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If You Touch Me (You'll Understand What Happiness Is)

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Waverly Earp was good enough without affectionate gestures, she decided. She had never really experienced very many. Between her father being adamant that she must help her sisters train, and her sisters being adamant that she was a silly little girl who had ruined their fun- she didn’t really have much on the affection she craved. So she taught herself not to crave it.

Willa seemed to have something against her. When she was four, Willa had become so annoyed at Waverly’s presence that she would do anything to scare her. When Waverly was caught by Willa, looking through her father’s drawer for a doll that he’d confiscated from her, she panicked. Her sister seemed to look at her, as if she was a stranger- devoid of the affection she held for Wynonna. Waverly had swallowed, knowing-even at her young age- that her sister strongly disliked her.

“Waverly, what are you doing? If daddy catches you, you know what he’s going to do…” When Waverly hadn’t answered her, Willa’s eyes seemed to take on an even more menacing glint- even though Waverly herself didn’t think it could be possible. “I might just go and tell him now...” She continued, seeing the flash of fear.

That was how Waverly had found herself on the beam in the barn. One that was so high, that Willa herself wouldn’t be able to fall without breaking a bone. But still, she had manipulated her baby sister into climbing the rafters and walking across the beam. One wrong foot, and Waverly was clinging on, as her sister watched her. Doing nothing. It was then that Waverly had decided that she didn’t need anyone but herself. She clung on for a few minutes, terrified and calling out for her father, or Wynonna to come and save her, as Willa herself had vacated the barn. She was all alone. All on her own, and the sister that was meant to be the oldest had made her do this.

“Waverly?” A voice came through like angels singing to Waverly. Wynonna. She heard the soft crunch of Wynonna’s favourite boots as she walked along the pathway to the barn. Wynonna was soft on Waverly, unless Willa was there. She’d always join Willa otherwise- making fun of her, shunning her, making her feel like an outcast. When her sister finally made her way into the barn, and had seen Waverly, hanging- clutching at the beam with her small arms, she had run off into the house to fetch Ward. Ward had fetched her down.

He gave her a talking to, and when Waverly had tried to explain that Willa made her do it, Willa had denied it, telling him all about her trying to find her doll in his drawers. She even convincingly lied about the fact that Waverly had run off as soon as Willa had caught her, and had got herself caught on the beam. She had been rewarded with three slaps to the back of the legs and no supper before bed.

Wynonna had sneaked up to her room that night with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a glass of water for Waverly. Wynonna had read her a bedtime story, and had kissed her on the forehead. That was when Waverly had decided she didn’t need Ward to love her. She didn’t need Willa to love her. She just needed Wynonna to love her.


 

That all changed when her father and Willa had died. Wynonna became shut off from her, as if keeping Waverly away from her had been the only thing she could do to keep herself grounded to Willa. Aunt Gus and Uncle Curtis had been the first to give Waverly hugs when they had found out what had gone on. Waverly was sure that this was the first time she’d been hugged like that, ever, by someone who wasn’t Wynonna.

She watched as the coffins were lowered into the ground. Ward first, and then Willa. She watched as Wynonna glared at her daddy’s tombstone and how she looked tiredly at Willa’s. Waverly couldn’t bring herself to get upset for the deaths of two people who should have looked out for her. She felt awful about it, but Gus had reassured her. It’s perfectly normal not to cry straight away, darlin’. Gus and Curtis had set about, straight away, making arrangements for their nieces to come and stay. Waverly was wary. What if they blamed her for everything like her father did? What if they didn’t love her the same as Wynonna? What if Wynonna resented her, because she wasn’t Willa?

Gus and Curtis had turned out to be the opposite of her father, always making sure she went to school with a smile on her face, always making sure she had a full tummy before bedtime, making sure she did her homework. To Waverly, they were like the parents she’d never had. And she was their little angel.

Wynonna was less of an angel, to put it bluntly. She became very focused on the men who had killed her daddy and her sister. They were Demons! She had insisted. Waverly, for all of her intelligence, had not understood. The night they took Wynonna away, Curtis had sung Waverly to sleep. He did every night afterwards, too. Waverly decided she liked it when Uncle Curtis sang to her.
All around the cobbler’s bench,
The monkey chased the weasel,
The monkey thought it was all in fun,
Pop goes the weasel,
Half a pound of tuppenny rice,
Half a pound of treacle,
That’s the way the money goes,
Pop goes the weasel.

 

 

Wynonna had returned when Waverly was 6, changed. The light had gone out in her eyes, and she was obsessed with leaving Purgatory. But she still looked out for Waverly, treating her to ice cream when she got to sad or making her laugh.

Even though Waverly was well liked as the kind sweet little girl who made everyone laugh or smile, she wanted to make Wynonna smile. She managed it, but it never quite seemed to reach her eyes. But she knew Wynonna loved her. Waverly’s big sister loved her, and that’s all that mattered to Waverly.

 

 

By the time Waverly was 16, she was a high achieving student. She believed Wynonna’s story about the Earp Curse and begged her Uncle for the online courses on history, Latin, any other ancient languages she fancied while she was still in her sophomore year- just so that she could begin her research. Curtis had been happy to oblige. She began online correspondence courses, from universities that were desperate to have her finish high school and be a part of their alumni. She had declined.

Wynonna left Purgatory when Waverly had started her junior year. Left Waverly with a kiss on the forehead and a quick look back as she drove off. Waverly had spent the night in tears. She decided that night that she was going to have to do everything herself. For the first time in her whole life, Waverly was certain her big sister didn’t love her as much as she thought she did. For the first time since she was four, she didn’t think about her sister loving her. She thought about her sister disliking her. Just like Willa.

 

 

Waverly threw herself into her friendships. With the local Sheriff’s daughter, Chrissy. With their mutual friend, Stephanie. Stephanie who talked badly about Waverly to her face. Stephanie who wanted Waverly to be what she wanted her to be. And Waverly let her.

When Curtis had employed a young boy to help at the ranch, she realised that maybe what she was missing was the love of a man. She’d grown up watching Curtis and Gus’ playful bantering and bickering- their anniversaries usually spent in Shorty’s with their friends and with Waverly. So maybe that’s what Waverly herself had been missing. That playful bantering. The boy was called Champ, and she found him incredibly silly. He wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box, but he was kind to her. He saw past her last name and asked her on a date. Champ Hardy became her boyfriend as soon as she turned seventeen. Champ had just turned eighteen.

 

 

She had sex for the first time when she was seventeen. Champ had been begging for months, between heated kisses and groping her. She thought it was what was meant to happen. So she let Champ do what he wanted. He ignored her for a week afterwards. She thought she had done something wrong until she caught him kissing a girl. She stayed angry at him for two weeks before he wormed his way back into her life again. He slobbered all over her, kissing her and promising to ‘shut her brain off for a while’. She endured it. But she decided to have a better backbone.

 

 

She got a job at Shorty’s when she was nineteen. Thanks to Gus, she could now afford to pay her own bills and tuition, even though Curtis had insisted on paying the latter for her. He still wanted to give her something. So she let him pay for the Sumerian course she had been looking at. And judging by the university’s impressed view of her Latin, it wouldn’t take her long for them to give her all the work she needed to distract herself. Distract herself from Champ’s heavy, overbearing presence. Distract herself from the hushed whispers about her sister. Distract herself from missing Wynonna too much.

The people of the town that saw her when she was working saw the kind young woman who cared way too much about everyone else. Who cared if she made a customer smile, who cared if she made a patron laugh. She was Waverly Earp, the girl with the cutest smile and the sweetest charm. Waverly decided that she liked the patrons’ lovely compliments- even if the drunk customers did tend to be irritating.

 

 

Uncle Curtis died when Waverly had just turned 21. She was heartbroken. He had been a pillar in her life for so long that she was finding it hard to imagine a life without him encouraging her on some new adventure. Champ held her, and pretended to be sad. He, in reality, was just happy that Curtis had stopped overworking him. She had sex to distract herself, but felt disgusted with herself afterwards for letting Champ crawl so easily into her brain and convince her that she wanted what he wanted as he slobbered all over her neck and moved his rough and calloused hands over her body. This, Waverly decided, was not the affection-nor the touch- she craved.

 

 

Wynonna returned within a few days of Curtis’ death, and she was surprised to find her straddling her boyfriend. She’d not seen her face, so had shot at her, until she had fallen off the bed. For one fleeting second, she hoped she’d hit a certain appendage of Champ’s, seeing as he was so adamant about cheating on her.

But then Wynonna was hugging her and calling her baby girl and she forgot all about her anger at her sister for being away. She forgot about her sadness, because her sister definitely still did love her. Hugging Wynonna, Waverly decided, was the best gift she could have gotten for the three birthdays that Wynonna had missed.

 

 

Revenants. They were all Waverly could think about after she and Wynonna had faced a gang of them. They had nearly hung her. She still had the bruise of the noose around her neck, but she liberally applied concealer so that it wouldn’t be seen. Wynonna had been scared to face what she had been trained for as a child. Being the heir… Waverly thought with a twang of jealousy. She- Waverly- should be the heir. She did the research and the years of study. She was ready for everything that Wynonna was not. She read up on old demonic rituals and old methods of getting rid of a demon… but nothing. Wynonna was destined to be the heir, and Waverly the little sister, running around after her- being a nuisance to everyone.

 

 

Red hair, dimples and a cute smile. That was what she got the first time she met Officer Nicole Haught at Shorty’s. A rookie officer from…. Well, she couldn’t really remember where. All she could think about was the eyes of the officer. They were the most passionate eyes she’d ever seen. Her red hair was bundled up in a braid. Her uniform shirt hung open by a few buttons at the top which Waverly was absolutely sure (from seeing Chrissy’s dad’s uniform) weren’t regulation for wearing the Purgatory Sheriff Department shirt. She stetson had been placed on the counter and there Waverly was, patting at her beer soaked crop top with a towel as the Officer introduced herself.

The worst faux pas came when she asked Nicole to turn so she could lift her top off her frame- only to have it catch on her watch and have the gentle officer help her take it off, smiling down bashfully at her. She wondered what it would be like to have a hug from the kind officer but she refrained from asking, her cheeks a furious red as she babbled about being a planner and having a boy- no a man. The officer had left her card with a quick smile back to her before leaving.

For her entire shift afterwards, she couldn’t think.

 

 

Champ became increasingly more annoying, inserting himself into any conversation Waverly happened to be having with Nicole.

Shorty died during a hostage situation a few weeks after his childhood best friend, and again, Waverly was overcome with guilt. Champ chased Nicole’s condolences away, with his possessiveness. He believed Waverly’s sadness was in part due to the fact that he had been taken hostage also, and promised to never leave her side, before peppering her face with rough, unwanted kisses, all the way down to her neck. She had to suppress a shudder. She didn’t want his touch or his affection anymore. But she’d never tell him.

Sweet kind Waverly Earp couldn’t break his heart.

 

 

But then, she supposed, she could. Because she was sure he didn’t really love her as much as she loved him. After solving one of Curtis’ riddles, she found a skull, with a message in for her. She was now the keeper of the bones. But Champ had to go and ruin the moment by means of a crude and unwelcome comment, followed by trying to get her to have sex with him. She pushed him away, told him they were done, and she felt better for it. She could get on with her life without his heavy and overwhelming presence.

She kept seeing Officer Haught around, and kept talking to her. She wanted a decent friendship with the woman. But after realising that maybe she wanted more than that, they began to skirt around each other. Especially after Nicole and Wynonna had been kidnapped. Nicole talked about Waverly with such affection, that she found it hard to keep her mouth from going dry, even while scared for her sister.

Doc had found her sobbing over her sister in the hallway and had gathered her up into his arms, akin to how a father would take his child in his arms to hold them if they were upset, as he uttered reassurances that her big sister was resourceful, that she would be fine. Waverly decided that Doc deserved more happiness than he thought he did. She decided that she liked his hugs.

 

 

When Wynonna was found, she tried to talk to Nicole, only to have gotten it completely wrong. When they tried again later, she berated herself internally for letting years of pent up aggression about her life changing so quickly here and there come out as she was talking to Nicole. She had practically screamed and growled at her.

And when Gus had thrust a cheque in her hands and told her to do what she wanted with her life for once, she couldn’t help thinking about the tall redhead who she had seen off with some rudeness earlier.

This, Waverly decided, would not do. This, Waverly decided, would be rectified.

 

 

Kissing Nicole Haught, she decided, was the best thing that she had ever decided to do. After pumping herself up to talk to Nicole, she decided to just throw her fear, and her caution to the wind, timing it perfectly to coincide with Nedley’s lunch hour.

Nicole’s hands were soft and touched her delicately, holding Waverly’s face in her hands when they kissed. Her hands were nothing like Champ’s, who groped and felt around- trying to find what he was looking for. No. Nicole’s hands held Waverly softly, as if she were a gift from Heaven itself. Her mouth sought Waverly’s for tender, passionate kisses, not like the rough and sloppy kisses of Champ. And when Nicole pulled away and looked into Waverly’s eyes, the smile and the dimples coming out, she realised that what she had searched for so hard in Champ, she had found in Nicole.

Nicole took her on dates, bought her flowers, kissed her cheek, held her, cooked for her, made her feel important… made her feel loved. And Waverly had never felt like that before. And she gave Nicole everything in return.

Nicole Haught, Waverly decided, was the best goddamn decision she had ever made.

 

 

Willa returned. Waverly’s heart became heavy. Her happiness sank beneath oceans of sadness. Wynonna had Willa back. What would that do to their relationship? She had just got her big sister back. She had just got Wynonna to be Wynonna again, and the way that Willa looked at her. It was as if she was a four year old again- the little nuisance that hung around. So she did what she knew to do. She let them ignore her. She saw Nicole instead.

The night of the Poker Spectacular, Nicole held her as she cried. Nicole wrapped her up in a blanket of protection and love, and sat with her- on Nicole’s bed- and let her sob until she felt better. Nicole offered her a place to stay for the night, if she didn’t want to go home. She offered her comfort. Nicole suggested staying home instead of going to the poker spectacular. Nicole made her feel loved.

When, before Waverly had gotten shot, Dolls had dismissed her fears over Willa replacing her as an integral member of the team, he talked to her like a big brother would, telling her that she could never ever be replaced.

Dolls, Waverly decided, however stoic, was the best person to come to for advice. She liked it when she could talk to him like this.

 

 

Nicole discovered a few days later how volatile Willa could be, all over some ointment that she was putting on Waverly’s wound. But Nicole pushed her annoyance at Willa aside as soon as she had seen the look of pure exhaustion on Waverly’s face as she sat on the bed in the barn. She kissed her neck softly- reassuringly- but Waverly wanted more than her soft kisses. She wanted Nicole.

She turned her head. She wanted to feel Nicole’s lips on hers. She let Nicole kiss her passionately. But the sloppy lust that Champ seemed to have with her was not what she saw in Nicole. Nicole was unsure but confident, always testing the waters- making it comfortable for Waverly. Making sure Waverly would enjoy it. Making sure Waverly would be happy. It wasn’t about her. It was about Waverly. It was about Waverly as she held her waist and made her feel secure. It was about Waverly when Waverly pulled her sweater over her head. It was about Waverly when she made sure that Waverly was comfortable with her taking her blouse off, to which Waverly’s reply was a nod of her head.

Willa picked a perfect time to interrupt. Nicole decided she didn’t like Willa very much as she consoled her girlfriend when Waverly followed her to her apartment and talked about her past and her childhood. She decided that Waverly was too good for Purgatory, and for the family reputation she had looming over her.

 

 

“You are a vision.” The words made the heat in Waverly’s cheeks rise as she made her way to her girlfriend. Her blue, strapless dress fitted her frame perfectly, as she saw Nicole smiling, clad in her own purple, over-the-shoulder number. When she made a small comment about not having time to accessorize, Nicole brushed it off with a quip about having worn her bracelet for a reason, before gently clasping it to Waverly’s arm. The care with which she did this task was amazing.

Champ decided to disturb their happiness later, by means of homophobic comments. When she heard the uttered ‘Okay, lower your voice. Waverly doesn’t belong to anyone.’ Followed by Champ brushing Nicole off, she felt amazed. Nobody- not even Wynonna had stood up for her that way. The way Nicole defended her was so touching that Waverly wanted to embrace her. But they still had the problem of the chump in the way.

Nedley had stepped in, just as Champ outed them to the townspeople listening. Nedley had used himself as a shield when Champ had come at Waverly, and Nicole had slammed her foreharm into his face, handcuffing him and looking up to Waverly, to check she was okay. Waverly was indeed okay, but Nicole’s act of bravery had ignited a fire in the pit of her belly that she knew only came out of total love and desire for her girlfriend.

 

 

As soon as she heard her ringtone, seen that her girlfriend had entered the room, Waverly’s heart had taken a trampoline jump into her throat, as Willa turned her pistol on Nicole, threatening to put a round into her unless Wynonna handed her Peacemaker. She panicked. Her sister- and she used that term loosely for the woman pointing her weapon at the woman she loved… wait? She loved? Yes, she did.

She loved Nicole.

Nicole made her feel like a regular human being. She made her feel happy, and carefree and loved. Nicole gave her everything she had never gotten. She gave her the affection she craved.

“I love her.” Slipped out of her mouth as a whisper. Wynonna’s face said it all. Shock. She looked over to Nicole, who seemed not to have heard. She didn’t know whether to be relieved or whether to be slightly upset- because she didn’t really believe that this was the most romantic way for a confession of love. But it showed that Waverly loved her enough not to let her die.

Wynonna gave Willa Peacemaker, but she still shot Nicole. Waverly’s scream took her by surprise, and it was as if she was on autopilot- running to her girlfriend and turning her around, stroking her hair away from her face. She was scared. More scared than anything that Nicole could be dying in her arms- and she was powerless to stop it.

Wynonna ripped open her shirt. To reveal a bullet lodged in her bulletproof vest. Waverly’s heart did leaps in her chest as she refrained from launching herself onto her girlfriend’s probably very sore chest. Instead she kissed her girlfriend, looking into the eyes that were still checking to see if she was okay. Nicole was the one bruised and hurt, and she was checking on Waverly. She held Waverly’s forearm, as she kissed her, grounding her.

This- Waverly decided- was what affectionate gestures she wanted most in the world. Nicole Haught and her affectionate gestures. This is what happiness is and she wouldn't have it any other way.