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Goldfish

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A scrunched up little face gazed at the new student, the new girl with her knees all bandaged up and her red hair flying every which way from fighting with the boys. The scrunched face was thinking hard on something. Curious how someone so young could be so tall. And curiosity always got the best of Waverly Earp.

“How’d you get so tall?” She had to lean her head back to peer into the big brown eyes, near covered by tangles of auburn locks.

The tall, lanky girl had to look down. She shrugged her shoulders. “Don’t know. Daddy said I got my grampa’s legs.”

Waverly hadn't the damnedest idea what that meant, but heard adults say things like that all the time. She looked the girl up and down. She sure was tall. “Gus I told me I got momma’s eyes. What’s your name?”

“‘Cole. Who’s Gus?”

“She’s my aunt. I live with her. And Curtis. I’m Waverly,” she stuck a little hand out for shaking, “isn’t Cole a boy’s name?”

“It’s NIcole. But mommy and daddy always call me Cole. Never even heard of the name Waverly,” Nicole responded challengingly. Because Waverly was definitely a weirder name than Cole.

Waverly cocked her head, gave the redhead one last look over before offering, “you want some goldfish?”

Nicole smiled, a big, broad grin with even bigger dimples. She sure did.

“Best friends,” they told each other.
Best friends.

/

“Darlin, you look beautiful…” Gus got teary eyed as she looked her niece over, clad in a lovely dress, the lightest shade of pink. It wasn’t too tight, but not too loose either. Fit just perfectly over Waverly’s petite frame.

The occasion? Prom.
The date? Nicole Haught.

Well, kind of.

The girls decided to ditch going with guys, and go with each other. They’d rather hang out with their best friend than worry about finding guys, no, boys that neither of them particularly liked to spend an evening with. Nicole never wanted to go with a guy in the first place, but she hadn’t told Waverly that. Maybe because she couldn't quite put her finger on why that was.

“Thanks, Gus.” Waverly wrapped her aunt in a hug before she heard the doorbell ring. She pulled back, “will you get that? I’ll be right down.” Shoes…

Gus left Waverly to let Nicole in, though, she wasn’t sure why she rung the doorbell. She hadn’t done that since the first week she’d met Waverly. From then on, neither of the girls bothered knocking on the other’s door. They were family.

Nicole only had to wait a moment. She heard a voice. That voice. The voice that Waverly used when she was just a little shy and nervous. And Nicole wasn’t sure what it was about that voice, but when she heard it, her heart beat just a little bit faster.

“Hey.” Waverly came into view.

Long, perfectly curled hair fell over her shoulders. The dress … her dress. The softest pink fell over every curve and stopped just above her knees, a thin white belt around her waist to accentuate her figure. And black heels that only added to … everything.

Nicole’s brows knit in confusion. What’s happening...? This shouldn’t be happening. Her stomach bottomed out and filled to the brim with butterflies, heart beat harder than it ever had in her life. And for the first time in all of her years of friendship with Waverly, she felt nervous.
Nervous as hell.

Luckily for Nicole, Waverly was distracted by how completely different Nicole looked. A long, black dress hugged her tall, slim figure, the top was lacy and elegant and sleeveless. And wow, how did she not notice how beautiful Nicole was before this? She thought back to other times they’d dressed up. Huh, she did look nice… Well holy shit, my best friend is a babe!

They both came to about the same moment, fortunately. Neither was caught staring. Though Gus stood in the kitchen, arms folded in amusement, watching the entire scene.

Nicole finally remembered to speak. “So uh, you ready?”

“Yes! OH wait! No!” Waverly rushed to the kitchen, opened the fridge, returned. Two corsages. They grinned bigger than usual as they put the other’s on.
“Okay. Now I’m ready.” Waverly smiled up at Nicole as she linked their arms.
Butterflies.

/

“What about him? He’s nice!” Waverly pointed to a particularly tall boy who played on the football team. The entire night she’d been trying to find someone, or even just a possible someone, for Nicole.

It was true, the boy was nice. Surprisingly, for a jock. But every time Waverly’s eyes moved to scan the room, Nicole’s moved to take in Waverly.
Shit… this can’t be happening…

“Oh, he’s good. Look, really cute-”
“Wave,” Nicole finally interrupted Waverly’s project. “Let’s just hang out, ‘kay?”
Waverly gave her a faux-disgusted look. “Ew. Gross.” Nicole chuckled and lightly smacked her arm.
Butterflies.

/

“Hey, Waverly?”

Waverly and Nicole looked up from their heated discussion about affairs between teachers to see the captain of the football team. Jonathon Reese. Blonde hair and blue eyes, and an actual working IQ (as Waverly so delicately put it), she couldn’t help but stare.

“Uh. Uh yeah. Yeah that’s me. Hi! You-you’re Jonathon! Or do prefer Jon?” Nicole rested her hand on Waverly’s arm. A secret message. You’re rambling…

Jonathon Reese laughed. “Jon’s good. I was wondering, would you like to dance?” It was an upbeat number, one she especially liked. She turned to Nicole to release a desperately excited face, turned back to Jon composed, held out her hand.
“I’d love to.”

/

“I am not wearing that dress! I told you, I'm a cowboy!”
A defiant, 9-year-old redhead glared at a tiny little brunette, two dresses tucked under her arms. A bright white Stetson rested atop the auburn hair, a tiara tucked in the brunette’s.

“C’mon, Cole! We always play cowboys! Let's play princess, just once!” Waverly had a pout to rival all pouts. And she knew it. She stuck that bottom lip out and lowered her brows deep as she could.

Nicole rolled her eyes at the antics. “I ain't gunna be a princess, Waverly! You can be a princess, I'll be a cowboy. I'll rescue you!”

“Hey! Who says I need rescuin’?!” The pout disappeared, she planted her hands firmly on her hips. Waverly Earp was tiny, but she handled herself just fine.

“It's for the game! I know you don't need rescuin’! Sheesh.”

Waverly pondered for a moment. “How ‘bout we look for buried treasure? I can be a princess, you can be a cowboy! Nobody needs rescuin’!”

Nicole tapped her chin, let a big dimpled grin spread across her face. “Deal.”

/

Nicole tried not to watch. But something was pulling. Something.
What the hell… What the hell is going on?

New song. Slow song.
Damn it…
Something told her she had to. Something told her she needed to do this, even though it might confirm a terrible fear. Nicole rose from her seat, tapped Jon on the shoulder.

“Hey, hi Wave. Can I cut in?” Jon smiled politely, bowed cheesily, and let Nicole have the dance. “Sorry, just wanted to get one in, we did come here together, right?” The two stood like planks until finally Nicole took Waverly in her arms. She’d hugged this girl a thousand times and then some. Why was this any different? Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe it was in her head. But the shortness of her breath and the pounding of her heart told her otherwise.

Each step of the dance both broke her heart and made her want to hold her friend closer. This feeling… This was leaving “best friend” territory, roaming new unexplored lands. Lands that terrified Nicole. Especially because the girl standing in front of her, the girl in her arms, meant more to her than anything else in the entire world.

Why. Why her. Why now?

Waverly had wrapped her arms around Nicole’s neck, laid her head on the taller girl’s chest. This felt good. Too good. Too good for friends, even best friends. She rested her hands on Waverly’s waist, slowly backed away from the embrace.

Waverly had always been able to read Nicole, tell what she was thinking, just by those ever expressive eyes. But now, pulling away from this comfortable embrace, this soft dance, something new rested in them. A new kind of fear was etched all over Nicole’s face, one Waverly had never seen.

“Hey, are you okay?” She reached to take Nicole’s hands in her own. Something they’d done before. Always done. But Nicole withdrew, her eyes darted to the floor, around the room, anywhere but the begging eyes in front of her.

“Yeah. Yeah, just uh… Gunna go sit.”

She found an empty closet. The janitor’s closet. In that beautiful black dress, Nicole fell to the floor, heavy sobs spilling from her lungs. She knew. She knew undeniably what was happening. What had happened. And she had never been more scared in her entire life.

/

Gus parked her old pickup in front of the high school, waiting for Waverly. She wasn’t quite sure why Nicole had called her, voice breaking, nose sniffling, asking if she could come pick her niece up, that she couldn’t drive her home. But she had a slight inkling.

Anger was written all over that face as Waverly stormed towards the truck, barefoot, heels in hand.

“What the hell happened?? Where’s Cole?!” Waverly only ever called her Cole anymore when emotions were running high, whatever those emotions were.

“Git in the truck, hon. She called. I don’t know what happened, darlin’. It’s somethin’ you’re gunna have to ask her yourself.” But boy, she hoped to high hell this niece of her’s would cool down before she did…

/

Nicole opened to door to the Earp homestead, casually waved hello to Gus and Curtis, made her way upstairs.

She found Waverly crumbled up on her bed, still in her pajamas, Kleenex littered the floor. She sat down beside her on the edge of the bed.
“Hey,” she offered softly, knowing there wasn't too much she could say right now to make her best friend feel better.

Waverly sniffled extra loud, sat up and leaned into Nicole. “He said I was bat-shit, just like Wynonna, cuz I didn't sleep with him.” She peered up into Nicole's eyes. “Why are people like this?” The genuine confusion written on Waverly's face spoke volumes. Such a good person, a truly good one, so fed up and confused by the shitty people in this world.

Nicole held her tighter. “I don't know, Wave. Some people just can't see anyone other than themselves.” Her heart broke thinking about someone talking to Waverly like that. Her fists clenched. She'd be having words with Champ Hardy. “But you just gotta focus on the ones that can.”

Waverly let out a deep sigh. Somehow, Nicole always knew what to say. They sat in silence a few more minutes, until Waverly was ready to face the day, put actual clothes on.

“Wave?”

Waverly looked back from her closet. “Yeah?”

“You're not bat-shit. And neither is Wynonna.”

Waverly smiled.
Always. Just the right words.

/

A harsh knock on Nicole’s bedroom door woke her the next morning. She winced when her eyes shot open, too much crying left them puffy and red.

“COLE. Open the door. What happened? Why did you leave me last night?” Waverly tried to remain calm. But she basically got ditched on prom night, by her best friend, with no explanation.

Nicole opened the door and stepped aside as Waverly stomped in, pacing started. Waverly paced when she was mad, or frustrated, or just searching for words. Nicole always waited for the emotions to settle, words to come, feet to still. She knew Waverly like the back of her hand and nothing ever stopped her pacing once she started. Just had to wait it out.

So she sat down on the bed, awaited the onslaught. Unable to contain herself, she dropped her head, burying her face in her hands, tears spilling forth once more.

True to form, Waverly continued her back and forth, even though Nicole's room wasn't too big. Muttering under her breath to herself, swinging her hands about, Waverly didn’t notice until she turned to address Nicole. Everything, all the anger, just faded away when she saw her best friend weeping.

“Oh, no. Nicole. Come’ere.” Waverly sat beside her, wrapped her arms around Nicole. “What’s wrong?”

Nicole raised tearful eyes to gaze into Waverly’s. She couldn’t tell her what was wrong. Could she? She really didn’t have to… Graduation was soon, Waverly was leaving for college. Maybe this would just go away. Right?

“I don’t know. I don’t know what’s happening, Wave. But I don’t think … I don’t think I can tell you…” She stumbled and stuttered over the words until they finally got out, out in the open.

Waverly leaned back, hurt by the lack of information. They always told each other.
Always.
And now she couldn’t?

“But you - you always tell me. You’ve always told me.” Her eyes brimmed with tears, breaking Nicole’s heart even more.

“No, no don’t cry Wave, please. I would tell you, I really would. I just can’t … I don’t … I can’t tell you something that I don’t know for myself yet. When I figure out, I-I’ll tell you. I’ll try.” She wanted more than anything to say “I promise”, but she’d never broken a promise to Waverly, and she never would. So she wasn’t going to take the chance by promising to tell her something she might never be ready to tell her.

More hurt entered Waverly’s eyes at this. What was so difficult that she couldn’t ask her for help? They’d always fixed their problems together. They were a team.
She sniffled a little. “Okay.”

Before leaving, she gave Nicole a hug, like she always did.
But today, butterflies.

/

“I’m gunna live here one day, when I’m big.”

Waverly looked the too-tall redhead up and down. “You are big, Cole.”

“I mean bigger, like adults who get houses.” Nicole folded her arms across her chest and stuck her tongue at the Earp.

“It’s real messy.” Waverly looked at that long forsake house, dilapidated and lonesome, right on the edge of town.

“So I’ll fix it! You can help. And you can live with me!”

Waverly scrunched her face up, like she did when she thought real hard. “Only if I get to pick the colors. And bring my toys.”

“I ain’t gunna paint it!” Nicole had a vision in her mind already. Something like a log cabin. No paint necessary.

That’s boring.”

Nicole looked over at her best friend, big ol’ box of goldfish tucked under her arm. “You can paint the mailbox.”

Waverly looked back, her big grin taking over her face. “Really? Promise?”

Nicole returned a grin, her big dimpled one, held out a pinky. “Promise.”

Chapter Text

“Hey! Could you slow down?” If Nicole hadn’t been so tall, she might need to jog a bit to keep up with the pace Waverly was walking at. But her strides were long and quick. “What’s going on?” She finally managed to jump in front of the girl, walking backwards so she could face her.

Waverly had been walking, avoiding anyone and everyone, all day. Nicole finally found her, at that stupid house she swore she was going to buy.

Waverly looked up from her feet to Nicole’s face. Her eyes were thick with unshed tears and Nicole asked no more questions, just walked straight to her and held her tight, rubbed her back lightly.

“Curtis…” Waverly choked out, “he had a heart attack. And now Wynonna’s coming back in town, and I haven’t seen her in years, and I don’t know if I'm ready for that…” Nicole just held her as she let out sobs.

“I’ll be right here. Or I won’t. Whatever you need. Okay?” She offered softly as she continued to rub the smaller girl’s back. Tears started to form in her own eyes. Curtis had been like her own uncle, too, knowing him so long.

Waverly pulled back enough to look in Nicole’s face. “Of course I need you here.” She leaned back against her chest. “I’d go crazy without you.”

Nicole chuckled softly, thought fondly of cowboys and princesses.
Maybe we all need a little rescuin’ from time to time...

/

“Hey, you gunna come over to study? I heard Tucker’s test is a bitch.” Waverly shut her locker and leaned against it, watching Nicole. Even their lockers were next to each other, always had been.

Nicole's brows furrowed, like they had before, at prom, and again the next morning. That fear that Waverly couldn't decipher crept in.

“Actually uh… I was gunna ask my mom for help. She's been complaining about not spending enough time together. Whatever…” Nicole shrugged her shoulders, tried to act like this was normal, this response was normal, everything was fine.

She tried as hard as she could to read that face, this new look that had taken over her best friend’s countenance lately. But Waverly couldn't. And she hated it.

“What's going on? Why won't you talk to me?” She folded her arms across her chest.

Nicole shut the locker, palm open against the cold metal.
Stay calm. Don't cry.
“I told you…”
Waverly cut her off quickly, “you told me you'd try. We figure things out together, Nicole, we always have. What happened to that? Why all of a sudden are you shutting me out? Did I do something?” The look of confusion and hurt and rejection she was giving Nicole was enough to tear her heart in two.

Her eyes brimmed with tears. “No, Waverly. I promise you. It's me, all me. But … it's confusing, and weird, and I don't know what to do. And if I could ask for your help, you know I would. But I can't. Not this time.”

Waverly nodded, so clearly hurt and that broke Nicole. Tears threatened to spill from both girls eyes. She didn't know what else to do, Waverly turned and walked away. She'd never walked away from Nicole. Not once. Not like this, so much unsettled and unspoken.

Nicole rested her forehead against her locker, attempted to ground herself in the midst of the chaos of her heart and soul and mind swirling about, confusing the hell out of her.

/

“Come in, blue team, do you read?” Curtis McCready held his hand to his face like he had a radio com, made garbled scratchy noise for effect.

“Come in, red team, we read you, what's your status?” Waverly copied the motions and noises.

“Over and out!” Nicole reached over and shouted into Waverly's hand, like there was really a radio in it.

“Oh, over and out!” Waverly repeated the words.

“I've got eyes on the treasure, blue team. I repeat, eyes on the treasure. Do you read? Over and out.” Curtis was gruff, rough around the edges, but he loved those girls like they were his own two daughters.

Brown and hazel eyes widened at each other. Nicole stole the “radio” from Waverly.

“Red leader, this is blue leader!”

“Hey, I'm blue leader!”

“Nuh-uh! Curtis said I was the leader!” Nicole held the “radio” to her chest, as to not shout their argument into Curtis’ ears, even though he was only a couple feet away, and there wasn’t even a radio. “Sorry red leader. Insubordinates.” Nicole glared at Waverly who was now pouting, arms crossed. “Can you give a location of the treasure? Over and out!”

“Sure thing blue leader. ‘Bout a mile down the river, there's a giant pyramid. Go around that, cut through the jungle, and the treasure’s with me. I'm next to a big pile of dirt, can't miss me. Over and out.”

“We're on our way. Over and out.”

/

Graduation came and went. The two spent more time apart than they ever had in their lives. Waverly was still confused and angry about the whole situation. Nicole, plain broken-hearted. Stuck between a rock and a hard place and the one person she'd normally talk to was the one person she was avoiding at all costs.

Waverly's last day in town, she was leaving for college. Nicole was damn proud of her, getting out of this small town, doing something with that giant brain of hers. She'd miss her, a whole lot. But she couldn't deny that her absence might help in figuring this whole thing out.

Waverly lay on her bed, last time sleeping in this bed before flying off to a whole different country. And she could only think about one thing.
One person.
Nicole.

She picked up her phone and texted her best friend.

Wave: hey. I miss you. You gunna say bye or what?

She waited for what seemed like hours for a response.

Cole: front porch

Waverly sat up, a little confused. She got up, pulled a small robe over her pajamas, went quietly to the front door.

Sure enough, Nicole sat on a chair out in the yard, back facing Waverly, looking into the distance. Waverly walked toward her, made enough noise as not to completely surprise her. She took the chair next to Nicole. They sat in silence a few moments, tense, pent up confusion and hurt from the last months still sitting on the surface.

“Brought you something, for the plane ride.” Nicole handed Waverly a small gift bag. Their eyes met, finally. It'd been a while. She peeked in the bag.

Goldfish. A whole bunch of little packages. And she smiled at Nicole. The big one that took up her whole face, scrunched her nose, turned her eyes into little crescent moons. Nicole's favorite smile. Now she tried not to cry looking at it.

“I'm sorry…” She barely whispered the words.

“I just miss you.” Waverly held her arm out, grabbed Nicole's arm with her hand. Nicole stood, wiped clammy palms on her jeans.
“D’you think… you think you could tell me, before I go?” Waverly stood and looked into Nicole's big brown eyes, remembered the first time she looked into them all those years ago.

Nicole's eyes fluttered shut.
How the hell do I do this...
“I'm not sure if you wanna know, Wave.”

Waverly took hold of Nicole's hands. “Of course I do. You're my best friend. No matter what happens, you'll always be my best friend. And I wanna know what's been going on with you. Because that's what best friends do. We tell each other. Plus you've been-”

“Okay.” Nicole finally interrupted the river of words.

“Really? Just like that?” Waverly was taken aback. All this time? And that’s all it took?
Nicole pulled an envelope from her back pocket. When Waverly reached for it, she pulled back. “I need you to promise me something.”

Waverly studied Nicole’s eyes. So much of that fear in them. “‘Kay.”

“I need you to wait, to open this. Until you’re on the plane. Maybe wanna open it in private, actually. But you have to wait, until you leave. I need you to do that.”

Waverly held out a pinkey, Nicole took it, a small smile returned to her face. “I promise.”

/

“This was the worst idea you've ever had, Waverly Earp!”
Nicole shouted from behind a changing stall, refusing to change into the clothes thrown over by Waverly.

“Nicole, you literally have zero patterns in your wardrobe. At least get some stripes in there!” Waverly shouted back from outside the stall. They were not leaving this store until Nicole had something other than muted colors to wear, if Waverly had anything to say about it.

She heard an exasperated sigh let out as the door opened, and Nicole stepped out. Waverly cocked her head in pleasant surprise. Nicole had been wearing old khaki shorts and a plain blue long sleeve t-shirt, both items much too big for her. Now she donned skinny black jeans and a slim fitted Henley, white and blue striped.

“Dude, you look good.” Waverly rested a hands on her hip in accomplishment. She held out a small bag, Nicole dug her hand in and stuffed her mouth full of goldfish.

Through the crackers, she mumbled, “this shirt… is ridiculously comfortable.” Nicole pointed at the Henley, was taken by how nice the shirt felt, not only physically, but how it felt to look nice, nicer than she usually did, anyway.

Waverly shrugged her shoulders. “Yeah. Maybe next time you'll listen to me sooner? We should get some more of those… You know, they have ones with flowers.”

A pointed glare told her that was too far. Too far.

/

Maybe the tenth time that day, Waverly scrolled through Facebook. Looking for that picture. The one she saw last night and couldn't get out of her mind.

Nicole and another girl. Her girlfriend. She shouldn't have been surprised, really. Nicole had changed her status to “in a relationship” about a week earlier. They didn't talk much, two years now she'd been away and they occasionally left a “hey, hope you're doing well!” on the other’s profile, public, no chance of intimate words.

But Waverly saw that photo and for some reason, the first thing her brain said was, “bitch…” It took her by surprise, she didn't even know the girl. Probably someone she'd met at college. And if Nicole was dating her, she was probably a real nice girl.

But something sank to the pit of Waverly's stomach and she couldn't make it go away, no matter how hard she tried, how many drunken make-out sessions she had. And she had plenty. Something was fueling her need to fill the big hole left when Nicole had practically dropped out of her life. Nothing ever did. Hole was too big.

/

Nicole stared at the ceiling, fingers dancing and interlacing with the hands next to her.

“What are you thinking about?” Long fingers moved to stroke her hair, she gazed into deep blue eyes.

“You.” She lied. Blonde curls fell in her face as the one above her leaned down to capture her lips in a kiss.

“Liar.” The blonde laid back down. “That's not your Jess face. That's the face you have when you won't tell me what you're thinking.”

At least she knew it wasn't true, Jess. One thing she could never figure out about Nicole, was where she went when she got that far off look. She thought it might have something to do with that girl from her childhood though, the best friend she'd fallen for. But she hadn't heard the full story. No one had.

“It's her, isn't it?”
Nicole turned her head, Jess looked straight at her.
“Your friend from high school? How come you won't tell me about her?”

She paused before responding. “It took a long time, getting over that. I just don't want to revisit it, I guess.”

Jess climbed to straddle Nicole, held her wrists down on the bed. “Okay. I'll drop it, if you come back down to earth and start payin’ attention to me…” Nicole grinned at the mischievous smirk on her girlfriend’s face, reached up to firmly kiss her.

“Oh I'm here,” she whispered back, low and husky.

/

Waverly paced her room, arms across her chest. Wynonna would be there soon. For his funeral. Their uncle’s funeral. Nicole sat on the bed and watched with a concerned expression.

“Hey. Want some goldfish?” She lifted a baggy off of Waverly's bedside table. Waverly stopped pacing, looked at Nicole, the bag of little crackers in her hand.

It wasn’t really goldfish she was offering. Just like the day they met, when Waverly offered her the same thing, she wasn’t just asking if she wanted a little fish cracker. She was offering her friendship, her support, her love. It’d always been that way.
Waverly huffed, almost a sigh of relief, like she could say the words on her mind now. “I’m nervous. And scared. And I miss Curtis, so much, Cole… so much.” Nicole stood and Waverly just leaned her head against the tall girl’s chest.

“I know. Me too. Life is a shithead sometimes…”

Waverly chuckled a little through her tears. “Yeah, can you tell it back off? Geez…”

“Yes. Right after I figure out world hunger. Absolutely.”

“You’re a dork.”

“Yeah, but so are you.”

/

Nicole sat in the next room, trying not to listen to not so quiet shouting. Wynonna was home. The funeral was done. And now Waverly was … venting.

Eventually the shouting quieted, turned to muffled talking, even tones.

“I’m sorry, babygirl, I’m so sorry…” She made out the last thing Wynonna said before a long, silent pause. Not purposefully, not intentionally listening. Almost like it was said much clearer than anything else. The most true thing Wynonna said to her little sister, and anyone in the vicinity could hear it.

A small smile upturned her lips. So much grief, this week had brought Waverly. It brought her heart joy to know that this grief was going to heal, maybe even going to turn into something beautiful.

/

“Bullshit.” Wynonna eyed Nicole, who’d just laid down two eights, or so she said.

“I’m sorry. What?”

“You heard me, Haught-sauce. Bullshit.”

Nicole stared down Wynonna, they held that stare like it was a mexican stand-off.

“Oh my god, you guys are ridiculous. Is it? Is it bullshit?” The stand-off was broken by Waverly’s chirping voice.

Both gazes turning towards Waverly, slightly guilty, Nicole took the top two cards of the deck.

“I uh, I think you’re gunna need these.” She turned the cards to reveal two eights. “Oh, and this one,” she pulled a single card from the top of the deck, “oh wait, you need this one too,” another card, “actually, why don’t you just take the whole thing.” She gave Wynonna a shit-eating smirk as she slid the whole pile of cards in her direction.

“You’re an asshole. You’re best friend’s an asshole.” She pointed a finger at Nicole, then Waverly.

“Yeeeah. But you’re a really big asshole. So it’s only fair.” Waverly shrugged her shoulders, grinning wide, exchanging a high five with Nicole.

Chapter Text

Wynonna Earp’s face told stories. Big ass novel stories. Her eyes were authors and her smirks and grins painted pictures.
So unfortunately for Wynonna, she could never keep a secret.

She pocketed a striped ball and was about to line up her next shot when Nicole laid her cue across the pool table.

“Tell me.”

Wynonna stood up straight, scoffed and shrugged her shoulders, doing the worst job to hide the information she was holding. “Tell you what?”

Nicole just gave her a pointed glare. Wynonna rolled her eyes and sighed exaggeratedly.

“Fine!” She chewed her bottom lip a moment, nervous to reveal what she knew. “She’s comin’ home for Christmas.”

Wynonna knew of the tension between the two women. She wasn’t sure of the cause of it, she only had her guesses.

Nicole nodded. “I figured. Why wouldn’t she?” She had her freshman and sophomore year, why not junior?
Every time Waverly had come home during a school break, Nicole had managed to make herself scarce. She’d never been ready for that reunion. Now she was out, to pretty much everyone. A little over a year together with Jess, maybe this time she’d be ready.

“You gunna actually talk to her this time?” Wynonna's mind was like a strainer that never worked. Filtered through thoughts and questions and generally decided that the majority of it all was necessary and appropriate to speak. Sometimes she held something back, like Waverly coming home for Christmas, but once it was out, the filter stopped working again.

Nicole scoffed at the question. “I don't know, Wy. She's barely said a word to me.”

“Yeah, yeah I've heard this. How often do you talk to her? She's not the only one avoiding…”

Nicole really did hate when Wynonna got all wise. Didn't happen much, but when she did, she out-smarted the best of them.

/

Waverly made her way through the smoke and haze of Shorty's on a Friday night. Finally home, meeting Wynonna and some guy she wouldn't shut up about, big ex-military guy, something Dolls. She'd asked Nicole to meet them as well, but only gotten a maybe in response.
Eyeing Doc behind the bar, she made her way to greet him.

“Miss Waverly, this town is not the same without that smile of yours, I do hope you know.” He hooked a finger under her chin, gave her a warm smile and wrapped her in a hug.

“Missed you, Doc.” She pulled back and smiled at the familiar twinkle in his clear blue eyes. He was a scoundrel, through and through. But she loved him, his strange way of talking, almost historic, his love of everything old west. It was something they shared, the two of them.

“Before I forget, I have something to show you. A new display for the bar.” She followed him behind the bar, where they showcased various treasures from Wyatt Earp’s history. He pulled a small revolver out of a glass case, handling it very carefully, held it out for the girl to inspect.

She looked over the gun for a moment before shock hit her face, she gasped audibly. “This is … This is a Smith & Wesson, Model 3! Don't tell me…”

“It is.” He smirked, turned the gun over to reveal initials engraved on the handle.

“WE. How? Where did you find it?” Her great-great granddaddy’s gun, same exact one he used in the OK Corral.

“Fellow down in Tombstone had it. Said he'd been keeping it safe until his family returned for it.”

“Hey when d’you get here Babygirl? Aww, quit nerding out and come drink!” Wynonna interrupted the reunion, slapping her palms on the bar, ready for more alcohol.

“I'm coming! Doc was just showing me-”

“I know, I know, the gun. Peacemaker’s still cooler.” She pointed a finger at her sister. Wyatt Earp had many guns, his decedents were not fortunate enough to have all of them at the time. They did have his colt, Peacemaker. But Waverly really wanted that revolver, the little S&W that Wyatt favored. She probably could have stayed behind the bar, admiring that gun all night, rather than joining anyone for drinks.

Waverly was following Wynonna to their booth when she heard a laugh. A familiar laugh. She nearly got whiplash from turning her head so quick to see Nicole walking across the bar, fingers intertwined with the beautiful blonde’s at her side.

That feeling in the pit of her stomach came back, fast and hard. Like she'd just been punched. Punched, then had a piece of her ripped out. She tried as hard as she could to not let it show on her face, made her way to the booth as quickly as the crowded bar would allow.

Jess saw the look in Nicole’s eyes, the change when she saw Waverly.

“You should talk to her.” Nicole felt Jess’ breath on her ear. She looked into the blue eyes, almost in a pleading way, saying please don’t make me. But she had to, she knew she did. Too much unsaid, unresolved. And Waverly told her a long time ago, best friends talk about things.

/

They sat on a bench in front of Shorty’s, nursing beers in silence until someone was ready to talk.

“She seems nice,” Waverly finally offered, if only to break the tense quiet. She was tempted to say something about her shirt, a fitting grey Henley, but refrained.

“She is. She’s good, really good. Told me I needed to talk to you.” Nicole gave Waverly a smirk, for the first time in a long time.

“What does she uh … think we need to talk about?” Waverly bit her lip, nervous as hell to begin this conversation.

Nicole shrugged, huffed out, “what do you think, Waverly?”

Waverly’s gaze didn’t break, stared straight ahead of her to avoid eye contact. “I think I want things to back to the way they were.”

“You mean in high school, middle school, all that? Best friends, spend every minute together?”

Waverly shrugged. Maybe.

“I miss you, Wave, but I can’t do that.” Waverly just looked at Nicole, with a face that asked why not, a face that said this hurts like hell. “When I gave you that letter, I put my heart out on my sleeve. And I left it there. I waited for you, to tell me, give me something, anything. I wore it there for a year and a half. A year and a half, before I decided to take it back. Then I met Jess. She likes me, Waverly, and I like her, a lot. I had to move on.”

This conversation might just break the both of them, but neither stopped. Now that they started, they couldn’t stop. Emotions ran high, voice cracked under the stress of them, tears threatened to fall.

“I still wake up every day thinking, oh, I need to text Nicole and remind her about that test. Or I should call her and see how she’s feeling, if she wants to watch a movie. It’s like my heart is stuck, and it takes my brain a minute to catch up. Wait, we’re not talking anymore. Can’t text her, can’t call her.” She paused and looked in watery brown eyes. “I miss you. I just miss you. I have, since that stupid prom night.”

“You think I’m not going through the same thing? I don’t wake up every day, open my phone and think, Wave forgot to text me, oh it’s okay I’ll see her later. Every day, Waverly, every damn day!” A tear fell from those big brown eyes, fell to her cheek as she nearly shouted the hurt, the pain. “But I can’t go back to that. I loved you and can’t go back to bein’ best friends.”

A small gasp escaped Waverly’s lips. “You never … you didn’t tell me that, in your letter.”

Nicole stared at the ground. “No. The only reason I’m tellin’ you now is so you know. I can’t go back.”

“Right,” Waverly responded, almost under her breath, just a whisper. She stood. “I’m gunna go.” A hand wiped a tear from her eye as she turned to walk away.

Nicole sat, unmoving. It was happening all over again, her heart shattering. All she could do was sit and cry.

/

Waverly stormed into the house in a huff, a tiny little tornado, full of passion and rage. Who knew someone so small could hold all that? Gus looked over her reading glasses at the force of nature storming up the stairs. Soon, Nicole burst through the door, yelling up at her hot-headed friend.

“Waverly! I didn't steal your damn crown!”

“Hey, language!” Gus have Nicole a stink eye, Nicole stopped short, looking guilty before continuing after her friend.

Shouting from upstairs told Gus she better intervene.

“It's not a crown! It's a tiara!”

“Girls! Girls! What’s the problem here?” Gus entered Waverly’s room, the two young girls in a rare fight. Waverly’s passionate attitude got the best of her sometimes, but Nicole’s level-headedness balanced it out, wasn’t too offended when it did, and always forgave her quickly.

“She stole my tiara.” Waverly pointed a finger at Nicole, who rolled her eyes and crossed her arms.

“I told you, I’m not a princess, I’m a cowboy. I don’t need your crown!”

TIARA!” Waverly’s cheeks were heating up, turning red from that temper.

“Alright calm down, girls. Let’s see if we can settle this.” Gus sighed, thought a moment. Then eyed Waverly’s backpack on the floor. More pockets and pouches than one could count. “Waverly, did you check your backpack?”

Waverly straightened up, responded quietly, “yeah. ‘Course.”

All of it?”

She was met with silence. “Alright, you go through every single pocket in that bag of yours. If you still can’t find it, then we’ll talk. Cole, you help her.”

“It’s not my damn crown! … Dang crown. Sorry, Gus. Yes ma’am.”

Gus left them be, they sat on the ground, digging through every pocket, some of them twice because they couldn’t keep track.

Waverly got a real guilty look on her face, pulled her pink, bejeweled tiara from a pocket. Nicole didn’t say a word. Level-headed Nicole, so quick to forgive that temper of her friend’s.

“I’m sorry, Cole,” Waverly barely mumbled the words.

“‘S’okay. I’d lose it if I had a backpack like that.” A big dimpled grin covered her face. In their search, a bag of goldfish had been produced and thrown to the floor. Nicole picked it up, opened it, stuffed a handful of the little crackers in her mouth. Holding the bag out to Waverly, she took a handful and stuffed her mouth.

/

Halfway into her senior year, Waverly Earp decided to try something different. Her whole life she’d relegated herself to being a certain way. Being with certain people. Ever since the last real conversation she had with Nicole, she couldn’t help but wonder. Wonder what that feeling was that she’d been ignoring so long.

That’s how she found herself at a bar.
A gay bar.
On ladies night.
For “research,” she told herself. Science, right? Sexuality is a spectrum after all, isn’t it? That’s totally science. She repeated the reasoning in her mind, over and over.

Music pulsed and the air was heavy with sweat and smoke. She took an empty seat at the bar, asked for a shot of tequila. Liquid courage would be much needed tonight.

Downing the shot, she turned to the dance floor.
Holy shit. What am I supposed to do? They’re everywhere… How do I get in?

“You look scared.” A voice beside her sounded genuinely concerned.

Waverly’s head whipped around to find a woman, brows knit, innocently looking at her.

“Oh, um, I’m okay. Thanks.” She tried her best, but she couldn’t change her voice to make it sound convincing. The woman now looked at her almost humorously. She stuck a hand out.

“Lucy.”

“Waverly.”

“Waverly… Different. I like it.”

She was beautiful, Lucy. Square, but soft, jaw. Smattering of freckles below hazel eyes, framed by strawberry blonde hair. And she looked at Waverly with a tenderness, like she somehow understood her unspoken dilemma.

“So why the face?”

“Huh?”

“You look like a scared little church mouse. You sure this is where you’re supposed to be?” A stranger she’d known a whole two minutes looked at her like she was concerned for her well-being.
And it suddenly occurred to Waverly, she probably did understand this unspoken dilemma…

“Can I ask you something?” Waverly raised her hand to the bartender. She’d be needing more shots. Lucy nodded, so Waverly continued, at breakneck speed. “Okay, my best friend, that I’ve known since we were, I don’t know 5 or 6? She gave me this letter and it was super confusing, I mean it helped me understand why she’d been so distant, but then I had all this … bleh… feelings! To try and sort through, and guess what? I didn’t have my best friend with me to figure it out, because she was in another country, well, technically, I was another country, she stayed in the same one.”

Lucy desperately tried to follow Waverly’s trail of thoughts, but wasn’t sure how well she was faring. But she continued to listen.

“But I couldn’t ask her for help because she was in love with me! Well, I didn’t know that until recently, but I knew she liked me more than as just best friends, but then she told me she loved me and I was like WHAT? You can’t just drop that bomb on me! But then I got here and I was like, wait, is that hole? Is that what’s been missing this whole friggin’ time?!” Waverly took a deep breath, a shot, and awaited some answers.

Lucy leaned against the bar, chin in hand, deciphering the code she’d just been handed. “Okay, I’m gunna try and sort that out, just correct me if I get it wrong. So you’re best friend fell in love with you, you had a falling out, um, I think you talked to her recently? And now you’re wondering if … I don’t know, maybe you do like her as more than a best friend?”

Waverly raised her hands in a virtually rejoicing manner. “YES! But how do I know? Nicole knew. Nicole knew! And now she has this girlfriend, who is obviously gorgeous, of course. But how did she know? How do you know stuff like that?!”

“Waverly, just, hey.” Lucy rose her hands to calm the ranting girl. Her face twisted in concentration. “C’mere.” She grabbed Waverly’s face and pulled her close, paused a brief second when their lips were so close she could feel Waverly’s hesitant breaths, and closed the distance.

Waverly’s mind went blank. Numb. Realizing she still had her eyes open, her hands raised to her side, she let herself melt into the kiss. The kiss with this total stranger. This stranger with incredibly soft lips, who knew just where to move her hands around Waverly’s neck, lips across hers. This was the best kiss she’d ever had in her life, and she didn’t even know this person.

Pulling away, Lucy gave Waverly a questioning look. Waverly’s face looked like she just made the biggest discovery of her life, she brought fingers to her lips and muttered a barely audible, “whoa.”

“Good whoa?”

“Great whoa…” The stunned look still sat. Waverly couldn’t help but wonder, if a kiss with a stranger was the best kiss she’d ever had in her entire life, what would it be like to kiss a friend?
… Her best friend?

/

“AHHH!! Babygirl!!” Wynonna wrapped her arms around her sister, finally home, finished with college.
She pulled back and held Waverly's face, almost admiringly.

“I missed you, Wy…” They pulled close again and hugged each other tightly.

The drive from the airport to the homestead was quiet, too quiet for Waverly. Wynonna clutched the steering wheel and stared at the road, lips pursed.
There it was. That face that told stories.

“Dammit Wynonna, what happened?”

Wynonna let out a frustrated groan. “Alright, you're gunna hear this sooner or later. They moved…”

“What? Who moved? Where?”

“The Haughts. They moved back to Texas. Nicole went with ‘em.”

Waverly stared down at her purse in her lap. The purse that held the letter she wrote. The letter for Nicole, telling her how she felt, really and truly felt.
“Oh...” Leaning her forehead against the window, a single tear fell down her face.
Godammit, Cole...

Chapter Text

“I don’t know what I’ve been told!!”

“I don’t know what I’ve been told!” Little voices echoed Curtis’ as they marched toward stables, shovels over their shoulders.

“Shovelin’ shit will earn you gold!”

“Shovelin’ shit will earn you gold!”

“I don’t know what it’s been said!”

They stomped their feet and marched to the beat. “I don’t know what it’s been said!”

“If Gus hears this she’ll shoot me dead!” Curtis stopped and turned around to face the little girls, eyes wide.

“If Gus hears this she’ll shoot you dead!” They yelled out in unison.

“Gus hates it when we say shit.” Waverly stuck her shovel in the ground, giving Curtis a mischievous grin. The kind that said “you did something bad, if I tell Gus, you’re in a lot of trouble…”

“Exactly. And now we all said it. So no tellin’, right?” He leaned down to their level, hands on his knees.

Nicole nodded her head vigorously.

“Waverly? Right?” He narrowed his eyes on the fierce little brunette.

She pursed her lips and considered the consequences of Gus finding out they were all cussing. “Fine.”

/

She had to run faster, push harder, shoot better than any of the guys, just to barely be noticed.

Nicole had befriended one man, Jameson. A man who actually realized what year they were living in, that she was stronger, faster than half the men at the police academy, and a hell of a better marksman than all of them. She liked him, he respected the hell out of her, never asked if she needed help, patronized her. In fact, he was constantly challenging her, pushing her to be better. And, damn, she was glad for that.

But a group of men hounded her constantly. Partly because they wanted to get in her pants, which she had less than zero interest in. Partly because this wasn’t a woman’s world, so they thought.

One night that group of men sat around a table, playing cards, smoking cheap cigarettes, when a big bowl of eggs dropped right in the center of the table.

They all looked up to see Nicole. Arms folded behind her back. Jameson stood beside her with an identical bowl in his arms.

“What the hell’s this?” The unspoken leader of the group, Carter, leaned his elbows on the table, narrowed his eyes on Nicole. A cigarette rolled around two fingers. He was a quiet man, but threatening.

“Fifty hard boiled eggs.”

Carter chuckled. “You watched too many movies. Lemme guess, one hour? No throwin’ up?”

“Thirty minutes,” Nicole responded cooly.

The men looked at each other, raised brows. Was she serious?

Carter wasn’t a man to back down from a challenge, especially not from a woman. “Thirty minutes. No throwin’ up.”

Nicole’s record was 27 minutes. She hated hard boiled eggs now, but she learned to ignore the flavor altogether. Ever since she saw Paul Newman earn respect by winning a dumb bet of eating 50 hard boiled eggs, she made it a goal to be able to do the same thing. Surprising her own self, she did it, in much less time. But these guys didn’t know any of that.

They rapidly approached the 25 minute mark, she had 8 eggs left, Carter had 20 and was gagging every time he put another in his mouth.

She popped another in and chased it with a tiny bit of water. Shouting and cheering spurred her on. She felt sick, full, she always did this close to the finish, but she always finished.

Twenty-eight minutes and she had 1 left, Carter, 9. He was having more and more trouble controlling his gag reflex. She pushed the last egg in, chewed it down, swallowed it. Waited for the clock to hit 30 minutes.

Thirty. She’d finished at 28. Carter still had 3 eggs in his bowl. Both challengers sat back in their chairs, ready to burst. The room was silent.

Carter let out a giant belch, stuck his hand out to shake Nicole’s. “Looks like we got a regular Cool Hand in our midst, huh fellas?” The smirk on his face told her all she needed to know.

That was it. She’d done it. Broken that pretense of patriarchal rule. They stood on even ground now. She let loose an even louder, longer belch, held a fist to her chest. The room filled with laughter.

/

Waverly Earp and Jonathon Reese sat on a couch at the homestead, legs spread out and laced around each other's, laptops open, typing away. Waverly had finally gotten a position as a TA, working towards a classroom of her own, teaching students all about the languages and history she so loved.

Jon looked up from his computer, closed it, set it on the floor. Waverly didn't move from her work, she was completely immersed.

Jon rubbed her leg, gaining her attention. “Hey. Can we talk?”

Waverly snapped her laptop shut. “Yeah, sure. What's up?”

“I got that job. In Chicago.”

Waverly was surprised by the information, unsure what to say. “Oh. That's … that's great! I'm happy for you.” She brought her hand over his, rubbed it softly.

“Come with me?”

The shock factor increased exponentially, she shook her head at the question. “Whoa, um… what?”

“I want you to come with me, Wave. Come live with me in Chicago! It'll be great! I've been meaning-”

“Stop!” She interrupted him before he could go further. “Jonathan, you're a great guy, really nice. But this,” she gestured between the two of them, “it's been 3 months, barely. And I don't want to leave, not again. Not now anyways, not to Chicago.” Not with you… But she didn't say that part.

Jon nodded, stood to ready himself to leave. He understood, it was a long shot, but you find someone like Waverly Earp, you take that chance.
“You're a wonderful person, Waverly Earp. I hope you find someone just as wonderful.”

/

“What kinda name is Pikachu?”

“It’s better than Rattata.”

Nicole looked at Waverly like she was speaking a whole different language. Though, she often was. The little girl already spoke fluent Mandarin, which she frequently used for cursing.
Waverly held a golden hamster in her hands, stroking its back gently.

“Besides, he’s mine, and I get to name him!”

Nicole scratched the little animal’s head. “I’m sorry you got such a weird name. Your momma’s kind of strange.”

Waverly withdrew the hamster from Nicole’s reach. “Hey, we can’t talk like that in front of him. He’ll think we’re fighting!”

Nicole shrugged her shoulders. “Sometimes we do fight. You get so angry you can’t help it.”

“You blamin’ me for our fights? Pikachu, don’t listen to this. We love you, no matter what.”

Nicole looked at Waverly like she was plum crazy. Sometimes she was.

“Hey,” Waverly looked at Nicole, a thought dawning on her, “you think we’ll ever fight so much we don’t wanna talk anymore?”

Nicole just stared at Waverly like she’d grown another head. “What? You kiddin’? Never.” She stretched her hand out to reach the hamster, took him and held him close. “I'll never leave you, Waverly.”

Waverly held out a pinky. “Promise?”

Locking her pinky with the little one in front of her, she replied, “promise.”

/

Doc Holliday slid a mug across the bar into Waverly Earp’s hands.

“You are partaking in libations particularly early this day, miss Earp. Something troubling you?” He wiped his hands on a towel, observing the distant, worried look on Waverly's face.

She looked up from her drink, eyes full of pure sadness, voice so quiet and thick with guilt. “I made a mistake, Doc.”

Doc leaned against the bar, let out a deep sigh. He was accustomed to giving advice to daily patrons. But speaking to Waverly was almost like speaking to a daughter, or a niece. He felt a need to protect her, especially since her uncle had passed away.
“I do not believe this town has seen the last of Nicole Haught. Something in my bones tellin’ me, I reckon.”
Most folks he'd say something like that to help them feel better. But he wasn't lying when he said that to Waverly. Something in his bones told him they'd see Nicole again.

“I hope you're right,” she mumbled as she took a sip of the beer.

“Can I get the same?”

A soft voice beside Waverly alerted her that she was no longer sitting alone.

Blonde curls and blue eyes, a familiar face smiled at her.

“Jess, wow, it's been a while. Hi!” She tried to be enthusiastic in greeting Nicole's … girlfriend? Ex girlfriend?

“Yeah, it has. How have you been?” Jess looked and sounded genuinely curious, and she'd always been friendly to Waverly. She couldn't help but return the warmth.

“Pretty good, it's good to be back.” Neither could avoid the unspoken subject that was creating an awkward feeling between them.

Jess seemed to sense it, strongly. She turned on her bar stool to face Waverly directly. “Hey, I just want you know, we broke up. A while ago, actually. No hard feelings, or anything. She just … she was always somewhere else. And I think it was with you.”

Waverly rose her hands, ready to defend herself, and Nicole. “Wait, no, we never-”

Jess interrupted Waverly before she could continue, “I don't mean like that. She'd never do that. Just, in her mind. And heart. She never left you behind. She couldn't.”

I'll never leave you, Waverly…” Nicole's words from long ago rang in her mind.
Waverly wasn't sure what to say, what to do with everything Jess had just handed her. So she did the only thing she could think of. She wrapped her arms around Jess, she hugged her.
“I'm sorry. But thank you. For telling me.”

She felt a smile form against her cheek, arms come up to return the hug.
“‘Course.”

/

Waverly’s jeep was like her safe place. Something that was her very own, something she didn’t have to share, with anyone. So she often just got in and drove. When she was angry, or sad, or feeling something she couldn’t quite put a name to, she got in that jeep and drove.

Many of those times she found herself at that house, the one Nicole said she was going to buy, all those years ago, the one they were going to live in, with all their toys, of course. Play princess and cowboy and dig for buried treasure and eat goldfish, for the rest of their lives.

If only it were that simple again…

As she drove up another day, she noticed a big white truck in front of the house. She pulled over to inspect, noticed a “Sold” sign as well. A group of men worked around the house, lifting beams, replacing old, rotting wood with new. Driving away quickly, hot tears fell down fast.

Someone bought Nicole’s house. Someone else was going to live in her home. Maybe it wasn't really Nicole's, but in Waverly's heart, it always had been.

She stole quick glances over to the glove compartment. Where that letter sat, where it always sat, since she got back from college 3 years ago. Maybe one day she'd drive somewhere and Nicole would be there, and she'd give her that letter. Not probable. Waverly knew that. But she never went anywhere without it.

/

Nicole stared at the Polaroid in her hands. Her favorite picture.

A cowboy and a princess, covered in dirt from digging for buried treasure, mouths stuffed full of goldfish. Curtis McCready’s finger covered the lens just a little, it always made her laugh.

She couldn't help but smile at the memory.

Turning her head to look out the window, all she could see was clouds.

Hope to hell this isn't a giant mistake...

/

Waverly found herself driving across town, again.
To that house, again.
Even though someone had bought it, she still wanted, needed, to see it.

She pulled over to the side, noticed the construction had come along quite far. Looked a lot like a cabin. She found herself staring at the mailbox. Plain old mailbox. She heard her friend’s voice so clearly.
You can paint the mailbox … Promise.”

She’d been so damn excited about painting that stupid mailbox. About living forever here with Nicole.
Cole.
Sleepovers every night, do whatever the hell they wanted.

Now she looked at the house and saw a life that should’ve been her’s. One that had been in front of her for so damn long, but she just gave up like it was nothing. Because she didn’t even know. Didn’t see what it was. Didn’t see that it was everything in the whole world.

“Stupid hose. Damn thing. Role up!”

A familiar voice was cursing and muttering from the side of the house. Waverly froze where she stood, wanted so bad to run back to her jeep and drive away. Yet also wanting so bad to run around the side of the house and find that voice. The face that voice belonged to. But she couldn’t move. Just plain stuck where her feet stood.

That goddamn fiery red hair popped up from around the corner, stupid beautiful face twisted in frustration. Long, lean body clad in a simple white tank top and fitting blue jeans. And a Stetson. A real bonafide officer’s Stetson, perched atop her head. It was even white.
Cowboy… Waverly thought to herself.

“DAMMIT!” She shouted this time, practically threw the disobedient hose, in Waverly’s direction.
She stood straight up, stared at the frozen figure from behind aviator sunglasses.
Stupid sexy aviator sunglasses.

“Wave?” Nicole removed the sunglasses, brushed her now shoulder length hair away from her eyes. There she stood, right in front of her. Waverly Earp, after all these years. Standing like a statue in a little floral dress, perfect long hair flowing around like silk, a small braid went around her head, like a crown.
No. A tiara.
Princess… Nicole thought to herself.

Waverly stumbled over breaths and words. “You - you’re back. It’s you, you bought the house.”

Nicole’s face puckered in thought, a single finger scratched her temple. “Yeah. I uh, I promised this girl I’d let her paint the mailbox. I’ve never broken a promise to her yet. Didn’t wanna start.”

“Cole,” she barely breathed it out, but Nicole heard it. Cole. Waverly’s body relaxed a bit as she found the ability to move, slowly make her way toward the taller woman. “I wanted you to be here...” Nicole watched every movement, every look on Waverly’s face, carefully taking in each word, but never moving. “When I came back, from college, I wanted you to be here.”

Nicole’s face turned to one of uncertainty. “I was here, a long time, Waverly.”

“I know, and I know that. But you're here now, and so am I. And I just really wanted to tell you that - You’re my … you’re my person.”

Nicole’s lips turned up in a smirk. Waverly had definitely just quoted Grey’s Anatomy to her. She’d come back to that later.
Waverly was timidly making her way closer, wringing her hands in nervousness.

“You’ve always been my person, I think I just didn’t realize what that meant. I mean it can mean different things for different people, right? For Meredith and Christina it meant best friends, promise to help each other cover up murder if it ever happens kind of person! NOT … not that I’d ever ask you to do that,” Waverly groaned, shook her head in her hand, felt a soft touch on her arm.

That reminder.
You’re rambling.

Waverly looked into Nicole’s face, twisted in concern and questioning. “I’m not sure … I’m not sure what to do from here.”

“Wait!” Waverly held up a hand, ran back to her jeep before Nicole could say a word, hurried back with an envelope in hand. “Here. Read this. I uh, I wrote that before I came home. It’s been a while, but it’s still true. All of it.” She set the note in Nicole’s hands, watched gingerly as it was opened, read.

Nicole read every word carefully, twice. When she finished she looked up to find Waverly staring at the ground, too nervous to watch. Again, she rested a hand on Waverly’s arm.

Waverly looked up into such expressive brown eyes, no longer filled with that fear she saw long ago, the fear she couldn’t decipher. Now filled with tears, patience, love, and Waverly wondered how and why it had taken them this long to get to this place.

“You mean this?” Nicole held the paper up, questioning, still hesitant with everything that had happened between the two of them, but so hopeful after reading that letter.

“Every single fucking word.”

Waverly Earp didn’t swear a whole lot, not that word anyway. She only used it when she was trying to make a point, when she was trying to say something so important she just needed to add “color” to it. She always talked about Gone With The Wind, how Rhett Butler’s famous line, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” would have been useless if he hadn’t sworn. That’s when she brought out the word “fuck.” When she really needed the words to leave an impact.

And they sure did. Nicole knew without a doubt that she meant every single fucking word.

They met in the middle, crashed together, not even gracefully. Waverly's hands held Nicole’s face, snaked around to grasp her neck. Nicole held those hands, ran her fingers over the tan arms as Waverly drew closer to her. So long she’d thought about this moment, the one she was damn sure would only live in her mind. Now it was here, happening, really and truly happening. And that moment that their lips met, it was like nothing she’d ever imagined. Nothing either of them could conjure up or dream of. Because those moments they dreamed of were always marred with doubt, the belief it’d never be real.

But that moment, there. The realest thing that ever happened.

Nicole wrapped her arms around Waverly’s back and pulled her in so impossibly close, because a soft wind might come and blow her away for all she knew. She kissed her deep because it might be the last time she ever did.

And Waverly kissed her back like she it was the first and last time she’d even hold this woman. Too much time wasted, she kept telling herself. Too much. But all that time had brought them here, in the front yard of that house Nicole told Waverly she was going to buy, years ago, with the mailbox she promised Waverly she could paint. They held each other so long, so hard, they damn near forgot they were two people, not one.

“You got a real one,” Waverly flicked the Stetson on Nicole’s head, straightened it, as it had come loose and crooked from wandering hands.

“Hey, they were all real.” She feigned hurt, pressed another kiss to swollen lips, in case she’d disappear. She took her hand, led her to the house.

“You want some goldfish?”

Waverly looked up at Nicole. “I love goldfish…”

“I know. Me too.”

Chapter Text

“Buuull. Shit.”

Nicole lifted her eyes from the cards in her hands. “Excuse me?”

Waverly’s eyes narrowed on her. “You heard me Haught. Bullshit.”

“You callin’ me a liar, Waverly Earp?” Nicole leaned on the table to her left, towards her girlfriend’s face.

“I don’t know. Does the hat fit, Officer Haught?” Waverly leaned closer, dropping her voice to a husky tone.

“UUGH." Wynonna slapped her hand of cards on the table, disgusted look on her face. “Every time guys! EVERY time! Can we play one game without it turning into eye sex?!”

Xavier Dolls sat beside her, rolling his eyes, because really, she wasn’t any better. He looked at his watch. “It’s after midnight, we have work tomorrow, we should go anyways.”

“After midnight? What, do we have a curfew now?” Wynonna gave Dolls a perplexed glare.

“No.” Dolls was a man of few words. But the way he looked at Wynonna told her everything she needed to know.

Her open palms slapped the table as she stood. “Alright guys, have a good night!”

 

As soon as Nicole shut and locked the door, Waverly grabbed her hand and pulled her back to the table.

“Hey, whoa, what’s up?”

Waverly stopped and turned, right into Nicole’s arms. “We’re playing a game. Just the 2 of us. ‘Kay?”

 

“Aaand another one for me! That’s your bra.” Waverly gave Nicole a devious smirk. Four hands in and Nicole had lost every one. Waverly complained that taking off her socks shouldn’t count as one, but she did it anyway.

Nicole reached around to unhook the clasps when Waverly, stopped her, stood and pulled her shirt off, set herself on Nicole’s lap, straddling her.

“Isn’t this cheating?” Nicole moved her arms to wrap them around Waverly's torso.

“Maybe.” She ran her fingers the short auburn hair. She barely whispered a single sentiment, “my best friend...” It was never lost on Waverly how incredibly lucky she was, that she got to spend every single day, every minute, living life with the person who had always been her best friend, always would be.

“You’re mine.” Nicole just gazed into the hazel eyes, always changing color in different light. She pressed her lips gently to Waverly’s.

Waverly always felt a subconscious need to move at breakneck speed. So much of her time had been spent, wasted, without Nicole by her side. So she often stripped in a matter of seconds, before Nicole was even out of her shoes. Nicole brought her back down to earth, in a way. Yeah, they’d missed a lot of time. But she had to remind Waverly that just meant they had to slow down and appreciate the ones they had.

But there in the kitchen that night, for some reason, Waverly was acutely aware of the fact that sometimes, they just needed to slow down. She leaned her forehead to Nicole’s, and just breathed in that scent, the one she’d never really figure out what it all was. Some vanilla, shampoo, but something in the scent was just Nicole, it didn’t have a name other than Nicole. And Waverly inhaled that scent deeply.

Nicole rubbed her hands along the arms that wrapped around her neck. Those arms had wrapped around her thousands of times, since they were kids. She’d taken them for granted, for so long. Now, every time she felt them, she thanked whoever was listening for those arms, for the face leaning against her’s, the breath she felt against her own.

They whispered tender words against each other’s lips.

“I love you so damn much, Waverly Earp.”

“I love you, Nicole Haught. I love you.”

The women had forgotten about the music playing in the background - until a song came on. Cheesiest, sappiest song either of them had heard. But they were the cheesiest, sappiest people they knew. So it fit.

Nicole whispered words into Waverly’s ears as they moved, so softly, taking every moment in like it was a piece of history.

What's going on in that beautiful mind
I'm on your magical mystery ride

Clasps came undone, Nicole pulled Waverly’s bra forward, adoring every single inch of the woman in front of her.

Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections

She pressed long, tender kisses across Waverly’s neck, collarbone, breasts.

Give your all to me
I'll give my all to you

Waverly leaned forward, pressing her lips to Nicole’s neck as she let her bra loose, threw it to the side.

How many times do I have to tell you
Even when you're crying you're beautiful too

Tears lit both brown and hazel eyes as they leaned back to look into them.

Cards on the table, we're both showing hearts
Risking it all, though it's hard

Thumbs wiped the tears away. Lips met in fervor, need, like they’d never met before, like they’d never meet again.

Finally, Nicole stood, lifting Waverly with her, letting the song finish as she carried her to their bedroom.


You're my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I'm winning
'Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you
I give you all of me
And you give me all of you

/

Nicole’s cruiser crunched over the gravel driveway, parked.
She stepped out and leaned against the car, watching Waverly paint that damn mailbox, for maybe the tenth time that month.

“You know, you could leave it one design for at least a week.”

Waverly spun around, paint brushes in both hands, paint on her arms and face. Waverly Earp was the messiest painter Nicole knew. She loved it.

Her eyes found the officer, that scrunched up look of focus still on her face that drove Nicole wild.

“I know. Do you know how long I’ve had to think about this, though? Years! I had so many ideas! And I’m gonna do ‘em all,” Waverly replied in a very matter-of-fact voice.

Nicole strode towards the paint-covered brunette, hair up in a messy bun, little overalls that only Waverly could look good in. She took the brushes from her hands, set them down, pulled Waverly close. She pressed a kiss to her forehead, not even caring about the paint.

“Don’t ever stop painting this mailbox, baby.” Her dimpled grin took over, bigger and brighter than any other time it did when they were kids.

Waverly’s smile took over her whole damn face, the biggest one Nicole had ever seen. She held up a pinky for Nicole. “Promise.”