Waverly got the message that her uncle had passed away a week ago. She was in Wyoming with Champ. She decided to travel with him on the rodeo circuit as he tried to keep his bull riding career alive. He wasn’t a great bull rider, but he was an even worse boyfriend. Waverly lost track of the amount of times she had caught him cheating on her. This made it even easier to leave him once she got the letter telling her of her uncle’s passing. She and Champ didn’t break up, but she made it clear she was not going to rejoin him on tour. She was going home for the funeral and did not plan on leaving anytime soon. Her family needed her.
Waverly arrived in Purgatory the day of the funeral. She was picked up by her sister and they drove to the Earp Ranch. That was where they were having the funeral and where Waverly would be living. Her older sister, Wynonna, and her were always close. Wynonna always protected her when they were kids. Their father was a cruel man who drank too much and took his anger out on the girls. He died when Waverly was six and Wynonna was twelve. He was driving drunk after a particularly heavy night of drinking and wrapped his truck around a pole. That left both girls if the care of their Aunt Gus and Uncle Curtis. Curtis ran the farm after Ward’s death, but the girls went to live with Gus and Curtis at their place in town. Waverly left home when she was eighteen to move in with her high school boyfriend Champ. They left purgatory three years later to travel the rodeo circuit. It has been three years since she has been home. Her sister and her texted and facetimed every day, but it wasn’t the same. It was sad why she came home, but she couldn’t hide the love and excitement when she saw her sister waiting for her at the airport.
“How was your flight Waves?” Wynonna asks as they load Waverly’s bags in the car.
“As good as any six-hour flight can be.” Waverly jokes. “But seriously, how are you and Gus holding up?”
“Honestly, it was really crappy in the beginning. But it gets a little easier every day. It helps to still work on the farm. The man used to ride my ass but I have to admit, he taught me a lot about life on that farm.”
“Yeah, well he was the best.” Waverly says.
“Waves, I know you and him were really close. You don’t have to hide your grief. Especially from me.” Wynonna says, placing a comforting hand on Waverly’s knee. Wynonna wasn’t a hugger, and she is driving, but Waverly understands the intent.
Waverly smiles a little as the tears begin to fall. “I should have been here Nonna. I should have been with him.”
“There was nothing anyone could do. No one could save him. Trust me, the ranch hands tried. But they don’t call it Sudden Cardiac Death for nothing.” Wynonna says, squeezing her hand.
“Yeah I guess you are right.” Waverly concedes, wiping the tears on her face. “Wait. You are sober?!”
“Waves?” Wynonna clutches her chest with her free hand in mock outrage. “Of course, I am sober… or at least I am until we get back to the house and I don’t have to drive anymore.”
“That’s what I thought.” Waverly smiles a little. “Some things never change.”
They reach Earp Ranch within the hour and are greeted by their aunt Gus, who is sitting on the porch. As soon as she is close enough, Waverly launches herself into her aunt’s arms. They eventually make it inside and Gus sets about making a small brunch. People would be arriving in the early afternoon for the funeral. Although, it was more of a celebration of life. Waverly catches up with Gus as Wynonna starts to get her drink on.
“Hey, there are a couple people that want to say hello.” Gus says, pointing outside the front window. Waverly immediately recognizes the two men standing outside. She bolts out the front door and is once again launching herself into familiar arms. Shorty hugs her with a fierceness and swings her around with the momentum.
“Howdy Little Ma’am!” He says with a huge smile and a laugh. Waverly squeaks when he puts her down and she gives Nedley a tight hug too. She missed them so much and she can see it reflected back to her. They are family as far as she is concerned.
“We wanted to give you a little while to settle in before we introduced you to everyone.” Shorty says with a small smile.
They walk over to a table where all the ranch hands are eating snacks and drinking water. Nedley goes about introducing them. She waves to Pete, he has been working for Curtis since Waverly was fifteen. She greets Doc kindly, having met him briefly before she left with Champ. Nedley then introduces her to Dolls. He is quiet, but polite and offers her his condolences.
“Where is Haught?” Shorty asks, noticing the absence of their final ranch hand.
“In the stables, I think. Just got back from a ride around the fence, checking for any damage after the wind from last night.” Pete says.
“Alright.” Shorty says. “But Haught better be ready by the time people start showing up. I don’t want to see anyone working today, ya hear?”
Everyone nods in agreement and Shorty seems content with the response.
Shorty walks Waverly over to the house and they talk. “So, are Haught and Dolls the only newbies?” Waverly asks.
“We had another one, Carl. But he couldn’t keep up with the work.” Shorty says. “But I have to warn you, your sister has taken a liking to Haught.”
“Of course she has.” Waverly says with a small chuckle. Wynonna always had a think for rancher boys. Especially the ones that knew their shit.
The service is nice. It is sad, but also a bit comforting. Waverly reunites with old friends and townsfolk and makes small talk. She definitely could work a room with ease. She was definitely the least socially awkward of the Earp sisters. She spots Wynonna a couple of times, no longer even close to sober. Waverly is talking with Gus and a family friend when she sees Wynonna trip. She flinches and cringes, awaiting the sound of Wynonna’s body impacting the hardwood floor. But it doesn’t come. Waverly looks to see someone had caught Wynonna and is holding her steady. A tall, redhead has one of Wynonna’s arms slung over her shoulders and has her left arm supporting Wynonna at the waist. Gus notices Waverly’s attention is elsewhere and sees what has got her attention.
“That’s Nicole. I am pretty sure she is the only reason your sister is still vertical most nights. She really takes care of your sister. They have become good friends.” Gus says. Waverly observes as the redhead gives Wynonna a small smirk before moving her to the front porch.
Waverly brings her attention back, “Well I am glad she has a friend, and a good one. God knows she doesn’t have many good ones.”
“True.” Gus agrees.
“Excuse me. I better see if she is okay.” Waverly excuses herself and walks towards the front porch. She is stopped a few times but eventually makes it outside to find a very drunk Wynonna leaning on the railing next to the redhead.
“Wave!” Wynonna exclaims as her eyes focus on Waverly. “Nicole, this is my baby sister Waverly.”
The red head laughs and hands Wynonna a bottle of water. She gives her a look that says drink that, before turning her attention to Waverly. The redhead extends her right hand out to Waverly, left hand still steadying Wynonna. “I have been meaning to introduce myself. I’m Nicole. Nicole Haught. I believe I missed the introductions when you arrived earlier. My apologies.”
“Not a problem, Waverly Earp. Pleasure to meet you.” Waverly shakes her hand.
“The pleasure is mine Ma’am.” Nicole says. Gus calls for her and she looks up. “If you will excuse me.” Nicole releases Wynonna and walks over to Gus. Gus smiles at Nicole and places a hand on her back as she introduces Nicole to a member of the town city council.
Waverly looks away from Nicole and back at her sister. “You okay there?”
“Oh yeah. I am fine. Haughtstuff is taking good care of me. Who knew she would be the most useful hire Curtis ever made.” Wynonna comments.
Then it clicks in Waverly’s head. Haught. Nicole Haught. She is the other ranch hand. Wow. Okay.
The service is nearing an end, but Waverly is already at her end. She can only take so much of people’s pity and bad small talk. Wynonna passed out hours ago and Nicole and Dolls had to carry her upstairs to her room. Waverly needs some air and heads out to the front porch. She leans on the railing and looks out at the ranch. It’s beautiful at night. She notices a figure near one of the paddocks. The curve of the hips tells her it’s female and the fiery red hair tells her its Nicole. She walks up and kicks a rock unnecessarily, hoping to give her position away as to not startle the woman. Nicole doesn’t turn to look at her until Waverly is standing next to her. “You okay?” Waverly asks.
“I should be asking you that.” Nicole responds. “But yeah, I’m fine. Just needed some air. How are you doing?”
“As well as can be expected I guess. I love my uncle and I miss him already, but he wouldn't be too happy if I dwelled too much on it.” Waverly says. She looks over Nicole and takes her in. She looks to be about five foot nine. She has her hair in a tight french braid and it wearing little to no makeup. But she looks stunning. She has on a black and grey flannel shirt, a pair of skinny jeans and a pair of flats. It’s simple and adheres to Gus’ rule of the service being super casual. Waverly finds Nicole to be extremely beautiful and has to shake her head to clear the thoughts. What the hell Waves?
“That makes sense. I didn’t know your uncle very long, but he was extremely kind to me and struck me as a profoundly good man.” Nicole says.
“How long have you been working here?” Waverly asks.
“Just under a year and a half. Nedley brought me out here to help with a barn repair job one time. Your uncle was kind enough to hire me full time after he saw the work I did and figured out I had just gotten out of school.”
“School?” Waverly asks.
“Yeah, I just finished getting my bachelors degrees.”
“Degrees?” Waverly questions, emphasizing the s that indicated multiple degrees.
“Yup. But enough about me. I have heard quite a lot about you from everyone. Curtis gushed about you all the time. I now believe what people were saying.” Nicole deflects.
“Oh God. I hope only the good things.” Waverly blushes.
“All good. I promise.” Nicole says as she offers Waverly a kind smile.
“So, what exactly have you heard about me?” Waverly asks. But before Nicole can answer, Gus is calling Waverly back to the house.
“Some other time I guess.” Nicole says with a nod of her head. Waverly smiles at her before heading back to the house.
Earp Ranch was an interesting place. It was originally a horse breeding farm. But Curtis expanded it once he started running it. They still breed horses. But now, they also train horses and even have a small herd of cattle. They even grow some crops during season. Waverly wakes up the morning after the funeral and it takes her a moment to realize where she is. She is in her old room. It was completely plain besides the furniture. Waverly had five or six boxes with her stuff in the corner of the room. She should unpack them today. She decides to get some coffee first, so she heads downstairs. She is the only one down there. Wynonna would probably be asleep for several more hours considering it was only eight. Waverly makes some coffee and drinks it on the front porch. As she does, she watches the ranch hands work. Shorty and Nedley are moving the cattle, checking for issues. Pete is washing down the work truck with Doc. Nicole and Dolls emerge from the side lot some time later. They are both on horseback and are leading a stubborn horse, trying to get it into one of the paddocks. Each of them has a line and are trying to keep the horse under control. Both of their horses struggling to keep the other at bay. Nicole yells something at Dolls right before his line snaps. The bucking horse feels the release and uses it to its advantage. Nicole seems to anticipate the horses next move, because the next thing Waverly knows, Nicole is jumping down from her horse and trying to pull the horse into the paddock herself. She quickly ties down the end of her line to the metal gate of the paddock. The horse tries the struggle but it is no match for the gate. Nicole whistles and her horse comes to her. The mustang (not wanting the other horse near it) moves into the paddock to avoid it. Once the mustang is inside and the gate shuts, Nicole pulls out a knife and cuts the line, allowing the horse to be free in the small paddock. Nicole jogs over to Dolls and checks to make sure he is okay before removing her gloves. She shakes her head but just returns her hands to her gloves and gets back to work.
“That fucking bronco. Been giving us trouble for weeks.” Wynonna says, startling Waverly.
“Damn Wynonna. Wear a bell.” Waverly says as she tries to calm her rapid heart rate.
“What were you saying about the horse?” Waverly asks.
“It’s a total asshole. A friend of Curtis’ gave it to Nicole when they decided they didn’t stand a chance of breaking it. Curtis suggested Nicole, hoping she could do it. They agreed, if she could do it, she could keep him. He has been in the east field for the last four weeks. She hasn’t had the time to work with him yet.” Wynonna states sleepily. “I guess we will see.” She says as she walks back inside to go back to sleep.