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I'll spread my wings (and I'll learn how to fly)

Chapter Text

i.

March 2017; Purgatory, Alberta

 

 

One thing they never tell you as a prospective history student is that procuring the necessary source material is at some point going to become a massive ballache.

Well, it’s one of a few things they never tell you which include - but are not limited to - the pitiful amounts of contact time with your tutors (seriously what are the fees actually for?), and the number of sleepless nights you’ll spend deliriously trying to squeeze 100 years of history into 2,500 words. Including footnotes.

(Oh, and historiography is not your friend).

That’s not to say that Waverly’s passion for the subject has ever been in question, but sometimes navigating the minutiae of actually getting her doctorate becomes slightly tedious.

Especially the source material.

She has, at least, collected much of the documentation for her doctoral thesis throughout her undergrad and masters years, but she still finds herself trawling through the university library and various online archives with her fingers crossed that they’ll have what she needs. When they don’t, document delivery is an alternative; costly enough that it eats away at her bartending tips more or less entirely.

Just once, she would like to go grocery shopping without calculating how many article entries a dairy-free chocolate bar or tub of ice cream would cost.

The other alternative is begging. Museum and academy archives are suckers for some good ol’ fashioned grovelling.

Then again, she’s pretty sure her uncle would cover every cost her studying incurred if she asked him nicely enough, which is why she keeps a lot of her financial matters as far from Curtis and Gus as possible. They took her and Wynonna in when there was no one else, and they’d been doing their best to support them ever since. Even as a kid, it hadn’t escaped Waverly’s notice and for as long as she’d been old to enough to earn money, she’d tried to make her own way. If that meant pulling every shift Shorty could offer her, then so be it. But even when her tips were sufficient to cover the cost of buying old documents, it didn’t always mean she could find the ones she most needed.

When she’d submitted her proposed thesis title (“Wyatt Earp and the Legacy of Law-Keeping in the Old West, 1850 to the present day”), her prospective tutor had warned her in one of their frustratingly infrequent meetings that it was going to be a tall ask to get hold of all the sources she’d need. A lot of the old legal documents were squirreled away in police archives across two countries and some deputies could be cagey about handing them over.

But Waverly was nothing if not dogged, and was rarely discouraged from anything she set her mind to. She persisted and her advisor, apparently sufficiently reassured by Waverly’s tenacity, had signed off on her proposal going to the funding board. It helped too that she passed her preliminary exams and coursework requirements with flying colours. And, even in spite of her advisor’s scepticism, his report must have been good enough, because Waverly’s (albeit extremely limited) thesis funding had been approved, along with her sliver of desk space at the university’s History department.

(This effectively meant she spent most of her funding money on bus rides between Purgatory and the city, had to mark a lot of undergraduate papers, and sometimes filled in when qualified - and fully paid - tutors couldn’t make their own lectures).

Still, Waverly had to admit that her advisor had been right - every sheriff’s office she’d come up against thus far had been disinterested at best and downright unhelpful at worst. She had spent more hours than she cared to count trying to sweet-talk anyone from archives assistants to the Sheriffs themselves into letting her see copies of their more aged documentation.

There was, at least, a pretty decent rapport building up between her and UNM thanks to their famous Old West History programme, although Waverly suspected they might be trying to poach her - and her research - for their department. It was flattering, to say the least, but right now her home was in Purgatory and she wasn’t sure she was ready to change that quite yet. Still, she had options and that was something.

 

 

 

 

 

> From: Waverly Earp [mailto:waverlyearp@ucalgary.ca]
> Sent: 23 March 2017 07:18
> To: Nedley, Randy <randy.nedley@gov.ca>
> Subject: Archival material
> Attachment: document release request.pdf

Hi Sheriff, I hope you’re well.

I’m sorry to bother you again with more thesis requests but I’m trying to find a few sources on Wyatt Earp’s later life, and a few records on some Purgatory-based cases that took place just after his law-keeping days came to an end.

I don’t suppose any of these files are in the archive are they?

Thanks for all your help – next time you’re in Shorty’s there will be a beer waiting for you.

Waverly

 

 

> From: “Nedley, Randy” <randy.nedley@gov.ca>
> Sent: 23 March 2017 16:34
> To: Waverly Earp <waverlyearp@ucalgary.ca>
> Subject: RE: Archival material

Hello Waverly,

I've had a look and unfortunately the documents you want were moved after that water leak back in 2011. They did a stint at a museum in Montreal, but as far as I’m aware they're currently in storage at the Police College in Ontario. Speak to one of the archivists there. If you're lucky they might let you see them. Sorry not to be of more help.

You know by now there's no beer necessary. Please give my regards to your aunt and uncle for me.

Regards,

RANDY NEDLEY
SHERIFF
PURGATORY SD
STATION 62, 2004 - 20TH STR

 

 

> From: Waverly Earp <waverlyearp@ucalgary.ca>
> Sent: 24 March 2017 00:40
> To: Nedley, Randy <randy.nedley@gov.ca>
> Subject: RE: Archival material

Hi Sheriff,

Thanks again for your help, I’ll give OPC a try and keep my fingers crossed. Gus says to let you know you're welcome round at their place for a cup of coffee and a slice of pie whenever you'd like (I’m biased but her chocolate pie is the best!)

Waverly

 

 

 

 

 

Waverly, of course, delivers on her promise of a free beer for Nedley and he, of course, accepts after a cursory refusal. He has a pretty well-established routine of calling into Shorty’s most evenings, assuming his shifts aligned. She knows it’s his way of keeping up with the goings on of the town and it seems to serve him pretty well. She chats with him for a time, filling him in on her research although she senses he mostly asks out of courtesy. Still, it’s nice that he does - outside of Gus and Curtis, very few others take an interest in that side of Waverly’s life.

They speak until a scuffle breaks out in the corner of the bar, the first of the night, and Nedley slinks off with a sigh to gently calm things down. Once a few patrons have exited with their tails temporarily between their legs (Waverly knows full well they’ll be back within the hour), Shorty relieves her, so that she can pick at some food and have a quick break.

From across the room Champ calls her over and asks her if she wants to watch him play pool.

She doesn’t especially, but she goes anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

JC: How goes the hunt for elusive source material?
WE: don’t even speak to me about it.
JC: Can’t relate :)
RB: :) :) :)
WE: tfw you hate smug science grads
JC: Right because we have it soooo easy
RB: yeah nothing has ever gone wrong in any experiment I’ve ever done. Ever.
WE: that’s my point
WE: smug science grads
RB: anyway more importantly, are you coming to the mixer next weekend?
WE: more important than whether i have essential thesis documents?
RB: obviously?? because I’m having pre-wine wine at my place...
WE: idk, i’m not sure if i can take the time off work
JC: Waverly…
RB: :eye-roll emoji:
RB: dude, pls…
WE: fine. i can’t /justify/ taking the time off work
RB: to be fair though, the place would actually burn down if you weren’t there Waves.
JC: Na na na naaaa super-barmaid! Never off duty!!!
WE: i literally hate both of you sfm.

 

 


 

 

 

 

ii. March 2017; Ottawa, Ontario

 

Nicole Haught had all but dragged herself through high school and college with only one endpoint in sight: joining the police academy. Ever since she’d realised it was what she wanted, she’d vowed to do whatever it took to qualify as an officer. Even after all of the cautionary, disbelieving tales thrown at her - was she underestimating how hard it would be? Had she considered how she’d be treated as a woman on the force? What about the risks to her safety? - Nicole had never once wavered.

At eighteen she was youthfully unfazed, straining to cut the binds of high school and, admittedly, perhaps a little blasé about the sexism and the danger. Hard work, however, was something she became used to long before she became a cadet. College brought freedom and the chance to strike out on her own; it brought drinking buddies, girlfriends, and enduring friendships but it also brought hard work and long nights. She put herself through the three years it took her to graduate entirely on the back of two scholarships and three jobs, and joining the cadets after that had almost felt like a cakewalk.

She was smart enough to breeze through all the preliminary exams, healthy enough to ace the medical checkups, and - after years on her school and college soccer teams - athletic enough to pass the physical without breaking a sweat, almost literally.

So, although she was far from complacent, her past efforts hadn’t lead her to expect that her greatest mental obstacle might just be getting through a stint at the Academy’s archive.

This non-compulsory placement was well-regarded as the worst rotation an aspiring officer could spring and was helpful only in learning the correct paperwork procedure (essential, yes, but there surely had to be a better - and shorter - way to do so).

Nicole hadn’t signed up for the rotation, but rather it had chosen her.

A nasty fall in their latest physical had left an old achilles injury biting at her with every step, so she was ruled out of field work until the doctor gave her the say-so. She didn’t exactly relish the prospect of working in a freezing cold archive in late March while her peers were all out on much more interesting rotations, but she had passed all her compulsory training thus far with flying colours. An extra, voluntary (in theory) placement wouldn’t exactly look bad on her resumé when it came to actually getting hired. Which was something she and her fellow cadets would have to think about sooner rather than later, as their training was almost up.

For Nicole, this meant deciding exactly what she wanted out of being a police officer, and where she wanted to begin her working life. To date she had no idea. She had thought briefly about going home and living with her family again to save some money, and while the prospect wasn’t entirely terrible, Nicole hadn’t really taken to city policing as much as she had thought she would. In the back of her mind there was a strong draw to working in a smaller town, to actually getting a sense of community - of belonging - that was difficult to find in the inner city. Secretly, she carried an idyllic notion of being able to spend her days off hiking in the countryside and getting back to nature, as she had done when she was a child - before they had been forced to up sticks and move away.

Plus, she knew that there was no better time to move around a bit and see new towns while she was still very much single and unattached. The trouble was, with the world - or at least the country - as her oyster, Nicole had no idea where she really wanted to go.

She sighed, adjusting the position of her elbow on the desk and propping her head up in her hand as she sifted through a surprisingly small number of entry-level job listings. Even once she’d finished at the Academy, she’d still have a further six months of field training and shadowing left, and with resources stretched across the force at the moment, people weren’t always looking to hire rookies.

She clicks the ‘star’ icon next to a couple of listings to revisit, before giving a cursory check to her work inboxes; just under the pretense of doing something constructive. Not that it matters, since the archive manager - a short but terrifyingly officious man with a set of glasses that were entirely too small for his face - didn’t really seem to want Nicole around the archive any more than she really wanted to be there. Mostly, he shunted her out to reception, which suited Nicole just fine given that she could at least monitor the central radio. Plus, when it was dead she could update her government employee details, and prepare for her final written assessments and exams. This saved her trying to study at home, which was currently a dingy flat-share with a roommate that had no sense of either basic kitchen hygiene or of common human decency. His tactic du jour to piss her off had been holding increasingly raucous “get togethers” to which Nicole was decidedly not invited.

She couldn't say she cared about not spending time in her flatmate’s pungent room smoking weed, drinking cheap beer, and playing video games but she'd had to start volunteering for night shifts so that she could sleep in the daytime when her unemployed flatmate did. At this stage, even moving doesn't seem feasible; with graduation only a few months away, she doubts she’ll be able to sign a new rent agreement for such a short amount of time.

So she's resigned herself to slogging it out. She's slogging it out at home and at the archive, not really sure where things are going at this stage but glad, at least, to have prospects.

 

 


 

 

 

 

iii. March 2017; Purgatory, Alberta

 

> From: Waverly Earp [mailto:waverlyearp@ucalgary.ca]
> Sent: 26 March 2017 07:18
> To: Enquiries <enquiries@cpc.gc.ca>
> Subject: Archival material request
> Attachment: document release request.pdf

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am emailing as a PhD student with the University of Calgary. My doctoral thesis in History concerns law-keeping across North America at the time of the Old West, and I have been advised by my local Sheriff’s Office that some non-confidential documentation I am searching for might be in your archive. Please find attached the relevant document release authorisation.

I would be grateful if you contact me at your earliest convenience regarding this matter.

Many thanks for your help.

Kindest regards,
Waverly Earp

 

> From: Enquiries <enquiries@opc.gc.ca>
> Sent: 26 March 2017 17:01
> To: Waverly Earp <waverlyearp@ucalgary.ca>
> Subject: RE: Archival material request

Dear Ms Earp,

Thank you for your enquiry. Please be advised that your email has been forwarded as appropriate and a member of staff will be in touch within the next seven to ten working days.

Yours sincerely,

Ontario Police College

 

 


 

 

 

 

iv. April 2017; Calgary, Alberta

 

 

Grad mixers were, Waverly knew, important.

They were a good chance to network with other students and professors, to discuss your research, to make connections and, importantly, to drink a slightly inappropriate amount of wine. The faculties generally supplied the drinks for the disaffected professors that had to turn up, but by extension this was accessible to the students too, and the organisers certainly didn’t do things by halves.

Usually these events were restricted to single faculties or those with close ties, but occasionally the university put them through it and made them go to larger events.

Technically they were cordially invited, but it was pretty frowned upon not to attend a minimum number and academia, Waverly was discovering, was at least 25% image. (Luckily, being an Earp in Purgatory was probably about 85% image, so she was well prepared).

Plus, the fancier mixers were a great excuse to get a little bit glammed up.

Oh, and did she mention the wine?

So really there was no reason that Waverly shouldn't be looking forward to a night out but, truly, she wasn't. She'd taken an earlier shift at Shorty’s to at least get a few hours of paid work in, and had caught the bus to the city early enough that she could get in a predrink or two.

But her mind was elsewhere, buzzing like a hive and full of distractions. Mostly, she had a large bout of pre-deadline butterflies. Her mentor was expecting a solid draft of her current chapter in a pretty short timeframe and, with no sign that OPC had actually sent her email to a real human yet, Waverly was cutting it fine. This was not something she was accustomed to, and this kind of unpredictability was not something she enjoyed; she was never late and she never, ever missed a deadline.

She had tried to offload her worries by discussing things with Champ earlier, but just as well have not bothered. Either he didn’t understand why Waverly worried so much about her education, or he simply didn’t care. He hadn’t looked up from his video games once while she spoke, and it had left her hurt and wondering - not for the first time - why she hadn’t simply cut things off already. The answer had something to do with that unpredictability issue Waverly had; Champ was nearly six years of stability and routine, and he was probably the only person in town who’d given her the time of day before her final year of high school. She wasn’t stupid enough not to know why he’d given her that time - his teenaged, one-track mind had been depressingly stereotypical - but he’d been almost sweet, and earnest enough. Plus, it wasn’t like anyone else was even remotely interested in Waverly. But she’d also found a mystery pair of panties in the laundry basket earlier; they were decidedly not her own and much too small for Champ, and she didn’t really know if predictability was worth knowing he was probably playing away.

Ordinarily, this would be the kind of thing she’d talk to Wynonna about. Her sister’s almost cocksure brand of confidence, while at jarring odds with the doubts that ran beneath her surface, was entirely what Waverly needed at the moment to counteract her self-effacing tendencies. But contact with Wynonna didn’t seem to be an option right now, which capped off the unsavoury trifecta of Waverly Earp’s current pressing problems. She couldn’t help but worry at how things from Wynonna had been mostly radio silence since her last, turbulent visit to Purgatory. Sure, Wynonna went off the grid a lot, but this felt somehow different. Hell, Waverly didn’t even know which country her sister was in. She’d have talked to Champ about that too but there wasn’t really any point.

As she wends a now-familiar path through the city, Waverly knows that what this really means is that the mixer is well-timed, as she really needs a moment of, well, -

Therapy time!” Rosita trills as she opens the door to her apartment, a bottle of wine already uncorked and in one hand, two glasses impossibly clutched in the other whilst she also hooks a finger around the door handle.

From somewhere in the living room, Waverly hears Jeremy start up a sort of chant; “ther-a-py! Ther-a-py!” and she can’t help it; for the first time in a while, Waverly Earp smiles.

 

 

 

 

 

Her friendship with Rosita and Jeremy was improbable at best, but somehow it worked well. There wouldn’t really have been much of a chance for Waverly to mix with two science PhDs, but the university bar scene at least provided a nice chance for social cohesion.

She’d been staying at university accommodation the December before last, delivering extra revision sessions for panicked and volatile first- and second-years in the throes of their finals, when one of the university’s unofficial social media pages had put out a desperate cry for experienced bar hands for the holiday season rush.

Happy at the chance to earn a bit of extra cash for Christmas, Waverly had answered the call last-minute. They’d seemed happy with her Shorty’s credentials, but Waverly had totally underestimated how different it would be to working in a busy student bar. She’d worked under Rosita’s supervision on her very first night and, through the bonding power of too many drunk students and a few unsavoury male barhands, they’d been firm friends by three am.

Rosita had been kind to Waverly when she was confronted with serving any drinks outside of her regular clientele’s pitchers of beer, tequila shots, or triple whiskeys. Despite being doubly stretched as supervisor, Rosita had helped Waverly to get the drinks right (at least, until the stage in the night when the students were so drunk they could barely say their orders, let alone taste which spirit Waverly put in their cola).

“How do you remember all this?” Waverly had asked in the blissful quiet after the students had been evicted, as Rosita had rattled off a list of common drinks while they collected glasses and wiped down the bar.

“I worked three years downtown in a fancy cocktail bar,” Rosita responded with a shrug that set her long, dark ponytail in motion. She glanced up when Waverly remained silent and immediately clocked the look on her face. “Don’t. You. Dare,” she’d warned, accentuating her point by stacking a glass between each word.

Waverly bit her cheek, but refrained. “Not a big fan of the ‘don’t you want me baby’ joke, huh?”

“Not after you’ve heard it eight-hundred times,” Rosita responded, but her tone was light to let Waverly she can take a joke.

“That’s weirdly specific.”

You’re weirdly specific.” Something in Rosita’s response had reminded Waverly so keenly of Wynonna and it was both comforting and slightly painful at the same time.

They had finished up their shift by talking mindlessly about their degrees; filling the other in on their research interests and the constraints of their work.

As they stepped out into the icy December air, Waverly dog-tired and not relishing her ten o’clock tutorial, Rosita had said,

“Hey, you did a good job tonight.” Waverly threw her a disbelieving look, which Rosita quickly dismissed. “No, seriously. It was your first night and it was painfully non-stop - I hope we didn’t put you off coming back? I know the guys are a bit - ” She faltered, trying to mix professionalism with honesty.

“Creepy?” Waverly offered unabashedly (one of them had ‘accidentally’ groped her ass three times that shift. Three!).

Rosita grinned, her breath a white fog between them. “I didn’t say anything.”

Waverly smiled wryly. “Sure, I’ll be back tomorrow night - someone has to do the whole ‘girl power’ thing with you.”

Rosita had laughed - a joyously infectious sound, it turned out - before walking with Waverly back to her accommodation and shrugging off Waverly’s concern that she’d have to spend the last ten minutes walking on her own.

“I can take care of myself,” she insisted and Waverly didn’t doubt it for a second. Still though, it was a ‘girls don’t let other girls walk around the city alone’ thing.

“If I give you my number will you just text to say you got back safe?”

Rosita had chuckled, fishing her phone out of her pocket and wrestling her first few fingers out of one glove so she could use the touchscreen. “If you wanted my number you just had to ask.”

“Oh God. No it’s not. I uh….I have a boyfriend! I’m uh -”

“Relax, I’m kidding. You’re much too cutesy to be my type.”

Waverly wasn’t sure if she should be offended or flattered, but Rosita said it like it was a positive thing and she took Waverly’s number and she texted her to say she got home safe.

A few days after that, she’d texted Waverly early one Sunday morning: “Worst. Shift. Ever. Need to rant with someone who’ll understand, so we’re going out for brunch today. I’ll buy. Meet me outside your building at like 11?”

The rest, as they said, was history.

 

 

 

 

 

(She and Rosita stay friends, long after finals season is over and Waverly’s normal routine back in Purgatory resumes. They meet for coffee dates at the one of the university cafes whenever Waverly is in the city, and eventually Waverly meets Jeremy by extension. He and Rosita weren’t natural friends by anyone’s imagination - least of all Waverly’s - but they have desks in the same building and they attend many of the same LGBT Soc meetups. Somehow, it just worked.

It worked, too, when they welcomed Waverly into their friendship. Three, as it turned out, didn’t have to be a crowd but, if it was, then their little crowd was definitely one of the good ones).

 

 

 

 

 

“Is anyone else super not pumped for tonight?” Jeremy asks from where he’s sprawled on the couch.

Super super not pumped,” Waverly agrees, scrolling through Rosita’s music library indecisively.

“Well, I’m pumped for the wine and canapés,” Rosita adds, pointedly uncorking a second bottle as Waverly settles on Marina and the Diamonds. “And a night away from my goddamn failed experiment results,” she adds bitterly.

“Shit, they went wrong again?” Waverly asks with a sympathetic wince. Some of the finer details of Rosita and Jeremy’s work go over her head, but she had always liked science at school and enjoyed hearing about what they were studying. Rosita clearly isn’t in the mood to talk about it right now though, and just flashes Waverly a grimace instead as she pours three huge glasses of Pinot.

“Plus, not to bring the mood even further down, but the canapés sucked last time.” This from Jeremy, electing to ignore proper timing as per usual.

“Yeah but that was a smaller event, and if they’re free I’m gonna eat a hundred, I literally don’t care.”

Against her better judgement, Waverly accepts the wine Rosita hands her and settles back into a chair, letting her friends’ good-natured squabbling wash over her like warm summer rain. She had briefly entertained the notion of discussing her Champ and Wynonna worries while they got ready but, as the wine begins swimming pleasantly round her body, she decides that taking a night off from everything was the better option.

It was a sentiment she’d question a few hours later when the three of them stumble ungraciously from the mixer, all well over-served and giggly as they link arms to try and stay upright. Waverly is not well known for her ability to handle drink and, even though it could only be just after midnight, she feels suspended in the dark space between drunk and hungover. Her head is fuzzy and unfocused and yet, somewhere in amongst the blur of memories, the dull throb of a headache is already starting.

Rosita hails them a cab and Jeremy starts nodding off pretty much as soon as he straps on his seatbelt. Nestled cosily in the middle seat, Waverly lays her head on Rosita’s shoulder while the world sways sickeningly from side to side.

“My boyfriend’s cheating on me,” she mumbles without meaning to, words blending smoothly into one another and she’s surprised that Rosita even understands.

“What the hell?! What an ass...” Rosita goes off, all curse words and drunken indignation the way Waverly needs right now. She doesn’t stop even after they’ve dropped a bleary Jeremy off at his place and arrived back at Rosita’s apartment, as planned. She’s lost the thread of her insults by the time Waverly retrieves her overnight bag and heads for the bathroom, but it is appreciated nonetheless. Sober, she probably wouldn’t have been able to listen to all the mean things that had been said, but still half-drunk and in need of at least five glasses of water, it had been what she needed to hear.

Once ready for bed she flops, all uncoordinated heavy limbs, into bed while Rosita brushes her teeth and removes her makeup. Waverly checks her phone which is languishing on 4% (most of the battery drained on copious snapchats) but, if she squints and waits for her vision to focus, she can just make out a new email and checks the notification preview:

nicole.haught@opc.ga.ca
RE: Archival material request Dear Ms Ea-

Waverly almost shouts with joy and is ready to check the email there and then, but Rosita - clad in flowery sleep shorts and a wooly cardigan - practically divebombs onto the space beside her, still drunk and laughing but clearly fast approaching the dreaded crash.

“No more phones,” she slurs, clumsily pushing the phone away from Waverly’s face. “M’switching the lights out. Need sleep now.”

Waverly sticks the phone on charge and leaves it on the bedside table; she’s already waited long enough and all she can think is “finally”.

She sleeps like the dead, wondering as she nods off if things might start looking up.

 

 


 

 

 

 

v. April 2017; Ottawa, Ontario

 

The only thing worse than sitting around at the archive, Nicole concludes, is rifling through countless boxes in the archive.

For her first week of the placement, there’d been mercifully little to do and while Nicole wasn’t usually one for wasting time, she was tired and sore enough to be glad of the rest. So, she’d received a grad student’s document release request with a glum sense of resignation and absolutely no idea of how to find what had been requested. She'd tried the shelves where she thought they should be and promptly turned up zilch.

At first, she’d thought it had been her woefully minimal training on the archiving system, because - as an unqualified member of staff - all she could do was issue the most basic of current-day records (usually for court cases, job applications, and background checks), whereas the ones requested were clearly really old. But it had turned out that the supervisor had about as much clue on the whereabouts of the paperwork as Nicole herself. In fact, the papers seemed to have been moved and then improperly filed upon their return. The database said the stuff was in the building but finding it would be a whole other ball game.

Which was why Nicole, as opposed to a trained archivist, was doing the grunt work; lugging heavy, dusty boxes around and rifling through the ones she was actually allowed to touch. So much for not being allowed to do any active work - by the end of each shift her foot was killing her about as much as if she was out in the field.

A week after she’d received the email, she’d been forced to send a response explaining as diplomatically as possible that they’d lost (well, misfiled) the material in question but that they were currently taking every effort to relocate it. The student’s response had been far from impressed, but still coolly cordial, and Nicole couldn’t say she blamed her. The archive kind of had one job and, in this instance, it had failed.

It had failed and, as a result, Nicole was suffering. Admittedly, from what little she knew the papers this student - Waverly Earp - wanted sounded pretty juicy, but a lot of this stuff was just so damn dull. For the umpteenth time that day she repacks and replaces an archive box, her search having been fruitless yet again. In truth, she thinks she might not even realise if she found the right documents. Unless the papers are very clearly labelled, she kind of only knows the bare bones of what they contain.

The thought plays at her mind as she removes the gloves she needs to wear and wrestles out another box, sneezing at the displaced dust, which has been playing hell with her allergies all night.

The clock on the wall tells her she only has a quarter of an hour before she clocks out, and she isn’t in the mood to start another search. Instead she unlocks the dormant computer and calls up her inbox.

She might hate this placement, but Nicole Haught was nothing if not thorough and she was damn well determined to be a good cop, whatever kind of investigations that entailed.

 

> From: Haught, Nicole <nicole.haught@opc.gc.ca>
> Sent: 07 April 2017 00:47
> To: Waverly Earp <waverlyearp@ucalgary.ca>
> Subject: RE: Archival material request

Dear Ms Earp,

I’m sorry to say that I can’t bring you any good news regarding your PhD material just yet. However I was wondering if you had any idea as to the contents of the records you have requested.

I believe it will help me in my search if I know a little more about what I’m looking for, and if I can also rule out other documents more quickly.

Apologies again for any inconvenience this may be causing you.

Kind regards,
Nicole

NICOLE HAUGHT
POLICE CADET
ONTARIO POLICE COLLEGE

 

Nicole heads straight off to put her mug in the dishwasher, and is surprised to find she has an unread email upon her return. She hadn't expected anyone not on shift work to still be up, but she also doesn’t know too much about what writing a thesis entails, and wonders if Waverly Earp is up late writing.

 

> From: Waverly Earp <waverlyearp@ucalgary.ca>
> Sent: 07 April 2017 00:54
> To: Haught, Nicole <nicole.haught@opc.gc.ca>
> Subject: RE: Archival material request

Dear Nicole,

Unfortunately I don’t know too much about the contents, which is why I was hoping to get my hands on them! They were referenced in a journal article I was reading, and then recommended to me when I spoke to the person who wrote the paper.

I know they discuss quite a grisly and rather suspicious murder, committed sometime broadly around 1900. Wyatt Earp wasn’t involved in much of the investigation but he was consulted briefly so his name should appear. The murder victim was found with strange markings carved into their skin, and there was speculation at the time that it was linked to some kind of devil-worship (crazy, I know!)

That’s about all I’ve got, but let me know if I can tell you anything else. Thanks again!

Kindest regards,
Waverly

 

Nicole smiles to herself as she reads - now those are some documents she’d like to see. She bets the initial police reports are pretty wild, and vows to actually put some gusto into finding the papers tomorrow.

It was strange, really, that they weren’t filed correctly, given that the whole archive was a tightly run ship. The full-time archivists had checked all the obvious places first with no success, and it almost felt as though whoever had checked the papers out last hadn’t wanted them to be found again.

Interest piqued, she calls up the digitised log for the documents in question. Still feeling clumsy with the computer system, it takes her a while to find the tab with all the documents’ checkout history and when she finally gets to where she needs, she finds the whole file completely corrupted. There's no record whatsoever of when the documents were taken out, or by whom, only that they were received back at the archive again in October last year.

It all feels too coincidental but, as Nicole finally punches out, she has to admit that she’s probably seeing a case wherever she can, desperate as she is to get back in the field.

Before she leaves she sends off another quick email to Waverly Earp because it somehow feels rude not to -

 

> From: Haught, Nicole <nicole.haught@opc.gc.ca>
> Sent: 07 April 2017 01:03
> To: Waverly Earp <waverlyearp@ucalgary.ca>
> Subject: RE: Archival material request

Dear Ms Earp,

Thank you for this, I’m sure it’ll help me. It all sounds very interesting - you must be really enjoying your thesis.

I will ensure I contact you as soon as I have any updates for you. In the meantime if there’s anything else we can help you with please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind regards,
Nicole

NICOLE HAUGHT
POLICE CADET
ONTARIO POLICE COLLEGE

 

Twice, Nicole almost removes the second line about the thesis, but without it the email seems curt and slightly dismissive. So she sends it as it is and hopes Waverly Earp is the kind of person who likes the friendly approach.

 

 

 

 

 

Shift work can really suck sometimes but the four days on, four days off system does have its perks. Namely, four consecutive days off work.

The only problem is that Nicole doesn’t always really know what to do with herself for such stretches of time. Her first priority is usually to try and readjust her sleeping pattern to something a bit more in line with the rest of society so, feeling grouchy and dog-tired, she forces herself out of bed at eight-thirty on her first day off and goes for a run.

(And by run, what she actually means is a light jog to try and strengthen her foot without pushing it too far).

Spring is finally encroaching on the city, and it’s actually fairly pleasant out in the watery morning sunshine, dew glistening on the wide riverside grass banks as Nicole loses herself to the familiar, rhythmic pound of her shoes on the pathway. Although work should be the last thing on her mind, her thoughts almost instinctively fall to the only case she currently has; the one of the missing paperwork. Again, Nicole can’t shake the feeling that something is amiss. There hasn’t been a case of missing documentation in the archive for years - it simply doesn’t happen - and the fact that there’s no record of who took out or returned the papers seems...sketchy.

Plus, Nicole is really curious to know more about that case, and about that grisly-sounding murder. Arguably not the best or most conventional motivation but natural curiosity was a huge part of why most people join the force and Nicole was no different. Still, that wasn’t to say she didn’t need to take a mental break from work while she wasn’t actually there.

Everything currently felt slightly unsure and anxious; her final assessments looming closer and standing squarely in the way of her becoming a qualified officer, trying to find a placement after the Academy (or hoping she is assigned one she’ll like), getting through this archive assignment. She knows she needs to switch off - so she runs (jogs). She runs (jogs) until she can think of nothing more than controlling her breathing and pushing past that all-too familiar wall. She carries on until a particularly angry twinge in her heel says ‘stop’ and so she listens, slowing to a cool-down walk and calling into a bakery on her way home for a cappuccino and a chocolate croissant.

(What? She’s earned it).

Priority number two of the day is to shower and get through chores; getting laundry done is usually a late-night-trying-not-to-fall-asleep-by-the-drier affair, because more often than not Nicole has been too preoccupied or too tired to put a load in and she realises too late that she doesn’t have any clean sports bras left.

She’s sat down in the building’s communal laundry room when her mom calls unexpectedly, and she feels a pang of guilt at how long it’s been since they’ve talked. Hearing her mother’s voice feels good and the instant she picks up the phone it’s like a little of the tension she’s been feeling melts away. They speak until Nicole’s laundry is clean, her mom talking about her shifts at the hospital and how she’s getting too old to work all night and didn’t Nicole learn anything from her horrible nursing shifts as a kid about just working a regular nine-to-five? Nicole tells her mom about the archive and notes the strained tone of the response when her mother infers that at least this means Nicole is keeping out of danger.

Nicole had always had a bit of a habit of getting hurt, so having a nurse for a mother was probably a good thing. There was the time she broke her ankle tripping on a hidden patch of black ice when she was eleven, the time a man driving recklessly on a motorbike knocked her down in a parking lot when she was sixteen, the second-degree burn from a bunsen burner when she was in her senior year (that one had left a permanent mark on her right forearm). Then, of course, there were all the strains that came from being on track and soccer teams her whole life. And that wasn’t even starting on the injuries her mom didn’t actually know about - falling and managing to dislocate and half-flay her left leg while rock-climbing just outside of Vegas comes to mind (though, to be fair, her mom didn’t know about that trip at all).

So, Nicole understands why her mom worries about her joining the force; she gets herself in enough scrapes when not in any real danger. But things had been strained recently when it came to Nicole’s choice of her career and the associated life choices her mom thought that entailed. She blamed Nicole’s training on what she saw as her serial monogamy, because Nicole had never shared much of her dating life with her family.

Her parents were great people, but they wouldn’t be cool with the whole lesbian thing. They certainly wouldn’t have been cool with the drunken-Vegas-wedding-to-another-woman and subsequent divorce thing, either. She’s fairly certain her younger sister wouldn’t care, but she doesn’t want to drag her into anything and they do say ignorance is bliss.

Nicole doesn’t let on that she does date occasionally, because it would involve coming out and, with enough stress in her life as it stands, it’s easier to let her parents just think she can’t find time to date as a cadet.

Nicole deftly directs the conversation away from any dangerous territory and gets her mom to fill her in on the goings on with the family instead, letting the information wash over her as she lugs her laundry basket back up the stairs to the fourth floor.

And in the end it seems to be a day for catching up as, not long after she hangs up from her mom, Shae facetimes her on the off chance she’s free. Things should be awkward between them, what with the whole drunken marriage and eventual annulment thing they have going on, but they worked out pretty quickly that they do a lot better as friends than they ever did as a couple. You don’t really go through a post-marriage equality celebratory wedding at a sleazy Vegas chapel with someone and not come out the other end of it friends, which pretty much sums up Nicole’s relationship with Shae.

She is interesting to talk to, whip-smart, and painfully funny and is exactly the conversationalist Nicole needs right now. They share as much as they can about work without flouting confidentiality rules, which isn't a great deal, and Nicole gets the skinny on the girl Shae might or might not be seeing (she totally is).

When Nicole doesn't have much of any “gossip” to return in kind, Shae’s brow furrows slightly.

“Look, I know you're kind of constrained by becoming your best superhero self and getting the paperwork to prove it, but you need to get out and have fun too.”

Nicole snorts, particularly at the irony heavy in Shae’s voice (it's not like she's not overloading herself with electives at med school at the moment).

“Hey!” Shae says indignantly. “I might work hard but I'm having fun too. Lots and lots and -”

Amid laughter Nicole holds up her hands and cuts Shae off before she can go any further.

“Okay Casanova, I get the picture. Don't need all the gory details thanks.”

Still, the conversation with Shae gets her thinking about the last time she took a self-care day. It was distant enough that she couldn't remember and so she spends the next few days enjoying herself, even if not in the way Shae means. She takes herself to two different cinemas and spends a good few hours one afternoon at a garden centre, picking up a few extra cacti for the budding collection on her windowsill. (Her current accommodation doesn't allow pets but it's nice to have at least some life in the apartment besides her monosyllabic roommate). She cooks herself some nice dinners and freezes the leftovers so that she’ll have decent food if she gets home late one day. She even takes a long bubble bath while her roommate is out (only after thoroughly cleaning the whole bathroom, though). She tries not to think about work, and the end result is that she wakes up feeling refreshed and strangely ready to talk with Waverly Earp which, as it turns out, is pretty fortuitous.

 

 


 

 

 

 

vi.

 

 

> From: Waverly Earp <waverlyearp@ucalgary.ca>
> Sent: 10 April 2017 22:21
> To: Haught, Nicole <nicole.haught@opc.gc.ca>
> Subject: RE: Archival material request
> Attachment: document release request.pdf

Dear Nicole,

I’m sorry to bother you with yet more requests when you’re still searching for the last ones. I’m hoping these will at least be easier to find (or may even be on the database already :) ??!), but I’ve had some more recommendations and was told I could also find these ones with you guys. This is actually a case file on a known criminal outlaw from Ontario: James Arthur Palmer.

If it helps, he had a pretty crazy life - should make for interesting reading if you can find it!

Thank you so much again for all your help.

Kindest regards,
Waverly

 

 


 

 

 

 

vii. April 2017; Purgatory, Alberta

 

Waverly would be lying if she said that her research interests weren't at least slightly about the genealogy. She had spent the large part of her teenage years coming to terms with the loss of her family (either directly as a result of The Incident, or later on down the line) by throwing herself into research. So much of being Earp felt like being pawn, or just part of some bigger plan, and it didn't leave much space for Waverly to just be, well, Waverly.

Wynonna had encouraged her to keep her head down as a kid, to not rise to the stuff Waverly’s classmates stage-whispered, and Waverly did her best to take her big sister’s advice (even when said sister wasn't so good at following her own rules). But even though kindness and easy smiles had always come naturally to her, the lack of control in the path of her life sometimes felt like it burned a hole in her chest. She spent so much time fitting herself to what others needed her to be, cut off any parts that would rock the boat, that by the time she was a junior Waverly craved something, anything she could control. Under no illusions that she was smarter than most, she threw herself into her studies and persisted at her twice-weekly dance classes (a regular fixture since Gus and Curtis took her in and had wanted to provide her with routine and stability, letting her choose a couple of hobbies to pursue). But mostly there was the curse.

No matter how little she and Wynonna talked about it, or how much her aunt and uncle willed her to banish the memory as some childish abstraction, Waverly hadn't forgotten that they were in some way cursed. Researching what she could about her family gave her some semblance of the control over her life that she had so rarely experienced. She constructed a family tree on a corkboard by her desk, and put up a “Peacemaker timeline” of the seventy-seven that spanned the perimeter of her room and then some. She picked up as much Latin as she could online before her uncle gifted her a fully-accredited distance learning course for her fifteenth birthday (not every teenager's ideal present, granted, but enough to send Waverly on a loud victory lap of the kitchen before hurling herself at Curtis for a giant bear hug).

And then, as she was nearing the end of high school and beginning to consider the looming ‘what next?’ question, she realised that she was actually good at studying the past and that, maybe, there was a future for her in history. So to speak. But even then the thought of straying too far from Purgatory wasn't something she relished; she's not like Wynonna - she doesn't embrace change quite as well, not when almost every change in her life thus far had been directed and controlled by someone else. Besides, she'd been dating Champ a little while, and she'd invested far too much in committing to the idea of a relationship with him to write it off as lost time.

So she studies in Calgary from day one, which has always been a total nightmare of a commute on the buses, but it lets her work at Shorty’s for the extra money and still be near the people she knows best. Shorty (God bless him) even lets her live above the bar more or less rent-free for a reduced wage, so she gets a safe dose of independence as a way to dip her toe in the water.

She works hard throughout her undergraduate year (and every year since), burning the candle at both ends as she tries to work, study, and still socialise like other college-age students. How the hell she never burned out is still beyond her. Her research interests have always been a given since the moment she got to choose her own dissertation topic. No professor is going to take a so-called curse seriously and it’s hard enough pitching her ideas to various advisers over the years, because they clocked her surname and would assume she was only there on some vanity project. Luckily, Waverly is nothing if not charming and she usually brings people round. Researching the Old West gives her an inroad to her own history, even if it perhaps isn’t her most natural occupation. She could just as easily have chosen to research antiquity (those dead languages keep accruing and she has a natural talent for writing about the ancient world), but all told she genuinely loves her current work - couldn’t write a doctoral thesis on it if she didn’t - and it helps with her revenant research side project, because she could hardly check out confidential police documents without it.

Besides, she could always get another PhD at a later date - it’s a bit frivolous but life is for living as Gus says. And, after all, if Rosita - a good few years Waverly’s senior - can put herself through a second PhD on the back of bar work and a family inheritance she never speaks about, then Waverly can make it work in the future too.

She’s at least clawing back some control over her destiny, and she’s good at what she does. She has lots of academic interest in her work, which in itself opens doors to resources (even if Waverly is remaining charmingly noncommittal when other universities express interest at this stage). She finds that she’s strangely enjoying the challenge of source procurement now - or at least she hates it less. It’s not half as much the ballache as it once seemed to be, though perhaps that has something to do with the pleasant exchanges between herself and a certain police cadet in Ontario. Although she’s still emailing - or in a few cases, visiting - libraries and archives left, right, and center, Waverly finds that a lot of the records she currently needs are held in one of two police academy libraries; either in Ontario or Saskewatchen. It’s kind of a toss up as to which is better; on the one hand Saskewatchen hasn’t lost a hugely important archival record, on the other the head archivist there is always vaguely irritable at best and downright terrifying at worst. The service from Ontario is, definitively, much better.

She’s emailed back and forth with Nicole Haught enough by now that they’re on much more familiar ground. Nicole takes an interest in the sources she finds for Waverly and starts asking questions about Waverly’s research after the third request.

Outside of Nedley, she is the only non-family member and non-student to do so.

Waverly tries to pretend she's really not bitter at Champ about that. Her work is a big part of her life and she's in the lucky minority of people who actually enjoy what occupies them, and it's upsetting that he doesn't take an active interest.

So, that's the excuse she uses when she starts pouring information into her emails to the OPC. It's nice to have someone who listens (well, reads) and can actually engage with what Waverly says. Neither Gus nor Nedley really understands her passion even if they are both endearingly sweet enough to ask, so Waverly never wants to bore them. Curtis is always a great ear when Waverly wants to talk about her research but there's also something about emailing Nicole that is just so nice, comforting even.

Perhaps most exciting of all, Nicole’s comments about her own experiences of modern day law enforcement provide Waverly with a fresh perspective on the key question of continuity and change in Waverly’s thesis. It's important, after all, that Waverly really gets to the finer detail of the enduring legacy of lawkeepers like Wyatt Earp and his associates. It's a two-pronged enquiry; what was the cultural takeaway on men (and some women too - the surviving documentary evidence is frustratingly minimal; just another example of women being hidden from history) like Wyatt and Doc Holliday, and what was their legacy in more practical terms? Waverly spies an opportunity through talking to Nicole, who's incredibly well-versed in where to find online crime stats, surveys, and reports from the police. It had been a vast gap in Waverly’s knowledge and it was slowly being filled. She's made a note to talk to Nedley the next time her bar shift aligns with one of his visits to Shorty’s, but Nicole’s take seems fresh and right up to date with the times. It spurs her on to send perhaps her most demanding request to Nicole yet.

 

 

Hi Nicole,

Me again, sorry! This isn't really 100% related to my usual reasons for annoying you so sorry in advance for bothering you at work.

As I think I've said, I really focus one of my chapters on continuity vs change, and sometimes some of the stuff you mention offhand, comparing what's in the papers I ask for to how things are today, is really helpful.

It's a bit of a cheeky request but would you be at all happy for me to ask you a few pre-planned questions? It'd probably be one of those things that'd be easier over the phone but if you want I can email you instead. Of course I wouldn't include anything you weren't happy with in my final piece and you could read through the relevant parts of my thesis before I submit it (although that's still a long way off yet!)

No worries if you can't/don't want to.

 

 

It is in Waverly’s nature to overthink interactions; it's sort of a given when you've spent so much time trying to fit yourself into the boxes other people have put together for you in their little game of social acceptability. This means she worries as soon as the email is sent that she's been too pushy or gotten too familiar (after all, she doesn't actually know Nicole, no matter how much their increasingly cordial interactions made it feel that she does), and it’s probably fortunate that she isn’t kept waiting for long - Nicole, she has noticed, seems to often work late into the evening.

 

Hi Waverly,

Sure, that’s no problem - flattered that you think I can be of any use to you.

Only issue is that I probably can’t take a call at work at the moment - I’m nearing final assessments and will be spending a lot of time in final tutorials/information sessions. How does an out of hours phone or video call sound? My family’s in town after tomorrow so how does next Wednesday at around 8pm work for you? (I won’t be working the graveyard shift for once! - shocker!)

 

Waverly smiles at the enthusiastic response, and apologetically reschedules for a different day that week - explaining that she has a shift at the bar - before returning dutifully to one of the draft copies of her thesis (which can be found on the internal storage of three different computers, one external hard drive, one memory stick, and two separate online documents - because Waverly isn’t at all paranoid).

The only time she doesn’t enjoy the writing process is when a deadline is looming - it suddenly feels a lot like having to write over choosing to write, and the two motivations usually produce vastly different results from Waverly. Her tutor is expecting that draft copy of her fourth chapter in the next week or two, which has caused a totally, one hundred percent related bout of writers’ block. She moves a few paragraphs around until a text chips away at her limited concentration and she dives for her phone as an excuse to look away from the document on screen.

The message is from Champ, which isn’t surprising as she’s been doing her level best to avoid him for the past few days. He’s just got back from a rodeo and has been trying to get her to ‘hang out’ with him since. He isn’t subtle, and Waverly isn’t really in the mood for over-before-it-started sex in Champ’s dirty apartment. As it turns out, PhDs are, amongst other things, good excuses to avoid your boyfriend. But as resolute as she’s been in insisting she’s too busy this close to a deadline, Champ has been equally persistent in his texts.

This one, however, isn’t remotely like the others.

 

CH: Missing you allready, cant wait to c that hot purple get up agen soon

 

Waverly’s first reaction is to cringe, her second is to realise with an unpleasant jolt that she doesn’t actually own a ‘hot purple get up’; none of her nice underwear is purple. The text clearly wasn’t meant for her, and is just another sign on a recently expanded list that Champ is seeing someone else. Waverly isn’t actually surprised, it’s been going on too long for that and Champ’s never really been smart enough to hide it properly. At this point, she doesn’t even know why she puts up with it.

Her phone buzzes again and she allows herself a bitter (and, yes okay, slightly teary) smirk of satisfaction, expecting a panicked message from Champ but, if he’s realised his mistake, he doesn’t feel the need to correct it.

 

> From: Nicole Haught [mailto:nhaught90@hotmail.com]
> Sent: 20 April 2017 21:04
> To: Waverly Earp
> Subject:

Hey Waverly,

Sorry I had to clock out super quick to get my mom and sister from the station, just wanted to confirm that next Friday works fine for me.

Looking forward to talking.

Nicole

 

This time, Waverly looks at her phone and she smiles.

 

 

 

 

 

Time drags on, and very little else changes. She works at Shorty’s, or she works at the university. She worries about Wynonna or she fusses over a temporarily ailing Gus. She sees Rosita and Jeremy when she can (which, honestly, is only once for their officially mandated once-monthly pyjamas, popcorn, and movie night round at Rosita’s apartment). She reads endlessly and writes frantically. She ignores Champ because she’s never been an excessively violent person - what? She has a bit of a temper - but if he says something else remotely risqué but simultaneously idiotic then she’s going to snap and punch him in his perfectly symmetrical face. She burns the candle at both ends once more, and definitely doesn’t sleep enough, which is evidenced by a very late Thursday night (or should that be Friday morning?) trip to the University library. She has already texted Jeremy, who lives right round the corner, about a place on his sofa so she doesn’t have to worry about being stranded. That is, if she even makes it out of the library before the first bus to Purgatory runs at eight thirty. It feels unlikely, both because she’s sworn blind she won’t leave until she finishes her chapter draft, and also because she’s currently falling asleep at her desk.

Her eyes flicker shut and her mind drifts, feeling fuzzy and faraway at the edges, and it swims until her phone buzzing on the table shocks her back into wakefulness, earning her a few rueful glances from some fellow students.

 

RB: I can literally see you nodding off across the room. Go home sleepyhead.
WE: ugh, creep. where are you?
RB: Check the far booths on your right.

 

Waverly glances up, blinking sleep out of her eyes and scanning the room until she locates Rosita. With her hair up in a messy – but still annoyingly effortless – bun, and her oversized glasses on (it’s much too late for contacts), she looks about as energised as Waverly feels. As if to illustrate the point she raises up an enormous, university-branded reusable cup which she has somehow smuggled into the library as contraband, and takes an exaggerated gulp. Waverly smiles and nods in sympathy.

Rosita goes back to her phone and Waverly waits for her own to light up (she's learnt her lesson from before).

 

RB: Too lazy to move all my stuff over to you sorry. Also too lazy to text, email instead???
WE: aren't we meant to be working??
RB: Please, you've been napping since you got here
WE: harsh but fair, give me one sec

 

Waverly unlocks her laptop which, much like her, had been in sleep mode for the last half hour, and sends a quick email off. They talk back and forth while Rosita waits for whatever programme she's using to plot her experiment results on the patchy library wifi. Waverly resigns herself to getting very little else done for the time being, and eventually calls up a fresh email window, planning to email Nicole to confirm the time for their call later.

Rosita’s email is quicker, and is typical of her usual candour. It’s so short the preview in the bottom right corner reveals it all without Waverly even having to click on it.

 

Anyway, enough small talk. How's the boyfriend situation since you oh-so-subtly wouldn’t talk about it the other night?? R x

 

Waverly glances away from her laptop to catch Rosita looking across at her, flashing an innocent grin. Amused, Waverly shakes her head to herself, hands hovering over the keyboard as she wonders how to answer. She is tempted to simply say that everything is ok, but it won't cut it with Rosita. For once, Waverly wants to talk, really talk, about how she's feeling - not just a few cryptic words or a drunken admission. Besides, maybe getting things off her chest will help her focus on her thesis.

 

‘the boyfriend situation’ is not good. i really don't want to be That girlfriend who snoops or jumps to conclusions but i’m not even looking for signs he's playing away they're just...there? underwear that's not mine (or his!) in my flat, a flirty text that definitely wasn't for me based on context, a ‘day out with boys’ - except then they all walk into shorty’s without him and i make a total fool of myself asking about their trip to the city while they have no idea what i’m talking about.

i really just don't know what to do. (and yes i do know really that the sensible thing would be to ask and make sure there's not been a misunderstanding, but you know when you just know something in your gut??) we’ve been together since high school and it's all just a mess, honestly.

 

She doesn’t even check the email through before sending it. It's a weird experience, offloading that much onto someone else and if she'd read over what she'd written she'd have censored herself completely, or even erased the whole thing and simply avoided the question entirely.

Rosita doesn’t get back immediately, but Waverly can see her typing across the room and assumes that either she is working or replying. Rather than worrying about oversharing, she turns to her assignment; she might be too distracted for actual work but she can sort out her footnotes at the very least.

She is halfway through the third page of her chapter when Rosita emails again, simply a string of question marks and the words ‘did I push it a bit far? Sorry :( R x'. The response doesn’t really make sense until an email from Nicole appears a moment later and Waverly immediately feels heat rush to her cheeks and along the back of her neck.

Oh God. Oh how typically, appropriately embarrassing. She hadn’t actually opened Rosita’s email, but in her exhaustion and need to vent, she’d simply typed in the open email window - the one she’d been about to send to OPC. She hadn’t even got as far as putting a subject line in.

She half-closes her eyes as she calls the response up.

 

> From: Haught, Nicole <nicole.haught@opc.gc.ca>
> Sent: 28 April 2017 02:11
> To: Waverly Earp <waverlyearp@ucalgary.ca>
> Subject: RE:

So I’m going to use my budding cop skills to assess that this wasn’t meant for me...but, for what it’s worth: dump him. You honestly deserve a thousand times better than a guy who cheats.

Nicole

 

Exactly two minutes later another email from Nicole appears, as if things weren’t embarrassing enough. But when Waverly opens it she finds her being impossibly sweet and it makes her feel strangely buoyant, although to be fair that could also be the sleep deprivation.

 

Sorry if that’s overstepping. But I just really thought I should say it, in case it’s what you needed to hear and no one else had said it to you yet. You know better than anyone what’s right in your own life but you also need know that you don’t deserve someone who won’t be faithful.

 

It takes Waverly herself nearly ten full minutes to send a vaguely coherent response. Professionalism seems to have flown out the window so she does her best to sound as friendly but still put-together as she can:

 

i cannot even begin to say how mortified i feel right now. i’m so sorry. god i hope no one monitors your emails. i was meant to be emailing you to check we’re still on for the interview, and then my friend asked about...you know. and it’s late and i got mixed up. and why are you even up anyway - you’re not supposed to be doing these shifts at the moment?!

anyway i’m sorry again. thank you for saying those things though.

 

The reply follows quickly.

 

I can’t say no to people when they beg me to switch shifts with them?

And seriously, don’t worry about it. Mistakes happen and hey, sometimes therapy is easier to accept from random almost-strangers. Even if this random almost-stranger is pretty much terrible at relationship advice, especially if it involves men. More so if it’s men who don’t treat their girlfriends right.

Also, still good the interview later - shall I be ready for 7pm?

 

Waverly’s cheeks are still burning but she can’t help but smile to herself. There is something about Nicole - a spark, sort of - that, even off the back of semi-professional emails, makes Waverly want to know her more. She can’t put her finger on it, precisely, but she’s strangely excited to speak to Nicole later, to hear her voice or even see her down a screen. Although now there will also be a generous helping of embarrassment in the mix. Still, Waverly feels oddly like she somehow knows Nicole Haught which is strange because she really, really doesn’t.

 

thank you again for being so cool, seriously.

7pm is perfect - you have my number so just give me a call when you’re ready.

don’t work too hard, i’m off to find a dodgy spot in the carpet where if i’m lucky the ground might swallow me up.

 

Unbeknownst to Waverly her response makes Nicole laugh, unexpected and loud. The kind of laugh she has to cover, and hope no one was around to hear. All Waverly can do at this point is return to her thesis because goddamn it she is an adult, with all (some) of her shit together, and she might be incapable of writing an email but she can finish Chapter Four before she passes out from exhaustion entirely.

But, just before that, time for a quick message, the recipient of which is carefully checked and rechecked:

 

> From: Waverly Earp <warverlyearp@ucalgary.ca>
> Sent: 28 April 2017 02:11
> To: Rosita Bustillos <rositabustillos@ucalgary.ca>
> Subject: RE:

oh sweet lord, do i have something to tell you....