It was nice that it was finally spring. The homestead was muddy and green and the air was warm enough for Wynonna to pass out on the porch without freezing to death, even in her mostly undressed state.
She’d gotten back from Amon’s bar somewhere around four in the morning. She’d driven but the streets of Purgatory were empty so no one noticed if she went a little slow and swerved a lot. Worse, she’d been unable to do up the complicated straps of her body suit and had left with her upper half covered only by Amon’s suit jacket. It smelled like him.
Her stomach was rolling and not just from her hangover. From what she’d been doing the night before or was it just earlier that morning? She felt a little like she had when the guy she’d lived with for a while in Greece had gotten angry at her for flirting with the bartender for free drinks and called her a whore so she slept with his dad. He’d deserved it, she’d been getting the drinks to share with him after all, but the big fuck-you to him and the universe hadn’t made her feel any better. It only made her feel like he’d been right.
She knew even without Waverly telling her that that line of thinking was wrong but she couldn’t help herself. All her life she’d solved her problems, mostly feeling bad about herself, by digging in. She was a drunk, a whore, a crazy chick with a gun and usually she was fine with that. Even reveled in it but lately…
She blamed Dolls. He’d been too gentle with her from day one like it wasn’t totally embarrassing to be seen with her. Like he could really come to care for her and she wouldn’t disappoint him. Like she was something that deserved protection and could be cherished. He was lucky he’d died. Maybe she was lucky too because if he’d ever said to her what Doc had said to her, she couldn’t have… Wynonna couldn’t finish the thought. To put it simply she wouldn’t have been alive a month later.
Doc’s hypocrisy, his eleventh hour decision to be a new honorable man gave her just enough anger to fuel her, to think of ways to fuck him over like fucking a demon. He’d never been gentle in the ways that Dolls had been, but there were still moments. Moments when he looked at her and the creases around his eyes showed, when his rough hands ran through her hair, when he promised to be at her side. They only made her angrier. Damn him for making her think she could ever want, let alone deserve, something other than rough sex in a bar bathroom or a barn. Damn him for making her think she could want a real kind of love.
The screen door opened behind her.
“What time did you get back?” Nicole asked. She was wearing a brightly colored short sleeve button down and carrying two mugs of coffee. It was startling for a second seeing her like that. Out of uniform early on a weekday, her hair longer and dark circles under her eyes. She seemed older somehow.
Wynonna shrugged. “Some point.” She reached for a mug and Nicole slipped it to her. She chugged it down even though it was hot and made her empty stomach churn worse than before. Her headache eased a little.
“Thank you,” Wynonna said putting the mug down. “You didn’t need to do that.”
“I wanted to,” Nicole said, eyes forward, watching the rising sun. A moment passed. Finches in the thrush tweeted to each other. Nicole glanced nervously over at her. “I’m sorry about yesterday. I don’t remember it super clearly but I do remember putting my hand-”
“Stop!” Wynonna held up a hand. “Don’t finish that sentence. I don’t feel like remembering.” She rubbed her temple. “But yeah, you’re forgiven. You weren’t yourself.”
“You managed to pull me off you.”
“It wasn’t nobility. I just don’t swing that way very often. Meanwhile, I know I have a top shelf ass. Who could resist?”
“Your future sister-in-law maybe.” Nicole curled in on herself, shoulders hunching, looking down at her boots. She was caught in one of her guilty spirals, there’d been a lot of them recently.
“Haught,” Wynonna said earnestly. “Don’t worry about it. If Baby Girl doesn’t blame you, I can’t.”
“Wynonna,” Nicole said in almost the same tone. “I’m apologizing to you now, not Waverly.”
“And I forgave you.” She got to her feet with a groan, holding the suit jacket closed to avoid flashing Nicole. “I’m gonna get a refill. This time with whiskey.”
“I just hate to think I made you uncomfortable.”
“Please,” Wynonna said rolling her eyes. “Everyone in this town have had their hands all over my ass. What’s one more?”
Nicole caught her arm as she passed by. Her deep brown eyes looked up at Wynonna, little molten pools of regret. “Wynonna, are you okay? I mean, in general. Not just about yesterday. I know things with Doc-”
Wynonna snatched her arm back. “Not everything is about that old bastard!”
Nicole startled, jerking back in her seat. Wynonna sighed, trying to calm herself.
“Sorry. Just. Doc and I aren’t having a lover’s spat. He can’t stand to look at me because I’m a murderer. And I can’t deny it. He’s right. It just depends how you feel about murder.”
“I don’t think you’re-”
“I am,” Wynonna said firmly. Her eyes drifted down the porch steps. There on the gravel drive she’d shot her own father in the back. The first sin in a lifetime of them. She didn’t know where her next words came from but it felt like they needed to be said. “You don’t need to keep pretending to care about me.”
“What?” Nicole sounded confused. Wynonna didn’t turn to look at her. Instead, she closed her eyes.
“It’s okay. You don’t need to spare my feelings. I don’t have any. We have an understanding, isn’t that enough?”
Nicole got to her feet. “What happened? Last I heard you were over the moon because I called you my best friend. Now you think I’m lying?”
Wynonna shook her head. “It was a figure of speech. I get that. Or else you don’t have many options for friends. But we’re both always going to put Waverly first. Over anything. That’s what’s between us. It doesn’t have to be anything more.”
Nicole’s hands slipped over Wynonna shoulders, turning her to face her.
“You’re pissing me off, Earp. What’s this about?”
Wynonna pushed her off, took a step back. “I’m done with pretending! I won’t be something I’m not. And what I am is something you have every right to hate.”
Nicole frowned and crossed her arms. “Bullshit. I’m not some paragon of virtue like you seem to think. I understand doing what’s necessary. I only wish I had your-” She faltered. “Well, your everything. I couldn’t have killed Holt but I don’t blame you for it. You did what you had to to defend our family.”
“Family,” Wynonna muttered, not even letting Nicole’s words penetrate. “What family? You and Waverly are a family but I’m not a part of that. I’m just the dead weight dragging you down.”
This time, Nicole laughed. She looked away, brushing a tear from her cheek. “That’s funny. Because a lot of the time I feel the same way. So who’s right? Which one of us is the outsider?”
“Waverly loves you,” Wynonna said. To her, it was as simple as that.
“She loves you too,” Nicole said, her voice thick with unshed tears.
How had this gotten so teary, Wynonna wondered. She’d just wanted some whiskey.
“Yeah.” Wynonna shuffled her boots. “Maybe. But she’s a good person and I’m the last of her blood. She’d probably love me if I was Bunny Loblaw. She chose you.”
“And it feels like a blessing.” Nicole nodded. “But it wasn’t. I made a choice too. I keep making it.”
“Good for you,” Wynonna said turning. She was too sober for this.
“Wait!” Nicole snagged her arm again. “I’m making a point. Yesterday, you told me you loved me more than whiskey.”
Wynonna’s heart gave a thump. She swallowed. “Well, yeah, but-”
“And I think I finally have you figured out,” Nicole continued. “You can’t love anyone unless they love Waverly first. That’s your first and only demand. Waverly isn’t like that. You’re harder to love. She can’t expect it.”
“Thanks,” Wynonna grumbled. She tried to step back but Nicole held firm.
“But loving her, it’s all about loving the way she sees the world. Loving her means seeing the way she sees you and that is an extraordinary thing. I don’t think a person could love Waverly, truly, and not love you too.”
Wynonna tugged her arm again. She couldn’t meet Nicole’s eyes. “Because you appreciate what I’d do for her. Like I said we have an understanding.”
“No, because she brings out the best in you. Because she sees you as a hero and you become a hero for all of us. Wynonna, look at me.”
Reluctantly, Wynonna raised her head and met Nicole’s eyes. Her own were watering.
“Don’t get sappy on me. I can’t take it.”
“Wynonna Earp,” Nicole said, hand squeezing on Wynonna’s forearm. “You are hard to love but it’s worth it. You are not just a package deal with Waverly. You’re your own damn thing. And I’d be honored if you would be part of my family. If you would be my sister.”
Hot, snotty tears were running down Wynonna’s face and she wiped them away with her sleeve.
“I’m half dressed and probably going to puke and you’re proposing to me.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Nicole said attempting a smile. “So? Are you going to say yes?”
Wynonna nodded. “Yeah. Fuck. Yes.”
Nicole pulled her into a bone crushing hug. Her hand rubbed soothingly up and down her back even as her chin jabbed hard into Wynonna’s eye socket. “You’re not second best, okay?”
“Okay,” Wynonna said, hugging her back. “And Nicole? It’s not your fault. Any of it.”
“Thanks,” Nicole said after a moment.
Wynonna wasn’t sure she believed her but she wasn’t sure she believed Nicole either, so she guessed that made them even.