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when st. peter loses cool

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Nicole Haught is in intake. 

They've taken her prints, her license, the band of cash she had in the waistband of her jeans, and now they're taking their sweet time with the questions they need to get through.

It goes something like this:

"Will you be detoxing from any one or multiple substances during your sentence?"

"If my freedom counts, sure."

"Have you been incarcerated at this or any other facility in the past?"

"Can't say that I have."

"Any religious affiliation?"

"Hell no."

"Any gang affiliation?"

"None of 'em would have me."

"Is that a no?"

"It is."

"To the best of your knowledge are there any individuals currently in this facility that pose an immediate threat to your safety?"

"Not yet."

"Miss Haught. This is only going to take longer if you refuse to take it seriously."

Yeah, it's like pins and needles in her eyes trying not to grin.

"I'm taking this perfectly seriously. Ma'am."

A beat.

"Any dietary restrictions?"

"Don't like pickles."

A sigh.

"Are there any medications you will need the facility to provide you with on a daily basis?"

She's gotta think about that one. She's been off her meds maybe six months. Wouldn't kill her to go back on. Might even make the time easier.

"Prozac. Klonopin."

"Are these prescribed by a primary care provider?" 

"Court-ordered psychiatrist."

"Which one?"

"Constance Clootie."

"As soon as we confirm your prescriptions with the psychiatrist you'll be able to take them once a day at six in the evening, one hour after the last meal of the day."

"How long is that going to take?" 

"You should be able to take your medication tonight, after dinner."

"Are we done?"

"Officer Del Rey is going to get you set up with a spare uniform and bedding and escort you to the pod. Do you have any questions at this time?"

She doesn't.

/

Waverly Earp is in seg.

Not because she did anything wrong — she didn't, almost never does, she's the pod angel for crying out loud — but at the defense of motherfucking Champ Hardy.

And okay, Nedley's face at being called a honey-roasted pile of horse shit was damn priceless, but there are always consequences. Like a seven day stint in lockdown, which would have fucked with Champ's claustrophobia bad enough that Waverly Earp stepped up and sweet-talked her way into taking his place with a promise of a week without incident.

It's a lonely damn place to be; the cell doesn't have windows, and the lights stay on twenty-four hours a day so it doesn't take long to lose the concept of time. She spends most of the day singing to herself or turtling into her jumpsuit to dim the lights and attempt to rest. Doesn't work too well. 

Doc didn't want to let her take the fall for Champ, naturally, because a) he doesn't like the kid one bit, and b) he's a wise voice of reason and doesn't like the thought of her holed up on her lonesome for so long. 

It was Nedley's call in the end. The Deputy Warden is as sweet as can be on Waverly, more so than the rest of his staff, but he knew better than to underestimate her. If she said she could handle seven days in the hole — hell, she'd gone as far as claiming to want them — Nedley believed her. Probably didn't hurt that he's not as ambivalent about Champ as Doc is.

So Waverly's done three days in the icebox so far and hasn't cracked yet, but Doc still checks up on her every few hours. It's sweet.

And the pod hasn’t begun to crumble in her absence, her enforcements hold strong. So there’s also that.

/

Everything is dim. Seems maybe every twenty paces there's a light out overhead. Yellow flecked linoleum is not a good look under fluorescents.

Neither is the faded navy jumpsuit they've got Nicole in. It's two sizes too big (they're out of larges, no clean XLs) and dwarfs her at five-eight, what a feat. Her shower slides are at least new and they let her keep her tennis shoes, the only mercy thus far.

She's got a paper-thin mattress under one arm and a mesh sack holding another jumpsuit and a blanket and sheets that are bound to scratch in the other hand. No pillow.

Heads pop out of doorless doorways as the pod door slides shut behind her, all intent on sizing up the new girl. The CO's gone and Nicole's alone in the jungle.

Room three, the officer had said.

The only room out of six in the pod with the lights off at four in the afternoon.

There's a girl on the top tier, leaning on the rails, grilling her. A girl with big shoulders, crew cut, and a few too many tattoos for someone underage.

Probably the manliest looking female she's ever seen. They lock eyes for the briefest of moments and Nicole betrays no emotion. 

She hauls her mattress into the shadows of room three, the new digs. 

There's someone sprawled out on the bottom bunk but it's dark enough she isn't able to get a good look. All she sees is long hair and an arm draped over her eyes. The assumption is the girl's fast asleep but the split second Nicole steps through the doorway a voice warns: "Turn that light on and you'll leave this room in a body bag."

Well.

Nicole keeps her mouth shut while she loads the top bunk with her mattress and hauls herself up. She sits criss-cross, head tipped back against the concrete, twiddles her thumbs, waits for her eyes to adapt to the dark. 

So what’s the mentality? She's not scared of this place or any-damn-body in it. It's just another day. 

Maybe five minutes go by before a voice floats up from beneath her. 

"Got a name, fresh meat?" 

"Nicole."

"Nicole what?" 

"Does it matter?"

"Yes, actually."

"Haught."

"Hot?"

"Something like that." 

A beat.

"What'd they get you for, Hot Stuff?"

Nicole doesn’t answer right away, debates whether to disclose the charge she was picked up on or the outstanding warrant (and her eventual conviction of the charge) that actually stuck her here.

"Truancy," she decides after a moment. It's the gentle charge, doesn't warrant attention, doesn't demand respect. It's a below-the-radar charge and Nicole wants to play her cards right, wants to ride this out easy.

"Sure they did," her new roommate chirps back. 

They don't talk after that. Nicole doesn't care to know the girl's charge, or her name for that matter, and the lights stay off.

An hour must've gone by because there's a CO in the dayroom calling "dinner, ladies!" and all around her the sound of scuttling feet as girls emerge from their rooms to line up for dinner.

Nicole ditches the bunk and strolls into the dayroom only to find nine pairs of curious eyes following her every move. She doesn't even blink. Only one of them that even remotely sizes up to her (in height and build, both are important) is Crew Cut from the top tier, and she doesn't seem to be looking for a fight. 

All there is to do is pick up a tray of her own and sit herself down at an empty table. Well. They're all empty, actually, because the girls let her get to the trays first; but they're all in motion the second Nicole drops into a seat and she prays none of them flock to her.

It's in vain, of course, because she's new and they're god-awfully curious and this is their territory.

The girls come down on her like birds to prey and it would be an unwise decision to pick up and move now that they've got her cornered. There's five of them, each one wearing an identical look of a hungry hyena. But Nicole's no quarry.

The one across from her is small and sweet looking with a shock of hair tied in a high pony while the rest tumbles down her back. That one puts her elbows on the table and tells her, "I'm Rosita."

Nicole's eyebrows jump and fall in a split second.

"Good to know," she deadpans.

 Crew Cut snickers and Rosita backhands her shoulder.

"'M Nicole," she tells them through a mouthful of rice. "Haught."

They go around the table and one by one Nicole learns the names of her new neighbors.

There's Chrissy, who looks a lot like breathing an institution's stuffy air is a punishment worse than death itself.

Jeremy is far too high energy for Nicole's liking, but nice enough that Nicole probably won't daydream of killing her.

The one called Dolls doesn't offer anything but her name and Nicole wonders what someone with such a tranquil disposition did to wind up here.

And then there's Crew Cut. Called Champ, apparently. Who evidently has the audacity to warn Nicole that "I'll be watching you, Haught. Step out of line and I'll be the first to know. There are rules here that fall back on me to enforce."

"Now that's rich." 

The voice from behind her is the same one from her room, but the face is new. Daunting and delicate all at once and Nicole realizes she's got another one right about her size. 

One look from Nicole's roommate and Chrissy's rolling her eyes and giving up her seat.

"He's just pissed he got his girlfriend tossed in solitary."

He?

"Wynonna," Champ growls.

Girlfriend? Is that allowed?

Nicole looks at Champ, starts, "You're — ?"

"Wynonna's full of shit," he (apparently) hisses before storming off.

Jeremy starts to go after him, Wynonna snaps her fingers at her, and the girl sinks timidly into her seat. 

Well.

Nicole's going to go ahead and take a wild guess who's really in charge here. And it might not hurt to be in her good graces. Learning to be the kind of roommate this Wynonna doesn't hate is the logical first step.

The whole table's gone quiet. And the girls all look like this happens on a regular basis, save for Wynonna, who's picking fries off Rosita's tray and looking like nothing's changed.

So.

Nicole, gently, cautiously, starts in: "So. Champ is. . . a he?"

Wynonna hums, switches to picking off Jeremy's tray (goes for the bread this time), and no one stops her (they all seem some kind of terrified of the girl).

"Yep." Wynonna nods. "Can't afford to change his gender on paper, so they stuck him here instead of there. And he's a jackass."

After dinner there's a powwow in room five.

Dolls and Rosita's room (Dolls doesn't do powwows, doesn't care for pod politics, she's working out in the dayroom) is currently home to Nicole (criss-cross on the edge of Rosita's bunk), Champ (on the floor with his legs stretched out, hands planted behind him), Rosita (lounging next to Nicole and picking at a loose string on her sleeve), and Jeremy (fidgeting in the doorway, unsure of how to occupy the space she takes up).

" — and it ain't that I hate the girl. She’s. . . fine. I guess. Considering. She's just — " Champ waves a hand around like the word he's looking for is floating in midair for him to catch. " — Wynonna."

Nicole needs to be delicate here. These girls talk. A lot. To each other. About each other. And petty teenage bullshit is bound to stir up a hurricane before any of them realize they're sitting smack dab in the eye of it.

"So. . . Wynonna is. . . head honcho?"

Champ snorts.

"Yeah," he says. "You'd think."

Rosita leans forward, elbows on her knees. Speaks: "Wynonna keeps to herself. Usually. She's BBD, she doesn't have business with us Revenants."

There are two new words in that sentence and to Nicole they mean nothing. Doesn't know what a BBD is, has definitely never heard of a Revenant anything. But she's not going to let on to that.

If she's going to make the most of the sentence she's been handed it's going to be on her terms and it's going to work damn well because there are only two things in life she has not gotten away with: the two damn things that landed her here.

But Nicole can infer enough to ask "If you're on opposing ends and there's no hostility — who keeps the peace?”

"Little Earp," Jeremy pipes in.

“And what exactly would a ‘Little Earp’ be?”

"She'll be back in four days," Champ grumbles, sounds detached and guilty and annoyed and apologetic all at once. Somehow. 

Two days later Doc comes to check up on Waverly shortly before lights out (well, not for her) and the first thing she asks him is if Champ's okay (when she really means has he kept his promise not to go and do anything dumb in her absence).

"Waverly Earp, what on God's green earth do you see in that boy?"

She closes in on the window port with her arms crossed. They've been over this before. He's put the poor girl through the wringer because of that boy, all because she showed him compassion when everyone else in this damn town was ready to kick him to the curb the second he showed his true colors.

Waverly won't do people like that. 

And sure, Champ is rough around the edges, and has a shit time thinking before he speaks, but he's never done her wrong.

"I'm small," Waverly points out. "And he’s. . . strong. That's not exactly a negative in here."

Doc sighs, stands with his hands on his hips and his head inclined like he's waiting to be told he just lost a million-dollar bet. He's the cutest cowboy she's ever met. 

"If he is indeed as strong as you claim would you mind telling me why you're doing his time for him?" 

"Physical and mental strength are two very different things, Holliday.”

He contemplates it a minute, decides not to push it.

"Your sister's got herself a new bunkmate," he tells her.

Now that's news. Wynonna's managed to keep the room to herself almost eleven months now. The longest running bunkmate lasted maybe ten hours before tapping out and begging for a pod transfer and no one's come close to that since.

So Waverly has to ask, "How long?"

"Two days," he says, tries not to smile.

"No shit?"

Doc nods.

"What's her charge?"

"Now you know I can't tell you that."

Oh, but he will. He always does.

Waverly slinks toward the door while tugging open the top few buttons of her jumpsuit and nowhere in sight is the white cotton bra they're all issued at intake. Fingertips skirt down the center of her bare chest. Her head takes on a sweet tilt and she forces innocence into her eyes.

"Pretty please?"

"Button up and pipe down, Waverly."

"But I've been so good." Hell, she's pouting; he hates that. "Won't you throw me a bone?"

Doc looks pointedly over both shoulders before nodding at the sliver of space between door and frame. Waverly meets him there from the other side.

He knows how well she can keep a secret but the CO in him still rears its head as he ducks in to tell her what he most certainly should not.

"Truancy." He pauses. "And a whole lotta grand theft auto."

Waverly's buttoning up when she leans back.

"Well, shit. We’ve got a live one.“

Doc hums.

"Your boyfriend there tried to lay down the law with her. Wynonna, of all people, came to her rescue. . . But if you ask me, she don't look like she needs rescuing."

That's also news. Wynonna doesn't look out for people like that unless you're Waverly (and sometimes Jeremy, but very rarely), so there's got to be something curious going on with the new girl.

"Have 'Nona send me a full recon, would you?"

"I am not your courier, Miss Earp."

"Yet you always do as I ask."

And he does. He's the poster boy for Wrapped Around Waverly Earp's Finger.

She dismisses him with a wave and off he goes.

Something about those damn Earp girls gets to the officers time and again and no one has an explanation (or a guess) other than voodoo.

It's probably voodoo. 

This is Purgatory, after all.

/

Nicole's fitting in fine.

Wynonna doesn't seem to feel any type of way about her. Doesn't hate her, isn't ready to call her friend either. It works.

Talk is minimal between bunkmates but the silence that lingers between sparse conversation is oddly comforting. If Nicole believed in auras and spiritual energy and celestial compatibility she'd say she hit the roomie jackpot with Wynonna. With all that goes unspoken between them there is an underlying current of communication that exists only mentally and they’re both fluent in it.

Wynonna likes the dark, Nicole doesn't mind hauling ass to the dayroom every time she needs a little light. Nicole doesn't like feelings, Wynonna doesn't bring them into conversation. Wynonna likes quick comebacks and childish wit, Nicole is well practiced in adapting to speech patterns and mirroring disposition. Nicole is observant, discreet about it, but forgets nothing; Wynonna is carefree, unaffected by her surroundings, but knows she can ask Nicole if she's missed anything of importance.

And then there's the night before whoever this Little Earp is returns to the pod.

Nicole's restless in bed (it's maybe four am and she's been trying to sleep since eleven) and the lack of a pillow doesn't help. With the strain on her neck her head feels three times too heavy and the air seems too thick and it's all she can do not to put her head through the concrete wall of room three.

"You good, Haught? You're not helping my insomnia."

"I'm — yeah." A beat. "Still not used to sleeping without a pillow. How is it that I’m one of — like — the three people who don’t have one?”

Wynonna chuckles.

“Gotta buy ‘em. Commissary. It’s a cruel joke.”

Not to breach the feelings boundary, but. . . Nicole sighs, heavily, and it carries the embarrassment of the words she doesn’t want to say but sort of trusts Wynonna enough to say them anyway.

“Don’t have any money on my books. Won’t be getting any.”

Wynonna doesn’t answer right away and it’s the first time Nicole’s wanted to slice a knife through their silence.

"Baby girl can get you one of those tomorrow. It’ll cost you though.”

Nicole narrows her eyes at the darkness. She's still not all the way caught up with pod lingo. Nicknames and gang names and monikers are still settling into her database. 

"Am I supposed to know who that is?"

Nicole can hear the stupid-happy smile in Wynonna's voice when she says:

"Oh, honey. Have you ever met an actual angel?”