The glint of the sun penetrated her eyes, and she squinted through the light, attempting to shift so that her eyes were not in direct attack, but found that her body was much heavier then she remembered. Ignoring the glare from between the blades of the blind, she took in her surroundings in order to remember where she was.
There was a sense of familiarity in those pink walls of the small bedroom, the ceiling slopping almost protectively over where she lay, and unicorns and horses dotted on every surface of the space. The faint smell of strawberries over the overwhelming dankness was what triggered her memories though. It was just so distinctive, so beautifully perfect and sweet and so…
Nicole smiled and glanced down to where she knew a body would be, in some way or another, curled against her own. Low and behold, a sea of wavy hazel hair stretched across her chest and even managed to tickle the skin on her right arm with its tips. A small body, clad in unicorn pyjamas, was curled up next to her side, head resting on her shoulder.
Waverly had gotten onto the floor with her again.
Despite the fact that there was perfect good bed, piled hair with blankets and throw cushions, only mere feet away from where Nicole lay herself, she always woke up with Waverly down next to her on the annoying squeakiness of the air bed. Not that Nicole minded, not at all, but there was never a clear excuse for it; it was always,
“I got cold, its not my fault you're a walking hot water bottle,”
“The bed has a faulty spring or something, it’s really uncomfortable, okay?”
But those were only ever half the truth. For, yes, Waverly’s mattress is probably older then her, and the homestead is undeniably drafty, but the redhead had always been able to see through her best friends lies, ever since they were little (well, little-er) and Waverly was never telling the truth when she found her tucked up next to her on the floor every time she stayed over. However, no matter how much she tried to squeeze the truth from her, Waverly would never relent.
So Nicole went with it. It was approaching winter in Purgatory, after all.
A shift of the solid weight against her dragged her back to reality, and the next thing she knew she was looking down into blinking green eyes, still groggy with sleep.
“Mornin’,” The ginger greeted, a small smile breaking out the dimples on her face.
“Good morning.” Waverly’s smile was soft and warm, matching the glow of her bedroom in the early hours of the morning. Her eyes were shut again as she flung her body, so she was almost fully on top of Nicole, to rest her chin against her chest.
“You hungry?” She asked after a moment of silence. The redhead was always slightly aghast at how the tiny brunette had so much energy this early in the morning.
Nicole’s tummy grumbled as if on cue, prompting her friend to giggle,
A warm fuzz settled in Nicole’s stomach at the sound of it.
“I’ll take that as a yes. Come on, let’s go to the diner before ‘Nonna wakes up or you’ll have to buy her waffles.”
At 8:30am on a Saturday morning, with the entire town just barely blinking awake in their homes, Joe’s Diner was resoundingly empty. There was still that unmistakeable greasy smell of bacon and eggs in the air, but Nicole was pretty sure that was rooted into every booth at this point.
As they entered, the bell above the door jingled and Lisa, the waitress who had been working there since either one of the 13 year olds could remember, smiled at them from behind the register. There were one or two of the local shady-types shovelling down beans at the counter, plus a policemen nursing a coffee in one of the booths, but aside from that they were completely alone. They slid into a booth, and Nicole recognised the record the old jukebox was spluttering out as some 80’s song her dad played on repeat in his basement. She couldn’t place the title, however, so she resigned herself to scan over the menu, despite the fact she already knew what she was going to get. The menu had been the same ever since the diner was built, and the chocolate chip pancakes were still highly underrated.
“So… Um… I think I’m gonna try out for junior cheerleading when school starts,” Waverly says off-handedly, although the nerves in her voice are clear.
“W-wow. Uh. Really? Cool.” Nicole swallowed thickly, not understanding why her mouth was all of a sudden so dry. Why she couldn’t get the image of Waverly dancing out of her head.
“Yeah. Stephanie Jones wanted us to all join together… Are you okay with that?” Waverly asked almost cautiously, anxious eyes flitting across the table at her from behind the edge of her menu.
Nicole was almost shocked at the question; scratch that, she was. Not once had Waverly ever appeared… scared of her. But here she was, almost terrified to tell Nicole a secret, asking her permission, and her heart broke at the sight.
“Of course! Why wouldn’t I be!” Her exasperation crept a little bit into her tone, and Waverly easily caught onto the concern in her eyes. The girl across from her shrugged one shoulder, not meeting her eyes again, and Nicole almost crumpled over at how forlorn her friend looked, how uncomfortable, which had never ever happened before.
“I don’t know. We cant do our weekly sleepovers if I got on the squad because Friday’s when practise is.” The small brunette looked up at her friend, and Nicole noted that her eyes were brown in the early morning light of the diner, dashes of grey curling at the edges. The redhead took a moment to compute the information, sitting back in her seat.
No more Friday sleepovers? But it’s what she and Waverly had always done. It wouldn’t feel like a complete week without them. No more chance to get away from everyone, sit on Waverly’s bed under a blanket as they tried to spook each other with ghosts stories, torches pressed under their chins? No more late night Disney movie marathons, with popcorn breath and hushed whispers so they wouldn’t wake up Gus and Curtis? No more trekking out to the field with the creek in it so they could take turns throwing themselves from their make-shift tire swing into the sun-warmed water? At the very though, Nicole began to feel empty, that Waverly didn’t want to hang out anymore.
But then she looked up at those, impossibly bright eyes, almost overflowing with guilt, and a little wet. And the fear. No. She would never, ever let Waverly fear her. She wasn’t her daddy, or Willa, or Champ. She was Nicole. She was her best friend.
And Nicole grinned at her, her best, dimpled grin, the one that stretched from ear to ear, and said,
“Can I wait for you after, then?”
As promised, Waverly signed up for junior cheerleading tryouts once the school year started up again.
She made Nicole practise with her every other day after school, a silly little dance to a song the redhead didn’t like to much, but she did it anyway because Waverly said that’s what she, Stephanie and Chrissy were practising when she wasn’t with Nicole. And, damn it, if she wasn’t going to be as good of a friend as Stephanie Jones.
One day Waverly suggested they all meet up instead of the individual practises, and so they did.
“Come on, Nic! Stephanie’s waiting outside! Hurry or she’ll leave without us!” Waverly whined, shifting from foot to foot impatiently as she waited for her taller friend. The ginger herself was arm-deep in her locker, rummaging around for her bag under the mess of books and pens she had shoved in their during the day.
“Give us a sec, Waves…” Nicole mumbled absentmindedly, before dragging out the tattered blue rucksack and swinging it over her shoulder with a slight huff, “okay! Let’s go.”
The brunette grabbed her hand and practically ran, with Nicole dragging behind her, out of the school doors.
Nicole’s heart thumped wildly.
Nicole’s brain hay-wired.
Nicole urged them both to get themselves together.
“Hey, Waves! Hi, Nicole!” Chrissy Nedley grinned at the both of them as they approached the bike-rack where she and Stephanie had been waiting. Chrissy was nice enough; she was the Sheriffs daughter, the one with the police department so small and boring he volunteered to coach basketball at the high school, and had always been nothing but pleasant to the people around her, even Nicole. Of course, she was no Waverly Earp.
“Take your time, Earp!” Stephanie chuckled, a little snarkily, her sandy, blond hair into a ponytail directly on top of her head so that it spun around every time she even shifted her position. Nicole bit back a laugh at the sight of the helicopter-esque hairstyle.
“Sorry for making you wait. Are you ready to go?” Waverly smiled from beside Nicole, ever the angel.
Nicole held back a sigh as they all clambered onto their bikes, heading for the local park where they would be practising for the evening. Something told her it was going to be a long night.
Every practise for try-outs from then on was pretty much the same.
They'd ride to the park every day, and prance about the grass in tights and skirts, with Nicole manning the mp3 player sitting beside her as she watched. They’d rarely talk to her, too caught up in their routine and Stephanie’s techniques. When they took breaks, Waverly would come over and they’d exchange as much information as they could about their days, not having enough time previously, before the blond behind them hollered the littlest Earp back over, clearly taking on the role of ‘head cheerleader’.
At some point, Nicole just… stopped coming. She’d brush it off, saying how she had homework, or her mum wanted her home to help cook, or she didn’t feel well. But, really, she’d go home and… well, to be honest, she hunted for a hobby of her own. She and Waves had been doing everything together since they were little, but since Waverly had a new thing, a new activity to do without her friend, she figured she should too. They didn’t have to rely on each other all the time.
So far, she’d tried drawing, and singing (both, she found out, she sucked at), as well as baking, cooking, knitting with Alice next door, learning a new instrument (she did actually manage to do that but she could only play her dad's old guitar for so long before her fingers started stinging and her mother yelled at her from downstairs to shut her trap), reading, writing, drawing again, until finally she picked up a basketball from the dusty floor of the attic.
It was heavy and rough in her hands, but she was determined to try, and she found herself in her neighbours front driveway on most nights, taking shots at the basketball hoop hanging on the garage door. The old woman next door who went by Alice was warm and inviting and half-deaf, so she never really minded the racket Nicole would make every time she missed.
Until she stopped missing.
Cheerleading tryouts came.
As expected by pretty much everyone, Waverly got onto the squad; head cheerleader, much to Stephanie’s irritation.
Nicole came to cheer her on, and Gus drove her home when it finished.
Some things changed, but most didn’t. Every friday, as promised, Nicole would wait on the bleachers, watched Waverly lead her squad through new routines, and then they’d walk over to the homestead. Gus and Curtis' homestead.
For some reason, things weren’t quite the same. They laughed and joked, and it was still easy, but there was a division; Nicole had to watch herself sometimes before she let things slip off the tongue, like how she wasn’t actually attending the poetry club on Tuesdays and was actually practising with the boys basketball team.
She noticed Waverly did this too. Stopped sometimes, halfway through a sentence, a frown creasing her brows before it was gone again and she was completing the sentence in two parts that didn’t quite match. Like a puzzle piece that fit, but the picture was different.
It was strange, to say the least.
“Haught-stuff, what are you doing here?” A voice called across the driveway, and Nicole looked from the basket, where she had been poised to shoot, to Wynonna Earp walking over to meet her. Nicole stopped and hooked the basketball under her arm, turing to her friends older sister.
“Hi, Wynonna. I’m… um… just… practising. Basketball.” She nodded her head as if to assure herself. Wynonna scoffed, flicking the shorter girl on the forehead.
“Well, duh, I got that, I meant here. You know, at Doc’s house. Aren’t you usually with Waverly 24/7?”
Nicole cocked her head to side,
“Yeah, Doc.” Wynonna nodded, tossing a thumb over her shoulder to where a cowboy-looking teenager with a pathetic excuse for facial hair leaned against a pink cadillac, thumbing at his phone with a confused look on his face.
“This is… This is Ms Alice’s house. Alice Henry, the old woman. She let’s me practise here 'cos of the net.”
Wynonna chuckled, “Oh, right, gotcha. That’s Doc’s grandma. He’s barely ever here though so that explains why you’ve never seen him before,” then her eyes narrowed at the younger brunette, “Now, back to the subject, why aren’t you with Waverly.”
“I dunno.” She shrugged. And, truly, she didn’t. She always wanted to be Waverly. It made no sense now, on a Thursday night when neither of them had any prior commitments, why she wasn’t with her.
“‘I dunno’.” Wynonna mocked lamely before smirking, “Well, if you’re not hanging out with Miss Sunshine anymore, you should hang with me and Doc.”
“What? We’re still friends, I don’t-“
“Haught, I’m giving you a chance to hang out with me. I’m awesome, okay? My boyfriend has a car!” Wynonna, beaming, threw an arm around the redheads shoulders and gestured to her boy. He looked up at the mention of his name, bewildered and confused.
“What?” He asked, perplexed, clearly having not heard the rest of the conversation,
“You have a car.” She rolled her eyes,
“Okay, you can shush.” Wynonna scowled at him. Nicole took the silence to grin mischievously up at the 16-year-old.
She felt Wynonna freeze beside her,
“Don’t tell Waverly.”
It was weird for Nicole, that year. One Earp sister was replaced with another in a transition so swift it almost gave her whiplash.
Their personalities were so juxtaposing it made Nicole’s head spin. Wynonna was course and rash, and Waverly was sweet and caring. And the redhead was just confused because she found a friend in Wynonna, a good one, despite the age gap, the brunette didn’t seem to mind. She would laugh and wrestle with Nicole, and tell inappropriate jokes that had Nicole spilling the alcohol they had smuggled her from her nose, which made them both laugh harder.
She saw Waverly less and less, until their only interaction during the final weeks of 8th grade was bright smiles in the hallways and promises of meeting up ‘at some point’. Some point never really came. But Nicole was hopeful every time.
And she realised one day, as she sat beside Wynonna and Doc on the hood of his car, watching the sun go down over Purgatory, from a cliff they weren’t supposed to be on, and Wynonna was spouting something-or-other about ‘getting out of this god-forsaken town’, that she cared for both sisters deeply.
But she cared for Waverly in a very, very different way.
And also it was a school night.