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Sick Lullabies

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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.

Oh shit.

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.

“Locker 289.”

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 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 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.

Fuck.

Shit.

Waverly was the cheerleader who was featured on the Purgatory High School basketball flyer that she’d 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.

“Of course!”

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.

Chapter Text

“She is so lucky they don't fill those dumpsters. Otherwise she would smell worse than she does after smoking, and she would probably be caught way more often.”

Nicole chuckled as they watched Wynonna run excitedly away with Doc.

“So what have you seen so far?” Waverly asked, turning fully to Nicole.

When Nicole went to answer, she momentarily fumbled for words. Waverly’s eyes were shining with excitement, and Nicole couldn't help but smile at her before catching herself.

Wynonna already told you she has a boyfriend. Don't do this.

“Uh—mostly just the upstairs hallway and the gym. I don't have a schedule, but even if I did, I wouldn't know where to go.”

Waverly jumped up giddily and clasped her hands together with a grin.

“Great! I can give you the full tour!”

Nicole smiled at the girl’s delightful enthusiasm. She was thankful that she was regarding Nicole with interest rather than dismissing her as a naive weirdo.

Just as Waverly was turning to start the tour, Nicole called her back with a question.

“So is this the basketball team?”

Waverly whipped back around and peered into the still open doorway, leaning her hip on the frame.

“Yup! The proud Purgatory Saints! Cute aren't they?”

“Uhhhhhhhhh.”

Waverly didn't seem to notice the redhead’s gay panic. Instead, she turned to her with a cheery expression, reading the situation entirely wrong.

“You thinking about trying out for the cheer squad? I'm head cheerleader, and I think you’ve got a good chance,” Waverly said, taking in the tall redhead’s athletic form. She could tell the girl kept well in shape. Nicole was wearing a deep cut muscle shirt that showed off her toned arms and slender torso.

Nicole finally stopped scrambling for an appropriate answer to the previous question to laugh at the new one. The thought of herself in a booty skirt and crop top, prancing around with pom-poms made her feel utterly ridiculous.

“Not exactly.”

Waverly let it go at that and just shrugged her shoulders; she didn't want to push the girl into anything. She let her eyes wander into the gym once more before turning over her shoulder and throwing another friendly grin to Nicole, who was still watching as well.

“Well, let’s get started then, shall we?”

~

The fairly basic school tour concluded at the entrance to their first period class. Waverly had been accommodating enough to retrieve Nicole’s itinerary, and she was delighted to find out that she had quite a few classes with the youngest Earp. The two shared most of their schedules together, both being in the same English, Biology, Chemistry, and Precalculus classes. They only differed where Waverly was taking AP History and Band when Nicole was taking regular History and Gym.

“And this is the English room,” Waverly concluded with a wide grin. They had gotten through the tour in a short amount of time, yet Waverly had been very thorough, and Nicole felt fairly confident that she could now make her way around with little help.

There was still a good few minutes before class was supposed to start, but the English room was full of unfamiliar faces that looked judgingly at the just as unfamiliar redhead. Waverly noticed the look of uncertainty on Nicole’s face before taking her hand gently.

“Come sit with me,” she said with a warm smile.

As the shorter girl pulled her confidently into the room, Nicole couldn't help but feel incredibly lucky. Here was this genuine, not to mention beautiful, girl taking her under her wing and helping her through what was obviously a tough time and scary experience; it wasn't like it was Waverly’s obligation, and Nicole was entirely grateful for the fact that the girl seemed to be wholehearted in her kindness towards her.

Waverly led her near the back of the room, holding loosely to Nicole’s fingers the entire time. The redhead couldn't help the blush that flared up to her cheeks as a result. Waverly’s fingers felt so tender tangled up in her own, and she felt herself not wanting to pull away.

When they reached a pair of empty desks, one in front of the other, Waverly let her hand fall away from Nicole’s, and Nicole immediately felt the loss, wanting to reach back out and feel the comfort of the other girl’s hand in hers again. The shorter girl took the seat in front, so Nicole settled in the back.

The teacher at the front of the classroom looked ready to start. He was a tall, copper-haired man who wore thick glasses and looked to be in his late thirties. As he cleared his throat, Waverly quickly turned back to Nicole.

“If you start to feel lost, just tap my shoulder; I'll help you out,” she flashed another smile as Nicole nodded at her. The teacher at the front of the room finally began his lesson, bringing out a copy of Macbeth and reading through the first few scenes. Nicole did her best to follow along in the copy that was on her desk when she arrived, but she more than once caught herself staring affectionately at Waverly, bent over her desk and diligently copying notes. She could smell coconut faintly drifting from the girl in pleasant ripples, and Nicole wanted nothing more than to reach out and bury her face into it.

The piercing sound of the school bell cut off Nicole’s thoughts, and she instantly felt the guilt of them. It wasn't that Nicole wasn't comfortable with her sexuality, but she knew that she was a bit hopeless when it came to concealing and containing her feelings. Waverly had a boyfriend. Even if she did have any interest in girls, the cheerleader was unavailable. Nicole couldn't have her. Not that it was wrong to want someone she couldn't have, but Nicole had screwed things up with other girls before. Once the concept of something more than friendship was on the table, the friendship had always ended in one way or another. Nicole didn't want to lose Waverly to her stupid feelings. She couldn't afford to. She liked the small brunette, and if she lost her, she would most likely lose her kinship with Wynonna, too. Seeing the way the older brunette had reacted to Champ had given Nicole the presumption that the girl was very protective of her younger sister, and she had a feeling that Wynonna would not be happy if she tried anything with Waverly.

The rest of the morning went by without much incident. During lunch Waverly had gone to sit with the cheerleading squad and some of the basketball team at a particularly large table at the insistence of a whiny Champ. Waverly had looked apologetically at Nicole, who nodded her understanding, as the boy-man dragged her away. Thankfully, Nicole caught up with Wynonna and Doc again not long after. They both smelled like pot and couldn't stop giggling at every little thing, but Nicole enjoyed their company at the otherwise small, vacant table she sat at.

Still, Nicole couldn't help but glance over at Waverly every so often. She wished she was sitting with her, but it was obvious that she was a very popular girl.

Nicole mentally facepalmed.

Duh. Of course she's popular. She's the head cheerleader for Christ’s sake!

Wynonna, despite her high, noticed that the redhead in front of her seemed to be preoccupied with what was deemed the popular table. She chanced a glance over as well, and saw both Bobo and another blonde cheerleader look over her way. Not being one to back down or be intimidated by a little eye contact, Wynonna stood her ground, raising her dark brow in challenge. The contemptuous looking pair sneered before turning back to their conversation, ignoring the less popular Earp. Turning back to Nicole, she found the redhead with her head down, staring into her food tray with a blank expression on her face.

Wynonna found it almost impossible to read her but figured she should say something anyways.

“Y’know they’re nothing to be intimidated by,” she said quietly to Nicole, trying not to seem pitying or condescending.

The redhead looked up, locking her deep brown eyes with the Earp’s own before breaking away again.

“I'm not intimidated…” Nicole insisted, trailing off.

I'm jealous.

She winced at the inadvertent thought.

Wynonna huffed. She threw another toxic stare towards the table in question.

“They're just a bunch of pretentious dicks. Think they’re hot shit and all.”

Nicole looked over to Waverly again. She couldn't help it.

“Not all of them,” she said, her eyes not leaving the small Earp.

Wynonna was taken aback for a slight moment before following the redhead’s gaze. She felt a little dumb for not realizing that Nicole was referring to her own sister.

Doy, Wynonna. Of course she meant Waverly. God, I'm stoned.

The eldest Earp smirked despite herself.

“Oh well not Waverly, of course,” Wynonna reiterated, “but take that blonde bitch, Stephanie, for example. Never spoken to her in my life, and the chick has the balls to tell me to get a butt-lift!”

Nicole snapped back to Wynonna upon hearing that.

“What? No way! That's so rude. Your ass is totally fine! It's great, actually!”

“I know right?” Wynonna agreed, exasperated. “I think she’s just jealous. She wishes she could have my ass.”

Nicole laughed loudly at that.

I wish I could have your ass,” she said, half jokingly.

Wynonna smirked that suggestive smirk of hers, and Nicole grinned, knowing she just set herself up for a trap.

“All you have to do is ask, Haught stuff,” Wynonna purred with a sly wink. Nicole rolled her eyes playfully, swatting at Wynonna’s hand as she cackled wickedly; she should've seen that one coming.

“Hey now,” said Doc, turning away from his munchies, “that belongs to me.”

He grinned affectionately as Wynonna leaned into him, resting her head near his shoulder.

“Only on weekdays,” she said facetiously, pecking him softly on the mouth despite the fact that he was still eating microwave Kraft Dinner.

The two shared a loving glance for a moment after before Wynonna decided to steal a bite of Doc’s KD, causing the boy to feign shock at the betrayal. Anyone else might’ve felt like a third-wheel around the two, but Nicole found them to be immensely entertaining and downright adorable.

“How did you two end up together?”

It came out before she could stop herself, and Nicole fought down a blush of embarrassment. The couple were unfazed, however, and Doc let out a hearty chuckle while Wynonna grinned.

“That's a good fucking question,” Wynonna barked out along with a laugh. “It kinda just happened.” She shrugged, turning to look into Doc’s clear blue eyes. “We were friends before, smoke buddies and all, but we had a tendency to get a little out of hand.” A roguish grin appeared on the brazen brunette’s face. “Last year around this time we had a late night sesh, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up in ol’ John Henry’s bed and there was a middle finger spray-painted on the side of the school. Epic first date.”

The story left a giant smile on Nicole’s face. Of course they ended up together doing something illegal; it was very them in her opinion. She was glad she asked.

~

By the time last period rolled around, Nicole was antsy to be done with class. She intended to go down to the gym and search for the school’s basketball coach. Once the final bell had rang, Nicole was out of her desk faster than anyone else despite the fact that she had been sitting in the back. However, by the time she got down to the gym, the school was practically deserted.

The redhead cautiously pushed open the double doors at the gym’s entrance, silently cringing when the hinges creaked and echoed in the empty room.

“Hello?” Nicole chanced calling out to someone who might be hiding out in the locker rooms. There was no answer, but a door to what looked to be a small office on the other side of the gym was ajar. Figuring it wouldn't be left open unless someone was using it, Nicole made her way across the wood floor to the office and knocked lightly before peeking inside.

There was a middle-aged man sitting at a cramped wooden desk in the small space. Nicole recognized him as the teacher who had greeted her at the top of the stairs and assigned her locker number that morning. His eyebrows were furrowed in intense concentration, but it was obvious the man was tired from the day’s work; he still hadn't noticed Nicole’s presence.

The tall redhead made note of the nameplate on his desk—Mr. Frank Elliott—before clearing her throat and speaking out loud.

“Um, excuse me?”

Mr. Elliott didn't look up. He merely grunted his acknowledgment. The action nearly annoyed Nicole; this was the second time today the man had practically ignored her. She tried again.

“Do you know where I can find the basketball coach? I was hoping to ask about tryouts.”

The balding man looked up upon hearing that unexpected sentence come out of the new girl’s mouth. He raised his bushy grey eyebrows in disbelief at her.

“And why would a lady like you want to know something like that?” he grumbled out in a deep voice. The way he said it made Nicole hesitate for a second.

“I-I was hoping to get on the team.”

That made the man frown. He turned his gaze back down to his paper as he spoke his next words dismissively.

“No can do, sweetheart. Ain't no girls on the Purgatory basketball team, and ain't no city kid gon’ change that.”

Okay, now that pissed her off.

Fierce brown eyes narrowed in fury, and the energy that suddenly radiated off the girl made it seem as if she were on fire.

“First off, never call me sweetheart,” she snapped, fully aware that she was about to cause a lot of trouble for herself with what she now knew was the basketball coach, but she was too miffed to care. The sudden, harsh change of tone made the previously insolent man snap his attention back to the girl, now fully enhanced in what she had to say and obviously already upset. That didn't stop Nicole.

“Have a little human decency,” she growled again before continuing. “I was a star player on the team at my old school. You can even call if you want, but I demand the right to be treated equally! Let me try out for the team, and I'll show you how good I am!”

By the time she finished, Nicole was seething. Her teeth were clenched and her jaw was set, making her appear hard and emotionless despite the boiling rage underneath. Determination was radiating off her like a nuclear power plant, and all that was left to do was stare the old man down. He had long risen from his seat and was scrutinizing her with a deep set frown. He pulled his hand down his face and sighed heavily, weighing his options before looking back up at her.

“No.”

“I'll go to the principal, then,” came the immediate response. She had only met the woman once that morning and had no idea how she would side in this situation, but it was the only threat Nicole could come up with on the spot. Luckily it seemed to do the trick.

For a big and burly man, he seemed to pale in concern at that particular notion, and Nicole internally celebrated. She had just won.

Coach Elliott cleared his throat in an attempt to hide his show of weakness, but it was obvious the girl had got him.

“Uh—ahem—no need for that. I’ll, uh, I’ll sleep on it. Come see me again tomorrow during last period. Tryouts start then; we’ll talk. Three o’clock sharp.”

Still positively grated, but satisfied with the answer, Nicole nodded her red mane firmly, her mouth in a tight line as she tried to refrain from saying anything else provoking. She was still staring hard at the coach, and he was making an effort to stare back.

“See you tomorrow then,” Nicole finished with a sense of finality. She turned to go, but looked back over her shoulder at the last second.

“And…thanks.”

It was sincere. Once she was out of the room, coach Elliott slumped back down in his desk and put his head in his hands, wondering what the fuck he was gonna do with this girl.

~

Nicole was thankful for the calming effect her longboard ride home provided. It was a twenty minute walk, but the time was nearly cut in half if she put some effort into her riding. Focusing on the road in front of her and the weightless, gliding feeling of the board beneath her feet let all of her worries about basketball be whisked away with the wind in her hair.

Nicole took her snapback off and shook her red waves free, running a hand through her locks to cool off a little. She was glad she decided to cut it short before moving. It was starting to feel like it weighed her down, especially in the summer heat, and it helped her cope. The whole thing was a reminder that things were changing. She was doing her best to embrace that.

The rest of the day was a typical after school routine. Walk in. Greet the parents.

“How was school?”

“School was fine.”

“Learn anything?”

“Nope.”

End of conversation. Mostly. There were also a few make any new friends and one stay out of trouble, kiddo, but other than that, Nicole’s parents knew not to press. They understood how hard it was on her to suddenly move away like that, and her father, especially, could tell that too much talking could just lead to accusations and problems. He was very intuitive like that; it was one of the reasons he made such a good cop.

The rest of the evening was quiet until after dinner when Nicole decided she should probably practice some before tryouts tomorrow, not that she would actually need much. The redhead spent the remaining daylight setting up her metal-chain basketball hoop over the tall garage door in the driveway. It took longer than it probably should have since the girl had refused help from her concerned dad when he saw her struggling up a wobbly ladder through the living room window. Still, she insisted on doing it herself, and though she dropped a couple of screws more than once, she got it up and tightly secured.

It was already quite dark by the time Nicole got her ball out from the garage. She also opted to throw on one of her black zip-up hoodies and a pair of sweats to combat the crisp September breeze. The streetlamps had already come on and were lining the streets with a dull yellow glow, giving the otherwise silent neighbourhood an eerie and ethereal feel.

Nicole flipped on the light installed in the driveway so she could see her makeshift court, but before she began to dribble the ball, she made one last check on the net, leaping high and grabbing the rim. The strong metal supported all her weight, and the redhead grinned with pride at her successful installment. Pulling her hood up, she picked up the ball with a spring in her step and began to shoot hoops.

Nicole was definitely getting into it. The sound of the firm rubber ball hitting the chain net satisfied her to no end. She began to ham up her practice a little, dribbling between her legs and trying out some fancy footwork even though there was no one to fake out. It was fun for her, and Nicole smiled widely as she went in for a dunk, holding the rim for a glorious moment before retrieving the ball from where it had rolled onto the grass.

As she lazily leaned down to handle the ball again, Nicole's ears perked, finally hearing the sounds of the night now that she had a break from her engaging practice. Someone had been jogging up on the other side of the street but had come to a halt just when Nicole looked up to see who might be out running at this hour.

Her breath caught in her throat, and she damn near dropped the ball again.

Waverly Earp was standing on the sidewalk across the street from her, hair up, Fitbit fastened to her upper arm, earbuds dangling from her panting form, sweaty and glistening in just a sports bra and short shorts.

Nicole straightened up immediately, unsure of what to do, but knowing that just standing there staring wasn't going to do anything either. So she held up a shy hand and waved, hoping like all hell that that’d be the end of the interaction between them.

Unfortunately, Waverly, being the friendly person she is, crossed the street to meet the waiting redhead who was trying hard to keep her eyes from trailing down the smaller girl’s gleaming body.

Shit.

Nicole couldn't resist the urge to look down despite her efforts and both immediately regretted it and wanted to look again.

God, those abs…

“Nicole?”

Brown eyes flicked back to the face that was now in front of her, desperately trying to keep her voice steady as she spoke.

“H-Hey, Waves.”

Fucking moron.

Nicole cleared her throat harshly, annoyed at herself for being so goddamn gay at the worst possible time.

“Uh, what’s up,” she tried again, “going for a late-night run?”

Waverly grinned at the obviously flustered girl; if she was being honest, she found it quite endearing.

“Yup! I like to jog a few nights a week to keep my stamina up for cheering. I run by here all the time.”

The shorter girl paused to look at the house in front of her. “Is this your house?”

Nicole turned back, looking towards the front door as she nodded. “Mhmm,” she hummed in agreeance.

“It's nice,” Waverly said more to the house than the girl beside her, as if complimenting it personally. She looked back to Nicole’s face, curiosity colouring her face.

“So what’re you doing out here so late?”

Foregoing an actual answer, the redhead just held up the ball, showing it to Waverly who reached out and took it.

“You play basketball?”

Nicole nodded again. “Yup. Played on the school team back in Peace River. I'm practicing for tryouts tomorrow.”

“Are you any good?”

“You tell me.”

A challenge had settled in Nicole’s eyes, and she took the ball from Waverly’s fingers with a smirk, making a perfect jump shot from where she was standing on the sidewalk with Waverly, a good twenty feet away from the basket.

The cheerleader let out a disbelieving laugh at the impressive play, and Nicole turned to find a positively beaming Waverly looking at her like a goddamn hero. She couldn't help a dimpled smile from breaking out on her face as well.

“You're amazing, Nicole.”

A deep blush rose up to Nicole’s cheeks at the sound of pure awe lacing Waverly’s soft voice. Unable to take the admirable gaze without feeling a flutter in her chest, Nicole broke eye contact and muttered a bashful, “Thanks, Wave,” as she tried not to think of the brunette girl’s shining green eyes.

Waverly smiled, her eyes going soft as she touched Nicole’s arm. “The entire basketball team’s gonna be thanking you when they see what you can do. I’d wish you luck for tomorrow, but I'm sure you don't need it.” Another grin overtook Waverly’s face as she joked, and Nicole laughed along with her, finally turning back to look at her face again. Waverly was relieved.

“But just in case, good luck tomorrow,” the shorter girl finished. Nicole smiled again, her dimples popping out, making Waverly feel her heart beat faster in her chest.

“Thanks again, Waves.”

Nicole didn't let herself break eye-contact this time. There was something about the way that Waverly was looking at her that made it feel like a mutual connection, like she didn't need to look away.

When Waverly realized that neither of them had said anything for a good minute, she flushed in embarrassment, knowing full well that she had just been undeniably gazing into the taller girl’s big brown eyes.

What the hell was that all about?

The cheerleader looked away and cleared her throat, trying to dispense the awkward silence she had just created as she flicked her eyes back again quickly to read Nicole’s expression, hoping she hadn't weirded the girl out so soon after just meeting her. Instead of the disgust she expected to find, Waverly was surprised to see that Nicole looked slightly concerned at her sudden discomfort.

Despite the fresh bout of worry bubbling up in her chest, Nicole spoke up cautiously.

“Are you alright, Waves?”

Upon hearing that, Waverly panicked a little, thinking she must be making quite a spectacle of herself. She could feel her face flushing even harder, but forced up a high laugh as she tried again to mask her embarrassment.

“Ye-Yeah! I'm fine. Uh. Just peachy! Just remembered that I…left the clothes in the dryer! And I have to...go,” she frowned at her own lame excuse, not wanting to go just yet, but it was already said. She sighed and reached up to rub at the back of her neck, suddenly very confused about her own emotions.

Raising her head to look at the redhead again, Waverly suddenly felt awful to see the concern still prevalent in Nicole’s eyes. She sighed again, taking her hand away from her neck to reach down and squeeze Nicole’s hand briefly.

“I'm sorry. I really am fine, just tired I think.” The two locked eyes again, and Waverly could see a pout in Nicole’s lips, still obviously not satisfied with her answer.

Wait. Why are you looking at her lips?

Waverly ignored the thought as she licked her own and looked back up again, focusing her eyes on the crease in the taller girl’s brow. She dismissed the idea of smoothing it out with her thumb and instead offered a shy smile.

“Really, Nicole, don't worry about me. Just worry about your tryout tomorrow! You’re gonna do great, and they’d be fools not to take you.”

It wasn't exactly the answer she wanted, but it was enough. Nicole nodded, ultimately deciding not to press the girl and risk making her any more uncomfortable than she possibly already was. She smiled down at Waverly and saw the tension melt away from her face, returning to the ray of sunshine she was before.

“See you around, Waves,” Nicole said softly, grinning once more before turning back to the driveway and going to fetch her ball again. The small cheerleader watched her go for a moment, staring after her in wonderment before tearing her eyes away and down to the sidewalk.

“Yeah,” she whispered to herself. She smiled subconsciously to herself before glancing once more in Nicole’s direction and then taking off into the night.

~

At exactly three o’clock the next day, Nicole excused herself from her Chemistry class early to make her way down to the gym. There had been a spring in her step all day from the impending excitement of playing again. Even Wynonna had noticed. During lunch, Doc had knocked over his blue slurpee in his hazy state, soaking both Nicole’s lunch and her English notes. She didn't even bat an eye as he scrambled to save her work and handed her the rest of his food as an apology. In fact, she wasn't at all fazed, and offered to help clean up. But Doc, being the gentleman he was, absolutely refused any assistance as he went to find some paper towels.

“You sure are chipper today. What’s up? Somebody get all up on that Haught body of yours already?”

Wynonna smirked devilishly as the redhead flushed nearly as vibrant as her hair, seeming to come back to her regular self and suddenly aware that her work was ruined.

She groaned for more reasons than one.

“Geez Earp, do you ever take a day off?”

Wynonna sucked some pudding off a plastic spoon before answering.

“What can I say? I’m married to the job, baby,” she quipped, playing along. “Besides, it's only Tuesday.”

Nicole nodded, recovering somewhat. “Right.”

When she didn't elaborate any further though, Wynonna pushed just a little more.

“For real though, Nicole, I didn't mean to put a damper on your mood. You just seem a lot happier to be here than yesterday, and I can’t think of a damn thing in the world that would make me happier to come to this shit show in the morning.”

There wasn't an outright question being asked, but Nicole knew the unruly brunette was looking for an answer. She figured it wouldn't hurt to tell her.

“I'm just excited for basketball tryouts today.”

Wynonna’s eyebrows shot up into her hairline in shock and excitement at the prospect of what Nicole was telling her.

“You’re going out for the team? No shit?”

The exhilaration in Wynonna’s voice made Nicole beam as she nodded in confirmation.

“That’s awesome, Nicole! Fuck, I wanna come watch. I bet you kick serious ass. What time does it start?”

“That’d be great, but it starts at three. You’ll be in class,” Nicole said, a bit disappointed.

“Fuck class, I'm coming! I'll even drag Doc along; we’ll heckle all the other dickheads who try to get in your way.”

The fierce loyalty that Wynonna was showing Nicole made her heart soar. She had no idea how this had happened or what she had done to deserve it, but the fact that Wynonna already seemed like a genuine and committed friend really made Nicole’s day go from ‘great’ to ‘fucking amazing’.

“That's sounds really nice, Wy.”

“Anytime, Haught shot.”

Once she had grabbed her gym bag from her locker, Nicole made her way down to the gym and opened the doors to find a group of boys already changed and doing runs. Confused, Nicole spotted Coach Elliot scribbling notes into a clipboard on the bleachers and headed over, a grimace on her her face.

“Started already?” Nicole asked as she neared closer, walking up to the balding man. He was wearing a pair of old gym shorts that showed off more leg than anyone would’ve liked to see, and he had tube socks pulled up to his calves. The whole Gym Teacher Look was brought together by the fact that Coach Elliott had thick, curly leg hair. Nicole was infinitely repulsed and thanked God that she liked girls.

Coach Elliott didn't look up as he spoke.

So we’re doing this shit again.

“Yup. Made up my mind last night, er—what was your name again?”

Annoyed, Nicole rolled her eyes. “Nicole Haught.”

“Er, right. You’re not trying out, Haught.”

It was as if a flame had sparked inside Nicole, and in a split second, she felt anger boiling up inside her again, and she swore she could feel steam pouring out her ears.

“What the hell?” she screeched. “Yesterday you said—”

“I said we’d talk. I never said you could try out.”

“Are you kidding me? This is bullshit! Why the hell would you even bring me down here if you weren’t gonna give me a chance either way?”

The gym teacher grumbled to himself. He wanted to scold the girl for her excessive swearing—-and to a teacher, no less—but he wasn't exactly about to act like a model employee either, so he let it slide. Tit for tat.

He stood from his seat then, motioning to a few of the boys on the court, and a group of about six walked over. Nicole recognized two of them as the boys who were fighting during a game yesterday: Bobo and Champ. The two shared a villainous look and smirked malevolently when they spotted her, but Nicole turned away and retrained her eyes on the coach. She didn't notice Wynonna and Doc walking through the gym doors.

“I had a talk with my boys today,” Coach Elliott started.

And?” Nicole snapped, her eyes sharp.

Frank paused a moment, but ignored her, keeping his voice even. “You’re on the team, Haught.”

Nicole’s eyebrows shot up and her eyes widened in shock. Nothing was making sense, and she was confused as all hell.

“What?”

Champ and Bobo, along with the rest of the boys Coach Elliott had motioned for all stepped up behind him. They were watching and waiting for something, but not saying anything. The lot of them looked highly amused, but one dark-skinned boy looked more irritated at whatever was going on than anything else.

Coach Elliott continued on now that he had backup. “You’re not going to the principal. Like I said you’re on the team, Haught. But you’re not trying out. And because you’re not trying out, you’re not gonna play. You’ll be the emergency sub, but since we’ve never actually used an emergency sub, a more appropriate title for you would be “bench boy,” ‘cept you’re a girl...”

The world seemed to stop for a moment as Nicole processed what was being said. She held her breath and kept her gaze even, but she couldn't believe her own ears. Was she seriously being played by a high school gym teacher right now?

Nicole scanned the group of boys she assumed were her new teammates. They all wore a smug look on their face, especially that Champ Hardy, and Nicole felt her heart start to break. This was real. She was being given an ultimatum. Join the team and sit on her ass without complaint, or refuse the offer and still be unable to complain because she was offered a spot to begin with. It was a lose-lose situation. It made Nicole want to scream at Frank’s stupid bearded face and ask what the hell she had or hadn't done to deserve this, but that would only serve to make matters worse. The only thing she could do was grin and bear it, try to make the best of an absolutely shitty situation, and hope that if she worked hard enough, Coach Elliott would see that she was good enough to play.

She brought her attention down and fiddled with her hands for a moment, holding back a wave of frustrated emotions and tears. When she looked back up, her eyes were glassed over, yet indisputably hard.

Frank spoke first.

“Welcome to the team, Haught.”

And with that, he turned his back and walked away, heading towards his office. One of the boys tossed a jersey at her head, but Nicole caught it before it could drop to the ground. As she opened up the shirt to look at the logo, she frowned. The team had started to walk away as well, and the gym was clearing out. Tryouts were finished, and everyone was going to change. Nicole called out a frustrated, last ditch attempt at changing their minds.

“Y’know, real saints wouldn't do this!”

But it fell on deaf ears, and Nicole was ignored again. She tried once more, yelling as they disappeared into the locker room.

“AND IF YOU WERE SAINTS YOU WOULDN’T BE IN PURGATORY, YOU'D BE IN HEAVEN, SO THE NAME IS NONSENSICAL, AND you’re all just so fucking stupid,” she trailed off in a whisper, knowing that her words truly meant nothing to them. Finally feeling her anger morph into devastation, Nicole’s grip on the jersey tightened, and her tears began to fall, spattering on the gym floor one by one.

Chapter Text

A gentle hand on her shoulder startled Nicole, making her body whip around on instinct. Wynonna stood in front of her with sad eyes, her mouth turned down in a frown. Doc stood behind her, looking equally as sympathetic. Nicole opened her mouth to say something, anything, but her voice betrayed her, and all that came out was something along the lines of a stutter as she tried to hold in impending sobs.

Thankfully, Wynonna was there to save her from having to say anything at all.

“I’m so sorry, Nicole.”

It was what she expected to hear: pity. What she didn't expect was to be tackled in a giant bear hug the second she sniffled loudly. Wynonna wrapped her arms around the redhead’s neck and pulled her down into her own. The mere gesture made Nicole both very calm and want to cry even harder. Another, stronger pair of arms wrapped around her and Wynonna from the side, and Nicole knew Doc had joined their embrace.

She tightened her hold around Wynonna's waist as the brunette began to stroke her hair, but didn't let herself cry like she wanted to. Of course it was heartbreaking that the only thing she was passionate about doing in this stupid town was being taken away from her, but at least she had somebody to hold her in the moment where it felt like the world was ending.

Nicole pulled back, her eyes red, but smiling as she looked from Wynonna to Doc.

“Thanks you guys,” she said, wiping at her eyes and sniffling again.

Wynonna gave her another smile, but Nicole could see the worry behind her eyes. Doc rubbed a comforting hand up her back.

“What’re you gonna do, Nic?” Wynonna asked cautiously.

Nicole sighed heavily, contemplating her response.

“It's gonna suck, but I’m just gonna have to tough it out, work hard during practices, and hope someone sees enough in me to put me on the court.”

“Well, that’s a good start,” said a deep voice Nicole had never heard before. It echoed across the empty gym, and the three turned to see the dark-skinned boy from before. No one had time to say anything before he tossed a basketball at Nicole. She caught it with ease, and he continued.

“Now how about you show me what you’ve got.”

The proposition was definitely intriguing, and Nicole was never one to back down from a challenge, but after what’d just happened, she needed some answers.

“What? You want me to play you?”

“One-on-one,” said the boy, blunt and to the point with no room for confusion.

“And why’s that? You're on the team aren’t you? I thought coach had a little chat with you all about keeping me off the court.” There was a hint of bitterness in Nicole’s voice despite the fact that it seemed the boy was about to give her the chance she was hoping for. Still, Coach Elliott had left her feeling particularly sore.

“He did, but I never indicated that I agreed with his decision otherwise.”

“Then why wouldn't you say something?”

He laughed, deep and hearty, but with a hint of exasperation at the girl’s stubbornness.

“I’m saying something now, to you. And I can't exactly back up the skills of someone I haven't seen in action, but I know you at least deserve a chance.”

There it was. That's what she was looking for. The boy saw Nicole’s eyes snap up to lock with his, stunned and surprised. He grinned at her.

All the redhead could manage was, “Who are you?”

The tall, looming boy walked with an air of confidence and authority, and his grip was firm as he shook Nicole’s hand.

“Xavier,” he said.

“Dolls,” finished Wynonna from Nicole’s side, watching the exchange intently.

“Earp,” he acknowledged with a hint of something Nicole couldn't quite read. “I told you not to call me that.”

Wynonna didn't warrant him worthy of a proper response. Instead, she stuck her tongue out at him and made a “plip” sound with her mouth. Xavier ignored her.

“So are we gonna do this?” He questioned, searching for determination in her eyes.

When she nodded firmly, he looked satisfied and made his way out onto the court, ball in hand. Eager to follow, Nicole shrugged out of her hoodie and switched out her converse for her gym shoes. She was thankful that she’d worn a pair of flexible leggings that day, otherwise she would’ve had to make a deal of going to change. Thinking for a moment or two, she shrugged to herself before pulling her shirt up over her head as well. Being a sports gal, the redhead was partial to wearing sports bras almost twenty-four seven, and it oven came in handy. Nicole then made quick work of pulling up her hair into a high pony before jogging out to meet Xavier in the middle of the court. Wynonna, who had taken a seat with Doc on the bleachers, let out a wolf-whistle when Nicole flexed playfully for them.

“Kick his ass, Haught!” she damn near screamed from the metal benches, even though they were the only other ones in the gym. Doc let out a yell of his own in agreement.

The redhead let herself giggle at the pair’s antics before squaring up, face to face with Xavier. He was quite a bit taller than she was, and he had a lot more visible muscle going for him too, but that didn't intimidate Nicole in the slightest; she knew she just had to be a little faster on her feet.

A slight smirk skimmed across the taller boy’s face, and he dropped his stance a little to hand the ball off to Nicole.

“Why don't you start us off, huh?” He thought he was gonna go easy on her, but man was she gonna prove him wrong.

A twinkle flashed in the redhead’s dark brown eyes before she, too, dropped her stance and accepted the ball.

“Wrong move, bucko.”

And with that, Nicole made two tall, but controlled dribbles, and knocked off to the side, shielding her body from any sort of impact or grab Xavier might try. She zoomed down the court and quickly sunk a two-point layover before anyone else knew what was happening. Nicole heard Doc and Wynonna going absolutely bonkers from the bleachers, and she turned to flash them a smile as Xavier caught up to her, panting a little from his sprint after her.

Nicole couldn't help but grin stupidly at the look on his face. He obviously wasn't expecting her to be able to get by him, but he had given her the advantage.

“Not bad, kid,” he puffed out, “but this time, you’re gonna have to jump for it.”

“No problem.”

The redhead motioned for Doc, and the cowboy moseyed onto the court. Xavier handed him the ball, and the two players got into position. Doc tossed the ball high, and Nicole leapt for it. However, with Xavier’s extra bit of height, he managed to tip at the ball first, but that didn't stop Nicole’s fingers from firmly brushing against it, nearly knocking it in her favour. But Xavier regained control quickly and went straight into a low dribble once he hit the ground.

Though she was a lot smaller compared to him, Nicole didn't back down once she was on the defensive side; she had her eyes trained on Xavier’s and her hands at the ready, searching for a moment of distraction to snatch the ball away. Dolls saw it in her eyes and tried to throw her off by making a move without a fully formulated plan, thinking if he moved before she could foresee it, it would work to his advantage. It was the moment of weakness Nicole was waiting for.

“Wrong move again!”

Xavier had barely made it three strides before the ball was expertly batted away mid-dribble and reclaimed by the tall ginger. The older boy was astonished, and it took a second for him to realize that his competition was sprinting down the court again. He whipped around and made a mad dash to her side of the court, and the redhead turned around to laugh at him before sinking another basket with perfect ease from the three-point line.

Damn, she didn't even hesitate under the pressure of someone as big as me charging towards her.

Doc and Wynonna were howling from the bleachers again, so Nicole shot them a victory pose, laughing along with them.

Xavier let out a sigh. He wasn't used to someone dribbling circles around him.

“Are you gonna take this seriously?”

He didn't mean for it to sound so bitter.

The smile immediately left Nicole’s face.

“Are you gonna give me a real challenge?” she snarked back.

Xavier went over to fetch the ball and walked back over to Nicole, holding it out.

“This time, you have to take it from me.”

The redhead scoffed. “I said a real challenge. I already took it from you.”

“Well then you better catch me if you can.”

He knew it wasn’t fair, but damn it, if this girl was going to play with the Saints, she would have to be able to keep up with them.

Xavier took off down the court before Nicole had a chance to respond. His footfalls were heavy against the wooden flooring as he worked to keep the ball in his control. It was a bit harder than he would've liked to admit though, because the couple sitting on the benches started to heckle him for his dirty play.

“WHAT THE FUCK DOLLS?”

“NOT COOL!”

“FUCKIN’ FOUL!”

“Uh, darlin’ I'm pretty sure that’s not a foul.”

“Fuck you.”

Despite their best efforts to distract him, Xavier made it to the other side of the court and made to shoot, but as he went to let go, he heard Nicole sprinting up from behind him. It was a high shot, but somehow, Nicole leapt up and stole the ball out of the air. Once again, Xavier found himself utterly impressed by the new girl, and didn't even make an effort to chase her again. He knew he wouldn't catch her. Instead, he watched with approval as Wynonna and Doc cheered her on. She didn’t stop to look behind her this time; Nicole was completely riled up from both the game and Xavier’s callus behaviour since stepping onto the court. She could feel adrenaline pumping in her veins as she approached the net, and she grinned victoriously as she pushed off from the wood and slammed the ball into the net, dunking it with vigor.

There was screaming and whooping ringing throughout the gym as Doc and Wynonna collectively lost their shit. The two scrambled off the bleachers and went to tackle the sweating redhead as she dropped from the rim, still grinning like an idiot.

Looking back across the gym at Xavier, Nicole caught sight of the rest of the boys from tryouts—including the rest of the team—standing by the entrance to the boys’ locker room. They’d all obviously caught the end of the game; each one wore a look of pure disbelief and insane jealousy on their face. That is, except for Bobo Del Rey, who looked more murderous than anything else.

When Nicole went to see if the lunatic’s best pal, Champ, wore the same expression, she was surprised to find Waverly Earp standing in front of him. His arms were wrapped around her waist and his chin was rested on her shoulder, but Waverly’s eyes were trained on her. Suddenly, her chest felt tight, and a blush rose up her neck when she realized that she was standing in the middle of the gym, sweating and panting in a sports bra.

Then again, Waverly had been in the exact same position with Nicole not twenty-four hours ago.

Waverly was downright staring at her. She watched as her emerald eyes raked a path down her abdomen as if she’d been wanting to explore it since the moment they’d met. There was obvious appreciation in the head cheerleader’s eyes as she caught Nicole’s and immediately flushed, embarrassed that she had been caught.

Letting out a breath she didn't know she’d been holding in, Nicole felt herself relax upon seeing that Waverly was every bit as flustered as she was, so she offered a shy smile to the girl. Despite her pink cheeks, Waverly smiled back warmly, and Nicole found it completely adorable. There was no resisting Waverly Earp.

Champ, unfortunately, caught the smitten look Nicole was giving his girlfriend. He didn't pause to check if Waverly had been giving one back and instead stormed towards the offending redhead, Bobo Del Rey in tow. The possibility of taking his title as Purgatory’s star player was one thing, but serving up looks to his girl was another.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” He practically roared his words at Nicole as he came charging towards her like a provoked bull, red in the face with anger.

The smile Nicole had been wearing immediately dropped from her face as her tempered teammate got up in her face, breathing heavily through his nose. She scrunched up her face in disgust at the close proximity of Champ’s face to hers; he was the last person Nicole wanted to have to, quite literally, face like this, and she turned her head to the side in an attempt to avoid his wrath.

“Don’t you ignore me,” he sneered. He punctuated his warning with a rough push to Nicole’s left shoulder. The weight of it made her body twist painfully.

“Hey!”

Wynonna tried to interfere by grabbing onto Champ’s bicep, but Doc was quick to pull her back.

“You’re gonna get yourself punched, Wynonna!”

“Better me than her!”

Champ shot a vicious glare to the pair before turning back to Nicole. He looked even more pissed than before.

“What? Have you got people to fight your battles for you already? That’s pathetic.”

Nicole grit her teeth.

“I'm not a fighter,” she said with a grimace.

“Well I’m about to make you one, bitch! I'm not afraid to fight a girl.”

With that declaration, Champ tried again to provoke the redhead by putting both hands on her clavicle and forcefully shoving her backwards. Nicole tripped and stumbled as she tried to control both her feet and her growing aggression.

This bastard thinks he has the right to put his hands on me?

Champ was advancing again, and no matter how infuriated Nicole was at the moment, she saw that she would lose to him. He was bigger than she was, and he was angrier, and he was probably willing to get in a lot more trouble for a fight than Nicole could ever afford to. She could see the flames of rage urging him on, and all she could do was set her jaw in place and prepare to take as many hits as she could.

Thank god for Xavier.

Before Champ had closed the distance between them, Dolls had fearlessly placed himself in front of Nicole. He held a protective posture as he glowered at the scowling Champ.

“Out of the way, Dolls.”

Xavier wasn't fazed in the least by Champ’s attempt at intimidating him. He confidently stood his ground. “Walk away, Champ.”

The shorter boy looked up at Dolls, defiance clear on his face, before slowly backing down and away from the scene he was causing. Dolls was satisfied with the result, but didn't budge from his place.

“I hope you know that this doesn’t change anything,” he spat at Nicole, still wanting to look tough despite the fact that he’d just submitted to Xavier’s authority. “You won’t see the court this year, and we’ll make sure of that.” Champ shot a meaningful look back to Bobo, who wore a sinister smirk as he, too, looked over to Nicole with scorn.

Pleased with his threat, Champ motioned the rest of the team that it was time for them to go. Waverly, who had her arms crossed over her chest, was clearly irritated by the act her boyfriend had just put on, and when he went in to grab her hand, she violently jerked away and looked at him with utter distaste.

“Grow up, Champ.”

“Oh babe, come on,” he whined, “you seriously can’t be mad at me for that!”

He tried again, this time going in for her waist, but Waverly pushed him away.

“Don't touch me! Learn some respect, Champ!”

The boy huffed in frustration; he’d clearly had enough. Champ stormed out of the gym without another word, stomping his feet the entire time, and the rest of the team followed.

Once the gym had cleared out, Waverly let out a sigh of relief before making her way over to Nicole and running a stressed hand through her long hair. She stood looking at the floor and grasping her own arm with her hand as she quietly apologized.

“I-I’m really sorry about that. I don't know what got him so riled up…” she trailed off, not knowing what to say to make things better.

Nicole put a consoling hand on Waverly’s shoulder.

“Hey, you don't have to apologize for him. It's not your obligation to make things right when he does something wrong.”

The sheer amnesty in Nicole’s voice made Waverly’s heart skip a beat and her breath hitch in her throat. She was used to taking the blame for Champ’s actions, and now there was someone telling her, for the first time, that it wasn’t her fault. When Waverly found it in herself to look Nicole in the eyes again, there was no accusation there, only sympathy.

“My boyfriend just tried to physically fight you. Why are you being so nice to me?”

Nicole chuckled, but it was strangely hollow.

“How I think of him in no way affects how I think of you, and I like you, Earp.”

Waverly could only respond with a thankful smile. The two maintained a moment of mutual respect before Wynonna let out an awkward cough, as if she was interrupting something that shouldn't be witnessed by anyone else. Confused, both women turned their heads towards the brunette.

“Uh, not to interrupt your bonding or whatever, but Doc and I were gonna head home now that this whole shitty ordeal is over with. No point in sticking around for the last ten minutes of class.” Wynonna paused, waiting for a response from her sister even though she hadn’t asked a question. However, her statement was left to hang in the air because Waverly, in her distracted state, wasn’t picking up on the hint Wynonna was putting out. After a moment too long of blank and questioning staring from her sister, Wynonna let out an exasperated noise before speaking again.

“Dude, are you coming or not? You know Gus will kill me if I just leave you here to walk home by yourself.”

Waverly seemed to snap out of it at that. She realized how incredibly obvious her sister had been and wondered how in the world she’d completely missed it.

“O-Oh, right. Um, yes. Yes, I'm coming.”

The cheerleader turned back to Nicole again.

“You were amazing today. I know you technically made the team, but they’re all a bunch of idiots anyways,” she whispered that last part with a small giggle before turning serious again. “And, um, thanks again.”

Waverly then surprised herself as she pulled Nicole in for a hug, wrapping her arms around the taller girl’s waist and burying her face in chest. She realized her mistake a moment too late when her face was met by pillowy breasts covered only by thin fabric and her hands met Nicole’s damp and muscular back. The hug (which Nicole had only just started to accept) was quickly cut short by a furiously blushing Waverly who was already babbling and heading towards the door in a frantic manner before Nicole even had time to comprehend what had just transpired.

“UM YEP SEE YOU TOMORROW WE GOTTA GO NOW BYE.”

Doc and Wynonna were quick to run after her.

“Waverly you can’t just go around running and yelling down the hallways!”

“There's still class going on!”

“Do you want a detention?”

Their narrow escape thankfully meant that neither of the two had seen how the lovestruck hue of pink rose in Nicole’s cheeks at the memory of Waverly’s embrace, however short it was. Dolls, however, was there to bear witness to it, and he smirked at his new teammate in a teasing manner.

“Damn, Haught. The head cheerleader? Way to be a cliche within ten minutes of joining the team.”

“Shut the hell up, dude.”

“Alright, I'm sorry, but that's really no way to speak to your team captain.”

Nicole blanched. She finally tore her eyes away from where Waverly had just left to face Dolls.

“You’re team captain?”

“Some people can't have all the glory,” he said, obviously referring to Bobo and Champ. They may be the school’s star players, but neither one of them were really the epitome of encouraging or demonstrated any amount of sportsmanship.

“Right,” said Nicole, nodding her head. She looked back to the team captain and bit her lip in thought.

“What was your name again?”

“Xavier,” he confirmed stoically.

Nicole nodded her head again, looking at the ground and thinking back to what Wynonna had said when he’d introduced himself and then Champ when he’d stepped between them.

“Everybody calls you Dolls,” she noted.

Xavier didn't show any sign of the observation affecting him, but Nicole could see she’d just hit a sore spot.

“My last name,” he explained. “Bobo started it. Thought it was funny. I'm assuming just because dolls are perceived as a “feminine” child’s toy, and Bobo wants people to see me as feminine. I fail to see the humour in it, let alone any resemblance. I also believe he only came up with it so people would forget about the whole “Bobo” thing Wynonna started.”

The way Dolls had answered was very blunt and to the point, factual. It was almost military the way he held himself and spoke, with the precision of someone who was well raised and disciplined. Nicole thought it was admirable, respectable.

“Sounds like something a Neanderthal like him would come up with,” she agreed wholeheartedly.

The fact that Dolls had given her a chance even though it went against his coach’s wishes spoke volumes to Nicole. She may have been cold to him at first, and he may have been a little hard on her, but it was all contextual. Dolls now saw what skills she had to offer, and Nicole could clearly see that Xavier was a man of equal opportunity and good ethics. She felt a truce was in order.

Nicole stuck out a hand in front of her as a peace offering.

“Thanks for the game, Xavier.”

The waiting redhead swore she saw a hint of a smile touch her teammate’s eyes as he grasped her hand without hesitation and shook with gusto.

“Welcome to the team, Haught.”

And she grinned, recognizing that she had just made another ally. Xavier smiled back, a laugh eventually bubbling up at the dorky smile Nicole was sporting. It only made Nicole smile wider; she instantly knew that a laugh from Dolls was a rare occurrence, and she cherished the moment.

Xavier was still chuckling as he turned and headed for the boys’ locker room, and Nicole could still hear the smile in his voice as he spoke up over his shoulder.

“First practice is on Friday!”

~

The days leading up to Nicole’s first practice were uneventful. Classes were slow-going. The students were all tired from adjusting back to regular sleep schedules and the gruelling eight hour days, and the teachers were unenthusiastic about their lessons since they were just starting new projects and hadn’t got into the nitty gritty of the work yet. There were no tests to stress over yet, no big projects to worry about, just the painful process of getting back into their school routine was enough for anybody to handle. The anticipation of practicing with a team again was the only thing that kept Nicole alert and attentive during her classes and kept her looking forward to the end of the week.

When Friday finally rolled around, it seemed like the each hour lasted an entire lifetime. The long, drawn out lessons were monotonous, and they all sounded the same. Nicole was barely even aware of what class she was actually in unless Waverly was there with her. First period: English. It’s always English, and it's always going to be English at least until the end of the semester. Mr. Johnson’s usually engaging voice sounded dull to Nicole’s ears, and she was having trouble paying enough attention as he read through the current scene of Macbeth.

“Come you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me from the crown to the toe top-full of direst cruelty! make thick my blood…”

What bad fucking timing Mr. Johnson had.

This scene is full of passion! How does he manage to make it sound so boring?

“And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, that my keen knife see not the wound it makes…”

Nicole was having trouble keeping her eyes open. There was an ongoing battle with her eyelids and her mind, but the poetry being spoken aloud was soothing her to sleep like a white noise machine.

The sound of a pen suddenly scratching in a notebook, frantically taking down notes, startled Nicole out of her stupor, and she turned her head in her hands to search for the noise.

It was coming from Waverly. She had taken to sitting across the aisle from her that day, rather than taking the seat in front of her like she usually did. They were on the right side of the room near the windows. The sun was shining through them in bright rays, and it lit up the side of Waverly’s face with a warm glow and outlined her angelic features. Her lips were pressed together in concentration as she diligently took notes and wrote down plot points while Mr. Johnson continued his reading.

“Bear welcome in your eye, your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under’t…”

Oh shit.

Nicole suddenly realized that she’d forgotten to give back the notes she’d borrowed from Waverly on Tuesday. When Mr. Johnson had asked for a short review on the first scene, Nicole remember that her notes were ruined the day before. In a panic, she quickly and quietly asked Waverly if she could borrow and copy hers and explained what had happened.

The youngest Earp had been very understanding and had even laughed at the amusing anecdote while handing Nicole a very neat and orderly notebook filled with facts and extensive notes in adorable handwriting. She’d taken the book home and copied down the work, intending to return it to Waverly the next day, but had somehow forgotten. Waverly had been too polite to ask for it back, so it sat in Nicole’s locker all week, collecting dust.

“Hey, Waves,” she whispered to Waverly, trying not to disturb the class and have Mr. Johnson feel that she was interrupting.

“Hmm?” Waverly finished dotting an ‘i’ on her page before looking over. It was cute as all hell the way her eyes widened in curiosity, and her questioning hum was almost melodic. Nicole had to fight the urge to get lost in those mystical green eyes.

“I just remembered that I still have your notes from Tuesday. I forgot to give them back, I'm sorry.”

But Waverly just grinned at her.

“Don't worry about it, Nicole. You can give them to me during break.”

And if Nicole wasn’t listening before, she definitely didn't hear a single word Mr. Johnson said after that.

As the day went on, Nicole was only more distracted as the hours slowly ticked by, and even Waverly seemed to be a little out of it. The cheerfulness she usually had seemed to drain right out of her during the next two classes, and after lunch, she barely spoke a word to anyone unless she was spoken to first. It would’ve seriously worried Nicole if she had been paying enough attention to notice, but they both sat through their pre-calculus and chemistry classes together in silence, barely getting any work done and nearly causing a major mishap during a lab experiment due to the lack of concentration from either of them.

Once the final bell rang, it was like Nicole had finally woken up from the partial slumber she’d been trapped in all morning, and the light returned to her eyes as she bounded to her locker and down the stairs to the gym. She was quick to get changed, ready to finally get back into putting her mind and body to work in harmony again.

As she threw her gym bag into a nearby locker, she was surprised by a flood of girls pouring into the locker room, chattering exuberantly and carrying pom-poms. Nicole caught sight of Waverly as she entered the room came towards her. She settled her things next to Nicole’s locker with a quiet greeting and began to get ready. Nicole’s eyes bulged in her head and she gulped audibly as she looked around before stuttering out a reply. Cheerleading practice must have coincided with basketball practice because the entire cheerleading squad was beginning to change into their uniforms.

Fuck, fuck, FUCK!

Nicole needed to leave right now. If they were all changing, Waverly was about to start changing, and as much as she would’ve loved to see the cheerleader’s abs again as well as any other bare skin that might be revealed, she knew that sticking around to stare was not only creepy, but also entirely disrespectful.

Waverly was moving next to her, and Nicole had to put all of her self-control into action as she forced herself to walk out the door without looking back because she knew Waverly was probably pulling her shirt over her head at that very moment, and she was internally fighting with herself to look while she had the chance and turn away before this goddamn crush becomes too much for her to handle.

“Shit.”

Shit.

Nicole had just made it to the entryway of the locker room when Waverly cursed under her breath. She knew it was a bad idea to look, to check on her, but there was no way she was going to leave the poor girl there if she needed help. Nicole winced slightly in anticipation of what she was about to witness and braced herself as she turned around to find the adorable cheerleader stuck in her t-shirt with her arms locked over her head. She was struggling with the material which seemed to be caught in her long chestnut locks, so Nicole, when making her way back over to her, tried to focus on the problem at hand rather than Waverly’s bare and muscled midriff or her simple lacy bra.

“Need some help, Waves?”

Waverly sighed deeply, much too deeply for Nicole to think that this was the only thing causing problems in Waverly’s life at the moment, but she didn't comment.

“I'm stuck,” she stated in a defeated voice.

Nicole laughed at the girl’s seeming relinquishment to a cotton t-shirt. “Let me help you,” she said, gently pulling the neckline up from where it caught in Waverly’s hair. She accidentally brushed Waverly’s neck in the process, and the younger girl felt her breath hitch at the contact.

When Waverly was finally released from the confines of her shirt, she still found herself trapped. Staring into Nicole’s wide brown eyes, she couldn't find a reason to look away. It was only when Nicole’s smile faltered a little that Waverly realized she was staring again. Feeling extremely exposed, she pulled her shirt close to her chest and stuttered out a quick, “thank you,” before looking away. This seemed to snap Nicole out of her reverie as well, and she suddenly remembered why she had so badly needed to leave in the first place.

Waverly. Topless. Changing.

Nicole swiftly turned her head to the side again, ignoring the sight of a half-clothed Waverly standing in front of her. She cleared her throat in attempt to find her voice again.

“See you out there, Waves.”

And with that, she was out the changing room doors before Waverly could keep her there any longer.

~

Nicole decided to stick around a little while longer after practice was finished. Coach Elliott had been very lackluster when it came to giving her much of anything, whether it be her participation in running drills or giving her feedback. He wouldn't even say much to her other than the occasional grunt of acknowledgment. It pissed her off to no end, but Xavier had been extra supportive through it, which Nicole appreciated to no end. It almost felt like her team captain was teaching her more than her actual coach.

However, Nicole finished the practice without even having broken a sweat and feeling as though she’d barely done any work. The lot of her standing around left her time to stare longing at Waverly who was running through routines on the other side of the gym, which made her already unproductive practice seem even more pointless.

By the time Coach Elliott called it a night and the gym had cleared out, Nicole felt that the night had been a failure, and being the determined person she was, Nicole committed herself to sticking around for the next half hour to run drills and laps on her own until she felt somewhat satisfied.

Nicole trudged into the change room at eight-thirty. She was expecting to peacefully gather her bearings and leave eventually, but she froze in her tracks upon finding Waverly sitting on the bench beside her locker, crying quietly with her head buried in her knees. The tiny brunette looked so vulnerable, and Nicole’s heart broke as she heard the girl’s erratic breathing and steady sniffling.

There was a long moment where Nicole just stood there not knowing what to do, but when Waverly suddenly choked on a loud sob, her feet made the decision for her, and she was already moving to comfort her.

“Waves…” she said softly, putting a hand on Waverly’s shaking shoulder. The younger girl’s head snapped up in surprise.

“Nicole,” she breathed out, startled at her presence. “I-I didn't know you were here.” Waverly started wiping at her tears, trying to get herself under control. “I thought everyone went home.”

Nicole's already aching heart felt like it started to burn up in her chest.

She’s been crying in here all this time.

She swallowed the lump that had formed in her throat before bringing her other hand up to Waverly’s tear-stained cheek.

“Waves, look at me.”

The green eyes that had been looking the other way shut tightly as Waverly’s bottom lip trembled. She turned her head to face Nicole, and when she saw the look of pure concern on the older girl’s face, her resolve cracked again. Waverly’s face scrunched up and her eyebrows furrowed as fresh tears started to leak out from the corners of her eyes.

“Hey, hey,” Nicole whispered reassuringly as she brushed them away with a gentle caress. Waverly leaned in to it, desperately seeking the comfort that Nicole’s warm hand brought. Making a split second decision, Nicole pulled the cheerleader in by her neck and settled her into her shoulder for a soothing embrace. She stroked Waverly’s soft hair as the shorter girl wept in her arms and drew her arms up around Nicole’s waist.

“Waverly…”

Nicole let the unasked question linger in the air. She wasn’t sure as to what extent the problem went, but she didn't want to make Waverly uncomfortable by asking about something she might not want to talk about.

After what felt like hours of holding Waverly, but what was probably only a few minutes, the crying subsided, and Waverly had gone deathly quiet.

Just as Nicole was about to open her mouth to ask again, Waverly spoke in a voice so small it was barely more than a whisper.

“Today’s my birthday.”

Shit.

“Shit.”

Nicole pulled back to look Waverly square in the face. Her eyes were still glassed over with tears, and they were red from crying. Suddenly feeling blameworthy, Nicole looked down at her feet instead of at Waverly.

“I’m so sorry, Waves, I didn't know.”

The guilt that she felt was replaced with concern once again when Waverly let out another choked sob and brought her hand up to cover it. She brought herself to face Waverly again, and the birthday girl looked even more heartsick than before.

Tears were painting her cheeks anew as she tried to choke out her next words through her restrained sobs.

“N-No Nicole, you don’t ha-have to be sorry.” She took a great inhale before continuing in the same manner. “Nobody knows. Nobody cares. They nev-they never remember,” she cried.

Nicole felt her heart shatter in her chest altogether.

Champ? Wynonna? How could they do this to her?

But she didn't dare say her thoughts out loud. It would only upset Waverly further, and Nicole felt it her responsibility to make things better.

“Hey,” she whispered again, pulling Waverly back into her shoulder. “I'm so sorry, Wave. Don't cry, please.”

Nicole held Waverly tight to her and tried with all her best efforts to calm the younger girl down and stop her from shaking.

Another eternity of just holding Waverly went by, and when her breathing finally evened out again, Nicole pulled back and held Waverly by the shoulders. She looked like a miserable wreck from crying, but she was still the most gorgeous girl Nicole has ever laid eyes on. Waverly looked at her with vulnerable eyes, still searching pleadingly for more comfort. Nicole brought up a hand to brush a few wayward strands of hair from Waverly’s eyes, and they fluttered shut at the soft touch. Letting out a grateful sigh, Waverly let herself enjoy the continued sensation of Nicole carefully sweeping her hands across her features, tucking hair back behind her ears and stroking her cheekbones with her thumbs.

When she opened her eyes again, Nicole looked as though she were deep in thought, with her brow furrowed and her lips in a slight pout. Waverly frowned.

“What is it?”

Nicole let her thumb sweep Waverly’s cheek once more before turning around and opening her locker.

“Give me a few minutes to change,” she said, throwing off her gym shirt and pulling on a casual one.

“Why? Where are we going?” Waverly asked, clearly lost on Nicole’s plan.

“We’re going out to celebrate. You and me. My treat,” Nicole explained hastily while throwing on a pink bomber jacket.

Waverly’s eyes widened almost comically.

“Oh, Nicole. You really don't have to do that—”

“We’re going,” she affirmed, looking directly at Waverly as she pulled some of her hair back. There was no question about it, Nicole was determined to be a friend to Waverly, and there was no way she was letting her friend be sad on her birthday.

A beat, and then Waverly grinned so widely at Nicole that the redhead couldn't help one of her own from spreading in response. Waverly nodded excitedly and happily took Nicole’s hand as she dragged her out the doors, laughing the entire time.

~

It was already nine o’clock by the time the two had settled in and ordered from the Tate Family Diner (the only diner in Purgatory, thank you very much). Each girl ordered their favourite respective burger (bacon for Nicole, peanut butter for Waverly), and they split a large plate of fries. The familiar sights and sounds of the diner reminded Waverly of her childhood, and Nicole laughed at all the stories she had told of Wynonna causing trouble during outings there when they were younger.

A vintage looking jukebox caught Nicole’s eye from the booth they were sitting at, and she put in a quarter to let Waverly pick a few choice songs. After their dinner was finished and being taken away, Nicole whispered something in their waitress’s ear. After she had gone off to fetch whatever Nicole had asked for, Waverly shot her a playfully suspicious grin across the table, to which Nicole only smirked in smug reply.

The waitress returned not too long after with a plate of cherry cheesecake and a single candle was lit on top. Sliding it towards her, Nicole said brightly, “make a wish, Waves,” with an encouraging smile.

Trying hard to fight the lump that was forming in her throat again, but this time for an entirely different reason, Waverly closed her eyes and thought for a moment.

I wish for someone to always care about me like this. Like Nicole.

Nodding to herself, Waverly opened her eyes and blew out the solitary candle. Nicole, who was positively beaming, giggled and clapped for her, and Waverly blushed modestly.

Laughing now, too, Waverly removed the candle from the cheesecake and moved over in her side of the booth, making room for another person.

“Well, get over here. I can't eat this all myself.”

Still smiling, Nicole got up from her side of the booth and slid in beside Waverly on the other side. They split the piece evenly, but Nicole let Waverly have all the maraschino cherries that sat in the sauce on top because she let slip that they were her favourite part.

The two left the warm glow of the diner with smiles on their faces. The night had brought with it a chill wind, and when Nicole saw Waverly holding her bare arms to keep from shivering, she wordlessly slipped off her pink bomber and handed it to Waverly with a knowing smile, encouraging her to take it. When she hesitated, Nicole just pushed it into her arms.

“I'll be fine, Waves.”

The jacket wasn’t too thick, but it was still warm from when Nicole had been wearing it. The sleeves were a little short on Nicole, so the jacket was the perfect size for Waverly’s smaller frame. She hugged it close, pulling the zipper up to her neck and nuzzling her face into the soft blue collar while trying to convince herself that it was to stay warm and not to breathe in the heavy scent of Nicole.

She smells like vanilla-dipped donuts.

A toothy smile appeared on Waverly’s face without her realizing, and she was lucky to have hidden it in the collar she had pulled up to hold near her face. They had begun walking. Nicole had told her to lead the way, insisting she walk her home.

This is starting to feel more like a date than anything.

Again, Waverly couldn't help smiling while being caught up in her thoughts. She didn't dwell too much on the reasoning with it being subconscious and all, but the whole idea of a date with Nicole made Waverly relish the thought. However, she wasn't so lucky with hiding this time, and Nicole caught her bashful grin.

“What’re you thinking about?”

Waverly’s eyes snapped straight to Nicole’s in fear.

Shit, what the fuck? Can she read minds?

“What?” Waverly asked, her voice high and her eyes wide.

Nicole’s smile faltered and her eyebrows furrowed, perplexed by the cheerleader’s suddenly erratic demeanor. She asked again.

“I said, ‘what’re you thinking about,’ ...you were smiling,” she elaborated when Waverly continued to give her a panicked stare.

Think of something quick!

“U-Uhm I was just wondering if I could… uh, ride your longboard?” Thankfully it had come out sounding more like Waverly was genuinely asking instead of sounding unsure about what she was saying. She latched on while she had the chance. “I think they’re cool. And, uh, I was thinking about riding it—with your permission, of course. I've never been on one.”

Nicole grinned at her. She had been lugging the thing around all night; she’d brought it to practice so she could have a quickly ride there and back, but when her plans changed and Waverly ended up accompanying her, she opted to walk alongside the girl instead. She hadn’t minded carrying it, but if Waverly wanted to give it a go, there was no way she could refuse her. Anything to make the birthday girl happy.

“Of course you can,” she said, still sporting a toothy smile as she handed the board over. Waverly took it carefully and inspected the deck, appreciating the design. It was a bamboo style, meant for cruising, and bursting with colour to compliment the psychedelic theme that was printed on the solid wood. Waverly delicately traced a swirl of magenta with her finger before putting the board down on the concrete and stepping onto the grip tape. The added height made her slightly taller than Nicole, but she wobbled immediately and latched onto the redhead’s shoulder for support, trying to find her balance.

Nicole, who hadn't been expecting the younger girl to need assistance, gaped up at her, causing to Waverly blushed profusely at her obvious inexperience. The sight made Nicole grin.

She's so adorable.

“Sorry…” said Waverly, not looking at her.

Nicole’s smiled widened. “Don't be sorry,” she said, still gazing Waverly’s face. Waverly lifted her head to meet the redhead’s eyes, eyes wide and cheeks still pink.

“I won't let you fall,” finished Nicole. She could see that Waverly didn't know at all what she was doing. It was obvious that she was also afraid of making a fool of herself in front of Nicole, and Nicole wasn’t going to let her worry about something as silly as that.

“Yeah?” asked Waverly, hopeful.

“I got you, Waves.”

The young cheerleader smiled broadly at her, her eyes sparkling under the dim glow of the streetlights. Nicole suddenly had the overwhelming urge to lean forward and kiss the upturned lips that were smiling down at her. Instead, she looked away and swallowed a lump that had grown in her throat. After regaining her composure, she plastered on a noticeably forced smile before looking back up at Waverly again.

“C’mon. I'll push you.”

~

It was nearly ten o’clock by the time Nicole and Waverly walked up the driveway to Waverly’s aunt’s house. After her run on the longboard, with Nicole holding her steadily around the waist while Waverly grounded herself with a sturdy hand on the redhead’s neck, they leisurely made their way over to the neighbourhood next to Nicole’s a few blocks over. The pair were quiet as they trekked up the stairs onto the front porch. Waverly paused at the top, looking to Nicole with a bright smile, and Nicole could clearly see the heartfelt look in her eyes.

“Thank you for this. It was really sweet of you, and I had a great time.”

“I'm glad I could be the one to celebrate with you.”

They were both being perfectly honest with each other in that moment. Completely sincere.

Nicole took in the vision that was Waverly Earp one last time before saying goodnight. Her hair was perfectly tousled in beachy waves, and she looked nothing less than stunning in Nicole's pink bomber.

She smiled down at it, reaching out to rub at the material between her and Waverly. The action reminded the cheerleader that the jacket she was wearing was not, in fact, hers, so she began to shrug it off her shoulders, apologizing.

“Oh sorry, Nic. Forgot I was wearing it.”

There were suddenly steady hands on her shoulders, pulling the jacket back up over them and re-adjusting the collar.

“No, no. You keep it,” insisted Nicole, still fiddling with the collar but keeping her eyes trained on Waverly. “Consider it a birthday present. I like it better on you anyways,” she finished with a wink.

Waverly was baffled.

My first birthday present, and it came from someone I met four days ago.

She hugged the jacket closer to herself, dipping her head slightly to breathe in the smell of vanilla and freshly baked donuts again. Waverly looked up into Nicole’s soft brown eyes with her own emerald green ones, full of affection and wonder.

“I love it.”

When the wide smile cracked on Nicole’s face, bringing out her cheeky dimples and crinkling her eyes at the corners, Waverly felt her heart flutter with affection. If she knew any better, the birthday girl would think she’d fallen half in love with Nicole in that very moment.

A vulnerable smile appeared on Waverly’s own face in return before she was suddenly hit by the realization that Nicole had dropped everything for her on a whim, going out of her way to make sure she was alright when she clearly wasn't. Her fluttering heart tightened in her chest, and it was almost too much. Waverly suddenly felt like she couldn't breathe, and when she felt tears start to roll down her cheeks for the second time that night, she realized she was crying. A strangled gasp wracked through her as she tried to take a deep, calming breath. However, it only served to make Nicole’s smile disappear again, so to let her know she was okay, Waverly flung herself at the redhead, wrapping her arms around her neck and burying her face into the crook of her neck as she had done so before.

“Thank you!” Waverly sobbed, holding tight to Nicole’s body, needing that comfort one last time before she said goodnight. This time, Nicole didn't hesitate to wrap up Waverly in her arms again. She cooed into her ear and nuzzled her hair until the cheerleader’s sobs subsided again. Pulling back, Nicole tucked Waverly’s hair back behind her ears with both hand before giving her another reassuring, dimpled smile.

Nicole didn't say anything, but Waverly could tell by the look in her eyes that she thought it was no big deal. But it was a big deal. To her it was. Words began to completely fail her, but even if they hadn't, Waverly knew there was no way she’d be able to properly tell Nicole how much this all meant to her no matter how hard she tried; the thought made her heart ache with overwhelming frustration. Feeling desperate, Waverly gathered up all her emotion and leaned forward to softly press her lips to Nicole’s cheek. Noticing her own start to pleasantly burn, Waverly pulled away with a shy smile on her face. Nicole’s pupils were blown wide in awe, and her jaw had gone slack in the few sweet seconds the cheerleader’s lips had grazed her cheek. The sight made Waverly’s shy smile turn up into a toothy grin.

A cozy warmth had washed its way over her from head to toe, and the brunette felt as if she were floating when she said her final goodnight to Nicole, brushing her hand down the redhead’s bare arm, soothing her goosebumps. Nicole nodded dumbly, still caught up in the earlier moment when Waverly’s soft lips had lingered high on her cheek. She whispered a soft goodbye as Waverly opened the front entrance, and grinned like a damn fool when Waverly smiled over her shoulder and told her she would see her on Monday.

Once Waverly had the door closed behind her, she leaned back against the solid wood, sliding down to the floor to pull the pink bomber close around her again. Her first birthday present in sixteen lonely years, and Waverly knew she would cherish it forever. A small, private smile was brought to her lips, a first on any birthday when she was left alone, but this time was different. Waverly lost track of time sitting at the foot of the door, smiling into the collar of her gift, alone in the dark foyer, all because the gifted jacket still smelled like Nicole Haught.

Chapter Text

It was the start of October when the Purgatory Saints had their first home game. The leaves had begun to change from the green of summer to the warm hues of fall; it contrasted the renewed chill of winter’s approach and lingered heavily in the air. Nicole was settled comfortably—as comfortably as she could get, anyways—into the routine of life in Purgatory. Wake up. Go to school. Pay little attention in class. Pay too much attention to Waverly. Go to practice. Do nothing at practice. Come home late. Repeat. On the odd day, Wynonna would catch her before last period to invite her out with her and Doc; she had memorized the redhead’s practice schedule and made it a weekly occurrence to take her out of the daily ritual. The three of them would cruise around in Doc’s red beauty of a ride and waste the night away talking, laughing, and, more often than not, blazing. Nicole wasn’t one to indulge very often, but if it was a particularly hard week, she figured that letting loose wasn’t going to kill her. Sure, she might’ve been falling behind in pre-calculus because of nights like those, but it wasn't like she was failing.

Waverly would join the group on rare occasions. Those nights were always the best nights, and they were often the reason Nicole never refused an offer to go out; she was always hoping the cheerleader would decide she deserved a night off from jogging or studying. On those nights, Nicole and Waverly would squeeze into the backseat together, and Nicole somehow always got lost in her thoughts, looking at Waverly longingly as the wind blew into the car, brushing her hair across her face gracefully as it was dully illuminated by the glow of the dashboard.

The hours of driving, talking, and laughing were always accompanied by the radio. Wynonna was a particular fan of The Strokes, and both her and Nicole loved to comically sing along whenever she played them, belting out the lyrics with boisterous gusto in between cackles. Nicole tried not to think about the way her heart often ached when Under Control would play.

Wynonna was already getting into the Halloween spirit. She was adamant to tell Nicole that it was her favourite holiday, and Nicole had the sneaking suspicion that it wasn't because of the candy. Her suspicions were confirmed when the brunette started bringing up plans to get high and egg the school.

All that aside, practices hadn't got any better in the past few weeks. If Nicole thought it wouldn't get him in trouble, Coach Elliot would probably tell her not to even bother showing up. Nicole knew she wouldn't see any action on the court aside from the inevitable handshake between teams, but she didn't let it stop her from showing up to sit on the bench in the first week of October. She used the spare time to shoot death glares at her coach. It was obvious he was uncomfortable under the redhead’s intense glare, and he refused to make eye contact with her.

Good.

The first home game consisted of a handful of enjoyable aspects sprinkled on top of an overall mediocre experience. Upon walking through the gym’s double doors at a quarter to five, Nicole was met with the unpleasantries of Champ Hardy heckling her as he walked out of the men’s locker room, already changed into his light blue jersey. She couldn’t stop her eyes from rolling when she spotted the number sixty-nine plastered on the back.

“Oh, would you look at that,” he sneered in her direction, “little miss benchwarmer decided to show up after all.” He laughed boisterously as Bobo lumbered out of the locker room behind him, also grinning wickedly at her.

Not wanting to let anyone get the best of her so soon, Nicole only scoffed and looked away as she made her way to the girl’s locker room, doing her best to ignore the two morons who were still shouting after her.

“Oh, come on now! Don’t run off so soon!”

“Fuck off,” Nicole muttered under her breath as she trudged to her locker.

She shed her bags on the wooden bench before grabbing the hem of her shirt and pulling it up over her head; it, too, fell to the bench. She was just pulling on her jersey when she heard the sounds of the cheerleading squad filtering through the doors and settling around her. There were the usual giggles and squabbles, but they barely registered in Nicole’s head. Waverly had just walked through the door alongside a much taller brunette. She was going on about something to Waverly, who was smiling, but even the youngest Earp’s smile was not the most distracting thing about her at that very moment.

Waverly was wearing her jacket.

Well, technically the jacket did belong to Waverly now, but it had been her’s at one point, and all Nicole could see was the head cheerleader looking so heartbreakingly precious wrapped up in it.

It hadn’t registered to Nicole that she was staring until Waverly happened to look over and catch her gaze. She was too wrapped up in the pretty picture that she was and mindlessly held her gaze, expressionless and quite obviously admiring every inch of the cheerleader. A brilliantly pink blush slowly coloured Waverly’s cheeks as she knit her eyebrows and waved; Nicole thought it perfectly complimented the pink hue of the jacket. She was still staring, now smiling brightly, as Waverly excused herself from Chrissy casually made her way over to Nicole. She barely had the chance to open her mouth before Nicole greeted her first.

“I told you it looks better on you.”

Another blush made its way up Waverly’s neck, but she smiled nonetheless.

“So that’s why you were looking at me like that? Here I thought it was my devastating good looks and illustrious charms,” she teased playfully.

Oh, it was definitely some of that too.

Nicole swallowed heavily, trying to force down the words her mind was conjuring up. She instead managed to play off a believable chuckle before Waverly could catch any hint of panic in her eyes.

“It’s the first home game of the year,” Waverly stated after a beat, “are you excited?”

Nicole did her best to keep up her confident facade for the enthusiastic cheerleader (it was her first game of the year, too), but she felt herself deflate a little and knew she wasn’t going to fool her with anything but the truth.

“I want to be,” Nicole sighed. “It’s just hard to be excited when I know I’ll be benched as soon as we shake hands.”

Nicole immediately regretted speaking her mind instead of just making up a lie. Waverly’s brows had furrowed, and she bit her lip in thought, mulling over what to say next.

Not wanting any pity and wanting to revive the no longer cheerful cheerleader’s mood, Nicole sighed again, shaking her head and looking at the ground.

“I’m sorry, Waves. I—”

“No, don’t be sorry, Nicole,” Waverly quickly cut her off. “I just… I wish I could do something to help.”

Nicole looked back up at Waverly. The smaller girl looked so helpless, and Nicole hated to see her like that. Even more, she hated that she was the reason.

Nicole pressed her lips together tightly, trying to keep the pain out of her eyes as she spoke again.

“There’s nothing you can do, Waves. I just have to deal with it.”

Waverly seemed utterly unsatisfied with that answer, and she looked like she wanted to fight Nicole on that statement. She had brought up her arms to cross over her chest, and Nicole mentally chastised herself for not being able to console Waverly like she had before. She had only served to make the younger girl pout instead; her bottom lip had stuck out ever so slightly, and Nicole had to fight the urge to take it between her own until it turned up into a smile.

Waverly huffed petulantly as she uncrossed her arms, letting them fall to her sides. She looked Nicole up and down.

“Would a hug help?”

Nicole’s breath caught in her throat. She nearly choked on her answer, but somehow managed to breathe out a “yes” before Waverly threw her long arms around her torso and invaded every single one of her senses.

Taking a deep breath in, Nicole relished in Waverly’s scent. She smelled like toasted coconut, and Nicole let herself relax into the embrace fully, wishing the moment could go on forever, wishing that she could stand there all night wrapped up in Waverly’s arms, and she in hers. Waverly had buried her face into Nicole’s shoulder, and it made her think back to Waverly’s birthday. The way they embraced that night was so similar to the way they were holding each other now.

Oh.

She’s consoling me. Not the other way around.

The arms around her waist squeezed tighter, and Nicole’s heart swelled with undying affection.

And then it was over.

Waverly gently pulled away and held the redhead at arm's length, smiling up at her and looking cheerful again.

“Better?”

A smile broke out on Nicole’s face, and she felt her heart pound in her chest as it swelled once again.

“Much.”

The smile that Waverly wore got even wider somehow. Her eyes crinkled at the crease, and she beamed at Nicole, feeling quite proud of herself. After a quiet moment of just enjoying one another, Waverly looked down. She took in Nicole’s Purgatory Saints jersey with a big number five on it. Nicole felt her cheeks start to burn as green eyes raked up and down her torso; she wondered if Waverly didn’t hear her breath hitch when she reached out a hand to finger the material in her hand.

“This looks nice on you,” she said softly, looking up again with a shy smile on her face.

Nicole audibly gulped, her cheeks flushing even harder as she did her best to come up with an appropriate response.

“Th-thanks.”

She fucking stuttered. Fuck.

But when Waverly’s grin widened again, she no longer cared. She couldn’t keep the goofy goddamn grin off her face as Waverly withdrew her hand, and her cheeks were only getting warmer every second Waverly kept those dazzling green eyes on her.

“See you later, Nic.”

Nicole could have sworn she saw a wink flutter on Waverly’s face, but it was too quick to say for sure. The cheerleader had spun on her heel and made her way across the locker room over to where Chrissy was already half changed in a matter of seconds. It left Nicole questioning whether she hallucinated it or not.

She was given no time to ponder it further. Nicole watched Waverly with immense curiosity as she trotted off towards the other, taller brunette, and as she approached the wooden bench, she lifted the hem of her shirt up and over her head, this time managing it without any mishap. Nicole was immediately struck dumb at the smooth, toned skin that was revealed on Waverly’s slender back. Her eyes must have been burning a physical hole into the area just above Waverly’s backside because that was the only logical explanation Nicole could come up with when Waverly shot her a fresh smirk over her bra-clad shoulder.

Nicole forced herself to swallow the giant lump that had formed in her throat before quickly looking away. She shook her head to try to clear her thoughts, but the sound on Waverly’s ringing laughter made her look back up again to find the brunette girl’s emerald eyes still pointed right at her. She bit her lip.

FUCK.

Nicole made a split second decision: Get the hell out. She quickly made to shimmy out of her jeans and pulled on her uniform shorts, not even bothering to lace her shoes as she scrambled to get out of the locker room and onto the gym floor. It was almost ironic how desperately she was trying to get away from what she wanted, only to be met with the reality that she was, again, ending up somewhere she didn’t want to be.

I’m really screwed either way. Being out here is going to hurt me less than if I let myself stay there. Focus on the game, Haught. It doesn’t matter if you’re not going to play. Just focus on the game.

But it was entirely too hard to focus on the game, not only was it boring, but they were losing tremendously. Nicole wondered how Coach Elliot thought they even had a chance at all. The other team was dribbling circles around his “star players”. There were a few other reasons why concentrating was a little out of reach for Nicole, but after a half hour of just sitting, stewing, they were more akin to welcome distractions.

Wynonna and Doc had shown up. Not only were they determined to heckle each and every player who made a shoddy move on the court—nonexclusive to the opposing school’s team—but they also had shown up blatantly wasted off their asses.

Nicole was surprised they hadn't been asked to leave the second Wynonna had stumbled through the gym’s double door, ten minutes into the first quarter, with Doc following closely behind and grasping for her waist, both as a playful gesture and as a way to keep them from tumbling over, but Nicole wasn’t complaining. The drunken shouting was about the only thing that kept her even remotely entertained for the entire first half of the game; the only time she had the chance to get her ass off the bench was when coach called a time-out so he could rehash their gameplay once he saw how poorly they were doing.

The real kicker was the half-time show.

Nicole had tried her damned hardest to keep her eyes off of Waverly Earp when there was nothing particularly interesting going on anywhere else in the gym, but god damn. The team may have been losing badly, but that didn't stop the tiny head cheerleader from doing her best to hype the crowd and the boys on the court with cutesy, provocative chants and dance numbers. The tightness of the white and blue Purgatory Saints obligatory cheer uniform did nothing to help, and there were a couple of times when Nicole found herself ogling Waverly like a civilian in the presence of a goddess.

But half-time. Motherfucker.

When half-time came around, the lights lowered as the teams took to the benches on either side of the court. Club music began to pump through the gym’s loudspeakers and echo throughout the room, and Nicole swore the kick drum matched the fast-paced beating of her own heart when Waverly took center-stage in the midst of hypnotically moving spotlights.

It started off slow and sexy. Waverly put the perfect curves in her hips to use as she swayed and swiveled with show. The flow of her matching pom-poms emphasized the deliberate wave of motion that Waverly exuded with such grace, and Nicole felt her jaw fall open and her breath catch in her throat when the petite girl turned the other way before magnificently throwing back her shoulder with a long downward stretch, only to look over it with heavily lidded eyes. The gym’s dancing white lights illuminated her in a way that was almost otherworldly, and at some point, the other girls had joined her as the routine began to pick up, but Nicole barely noticed, for her eyes stayed glued to the youngest Earp, never wavering; she was completely captivated.

Once it was finally over, after what felt like a split second that she could never recover but somehow an eternity at the same time, Nicole was half-way between wanting to stand up and cheer loudly with the rest of the spectators, but her brain had apparently short-circuited at some point, and all she could do was sit dumbly next to Xavier with a blank expression on her face and a glazed, unfocused look in her eyes as she clapped instinctively while replaying the sway of Waverly’s hips in her head over and over again. It was all she could think about for the rest of the game, and she didn’t even pretend to try to be involved with what was going on on the court anymore; they were losing, and she couldn’t be bothered, not that anyone would care besides Xavier anyways. But the team captain could tell what had gotten into the redhead as soon as the lights had lifted and he’d caught a glance at her obviously spellbound face.

Nicole was thankful that he ended up sitting next to her on the bench. Being so much bigger than her, he blocked out her form from the side, shielding her from the view of their teammates. Nicole was sure that if Champ would have seen her reaction, the accusations and resulting fight would’ve been a lot worse compared to their shoving match at tryouts.

Getting home that night had to be one of the hardest things Nicole had had to deal with since moving. The reality of the multiple, shitty situations she was in hit her hard, and she honestly couldn’t tell if the reason she sobbed into her pillow before falling into a restless sleep that night was because of the game or because of Waverly.

Who are you trying to kid, dumbass? It’s Waverly.

Waverly.

~

“Bitch! Tell me you're joking.”

“I'm not,” Nicole said dryly as Wynonna gasped dramatically, bringing her hand to her chest and looking like a highly offended Victorian maiden.

“You're really saying you've never pulled any crazy shit on Hallowe’en? You've never had fun on Hallowe’en?”

Nicole couldn't stop the rolling of her chocolate brown eyes, but she smiled nonetheless at the brunette’s ridiculous theatrics.

“Can it, Earp,” she said teasingly, “I’ve had plenty of fun on Hallowe’en, just maybe not the kind you’re used to.”

“Well that's about to change for one of us, Haught stuff, and I'm telling you now that it's not gonna be me.”

As Wynonna stared determinedly down at her, a devilish grin and twinkle in her eyes, Nicole could make out the faint sound of Doc chuckling from behind them, tipping the brim of his hat down to hide his own smile.

~

By the time the 31st rolled around, the plans were only half-baked, but honestly, being half-baked was a significant part of the plans. Doc and Wynonna zoomed up to Nicole’s property at around 9:30 in the evening in Doc’s old-fashioned beauty, promptly knocking over the garbage bin that was set out that morning for pickup. Nicole rolled her eyes at the sight of a scantily dressed Wynonna and a quite average looking Doc. The only things Nicole could think contributed the boy’s “costume” of sorts was a long, grey coat, a (hopefully) fake gun in a leather holster at his hip, and a red bandana tied around his neck. Once he had righted the garbage can, he caught her eye and winked before tipping his hat to her in a very gentlemanly-like manner.

Ah, so he’s playing up the already prominent cowboy vibes he’s got going on.

Her eyes trailed to Wynonna’s sleek form, which had just struggled up from the passenger’s side of the car door, where she was applying a fresh coat of blood red lipstick. She was wearing a goddamn devil’s costume, and Nicole couldn’t deny that it fit her whole personality and demeanor perfectly well. Wynonna, who has obviously caught her staring, shot a wicked grin at her; it couldn’t be helped though, for she donned a red satin bustier on her ample chest and fishnet stockings that ran down her incredibly toned legs. The tips of a red-horned headpiece perfectly contoured the show-offy dip of her breasts, making Nicole swallow harshly. However, once she had finally regained the brain capacity to remember who exactly she was ogling at, her eyes snapped up to meet Wynonna’s dark ones; her ruby lips had widened into a dashing smile.

“See something you like, Haught stuff?”

Nicole choked as her eyes snapped up from her breasts back to Wynonna’s glinting eyes, narrowed in a way that was both amused and knowing.

“I-I… I, um.”

Wynonna let out a loud laugh. She sauntered her way over to the redhead to clap a hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t get your panties in a twist, kid. I know I’m hot shit; I don’t mind if you have a look,” she finished with a wink.

Doc, who had just straightened out after setting the garbage can upright, chuckled heartily as he brushed off his hands. “As long as looking is all you’ll be doing.”

There was a burst of surprised laughter as the two girls realized that Doc had been listening in, and Wynonna slung a long, red-sleeved arm over Nicole’s shoulder as she turned to face him with a toothy smile.

“I think you know I can do a whole lot with just a look,” she quipped back at him with a hint of suggestiveness in her tone.

It didn’t faze him though, he only chuckled again, more loudly, and walked around the front of the car to open the door on the driver's side.

“Don’t I know it, Miss Earp. Those dark eyes of yours are like steaming bullet holes, and you’re awfully trigger happy.”

He elongated the drawl in his southern accent as he said it, and Wynonna’s eyes may have narrowed a bit more, but her smile had grown wider; it was obvious she was trying to play it cool in their little mental standoff. There was a beat, and then Doc patted the roof of the car with a smug look of finality before ducking down into the driver’s seat. Wynonna turned back to Nicole.

“Well, hop in Haught, and don’t forget to buckle up; you’re in for a wild night.” With that, the sultry brunette ducked down into the passenger seat beside Doc, who was lighting up a fresh cigarette.

Upon crawling into the backseat, Nicole was marginally disappointed to find it empty, and her bottom lip popped out in a frown.

“Waverly decided not to join?”

Wynonna turned around from the passenger seat and gave Nicole a pitiful look.

“Sorry Haught shot, she headed off with Chump Hardhead to a Halloween party at Bobo’s.”
She could feel her smile lose a little of its pep, so she looked away for a second to try to hide it.

Don’t get so down just because she’s not here. It’s probably for the best.

“Don’t worry though,” she Wynonna quickly added after seeing Nicole’s face fall, “we’re gonna have a bitchin’ time.”

She finished with a reassuring wink before turning to Doc in the driver’s seat, who was patiently waiting for the go-ahead.

“Hit it, cowboy.”

With that, Doc’s leather boot hit the gas pedal hard, and they shot down the street. Wynonna let out an excited whoop of joy, followed by hysterical laughter as Nicole hastily threw on her seatbelt and started yelling something about watching out for trick-or-treaters. Wynonna turned around from the passenger’s seat again.

“The kiddies have all gone home by now, and the only ones left out are either tweens who know better or delinquents like us. Let loose a little, Haught; we’re gonna give you a wild night.”

~

They parked Doc’s car at the back of a graveyard so that they were mostly hidden from view if anyone were to pass by, but the night was dead, and the chances of anyone visiting the graveyard were slim to none. They set up around the base of a large oak tree that loomed over numerous headstones, creating a monstrous shadow effect over the decaying ground. A couple of leaves fell as a gust of wind blew past them, one landing directly in front of Wynonna, who crushed it with the heel of her blood red pumps.

“Light ‘er up.”

Doc pulled a simple black zippo out from his breast pocket and flicked it open, producing a flame. He brought it close and held his hand around it so as to protect it from the wind and took a long draw as it met the tip of the king-sized joint he had just finished rolling.

“The perfect ambiance to get stoned on Halloween night,” said Wynonna, admiring their gruesome surroundings.

Nicole took the glowing joint from Doc’s pinched fingers, which were reaching out towards her. She took it between her own and brought it to her lips, taking a long, slow drag from it and letting the smoke slowly fill her lungs and cloud her mind. A puff of smoke escaped her lips as she brought it away from her mouth and closed her eyes before letting the rest flow out of her like a lazy river. She swallowed, tasting the thickness on her tongue and exhaled through her nose as she attempted to swallow it like a sticky syrup that still lingered. She let her eyes flutter back open, taking in the silhouette of Wynonna, who was being lit from the back by the full moon. She was busy taking in the loom of the trees and the faded headstones when she realized that Wynonna, too, was looming over her with a knowing smile.

“Feeling it already, huh? You should be; that’s some good shit. Give it here.”

~

They were back in the car, Nicole in the back seat again, leaning against the glass window of the car and drawing shapes into the parts that were fogged up by her breath and the cold air outside. Wynonna was fixing up her lipstick in the sun visor as some of it had stuck to the rolling paper on the joint earlier. Doc was nursing a bottle of water, and he offered it to Nicole after a long sip, who took it gratefully. She rolled a sip of it around in her mouth, hoping to quench her cottonmouth.

Wynonna, who had just finished up her lips, was inspecting her job closely in the small mirror when she suddenly let out a noise of disbelief and grabbed onto the felt visor for dear life, looking at herself even closer than before. Nicole barely had time to share a confused look with Doc before a hysterical laugh burst out from the brunette.

“Ho-ly shit, guys! My eyes are literally about as red as my fucking lipstick! This is some gooooooood shit.”

She turned to them with an elated grin and opened her eyes wide, and the whole car was filled with laughter as they all realized just how high they all were.

~

They spent about an hour cruising around after that, driving only slightly over the speed limit with the windows open, trying to air out the smell of pot, and blasting the car radio to an amalgamation of garage rock, feel-good music, and Kurt Cobain.

About twenty-some minutes after pulling out of the graveyard, which was a few miles out of town on the way to the famous Earp Homestead, the three decided to make a stop in at the local convenience store to satisfy their munchies.

“But why can’t we just go trick-or-treating and get our snacks for free,” Wynonna had asked.

“Because darlin’,” Doc said, “the fact that we’re all over the age of twelve would not pair well with the fact that we’re all stoned. You wanna go bang on Sheriff Nedley’s door and ask him for a Snickers?”

Wynonna scoffed but didn’t protest any further after that.

The red beauty turned into the parking lot and Doc parked her in the spot furthest away from the entrance. They all got out, but instead of following the two girls into the store that was flooded with artificial light, he leaned up against the hood and lit a cigarette, bobbing his head to the country rock song that had just come on.

The two tried their best to contain their weed-induced giggles as they waltzed down the aisles picking up bags of chips and packs of sour candy, and when Wynonna went to the refrigerated section and picked out two cartons of eggs, Nicole gave her a confused look, which was answered with a signature, devilish grin.

Trekking back through the parking lot with their plastic bags, Wynonna looked like a small child who’d just acquired her first ever candy haul. She practically bounced her way over to Doc, who straightened up as she came near. The tall brunette shifted her load to one arm and plucked the nearly burnt out cigarette out of his calloused hand and then took the last long drag before flicking it away in a small eruption of sparks. Doc smiled endearingly at her, but there was a hint of mischief in it as if he’d picked up what the twinkle in the girl’s eyes and the creases of her dimples had meant.

“To the school, mon amour!” she declared in an ecstatic outburst, and Doc’s moustache twitched into a grin as he finally blew out the smoke he’d been holding.

~

There they were. Arms full of egg cartons, standing at the entrance of Purgatory High School and stoned to all hell. Nicole did her best to swallow the lump in her throat that accumulated in anticipation of what she was about to do.

It probably has something to do with the dry mouth, too.

Doc was currently twirling another joint between his fingers, and he swiftly took out his zippo and lit it in a flash. He passed it to Wynonna after a beat, and she held it between her lips as she continued to hype them all up.

“And you especially, Nicole,” she said, looking knowingly at her.

Nicole looked away. First down at her feet, then to the side, focusing in on a tree in the schoolyard in an attempt to look less defeated than she was.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Wy.”

There was a moment of silence as a gust of wind blew past Nicole’s face. She prayed that this would all be dropped before it could get emotional.

And then Wynonna’s hand softly gripped Nicole’s shoulder.

Nicole looked back over to Wynonna, expecting to see a look of pity on her face, and was surprised when she saw a hint of anger instead.

“Look Haught-head, I know ol’ Frank and the douchey “dream team,” she emphasized with air quotes, “have been putting you on blast for the past few weeks, and you’ve gotta be pissed about it. Hell, I’m pissed about it. Waverly’s pissed about it―”

“She is?”

Nicole couldn’t help blurting out at the mention of the younger Earp’s name. Especially if it was in some concern to herself.

Yes, dummy,” Wynonna emphasized with a slight smack to Nicole’s head. “We’re all pissed about it,” she again emphasized the seemingly obvious with a large arm gesture.

“And since you’re friends with an Earp now,” she went on, “we’re not gonna just sit around and do nothing! Earp’s don’t mope around when we get shit on, we get revenge.”

The conviction in her voice set off a switch in Nicole. Her brows knit together as she thought of all the crap she’d been through since getting to Purgatory.

You know what? She’s right! Why the fuck should I have to take this lying down?

The knit in her brow slowly smoothed out, and Wynonna’s eyes lit up with glee as she saw the redhead’s eyes come back out of thought and morph into a sly look. Without a word, Wynonna reached over and took a carton of eggs from Doc, popped it open, and offered up a single egg to Nicole. She took it, felt the weight of it in her hand, and tapped the shell with her index finger, studying its fragility.

Looking back at Wynonna, who was honed in on her, waiting in anticipation, Nicole squeezed the egg in her hand, thinking about Coach Elliot, the last game, Bobo, Champ, and finally, Waverly.

She hesitated, but then thought better of it before tightening her grip and launching the egg at a second-floor window. There was a quick beat before she heard the splat of the shell breaking against the glass, and Wynonna let out a loud whoop which quickly turned into a laugh.

“That was a killer shot, dude! Are you sure you don’t wanna join the softball team instead?”

She grinned back at the pair to her left, who both donned a similar look of pride on their faces, before reaching for the carton again. Wynonna looked on as shell after shell splat against the school, and she raised her hands up to the sky and laughed maniacally as the wind blew up her cape. She looked like a villain if Nicole ever saw one.

“You’re having way too much fun, aren’t you.” It wasn't a question

Wynonna only beamed at her.

The remainder of the night was filled with the splitting of eggs on the brick walls of Purgatory High School, followed by the sound of joyful laughter coming from the three delinquents.
When the cartons emptied out and the laughter died down, Wynonna straightened herself out and put on a sober voice.

“Alright, time to clean up.”

Nicole turned to her confusedly, but the brunette was grinning devilishly again. She turned to Doc, who had just pulled out a bag from under the driver’s side car seat, and was tossed an 8-pack of toilet paper. Realizing what Wynonna meant, Nicole burst out laughing in disbelief.

“Doc,” she said between giggles, “why do you keep this in your car?”

The boy merely shrugged and his moustache twitched under a poorly hidden grin.

“For emergencies.”

~

Eventually, the night had come to a close. Nicole finally made it home in the wee hours of the morning, still blazed, but feeling a world lot better about her situation than she had just a few hours before. She practically hopped up the stairs and into her bed, flopped down, and passed out happy.