Nicole Haught had always enjoyed life in general. Things weren’t always great, but nothing entirely awful had ever really happened to ever throw her life off course. Of course there was the odd broken arm here and there as a result of a snowboarding trick gone AWOL, but nevertheless, there was always a positive note in Nicole’s being. She had loving parents to be thankful for, friends that had always supported her, and a talent for excelling in the things she was passionate about.
But at this very moment, it felt, for the first time in Nicole’s life, that the universe was against her.
It was at the end of her sophomore year in high school when Nicole’s parents had announced their plans for moving. Nicole could hardly believe her own ears, let alone any reassurance she was given by her parents in attempt to console her during the shock. She spent her last summer in her hometown in a hazy state of sadness because she knew that come September, the life she knew would be gone from her grasp.
Most days, Nicole would sleep past noon, trying to escape her reality with the nothingness that dreamless sleep brought, and upon waking, she would drag her ass up for a bowl of cereal and a shower before going back to her room to stare at the wall for an hour or so, thinking of what may come in the heavy July heat.
There were no goodbyes when the dreaded day finally arrived; Nicole had absolutely prohibited it. She feared having anything to hang on to would just make life away harder than it had to be. Instead, Nicole had cried herself dry in the back seat of the Haught family Sedan as they made their long journey to, what Nicole had deemed appropriately named, Purgatory, for she was stuck there until she graduated, whether she liked it or not.
That seemed a distant memory now, though it was only over two weeks ago. Nicole had since gotten around and seen the town she now reluctantly calls home. It was pretty underwhelming, and that was pretty much what she’d been expecting when she’d learned that Purgatory was a “small town prairie” type place. There were the typical local services such as a cop shop, a grocery store, a bar, and a diner, but besides that, there was nothing of real interest to occupy oneself with in Purgatory.
“You still live up to your stupid goddamn name,” Nicole muttered bitterly to herself.
It was the last day of summer before school started, September 3rd—a Sunday, and Nicole had finally worked up the effort to get herself down to the high school in hopes to scope it out before attempting to take it down. She decided to take her longboard for the short ride because if Purgatory had one thing going for it, it was the smooth, wide-open roads that stretched across town for a good few miles.
Nicole didn’t know what to expect when she arrived, or what she expected to do; the doors were all locked, and even if there was someone inside, there was about a snowball’s chance in hell of being let in. Despite Purgatory’s small town expectations, there were still the few ragtag delinquents who would do anything for an opportunity to roam the locker-filled hallways and vandalise anything they could get their hands on, especially for the effect of the big reveal taking place on the first day of school. Instead, Nicole could only walk a lap around the grounds and make fruitless efforts to peek into dark classrooms. However, she had forgotten to flip her snapback around, so her first attempt had resulted in an awkward fumble for the hat and Nicole feeling entirely stupid.
Making her way back around to the entrance, just when she’d started to feel like the whole ordeal was a bust, Nicole spotted a flyer posted up on one of the faded red brick walls just inside the doorway. Interest finally piqued, she walked up to the flyer only to be met with a fresh wave of something she hadn’t felt in months.
The flyer was old, obviously from the previous school year and sun-damaged, but the subject brought a shimmer of hope to Nicole that she hadn’t the heart to reject. The poster advertised the Purgatory High School basketball team. The logo on the top of the page was electric blue, and the team name, Purgatory Saints, was the same vibrant colour, finished with a crisp white outline and a halo dotting the ‘i’.
“Purgatory Saints, huh,” Nicole muttered again to herself, “that's rich.” Though she couldn't help but grin widely at it. Basketball was the only thing that Nicole had cautiously looked forward to since her arrival in Purgatory. She had been the star player on her old school team and had hoped her new school would have one as well, though she was sure it wouldn't compare.
Below the logo was an action shot, but the subject wasn't basketball. The poster featured a very pretty cheerleader mid-spin and smiling through the paper, making up for the sun damage by lighting the whole page up. The cheerleader’s long, chestnut hair was brushed perfectly away from her face, and Nicole suddenly realized that the poster was more of a trap used to get guys to go to tryouts, but god if it didn't just work its magic on her too. And suddenly, there was one more thing in Nicole’s life that she had subconsciously began to look forward to.
Figuring she’d gotten all the information she would find, Nicole headed back home, her hope for her new life a hell of a lot higher than it had been all summer. She was finally beginning to feel like this might not be the worst thing in the world, and the newfound elation she felt made her lift her arms to the sky and laugh in its face as she glided down the empty road.
Purgatory High School was almost as exciting on the inside as it was on the outside, which is to say, not very much. Nicole tried very hard not to make comparisons, but she couldn't help but miss the way her old school looked, smelled, and felt. Purgatory’s high school was fairly average; there were lockers lining most hallways, and the upstairs and downstairs had a similar layout. The classrooms were every so many feet apart from each other, but all the rooms seemed drab and monotonous despite the large windows that let in the sunshine. The only real difference worth noting was that there was a large study area on the upper floor where there was a gym and locker rooms down on the main floor.
However, the simple floor plan proved to be quite a bit of a challenge when there were a thousand students all scrambling around the open area at the entrance. Everyone seemed to be in a rush to get somewhere, whether it was to a class early, to talk to a teacher, or to meet up with their friends.
Nicole—standing in the doorway with her backpack slung over her left shoulder and her longboard held loosely in her right hand—realized she had no idea what to do or where to go and that she had no one to go to to fix this problem.
She stood stock-still in the doorway for a few seconds, feeling overwhelmed for a brief moment, before making her way to the staircase, deciding that she was not going to let her first day become a disaster.
Luckily for her, there was a teacher at the top of the staircase, albeit a very bored and tired looking one.
“Name?” he said, not even looking up from his clipboard. He was a bit of an older man; his hair was turning grey in the places where it was still growing, and he was heavily bearded.
Checking behind her to make sure that it was her being addressed, Nicole quickly turned back around to face the man.
“Uhh, Nicole Haught. I’m–”
But before she could explain that she was a new student and needed some extra guidance, the bored man cut her off.
Nicole was slightly taken aback by the man’s flippant behaviour, but since he still hadn't looked up from his clipboard, she just kept walking and went left, hopefully, towards her assigned locker.
She prayed silently that she wasn't drawing too much attention to herself as she scoured the hallway. She was sure she looked as lost as she felt, so she did not need any pointing or staring to discourage her any further. But it seemed that most people were ignoring her rather than making a scene about “the new kid”. Nicole couldn't decide what was worse.
She decided worse upon counting her way up to her locker and finding two people practically glued together and pressed up against it. It was a couple Nicole assumed by the way the were making out almost violently against the thin, metal door.
She really didn't want to interrupt them, but when the girl—a dark haired brunette—spun the two around, slammed herself against the door again, and pulled in the boy by his collar, wrapping her right leg around his waist, Nicole began to get very uncomfortable and let out a loud cough as she looked away politely.
“Hmm?” hummed the brunette in question as she turned her head to look at Nicole. The boy, who wore a black cowboy hat on his head and sported a finely groomed moustache, ducked his head and began kissing the girl’s neck when she had pulled away.
“Uh,” Nicole coughed again, trying to convey her embarrassment to the couple so they might take a hint.
“Spit it out, babe. I’m kinda busy here,” the girl said in the wake of Nicole’s hesitation, gesturing to the moustached boy vaguely and then smirking suggestively.
Nicole blushed at the girl’s shamelessness along with the unexpected use of a pet name. She looked away again, focusing on the tops of the lockers instead of the couple in front of her.
“Uh, that-that’s my locker.”
The brunette girl just looked at her with her eyebrows raised. The boy that was attached to her neck finally looked up at Nicole, as well, with a similar expression on his face and his hands still on the girl’s waist.
“...I kinda need to get into it,” Nicole continued awkwardly after a moment of silence.
The couple glanced at each other briefly before bursting out into laughter. They pulled apart, removing themselves from the surface of Nicole’s locker.
“Oh, but sweetie, we were just getting into it,” said the brunette girl, pushing the boy away from her a little. She chuckled as the taller boy made a grab for his hat to keep it secured. He smiled at her affectionately. She looked back over to Nicole, still smiling, and gestured to the locker. “It's all yours, kiddo.”
Nicole, who had been watching the somewhat adorable exchange, snapped back to reality.
“Thanks,” she said as she opened her locker and started throwing her things in it. The brunette girl watched her closely for a moment before speaking up again.
“Don't think I've ever seen you before,” she stated to the back of Nicole’s head.
“Yeah, I'm new here,” Nicole said, turning back around. She extended a hand out. “I'm Nicole Haught.”
The girl took her hand, intending to give a firm shake before realizing what she just heard; the handshake went slack as the her mouth dropped open.
“Dude, your name is hot?” she asked, disbelieving. Her dark brown eyes had suddenly lit up like someone just told her Christmas had come early.
Nicole smiled a little. “Sort of. It's spelled H-a-u-g-h-t.”
The brunette girl let out an amused laugh. “Oh man, I’m gonna milk this so hard,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes. “It suits you though.”
Nicole blushed again at the hint of flirtation in her voice, but then remembered that the girl’s supposed boyfriend was standing right behind them.
The girl noticed. She turned around and glanced at the boy before speaking again.
“Oh, don't worry about him. He knows it’s all in good fun,” she said with a genuine smile. “That’s John Henry by the way.”
The boy tipped his hat at Nicole, blue eyes sparkling, and said, “pleasure to make your acquaintance, my dear,” in a thick southern drawl.
The girl smirked again and lightly threw her hand back to hit his chest playfully.
“Everyone just calls him Doc, though.”
Nicole thought it was a strange nickname for someone who looked more like an eighteenth century cowboy than a doctor, but she didn't question it.
“And I'm Wynonna. Earp,” she said, making a point of her last name.
Nicole nodded, slightly relieved to be making nice with someone so soon.
“So where you from Haught stuff?” Wynonna asked, eyebrows wiggling at the new nickname. Nicole let out a laugh.
“I'm was from Peace River. My dad got transferred here for a job at the Sheriff’s Department. He’s the new deputy.”
“Ah,” said Wynonna slyly, “another man to put me in handcuffs.”
Nicole couldn't tell if she was joking.
“So listen. Doc and I were thinking about skipping first period and getting blazed behind the dumpsters out back. Care to join?”
Huh. Definitely not joking then.
“Uh, no thanks. I don't think my dad would appreciate seeing me at the station on my first day,” said Nicole cautiously. She didn't want to jeopardize the new friendship with rejection.
“Some other time, then,” said Wynonna, unfazed.
Nicole nodded but didn't say anything more on the subject.
“So do you know where I'm supposed to go? I don't know what classes I have or where anything is… I'm kind of completely lost,” Nicole confessed exhaustively.
Wynonna twitched a dark brow. “You a senior?”
Nicole shook her head absently. “Nope, a junior.”
Wynonna sighed slightly at that.
“That's too damn bad, Haught. We would've had a lot more fun if you were,” she wiggled her eyebrows suggestively again, but this time, Nicole only laughed; she was starting to get accustomed to the older girl’s raunchy humour. “I can't give you the rundown because I don't know your schedule, but my sister, Waverly, can. She’s a junior, too.”
“Do you know where I can find her?”
Wynonna brought her fingers to her lips in a pistol position while she thought, drawing out a hum as her eyes wandered up for a moment.
“Well, you could check the gym downstairs,” she finally offered. The way she said it made Nicole wonder if it was more a question than a suggestion. “The basketball team is probably in there jerking each other off or something… I’m kidding.”
Nicole’s eyes had gone decidedly wide at that last crack, clearly conveying that that was a sight she was not interested in seeing. Wynonna broke another wide smile before playfully shoving Nicole’s shoulder.
“You’re gonna have to get used to my sarcastic remarks if we’re gonna be friends, Haught shot.” Wynonna winked again. Nicole grinned. Friends. Already. She was more than a little proud of herself for getting past that awkward “new-kid, no-friends” barrier quickly, even if the willing participants were a couple of horny potheads. Nicole didn’t mind in the slightest, and she could already see their good intentions and mischievous charms making for good companions.
“Anyways, it's not too hard to find, but I guess since Doc and I will be heading out the back, we’ll come with so I can point her out to you.”
The gym was filled with a group of athletic looking teenage boys playing basketball. Only boys, Nicole noticed. She guessed they were all part of the basketball team because of their skillful plays despite the casual demeanour of the game. First period was still a good twenty minutes away from actually starting, so this was seen as a fun yet productive way to pass the time.
Wynonna stopped behind the gym’s double doors to watch them for a moment behind the glass, scoffing when she caught sight of a couple of boys who seemed to be in an argument about travelling.
“Bobo Del Rey and Champ Hardy,” she said, still eyeing them both up. “Both seniors, both “star” players,” Wynonna rolled her eyes and used air quotes to emphasize that she obviously did not agree with the title, “and both fucking assholes who you should stay the fuck away from.”
The two could not have looked more different. One looked very menacing, with a sharp face and rogue facial hair, he donned a wild looking buzzcut and a peculiar patch of white hair in his both his right eyebrow and his pointed beard; the entirety of his outward appearance came off as cold, hard, dangerous, and mean. The other was a few inches shorter and could only be described as a boy-man in Nicole’s mind. Everything about him just looked softer, be it his hair, his face, or his body. However, his expression read angry, and it made him seem just as unpleasant. His face was scrunched up, something akin to a child throwing a tantrum, as he practically whined that he hadn't done anything wrong.
Wynonna pointed through the glass window at each of them. “Mister Big-Tall-and-Scary there is Bobo. Real name Robert, but I prefer Bobo because it makes him sound like a buffoon.” She looked over to Nicole for a second. “It kinda caught on and he maybe sort of really hates me for it.”
Wynonna paused, showing a hint of something Nicole couldn't quite make out on her face. It looked something like a mixture of guilt or sadness and regret, but it only flashed across her features for a split second.
“The one who looks like a man-child is Champ. He’s literal scum, but he’s Waverly’s boy-toy so I have to pretend to make nice,” Wynonna continued. This time the look on her face was clear: disdain.
“What makes him so bad besides the fact that he hangs out with Bobo?” Nicole asked, wondering why Wynonna hated her sister’s boyfriend so much.
Wynonna went quiet for a moment, still looking out the small window at Champ. Her eyes narrowed harshly and her mouth pursed tightly before she dropped her head a little, letting her hair fall into her face as she spoke softly, yet coldly.
“I think he cheats on Waverly.”
Nicole’s eyes widened in shock, and she turned her head to peer at the boy again. She suddenly saw distastefulness in him.
“That's horrible,” she said, trying to sound empathetic.
Doc, who had been awfully quiet, was suddenly behind Wynonna, wrapping his arms around her hips and nuzzling her hair in an attempt to comfort her. Wynonna took a deep breath as she tried to simmer down whatever emotions were boiling up inside her.
“It's not just that,” Wynonna said, her voice steady again, “I just don't like the way he acts with Waverly either. It's like he thinks he’s some sort of prize that she’s lucky to have. The conceited bastard.”
When Nicole looked back out through the window, a quite short, but fit, looking girl had stepped between Bobo and Champ. She was holding them apart with a hand on each of their chests. It looked as if she was berating Champ in a way that reminded Nicole of a mother reprimanding her child, yet he was still pointing and arguing aggressively with Bobo and the poor girl was caught in the middle, trying to hold him back.
Wynonna had also been watching the exchange, her eyes never letting up that sharp glare. If looks could kill…
The frustration seemed to have finally gotten to Wynonna when she threw up her hands and snapped at the ceiling.
“I can't fucking watch this anymore.”
A firm kick to the handle on the gym door sent it flying open. Wynonna stepped into the frame a moment later with an air of badass determination only being royally pissed off can give a person.
“Waves!” Wynonna shouted. The girl who was trying to keep the two boys from tearing each other apart turned her head to look at who was calling for her. The look on her face initially read as I'm-really-kind-of-busy-here, but as soon as she saw Wynonna, a grin immediately replaced it; she forewent her efforts to keep the boys apart and skipped over to where Wynonna was leaned against the door.
All the while, Nicole’s brain had momentarily tripped in her head.
Waverly was the cheerleader who was featured on the Purgatory High School basketball flyer that she’s seen the day before. She recognized the winning smile and adorable features unfailingly.
The big fucking trip though, was that Nicole did not expect this girl to look like a literal ray of sunshine in person.
She practically skipped over to her lingering sister despite the fact that she had literally just been withholding two idiot mongrels from an all out fist fight. Wynonna smirked at her as she hopped over.
“What's up, Wy?” Waverly asked, in the most adorable voice Nicole had probably ever heard.
Wynonna partially ignored the question, instead snorting and nodding back to the still arguing Bobo and Champ.
“First day going well, huh?”
Waverly rolled her eyes with a smile in response.
“Oh, you know how they are,” she dismissed with a wave of her hand.
Nicole couldn't help but stare at Waverly. She was a lot shorter than Wynonna, but that just made the whole package seem even more adorable. She seemed like a genuinely happy person, and the way her eyes crinkled when she smiled made Nicole’s heart skip a beat or two. She wondered if Waverly was always smiling.
“So listen baby girl, I kinda have a favour for you…” Wynonna trailed off. She made the favour in question clear to her sister as she gestured to the redhead who was still looking through the glass window in the other gym door. Nicole felt herself blush as Waverly studied her momentarily.
“Nicole, here, is new and in your class. She needs some guidance with her schedule and probably a more thorough tour. You’ve got the time to help a gal out, haven't you?”
Waverly looked back over at Nicole again. She smiled at her and gave a friendly wave, which was shyly returned.
Giving a firm nod of her head, she turned back to Wynonna.
Wynonna let out a grateful sigh. “Thank god! Not that she's a handful in any way, but I didn't wanna have to let this joint go unsmoked while I was busy being a good person.”
“‘Nonna!” Waverly shrieked in protest, but before she could stop her sister, Wynonna was pulling Doc across the gym and out the fire exit, cackling as she left Nicole alone with the beautiful, taken, cheerleader, and literal ray of sunshine that was Waverly Earp.