Nicole Haught is in intake.
They've taken her prints, her license, the band of cash she had in the waistband of her jeans, and now they're taking their sweet time with the questions they need to get through.
It goes something like this:
"Will you be detoxing from any one or multiple substances during your sentence?"
"If my freedom counts, sure."
"Have you been incarcerated at this or any other facility in the past?"
"Can't say that I have."
"Any religious affiliation?"
"Any gang affiliation?"
"None of 'em would have me."
"Is that a no?"
"To the best of your knowledge are there any individuals currently in this facility that pose an immediate threat to your safety?"
"Miss Haught. This is only going to take longer if you refuse to take it seriously."
Yeah, it's like pins and needles in her eyes trying not to grin.
"I'm taking this perfectly seriously. Ma'am."
"Any dietary restrictions?"
"Don't like pickles."
"Are there any medications you will need the facility to provide you with on a daily basis?"
She's gotta think about that one. She's been off her meds maybe six months. Wouldn't kill her to go back on. Might even make the time easier.
"Are these prescribed by a primary care provider?"
"As soon as we confirm your prescriptions with the psychiatrist you'll be able to take them once a day at six in the evening, one hour after the last meal of the day."
"How long is that going to take?"
"You should be able to take your medication tonight, after dinner."
"Are we done?"
"Officer Del Rey is going to get you set up with a spare uniform and bedding and escort you to the pod. Do you have any questions at this time?"
Waverly Earp is in seg.
Not because she did anything wrong — she didn't, almost never does, she's the pod angel for crying out loud — but at the defense of motherfucking Champ Hardy.
And okay, Nedley's face at being called a honey-roasted pile of horse shit was damn priceless, but there are always consequences. Like a seven day stint in lockdown, which would have fucked with Champ's claustrophobia bad enough that Waverly Earp stepped up and sweet-talked her way into taking his place with a promise of a week without incident.
It's a lonely damn place to be; the cell doesn't have windows, and the lights stay on twenty-four hours a day so it doesn't take long to lose the concept of time. She spends most of the day singing to herself or turtling into her jumpsuit to dim the lights and attempt to rest. Doesn't work too well.
Doc didn't want to let her take the fall for Champ, naturally, because a) he doesn't like the kid one bit, and b) he's a wise voice of reason and doesn't like the thought of her holed up on her lonesome for so long.
It was Nedley's call in the end. The Deputy Warden is as sweet as can be on Waverly, more so than the rest of his staff, but he knew better than to underestimate her. If she said she could handle seven days in the hole — hell, she'd gone as far as claiming to want them — Nedley believed her. Probably didn't hurt that he's not as ambivalent about Champ as Doc is.
So Waverly's done three days in the icebox so far and hasn't cracked yet, but Doc still checks up on her every few hours. It's sweet.
And the pod hasn’t begun to crumble in her absence, her enforcements hold strong. So there’s also that.
Everything is dim. Seems maybe every twenty paces there's a light out overhead. Yellow flecked linoleum is not a good look under fluorescents.
Neither is the faded navy jumpsuit they've got Nicole in. It's two sizes too big (they're out of larges, no clean XLs) and dwarfs her at five-eight, what a feat. Her shower slides are at least new and they let her keep her tennis shoes, the only mercy thus far.
She's got a paper-thin mattress under one arm and a mesh sack holding another jumpsuit and a blanket and sheets that are bound to scratch in the other hand. No pillow.
Heads pop out of doorless doorways as the pod door slides shut behind her, all intent on sizing up the new girl. The CO's gone and Nicole's alone in the jungle.
Room three, the officer had said.
The only room out of six in the pod with the lights off at four in the afternoon.
There's a girl on the top tier, leaning on the rails, grilling her. A girl with big shoulders, crew cut, and a few too many tattoos for someone underage.
Probably the manliest looking female she's ever seen. They lock eyes for the briefest of moments and Nicole betrays no emotion.
She hauls her mattress into the shadows of room three, the new digs.
There's someone sprawled out on the bottom bunk but it's dark enough she isn't able to get a good look. All she sees is long hair and an arm draped over her eyes. The assumption is the girl's fast asleep but the split second Nicole steps through the doorway a voice warns: "Turn that light on and you'll leave this room in a body bag."
Nicole keeps her mouth shut while she loads the top bunk with her mattress and hauls herself up. She sits criss-cross, head tipped back against the concrete, twiddles her thumbs, waits for her eyes to adapt to the dark.
So what’s the mentality? She's not scared of this place or any-damn-body in it. It's just another day.
Maybe five minutes go by before a voice floats up from beneath her.
"Got a name, fresh meat?"
"Does it matter?"
"Something like that."
"What'd they get you for, Hot Stuff?"
Nicole doesn’t answer right away, debates whether to disclose the charge she was picked up on or the outstanding warrant (and her eventual conviction of the charge) that actually stuck her here.
"Truancy," she decides after a moment. It's the gentle charge, doesn't warrant attention, doesn't demand respect. It's a below-the-radar charge and Nicole wants to play her cards right, wants to ride this out easy.
"Sure they did," her new roommate chirps back.
They don't talk after that. Nicole doesn't care to know the girl's charge, or her name for that matter, and the lights stay off.
An hour must've gone by because there's a CO in the dayroom calling "dinner, ladies!" and all around her the sound of scuttling feet as girls emerge from their rooms to line up for dinner.
Nicole ditches the bunk and strolls into the dayroom only to find nine pairs of curious eyes following her every move. She doesn't even blink. Only one of them that even remotely sizes up to her (in height and build, both are important) is Crew Cut from the top tier, and she doesn't seem to be looking for a fight.
All there is to do is pick up a tray of her own and sit herself down at an empty table. Well. They're all empty, actually, because the girls let her get to the trays first; but they're all in motion the second Nicole drops into a seat and she prays none of them flock to her.
It's in vain, of course, because she's new and they're god-awfully curious and this is their territory.
The girls come down on her like birds to prey and it would be an unwise decision to pick up and move now that they've got her cornered. There's five of them, each one wearing an identical look of a hungry hyena. But Nicole's no quarry.
The one across from her is small and sweet looking with a shock of hair tied in a high pony while the rest tumbles down her back. That one puts her elbows on the table and tells her, "I'm Rosita."
Nicole's eyebrows jump and fall in a split second.
"Good to know," she deadpans.
Crew Cut snickers and Rosita backhands her shoulder.
"'M Nicole," she tells them through a mouthful of rice. "Haught."
They go around the table and one by one Nicole learns the names of her new neighbors.
There's Chrissy, who looks a lot like breathing an institution's stuffy air is a punishment worse than death itself.
Jeremy is far too high energy for Nicole's liking, but nice enough that Nicole probably won't daydream of killing her.
The one called Dolls doesn't offer anything but her name and Nicole wonders what someone with such a tranquil disposition did to wind up here.
And then there's Crew Cut. Called Champ, apparently. Who evidently has the audacity to warn Nicole that "I'll be watching you, Haught. Step out of line and I'll be the first to know. There are rules here that fall back on me to enforce."
"Now that's rich."
The voice from behind her is the same one from her room, but the face is new. Daunting and delicate all at once and Nicole realizes she's got another one right about her size.
One look from Nicole's roommate and Chrissy's rolling her eyes and giving up her seat.
"He's just pissed he got his girlfriend tossed in solitary."
"Wynonna," Champ growls.
Girlfriend? Is that allowed?
Nicole looks at Champ, starts, "You're — ?"
"Wynonna's full of shit," he (apparently) hisses before storming off.
Jeremy starts to go after him, Wynonna snaps her fingers at her, and the girl sinks timidly into her seat.
Nicole's going to go ahead and take a wild guess who's really in charge here. And it might not hurt to be in her good graces. Learning to be the kind of roommate this Wynonna doesn't hate is the logical first step.
The whole table's gone quiet. And the girls all look like this happens on a regular basis, save for Wynonna, who's picking fries off Rosita's tray and looking like nothing's changed.
Nicole, gently, cautiously, starts in: "So. Champ is. . . a he?"
Wynonna hums, switches to picking off Jeremy's tray (goes for the bread this time), and no one stops her (they all seem some kind of terrified of the girl).
"Yep." Wynonna nods. "Can't afford to change his gender on paper, so they stuck him here instead of there. And he's a jackass."
After dinner there's a powwow in room five.
Dolls and Rosita's room (Dolls doesn't do powwows, doesn't care for pod politics, she's working out in the dayroom) is currently home to Nicole (criss-cross on the edge of Rosita's bunk), Champ (on the floor with his legs stretched out, hands planted behind him), Rosita (lounging next to Nicole and picking at a loose string on her sleeve), and Jeremy (fidgeting in the doorway, unsure of how to occupy the space she takes up).
" — and it ain't that I hate the girl. She’s. . . fine. I guess. Considering. She's just — " Champ waves a hand around like the word he's looking for is floating in midair for him to catch. " — Wynonna."
Nicole needs to be delicate here. These girls talk. A lot. To each other. About each other. And petty teenage bullshit is bound to stir up a hurricane before any of them realize they're sitting smack dab in the eye of it.
"So. . . Wynonna is. . . head honcho?"
"Yeah," he says. "You'd think."
Rosita leans forward, elbows on her knees. Speaks: "Wynonna keeps to herself. Usually. She's BBD, she doesn't have business with us Revenants."
There are two new words in that sentence and to Nicole they mean nothing. Doesn't know what a BBD is, has definitely never heard of a Revenant anything. But she's not going to let on to that.
If she's going to make the most of the sentence she's been handed it's going to be on her terms and it's going to work damn well because there are only two things in life she has not gotten away with: the two damn things that landed her here.
But Nicole can infer enough to ask "If you're on opposing ends and there's no hostility — who keeps the peace?”
"Little Earp," Jeremy pipes in.
“And what exactly would a ‘Little Earp’ be?”
"She'll be back in four days," Champ grumbles, sounds detached and guilty and annoyed and apologetic all at once. Somehow.
Two days later Doc comes to check up on Waverly shortly before lights out (well, not for her) and the first thing she asks him is if Champ's okay (when she really means has he kept his promise not to go and do anything dumb in her absence).
"Waverly Earp, what on God's green earth do you see in that boy?"
She closes in on the window port with her arms crossed. They've been over this before. He's put the poor girl through the wringer because of that boy, all because she showed him compassion when everyone else in this damn town was ready to kick him to the curb the second he showed his true colors.
Waverly won't do people like that.
And sure, Champ is rough around the edges, and has a shit time thinking before he speaks, but he's never done her wrong.
"I'm small," Waverly points out. "And he’s. . . strong. That's not exactly a negative in here."
Doc sighs, stands with his hands on his hips and his head inclined like he's waiting to be told he just lost a million-dollar bet. He's the cutest cowboy she's ever met.
"If he is indeed as strong as you claim would you mind telling me why you're doing his time for him?"
"Physical and mental strength are two very different things, Holliday.”
He contemplates it a minute, decides not to push it.
"Your sister's got herself a new bunkmate," he tells her.
Now that's news. Wynonna's managed to keep the room to herself almost eleven months now. The longest running bunkmate lasted maybe ten hours before tapping out and begging for a pod transfer and no one's come close to that since.
So Waverly has to ask, "How long?"
"Two days," he says, tries not to smile.
"What's her charge?"
"Now you know I can't tell you that."
Oh, but he will. He always does.
Waverly slinks toward the door while tugging open the top few buttons of her jumpsuit and nowhere in sight is the white cotton bra they're all issued at intake. Fingertips skirt down the center of her bare chest. Her head takes on a sweet tilt and she forces innocence into her eyes.
"Button up and pipe down, Waverly."
"But I've been so good." Hell, she's pouting; he hates that. "Won't you throw me a bone?"
Doc looks pointedly over both shoulders before nodding at the sliver of space between door and frame. Waverly meets him there from the other side.
He knows how well she can keep a secret but the CO in him still rears its head as he ducks in to tell her what he most certainly should not.
"Truancy." He pauses. "And a whole lotta grand theft auto."
Waverly's buttoning up when she leans back.
"Well, shit. We’ve got a live one.“
"Your boyfriend there tried to lay down the law with her. Wynonna, of all people, came to her rescue. . . But if you ask me, she don't look like she needs rescuing."
That's also news. Wynonna doesn't look out for people like that unless you're Waverly (and sometimes Jeremy, but very rarely), so there's got to be something curious going on with the new girl.
"Have 'Nona send me a full recon, would you?"
"I am not your courier, Miss Earp."
"Yet you always do as I ask."
And he does. He's the poster boy for Wrapped Around Waverly Earp's Finger.
She dismisses him with a wave and off he goes.
Something about those damn Earp girls gets to the officers time and again and no one has an explanation (or a guess) other than voodoo.
It's probably voodoo.
This is Purgatory, after all.
Nicole's fitting in fine.
Wynonna doesn't seem to feel any type of way about her. Doesn't hate her, isn't ready to call her friend either. It works.
Talk is minimal between bunkmates but the silence that lingers between sparse conversation is oddly comforting. If Nicole believed in auras and spiritual energy and celestial compatibility she'd say she hit the roomie jackpot with Wynonna. With all that goes unspoken between them there is an underlying current of communication that exists only mentally and they’re both fluent in it.
Wynonna likes the dark, Nicole doesn't mind hauling ass to the dayroom every time she needs a little light. Nicole doesn't like feelings, Wynonna doesn't bring them into conversation. Wynonna likes quick comebacks and childish wit, Nicole is well practiced in adapting to speech patterns and mirroring disposition. Nicole is observant, discreet about it, but forgets nothing; Wynonna is carefree, unaffected by her surroundings, but knows she can ask Nicole if she's missed anything of importance.
And then there's the night before whoever this Little Earp is returns to the pod.
Nicole's restless in bed (it's maybe four am and she's been trying to sleep since eleven) and the lack of a pillow doesn't help. With the strain on her neck her head feels three times too heavy and the air seems too thick and it's all she can do not to put her head through the concrete wall of room three.
"You good, Haught? You're not helping my insomnia."
"I'm — yeah." A beat. "Still not used to sleeping without a pillow. How is it that I’m one of — like — the three people who don’t have one?”
“Gotta buy ‘em. Commissary. It’s a cruel joke.”
Not to breach the feelings boundary, but. . . Nicole sighs, heavily, and it carries the embarrassment of the words she doesn’t want to say but sort of trusts Wynonna enough to say them anyway.
“Don’t have any money on my books. Won’t be getting any.”
Wynonna doesn’t answer right away and it’s the first time Nicole’s wanted to slice a knife through their silence.
"Baby girl can get you one of those tomorrow. It’ll cost you though.”
Nicole narrows her eyes at the darkness. She's still not all the way caught up with pod lingo. Nicknames and gang names and monikers are still settling into her database.
"Am I supposed to know who that is?"
Nicole can hear the stupid-happy smile in Wynonna's voice when she says:
"Oh, honey. Have you ever met an actual angel?”
this might be a fat mess. i'm so sorry.
Doc sighs. He's been doing that a lot around Wavelry lately.
Yes he talked to Wynonna for her, and yes he's here as the Earps' messenger he so recently claimed not to be, but he isn't leaving this conversation without his dignity. Probably.
They duck in to the crack between door and frame again and for the second time in a week he's betraying all he was trained for.
"Nicole Haught," he tells her. "Been told she don't talk too much. Been told she's packing muscle but doesn't show it. Wynonna says she don't interfere interfere with all your little pod politics but she's real curious about it; also says the only charge she's copped to is truancy. Take that as you will."
Waverly's going to take that with a grain of salt.
If the new girl isn't broadcasting her charge of GTA there must be a reason. Must be something keeping her from unloading the truth on her pod-mates, something loaded, something sinister, something Waverly could use to extort this Nicole. 'Cause hey, Little Earp's always looking for recruits. People to help keep the peace, people to join the fight, folks to stand before her when they all face danger. Waverly never faces anything alone, never at first, there's always someone to take the initial jump. And it's always been Champ (until now, but she had to do this for him, had to protect him); in the real world it was Wynonna.
"Anything else I need to know?"
There's one more thing. One tiny little thing. One that Doc's almost hesitant to tell Waverly because it's a first for the elder Earp and Doc doesn't want Waverly to take it the wrong way.
"Yeah," he admits, lifting his chin toward the door. "Wynonna likes her. They get on good. This one's gonna be around a while, so you go on and get yourself ready for that."
As if she knows how to do anything of the sort.
The preparing to meet someone Wynonna wasn't ready to kill within fifteen minutes of living together sort of thing.
Pandemonium ensues in the pod that day. But — like — the good kind (if there is a good kind) where spirits are high and nine out of eleven residents are jittery and eager for the return of the twelfth (it's become obvious Dolls doesn't show any emotion at any given time, and Nicole's the new girl, so).
All eyes in the pod fly to the door with every sound, every officer strolling by to look in on them. Someone's bound to throw out their neck if this girl isn't returned to the unit and soon.
Shouts are tossed back and forth from cells to the dayroom, from the dayroom to the upper tier, back down again. More than once Champ's been out there banging at the unit door and bugging every passing CO about "what time's she gonna be back?"
And it's the warmest Nicole's seen Wynonna so far and she really doesn't hate it.
Doesn't hate the eight-am wake up call she got (a smack to the shoulder; "Nicole. Up. Now. We're eating.") because she absolutely would've slept through breakfast, doesn't hate the ever persistent smile that Wynonna's so insistent on trying to hide because it makes her glow and Nicole's so content basking in the light, but what she really doesn't hate the most is how Wynonna's been talking to her like she wants her there (for the company, not the incarceration).
"We're gonna get you that pillow, Haught," Wynonna tells her over lunch (white bread and American cheese grilled cheeses, watery tomato soup, over-steamed carrots, and a packet of soup crackers) with the conviction of a kid with her allowance ordering a cone from an ice cream truck.
They're at a table with Champ, whose knee won't stop bouncing, eyes won't stop jumping around, but looks more optimistic than everyone except Wynonna. He isn't eating, must be the nerves.
"When you said it'll cost me," Nicole starts in, pushing her carrots around the tray with a spoon. "How much are we talking?"
She knows enough about prison politics to understand favors are to be returned in full or the price often becomes your physical safety. What she doesn't know is who this Little Earp (baby girl?) character is, what her values are, where her true allegiance lies.
"A favor or two," Wynonna tells her. "Nothing you can't handle."
She's beginning to learn that Wynonna more often than not speaks cryptically or vaguely and it isn't always helpful but it's at least indicative of something wicked this way comes if there's ever anything worry about. And to Nicole the words come with a hint of hope, which is more than the rest of the pod can say they've ever gotten from Wynonna. The horizon is clear. For now.
Nicole drops her spoon onto the tray and rolls her shoulders back; she doesn't like not knowing what she's getting herself into and pushing sensitive buttons in this place is a big no-no. There are a million too many things going on in this pod to keep track of and it's all she can do to keep a level head. The lack of a pillow does not help.
"Waverly won't ask too much of you," Champ admits after a moment of silence all three of them can agree lasts a moment too long. "She's reasonable."
And so the enigma has a name.
There are maybe two things in this world Waverly Earp loves more than her freedom.
Total control and Wynonna.
Both of which she has.
One of which she's obtained through calculated manipulation of correctional officers and inmates. The other she's always had.
So let's stick to the former.
The total control.
Control the likes of which she only dreamed of on the outside. When she was free. When control meant living her life as a human with everything going for her, with so much at her fingertips, so many rewards to reap. No thanks to Wynonna, who's spent much of her teens brooding in leather and drowning the negativity in enough booze to sedate the island of Manhattan for a month. That's not Waverly's style, but she gets why Wynonna is the way she is.
She did kill their daddy, after all. Shot him right in the back. No matter if it was an accident, still happened.
But Waverly doesn't think about that (usually) because Waverly's very focused and Ward was a piece of shit and there are more important things at hand than holding a grudge against her sister for firing a gun with her eyes closed when she was twelve.
She's got her humans to think about.
Champ. Rosita. Jeremy. Hell, even Chrissy, the biggest snob in the entire pod, but Waverly's still got a soft spot for her because Chrissy doesn't deserve to be here. Her charge was petty childish nonsense, but the juvenile court in this district is dead set on institutionalizing anyone who crosses the thinnest line.
Like how they did Waverly. They did her dirty. Dirty enough to offend a street rat.
We'll get to that. We'll get to all of it.
But first we have the matter of Nicole and Wynonna. The two that shouldn't be, shouldn't get along so well, shouldn't be meshing while Waverly's in seg and alone and stuck in missing-her-sister-hours. Waverly's supposed to be the only one Wynonna has a heart for (except for Dolls, and sometimes Doc, but Doc and Wynonna's whole thing is weird and Waverly doesn't have time to think about that).
Waverly doesn't like that Wynonna's got a new girl riding along with her, doesn't like that they're on good terms, that they're on track to be roommates of the year (which isn't a thing here, but fuck, from what Doc told her. . .), that they're almost sort of friends and there's nothing to be done about it.
Waverly's been gone. A week. Seven days. That's it.
Long enough, apparently, for her sister to pick up and decide having a roommate isn't the end of the world any longer. That having a friend is suddenly the best idea she's heard all year.
Maybe she shouldn't be so pressed about something so petty but there isn't much more to do in a place that doesn't let you leave.
Maybe because it's the first slice of total control she's lost to the wind is why it grinds her gears so hard.
She's getting out of the icebox today.
She'll get her control back.
Overhead lights make a rare appearance in room three.
Because Wynonna's got to "go to work" apparently. Nicole has no idea what that means.
All that's been said is festivities will commence this evening after lights-out once the pod has been restored to full capacity. So a party. What do those look like in a place like this?
Like hell, apparently, because all the girls (and Champ) can muster up is a few extra commissary items for what can only be described as a potluck's younger and much dumber sibling.
But Wynonna's been hard "at work" for the better part of an hour and from up on Nicole's bunk all she can hear is liquid moving back and forth between God knows what and God knows where (and back again). And she's trying to focus on the book in her lap (some God-awful chick-lit romance she snagged off the library cart moments before the CO rolled it away) but it's positively grueling and whatever Wynonna's doing down below is scratching at the insides of her ears.
She puts up with the noise for another twenty minutes and some change before snapping the book shut and laying across her bed, letting her head hang over the edge of the bunk.
"Am I allowed to ask what you're doin' down there? Kinda feel like I'm being waterboarded."
Wynonna flashes a sly smile that upside down is somehow just as charming as right-side-up. Charming and goofy and distinctive enough for Nicole to realize it changes the tiniest bit for every person she gives it to. The one Nicole's got is sprinkled with what from a normal person she'd call appreciation and affection but Wynonna is far from normal.
Strewn around her bunk are three gallon-jugs of something that looks like mango juice with a few too many chunks of fruit floating around in it. She'd take a wild guess at what exactly she's looking at but she already knows. Four or five (counting is hard upside down) twenty-ounce commissary water bottles sit in Wynonna's lap in various stages of full of the orange mystery.
Nicole gives her roommate a pointed look, brows raised.
"What?" Wynonna asks almost innocently. Keyword almost; she ain't capable of innocence anymore. "I'm the resident mixologist."
Nicole just blinks at her.
"You'll like it," her bunkie tells her. "Get down here."
"It's ten in the morning."
"I said get down here, Haught."
"Aye aye, captain."
Nicole swings her legs over the bunk's edge and sinks down at Wynonna's side and within seconds an uncapped twenty-ounce is pushed into her hands.
The taste is sour and sweet and the perfect amount of bitter and — holy shit it's strong but you don't get that until it's slid down your throat and settled in your middle, that's where it lights its bonfire.
Nicole coughs once, twice, holds the bottle away from her face because even the smell is enough to make her eyes water. Maybe she was wrong, maybe she should've gone and guessed, because whatever she thought she knew of this poison at first glance was dead wrong.
"Wynonna — that is — it's — good God — that is death juice," she sputters, staring wide-eyed, far past incredulous, at the grinning girl by her side.
"Delicious, ain't it?"
Now that's a stretch. Like twice around the world kind of stretch. Like calling a cockroach a butterfly kind of stretch, so Nicole has to laugh, inwardly and high-pitched-giggly (the oh shit am I already tipsy? kind of laugh), and she swats Wynonna's shoulder.
"I — no, Wynonna," Nicole starts with a shake of her head, yet still with that giggle. "It's awful. You have no right to call yourself a mixologist."
"Ouch." Her roommate makes a face at her, snatches the twenty-ounce for herself, swallows a good third of it in one go (which both impresses and horrifies Nicole all at once). “. . . it’s an acquired taste. So drink up."
Two trains of thought leave the station at once. Barreling down Track A is the fear of being drunk at ten in the morning and being penalized for it, but she was never afraid to break rules in the free world so there's something about this place that's maybe getting to her. Track B is home to the realization that it might actually be fun and if she says no Wynonna might be offended and she's just starting to fit in good so is it worth risking all that for a sober state of mind?
Short answer: fuck no.
Nicole takes the twenty-ounce back and tips a gulp down her throat and even though she's expecting the burn it still kind of sucks but nowhere near as much as the first sip and the little voice in the back of her head telling her to quit it has been drowned out and subsequently replaced by Wynonna in her ear going "attagirl, Haught Stuff. Knew I liked you for a reason."
Right, because this is how you get people to like you when you're seventeen. And in prison.
There are worse ways.
And worse places to be, if you think about it.
Like on the street.
Or thrown around from shitty foster home to shittier foster home.
It's no living staying in places people don't want you, no living coming home every day to a caretaker only grateful you showed up home again because it means they're one day closer to the monthly check you bring them.
Are you rationalizing prison, Haught?
No, I'm —
You're rationalizing prison.
I'm not, I'm —
Take a nap. For your own sake, honey.
Internal dialogue at its best.
Nicole needs to get out of her head, needs to lose the mentality of a kid tossed from family to family, or she's going to spiral again. Not sure she ever fully came back from the last one.
Nicole's still in her head.
Not quite back yet.
Hands on her shoulders, nails biting into her skin through that stupid navy jumpsuit, and it'd probably hurt a bit for anyone not trapped in a mind-loop of self destruction by way of letting the past suck you in.
Maybe she's just drunk. Definitely a bit, yeah.
It's when Wynonna shakes her, forces out her name in two harsh syllables ("Nic - ole."), that she realizes she's slipped into conscious unconsciousness.
Nicole's lashes flutter, she blinks rapidly, feels her head twitch to stage right, and prays she sounds normal when she finally speaks:
“. . . What’s up?"
"What's up? You kidding me?" Wynonna still has her by the shoulders and looks — worried? relieved? is somehow smiling? Nicole hasn't seen that look on her before. "Earth needs you, come on back. Where'd you go just now?”
That's a loaded question.
She keeps the twenty-ounce cradled to her chest as she shakes her head.
"Nothing — nowhere — it's nothing."
That's clearly not an answer enough for Wynonna because her gaze is heavy and inquisitive for the briefest of moments Nicole wishes she had a roommate who didn't give a shit where she went.
“I. . . get stuck in my head sometimes," Nicole admits, refusing to meet her roommate's gaze. "And sometimes it's real hard to get out, you know, and — " here's where she hiccups, it happens a lot when she drinks, and she hates it, makes her cheeks burn with embarrassment, so it's time to shut this down. " — it's nothing."
"You don't want to talk about it, we don't talk about it," Wynonna decides after a moment. "I'm no good at heavy shit anyway. But — if you need. . . you know, I can try. No promises."
“. . . Thank you."
Nicole hasn't sounded so small in years.
Doc's escorting her back to the unit.
She's trying not to smile too much but it's hard to keep it down when she knows she's going home.
That's a big word. One that carries connotation enough to bring about distant memories of the homestead, of open fires, of curling up with Wynonna on the couch after a year-long day of enduring Ward's empty promises and substance-fueled tirades and tantrums.
Maybe it isn't so much the place but the people that are in it.
Maybe it's wherever Wynonna is that's home. Yeah, that’s it.
The halls are dim, Doc doesn't show any emotion, but he strapped the cuffs on loose when he came to pull her from solitary. So he's in a good mood.
And then they're at the pod door, and it's sliding open, and she's waiting, so damn patiently, and it feels like it takes a year for Doc to slip the cuffs off once she steps inside.
Waverly flexes her wrists, turns on her heel, hears the metal clink of the door sliding into place behind her, and —
the pod erupts.
Champ gets to her first.
Has her wrapped in a bear hug before the door is shut. It's maybe noon, no one's called for lunch yet, but spirits bounce back to high and there's a storm of footsteps as girls flood down from the top tier to welcome that angel of theirs.
Little Earp is back.
Nicole and Wynonna are holed up in Wynonna's bunk still with the twenty-ounce nearly empty, debating the pros and cons of a cell with no doors (they opted out of the deep talk, Nicole wasn't ready, and Wynonna's grateful for it) when they hear the shouts. Happy shouts. Welcome-home shouts.
Wynonna looks out to the dayroom but there's already a figure right outside their room and Wynonna's launching herself off the bunk and throwing all her body weight at the tiny girl in the doorway. Tiny as in she can't be more than five-four. Tiny as in the force with which Wynonna crashes into her should have knocked the air from her lungs.
Nicole watches, amused, and sort of touched by the intensity of this reunion.
And Wynonna's saying "God, baby girl, I wish you'd quit doing shit like that. I need you here."
All Nicole can see from the bottom bunk is two little hands clinging at the back of her roommate's jumpsuit like the girl's life depends on it and the top of a head of brown hair. She knows better than to interrupt this moment and it seems the rest of the pod does too; there's no crowd at the door, no looming onlookers in the dayroom. This moment feels sacred and Nicole's almost honored to witness it.
Isn't until Nicole lays eyes on the returnee's face that sacred takes on a whole new meaning.
What had Wynonna called her? An actual angel? Yeah, that's accurate. Looking at her is like finding the eighth Wonder of the World after eighty years of exploring.
A wonder with the cutest little square chin, pools of melted chocolate in her eyes as she gazes upon Wynonna, jaw with a slope Nicole would’ve actually shown up to algebra class to graph and either she forgets how to breathe or the world’s come to a full stop because — wow.
And then their eyes meet over Wynonna's shoulder and all Nicole sees is ice. Triple what it took to sink the Titanic.
So — yeah — she freezes. It's very cliché.
And it only takes a split second for the girl's face to change and for a moment Nicole's unsure the ice was ever there.
Waverly Earp's voice drips with honeyed intrigue as she reaches to take Wynona's face in her hands (and Nicole swears she sees her roommate nuzzle into the girl's palm but it's way too out of character for the Wynonna she knows so she chalks it up to prison-booze induced hallucination) and asks her "you going to introduce me or what?"
"Don’t rush me, I just got you back. Get in here." Wynonna steps aside to let the girl slink into the room, Waverly looking like one of those field mice that sleeps inside of flowers with the way the jumpsuit dwarfs her.
Nicole untangles herself from sitting criss-cross on Wynonna’s bunk and hauls herself to her feet and wooziness catches her by the belly and yes indeed is she intoxicated. It ain’t even afternoon yet.
It’s either Wynonna’s death juice or Waverly’s sculpted-by-the-hand-of-God (too beautiful for anyone’s own good) face that has her head spinning. Little of both? More of the latter? Nicole’s not supposed to go numb the first time she looks at someone, anyone; and since when is numb a good feeling? Like a weighted blanket and the warmth of an open fire.
“Waverly Earp.” Wynonna points at the girl she calls an actual angel, forearms crossing as with the other hand she points to her roommate. “Nicole Haught. Go crazy. Go stupid.”
“Oh boy,” Waverly mutters at Wynonna, hand outstretched to the redhead. And she’s smiling, and it’s godly, soft, sweet, beguiling, and damn near as intoxicating as her roommate’s concoction. Nicole’s staring, probably very obviously. “It’s good to finally meet you, Nicole Haught. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
She — what? How? Nicole would like to know.
Nicole takes the girl’s hand to shake and feels a ripple of something akin to wonder wiggle its way up her arm. There’s no way she can’t smile back (a goofy, crooked, and riddled with curiosity kind of grin), not when the girl looks like that, not when she swears Waverly just ran a fingertip across her palm.
And if she didn’t Nicole’s really going to have to ask Wynonna what exactly is in that damn booze. But if she did, well, Nicole’s already weak in the knees just looking at the girl. So that’s fun.
“All good things, I hope,” Nicole says, cheeks flushing a bashful shade of pink.
“Only the worst,” Waverly tells her with a wink.
Then she’s gone from the room as suddenly as she appeared.
And Nicole’s in a little bit of shock, in a little bit of awe, and it’s quite a task keeping her jaw off the floor as she watches the girl get swallowed by a ring of their pod-mates in the dayroom.
She swings her head around to look at Wynonna, wide-eyed.
“Where did she come from?”
Nicole drops to the edge of Wynonna’s bunk and rubs at her eyes with the heels of her hands, runs her fingers back through her hair, holds it there as she shakes her head.
“When you called her an actual angel I didn’t think you meant. . .” she waves a hand at the doorway, exhaling slow and heavy. “That. Wow. Do you believe in love at first sight?”
“Gross,” Wynonna says with exaggerated annoyance, reaches out to snap her fingers at Nicole. “Snap out of it, that’s my little sister you’re talking about. You aren’t in love, you’re drunk.”
“Sister.” Nicole steels her face, albeit not very well. “Right.”
Waverly hasn’t decided what to think about Nicole Haught just yet.
Hot as all hell, sure, and her handshake was firm up until Waverly toyed with it with the brush of a fingertip. And the way she looked at her with those big ol’ puppy-dog eyes and that dopey smile reminded Waverly of the look on Champ’s face after she’d finally given in and let him kiss her that first week after movie night in the back of the cell he used to share with Mercedes.
But she’d smelled the booze, the sugary sour shit-shake that was Wynonna’s specialty, so the dumbstruck disposition could be chalked up to that. Also could’ve been enhanced by it.
If Nicole is anything like Champ turning her into a loyal soldier will only take a few calculated looks and oversaturated cheeky smiles and maybe a bite or two of her bottom lip.
She’ll see it done.
There’s just the bit about Nicole and Wynonna getting friendly that she’s got to work around, but Waverly Earp has never once shied away from a challenge and she’s not about to start.
For now she has catching up to do.
Mostly with Champ, who hasn’t left her side since she integrated back into the dayroom. It’s kind of sweet, kind of admirable he wants to show his affection with an arm constantly thrown around her shoulders, their cheeks nuzzled together, but it also really feels smothering. Like he doesn’t pick up on invisible boundaries or the fact that maybe she’d like to breathe her own air for five minutes instead of returning sloppy over-eager kisses he keeps wanting to give her; she wants to talk to him, not just throw themselves at each other, and he doesn’t get it.
He doesn’t get a lot of things and Waverly’s been able to look past that for the better part of almost a year now but they’re in deep enough that calling him out on his shit has time and again earned its place at the table. Especially after taking the seven days in the hole to keep him from a claustrophobe’s worst nightmare.
It’s after dinner now, Waverly’s been back for a hot second, the pod has almost returned to normal, but he hasn’t given her even an inch of breathing room and she’s about ready to drive a stake through his head.
She hates how sincere he looks when he says it, hates how ready he is to play up whatever emotion will keep him in her good graces. He’s gotten good at that, way too good, and if seven days apart has done anything it’s make Waverly realize he may not be as loyal to her as she once thought.
He may just be loyal to the physical aspect of their relationship and if that’s the case she’d rather have nothing to do with it. She needs to dig deep for this one, needs to pull everything up from the depths of their relationship if she’s going to find an answer to does Champ only like her for the perks he gets?
Half of her hates that she grants him those perks in the first place.
Like Wynonna’s always said, he doesn’t deserve them. Doesn’t deserve her. Maybe. Probably.
But he’s always been easy to control and Waverly’s used that to her advantage enough that she’s kept him around, let him keep laying hands on her, treating her like his girl as if he’s ever been more than just a pawn in a game of chess Waverly’s been carefully playing since the moment she got here.
All Champ knows to think about is physical interaction and how much he misses his game system. What’s that statistic about the male brain thinking about sex every seven seconds? Champ’s the anomaly: he can go maybe three seconds without thinking about it.
“God. I missed you so much,” he mutters against Waverly’s ear before nipping at the lobe. She wishes he wouldn’t do that here, at the dinner table, while she’s milking Jeremy for information about Nicole. She wants to know everything Wynonna hasn’t already told her so Waverly pats Champ’s thigh and tells him “down boy” while she tries to focus on Jeremy.
Who apparently only has nice things to say about Nicole. Which is becoming a trend and is starting to annoy the shit out of Waverly but she won’t show it because her girls — and Champ — need to see stability from her.
They’ve never seen the Waverly that flashes skin at Doc to get him to talk. They’ve never seen the Waverly that bullshited a palm reading to convince Bobo to sneak her a cell phone so she could call in a bomb threat on the pod next door so they’d all be thrown in the gymnasium for a night while the authorities scoured the pods for traces of explosives just so she could get a face-to-face with next-door’s boss and arrange a BBD x Revenant cease-fire.
They’ve only seen Waverly, the angel.
The Waverly who gave up her own blanket for Wynonna when Bobo took Wynonna’s away as punishment for threatening to start a fire in a garbage can because he wouldn’t let her see the nurse after she broke her nose head-butting Champ over a packet of Oreos. The Waverly who sat up until sunrise with Jeremy the night her mother lost the battle with breast cancer.
Maybe those seven days locked away made her a little cold, a little mean, because her thoughts are darker than usual and her patience is shorter than it’s ever been and she’s two seconds away from backhanding Champ if his hand doesn’t stop inching up her thigh. Now is not the time.
“ — all in all I think she’s a good kid. Us Revenants have no problems with her. She’s got our stamp of approval,” Jeremy finishes. Like she’s authorized to approve anything on behalf of the Revenants. She’s barely one herself. Though, to her credit, she’s been loyal ever since Waverly poached her from BBD, so that must count for something. Still doesn’t mean she’s authorized to throw down a Revenant endorsement (she’s still learning the rules). Only Waverly and Rosita can do that.
But Waverly doesn’t have time to think about that right now.
“So we like her,” Waverly decides aloud, more for the group than for herself. “But what’s the deal with her and my sister?”
“She’s the only person Wynonna hasn’t verbally challenged since you left,” Rosita offers.
“But now that you’re back everything can be righted in the world,” Champ tells her, eyes big, way too eager.
If that’s how he thinks things work around here.
She’s going to need him to take it down a notch (or three) before she tosses him in time out. Which she isn’t above doing because this is her world and they’re all just living in it.
Wynonna gets Waverly alone after accosting Champ in the dayroom and threatening his masculinity if he doesn’t step back for five fucking minutes so the sisters can talk.
So, yeah, he eases off.
They’re tucked away in Waverly’s cell, safe and away from the world, with no one eavesdropping on this obviously dire conversation.
Wynonna’s got Waverly pulled against her side, arm around her baby sister, hand coasting the length of Waverly’s bicep.
“I need a favor,” she tells the actual angel. “And I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t driving me up the wall — but I need this taken care of.”
“For you? Anything under the sun,” Waverly concedes; she wiggles in close to her sister as she speaks, tucking her head into the crook of Wynonna’s neck, laying an arm over her older sister’s middle, and realizes immediately just how much she’s missed this.
It’s silent for a moment while they bask in the familiarity of one another. There’s no space between them, no more separation, no more threat of being wrenched from each other’s grasp, and Wynonna’s got to take a deep breath while she reacquaints herself with Waverly at her side. It’s nice.
“I need a pillow,” Wynonna admits, slicing into the silence.
Waverly lifts her head to look her sister in the eye, carrying confusion all the way.
“You have a pillow.”
“Not for me,” Wynonna tells her. “For Haught.”
And that’s really all Waverly needs to know. All she needs to sink her claws into an opportunity.
An undefined exchange is often a profitable one if you’re the party providing. A pillow for an unspecified favor, she can do that, most certainly. With a million possibilities for return, sure.
Waverly’s careful not to betray anything besides curiosity as she levels with her sister.
“It’s gonna cost her.”
“And you’re sure she’s good for it?”
Waverly doesn’t like that.
“Yeah,” Wynonna says after a moment. “She’s good for it. My head if she isn’t.”
Way too new.
Waverly doesn’t like that either. She holds her sister’s gaze, suddenly serious as the day she exiled Robin for treason, and:
“No,” Waverly starts. “Her head if she isn’t.”
probably two thirds of this was written drunk and none of it is edited but pls do attempt to enjoy
Wynonna Earp is in Deputy Warden Nedley’s office.
Not because she’s in trouble, no, but because in six months time she’ll be eighteen and out of his hair for good and he wants to ensure she doesn’t go and get herself thrown in big girl prison.
Which he’s more worried about than she’ll ever be.
So naturally he bought doughnuts for this sit-down.
Wynonna’s on her third powdered doughnut when Nedley pushes a pamphlet across his desk. It’s one of those ones with a shining sun and smiling coeds on the cover and Wynonna gives the deputy warden a most unimpressed look.
She’s seen the same pamphlet written a hundred different ways over the years and their content is always always shit. They either preach a life of meaningfulness by way of meditation and healthy living or want to convince you the best way to manage behavioral problems and anger issues can be found in a glorified piece of folded paper. She’s heard it all already, doesn’t want to hear any of it again.
“You do know those things are only good for kindling, right?” she says through a mouthful, sending a puff of powdered sugar from her lips.
“How about I just tell you what it says instead,” Nedley offers, lacing his fingers together over his stomach until Wynonna waves her pastry at him in a gesture to proceed. “It’s called the Colony of Bulshar. It’s a residential program for girls fresh out of the correctional system. They set you up with a mentor, give you a job on their ranch, and teach you all there is to learn about living post-prison.”
Wynonna hates the sound of that. Hates every word that just came out of Nedley’s mouth, actually. She’d rather pull out her fingernails with rusty tetanus-ridden pliers than sign herself over to hippies under guise of rehabilitation.
The rehabilitation camps, she’s heard about those too. Many a time, enough to want to put her head through a wall. They’re money pits, scams, labor camps at worst. The word job implies compensation for your work, something nine out of ten of these places do not provide.
Colony is code for commune, which is code for hippie bullshit. Code for. . .
“Sounds awful culty to me.”
Yeah, that’s about what he expected her to say.
“You’ve said no to every single continuation program I’ve proposed, Wynonna. I’m running out of options for you.”
Maybe she doesn’t need options.
Maybe she needs people to trust that her release from juvenile incarceration won’t bring hellfire raining down on the Ghost River Triangle, or maybe she needs someone — anyone — to believe that she isn’t a lost cause. That she doesn’t need government assistance, program assistance, any assistance at all (cult or not) to keep both feet on the ground once she flies this coop.
“Who needs options when you’ve already got a plan?”
Or maybe she just needs one person to fill both of those shoes.
It isn’t funny.
Except for the part where Jeremy slipped up and called CO Del Rey ‘Bobo’ in front of the entire pod when anyone with half a brain knows Waverly’s the only one who can get away with that.
And now Jeremy’s mattress is gone (because that’s a suitable punishment, apparently), along with her commissary, recreation privileges, and post-dinner television time for two days. Bobo’s pride is bigger than this entire institution.
And Jeremy’s been standing in the dayroom preaching ethics at the unit door for the better part of an hour because somewhere inside that logic-driven mind of hers she thinks it’ll get her somewhere. Thinks people are inherently rational and will respond positively to education of their faults.
It won’t get her anywhere but deeper in the hole with the CO with the shortest fuse.
And it’s not funny. Nope. Nobody’s been unsubtly snickering behind their hands while Jeremy’s claims of innocence and insistence on morally sound logic fall on deaf ears.
It’s mostly sad.
But Champ’s eating that shit up because he’s no smarter than a fifth grader and doesn’t have anything better to do than find joy in someone else’s misfortune.
(“ — and if someone’s pride is fragile enough to force a kid to sleep on a slab of metal and survive solely on prison slop because of a harmless mistake, should they really be employed in a place like this?”)
Except listen to Waverly, who’s been trying to talk to him for about as long as Jeremy’s been protesting her punishment. He’s not the best listener. He tries, sometimes, maybe, but it doesn’t always work.
“ — but if not that, do we know if she’s on anything?”
(“We’re being babysat by men no better than Imperial Stormtroopers. Does anyone else see the problem here?”)
“You listening to this kid? She’s fixing to get herself thrown down the hill. Ah? — Haught? — what about her?”
Waverly’s half a second away from putting her head through the table they’re camped out at. He’s not even trying to listen and okay the whole Jeremy debacle is the most distraction the pod’s had since Champ’s flare-up with Nedley but there are a million more important things on Waverly’s mind and Champ’s supposed to be her right hand.
“Does she take any meds?”
“I don’t know. I think so. Why?”
Now she’s about two seconds away from putting her fist through his face because Waverly just wants this matter opened and closed in whatever the hell a timely fashion looks like. No loose ends.
“Never mind,” she tells him with a forced smile that is wholly unnecessary because he’s still distracted and it’s really no use.
If she can get him out of her hair for five short minutes she might be able to figure this thing out. She could use the peace of mind. Her focus would be eternally grateful. With any luck she could also take a stab at the grouchiness that’s been plaguing the little angel since she’s been back. To its credit the bulk of it has been directed at Champ; she needs to expel a sliver of it publicly — it’s too much to quell internally — and she can’t have her girls thinking she’s unravelling, and it’s too easy to explain away annoyance with the Hardy boy.
It isn’t until Waverly starts to touch him that Champ actually (for the first time that afternoon) looks like he’s paying attention to her.
She skirts her hand up the back of his neck and onward, fingertips stroke behind his ear, and the pad of her thumb follows the curve of his jaw.
“Baby,” she coos, ducking in to mumble against his ear. “How about I get Doc to pull you for an hour of rec. Sound good?”
It’s not really a question. Even if it was he wouldn’t say no. He’s a sucker like that. Plus they both know what happens when Champ gets back from an unscheduled rec. What should probably happen is a shower, but Waverly likes him sweaty. That’s a thing, yeah. She’s only the tiniest bit embarrassed about it.
Champ turns to her with brows raised, eyes pooling with youthful enthusiasm. “Really?” he asks her, almost disbelieving, and doesn’t finish until Waverly nods. “Rec sounds killer, babe. I’d love that.”
“Give me five minutes,” she tells him, drops a kiss to his cheek as she slides out of her seat.
Doc comes to pull him from the pod in eight.
“You’ve been telling me you have a plan for a year now,” Nedley says with a sigh.
Wynonna’s been telling him she has a plan for eighteen months, actually. And she does. She just won’t tell him what it is.
Partly because it’s a passion project (sort of) and mostly because he probably won’t approve.
But if he thinks her eighteenth birthday will be the last he sees of Wynonna Earp then he’s in for one hell of a surprise.
Her plan will keep her a daily staple in Randy Nedley’s life whether he likes it nor not. He’s probably going to hate it. Or at least pretend to.
“Because I do actually have a plan, old man. Whether you believe it or not.”
Nedley doesn’t look too amused. Doesn’t believe her, either. He’s learned not to hold this Earp to any single thing that comes out of her mouth. Especially if it’s vague and unhelpful and she’s adamant about not sharing any details.
So Nedley does what he always does and takes first steps for her. Which she hates, and he knows it damn well.
There’s a moment where they just look at each other, no bullshit, and they’re almost equals. A moment where Nedley’s authority fades and Wynonna’s carelessness dissipates and it’s like two old friends doing their thing over doughnuts.
They’ve known each other so long that’s essentially what it actually is, and for a fleeting moment Wynonna wishes she had a father like Nedley. Maybe she wouldn’t have shot him in the back if she did. If that were the case. One can dream.
There’s a lot going on there.
“Hear me out at least, would you?” he pleads with her. “They’re good people trying to do good things.”
“And I’m supposed to care why?”
“Because.” Nedley sighs. “I’ve already put in a recommendation for you.”
That really ain’t it, chief.
Wynonna would flip his desk over backward if it weren’t bolted to the ground.
She’d light a cigarette in his office if this weren’t prison and tobacco banned.
She’d yell if it would do anything other than piss the deputy warden off.
She’d do a damn number of things if she weren’t a glorified caged animal.
Instead she pinches the bridge of her nose and grits her teeth and prays for her sanity in this damn moment of nonsense.
“You did what?”
“Two days,” Nedley offers. “You visit, spend a night with ‘em, you see if you like it. That’s all I’m asking.”
“Damn it, Nedley.”
“Meet me half way, Wynonna. I only want to see you succeed.”
That’s harder to say no to then she cares to admit.
Wynonna doesn’t care for people playing her emotions. But Nedley may as well be her acting father. So. . . Hell.
Wynonna squares her jaw and jabs at him with what’s left of her doughnut.
“Two days,” she says, finally. “If it’s the shit show I assume it is and I decide I want no part of it — not another word from you. Deal?”
Nedley probably shouldn’t let any of the kids talk to him like that. But this is Wynonna. This is different.
“All right, kid. You got a deal.”
Peace and quiet.
Waverly can finally focus.
This is the first time since the icebox she’s had to herself.
Champ is looking more and more like a barnacle on the hull of her ship.
Now. To focus.
What does Nicole have that can be of use in a place like this? Waverly still doesn’t know if the girl’s on any meds, knows she’s broke, and knows that whatever’s going on between her and Wynonna has fully surpassed inconvenient.
She’d brainstorm with her sister if Wynonna weren’t off with Nedley. Going it alone isn’t foreign, she’s been spearheading the Waverly Earp Wellness Campaign (which only exists in her head, obviously) for as many years as she’s been alive, and wasn’t the whole point of sending Champ off to be alone?
Get your house in order, Earp.
There’s far too much going on in Waverly’s head, she doesn’t like it, she needs a hot second to breathe, just wants this matter opened and closed, so she’ll just ask for Nicole’s meds in return. Provided a missed dose or two won’t screw with Nicole; Waverly Earp is not in the business of being a detriment to anyone’s health, mental or otherwise. So that’s that. It’s settled. And if the girl ain’t on any, well, she’ll improvise.
And it’s only been fifteen minutes.
So she’s got another forty-five of freedom before she’s back on the clock as Champ Hardy’s glorified babysitter.
Waverly strolls by Rosita on her way up to room six and tells her to keep anyone from bothering her until she says the word. And to let her know when she has fifteen left.
She wasn’t allowed any reading material in solitary and Champ doesn’t allow her time to read so this has suddenly become absolutely invaluable time.
So she lets herself fall into a world of lions and witches and wardrobes because it’s one of her favorite books in the world no matter how many times she delves into it. She stays there until Rosita turns up in her doorway to tell her fifteen is all she’s got left.
Waverly closes the book on her thumb and gives Rosita a grateful smile.
“Send Haught up here, would you?”
Nicole’s bored out of her mind.
There’s only so much to do when Wynonna’s out of the pod and she hasn’t gotten super friendly with anyone else (yet?) so a lot of what she does around here is observe.
The pod dynamic is intricate at best and complicated as the royal family behind closed doors at worst.
Here’s what she knows so far:
There are two major gangs within these walls that coexist suspiciously peacefully in such close quarters.
There’s BBD, which Wynonna seems to sit at the top of, though Nicole still has no idea what the letters stand for, and isn’t sure she’s allowed to ask.
And the Revenants are Waverly’s jurisdiction.
That’s where the chain of command begins to blur.
She’s seen enough to know both Champ and Rosita are next in line behind Little Earp, but it’s impossible to tell which of them holds more power. She does know Jeremy answers to all three of them, but Jeremy seems a lot like the kind of girl who’ll answer to anyone who gives her time and patience.
As for BBD? No idea what’s going on there.
Wynonna’s the only one she’s got confirmation on. She suspects Dolls, though, because she and Wynonna have had more whispered meetings than Nicole can count. There’s another one she sort of suspects, the other redhead, the one called Mercedes, because either she happens to only be friends with Wynonna and Dolls and her roommate (Kate?) or she’s one of them.
Who the fuck knows.
Nicole’s been camped out at a dayroom table since breakfast, sketching on the back of an envelope with what’s probably the dullest pencil in the Ghost River Triangle. It’s not a perfect picture — she doesn’t have artist’s tools and the shading is far from immaculate but the details are all there. The chipped ivory paint where door meets frame, looming doorway the size and a half of an industrial refrigerator, the criss-crossing safety wire embedded in the window’s glass, the line on the floor they aren’t supposed to cross when the pod door’s shut.
It’s the first thing she’s drawn in months. Feels nice, even if she isn’t proud of it.
A clearing throat pulls her from the sketch and Nicole looks up to find Rosita standing over her.
“That’s not half bad,” Rosita tells her with a nod to the envelope, then juts her head toward the top tier. “Boss wants to see you.”
“Me?” Nicole’s a little surprised, a little excited because Waverly is still wow in her brain, maybe a tad confused because she hasn’t asked the girl for anything yet. So. “What for?”
Rosita shrugs as Nicole rises from the table, says, “Go find out,” and slinks off to join Chrissy in front of the television.
Nicole pockets her pencil and envelope and makes for the top tier.
She lingers in the doorway of room six for a minute because how could she not? With what she’s looking in on, she has to.
What exactly she’s looking in on is a damn sweet sight if she may say so herself: Waverly Earp sat criss-cross, book open in her lap, bottom lip pulled between her teeth, and something in Nicole swears she could look at Waverly like this for hours because looking at her kind of feels like waking up from a nap on the beach. A little too warm, a little disorienting, but altogether the most serene you’ll ever be. A smile tugs at Nicole’s lips. She’d really like to curl up right beside the girl and read over her shoulder.
That’s when she hears: “You gonna come in or just stand there and stare all day?”
And it’s not so much the embarrassment of being caught that sends color to her cheeks as it is the blatant teasing in Waverly’s tone. And Nicole doesn’t hate it, actually. She could get used to teasing if only it always sounded like that.
She doesn’t know whether to sit or stand, she doesn’t know Waverly well enough to assume she’s welcome to drop down next to her, so she stays on her feet and tries not to look as unsure as she feels.
Is this — no, it can’t be.
Yeah, Nicole doesn’t know what that is. Pretty girls don’t usually make her nervous. They make her cocky, confident, and probably a bit too prideful, but that’s only because she knows she has the game to go home with a phone number.
“Rosita said you wanted to see me.”
“Come sit,” Waverly tells her, scooting over to make room on the bunk. “Let’s talk.”
So Nicole does, obviously, and when she looks up Waverly’s got a look in her eyes like she’s waiting eagerly on a fat settlement check.
“I hear you haven’t been sleeping so easy,” Waverly starts in, brows raised. She’s not going to tell Nicole Wynonna already put in her request. Yeah, no, she’s going to make her ask for it. Waverly’s always been one to play with her food, after all.
Nicole’s hand goes to the back of her neck, heel of her hand digging in to relieve a sore spot. A dry laugh falls from her lips, and, “That’s the understatement of the century.”
They’re sitting face to face, knees almost touching, and it faintly reminds Nicole of staying up late at a slumber party after the parents have gone to sleep and can’t keep bugging you to get to bed.
“Have you tried meditating before lights-out? That helped me get to bed my first few weeks,” Waverly offers. It’s not meant to be helpful.
So that’s how this is going to go, Nicole realizes.
Two can play at that game and Nicole Haught is nothing if not a fierce opponent.
“You know what? I hadn’t thought of that,” Nicole says, laying the sarcasm on thick. “Know what I have tried though?”
She waits because Waverly’s face, though it began with condescension, is shifting to something in-between amusement and surprise.
And yeah, she’s going to humor Nicole. Obviously. So Waverly makes a prompting sound.
“Weighted blanket, herbal tea, and a sound machine,” Nicole deadpans. She tilts her head, brows raised in challenge, as she tries (although not too hard at all) not to smirk. “Didn’t do the trick.”
Waverly hums, isn’t sure whether to laugh or snarl.
“What about counting sheep?”
“May as well be asking me to count clouds,” Nicole shoots back.
“What about stars?”
“Aren’t you supposed to be the vet? Even I know we can barely see those in here and I’m new.”
“Hm.” Waverly taps her chin with a pointer finger. “Have you tried asking my sister to sing you to sleep?”
That’s it, that’s the crack in Waverly’s offense that isn’t supposed to be there. No emotion, right? Isn’t that how she’s supposed to approach such matters? In the past, sure, because the past holds only meek opponents and weak-willed favor-seekers, girls who would sell an organ to repay a kindness within the twenty-four hour mark.
Nicole Haught is none of those things.
“I would, but my gut tells me you’ve got the better singing voice.”
Waverly’s gotta smile at that — she’s got to, she can’t not, half because you’re damn right that’s true and half because it’s a point to her ego and she’ll never say no to one of those.
“Your gut’s got brains, Haught.”
Nicole lifts her chin. She’s not exactly smiling, no, even with the thousand-watts she’s got coming at her from Waverly, she’s somewhere between realization and acceptance.
“You’re going to make me ask you for it, aren’t you?”
She doesn’t have a problem with it. It’s a power play, sure, but Nicole gets why, and she’ll swallow her pride for a moment if it means she’ll have somewhere soft as sin to rest her head at night.
It’s worth it.
And there’s a moment where Waverly’s smile falters because she’s so used to flying under the radar, used to seamless manipulation, and entirely unused to a question so blatantly bombarding her facade.
So. Yeah. She meets it with honesty because she’d be wrong to disrespect an inquiry so simply candid.
“I am,” Waverly concedes, it’s only right.
There’s a moment now, a silent moment, maybe thirty seconds, maybe sixty, but it’s quiet through and through, and only feels like an instant. They’ve got eyes on each other, locked and loaded, neither ready to give, and there’s more said in that minute than could ever be spoken aloud.
Nicole’s going to ask.
Waverly knows she is.
Nicole knows Waverly’s games are for more than just appearances. There’s a fire in there, buried down deep, that’s running out of kindling, and this is what it feeds on.
So, yeah, she’s going to ask. To humor Waverly, to better her nights, to not throw a wrench in the pod mechanics because Nicole isn’t sure this place would run so smooth if Waverly wasn’t at a hundred percent.
And Waverly sees that, too. Sees what Nicole sees, realizes it's a danger, realizes she gave away a hair too much without awareness.
She’s going to have to fix that.
“Waverly Earp,” Nicole starts, quieter than she’d like, but the compassion building for the girl seated before her has gained influence enough to inflect on her tone. She’ll have to work on that. “Would you do me a solid and get me somewhere soft to rest my head at night?”
“I can do that,” Waverly tells her, hating the smile she hears in her own voice. “It’ll cost you though.”
Nicole inclines her head, flashing the one dimple she actually has, and, “I can damn well handle that.”
Seems they’ve found a plateau of respect.
But yeah, she was always going to ask.
Wynonna’s not happy.
Nedley’s sprung one too many things on her in this little sit-down.
First with the Colony crap, second with dropping the “I’ve already put in a recommendation for you” nonsense, and now with the “they’ll be here in a half hour to pick you up” bullshit. And of course Bobo’s the guard assigned to her watch for the fucking trip, the piece of work he is.
“Now don’t go losing your head over this, Wynonna. You agreed, remember?”
Well, yeah, she agreed, but she didn’t agree to getting tossed in a van some thirty minutes after the first she’s heard of this damn place.
She’s blown three fuses in the last fifteen seconds, has only two left, and is on track to blow them in about three milliseconds if Nedley doesn’t get his house in order.
“You — damn it to hell — God damn it, Nedley,” Wynonna curses, pointing an accusing finger at the deputy warden. “This is not what I agreed to. I want back in the pod. Now.”
“You’ll be back in the pod in two days time, Earp. We had a deal.”
And — shit — she’s not one to go back on a deal, not one to break word and dishonor an already shoddy family name, but this is ridiculous. Absolute bullshit.
Behind her Bobo pipes in with “If it helps I can toss her in the holding cell until then, boss.”
Wynonna bares her teeth and rounds on the officer, ready to rain down on him with enough curse words to render the bible illegible.
Nedley waves the officer off, tells him, “It’s all right, Del Rey. She can wait here.”
Wynonna looks back and forth between them with unadulterated fury in her eyes.
“You’re dead to me,” she seethes. “The both of you, I hope you know.”
Nedley’s the only one who seems hurt by that.
Champ hears laughter as he strolls down the top tier.
He’s got a towel around his neck, tennis shoes on his feet, and prison-issued gym shorts hanging from his hips. His tee is nearly soaked through with sweat but he’s leaving that for Waverly to peel off of him.
That’s how this thing goes.
Waverly has him pulled for rec, he goes and works up a sweat, comes back, and they work up another sweat together. It’s a good system, he thinks.
Except for getting back now to find Waverly isn’t alone in their room.
She’s got Haught, of all people, sitting beside her, looking all buddy-buddy, like they’d been waiting all damn day to get him out of the pod so they could put their heads together and giggle about whatever the fuck girls talk about. Boys? He’s the only one in here, so he highly doubts that, doesn’t think Haught cares for him anyway. He doesn’t know what else girls talk about in the absence of men.
Yeah, he thinks he’s a man. At sixteen, no less.
Champ picks up his pace as he passes Dolls and Rosita’s room. Heavier steps and squared shoulders will assert his dominance, he thinks, and oh how very wrong he is.
Wrong only because when he storms into room six and finds Waverly and Nicole poring over — what? — is that an envelope? — a drawing? he doesn’t know what it is, only that his girl is sitting shoulder to shoulder with Haught and telling her “shit, Haught, if I’d known you could draw like that I would’ve had you do my portrait instead” and Champ really doesn’t like it.
“I could still do your portrait, you know,” Haught says back. “Not too late to renegotiate.”
Waverly doesn’t get to answer because Champ’s gone blind with rage and steps in, grabs a handful of Haught’s collar, drags her from the bunk that belongs to his girlfriend, and drives her up against the back wall of their cell.
Pins her there with his forearm across her collarbones, pressing against her throat, eyes darting back and forth between both of hers because he still hasn’t shaken the jittery disposition of an hour spent switching between sprints and jump-roping and deadlifting.
“What do you think you’re doin’, Haught, huh? You moving in on my girl?” Champ growls, getting all up in her face, forgetting about personal space, putting pressure on her throat for the hell of it because he’s got all the power here and —
He really doesn’t.
He barely has time to blink before Nicole sidesteps him, drops an elbow to his ribs, a knee to his belly, and drives the heel of her hand through the side of his face. She has him on his knees in five seconds, maybe less. And she’s pretty sure his nose is broken, but she wouldn’t bet money on it. All she knows is he fights with his force, not with his weight. He comes in too strong, relies on his muscle, doesn’t think about which of his feet carries the weight, doesn’t even know how to throw it all behind a solid punch. He’s an easy opponent if Nicole’s ever seen one.
She steps away from where he kneels heaving on the floor and draws a hand to rub at the base of her neck.
Waverly catches her at the door with a hand on her elbow, light, barely there.
“I’m. . .” Waverly shakes her head in what looks like disbelief, but Nicole is far too distracted to examine closely. Nor does she care. She wants fresh air, but also reckons she’d kill for a cigarette. It reads on her face as disdain and indignation. So Waverly decides on, “I’ll deal with him,” and leaves it at that.
Nicole goes for a shower because she doesn’t want to talk to anyone. Wynonna still isn’t back and it’s been what? eight hours, maybe, which is weird. And from the looks of the rest of the pod everyone either heard the altercation or has made up their own story about it and Nicole’s not about to check their facts for them.
She stands under the water as long as she’s allowed. Twenty minutes, technically, and the water goes cold at thirteen, but she doesn’t budge.
When she returns to room three there’s a pillow in a white case on her bunk.
It isn’t until she hauls herself up that she sees the scrap of paper sitting in the center of it.
Nicole picks up the note, looks it over, and feels her blood run cold.
I know why you’re really here.