The night that Wynonna shoots the seventy-sixth revenant between the eyes, they throw a party. It’s a small gathering on Aunt Gus’s property, just the six people who know the truth. There’s a small bonfire, plenty of alcohol, and Gus even makes a cake. Dolls even cracks a smile a few times, but at the back of everyone’s minds is the knowledge that they aren’t really, truly done. One of the revenants is still alive, she’s even attending this party. It’s easy to forget that Officer Nicole Haught isn’t human. She has an easy smile and kind eyes, and she loves Waverly Earp with a ferocity that she knows will be her own undoing. In another life, though, she was a robber and a murderer. Back when she went by another name, and back when she was hung for her crimes by Wyatt Earp himself.
That evening the crowd moves inside Gus’s house, finding guest rooms and couches to sleep on. Waverly and Nicole get their own room, and Nicole spends the night awake. She can’t sleep knowing what she needs to do, instead she takes the time to memorize the curve of Waverly’s face, the noise she makes when she breathes, she bottles this feeling into her chest. The night is too long and too short, but if there’s one way she would want to leave this almost-life it’s after spending the night in the arms of the woman she loves. In the early hours right before dawn, she extracts herself carefully from the bed, leaving Waverly still asleep in a cocoon of blankets. She writes a letter, one she’s been rehearsing in her mind all night. It’s a goodbye and an apology. She leaves it tucked into the brim of her straw stetson, leaving the hat on the nightstand next to a still sleeping Waverly.
The house is still asleep when she creeps into the hallway. It’s better to leave like this, like an intruder in the night. She steps down the stairs lightly, and outside the window she can see the gray light of the early morning start to filter through the clouds at the horizon. Wynonna slept on the couch, which makes Nicole’s plan just that much easier. She crouches next to the woman, calling her name until she wakes up with a start.
“Wynonna, I need you to meet me at Big Tree Hill in an hour. Bring Peacemaker. Come alone. It’s important, don’t tell anyone.” Nicole says in a quiet, urgent voice, keeping eyes contact with the bleary-eyed Earp heir until she gets a response.
“Uh, okay. Right, sure. Can I ask why?” Wynonna asks, her voice rough with sleep.
“Just do it, please.” Nicole pleads, she’s never had too much pride to beg, and Wynonna gives a slow nod in response.
Nicole lets out a sigh of relief. She had been hoping that she wouldn’t be forced to explain herself too much before Wynonna agreed. She knew if she had to explain herself here, so close to Waverly, Wynonna would never agree to this. With a quiet sigh and a final longing glance around the house that brought her in, even knowing the kind of monster she is, she stands and makes her way out of the front door. It’s a long walk to Big Tree Hill, plenty of time for reflection. And this is the kind of morning that Nicole feels requires a little bit of reflection.
She’s only made this walk a few times in her life, and each time it seems like a the road gets longer. The shovel she’s brought along is heavy on her shoulder. If she were feeling more poetic she’d think it almost metaphorical, that weight at her shoulder. The sun is slowly starting to rise, and by the time Nicole reaches the top of Big Tree Hill the sky is pink with dawn. She sets to work, using her shovel to dig deep at the roots of the oak that gave this hill its name.
By the time Wynonna arrives in her truck, Nicole is sweaty, an empty trunk at her feet. She’s wearing a different outfit than she had been when she left Gus’s house, this one older. A vest and an old starched shirt with a stiff collar, and a coat just a little too large and over a century out of style. She’s holding a wide brimmed hat tightly between her hands, and when Wynonna jumps out of the truck, she turns to face her wearing a serious expression.
“So, why did you ask me here at the asscrack of dawn?” Wynonna asks, her hand falling over Peacemaker even as she asks the question
“You’re not dumb, Wynonna. We both know why you’re here.” Nicole answers, her voice tired.
“Humor me, then.” Wynonna seems intent on making Nicole explain exactly what she wants.
“Fine. You’ve got to kill me, Wynonna. Send me back to hell.”
“What?” Wynonna startles at the blunt admission, even though this is exactly what she expected. “No, I can’t do that. You deserve a chance to live. I mean, I can kill you in a few years, it’s not like you’re trying to kill us. You’re not even trying to leave.”
“I lost that chance one hundred and twenty three years ago. It’s too risky to wait. You're a mortal, Wynonna. Revenants aren’t the only things that can kill you. If you die before you kill me, all your work is undone, and Waverly is going to be the one that pays that price.” Nicole explains, fighting to keep her voice steady.
“So you’re, what, sacrificing yourself to give Waverly a chance?” Wynonna asks, letting out a short, mocking laugh.
“Yes.” The admission calms Nicole somewhat, reaffirming her purpose out loud.
“And the outfit?” Wynonna moves on to the next subject, hoping that Nicole will start to make a little more sense on a new topic.
“It’s what I was wearing when I died the first time. Seemed appropriate.” Nicole shrugs one shoulder, then gestures to the area around them. “You know this is where I died?”
“You’re so goddamn dramatic, Haught. I’m not gonna kill you. Does Waverly even know what you’re doing? It’ll kill her.” Wynonna protests, and Nicole can’t deny that the setup is more than a little theatrical, but she can’t let Wynonna back down.
“She will when she wakes up. I left her a note. She’d try to stop me, and although I hate to take the choice away from her, I’ve got to repent somehow. She can hate me when she’s safe” Nicole’s excuses ring slightly hollow to her own ears. She knows that she picked the coward’s way out, not telling Waverly what she was planning.
“But why make me kill you? You could cross the line, or even pick up Peacemaker and die either way. Why me?” Wynonna pleads with Nicole, looking more vulnerable in that moment than Nicole had ever seen her with anyone who wasn’t Waverly.
Nicole sighs, averting her eyes, “The truth is, I’ve always been a coward. And this way we’re sure the deed is done properly.”
“I...I don’t want to hurt Waverly any more than I already have.” Wynonna knows that this is a surefire way to ensure her sister’s safety, but the cost to herself and her family still makes her pause.
“I told her not to hate you in my letter. I explained that I made you do it. If anyone’s hurting Waverly it’s me. That, at least, has always been inevitable. Demons can’t love properly.” Nicole explains , more than a little defeated.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way you love.” Wynonna immediately refutes Nicole’s claim, and Nicole wants to agree with her.
“I’m not exactly great at being a demon either, now am I? Story of my life, really. I was pretty terrible at being a human, but when I came back I was just as bad at being a monster.” Nicole pauses in thought briefly, and then pushes the subject back onto the more important topic. “Look, we all know that this is where we’ve been heading the entire time.”
“Waverly’s never known that.” Wynonna protests
“She’s always been too good for us.” Nicole just gives a half-hearted shrug and a self-deprecating smile.
“Finally something we can agree on this morning.” Wynonna rolls her eyes.
“Which is why you have to kill me. To keep Waverly safe, I know that’s all you want. It’s all I want too.” Nicole hits below the belt, going for the one argument that she knows Wynonna has trouble refuting, Waverly’s safety hinges on breaking the curse. And for the curse to truly break, Nicole has to die.
With that, Nicole walks right up to Wynonna, dropping to her knees in front of the woman. Even while she’s laying herself down onto the metaphorical executioner’s block, she keeps her head held high, a slight defiant set to her head that belays her confidence in her decision. Wynonna shakily draws Peacemaker, hesitating to raise it to the head of a woman she’s come to call a friend. Nicole sees her hesitation, she speaks up.
“Would it help if I did the face?” She asks, mostly joking.
“It really, truly would not help. Just give me a minute, I’m about to kill a friend, I think I deserve a moment.” Wynonna takes a deep breath, trying to steady her hands.
“No, you’re about to kill Lizzie Whistler. Murderer, thief, and, most recently, demon.” Nicole knows that will get to Wynonna, ever since her identity was revealed her birth name had only been used as almost a separate identity. It was always Nicole in the present. Lizzie was someone else, Officer Haught was a new person. She can’t let Wynonna draw lines between her past and her present now if she wants the woman to go through with this.
Nicole, however, doesn’t wait for Wynonna to respond. Setting her hat down on the ground, she just gently reaches out and grabs Peacemaker’s barrel, pushing it up to rest on her forehead. Wynonna can only watch wide-eyed as Nicole puts the gun to her own head. It’s not an image that Wynonna thinks will ever leave her. The other woman leans forward a little bit, pressing her forehead more firmly into the end of the barrel, closing her eyes in anticipation.
Wynonna slowly curls her finger around the gun’s trigger, closing her own eyes so she doesn’t have to watch what she’s about to do. She takes a deep breath, and pulls the trigger.
Peacemaker doesn’t fire. Wynonna opens her eyes, and so does Nicole, they make confused eye contact. Wynonna awkwardly removes the gun from Nicole’s head, checking to make sure that everything is still in proper order. Nothing strikes her as out of place, so she fires a test shot into the air. The gun goes off no problem. Nicole nods at her then, and Wynonna brings the gun back to her head, taking another sharp breath and pulling the trigger again.
“I’m starting to think Peacemaker really doesn’t want to shoot you.” Wynonna says, only half-joking.
“What, does it have a mind of its own?” Nicole asks, sarcastic and more than a little frustrated.
“Yeah, sometimes I really think it does.” A thought occurs to Wynonna at this point, and she flips the gun around, holding it out to Nicole butt first. “Take it.”
“What, you know I can’t, “ Nicole starts, only to be cut off by the other woman.
“Just go with it. Or don’t you trust me?” It’s half a joke and half a promise.
Nicole haltingly reaches out for the gun, she may be willing to die but she’s seen the pain this gun can inflict on her kind. On monsters. Her hand clasps firmly around the grip. A moment passes, and then another, and nothing happens. The gun feels warm in her grip, but not painfully so. Then it starts, a blinding pain runs up her arm, starting at the gun. She screams and tries to let go of the gun, it feels like she’s being burned from the inside out. Her hand doesn't respond to her efforts. Briefly she can see Wynonna’s eyes go wide with panic before everything turns to white and she starts to lose consciousness. She thinks that this might be a bit more painful, but at least the deed is done, and then she loses consciousness completely.
When she wakes up, she’s surprised. Shocked, even. She had thought she would be waking up Down There, surrounded by fire and pain, but when she opens her eyes she’s still on that same hill. Turning her head she can see Wynonna sitting in the grass by her side, eyes firmly on the rising sun.
“What’s,” Nicole’s voice is raspy, strained from screaming. She trails off, not even sure what question she should be asking in this situation.
“I honestly didn’t expect for Peacemaker to mess you up like that.” Wynonna starts, sounding apologetic “I thought maybe Peacemaker was trying to tell me to, I don’t know, trust you or something. Then you started screaming and I panicked. When you passed out, “ Here Wynonna has to take a moment to swallow down the emotion rising in her throat, “When you passed out, you were just laying there, twitching and, I don’t know, glowing I guess. I tried to take Peacemaker away from you, but it’s like it was welded to your hand.” At that, Nicole looks down to see Peacemaker still clutched in her hand. “After awhile you stopped twitching, and it kinda looked like you were asleep. You didn’t get dragged to hell, so I’m gonna have to assume you’re alive.”
“How did that,” Nicole shakes her head to try and clear the confusion “I mean, there’s no way...I really don’t think Peacemaker is supposed to do that. What did it do to me?”
“Well, if I had to hazard a guess I’d say it burnt the hell out of you. Literally.” Wynonna grimaces a little “Okay, that was terrible. I’m sorry.”
“So I’m,” Nicole trails off again, sitting up on her elbows, weighing Peacemaker in her hand.
“Human as they come. Probably. I mean there’s not a real test for these things, but you’re holding Peacemaker and not going to hell, so things are looking good.” Wynonna finally turns her head away from the sunset to lock eyes with Nicole and smile.
“I really didn’t expect to survive today.”
“Look, you asked me to kill Lizzie Whistler. As it turns out, she’s been dead for awhile. Peacemaker was just cleaning up after her.” Wynonna nods to herself, before pushing to her feet in one fluid motion. Nicole doesn’t know how to respond, so she just stays quiet and lets Wynonna pull her to her feet, handing the woman her gun back once they’re both standing.
“Now come on. I’ve already got one panicked message from Waverly, and I told her to meet us at the homestead. I figure it’s about time you finally get to see the place, Waverly’s pretty proud of the clean-up job we’ve done there.” Wynonna moves the subject along, signaling that the time for emotional revelations is over.
“So I’ve heard. She showed me a few pictures.” Nicole responds absentmindedly, suddenly feeling overwhelmed by this second chance she’s been given. She stares determinedly into the horizon as she tries to hold back tears. If she started crying now, she’s not sure she’d stop. Maybe all the good she’s done, all the love that filled her heart and guided her choices actually meant something after all.
Wynonna stops by the truck door when she sees Nicole hasn’t moved. “It’s a beautiful morning, isn’t it?” She asks, following Nicole’s line of sight.
“The most beautiful I’ve ever seen.” Nicole murmurs in response, though she’s sure Wynonna heard her when the woman rolls her eyes affectionately and smiles just a little bit.
“Just get in the truck, you sap. And don’t forget that shovel. You really will be dead if Gus doesn’t get her gardening equipment back.” Wynonna jokes, helping the tension to dissipate.
The drive to the homestead is short. The road is so much shorter this time, there’s an old rock song on the radio and Wynonna is singing along with it poorly. She’s mumbling every other word and belting the chorus off-key, but it’s still welcoming background noise. They pull up to the house, where Waverly is waiting on the porch, pacing and gripping Nicole’s straw stetson tightly. Nicole didn’t even feel a twinge of pain when they got to the fence-line, and that’s when it really hits her. She’s free. She really has another chance to be human, a chance to do things right this time. Waverly hasn’t noticed them pull up to the house yet, too caught up in her own head. Wynonna turns to Nicole as she turns off the truck.
“You know, she wanted nothing more to break the curse herself.” Wynonna starts, seemingly talking mostly to herself. “It figures she would be responsible for it breaking it in the end, even if she never expected it to turn out this way. That said, don’t try this self-sacrificial bullshit again, or I really will shoot you.”
With that, Wynonna jumps out of the truck, slamming the door heavily behind her. Waverly immediately runs over to the truck to address Wynonna. Waverly doesn’t touch her sister, seemingly unsure how to react properly. Her eyes are red from crying and her cheeks are tracked with dried tears.
“Wynonna, please tell me you didn’t.” Waverly takes a deep, shuddering breath “Please tell me she’s still alive.” There are tears welling up in Waverly’s eyes that just tug at Wynonna’s heart.
“She’s better than alive.” Wynonna starts, to Waverly’s confusion, before rolling her eyes and directing the last part to Nicole, who’s still sitting, shocked, in the truck “You could see for yourself if she just got her sappy, melodramatic ass out of that damn truck.”
Nicole starts at that, and shakily steps out of the truck. Waverly watches from a distance with disbelieving eyes. But that doesn’t last for longer than a minute before Nicole finds herself with an armful of sobbing Waverly. She tries to comfort the woman, but she’s still not entirely how to function.
“When I woke up and you were...you were gone, and, and there was a note. You said you were going to,” Waverly has to stop for a moment to compose herself, loosening her grip on Nicole a little bit to look into her face “You were going to leave me. You were going to leave me and you said goodbye through a goddamn note? You think a written apology and a list of excuses is enough?” Nicole has the decency to flinch a little at that, not bothering to defend herself.
“I’m a coward, I couldn’t look you in the eye and say goodbye.” Nicole admits lowly.
“And then I get a text from Wynonna saying to meet her here, of all places? You couldn’t even text me yourself?” Waverly barges on, before a thought seems to occur to her. “And how the hell are you here? I thought you couldn’t cross the line?”
“I can honestly say I have no idea how I’m here. But I think, I mean, Wynonna and I think I’m,” Nicole feels the tears well up in her eyes again “We think I’m human again. This is my second chance, Waverly. I finally got my redemption.”
“Really?” Waverly sounds disbelieving, with an edge of hope tinting her question.
“Really.” Nicole smiles softly “We can build a real life this time. One without my death and the Earp curse hanging over our heads.” When Waverly doesn’t respond for a moment she continues “We could start with you showing me what you’ve done with the homestead, if you want. One step at a time, right?”
“Okay, let’s go inside.” Waverly responds with a watery grin, looping her arm through Nicole’s “ This conversation isn’t over, you know.”
“I know.” Nicole affirms
“And you’re definitely sleeping on the couch for the next year.” Waverly continues, undeterred.
“I figured.” Nicole laughs a little bit as she answers. She gets a whole year more with Waverly, and maybe the year after that. She gets as many years with Waverly as Waverly wants to have with her.
“...What’s with the old-fashioned getup?” The Earp sisters both seem to have similar conversational priorities, and Nicole's never been happier about a non-sequitur.
“I was being dramatic.” Nicole responds simply, with a bit of shame coloring her tone.
“Oh.” Waverly pauses a moment to take in that vague answer, eventually shrugging it off. “I like the vest. You look good.”
“Maybe I’ll see about getting a new one. This one’s not really me anymore.”