a cop trying to get to the bottom of something.

“Okay, so you were both drinking,” Nicole echoes. “Drunk, or…?”

Waverly shakes her head. “We’d only had a few sips each. She was talking about perfection, and how it’s not worth it because if champagne were perfect it wouldn’t have any bubbles, and without bubbles there’s no magic, and then I kissed her because—because…”

“Because you’re a giant nerd who likes when pretty girls talk about science?” is the matter-of-fact suggestion that falls out of her mouth.

“I love you ,” Waverly argues determinedly. “Just you. I-I don’t—she’s not…”

Nicole cups Waverly’s cheek. “Baby, breathe .”

“I just don’t want you to think…” Waverly takes multiple visible gulps of oxygen. “I was just—really angry, and stupid, and impulsive, a-and—”

She interrupts Waverly with a gentle kiss on the forehead. “I’m not ready to be done with you if you’re not ready to be done with me,” she promises. Waverly nestles into the crook under Nicole’s chin and Nicole brushes a few stray hairs behind her ear, sees the faint redness creeping up the back of her neck. “Not even if you have a crush on Doc Holliday’s girlfriend.”

Waverly sits up again like she’s just been stung by a bee. “No, that’s… first of all,” she says in a rush, “Doc is with Wynonna now because of the baby, so Rosita isn’t anyone’s girlfriend.” She avoids Nicole’s eyes toward the end of the sentence; Nicole adds that to her list.

“And second of all?” Nicole prompts after a beat.

“And second of all,” she continues determinedly, “I don’t! Have a crush on Rosita. Why would you even say that?”

Nicole studies the slight flush in her cheeks, the stubborn crinkle between her eyebrows. “No reason. Forget I said anything.”

She lets out a long, steadying breath and carefully adjusts Nicole’s shirt collar. “We’re okay?”

“I’m the one who hid your own DNA results from you. I should probably be asking you that.”

Waverly nods, nods, keeps nodding. “We’re okay. I promise we’re okay.” Waverly touches her forehead to Nicole’s. “I don’t want to feel these terrible things anymore. I just want to be normal again.”

Nicole smiles, feels hot puffs of breath against her lips. “When have you ever been normal, Waverly Earp?”

 

\\\///\\\\////

 

When Officer Haught walks into Shorty’s in full uniform, Rosita assumes this is gonna end with her getting shot and subsequently with her outing herself yet again as a Revenant.

(And honestly, whatever—Wynonna’s the only one who can do any real damage. Everything else is just a headache; some a little stronger than others, but still just a headache.)

“What can I do for you, officer?” Rosita greets as she commits to cleaning this glass indefinitely so her hands have something to do.

Haught comes right up to the counter, takes a calculated seat, and folds her arms along the tabletop. “I was wondering if you could be… really honest with me, about a few things,” she says, sounding very tired and very much not like a cop, and Rosita suddenly feels champagne bubbles in the back of her throat.

“That how the PPD operates these days?” Rosita deadpans. “Asking folks nicely?” Haught doesn’t say anything, just sits there looking almost nervous, so Rosita does the non-dick thing and pours her a glass of water. “Alright, alright. What’re we being honest about?”

She takes a single long sip, swallows carefully. “Waverly told me about…”

“The kiss,” Rosita supplies bluntly.

“Yes,” Haught confirms after a beat, nodding once.

Rosita waits as long as she can bear. “And?”

Haught’s eyes finally meet hers. “And I want to hear your side of… I want you to tell me what happened,” she explains without a trace of anger or accusation. “Before I make any conclusions.”

She raises an eyebrow at the officer, still waiting for a drawn weapon or even just a really solid slap across the face, but Haught doesn’t move. Rosita sets down a second glass but fills this one with the nearest bottle of liquor. “Well, Dolls wanted it to be me and Doc at the spa, for the record. I only invited Waverly because she was pissed at you.” She knocks back a shot and pours a new one. “No offense.”

“It’s fine,” Haught mutters. “She had the right to be.”

Rosita clears her throat. “Anyways, we talked, she vented… I’m so sorry about that text, by the way. I told her not to send it, but you know how she—” The rest of the words stall on her tongue when she realizes now probably isn’t the best time to suggest she knows Waverly anywhere near as well as Nicole does; she fills the silence with another shot.

But Haught laughs, of all things—softly, but it’s genuine. “Only one of the most stubborn people I’ve ever met.”

“Got that right.” She stares into the bottom of her glass. “But, um. I don’t know. She kissed me, and then felt really bad, and I excused myself so she could have a second to… whatever.” Rosita shrugs a shoulder as she considers shot number three. “That’s it.”

Nicole nods slowly, takes a few more sips of water, and seems to finish processing something. “Okay,” Haught sighs in relief. “Okay, good.”

Rosita blinks at her. “ Good ?” Haught says nothing, and Rosita looks her up and down. “If you’re a shapeshifter or otherwise supernatural asshole in disguise, you can get the hell out of my bar.”

Haught leans forward and rests her chin in her palm. “It’s the weirdest thing, honestly. I always thought I’d be devastated, or heartbroken, or just… mad, at least. But I know how she feels about me, and I know she’s not going anywhere, so whenever I think about…” Now it’s her turn to shrug. “I’m not sure if she would’ve kissed whoever was in that hot tub with her, or if…” Haught wets her lips and nods once. “But I’m glad it was you.”

And then she gets up and heads for the door like all she did was pay her tab, and Rosita doesn’t know what to do with that.

“Aren’t you gonna kick my ass or something?” Rosita blurts before she can stop herself; maybe because the whiskey’s kicking in, maybe not.

“Only if you break her heart,” is all Nicole says.

Rosita doesn’t know what to do with that, either.

 

\\\///\\\///

Waverly thinks of exactly ten reasons to go to Shorty’s before she realizes how problematic it is for her to be looking for reasons to go to Shorty’s, then determines that, contrary to her original hypothesis, going to Shorty’s specifically to talk to Rosita is actually the least problematic option.

Only in Purgatory, she thinks to herself as she stands on the front stoop and takes a few deep breaths to psych herself up, then thanks whatever omniscient entity is watching over this town that the space is empty.

Rosita’s back is turned as she sweeps the floor behind the bar. “You know we're not open yet,” she calls out.

“Yeah,” Waverly agrees quietly as she settles onto a stool in the middle of the row, “I do.”

The broom’s movements pause for a beat. “I thought Wynonna was the day-drinker,” Rosita says, and she still hasn’t looked in Waverly’s direction.

“You know I’m not here for booze.”

Rosita finally sets the broom aside. “Yeah,” she says, “I figured,” and grabs two glasses from behind the bar; she fills both with water, slides them forward, then rounds the counter and takes the adjacent seat.

Waverly panics, because she practiced all of her speeches facing forward rather than sideways, so now she has to figure out whether face forward or turn toward Rosita and whether to turn her entire body or just her head—

“You’re awfully quiet for someone who’s not here for the booze.”

She wraps her fingers tightly around the glass in front of her. “I told Nicole what happened,” Waverly begins, and she has no idea what opinion she wants Rosita to have about this, or if she wants her to have one at all, so she forces herself to keep talking. “That I kissed you, a-and that it completely wasn’t your—I mean, I told her we were just talking, and that you didn’t…” She hides her head in her hands. “ Shit, I should’ve been more specific. I should’ve explicitly told her that you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Hey,” Rosita says gently, “take it easy. She’s smart as hell and more than a little in love with you. And isn’t it a cop’s job to read between the lines?”

Waverly laughs into her palms. “How is it that you trust my girlfriend more than I do?”

“How’d she take it when you told her?” Rosita counters.

She lets out a deep breath and lowers her hands. “That’s kind of the whole thing. She’s not mad… she’s not frustrated… not even slightly inconvenienced, as far as I can tell.” Waverly glances at Rosita for the first time since the word vomit started. “If someone cheated on you, wouldn’t you feel… sick? Hurt?”

Rosita is silent for a long moment and only speaks after a sip of water. “If that someone was Waverly Earp, and she kissed one person one time because I did something shitty?” She shrugs and manages a half-smile. “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but it’s really hard to be mad at you.”

 

\\\///\\\///

 

Waverly considers this, then gives her a look. “Have you tried before?”

The indignation in her voice damn near makes Rosita laugh, but she swallows it back down. “Not the point,” she replies. “Look. The kiss freaked you out because you didn’t want to hurt Nicole, right?” A small nod from Waverly. “So if she’s not upset, then there’s no reason to freak out.” She doesn’t get a reaction this time. “Right?”

Still nothing from Waverly, until several beats later when she suddenly glances around the room. “I-I should let you get back to work,” she mutters, her cheeks burning a fascinating shade of pink as she shoves away from the counter.

“Wait.” Rosita’s hand accidentally ends up on Waverly’s wrist, and Waverly’s eyes dip to the contact while the rest of her body freezes. “That regular. The one who’s always in the booth by the jukebox.”

Waverly makes a face. “Likes his cologne a little too much?”

Rosita gestures to the area in question. “I’ve been spraying and scrubbing all morning and I can’t get yesterday’s stench out.”

You ?” Waverly gasps in disbelief. “The decorated science scholar?”

Rosita rolls her eyes. “I promise I’m just as ashamed of myself as you are. But seeing as how you ruled this place for years and you know your way around a chemistry textbook… think you could help me out before you go?”

Waverly looks torn, but doesn’t make a move to leave. “Gus and I may have come up with a special formula a few years back.”

“The kind that requires an NDA and a blood oath, or…?”

That brings Waverly’s smile back—an alarmingly mischievous one. “Nope. Just the unlabeled bottle under the register.”

Rosita arches an eyebrow. “That radioactive-looking shit?”

“Fully ingestible,” she says proudly. “The taste might give you nightmares, but it won’t kill you, and it will make that booth smell good as new.” Waverly looks delighted by Rosita’s doubtful stare and pulls out her phone. “Let me see if I still have the recipe…” she murmurs, then holds out her phone triumphantly. “Boom.”

Rosita’s eyes flit from ingredient to ingredient and she nods thoughtfully. “Huh. I never would’ve…”

The rest of the words disappear as a bright orange head of hair enters the bar; Waverly’s back is to the door and she doesn’t see Haught’s eyes find Rosita’s, or notice her brief moment of panic over the fact that she’s holding Waverly’s phone, and as Haught holds a finger to her lips and takes a seat at a small table in the corner, Waverly is still all smiles.

“I know. Wait till you see it in action.”

 

\\\///\\\///

 

Nicole Haught has no idea why she’s not freaking out. She has no idea why there aren’t fragments of her heart scattered at the bottom of her chest cavity, or why she hasn’t shed a single tear since Waverly’s confession, or why the first words out of her mouth were so calm and casual.

Because you’re a giant nerd who likes when pretty girls talk about science?

It can’t be because she doesn’t love Waverly, and it isn’t; she meant what she said about not being ready to let go if Waverly wasn’t.

Not even if you have a crush on Doc Holliday’s girlfriend.

But, like, why in the hell would someone who’s technically been cheated on say stuff like that? She shakes her head at herself as she pulls into the Shorty’s parking lot, and yes, she’s confused enough that her own desk is too stuffy for this thought process—she needs a setting just chaotic enough to jog things around, to budge the unmovable pieces that are making it a lot harder than usual to fill out Purgatory’s unique brand of paperwork.

She sees Rosita first, then the back of Waverly’s head, then Rosita sees Nicole and the color drains from her face. Nicole’s hand rises of its own accord (maybe to wave, maybe to hold up a middle finger; what’s one supposed to do in this situation?), but then her recent conversations with Waverly flash through her mind, and her index finger ends up at her lips in a silent request.

Whatever’s happening over there, she doesn’t need to interrupt.

A lone table in the far corner looks like a good size for spreading out files, so she settles into the first chair she comes to and doesn’t worry about any potential vantage points.

She’s unwrapping a stick of gum when Rosita’s voice interrupts the song stuck in her head.

“Hey, I know what it looks like, but—“

“What does it look like?” Nicole asks, unconcerned as she pops the gum into her mouth and roots through her bag for a pen.

Rosita doesn’t answer right away. “I—She showed up a little while ago and wanted to talk, but then she didn’t want to talk, so I asked her to help me with some bar stuff, and—“

“I had no idea she was even here,” Nicole assures her, and Rosita finally looks her in the eye again. “I just needed to get away from bureaucracy for a while.”

Her jaw muscle is working, like she’s trying to figure out if this is a test or trap. “Well,” she continues hesitantly, “you came to the right place. Can I get you anything?”

“I’ll take a water on the rocks,” Nicole says with a completely straight face.

Rosita snorts, then immediately looks away as heat comes rushing back to her face. “Coming right up.”

Nicole watches her loop back to the bar, watches Waverly call her over to the row of glasses she has set up on one particular table, watches Waverly tell her One part this and Two parts that . Rosita is visibly enthralled, and Nicole can’t really blame her—Waverly teaching anything to anyone is a sight to behold, from the way her eyes light up to her unconscious hand gestures to the size of her smile when she knows her pupil is getting it.

She lets out a deep breath and clicks her pen open, then pauses for a beat after she writes out her name at the top. Nicole Haught. What if, someday, she writes Nicole Earp ? Does Waverly Haught sound better, or would they go the hyphenated route? Nicole Haught-Earp. Nicole Earp-Haught. Is there a rule of thumb for which name goes first? How has she not Googled this yet?

An ice water appears on her table and she says “Thanks” without glancing up; her breath catches in her throat when lips brush against her ear.

“I love you,” Waverly whispers, and the words aren’t scared or defensive, but a confirmation. A promise.

Nicole watches her loop back to the bar, watches Rosita thank her up and down for her help with whatever was going on with that table, watches her offer Waverly a celebratory shot and Waverly refuse until Rosita pours one for herself, too—Rosita shakes her head a little and bites back a smile, and Nicole knows Waverly is making that squinty face she always makes when she drinks something strong.

She resists the same smile, takes a sip of water, and goes back to her paperwork.

 

\\\///\\\///

 

Waverly spends too long preparing herself for a speedy and decidedly guilt-free exit from the Homestead—

( There is nothing wrong with visiting a certain bartender at her place of employment. There is nothing wrong with visiting a certain bartender at her place of employment. There is nothing wrong with visiting a certain bartender at her place of employment .)

—but slams on the breaks when she spots Wynonna slumped over the kitchen table with a very specific expression aimed at her phone screen.

“Your face is doing a thing,” she observes, taking one step into the room, “but it’s less of a Dolls-has-vanished-without-a-trace thing and more of a this-food-tastes-kind-of-funny thing. Which means…”

“You-know-who’s just being a drama queen again,” Wynonna sighs, then drops her phone to the table like she’s given up on a poker hand. “On this week’s episode of Doc’s Anatomy …”

Waverly holds out her hands to stop her and sinks into the adjacent seat. “Nope, not into that particular combination of words.”

Docson’s Creek ?”

“Let’s skip to the explanation.”

Wynonna just shrugs. “You know how Rosita’s always sorta standoffish? Like, you didn’t kick her dog, but you accidentally stepped on its foot once and never apologized?”

Waverly’s face is suddenly hot. “I-I mean, I don’t—I think she’s—she’s fine,” she finishes awkwardly.

“Well apparently she’s been extra sorta standoffish lately,” Wynonna continues without acknowledging Waverly’s stuttering, “and he doesn’t know why, and it’s got his mustache all in a twist.”

Her shrug is maybe a little too shruggy, but whatever. “Has he asked her about it?”

Wynonna shakes her head. “Doc doesn’t do… that. Talk about personal shit. One of the reasons we get along so well,” she adds. “Y’know, that and—”

“Nothing below the waist, please.”

“The way he handles his gun, obviously.”

Waverly gives her a look. “I said nothing below the waist!”

“You’re the one assuming that was innuendo.”

“Because it was .”

Wynonna snaps her fingers in mock frustration. “Damn, you got me.”

She sighs. “Forget it. And tell Doc that Rosita is actually pretty reasonable when you give her the chance to be. If he’s human about it, she’ll open up.”

Wynonna arches an eyebrow. “Since when are you the Rosita whisperer?”

“I-I’m not,” she replies. “I just—it’s not that hard to—never mind. Just tell him she’s…” Her mind blanks and she hates herself more with every second that she can’t finish her sentence.

“She’s what?”

Waverly opens and closes her mouth a few times, then glances at her own phone. “Nothing. I gotta go, um—I’m supposed to—”

“Be the eloquent one in this family,” Wynonna interrupts, studying her carefully now. “What’s going on with you?

“Nothing,” she says too quickly and fools neither of them.

Wynonna’s staring her down. “Y’know, you’re more than welcome to steal my Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt whenever the gods of classic rock compel you to, but you should probably leave my defense mechanisms where you found ‘em.”

Waverly frowns maybe a little too aggressively and Wynonna gestures at her expression.

“Like that one.”

She crosses her arms across her chest and takes a breath to argue.

“Aaaaand that one.”

“Stop it!”

Wynonna isn’t phased. “It’s like looking in a damn mirror, babygirl. Come on. What’cha got for me? Girl problems? Quarter-life crisis? Champ still sending you dick pics?” she asks, wrinkling her nose.

“If I tell you, will you stop mentioning genitalia?”

“Can’t make any promises.”

Waverly’s knee bounces under the table and she wishes she had a glass of water. “You know how I love Nicole?”

“Pretty sure everyone and their estranged mother knows you love Nicole,” Wynonna reminds her, then freezes a beat later. “You two aren’t getting married, are you? Like, not yet , I mean. I’ll totally support you when you do. Unconditional all the way, rainbows and unicorns up the ass. I’m just kind of real sick to death of rings, right now. Y’know?” Her eyes are far away. “Which reminds me, I have got to tell Jeremy to lay off the Tolkien references for a while.”

“I kissed Rosita,” Waverly blurts, bringing Wynonna back to earth, “and I think I kind of, sort of, maybe, possibly want to do it again.”

Wynonna stares with her head tilted in thought. “I’m, uh—I’m having some trouble getting from point A to point B, here.”

“To be honest, I’m still not sure how it happened,” Waverly mutters. “I was really mad at Nicole, and Rosita was being really nice, and then—“

“Her mouth started being really nice to your mouth?” Wynonna supplies with a wink.

Waverly just huffs. “And then we kissed, and I immediately felt horrible because I love Nicole—”

Wynonna’s hand flies to her chest. “ Plot twist ,” she gasps.

“But now I’m feeling all this extra shit,” Waverly snaps, “and Nicole is somehow totally okay with that, and I don’t know what to do.”

“Now we’re getting somewhere!” Wynonna leans forward, zeroing in on Waverly. “So first of all,” she says after a thoughtful beat, “I think we can agree that having two smokin’ hot girlfriends would be, like, the least worst thing to happen in Purgatory.”

Waverly almost chokes on her next breath. “Rosita’s not my girlfriend.”

“I didn’t say that she is ,” Wynonna counters, “I merely pointed out that—”

“That you think she’s smokin’ hot?” Waverly interrupts with the tiniest playful grin.

She clears her throat a little too forcefully. “Not the point, and don’t tell her I said that. The point is…” Wynonna struggles for words until she rolls her eyes at herself. “Look, if everyone is cool with whatever’s going on, then do whatever the hell you want.”

Waverly blinks. “That’s it? That’s all you have for me?”

“What more d’you want? If you’re into her, and she’s into you, and Nicole’s into you being into her and her being into you, then what’s the problem?”

What’s the problem?

There’s no reason to freak out.

Not even if you have a crush on Doc Holliday’s girlfriend .

“No,” Waverly blurts as the voices in her head all blend together and threaten to drown out all traces of logic and reason. “I—it’s not that simple. I-it can’t be that simple.”

Wynonna shrugs. “Maybe this time it is,” she says more gently than Waverly expects. “And maybe that scares the shit out of you. And maybe you just gotta figure out how to be okay with that.”

 

\\\///\\\///

 

She wasn’t even going to say anything when Doc came downstairs avoiding eye contact, but then he put on his hat with the extra flourish that only ever means he’s feeling guilty, and now she just can’t resist.

“Where are you off to?” she asks, forcing the tiniest ounce of nonchalance into her tone.

“Oh, never you mind,” he mutters without breaking stride. “I won’t be gone long.”

Rosita doesn’t buy it for a second. “Wynonna have a tight schedule today?”

It’s entirely too satisfying to watch him freeze knowingly rather than whip around in alarm.

“This isn’t working,” she says quietly, then gives up on restocking the liquor shelf to plant her hands firmly on her hips.

“And what do you propose we do about that?” he asks after a beat.

We aren’t doing anything,” Rosita says, coming closer but diverting behind the bar so the countertop separates them. “I’m gonna stick with this,” she continues, gesturing around the space, “and this,” she adds, pointing down toward the basement. “And you…” Doc is listening intently; she sighs. “Whatever it is you’re doing with her… whatever you two have. You’re gonna own it.” She grabs a nearly empty bottle of bourbon and downs what’s left in one gulp. “No more of this walk-of-shame crap.”

His mustache quirks to the left, then to the right. “I know I have not been the most… attentive companion,” he says, choosing each word with care, “and for that I apologize.”

“I never asked you to be attentive,” Rosita says, keeping her words firm but not angry. “That wasn’t part of our deal.”

Doc’s jaw muscles work as his eyes scan the room. “Our dalliances…”

“You promised protection,” she reminds him, holding out her arms, “and here I stand, protected. You don’t owe me anything else.”

He doesn’t respond right away, but when he does, she can hear a smile. “I have the most peculiar feeling that those words have never been spoken to me before this moment.”

“Yeah, well, there’s a lot of firsts going around these days.” She feels her face burn red as soon as the sentence leaves her mouth, and she continues before he can speak again. “You should go. Don’t want to keep her waiting.”

Doc looks her square in the eye for a long moment, then holds her gaze as he tips his hat.

“Spare me,” she deadpans, but it’s playful, and his stride is confident as he leaves the bar.

The doors open again a few seconds later and she instantly aims her most aggressive eye roll at who she expects to be Doc returning for one last word, but it’s Waverly now frozen in place just inside the threshold.

“I’m sorry,” Waverly says instantly, “I… I can go if this is a bad time. I didn’t mean to—”

“No no no, you’re fine,” Rosita assures her, then gestures at her own face. “This wasn’t meant for you.”

Waverly blinks, then glances over her shoulder, then jabs her thumb in the direction she came from. “Doc?”

“Best gunslinger in the land, but he sweats through every honest conversation with a woman. How’s your day going?”

“Um…” Waverly considers a few different answers, then sighs and takes a seat at the bar. “I might be here for the booze, this time,” she offers.

“That bad, huh?”

Waverly’s expression is annoyingly unreadable. “Maybe,” she says. “Maybe not.”

Rosita pours each of them a drink. “Man, I almost miss the word vomit.”

“It’s like…” Waverly pauses for a long time. “You know when you feel like you have so much going on up here,” she begins, gesturing at her brain, “but you can never quite translate it all to anything remotely resembling helpful English words?” She’s studying Rosita now. “How do you get brave enough to say whatever you want to people?”

“You’re asking like I have personal experience.”

Waverly shrugs a shoulder. “Don’t you? I figure being a… a-a—”

“A Revenant.”

“Yeah,” she confirms awkwardly. “I figure that kind of excludes you from standard social etiquette. You’re a total badass; what’s anyone gonna do to you?”

A familiar white-hot anger bubbles at the bottom of her stomach, one that’s usually dormant and ignorable but tends to flare up whenever she’s stupid enough to…

“Hey,” an unfamiliar voice says, interrupting that thought. “You’re Wynonna’s little sister, right?”

Rosita doesn’t recognize the guy and Waverly doesn’t seem to either as he leans against the counter beside her.

Waverly nods. “That’s me. How do you know her? Ex-boyfriend?” she guesses with a playful wince.

He chuckles and shakes his head. “Good guess, but no. No, no, no,” he sighs. “Last night she and her famous friend sent my little brother to Hell.”

Rosita doesn’t process the words right away, and she exchanges glances with an equally confused Waverly; but then the man grips Waverly by the collar, lifts her off her stool, and slams her hard onto a nearby table. Rosita has the shotgun from under the counter in her hands half a breath later and launches herself over the bar.

“Get off of her,” she growls, cocking the gun loudly and trying to resist tearing this man limb from limb as his fingers curl tightly around Waverly’s windpipe.

He laughs again. “Just ‘cause your gun’s big doesn’t mean it’s gon’ kill me.”

“A rifle shot to the dick isn’t gonna feel good,” Rosita counters, “I can promise you that.”

Waverly is thrashing under his weight and she manages an impressive knee to the groin, but he doesn’t budge, and Rosita feels her eyes go black.

Screw it.

She wraps her free arm around the guy’s neck and uses her full body weight to yank him off of Waverly, then sticks the barrel of the rifle directly into his crotch. “Out the door,” she commands, “or I pull the trigger.”

He glares at her long and hard but still looks hesitant.

“Or I could just call Wynonna. She and her famous friend show up real fast when her baby sister is in danger.”

Now it’s his turn to growl, but he scurries to the exit anyways, and her attention is immediately elsewhere.

Waverly’s lungs are heaving for oxygen and Rosita puts what she hopes is a calming hand on her shoulder. “Waverly? Rise and shine, hon. Come on.”

“My head,” she groans before she can get her eyes to open, and even then, she grimaces at the overhead lights.

Rosita leans in a little closer to shield her and brushes some stray hairs out of her face, and her hand automatically cups Waverly’s cheek. “Yeah, that didn’t look fun,” she agrees, and when Waverly starts to sit up, Rosita secures her arm around her back. “Easy, easy. No bravado bullshit, please.”

“No bravado,” Waverly manages, “just dizzy and… agh .” She reaches out and Rosita takes her hand, and together they get Waverly upright and down from the table. She sways the second her feet hit the wood floor, but Rosita hooks Waverly’s arm around her shoulders. “What’re you doing?” she mumbles as Rosita navigates them past the bar and toward the basement door.

“I’m getting you to a bed,” Rosita says, nudging the door open with her foot, “and then I’m calling Nicole.”

 

\\\///\\\///

 

She’s always been pretty good about not panicking. It’s why she’s lasted so long in Purgatory, and why Nedley trusts her with the town’s secrets, and frankly, why she’s so good at her job. She compartmentalizes, focuses on the facts—what cops are trained and expected to do.

However, there are a few things she’s not good at not panicking about:

  1. Getting a call from Waverly’s phone when Waverly isn’t the one using it.
  2. Being told that Waverly’s been attacked.

To her credit, Rosita sandwiched the “Waverly’s been attacked” between two very emphatic “Waverly is okay”s, and she’s endlessly grateful for that, but “attacked” and “okay” are like oil and water and it takes a hell of a lot of self-control to not to drive her squad car right through the Shorty’s front doors.

She hates how messy her pulse is as she approaches the basement, but she sort of forgot to let Rosita explain literally anything about what happened and doesn’t know whether to prepare herself for blood and bruises, or—

“Talk about something,” Waverly’s voice says as Nicole opens the basement door, and despite everything she stops at the top step. “Something else that’s weird and vaguely-science-y and doesn’t make sense. To make my brain less foggy.”

Nicole doesn’t move a muscle during the long silence that follows.

“Well,” Rosita finally replies, “how about the paradoxical implications of an immortal being who feels utterly temporary and replaceable?”

She frowns, takes a single, careful step down, and stops again.

“It’s actually kind of amazing how the more invincible your body becomes, the more people assume your insides are the same way. That all of your regular human feelings are gone. That oh, Revenants don’t give a shit about anything… They have nothing to lose. Don’t need stability, or connection, or… or anyone to stick around, for a while.” Rosita sighs. “I’m sorry,” she mutters, then hesitates for a beat. “I just—you know I give a shit, right?”

Nicole nods a little to herself but doesn’t hear a response from Waverly; when she can’t stand it anymore she takes three more silent steps down, only to find Waverly propped on her elbow on the cot with her lips pressed to Rosita’s.

“Thank god,” she says louder than she means to.

Rosita jumps back about a foot and a half and looks mortified. “Nicole, I—I’m—”

Nicole holds up her hands as she descends the rest of the stairs. “No, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“Didn’t mean to… interrupt?” Rosita echoes incredulously, but Nicole’s eyes are on Waverly now.

Waves ,” she gasps, rushing to her and perching on the edge of the mattress. “Are you okay, baby? What happened?”

Waverly’s fingertips drift along the already-darkening skin on her neck. “Rosita saved my life.”

Nicole glances at Rosita, who all but shrinks under her gaze.

“I’m, um—I’m pretty sure she has a mild concussion,” Rosita explains quietly, not really looking at either of them now. “Keep the lights off for a while. Don’t let her do anything crazy. Just rest,” she concludes to Waverly, “you’ll be fine.”

“Where are you going?” Waverly asks as she begins to step away, and Nicole has the same question in the back of her throat.

Rosita’s shrug is small and stiff. “Nicole can handle this. You don’t need me here.”

Waverly and Nicole reach out simultaneously as she takes another step, Waverly taking Rosita’s left hand and Nicole catching her right.

“Yes,” Nicole says, “we do.”

 

\\\///\\\///

 

Looking at that rickety old cot, you’d never think it could fit three people.

She’s surrounded by Nicole, arm wrapped securely around her from behind as warm puffs of breath tickle her neck one by one by one, and Rosita fills the space in front of her, fingertip tracing invisible patterns across the back of her palm.

Waverly opens her eyes as the room starts to spin again, and Rosita’s touches stall when she realizes Waverly is looking at her.

“Can I tell you something weird and vaguely science-y that doesn’t make sense?” Waverly asks softly, lacing their fingers together before Rosita can pull hers away.

Rosita’s eyes stay on their hands. “Hit me.”

Waverly squeezes her hand, and Rosita squeezes back. “Kissing you feels different now. But not bad-different. Better-different. Maybe because now I know what I’m doing, and what I want, and you know… I-I mean, I’m not surprising you, or—”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Rosita interrupts, and she’s looking at Waverly with the most tentative smile. (Waverly both hears and feels Nicole chuckle next to her ear.) “You might be the most surprising person I’ve ever met, and I’ve been around a long time.”

Waverly watches her expression change as she realizes what she’s said, and she scrambles for a deflection or diversion to help steer the conversation away, but her brain is still too muddled to—

“I’m a Revenant,” Rosita blurts, and her eyes aren’t on Waverly anymore—they’re looking past her, to Nicole.

Waverly waits for the arm around her to tighten, but Nicole doesn’t move.

“Who else knows?” she asks instead.

“Waverly,” Rosita answers. “Doc. Wynonna.”

Now she feels Nicole tense a little. “Wynonna—?”

“Completely supports me,” Waverly insists as Rosita says “Promised not to kill me just yet.”

Waverly starts to sit up. “Wynonna’s not going to kill you, ever,” she argues, then squeezes her eyes shut and holds her head.

Both Rosita and Nicole reach out to steady Waverly. “No bravado bullshit, remember?”

“I won’t let her,” Waverly all but grumbles, and when she lies back down she’s closer to Rosita and rests her head on her chest.

Nicole brushes her fingers gently through Waverly’s hair and eventually sighs. “Thank you. For protecting her.”

Rosita nods. “Thank you for not… for being okay with… ugh, I don’t know what the hell I’m trying to say.”

“We know,” Waverly and Nicole confirm in unison.

“You guys are kind of gross,” Rosita says, and Waverly can hear a bit of smile in her voice.

Nicole scoffs. “ You guys are kind of gross.”

“Nobody’s gross,” Waverly mumbles into Rosita’s shirt. “You’re both really attractive. It’s annoying.”

Two different laughs, one from each side.

 

\\\///\\\///

 

The basement windows are dark when she wakes up.

Her head still hurts but the pain is duller now and the dizziness gone, but that might be more about the two sets of arms wrapped tightly around her, overlapping each other, anchoring her firmly to the mattress.

She stretches a little and two hands pull her closer, one from each side, and she thinks maybe Wynonna’s right; that maybe this really is the least worst thing to happen in Purgatory.

Waverly shifts again to test her latest hypothesis, and the hands react again, and she thinks she could be okay with that.