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excelsior
ADJECTIVE, INTERJECTION
1.  higher; always upward used as a motto (as on the New York State seal)

 

Nicole has a pep in her step as she walks through the hallways. The blinding white walls and shiny tiles don’t bother her this morning as she makes her way back to her room. She’s already been to her mandatory group, been given her pills(that she hid under her tongue and spit out) and now she’s ready to start her rigorous fitness routine.

She’s 200 crunches and fifty pull ups in when there’s a knock on her door. When it opens, her adopted father, Randy, pokes his head in with a smile.

Nicole let’s go of the bar and goes over to him giving him a tight hug. Randy pats her back and cradles the back of her head, happy that she gets to leave with him this time.

“Todays the day, kiddo. The doctors said you’re good to go.” Randy explains.

“Did they really?” Nicole questions.”Doctor Timbers didn’t really seem to like the idea when I brought it up last week.”

Randy shrugs his shoulders.

“Pack your stuff.”

Not long after Randy signs the paperwork the two are getting in the car. Nicole sits back comfortably while her dad whistles along to the radio.

“Dad, can we give Xavier a ride?”

Nicole points to the man on the sidewalk walking towards the door.

“Hey, Mr Nedley. Nicole told me all about you how you’re the guy that holds Purgatory together.”

Randy nods awkwardly and continues to drive until his phone rings.

“Yes he is. He what? Alright we’ll turn around.”

Randy pulls over and looks at Nicole.

“Xavier isn’t supposed to leave today.”

Nicole sighs as she looks back at her friend.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Nedley it’s my fault. Nicole’s my friend, she’s rooting for me.”

Xavier goes back to the hospital, and Nicole rests her head against the window seeing all the familiar spots of Purgatory.

Shortys, Main Street, the Earp homestead. She takes in the sight and is happy to be home.

—————————————————

When Nicole walks back into her fathers home she takes in a deep breath as she looks around. Photos from her childhood are spread around the walls, photos from first days of school, her little sister Rachel, and the first time she stood by the squad car with her adoptive father.

The living room is the same as it’s always been, the warm sofa, the tv in front of the window, Randy’s recliner, and the Toronto Maple Leafs blanket that’s draped over the back of it.

Nicole runs her hand over the blanket and smiles. when she hears the door open she whips around.

“Nicole!”

Sixteen year old Rachel runs into the living room barreling into her big sister for a hug.

Nicole laughs.

“Hi Rach. God you’re tall now.”

“And you’re ripped. I didn’t know dad was bringing you home today.”

“I didn’t either. How are you? How’s school?”

Rachel rolls her eyes.

“School is school. Which means I have homework to do.” Rachel groans.

“Go get it done.” Nicole laughs. She pats her sisters shoulder and goes to find her dad.

“Nicole, come down here.” He calls from the basement.

She hops down the steps to find the basement completely finished with all of her stuff.

“Dad, why’s my-“

Randy cuts her off by putting his hand up.

“Shea sold the house. Moved to Toronto. So, I brought all your stuff here. Even those heavy weight machines.”

Nicole looks around at all her things full of confusion. Shea wouldn’t do that. No, there had to be a mistake. She hadn’t been in the hospital long.

“Nicole?”

Nicole blinks the confusion away.

“Yeah?”

“Are you alright?”

“Yeah dad. I’m solid.”

“Good.” Randy nods. “Get yourself ready, you have therapy.”

“Therapy? Dad, I don’t need it.”

“That’s part of the agreement, kid. You come home you have to go to therapy.”
——————————————————————-

Fifteen minutes later Nicole is standing at the receptionists desk of her psychiatrists office. She’s filling out paper work when she hears it. She blinks once and looks up at the woman behind the desk.

Honey, load up your questions
And pick up your sticks and your stones

“Is that really playing? Can you turn it off please?”

And pretend I'm a shelter
For heartaches that don't have a home
Choose the words that cut like a razor

“I’m sorry, Miss Haught I don’t have the controls.”

Nicole’s hand tightens on the pen she’s holding.

“Did Doctor Timbers put you up to this?” Her voice is getting louder as the song intensifies in her ears.

“Turn it off!”

When Nicole looks down the pen in her hand is broken in half and there’s ink all over. People are looking at her and doctors are opening their doors.

“I’m sorry, I’ll clean this up I’m sorry.” She says using Kleenex to clean up the mess.

When she looks up, a doctor is motioning her forward. She looks at the name on the wall and reads R. Del Ray.

When she’s seated in a recliner and the door is shut, she sighs.

“That was a messed up thing you did there, doc.”

The man takes his glasses off to clean them.

“I had to see if that particular song was still a trigger for you, Nicole.”

“Well congratulations it is.”

“Why do you think that is?”

Nicole looks at the doctor.

“Why do I think that is? Well let me tell ya, maybe because the night I came home early from work to surprise my wife I found her in bed with someone else with OUR wedding song playing from the speaker. Maybe that’s why.”

Del Ray nods and folds his hands in his lap.

“And you haven’t thought of a way to not let that particular song bother you?”

Nicole sits back for a moment and shrugs.

“It always gets me.”

“Well we can put you on some medication that-“

“Nope.” Nicole shakes her head. “I’m not taking any meds. They make me feel foggy and sick.”

“You have to, we have to get these outbursts in order. You don’t wampum to end up back at the hospital do you?”

“No I don’t.”

______________________________

Nicole leaves the doctors office with new prescriptions and new things on her mind. When she gets home she changes into sweats, puts her short hair into a ponytail, and goes for a run. As her feet hit the pavement she looks around at her old neighborhood. The autumn leaves are covering the damp sidewalks, Shorty’s Saloon is open, and the police station. The police station looks exactly how it always has. Not busy at all.

Nicole continues her run, sweat dripping down her back and her heart rate elevated. She slows down when she spots a familiar face putting groceries in a car.

“Henry!”

The man turns around and grins when he sees the red head.

“Hey! My my look at you!”

Nicole beams as she’s pulled into a hug.

“I’m sorry I didn’t come see you at the hospital, darlin. You know Waverly had the baby, he’s beautiful you need to see him.”

“Yeah I do. How’s the restaurant?”

“I can’t complain, We’re doing very well. Hey listen why don’t you come to the restaurant on Saturday? My treat we’ll all get together again like old times and you can see the baby.”

Nicole smiles at her friend.

“Alright, I’ll be there.”

Chapter Text

On Saturday morning Nicole decides to start her fitness routine early so she’s done in time for her therapy session. As she runs she thinks of her invitation to dinner from Henry and how nice it’ll be to spend time with him and Waverly again.

She’s known the couple for the majority of her life given the size of Purgatory. Nicole knows that’s also why she receives odd looks as she runs. Everyone knows that she’s the sheriff’s daughter that ended up in the loony bin.

Now, running before people are up and about helps her anxiety. As her feet carry her through her own neighborhood, she runs across Main Street into her old neighborhood. She knows she shouldn’t, but she has to see her house.

She jogs on the wet pavement, running over piles of the autumn leaves she’d have normally raked by now. She slows down as she sees the blue two story that she called home for four years. She stands on the curb looking at the structure, breathing in the smell of rain and a fire off in the distance.

Nicole finds it hard to believe that shea sold their first home. She’d have to talk to her about it in a calm manner when apart time is over. She stands on the curb lost in memories. Her dad and a much younger Rachel carrying boxes in, her and shae taping up garbage bags over the windows at night because they didn’t have curtains, and christening every room of the house multiple times.

Nicole has a smile on her face that quickly disappears when a voice pulls her out of her thoughts.

“What are you doing here?”

Shit. The last person she expected to see was her mother in law.

 

“Mrs. Pressman, I was just going for a run and thought I’d see the old house.” Nicole explains with a smile.

Nancy Pressman had never really liked Nicole, she always thought she was holding her daughter back by staying in the small town like Purgatory.

“You saw it, now you can go. You know you can’t be here.” She says curtly.

Nicole refuses to leave without finding out what happened to her wife.

“I know, I know, listen- how’s shae?”

Mrs Pressman stands with her hand on the door shaking her head.

“You know I can’t answer that. Go home, Nicole.”

The door shuts after that.

There has to be a mistake somewhere.

Nicole completes her run shortly after and returns home with a huff. She scratches behind the cats ears that’s draped over the back of the couch before she jogs up the stairs to the shower.

She lets the water cool her skin and wash away the bad feeling she’s had since seeing Shae’s mother. She stands under the spray and looks at the gold band she still wears on her finger wondering what went wrong. She figures her work and temper played a part in it.

Shortly after, Nicole is dressed and ready for the day standing in the kitchen with a glass of juice checking her watch just as Randy walks in.

“Nicole, did you go to the house?” He asks with his hands on his hips.

Nicole shrugs, “yeah but-“

“No buts. There’s a restraining order, you don’t want me to have to take you back to the hospital do you? I don’t want to.”

It’s only then Nicole realizes how much of a toll this situation has taken on her father. He looks tired, older too, his hair graying just a bit on the sides.

“Alright I’m sorry, it won’t happen again. I just wanted to see it.” She sighs.

Randy takes that explanation and nods as the two leave the house. As soon as they step on the porch, Jeremy, one of Randy’s deputies is walking up the steps.

“What are you doing here, Chetri?”

“We got a call from the Pressmans.” He starts with a sigh. “Nicole, you know you can’t go over there. If you violate the restraining order again I’ll have to take you back to the facility.”

Nicole winces. She won’t go back to the bad place. She won’t.

“It’s okay, Chetri, it won’t happen again.” He waves his hand.

Jeremy nods and heads back to his squad car.

“See?”

Nicole frowns. “I’m sorry, dad.”

Great. Another thing to talk about in therapy.
~

Nicole sits in a lumpy brown leather chair in the office of one Robert Del Rey. Nicole is uncomfortable in the office much like she was during her first visit, it’s plain white walls reminding her of the hospital she hates with a passion. She picks at the pealing leather of the chair all of her attention on that piece specifically.

Much like before Robert comes in with his wire brimmed glasses and a moleskin notebook.

“Hello Nicole, I apologize for the wait.” He says as he sits in the recliner across from her.

She knows the set up is intentional, like it’s her choice to be there talking about her life.

“Listen Robert, I don’t wanna be rude or anything but I don’t need to be here again.” She shrugs in her seat.

“Is that so? Why do you think that?”

“Well let’s see, they let me outta the hospital free and clear, my meds aren’t making me feel bad, and I’m in the best shape of my life.”

Robert nods.

“If everything is so great then why did you go back to your old house?”

Nicole deflates. News travels fast in a small town like purgatory.

“I wanted to see it.”

“You know the Pressmans have a restraining order against you, Nicole. You can’t put yourself in that kind of predicament.”

“I know that.” Nicole nods. “I don’t wanna get in trouble, it was harmless.”

“Let’s move on from that,” he suggests opening his notebook. “Tell me about your family, your father is sherif yes?”

“He is. He’s the best, I’m very lucky to have him as a dad.”

“He’s not your biological father, correct?”

“He’s not. I was adopted by him when I was eight, after my parents died.”

She hadn’t thought about her mom and dad in a while having been preoccupied with the bad place. She thinks back to the night of the car accident. She’d gotten away practically Scott free with just a deep cut from glass leaving a scar on her left cheek.

Randy had been one of the responding officers to the scene, not waiting for paramedics he pulled Nicole out of the car himself taking care of her ever since.

“Nicole?”

She snaps out of her thoughts and looks back at Robert.

“Sorry, what’d you say?”

“It’s alright, I asked how you feel living back at home again.”

“I love my dad and Rachel, Im seeing some old friends later for dinner.”

“That’ll be nice for you to get out and go to some familiar places. Get back into the swing of things.”

Nicole does nothing but nod, hoping that the night goes well.

~

Nicole walks with her hands in her pockets through the streets of purgatory on a chilly Saturday night, people are around frequenting shortys, a pizza place near by, and other strips of businesses. Henry’s restaurant, Hollidays, comes into view. The parking lot is full and live music gets louder as Nicole walks in.

“Hey Nicole!” A voice calls from a table near by.

“Hi Waves!” She smiles giving her a one armed hug. “Look at this guy, hi!” She coos at the baby on Waverlys hip.

“This is River.”

River giggles when Nicole playfully tickles his tummy.

“He’s adorable, Waverly. Congratulations.”

The night goes on, hugs are had, and eventually Henry, Waverly, Nicole, and River are seated in a private room in the back.

Nicole sits next to Henry with a genuine smile on her face happy to be home. Waverly even takes a picture of the two best friends to document the night.

“I missed this place.” Nicole sighs sitting against the back of the booth.

“We missed you too, darlin.”

“We really did.” Waverly tells her reaching across the table to pat her hand. “And we know someone else who did too.”

“Hey Haughtstuff!”

In walks Wynonna Earp.

She looks exactly like Nicole remembers, long dark hair in waves, a leather jacket, and the tightest jeans imaginable.

Wynonna plops herself down next to her sister kissing her cheek and booping Rivers’ nose.

“Wynonna Earp, I can’t believe they let you back in town.” Nicole teases.

Henry chuckles taking a swig of his beer.

“Greece got boring.” She shrugs. “I had to come back and check up on Waves and the little one. And of course old Henry over here.”

“Wynonna was dancing in a traveling group.” Waverly speaks up.

“Still dancing, huh? That’s pretty great.” Nicole tells her.

“It’s still just a hobby. I made enough to get by over there but,” Wynonna waves her off.

Nicole thinks back to when they were all in school. Dance had been the only thing Wynonna was truly passionate about.

“Oh please, you’re being too modest.” Henry chimes in. “She’s gotten even better over the years.”

“Why are we talking about me when Haught just got home?”

Nicole sips her water shrugging.

“There’s nothing to talk about really, I’m a lot better now, I’m working on myself, and I’m gonna get Shae back.”

With that comment the table goes silent, Wynonna taps her fingers on the table.

“Welp. I’m gonna get outta here, go say hi to mama and make sure she hasn’t cluttered my spot.”

“Oh cmon, Wynonna you just got here.” Waverly tells her.

“Sorry, babygirl. Cmon Haughtstuff walk me home.”

Nicole sits up and looks between her friends.

“Uh, alright.”

“Nicole, come by the house soon, okay?” Waverly tells her.

“You got it.” She nods getting up and putting on her jacket. Wynonna pats her back as the two walk out.

Walking down a dirt road to the Earp homestead Nicole and Wynonna walk in comfortable silence. Nicole takes in the sight of the homestead marker and the Earp mailbox, Wynonna’s truck parked next to the barn.

“Listen, Mamas in the house and I’ve still got the barn so she won’t hear us.” Wynonna says looking right at her.

“Wait what are you talking about?”

“Cmon, Nicole I saw how you were looking at me. It was bound to happen at some point right?”

It dawns on Nicole what she means and she shakes her head.

“Earp, I know how you are but, that’s just not my thing. Plus I’m married.” She says showing off the gold band on her finger.

Wynonna scoffs with a tight smile.

“You’re married. Alright, Nicole.”

She steps forward giving her a tight hug catching the red head off guard. After a moment Nicole returns the hug with a confused expression on her face, her hands resting lightly on Wynonnas back.

Wynonna pushes away and jogs to the barn.

Nicole stands dumbfounded on the dirt path for a few moments.

“What the fuck?”