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Buttercup's ears were now caked with Snow Sand all the way in, and her nose was filled with Snow Sand, both nostrils, and she knew if she opened her eyes a million tiny fine bits of Snow Sand would seep behind her eyelids, and now she was beginning to panic badly. How long had she been falling? Hours, it seemed, and she was having pain in holding her breath.

With a soft sigh, you lower your weathered copy of The Princess Bride, adventures of Buttercup and Wesley no longer holding the attention of your tired mind. You shift in your seat, all the feeling in your butt almost gone from sitting so long. As you move Calamity Jane lifts her head and lets out a soft irritated meow, your movement obviously jarring her where’s she’s curled up on your feet. You reach down, your fingers rubbing at black fur until she starts purring and settles her head back onto her paws.

You lean your head against the wall behind you, letting it loll to the side so you can gaze out the dark window.

The brightness of the room almost causes too much of a glare on the plexiglass, but your eyes can still make out the edge of the driveway and the trees at the edge of the property. The yard is calm and almost serene as snow slowly drifts to the ground, which is already blanketed in a thick layer of snow. The dark landscape is beautiful, lit by the quarter moon in the sky.

It’s funny that you’re sitting here, gazing into the dark night, contemplating the beauty of it because when you were younger, looking out the window at scared you beyond belief.

Maybe it was because you were afraid a revenant might be looking back at you.

(Maybe it was because you were scared to see your own eyes peering back at you.)

With Nicole in the know about the curse now, the two of you had spent a lot of nights at the safety of the Homestead where revenants couldn’t get to you. But the Homestead was old and it wasn’t immune to natural attacks. With the temperatures so low in Purgatory, the heater had finally given out and froze over, and without it, the house was too drafty for the lone fireplace to fend off the cold.

So you are here, wrapped in one of Nicole’s old sweaters, the scent of vanilla, a faint hint of gunpowder, and something that is uniquely Nicole filling your senses. You’d found yourself unable to sleep, craving the steadying presence of girlfriend. So you’d dragged yourself to the living room, Calamity Jane trailing behind you, and perched yourself on the quaint and spacious window seat in the living room, digging your book from the shelf below that you’d commandeered for your favorite books months ago.

(Nicole herself is working the late shift, something that you know is filled with endless paper working and going out into the cold to drag drunk shitheads to a jail cell. The thought of Nicole in the cold dark makes you extremely uneasy, but you’ve long come to terms with the fact that she’s a cop and more than capable of handling herself. Plus the fact that she now knows what she’s up against and isn’t just blindly wandering amongst revenants.)

Nicole’s house is much newer than the Homestead and a lot smaller so the warmth easily spreads through the house and settles into your bones.

The warmth of her home is nothing compared to the coldness of the Homestead, and you can’t help but see the symbolism in that.

Growing up, the Homestead was never your home.

You only had vague memories of your mama and very few of them were pleasant. Daddy, well Daddy had never paid much attention to you. Wynonna used to assure you that Daddy loved you just as much as the rest of them, but when no one else was around to hear, Willa would tell you the truth. The truth that you were an accident and that you weren’t even an Earp. Mama had strayed and you were her punishment, her reason for leaving.

You usually never believed the things that Willa said, but on your fifth birthday, Daddy wasn’t home and you came home to a cake that Wynonna had obviously tried very hard to make, but had failed miserably. Daddy had forgotten it was your birthday so Wynonna had attempted to make it better. That was her. Good, old Wynonna, always trying to fix everything. Always trying to make up for Daddy’s neglect and Willa’s abuse. Always trying to love you enough for a mama, a daddy, and a sister. Always trying to protect her tiny, quiet sister from harm’s way.

But Wynonna couldn’t protect you from heartbreak and couldn’t protect you from Wynonna. Because it hurt when Mama left, and it hurt when Daddy and Willa died, but nothing hurt more than coming home from school and slowly realizing that Wynonna was gone again and this time she wasn’t coming back.

To say, you childhood was shit is putting it nicely.

Growing up, you never felt a sense of home. The Homestead wasn’t yours. It was Daddy’s and Willa’s and Wynonna’s. Wynonna loved you more than anyone did, but she was always trailing Willa, unaware of the way your oldest sister treated you. You never got to play with the good toys, you never got to pick what cartoons to watch, you never got to join their games outside. So you found the thing that neither of them had any interest in: books.

Willa teased you, calling you a nerd and telling you were gonna go blind from staring at tiny words on pages, but you just ignored her. You’d found something even she couldn’t ruin.

None of the kids at school paid much attention to you. They weren’t mean to you, just uninterested. Bobo had been your first friend. Bobo danced with you in the fields. Bobo had helped you climb up onto the hay bales. Bobo had played hide and seek with you in the barn. Bobo had filled your life with companionship and adventure.

Bobo had manipulated you. Bobo got your father and sister killed and caused you and Wynonna endless pain.

Gus and Curtis tried their very best and loved you like their own. They were the reason that you’d had a chance at normalcy and given you a sense of belonging. But even there you still came second to Wynonna’s endless problems.

You don’t blame Wynonna for any means. You knew the trauma from seeing Daddy die, you can’t imagine what the guilt of accidentally killing him feels like. You knew that Wynonna was just crumbling under the weight of the guilt and pain and anguish. But when you lay awake at night, in the dark where no one could see you, you couldn’t help but feel bitter. Wynonna had gotten Daddy’s attention before and now, between getting locked up and getting in constant trouble, she got Gus and Curtis’s as well.

People at school and in town whispered when you walked by. You just smiled and walked on by, ignoring them like everyone ignored you. But as much as you acted unaffected and as much as you buried your nose into books, you couldn’t help but feel cold of their stares.

Time passed and so did people’s morbid fascination. Wynonna skipped town and the town started to see you as Gus and Curtis’s kid, the Earp that turned out sort of okay. Stares lessened and whispers died down, and for once, you felt the pressure die down.

You made friends at high school. They weren’t the kind of girls you really wanted to spend time with, but they were nice to you and there were only 58 kids in your class so there were slim pickings. You got older and matured, and boys began to whistle in the halls and people began to describe you as “easy on the eyes”. You became more popular as people started paying attention to you, realizing that you weren’t insane and you weren’t another fucked-up Earp. (You didn’t even know if you were an Earp at all; Willa had been cold and manipulative, but there was no way for you to know if she was telling the truth because Daddy had been shot dead by his own gun before you could ask.)

You had a couple of boyfriends that went as quickly as they’d came. None of them were particularly interesting; all of them were cut from the same Purgatory cloth.

Then, when you were seventeen, Champ Hardy had strolled in. Champ’s dad had grown up in Purgatory, but had moved away after graduating, and now years later, he’d returned bringing his son with him. All the girls loved Champ. He was handsome and he had tattoos and he fixed cars in his wife beater and he was new. All the girls had eyes for Champ, but Champ had set his sights on you.

Champ wasn’t particularly your type, but he was sweet to you, and he was cute, and he chose you. So you subjected yourself to being with him for four years. You weren’t unhappy in your relationship with him, but you were completely happy either. But you lived in a small and convinced yourself that Champ Hardy was the best you were ever gonna get.

You graduated at the top of your class, and you gave a stupid speech at graduation that was mostly stolen from the internet and various books. You threw your cap in the air, and the very next day, you were wiping tables at Shorty’s.

Gus and Curtis had always urged you to go off somewhere. There had been endless talks of scholarships, but you denied them all. The work at Shorty’s was enjoyable and you filled all your free time with online courses and studying the Earp curse.

You threw yourself into finding a way to break the curse. You poured over every resource and found every name of every revenant that you could. You kept a calendar, counting down the days. You made up some story about Shorty not wanting people sleeping over in your apartment so you had an excuse to kick Champ out; you couldn’t have him finding your notes.

You desperately searched for ways to break the curse without the heir because you loved her so much, but you didn’t know if Wynonna was come back when she was 27. You didn’t know if you’d have to face this thing alone.

But Curtis died and you lost the closest thing you’d ever had to a father and you couldn’t even mourn properly because Wynonna did come back and the shitshow started.

The revenants took you as bait, but as they prepared their plans, you wondered if it would even work. Fifteen years ago, Wynonna would've burned the world just to make you happy, but you wondered if this version of your sister, the vagabond drunk, even cared enough to not turn tail and run. You stood there, straining to stay steady on the stool, a thick rope loose around your neck. You had to resigned yourself to your fate when Wynonna had rode up, dirting flying and gun drawn.

Things had improved a little after Wynonna’s return. The two of you have worked a lot of things out, and despite your lingering problems, you love Wynonna more than anything in the world and you know that she feels the same. Hunting revenants had given you a sense of purpose, and Wynonna was starting to realize how smart you were. Dolls had become a surprising friend, even if he was harder to understand than pig Latin written with actual Latin. You finally feel like you belong in Purgatory.

But sometimes, the Homestead feels cold, even on a hot summer day. Most of the time, Wynonna is out with Dolls on a Black Badge case, or getting drunk, or out doing whatever is Wynonna does when she’s not shooting or drunk. And now that Doc has left, finding himself a more permanent place to rest his mustache, it’s empty.

Just like it was when you were little.

It’s a completely different situation and you try not to dwell on it, but late at night, when you’re the only one home or Wynonna’s passed out cold, the silence just settles over the old walls in a way that makes you uneasy.

The sound of gravels crunching under wheels drags out of where you’ve retreated in your mind. The headlights of the cruiser brushes off the cold of the Homestead and of your memories.

You tuck the book back into it’s rightful place. The lights of the cruiser shut off, and in the moonlight you can barely make out the outline of Nicole’s body. Calamity Jane jumps down, meowing at the door as Nicole’s key scratches at the lock.

A sharp, cold wind bursts through the door as Nicole slips in, and you shiver just the tiniest bit, pulling the sleeves of the sweater down further. You’re not sure if Nicole’s noticed you tucked away at the window, knowing how she gets when she’s tired. She reaches down to pet Calamity Jane, and your content to watch her post-work routine.

She shrugs off her heavy jacket, dusting off the thin sprinkling of snow and hanging it on the rack. She quickly unlaces her boots, placing them neatly by the door. Next is her belt; she carefully disconnects her holster and badge, placing them in the drawer of the table next to the door, and the utility belt follows. She deposits her keys in the bowl on the table, the same bowl that holds yours. Last, she reaches up to remove the stetson, hanging it on top of the same rack that her coat hangs from.

This is a routine that never ceases to enthrall you. Officer Haught and Nicole are completely different people, not in bad way, but in a way that most cops have. You love every side of her, but you love watching her strip away layer after layer until the officer is gone and only Nicole remains, the Nicole that only you have the privilege to see.

She turns, her dazzling grin spreading across her face as she catches sight of you. “Hey, baby,” her voice is soft, but it’s loud compared to the silence of the past few hours. She moves across the room, sliding onto the seat with you.

Your smile matches yours as your eyes meet and you legs widen so she can settle in between your knees. Her hands slip around your waist, pulling you into her lap in a move that isn’t seductive or intentional; it’s just gentle and her wanting you close and it makes you laugh as your hands fly to her shoulders. Her neck is cold to the touch and you slide your hands across it, pressing the warmth of your skin into hers.

“You couldn’t sleep?” She asks, ever concerned about you, and the fact that you’re up past midnight gives her cause to worry; you’ve pulled a few late nights when there was a revenant to chase or when you used to close at Shorty’s, but at times like this, rare moments of calm, you were usually in the bed at eleven-thirty. The way that she knows you so well makes a pleasant feeling swell in your chest. Your hands reach up into her hair, deftly undoing her braid in a move that you’d perfected after almost a year of dating.

“I missed you.” You say in a leiu of an answer, and you thread your fingers through her bright, now wavy hair. You move them up to quickly massage at her scalp, knowing how the hairdo hurts her head after the long hours of her shift. She hums softly with contentment and pleasure, and it doesn’t take much for you to tug her forward and connect your lips.

Her lips are still cold, but quickly warming up as your own move against them. Your eyes slip close, and your hands thread through her soft hair. Her hands are solid and warm through the sweater, not wandering across your body, but just there to support you.

Kissing Nicole for the first time had been a revelation.

There had been obvious factors like that she was a girl, and her lips were softer and she tasted like flavored chapstick, not beer. Her hair was longer than Champ’s and you thoroughly enjoyed weaving your hands through it. Nicole’s body felt different against yours, solid and strong, but soft and feminine.

But she also differs from Champ in ways that have nothing to do with her gender. With Champ, every kiss that lasted more than three seconds was considered sexual. His hands were always pawing over your body and every time he pressed up against you, it was to show you how turned on he was.

Things with Nicole often got sexual, but the moments like this were just as fulfilling. You’ve never felt this level of intimacy with Champ. The enjoyment of just kissing her. Pressing up against her just to get as close as possible. Hands wandering across skin, not in an attempt to excite you or get something out of you; hands that just simply wanted to drink in your warmth. Nicole could make your head swim, make you forget about the curse and revenants, she could make you forget and just let you be.

The kiss ended naturally, Nicole resting her forehead against yours as your hands played with the ends of her hair. For a moment, you just stay there, staring at each other eyes and drinking each other in. You and Champ had never shared these kind of moments, never had this level of intimacy.

“What’s going on in that head of yours?” You can feel the warmth of Nicole’s breath where it hits you cheek, and you drag your fingers down to trace the skin under her collar, delighting in the way that she melts under your touch. “Something’s bothering you; I can see in your eyes.” She dips her head to press the faintest kiss on your cheek. “You know you can tell me, if you want.”

That’s another thing with Nicole. It’s always if you want and it’s up to you. If you told her to, she would drop it in an instant, not ask a single question and let you keep your thoughts to yourself. She’s been like that from the beginning, accepting your rejection for coffee and just walking away with a smile. She never pushes, just accepts what you give her and you find yourself wanting to give her everything. Unlike with Champ, she doesn’t think that as her girlfriend, you have to always tell her everything, she doesn’t see you you as an object of her possession; she sees you as her equal, as her partner, and she respects you just as just as you respect her.

You shrug, “I was just going down memory lane, and” you sigh, your eyes dropping to your lap. Nicole still doesn’t know a lot about your life before the seven attacked, and as much as you love and trust her, it’s still hard to talk about, the crushing loneliness that filled your younger years. You feel guilty for pitying yourself when Daddy and Willa ended up dead and Wynonna ended up haunted and traumatized. “Memory lane isn’t a pleasant trip for me.”

She doesn’t say anything, just waits to see if you’re going to elaborate on the melancholy that had plagued you before she’d gotten home. But you don’t say anything else, you leave it at that. She nods minutely, you probably wouldn’t even had noticed the movement if your foreheads weren’t pressed together. Nicole opens her mouth to say something, but it’s almost immediately cut off by a yawn, her head turning away from yours. You let out a light laugh which she joins in as soon as her yawn releases her. You begin to realize your own state of exhaustion, your eye-lids are beginning to feel heavy and your body aching from sitting at the window for the last two hours.

You press a kiss against the now-completely warm skin of Nicole’s jaw, and you slip off her and off the window seat. You glance at the clock sitting on her mantle, the hands indicating that it’s 2:07 in the morning. Despite a long day and the late hour, it’s peaceful. Nicole lives near the town square so her street usually busy for Purgatory standards, but there’s no cars or traffic; there’s just silence. It’s like you’re the only two people in the world and nothing can touch this moment.

You look back at your girlfriend who is already staring at you. She has a soft smile on her face, and despite the clear exhaustion, the light in her eyes is bright as they connect with yours. You feel your heart swell, wondering how lucky you are that this woman had come into your life. She was so much different that all of the other people in your life. Everyone else, Wynonna, Dolls, Doc, even Gus, were all weathered and tough from the things they’d been through. Nicole is tough is her own right, determined, brave, and loyal to a fault, but she’s also soft and almost untouched by the horrors of the world you live in.

You reach out for her, and she pushes off the the window to sit up and takes your hand in hers. Her skin is soft and inviting against yours, and you tug gently on her hand until she gets the message and stands to her feet. “Let’s get to bed.” You say quietly, and Nicole’s second yawn of the night only serves as agreement.

You move through the hall and into the dark bedroom. The bed is still messy from where you had attempted sleep earlier, and you easily slid onto your side and under the covers. There’s just enough moonlight spilling into the room that you can watch as Nicole sheds her uniform and slip into a baseball tee and her sweats. You smile at the sight of her in what she calls “her comfy clothes” with her auburn locks spilling everywhere. She’s just so gentle and soft and you just can’t believe the beautiful hand that life had dealt you.

She slips in beside you, and you can feel her feet brush against hers. You wait until she’s comfortable, and then you scoot closer. You tuck one of your ankles between hers and nestle your head against her chest. Your arm slips around her waist, fingers sneaking under the hem of her shirt to press into the small of her back. Her hand comes to rest firmly on your shoulder.

You lay here, knowing that at any moment a revenant could walk onto her property. If one of them were to figure out that you were here and attack, you would have no other weapon other than praying that Wynonna answers her phone.

You should feel vulnerable, but the truth is you’ve never felt safer in your life. Tangled up with Nicole, her chin tucked on the top of your head and the steady, comforting sound of her heartbeat in your ear, you have never felt protected.

Nicole’s house had never been attacked by demons from hell, a witch, or military assassins. Nicole’s house had never been the sight of family drama and disputes. Nicole’s house didn’t have a room for a young girl that would never sleep there again.

It was just a house that Nicole had bought and made into a home and over the past year, you’d like to think that you’ve helped make it into her home. That maybe, once the revenants were gone and the curse was broken, that it could be your home.

It was just the two of you and the cat, and you can’t help but think that it’s home in a way that the Homestead never has been. That maybe the element that was always missing was Nicole. That she was your home.

“I know,” Nicole started, barely whispering, but it was enough for you to hear, “I know that you don’t like talking about your life before we met. I know enough to understand that you’ve been through a lot.” She stays silent for a moment, and you can almost hear her mulling over what she’s going to say next. “I just want you to know that no matter what, I’ll be here. No matter what happens, Waves, I’ll always be by your side.”

You don’t say anything for a moment. You just let the words wash over you, let the warmth of the love you share swell inside of you. “You are all I could ever want.” You said just as quietly, and you can feel her smile as she wraps her arm tighter around you.

You lay there, and as you listen to the beat of her heart, steady and constant and there, you let sleep take you.