The orange glow of the late afternoon permeated into the office through two dirty windows and reached far into the room, almost warming Waverly Earp’s feet under the table as she sat alone in the space designated to the Black Badge Division by the Sheriff Station; a heavy book written in old Catalan laid open before her as she read the tiny letters attentively. Lost in the book and in her own mind, her right hand played absentmindedly with a dusty hourglass, turning it around anticlockwise between her fingers.
With her brow scrunched up in a frown, she studied a drawing depictured in the book. It closely resembled the hourglass in her hand, and she squinted her eyes at both trying to find any differences, because, then again, every hourglass looked roughly the same.
With the newly reinstated Sheriff Haught, things had calmed down, at least for Purgatory standards, and Waverly had taken the chance to update their inventory with everything they’d gathered from demons and haunted houses and Nedley’s hidden closet.
Most of it was really just trash. Demons could be hoarders, who knew? And this hourglass seemed to be shaping up that way too. There were no mysterious markings on its thin wood, no glowing sand trapped by its glass. Other than the fact that it had been taken from Hypnos’ mansion, there was nothing to indicate that the small timepiece had any supernatural power.
Waverly studied the hourglass picture again and then studied the one in her hand. Her fingers stopped moving and she watched as the sand trickled down slowly, her eyes tired after an afternoon of reading. She blinked and the sand kept falling, like a thin river, and she blinked again, her eyelids heavier, and the sand slowly came back into focus, she blinked-
Waverly woke up disoriented.
The room felt too warm, her mouth was dry and, though the clock on the wall announced that no more than 15 minutes had passed since she last noticed the time, her body felt as if she’d taken one of those long, disconcerting afternoon naps that left you more tired than you’d been when you fell asleep.
A soft knock on the door had her trying to shake the heavy fog her mind seemed to be moving through.
“Come in,” she called, her voice rougher than she’d expect after a 10-minute nap.
“Hey,” Nicole greeted timidly as she peeked through the small door gap instead of fully opening it. Her eyes moved quickly, taking in all corners of the room before she visibly relaxed and stepped into the room with a brown package. “Another delivery for you guys.”
“Thank you,” Waverly said and reached for it. BBD, she read, its symbol stamped right in the middle of the parcel. Probably something from Jeremy.
“You’re welcome,” Nicole replied, sweet and expectant, but less flirty than she usually was when they were alone.
Waverly looked at her, from beautiful red hair braided away from her face to warm eyes and soft lips, down her blue uniform shirt and- no way!
“You’re wearing the khakis!”
Frowning, Nicole looked down at herself before offering Waverly a half smile. “It’s the uniform. Unfortunately.”
Waverly sighed, happy to come back to this everlasting argument. “You look good in them.”
Nicole blushed a pretty pink, not at all the forward response Waverly had been expecting, but she appreciated it all the same.
“If I promise to wear them, would you have coffee with me sometime?”
That was a little bit more like it.
“Only if you promise,” Waverly replied easily, no stranger to the different scenarios they’d cook up every now and then. Not all of them were very elaborate or had a clear narrative. Some were like this, just a slight shift.
The blush in Nicole’s cheeks intensified and she looked down. It should be a crime for her to even try to hide that beautiful smile.
“I’ll hold you to it,” Nicole said when she looked back up, a more confident lilt in her voice, then turned around, taller, and left Waverly alone in the room again.
Waverly bit her lower lip. That particular shy mood hadn’t showed up in their bedroom in a little while.
She stood up and gathered her things, her mind too distracted now to keep researching. She passed Nedley in his uniform on her way out and walked to-
In his uniform?
Waverly looked back, but Nedley had already entered Nicole’s office, busy talking to someone on his phone. Not curious enough to delay her way home, Waverly shrugged. Nicole would tell her whatever this was about once she arrived from work.
All that she wanted right now was to dress to impress. And if Nicole wanted to play shy, Waverly would give her something to blush over.
Waverly heard someone call for her on her way to her Jeep, his voice instantly familiar.
“Champ?” She asked even before she caught sight of Champ Hardy running across the street toward her.
He came close, way too close, and threw his arm around her shoulders, and was so damn casual about it all, that it took Waverly a moment a react.
“What the hell?!” Waverly dodged away from him and pushed her fists against his chest to increase the distance.
“Aw, come on, babe. Are you still mad?”
“I’m not your babe. What the hell are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking we could go back to mine and I can make it up to you, huh? What do you say?” He asked with his still boyish looks. Men indeed did not mature.
“I am,” Waverly said slowly, deliberately enunciating each syllable as she raised her left hand, thumb touching her ring finger – “a married-”
Her thumb was touching her ring finger. Her actual ring finger. Not the ring.
Waverly looked at her way too naked hand.
She hadn’t been married for even three months and she’d already lost her wedding band.
“Oh, fudge nuggets.”
“Waverly,” Champ said as he reached for her arm, a not delicate enough hand closing loosely around her wrist.
Waverly yanked her arm back with far more force than necessary. “Get off me!” She screeched.
A small over-reaction on her part, she could admit that to herself.
“What’s up with you?!” He cried out.
“Hey!” – That authoritative tone had Waverly instantly deflating from the impending fight.
“Nicole,” Waverly started, and she knew she was whining. Her ring! She couldn’t believe she’d lost it.
“Everything okay here?” Nicole asked, hard eyes set on Champ.
Waverly ran her hand over Nicole’s arm. As hot as Nicole was when angry, Waverly couldn’t help but try to ease her, make her smooth and yielding to her touch.
“Whatever,” Champ threw at them as he walked backward. He looked like a kicked puppy trying to put on a brave face. Years gone by and he still hadn’t grown up. Like, at all.
Finally free of that blast from the past, Waverly got Nicole’s full attention.
“My ring,” she whined again and even threw in a pout for good measure. “I lost it.”
Waverly held Nicole’s left hand and caressed her ring finger, which also held no ring.
That had her frowning. This was way too many curve balls in too few minutes.
“Nicole, where is your ring?”
“What ring, Waverly?”
She could tell Nicole was getting exasperated with the lack of answers. Well, so was Waverly!
“Our-” She started to say but held back. Waverly looked again at Nicole’s uniform, at her face – beautiful, and pretty much unmarked except for that scar and her beauty mark. Same as it had always been and yet- and yet… younger.
Waverly turned from Nicole and ran back into the station, past the reception and the Sheriff’s office and the break room and, finally, into the BBD. The table held old donuts and dirty foam cups and the package Nicole had given her, but no big, leather-covered book. No hourglass. Where the hell was that damn hourglass? There was nothing at the seat where she’d fallen asleep. How hadn’t she noticed that before? She checked her reflection on her cellphone camera, just to be sure, and she- she looked like a baby.
“Waverly -” Nicole came barging in after her. “Waverly, what’s going on? Do you want me to call Wynonna?”
Wynonna. If Waverly had gotten herself back in time, then Wynonna was still around and- Could she tell anyone else that she’d apparently travelled back in time? Wouldn’t that change her future? Every SciFi movie seemed to think so.
No. Waverly had to figure this out on her own. Preferably before she managed to screw something up.
She was back. Nicole was wearing khakis and so was Nedley, and Champ still thought that they were together. That meant… Hypnos. Hypnos was still alive. He’d gotten her into this mess (well, kinda), so he’d better get her out of it.
In the end it was pretty simple.
Hypnos was a master of time. He knew what was to come and the part that Nicole had played (or would play) in keeping his daughter, Poppy, safe, and he knew what Waverly would come to mean to Nicole. The elemental part that Wynonna played in his demise didn’t seem to be a factor for him.
He was just a dad.
Waverly’s role was straightforward.
The hard part would be to get the consciousness of her 21-year-old self in the same spot as she’d be and holding onto the hourglass.
Waverly had been thrown back simply according to how many times she’d turned the hourglass, but now that there was one of her in possession of the hourglass in this present and another Waverly in possession of the hourglass in her present, that would guide its effect. Hopefully. As long as they were occupying the same space.
Goodness, she hoped 21-year-old Waverly was as smart as she remembered herself to be.
Waverly would sit herself at the station, on the same chair she’d sat just a few hours ago and hope her wife and herself could figure this out from the other side.
Waverly’s eyelids blinked lethargically, the fading lights of the day reflecting uncomfortably on an hourglass and making her squeeze her eyes shut. Slowly she raised her head, noticing that her pillow was actually a book. And Nicole was there, looking at her with so much affection it felt… displaced. Was she dreaming? Oh, Dolls would be pissed if he knew that dream Nicole had entered the BBD office without his permission.
“Hey, sleepy head,” Nicole half-whispered to her.
Waverly smiled. Nicole was so sweet.
“I’m going home soon, you coming with? Our bed is much more comfortable than this chair.”
Our bed? Well, this dream was taking a turn.
“What do you mean?” Waverly asked, and reached up with her arms to stretch her back. The loud pop took away a bit of the dream fog that seemed to be revolving around her, and she fell back into the chair, relaxed but more alert.
Nicole squatted in front on her and steadied herself by holding on to Waverly’s knees.
“I think you’re still asleep,” she said, running her hands up Waverly’s thighs and squeezing.
That. That felt very real.
Waverly jumped and almost overturned the chair in her haste to put some distance between them.
That had been way too intimate.
Scratch that. It’d been way out of line.
“What the hell, Nicole?” Waverly Earp was plenty awake.
Nicole frowned, as if she was confused (confused!) by Waverly’s reaction. Unfreakingbelievable.
“You can’t just touch me like that. I know that you- I know you…” Waverly licked her lips, unsure of how to put it. “You like me, but you can’t just- I was just thinking you were sweet! You can’t grab me like that!”
Nicole looked at her, surprise clearly stated by the high arch of her perfect eyebrows, and then she settled, steady as she held Waverly’s gaze. That intensity and attention, it was unnerving. Waverly felt like Nicole could read her every thought, written in her eyes as if on the page of a diary.
“Okay. I’m sorry,” Nicole seemed to recognize her mistake. Or at least recognize something. “Please sit down with me?”
Waverly was shaking. Anger, maybe. She felt way too aware of her body.
“No, I don’t want to.”
“Please,” Nicole asked again, her eyes soft as they always were around her, and her hands on the table, palms up, asking for Waverly’s.
Waverly complied hesitantly.
Nicole’s hands were smooth except for two small calluses right below the base of her ring and middle fingers. She squeezed Waverly’s hands, calling her attention, then started teasing her thumb over the ring on Waverly’s ring finger.
Weird. Waverly didn’t remember that one.
“I have one just like yours,” Nicole said, and Waverly noticed the golden band on her left hand.
“Okay?” she asked, still confused as to where this was going.
“Do you -” Nicole paused and searched Waverly's eyes again - “do you know why we have the same ring?”
Waverly didn’t answer. Surely Nicole wasn’t implying what Waverly thought she was. Surely.
She simply shrugged.
“I know you know what this means. And I know you'll freak out. Please don't freak out.”
“I know a prank when I see one, Nicole. Did Wynonna put you up to this while I was asleep?”
Nicole shook her head and squeezed Waverly’s hands again. “Baby, I am your wife, we’re married.”
A laugh escaped Waverly. Yea right.
Nicole pressed a button on her phone and showed Waverly her lock screen – the both of them standing in a field, Waverly in white, both smiling through tears.
Waverly’s eyes devoured the picture. It was fake, obviously. It was ridiculous. But it had her heart running so fast she feared it might crack a rib.
“I think you’re suffering some kind of memory loss.”
“Are you for real right now?!” Waverly stood at once, her chair pushed away from the table forcefully, making an awful dragging sound as it scratched the floor.
“With your puppy eyes and polite manners just to, what? Gaslight me?”
Waverly was angry, she was pissed. She was, somehow, heartbroken. She’d never expected Nicole-
Waverly ran out of the station. She needed to get away. And where the hell was her Jeep? Why wasn’t it where she’d parked it?
Wynonna. She needed Wynonna.
Waverly pulled her phone from her pants’ pocket, her trembling hands almost dropping it in her haste to make a call.
“Hey, baby girl,” Wynonna answered promptly on the other end of the line.
“Can you come get me at the station? I can’t find my car.”
“What do you mean? I’m in Montana.”
Waverly huffed. So not the time to make jokes. “No, you’re not, I saw you this morning.”
“What do you mean you saw me this morning?”
“Wynonna, please! Just- Just come get me.”
“Baby girl, I’ll get the first flight I can and come see you, but I can’t pick you up at the station right now. Where's Nicole?”
“Nicole is acting way too forward and I- I thought she was sweet, I never thought she would act like that, she was suddenly-”
“Nicole was too forward? Isn’t that usually you?”
“Wynonna,” Waverly pleaded, a small sniff advertising how upset she was. She was frustrated, and that frustration would soon come out in the form of tears. She really needed to get away from the station and from a certain officer before that happened. “You won’t come get me?”
“Baby girl, I understand you’re upset with her, but she’s your wife. If you tell her that you didn’t like something she did, I’m sure she’ll never do it again.”
“My wife? Are you in on this joke too? It’s not funny, Wynonna!”
“What joke, Waverly? You know what, I’m buying a ticket right now. Something’s clearly wrong.”
Waverly felt so confused she didn’t know where to start asking questions. She decided for what seemed most urgent.
“You’re really not in Purgatory?”
“I’m really not, but I’m on my way, okay, baby girl? I’m on my way.”
By the time the dull beep announced the end of the call, a couple of tears had already escaped her. And, when she brushed them off, not too far away, metallic red caught her attention.
At least the drive to the homestead was familiar. The house, on the other hand, was definitely not as she’d left it in the morning. There were plaques with Nicole’s and Doc’s names where before there’d only been the Earp mailbox. Flowers decorated most of the porch, and the house itself seemed warmer. There were pictures of Wynonna and her and Doc, but, most importantly, there were pictures of Nicole and her, smiling and kissing – a cheek, a forehead, on the lips, in a white dress. If this was a prank, it was a really elaborate one. Or maybe it was a spell. Maybe Nicole was a demon.
She entered her room and there were pictures of them everywhere. Flannels she’d never seen before were in her wardrobe, and that faint vanilla smell that always followed after Nicole was on her sheets. Her own bed wasn’t the same one that she’d had before.
Finally accepting that something was wrong, Waverly picked up her phone. Wynonna seemed to trust Nicole with Waverly. That would have to be enough.
The camera opened by accident, and the preview of the last picture called Waverly’s attention.
It was Nicole, standing in front of a beautiful sunset on the homestead’s front lawn, her eyes warm as she looked at the photographer. At Waverly.
Waverly swiped her thumb over the screen, more pictures of the same day showing up, and then a video.
She heard her own voice coming from behind the camera – put on a show for me, baby –, and in front of it was Nicole, laying on her bed- Waverly’s bed. Waverly watched as her own hand disappeared under Nicole’s thin gray shirt, its journey upward leaving Nicole’s belly exposed. Through the shirt she could see the movement of her hand squeezing Nicole’s breasts, and Nicole arched up toward her.
“Baby, put the camera away,” Nicole asked in the video, her voice strained at first, and then showing more control – “I don’t want a sex tape of us going viral. I don’t think my career could survive that.”
“No,” Waverly’s own voice sing-songed, “this is for my eyes only.”
Waverly watched as her hand traveled back down to pull at the band of Nicole’s underwear.
“Baby,” Nicole pleaded, the sound an airy, needy little whine. “No cameras.”
There was movement in the angle of the camera, and then Waverly could see herself snuggled up to Nicole.
“Sorry, future self, our girl is camera-shy.”
The video stopped and the replay button showed up.
That- that was way too real.
Waverly swallowed, now uncomfortably aware of how tightly her clothes hugged her. She walked to the full-length mirror by the door and studied herself. There were definitely more lines around her eyes and mouth.
Amnesia was the only explanation, wasn’t it?
She ran her hands through her hair, her short hair, and pressed against her scalp, but she couldn’t find any sore spots.
Maybe a spell?
She was suddenly running down the stairs to go back to the station and get her books, but Nicole was already there, at the homestead, book in hand.
“Hey,” Nicole offered an awkward smile. “Please don’t be scared, but you left this book open on the table and an hourglass. This Spanish is different than what I’m used to; still, I figured… time travel, right?”
Waverly swallowed. She hadn’t been sure about trusting Nicole before, but now… She couldn’t imagine anyone more hers than Nicole had been in that video.
“That or memory loss. But if there was an hourglass involved, I assume you’re right.”
“Yea. So, I called Poppy, she’s… You don’t know her yet. Her dad used to be a time demon or something like that? She told me what we have to do.”
Nicole had explained it to her on the way back to the station, but now, sitting in her Jeep right before the building, Waverly felt unsure. Reluctant.
“We’re really married?” She asked, and stared. Hungry for something that wasn’t hers yet.
And Waverly could ask if they were happy, but it was written all over Nicole’s affectionate gaze and on the pictures that hung on the homestead walls. Her body, her future body vibrated with it.
“And me knowing that… Won’t that mess things up once I’m back to my time?”
“Poppy said it might; so, the more genuine you can be to yourself, the better. But she also said that some things are harder to change, some things just have to happen, one way or another.”
Waverly nodded. She didn’t really know this Nicole years in her future, but she knew her own. “For what is worth, I hope I don’t change a thing.”
Nicole blushed beautifully, and her eyes didn’t leave Waverly’s even for a moment.
“I hope so too.”
Waverly felt as if she’d just taken 37 spins on a merry-go-round.
She leaned heavily on the table to avoid falling off the chair, and then, quick as it had come, the dizziness stopped.
Feeling a familiar anxious energy focused on her, Waverly looked up.
“Did it work?” Nicole asked, with that hopeful look in her eyes and apprehensive tension on her jaw. Ready to fight for her.
And Waverly smiled, relieved. “I think so, sweetie.”
With a content sigh, Nicole crouched down in front of her.
“Can I touch you?”
Waverly felt the marks around her eyes deepen. They were all Nicole’s doing. This damn woman made her smile too much.
“Oh, will the world please stop spinning,” Waverly muttered to herself as the empty BBD office twirled around her.
And then it did.
“Waverly?” A tentative tone sounded from behind the closed door. “I saw you rush in again. Are you okay?”
“Yea,” Waverly answered. “Come in.”
Nicole walked in slowly, her focus intent on Waverly, on studying her. It felt more familiar now.
“Are you okay?” She asked again. “You seemed really off.”
“Yea, I think I am. Just a weird day.”
Nicole nodded once, unconvinced at best. “And did you find your ring?”
“You were very upset about having lost it earlier.”
“Oh. Yes, I suppose I found it.”
“You suppose?” Nicole repeated, firmer than she usually was with Waverly. Nicole didn’t seem inclined to give her a get out of jail free card.
“Would you believe me if I said I had a very vivid dream and woke up confused?”
Nicole frowned. “No, not really.”
“Yea… But it was something like that.”
Nicole nodded again, a resigned dullness in her usually soulful eyes.
“Hey,” Waverly called to her, an apology hidden in her tone. After what she’d seen today, Waverly couldn’t bare to watch Nicole walk away from her like that. “I think I still owe you that coffee. Are you free tonight?”
“Yea?” Nicole asked, hesitant, but already lighter than she’d been a moment ago. “I’m free. Completely free.”
The smile pulling at Nicole’s lips took Waverly’s too.
“Just don't change out of your uniform, okay? I'm a big fan.”