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Hold On

Chapter Text

For what felt like the hundredth time in just a few short weeks, Nicole Haught had no idea what was going on.

From the frantic way Wynonna and Doc had rushed her out of the station, still bruised and breathless from her near-brush with death, she knew it was something serious. Those suspicions went from bad to worse when Wynonna and Doc dragged her out into the parking lot, smuggled her into the passenger's seat of an abandoned squad car, and sped off toward the Earp house, going well above the speed limit on the abandoned roads.

Considering Wynonna's tendency to cut through most bullshit, and Doc's loquacity—his word, not hers—their silence on the drive was telling. All she got in response to "Where is Waverly?" and "She's all right, isn't she?" and "Seriously, Wynonna, if you don't tell me where my girlfriend is, I'm going to kick your ass, top-shelf or not," were pitying looks, and a clenched, "She's fine, sort of," from Wynonna,  interspersed with the nervous tapping of fingers on the steering wheel.

Something was very, very wrong, and since Waverly wasn't with them...

No, Nicole told herself, refusing to jump to the worst possible conclusions. Whatever happened, she's going to be okay. Wynonna wouldn't have told me Waverly was fine if she was really... Nicole couldn't bring herself to even think the word 'dead', but she did grip the assault rifle in her lap tighter, just for extra security.

Waverly was scrappy. She was tough. She was the single smartest person Nicole had ever met, and there was no way anything bad had happened to her. That wasn't the way stories worked. The heroes always won. Waverly had told her so, and she believed it. She had to believe it.

Still, that didn't stop her from leaping out of the squad car faster than a rabbit as soon as it pulled to a stop outside the Earp house. She was halfway up the drive before Wynonna and Doc had even scrambled out—Doc with some difficulty, since he had been in the locked back seat—and she didn't slow down until they started calling after her.

"Nicole, wait!"

"I must admit," Doc Holliday said, panting as he jogged up to her side, "you are remarkably spry on your feet for an officer of the law who has just taken a bullet to the chest."

Truthfully, Nicole could still feel every bit of the ugly bruise beneath her shirt, but pain was the furthest thing from her mind. Waverly. She had to figure out what had happened to Waverly. Had to...

"He's right, Nicole. Slow down. It's urgent, but not—"

"Then why didn't you talk to me on the way over?" Nicole asked, stopping on the front porch and whirling around. Wynonna and Doc were both standing on the steps behind her, wearing identical shadows of worry on their faces.

"Because it's not easy to explain, and we still don't know what's going on," Wynonna said. She faltered for a moment, but then her chiseled jaw firmed up, and her eyes took on a steel glint of determination. Nicole recognized it at once: love, fierce and protective. "Come inside, and we'll show you what we're dealing with. Waverly's in the bedroom. She isn't hurt, but...she's not herself."

"Not herself?"

"Yeah. And, uh, we may or may not have had to tie her to a chair."

"Wait, what?" Nicole asked, but this time, she was the one hurrying to catch up as Doc and Wynonna headed into the house. It was a frightful mess, with shattered windows still boarded up and furniture scattered across the floor from a scuffle Nicole could only imagine, but she picked her way through the chaos as fast as she could. Her ears had picked up a strange sound coming from upstairs, something almost like...

Moaning?

"Waverly," she gasped, whirling toward the stairs and preparing to take them two at a time. She barely touched the wood, scrambling up and lunging for the door to the left of the stairs, where the strange noises were emanating.

The sight that met her was one she would never have anticipated in a million years. Waverly was indeed tied to a chair, sitting in the middle of the room, and she looked awful. Her hair was in disarray, and a bruise had begun to bloom across her left cheek. Nicole gasped and slid to her knees next to the chair, her hands immediately going to undo the restraints keeping her girlfriend tied down. “Hold on, Waves. I’ll get you out of that—”

“No! Nicole, you can’t.” The fractured nature of Waverly’s voice cut through Nicole’s fugue of worry and determination. Her hands froze over the knots, and she looked up with clear confusion.

“Waverly…”

“Unless you’re prepared to knock her out again, I would not be undoing those ropes, Officer Haught,” Doc drawled from somewhere behind her.

Nicole stared up with undisguised anger. Her chest hurt like hell, her back hurt like hell, her girlfriend was currently captive in some strange, inexplicable situation, and right now, all she wanted to do was find the culprit and kick them a little. Preferably with her nice, heavy uniform boots.

“You hit her.” It was an accusation, not a question.

“I hit her.” Nicole had never heard Wynonna Earp so tired and bereft of humour. Even in the strangest situations, the elder Earp had always seemed to have a quip at hand. Now, she looked like someone had killed her puppy.

"You hit her?”

“And I don’t want to have to do it again, so don’t untie her.”

Nicole climbed to her feet, ignoring the various pains in her body. “Now hey, this is—“

She was cut off by a gasp from behind her, one that sounded like Waverly was in pain. She spun around again, feeling somewhat like a child’s spinning toy.

“Nicole… you have… to listen to them…”

Nicole knelt by Waverly’s chair, and rested her hand on one of the bound girl’s knees. “Baby…”

“No… not safe… not.. you need to get away… need you to go… listen to them… they… know.”

The violent way Waverly shuddered was enough to send Nicole scrambling back a few feet in surprise, Waverly threw her head back and moaned, an unearthly sound that chilled Nicole’s very bones. Then, Waverly’s head flopped forward. Nicole would have moved back to her side then if it hadn’t been for a gentle hand on her shoulder, squeezing, holding her back.

And then Waverly slowly lifted her head, and it was Nicole’s turn to gasp as she stared into eyes blacker than the darkest night.

“Why hello, Officer.”

That voice. It wasn't unpleasant. In fact, it was a sweet sort of hiss, slithering seductively into Nicole's ears. But it was all wrong, and it definitely wasn't Waverly. Waverly chirped proudly in Latin and laughed easily and stammered over herself when she was excited about some new discovery. This was someone else, some thing else, speaking with Waverly's mouth.

"What the hell are you?" Nicole asked. Her hands clenched into tight, trembling fists, and suddenly, she understood how Wynonna could have thrown a punch. The thought of this thing, whatever it was, inside of Waverly was infuriating. She wanted to rip the voice out, to strangle it until it stopped speaking and she had the real Waverly back.

"Don't worry about Waverly," the voice purred. Waverly smiled—but it was an eerie smile, one that made Nicole's stomach churn and her blood froze with terror. She had kissed those same lips just a few hours ago, and now... "She's still here. Now, if you'll just untie us, I'm sure we can come to some sort of reasonable agreement."

Nicole tensed, wracked with torturous indecision. If some monster had been threatening her lover, she wouldn't have hesitated. She would have thrown herself into the fight without thinking twice. Anything to protect Waverly, who had become one of the most important people in the world to her over the past few chaotic weeks. But how am I supposed to protect her from herself? From something that's actually inside of her?

As hard as it was, she turned away from the chair, ignoring the creature that had replaced Waverly entirely and refusing to respond to it. "What are we dealing with here?" she asked Wynonna and Doc. After witnessing this mess for herself, she understood why they hadn't tried to explain in the car. Any words they might have picked would have been insufficient, no matter how many curses Wynonna used.

"In my estimation, we are dealing with possession of a most demonic sort," Doc Holliday said. His mustache quivered above his lip, and despite the smooth but rapid patter of his words, he was obviously upset. "It is a pity our black badge friend Dolls was taken away by his superiors. He might be privy to more knowledge on the subject."

Nicole opened her mouth, about to ask what had happened to Dolls, but not-Waverly spoke up again, causing her to turn back around.

"I wouldn't listen to that man if I were you, Nicole," she said, and Nicole gritted her teeth at the sound of her name in that voice. "He shot me."

"I most certainly did not," Doc Holliday protested. "I shot at you, and I might add that it was to remove the gun from your hand. The gun you pulled on us."

Not-Waverly laughed, a low, rumbling sound that somehow still managed to crackle with ice. Nicole suddenly found herself being pushed aside as Wynonna stomped up to the chair, gripping the front of Waverly's coat and bending down so their faces were level. "Listen, you shitstain. You're going to get out of her right this fucking second, or I'm gonna make you wish you were back in whatever hell you came from, because what I'll do to you will be way worse. Nobody touches my baby sister."

The laughter was hollow and unworldly, and it sent a chill down Nicole’s spine. Suddenly, she wanted out of this room.

“Oh, Wynonna, how little you know. Would you like to know who’s been touching your baby sister? I can tell you. I can see everything in here.”

Nicole grabbed Wynonna’s arm before the blow could land, hauling her backwards. It might not be Waverly but it was still Waverly’s body.

“You wanna know what Champ did to her? All the dirty little things he did when he could? No?” The cackle returned. “She didn’t really like that idiot as much as she pretended, but oh…oh, I could tell you exactly how she feels when Nicole touches her.”

The look the demon sent Nicole should have been seductive. It was accompanied by that low, resonant purr and a slight bite to the lower lip. All it actually did was make Nicole feel nauseous. She tugged on Wynonna’s elbow where she still had hold.

“Let’s go. We have to find a way to fix her.”

She didn’t want to be in this room anymore, breathing the same air as this creature. This creature had taken her Waverly, and even though Nicole had hauled Wynonna back from the brink, she was afraid that any second it would push her to similar violence.

They hustled out of the room, shutting the door behind them, Nicole desperately trying to keep the laughter from ringing in her ears. She found herself at the kitchen table, staring at Doc and Wynonna as she poured herself a tall order of ubiquitous Earp liquor, drained it and immediately poured another.

“Tell me what happened.”

The story was convoluted. For starters, Wynonna and Doc stumbled over each other’s words, tripping and bouncing through a narrative that just made Nicole want to hurl furniture. She caught bits about Poplar trees, and Willa, and something about goo. Her face burned as she drank her bourbon down, gritting her teeth when it got to the part about Doc shooting the gun from Waverly’s hand.

She gathered her words through the silence.

“How do we stop it? How do we get it out of her?”

More silence ensued. It stretched for an eternity before Wynonna spoke.

“I don’t know. This is the sort of thing Waverly does research for.”

Nicole stood. “I’ll go find her books. I’ll look.”

“I fear that will not be the best use of your time, Officer,” said Doc, with a warning note in his voice. “It would be perilous, not to mention foolish, to leave Waverly alone with that creature for too long. Someone is going to have to remain here with her.”

Nicole stared at him. Stay with her? Stay with the shell of that creature while it laughed at her from behind Waverly’s face? Was he insane?

“He’s right, Nicole. You’re more useful here with her.”

The urge to throw furniture returned and she suppressed it, yet again. She’d always been the cool, calm and collected member of her family, of her friendship groups. Apparently the ability to swallow every feeling you had and return them to the world as ice had not deserted her.

“What are you guys going to do?”

“Find someone. Kick their ass. Get some answers. Save Waverly.”As answers went, Wynonna’s was fairly satisfactory.

“What, you have some secret witch doctor you keep on the outskirts of town?”

There was a silence, and then a strange ripple of expression, almost thought, across Wynonna’s face. Then Doc stood up suddenly.

“Oh no. We are not going back there, I buried that particular problem and I do not intend to unbury it.”

Wynonna grinned. “Who said anything about unburying?”

Chapter Text

Nicole hesitated outside the door to Waverly's bedroom, hand hovering in the air, unable to make herself knock. Her protective instincts urged her to burst into the room and make sure Waverly was all right, but the echo of that awful voice still hung in her ears. Although it had come from her lover's lips, it hadn't held a trace of Waverly at all. It was chilling, inhuman, and though she was no coward, Nicole was terrified of hearing it again. She was afraid to enter the room, to stare at the face she had caressed and kissed and murmured endearments to, and find no trace of the woman who was supposed to be there.

She isn't gone, Nicole told herself, lowering her hand to the knob. The metal burned like cold fire in her hand. She spoke to me before that thing took over. That was her, telling me to get away... Her eyes stung, and she found herself blinking back an unexpected surge of tears. Even while she was fighting against the demon inside her, Waverly had been concerned for her safety. As always, Waverly had been trying to protect her.

Time to return the favor. She needs you, Nicole. What are you gonna do about it?

She entered the room. Waverly was still there, tied to the chair, but instead of looking smug or seductive, her soft brown eyes were wide and terrified. A look of mixed fear and relief washed across her face as Nicole met her gaze, and she sucked in a gasp. "Nicole? No, you can't be here—"

Suddenly, her body jerked, trembling and contorting as she strained against her bonds. With a few sickening jolts, her head snapped into a different pose, tilting almost playfully as her eyes flashed an oily black. When Waverly spoke again, it was in the demon's nauseatingly sweet voice. "Welcome back, Officer Haught. Where are your friends?"

Nicole gritted her teeth. This thing was trying to tease her, playing some sick game by giving her a brief glimpse of the real Waverly before snatching her away. She didn't answer its question. Instead, she stomped over to the bed and sat down, holding herself rigid with her hands in her lap. Inside, she felt helpless, but she tried to keep control by sticking to the plan. Wynonna and Doc will find a solution. I just have to make sure Waverly's body stays safe until they get back. .. and ignore whatever sick stuff this thing tries to tell me.

"Don't feel very talkative?" the demon purred. "That's all right. I have plenty of entertaining memories to listen to inside sweet little Waverly's head."

It was a struggle to remain silent, but somehow, Nicole managed. She wasn't going to be stupid enough to rise to this creature's bait.

"Let's see what we have here... Oh, this is interesting." The demon licked its lips, as though it had tasted something truly delicious. "Do you want to know why it took you nearly dying for Waverly to tell Wynonna about the two of you? Why she spent so many months dancing around you after your first conversation at Shorty's? She wanted you even back then, you know."

Nicole's spine stiffened. Somehow, the demon had managed to hit at a weak spot. It had secretly bothered her, the way Waverly hesitated to tell people about them. She had understood—coming out wasn't easy, especially in a small town like Purgatory—but it had stung nevertheless. She hadn't breathed a word about it to Waverly, though, which only made the demon's taunts more unsettling. Did Waverly know how I felt, even though I didn't tell her? Did she feel pressured to come out for my sake?

"It was because she was ashamed. Ashamed of being seen with another woman. A lesbian. A pervert. "

Nicole's jaw hardened, but she couldn’t conceal the pain those words caused. Her family hadn’t been awful to her, but she’d experienced her fair share of slurs and prejudice. And the thought that Waverly, who was so sweet and kind to everyone, had thought such things about her…

Unless the demon is lying. Why should I believe anything it says?

"You're a demon. I don't think you get to call me a pervert."

"Oh, I'm not a demon, Nicole," the creature said, chuckling to itself. "I'm something much worse."

Nicole looked up and for the first time looked the demon thing whatever it was square in the face. It had been too hard to do so, seeing the blackness with a veneer of Waverly’s face, but now all she could see was the dark.

“It doesn’t actually matter what you are, because once you’re out of her, you’re dead meat.”

The demon (Nicole couldn’t stop calling it that, whatever it said it was), threw its head back and laughed, that horrible, awful sound. “Oh sweetheart, you do tell some lovely stories.” It purred slightly while looking Nicole over. “Of course, having all this delicious raw material, I can tell you some stories of my own.”

Nicole turned her head away. Apparently the demon wasn’t going to shut up.

“Would you like to hear about Champ? About how big his…”

Nicole couldn’t help it, she looked back at the demon and raised an eyebrow.

“You’re right,” it purred, chuckling, “that was gauche at best. No, we can do much better. Hmm… let’s see, let’s see...”

Nicole looked at her own hand, pulling a small piece of grit off her regimental short, polished nail and buffing it a little, anything but looking up.

“Oh my.”

Nicole rolled her eyes. “Yeah. Go on, what now? Do I get an exposé on all of Champ’s tattoos? What Nedley’s ass looks like when his pants fall down? Because I was there for that one.”

The demon smiled. “Oh, I like you. You’re fun. No, I was going to tell you that after what I’ve seen in here, you can untie me.”

It was Nicole’s turn to snort. “Yeah. Sure. I’ll do that right now, just after I win Olympic Gold in synchronised swimming.”

The demon licked its lips. “As enticing as the idea of you in a swimsuit is, I can already see what you look like in nothing.” It grinned again. “Well, nothing but a Stetson.”

Nicole couldn’t help it. She blushed.

“Anyway,” the demon continued, “what I meant to say is that if you have half the skill this little bit thinks you have, you and I could have a LOT of fun.”

Oh god. It was… propositioning her. Nicole shuddered.

“Because I could really, really work with that tongue of yours, you know. And, I still taste like her.”

For a second Nicole’s senses threw her back to a memory, of exactly how sweet Waverly was on her tongue, and the feeling of those thighs trembling around her head. A pulse of arousal shot through her.

Angrily, she growled, “This isn’t going to work. I know you’re not Waverly and I know she’s still in there.”

The demon cocked its head, or Waverly’s head, and gave her a quizzical look. “Oh yes. She’s here. She’s definitely here. Would you like to know what she’s doing?”

“Yes,” spat Nicole. Anything but this weird ass sex talk.

“She’s screaming.”

* * *

“I still think this is an ill advised idea, Wynonna.” Doc drummed his fingers on the window sill of the car as his leg jiggled.

“We’re just going to ask her a few questions. Then we’ll leave again.” Wynonna squinted at the speedometer and pushed the car to fifteen over the limit. “We’re not going to even touch her.”

‘Then why do we have a shovel?”

“She’s not going to talk to us if she doesn’t think we’re going to dig her out.”

Doc said nothing, but his leg jiggled harder.

“Besides,” Wynonna grinned, “If she doesn’t tell us what we want to know, we can always hit her with it.”

Doc gave her a nod, choosing not to speak for once in his life, and Wynonna pressed a little harder on the gas pedal as they turned off the road and drove into the endless nothingness of the salt flats. The line of his shoulders was far too tense for her liking. The quicker they got there and got the information they needed from Clootie, the less time Doc had to think better of their plan and talk himself out of it…if it could even be called a plan.

And the quicker we get back to save Waverly.

Wynonna still felt sick to her stomach at the thought of leaving her sister behind with that thing inside her. Even during the past few years in Europe, when she had been running from her problems instead of shooting them in the face, Waverly had never been far from her thoughts. Waverly was her baby sister, her best friend, the only close family she had left besides Gus. And what did I do? I dragged her right into danger. I got her possessed by a demon. This, all of it, whatever happens to her…it’s my fault.

“Wynonna?”

She hit the brakes, turning right to look at Doc again. “What?”

“I do believe we have arrived at our destination.”

Doc was right. If she craned her neck in the direction he was pointing, Wynonna could just see a tuft of blonde hair sticking up from the ground. She put the car in park, unlocking the door as Doc reached for the shovel. “Just let me do the talking, okay?” she said, shooting him a warning glance. “You and Clootie are…”

“I am well aware,” Doc said, with a sneer of obvious disgust. “And I assure you, I have no desire to talk to that fiend. If you are able to get what we require out of her without my assistance, all the better.”

Together, the two of them left the car and strode across the salt toward their prisoner. As she drew closer, Wynonna’s stomach gave a sickening lurch. Something didn’t smell right— What is that? Burning flesh?— and the sight was even worse. Constance, from what she remembered, had been a stereotypically beautiful woman, but what remained of her most certainly wasn’t. Her soft blonde hair was stringy and unkempt. Her pale skin, instead of being smooth, looked dried out from sun and salt, wrinkled and puckered like the flesh of a raisin. And her eyes…her eyes burned with the fire of pain.

When Clootie saw them, a look of hope crossed her face, and Wynonna almost felt guilty. Almost, until she saw the look of pure hatred on Doc’s face. That reminded her of Waverly, and all the times Constance had tried to kill them, and what needed to be done. Despite the disgusting, pathetic sight before her, it didn’t take much effort to steel herself then.

“I knew you would come back to free me,” Clootie said, in the same melodious, arrogant voice Wynonna had heard on the few occasions she had heard the woman speak.

“Shut up,” Wynonna snapped, giving the witch what she hoped was an intimidating glare. “We didn’t come back to free you.”

“Oh?” Constance aimed a look at the shovel Doc was holding and raised an eyebrow.

“The better to bash your head in with, my dear,” Doc said. “And you’d best not trick yourself into believing I wouldn’t.”

Clootie wasn’t intimidated. Either she recognized their threats were empty, or she had already endured so much pain that idle threats had become meaningless. “Then what is it you want?” she asked, fixing her fiery eyes on Wynonna. “You must have come for a reason. What might that reason be? Perhaps an end to Doctor Holliday’s curse, although that seems unlikely, considering his feelings for you.”

Wynonna gritted her teeth. She had come into this negotiation with all the power, and yet somehow, Constance was still capable of getting under her skin. Her feelings for Doc, and Dolls for that matter, were confusing, and they were also the last thing she needed to be worrying about. Waverly. Think about Waverly. She needs you…

“That’s none of your fucking business. I’m here for…”

“Then someone else you care for. That dashing Black Badge agent of yours, perhaps? Dolls? Or your sister?”

Wynonna couldn’t help it. She winced.

“Ah. Your sister. I should have guessed her first. Is she sick? Dying? In agonizing pain?” Each suggestion seemed almost gleeful coming from Clootie’s cracked lips, and Wynonna’s own upper lip peeled back in a snarl.

“Possessed, and you’re going to fix her… unless you want us to dig you an even deeper pit.”

“If she’s possessed, you’ll need to dig me out,” Clootie said. She seemed eager, almost salivating at the thought, not even bothering to hide her desperation.

Wynonna shook her head before Doc even had the chance to protest. “No way, Clootie. That’s not how this negotiation is going to work. You tell us what to do. We do it. Then, we come back and dig you out.”

Constance laughed, a high, cold sound that sent a shiver of fear down Wynonna’s stiff spine. “Really, Wynonna? Even you have to be smarter than that. Why should I tell you how to save your precious little sister with only your word that you’ll return and free me?”

That was a question Wynonna could answer. She got down to her knees, leaning forward until she was almost face to face with Constance. She smelled even more liked cooked meat up close, and the scream-lines etched into her face were uglier up close. “Because it burns , doesn’t it?” she said, in a low hiss. “The salt is eating at you. Devouring your flesh. The only reason you aren’t screaming is because after days and days of it, you realize it doesn’t help anymore. Every second, you think about dying. Or killing Doc and me for putting you here. Because living forever isn’t so great when you’re trapped like this, is it? And you’ll take any chance for freedom you can get, even one that’s not a guarantee.”

Pulling the shovel out of Doc’s hands, Wynonna began to dig a small trench around Clootie’s neck, without being particularly careful about the spade hitting flesh. Eventually, she managed to get down to waist level before she threw the shovel at Doc. “Hold this.” She turned to the still imprisoned woman and stared down at her. “Now, talk. How do we get this thing out of Waverly?”

“A… a little water perhaps?” Constance ventured.

Wynonna sighed and grabbed the bottle she’d been drinking from earlier, and tipped a minute amount into her captive’s mouth. “There. Now talk.”

“Well, my dear, I don’t know what you want me to say. Certainly simple possession is easy enough to deal with.”

“Just tell me how to kill it.”

“Well that’s going to depend on what “it” is, isn’t it now.” Despite her wretched condition, the woman in the hole managed to look superior as hell. Wynonna stopped herself from grabbing the shovel back and whacking her prey on the head.

“What did it look like?” Clootie asked.

“Um… goo. It looked like goo.”

“That’s less than helpful.”

“Black goo.”

“It came across the line whilst Bobo was trying to make his escape,” Doc added, hoping to help.

“Oh… oh, well now.” Constance smiled, a look that approximated her to an alligator. “Now doesn’t that change things.”

This time Wynonna did grab the shovel. “Start talking, or I fill in this hole.”

“Well, now that I know what has ownership of your sister, I’d say you aren’t in any kind of position to be making threats. Don’t you agree, Ms. Earp?” The blonde woman shot a sharp look at her. “Dig me out, and I’ll tell you what to do. Oh, and to sweeten the pot, a little free information: You have about twenty four hours before your sister dies in the most agonising way imaginable.”

Wynonna spent several seconds making sure none of her emotions made it to the surface before she thrust the shovel back at Doc.

“Dig her up.”

“Wynonna,” Doc protested, brow furrowed and eyes narrowed in distrustful anger. “This plan does not seem to be well thought out.”

That was a mild protest, especially coming from Doc, but Wynonna could hear the pain behind the words. She knew what Clootie had done to him, and though the thought of freeing the witch rankled her as well, she had to put her sister first. If Clootie knew how to help Waverly…

“Do it, Doc. Please? Trust me on this. For Waverly.”

It took another half an hour to dig the woman out of the hole completely, and then haul her up to the surface. By the time they got her there, Constance Clootie was sobbing with gratitude. Wynonna hauled her to her feet by her still bound hands, grasping the gallows silk carefully and testing to see that it still held, and then walked her to the back of the truck. She let the frail woman sit on the side of the truck before reaching down to grab a handful of white dust, jumping up and then hauling her into the tray.

“Okay. You’re out. Talk.”

Wynonna could see Doc fingering the handle of his gun at his holster, eyeing the demon woman with great suspicion. “Constance, it would take about three seconds for me to start shoving this salt down your throat. So perhaps now would be a good time to share.”

“It’s an Old God,” Clootie said, with the barest edges of a smirk.

“A God?”

“A what?” Doc and Wynonna questioned simultaneously.

“An Old God, an ancient being far more powerful than anything you’ve ever met before. Far more powerful than me, even. And the lore is long past gone.”

Wynonna grabbed the woman by the upper arm. “Tell me how to get rid of it. Tell me now, or I’m pickling you alive.”

“There’s a book. An old book. Ancient Sumerian. That’s the only text I ever knew that spoke of the old gods. But you’ll never find it.” Clootie sneered. “And even if you did, who do you know that speaks Ancient Sumerian?”

The blonde threw her head back and let her laughter rain down, her pleasure at the Earp’s situation making Wynonna spit in disgust. She lifted her foot and brought it down right in the middle of Constance Clooties decaying, round buttocks, sending the woman flying on to the salt plains. By the time she had rolled over in shock, Wynonna had grabbed her by the ankles and was dragging her towards the hole.

“You promised! You promised! I told you everything I know, I’ve kept my bargain!” Clootie shrieked.

Wynonna grinned as she pushed the woman back into her hole and began to kick the salt in back around her. “Oh I kept my promise too. I promised to dig you up…I never said anything about not putting you back again.”

It wasn’t until they were back in the truck and heading towards the Earp Homestead that Doc finally spoke up. Whatever he’d been thinking about the scenario that had played out, he’d clearly decided to keep it to himself.

“Wynonna, I have one small question.”

“What?”

“How on earth do you plan to find an Ancient Sumerian text on the eradication of old gods in the next twelve hours?”

“Jesus, Doc, we’ll do what any normal person would. We’ll Google it.”

Chapter Text

Nicole sat silent and firm as the demon continued staring at her with Waverly’s eyes. Silence had fallen between them, eerie enough to make her skin prickle, and it almost made her miss the demon’s taunts. The creature’s cutting words had been better than this. This stillness. This helplessness. That thing was still stuck inside Waverly, and there was nothing Nicole could do about it.

Screaming. It said Waverly was screaming. How much is it hurting her? What can I do to make it stop? Amidst the tense quiet, Nicole could almost hear the echoes. Pained shrieks. Desperate sobs. She glanced toward the bedroom door, away from the demon’s chair. Where the hell are Wynonna and Doc? How long can it take for them to do...whatever it is they’re doing?

“Nicole?”

The sound of her name in Waverly’s voice nearly had Nicole jumping out of her skin. She whipped around, sucking in a sharp, surprised breath, heart pounding a mile a minute. For once, her name hadn’t been lathered with the honey of seductive promise. Instead, it sounded like the real Waverly. Her voice was trembling, afraid, but still undeniably human. It sounded the same way it had a few hours—almost a day?—before, when the two of them had kissed on the floor of the police station after Willa’s escape.

When Waverly had whispered, “I love her.”

“Waves?” Nicole said, half a question, half a sigh of relief. “Is it you this time?”

“Yes. Oh God, Nicole, I’m so glad you’re here. I’m so scared.”

She clearly was. Her face was pale, drawn with pain and fear, and her bound hands trembled.

Nicole hesitated. Her instincts screamed for her to leave the bed, to approach the chair and kiss away the bright fear she could see shining in Waverly’s eyes along with her tears, but she knew she couldn’t. Not while Waverly was still possessed. She had to remain at a safe distance, even though the few feet of empty space between them was slowly killing her. “It’s going to be fine, baby. I promise. Wynonna and Doc are working it.” Honestly, Nicole had no idea what kind of solution they were working toward, but Wynonna always seemed to come up with some kind of plan. Stupid, foolhardy plans, but they usually worked out anyway.

“I...I think I’ve got it under control for now,” Waverly whispered. “Please, Nicole. Untie me?”

All of Nicole’s hopeful feelings plummeted into the pit of her stomach. The real Waverly wouldn’t have asked to be untied. The real Waverly would have been much too smart to make that request. It was the demon talking again, only this time, its acting skills had improved dramatically.

“If you can actually hear me, Waverly, you know I can’t do that. Not until Wynonna and Doc get back.”

“Then don’t untie me. Just come over here and touch me. Kiss my forehead and tell me it’s going to be okay. You always tell me it’s going to be okay.”

Nicole’s heart ached. She couldn’t be sure how much of this was Waverly, and how much was the demon, but it was a painful request to deny. All she wants is a kiss. Reassurance. And I can’t give it to her because I don’t even know if it’s really Waverly in there…

“It’s going to be okay,” Nicole said, willing herself to believe it as well. “We’re going to get through this together. You always make it through, Waverly. Because you’re smart, and you’re resourceful, and you’re brave—”

“Not brave enough to tell Wynonna about us,” Waverly whispered. She sounded sad, ashamed, and a lump lodged in Nicole’s throat. If this was really Waverly talking, Nicole hated to think of the guilt she was experiencing. If it was the demon, it had definitely found one of her weak spots.

“You did tell her,” Nicole insisted. “You said you loved me.”

“When Willa had a gun pointed at you!” Waverly’s voice rose, not to a shout, but it carried a harsh texture that cracked like a whip. “That’s what it took. I was a coward—”

Nicole shook her head. She rose from the bed, closing the distance between them. The demon’s taunts couldn’t draw her in, but she was helpless against the sheer guilt on Waverly’s face. “Listen here, Waverly Earp. You are the furthest thing from a coward I have ever seen in my life. And that’s one of the reasons I love you. Okay? Don’t you remember that day in Nedley’s office? You kissed me first. Even though you were afraid, you kissed me.”

A small smile flitted across Waverly’s face. “Yeah. I did. I remember…”

“So don’t keep talking nonsense about how you aren’t brave.” Nicole reached out, touching the very tips of her fingers to the top of Waverly’s hand. “You’re the bravest woman I know.”

She leaned down and pressed her lips to Waverly’s head, and the world went black.

* * *

She's on her back—hot, wet, and swollen. Waverly’s fingers pinch her nipple, just this side of pain, and the sensation shoots straight between her legs. But it's the picture of Waverly astride her, riding her fingers with her head thrown back, that has her truly dripping.

“Fuck. Nicole. Deeper.”

The words echo in her head and she complies, two fingers thrusting as deep as they can into the tight, wet passage offered. Her thumb strums in time over the stiff red bud of Wavrly's clit, standing hard and proud under the pad.

Waverly’s other hand grasps her shoulder as she moves, taking her pleasure unashamedly. Nicole thinks she could almost come from this, almost lift her hips and brush against the back of her own hand. She can feel Waverly tighten, her movements becoming erratic. Frantic. Waverly's going to come. Waverly's going to come for her, on her, all over her. She feels her lover's tight muscles clench, feels…

...Dear god, Waverly’s tongue is masterful. It speaks a multitude of languages, alive and dead, and can curse and stutter with the best of them. Only Nicole gets to appreciate this side of Waverly’s tongue, though. She threads her fingers gently through Waverly’s hair, gently arching her hips to try and get some rhythm, some relief.

Waverly continues teasing, her tongue tracing patterns up and down the lacy edge of each labia, and then dipping in at Nicole’s entrance to taste. The sensations are maddeningly good, but far too fleeting. Before she can adjust, Waverly's tongue shifts up to her clit, flicking, darting, teasing—then long, flat licks that make Nicole moan and arch.

“Oh god, baby, just like that. Please.”

But Waverly won’t play. Waverly wants more and more. Waverly is turning her into a begging, soaked, needy mess. Waverly wants so much, every bit of her, and what Waverly wants, Nicole is prepared to give. She'll let Waverly devour her, own her, take her, and she's happy to lie here and beg for it.

She arches again, searching after the tongue dancing across her flesh. If she can just…

“...Is this what you wanted?” she hears her own voice say.

There is no answer. Just a hitch in breathing and a gentle shudder.

“You’re everyone’s darling, everyone’s good girl aren’t you?” Nicole breathes into Waverly’s ear. The words are coming out of her mouth—she wants to say them—but her brain isn't forming them first. They're completely instinctive, outside of her conscious control. “But only I get to know how bad you are deep inside.”

Waverly whimpers. Her cuffed hands are stretched above her head, revealing the tempting slope of her breasts and the faint outline of her ribs. She's completely naked, but Nicole is wearing her uniform, although her Stetson has fallen off. She knows Waverly likes the rough edge of her shirt sliding against bare skin. So much bare skin.

Nicole swallows and squeezes her thighs together, hoping to delay some of the pressure there. She's far from used to her pants being so full, but this is Waverly’s fantasy, and she's damned well prepared to make it perfect. She tugs on the handcuffs, stretching Waverly’s shoulders just a little bit past the point of comfort, and brings her hand up to cup a perfectly shaped breast. She moves her mouth down to right next to the red lips she loves to kiss, loves to caress and bite and swallow needy gasps from.

“Have you been good, Waverly?”

“Yes,” comes the gasping reply.

Nicole pinches the ruby red tip of one white breast, twisting and pulling until the engorged nub throbs between her fingers.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” she growls against Waverly’s lips. “If you were good, you wouldn’t be here like this. You wouldn’t be aching for punishment.” She takes Waverly’s lower lip between her teeth and tugs, relishing the gasp it causes.

“If you were good, Ms. Earp, you wouldn’t be so fucking wet.”

"Nicole?"

The sound of her name in Waverly's voice, the real Waverly's voice, snapped Nicole out of the moment. She blinked, shaking off the red haze that lingered into her head. It took her a second to process her situation, but when she did, she gasped in shock. She and Waverly weren't in bed. Neither of them were naked. There were no handcuffs, but Waverly was still tied to the chair, and Nicole's fingers were cupped over something soft and warm.

What?

Her gaze flicked down, and she yanked her hand back as if she had been burned. Sometime during her—Dream? Vision? Memory? It was all mixed together in her head—she had shoved her hand down the front of Waverly's pants. She hadn't made full contact, thanks to Waverly's underwear, but the soaked fabric she had felt could barely be counted as a barrier. Her fingertips were still wet.

"No way," she muttered, backing toward the bed as a dark cloud passed over her face and wiping her hand furiously on her khakis. If this demon thought it could trick her into untying Waverly this way, it was dead wrong. She wouldn't. She would never ...

"You didn't have to stop," the demon purred. It was an eerie mix of the needy whines Waverly had been making in the vision, and something much darker. Seductive. "She wants it, you know. I promise. All those things I showed you are straight from the source. She had those fantasies before your first kiss. You should be flattered."

Nicole didn't respond. She wanted to close her eyes, plug her ears, block out everything the demon was saying and doing. Despite herself, some dark part of her was actually flattered. Flashes of Waverly's fantasies kept replaying in her head, and she was certain it wasn't all the demon's doing, either. It had seemed so real. The feel of Waverly's tongue, the heat of her kisses, the handcuffs...

She never told me about that. She never asked. Although she did give me a look when she pulled them out of my purse... How long has she been thinking about it? About us doing that?

She shook herself. That wasn't important. What was important was freeing Waverly from this thing's control. "I'll do whatever Waverly wants," she said, staring the demon down. Waverly's eyes were so cold, so unfamiliar even while they were set in the middle of such a soft, pretty face. "After I put a bullet through you. Or whatever it takes to kill a demon."

* * *

"Any progress yet? Do we have a cell signal?"

Doc frowned, staring at Wynonna's phone in frustration. He had watched Wynonna's thumbs dance over the screen plenty of times, tapping letters faster than he could follow, but doing it himself was proving to be...difficult. He normally prided himself on his quick hands and quicker eye, but it seemed those skills did not translate to typing in this manner. One moment, the letters were up, and he was fumbling over them. The next, they disappeared, and he was stuck staring at a bunch of strange cartoon pictures.

"Perhaps it would be best for us to pull over?" he suggested, a little nervously. "Then you could work the phone, and I could—"

"I'm driving," Wynonna insisted, without even turning to look at him. "If you're having trouble, just use voice to text."

It took Doc a moment to understand what she was saying, but then it clicked. He had watched her speak into her phone before on rare occasions. He had to admit, it would be faster than his current failed attempts. "Telephone," he said, addressing the screen in a stern voice, "help us find a Sumerian text about the Old Gods and their possible destruction."

Nothing happened. The cartoon smiling faces continued staring at him, silently mocking his efforts.

This time, Wynonna did turn to look at him. Her expression was almost pained, as far as Doc could interpret. "Just press the button at the bottom of the screen and hold it down while I talk, okay?"

Obediently, Doc held out the phone, pressing the button in the middle. That, at least, he could do.

“Sumerian Old Gods Book,” Wynonna said, articulating loudly and clearly. She nodded for him to hit the button again, and he did, watching as the screen changed.

“What do I do now?”

“Just click on whatever’s interesting. The text should be blue. Then read. Fast.”

Doc clicked on the first bit of blue text he could find and started reading. “Sumerian mythology claims that, in the beginning, human-like Gods ruled over Earth…”

Wynonna growled low. “Not helpful. The thing that killed Willa and possessed Waverly wasn’t human at all. It was some kind of giant snake…plant…fucker.”

Doc gave her a withering look. “Would you like me to read silently, then? I’m only trying to help.”

“Whatever makes you go faster. Waverly needs us. She needs me.

Doc lowered the phone for just a moment, looking across the gap between the seats. “She has Officer Haught. Surely that counts for something, doesn’t it?”

Wynonna’s face screwed up with a mixture of anger and fear, but eventually, she sighed. “Yeah. Yeah, that counts for a lot. Keep reading. We’ve gotta find something.”

* * *

“Do you remember the first time we met?” Nicole whispered. She was still seated across from Waverly, looking into her lover’s eyes even though it hurt. Sometimes, she thought she saw Waverly there. The girl she had fallen so quickly for. The brave girl who never gave up. Other times, she saw only darkness. Evil. Everything Waverly wasn’t.

That was why she had decided to try and tell some stories. Stories of their time together and how much it meant. Stories she hoped might bring more of the real Waverly back to the surface and help her fight.

“Oh, she remembers, Officer Haught,” the demon said. “She remembers you strutting into Shorty’s like you owned the place. The Stetson, shiny boots, gun at your belt…she likes a woman in uniform. And she…” It leered at her, running its tongue seductively over Waverly’s full lower lip. “She was hardly wearing anything at all. And what she was wearing was sopping wet.”

It took a great deal of effort, but Nicole managed to ignore the demon’s taunts. “It wasn’t like that,” she murmured, latching onto the memory for strength. She couldn’t trust the demon’s words, but she could trust her own mind. Her own memories. At least, I hope I can.

“It was sweet. I’d seen her…you…around Purgatory for a few months. We never talked, but…” She glanced down into her lap with a soft smile, remembering. “God, I must have walked past that bar a hundred times with the card in my pocket. Working up the courage to give it to you.”

“Hmm,” purred the demon. “She certainly enjoyed it when you managed to get the guts up.”

Waverly’s face stared up at her, and for a short moment, Nicole found herself seeing nothing but her girlfriend. Then something flashed across that beautiful face, and she felt nauseous again. It was almost enough to turn her away, but she knew she couldn’t. If nothing else, she hadn’t seen Waverly for a worrying length of time and she wanted—no, needed to see that she was okay. Even though she assumed the demon had been trying to needle her before, the thought of Waverly screaming in pain inside was too much.

“Waves, I know you’re there.”

“She’s here. She—”

“Remember our first date, the county fair?”

“Oh, she—”

“I was so nervous, even though we’d kissed. I was so nervous I thought I’d throw up. I wanted to hold your hand for ages before I got up the courage, and you have no idea how many times I had to wipe my hand on my pants so my palms weren’t sweaty.”

“Oh honey, she likes you sweaty. You should—”

“And then we were on the ferris wheel. And I could see you, your eyes shining in the lights. God, Waverly, you were...you are...so beautiful.”

Somehow, she’d managed to finally shut the demon up, and she watched its face warily for a second. As soon as she saw those pink lips twitch as though to talk, she jumped in.

“That was the best night I’ve ever had, you know. I can’t think of another one to beat it, although our first night together came damn close.” She ignored the sly look that crawled across the demon’s Waverly face. The more time she spent doing this, the easier it became to tell who was who. “But just being with you, seeing the joy in your eyes...that was so amazing, Waverly. Like every minute I get to spend with you. Amazing. So yeah, Waves, I know you’re in there, and I know you can hear me. And you know, whatever this thing keeps telling you, I’m gonna get you out of there, baby. I’ll never give up, and I’ll never stop. So you just hold on in there, baby. You hold on in there.”

There was a wrenching confusion on Waverly’s face and then, almost as though magic, Nicole knew she was there.

“Baby,” Nicole breathed.

“I’m…listening…” Waverly panted, looking strained, obviously fighting. “I’m…hearing.”

Nicole took a chance and cupped her girlfriend’s cheek. “I know baby. I know. Hang in there.”

Nicole pulled her hand back, and as swiftly as she had appeared, Waverly left. The sinister smirk returned, the dead eyes, the seductive purr. "Nice try, Officer Haught, but words of love aren't enough to get your little girlfriend back. She's mine now. Mine forever. Although you could always join her, if you want." The demon cocked Waverly's head, as if in invitation. "I'm sure she'd appreciate that. Two lovers, trapped together for eternity. Almost romantic, isn't it?"

Nicole's jaw clenched, but she didn't give an answer. She returned to the bed, already thinking of more stories. She wasn't going to believe a word of this creature's lies. Waverly said she heard me. I have to believe her. If I can help, even a little bit...

"Waves, do you remember the night of the party, when you came down the stairs in that dress? As soon as I saw you, I swear I forgot how to breathe..."

Chapter Text

"Wynonna, are you sure this foolishness will work? I know the demon Clootie better than any man, and every word she says is half a lie, and the other half a falsehood. Far be it from me to offend, but this..." He gestured at where Wynonna's fingers were currently weaving together a yarn doll, looping several strands together to make a strangely-shaped blob for the head. "I will admit that it seems rather childish."

Wynonna aimed a frustrated glare at him. "This is what the website sourcing the book said, okay? We have to make a physical manifestation of the ut... utucks... damn-fuck-shit." She tossed the yarn doll aside and reached for her phone again, flicking through the screen with her thumb until she found the word she was looking for. "Utukku. We have to make a physical manifestation of it, call it by name and order it to leave, and then burn the doll."

"And you honestly believe burning this doll will remove whatever evil force has possessed Waverly?"

"Well, do you have any better ideas?" She brandished the doll at him, shaking it so hard that its limp limbs flopped in every direction. "We don't have Dolls here to coach us through a fancy Sumerian exorcism, okay? The internet's all we've got, and Waverly needs help now, and..." She swallowed, trying to break up the tight lump in her throat.

Waverly. She would figure out what to do if I was possessed. All those books of hers, all her research...she'd know exactly what this thing is, which ancient Sumerian spell to use, how to save me. But I'm just helpless. She's always been the smart one. I'm just the walking disaster.

"Wynonna..."

She blinked, turning to see a solid hand on her shoulder. For a moment, she considered shrugging away from Doc's touch, but eventually, she accepted the comfort. Above all else, he was her friend, despite their awkward romantic entanglement. And when the going got tough, friends were there for each other. She was still getting used to actually having friends for the first time in her life, but movies had taught her that much.

As she turned back to preparing for the ritual, she blew out a frustrated breath. It would have been easier had Google been more specific. For one, it just said a manifestation. Wynonna had picked the yarn doll because it held special significance for her—more importantly, for her and Waverly. She would be the first to admit she’d been a lousy sister. When she was younger, it had been Willa she’d followed everywhere, and Waverly had been left behind. When she was older, she had literally left Waverly behind. And whilst she maintained that giving Waverly a chance at a normal life had been the best thing Wynonna could have done for her, the time they’d spent together since Wynonna’s return to Purgatory had taught her something new. Family was what you made of it. This mad-cap family of Gus and Waverly and Doc and Dolls and Nicole, this was new for Wynonna, but she wasn’t about to let it go without kicking the shit out of everything that moved first.

One of the few things she had done right when she was very young, had been this. She had found the pattern in one of their mother’s old knitting books, and given that it took nothing but some yarn and her fingers, she’d learned to weave these small dolls for Waverly. They were flimsy, and poorly made, but the look of adoration and wonder on three year old Waverly’s face had been worth it.

So now she would use one to draw out the beast.

“Doc.”

“Are we ready?”

Wynonna shook her head. “We don’t know its name.” She sighed and tossed the yarn doll down on the table again. “We have the goddamn fucking ritual. We have the goddamn fucking doll. I now speak more fucking Ancient Sumerian than I ever thought I would and…we’re still nowhere.” Fear clutched at her edges.

“Well, I suppose we’d best go ask the beast.” Doc adjusted his hat with a wry smile. “After all, introducing itself would only be polite.”

As they trudged up the stairs, Wynonna honed in on the sound of Nicole’s voice.

“And I swear, if decking Champ will get you to look at me like that baby, I’ll make a point of tracking him down as often as you like. And I promise to wear my vest… like everywhere. Maybe not in the shower, or in bed, because that would be uncomfortable, but I swear it’s part of my routine uniform now, okay?”

Wynonna smiled at that, some consolation crowding in the desperation she felt. At least she wasn’t alone. Sure, she’d saved Waverly by herself once, but that had only involved shooting a rope and taking out a few revenants. This one required a little more finesse, something she wasn’t really known for. She’d never thought she’d find this much relief at having a sheriff’s deputy in the house.

As soon as she opened the door, just a little way, the Old God trained Waverly’s eyes on her. Wynonna knew better than to engage, and instead looked at Nicole, who was sitting on the bed and gripping the edge like the furniture was about to take flight.

“Hey, Officer Haughtstuff, come out here a second.”

* * *

Instead of looking toward the door at the sound of her name, Nicole cast a nervous glance at Waverly. She was half-terrified of the demon in the chair, but even more terrified of leaving Waverly to fight it alone. "How important is it, Wynonna?" she asked, staying planted on the edge of the bed and keeping her white-knuckled grip. "Waverly's broken free a few times. I need to be here." I need to keep helping her. If hearing my voice, hearing our story, gives her even the slightest amount of strength...

"Important." Reluctantly, Nicole turned, catching sight of Wynonna and Doc's faces peeking through the crack in the door.

"You mean you're going to leave your precious Waverly all alone?" the demon said, transforming Waverly's face into an unsettling pout. "Your girlfriend ?" Nicole stiffened. Obviously, the demon knew the significance of that word for her and Waverly, how they had danced around it. "She's pleading for you to stay, you know. Deep inside. She doesn't know if she'll be able to stand the pain without you."

"Nicole?" Wynonna opened the door a little further, threatening to take a step in until Doc grabbed her shoulder to prevent her from entering. "Don't listen to that twisted fucker. Get your ass out here. Now."

The urgency in Wynonna's voice finally convinced her. "I'll come right back," she whispered, speaking not to the demon, but to Waverly. She had to believe her girlfriend could still hear her. "I promise."

"Other people have told her the same thing," the demon said, twisting its head toward Wynonna. "Don't worry, she's used to being abandoned."

Wynonna's lips peeled back over her teeth, almost like the snarl of a wolf, and Nicole hurried to position herself between her and Waverly. "Let's go," she muttered, walking Wynonna backwards out the door and into the hall. "It's just trying to get a rise out of you. It tried the same trick with me."

Wynonna took a deep breath, closing her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again, she didn't look ready to burst a blood vessel or punch someone's head clean off. "Yeah, but the stuff it said about you probably wasn't true."

"It's a demon," Nicole said. "Everything it says is a lie."

"Actually, the creature that has possessed Waverly is more accurately described as an Old God," Doc said. "Wynonna and I were successful in our endeavors. We know what it is, and we know how to banish it from Waverly."

Instantly, Nicole felt a surge of relief. "You do?" she asked, almost on the verge of laughter. "How? What do I need to do?"

"First part's easy," Wynonna said. She held up a hunk of string, but on closer inspection, Nicole saw that it possessed a vaguely human shape. Arms hung limply at its sides, and a lumpy loop formed the head with a knot around the neck. "We order it to come out of Waverly and go inside this totem thing instead. It should listen to us. Maybe. I don't know how good my Ancient Sumerian is. Not as good as Waverly's..."

"You can do it," Nicole said, giving Wynonna what she hoped was a confident look. "You always come through when the going gets rough. What else?"

“There’s one small issue with actually getting it into Woolen McGodpants here.”

Nicole raised an eyebrow.

“We need to know its name.”

Nicole sighed, and bit her lip. “I have a feeling you’re coming to talk to me for a reason. There isn’t, like, a phone book for Old Saskatchewan gods, is there?”

“Sumerian,” Doc chimed in, using his best helpful voice.

“You’re the only one who’s managed to talk to that thing and not want to kill it within seven seconds,” Wynonna added, with a hint of desperation.

Nicole’s forehead furrowed. “Oh, trust me, I wanted to within five. I just haven’t because…”

“Because Waverly,” Wynonna finished for her.

“Exactly.”

“And you’re going to go in there and find out this fucker’s name for us. Then we’re going to send it to knitted dolly hell and then drink a fuckload of whiskey. Deal?”

Nicole nodded. Honestly, she’d spent the last several hours talking to Waverly so that she didn’t have to talk to the demon. Despite her assurances to Wynonna, it had taken all her grit not to rip shreds through the “old god” or whatever it was, verbally or physically. She could tell now, with reasonable ease, when it was Waverly and when it wasn’t. There was something in the eyes. Waverly hadn’t been back for longer than a few seconds, and the look of fear and pain that had flashed across the face was enough to solidify Nicole’s worry.

“Deal.” She turned to the door and took a deep breath. “Once more unto the breach and all that.”

Her reply was a gentle pat to the shoulder. “I bet Waverly’s a mile ahead of us. She’s probably already got this all figured out,” Wynonna said, with a wavering but clear note of hope. “I bet she knows what this shit ticket’s name is, and she’s just waiting for us to ask.”

“That does sound like our girl,” Nicole admitted. The fear wasn’t gone—far from it—but she felt a little better.

“Yeah,” Wynonna murmured. “Yeah, it does.”

The demon was present when Nicole returned, and she once again swallowed the urge to slap that sneer off its face. Instead of confronting it, she sat back down on the bed and found a hand hold on the covers. She needed to think. That was hard enough with the demon staring at her.

“Hmm. You’re back for more, I see.”

Nicole needed to get the name. Asking was out of the question. As soon as the demon, or Old God, or whatever it was knew what she wanted, it would do anything to prevent Nicole from winning. That left her with two choices. She could either trick the devil into giving it up, or she could ask Waverly. Getting to Waverly and then being certain Waverly hadn’t been tricked would be difficult, but it was probably going to be the easiest and quickest way to the answer. Time was running out.

“Oh, not talking to me now?”

So the next question was: how did she get Waverly to come out?

The demon arched Waverly’s elegant neck and smiled at the ceiling. “You know, I like this body. It’s a good body. I’m going to keep it once she’s gone.”

Nicole blinked and then looked up. “Hey, Waverly. Remember when we first met? I gave you my card. Do you have any idea how much I kicked myself for that later? I mean, I left you my number on a departmental card. Talk about lack of game.”

“Seriously, the things I can do with this body. The people I can do!”

“But, you know, I’d seen you before I met you. You were crossing the road with a coffee, and like, six books or something. I have no idea how you carried them all. And I nearly ran into the back of old Mr. Patterson’s car, because I’d never seen someone so beautiful in my whole life. You were like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day.”

For a moment, she thought she’d broken through. The same sunshine she had been talking about blossomed across Waverly’s fae, and Nicole knew—just knew —that Waverly was fighting. But it was gone as quickly as it had appeared, and the demon’s seductive pout returned.

“Officer Haught, I’m starting to take offense here. It’s rude to hold a one-sided conversation.”

Nicole looked up, and for the first time in hours, she gazed straight into the demon’s eyes. “I  know you’re not exactly given to sentiment, but I…” She looked away, tears choking her and trembling. “If Waverly’s going to…go away…I’d like to say…Goodbye.”

The demon didn't respond right away. It simply gazed at her with a lazy, satisfied look on its face, like a cat that had pinned a mouse beneath its paw. Waverly's soft pink tongue peeked out to roll over her lips, but instead of arousal, Nicole felt only disgust. Even with hours to adjust to the idea, it still made her skin crawl to think that this creature was inhabiting her lover's body.

"You sound like you're about to take me up on my offer, Officer Haught. Have you reconsidered? Think about it. An eternity of pain together. That idiot Dante would be proud, although that was thousands of years after my time. I only need one soul to go to the pit and take my open place, but two..." It sneered with repulsive self-importance. "I've always thought myself worth more than a single mortal soul anyway."

"Let me see her," Nicole said. This time, she didn't falter. She was afraid, but steady in her conviction. If she'd been holding her pistol, it wouldn't have dipped a centimeter. "Let me say goodbye, and then I'll do whatever you want."

"Very well. But you should know, Officer Haught, that backing out on a verbal contract with an Old God has consequences." Then all of the shadows melted off of Waverly's face, and the whole room seemed to brighten. Her eyes were hazy for a moment, as if she was overcoming a wave of great pain, but eventually, they focused—and the thing they focused on was Nicole.

"Nicole?"

"Waves..." Nicole had to resist the impulse to rush over to the chair and take Waverly in her arms. "Baby, it's me. You're going to be okay."

Waverly gave her a weak smile from the chair, panting lightly. A thin line of sweat rolled from her hairline down her temple, but she seemed almost relieved. "I know. Because you're here."

Nicole was overcome for a moment, but a muffled thumping from the direction of the door put her back on task. She was already on borrowed time, and she didn't even know if Waverly knew the information she needed. "The name, Waves. I need its name."

Waverly opened her mouth, but before she could speak, her body gave a sickening jolt. The chair scooted across the wooden floor with a screech that made Nicole wince, and it almost tipped over as Waverly began to shudder and jerk. Nicole was up and off the bed in an instant, half-way down to her knees and hands outstretched to undo Waverly's bonds before she hurt herself thrashing.

"No," Waverly hissed, her voice tight with pain. "Don't...don't touch...me..."

Ice slid through Nicole's veins as she remembered the last time she had touched Waverly. She couldn't afford to be tempted again. Not now, while the demon was already trying to wrestle Waverly back into submission. "The name, Waves," she pleaded, hands still hovering in midair, unsure what to do. "I need the name. Okay, baby? The name."

Waverly's eyes snapped open, nearly popping out of her head. The veins on her neck stood out, and Nicole could see every strained heartbeat throbbing through them. Black cracks crawled across her skin, dusky and unnatural, like a foul bruise. But at last, she managed to say something—to spit it out along with a light coat of froth.

"Alû!"

Nicole’s first inclination was to leap to her feet and cheer, but the sight that lay before her was sickening. Waverly’s mouth opened, as wide as it could possibly go, and black cracks began to appear in her skin.

“Bad move, Officer Haught. Very. Bad. Move.” The voice was eerie and came from Waverly’s mouth, but her jaw didn’t move. It was like she was a loudspeaker, projecting from somewhere that Nicole didn’t even want to think about.

“What are you doing? What are you doing to Waverly?!” Nicole started to shake, watching as Waverly’s body began to vibrate, rocking the chair back and forth, as those hideous black cracks began to spread across Waverly’s skin.

The voice became deeper, louder. “She. Is. Mine. Now.”

“No, No… You can’t…” Nicole pulled her gun, pointing it at the creature in Waverly’s body. “Get out of her. Get out of her now.”

“You. Can. Shoot. Me. It. Will. Just. Be. The. Shell. Her. Soul. Is. Mine.”

“Wynonna!” Nicole yelled, and then because there wasn’t really a reason not to, she screamed it. “WYNONNA!”

The door burst open, followed by the cavalry charge of Doc and Wynonna. Had Nicole not been in the middle of the worst moment of her life, she might have taken time to laugh at her friends. Wynnona had rushed in carrying the strange knitted doll, and a large pink candle. Doc, instead of his usual guns or hat, was carrying a white feather and what looked like a frozen chicken carcass from the freezer downstairs.

“Do something! Do it now! It’s taking her!” Nicole shook, the barrel of her gun waving back and forth across the creature as the black cracks spread and widened. “Baby… baby hang in there, we’re coming.”

“You. Will. Never. Have. Her. BACK.”

Nicole spun, taking in Doc and Wynonna’s shocked faces, and yelled again “Now, Wynonna, do it now!”

That pushed them into action. Wynonna fell to the floor, drawing a white circle around Waverly’s chair and then checking the back of her hand. Nicole could see some transcribed markings that Wynonna was copying down like it was a tenth grade calculus test.

Nicole stood there, her gun trained. She didn’t know why it was still out, but it made her feel better to do something. She wasn’t about to kill Waverly, or even what the “thing” called Waverly’s shell, but she also couldn’t bring herself to put it away.

Doc fell to his knees next to Wynonna, placing the frozen chicken into the circle and then stabbing it through the rough region of a chicken’s heart with the feather quill.

“Okay, Okay….” Breathed Wynonna. “Let’s try this.” She pulled a piece of paper out of her back pocket and waved it at Doc and Nicole.

“Either of you wanna give this Ancient Sumerian a go?”

“I’m busy,” Nicole growled. “Hurry.”

“I trust you Wynonna. So does Waverly. The floor is yours.”

Wynonna nodded at Doc and took another breath. “Okay, let’s do this shit.” She started reading from the paper, speaking in a strange tongue Nicole couldn't understand. She stuttered and stumbled over the sentences, hands shaking so badly that the sheet in her hand rattled. "Barra ante malda, Alû! Barra ange ge yene, Alû!"

With each word, Waverly writhed, letting out more unearthly wails. Some were demon's howls, but others were all-too-human shrieks of pain as the dark, dusty furrows spread throughout Waverly's pale skin. "It's not working," Nicole shouted, raising her voice to be heard above the screams. "You're hurting her! Stop!"

"You think you can do better?" Wynonna snapped. She shoved the paper at Nicole's hands, nearly making her drop her gun. "Read! I'm gonna burn this fucker." She drew a lighter from her pocket with her other hand, flicking it on and kneeling to light the candle in the middle of the circle.

"No, Wynonna," Doc said, pulling the candle away. "The Old God needs to leave Waverly and possess the totem first."

Nicole gritted her teeth, shutting out their arguments. Instead, she looked down at the piece of paper. The letters on top were English, some kind of phonetics, but the words were complete gibberish. Underneath, however, was a proper English translation. A translation with words she could understand.

Worth a shot. Waverly doesn't have time for us to figure this out. Waverly...

The sight of Waverly's face contorted in pain was too much. Nicole pushed the paper back at Wynonna. "Try the English version," she pleaded. "Maybe you need to understand what you're reading?"

This time, Wynonna didn't object. "Both of us," she said, coming to stand closer. "Two is better than one, right?"

Nicole nodded. Together, the two of them read the English version, with as much conviction as possible:

"May the wicked demon depart..."

Suddenly, Waverly stopped screaming. She started leering again, showing her teeth eyes flashing blood red. "I've already told you stupid mortals, I'm no mere demon—"

Nicole shut out the awful voice and kept going.

"May the demons seize one another..."

Wynonna brandished the doll again, but the Old God merely laughed. "You think that pathetic thing can hold me? You humans are stupider than I thought."

"The propitious demon, the propitious giant, may they penetrate his body..."

"Are you sure you don't want to be reunited with your precious Waverly, Officer Haught? You know how much she enjoys your brand of penetration... "

"Spirit of the Heavens, conjure it. Spirit of the Earth, conjure it."

A low growl emanated from Waverly's mouth, steaming with smoke at the edges. "You idiots have no concept of the pain I will inflict upon you if I leave this host—"

"Come not nigh, Alû! Get the hence, Alû!"

As the last syllable rang out, a great roar echoed through the room. Waverly's entire body began to jerk, and more black smog poured from her open mouth—a whole column this time. The fog filled the room, darkening the windows and blotting out the sunlight from outside. Nicole trained her gun at it, but she didn't know where to shoot. It was growing larger and larger, swirling around them like a storm.

All of a sudden, the wet blackness gathered into an oily cloud. It writhed and bubbled before rearing up and shooting toward the yarn doll, which Wynonna dropped to the ground in her surprise. Nicole tried to reach for it, but it was already skidding across the floorboards, outside of the circle Wynonna had prepared.

“Doc! The Fire!” Wynonna tossed her lighter to Doc who lit the candle with a deft hand.

“Burn, Demon.”

By now, the yarn doll had grown to the size of a human, oozing black tendrils of cloud and jerking menacingly as it advanced across the room. Behind it, Nicole could see Waverly slumped down in the chair, unconscious. She could also see blood.

Doc thrust the candle at the doll, and as the flame touched the edges of the cloud that pulsed around the hideous manifestation, it caught alight, the flames dancing. An unearthly laugh emanated. “You think to stop the God of the Underworld, mortal? You think to burn me?”

“Well Fuck,” Wynonna wheezed. “Now it’s angry and on fire.”

There was no smoke, no heat, just the blazing humanoid figure that still spat black oily tendrils as it moved forward another step.

“Wynonna, do something!” Doc hollered, skirting backwards as one flaming black tendril touched his skin. He reared, holding his hand in pain.

“Like what?” Wynonna screamed back. She grabbed one of the pillows off the bed, flinging it at the demon in hopes of distracting it. It bounced off harmlessly, the fire having done nothing to it. “Okay, this is fucking weird.”

“We are trapped in a room with a burning Sumerian God we just summoned into a small knitted doll, and the fact the pillow is unscathed is the part that grabs your attention?” Doc yelled back, picking up a book off the floor and flinging it at the demon’s head.

“Guys, a little focus here?” Nicole yelled through the haze. “Stop with the pillows and use Peacemaker, Wynonna!”

A look of horror crossed Wynonna’s face as she scrabbled at her side with one hand. “Peacemaker’s on the kitchen table! Fuck fuck fuck—”

Nicole whirled on Wynonna in disbelief. “Seriously? You mean you lost it again? I’m gonna duct tape that thing to you, I swear!” They danced around the figure, keeping away from the flames as it jerked from one to the other. “Go get it,” Nicole yelled, managing to duck behind the creature and heading toward the chair. “Doc and I will protect Waverly!”

That, unfortunately, got the creature’s attention, and it slowly turned on her. Somehow, without a face or any ability to form expressions, the makeup of the flame and black told Nicole that it saw her, knew her, and this time it wouldn’t be moved from its path.

“Are you ready to embrace hell with your beloved, Officer Haught?

“Stay away from her!” Nicole pulled herself in front of Waverly and re-aimed her gun.

I promised you an eternity together, and now I promise you pain that will never end. You will watch her burn, and burn, and burn forever . The demon took another step forward. It reached out a hand, and suddenly Nicole could see its eyes, burning deep in its head.

“Fuck this,” Nicole said, and pulled the trigger.

The gun barked. A jolt ran up her arm as the pistol recoiled. The demon flinched as the bullet hit its chest, pausing for a moment, but it didn't unravel or fall to the floor. It merely laughed, a gurgling, popping sound like the lashing of a wildfire. "I have existed for thousands upon thousands of years, and you think a bullet can harm me?"

Nicole shut the voice out. She remained in front of Waverly, shielding her lover with her body. She just needed to buy Wynonna a little more time...

"If you want her, you're gonna have to get through me first."

"I have grown tired of toying with you. Burn!" The demon reared back, seeming to swell to an even larger size. The flames on its head reached up to the ceiling, and it drew back both of its blazing arms, preparing to unleash them like twin whips.

"Hey, fuckface!" The demon stopped, turning toward the door. Nicole felt a surge of relief when she saw Wynonna standing there, aiming peacemaker straight at the demon's head. "That wasn't the bullet you shoulda been worried about. Possessing my sister was a big mistake."

"Fool, you will—"

The barrel of the gun glowed as Wynonna pulled the trigger. A shot rang out, and this time, the demon shrieked in agony as the bullet pierced its head. The flames around its feet spread, rushing over to the circle of chicken remains Doc had made on the floor. It yawned open, transforming into a sucking pit, and the demon writhed and thrashed as it began shrinking, sliding across the floor.

"No!" it shrieked as it collapsed onto its stomach, scratching at the floor with fingers of fire. "I will not go back!"

But its protests were for nothing. It was drawn inexorably toward the pit, until nothing but its head was visible. There was a roar like a great wind, and then a spurt of flame almost like a geyser. Suddenly, demon disappeared, and the room was eerily quiet.

"Damn," Wynonna panted, still aiming Peacemaker at the floor. "I hate the ones who monologue. That Old God sure liked to hear itself talk."

Nicole almost laughed with relief, but there was something more important on her mind. She whirled around, kneeling beside Waverly's form. She was still lying limp in the chair, eyes closed, but her skin was no longer black and pulsing. Upon closer inspection, she appeared to be breathing shallowly. Nicole could have cried.

"Baby, it's gone," she said, taking Waverly's hand. This time, she wasn't sucked into any vision. All she felt was the familiar warmth of Waverly's fingers linked with hers. "Just like I promised. It can't hurt you anymore, okay? Baby..."

Nicole couldn't tear her eyes away from Waverly's unmoving face, but she heard Wynonna and Doc's footsteps approach on either side. Wynonna knelt beside her, gripping Waverly's other hand. "She's breathing. She's alive. And that thing's out of her. So why isn't she awake?"

"That is a curious question," Doc said. "Possibly, the stress the Old God put on her mind has made her incapable of awakening." Both Nicole and Wynonna looked at him in matching horror. "...Or perhaps she is just tired after being possessed?"

At that point, Waverly gave a moan, and Nicole quickly scrambled to undo the ropes that still bound her to the chair. By the time she had freed her, Waverly was starting to rouse, and her eyes finally opened. “Baby. Baby can you hear me?”

Waverly moaned again, but nodded, and Nicole gave a brief but joyous laugh.

“Thank fuck,” muttered Wynonna.

“I don’t mean to interrupt this beautiful moment, but might I suggest that a trip to the local hospital might be in order?” Doc tipped his hat back and put his hands on his hips.

Nicole wound her arms around Waverly’s shoulders and tucked another under her knees, lifting her with almost no trouble. Waverly wasn’t heavy anyway, but right now she felt almost ephemeral.

“Mmfmffne,” mumbled Waverly, into Nicole’s shirt.

“It’s okay, Waves. We’ve got you,” Nicole whispered as Wynonna ran ahead to open the door.

“Mmm fine,” came the slightly more comprehensible reply. Nicole smiled.

“Glad to hear it. Do you reckon you could just go along with this for me?”

Nicole hugged Waverly a bit closer as she manoeuvred them down the stairs. She was careful not to knock a head or feet, and was relieved when they made it to Wynonna’s truck unscathed. She tucked Waverly into the back seat, carefully doing up her seatbelt before sliding in next to her and returning to her protective hold. Waverly’s head lolled against her shoulder.

“Waves? You okay there?”

“Mmm…” The response wasn’t quite as eloquent as Nicole could have hoped, but was better than Waverly being unconscious. For the first time in what felt like years, she allowed herself to breathe.

Chapter Text

It took them twenty minutes to get to the hospital. It would have taken longer, but both Nicole and Doc implored Wynonna to slow down. Waverly seemed to be stable, and Nicole didn’t want her rattling around the inside of the truck like a ping pong ball.

They’d used the time discuss the best way to explain Waverly’s condition, since they all agreed that “She was possessed by an old Sumerian God and we had to coax it out of her into a woollen doll that we burned with a chicken and some feathers and then we shot it with a magical gun but before it was out of her, it banged her up from the inside,” probably wasn’t the most convincing of stories. In the end, they agreed on an explanation: Waverly had been sick, was now drowsy and not very responsive, and could they just check her out please?

“The vaguer you can be, the better,” Wynonna insisted. “Lying is all about not digging yourself holes.”

In the end, it turned out that the Emergency Room staff were mostly disinterested anyway. There had been seven bar fights, three rolled cars, and an outbreak of gastroenteritis at the local nursing home. After stowing Waverly on a trolley, they’d been left in a corner for an hour until a distracted nurse came and put in an IV and took some blood. About two hours later, an even more frazzled and distracted doctor had come, waved a stethoscope over Waverly, declared her bloods “normal” and the patient stable and sent them home with instructions to “rest”.

"I still don't think we should leave her alone," Nicole said as they escorted Waverly back out to the parking lot. She seemed more alert, although she hadn't yet returned to her usual talkative self. Most of the time, she appeared lost in thought, with glazed-over eyes and a distant look on her face. She always responded with a small smile when Nicole squeezed her hand, though. In fact, their fingers had remained linked almost every minute since they'd arrived at the hospital, aside from when the doctors had checked Waverly's vitals.

"She won't be alone," Wynonna pointed out. "We live together, remember?" She fumbled for her keys, unlocking the truck with the push of a button.

"I'm not sure Waverly should go back to the house, though. I mean...her bedroom still has a chopped up chicken in it. And probably scorch marks." It was pitiful, as excuses went, and Wynonna aimed a sidelong look in her direction. She started to protest, but Waverly spoke up.

"I don't want to go back home yet," she said, her voice soft but certain.

Wynonna sighed, but didn't object. "Fine. Where do you want to go? Because it better be somewhere with a bed where you can rest. " She emphasized the word, ushering Waverly into the back of the truck.

"Nicole's place."

Nicole was surprised, but also strangely pleased. Waverly had only been over to her apartment a few times. It wasn't much, since she lived alone aside from Catlamity Jane, but if Waverly felt safe there... "I don't mind. You can stay too if you want, Wynonna. We can take turns sitting with her."

"You don't need to sit with me," Waverly insisted, but Wynonna and Nicole shared a look.

"You were possessed, okay?" Wynonna huffed. "We're sitting with you."

"If there are no objections, I think my services might be better utilized righting the house for Waverly's return," Doc said. "I could take the truck—"

"I'm too fucking exhausted to tell you no," Wynonna said. "Fine. You can head back over to our place and clean up. But if you crash the truck, I'll... something threatening. Your ass. Fill in the blanks."

"I surely will not."

The two continued bantering, but Nicole wasn't listening. Waverly had snuggled into her, tucking beneath her arm for warmth and security. It was an unusual gesture. Waverly could be persuaded to cuddle from time to time, but there was a certain vulnerability in the action this time that made Nicole's heart ache.

"Thank you," Waverly whispered, so only she could hear.

"For what?" Nicole asked. "Wynonna was the one who un-possessed you and killed the Old God."

Waverly looked up at her, and Nicole was surprised to see tears glistening in her soft brown eyes. "But you were the one who kept me sane. It was in my head, digging through memories I didn't even know I had...changing them, making me doubt myself. But you...I never doubted you. I heard your voice, and I knew everything would be okay.”

Nicole pulled Waverly in tighter with her arm. She pressed a kiss to the top of her girlfriend’s head and blinked away the tears that were forming in her eyes. She still needed to be strong. Still needed to be the one protecting Waverly. Not only had Waverly been through hell and back, but she was still as weak. Nicole couldn’t put her own fears, her own insecurities, back onto Waverly. Instead she cuddled, which felt like a good substitute for almost anything.

She wanted to tip Waverly’s chin up and press their lips together. She wanted to feel the warmth of Waverly moving against her, their tongues, lips, souls reconnecting. It wasn’t about sex, it was about them. Instead, she pressed another kiss to Waverly’s head and stroked her shoulder.

“Jesus, I need a beer,” Wynonna growled from the front seat. It was three in the morning, and Nicole wasn’t exactly surprised. All of them should have been drooping with fatigue, but Nicole felt wired. She knew Wynonna probably felt the same.

When she pulled up to her apartment, Waverly was almost asleep against her side. She busied herself helping her out of the truck and standing up, her heart lifting when she received a tiny but undeniably beautiful smile as thanks.

“Here. Don’t kill it.” Wynonna tossed her keys to Doc, who caught them deftly and tipped his hat.

“Ladies. I’ll bid you a goodnight.”

“Wait.” Waverly’s voice was soft, but commanding. She left Nicole’s side and made her way to Doc. To Nicole she still looked a bit unsteady, but she made it without trouble. She couldn’t help smile at the look of surprise, mild discomfort, and a certain hint of soft care, that passed over Doc’s face when Waverly engulfed him in a hug. “Thank you. For saving me.”

“Well, Miss Earp, if this is to be my reward, I will be sure to save you more often in the future.”

“This is never fucking happening again or I’m shooting every single one of you and moving to Australia.” Wynonna rolled her eyes. “Waves, we should get you inside.”

They were halfway up the stairs to Nicole’s apartment when she heard the squeal of tires as Doc raced out of the carpark, accompanied by a wince on Wynonna’s face.

“He still doesn’t have a license or registration, you know.”

“You gonna go arrest him, Officer Haught?”

Nicole grinned, adjusting her arm around Waverly so she could retrieve her keys and open her front door. “Nah, let him have a bit of fun. He’s earned it.”

As the front door closed, Nicole took a moment to wrap both arms around Waverly and pull her in for a full body hug, something she’d been unable to do until that moment. She could have stood there forever, just drinking in the feel of the smaller woman in her arms, but Waverly needed rest. She heard the creak of springs as Wynonna landed on the couch and the television flicked on.

“Yeah! I love this infomercial.”

“Is this the one with Hazel and the cigarette hanging out of her mouth?” Waverly’s muffled voice came from Nicole’s front.

“Yep! Good old Hazel.”

Nicole rolled her eyes and wondered if she’d end up with permanent eye injury from associating with the Earps. It was probably worth it. "I'm gonna get Waverly cleaned up and tucked in bed," she said to Wynonna before gently disentangling herself from Waverly's clinging arms. "Do you want anything to eat first? Or drink?"

"A shot?" Wynonna called back, before the two of them shot her identical glares. "Hey, just asking. I know that's what I'd want after being possessed."

There was a note of fear underneath her crude humor, though, and when Waverly went over to give Wynonna a hug, Nicole didn't object. She hung back, watching the two sisters embrace for a moment. "I'm fine, Wynonna. Promise. Just really tired."

Wynonna sighed, seeming to accept that Waverly was safe at last. "At least have some water if you're not gonna eat," she muttered, giving Waverly's shoulder a friendly nudge. "Want me to get it?"

"Nicole will take care of it," Waverly said, and Nicole's brow furrowed. It seemed as though Waverly was trying to get them out of the living room and away from Wynonna awful quick, and she was a little worried about why that might be.

Does she want to be alone with me? Or just alone, period?

She was a little reassured as Waverly took her hand, tugging her gently toward the hallway—not toward the kitchen, but the bedroom. "Go 'head and break into my liquor cabinet if you want, Wynonna," Nicole called back as Waverly led her away. "I think I've got some bourbon in there. I'll come down and get you once Waverly's settled, okay?"

Wynonna responded with an indistinct grunt, but Nicole recognized it as an indistinct grunt of acceptance rather than one of protest. Satisfied, she allowed Waverly to take her to the bedroom, slipping a hand beneath her elbow just in case. Waverly seemed surer on her feet than she had been at first, but Nicole's first instinct was to look after her anyway.

It wasn't until Waverly closed the bedroom door behind her and backed her straight into the wall that Nicole began to worry. Her heart rate spiked and a lance of fear coursed through her as Waverly's lips crashed hard against hers. At first, she thought the demon had come back. Shit. She's still possessed! We were all wrong! But as she opened her mouth to scream, Waverly's tongue swiped along her lower lip, a gentle and familiar request for entrance instead of a demand.

Or...or maybe not. This definitely seems like her. But why? Cautiously, Nicole placed her hands on Waverly's hips. She wasn't sure why, but she thought that maybe if she could hold Waverly in her arms, she might figure out what in tarnation was going on.

The meeting of their mouths was achingly familiar. Waverly tasted the same as she always did, sweet and tart as an apple pie, all warm breath and low whimpers. The kiss didn't blaze with desire, not exactly, but it did burn with a silent kind of desperation. Waverly needed this—the same kind of need Nicole had felt back in the car. The need for reassurance and reconnection.

"Waves," she muttered as they broke apart for air. In her daze, it took her a few moments to realize that one of Waverly's hands was combing her braid out of its weave and the other was untucking her shirt from her khakis. "What... what is this? What are we doing? This is you, right?"

The question was almost rhetorical. Nicole could see in Waverly’s eyes that there was no demon there. She was looking at the woman she was in love with, and no one else. The last day and a half had been the very definition of a nightmare, and with her sleep deprived brain, not to mention the psychological number the demon had done on them both, she needed an answer.

“I love you.” Sweet. Simple. An answer that was 100% Waverly Earp. She had only said it once before, and only while Willa had kept a gun pointed at Nicole. Then it had seemed surreal, now it was something more. It was a truth that Nicole clung to, desperately needed, and wanted more than anything she’d ever known.

“I love you too.” There. She’d finally said it back. She rested her forehead on Waverly’s and slid her fingers to the nape of her neck. Their lips met again, gentle and so full of love Nicole thought she might burst.

At first when Waverly began walking them backwards toward the bed, Nicole thought that she’d finally given into exhaustion. But when the buckle of Nicole’s belt unsnapped, and the first button on her shirt came undone, she realised that Miss Waverly Earp had something else in mind.

Her body was aflame with the feeling of Waverly against her, but Nicole managed to wrench her mouth away from the addictive kissing. “But…”

Waverly took advantage of the break, running her lips gently along Nicole’s jaw and finding an earlobe, biting lightly before moving down to suck on the sensitive skin below, leaving Nicole gasping as sensation ricocheted through body. Waverly’s hands were busy again, pulling her belt from her pants and finally getting Nicole’s shirt untucked.

Nicole grabbed at a wrist, still unsure about how they’d gone from zero to sixty in such a short period of time. Her body was telling her to shut the hell up because Waverly Earp was all over her, mouth and tongue and soft, warm hands, but her brain still wouldn’t be quiet.

“Baby,” she’d meant it as a question, but it came out like a moan because at that point Waverly had chosen to skim her teeth along Nicole’s exposed collar bone and it turned out that area was unexpectedly sensitive and erogenous. When the buttons of Nicole’s shirt began to pop open, Nicole realised she was nearly too far gone to stop. She grabbed Waverly’s hands gently and tried again. “Fuck… baby, we… God knows I want to, but we should stop. You’ve been through so much and—”

All she got back was a muttered “Need you,” against her neck, Waverly pushing her whole body into Nicole’s as though she wanted to merge them together. When a hand tilted Nicole’s head to the other side and Waverly began a determined assault on the as of yet untouched side of Nicole’s neck, Nicole knew she was lost. Her hands found the hem of Waverly’s shirt and lifted it, brushing her knuckles along the smooth, satin skin underneath. She delighted in the hitch of Waverly’s breathing, the shudder that ran through both their bodies in tandem.

Cupping Waverly’s cheeks, Nicole pulled her back into a soft, sensual kiss, trying to slow them down. "If we're gonna do this right now, we need to talk while we're doing it," she whispered into Waverly's lips, interrupting the gentle glide just long enough to exhale the words. "I need to know what you're feeling. What you want. Okay?"

A knot of concern formed in the middle of Waverly's brow, and Nicole gave into the impulse to smooth it away with her thumb. Her other hand remained at the bottom of Waverly's shirt, hesitating to strip it up and off. "You won't cross any lines," Waverly said, gazing up at her with wide, shining brown eyes. They reflected a mixture of vulnerability and need, and Nicole felt compelled to satisfy both. "I'll talk, I promise. But I need this. I need..."

"You," Nicole finished for her. Tears welled in her own eyes as she stared down at Waverly's face, taking in everything she had almost lost. "It's okay, baby. I need you, too."

It wasn't need the way she usually used the word 'need'. It wasn't the fire of passion, but a desire to comfort, to get closer, to share a skin. And when Waverly resumed what she had been doing, shifting to strip off both their shirts, her earlier desperation was gone. It was replaced with something slower, but even more powerful than the hasty request she'd made before. She wasn't asking for a fuck to forget, but to make love so she could remember.

Nicole took her time shrugging out of her clothes and peeling off Waverly's. Her own pants and shirt were starting to feel constricting, but the reveal was every bit as precious to her as the end-goal. She savor the anticipation, wanted to relish the little thrill that came with each new strip of flesh she laid bare. Waverly's body was beautiful, plush curves and a few flat planes of muscle, and she couldn't help but enjoy the way it spilled into her hands.

Before she knew it, she was cupping both of Waverly's breasts through the black lace of her bra, and her shirt was completely unbuttoned, both sleeves hanging half-way down her arms. "This is it," Waverly said, clasping both hands over hers and urging her to squeeze a little harder. Nicole could feel the stiff points of Waverly's nipples straining through the fabric of her bra, and she was strongly tempted to pinch and pluck at the hardened peaks. "This is what I was thinking about while it was... inside me. I was thinking about you. About how you'd save me, and then we'd get to have 'Thank God you're alive' sex, and everything would turn out right in the end because you're so brave..."

"Because you're so brave," Nicole insisted. "This was you, Waves. You fought that thing off. You freed yourself." She withdrew her hands from Waverly's breasts, stripping her shirt off the rest of the way and removing her bra as well. She tipped Waverly gently onto her back, sliding a thigh carefully between her legs and stretching out on top of her.

She wanted to take it slow. She started taking it slow, feeling their bodies merge. The hot skin of Waverly’s stomach brushed against her own, their legs tangling. Nicole propped herself up on her elbows, her nipples hardening as they brushed against Waverly’s breasts. She ducked her head down, starting with a soft kiss and then deepening slightly. She trailed her lips over to Waverly’s ear, relishing the hitch in her breathing, and then moaned softly when she felt Waverly’s wetness on her thigh. She couldn’t stop herself from gently pushing down, grinding them together.

She’d meant it to be slow and gentle, drawing Waverly to a soft, loving climax, but somewhere in the next few moments, something inside her tightened. Waverly felt so hot, so good beneath her, moving, her fingers trailing up and down Nicole’s spine, that Nicole forgot.

Her mouth found Waverly’s neck as one hand cupped Waverly’s breast, coaxing the nipple to a peak and then thumbing it roughly. She bit down, wanting to mark Waverly as her own, hungering for her. Their hips began to move, faster, harder, as she kissed her way down, moaning as her lips closed around a dusky pink nipple. She bit down gently, Waverly’s whimper spurring her on.

Nicole’s brain had stopped engaging. She acted completely on instinct, hungry and needy. She needed to be inside Waverly, now, deep in her, owning her, taking her back from the darkness that had threatened to claim her.

Nicole’s hand slid down, nails scraping until she cupped Waverly, finding her wet, hot, swollen. Her fingers slid either side of an already hard, pulsing clitoris, tweaking it, plucking it, making Waverly shudder under her, for her. All for her, this was Waverly for Nicole, wanting, needing. Nicole slid further down and pushed, thrusting two fingers deep.

“Oh God…Oh—fuck…” Waverly arched her back, hips rising against the sudden invasion, as she panted. Nicole keened, her mouth latching onto Waverly’s collarbone, biting, sucking in a way that was guaranteed to leave a mark. She thrust again, claiming.

“Mine,” she growled possessively, thrusting again and again. She could feel Waverly shuddering beneath her, reduced to moans and the occasional loud epithet. She needed to be deeper, to be taking her harder, and was about to, when she realised what she was doing. “Oh Christ,” she moaned, pulling back, stunned at her own actions. “Oh God Waverly…”

She had pulled out, desperately afraid of her own need, when Waverly reached down and grasped her wrist, whimpering. “Don’t stop… God… don’t… stop…”

“I…” Nicole’s fingers brushed her entrance, and another shudder went through Waverly. “Waves…”

“Need… you… just like that,” Waverly bit her lip. “Take me. Oh god Nic, take me.”

It was a plea Nicole couldn't deny. This was Waverly—the real Waverly—asking for her, begging for her, straining to reconnect with her. Nicole wanted that too. She wanted to bury herself so deep inside of Waverly that the two of them weren't two anymore, but one. She wanted to drive the demon out and take its place, secure in the knowledge that Waverly wanted her.

She pumped her fingers until the tendons in the wrist burned, lips gliding over every bit of Waverly's flesh she could reach: her jaw, her throat, her collarbone. The soft sounds she earned with each kiss and nip drove her on. She angled the heel of her hand to rub against Waverly's clit, making sure to catch it at the apex of each thrust. She went deep, forming a hook and searching out the spot that always made Waverly shudder to pieces.

It didn't take long. The moment was so intense that it couldn't be sustained. Waverly arched, head lolling back, and her eyes scrunched up as she howled her pleasure to the ceiling. No. Nicole felt a deep sense of loss as their gazes broke apart, and she let out a disappointed whimper of her own. "Look at me," she panted, hissing over the spit-slick skin of Waverly's shoulder. "Please, baby. Baby, look at me."

Waverly's eyes opened, and the love and trust shining from them was almost enough to send Nicole over the edge too. Her hips jerked uselessly as Waverly's warm muscles contracted around her fingers, and she didn't know whether to be thrilled or frustrated. This first release was supposed to be about Waverly's pleasure, about reaffirming their bond and celebrating the fact that they'd both made it out alive, but her selfish body wanted more. It needed more.

Thankfully, Waverly sensed it. Still gazing into her eyes, Waverly slid a hand down along her stomach, nails raking, fingers questing. When they found the source of her desire, Nicole went stiff, biting down on Waverly's shoulder and groaning in surprise. She hadn't expected the touch, but she welcomed it. Waverly was still coming around her fingers, squeezing and pulsing and shivering, and Nicole had no idea how her lover could manage to control her fingers at the same time. But control them she did, and Nicole found herself hurtling up toward the same peak that Waverly had just crested at astonishing speed.

Her release hit all at once. One moment, she was soaring for the stars. The next, she was floating, hovering on a precipice she wasn't at all prepared for. The pads of Waverly's fingers circled her clit, teasing the sensitive tip and rubbing the swollen shaft through its hood, and she couldn't hold herself together anymore. She came with a long, low wail, a few tears blurring her vision as she gave herself over to the wonderful, breath-stealing, heart-stopping ripples.

"Love you," she muttered just before taking Waverly's lips in another hot, desperate, grateful kiss. Love you so much, Waves. So much.

She knew Waverly was thinking the same thing, because Waverly's other hand tugged desperately at her hair, urging their mouths to meld even further. Waverly's inner walls kept clutching at her fingers, fluttering almost in time with the waves that coursed through her own body. They rolled their hips together in the same rhythm, sharing their pleasure, sharing everything.

When the pleasure finally spiralled away, leaving them panting and shuddering against each other, Nicole couldn’t bring herself to remove her fingers. The warmth continued to flutter around them, little ripples of aftershocks that Nicole wanted to keep coaxing. Waverly was holding her tight, gripping with knees and ankles around her waist, hands around her neck, head buried in the crook of her shoulder.

Nicole sighed, moving against Waverly gently, nuzzling against the side of her head and enjoying the delicate scent of raspberries and a hint of lemon that was so quintessentially Waverly. When her body movements made her fingers twitch, Waverly’s hips twitched with them and Nicole couldn’t hold back the moan that slipped from her mouth.

Christ. It had been amazing, beautiful, heart stopping, hip pumping, life giving sex but Nicole couldn’t stop wanting more. She just needed more… more Waverly. She had nearly lost her, but here, now, Waverly was here, and she was hers. Nicole began to move her fingers, slowly, aware that Waverly might be tender after their less than gentle coming together.

As their hips began moving again, Nicole felt a warm mouth graze her shoulder and she jerked. “Waverly…god, baby…”

“Again?” came the murmured response.

“Oh… you feel so good.” Nicole pulled herself up so she could look into Waverly’s eyes. What she saw was breathtaking. Jesus, she was so beautiful, and her pupils were dilated with pleasure. Nicole moved within her and then it was obvious, so obvious, what they both needed.

“Please,” she gasped. But Waverly was too far gone, whimpering and moaning beneath her, their bodies moving in tandem. Nicole began to kiss her way down, twirling her tongue around one swollen, hard nipple and then scraping her teeth down Waverly’s ribs. “I need to taste you. Please, baby…”

The assent was more a squeeze on her shoulders, a gentle push in the right direction, than anything more concrete, but Nicole moaned again anyway. She gently bit the soft skin at the edge of Waverly’s navel and kept going. Waverly was whimpering louder now, hungry sounds that plucked at the edge of Nicole’s already heated need.

Her fingers had never stopped moving and now she was close, the scent of Waverly’s arousal made her mouth water. The quintessential act of lesbian sex had been one that she’d always enjoyed, but there was something about Waverly that had taken this to a whole new level for Nicole. Perhaps she should have waited, should have gone with more foreplay, but she couldn’t.

She sealed her mouth across Waverly’s centre and used her one free hand to pin suddenly bucking hips to the bed. The taste was familiar, light, delicious, and she swirled her tongue across the prominent swollen ridge of a clitoris that just begged to be sucked.

“Nicole…Nic...ole…” Waverly’s hands were in her hair now, clenching, as Nicole curled her fingers, hitting that one spot inside that she knew would drive Waverly wild. All Nicole wanted to feel was Waverly, coming in her mouth, around her fingers, crying her name out. She wanted to imprint herself so deeply into Waverly Earp that there would be no way to ever erase her.

“Oh… God… I’m… I’m so….” Waverly’s hip movements became jerky as Nicole pushed her fingers deeper, sinking through soft walls muscle that clenched tighter with every thrust. And then Waverly came screaming, hot and hard and hungry, and it was the most glorious thing Nicole had ever seen. Had ever heard. Had ever felt. It was enough to make her own muscles spasm in sympathy, and she rode out Waverly’s crest with her, desperate to catch every drop of wetness that spilled past her lips and into her mouth.

And there was a lot of sweetness. Waverly was producing a flood, but Nicole didn't care. It was salt and sweetness and a deep, savory flavor like nothing else in the world, and she curled her fingers to coax out as much as she could. Waverly's clit pulsed, throbbing with its own heartbeat as each rippling contraction passed from her body into Nicole's, but Nicole didn't back away. She knew from experience not to stop. She knew Waverly could take it, so she pulled the stiff bud back between her lips and lashed it until the crashing waves finally stilled to eddies.

"Oh God," Waverly said when it was over, gazing down at her with the first relaxed smile Nicole had seen on her face since the incident. "Oh God, Nicole..."

"I've got you, baby," she whispered, scattering kisses across Waverly's thighs and belly. "You're safe. You're okay."

But Waverly didn't need reassuring. With strength that came as a surprise, she grasped Nicole's arms and yanked her back up for a deep but tender kiss. Their lips mingled for several moments, and when Nicole caught her breath, she realized that she was on her back. Waverly had flipped her without her realizing.

"Waverly—"

"My turn," Waverly said, staring down at her with absolute certainty. It was a firm statement, but also one that held a hint of a question. Nicole knew that if she said the word, Waverly would stop straddling her and melt back into her arms to cuddle.

But she had no reason to know. She had every reason to say yes. She had the real Waverly back at last, and it was only right for her to offer proof that she was safe and unharmed, too. "Your turn," she agreed, leaning back against the pillow and spreading her legs.

Waverly wasted no time. Nicole groaned as a hot mouth latched onto her nipple, hips bucking forward into Waverly's stomach. She shuddered as she caught against Waverly's firm abdominal muscles—those had been something of a surprise when she'd first seen Waverly without a shirt, but she definitely wasn't complaining. On impulse, she pushed again, and one of Waverly's hands went down to her hip, encouraging the grinding motion.

"Wanna make you feel good," Waverly said, releasing her right nipple and kissing across to her left. "Wanna remind you that it's me touching you..."

"I know, baby," Nicole said. She couldn't decide what to do with her hands. One moment, they fisted the sheets. The next, they were coming through Waverly's hair, or trying to find purchase on her shoulder. "I know it's you. I never doubted."

"It's me," Waverly said anyway, and Nicole could tell she was partially trying to convince herself. "It's us. Just us."

"Just us, sweet girl."

With one last nip to the peak of her breast, Waverly continued downward, ducking beneath her knees and kissing hungrily up along one of her legs instead. At first, Nicole was disappointed at the loss of a firm surface to rub against, but when Waverly's mouth drew closer to the apex of her thighs, she managed to stifle her whimpers. Waverly's stomach was about to be replaced with something a lot better.

Hot breath wafted across her and it took all of Nicole’s willpower not to lift her hips. The taste of Waverly had set her arousal in motion and she was desperate again. When soft lips closed over her, she moaned in gratitude, lying back and grasping the sheets beneath her.

She’d hoped Waverly might show a little mercy and not tease, but she was wrong. Lips, tongue, tracing, Waverly took her time and reacquainted herself with every inch of Nicole before finally settling starting to flick her tongue in a rhythm on a straining, aching clit.

“God… baby… so good,” Nicole panted. She wanted more than just the intense contact, she needed to be with Waverly with all her senses. Nicole wasn’t one to do more than moan or cry out in bed, words usually not her forte, but this was different. “Just… just like that,” she whimpered when the strokes of Waverly’s tongue became more forceful. She couldn’t help but arch her hips, moving into the touch and feeling her climax come into view. Except apparently Waverly could sense it too, and just at the brink she pulled her mouth back, leaving Nicole whimpering and writhing, begging.

“Please, oh god baby, please – don’t stop don’t stop don’t stop…”

“Shhh, I’ve got you,” Waverly murmured, before ducking her head back down and teasing at Nicole’s entrance with two fingers.

Nicole arched as Waverly thrust—none too gently, but it didn’t matter. Nicole couldn’t remember being this wet. This open. This ready. They moved together, Nicole’s body rising and falling to the rhythm of Waverly’s mouth and hands as they sent her body spiralling into waves of pleasure. She never wanted it to end, but Waverly was relentless, and the pleasure was relentless.

When the peak hit, there was no chance of silence, of a soft landing. Nicole bowed her body as every muscle went taut with pleasure. It ran through her like an electric shock, moving across her body and rippling out, over and over and over. She cried out, first Waverly’s name, and then nothing but indistinct sounds, hungry and shaking, until there was nothing more to give.

“Stop… oh god Waverly… I can’t…” but Waverly wouldn’t stop. Her mouth was soft, and hot and her fingers slowed, but she kept going until Nicole found her body bowing again, another wave of pleasure, maybe just a continuation of the first, it didn’t matter, it destroyed her.

When her body went limp, hands unclenching from the sheet and her voice, her voice went hoarse and finally Waverly relented. Nicole could barely find the energy to quiver as Waverly kissed her way softly up Nicole’s body. When those soft lips met her own, she muttered into them. “I don’t think I can feel my legs.”

They collapsed together, boneless on the ruffled sheets.

“We did it, didn’t we?” Waverly said against her stomach, still panting heavily.

Nicole sniffed, removing her hand from Waverly’s tousled hair and swiping away a few wet streaks from her lover’s cheeks. She didn’t mind the droplets on her fingertips. Her eyes were watering too, but as always, Waverly’s tears mattered more than her own.

“Yeah, baby. Yeah, we did it. It’s gone, and we’re together.”

Waverly let out a soft sigh that could only be described as joyful and came up to join her, cuddling against her side and burrowing into her shoulder. Nicole gladly let Waverly’s body drape on top of hers, holding her close as the sweat evaporated from their cooling bodies. “I love you,” she said, even though she’d already said it what felt like a thousand times that day. It had never been truer, and it wouldn’t be contained.

“Love you too,” Waverly sighed. “That’s what saved us. I never forgot how much you loved me.”

Nicole grinned, placing another kiss on the top of Waverly’s head. “You never forgot we loved each other. That’s why you won.”

Waverly tilted her head, and Nicole took the invitation, kissing her softly and for a long, long time. Their heartbeats fell into sync, and as their eyes closed, both of them finally felt safe.