Actions

Work Header

Because we're just kids, really

Chapter Text

The first time it happened was the last. When Nicole volunteered to help clean up after class, she marched onto the playground 10 minutes after everyone else, all lanky limbs she hadn’t grown into and fiery red hair her mother braided for her every day, and she found Waverly Earp sitting alone on a bench with a new graze on her knee. The tall redhead froze at the sight and Waverly, having noticed her friends presence, tried desperately to swipe the tears from her eyes and put on her ‘happy face’ which she wore so well. But it was too late, and Nicole saw through the facade easily.

 

“Are you okay?” She asked, kneeling down in front of her to inspect the wound. The younger girl nodded dismissively.

 

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. I just… tripped. When playing hopscotch.” Waverly, bless her sweet little heart, had not yet learnt the art of hiding things from people, her honest eyes betrayed her easily and Nicole’s gaze hardened. 

 

“Who did it.” She demanded to know, standing to her full height to inspect the playgrounds occupants in search of the guilty person as anger surged through her tiny body in a way she had never felt before. 

 

“No one!”

 

“Waverly… You can tell me.” The ginger glanced at her friend, a small, comforting smile appearing on her lips. She hoped the gesture would help in this situation, assure the little Earp that Nicole was her friend, and, thankfully, after a moment of hesitation, the brunette spilled.

 

“It was just Champ being a jerk again…” The youngest Earp didn’t get to finish her sentence as she picked at a loose thread on her dungarees, her taller friend already marching off to where Champ and his friends were kicking a half-deflated football about. Whilst Nicole sometimes found her height to be irritating, as her sister always picked on her for it and it amplified her clumsiness, right now she was glad for the extra inches she had at her age. She marched right up to Champ Hardy and pushed him, making him stumble, trying to remain confident like they did in the movies.

 

“You leave Waverly alone!” She ordered him, her eyes fixed on the boy who was scowling back at her.

 

“You can’t tell me what to do! You’re just a girl!” At this he stepped forward and pushed her back. By now a small crowd was forming, and they gasped at his action. Nicole froze for a few seconds, unsure of how to respond, because she had never been in a fight before, but this was for Waverly, 

 

“Shut up, Champ. You’re just a big bully.” She pointed an accusatory finger at him,

 

“Am not!”

 

“Are too!”

 

“Am not!” And with that he pushed her back again, but this time she lost her balance and hit the floor with a thud, stinging pain coursing up from where her hands had caught her fall. There was silence for a few moments as both stared in shock.

 

“Champ Hardy! My office! Now!” The head teacher cried, eyes blazing as he grabbed Champ's collar and lead him towards the building, him yelling accusations the whole way. The crowd quickly dispersed at the head's sudden appearance, not wanting to be caught in the aftermath, leaving Nicole sitting on the floor as Waverly pushed through their classmates towards her.

 

“Nicole! Why would you do that?” She shrieked, hurriedly blowing the granite and dust from her pink, stinging hands. 

 

“I don’t like it when he’s mean to you…” The redhead answered truthfully, avoiding eye contact.

 

“You’re worse then Wynonna… You can’t fix violence with violence, Nicky. ‘Specially if you wanna be a police officer. It’s not right.” The brunette answered, her honey eyes taking Nicole’s lanky form in for any damage. Thankfully, her hands hadn’t cut on impact and her jeans were left un-touched by the friction, the colour having been already fading. Nicole couldn’t argue with that logic, so she blushed, ducked her head, and nodded, before stumbling to her feet.

 

The two walked over to the bench Waverly had been occupying and sat, side by side.

 

“Nicole?” Waverly said after a few moments to silence. The ginger turned to her brunette friend and was met with a small smile and warm brown eyes holding care and gratitude.


“Yeah?”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Any time, Waves.”

 

A little head came to rest upon a tiny shoulder. 

 

***

“This is your house!?” Nicole’s eyes took in the huge expanse of space, littered with rusting farming materials, and a rickety building leaning slightly to the left, the wind whistling through the gaps in the wood.

Nervously, the tiny brunette turned around, her hazel eyes filled with fear,

“Yeah…”

The redhead grinned,

“It’s awesome!”

The rest of the evening was spent playing hide and seek and tag and several variation until it got dark and they stumbled inside, red cheeked, for a meal of microwave macaroni cheese, as it was the only thing either of them knew how to make.

***

The night Waverly’s Daddy left was like any other night, really. She and Nicole had been splashing in the creek they had found all day long, ideas of a tire swing for the looming branch over the river already buzzing the atmosphere between them.


They swatted away angry mosquitos as they dried out in the orange glow of the evening sun, a comfortable silence settled between them as they dozed in and out of consciousness. Waverly compared the shine of the sun and the dried grass on their backs to a big, cosy, nature blanket and Nicole couldn’t help but agree.

When they both awoke, however, it was night time and they hurried back to the homestead, conscious of getting into serious trouble. Tripping over rocks in the dark, clutching their bundles of towels to their shivering, half-naked bodies, Nicole noticed Waverly’s skin was almost a pale white in the darkness. She was still pretty.

When they got to the homestead, it was dark, unsurprisingly. But as they crept inside and Waverly glanced over cautiously to the chair her Daddy spent most nights in, she realised the sinking fabric, still illuminated by the flickering light of the television, held nothing but empty beer cans. Nicole checked the house, even her Daddy’s room, for her, but he wasn’t there.

A little panicked at the prospect of being alone, she called Gus on the house phone, Nicole having to grab it from the hook for her as she wasn’t quite tall enough yet, because that’s what Gus told her to do. She picked up almost immediately and was around the homestead even faster.

In the morning, it was confirmed Ward had stuffed a duffle bag full of socks and simply left.

Without even a letter.

***

It didn’t really take Waverly that long to adjust at all; Gus and Curtis’ house was similar to the homestead, only a little better maintained. Wynonna had been pulled from her boarding school for ‘troubled youth’, or ‘the crazy kid bin’ as she so quaintly put it. But she still hugged Waverly when she cried and showed her how to make things other then mac and cheese (hot pockets), so it was easy to see that she still worried for her little sister more then she was willing to let on. Willa, at college somewhere in the states, was also notified but she didn’t come back.

And, of course, Nicole was there the whole time; to distract Waverly from the darkness that followed her, and talk to her about it when she needed to talk. And grow with her because people needed to grow.

Every Friday she would bring a lollipop to school and give it to her as she walked her home. Then those lollipops turned into ice creams from the ice-cream van by the park. And those ice-creams turned into invitations to stay overnight.

Soon, they weren't just friends, but inseparable, ‘practically joined at the hip’ Gus would laugh. Nicole would grab the cookies from the counter that Waverly couldn’t reach, and Waverly would help Nicole with her maths homework. They were partners in crime; you couldn’t find one without the other.

At Shorty’s bar, where they wondered in in search of Curtis, they were often placed upon bar stools and given small glasses of milk. The men around them would laugh at the two of them, and every one in Purgatory just grew to know them as ‘Waverly and Nicole’. With Nicole by her side, Waverly no long felt like the ‘poor littlest Earp girl who got left behind’. No, now she was Waverly Earp, Nicole Haught’s best friend. Nothing could tear the two of them apart.

Apart from each other.

Chapter Text

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…

Waverly.

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,”

or

“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,

“Doc?”

“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,

“…Well, yeah.”

“Okay, you can shush.” Wynonna scowled at him. Nicole took the silence to grin mischievously up at the 16-year-old.

“Boyfriend?”

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.

Chapter Text

A hand came down upon the surface of her desk, snapping Nicole’s head up from the nest of her folded arms.

“Haught! How many times do I have to tell you; no sleeping in class!” Ms Lucado glared icily at the teenager, and a silence passed over the class, the tension rippling in the air before Nicole spoke,

“Uh, Ms, sorry, you um… have a booger.” She gestured, smirking, to the teachers nostril. Face red as her class laughed, the teacher stormed back to her desk, subconsciously rubbing at her nose, before ripping a pink slip out of a pad on her desk and returning it to Nicole.

“Detention. Tonight, Miss Haught.” Lucado spat coldly. The rest of the class Nicole spent pretending like she was listening, thumbing the frayed edge of the pink paper in annoyance.

***

“Nic, I told you not to get detention today! We have that party, remember?” Wynonna smacked at the back of her friends head, the three of them sitting around the tiny cafeteria table, stuffed into the corner away from the jungle around them. Doc chuckled,

“My my, Miss Haught, aren’t you just a troublesome one?”

“Watch it, Doc-face.” Wynonna scowled at him. He simply smiled from under his impressive moustache. Nicole took a moment to admire it's growth over 3 years, its fibres bushier and less ’14 year old who got his first chest hair and is trying to show off about it’.

“Sorry, ‘Nonna. I’ll talk to coach and see if I can get it moved to next Monday or something.” She shrugged, stabbing her fork into the pasta salad sitting before her.

Wynonna grumbled at this, still not satisfied, “It’s unfair that you have a basketball coach who thinks the sun practically shines outta your ass. Bonus points for him being the Sheriff.”

Nicole scoffed, and her eyes swam across the room to come to rest on the familiarly petite figure of the school’s cheer captain.

“Hang on, now, I’m not exactly your sister.” The redhead chuckled.

“Oh god, don’t bring up little miss rainbows right now. Her and Perry have been making me barf all week.” The troublemaker replied,

“You must agree, Wynonna, if you and me can have 'intimate pleasantries' on that couch, she should be able to as well.” Doc butted in, and Nicole had to pretend that her stomach didn’t bottom at the thought. Instead, she turned her disgust on the couple,

“Gross, I sit on that couch!”

***

“Alright, Nic, you can skip the detention tonight. But you have to go on Monday, I don’t need Lucado on my case again,” Couch/Sheriff Nedley grumbled, pen tapping against his desk, “and you better bring it to the game on Sunday.”

***

Nicole was stood in front of the full-length mirror balancing ungracefully on her wall, her hands gripping the fabric of her letterman jacket. The one that had been collecting dust in her closet since she got it, the electric blue contrasting horribly with the duller colours of her wardrobe. She had slipped it on before the party, just to see how it looked. It was baggy and unnatural on her tall body, and she had remembered earlier today how it had fit guys like Perry Crofte and Champ Hardy like a glove. They were made to wear them, all muscles and definition and pride. Nicole was definitely more of a plain t-shirt and flannel sort of girl, but both of those boys had, at one point, had had Waverly Earp clinging on their arm, smiling up at them.

She stuffed the thought into the pocket of the jacket, as she always did, and threw it into the very back of the wardrobe.

The redhead was just pulling a flannel on when her mother called up the stairs that Wynonna was blasting the horn of Doc's car outside of their house.

***

Nicole and Wynonna played Rock, Paper, Scissors for who got the front seat of Doc’s pink cadillac (which he had been refusing to repaint for 3 years now), then for who chose the music on the way there, and then for who didn’t have to lug the heavy crate of Bud Light up to the house. Nicole lost them all and accused Wynonna of cheating, but the middle Earp just stuck her tongue out at her opponent and told her she ‘sucked at it’.

The ginger shifted the box in her arms with a grunt, cursing out Wynonna in her mind. They had had to park a block away from the venue, the cars that lined the streets taking up every parking spot for as far as the eye could see. Despite this, she could still hear the thumping bass from the party as she stepped out of the car, and she enjoyed the cool night air for as long as she could, before she had to inevitably enter the house of sweaty teenagers.

Solo cups and beer cans littered the yard up to the porch, and amongst them people milled about, clearly drunk and high out of their minds, Nicole could practically feel the untapped energy radiating off them.

“Rosita!” Doc called, the hand not trapped in Wynonna’s grip coming up to wave at the caramel-skinned girl by the front door. As soon as she saw them, she shoved away the guy she had been talking to and skipped down the front steps, her boots coming all the way up her leg to stop mid-thigh in a way Nicole very much appreciated the sight of.

“Hi, glad you guys could make it!”

“That’s great, you got booze, right?”

“No worries, Wynonna, there’s loads.”

“Alright cool, catcha later.” And with that, Wynonna dragged Doc inside in hunt of the alcohol, and their remaining friend watched them go, Nicole in slight annoyance and Rosita in minor shock.

Once again, Nicole shifted the crate in her arms, the sharp cardboard digging into her skin, and Rosita looked back at her,

“Where’d you want this?” She asked sheepishly.

***

Waverly was tired. She was tired from Cheerleading practise, and Stephanie’s constant criticism of her outfit and make up, and Perry just being too fricking perfect. Their relationship had been going strong for 4 months now, they were the schools golden couple, he was nice and caring and thoughtful, but they hadn’t argued about a single thing.

It was a silly thing to worry about, really, most girls would kill for a relationship this perfect. But Waverly… she didn’t quite know what was wrong with her. But she and Perry pretty much agreed on everything.

“You want to go to this party?”

“Okay. I have practise before so I’ll meet you there?”

“Sounds good.”

And that was it. That’s how she ended up at some strangers party, with Perry respectfully dancing beside her, and a light buzz going on from the drink he had fetched for her. The brunette, captain of the cheer squad, should be unbelievably happy with how her life was going. And yet, she felt empty. Like something was missing.

Her eyes flickered over to Nicole Haught, who had lugged in a crate of beer about five minutes ago, arms flexing under her flannel shirt, and was now standing by the door to the kitchen chatting with the host of the party, whom Waverly found out was called Rosita. Her hair was shorter then when she was younger, no longer shoulder length and constantly pulled tightly into a braid, but cropped and settling just below her jaw in a way that accentuated her cheekbones just right. The brunette swallowed, palms sweating at the thought of collecting the locks in her hand again and again on a lazy Saturday morning, with no where to be, just like before.

But it wasn’t like before. Sure, Nicole was still lanky and tall, and Waverly was still short and petite, but everything was different. They barely knew eachother. The redhead had traded in one Earp for another; the more exciting one, spending nights in the McCready’s barn with Doc and Wynonna doing whatever the hell they did in there (Waverly had a sneaking suspicion it had something to do with alcohol). She was a troublemaker, she looked teachers in the eye on threat of detention and told them they had a booger in there nose. She was on the basketball team, and Waverly never even knew she liked basketball. She was darker, taller, more mysterious and considerably more sexy, and it made Waverly’s head spin.

“Um, I’m feeling light headed. I’m gonna step outside for a sec, okay?” She called to Perry over the thundering music, and didn’t wait for an answer before she was off the dance floor and heading for the back door.

“Waves!”

Waverly held back the urge to roll her eyes, “seriously, Per, I’m okay I just-“

She spun, but came face to face with a grinning Wynonna Earp.

“Woah, I just came over to ask if you’ve got keys to the house. Trouble in paradise?” Her eyebrows wiggled suggestively at her sister, but the concern was evident in her eyes.

“I… I don’t even know, really. I have keys. I’m gonna head home, okay? I’ll see you later.”

 

***

 

Nicole had seen Waverly briefly at the beginning of the night, but as the alcohol haze grew stronger and the night wore on and Rosita’s hand remained warm and unmoving on her arm, she forgot to look for her.

 

***

 

“Haught! Over here!” One of her teammates called across the court, and Nicole passed easily, her footwork electric as she slipped passed a defender and tossed the ball.

She jogged along side her companion, Jenkins, up the other side of the court, and caught the ball just as they neared the other end nearing the opposing net. She bounced it once, before she jumped, flicking upwards with her wrists, until the rubber left her slightly calloused fingertips and soared through the air and into the net just as the final buzzer rang out. Cheering and screaming echoed around the gym, blue and white confetti reigning down as they sometimes did if they payed the janitor enough, and Nicole’s teammates were surrounding her.

Brown eyes passed briefly over to where the cheerleaders were, and caught once with hazel.

It lasted a little too long. Or not long enough.

***

Sunday nights in the Haught household were for family. So the four of them crowded into the tiny dining room and shovelled down Mary Haught’s meatloaf until they could leave to separate parts of the house. On this particular Sunday, Johnny Cash was crooning from the old radio in the corner, and the meatloaf was dryer then usual. They sat individually on each side of the table, the distance between the family almost suffocating.

The Haught’s were traditional. They were childhood sweethearts, fell in love in one small town and moved with their two kids to the next, white picket fences following them the whole while. Their house was packed with accessories Mary considered ‘chic’; a grandfather clock there, an ornamental elephant there, anything to make her feel like she had a hobby. Something for herself. The basement was off bounds, a space for David to relax, as being a dad was extremely tiring. His bulky physique squeezed through the door and down the stairs every night to try and restore some old gadget or work down at his desk. Neither of his daughters were allowed in, under the premise that they might ‘break something’, as if they were 5-year-olds who toddled around, uneven on their feet and seeking entertainment by any means.

Nicole sometimes liked it. She liked the record player in the lounge an the spice rack in the kitchen and the pretty little bowl in hall where they kept keys. They were aesthetically pleasing under the right light, and she imagined being a photographer and snapping a photo with some expensive camera as if it were her passion.

But she wasn’t a photographer. And sometimes she didn’t like all the tradition.

Like when her mother forced her into a dress for a dinner party, and told her about their neighbours son who was ‘such a charming boy’. Or when her father refused to call her ‘Nic’ even though she preferred it, and told her to get upstairs and help Haley with her hair for her date.

Or now, when the tension between her family was immense for no clear reason, and she told herself she had to do something to disperse it or it would be her fault,

“So I, um, scored the winning shot in my game today,”

Wong thing to say.

Her mother stabbed a little too aggressively at her plate, visually refusing to make a comment if her red skin was anything to go by. Her father simply said,

“That’s nice, dear.” and that was it. He was still looking down at his plate. Haley didn’t even react.

They hadn’t been to one of her games in all these years. Not one. They sat at home, with claims of work or dinner to prepare or something along those lines, unsympathetic at missing the match. At some point, she had stopped asking and they had stopped making excuses. It was now an unspoken agreement and it made her sick to her core, that her parent’s didn't like her doing something she loved. She wanted to throw up at the silence that stretched between them, thick and heavy and overwhelming and Nicole’s forehead started to sweat. 

Luckily, Haley piped up with something about Steve from school, and their parents attention had a new focus. Nicole didn’t know if she was happy or not about that.

***

A few weeks passed until Nicole and Waverly interacted again. Nicole had several heated arguments with her parents in that time; about basketball, about her hanging out with Wynonna, about her grades, and every time she stormed out the front door, the glass shuddering in its frame as the door slammed behind her, already on her way to Wynonna’s. But Waverly was still in complete bliss with Perry. It occurred to her that they barely talked, really, just held hands and shared kisses on cheeks.

Nicole: angry with so many arguments, Waverly: upset with none.

The contrast caused them to meet one day after school, Nicole stomping up the steps to the McCready house, and sitting heavily down on the doorstep, fingers curling into the fabric of her jeans as she tried to control her breathing. Wynonna wasn’t here. She was out with Doc and Nicole knew that but… It still helped to be here. All these happy memories swimming around the two stories of brick and wood, up and down the stairs and in the rough carpet of every bedroom.

That’s when she heard a soft voice call her name,

“Nicole?” Hearing her full name instead of ‘Nic’ or ‘Haught’ reminded her of her parents. And that made her breath heavier. It was soon settled though when she whipped her head round and saw Waverly sitting on the porch swing, legs tucked underneath her and book in hand, as she stared, concerned, at the redhead.

“Uh, h-hi.” She mumbled, standing up abruptly, shoving her hands into the back pockets of her faded jeans.

“Hi…” Waverly frowned at her, “are you okay?”

No. Of course she wasn’t okay. She was just on the brink of having a panic attack of the McCready’s front step.

“Uh, yeah, of course. Sorry I know it’s weird I’m here, I was just looking for Wynonna.” She rubbed at the back of her neck, looking anywhere but at those hazel orbs she knew so well a long time ago.

“She’s out with Doc…”

“Yeah, sorry, she told me I remember now, I’ll just… get out of your hair.”

“Nicole-“ At the name again, the redhead froze, halfway down the steps, and clenched her jaw. She didn’t look up, “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah.” She was shaking her head, and let out a dry chuckle, choosing to deflect, “yeah it’s… just kind of weird hearing someone not call me ‘Nic’. Only, um, only my parent’s call me Nicole.”

Waverly stood at this, but made no move to come closer,

“Oh, I’m sorry. I can… I can call you Nic.”

The way it sounded falling off her tongue was like honey; sweet and slow and beautiful. And so sickly it made Nicole want to throw up. It was too familiar. Too close.

“No, Nicole is fine, no worries, Waverly. I’ll… get going now.”

And with that, she stepped off the McCready’s porch and away from Waverly.


***

At school on Monday she overheard Waverly and Chrissy’s conversation about one of Stephanie’s ‘boy toys’ in one of the classes they shared.

“Do you think she likes him?”

“She’s more of just testing waters, Waves.”

“Why is she dating him then?”

“He has a car.”

“Fair enough… I can’t wait for Perry to get one. I’m so tired of walking everywhere.”

***

Waverly Earp was a good student. She was adored by teachers, always listened in class, and handed homework in on time. She hadn’t a detention in her entire school life; the very thought was ludicrous, and that could be seconded by anyone who knew her. So, when she suddenly realised she had forgotten her assignment at home, she practically choked; cheeks becoming hot as the teacher stared accusingly down at her. Ms Lucado. The one teacher who didn’t absolutely love her. Damn it.

‘Think, Waverly, where is it?’ she thought, and she briefly remembered the folder sitting on the porch swing as she stood up to see if Nicole was okay.

She swallowed as the pink detention slip was slapped down against her desk.

***

“Whatcha lookin’ at?” Wynonna questioned, glancing over the younger girls shoulder to look at her phone.

“Nothing!” The redhead said defensively, shielding the screen against her chest.

“Was that a car?”

“No.”

“Are you looking for a car?”

“No!

“Cos if you are, Doc knows a guy whose selling one.”

“…Really?”

***

Monday after school should have been spent in the parking lot of Shorty’s, seeing who can round-house kick an empty beer bottle off the wall, but instead Nicole was stuck in the back corner of detention, counting down the seconds. She ignored the incessant tapping of Lucado’s pen against the desk.

3 minutes 42 seconds in, 41 minutes 58 seconds to go. She held back a groan.

Just at that moment, the silence of the room was broken as Waverly Earp sheepishly stepped into the room, and Nicole almost gasped at the sight. She was still in her cheerleading uniform, perfect legs on display, plus a tantalising slither of skin between the shirt and skirt that left Nicole’s mouth dry. Oh boy.

“Hi, Ms Lucado. I’m here for detention.”

“I gathered that, thank you, Miss Earp. Sit anywhere.”

That was probably when Waverly realised the only other person in the room was Nicole, her eyes wide in shock. They stared, unblinking, dark brown meeting greyish hazel, in a silent battle of what was going to happen next. Waverly had limitless options, as Nicole was perched in the very back row, right in the corner, and remained unmoved, with her posture relaxed and arms crossed. Slowly, she moved, and the tension rose, as their eyes stayed trained on each other. The brunette passed one row, her skin tinged slightly pink in the afternoon sunlight streaming through the window. Winter was causing days to be shorter.

Then she was stepping past the second row, and the redheads heart hammered in her chest, so sure she was going to come all the way to join her in the back.

But then she broke eye contact and sat in the third row, right in the middle of Lucado and Nicole.

Damn it, Waverly was too tactful.

A minute passed. Lucid sighed frustratedly and looked up from the papers she was marking, thin lips remaining tightly pressed together.

“Well, there’s no use you two just sitting here. Here, mark these for me.” Lucado threw down a pile of tests onto the front table, as well as what Nicole assumed was an answer sheet, “I’m gonna get a coffee from across the road. I’ll be back soon. No talking.”

Soon the door was slamming shut behind her. Or… slowly squeaking to a close.

And the two were alone. Again.

Nicole stood from her desk, the chair legs scraping loudly against the floor in a way that made her wince. But she continued on, swallowing as she passed Waverly, and picked up a paper from the stack, settling in the front row with a stolen red pen from Lucado’s desk.

“You’re actually doing that? Is she even allowed to do that?” Waverly’s voice sounded aghast from behind her, and Nicole chuckled, flicking open the first page to find it was multiple choice.

“I don’t know, I don’t care. All I know is, I’m bored out of my mind here, Earp.”

A moment passed before she heard Waverly stand and came to join her on the other side of the stack of papers, cautious and slow in her movements. Nicole could feel her eyes burning into the side of her head as she settled.

“Calm down, I don’t bite. Unless you like that.” She looked up with a wink, and found great pride in the pink blush that spread across Waverly’s cheeks.

“I didn’t think you did! And I don’t like it! Not that you needed to know that… Shut up.” And the head cheerleader reached forward to snatch a red pen from the pencil holder on the desk, but her fingers barely brushed the wood of the surface. She tried again, but fell short once more. Nicole watched the ordeal, amused smirk playing on her lips,

“Having trouble there?”

“No!”

A moment passed and Waverly hung her head.

“…Yes.”

Nicole chuckled and reached over the desk, easily snagging up the pen with a triumphant flourish,

“Ever the stubborn one.”

It should have felt strange, really. Neither knew each other anymore; they barely talked and yet the history between them could not be ignored. Whatever that history was. And yet, they fell so easily into an old routine they both knew so well. Jokes, thoughts, passed between them like air through lungs. Nicole felt the blossoming of a rose in her chest, its roots digging into her heart in a pain that felt too good to be fake. She smiled when Waverly smiled because Waverly’s smile was nice and warm and refreshing and Nicole remembered what that same smile looked like in the light of the morning sun every Saturday in Waverly’s bedroom. She remembered it from the other side of the road as they road, side-by-side on hand-me-down bikes. She remembered it and she cherished and she realised how much she missed it.

When Lucado came back it felt like no time had passed. And yet they still working in comfortable silence, eyes meeting shyly and then darting away: almost like a game. And Nicole realised in that moment that Waverly Earp made her happy in a way no one else could.

Chapter Text

It made sense to Waverly that she would waltz into school the next day and she and Nicole would slip back into a routine they both knew too well. Despite the new flannels on Nicole’s shoulders and the weight of Perry’s arm on her own, things should have been the same. So why, when she walked into the parking lot and saw Nicole leaning against Doc’s car, and gave her her brightest smile, did she only nod curtly and turn away from her, hands shoved deep into the pockets of her jeans.

It felt like a kick to the chest, really. A wake up call. Nicole didn’t care. Of course she didn’t. Things were different, she was friends with Wynonna: the older, cooler Earp, really. Why would she still want to hang out with Wynonna’s stupid younger sister?

Someone like Nicole, all brooding eyes and lithe body, just…

Anyone her sister hung out with was bad news. After years of watching from the top of the stairs, as Wynonna and her friends caused a ruckus in the living room, the stink of alcohol wafting up the stairs, Waverly should have known this. And that meant Nicole was bad news, now.

So she turned, frowning deeply, and strutted towards homeroom.

***
“Hey, are you okay?” Chrissy asked her as they settled next to each other in their English class.

“Fine. Why’d you ask?” Waverly answered, even though she already knew why. She had been stiff and aggressive all day, snapping at Stephanie twice already for ignorant comments about something-or-other. Despite the fact that she deserved it, Waverly knew the aggression in her tone had been unwarranted. But she refused to feel guilt.

“I don’t know… You just seem… Quiet today.”

Lovely way of putting it, Chrissy. She always did know how to approach a subject without directly hurting someones feelings.

“I’m… Tired.” The brunette ran a hand irritatedly through her hair, letting out a huff.

The sheriffs daughter met her with a skeptical look, eyebrow raised.

“Are you sure? You can talk to me, you know?” She reached forward, fingers brushing against the skin of her hand, “I mean it.”

A moment passed.

“Okay.” It was barely a breath, but Chrissy heard it and smiled reassuringly.

“Wanna ditch next period and get milkshakes at Joe’s?”

***

“Okay, so what’s up?” The cheerleader looked at her captain, fingers playing with the straw that was twirling out of her chocolate milkshake. Another sigh escaped the petite brunette’s lips, and her eyes wondered past the grubby tables of the diner, past the even grubbier, strange patrons of the diner, and out of the window along the back wall. The jukebox was still there, old and rattling away out-dated songs on repeat.

“Do you ever… feel like you’re missing something?”

“What, you mean like my chapstick or-?”
“No, like,” she breathed, observing the road that lead out of town, stretching out into the desert. It suddenly occurred to her she’d never gone past the ‘Now leaving Purgatory’ sign that hung only a few hundred feet down that cracked road, “Like something big. Like someone.”

Chrissy studied her friend briefly; the far off look, the fiddling fingers and the crease between her brow. And she grinned excitedly, sitting forward in her seat.

“Whose this about?” She asked, hopeful and happy.

“What? What are you talking about?”

“Oh come on, Waves. I’m not an idiot, it’s clear you’ve got the hots for somebody,”

“Who even says ‘got the hots’ anymore-“

“Not the point! Just tell me who it is.” She begged, but her friend was shaking her head, hazel eyes solemn and sad.

“Chrissy, I have a boyfriend? Perry? Remember him?” The other girl scoffed at this,

“Waverly, you never liked Perry.”

The brunette’s jaw dropped,

“What!? Yes I did! I mean, do! I’m- I’m… We’re going out, of course I do!”
“Go on then,” Chrissy looked unconvinced, “Say it. Say it now, ‘I like Perry and I think this relationship is going somewhere’. I dare you.”

The brunette stared, confused, worried and outraged, before she sat up straight and looked at her friend defiantly.

“I… I like Perry. And I think that this relationship if definitely going somewhere. Good. That is…” But her words were trailing off and her eyes wouldn’t meet her friends, polished fingernails twisting the vanilla milkshake that sat in front of her, untouched.

“Waverly…” Chrissy looked sad now and Waverly sighed again, shrugging,

“Okay, so let’s… maybe I don’t like him as much as he likes me,” She shook her head, swallowing, “I still cant leave him for… Someone else.”

“Say’s who?”

“I don’t know, says ‘not being a dickhead’. Chrissy it would… It would break his heart.”

Her hand then became clasped in her friends, slightly cold due to the chill of the milkshake, but still just as comforting to Waverly.

“The longer you drag it out, Waves, the more it’s going to hurt him.”

***
That night, Waverly lay awake in her bed for hours, staring at the slope of her ceiling as it curled over the frame of her bed with the roof of the house. There was a water stain in the corner she hated attempted to hide with a colourful scarf, but she couldn't quite reach, and the wallpaper travelled all the way up; plain and teal now, covering a pattern of unicorn underneath.

She remembered what it would look like on Sunday morning, warm and inviting, but at a different angle and a few more feet away. Her eyes went to the spot on the floor, remembering the blow-up mattress that squeaked with every subtle movement, and how much warmer it was down there then up here, amongst the mass of comforters and blankets.

Maybe she did have the hots for someone else. Maybe she did want to press back into their side on chilly Purgatory winter mornings, no worries or responsibilities in sight. Maybe she did want to intertwine their fingers and pull them close so she could count every knuckle with the whisper of a kiss. Maybe she liked Nicole.

Her childhood best friend turned crush.

“No. No. Waverly, of course not. Don’t be stupid.”

She told herself, aloud. She told herself she just missed their friendship, missed the constant comfort of someone there. It made sense in her head, if she took Chrissy out of the equation. Despite Chrissy being obviously and evidently there.

She decided, within in the early hours of Wednesday morning, missing the absence of unicorns in her room, that she would not let Nicole get away that easily. She needed to figure this out. She needed to prove to herself that she did not like Nicole Haught.

***

“Hi, ‘Nonna, could I catch a ride with you and Doc today?” Waverly asked as she set a full glass of orange juice down in front of her. Wynonna paused, her mouth mid-bite around a slightly burnt piece of toast, and stared at her sister, wide eyed.

“Weawy?”

“Wynonna I genuinely have no idea what you’re saying.”

She removed the piece of toast from her lips.

“Really? You’re not too cool for me?” She chuckled, swinging a leg over the other in a half-hearted cross.

“Shut up, I never thought that. But Chrissy has to do something before school starts so it’s either you or the bus.”

Wynonna stared, blinked, and then shoved the rest of her toast in her mouth.

“Weah, thure, Wawerwy.”

***
The car skidded to a stop in front of the two-storey suburban house. Waverly’s hands had a death grip on the headrest of the seat in front of her as she took a moment to catch her breath.

“Jesus, Doc! Where did you learn to drive?”

He turned, a confused look on his face,

“There are places where you learn that? My old man just shoved me in his truck when I was 13 and told me not to crash.”

Wynonna, ignoring the dispute, reached over Doc’s body and honked twice on the horn,

“Come on, Nic, I have places to be!” She hollered out of the open window to the house, which remained still.

The brunette in the back seat took this moment to gaze out at the traditional, white-picket fenced house. There wasn’t much to say about it. It was plain, boring; four windows in front, two on each side, and Waverly remembered an extra four in the back. Waverly associated this house with old, cool knick-knacks, and distant parents and an array of nail polishes lining the shelf in the room at the top of the stairs. She thought of Nicole, alone in there. She wondered if her parent’s were still so cold.

Just then, the front door opened, and Nicole stepped out, still shrugging on a denim jacket.

“Shut up, Wynonna, I am your social life!”

“By choice, Haught!”

The redhead laughed and Waverly gasped silently at the sound, watching as she shut the door behind her with her foot and spun to lock it behind her; she guessed her parent’s were out. The ginger was adjusting roll of her shirt sleeves over her forearms, when she came over to the car, meaning she hadn’t looked up to take sight of the extra passenger. It only occurred to Waverly as the back door opened and she was face to face with a slightly shocked Nicole Haught that maybe she should move.

“Oh, um, hi, Nicole!” She smiled, shuffling to the other side of the bench.

“Nicole? Geez, I haven’t heard someone call you that in years, Haught.”

At this, the basketball player seemed to snap out of her trance and smirked at Wynonna as she climbed into the car. And she looked gorgeous. Oh poop, she definitely had a crush on Nicole Haught; her childhood best friend. Waverly tried to ignore how the air felt suffocating, despite all four windows being rolled down.

“Yeah, thanks to your incessant shitty pun-making out of my name.” She chuckled.

“Shitty? I’ll have you know my puns are top-notch,” She turned around in her seat and smirked evilly at her friend, “One might even say they’re… Haught as shit.”

“Please shut up.”

“Aw, seems like Nic’s not too Haught on them,”

“Oh my god, I’m walking to school,”

Waverly’s heart plummeted as she watched Nicole make a move towards the door, maybe her presence was making her uncomfortable and she was taking the first chance she got to get out of there.

“No escaping! Doc: drive!”

The car lurched forward and Waverly almost fell forward, if it wasn’t for a strong hand catching her elbow and holding her in place. She looked up to smile thankfully at Nicole, but she wouldn’t meet her eyes, removing her hand and glaring at Wynonna.

“I hate you and everything about you.”

“No you don’t.”

“No, you’re boyfriend gives me free rides.”

“Much abliged, Ma’am.” Doc chuckled, tapping the brim of his cowboy-style hat chivalrously.

***

The drive to school for Nicole was as normal as ever, her leaning forward to the edge of her seat so she could argue aggressively with Wynonna about whose music taste was better, her hands gripping at Doc’s headrest, the wind flying through from his open window and breezing against her skin in a way that wasn’t unpleasant on her hot cheeks.

Except now Waverly Earp sat silently beside her, classic mini-skirt and crop-top combo clad on her agile body. She stole glances towards the brunette as she stared out the window, noting that her ex-friends body had changed massively in the years they’d been apart; skinny, stubby limbs being replaced with a toned, tanned physic that left Nicole’s mouth dry. She had noticed similar things yesterday; the way her eyes seemed more grey then green as they swam together in her iris, a mix of colour and warmth, the way her teeth were straight and pearly, braces having been clamped onto her teeth since she was 14 now gone and leaving a row of snowy soldiers standing to attention, flashing out to catch the light every now and then. She noticed many things; the eyes, the hair, the body, the slightly fake facade as she waltzed around school next to Stephanie, but in her eyes she was still the same Waverly. All doe eyes and scuffed knees. And that’s what scared her.

She was Waverly. Even after all these years apart from one another, even with all the distance and change, Nicole still felt no less comfortable around her. It was too easy; these feelings arose quickly and refused to release the grip on her heart. It was a silly crush, one that everyone had had on the head cheerleader at some point. It would go soon enough, she’d learned that much over the years, she just had to wait it out and everything would go back to normal.

Waverly was the one that distanced herself.

Waverly was the one that stopped inviting her to things.

Waverly was the one who had dropped Nicole for new friends.

Nicole had learned to get through things by herself ever since she left, and the redhead liked to think she’d been pretty successful without Waverly. Her sexuality was still a muddle, as was her relationship with her parents, but she had formed friendships all by herself, fixed a pretty high social standing in the school hierarchy, found an activity she was good at and loved and could do to her hearts content… She didn’t need Waverly anymore. She wasn’t a kid. And she certainly wasn’t going to catch feelings for her, either.

Just then, The Imperial March cut through Wynonna’s ramblings and The Beach Boys ‘Good Vibrations’, causing Nicole to leap in her seat, her thoughts having been elsewhere. She scrambled for her phone, almost dropping it twice, before stopping Darth Vader theme tune with a quick swipe of the answer button.

“H-Hello?” She swallowed into the receiver,

“Nicky? Hey!”

“Oh, hey, Rosie,” At the sound of the latina’s voice, the redhead instantly relaxed; already knowing where this conversation was heading.

“Rosie?” Wynonna questioned, eyes flitting from Nicole to Doc,

“Wynonna you went to her party the other day. You know, Rosita?” Doc answered, chuckling, “I believe our little redhead has an admirer.”

Wynonna’s baffled expression easily melted into her mischievous, trademark grin, eyes turning on the girl in the back seat,

“…Nicole?”

“Hi! Sorry, yeah, I’m here, what’s up?”

“You alone right now?” She could hear the sultry in her tone, and Nicole smirked, eyes focusing on her lap,

“No, I’m on my way to school. With Doc and Wynonna… And Waverly.” The redhead’s eyes glanced briefly to the brunette beside her, who was watching the seat in front of her with an emotionless expression.

“Oh.”

“Why?”

“Well, I was wondering if you wanted to come over tonight?”

“Come over!?” Nicole spluttered, all of her cool dissipating at the sound of Rosita’s playful laughter on the other end of the line,

Two Earp heads spun round, both eyes wide,

“Alright, Nicky! Get in there with sexy McBoob-tits!” Wynonna hollered, loud enough for the girl on the other end to hear and laugh,

“Wynonna! Shut up!” Nicole hissed, face flushing red as she squeezed herself as far as she could into the corner of the car, ear pressed tightly to the phone,

“So… You wanna have some fun with sexy McBoob-tits?” Rosita laughed impishly, and Nicole chuckled too, knowing she was only half-joking.

“Yeah, okay. I’ll be there like 10:00?” She mumbled, low enough so she thought Wynonna couldn’t hear. Waverly’s ears picked up the conversation, however.

“Sound good. I’ll be waiting.”

“Okay. Bye.” Nicole fought back a smile, cancelling the call and settling back into her seat.

“So, gonna get some pussy?” Wynonna’s smile was practically splitting her face,

“Shut up.” Nicole scoffed,

“What? Not my fault you're such a stud.”

“I swear to god…”

Wynonna laughed, full-bellied, throwing her head back as Doc pulled into the school parking lot, “So modest. Gotta say, good choice, Rosita’s hot as fuck.”

“…It’s not just that.”

“You what?”

Nicole was silent for a second, shrugging with one shoulder, “She’s a bio-chem major,”

“What? Mrs Tits? Really? Didn’t know you were into the brainiacs, Haught,” Wynonna considered this for a second, before her grin returned, “You think she wants to fuck in her lab coat?”

“Wynonna! For Gods sake, just shut up!” Waverly voice, came, shrilled and a little hoarse from being quiet for so long. Doc’s car stopped, and all three of them turned to stare at the younger ones outburst, the mirth gone from the car in seconds.

There was a pause for a few seconds before Waverly was barreling out of the car, her own expression shocked at her little tantrum as she weaved through the kids in the parking lot, pace fast and eyes fixed on the ground.

“Did I say something?” Wynonna questioned, eyebrow quirking,

***

The water from the bathroom sink was cold and refreshing against her skin, flushed red with embarrassment, anger and some form of jealousy. There were tears brimming her eyes but she refused to let them spill as she stared back at her reflection; unusually grey in the dim light of the first floor bathroom. She flickered her eyes to the graffiti scribbled on the mirror, just above her forehead; black sharpie glaring back at at her with a resounding and totally unbelievable, ‘Stephanie Jones sucked Champ Hardy’s dick’. Focus on simple things. The stupid drama at school; girls hooking up with guys and other girls getting pissed, stupid people having parties purely for drugs and alcohol, a hive of bad decisions, unimportant hockey games that everyone in this tiny town cared so much about. Simple things were easy; easy to understand and easy to live with. There was no thinking required.

These feelings with Nicole? This was a lot more complicated then she thought.

And she hadn’t even made it to first period yet.

The cheerleader shook her head, brunette hair swinging, eyes clenched shut, “No. No, Waverly, you said you were going to do this. I don’t know what this is but if you can do a final project in under 48 hours and still get an A, you can… deal with Nicole Haught.”

And with a final wipe of any smudged mascara from under her eyes (damn stuff said it was waterproof but you can never be too safe), she strode, confident out of the bathroom and towards her first lesson of the day.

As the door pushed open, a hand snatched at her elbow and yanked her to the side, calling her to yelp. She was met with Wynonna’s concerned, piercing blue eyes. Waverly had always been jealous of those eyes.

“What the hell was that, Baby girl?” She asked, almost fearful of the answer, but her voice demanding all the same in that classic Wynonna way. A teacher waltzed by, causing her to relax her posture slightly and shoot a fake smile at him. She had learned this over the years; the least suspicious she looked, the less likely people would ask what she was up to. If only ‘obvious Wynonna’ and ‘conspicuous Wynonna’ weren’t the exact same person, then hr performance might be a tad more believable, “Seriously, are you okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” The brunette shook her head dismissively,”I just… I’m a little tired.”

Her sister gave her an odd look before she leaned forward, narrowed her eyes and said,

“Are you pregnant? Cos if you are you can tell me, I won't be mad- I mean I will, but not at you, more at whoever-“

“NO!” Waverly squealed, and glanced around to make sure no one heard, her voice lowering to a harsh whisper, “No, Wynonna, I’m not pregnant.”

“Oh good, cos that was a lie I would have definitely been angry at you as well.”

“Thanks.” She said dryly before turning to walk down the corridor. The older girl fell into step easily beside her, hands shoved the pockets of that distinctive leather jacket Nicole got her for her birthday that year- the one with the massive frills across the arms that Wynonna loved whipping people with when they weren’t paying attention to her.

“Are you sure nothings wrong?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Honestly I don’t even know what happened. Guess I just flipped out for no reason. Sorry about that.” She lied easily through her teeth.

Wynonna shrugged, “Well, if you ever need to talk… you know you can always, like, come see me, I guess. I’m a great listener.”

“No you’re not.”

“No, but I’ll try for you, lil sis.” She grinned, swinging an arm around her sisters neck,

Waverly just laughed, the weight in her stomach lifting slightly, knowing Wynonna was still by her side.

***

“Did Miss Waverly explain to you the cause of that peculiar outburst this mornin’?” Doc questioned Wynonna as she plopped down between him and Nicole.

“Yeah. Think she’s PMSing or something, said she was tired and thats she’s sorry. No biggy.” She replied with a shrug, tearing off a chunk of her roll with her teeth, crumbs flying everywhere as she spoke. Nicole grimaced and brushed a few remains of ham and cheese off her button up shirt.

“How many times have I told you to please not talk with your mouth full? All my flannels are in the wash,” She complained, eager to switch the subject,

“It’s not my fault you have to look like a flaming homo all the time. Is there some sort of code that you have to follow? Is it a lesbian law?” Wynonna drawled sarcastically, mouth still chewing on her food,

The redhead looked her friend dead in the eye, “I’m not allowed to talk about the secret order.”

As Wynonna howled in laughter, her eyes briefly caught the sight of the younger Earp over her shoulder. She smiled at her. Nicole’s head turned.

***

The next two days went pretty similar for the group, minus a little yes of Waverly yelling and a little more of Waverly talking.

She and Nicole still hadn’t properly ‘talked’, and Waverly had more questions about why Nicole was ignoring her like she didn’t exist. She was determined to corner the basketball player at some point, question her about her hostility when she clearly had no problem yakking on to Wynonna or Doc. But she had to remind herself repeatedly that she and Nicole weren’t friends anymore. That she probably hurt Nicole when she was a stupid kid and she had a right to be upset. That Nicole was a different person now.

So they individually went through their days, their only interaction was the backseat of Doc’s car, and a non-committed nod in the corridor every-so-often.

***
Waverly was almost ready for home, ready to curl up under the covers and sleep the weekend away in a flourish of too-easy-homework and cheesy romance novels. But then Chrissy was glancing at her as she shuffled her back onto her arm, the bell having gone to signal the end of the day, and asked,

“Ready?”

Hazel eyes glanced up from where they had been glaring the Latin book that refused to get into her bag, confusion lacing her brows closer,

“Ready for what?”

Chrissy stared back and quirked an eyebrow,

“Cheer practise? The thing we do every Friday…?”

Waverly shoved a fake grin onto her face, the one she had perfected enough that it even pushed the corners of her eyes up to crinkle in a whole-faced smile. She used it often, and when she did it was hard not to notice the infectiousness it caused. Chrissy was smiling back within seconds, incident having been forgotten.

“Oh! Yeah! Definitely!”

***

Purgatory High’s Head Cheerleader was really not in the mood to be objectified and leered at by the sleazy coach who had been working in this town, in this very position, for longer then even Wynonna could remember. But here she was, lunging and stretching because ‘limbering up was important’.

As the girls lined up in position, Waverly challenged them to go through one of their cheers without her their to lead moves, and so she could watch it from her critical eye in order to work out any kinks. Really it was an excuse to stand on the side lines so she didn’t have to exert very much energy into this practise before she went home, and also so she didn’t have her ass - barely covered by the school poor excuse for a cheerleading skirt - pointed in Willy’s direction. He always insisted on being called ‘Willy’, which, in itself, was extremely creepy.

She watched from the front, just beside the music box, as her team performed their half-time show without her there, in the middle, leading them through every step. There movements were precise, and they hit every pop, lock and swing that Waverly had drilled into their heads, much to her relief. So she let her eyes wonder over tanned, agile legs as they twisted themselves through the routine. The see of tiny skirts and exposed mid-drift was definitely impressive, both for someone interested in dance or something else. It felt almost creepy, her gaze following the curve of their muscles as they put their heart into any and all movements.

Waverly always knew she appreciated a women body, I mean, how could she not? Girls were soft and smooth and appealing, juxtaposing with the rough, hairy bodies of a man. Sometimes she preferred one to the other, and she knew that this was okay because this was just who she was. Over the years (beginning suspiciously around the time that Nicole Haught had surfaced as a basketball star), most of the girls in Purgatory High had all been guilty of a girl-crush every now and then, every female agreeing in games of ‘truth or dare’ that girls obviously had that undeniable attraction. So, really, Waverly fit right in. Purgatory had always been weird, traditional, which is why it shocked her that the school was as developed and accepting as this sometimes.

But then she looked at Nicole Haught and realised why.

Just as she said, this, the sound of jogging feet pounded on the gymnasium floor, and a crowd of guys, and a few girls, dashed in through the door leading to the outside courts. They were all drenched through, shaking wet hair like dogs. Their coach, Nedley (a much more respectable and likeable man then Willy over there), was leading them through, making his way over the cheer squad. Willy only seemed annoyed at the interruption.

Waverly, taking the frontier, approached him,

“What’s the problem, Coach Nedley?”

“Hi, Waverly, sorry about this. It just started chucking it down out there. I tried to push ‘em through but really it was hard to see anything.” He explained with a sigh,

“You’re welcome to practise in here, we only need half the gym.”

“I’d appreciate that, thank you,” He smiled briefly at her from under his bushy moustache before turning back too the group of soggy teens, “Alright, you lot! The cheer squad has kindly let us use half of their gym whilst they practise, so lets remember to be respectful,”

He marched around the group, hands behind his back like a drill sergeant, “I want no hollerin’! No hootin’! No yellin’! No whistling! No chatterin’! No peekin’ No nothin’. If I see a single one of you even glance over to the left side; you'll be benched for the rest of practise. Understood!?” He snapped, and the team all responded in unison.

“Yes, Coach.”

“Alright, clean yourselves up and then back on the court! Suicide runs! 50 of ‘em! Go, go, go! Last one to finish has to run a lap outside in the rain!”

And with that they sprung into action, most of them yanking off their shirts and racing up and down the court. This included Nicole Haught.

Waverly watched as the redhead peeled off her blue uniform top; the sticky material coming away to reveal firm abs and defined biceps, stretching and flexing as she twisted the garment off her forehead. The black sports bra wasn’t as wet, and wasn’t extremely flattering in the chest area, but Waverly loved the way it clung to her body all the same.

“Um… Waves?” She felt a poke against her shoulder and spun, rapidly, turning to see Chrissy staring at her, confused, “you wanna get on with the rest of practise?”

She gestured the group of cheerleaders who had all stopped and were waiting for Waverly’s instructions, murmuring amongst themselves. The youngest Earp flushed a bright red,

“Right! Yes! Of course!”
***

The brunette’s previous attempt at using as little energy as possible this practise was quickly chucked out the window, a new plan devising in her forehead. She called it ‘Dance with literally every bit of energy you have to try and get Nicole Haught to notice you whilst simultaneously avoiding creep coach’ and she was pretty proud of it.

Every move in the cheer was perfectly executed, probably with a little more flare then necessary, and at some point she had pulled her hair from its ponytail to let the honey locks flare and swing as she threw her head back. She was hoping she looked as sexy as she felt, twisting and rolling her defined body to the music. She had noticed a fair few guys cast an appreciative glance her way, but none from the warm, chocolate eyes she wanted and didn’t even know why. She should definitely be trying to get over Nicole. Definitely. But she really didn’t want to.

What Waverly wanted to do in that moment, on a dreary Friday afternoon, with her hair down and her hopes up, and Nicole fresh on her mind, was give this performance her all and dance right for that redhead’s attention.

And she glanced up as she flicked her hip, and there they were.

Brown met with grey.

Nicole was watching.

Pride filled her tiny, sweating body, and a new adrenaline rush filled her to the core. A smirk graced her face as she bent and whipped her hair around, smooth and quick, just as expected. What she was not expecting was the cry and thump she heard. What she was not expecting when she threw her head upwards, hair gone from her eyes, was Nicole Haught, on the floor, clutching her face.

It made her blood run cold.

***

She was shoving people out of the way before she even knew what was happening, the worry forcing her tiny body through the 6 foot tall basketball players until she was crouched down next to the redhead. Her hand was still holding onto her face, but her eyes were just visible from over a blunt thumbnail. Scared eyes looked up at her, and Waverly had no idea why they were looking at her like that.

From under the hand clamped over her mouth, Nicole spoke,

“Hey, Wamermy.” Came her mumbled greeting.

The brunette, as tentatively as possible, reached a hand up to pull at Nicole writs, and her hand moved. Her lip was burst, blood dripping down her chin, and her left nostril was also spilling the crimson the crimson liquid. As best as she could, the redhead smiled sheepishly, clearly in pain,

“Um… I’m fine. I promise.”

***

The nurse had already left for the day, so Nedley had thrown them the first aid kit from his office and Waverly lead Nicole into the empty girls changing room. She dabbed furiously at the wound on her lip, a piece of tissue having been stuffed up her nose to stop the blood, her head tilted back on Waverly’s orders. After a particularly painful swipe of her burst lip, Nicole flinched,

“Jesus, take easy.”

The brunette simply huffed in annoyance and went back to cleaning up the wound.

“If you had been more careful-“

“How is this my fault?” The redhead rolled her eyes, arms crossed,

“Well whose else is it?”

“Yours!”

“What!?”

Nicole stood from the bench, “You were over there with-with Stephanie and Chrissy! You always are!”

“Because we’re friends!” Waverly had no idea where this conversation was going but she had an idea it was no longer about basketball.

“Yeah, well what about me?”

“What about you, Nicole?” Waverly was yelling now, eyes glaring at the redhead, who was scowling with equal intensity, but she wouldn’t meet her eyes. They were fixed on the locker in the corner where they kept spare gym clothes.

“You left me! You didn’t fight for our friendship and then you expect me to just be okay with us being ‘best buds’ again?”

It hit her like a tone of bricks. Like ice passing through her body. Like perfume being sprayed in her eyes: disguised as sweet but now her eyes wouldn’t stop stinging and watering.

“No! Okay, no, I dont expect that. But I want a chance. What I did… It was stupid, it was, but I was only a kid, I didn’t know any better!” Waverly voice was hoarse, and she flopped down back onto the bench. The lights above were harsh and cruel and it was giving her a head ache.

A moment passed before Nicole joined her, a safe distance away, neither looking at the other.

“I… I didn’t know. I didn’t know how you felt. When you stopped coming to our practises I assumed you didn’t want to be friends.”

“I didn’t-“

“No, I know.” Waverly sniffed, wiping at her nose with her wrist briefly, “I know you don’t like cheerleading. You never did. I know that now.”

She could feel Nicole’s eyes on her, burning into the side of her cheek, but with what emotion was a mystery to Waverly.

“…I know I’m being unfair,” Nicole began, but Waverly was shaking her head before she could finish,

“No, you’re not. You’ve had this pent up for so long, this… anger. At me. I… I’m sorry.”

Her eyes turned to Nicole, searching into those brown pools. And they felt so close. So damn close after all these years. And Nicole was smiling sadly, and reaching over with one had and intertwining their fingers and rubbing a thumb over Waverly’s knuckles which Waverly didn’t remember her doing before but she definitely liked.

“Me too. Friends?”

Waverly smiled, head resting on the redheads shoulder, “Friends.”

A few minutes passed like that; just sitting in silence with one another, listening to the buzz of the cheap lightbulbs fighting over attention with the rain agains the rooftop. They drank it in, the feel of each others proximity after years of ignorance, filling in only a minimum of the physical contact of a friendship.

When they’d stopped sniffing, Waverly decided on a might light-hearted topping, but a question she had been dying to ask anyway,

“So how was your thing with Rosita yesterday?” She glanced up, and found Nicole staring at their conjoined hands, expression almost blank, except for a small smile curling on her lips.

“Don’t know. I didn’t go.”

So, overall, Waverly considered plan ‘Dance with literally every bit of energy you have to try and get Nicole Haught to notice you whilst simultaneously avoiding creep coach’ had gone immensely well. She certainly had her attention.

Chapter Text

The thump of the bass against the oak-wood floor travelled up from the tips of her toes, clad in annoyingly-high heels, along her tanned legs and up, up, right to her head where it settled beneath her temples and squeezed into the already forming migraine. She pushed caramel hair from her eyes, longer now, and twisted into curls down her shoulders, to rub at the side of her head with two fingers, eyes clenching shut. This was not where she wanted to be.

“Having fun?” She heard someone ask beside her and turned to see Pete York grinning down at her. Pete was nice enough. He had matured in the years she had known him, going from the pudgy little kid to the tall, snarky guy he was known as today. Sure, there was the constant flirting, even when she was with Perry, and there where he could be infuriating in his ignorance, but right now he was just a sort-of-friend at a party who was showing her attention.

“Ton.” She rolled her eyes and took a sip of her drink, the cold watering nothing to quell the thumping in her forehead.

“You don’t want anything a little stronger?” He questioned, eyeing the red solo cup filled with clear liquid.

“What? You can get things stronger then water?” She smirked, jokingly. This caused the boy to frown and look down at his own drink, filled to the brim with some sort of bronze drink which Waverly guessed to be watered down beer.

“Yeah? Water’s not even alcoholic? You can get, like, cider and vodka and- oh…” He cut himself off and let a slow sloppy smile creep onto his face, “you were joking.”

Waverly looked up at him, quirking an eyebrow, “Yeah.”
“Ha ha, I like a girl whose funny.”

“Clearly.” She mumbled, and attempted to walk away but Pete leaned forward, trapping her with his arm against the wall.

“Wait, wait, I promise I’m not tryin’ to be creepy I just wan’ed to catch up.”

“Pete, can I just go,” She turned her nose up at the alcohol on his breath, clear and pungent so close to her face.

“Just give me five minutes,”

“I have to find my friend-“

“I just wanna know how you’d been, is that a crime?”

“Please, just let me-“

“No-!”

“Waverly! There you are,” A third voice joined the party and an arm slipped its way around her waist and pulled her from Petes grasp. Waverly, a little stunned, blinked twice before looking up into the brown eyes of her saviour and her heart beat slowed to a comfortable thump, instead of its incessant rapping.

“Hi, Nic. I was waiting for you.” She leaned heavily against her friend, letting her body melt into the curve of the redheads. Beneath her touch, she could feel the taught muscle, pounded into excellent shape thanks to years of practise, tense as her eyes turned to Champ.

“Can I help you, York?” Her voice was not at all helpful or welcoming. In fact, her tone was practically telling their classmate to piss off before I punch you.

“No problem here, Haught. I just wanted to catch up with Waverly.” He seized up, crossing his arms and raising his chin as much as possible so he could simulate what it would be like to look down upon the basketball star, despite not being able to due to Nicole rapid height growth. Waverly chose this time to chime in.

“And I just wanted to not. Come on, Nicky, lets go find Wynonna.” Waverly prompted, tugging at the redheads flannel. With one last glare, she obediently followed Waverly through the crowd towards the kitchen. They didn't say anything as they entered the quite room, Waverly moving towards the drinks table to refill her now empty cup with water.

The ginger sighed and pulled herself up onto the counter, her forearms bracing her body against her knees. It only took a few seconds for Waverly to approach, offering Nicole the cup, which she accepted. Another second of silence passed, although not entirely uncomfortable, and the brunette watched the column of her throat bob as she swallowed, before setting the cup back down.

“You okay?” The redhead was the first to break the silence. Now it was Waverley turn to sigh and she moved forward until she was right in front of Nicole, so she could pick at the fabric of her jeans.

“Yeah. It’s just Pete being Pete.” She shrugged, but her hazel eyes didn’t meet the other girls, instead staying trained on the faded denim, stretched against her knee. Nicole smiled softly,

“Hey,” She breathed, hooking a finger under the other girls chin so she would look at her, “It’s okay to not be okay.”

Waverly looked up into those honest eyes for a moment and smiled back, her face relaxing in the warmth of the hand now cupping her cheek,

“I’m okay now.”

And they both smiled, in that tiny kitchen, in that strangers house, knowing they’d always be there to look out for each other from now on.

___

Nicole was thankfully only a little hung over from last nights events, and getting up from her oh-so-comfortable bed was about as easy as it always was; which means not at all. By the time all of her limbs were pulled from under the comforter and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, she had run out of time to eat.

The redhead dashed out of her bedroom door, almost knocking over one of her basketball trophies, and jogged down the stairs.

“Nicole! How many times do I have to tell you? Stop thumping down those damn stairs!” Her mother hollered from the kitchen, and she could practically see the eye roll and heavy sigh that always followed, if the tired tone of her voice was anything to go by. Nicole didn’t even take the time to apologise, knowing, either way, it wouldn’t matter. She’d find something to be mad about by the end of the day.

So instead, she yelled back a “Seeya” from the front porch and slammed the door shut behind her, just out of spite, and ran to her car. She had seen the 1990 Ford Crown Victoria in Doc’s friends garage, the way the sun barely glinted against the dusty hood, the way the lights were smashed in and the seats inside chaffed against any movement and the radio had been ripped out, she knew it was the one. Doc’s friend, Dolls, had insisted that the car only needed a bit of love and he would even help her fix it, but by then she was already forking over the savings she had made over the summer from selling her dads old tapes.

“Mornin', gorgeous.” She grinned at the vehicle, its newly painted coat of black smiling back at her. Slipped into the front seat and allowed her fingers to travel over the leather, a smile growing. The first day back at school and she’d be showing up in this bad boy. Her heart almost gave out.

She was snapped out of her thoughts as her phone rang, the Imperial March still loud and clear from the tiny speakers. She dug it out of her pocket and smiled at who was calling, emojis littered after those beautiful letters.

“Yellow?” She answered with a click of the green button.

“Nic, you haven’t left yet, have you?” A honey-sweet voice crackled through the phone. Waverly really needed a new phone.

“Nope, just got into that car now.”

“Good. Can you pick me up? Wynonna’s refusing to give me a ride,”

In the background, Nicole heard the unmistakable yelling of Wynonna,

“Four years I had to wake up early and drive to that hell! Four years! And I’m not making a habit of doing it again! Not even for one last semester!”

“No worries, Waves. I’ll be there in 5.” Nicole chuckled,

“Thanks, Nic! You’re the best!”
“I know.” And with that, she hung up, flicked on the radio, and hit the gas just as Kenny Chesney’s All the Pretty Girls crooned from the newly-installed speakers. Nicole tried really hard not to sing along.

“I love this song!” Waverly squealed as the car pulled up in front of the Gibson household 3 minutes later. The ending notes faded out just as she clambered into the seat next to Nicole, and the redhead swallowed as she watched the sundress she was wearing billow from the wind of the open car window. the morning sun creeped through the windshield and hit the brunettes’ head just right, causing light to dazzle off her teeth and the sun to kiss the top of her head, spilling a light gold. Nicole fought down her dimpled grin, because Waverly Earp was wearing her flannel, in her car, sitting beside her.

The youngest Earp looked up and frowned when she saw the redhead staring, and then looked down at the flannel that was wrapped around her shoulders. The one Nicole had handed her last night as goosebumps rippled her skin in the chill of the night.

“Oh! Your flannel! I wore it so I wouldn’t forget to give it to you!” the brunnette smiled, making a show of pulling off the offending fabric, a blue and red pattern, and handing it to her driver.

“Thanks. I, um, forgot anyway.” Nicole nodded, and tossed the flannel into the back seat. She was about to start the car up again when the front door of the house burst open and Wynonna sauntered over, looking as rebellious as ever in her tight, frilled leather jacket.

“Wynonna. Still makin’ use of that jacket, huh?” Nicole grinned when the older Earp got close enough to hear. The brunette grinned, leaning in though the open passenger door window to wink at her friend,

“You know it, Haught-stuff,” But suddenly her face turned stoic, “You get my baby girl to school and back safe, ya hear? Or you’ll be dealing with a foot up your ass. My foot.”

“Wynonna-!” Waverly began, but soon her sister was turning on her,

“And you! Don’t let Haught get into to much trouble, I won’t be afraid to kick your ass either…” She paused for a moment, eyes narrowed, before it melted away and she placed a kiss on her sisters head, “Love you!”

***

“Waverly, no, turn it off!”

“You love it and you know it!”“I promise you I don’t!”
“Where did you come from where did you go, WHERE DID YOU COME FROM COTTON EYE JOE?”

“OH GOD MY EARS!”

***

The door slammed shut behind her, and already she felt unsafe not in the front seat of her car.

“Son of a bucket,” Nicole mumbled under her breath, arms hanging limp at her sides, as she realised she’d have to battle yet another semester, the very last one, without Wynonna and Doc, now that they’ve graduated. The very thought of entering that demon-infested hell hole of a school sent Nicole’s stomach plummeting to the ground, where she would no doubt have to drag it along the cracked concrete.

“Oh stop looking so upset, grumpy butt.” Waverly cooed from beside her, her arm wrapping around the redheads bicep and squeezing lightly as she teased. The Nicole looked down at her with a deadpan expression,

“You can’t be genuinely excited about going in there, right?”

“Sure I am! I can’t wait to redecorate my locker, see all the teachers again-“

“Oh, gross, calm down, Sugar Plum Fairy.” Nicole faked a gag and Waverly just giggled, tugging her towards the front entrance.

“You can’t wait to see everyone from last semester?” She asked, lacing her voice as innocently and sweetly as possibly. Nicole seized up and grimaced, her nose upturning,

“God, you’re giving me a cavity here, Sugar.”

Waverly laughed and buried her face into Nicole arm, still in her clutches.

***

“Hey, Haught, saw your car out there,” Rosita smiled as she approached the redhead, leaning next to her against the lockers.

“Like her?” Nicole grinned proudly. She and Rosita had had several hook-ups over the years, the two of them somehow finding comfort in the over-whelming loneliness of high school life. Nicole was hot, Rosita was too, to them it just made sense. But the air between them was never awkward; they were friends and constantly shared banter jokes and teasing each other as they came down from their highs.

“You know what they say: fast on the court, fast in the sheets,”

“Well, Bustillos, I’ve certainly BUST-it-LO in you,”

This caused the two of them to somehow become an insane version of friends. It wasn’t dating, and it wasn’t official, they just got burgers as friends and then made out as lovers afterwards.

“Uh, yeah, I do! Have you named her?” Rosita nudged the redhead in the ribs.

The other girl shook her head, “Nah, who the hell names their car?”

This abruptly caused the locker Nicole was standing by to slam shut, and both girls jumped as a frowning Waverly Earp turned to her friend,

“But Nickyyyyyy,” She stretched out her name and the redhead’s eyes shot to the ceiling, her arms crossed,

“No, it doesn’t have a name.”

“Nickyyyyyyyyy…” This one was stretched out even longer, and Rosita held back a chuckle at the current situation; Waverly stood in front of Nicole, eyes big and doe-like, lip jutted out into pout, as her friend avoiding her gaze, standing at least a foot above the other girl, and yet her resolve crumbling, “I thought we agreed,”

“Well we didn’t.”

“Agreed on what?” Rosita butted in, grin stretching,

“Waverly wants to name it after my first ever cat,” Nicole rolled her eyes, and Waverly just nodded, eyes never leaving the face of her friend,

“Because that’s its name…” She whined,

“No it isn’t!” Nicole cried, exasperated, as she mad sth horrible mistake of looking down at her opponent. The cheerleader took the opportunity to turn her pout up a notch and tilted her head ever so slightly forward so she would have to look up at Nicole through her eyelashes. The redheads throat bobbed. A few seconds passed. The redhead shook her head and clenched her eyes shut.

“Nope, no, no it isn’t!”

A hand came up to yank on the sleeve of the gingers flannel, and soon Waverly was tugging her crossed arms apart to step into her friends space, their hands intertwining,

“Nickkyyyy…” She cooed again, and this time she had to look down. And just like that, her resolve crumbled, a dopey smiles spreading across the redheads face as she blushed and nodded awkwardly,

“Okay we can call it Calamity Jane.”

Waverly squealed and hopped onto her tiptoes, pressing a kiss to Nicole’s cheek,

“Thanks, Nicky! I’ll see you in History!” And just like that, Waverly was bounding off to her first period in search of knowledge or rainbows or probably Chrissy.

Rosita stopped forward and punched her friend on the arm, snapping her out of her Waverly-induced haze,

“Calamity Jane, huh? Doesn’t really suit you, Nickyyyyyy,” She teased and Nicole scowled, shoving her away by her face,

“Piss off.”

***

Firm lips landed upon hers, the musky smell of the storage cupboard being overpowered by a strong smell of roses. Nicole decided to comment on it, breathlessly, between kisses.

“You smell good,” She mumbled, and Rosita smiled into their next kiss, a hand coming up to grip her collar.

“Yeah? It’s called Black Rose: Indulgence.”

“That’s ridiculous,” A hand weaved through brown roots and Nicole nipped at the spot below her ear, just the way she liked, and inhaled sharply, “I like it.”

“Good, I’ll wear it more often,” Rosita said as their lips reconnected. She pushed Nicole back onto a crate before swinging a leg over her lap to straddle her. As she did, she flicked her hair back and smirked at the girl beneath her, “Bet I don’t smell as good as Waverly,”

Without even thinking, Nicole replied,

“Of course you don’t. Waverly smells like strawberries,” She stated, before her eyes went wide in the revelation. Rosita just smirked and went back to kissing a line up her tense neck, feeling the muscle relax under her touch,

“When are you going to tell her that you love her?” The redheads hands went from the Latino’s waist to her shoulders, stilling her movement,

“I’m not.” She said pointedly. Rosita rolled her eyes.

“Sure.”

“I’m not!”

“Nicole,” The brunette sat back on her haunches, hand coming up to fix the other girls hair from where it had been tousled by her fingers, “I’m not an idiot. And, as much as I hate to admit it, neither are you. So stop pretending you are one and just admit it already. You like her, at the very least.”

A moment passed of Nicole just staring at the floor, counting the crevices in the old concrete, imagining what it would be like to have Waverly sitting in her lap, Waverly running her hands through her hair, Waverly’s lips on hers. Rosita was right, of course she was. She’d liked Waverly ever since she had been a little kid, even if she didn’t know it back then; by now it had to have evolved into this huge, heavy thing weighing down on her chest. She could feel it wherever she went, warm fingers digging into her heart ever deeper, a vice like grip yanking it around inside of her like a toy. At a flicker of Waverly’s smile, it threw it upwards into her throat. When she watched the latest guy flirt with her best friend, it sank at a record rate to rest in the very pit of her stomach. It was ridiculous and it was something she could no longer ignore, especially if even Rosie had noticed.

She turned, wet, chocolate eyes on her friend, who cupped her face sympathetically,

“What if… What if she leaves again?”

The very thought make her want to vomit. Imagining the back of Waverly’s head waltzing away when she told her, probably worse to look at then the face of pure disgust she wore. Rosita smiled sadly at her friend, and pulled her face closer,

“Nicole. I promise you she wont. That girl… She’s crazy about you and she hasn’t even noticed. She just needs that little push. Why would someone that… adoring of you, want to leave you again? She was a kid before just,” Rosita released a slow breath as she searched for the right words, “give her a chance,”

The basketball player mulled it over in her head for a second and opened her mouth to answer, when the door to the storage room burst open.

“What the hell are you two doing in here? Haught, why aren’t you in class?” Nedley glared at the two, Nicole flashing a sheepish grin.

***

Time had moved pretty fast in Nicole’s senior year. Before she had known it people were talking about Universities and scholarships and she was still deciding on what she wanted for breakfast. It was a little overwhelming but Waverly sent her some links to college’s she was thinking of to help her make a decision and that helped. As well as talking to her sister, who usually ignored her, about how life in the university of Florida, thousands of miles away, was going.

She said pretty decent.

***

Fourth period (where she received a serious glare from her Chemistry teacher for showing up late thanks to another one of her and Rosie’s impromptu ‘study session’) rolled into lunch, and she found herself waltzing through the canteen with both her and Waverly’s lunch’s balanced in her hands. As she held them side by side, she couldn't help but compare the vegan atrocities on Waverly’s tray to her own greasy substitutes and chuckle.

She pushed open the doors to the outside seating area and weaved her way through the crowds of students to get to their regular picnic bench, smiling as she saw Waverly talking animatedly about something to Chrissy whilst Rosita watched on, perplexed. Nicole ducked under one of the brunette’s sweeping hand gestures and settled next to her, laying her lunch in front of her before grabbing at her burger.

“Thanks, Nicky,” Waverly smiled briefly at her, and Nicole’s stomach erupted in butterflies, but she shook it off. As she turned back to her fries, Rosita caught her eye and gave her a knowing smirk. She flipped her off in return.

“-And so I told him that this History is worth an A and he knows it,” Waverly waggled her finger, eyes wide.

“You didn’t!” Chrissy gasped,

“Well, no, I didn’t,” Waverly shrugged, “But I was thinking it!”

“A little underwhelming there, don’t you think, Waves?” Rosita said as she reached over and snatched up on of Nicole’s fries, earning her a glare,

“Okay but if you knew Mr Del Rey you’d be scared of him too.” She argued,

“Oh I do know Mr Del Rey. Me and Nicole had him sophomore year. Hated me but he thought Nicole was funny. One time she told him he was wearing a romans coat and he laughed,” The latino replied,

Waverly turned her eyes on her tallest friend, clearly shocked, and only receiving a a shrug in response.

“Nicole!”

“What?”

“You could have told me he liked you!”

Nicole raised an eyebrow, “And how would that have helped?”

“I could have associated myself with you! You know, dropped it into conversation really casually about how we’re besties,”

“Sure, Waverly. Whatever you want.” Nicole grumbled, biting into her burger a little aggressively. The brunette eyes turned concerned and she turned fully to face her, hand resting on her shoulder,

“Hey… You okay?” She asked quietly, and Nicole almost spilled right then and there. Blurted out how she was in love with her and had been several years, told her that sometimes at night she fantasised about kissing her, explained how she thought she had the most beautiful smile in the world; all with an overpriced cheeseburger stuffed into her cheek. But she didn’t. Instead, she forced on her most believable smile and told her she was fine.

“If you’re sure…”
“I am.”

“…Well, anyway, Chrissy and I were thinking about going to a party on Saturday-“

“Son of a bucket,”

“-and we were wondering if you’d be our DD?”

***

Knock knock.

“Yes?”

“Evening, Mr Del Rey,”

“Haught. What brings you here, you know I’m busy,”

“Yeah, creeping on your students Facebook pages must take up a lot of time,”

“Ha… Alright, how can I help?”

“I wanted to talk about my best friends essay…”

***

;) ;) Waves ;) ;) (9:22)
Mr Del Rey changed the paper to an A!

Nickyy <3 (9:23)
Really? Thats so cool waves

;) ;) Waves ;) ;) (9:23)
Ikr? Now I can get a scholar ship to Calgary I hope

Nickyy <3 (9:24)
You’re thinking of going Calgary? I was looking there too!

 

;) ;) Waves ;) ;) (9:25)
ReallY!? We should go to the open day together!

***

Saturday came.

A drunken Waverly stumbled up the stairs of the strangers house, grip firm on the bannister as Chrissy followed behind, clutching tight to a bottle of scotch.

“Th-this way!” She giggled as they reached top landed and she barred them through the lazy groups of teens to an open door, where they found themselves in a bedroom, the lights dimmed low. As Chrissy Nedley barrelled in with a laugh, Waverly closed it and they found themselves sitting side by side on the bed, passing the bottle between them.

“My turn, my turn,” Waverly smacked her friends arm impatiently,

“Okay, fine: truth or dare?” She questioned, eyes narrowing at the brunette as she brought the bottle to lips and took a long swig, followed by a grimace, “God this is gross. How does my dad drink this?”

“Um… Truth!” Waverly replied, shifting forward to tuck her legs underneath her,

“Truth… A truth for Waverly…” Chrissy sang in thought, before a devious grin stretched her lips, “If you had to kiss a girl, who would it be?”

Waverly scoffed and flopped back onto the pillows behind her,

“Nicole! For sure, definitely.” She nodded confidently, not even really realising what she was saying. Chrissy squealed and clapped excitedly,

“I knew it! Okay, why? Explain. I want detaaiiiillllss. And not jus’ cos’ she’s hot, alright?”

The youngest Earp laughed and then quietened,

“I don’t know… she’s just…” A small smile twisted at her lip, “She’s Nicole, you know? Nicole is… sweet and-and kind… and, like, super hot. She makes me feel safe. All warm an’ stuff an’ I wanna be with her all the time. It’s kinda worryin’ actually… how much I miss her when she’s not here. Like I miss her right now, even. I wonder wha-she’s doin’…”

Waverly sighed contentedly and turned onto her side.

“She’s literally downstairs right now,”

Before she even blinked, Waverly was off the bed and bouncing through the door,

“NICKYYYY!”

***

“Nicky!”

“Hey, Waves, what’s up? Having fun?”

“I missed you,” She slumped into the other girls arms, burying her face into her chest,

“I missed you too, Waves. Come on, I think it’s time to get you home. Wynonna will be worried about you,”

Brown eyes gazed up at her, and Waverly’s ‘baby state’ appeared in her drunken stupor,

“When we get back will woo cuddle wi’ me?”

“Sure, Waves. Come on, let’s go find Chrissy.”

***

Nicole had been half hoping by the time she had gotten Waverly into her room at the Gibson household that the brunette would have forgotten the request (also half begging mentally that she hadn’t). But, Waverly’s memory retained the moment, however, and small hands easily grabbed her and wrestled her down under her small body and the four blankets.

A whispering thought in her mind had her reminiscing back to the times she would sleep over as a kid.

***

She went through her last semester fast.

She won basketball games, she lost them.

She took tests and wrote essays and applications and the next thing she knew there was a set date for graduation and people were talking about prom.

When her letters from the University of Calgary and Florida arrived, she opened them both in the quite of her bedroom, her parents not having ever asked where she was planning on heading out. She read up to ‘Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that the committee of -‘ before she had her phone up to her ear with it ringing in her ear. It rang twice before there was a click and a honey sweet voice she knew so well answered without a ‘hello’,

“Did you get your letters!?”

“Yeah!” She huffed out a laugh, already knowing by the excitement of her voice that she had been accepted wherever she wanted, unsurprisingly. It was Waverly, after all.

“Did you get in!?”

“Yes.”

There was a squeal on the other end that caused Nicole to lift the phone briefly away from her ear.

***

“Where are you going?” Wynonna asked one night on the roof of the Homestead, her fingers picking at the skin of an orange she had been tossing up and down for the past 10 minutes. Nicole turned her head to look at where her best friend was lying next to her.

“Not sure yet.”

“It’s Calgary or… Florida?” She asked, appearing unsure but Nicole knew that Wynonna had googled how far away Florida was from Purgatory the moment Nicole had told her. It was 4,528.0 km.

“Yep. Basketball scholarships to both.”

“Hm. Sounds good.” Wynonna sighed, her voice as nonchalant as she could make it, “I never really took to colleges. Too stuffy for my liking. Professors and stuck-up nerds? No thanks.”

“I know, Wynonna.”

“But… it’s a good opportunity. You should definitely go. To one of them.”

“I know, Wynonna.”

“Haught?” A newfound vulnerability had crept into Wynonna’s voice, and it caused the redhead to tear her eyes away from the navy sky to look at her friend, who had stabbed the orange in her hand with her thumb. Nicole watched the juice spill from the wound, leaving a sticky orange trail down Wynonna’s wrist as it disappeared into the sleeve of her leather jacket. The one Nicole had got her. However, Wynonna was emotionless, her eyes fixed on the sky, refusing to look over at her friend, although from this angle the basketball player could still see the dampness of her eyes reflecting from the light of the sun.

“Yeah?” Her voice was quiet, barely above a whisper, as though she was afraid Wynonna would close up again if she raised it too high.

Her face turned, unexpectedly, and Nicole made eye contact with those piercing blue eyes, damp and threatening to spill with the weight of their balled up emotions,

“Whatever you do, you gotta promise me, you gotta keep yourself safe. And you gotta keep Waverly safe. Please. Promise me.” A single tear slipped down the faint laughter lines on her cheekbones. Her friend smiled at her, an easy-going, relaxed smile that quelled all of her fears instantly the way she knew it would.

“I promise.” The redhead turned back to the sky, “I’ve decided I’m going Calgary.”

“Nicole, don’t-“

“I’ve decided.” She stated with finality, silencing Wynonna’s protests, “I have to keep an eye on you Earps, and that’s hard to do from so many miles away,”

***

Nicole walked out of her History class with Waverly into an overly-extraordinary ‘Promposal’; a guy was finishing up a romantic ballad for his girlfriend, and, as he sang the last line, his friends stood behind him and ripped open their shirts to reveal ‘PROM?’ painted sloppily in red ink across their chests. She was about to chuckle at the ridiculous display over the sounds of people clapping, when she heard Waverly ‘aww’ beside her.

Okay so maybe Promposals weren’t as stupid as she thought.

***

“You taking Waverly to Prom?” Champ asked her during basketball practise as he tossed her the ball.

Nicole raised an eyebrow as she bounced it once before passing back, “I don’t know, why?”

“I was just wondering if she was fair game,” He shrugged,

“Waverly isn’t ‘fair game’.” She stated, her eyes narrowed,

He rolled his eyes

During her next pass she admits that it maybe might have been a little harsher then necessary. Maybe she was kinda happy when Champ got winded. Maybe she got a little joy when he had to stop to catch his breath. It’s not like she was proud of it.

(She was).

***

“Has Nicole asked you to Prom?” Chrissy questioned her friend when she sat down next to her in Math, a hopeful smile on her face,

“No,” She replied exasperatedly, her hands coming up to cup her face as she leaned her elbows on her desk, “Chrissy, what if she never does?”

“She will. I promise.” Chrissy replied as enthusiastically as possible, nudging her with her elbow.

***

“Nicole.”

“Chrissy?” Nicole’s eyebrow raised as she was cornered outside of the locker rooms.

“Ask Waverly to prom.”

“What!? I don’t even like her…” Nicole mumbled, avoiding the other girls gaze. Chrissy rolled her eyes, deciding now was not the time,

“Platonically then. Go as friends. Just do it,” She went to march off before she paused and shifted into a small smile, “she wants you to.”

She definitely did not miss the flash of hope on Nicole’s face as she strutted off towards physics.

***

Nicole crouched down next to the stack of DVD’s by the Gibson’s television, grimacing at the selection.

“Princess Diaries?” She said, casting a gaze over her shoulder,

“It’s good! Don’t pretend you don't love it!” Waverly replied indignantly, throwing a pillow at the back of her head,

“I don’t.” Nicole huffed, stretching her arms above her head as she stood back up, “I don’t understand why you don’t move to the 21st century and just get Netflix.”

Waverly’s eyes followed the movement of her muscle along her back before she snapped herself out of her daze and replied, “Netflix doesn’t have Dirty Dancing.”

The redhead spun around and crossed her arms at her friend, ignoring how great those denim short shorts made her legs look as they stretched over the arm of the couch; unicorn socks cladding her feet, “Netflix has Gossip Girl.”

A moment of silence passed as Waverly, on her back on the couch, stared up at her friend,

“You’re lying.”

“I’m not. All the way up to season 6.”

Waverly’s jaw fell open, her brow furrowing, “Those fuckers.”

Nicole laughed and went over to the door of the living room to pull on her coat and boots,

“Okay, whilst you question your life choices, I’ll go and get pizza.”

Waverly tilted her head back to watch her friend leave, “Plain cheese with-?”

“Mushrooms and peppers on half, yeah I got you.” Nicole smiled.

***

The marker was fading and Nicole grimaced at the squeak, her eyes flying up to the door but seeing no movement. With the final character scratched onto the inside of the cardboard, she shut the lid to stop any more cold air from getting to the still steaming pie, her heart thundering in her chest. She took the final step up to the front step and reached for the doorknob, and it twisted easily under her shaking hand.

She stepped inside and could hear the prom scene of 10 Things I Hate About You spilling from the living room, the light from the screen flickering along the walls around the corner because Waverly loved turning all the lights off for any movie. the basketball player smiled warmly as she shut the door behind her, the shaking of her hands decreasing slightly because ‘It’s just Waverly’.

“Nic?” She heard her voice come through the open doorway.

“Hey Waves.” The redhead called back, setting the pizza down to untie her boots.

“Hurry! Bianca just punched Joey in the face!” Came a hollered response and Nicole laughed, walking through with Pizza box in hand. She almost froze when she took in the sight of Waverly Earp, in her oversized PHS hoody, curled up in the corner of the sofa, soft hazel hair pulled into a bun atop her head, making her look absolutely adorable. Nicole had seen the sight many-a-time; movie nights replacing sleepovers recently, and Waverly being a huge fan of Nicole’s large collection of jumpers. But it got her every time: the untamed hair, the happy, ear-to-ear, eye crinkling smile, the jumper sleeves that folded over her hands to make paws. Nicole couldn’t help herself.

So, with a new found confidence, because there was nothing to be scared of because it’s just Waverly but it’s never just Waverly, she walked over and offered the box to her without a word, the lid lifting slowly.

“Thank God, I’m starv-“ But just as she was about to lunge for a piece, she saw the scribbled, unmistakeable handwriting of Nicole etched onto the cardboard amongst sticky cheese and tomato sauce and one stray mushroom.

Nicole coughed, attempting to ease down some of the tension by making one of her poorly timed jokes,

“I saw this online and, you know…” She shrugged, referring to the message on the inside of the box. The one that had left an unprepared Waverly utterly speechless as she stared, face stoic, at the purple ink reading,

‘I KNOW THIS IS CHEESY, BUT WILL YOU GO TO PROM WITH ME?’

A hastily scribbled ‘(platonically)’ was also etched underneath the note, but Waverly chose to ignore it for the moment and lurched for her redheaded friend, arms wrapping around he neck and pulling herself up off the couch with the leverage.

“So… is that a yes?” Nicole laughed nervously as she set the pizza down onto the coffee table and wrapped her arms around the petite brunette.

“Yes, you idiot!” Waverly squeeled, legs wrapping around her friends waist. The other girl supported her weight easily, chuckling as she pulled her impossibly closer,

“You’re such a koala, Waves.”

“Shut up.”

Nicole smiled and buried her face into the soft skin of her neck, breathing in strawberries.
“And also easy.”

“I said shut up or I wont go to Prom with you.”

“No you wouldn’t”

“You’re right, I wouldn’t.”

Chapter Text

Sweat was clinging to her skin, she could feel it sticking the white fabric of her shirt to her back and grimaced at the feeling, lugging the final cardboard box up the stairs and into her dorm room. She leant against the pile that had just congregated and wiped her sticky forehead with her forearm, huffing out a sigh of relief.

“That’s the last of them.” She said, glancing over to the form by the window. Her eyes clashed with wide, hazel eyes that quickly cast themselves back to the bookshelf. Waverly cleared her throat, a sight pink dusting her cheeks as she reached up to push a textbook beside the others in an even, neat line.

“Thank you again, Nicky, I really appreciate it.” She cast a smile over her shoulder and Nicole tried to not think about how she would heave a thousand boxes up those stairs if it meant she could see that smile again.

“If you had just moved in earlier like me, though…” Nicole teased, rolling her eyes. Waverly laughed with a shake of her head.

“I know, I know. It would have been a lot easier but,” She slipped the final book onto the shelf and turned round to give her friend a small smile and a slight shrug, “I just wasn’t ready to leave yet.”

Nicole smiled softly back and walked over to the other side of the room where her friend stood, her hands coming up to grasp stiff shoulders that almost immediately relaxed under her touch, “I know, Waves. It’s okay.”

She dipped her head slightly to catch her gaze and a moment passed of silence and smiles before a knock interrupted them and Nicole jumped back from her friend, who immediately surged to the door, eager to answer her own door for the first time. Nicole leaned up against another stack of boxes, hands stuffed into the pockets of her jeans and her legs crossed at the ankle.

The door was swung open brightly to reveal a grin so wide it might even challenge Waverly’s. Nicole quirked an eyebrow at the sight.

“Hi! I’m Jeremy, I’m you’re neighbour!” He said enthusiastically, and the redhead could practically see the other girls body shuddering in an attempt to match his energy. Waverly’s arms swung outwards and she brought the stranger into a hug, who immediately accepted, almost knocking the flower crown off her head at the rapid motion. Nicole ignored her own body stiffening at the sight.

Nicole had moved into Calgary’s dorm halls two weeks before the semester started, in order to try and guarantee a place on the Student Campus Police programme the school had began a few years before, whilst Waverly had stayed behind to say her goodbye’s properly to the town in which she had known her whole life. Whilst the redhead has left the dusty clump of buildings occasionally to stretch out into the open road, see the sea, visit the city, Waverly had only ever known the world within Purgatory’s perimeters. The moment that Waverly had been accepted the Calgary, it wasn’t hard to see the fear fooding through her veins, dimming her smile ever so slightly, but enough the make Nicole’s chest ache. Even though she was there, she had observed Waverly’s thirst for experience and adventure first hand, and whilst she was scared about this new place, there was nothing on earth that was going to stop her from getting a new friend. Nicole just didn’t know if it was necessary to hug said new friend so tightly and for so long.

“Hi Jeremy! It’s so good to meet you! I’m Waverly!” She said to him over his shoulder, before pulling back and gesturing to an awkward Nicole,

“This is Nicole. You can just call her Nic, everyone does.” Waverly eyes stayed fixed on her friend and Nicole softened, smiling right back with as much comfort and love as she could muster.

“Hi, nice to meet you!” Jeremy greeted, but thankfully got the hint by Nicole’s unmoving posture that he was not getting a hug this time around. Nicole nodded and smiled as best she could, but she could feel it’s stiffness at the edges of her lips.

“You too.”

“Nicky lives one floor down, so if I’m not here or in classes, I’ll probably be down there. Just a heads up.” Waverly giggled, grabbing Nicole’s arm and squeezing, a surge of electricity shooting up to the other girls shoulder.

Jeremy just smiled, nodding understandingly,

“Yeah, I’ll probably be with my boyfriend a lot too-“

“Jeremy stop lying to the girls you don’t have one.” A stern voiced man called in from the open doorway as he walked passed, holding a box to his chest. Nicole felt herself visibly relax at the comment.

“Shut up, Dolls!” He countered, spinning round, and was met with a stony glare that he visibly shrunk under, “or don’t, whatever, it’s up to you.”

‘Dolls’ barked out a low laugh and then sat his box down, leaning against the doorway.

“I’m, Xavier Dolls, I live across the hall. Pleasure to meet you two.” He said with a tight-lipped, barely there smile. He had an air of authority about him, standing with such pride in himself that would only come with a few years of training in some sort of authority. Marines or the Navy or something, Nicole guessed. Her eyes flitted down to the dog tags that hung from his neck.

“You an army man?” Nicole smirked, nodding to his tags. He nodded without looking down.

“Was in the force for two years. Let go about two months ago on honourable discharge. I plan to go back once I get my degree.” He informed as warmly as she guessed someone like him could.

“That’s so awesome!” Waverly cooed, still gripping Nicole’s arm, practically bouncing with energy. Nicole chuckled, her eyes casting upwards to find Dolls fighting the smile that threatened to part his lips because of course Waverly was just that infectious.

It made Waverly Waverly.

Everyone loved her but somehow, for some reason, she chose to spend her time with Nicole.

***

Waverly’s first night at university was spent in a booth of the local bar, that reminded her a hell of a lot of Shorty’s, laughing with Nicole and Jeremy over tales from home and a few mediocre draft beers.

“-So my foots totally stuck in there, right, I’m freaking out, the dogs having a seizure and I’ve still got half a pie left!” Jeremy howled, his voice strangled by his own tears. The laugh that shook Waverly’s petit form made Nicole stop her own chuckling to watch it unfold. Her head was thrown back, her flower crown having been lost at one point during the evening, her eyes crinkling at the edges an her pearly whites on display, shining in the soft glow of the bar. One hand flew to hold her aching stomach over her floral top, whilst the other clutched the table for support; it appeared as if her whole body was shaking with the force of her joy and Nicole quickly swallowed the rest of her beer.

“I’m gonna go get another drink. You want anything?” She slipped out from the booth as quickly as possible, her hands pinching her thigh sharply from the inside of her pocket though the hole she had torn. Waverly looked up, her grin still mesmerising and Nicole’s eyes turned to the spot just above her eyebrows so that she wouldn’t have to look directly at that smile.

“I’m good, thanks.”

“Jeremy?”

“No thanks.”

“Alright.” She turned and pretended not to hear the ‘hurry back!’ hollered at her by the brunette through her smile. Because she could still hear that damn smile.

This entire thing had gotten out of hand. She just got her best friend back, the last thing she needed to do was scare her away
She slid onto an empty stool, bracing herself with one forearm as she dug around in her back pocket for her card. She didn’t even notice somebody moving onto the seat next to her until they spoke up.

“Hey there.” A sultry voice said, low and inviting, and Nicole glanced up to find herself face to face with a caramel-skinned brunette with a smile unlike Waverly’s but not in anyway deterring.

“Hi.”

“I’m Shae.” She said, her soft, manicured hand coming out to grasp Nicole’s a lingering grip.

Nicole cleared her throat, her eyes darting over to where Waverly was busy laughing at another one of Jeremy’s lame jokes, before they returned to the older woman.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

***

“Where’s Nicole?” Jeremy asked, wiping his hands on his trousers as he reappeared from the bathroom. Waverly tried not to look sad.

“Oh, she went home early. Poor thing wasn’t feeling well.”

***

She wasn’t expecting much from Shae. She wasn’t expecting her first college hook up to be on the first official night, especially since she’d promised Waverly she would stay that night as her roommate hadn’t shown up yet. She wasn’t expecting to feel so empty and so painfully lonely even with those silky hands travelling up and down her body, with that devious smile directed at her. She tried not to compare Shae to Waverly.

She woke in the early hours of the morning, sore on her back and a headache in her temples, cursing herself silently as she stumbled in the dim light to find her clothes. She took the walk of shame with her shoes in her hand but a sense of satisfaction low in her stomach. Sex on the first night? Awesome. It didn’t even occur to her that it had been her first time ‘doing the do’ until the second time it happened and she was a lot more sober and a lot more conscious of the fact. Shae, of course, was sweet and understanding and re-educated her on how she liked to be touched, and soon Nicole was reacquainted with every dip, curve and muscle of the Medical Major’s lithe body.

It became an unplanned routine; they would catch the others eye from across the bar on a Friday night and the next thing she knew Shae’s lips were nipping at her neck as the Uber drove them back to her apartment.

It wasn’t a relationship but it was something.

And she fit it into her life as easily as she fit a bullet into a cylinder. Simple and unattached, just what she needed when all of her emotions were spinning pinwheels in her head.

A short, simple huff of oxygen as she breathed.

Waverly, on the other hand, was a strangled final breath of air as she fought of death.

***

Mondays she would wake up, throw on a jeans and a shirt, and stumble down, still half-drunk on the touch of Shae, to her early morning lecture.

2 hours later, she’d come outside of her criminology class and find Waverly, waiting on a bench with coffee, bagels, and a dazzling smile, and they’d talk about plans for that night because Monday night was movie night.

Then they’d walk, hands swinging, intertwined in the space between them, through the crisp autumnal air until they stopped at the History building and Waverly disappeared in side.

And then Nicole was left to find something to do by herself until Waverly got out of her class.

It was on one of those periods now, when Nicole lay on her bed, tossing her basketball up into the air on repeat as the pop music that Waverly loved so much flowed from her open laptop on the desk. The door was open; inviting anyone, anything to drag her from the boredom he felt without her ray of sunshine around. Especially since, of course, their temperamental internet router was out again.

“I did’t picture you for an Ariana Grande fan,” She heard someone chuckle from the door, and she stretched her neck ever so slightly to see Xavier Dolls standing in the doorway decked in basketball shorts and a Chicago Bulls jersey. She arched an eyebrow at his attire.

“The internets out and Waverly’s playlist is the only thing I have saved. Where are you off too dressed in… that?” She practically spat, nodding her head to the searing red logo imprinted on his front. He smirked, glancing down at his front.

“Not a Bulls fan?”

She simply nodded her head towards the Toronto Raptors poster plastered wonkily on her wardrobe. He grimaced but said nothing else.

“I’m going to the gym. 20% off membership for students.”

“There’s a gym?”

“Dude have you left this room since you got here?”

She shrugged, “I’ve been up to Waverly’s… Ooh, and classes… sometimes.”

“How does Waverly even put up with you.” Dolls laughed as she kicked off the bed and walked over to her wardrobe, yanking the doors open and sticking her head inside.

“Dedication. So, where is this ‘gym’ you speak of?” The redhead asked, her voice muffled from the insides of the closet, her clothes spilling out onto the floor as she hunted for the correct item.

He tried to fight back a smile of excitement, but ultimately let it stretch onto his face, “You coming with me?”

At this, she abruptly pulled her head out, looking only moderately shy,

“I mean… If that’s okay?”

“‘course. I need a one-on-one partner anyway.” He shrugged, adjusting the strap of his bag that hung around his chest.

“Only if you’re prepared to get your ass beat.” Nicole smirked, finally pulling a stretch of fabric from the depth of her wardrobe.

“You can try, Haught, you can try.”

***

“27! 28! 29! Come on, one more!” She practically yelled, leaning over Dolls as he heaved the heavy bar up from his chest. He strained to hold it upright, but his eyes showed amusement.

“You know, I’m glad I invited you, you’re a pretty good motivator!” He chuckled.
“I get it from Wynonna.” She shrugged him off nonchalantly.

He finally pushed up the bar once more and then set it on the stand, letting his hands flop to his sides as he released a breath.

“Ah, yes, the infamous Wynonna,” He chuckled, sitting up to wipe the sweat from the back of his head with the towel Nicole handed him, “When do I get to meet this ‘ball of angst and donuts who is somehow related to a literal angel’?”

Nicole slapped a hand on his shoulder,

“For your sake, I hope never!”
***

The coffee was practically cold at that point, but she gulped down the liquid anyway, feeling the energy already filling her limbs as she released a breath; her breath tasted of coffee and caramel.

She smiled and tossed the empty cup to her ear, squeezing her phone between her ear and her shoulder.

“Yeah, Wyn, you should totally come down!”

“Really? I feel like you’re just saying that cos you have to. Don’t want to burst your and Haught’s bubble of content.” She heard cackled through the line and rolled her eyes.

“Shut up. I miss you. And so does Nicky. And I know you miss us too.” Waverly said, a soft smile gracing her features as she swung a corner towards her living hall.

“Sure, baby girl, why not? I’ll come up with Doc next week?”

“Yay!” Waverly squealed into the phone, and she could practically hear the wince in her sisters voice.

“Alright, alright, I’m a 20-year-old nothing, not Jesus, cool it.”

“This is going to be great! You two can have my room and I’ll sleep with Nicole!”

“Oh god, gross.” Wynonna mumbled.
“What was that?”

“Nothing. Looking forward to it, baby girl.”

***

Nicole returned to her room to find Waverly Earp curled up on her book, her eyes burning holes into the book she clutched close to her face, as if the information she was reading was the key to eternal youth. Her hair, still brown and wavy, was tugged into a loose ponytail that fell over her sweatshirt-clad shoulder in curls. Said sweatshirt looked extremely similar to Nicole; an old grey one with ‘Purgatory High Blue Devils’ fading on the front. The one Nicole remembered crying so many nights into the collar of, trying to muffle her sobs so that the residents of that cold, old house wouldn’t hear her pained wails.

“Hey, good lookin’,” Nicole chuckled, kicking the door behind her with her foot. Waverly instantly snapped out of her haze and looked up at Nicole, flashing her her most dazzling smile. She allowed her eyes to linger on her exposed biceps; yep, still as defined and rigid as she remembered. Of course, she had to check.

“Hey! Where’ve you been? I came looking for you.” She wanted to frown. Wanted to shout. Wanted to tell her that she had been worried sick and ask her bitterly if she’d been with Shae. Even though she didn’t want to know the answer to that.

“Shoot, I forgot to text you, my bad. Went to the gym with Dolls.” Nicole shrugged, plopping down on the bed next to her friend after she’d finished kicking off her sneakers.

“Oh. No worries,” Of course, the brunette was instantly relieved at that revelation. Despite the fact that they had only talked extremely briefly with curt smiles and nods, something about her friends ‘little buddy’ rubbed her up the wrong way. Nicole was a grown woman, she had to remind the green monster in her chest that riled its head up at every opportunity, she can be with whoever she wants. Except, no matter how many times she reminded herself that, the demon on her inside never quelled, only seeming to become more riled and often Waverly had to excuse herself from the situation. But before she could, her mouth slipped words she didn’t want to say, “I just thought you’d be with Shae…”

Nicole’s head whipped round, her eyes ripped from curiously studying the cover of Waverly’s textbook to take in her friend with extreme confusion, a furrow between her brow,

“Why would I be with Shae?”

Waverly shook her head, decided that this was not a subject she could cope with, “So I called Wynonna.”

The redhead beside her seemed to be thankful for the distraction, an untamed smirk appearing on her face, “Oh yeah?”

“Guess whose coming down for the weekend!” Waverly practically shrieked with a sing-song tone, shoulder dancing as Nicole groaned.

“Oh, Son of a bucket, please say you didn’t!”

“WYN’S COMING TO TOWN, BABY!” Waverly squealed, throwing her arms into the air as Nicole’ head dropped forward, her fiery locks flopping forward over her face.

“KILL ME NOW!”

Waverly just giggled.

***

Jeremy was perched on Dolls bed, hands tapping wildly on his keyboard because Dolls, apparently, had way better service in his room, as Xavier stood by the mirror, shaving his beard.

“How was the gym?” Jeremy asked without looking up.

“Pretty good. Nic came with.”

“Ah cool. She and Waves are super cute together.”

“Yeah.” He laughed, “Do you know how long they’ve been together?”

“No, they don’t really talk about their relationship that much. But they seem really comfortable together.”

“I’ll say. Nic talks about her as if she put the sun in the sky.”

“Waverly too, actually.”

***

On Wednesday Nicole took Waverly out for lunch after her whining about a particularly gruelling Latin seminar. They found a cafe, where Nicole immediately used her long legs to stride forward and bag the couch seat, a dark forest one made of tweed, before anyone else could because Nicole knew Waverly loved curling up on the couch’s in cafe’s and she’d be damned if she wouldn’t let her friend have the best seat in the house. Waverly laughed when she approached the proudly grinning ginger, and deposited a kiss against the dimple on her cheek as she sat next to her, the skin burning under the touch of her lips in a way thats too adorable not to notice. Her bare legs immediately went to tuck under herself, the hem of the floral skirt she was wearing brushing against her tanned calf. Nicole wasn’t surprised by this action, nor the way she slipped her sandals off as discreetly as possible, nor the request for a skinny caramel latte with an extra shot of caramel and enough whipped cream to drown an elephant, despite how she knew Nicole will blush asking for it.

“You’re killing me here, Earp.” She grumbled, but stood to approach the counter anyway, and rattled off the order, as well as her cappuccino and two cream cheese bagels (one with salmon, one without because Waverly had been inspired by Jeremy and was trying to be a vegetarian).

She returned, arms full, with a triumphant smile.

It dissipated just as easily as it came as she approached.

There was a group of college guys stretched out in a booth near their couch, and all eyes were on the petite brunette who had pulled a small book out of her bag and was currently reading, just as the sunlight came through the large windows from the front of the shop, casting down on her and lighting up her locks into a golden glaze. It reached her eyelashes, spinning them so that her eyes were hooded in a soft yellow that hit Nicole right in the stomach. Their smirking faces destroyed the moment, turning it toxic as they nudged at each other with sly smiles. One looked like he was about to stand and approach her, and Nicole could not handle that image, so she took the extra few steps and slid into the seat next to Waverly, throwing an arm around her exposed shoulders, her skin drinking in the feeling of the tickle of her hair greedily.

“Hey, got you a bagel!” She tried to act natural, but the action alone was enough to cause Waverly to quirk an eyebrow. The overly-joyous voice made her comment on it.

“What are you up to?” She smirked, and Nicole sighed, knowing theres no chance of hiding something from the youngest Earp. She leaned in close and mumbled lowly, eyes downcast as if she’s ashamed,

“Sorry, I know this is weird but… there’s these guys behind us and their staring at you like you’re a piece of meat and, well, you’re my best friend, so I just though-“

Waverly cut her off, pulling her face upwards with a forefinger hooked under her chin, she left it their as she talked, smiling affectionately at the redhead,

“You thought you’d be sweet and save me from being objectified. Thank you.” Her face was close and her voice was low and her eyes were on her lips, and for a second Nicole thinks she’s about close the distance, but then Waverly was twisting in her seat to lean into Nicole’s side, arm still around her shoulders. The ginger couldn’t fight the smile every time Waverly called her ‘babe’ for the rest of lunch.

They walked out hand in hand.

The guys had left half an hour after they came, but neither of them noticed.

***

It’s sort of something both of them picked up. They were affectionate before, of course. But then it was amplified every time they were together for no reason. In Nicole’s head, she called it a joke, but she knew none of it was fake.

Where their hands would have touched briefly, they intertwine them without a second thought.

Every hug finished with a peck on the cheek and a dimple-inducing smile.

Nicole’s shoulder sort of became Waverly’s personal pillow.

It didn’t change when Wynonna got there.

***

“And that’s the criminology building, where Nicky has most of her classes.” Waverly pointed out with one hand, whilst the other stayed linked in said redheads.

Wynonna’s eyes only briefly glanced at the building as she trailed behind, before returning to stare at their intertwined fingers. She grunted in acknowledgement and Waverly continued the impromptu tour, pulling Nicole by her hand and Wynonna and her boyfriend following behind, begrudged and confused at the situation. Her eyes glanced over to Doc, who is staring just as puzzled.

“And this is the biology building, this is where Jeremy is always. You’ll meet Jeremy later.” She waved a hand absently before her eyes went wide and she stopped, spinning on her heel to grab at Nicole’s arm, “Before I forget, Jeremy asked if we wanted to have a movie night with him and Xavier next tomorrow night.”

“Sounds good. Do you think we need to bring anything?”

“Wine maybe? He said he had snacks covered.”

“I’ll stop by the grocery store tomorrow on my way home from class. White or Rose?”

“Not red?”

“You don’t like red.”

“No but Jeremy does.”

“He does? Okay I’ll get red and white.”

“Awesome. Whilst you’re there, could you get milk? We’re running low.”

“Sure, no problem.” And, of course, Waverly pushed up onto her tiptoes and tipped her head back, pressing her lips dangerously close to the corner of Nicole’s mouth.

Waverly turned back to the tour, her smile bright and anew and Wynonna and Doc shared another look.

“Well, this is strange.” She whispered lowly so only he could hear, watching the other two out of the corner of her eye.

“A very strange development.” He nodded.

***

True to her word, Waverly allowed her sister and Doc her room for the night, under the conditions of ‘no funny business in my bed’.

They had agreed reluctantly.

She hadn’t even packed a bag before she left, claiming everything she needed was already in Nicole’s dorm.

“A very strange development indeed.” Doc mumbled as they both watched her skip down the corridor, far too happy for someone who had just been evicted from her own room.

***

Waverly slept in one of Nicole’s baggy t-shirts, with the other girl holding her tightly throughout the night.

***

The next day, Waverly and Nicole took their guests to the bar, before they both left under the premise of having classes.

As the two slid onto bar stools, they both gulped down pints before addressing the issue.

“Okay but is Haught dating my little sister or am I crazy?”

“It would appear so.” John Henry nodded slowly.

“I… I’m confused. I don’t know which one I need to threaten? I… Doc what do I do? How did I not see this coming? Why didn’t they tell me?” She groaned, fingers sliding through her chocolate locks and pulling gently.

“Try not threatening either. Or both. I have to admit, the signs were all there, I believe we are both guilty of the oblivious. As for your final question, I believe Miss Haught and little Waverly will come together to tell us on their own terms. Besides, they may not even be dating.” Doc attempted to quell her fears as he sipped his beer as calmly as possible.

She glanced upwards, a small smirk on her lips.

“Care to make a bet on that?”

“No.”
“For God sake, I can’t even have any fun with this!”

***

They showed up to Jeremy’s dorm around 8:00 with, as promised, two bottles of wine and Wynonna and Doc in tow.

“This is Jeremy. Jeremy, the Wynonna.” Waverly introduced happily, hand gesturing between the two.

“Hi, there!” Jeremy cried, causing the taller brunette to wince. His arms flew out to envelop the Earp in a hug, apparently making an assumption that she was anything like her sister. Her leg flew out just as quickly, sweeping his legs from under him and he toppled, easily to the floor in a whining mess.

“Wynonna!” Waverly shrieked, grabbing to help Jeremy up.

“What? He tried to touch me! Muscles, he totally tried to touch me, right?” Her eyes turned on an indignant Dolls, who chuckled lightly and then went back to his essay on his laptop.

“You okay, Jer?” He asked absently.

“Yep. I’m good.” The smaller boy wheezed, clutching at his stomach as he shuffled to his feel, Waverly at his side repeating ‘sorry’ and brushing off his lab coat.

“It’s so good to see you haven’t changed, Wyn.” Nicole laughed, flopping down onto the worn arm chair, setting the wine down on the floor next to her.

“Well, you know me, Haught-sauce.”

“She did that to me the first time i tried to hug her, too, Jeremy. It’s not personal.” Nicole shrugged, stretching her arms upwards until she heard a satisfying pop.

Grimly, Doc nodded, “I would also be a part of that.”

Wynonna grinned and threw her arms around his neck, the frills of her leather jacket whipping him in the face. It was more worn now, it didn’t squeak when she moved and it would have been weird for Nicole to see her without it. And Wynonna still wore it. Like she still had a piece of Nicole with her as she walked. The redhead herself would be lying if she said it didn’t warm her heart to see the leather hang from her shoulders.

“And look where you are now!” Wynonna grinned cheesily.

Doc glanced around the room, to Nicole who was sitting there, baseball cap on as she sat, indoors, stretching for no reason with two bottles of wine sitting beside her, to the huge, muscular dude sitting on the couch, tapping on that tiny computer as he ignored everyone, to Jeremy who was still groaning as he wobbled over to sit beside him lab coat creased along the back, to Waverly who stared at him with some sort of motherly concern whilst she was still visually barely gracing the age of 19, to Wynonna, who hadn’t changed despite her growth and experiences.

He smiled warmly down at her.

“Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

***

There was a few minutes of introduction and natural banter, Wynonna and Doc joking (at their expanse and sometimes not) with Dolls and Jeremy, as if they’d known each other for years, before Jeremy insisted on throwing the first Star Wars movie (in the machete order not the episode order) and they all worked to re-angle the couch towards the television, which Jeremy had blown all his money on. It’s at that point that Jeremy had sheepishly admitted he got the couch itself off craigslist.

“What!?” He asked after everyone glares at him, “What would rather; mild comfort, or the ability to watch Star Trek in full 1080p resolution?”

Nicole immediately reclaims the large arm chair that she is sure he brought from home. Jeremy easily jumps onto the couch, and Dolls and Doc join him with a grimace. Wynonna flops to the floor, resting her back against Doc’s legs because she refuses to touch the tattered blue material without some form of protection.

Waverly had gone to the kitchen area to grab the doritos and wine, and returns, not even faltering when she takes in the absence of seats. Almost immediately, Jeremy goes to move, “Oh, sorry, Waves, do you wanna go here and I can-“

“No, no. It’s fine, it’s your house. Here.” She tosses the bag of doritos to him, but Wynonna catches it mid-flight and rips it open. Waverly doesn’t even bat an eyelash, turning to Nicole and sitting down in her lap sideways, leaning against her body easily as she flung her legs over the other arm of the sofa.

“Ready!” She announces, and Jeremy starts the film.

Except Wynonna and Doc aren’t watching the film. Their staring at the youngest Earp and the redhead with perplexmxent and confusion, because come on. Waverly has snuggled into Nicole chest, head ducked under her chin and both hands playing absently with one of the ex-basketball players in her lap. Nicole doesn’t even seem to mind at all, her chin rating on top of her friends, whilst her arm wraps firmly and securely around the petite brunette’s waist, smile clear and affectionate, and Wynonna knows she doesn’t like Obi Wan Kenobi that much.

***

Throughout, the two had shifted even closer, if that were possible, and at some point Waverly had made her way to in between Nicole legs so that the redhead could wrap both her arms around her and hold her close, chin now on her shoulder. Doc glanced over to the two other occupants of the dorm, but neither seemed to even care about the obvious elephant in the room. Even Dolls, who had shown obvious distaste for these movies since the moment Jeremy suggested them, seemed oblivious to their strange behaviour. But Wynonna could understand his unperturbed behaviour if they had been like this since he met them. It would have been fine. It should have been fine. But then Waverly turned and mumbled something into the other girls ear, close enough that her lips had to touch the muscle of her jaw as she talked, and then Nicole laughed softly and turned her own head to place a kiss on Waverly’s cheek.

It was then that Wynonna stood up.

“Okay! That’s it! I can’t ignore it anymore! Jeremy shut of your sci-fi crap!” She commanded, eyes already fixed on the pair, who were staring at her in complete and utter perplexion.

Jeremy, for his sake, did as he was told and soon everyone was staring up at Wynonna in the dark, the light from the paused film silhouetting the right side of her face.

“So, what? You two dating now?” She threw her hands out to the couple. Waverly’s brow furrowed and she stood up from Nicole’s lap to level her sister.

“Dating? No, of course not.” She shook her head and then Jeremy was standing.

“Wait, wait, you two aren’t dating?” He seemed utterly gobsmacked and even Dolls, who had been nothing but stony faced since the oldest Earp and her companion had arrived, looked a little chocked at the new revelation.

“No! Why would you think that?” Nicole questioned, arms crossed from where she sat. Wynonna glared at her and held up a hand to count on each finger,

“Oh, I don’t know: the hand holding, the cheek kisses, the fricking lap sitting, to name a few!?”

“Don’t forget the bed sharing!” Jeremy added, glaring at them now as if he had personally offended them.

“That’s all platonic!” Waverly protested,

“Staring at each other with ‘fuck me’ eyes is so not platonic, Waverly!” Wynonna cut in again.

“Hey!” Both of them cried out,

“I don’t have fuck me eyes!” Nicole yelled indignantly,

“Yeah, she has like ‘I want to hold and you and love you’ eyes.” Jeremy pointed out,

“Yeah! I have- wait, what?”

“Okay, well we’re not dating!” Waverly huffed, and her sister glared,

“Well, you sure act like it!”
“We don’t even get to do any of the fun stuff.” The youngest Earp mumbled.
“Wait- what?!”

“Me and Nicole aren’t dating, okay?”

“Waverly, do you think I care if you are? Cos I don’t. You and Haught-sauce can go bananas. I’ve come to terms with it,” Her eyes fixed onto the redhead and then back to her sister, “Unless you hurt each other and then… then I’ll kick both your asses.”

Nicole got onto her feet to stand beside the younger girl,

“We just aren’t! Waverly’s not lying!”

“Oh my god, guys, just admit it!” Jeremy seemed weak in the knees, practically falling apart at the scene.

“We. Aren’t. Dating! Leave us alone, Wynonna!” Waverly yelled before grabbing Nicole’s hand and dragging her out of the dimly lit room.

A moment of silence passed around Jeremy’s dorm; lights off, everyone frozen in place as the sound of the elevator in the hall dinged and then screeched down to the floor below. Then silence again.

“Well, that went well.” Dolls grumbled.

***

“Ugh! Can you believe here? She storms in here, acting like she’s got it all figured out and- and- she doesn’t! She so doesn’t! How could she think we were dating!?” Waverly paced up and down the small space of Nicole’s dorm. The desk lamp by her bed was on, and Nicole couldn’t help but see an angel in that moment, even with the harsh lighting throwing dark shadows across her face; her cheekbones and her nose and her chin all partially hidden by the darkness the rest of the room brung.

“I mean, not you think about it, Waves, we do sort of act like a couple.”

“Not you too!”

The redhead laughed, “I’m not saying we are I’m just recognising their point of view!”

“Name one time we acted like a couple! I wan’t specifics!”

“You were literally sitting on my lap 5 minutes ago.”

“Ugh!” The brunette groaned and the ginger laughed again, standing from where she had collapsed, exhausted and emotional and confused, on the bed, and caught the brunette by the shoulders, her head dipping to find those hazel eyes she adored so much.

“Hey, relax, alright?” Her voice was soothing, calm. Exactly what she knew Waverly needed. The shorter girl let out a sigh and then stepped forward to wrap her arms around the redheads torso, face burying into her chest.

“I hate you.”

“No you don’t.” Nicole grinned, her own arms pulling the shorter girl closer to her body with only a gentle squeeze.

“No. I don’t.” She heard Waverly chuckle into her shoulder.

Nicole counted a full minute before the brunette spoke up again.

“Do you really think we act like a couple?” It was soft and weak and Nicole’s heart broke just a little at the sound of it. It was the voice she used when she was scared. When she was little and talking to her daddy. When she asked Stephanie Jones if she wanted to sleep over for the first time and she said no. Nicole never, ever wanted her to be scared of her. She didn’t want to be Waverly’s father or Waverly’s Stephanie. She needed to be her Nicole. Except, what could she say to a question like that?

“Sometimes. But we can stop if you want.”

A beat of silence and then,

“Nicole?”

“Yeah?”

“What if I like it?”

Nicole felt the heat rise from her toes, up through her weak knees, past her spinning stomach and the butterflies inside, and edging past her rapidly thumping heart, all the way up to the column of her throat. She felt hot all over and it was scary and beautiful and so addictive all at one. She swallowed down the lump just long enough to talk.

“W-What?”

And then she was looking into Waverly eyes, the way one of them was lit but the other tinged by the shadows, and yet they were still both just as beautiful. Just as hazel and perfect and loveable.

“What if I like it? What if I like holding your hand when we walk? What if I like kissing you on the cheek and I want to do more of it all the time? What if I like touching you and sitting on your lap even when it’s not really necessary but I want people to know I’m yours and your mine? What if all I’ve felt every day for the past few years is just the desire to be as close to you as possible?” She asked them as if she already knew the answer, and as she spoke her hands made a journey they had made many times before, but this time with a purpose. An intent that made Nicole’s heart stutter. They travelled down her back, tugging at the material of her plain tee, through the belt loops of her jeans, up her arms, where she squeezed once at her hands, right in the palm, and then again whenever she felt a muscle along the limb. They rubbed the muscle of her shoulders in circles and then they slipped to her neck, following the collarbone to her neck to her hair where, finally, she slipped her fingers through and allowed them to stop. The rest of this moment was now up to Nicole.

She swallowed again.

“Then… Then I think that would… be okay by me.” Nicole nodded, her throat completely dry and eyes hungry and dark yet somehow still holding so much adoration that it left Waverly weak in the knees.

Instead, she smiled, the shy one with the tipped back brows, her eyes hopeful and her grin spreading, the corners of them crinkling when Nicole nodded again.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“So… It’s okay if I…” Her sentence trailed off but her intent was clear, and she tugged downwards and pushed up at the same time and the space between them was gone. Lips met lips in a kiss so slow and sweet it made Nicole’s insides bounce and jump and flip and then stop. Her arms gripped the petite woman hips, and she pulled her forward, tipping her head down in a way that made her neck hurt but she couldn’t bring herself to care.

When she parted, humming in the aftermath, they smiled sweetly, foreheads pressing close. Nicole nodded, her breathing slightly drawn out as she tried to capture the moment.
“That would be… 100% okay for you to do again. Like whenever is fine. Now, for instance.”

Waverly’s giggle was developed by their second kiss.

Chapter Text

There was a thump against her cheek, hard enough to sting but not enough to leave a bruise, and suddenly she was on the floor, the rubber of the ground coming up to meet her. 

 

“That all you got, Haught?” Came a taunt from above, and it’s all it takes for her to have rolled over and hopped back onto her feet.

 

She glared at his smirk from the space in between her fists, and then went for a jab.

 

He blocked.

 

“Ha! How’re you gonna be a cop with a punch like that?”

 

“Shut up, Dolls!” 

 

“Why?”

 

“You’re distracting me!” She rolled her eyes and went for another jab, and he blocked again.

 

He tutted his tongue, “Too much complaining, not enough punching.” 

 

She grinned sinisterly, “Alright, if that’s what you want.”

 

“Wait, Nicole, wait-!” Suddenly his smile was gone as she lunged forwards, a hail of attacks battering the guard of his gloves. Her sparring partner may have over power her in strength, but what he had in power, she made up for in speed; years of being on the basketball court honing in her reflexes and footwork.

 

She battered her opponent into the corner, him cursing at her from behind his gloves, 

 

“Haught! This is unfair!”

“Too much complaining,” She huffed out, before suddenly stopping the onslaught and dropping to sweep Dolls’ legs out from under him in one swift movement, “Not enough punching!” 

 

Woo! That’s my baby!” She heard a familiar voice cheering from the side of the ring, and Nicole glanced over her shoulder to see Waverly standing there, cheering for her, just like she used to, with an energy drink clutched in her hand. The redhead laughed breathlessly at the sight, but her excitement didn’t last long, as she felt a hand grab at her ankle and yank her to the floor. She clattered, ungracefully, into a heap text to Xavier Dolls.

 

“You’re an asshole, Dolls.” Groaned a winded Nicole, clutching at her stomach.

 

“So are you. Freaking Raptors fans, man…” He mumbled, before turning his head to look at his opponent. The stare-down didn’t last long before they were both howling with laughter, the breath taken form their lungs yet again. 

 

“You guys are ridiculous.” Waverly scalded from where she had moved to stand above them. Jeremy, still in his lab coat, grinned over her cardigan-clad shoulder,

 

“Still, an impressive display of physical fitness!” He added. Nicole wheezed out her last chuckle before smiling cheerily back up at him, “Why, thank you, Jeremy. I see someone appreciates me around here.”

 

Her look was pointed at Waverly, but she didn’t get to smirk pointedly at her for long, as a stream of sticky, blue Powerade washed over her body, soaking her face and shirt. 

 

“Take it back!” Waverly smirked, her tone playful as she held the now half-empty bottle in her hand.

 

“Waverly Earp! You are so dead!” She promised, quickly scrambling to her feet to grab at her girlfriend, who squealed, jumping away from her hands and running out of the ring to the locker room, her redheaded girlfriend behind her the whole time. 

 

Jeremy smiled briefly at the sight before turning to try and help haul Xavier to his feet. 

 

***

 

When Nicole emerged from the bathroom, scrubbing at her damp hair with a towel, Waverly was exactly where she’d been for the last few weeks; curled up on Nicole’s bed in one of her girlfriend’s baggy sweatshirts.

 

The redhead grinned, an involuntary blush pinking her cheeks as she kicked the door shut behind her.

 

“Hey, sweetheart. All clean now?” Waverly greeted over the spine of the book, her gorgeously grey eyes crinkled at the corners, indicating that behind the pages of an Agatha Christie novel was Waverly’s sugary-sweet smile.

 

“Yeah, eventually got all the Powerade off.” She said pointedly, throwing the hand towel over her shoulder as she approached the bed. 

 

Waverly simply smirked, “It’s not my fault you were being mean!”

 

“Was not-!” Nicole began to protest but Waverly snatched up her wrist and pulled her down to meet their lips together. It was chaste and they barely move, and Waverly tasted like grapes (probably snacking on them earlier if they empty bowl on the bedside table was anything to go by), but Nicole still grinned and melted easily into her touch, her point lost in the swirl of giddy feelings. After a brief moment, Wavily pulled back so that just their noses were brushing. 

 

“Do you really want to open that can of worms again?” She prompted, voice soft but no doubt finding this highly amusing. Nicole’s arm shifted where she had braced half of her body over Waverly’s. It was awkwardly uncomfortable but she was trying hard to even notice it, and not notice the way Waverly’s eyes, twinkling with mischief, kept flicking back down to her girlfriends lips.

 

“This is a really sick way of winning, Waves.” She grumbled, but Waverly simply laughed and wrapped her arms around her girlfriends neck, pulling her so she’s lying on top of the petite brunette. 

 

“I know. But you love it.”

 

***

 

“I’m not saying I don’t approve of this,” Wynonna said, gesturing between the two with her yoghurt spoon, “but I’d appreciate a little less… everything.” 

 

Waverly glanced over at Nicole, who matched her grin.

 

“Well, I, for one, am glad that our two young fillies have found solace in each other.” Doc chimed in, nodding politely at the couple on the other side of the booth.

 

“Yeah, no, I get that, it’s… just… what the fuck is this!?” She gestured widely at the two and Waverly couldn’t help but let out a small giggle, her grin remaining wide and cheesy as she scooped another bite of frozen yoghurt into Nicole’s mouth.

 

“What?”

 

They had been grinding Wynonna’s gears since the moment she arrived, trying to teach her a lesson for basically yelling at them for their PDA the last time she came down. The hand holding had become an all time thing and their shared casual kisses were a lot longer then they would normally be, and it was working like a charm. The cherry on top? Nicole and Waverly were wearing matching t-shirts. Each had a white tee with half a heart inked onto the fabric. Pretty much everywhere they had been today, they insisted on walking with Nicole on the left and Waverly on the right, so that the heart would be complete. Wynonna seemed pretty much ready to blow at this point.

 

“Is this something you guys do… all the time?” The older Earp asked, eyes narrowing as she watched Nicole swipe strawberry swirl from the corner of Waverly’s mouth and let her lick the dollop off her thumb absently. 

 

“Eat yoghurt?” Nicole questioned, feigning confusion.

 

Waverly scoffed quietly.

 

Wynonna’s yoghurt ended up on Nicole’s stupid shirt by the end of the evening.

 

***

 

“Haught, this way.” Dolls said, pushing through the crowd of the bar with his friend behind him, using his broad shoulders as a shield to get through the crowd. The two sidled up to the bar, slipping onto empty barstools and briefly entertaining the ridiculous or incredible acts of the open mic night. A man with blond dreadlocks had just wrestled his way onto stage with a guitar. Nicole bet Dolls five bucks he was vegan. 

 

“What can I get you?”

 

“A round of beers for 6.” Dolls informed the youngish-looking bartender, pulling his card from his pocket. Nicole went to stop him but he shook his head, “It’s no problem, Haught. But you can bring them back over.”

 

His grin was sinister as he swiped his card and delved back into the crowd, leaving the redhead without the defence of his wide frame. 

 

“Son of a bucket…” Nicole mumbled under her breath, turning back around to watch the untrained bartender fill up 6 pints from the tap. He had barely started on the third glass, when she felt a cool hand slip up her back and trace her spine, allowing a delicious shiver to shudder her body slightly. She grinned, fully expecting the wondering hand to belong to a certain brunette, but came face to face with a darker skinned, taller women.

 

“Shae!” Nicole gaped,

 

“Nice to see you too, Nic. It’s been a while.” The women looked as gorgeous as she always had, her tight maroon skirt and top combo complimenting the colour of her skin beautifully, the silk of her flesh catching the light and Nicole gulped when taking in the slope of her neck.

 

She shook her head, flashing her the most innocent smile she could manage, her dimples not even folding into her cheeks at the small display of greeting,

 

“Hi, yeah quite a while.”

 

She quirked an eyebrow and stepped a little closer, Nicole slipping further back on her stool at the movement, suddenly feeling overly hot in to the cramped bar,

 

“We should get together some time. Catch up.” The way she said it, a fire a lit behind her eyes, made Nicole guess that her idea of ‘Catching up’ was not the same as her own. 

 

“Yeah… Actually, Shae, I don’t think we can… ‘see each other’ any more.” She struggled for words, fingers sliding through the condensation on the glass before her, mentally berating this bartender for not finishing quicker.

 

“Why’s that?” Nicole didn’t look up from the amber liquid before her, but she could hear the frown in Shae’s voice.

 

“I’m, um… sort of in a relationship?”


“Sort of, eh?” That smirk was back and she felt her presence trying to near again and Nicole cursed herself before standing up and turning to look firmly at the other girl.

 

“No. I am. We like each other a lot.” 

 

Shae’s face suddenly turned sour, before relaxing within the blink of an eye, and she snatched up the glass that had been cooling the hot skin of Nicole’s calloused fingertips.

 

“Alright, Nicole Haught. I see. You’re one of those people. Use them, and throw them away.” She pretended to think for a moment, “Like trash!”

 

And with that she was gone, her hair flicking over her shoulder into Nicole’s face. The redhead watched her leave, stunned and confused, with a sense of foreboding cresting the edges of her mind. She turned with a heavy sigh to the bartender that had finally finished pouring the last drink. She coughed uncomfortably and then slapped another bill onto the surface of the bar. 

 

“Can I have one more, actually?”

 

***

 

Nicole had a hard time forgetting the pain in Shae’s eyes, and the anger-fueled comments that flew from the other women tongue. The way her smile, once so soft, sultry and welcoming, appeared cold and forced as she sneered at the other girl. She ran through her head, over and over, every interaction, trying to remember if she had ever accidentally conveyed to the medical student that she had wanted anything more then the ‘no-strings-attached’ sex they had been partaking in. No memory sprung to mind, but the guilt of leading the women on and then forgetting about her entirely swirled deep within the confines of Nicole’s stomach. She felt sick at times, thoughts swirling in her mind that she just wasn’t used to. 

 

And she couldn’t even tell her best friend. Her and Waverly’s relationship was new, exciting and fresh, but the idea of dragging Waverly into her mistakes and ruining the beautiful dynamic made the redhead swallow thickly. Her problems. 

 

Waverly knew of her and Shae’s… ‘relationship’, for sure. To what extent? That the ginger didn’t know. Did she think she and Shae were ex-girlfriends? Fuck-buddies? Just friends? Hell, Nicole didn’t even know what they were doing at the time; the memories of their hook-ups were a blur of anger, lust and a deep-pitted sorrow that smelled suspiciously of strawberries. But to talk about something like that, and so early on seemed like a horrifically bad idea, especially with the thought that maybe Nicole is one of those people… A ‘user’ as Shae had so quaintly put it. 

 

She looked down, at the brunette curled into her side, eyes fixed on the Disney movie (Nicole thought it might be Sleeping Beauty but she was having a hard time paying attention) playing on the computer in her lap. The flicker of the screen highlighted the gentle slope of Waverly’s nose, and twinkled in her half-lidded, heavy eyes and Nicole knew that Waverly Earp would never be ‘trash’ to her.

 

The brunette’s voice cut through the gentle voice that warbled out a song Nicole faintly recognised,

 

“I can hear you thinking, sweetheart. It’s distracting.”

 

The redhead smiled at that, placing a kiss on the top of Waverly’s head, “I’m fine.”

 

The youngest Earp turned her head to cock an eyebrow at her girlfriend,


“Are you sure? You know you can talk to me.”

 

“Yeah, I know.” Nicole grinned, dimples popping, ‘just not about this’.

 

“Okay…” She said, sounding unconvinced, but pressing no more on the matter, and for that Nicole was thankful.

 

“So, tell me, what movie are we watching?”

 

“Have you not been paying attention?”

 

“Of course not! There’s a pretty girl lying on me.”

 

She could practically feel Waverly’s eye-roll, “Your charm doesn’t have an ‘off’ switch, does it?”

 

Nicole chuckled, tucking her face into the crook of Waverly’s neck, “Now why would I want to do that? I get much more attention this way.”

 

“You’re an idiot, Nicole Haught.”

 

“You’re dating an idiot, Waverly Earp.”

 

“Yeah,” Waverly smiled warmly, slipping her fingers in between Nicole, “I am aren’t I?”

 

***

 

“Waves!” 

 

Waverly turned at the familiar voice and smiled as Jeremy rushed over, lab coat flapping out behind him like a cape.

 

“Hi, Jeremy!” She greeted when he caught up with her, his breathing only slightly ragged. She blinked once and then smiled proudly.

 

“Wow! See, the morning jogs are paying off! I told you!” She squealed, clapping.

 

He thought for a moment, seemingly analysing his own breathing and then nodded approvingly once it evened out.

 

“I guess you’re right. I month ago I would be-“

 

“Lying on the floor, practically dead?” She finished for him. 

 

“Yeah, that sounds about right.” He chuckled, falling into step beside his neighbour as they walked across campus towards their dorm. The cool breeze prompted the Chemistry major to yank a scarf from his over-flowing rucksack and wrap it snugly around his neck,

 

“You excited for winter break?”

 

“Yeah! I can’t wait to go home and-“ She froze in her tracks, face failing and stoic.

 

“Waverly?” Jeremy questioned once he realised Waverly was no longer strolling next to him.

 

“I…” She stared straight ahead, watching as students trickled out from the sociology building, “No one knows about me and Nicole back home… I have to tell Gus… and… Chrissy and Rosita and- Oh, God!”

 

Her thumb had found its way to in-between her teeth, a nervous twitch, as she thinks and stares at the ground. Jeremy can practically see the gears turning in her head through the windows of her grey eyes, and for a minute he thinks she might combust. But he grabs her shoulder and bends his head to catch her eye in a way he hopes is comforting. Whilst human interaction was never his strong suit - Science and Maths was calculated, with each equation having an answer, but people were never that simple - he had to try and help his friend. 

 

Waverly was gay. Or Bisexual. Either way, she wasn’t straight, that much was clear, but coming out to her family and friends is never something that had crossed her mind before. She and Nicole had been living in this perfect dream for so long, locked away from everyone and everything that could burst the bubble. But now the first hurdle is here and, boy, is it a doozy. Obviously Wynonna knows, of course. There was no point denying her theory when it was now, in fact, true. Nicole and Waverly were together.

 

But she was returning home to a town she had known her entire life, with a girl by her side and a brand new part of herself to show off. Exciting? Yes. But also uncontrollably terrifying. She’d never even flashed a single hint to the people of Purgatory that she was anything other then the perfectly simple waitress who worked at Shorty’s and dated the local rodeo star. She wasn’t scared of her relationship with Nicole, wasn’t ashamed, but to say that coming out to an entire small-minded town of people that she’d known her whole life, wasn’t in the least bit daunting, would be a lie. 

 

And Jeremy… well, if there was one thing Jeremy knew it was how terrifying revealing a secret like that could be.

 

“Hey, hey, Waverly, it’s gonna be okay.” He cooed softly, and she looked up, eyes slightly wet.

 

“How do you know that?”

 

“Because I’ve been through it before. I know how scary it can be. But, trust me, if what you’ve told me about your friends is accurate in any sense… nothings gonna change. I’d bet my Optimug Prime on it.” 

 

She giggles a little, messy and wet with tears, but enough that it quells the fears, even slightly, that have settled in the pit of Waverly’s stomach. 

 

The brunette, of course, had been texting Chrissy throughout the year, their normal conversation never even changing as they made the transition from high school to college, and the miles that separated them. They had regularly given each other updates on their life, but Waverly had subtly edged around talking about her own love life ever since her feelings for Nicole had begun to occur to her. Telling Chrissy about her and Nicole would be… big. Huge. 

 

The more she told herself this, however, the less likely the truth of it seemed. Although her feelings for the redhead were not out-right explicitly said, she recognised now the signs that Chrissy knew. Because of course Chrissy Nedley, world’s best friend, Sheriff’s daughter, and Criminology major would be able to suss it out. Now that she looked back on the time, even though Waverly herself hadn’t quite realised it, it would be stupid to even think that her friend hadn’t known the whole fricking time. Waverly tuts at herself and lets out a slow breath as she falls into step beside Jeremy. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Hey, she could drop the bomb in a text to Chrissy tonight and it would be no big deal. 

 

***

 

YOU AND NICOLE ARE DATING!? WHAT THE FUCK, WAVES! PICK UP! NOW! YOU CAN’T IGNORE ME FOREVER!” Chrissy’s third voicemail stopped with a sharp beep, and it launched straight into her fourth. 

 

Waverly groaned, letting her head fall into her hand and deleting the message without even finishing. Okay, so maybe it would be kind of a big deal. As her phone lit up once more with Chrissy’s face plastered onto her screen, big and goofy in the selfie they had taken together, she finally slid the answer button across with a hesitant thumb and brung the device to her ear.

 

May as well bite the bullet. 

 

Finally! We have things to discuss!

 

“Chrissy it’s-“

 

When’s the wedding and what kind of flowers are you having!? I’m a bridesmaid, right!?

 

“Woah! Getting a little ahead of yourself there!”

 

She heard the Sheriff’s daughter sigh through the phone, pause, and then speak up again in a much calmer voice, 

 

Sorry. This is just…

 

“Shocking?” Waverly attempted to fill in the blank, doodling random shapes into the notepad on her lap.

 

Definitely not that. More like relieving.

 

“Relieving?” Waverly asked incredulously, directing her raised eyebrow at the wall at the foot of her bed.

Yes! Do you know how exhausting it is worrying about your love life from 2162 miles away?

 

“Yes, how is Carlton?” 

 

Don’t change the subject!

 

“My bad. Tell me about your deeply troublesome life of dealing with mine.”

 

I hope this new snark isn’t a side effect of dating a certain redheaded basketball player, because I must say I’m not a fan of the attitude.

 

“You wish.” Waverly giggled, and then took a moment to just listen to the laughter she had missed, slightly crackly down the other end of the line, “I missed you.”

 

I missed you too, Waves.”

 

The two girls, although 36 hours away from each other by car, could feel the others smile and just bathed in the contentment of the grins that they had consecutively longed to see. And the moment passed just as easily as it came. Waverly had forgotten what it was like to be awkward around Chrissy.

 

So! Tell me about Nicooooole!” She dragged out the word in a sing-song voice for the length of Waverly’s groan.

 

“There’s nothing to tell!”

 

Yes there is! Like… How did you get together for instance.

 

“When two people love each other very much-“ The sassy comment was quickly cut off,

 

“So this is love!?” Chrissy sounded almost ecstatic at the news, and Waverly would have imagined her, perched on the edge of her seat, phone to her ear with fist ready to launch into the air once given the confirmation, if she hadn’t been so utterly stunned by her own words. 

 

“I… That’s a question for another time.” 

 

Chrissy was generous and allowed Waverly this out, “Okay, fair enough. Continue your story- without the sass, please!

 

The brunette laughed, “Okay, okay! So… you know how Wynonna came to visit the first time?” 

 

The two delved into a hoard of conversational potential that had been left untapped until the revelation of Waverly’s new relationship, switching to FaceTime at some point just so Waverly can see how much joy her friend is getting from this - “Look at the joy! Waverly! Look! At! It!” - smiling and swapping stories as easy as if they were pressed on their fronts, legs in the air, giggling to each other at 1:00 in the morning in Chrissy’s old room. The sun had halfway disappeared down the horizon, darkness fast approaching, when Nicole entered the room, all dark blue shirts and heavy utility belt, looking every bit the campus cop.

 

“Well if it isn’t my cop in shining blue uniform! Hi, sweetheart!” Waverly teased once she’d shut the door behind her. Nicole had been interning at the Campus Police station since they had arrived; she had revealed to Waverly, in secret, her dream job of becoming a police officer one night in their senior year, and the brunette had pushed her friend to try to achieve her goal. And now, with Nicole in that shining badge and crisp, ironed shirt, Waverly is so glad she did. 

 

“Evening, my lady.” Nicole quipped, pulling her aviators from her eyes and tucking them into the breast pocket of her shirt, “wanted to come say goodnight before I went to my room and my beautiful, waiting bed.”

 

The redhead grinned as she stepped closer to her girlfriend, whose was about to reply when a voice from the forgotten phone in Waverly’s hand beat her to it.

 

Is that Nicole? Turn me around, I haven’t seen your girl in uniform yet!

 

Waverly blushed deeply but did as she was instructed, turning the phone around to point it at the surprised Nicole, still standing, with her hands on her belt in the middle of the room.

 

Lookin’ good, Officer Haught!” Chrissy whistles low, “Might have to get my dad to hire you just so I can see you in a uniform more often.

 

“Hi, Chrissy.” Nicole chuckled, moving to the bed so that she could sit beside Waverly, back pressed against the headboard, “Gonna have to pass on that amazing offer. Khakis? Not my thing.”

 

They’re a classic trouser!

 

“Your dad tell you that?”

 

Shut up, Nicole!” 

 

But the redhead just laughed as she casually swung an arm around Waverly’s shoulders, pressing a kiss to her temple in a silent greeting. The petite brunette is almost impressed with her girlfriend, because of how naturally she adapted to the Sheriff’s daughter’s sudden knowledge of their relationship. 

 

But then she remembered who it was she’s dating and just settled into her side. 

 

***

 

From the get-go, Waverly and Nicole had agreed that their relationship was not something to hide, and both of them were not ashamed to tell people about them. 

 

So, on the contrary to Waverly, Nicole had told Rosita about their relationship almost immediately. Their little fling throughout senior had died out towards the end, on a mutual understanding of both parties. It wasn’t big or dramatic, they had simply agreed to stop and continue as only friends. In fact, the transition was almost non-apparent to anyone around them, nor themselves, their friendship only growing stronger because of the intimacies they had shared. 

 

And Rosita was happy for Nicole, relaxed and confident. Unfortunately, Waverly was unaware of this when she suddenly offered for them to call Rosita together and tell her the news. 

 

“What do you mean you already told her?”

 

“Waves, she’s my best friend.” Nicole laughed. Waverly looked up at her with a pout,

 

“I thought I was your best friend?” 

 

The redhead smiled adoringly and pulled her closer with the arm that was slung around her neck until their breaths were intermingling, 

 

“Oh, Waverly…” She breathed, reaching down to place a slow kiss against her cheek, Waverly’s breath hitching at the actions of her girlfriend, the air between them thickening as the heat of breaths brushed against skin, mingling and hot, and Nicole’s lips were so, so close to her own, “…no.”

 

Nicole had instantly received a smack to the back of the head with a pillow as she laughed.

 

***

 

The drive back to Purgatory was surprisingly stress-free for the petite brunette in a cherry red dress decorated with little snowmen dancing on it. It wasn’t until they neared the rockies that Waverly’s knee began to bounce anxiously and her thumb found its way to between her teeth, as she chewed and sucked on the finger. It was a habit she had as a child and only in recent years had it begun to arise again. She tried not to think about how this little habits reappearance coincided with Nicole’s absence from her life, when she was no longer there to gently pull her hand from her mouth whenever she caught her doing it. 

 

She remembered everyone from high school. There side-glares and whispered words, harsh remarks spat to another doting glutton from behind a hand or a book or a locker door. What would be said by Purgatorians once she and her girlfriend waltzed into town. Purgatory was a remnant of its Western self, all cowboy hats and ranches and gun-slingers, and, as much as Waverly adored the history she grew up along side, that meant that the tiny town inside the Ghost River Triangle was rather old-fashioned with its views on occasion. Sure, no one was overtly, out-right prejudice (the fear of being singled out enough of a threat to stop that occurring), but the undertones of ignorance were easily picked up on. 

 

The high school had been a little more accepting at the time, the children of homophobes and racists pushing away from their parents ideals in an act of teenage rebellion, but none were brave enough to out-right go against their words, but their hearts were in the right places. 

 

Still, thoughts swirled, ever-freely through Waverly Earp’s mind, even as they passed the border into Purgatory and her hand was gently pulled from her mouth. 

 

She turned, eyes locked on the redhead, her jaw set and warm brown eyes turned on the road in concentration. Yet her thumb rubbed circles along her girls knuckle and she swam in the feeling of it. 

 

“Waverly, this is going to be hard for you, I know, but I am here for you,” Nicole’s eyes darted quickly from the road ahead to shoot Waverly the most reassuring look she could possibly muster. The “always” afterwards seemed like a fact and a promise in one and it made the brunette smile. 

 

“Me too!” Jeremy chimed from the back seat, and Dolls smacked the back of his head as the two girls giggled. 

 

The air was chilly and Waverly reminisced on the days she used to drive around in her jeep with the roof down and the summer sun ripening her skin a silky caramel. The days when responsibility and troubles evaded her. But she had to grow up. Those days weren’t quite complete, she remembered. There had always been something missing. Those days she was content, and at peace, but nothing and no one made her heart skip and her lungs ache like Nicole did. And back then she didn’t have Nicole.

 

Life was not meant to be easy, she reminded herself. It punched you in the face to mould you into a person. A human. 

 

And what was it to be a human without heartbreak?

 

***

 

Gus took the news well.

 

Shockingly well, in fact. 

 

When Waverly and Nicole entered the threshold of the homestead, close as physically possible and hands intertwined, Gus merely blinked on her way into the kitchen, a tray of cauliflower cheese in hand, before saying,

 

“What’re you doin’ lettin’ in all the cold like that? When you’re done pretendin’ like this makes any difference, ya’ll can help me chop veggies in the kitchen.”

 

And that was that. 

 

Nicole basted and Waverly chopped and Dinner was on the table by 6:30 promptly. Jeremy and Dolls had wondrous things to say about Gus’ cooking, and Waverly remembered that they were parentless students who had been living off mostly ramen and microwave meals for about 6 months now.

 

She made a mental note to cook more for her and her friends when she got back.

 

***

 

The youngest Earp cornered her sister to interrogate her about Gus’ reaction later, but Wynonna promised she hadn’t even mentioned it, even seeming a little offended at the implication. 

 

“If you two are obvious enough for me to work it out then I’m sure Gus knew years ago. She’s not an idiot, Waves.”

 

 

***

 

On Christmas Day, Nicole awoke with a shivering chill up her back contrasting the solid warmth against her front. Waverly had stollen all 4 blankets she had insisted on having every night, and was using Nicole as some kind of bonus blanket, the cocoon of the girl and her blankets curling into her lanky girlfriends arms. The position for the ex-basketball player was one she had grown to know quite well over the years. 

 

A groggy redhead grabbed at the hem of the burrito and attempted to pull out an opening, but Waverly only burrowed deeper into the confines, disallowing any more movement.

 

Waves. Waves!” Nicole whisper shouted, half-groaning as she shook her shoulder, face still planted into the pillow. It was far too early to deal with this on Christmas. But the girl wouldn’t budge.

 

The young officer resigned herself to the fact that she was awake now and would be for the rest of the day. Despite being a morning person, she considered 5:30 to be a little early even for her on Christmas. 

 

She pulled awake from what little warmth Waverly offered, and padded over to her open suitcase to pull out a pair of dark jeans and a red christmas jumper. After a second thought, she pulled it back off and tucked a white button-up underneath and pulled the collar of it over the top. No reason to not look smart for the first Christmas she’d been able to properly celebrate in as long as she could remember. 

 

As she quietly stepped onto the landing and down the stairs, she thought about the Christmas’ she’d had before. 

 

Moving away from home had been easy; there had been nothing for her there. Just empty gazes and monotone voices speaking to her as if a job, a chore, something to check off the list and move on from. She thought of her mother on Christmas, hot-headed and angry and swearing and glaring at everything because the house didn’t look quite right or she left the potatoes in too long and now they were too firm. She thought of how her own advise for herself was just to stay out of her way until dinner was served and they could sit in uncomfortable silence, unspeaking. She thought of her father, all the fire long-gone from his eyes as he stared, dead at the television with a beer in one hand and the remote in the other. She thought of how he’d holler something at his wife as she cleaned up dinner, usually a complaint, and she’d get pissed and shout back. She thought of how it always ended with a pointless, screaming argument until he stormed off to his basement and slammed the door like an insolent child. 

 

Lastly, she thought of her sister. She thought of how her hair was a strawberry blond, like her Aunts in the old photograph propped up by the fireplace, and not a fiery red like her parents or Nicole’s. She though of how she sat, far, on the other side of the room from Nicole, and painted her nails, or brushed her hair, or texted anyone else that wasn’t her own. Although they weren’t close, her constant need for attention was good at keeping the spotlight from anything Nicole-related and on her instead. She wasn’t asked about boyfriends or grades, and instead told about Haley’s until the inevitable day when Haley moved and it was just Nicole in her parents sitting in silence with Christian Christmas Carol playing loudly from the record player in the corner. From the record gifted by Nicole to her mother. 

 

The tight-lipped smile she got in return. 

 

No guilt. 

 

She thought then, as she descended the stairs in a jumper she had chosen herself, of the girl curled up in their bed just behind her, and of how her favourite Christmas tradition is baking, and then burning, cookies because its the one thing she can't make but she has to try every year, of how she has absolutely awful taste in Christmas jumpers, and squeals in public if she finds one that lights up, of how she believes that every single gift she buys should be absolutely perfect for each person, and, as a result, spends hours shopping and dragging Nicole around, of how she’s always wanted to kiss someone under the mistletoe despite finding it cheesy, of how one time she left Nicole behind because she was scared, but, most importantly, she thinks of how she came back. 

 

And now she was climbing down the stairs in a house that felt like home, on Christmas day, because she was going to get cocoa and cookies for the girl she adored. 

 

***

 

She finally managed to coax Waverly awake with a good helping of hot cocoa in her favourite rainbow mug accompanied with a mountain of whipped cream and mini marshmallows.

 

“Merry Christmas, baby.” Nicole mumbled into her hairline as her girlfriend sat up to lean against her girlfriends side, one hand wrapped firmly around the mug whilst the other squeezed Nicole’s bicep as she sips.

 

“Merry Christmas.” She breathed back, her voice barely above a whisper, but it was there and it was solid and it dripped like honey from her chapped lovers lips and Nicole only wanted one taste.

 

***

 

The others are roused with little-to-no-effort (apart from Wynonna and Doc who absolutely no one wants to try and enter the room of to wake), all excited with the prospect of Christmas at the Earp homestead, an event never before conceived by the likes of any of them. 

 

It began with breakfast; Waverly made enough pancakes to feed a small village and the group dug in as more people arrived to partake the Earp festivities, even for a short while.

 

Rosita arrived first and hugged Nicole and Waverly tightly, and the “I’m so happy for you” was so soft in her ear that Nicole thought she might have imagined it. 

 

She gifted them both a bottle of bourbon fancy enough for Nicole to have placed on the top shelf of Waverly’s room (away from Wynonna).

 

Nicole gave her a pristine, white, lab coat with her name ‘Dr. R.Bustillos’ embroidered into the pocket in gold, whilst Waverly handed over a killer pair of heels, followed with a wink. 

 

The mixologist didn’t stay long, just for a plate of pancakes and strawberries before she was off to Shorty’s to open for all the drunkards who hated their family or those who couldn’t be bothered to cook food (or burned it). 

 

***

 

The Nedley’s arrived soon after, and the first thing Chrissy did when she stepped onto the Earp property was scream and launch herself at a similarly reacting Waverly, who gladly grabbed at her taller friend and held her close as they practically jumped up and down. Everyone around them winced and covered their ears, although with fond smiles on their faces. 

 

From over the shoulder of her best friend, Waverly watched an exchange between a coach and his ex- best player, struggling to read his lips from beneath his grey moustache, but managing to catch, “intern” and “police” several times, as well as the hopeful look that glimmered in her girlfriends eyes. 

 

***

 

Everyone had spread out between the first floor of Gus’ house, most of them congregating in the lounge area, warmed by the glow of the Christmas tree Waverly had forced Nicole and Wynonna to drag in, sagging under the weight of a hundred baubles and trinkets, or were assisting Gus in the kitchen with lunch.

 

Waverly walked in to the sitting room, just as she caught a glimpse of Wynonna dragging Doc upstairs, and rolled her eyes. Through the frosted window, she sees Nedley talking with Shorty, who had arrived soon after him, on the porch, both holding a tumbler of whiskey with visible breaths as they chattered and chuckled to one another, old friends catching up for no reason what so ever. 

 

The brunette couldn’t even fathom why they would be outside on such a cold day, when the fire crackling in the middle of the seating area and the overwhelming heat from the kitchen is the only thing fighting off the bitter cold, but she was more concerned with the redhead nursing a beer in the large leather armchair by the Christmas tree. 

 

She always was.

 

Nicole smiled at her from around the top of her beer bottle when she approached and plopped down directly on her lap. She swallowed her drink before speaking,

 

“And what do you want for Christmas, little girl?” Nicole smirked and Waverly fought back a laugh as she leaned closer to her girlfriend, nipping at the skin just behind her jaw because she knew it’d send a shiver right down her spine. She grinned maliciously after she gets the reaction to wanted and tilted her head up to whisper into her ear,

 

“Oh, there’s no need for that, I’m definitely on the naughty list.”

 

She pulled back and watched as Nicole swallowed thickly, the hand holding her beer gripping the neck of the bottle so tightly she worries briefly it might break.

 

“You’re going to be the death of me, Waverly Earp.” The redhead groaned and the girl on her lap laughed in return, plucking up the arm that was still resting on the arm of the chair behind her and wrapping it around her waist, allowing the brunette to snuggle into her side.

 

“And I’m so sorry about that.”

 

“Are you really?”

 

“Not in the slightest.”

 

Nicole laughed, it shook her body and Waverly grinned as a warmth she’s grown to know well settled in her stomach. 

 

They’re silent for a while after that, the History major’s fingers finding a loose threat on the redheads sweater and plucking at it absentmindedly.

 

Then she spoke, soft and comforting, 

 

“What were you and Nedley talking about?” She said. And she felt Nicole’s other shoulder shift in a one-sided shrug,

 

“Nothing really.”

 

“Nicole,” Waverly started, lifting her head up so that she could look her in the eye, her wandering hands cupped her jaw so gently Nicole wasn’t even sure it was really there, but then red-painted nails scratched ever so slightly at the underside of her chin and she could recognise the feel of it anywhere, “I know 6 languages fluently, I passed high school with a perfect 4.5 GPA, and my sister is Wynonna Earp. I’m not stupid.”

 

Nicole cocked her head to side, a warm smile pushing the corner of her lips, and the infatuated look she regarded her girlfriend with made her practically melt right there on her lap, “The implication never even crossed my mind.”

 

But no matter how fricking sexy Nicole Haught was (and she was), Waverly would not be suade by a mere (adorable) look.

 

“So are you going to tell me? Because I’ve got all day, sweetheart.” 

 

Nicole cleared her throat and rubbed at the back of her neck, and the brunette could tell by the way she wouldn’t meet her eyes, and the slight pinkness to her cheeks, that she was trying to be humble again. 

 

“It wasn’t a big deal - isn’t - but Nedley said that after college… if I wanted…” And then she read by the way she bit the inside of her cheek that the ginger wanted to shut the doors and push her away because that’s the easiest option, and so Waverly reached out a brushed a comforting hand against the nape of her neck, feeling the goosebumps erupting under her hand despite the warmth, and offered her her best smile when she finally met her eyes. It seems to do the trick, “he said that there’s a place for me as a deputy down at the station.”

 

Waverly blinks, her movements stilled, “Down at… Down at Purgatory Police Station?” 

 

Nicole looks up at her and nods, and the brunette doesn’t waste another second, grabbing her by the neck and hugging her as tightly as she can, grin broad and stretching out onto her face. 

 

“Baby! That’s amazing news! I’m so proud of you!” She squealed into her hair, punctuating her statement by peppering kisses along her forehead.

 

She felt Nicole’s sigh before she hears it, long and heavy, and she pulled back to look her in those big, telling, brown eyes, “What’s wrong?”

 

“It’s… It’s Purgatory. And it’s you.” 

 

“Sweetheart, I don’t understand.” She replied with a shake of her head and the girl underneath her took a deep breath before continuing,

 

“You’ve always been… bigger than this town, Waverly. Always. Sometimes I even think you’re bigger than me. Purgatory is just so small and theres nothing here for you, not really. You’ve got the world at your feet, baby, every opportunity is spread out before you, I just don’t want you to get stuck in this tiny town because of… me.”

 

There was moment, right then, where Waverly stared right into those brown eyes, puppy-like in some aspects and mature in others, and she remembered being 8 years old again; with a scrape on her knee and Nicole asking her if she was okay, and a strange little squirm inside her stomach. It was then, she pinpointed, where she thinks it all began. 

 

Nicole had always been there. Even when she wasn’t. 

 

“Nicole Avery Haught,” She began, small smile quirking at her lips and a prickling just behind her eyes, “You stupid, stupid idiot. I don’t want to be anywhere but right here, surrounded by the people I love and care about. With you. That’s what matters most to me, not whether I live in a city or the same tiny town for my whole life. I can leave Purgatory. I can. But I won’t. At least, not for too long; maybe we can go travelling for a while, but, at the end of the day, no where feels like home like Purgatory does. Where the woman I love is. Where you are.” Waverly was crying then, tears like rivers down her cheeks, but a smile on her face so wide it ached.

 

And Nicole was staring at her, dumbfounded, mouth parted ever so slightly, and all she said was,

 

“You love me?”

 

She laughed then, wet and soggy, and probably extremely unattractive if witnessed by anyone else. But Nicole only heard it and reminded herself of church bells.

 

“Of course I love you. I love you.” She swiped at her eyes with the heel of her palm, and she could see through the blur of her vision as a wide grin pulled at her cheeks once more, dimples and all. 

 

“Say it again.”

 

“I love yo-“

 

Her words were cut off as Nicole grabbed her chin and pulled her in for a searing, sloppy kiss that tasted like tears and was basically all teeth, but so, so perfect.

 

“I love you, too.” The redhead mumbled into her lips, eyes still closed, “and we’ll work it out together. I want to marry you someday. That’s all I know.”

 

Waverly giggled breathily again, “that’s not a proposal, right?”

 

“No. Not yet.” Nicole pulled her girlfriend down and hugged her tightly against her chest, “Not yet.”