Waverly’s back. Somehow, miraculously, Wynonna brought her back.
Nicole thinks that she still looks as perfect as the day she left, three months ago, and every bone in her body aches to run to her, to snatch her up and cover her in kisses and never let her go again. She didn’t realise quite how hard life without Waverly would be, until it was her only reality. God, even Wynonna had kept herself in better check than she had. Nicole can’t remember the last time she went to sleep without tears in her eyes and the smell of cheap whiskey on her breath. What she does remember - however - was clutching Waverly’s shawl, every night. Holding it desperately tight to her chest as if it was the last part of Waverly that she would ever get to hold; because during those long, lonely, and hopeless nights, it seemed like it would be.
Nicole doesn’t remember much from the past three months; without Waverly, everything seemed pointless. She had barely showered, barely ate, but she was pretty sure she recalled Wynonna sliding a cupcake across the table, at one point; a singular lit candle in it, flickering like the final flames of hope that they would ever get their girl back. She remembers Wynonna, with tears in her eyes, whispering, “look, haught. i know how you’re feeling, well, i mean i don’t, but i get it. i wouldn’t know how to have a birthday without her. i, i wouldn’t even know where to begin. and i know i can't fix this, i can’t make this day special for you or make it suck less. but nicole, you’re not on your own, we’re all here with you, and i know it’s not much, but happy birthday haught. i promise you, we’ll get her back.” and Nicole remembers making a wish, as she half heartedly blew the candle out. She recalls one word, one name, as the dancing flame disappeared; Waverly.
And her wish had came true; Waverly is standing there, shaking and dazed, and she can’t help the weight that lifts from her shoulders as she runs to her, tears trickling down her cheeks. She doesn’t even give the brunette time to speak, before pulling her into her arms in a desperate attempt to make sure this isn’t the same dream she’s had every night since Waverly had gone. She smells the faint strawberry smell that had always radiated from the younger girl, and she can feel her comforting warmth against her skin and Nicole sobs, because this is real. This is waverly and she’s safe, she’s home and her fingers clutch desperately at the shorter girl as if she’s the only thing tethering her to the ground right now. Maybe she is, Waverly has always been the one to keep her grounded and the ethereal joy she feels right now could send her floating if it weren’t for her girlfriend in her arms. She can hear Wynonna sniffling in the background, and she feels jeremy’s smile on her back, and she breathes out, a soft sigh of relief. Their fight is over; they have their girl back.
But Waverly pulls back, hesitantly, panicked eyes searching Nicole’s face, and she knows. Something is still seriously wrong. There’s a sinking feeling in her stomach, and she feels like she might throw up as she watches Waverly take a step back from her, her breathing laboured and fear stricken. Her eyes dart around, spooked, like shes trying to work something out, and she looks at Nicole - really looks at her - for the first time, and her head begins to shake.
“I’m- I’m so sorry,” she begins, her voice wavering with panic, “But, I have no idea who you are.”
And suddenly, Nicole can’t breathe. She hears herself start to talk, she thinks she’s just repeating the word ‘no’ over and over again, but her mind is foggy, and Wynonna is dragging her away before her reaction scares Waverly anymore. She knows she’s crying, she can feel the dampness running down her face, but she can’t bring herself to wipe it, so she let’s the tears create a mist over her eyes, and her head starts spinning. She thinks Wynonna is talking to her, but she can’t be sure. She knows she’s blurting out random things; like “waverly,” and “she’s- I’m- wynonna-” but she can’t completer her sentences, and her heart is hammering and she thinks this might be how she dies.
“Nicole, listen to me. You’re having a panic attack, it’s okay. You’re alright.” she hears Wynonna whisper, pulling her into a hug.
“But- Waverly, I don’t-”
She feels Wynonna nod, a hand coming down to stroke her hair. Wynonna had dealt with countless panic attacks whilst Waverly was gone. She had prided herself in learning just how to help Nicole, because as much as she’ll never admit it, she cares about her, with all of her heart. It had always been, and continued to be their thing; Nicole pretends she wouldn’t die for Wynonna, and Wynonna pretends she wouldn’t die for Nicole. It’s a silent, unspoken agreement, that is broken only on the darkest of nights or the most hopeless days, when one of their hearts had shattered, and they admitted defeat. Wynonna knows how to be vulnerable with Nicole now, to cry with her and be truly human around her, and she thinks Nicole’s started to learn the same. So she lets herself fall into the comfort, even with Waverly there. She waits until Nicole can breathe again, and she tells her she’ll be back in a moment.
Her feet take her straight to Waverly, even if she had planned to get Nicole water from Shorty's across the street. She stops, looking down at her little sister, who looked so frightened, so vulnerable and suddenly she felt like the wrong person to be helping her. This was her sister, but she’d never felt like such a stranger.
“Waverly?” she finds herself asking, an almost desperate edge to her voice. Waverly looks up, properly, the sparkle in her eye that Wynonna loved so much, gone. She watches as her sister searches her face, her brows furrowing slightly as she tilts her head.
“Wynonna?” she responds, and Wynonna can’t help the relief that floods her body. She feels immediately guilty, as she hears Nicole sob quietly behind her. She knows Jeremy is hugging her, but her legs twitch and her brain tells her not to do this. Not in front of Nicole, not when Waverly seems to have no idea who she is.
“Wave, how- how much do you remember about me?” A small part of her hopes to god that waverly doesn’t remember muhc, so it stings less for Nicole. But the rational part needs her to remember something, anything that can help her fix this.
“N-Nothing. You’re my sister, i know that. I don’t know how I know that,” Waverly's voice becomes panicked again, and she’s close to shouting as her eyes fill with tears. “Wynonna, how do I know that? Why don’t I know anything else? Please, what’s happening to me, Nonna?”
She’s sobbing, and Wynonna doesn’t know what to do. She’s never seen Waverly this scared; not even when they were little and daddy would scream in her face for something that wasn’t her fault. Not even on the day that Willa was taken. She’d seen the panic before, when Nicole was bitten by the widows, but the lingering and overwhelming fear? That was something else. She’s scared too, that this is permanent, that something happened to her baby sister in that garden, but she pushes it down, and stamps on it. This is not her turn to be frightened. She grabs her sister, and envelops her in a bear hug; the kind she used to give her when she was a little girl, and crawled into her bed in the middle of the night because she was scared of the thunder. She hopes it brings something back, and there are tears flooding her eyes as she rubs her sister’s back.
“Wyn, who is that? Why does she feel so important to me?”
She feels Waverly nod towards Nicole, tears still dripping off her face, and she shakes her head, mouth open to reply. She clamps it shut quickly, when she realises there is nothing she can say. She can’t tell Waverly who Nicole is yet, in case it freaks her out and she runs. Then again, Waverly isn’t the sibling that runs when things get too difficult. She strokes her sisters hair, sighing and looks back at Nicole who is sat on the curb, refusing to look in the direction of Waverly.
“That’s Nicole, babygirl. She is - was - important to you, but I’m gonna help you find your way back to her, I swear.”