Waverly felt dizzy with the relief and happiness flooding through her, snow squeaking under her shoes as she ran toward the back porch, the battered gables of the homestead standing dark against the fading sky. It had been rough, those days she’d been away, feeling the incessant pull of that extraworldly place and the angelic Throne, the way her thoughts had been dragged aslant from reality, and how she’d tried to balance against it by remembering red hair, brown eyes. But, now. Now she was safe. Wynonna had come for her and Doc, delivered her out of the Garden back into Purgatory and home, and at last everyone would be okay.
She was stopped in her tracks by the sudden rap of a shotgun, the first blast quickly followed by a second, tree bark splintering off uncomfortably close to her head. With a little squeal, she ducked behind the tree for cover.
The voice of her love came harsh and angry. “Eat shit, shit eater!” Nicole shouted across the yard as she came storming out. “I’m warning you, no trespassing!” Somehow, she managed to sound both furious and exhausted. A whiff of spent gunpowder reached Waverly’s nose, but she didn’t hear the sound of reloading.
Waverly stepped out from behind the tree, revealing herself.
Nicole stood rooted, the gun’s barrel lowering in her hands and recognition blossoming on her face, as their breath frosted and hung in the cold air between them. “Waverly,” she half-whispered, almost like she couldn’t believe her own eyes.
Waverly took a half-step forward, a hopeful kind of glee rising inside her. She could almost pretend like none of it had happened, that it was never real anyway, how the Garden had twisted her mind and fogged her memory, because it did not matter in this moment. She was here, and Nicole was here. Home. She could feel the sting of the cold in her cheeks, and the smile that wanted to break out and split her face in two, and the triphammer beat of her heart and the way her throat started to tighten with huge emotion.
Nicole set the gun aside, fumbling it slightly in her haste to lean it up against the homestead’s wall. Then she was closing the distance between them, a mere few steps, and Waverly rushed into the embrace.
Like some kind of friggin’ Disney movie storybook moment, Waverly thought disjointedly, as Nicole’s arms went around her, back bowed to reach down to Waverly’s height. She drank in the fierceness with which Nicole wrapped her up and hugged her so tight, almost vibrating with relief as Nicole buried her face in her neck, their cheeks pressing together. Nicole was wordless, but Waverly could hear the ragged breathing of her lover, warm and gusty and piteous in its shakiness, right next to her ear. She knew that sound; she’d heard it before in darkness, when Nicole’s nightmares pursued her. It meant everything was welling up and spilling over, and the strength of her lover’s emotions made plain by how Nicole’s hands clutched at her shoulders and her waist, more desperate than gentle. Overriding everything was the rising warmth between them, the way Nicole would pull Waverly in close at the hips. Waverly swam in it, equally keen to throw herself into feeling every bit of Nicole. God, I’ve missed her. Finally, Waverly pulled back, needing to see Nicole’s face.
“It’s me. It’s me.” Waverly began to giggle, her eyes crinkling as she smoothed her gloved hands over Nicole’s face, cupping her jaw. “Oh god, it’s you!” Nicole hugged her tight in return, again. Their bodies fit together as perfectly as they always did, Nicole’s hand going to the small of her back and pulling their hips flush. They wobbled there, practically propping each other up, leaning into the embrace. Waverly sighed a squeaky little sigh. “I’m home.”
After a long moment, Nicole pulled back. The setting sun flecked her eyes with gold, and they were deep with something painful and eternal. Waverly wondered at how she seemed long on the verge of tears, as she stood there searching into Waverly’s face. A half-smile twisted across her lips, uncertain. “Are you – real?” she choked out, her voice cracking slightly.
It was the first Nicole had spoken since she’d said Waverly’s name. And, wait. Was this some kind of hideous trick, another doppelgänger? Hadn’t Eve fooled her once already, only to yank away her fervent hopes and send her crashing into despair? No, she reasoned with herself. I am here. I am home. Waverly shoved down the uneasiness and tried to laugh it away. “Are you?” she replied.
Emotion cascaded across Nicole’s face. “Get in here and check,” she said with a shaky laugh. They crashed into a kiss that felt hungry, careless in its need.
Everything in the kiss was just so essentially Nicole, thought Waverly, the way she could unerringly find and unlock every secret desire she’d never known before, no matter if the embrace was soft and sweet, or as frantic as this one was. Unspoken longing rattled deep in her bones, a spark that flared with each little breathy sigh that leaked from Nicole’s mouth. Any last doubt in Waverly’s mind about the truth of this reunion vanished under the sweep of Nicole’s hands and the glide of her lips, the relentless way she seemed determined to touch Waverly over and over again. Like it could never be enough.
Still. In spite of how closely Nicole held her, Waverly found herself shivering. She had the wrong coat and the wrong shoes for how low the temps had dropped, and Nicole didn’t feel the chill because she was totally layered up, and hold up, did she have a Kevlar shell on under that coat? No wonder she wasn’t freezing her buns off. “Too cold,” Waverly growled. “Inside?”
“Yeah,” breathed Nicole. They drifted toward the door, Nicole somehow managing to retrieve the shotgun and walk backwards while barely relinquishing Waverly’s lips. They made it through the mudroom and into the kitchen without tripping over their feet, thank goodness, and when Nicole firmly shut the door to the icy air, Waverly noticed that a new deadbolt had been installed, a big heavy one. She stared at it for a half-second, wondering when Wynonna had had time to do that, and anyway why because Wynonna was always lax about security things like locks. She shrugged it aside in the pursuit of warmth. Grabbing Nicole by the wrist, she walked the two of them toward the front room, where the wood burning stove was putting out plenty of heat.
Only a few steps in, and Waverly was already shaking off her chill. “That’s better,” she sighed, as she turned to kiss Nicole again.
“Still a heat-seeker, I see,” chuckled Nicole. She started to fumble with her jacket, profoundly overdressed for inside the house. “Wait, wait a minute.”
Waverly jumped in to help, her hands eager. She peeled off the camo heavy jacket that Nicole was wearing, and then shrugged out of her own jacket as Nicole ripped open the Velcro fastening of the Kevlar vest. She tossed the jackets in the general direction of the coat rack, and they didn’t even come close, and for once Nicole did not complain about it. Her shoes and Nicole’s boots also thumped carelessly to the floor, and then she was pulling the cowl knit sweater over Nicole’s head and off, revealing those elegantly strong shoulders and that smooth, long neck. I’ve missed this so much. Waverly couldn’t keep her hands off Nicole, and she felt touch-starved and tingly, as she brushed her fingers across the top of Nicole’s breasts and down the front of her undershirt. Days in the Garden had left her filled with desire for her love, more than ever. And honestly, Nicole could fire her up without even trying. She lifted her face up, kissing Nicole with growing heat.
Nicole returned her kisses with rapidly increasing passion, which was a teeny bit surprising to Waverly. She pushed them back until Waverly’s ass was pressed into the hallway wall, her tongue bold in the way it snuck past Waverly’s lips, flitting across her teeth and seeking its own pleasure. Her hands were delicious on her hips, how they grasped and kneaded into her flesh, making Waverly groan with delight. But then Nicole shuddered to a full halt, tipping her head forward and down until their foreheads rested against each other. “Waves,” she said, breathless. “Do you wanna … do you need to sit down and talk? About everything?”
Yeah. Of course. Of course she’d ask, thought Waverly. Nicole would always make sure she was okay. And while there were plenty of times when they did need to sit down and talk things out, this wasn’t one of them, not with her blood set afire and her body shimmering with want. “No,” Waverly ground out. Not yet, she thought. She pulled off her own shirt and flung it away, hoping the action would make her desires plain. She wanted nothing more than Nicole to take them to the bed, and for them to dive into this urgent need between them. And then they could talk later.
Nicole surged into the kiss, in apparent understanding. Waverly tipped her chin up as she felt Nicole’s lips go trailing over her jawline and down her throat, reveled in the feeling of Nicole’s explorations. Nicole came back up, more kisses and more pleasured sighs, and Waverly’s hands tugged at the hem of Nicole’s shirt, and Nicole lifted her arms. Waverly pulled the undershirt off, casting it aside with the rest of the clothing scattered around them.
The silky feel of so much of Nicole’s skin under her fingertips, and the ripple of muscles working underneath, sent Waverly into overdrive. God, it was sexy, the way Nicole would groan and writhe when Waverly dug her fingers into the strong planes of her back, or traveled along her spine. The feel of her, the vanilla-sweet smell of her, the everything about Nicole, she wanted it all at once, all right now. She pushed back from the wall, her hands going to the button of Nicole’s pants, mindless with need.
Nicole helped, pushing her pants down from her hips after Waverly had gotten them unbuttoned, and in the process of stepping out and kicking them aside, she sank to her knees in front of Waverly, her breath hot and playful across her belly. Waverly tipped her chin back as Nicole’s hands thrilled across her hipbones, and her mouth pressed in and exhaled hot through fabric against her core. Waverly’s knees wobbled, and she found herself sliding down as well. Nicole caught her and turned her, settled over her as Waverly laid back on the hallway rug.
The grinding was delicious. Some part of Waverly’s brain seemed to think that being minimally clothed and making out super hot and heavy in the hallway might not be the most awesome idea, particularly if she didn’t know exactly where Wynonna was, but most of her couldn’t really give a fuck. Because the way Nicole rolled and swayed above her was driving her wild, and she lifted her hips into the press of Nicole’s thigh, and let herself sink into the swirl of pleasure. Nicole’s lips, her hands, they were everywhere, bringing heat and stunning arousal, and even after all this time, Waverly’s brain stuttered into how does she DO that before sailing higher and higher with the joy.
At some point they’d gotten flipped, and lost the rest of their clothes. Waverly almost couldn’t keep track with the give/take, push/pull of their loving, but Waverly was on top of Nicole now, grinding down on her belly and holy crap she was not going to last long like this, the rapturous motion sending pure pleasure jolting throughout her entire body. Nicole’s hand was on her breast as Waverly sat up, throwing her head back as her first climax swept through her, sudden and swift, and she shuddered and cried out, “Oh!” before slumping back down. She lay across Nicole, listening to her own panted breath, wondering and not wondering what the heck had gotten into them. Wasn’t the first time they’d done it in the public areas of the homestead, after all. She hummed happily.
Nicole laughed beneath her. “Wow. You okay?” Her voice was honey-sweet, a little raspy and breathless as well.
Waverly chuckled. “We should probably go upstairs.” She lifted her head and looked into Nicole’s face, curious at the intensity she found there, for Nicole was still studying her closely. Waverly had no idea what she might be looking for. She leaned in to playfully boop Nicole’s nose, adding the obvious. “You know. In case Wynonna shows up suddenly.”
Nicole’s brow furrowed. “Wy … or …” she started, looking puzzled. She looked down at their bare bodies, her face morphing into a wry grin. “Yeah. Probably.”
Waverly, feeling recovered enough to stand, rose and offered a hand to Nicole and helped her up. Jeez, everything she felt for this woman. It was a big mashed-up pile of fondness and lust and unadorned happiness, and it could overwhelm her sometimes. She threw her arms around Nicole’s neck, crossing her wrists behind her head, and leaned up into a quick kiss. “There you go.”
Nicole grinned in return. “Do you need anything? Like, from the kitchen?” When Waverly declined, Nicole moved to pick up the discarded clothing.
“No, leave it,” Waverly said with a little whine. She wasn’t done with Nicole, and she didn’t want to wait. She grabbed Nicole’s hand and started up the stairs.
Nicole didn’t seem too fussed by all the scattered clothes, which was a nice surprise. Her voice came happy, and rich like warm caramel. “Such a troublemaker,” she teased, following close behind her.
“Ha. You’re the troublemaker with all that sexy -” Waverly turned around on the stairs and started to say, before she was cut off by Nicole’s mouth, covering hers with more urgent kisses.
Wow, thought Waverly. When did she get so insatiable? As the redhead’s fingertips skimmed over her waist and travelled across skin and sinew still humming with pleasure, Waverly couldn’t help the giggle that bubbled at the back of her throat, thinking that insatiable was no problem at all, nuh uh. No complaints. When Nicole got fired up, she could take things to a whole new, incredible level, just on her passionate drive alone. The fierce desperation of Nicole’s hands on her body, and the almost bruising strength of her kisses, was enough to ignite Waverly all over again. Somehow there was something raw and primal in her need, Waverly could feel it boiling up and flooding through both of them, and the only thing on the planet she wanted is to let it sweep them away. To let Nicole have anything, everything she wanted.
Nicole’s mouth dipped to the sensitive spot just beneath her jaw, a thing that always pierced Waverly with pleasured shivers, and she lifted her chin. The groan that drifted from deep within her both musical and breathy, and Nicole curled one arm around her waist, wordlessly supporting her while her lips and tongue smoothed over her exposed neck. Somehow, Nicole being one step below her on the stairs gave their pose a new and thrilling difference; Waverly’s breath caught at the idea of Nicole’s face pressed between her breasts like this, how their skin would slide over each other and leave them both singing with arousal. Her knees wobbled, and Nicole tightened her grip. Those strong hands were communicating to Waverly, saying yeah, it’s alright, I got you. Waverly heard loud and clear, and went joyously into the slide. It felt easy to lower herself with Nicole’s guidance, and Nicole sank even further, until her head was nestled between Waverly’s thighs. She growled softly, “Okay?” as Waverly started to wind the fingers of one hand into that glorious red hair.
“Uh huh,” Waverly gasped out, as she thought, I guess we’re going again, right here, huh. Her other hand twisted around the stair baluster, and she surrendered herself helplessly to the devouring. In spite of Nicole’s charged-up fervor, it quickly became clear that she was going to be entirely thorough in the pleasuring, and soon Waverly was twisting and sighing as Nicole’s mouth explored her, an intimate investigation that never failed to shatter her. The arousal was like an endlessly rising tide, and when her orgasm found her, it rocked Waverly over and over, until she was wrung out and limp. She shuddered, clawing air into her lungs, as Nicole gently lapped at her, letting her come down bit by bit.
When Nicole came back up, she was murmuring, “You’re here, you’re really here,” almost to herself.
Waverly drew her in to an embrace, wrapping arms around her strong shoulders. “I’m here,” she agreed. She began to brush kisses over Nicole’s brow and across the shell of her ear, and followed with her tongue, because she knew it drove her girlfriend a little crazy. “Come here,” she whispered.
Nicole shifted in easy acquiescence, straddling Waverly’s leg, and then it was an effortless reach. Waverly slipped her hand between Nicole’s thighs, and it was ecstatic to slide into her, warm and wet and the best silky paradise in the world. Nicole moaned and tipped her head up, and Waverly set a deliberate pace, wanting to prolong the dance as long as she could, but then Nicole began to buck against her hand. The ride got wilder as Nicole braced one hand behind her on Waverly’s thigh, and the other hand wrapped around the bannister, steadying herself. Waverly nodded, go ahead, as she slid as deep as she could, twisted her fingers and curled forward. Nicole’s beautiful eyes were heavy-lidded and unfocused by the time she started to chant, as she often did. “Uh huh, just like that, yeah.” Waverly breathed her in and breathed with her as she came, blessed and purified by the glorious heat that surrounded them.
It took a bit for both of them to settle after that, sprawled on the staircase and butt naked, their faces close, their breath playing over each other’s lips. Waverly wanted to laugh, how ridiculous they must look and how overjoyed and overwhelmed she felt. The harrowing days in the Garden were vanquished, the reunion euphoric. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy,” she said. “So why do I feel like bawling?”
A sly smile played over Nicole’s face, that supersexy smirk she had. “Well,” she drawled slightly, “after what we just did, you’re probably pretty dehydrated.” Waverly laughed, and Nicole sighed blissfully. She nuzzled into Waverly, her nose describing delicate circles on Waverly’s skin. “Your laugh. It’s like Christmas.” She kissed Waverly again, tender, lingering. “Your lips are so soft.”
Waverly smiled, the corners of her eyes crinkling. She loved to bask in Nicole’s praise, but now, especially now, it made her feel like she would overflow with joy. She tilted her head to the side, mischievous. “Are you going to spend all day listing all the things you like about me?” she asked with a grin.
“More like the rest of my life,” Nicole said, warm and serious.
And, wow. Waverly’s heart leapt as she gazed back into those beautiful brown eyes, unbearably intimate. She knew, had known for a while, of course, that she wanted to pledge herself to Nicole, but she hadn’t realized just how much she still feared that the Earp curse could maybe chase her away. Nicole always seemed to find the easy way to hold her up and reassure her, though, of the strength and the solidity of this thing between them. It made Waverly feel brave. “I love you,” she said.
She expected the thousand-watt grin, or the sweet softness that sometimes swept Nicole’s face. But Nicole barely smiled, and did not reply, except that her eyes shadowed with some sort of darkness and pain as they flickered across Waverly’s face. Worry ratcheted up a few notches in Waverly’s mind. It was startling and maybe a bit too close to scary, to see what looked like a wobble in the woman she called her rock. What is happening? She cast about wildly in her memory, searching for a thing she had said or had done wrong, but landed nothing. After a moment, she fell back on one of her not-so-good habits, deflection. “I’m also loving the Little Mermaid vibe,” she went on, slipping her fingers through Nicole’s unexpectedly long hair, her voice a little saucy, even if it sounded somewhat forced to her own ears. “So, what, you just zipped into the Ghost River Triangle and got extensions?”
Nicole brows wrinkled, and she pursed her lips a little, confused. “I just grew it out.”
“What?” Somehow, the words didn’t parse in Waverly’s mind.
Nicole shook her head. “Sorry,” she said, though Waverly didn’t know why she was apologizing. “I just … I just missed you so much.” She leaned in, and Waverly wrapped her in her arms once more.
“Hey,” said Waverly, as Nicole began to cry, choppy little sobs over her shoulder. Something wasn’t right, and she couldn’t figure it out for the life of her. “Wait. How did … how did you grow it out?”
Nicole sounded raspy, like she was trying to hold back tears. The words that came tumbling out of her made no sense. “I broke my leg, and I came back to Purgatory, but I had to retreat to the Homestead,” she explained, as Waverly smoothed her fingertips over her cheek. “I did everything I could to keep it safe for you.” Her voice trembled, just a bit, as she rushed out the words.
“Nicole, wait, just tell me.” Waverly shook her head a tiny amount. She was filling with a sense of dread; something had gone terribly wrong, she didn’t know what it was, but it had hurt Nicole. A lot. And Nicole had done something, something terrible, in order to just hang on. “How long have I been gone?”
Nicole’s brows furrowed. “Don’t you know?” At the shake of Waverly’s head, she slowly went on, “You’ve been gone 18 months, three weeks and four days. All of you have.”