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marriage of opportunity

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“Hello, am I speaking with Mrs. Haught?”

Shae blinks, tilting her phone away to see the unfamiliar number on the screen. It’s an international number, Canada.

Déjà vu.

“May I ask who’s asking?” Shae keeps her voice neutral.

“I’m calling from Calgary Health Centre. It’s regarding Nicole Haught, am I speaking with her wife?”

Shae’s mouth goes dry, her heart thumps fast. “Yes, you’re speaking to her wife.”

She books the first flight out and calls out to her hospital.

Family emergency.

Her wife is in a coma.

//

Las Vegas – almost 6 years ago

“Fuck…” Shae licks her dry lips. Her mouth rancid, festering with too much alcohol and sugary drinks without brushing her teeth. She needs water.

Shae blinks, her eyelids glued uncomfortably together in morning eye gunk and leftover mascara. She shifts, gaze adjusting to the unfamiliar ceiling of a hotel room. All hotel rooms have that same beige ceiling. She groans, rubbing the bridge of her nose.

She’s getting too old for a weekend of binge drinking.

Especially too old for Britney live and shots.

She’s off tequila for life.

Scotch she can still do.

As long as it’s that pretty bottle she cracked open for her med school acceptance.

Shae stretches out in the hotel bed, her hand colliding with something soft and squishy.

A face.

A face she vaguely recognizes.

She does have flashes of that long red hair…but that drooling face on her bed? Not really.

Great. She’s going to have to get tested now.

If the soreness in her legs and pussy is any indication…and the slight tackiness on her chin.

At least she got some good sex out of it. She hopes. Not that drunk sex is any memorable but—

Shae pauses. She blinks again and pulls her left hand close to her face.

That is most definitely a ring.

Her late night partner groans to wakefulness and the hand under the pillow comes out, also fitted with a gold ring.

“Oh fuck me.”

The woman cracks open an eye and looks Shae up and down as much as she can. “Well that would be my pleasure ma’am.”

Shae groans. She had to sleep with a smart ass.

//

They don’t have time to get an annulment like she wants to.

Shae has to go back to LA for the start of the rest of her career.

And Nicole has to go back to Illinois to start some police training.

Nichole fucking Haught.

Who has that kind of name.

Shae can’t take the teasing from her friends calling her Doctor Pressman-Haught now. They ask her to get a divorce instead so she can become Doctor Haught.

Nicole had the audacity to laugh and wink.

But as much of a smartass as Nicole is, she promises to get this sorted out.

A quickie Vegas wedding, even to an adorable stranger is not on Shae’s plans, nor is it on Nicole’s. They live in completely different states, and though the good bye sex was phenomenal, fucking great sex is not a foundation for a relationship.

By the time they have time to even consider an annulment, a few months had passed, an annulment grant seems harder now. Shae asks for a divorce through texts.

Nicole calls her.

“Damn Pressman, that’s cold! Leaving me through a text?”

Shae huffs, tossing her laptop to the side of her uneven couch. “Okay, fine. Nicole Haught, will you please divorce me?”

“Thought you’d never ask darling,” Nicole says in all seriousness.

Shae smiles and shakes her head.

Sometimes, she wonders if she could make it work with Nicole.

//

“Oh…”

Her financial aid comes through.

Shae barely has to take out loans this year.

Unlike her friends.

Who are single.

Shae calls Nicole.

“Hey Shae, everything alright?”

“I have a big favor to ask.” Shae bites her lip. “You can say no.”

“What’s the favor first?”

“Can we hold off on the divorce?” Shae waits a beat, she can feel Nicole’s surprise over the phone. “I got my financial aid today, it’s just…you can say no Nicole, I know it’s not…it’s a huge ask. Apparently the government gives a lot more money to married folk.” Shae rubs her ringer finger, devoid of a ring. “You don’t have to…I can afford it without it…it’ll just be…I wouldn’t have to come out of school with crushing debt.”

“Can I have some time to think about it?”

Shae nods. “Of course, yes of course.”

It’s not a no.

A few days later, in class Shae receives a text from Nicole. She’s almost afraid to open it. She does.

It’s a picture of Nicole’s slender pale hand with a gold ring on her finger.

Shae smiles.

Smartass dork.

//

Shae’s on her third cup of coffee, one hour left on her shift before she can collapse back in her bed and sleep for two days straight. She sags in her chair, just a few minutes shut eye while she can. Her ear twitches as a few nurses come into the otherwise empty cafeteria, their voices grating.

She cracks an eye open, seeing them grab a cup of shitty coffee from the machine as well.

Marge tips the creamer and sugar to an unhealthy amount for someone who should be watching her sugar level.

Shae just shakes her head.

“Nothing we can do,” Marge says with a shrug.

A newer nurse, Daniel, huffs and shakes his head. “It isn’t right.”

“I know,” Marge says, her eyes sympathetic, and the wisdom of having worked ten years in bureaucratic bullshit. “The family—“

“Are assholes.” Daniel flops down on the plastic chair threatening to break under the sudden onslaught. “They shouldn’t have been able to kick out his boyfriend.”

Marge nods. “I agree.”

“He should be the one…”Daniel shakes his head. “He’s the one who actually cares.”

Marge hums again.

Daniel looks at his coffee. “They’re gonna pull the plug aren’t they?”

Marge turns away. “Maybe.”

At the end of her break, Shae tosses her cold coffee into the trash. She slows her walk, hearing the loud sounds of prayers.

The loud wail of a mother asking for God’s forgiveness for her son’s sin.

Of being a homosexual.

Shae clenches her jaw.

 

“Shae? What’s wrong?”

“Who’s your emergency contact?” Shae sits in her car, fists curled into her lap.

“Uhh...my friends in the area,” Nicole mumbles. “Shae it’s fucking…oh god its five in the morning…can I go back to sleep?”

“Right. Yes. Sorry.” Shae shakes her head, her hands loosening. “Sorry, I—yea go back to sleep we can talk later.”

“It’s alright.” Nicole shifts, the sounds of sheets rustling. “I’m wake now.”

“Sorry.”

“What’s going on?”

Shae presses the heel of her palm to her eyes, willing the pressure of tears to go away. “I…” She sniffs.

“Did…did you lose someone?”

“No. Well not mine…but….” Shae presses forward. “You should put me as your emergency contact and…emergency medical contact. Just in case.”

“What’s this about?”

And Shae breaks. “I don’t’ want to lose you to your homophobic family.”

Nicole sucks in a breath.

Shae flushes. “Sorry I—“

“It’s the truth.” Nicole hums. “Guess I never really thought about it…you uh…you saw a case today like that?”

“Yea.”

“Alright. I’ll fix my paperwork as soon as I can…Dr. Haught.”

Shae laughs. “Excuse you, it’s Dr. Pressman-Haught.”

“Fancy. Should I change my name too? Officer Pressman-Haught?”

“Nah, it’ll break everyone’s heart to not call you Officer Haught.” Shae closes her eyes, weight lifted. “Thank you Nicole.”

“Think I should be thanking you huh? My wifey saving me from my asshole family.”

Shae screws up her nose. “Never say that again.”

“Aww come on!”

“Nope.” Shae shakes her head. “Go back to sleep Haught.”

“Alright alright.” Nicole yawns. “Thank you Shae, for….for caring enough.”

“Always Nicole.”

//

“You got shot?!”  Shae yells into the phone, ignoring her colleagues’ incredulous stares as she runs out to the back of the hospital out of earshot.

“I got shot at.”

“Nicole!”

“I’m fine! It’s just routine, I got discharged—“

“I’m going to need the name of the hospital and doctor—“

“Shae, come on—“

“And the name of the asshole who shot at you.”

Nicole grumbles. “What I get marrying an overprotective Doctor. Don’t worry, he’s in custody.” Nicole’s voice softens. “I’m fine Shae. Honest. Didn’t even get a graze or nothing.”

Shae breathes out, relieved. “Okay…okay. You’re sure?”

“Sure as hell.”

“Good because if I find out you got even a sprained ankle from this I’m flying out there.”

“Fine.” Nicole sounds petulant, like she’s kicking at the ground. “I’m sorry for scaring you.”

Shae leans against the side of the building, able to breathe now. “I’m sorry for yelling at you.”

“It’s fine, you were worried. I would’ve probably done something stupid if it were the other way.”

“I don’t know about that.”

“Sure I would’ve, you know I’m a…Haught-head.”

Shae doesn’t give Nicole the satisfaction of laughing. She bites down on her lip.

“Oh come on that was a good one!”

“Sure thing Haught.”

“Alright fine, and you? How’s it being a badass doctor?”

Shae gives in to the obvious subject change.

//

So she has not sworn off tequila.

Shae takes another shot at the bar. Celebrating their graduation in style.

This time not in Vegas.

“Alright we—“

“Hey Dr. Haught.”

Shae spins around, eyes wide. “Nicole?”

“Congratulations!” Nicole beams, opening her arms.

Shae leans in and hugs her, nuzzling into the soft skin gaping in that button down before she comes back to her senses and pulls back. “What the hell?” She punches Nicole’s bicep.

Nicole scowls, pouting. “Hey is that the way to greet—“

Shae shoves her hands over Nicole’s mouth. Nicole laughs, eyebrows bouncing.

“Shut up.” Shae pulls back, hands straying over the collar of her shirt. “Seriously! You came!”

“I had some vacation time.” Nicole shrugs, sitting next to Shae, pulling out a small box of chocolates. “Hope you like airport chocolate.”

“I love them.” Shae places her hand over Nicole’s and squeezes. “Thank you.”

“Any time.” Nicole stares at their hands, blinking before she smiles.

 

Shae invites Nicole to stay with her, obviously, and she’s drunk and Nicole’s holding her up as they stumble through the door.

“Okay no more tequila for you,” Nicole says, huffing as she directs Shae to the couch. “Let’s get some water in you.”

Shae hums, watching as Nicole flutters around her kitchen. She sips the bottle of water Nicole hands her.

“You doing okay?” Nicole asks, her goddamn puppy dog eyes so sincere.

Shae nods, leaning forward and brushing their fingertips together.

Nicole glances down, a furrow of question in her eyebrows. She doesn’t stop Shae.

Shae slides her hands up Nicole’s forearm, to her neck. She presses their foreheads together.

Clasping her hand over Shae’s wrist, tilting her chin back just enough for them to not kiss. “You’re drunk.” Nicole breathes.

“Maybe.” Shae rubs circles along the back of Nicole’s sensitive neck.

“I’m not drunk.” Nicole opens her eyes, a hint of regret. “Shae…”

“Nicole.” Shae closes her eyes and breathes.

Nicole pulls back, holding Shae’s hands. “Come on, you need some sleep.”

Shae stumbles with her, shedding her clothes and letting Nicole tuck her in. She feels Nicole kiss her forehead before she falls asleep.

 

She wakes to the smell of coffee and burnt toast.

“Your toaster sucks.” Nicole says, dropping the one sided burned toast into the trash.

Shae laughs. “It’s a piece of shit.” She takes the offered mug of coffee and drinks the bitter down. “Thanks.”

Nicole plays with the rim of her mug, eyes ducked down.

Shae clears her throat. “Look last night…I was drunk.”

Nicole nods.

“But…I wouldn’t have regretted if we did anything last night.”

Nicole’s head whips up, eyes wide. “I…”

Shae glances to the side, unable to look at her if she needs to get this out. “What if….I always wondered if we would have worked out…”

“Me too.”

Shae glances back, at Nicole’s sad smile.

She decides to be brave. “I want to try. I want to see where it takes us.”

Nicole stares at her eyes wide. “Are you sure?”

“We make great friends, who says we can’t be great wives?”

“We live in different states,” Nicole mumbles.

“I don’t have to stay here to be a doctor.”

“I can’t ask you to do that.”

“You’re not asking. I want to.”

Nicole takes a long look at her, then her face splits into a smile. “Alright then Dr. Haught.”

Shae huffs. “Excuse you—“

“Dr. Pressman-Haught.” Nicole walks over to her and nudges her hip, sliding in until she’s between Shae’s legs.

“I’m not sure if I like that hyphen.”

“I’m sure I can convince you.” Nicole leans and kisses her.

//

“Nicole! Fuck!” Shae presses her hand against Nicole’s shoulder, trying to stop the blood from leaking out between her fingers. “Nicole, baby look at me.”

Nicole blinks, eyes unfocused, confused. “Shae? What’s…fuck!”

Shae presses harder into her wound, sitting astride her as they get wheeled through the hospital.

“The team is ready for her,” says one of the nurses, holding her hand out to take over for Shae.

Shae leans down and kisses Nicole. “They’re going to fix you okay? Okay?”

“Shae?” Nicole mumbles again before drifting off.

“Dr. Pressman!”

Shae nods to the nurse, counting down to switch places and Shae slides off the gurney, nodding to Dr. Lee as he takes over.

She stands in the hallway as Nicole gets wheeled into the operating room. Her white coat spotted with Nicole’s blood, her hands tacky.

She’d been at the ambulance entrance taking a small walk when the ambulance arrived. It was all instinct, to step in and help, but seeing Nicole there…

Shae puts a hand to her heart, the thumping not slowing down.

//

“I’m not moving to Canada to avoid you.”

Shae folds her arms over her chest. “I never said that.”

“I can see it on your face.” Nicole pokes her cheek.

Shae doesn’t rise to the bait, she looks off away from Nicole, to the scant suitcases in their hallway.

“Hey.” Nicole holds her hand out. “Shae.”

Shae digs her fingertips into her forearms. “I’m sorry.”

“Hey no no.” Nicole pulls her into a tight hug. Shae collapses and hugs her back. “It’s okay.”

Shae shakes her head, pulling at Nicole’s shoulders. “I’m sorry.”

“I know.” Nicole pulls back, watery smile. “I scared you. I…”

“It’s not your fault you got shot.”

“I did step in front of a gun.”

“Brave idiot.”

They stand there and hug until the tears stop. The heartache will take longer.

“You’re gonna find a nice farm girl up there who likes to shoot guns,” Shae teases, wiping at Nicole’s cheeks.

“And you’re gonna find a…” Nicole’s nose screws up in thought. “Huh....a nice girl who doesn’t get shot at.”

“That’s a very low bar.”

“It ain’t that low!” Nicole huffs again, mock offended.

They don’t talk about a divorce.

Not yet.

//

Shae ignores the number calling on her cellphone. Some weird international number, she’s had enough spam calls. She doesn’t get to her voicemail until the end of her shift.

She wishes she picked up the phone.

“Hi, I’m looking for Mrs. Shae Pressman-Haught, I’m calling from Rockyview—“

She gets a call from Nicole.

“Nicole?” Shae fumbles with her phone.

“Shae, hey.”

“Are you—“

“I’m okay.”

“The hospital—“

“Yea sorry I was asleep when…but I’m fine.”

“Nicole. I’m coming up there.”

“Shae it’s fine. Please.”

Shae bites her tongue. “You’re okay?”

“I’m alive.”

“That is not a sufficient answer.”

“I know I know. But I promise you, I’m doing alright. I’m gonna be discharged soon—“

“I’m going to talk to the doctor for that.”

“Shae, seriously. It was just…I can’t talk about it right now alright…just…please. Don’t come here.”

Against her better judgment.

Shae lets it go.

 

She finds out there was a goddamn serial killer in that small ass town. She’s ready to murder Nicole herself.

//

“Wait, sorry run that by me again.”

Nicole groans. “Shae…”

“No please tell me how she ambushed you and kissed you on your boss’s couch.”

“Shouldn’t it be weirder to talk about my girlfriend?”

“Oh so she’s your girlfriend now?” Shae teases, just feeling a small spark of jealousy. Much smaller than she thought she’d have when Nicole had first told her about the nice bartender who was straight as a fiddle with a jackass boy-man boyfriend.

“Maybe?”

“Maybe?” Shae frowns.

“I don’t know….we don’t’ do much…talking.”

“Oh?” Now Shae smiles. “I see how it is Haught.”

Nicole chuckles. “See this should be super weird talking to my wife about my girlfriend right?”

“It would be….” Shae bites her lip. “Do you….?”

“Hmmm?”

“Does she know?”

“About?”

“Me.”

The silence tells all.

“Nicole.”

“Shae it’s…” Nicole sighs. “It’s complicated.”

“It’s only going to get worse if you don’t tell her.”

“I know that. But…it’s just so new? And I’m her first girlfriend ever, and it’s just… what am I gonna tell her? Hey by the way I’m actually married but don’t worry it’s not married-married?”

“Maybe don’t say it like that.”

“See! Complicated!”

Shae taps her finger against the table. “I could…I could explain it to her?”

“You wanna come to Purgatory and explain to my girlfriend how you’re my wife but not really my wife?”

“I could.”

“I can’t ask you to do that.”

“I’m offering.” Shae hums. “Plus I am curious to see small town life.”

“It’s weird.”

“Weird?”

“It’s a weird town.”

“Weird how?” Shae hums again. “Racist or homophobic?”

“It’s…uh…”

“Ah both huh.”

“It’s just not safe here.”

A chill goes down her back. Serial killer in a small town.

She’s looked up the town statistics after that. There is an abnormally high amount of crime in that area.

“Yea…” Shae mumbles. “And are you…safe?”

“Well I mean we did get tested and—“

“And now we’re done, bye Nicole.”

She hangs up to Nicole’s laughter.

//

She doesn’t hear much from Nicole after that.

Big cases and promotion it seems.

She’s doing well in a small town.

Shae gets busy herself.

And then she gets another dreaded call.

 

Shae flips through Nicole’s chart, eyeing her…friend? Wife? Comatose in the bed.

All considering, Nicole is doing well for a comatose person.

“Hi, sorry.”

Shae looks up, blinks. She’s still too worried about Nicole to realize just who this woman is…and who she just spilled the not-supposed-to-be secret too.

Fuck.

That’s Waverly Earp.

And she just told her she was Nicole’s wife.

Double fuck.

 

“You should have told her.” Shae paces around, glaring at Nicole who is no longer comatose.

“I know,” Nicole groans.

“Here.” Shae tosses her a folder. “Happy birthday.”

“It’s not my birthday.” Nicole mumbles, pulling out the papers, her eyes going wide. “Wait is this—“

“Consider yourself served.”

Nicole blinks. “Are you….sure?”

“I saw how she looked at you.” Shae smiles tightly. “She loves you.”

“I…I don’t know if…”

“Nicole. You love her too. She’s worth it right?”

Nicole still stares at the papers.

“Here.” Shae holds up a pen.

 

Shae files the divorce papers.

 

Now, they can both move forward.

Though she won’t be visiting Purgatory again any time soon.

Nicole promises to take Waverly out into the city when they have time.

 

Shae suspects she’ll be coming back soon for their wedding, one day.